Do I really have to say anything about it being hot? I actually had to make a couple clients sit down and drink water last week. It’s hard to take time to hydrate and cool off when you are catching fish and having fun, but you just have to.
I literally had to take the rod from Allen, hand him a bottle of water and make him sit down. He had caught a half-dozen snook, several trout, 20 ladyfish and jacks and missed a nice redfish. He was having a ball! “Have a drink while I turn on the air conditioner and run to another spot.” Nah, I’m good,” he said. “Just a couple more ladyfish,” he said.
So I made him give me the rod in trade for a water and cranked up the boat. Once we got going, he said, “This was a good idea, it feels great. I didn’t realize how hot I was until we started moving.”
The heat can be dealt with easily if you just pay attention and do the simple things that you have heard over and over; Start early morning and get off the water early (no later than 11). Go back late in the afternoon as the sun is dropping (just watch out for the afternoon thunderstorms). Wear a hat, a buff, gloves, a long-sleeve fishing shirt with at least 30 SPF, good sunglasses and sunscreen. Come on man, you know the drill.
I have found a polymer bead-filled neck wrap works wonders. Throw one in the ice chest for 5 or 6 minutes until it fully absorbs water into the gel beads, tie it around your neck and presto, it will help keep you cooler until it dries, when you’ll throw it back into the ice chest and repeat the process. Be smart and do these simple things to keep cool, and you will be able to safely enjoy the good summer fishing that we have right now.
Snook on the beaches have been hungry and active. Whether or not you have a boat, you can enjoy chasing snook in the surf. Grab your favorite 6 to 8 weight rod with a floating line or a short intermediate sink tip line and tie up a 10 foot fluorocarbon leader ending with a 25-pound bite tippet.
Then, tie on your favorite baitfish fly in a size 2 or 1. The snook seem to prefer flies light in color; whites, tans, yellows or combinations thereof. Keep them short, no more than 2 to 2 and a half inches long. I did great using a 2-inch, No. 2 gummy minnow last week when the wind laid down for a while.
Back in the Harbor, the snook fishing remains good also. Shallow flats can be great for “dark-thirty” gurgler action on the snook as well as other species. Topwater fishing is so much fun, especially in low light conditions. You make a long cast and slowly “blurp” your fly back toward the boat with high expectations and anticipation. Then, “blam!” a big blow up that may turn out to be anything. Snook, reds, trout, tarpon, jacks, ladies and even a little blacktip shark fell for the blurp of a gurgler last week.
As the sun gets higher, the fish (just like us) will move to the shade to cool off. Now we get to play our casting games. That’s why we like fly fishing, right? We get to slowly move along the mangroves picking out shaded pockets and overhangs to cast our fly, hoping to find somebody home with an appetite.
With the higher tides that we experience this time of year, we may be lucky enough to see a nose poking out of the mangrove giving us a better target to cast to. Try to find shorelines that have a more solid bank, which won’t allow the fish to go 20 feet under the mangroves. This will at least give us a chance.
The snook have been very willing to eat if you make a good presentation to them. For the most part, that means getting the fly in the shade. If you can’t throw a tight enough loop to drive it into the shade overhand or three quarters, then go to the sidearm cast to slide it under the branches.
I’ve been finding redfish scattered around on grassflats, along the mangroves and around oyster bars. If you can find oyster beds that are also shaded by mangroves, you will probably find a red or two. They have been eating gurglers early morning too. It’s so much fun to watch a “bottom feeder” try to take a surface popper. That big old head makes a giant bulge in the water as it breaks through the surface to actually propel itself up and over the popper so it can eat.
Here’s a tip: Just keep stripping and blurping until you feel the weight of the fish on the line. Just like strip setting a streamer, fight the urge to “trout set,” which will remove the fly from the fish’s strike zone. The reds may try two or three times before they are able to eat the fly, so give them a chance. Leave the rod tip down and keep on blurping.
The official “tarpon season” is over – but the tarpon don’t know that. There are still plenty of big fish on the beach, so don’t put the 12 weights away. This is one of my favorite times of year to tarpon fish myself. You won’t experience as much traffic on the water, so the fish feel less pressure and respond better to a well-presented fly. When the winds lay down and you can get out early, you can still find tarpon in good numbers and willing to eat.
The main spawn is over, so for them it’s time to pack on a few calories. Three- to 6-inch baitfish patterns tied on 1/0 to 3/0 will still work. The tarpon are back in the Harbor now as well. Get on the water and look for them rolling or blowing up bait. We’ve got lots of summer left and lots of fishing to do.
Stay cool, and stay fly.
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 get 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.