Watch the birds: The shipping channel and most passes are filled with baitfish. Little tunny (bonito or false albacore) follow smaller fish and give chances to fly-rodders. A moving tide, incoming or outgoing, gets these speedy predators active. Diving terns and gulls tell you where they are. A large school of predators sounds like thunder as it crashes helpless bait, tearing up the water sometimes in areas the size of a basketball court.
Technique: A bow-mounted electric motor is preferred to move your boat ahead of the fish. If you have only an outboard, idle into position and shut it off. Cast your 9-weight fly rod with a sinking tip or intermediate full-sinking line. Larger fish usually will be deeper, so give weighted flies a little time before a fast retrieve. Use flies the size of escaping baitfish. Place the fly rod under your arm and use both hands, moving it very fast and putting the line in a stripping basket in front of you. When you feel a strike, set the hook by stripping hard. Flies with white over chartreuse synthetic hair will last longer than bucktail. Use a reel with good drag and 150 yards of backing.
Tip: Wear a glove or finger-stripping guard to prevent cuts that a fast-moving line squeezed against a cork grip can cause.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.