Last January I set up a trip with fly fishing guide Greg Peterson (601-4605). After our 48 hour winter season this year the weather turned perfect. It was one of those days I’ve seen on TV but never happens whenever I go fishing. The wind was dead calm, temperatures from 55 to 75, no clouds and good incoming tides. The full moon was a problem; I avoid fishing during the full moon, but Greg said it would probably be all right. We left the boat ramp in Greg’s Maverick Mirage and flew across the bay. It was like running in melted butter, velvety smooth and dry with the 4 stroke Yamaha quietly purring along.
Our first stop was barren so we moved to another flat about 5 miles away. The sun rose a little and the visibility started to improve. Now if you’ve fished Tampa Bay redfish you know how spooky they can be, worse than any Bahamas bonefish. And if you’ve fished on dead calm waters you know how much worse that can make it. But I was using a 7 weight rod with a 12’ leader and a Puglisi pancake fly that landed without any splash at all so I knew we had a chance. We began seeing fish and after a few well placed casts we got several refusals. Greg suggested a different colored fly that would sink faster. A nice fish showed up at about 60’ and my lucky, long cast landed perfectly. Two strips and the fish pounced on the fly. The fight was on. The 7 weight bent into the cork and into the backing she went. Big smiles all around as the big fat red girl ran and wallowed in the mirrored water. After 10 minutes, she came to hand, we took some photos, retrieved the fly from deep in her crushers and revived her a bit before sending her on her way. 32 to 34 inches of golden beauty. Wow that was perfect textbook red-fishing, the way it should be.
Moving to another flat we had several shots but some were that impossible 10’ to 15’ cast when the fish would appear out of nowhere and any movement would spook them. That’s great for your adrenalin rush but not good for hooking up. Getting a little shallower revealed some tailing fish that allowed us to get set up and ready before getting too close. One fish, 50’ away let me make 5 casts but all were to far away from the spot he was grubbing in. After getting in to 30’, a cast landed 2’ away and the fight was on again. Lots of line had to be cleared as this fish took off like a scalded dog and got well into the backing also. Another good bulldog like fight and we had our second redfish over 30”. Holy cow, this never happens to me but I’m sure glad it did today.
A short lunch break and on to the next flat. A high sun with no clouds or wind made the visibility spectacular. We saw lots of fish and got several good and some not so good shots; tough redfishing for sure. A little deeper water (maybe 20”) and Greg suggested a different shrimpy, crabby pattern he ties that would hug the bottom. The next shot was a long one, about 70’. Two fish coming right at us, but a good cast and Greg’s coaching on when to strip led to our 3rd hookup in classic fashion. Of course, the smaller of the two fish got the fly but still she went into the backing. Another good long stubborn fight. This beauty was only 28”.
We got a few more shots but were snubbed. No matter, with three fish caught and a total of over 90” on a perfect winter day, I had no complaints. I’ve done a lot of fly fishing for reds and this was my best day ever. Greg is a great captain and very enjoyable to fish with. He has a beautiful high performance boat and he has flies that work. If you want to catch redfish, call Greg at 601-4605.
Fly Casting 101
By Capt. Pat Damico with Illustrations by Joe Mahler
All sportsman who excel, execute fundamentals with a minimum of error. The Federation of Fly Fishers, has a booklet entitled, “The Essentials of Fly Casting.” These five essentials, when properly executed will result in fly casting proficiency. They apply weather you are using a three weight or a twelve weight.
There must be a PAUSE at the end of each stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip. When fly casting, the weight of the line, not the fly, bends or loads the rod. A pause is needed to allow the line to straighten between the backward and forward cast, thus loading the rod. Failure to do this will result in a sloppy cast.
SLACK LINE must be kept to an absolute minimum. What causes slack? Movement of the fly line by outside forces such as wind or water, starting the cast with the rod tip too high, rough, jerky application of power, and poor timing between the backward and forward cast. The belly of line that forms when the rod tip is held too high at the beginning of a cast is the most common.
In order to form the most efficient, least air resistant loops, and to direct the energy of a fly cast toward a specific target, the caster must move the rod tip in a STRAIGHT LINE PATH. The loop refers to the shape of the fly line during the cast. A tight or good loop is where the top and bottom strands of line are relatively close together. The larger the loop, the more air resistant and inefficient the cast will be, resulting in a loss of energy. If the top strand of fly line drops below the bottom strand, a tailing or crossed loop will result. This is always a fault in fly casting and causes “wind knots” in line or leader.
The SIZE OF THE CASTING ARC must vary with the length of line past the rod tip. A short line requires a narrow casting arch, a long line, necessitates a longer one. The casting arc is the angle between the rod at the beginning of the casting stroke and at the end of the stroke. The casting stroke is the movement of the hand and arm to apply power to the rod. The backward and forward movement of the rod during false casting is an example.
POWER must be applied in the proper amount at the proper place in the stroke. Power is applied slowly at first, gradually increasing to a peak at the end of the stroke. The amount of power needed for each cast is influenced by a number of factors including the amount of line to be false cast, the total length of the cast, the wind direction, the weight of the rod and line, and the type of cast to be made. Lefty Kreh refers to this as, “a speed up and stop.”
Julie Nelson, a FFF staff member, gave me permission to use their booklet as a source for this article. Their website is www.fedflyfishers.org.