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 Fly fishing near Sanibel in the flats.

My Experience

successful fly fishing catchI have been fishing with a fly rod and tying flies since 1976, beginning with fresh water species while in the Air Force from 1975-1981. During this time I was stationed in Duluth, MN, Klamath Falls, OR and Colorado Springs, CO. with summer trips to Montana and Wyoming. Since returning home to Florida in 1981, all of my fishing has been in the salt except for summer trips out west when time would allow. To see samples of my fly-tying, check into the books Saltwater Fly Patterns by Lefty Kreh and Bonefish Fly Patterns by Dick Brown.


Local Fly-Fishing Guide

A tailing redfishThe waters surrounding Sanibel, Captiva, and Ft. Myers, Pine Island are normally very clear, excepting periods of heavy rain. These conditions present excellent opportunities to cast a fly to a sighted fish. Some examples would be Redfish tailing on a shallow flat, Snook cruising a sand shoreline or Tarpon moving on the beach. Fish in clear shallow water can be spooked easily. After spotting the fish, a quick and accurate cast is everything in this game.

Flys clockwise from top left: clouser minnow, merkin, sea-ducer, bunny (locally used patterns)Some other fly fishing opportunities in this area would be:
  • Poling a deeper Mangrove shoreline casting to pockets and under overhanging limbs. Very accurate casts are needed to present the fly, mostly for Snook and Redfish.

  • Casting under birds working a school of baitfish. This is open water casting and the easiest fishing for Trout, Ladyfish, Jacks, Spanish Mackerel and Bonito depending on the time of year.

  • Blind casting to sand holes, "prospect fishing" for Trout, Redfish, Ladyfish and Snook.

Fly-Fishing in Saltwater


A 6 or 7 weight is now my most used rod. The flies used are easily cast with these rods and make for a more enjoyable day of casting. If Snook fishing along mangrove shorelines, then an 8 weight is my choice. When you get to 10, 11 and 12-wgt outfits, you are targeting large fish only such as Tarpon and Cobia, although a large Snook in the bushes on a 10-wgt would not be over-gunned.

hand tied fly  hand tied deceiver fly tie  hand tied fly


For most fishing in this area, a size 2 or 4 is standard. White/chartreuse and white/tan Clousers are my first choice. I tie them with one size smaller lead eye than on commercially available flies, and all must have weed guards.

The shrimp pattern shown is my favorite for tailing Redfish and Trout laid up in very shallow water. Tarpon flies are tied on #2/0 hooks in a bright pattern and a dark pattern.

My favorite Tarpon quote on Tarpon fishing (and I believe it applies to all fishing) is from the book "The Mangrove Coast" by Karl A. Bickel, 1942:

Generally speaking, Tarpon bite when they bite and they don't when they won't.

I firmly believe that presentation is more important than pattern in all saltwater fishing. Getting a fly in front of a fish quickly and making it look alive, without spooking the fish is the game.

If the fish then wants to eat, it will. Redfish for example eat mostly small crabs and shrimp. therefore, a small, #2 or 4 pattern is the first choice. A Cobia will not look at a small fly. It wants a larger meal such as a 2/0 -3/0 very fully dressed Lefty's Deceiver.

Line and Leaders

I use very long leaders, 12-14' for all floating line shallow water fishing. The water here is very clear and the fish have seen it all. Sinking line leaders are obviously very short to keep the fly down. A long leader on a sinking line will let the fly ride higher.

Times to Fish

fish caught on fly


great fly fishing books Check out my favorite Fly Fishing Books.

cast, hook land.

Even though the fishery here is year-round and something is always fishable, there are times to target certain fish when they are most available.

    March and April
    As the water starts to warm, is the time to pole shorelines for Snook. You could also get casts at Redfish, Trout, Jacks and Cobia cruising the same areas.
    Mid-April through mid-June
    Tarpon time when the most fish are here. This is all sight casting with 10-12wgt outfits to schools on the surface finned-out or daisy chaining.
    Mid-August through October
    Time to look for schools of large Redfish. All fish in a school will be 28-35" and eager to inhale a well-placed fly as they bulldoze across a flat.
    October through December
    Some of the lowest tides of the year and will concentrate Redfish and Sea-Trout in deeper sand holes. Casting to the holes and also watching for tailing fish feeding when the tide starts in can occupy a morning.
  • Snook
  • Fly Fishing near Sanibel
  • Fly Fishing near Sanibel

Your Tackle or Mine

Bringing your own, familiar tackle is always best. If that is not possible, or you are new to the sport, I will provide all tackle. Reels can be set up for right or left hand retrieve, as you prefer. If you need any help with your casting or making the transition to the saltwater game, rest assured that I would provide it in a relaxed manner.