Winter fly fishing: Except for tarpon, the opportunities to sight fish around our area are never better than in winter. Sunny days with low tides and clear water are great for finding redfish and very large trout. Start when the sun at your back is high enough for good visibility. A poling platform on a shallow draft skiff gives a height advantage. Reds will be on the flats earlier than trout, which will show when the water warms.
Technique: Reds will follow the incoming tide. A large flat with feeding birds indicates the best place to look; reds and birds have the same diet. Use stealth; wakes and noise from the boat will scare nervous fish. Anglers need polarized glasses with side shades and a dark, brimmed to see well. Make casts more horizontal and with a minimum of false casting. This is the time to use a saltwater quick cast. The spray from your line over fish will scare them in skinny water, so your false cast to measure distance should be to the fish's side.
Presentation: Fish coming at you present the best opportunity. Small, dark crab patterns with bead-chain eyes should be lightly dropped ahead of the fish. When they are close enough to see the fly, a small twitch will get their attention.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.