Take advantage of this hot bite: There is nothing more satisfying to a fly-rodder than to see his backing. Little Tunny (bonito or false albacore) up to 15 pounds are plentiful and very accessible this year. Large schools of mixed baitfish near the shipping channel, or just off the beaches, attract these aggressive feeders and can be spotted by the diving action of terns and gulls. An explosive noise will turn your head as the bonito crash the surface chasing their dinner — sometimes in schools the size of a basketball court.
Eight- or 9-weight fly rods with clear, sinking tip lines get your small fly to the action. A good, smooth reel drag is necessary to keep steady pressure and prevent over travel of the spool. I like anti-reverse fly reels so that your knuckles won't get hammered as the spool spins. Use weighted, synthetic baitfish patterns that are the size of baitfish, about two inches. Bead butt baitfish, mushmouth, and clousers will all produce in chartreuse over white colors. A shock tippet of 20-pound mason monofilament prevents cutoffs, especially from Spanish mackerel that mix in with the bonito schools.
Bird watching: Watch the direction the birds are working and motor ahead of the school in a circle. Idle into position, kill your motor and wait for the action. You will outfish others that motor into the school and send everything to the bottom. Flies usually produce best because you are matching the hatch.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.