Low tides and fly fishing are a combination that can produce extremes in both success and failure. Trout, snook, reds and sheepshead prowl skinny water looking for shrimp, crabs, baitfish and their other favorite morsels. As the tide carries the water off the flats, feeding fish must follow or be left exposed. The same fish will follow the tide as it comes in to continue feeding. Find a protected area free from boating and people activity. Look for disturbances in the shallows that indicate the presence of your quarry. Nervous water, wakes, scattering baitfish, slow waving exposed tails, and schools of mullet deserve your attention. Feeding birds will show the area that has the best concentration of fish food as they have the same diet. Stealth is the key. A boat may have to be abandoned. Canoes and kayaks will get you shallower and keep your profile and shadow low, and wading is often the best option. Tie a line to your waist to bring a paddle craft with you and save a hike back to an anchored boat. A floating salt water taper on a 7 weight fly rod with a fast action will present your fly with little disturbance and allow you to pick up line off the water easily. Leaders over 9 feet in length tapered to 15-pound test provide an edge. Use a loop knot to allow the fly to give more action when stripped. Weedless flies with the hook pointed up resist snagging. Bead chain eyes in the shallows are preferred over heavier weighted eyes to avoid frightening fish and assure a soft presentation. You want to get their attention, not scare them. Your favorite crab or shrimp pattern in size 4-6 in a color that matches the bottom is ideal. Cast close to the fish, in a straight line and without slack. Avoid lining the fish which will scare your target and his friends.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.