Great wading opportunities: Winter conditions are ideal for shallow-water fishing with a fly rod. The lower, clear water is ideal for sight fishing for reds, trout and snook. Floating grass, a frequent warm-weather problem, is absent. Look over your favorite flats to note where fish travel when tides are lowest. Cuts, channels and potholes will hold fish as they prepare to spread out over the adjacent flats as tides come in. Note likely migration routes and select ambush points.
Successful tactics: Boats can be used to reach shallow-water flats, but many flats can be reached by walking. Use waders with a removable boot; dive booties work well. Stealth movements are key. If wind is not a problem, use lighter tackle. The ideal is a 6- or 7-weight rod with a floating weight forward line attached to a 9-foot leader tapered to 15 pound fluorocarbon. Occasionally a longer leader is needed if the sun is bright and fish are being easily spooked. If you see redfish tailing, false cast to their side before making your presentation cast. This prevents the shadow of the line from sending them scurrying for cover. The best time to cast to a tailer — a redfish whose nose is in the soft bottom, presenting his body more vertically as his tail breaks the surface — is when his tail shows. Move the fly when his tail disappears as his body returns to a horizontal position.
Be cautious: Some bottoms are very soft and could trap you, making it difficult to move. This is a good reason to have a wading companion.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.