One of the things that makes any kind of fishing fun is that scenarios are always changing, and those changes add to the challenge. Imagine if you went out every day to the same spots and used the same techniques, the same leader, same fly, the same line and the same cast to catch fish.
That consistency would be great — for about three days. After that, it would become very boring very quickly. Change is the spice of life, they say (whoever they are). I don’t always agree, but we do have to roll with it, baby, and expect to make frequent adjustments.
Fall is an exciting time to fish anywhere in the U.S., and Florida is no exception. Whether you’re on a trout stream in northern Washington state or down here in the Sunshine State, fish are getting ready for winter.
The days are getting shorter, so there’s less daylight. The angle of the sun has also changed, and this makes for less sunlight on the water. Both factors are contributors to cooler water temperatures. Of course, cold fronts make a difference too.
Down here, one of the things that happens is a migration of baitfish and gamefish alike. They are moving to find a comfortable temperature, which varies for different species, and this is one reason we must change our tactics.
Another change is water clarity. Lately, I have found some very clear water in our backcountry. This does not work out too well with already-spooky fish, so it’s time to lengthen your leader and maybe drop down in your tippet size to keep it as “invisible” as possible.
If you’re not using fluorocarbon already (which I always do), tie some on. We know it isn’t completely invisible, but it is still less visible than the other choices, and that will help get you more bites.
Another change during our slow shift into winter is lower water. A combination of clearer and shallower water is a tough one. A client found this out on a recent trip. He was a good caster, but had trouble with spooking fish. (We all do, right?)
I changed his leader up — longer, lighter — but this amplified one of his casting flaws. On the presentation part of his casting stroke, he would drop the rod tip down off plane. This opens the loop, which decreases power, and the leader crashes. It wouldn’t turn over.
So, he threw harder. The line now would crash and break to the left as his rod came off plane even more. I poled us back off the shoreline and explained what was happening. He understood and made the adjustments I suggested as he practiced. Within about 15 minutes of working out the kinks, we had a redfish to the boat. He missed two more due to trout setting, but that’s another story.
Speaking of trout, our specks will start moving up onto shallower grassflats. As the water temperatures drop, they will move up from their deeper holes and channels to forage the flats. Another client found this out last week.
We were sight-casting for snook and redfish up against the mangroves, which is typical. When you’re doing this, it’s important that you don’t quit paying attention to what’s taking place on the other side of the boat.
I happened to notice some activity that did not look like mullet milling around. I asked John to use his back cast as a presentation to cast to the nervous water. He did so with a little hesitation, but the fly made it to the area.
As soon as the fly hit the water, John was rewarded with a 24-inch trout. He was ecstatic. He had never done that before. He made five more back casts and landed three more trout; the smallest of the bunch was 22 inches long. Not bad for a back cast into maybe a foot of clear water.
Snook also will be moving from their summer haunts to backcountry creeks and rivers. I’ve already told you about my personal best caught just a few weeks ago. She was a long but thin spawned-out female just shy of 42 inches up on the grassflat, chowing down and trying to gain her weight back for winter.
Although we have seen snook this size since then, neither my clients nor myself have stuck any of them yet. Many nice snook have come to hand but those girls can be tough as we all know. The snook will continue to be active until the water drop into the lower 60s then they tend to go looking for their jackets.
Spanish mackerel are moving through the area. I have had the pleasure of catching a few and taking them home to put on the smoker, and I love the fish spread that the macks make. They are a lot of fun to catch on a 6 weight and clients always enjoy bending the rod on them.
If the mackerel are around then the false albacore or bonito should be off the beaches. I have yet to head out on the Gulf to get into them, but I’m thoroughly looking forward to it. They are one of my favorites on the fly.
Who am I kidding, I love them all! Get out and enjoy our transition time, and remember …
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to take casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.