Fresh From The Salt

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Feature Stories 2012


Volume 2, Issue 7, January 2012:  Lightweight Delight – Winter Trout on Fly

In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 7, January 2012:  Lightweight Delight – Winter Trout on Fly, I take you into the world of non-stop action, cold-water sea trout fishing on the shallow grass flats of the West Central gulf coast.  Instead of using the traditional spinning and jig combo which has proved deadly over the years on these fish, I’ve switched almost exclusively to using very lighweight fly rods and reels to catch these very plentiful yet smaller sized trout.  By using a lightweight fly rod, even the smaller fish really pull.  With such a great population of trout out there right now, it’s truly non-stop tight lines and a way to enjoy the sometimes over-challenging sport of fly fishing.  And by using a lightweight fly rod, when you hook into a larger “gator” trout, get ready for one serious fight.  These bigger fish bend the rod much more like a snook or redfish.  Although our sea trout population was hit hard by the terrible 2005 red tide, they have made a complete comeback, so much so that the state has now removed the seasonal and regional boundaries which have been in place for so long.  So, get your light five or six weight fly rod out and begin a long drift across the flats.  It won’t be long before you find a mess of fish, sometimes two to three at a time following your fly and ready to pounce!

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the January 2012 issue of our local Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)



Lightweight Delight – Winter Trout on Fly

By Joshua W. Broer


The cold winter winds have finally driven their way down from the northeastern states and dropped our water temperatures significantly.  For West Central anglers, those of us lucky enough to enjoy endless miles of lush sea grass, this usually means an invasion of spotted seatrout in the shallows.  Find a good flat filled with healthy grass in two to six feet of water and you’ll find good numbers of these fish.  Catching them on light spin tackle is fun.  Catching them on light fly tackle, however, may change the way you feel about winter fishing.

Spotted sea trout have made a major comeback since being depleted by a very bad red tide in 2005.  I remember hitting the flats in the winter at my usual spots and getting skunked.  It was tough.  But now they’ve made such a tremendous turn-around that not only are the closed seasons and regions going away in 2012, there are perhaps more fish on our Tampa Bay to Nature Coast grass flats than I’ve seen in decades.  Many of these shallow grass flats fish are on the smaller side (“dinks”, some like to call them), but these dinks and some of the larger trout mixed in make for some of the greatest non-stop, every-cast action you’ll find.

The trout are so thick on many of our Tampa Bay area flats, you can catch a fish on almost every cast.  A favorite method of hooking up is to simply find a flat and let the wind push you across.  This drift technique allows you to find the best concentrations of fish.  You can always anchor up if you’ve come across an especially productive area but continuing the drift allows you to constantly find new, un-spooked fish.

What has proved to me to be the most fun way to fish these trout is on extremely light-weight fly rods.  Fly rod anglers typically use rods in the 6, 7 and 8 weight categories (6 being the lightest and 8 being the heaviest) for their seasonal trout, redfish and snook action.  These three weights cover most of the game fish action fly fishermen get into.  However, with many of these winter time trout being in the 12-15” range, the lighter the stick, the better the fight.  A 6 weight rod is an ideal choice for the majority of these fish and will even handle the occasional larger “gator” trout.

I decided to change the game a bit and dropped down to a 5 weight rod.  Turns out that these dinks can really fight!  Dedicated freshwater fly fisherman in our northern and western states fishing for small rainbow, brown and brook trout use rods as light as 1, 2, 3 and 4 weights.  While I don’t recommend using these very light and fragile river and creek sticks in the salt, you can certainly experiment.  Having dropped down to the light 5 weight rod, even the smallest fish give you a great fight and create the feeling of fighting something much larger.  And when the occasional gator trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel or aggressive ladyfish grabs your fly, you’ll know it in a hurry!

Catching winter time trout on the grass flats is just about a guaranteed all-day, non-stop action experience.  If the tide moves out and the flat becomes too shallow, simply follow the tide and find deeper water.   These cold water trout seem to bite all day long and can turn those frigid, windy, “I wish I would have stayed in bed” days into some of the most fun and productive times on the water.  Get into them on a light fly rod and you may even begin to look forward to the winter months.

To learn more about the right choice of fly rods, reels and flies, call or visit one of our many tackle retailers in the area.  Most of these shops carry inexpensive, beginning level yet quality fly rods and reels and can give you tips on which flies to use.  Here’s one, an old adage used commonly in the fly fishing community:  “If it ain’t got chartreuse, it ain’t no use!”