Tampa Bay: How to Catch Redfish on Fly

Tampa Bay: How to Catch Redfish on Fly

Here it is, the answer to all of your questions. How to make these allusive and mysterious fish behave like their relatives in Louisiana. I have the answer, the secret sauce to solve all of the questions of how to make these fish behave and respond how we want...I guarantee if you do this one thing...your fly will never get refused or rejected. That one thing...stay home and don't fish.

The only guarantee about fishing for redfish in this area with a fly rod is that you will get rejected, you will get frustrated, you will get blanked, you will think about selling all of your stuff and taking up golfing. The reward, however, is more than worth the frustration. The tinkering, the adjustments, the countless refusals all teach us a little bit more about how to convince these fish that this hair on a hook is edible. 

The bay might as well be in a different state from the gulf intracoastal. The fish in the bay act differently, they eat differently, they need to be treated differently. In the gulf, you can mess up and get another shot when a fish has his head buried in foot long turtle grass and his tail wagging in the air while he is eating whatever he has found on the bottom....the bay however, these fish need to be petted. The grass is different, these fish don't tail in the same way they do on the other side of the peninsula. These redfish will tail, but its USUALLY quick and while they're on the move, not something you can see from 100 yards away and pole over to and the fish still be in the same spot doing the same thing it was 5 minutes ago. 

First let's talk about the first question that everybody that walks into the shop who is new to this area, new to fly fishing, casually strolls out there every month and tries to land one of the hardest fish to feed in the state....what's a good spot? Well the answer that usually comes out of one of our mouths isn't usually what people are looking for. The question is answered with a question. Are you on foot or on a boat? This area isn't accessible by foot in many places for sight fishing on the gulf side...certain times of the year in the winter and fall, you can find some redfish on the beach in certain places like Fort Desoto, but that is really the only place that the casual fly angler would be able to target them from the beach. If you want to fish on the bay side, there are some more on foot options.

Second question...and my personal favorite to answer....What is a good fly to use? Well my good friends I'm sorry to tell you, but unless a good cast is made, unless the fish sees the fly and isn't spooked by the fly line or the fly hitting the water too close to it's face, none of them are good. Let's just say all that happens...sometimes the fish STILL WON'T EAT. This isn't Louisiana, this isn't a place where these fish eat anything and everything they see and if they don't see it they go looking for it to eat it. Fish who have their head buried in the grass are hard to feed because it is hard to get them to see the fly...fish in 10 inch crystal clear water on a sand bottom are hard to feed because they are hyper aware of everything around them. So the fly question is one that is almost impossible to answer because you can do everything right, every part is done perfectly to present the fly in exactly the right way and sometimes the fish still won't cooperate. The best rule I can come up with in regards to fly selection is to go smaller than you think, as heavy as you can get away with, and match the bottom with your main color selection. But that's just my thought, there are many out there that spend much more time and energy hunting these fish...that is just what has helped my find some success out there over the 30 years I have been here (I'm only 30, I was born here). 

At the end of the day, it's a hard game...its not easy to go out there and have consistent success. I know many highly skilled and knowledgeable guides and anglers that get blanked somewhat regularly.

The setup I like to use the majority of the time is a G Loomis NRX paired with a Cortland Bonefish line. The 7wt is the NRX+S and the 8wt is the T2S. I really like this setup on line and rod because it allows me to carry a lot of line in the air for long shots while still loading the rod at short distances if needed. the 8wt has a Tibor everglades and the 7wt a Tibor backcountry. I use the 4-2-1-2 method for my leaders but it usually is more like 5-2.5-1.5-2.5. I like a longer leader setup normally for the added security if I overshoot a fish. I use 10-12lb class and anywhere from 10-20lb bite depending on water clarity, fly size, and how the fish are behaving. I like to use the cortland ultra premium tippet and nylon to build my leaders. I tie all of the flies I throw unless I am fishing with someone else or a guide and will also use their patterns. If I had to throw a fly from our box I would use a MAC flies 'My boy Blue", or an Umpqua Swiss army slider. I also like a mantis shrimp fly in olive

The best way to learn, to find the answers, is to go out there and find fish...go find fish that you can see and could cast at. Then learn how to catch those fish. 

Good Luck! 



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