I was asked a great question recently: "There are tons of baitfish everywhere; where will they take my fly?" A good answer this time of year is to find concentrations of fish actively feeding. Lighted docks and bridges provide the answer. Take advantage of strong outgoing tides and hit the lighted areas before daylight. When you see snook, reds, trout and occasionally baby tarpon chasing baitfish, cast your white-baitfish pattern up-tide of the activity and eliminate any slack line as soon as it touches the surface. Long casts are an advantage to avoid spooking fish. Keep the rod tip close to the water. Use a strip set to hook the fish only when you feel the strike. If you react to the fish's movement, you often will pull the fly away. If this happens and you haven't lifted the rod, the fly is still in the strike zone and will entice another attempt by the missed fish or one of its buddies. Use 25-pound test shock tippet on an 8-weight rod to prevent broken leaders from snook and tarpon. As daylight approaches, lengthen or change your leader and use a 15-pound fluorocarbon tippet. Attach a crab pattern or Gurgler-style floater and look for tailing redfish as the water thins on your favorite redfish flat. Orient the fish's position and place the fly in front of its nose.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.