Freshwater fly fishing is often overlooked for anglers booking Sarasota fly fishing charters. Tarpon, snook, and other saltwater species receive the most attention. There are several small lakes and streams in the area that provide fly anglers with great light tackle action. Bream, crappie, bass, tilapia, and other small, but feisty, fish species are great fun on a light fly rod.
Many visiting fly anglers want to try their hand at saltwater fishing. Sarasota Bay is a shallow estuary with expansive lush grass flats, passes that connect to the Gulf of Mexico, oyster bars, and other structures that hold forage and attract gamefish. Anglers seeking action and variety will do well casting flies while drifting deeper grass beds in 4’ to 8’ of water. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, ladyfish, pompano, and more are commonly landed on charters when working the deep flats.
While I offer to provide tackle on my Sarasota fly fishing charters, many clients prefer to use their own. Ideal outfits are 7wt, 8wt, or 9 wt rods with an intermediate sink-tip line. This is fine for both saltwater and river charters. Large arbor reels are best and should have plenty of backing. This is important when fishing the beach for mackerel and false albacore. I like to keep leaders simple, opting for an 8′ piece of 30lb flourocarbon in most instances. Weighted flies are almost always used, reducing the need for tapered leaders. Fly selection is also pretty basic, with a selection of Clouser Minnow, deceiver, and white D.T. Special flies tied on #2 to #1/0 hooks covering most situations. White and chartreuse are top colors in the salt while more brightly colored flies work better in the dark river waters.
Clients on Sarasota fly fishing charters will make short casts towards submerged trees and other structure as the boat meanders along with the gentle current. These rivers (which are really like streams in size and feel) are “brackish”, meaning a mix of both fresh and salt water. Many of Florida’s premier gamefish thrive in this environment. Snook, bass, jacks, redfish, juvenile tarpon, gar, sunshine bass, and more are caught on well-presented baitfish patterns. Snook migrate up into rivers in October and remain there until it warms up. The deeper river waters provide a sanctuary in the event of cold weather. Bream, tilapia, and other baitfish are the primary forage. This is an opportunity for anglers to land a large snook on fly!
Oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and docks will hold snook, jack crevelle, and the occasional redfish for clients on Sarasota fly fishing charters that are seeking more of a challenge. Spring and fall are prime times to target snook in Sarasota Bay. Water temperatures are ideal and bait is plentiful. Cooler weather will push fish into creeks and residential canals and often times concentrations of jacks and snook can be encountered.
Fly fishing can be fantastic in the inshore Gulf of Mexico when conditions are right. In most years, fall is best though spring fishing can be good as well. Spanish mackerel and false albacore (known locally as “bonita”) will herd up schools of baitfish and feed voraciously on the surface and are easy prey for a well-presented fly. Bluefish, jacks, and ladyfish may also be found feeding actively on the surface.