Freshwater Fly Fishing in Orlando Florida

freshwater fly fishing in Orlando Florida

Freshwater Fly Fishing in Orlando Florida

The topic of this article will be freshwater fly fishing in Orlando, Florida. The state of Florida offers anglers some world-class freshwater fishing opportunities! The largest bass in the world come from Florida. Most anglers choose to fish with spinning or bait casting tackle. However, fly fishing the lakes and rivers of Florida can be both productive and rewarding.

read more about freshwater fly fishing charters in Florida with Capt Jim

One of the best aspects of freshwater fly fishing in Orlando and all of Florida for that matter is that it is fairly simple. The vast majority of fly fishing is done in shallow water. That very much simplifies tackle and fly selection. Much of the action takes place on the surface with anglers casting poppers and other surface lies.

Freshwater fish species

Anglers freshwater fly fishing in Orlando have two basic choices; target largemouth bass or pursue bluegill and other panfish. The tactics for both options are almost identical. After all, largemouth bass really are just oversized sunfish. However, there certainly will be differences in the tackle used.

Freshwater fly fishing in Orlando Florida

Anglers visiting Orlando, Florida and desiring to do a little freshwater fly fishing will have quite a few options. Just about any small retention pond or other body of water will hold panfish and bass. Anglers can easily fish these waters from shore. Many resorts and hotels have lakes with excellent fishing that goes underutilized.

fly fishing for bluegill and panfish

There are a myriad of larger lakes and rivers in the Orlando Florida area as well. These larger bodies of water are best fished with the use of some type of boat. Some lakes and rivers offer canoe and kayak rentals while some of the larger lakes offer boat rentals. Hiring a professional fishing guide is an excellent option for those who can afford it.

Tackle used when freshwater fly fishing in Orlando

The tackle and flies that I use when freshwater fly fishing in Orlando are similar, other than the fact that the bass tackle is much larger than the panfish tackle. I will briefly outline the tackle that I use on my Florida freshwater fly fishing charters.

Anglers fly fishing for largemouth bass in Florida will do well with a 9 foot 8wt outfit. A floating line will do fine in the vast majority of these applications. Manufacturers offer lines that are specifically designed for throwing bulky bass poppers and other top water flies. Anglers fishing in deeper water can go to a sinking line, though this is something I rarely employ. The leader does not need to be as long and a shorter leader results in it being much easier for a large popping bug to turn over. I use a 6 foot tapered leader with a 15 pound to 20 pound tippet.

fly fishing for bluegill and panfish

I use a 9 foot 4wt outfit when fly fishing for panfish in Florida. The reason I opt for a 4wt as opposed to something lighter is that even though anglers are casting smaller flies, there is always the chance of hooking a decent sized bass. Also, pin fish are not at all fussy in the darker Florida waters. I use a 9 foot 4x tapered leader when fly fishing for panfish.

Best flies for Florida freshwater fishing

Once again, the same patterns that bluegill and panfish will also do well in larger sizes on bass. As stated earlier, top water flies are very effective for a couple of reasons. Since most of the waters that are being fished in Florida are fairly shallow, fish do not have to rise up very high in order to take a top water bug. Florida lakes and rivers can also be very weedy, and a top water offering with a weed guard will usually avoid getting hung up.

fly fishing for bluegill

I fish with poppers a lot, especially when chasing largemouth bass. These are usually plastic or foam with rubber band type legs and a feather for a tail. Larger poppers in a size 1 work well for bass while I will go down to a size 8 or even 10 for bluegill and other panfish.

Deer hair bugs work very well for largemouth bass in Florida. This is especially true when the water is very calm or the bass are being a bit fussy. These dear hair bugs provide a much more subtle presentation. I almost never use dear hair bugs for panfish.

The third type of surface fly that I use is some type of foam rubber spider or other insect. These floating rubber spiders and bugs are extremely effective on bluegill and other panfish. It is most effective when sitting motionless, with the legs undulating very subtly. I rarely use foam rubber flies for bass, almost extensively for bluegill.

Sub-surface flies for bass and panfish

I do use subsurface flies for both largemouth bass and panfish when freshwater fly fishing in Orlando, Florida. I exclusively use to flies, and epoxy minnow pattern and woolly buggers. The epoxy minnow pattern I like in gold with a chartreuse tail. Gold works very well in the tannin stained Florida waters. When casting woolly buggers, I usually choose a black or blue.

fly fishing for panfish

Subsurface flies are a good option on post cold front days when fish are a bit less active. Anglers will have to find some type of open water where hydrilla and other subsurface vegetation is not too thick. If the fly picks up moss or other vegetation on every cast, it just becomes annoying and it aggravating very quickly. However, in the right situation they can be extremely productive.

Techniques for freshwater fly fishing in Orlando Florida

As I said earlier in the article, one of the great things about freshwater fly fishing in Orlando, Florida is the fact that it is fairly uncomplicated. In the vast majority of applications, anglers are casting a surface fly at some type of shoreline cover, usually lily pads or other aquatic vegetation.

Fishing with poppers and other surface flies is fairly straightforward. The popper is cast out towards some type of shoreline cover or over some submerged weeds and allowed to settle. The rod tip low pointed at the fly and the line taught, the angler gives a quick sharp strip of the line, causing the bug to pop. Once again it is allowed to settle and then repeated. If a take does not occur after the third pop, I like to recast to another spot.

Anglers often fish poppers much too quickly, especially for panfish. It is amazing how many times a big bluegill will take a popper that has been sitting still for a minute or two. The reality is that though it appears to not be moving, even the slightest action will draw a strike.

The technique that I like to use when fishing subsurface flies is fairly simple as well. The main challenge when fishing was sinking flies is the abundance of vegetation. I cast the fly out to a likely spot and allow it to sink a few seconds. These flies do not weigh very much and will sink quite slowly. I use a fairly aggressive 1 foot strip followed by a pause. This results in the fly jerking forward, stopping and then fluttering down very seductively.

I like to use a strip set when fly fishing with both poppers and subsurface flies When the take occurs, the angler strips hard on the fly line to start the hook in the mouth of the fish and then the rod tip is slowly raised. This technique will result in many more fish hooked that will be done so using the rod to set the hook. Once the fish is on, the angler keeps the rod tip high in order to keep the fish out of the vegetation. The fish is normally stripped in as rarely will a fish get on the reel.

Best times for freshwater fly fishing in Orlando Florida

Freshwater fly fishing in Orlando, Florida can be productive all year long. However, depending on the species being pursued, some situations are better than others. In Florida, largemouth bass spawn in January or February. This can be an excellent time to try to catch a trophy largemouth bass on fly. Crappie moved to the banks about the same time of year.

The best fly fishing for bluegill is in the heat of summer. Bluegill and other panfish spawn and go to the beds several times a year, mostly on the full moon in May, June, and July. This is a time of year were anglers will catch bunches of fish concentrated in one area. However, bluegill and other panfish will take a fly all year long.

Largemouth bass are the premier freshwater game fish species in Florida, if not North America. They have everything an angler wants, they take lures and flies readily, grow large, are aggressive but yet at the same time still quite challenging, abundant, and almost always jump clear out of the water when hooked.

Largemouth bass are ambush predators. They will almost always relate to some type of structure. This can be man-made such as docks or natural in the form of fallen timber or aquatic vegetation. The latter, submerged weeds and other vegetation, is the primary cover that anglers should focus on when fly fishing for Florida largemouth bass.

While largemouth bass get a lot of the publicity, bluegill may in fact be more popular. It can be argued that throughout the state and most of the southeast, more anglers are trying to catch a mess of bluegill for dinner than any other freshwater species. The great news is that they are an extremely aggressive little fish that will readily take a fly.

As mentioned earlier, the warmer months are the best time to catch large numbers of big bluegill. When the water is clear, anglers can see the freighter’s shaped beds all grouped together. It looks a bit like a golf ball. These are panfish that are on the bed and will usually attack a fly or other lore with reckless abandon. The rest of the year bluegill are caught very similar to bass, with anglers working shoreline cover and submerged vegetation.

Crappie are another very popular Florida freshwater game fish species. They are a bit trickier to catch on fly as they often school up in deeper water near channel edges. In late fall and early winter these schools do break up and the fish moved to the bank. This is the best time of year in Florida to catch one on fly. Crappie also are less likely to take a surface fly. My favorite fly for them by far is that small epoxy minnow pattern.

Anglers will also encounter other species what freshwater fly fishing in Orlando. Several other types of panfish including shellcracker (redear sunfish), stumpknocker, warmouth, and sunfish. Gar and mudfish grow large, will take a fly, and put up quite the battle, especially when hooked on a light panfish rod. Some lakes have chain pickerel as well.

In conclusion, this article on freshwater fly fishing in Orlando, Florida will hopefully encourage more anglers to give fly fishing a try!

Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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