You leave the ramp, idling toward the channel, anticipating a great day on the water. Hot coffee in hand, you look down at your console - and realize the water temperature has dropped since the last time you were on the water. It’s a little windier than you expected and the tide is lower than it was supposed to be - Welcome to wintertime fishing!
Fly fishing can be very challenging in the winter, but here at Mangrove Outfitters, we want you to find success. Here are a couple of tips for you:
When the water is cold, particularity early in the day, target your approach along some of the deeper banks that you would typically leave alone. Fish them low and slow. A flashier fly like the Lightbulb Clouser, available in our hand-curated fly boxes, works well in this situation due to the material selection and heavier lead eyes. Strip about half the speed you would in warm water and allow the fish enough time to see the fly.
As the sun gets high, then it’s time to throw on those polarized sunglasses and really test your casting abilities. Sight fishing is the pinnacle of saltwater fly fishing. Any angler that does not get excited watching a fish eat a well-placed fly - might want to find another hobby. Sight fishing is where your choice of rod, leader, and line become very important.
Fly Rods and Fly Fishing Gear
Let’s start with rod selection. The key to sight fishing is delivering the fly to the fish as accurately and as quickly as possible. This demands a rod that can pick up a lot of line and cast from 20 - 60 feet, generally with one false cast. If that sounds like a tough order, it’s because it is tough - but your success will depend on your performance as a caster. Having the correct rod in your hand will make this task much easier. Although, a casting lesson, offered here at the shop always helps.
In the above scenario, we prefer our anglers to have a rod in hand which is accurate but has enough power to fight a big fish. In our opinion, this equates to a fast action rod for casting power paired with a softer tip for precision. This allows for a light presentation of the fly which is important in your efforts not to spook the 36” Redfish positioned at 2 o’clock, 25 ft away. Did that make sense? If not, that’s ok, we’ll be covering standard fly fishing verbiage in these types of blogs. A 7 weight is ideal, and an 8 weight is a great second best.
We carry plenty of rods that are perfect for sight casting. Both the G Loomis Asquith and NRX Plus are great rods, with enough power to fight large fish but still deliver a fly very delicately. Other excellent choices are the Orvis Helios 3D, and the Sage X. In addition, we also have a large selection of budget-friendly rods we believe to be suitable. These include the G Loomis IMX Pro, The Redington Vice, and the Lamson SS.
Here in beautiful southwest Florida, we’re lucky. Most days we have the opportunity to hide from the wind, and generally do not need extra-fast, stiff rods. However, if you’re heading to the Keys or other areas where the winds can be relentless, an extra-fast, stiff rod such as a Scott Sector might suit you well. In any case, drop in and give the rods a cast and maybe pick up a few tips in the process!
We can’t count the number of times people stop by the shop and ask "what is the best rod?” Truth is, there is no one best rod for everyone. The best rod is the one that works best for you. With that said, we highly recommend you take the time to come into Mangrove Outfitters Fly Shop and cast our selection of fly rods, then make a decision based on what feels right for you. We’ll be there to help guide you in the right direction.
Winter Fly Lines and World Record Snook
Fly lines and leaders are another integral part of the sight fishing game. Fly lines have become bloated in recent years, with most lines not being “true to weight.” Some lines are actually 1-2 weights over what it says on the box. Companies do this to make it easier for the inexperienced angler to load the rod. We recommend asking your local fly shop (if not us) about the grain weight. Some rods cast better with heavier lines… This comes with a price, however. The heavier line tends to land on the water with more force, which is detrimental in a sight fishing situation. So, for sight fishing, we tend to use lines that are more true to weight such as the Scientific Angler Amplitude Smooth Bonefish, or a Rio Bonefish. These tapers allow you to carry the line and hit targets quickly and quietly, with a minimum number of false casts. By the way, more false casts don’t equal better fishing. We’ll cover that in another blog…
Leader choice is also crucial here. We prefer 9-10 foot 16-pound tapered leaders from Rio - with a section of 20 or 30-pound fluorocarbon bite tippet from Rio or Maxima.
Next time you are out there and it’s so cold you can see your breath, just remember the world record Snook (on fly) was caught on a cold April morning - those fish need to come out and sun themselves and now you know what you need to catch them!
The Mangrove Team