Thursday, September 9, 2010

Redfish (arguably) are Florida's toughest when it comes to fly fishing the backcountry

What's the toughest saltwater backcountry gamefish on fly?
Spotted seatrout?
Definitely not.
Well, no, but we don't have a lot of them.
Certainly -- if you were talking about fly fishing the flats in the Florida Keys.
But along Florida's west coast, it's my opinion that redfish are the toughest fish to fool on fly. They're savvy, leery, spooky and downright elusive.
Now, we're not talking about deep-water reds, the fish you might find schooled up in 3 feet of water or more. We're talking about redfish that take to the flats and root along the bottom for worms, crabs, shrimp and whatever other morsels they might find.
I encountered a large school of aggressive redfish a week ago in southern Tampa Bay. I could have closed my eyes, cast with my left hand and probably hooked up easily. It's that simple when the fish are schooled up and patrolling just off the flat.
But when you encountered single fish or small pods in the shallows, it becomes another game.
"They're tough," said Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service in Sarasota. "If you go out and get one on fly, you've had a good day."
Grassett and I fished the shallows the other day. We actually looked for the big schoolers, but couldn't find them. So, we opted to comb the flats. We found a nice group of reds and decided to concentrate on them. They were in about 18 inches of water and were moving around slowly.
I was up first and opted to cast a chartreuse-and-white, bead-eye Clouser Deep Minnow on my 7-weight Temple Fork Outfitters TiCRX rod. After several refusals, I switched to a Prince of Tides fly, a known redfish killer. Didn't take long before I was hooked up to a feisty 25-inch red. The fish took the fly not 15 feet from Grassett's Action Craft flats skiff.
After I landed the fish and took a few photos, it was Grassett's turn on the bow. He had a red charge the fly, but set the hook a little too quickly.
At that point, clouds ruined the day. They block the sun and, in effect, ended all sight-fishing.
"Still, it was a very good day," said Grassett. "Any time you can get a red on fly around here, you've done well."
We both agreed that we would be more apt to catch a bonefish on fly in the Florida Keys than we would to nab a red locally.
"No doubt," Grassett said. "Keys bonefish are easier than our redfish when it comes to fly fishing."

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