The cold winter of 2010-11 devastated the local population of jack crevalle and other tropical species, including snook. Once plentiful, jacks provided excitement that most long-rod enthusiasts could depend on. The roar from a school crashing baitfish frequently interrupted our pursuit of local game fish. Scorned because of poor table appeal, they were made for anyone who wanted a fish that would hit anything looking like a fleeing meal and pulled like you hooked a dragster. They don't feed on slack tides, often appearing when water is really moving. Points, docks and bridges that hold bait are good places to look. Trout fishers recently had frequent doubles as they cast to bait-chasing schools, resulting in one broken 8 weight. High sticking or using the middle of the rod as a lever spells disaster for fly rods. Size can be more than 10 pounds so rig appropriately. A 9 weight with a weight-forward floating line, adequate 20-pound backing and a leader that sports a 25- to 30-pound hard mono bite tippet will work. Synthetic baitfish patterns the size of what you see in the water with hooks that don't bend under steady pressure should have the barbs crimped for easy release. Strip set the hook with authority to penetrate hard mouths. Keep rod tips close to the water to apply steady pressure on hooked fish. Your connection between fly line and backing must be smooth so it doesn't catch on guides.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.