by Captain Michael Manis
It’s easy to consider this spring in southwest Florida; but, I’ve experienced enough cold snaps to realize that winter has a way of hanging around longer than we’d like. Even worse, some years it feels like spring never arrives and we go straight into summer. Mostly, we can count on some wind. No matter what Mother Nature dishes out, the area is still in transition and the fish are more active.
For starters, it ‘s been a cool winter and many of our redfish and snook have pushed their way up many of the creek systems outside larger flats. Working the outside edges of these areas are one of my favorite places to throw a fly. Keep in mind, it’s not just the creek edges that’ll hold fish; they can be found cruising up and down the shoreline for hundreds of yards adjacent to the actual creek. What I really like is that there are no shortage of spots like this throughout all our bays and sounds that surround the harbor.
Because of this combination, outer shorelines and wind, I like a nine-weight as it really helps punch through the wind. I also like a weight forward floating line rigged with a nine-foot leader tapered down to 20 lb. test. This tippet size helps keep me out of trouble near the bushes. I’ve been tying leaders with a saltwater monofilament leader material instead of fluorocarbon. It’s less expensive, plenty strong, and being a bit more supple makes it easier to work with.
Water temperature will dictate bait availability and consequently my choice of flies. If it warms up and scaled sardines move in from deeper water, I’ll throw more baitfish imitations. Here, a Puglisi mangrove baitfish or backcountry brown is good. I also like deceiver patterns. If it stays cool, I’ll stick with clousers tied in natural tan, olive, and brown colors.
When the wind does lie down, don’t hesitate to take a look outside the passes. Bonita and Spanish mackerel could be anywhere not far from the beach between Captiva and Gasparilla Pass. Keep an eye out for the birds as there’s a good chance they’ll be picking up bait that these aggressive fish are crashing at the surface. During one of these frenzies, it’s relatively easy to get close to the school and it’s a great place to throw a fly.
This is a great opportunity to use all those flies you tied and figured they were not worth throwing. In fact, you don’t want to use good flies. Both these species will tear them up. Moreover, without a small piece of wire as tippet, the mackerel will break you off more times than not. Too, that nine-weight will come in handy on a bonita as it’ll probably get you into the backing.
Until next month, good tides.
Captain Michael Manis
Punta Gorda Fly Charters