The Basics and Beyond…

Capt. Charles Wright January 26, 2010

Readers have demanded it and we’re delivering with a special section devoted exclusively to Fly Fishing Florida. In each issue we’ll be featuring tactics, techniques and troubleshooting tips for those who prefer to ply the state’s bounties with a limber fly rod in hand. Captain Charles Wright, who operates a fleet of boats in Chokoloskee, FL, and is a veritable wealth of knowledge (www.chokoloskeecharters.com), will head this column. Expect Charles to share insider’s secrets on gear maintenance, fly tying, presentation, tippet selection, as well as detailed information on many of the wonderful fly-fishing venues Florida has to offer. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to learn more about or a question you’d like answered, e-mail [email protected].

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Photo: www.jaxkayakfishing.com

As enthusiastic anglers, we’re always trying to enhance our experiences and further challenge ourselves when it comes to searching out prized game fish. There is no better way to do this than with a fly rod. To outsiders, fly-fishing appears to be the ultimate challenge, understandably so. With specialized tackle and unique knots it’s easy to understand why fly-fishing may seem like a daunting task, as even the most jaded angler will likely experience a bit of nervousness and frustration trying to land a fly on the nose of an inquisitive predator while casting into a stiff breeze.

With specialized tackle and unique knots it’s easy to understand why fly-fishing may seem like a daunting task…

While fluid casting is indeed an art form that takes fly fishermen years to master, with some basic knowledge, practice and instruction—not to mention a few humbling days on the water—any angler can become as effective and efficient when armed with a fly rod as they would be with a traditional casting or spinning outfit. As a matter of fact; fly-fishing offers many benefits you will surely come to appreciate.

This past summer, fly rod in hand, I was fortunate to visit some unique locales that are well known among angling’s elite as world-class fly-fishing destinations. And while I truly enjoyed catching trophy bonefish in South Andros and skittish stripers in Down East Maine, somehow, something was wrong. Things just didn’t sit right and after tossing and turning at my temporary homes away from home, I finally figured out what was gnawing at me. I was there, but wishing I was here…fishing in my own backyard. It basically comes down to the fact that the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit aren’t Florida, and the majority of fly anglers there yearn to be fly anglers here.

Day in and day out, if you’re a dedicated fly fisherman, Florida continues to take the cake when it comes to diversity, consistency and opportunity. Imagine the favorable conditions afforded by a vast collection of intracoastal waterways, sandy beaches, barrier islands, salt marshes, estuaries, creeks, seagrass beds, mangrove-studded bays and oyster bars, not to mention an endless array of blue water venues. Where else but the great state of Florida offers such a prolific mixed bag of fly-fishing possibilities?

Blessed with nearly 1,200-miles of coastline, of which approximately 660 of those miles are beaches, it is the varying ecosystems that provide the perfect habitat for fish and fishermen. Florida also has over 4,500 islands greater than 10 acres, second only to Alaska (try fly-fishing there in the winter).

It doesn’t matter where you call home, each of Florida’s regions offer rewarding challenges to those looking to further their skills. Be it the First, Treasure, Nature or Gold Coasts; the Forgotten, Emerald, Space or Paradise Coasts; the Panhandle, the Everglades or the fertile Florida Keys—our very own backyard offers diversified fly-fishing opportunities in unique and serene settings unrivaled anywhere in the country. Florida is truly a fly-fishing Mecca.

Through this column it is my personal mission to rediscover Florida’s unparalleled fly-fishing opportunities and share with you everything I uncover along the way. And don’t be alarmed if you see me in your backyard…I hear the bite is on!

Get in the Game

There is no better time then now to further expand your skill base. Make no mistake though; fly-fishing isn’t designed to replace your traditional approaches. The tactic is simply another weapon in your overall arsenal. When it comes to selecting an outfit that will suit a wide range of targets, local experts agree anglers just jumping aboard should look to an 8 or 9-weight. These versatile outfits will handle almost any inshore species you will encounter—along with bonito, schoolie dolphin, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and more if you decide to test your skills in the offshore arena.

Mature tarpon, stout permit and hefty black drum on the other hand will definitely put your tackle and stamina to the ultimate test, so if larger opponents are a real possibility, you may want to step up your game to a 10, 11, or 12-weight. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s not a good idea to enter a gunfight with a knife. A lengthy battle could jeopardize the well being of your prized adversary if the fish is intended for release.

If you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, more inclined to hone your skills casting to trout, snook, jack and redfish—more manageable targets—you may prefer a 7-weight. It’s best to find a happy medium that is not only practical to cast for hours, but also allows you to dabble in a bit of everything Florida has to offer. As your skill level and experience advance, so will your arsenal.

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