Thursday, June 11, 2015

When the sun sets, grab your fly rod for tarpon and snook in the dark

A happy Jack Littleton of New York shows off his first fly-rod tarpon. 

Night fishing is a time for bright results. If you've never landed a snook or tarpon or fly, you should consider a trip after dark.

I've been fly fishing at night around dock lights for quite a while. And a few years ago, I began offering guided trips after the sun sets.

It has paid handsome dividends for several clients.

Recently, repeat client Jack Littleton landed his first fly-rod tarpon while fishing with me at night. He hooked two, but broke the second fish off. Dr. Everette Howell of Longboat Key and Nashville, Tenn., jumped six tarpon and landed two on a recent outing.

Other clients have landed their first snook, a fish that seems to be a tough one for most fly anglers.
In addition to snook and tarpon, we sometimes encounter spotted seatrout, lookdown, jack crevalle, ladyfish and maybe even redfish.

You never know just what's in store when you head out after hours.

I've had people advise me that they don't like fly fishing at night because "it's too easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel."

Well, we do have times when the fish are plentiful, hungry and aggressive. But it's not always that way. In fact, conditions change almost nightly and go from great to slow in a hurry.

And, anyway, what's wrong with being out there when the fish are aggressive and hungry?

Like any saltwater endeavor, we're dependent on the tide and weather. If I had my druthers, I'd select a night when the tide is predicted to run out hard. That seems to be the optimum time for good action.
In addition, it helps to have minimal wind.

But I've seen slow action on great tides, great action on bad tides and average action in both situations.

If you go often enough, you'll encounter that great outing.

There are a number of keys to success:

1. Get out on the water. If you don't, you'll never enjoy this type of action;

2. Learn to cast with minimal false casting. Since we're fishing from kayaks, there' s no need to set up 50 or more feet from your target. You can get as close as 25 feet. And at that range, there's really no need to make five or six false casts in order to deliver your fly to the target. Simply pick the line up  and put it down;

3. Kayak control. You're the boss and your kayak goes where you want and points in the direction you dictate. Fish with the paddle across your lap and fine tune the kayak's direction by dipping one paddle blade or the other and adjusting. Remember, wind and tide do affect your kayak. So, adjust accordingly;

4. Line management is critical. Nothing is worse than hooking the fish of a lifetime, only to lose it because your fly line catches on something or  knots up. Since I own a fleet of NuCanoe Frontiers, line management is a cinch. Simply let it pile up on the floor of the kayak directing in front of you. And because of the Frontier's open, uncluttered design, there's nothing for it to catch on;

5. The most critical thing is to keep a big fish out of the pilings. Since we're fishing around lighted docks, pilings stand in the way of landing a fish or breaking it off. The former is preferred. You have to keep the fish out of the pilings. To do so, you have put apply maximum pressure to the fish while paddling your kayak away from the structure. Sound difficult? It's not. I can hold the fly rod in one hand, and paddle the kayak away from the dock with the other. If I'm holding the fly rod in my right hand, I place my right elbow on my right knee. I take the paddle in my left hand and can paddle backwards by creating a fulcrum against the ribs on the right side of my body. It's pretty simple with a little practice. Remember, with the paddle across your lap, it's already in the triangle you create when you place your right elbow on your right knee. If it sound difficult, don't worry. I'll explain how to do it.

Fly choices are pretty elementary. I use just a few that I've created for night fishing: Gibby's Snook Shrimp, Gibby's Salty Myakka Minnow, Gibby's Night Minnow. I sometimes will use a Gartside Gurgler (a surface fly made of foam) when the fish are aggressive or ignoring other offerings.

I prefer an 8-weight fly rod with a matching floating line. I use a 9-foot, 20-pound fluorocarbon leader.

I have several spots around Sarasota Bay that are good for night fly fishing.

My ultimate goal is to guide a client to a Saltwater Super Slam -- snook, tarpon, spotted seatrout and redfish on fly in the same outing. This rare feat can be done.

If you've never caught a snook or tarpon on the fly, night time is for you. Just give me a call (941-284-3406) or shoot me an email ( and you're on your way.

With a little determination and luck, you can check a couple of species off your fly-fishing list!

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