Saturday, September 12, 2009

A fresh approach to fly fishing

I've spent a good portion of my life fly fishing in salt water. It's fun. There's nothing quite like casting to, hooking, battling and landing a hefty redfish, snook or tarpon.

I take a lot of anglers from all walks of life fly fishing in salt water. Seems to be a very popular activity. Not everyone has salt water and his or her disposal.

When I have a day off and want to go fishing, I usually hitch up the trailer and head for my favorite freshwater lake or stream. I find fresh water is my nirvana.


First of all, most freshwater lakes and streams are not heavily pressured. I often find myself the only angler on the water.

Secondly, I love to catch fish. And I always seem to catch a lot of fish in fresh water.

It's my observation that fly fishing in Florida's fresh water is a whole lot more productive than in the salt. Our bays and estuaries are heavily pressured and catching fish on the fly can be tough -- especially when it comes to redfish and snook.

But I always seem to do well on the lakes or rivers.

Usually, I cast a light fly rod (1 weight) and target bluegill or speckled perch. I often catch my share of bass with this outfit. Lately, however, I've been targetting bass with my 6-weight and a black popper before the sun comes up. I've been catching a few this way and I expect it to get better as we move into fall and the water cools.

My favorite body of water is Lake Manatee, a 2,500-acre lake located nine miles west of Interstate 75 off State Road 64 in eastern Manatee County. It's about a 20-mile drive from my home in Sarasota. There's a 20-horsepower restriction on outboard motors at the lake, so you don't have to worry about being run over by one of those high-powered bass rigs. Anyway, I'm often the only person on the lake.

Lake Manatee isn't the easiest lake to fish, but it's rewarding if you put your time in. I know the lake very well and have quite a few productive spots.

One of the best kept secrets is the lake's population of channel cats. They are plentiful, large and cooperative. They will hit a variety of flies, including Wooly Buggers, Myakka Minnows and nymphs.

When I'm nymph fishing, I will catch a few golden shiners. That's why I tote along a spinning rod rigged with a hook, split shot and bobber. When I catch a shiner, I'll hook it up and cast it out. I'll place the spinning rod in a rod holder and go back to fly fishing. Usually doesn't take long before I hook a big cat or feisty bass.

Speckled perch (black crappie) are my favorites. They move into the shallows in fall and spring and will hit flies. At Lake Manatee, the specks are thick and hard-fighting. They average nearly 2 pounds.

If you love freshwater fly fishing, give me a call (941) 284-3406. I let you in on a few Lake Manatee secrets.

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