Fly Fishing and Light Tackle
My fishing method of choice has almost always been the fly rod... but years of experience as a fishing guide and angler has taught me that the fly rod is not always the right tool for the job. Often, weather conditions, the species of fish and geography may call for using spin or plug tackle.
For example, many of the places that I guide in the Everglades are small bays connected by narrow creeks... too tight for a back cast or even a roll cast, but the fish are there. The challenge and skill level required for making a great presentation to a fish with plug or spin tackle is no less demanding or fun.
At the risk of not being considered a "purist," by some of those who think they are, I would encourage anyone to become the "complete" angler by mastering all the different methods of casting, whether it's fly fishing, spin, or plug tackle.
Your guides knowledge, experience and willingness to travel and fish different areas will lead to greater success on all target species throughout our fishery. I believe that fishing should be fun regardless of the method you choose. In my opinion, you and your your fishing guides willingness to do whatever it takes to make the most of the fishing conditions is the key to success. Selection of flies, artificial's and baits, presentation, know-how and a little luck, all lead to the mastery and enjoyment of the sport.
There's no accurate way to predict or guess the "best" time of the year to target a particular species of game fish. There are however, higher percentage months or "seasons" for most. Weather, migratory patterns, feeding & spawning habits and environmental impact all play roles in the game fishes predictability. Expect the unexpected; sometimes the best fishing of the year is unexpected, such as a warm up in January, providing great tarpon fishing.
Fishing locations throughout South Florida will have different populations of fish throughout the year; most fishing guides would agree that there is no accurate way to predict these subtleties. For example, tarpon fishing in January and February can be the best of the year... but weather dependent and not the "sure thing" like May or June. It pays to be flexible; letting the following conditions dictate the best game plan such as water temperatures, air temperature, tides/moon, wind velocity/direction, current and time of year. One my customers reminded me last year when we had a significant 'later than usual' cold front... he said "You can plan your fishing but you can't plan the conditions."
- 8 weight with floating line, for almost all conditions on the flats.
- 9 weight with floating, clear floating, best all around on the flats for all fly fishing conditions, capable of delivering slightly larger flies to snook, small tarpon, and permit.
- 10 weight with floating, clear floating and additional "clear sink tip" line, for fly tarpon fishing. This rod will also come in handy on really windy days, delivering the fly to snook, bones and permit.
- 11 weight with floating, clear floating and additional clear sink tip, best all around tool for big tarpon.12 weight is optional but great to have that windy day, for a little more punch, with a floater, sink tip, and especially with an intermediate line.
Spin and Plug Tackle
- 6' to 7' rods with 10 to 12 LB test is just right for most of our species. Saltwater style reels such as the Shimano Calcutta are ideal... they have great drags and are corrosion resistance vs. most plug reels designed for fresh water fishing.
- Most of the time, whether you're fishing for bonefish, permit, redfish or snook, a 7' 10 LB test outfit will be just right for the job. Fresh line and quality reels with superior drags are important. I prefer using monofilament for bonefish, permit and redfish and Power Pro braided line for snook.
To Have or Have Not
- If you're fishing with a guide, most Florida Keys fishing guides that specialize in fly and light tackle will have high quality fly spin and plug outfits available for your use. This makes it easy if you want to travel light without your all your own gear. But don't leave home without your hat, rain gear, sunscreen and polarized sunglasses.
Getting Better all the Time
A good article written by my friend and experienced angler - John Sieffer
In my career I'm constantly reminded by my colleagues that we always need to be getting better. Even more so, if possible, we should be helping others "get better". So, after my most recent fishing trip, I'm trying to figure out...how can I get better? Clearly, I have been drinking the corporate kool-aid and I'm sure you're thinking "can't we just have fun when we're fishing"? And, I guess my question is wouldn't getting better make fishing more fun? So, how do I get better?
First, I realized that I need to practice more, especially with a spinning rod! Over the years I've had this mentality that all I've wanted to do is fly fish. And, sometimes fly fishing is impossible whether because of wind or because of where you are fishing; like the Everglades where on many occasions casting a fly is impossible because there is no room. So, why not cast a spinning rod into the super narrow creek and see what happens. For me, easier said than done and that is why I have to practice to get better, especially with a spinning rod!
Second, I realized that I have to try to fish faster. I'll try to explain. On many ocassions I'll wait too long to make a cast. Either because I'm not sure the fish I see is a fish or I'll wait for a better position and a better cast. I think that if I fished "faster" or more reactive, I'd be better.
Third, when it comes specifically to fly fishing, I take WAY too many false casts. The time it takes to get the fly from my hand to the fish is usually one back cast too long. For me, there is only one reason for the extra back cast, accuracy. But, more times than not, I would be just as accurate with one fewer back cast. I suppose too many back casts is mostly mental, but nothing a little practice woudn't fix.
So, how do we getter better? Practice! Practice! Practice! I'll steal the quote from ESPN's American Hunter, "shoot more and shoot more often". I'll fish more and fish more often.