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Fly Fishing Winter Haven | Lake Elbert at Polk State College

BASS AND PANFISH WILL TAKE A FLY here.  Use a nine foot, six weight fly rod, to aid casting.  A floating line is necessary, but sinking flies will reach more fish.  Try the slower sinking Rattle Eyes Half & Half.  If you choose to wade and cast back into the vegetation, a weed guard will be necessary View full article →

Fly Fishing Winter Haven | Lake Shipp Sertoma Park

This park is the weigh-in location for fishing tournaments on the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes.  And after the weigh-in many of these trophy bass are released into this lake.  The possibility of a lunker bass is suprisingly high here. View full article →
November 29, 2017


Fly Fishing Leaders and Tippets- 5 Videos

This series of five videos answers the many questions about tippets and leaders that we hear in the store.  Most beginners will find the info to be indispensably.  Intermediate and advanced anglers will find gems in videos two through five.  Article after videos is a quick read on the same material.  Comments are appreciated. 

          Laaders and Tippets

1. What's the Difference?

2. Types of Leaders

 3. Specialized Heavy Leaders

 4. Lbs and Xs ---What is That?

5. Adding Tippet for Success and Econonmy

Admittedly, I was cynical about the “new” types of fishing line.  But if you look at my spinning rods, they are loaded with Kevlar braid, and now the leaders on my fly rods are all fluorocarbon.  But I rarely jump on new technologies, and with good reason.  They cost more, and usually there are bugs to work out.  Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets for fly fishing have come a long way.  The reputation for knots slipping is a thing of the past.  They still cost more up front, but over time, they are truly more economical.  Fluorocarbon leaders and tippets have significant advantages in most scenarios of fly fishing.  But Mono is still the way to go in some scenarios too.

Browse Fly Fishing Leaders

Differences between Fluorocarbon and Monofilament.

  • Material-fluorocarbon in made from a sophisticated polymer.  Mono is essentially plastic.
  • Fluorocarbon is “More Clear” in clear water (refractive index is nearly identical to water.)
  • Fluorocarbon is more abrasion resistant than monofilament in the same size.
  • Fluorocarbon stretches less (almost none.)
  • UV(sunlight) damages monofilament over time, but not fluorocarbon.
  • Monofilament floats, fluorocarbon sinks
  • Surprisingly, 10lb mono and 10lb fluoro are about the same diameter.

Orvis 'Super Strong' Leaders are monofilament.  Orvis 'Mirage' Leaders are flourocarbon.

Dry Fly Fishing: When water conditions are not gin clear, monofilament floats nicely.  And while mono is slightly heavier than water, surface tension holds the mono on the surface.  This will help keep dry flies on the surface.  When fishing a clear lake on a dead calm day, fluorocarbon may be better, because it is more invisible, but you will have to grease you fly to keep it floating.  But most dry fly fishing is on a lake that is tannic, or on a river that has a ripple surface.    Either disguises mono.  So, most of the time, use monofilament when fly fishing with dry flies.

Wet Fly or Nymph Fishing:  Fluorocarbon sinks.  This is a perfect match for fishing subsurface flies.  Even lightly weighted flies sink easily in a pond with fluorocarbon.  On the river, again the fluorocarbon sinks and gets flies down.  Don’t be mistaken, weighted flies are needed and sometimes split shot is still needed.  For anglers who refuse to use indicators, a mono leader with a fluorocarbon tippet creates a nice combination.  Make sure to seat the knot carefully when typing fluorocarbon to monofilament.

Top water popper fishing:  Mono, unless the water is gin clear, then use fluorocarbon.  If fishing a popper/dropper, use fluorocarbon on the dropper tippet.

Saltwater Flats fishing:  This is usually a sight fishing situation which means the angler is trying to see fish before casting.  This also implies that the water is fairly clear.  In this situation, the fly (usually) is weighted, so fluorocarbon is an ideal leader.

Tarpon Fishing:  The angler needs to get the fly down to the fish quickly and fluorocarbon is ideal.  Particularly the bite tippet which may be tied in 100lb, the clear nature of flouro is also critical!  Modern formulations have superb knot strength.

Bite tippets:  When fishing with a bite tippet, the fish can see the wire or heavy mono.  This reduces the number of hits, but is necessary.  In a double benefit, fluorocarbon makes this portion of the leader almost imperceptible, and since it is more abrasion resistant than mono of the same strength, the angler can use a lighter weight bite tippet.  The thinner tippet will give the fly slightly better action too.

Beach Fishing:  Because there is almost always chop (riffles 2in to 12in) in addition to the waves, a lot of slack is created by the up & down wave shape when using a floating leader.  Fluorocarbon leaders settle below the waves and riffles, eliminating the slack.  {The same applies to the fly line; consider an intermediate fly line rather than a floating fly line.}

Fluorocarbon tippets tied to a monofilament leader:  Originally not a good combination, but better now.  The flexibility/stiffness of the two materials may be different, so the tippet might be too stiff or limp for the leader that it was tied. Carefully flex your leader and see if transitions are smooth arcs, or lumpy.  This is easier than it sounds, and surprisingly critical to turning over a fly.  Ideally, use the same brand and type of tippet material and leader.  I prefer a 100% fluorocarbon leader (when using fluorocarbon.)  Also, the fluorocarbon has a shell-like exterior, so knots that are mediocre will hold in a mono to mono connection, but will not hold in a flouro to mono connection.  Make sure the knots seat perfectly, lubricate with moisture, and tighten slowly.  Newer flouro is easier to knot than the original fluorocarbons.

Recently, the makers of most fluorocarbon leaders removed expiration dates.  Simply, it has been found that UV does not degrade the material and the shelf life is perhaps five years or more.  It is also much more abrasion resistant, and the leader just last longer.  This is the economy fluorocarbon.  It is a great tool for the angler when applied properly.

{And many anglers use fluorocarbon on their spinning rods, trolling gear, and bait casters.  It is popular to add a five foot leader to the regular line on the reel.}

May 19, 2015


fly fishing ›  

Director of Fly Fishing Schools, Chris O’Byrne Surpasses 300 Hours Teaching

The Andy Thornal Company would like to recognize our Director of Fly Fishing Schools, Chris O’Byrne for recently completing more than 300 hours teaching fly fishing.  In 2011, O’Byrne passed the International Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Certification exam and has logged that milestone amount since. The Federation is one of a select few organizations which train and test potential instructors. They assure an expert level of knowledge and ability in demonstrating and teaching the joys of fly fishing.

 Andy Thornal welcomed Chris as a part time employee in 2004, since then he has taken on more responsibilities in our fly fishing programs.  He updated the methods of our full day school which has introduced more than 1,000 anglers to the long rod.

 The Andy Thornal schools have also been carried into the community as Chris has lead fly fishing programs at events such as Lake Wales Orange Blossom Barbeque Revue and the Florida Sportsman Expo, among others. 

These activities have allowed Chris to work with and learn from world record anglers and professional guides, authors, speakers and other luminaries of our sport.  Captain Pat Damico commented, “I have had the privilege of watching Chris grow from when he first expressed an interest in improving his teaching of fly casting.  By combining his years of coaching and teaching experience and applying this to fly casting and fly fishing he has become someone I frequently consult to help me stay current.”  The Saint Petersburg, Florida guide and Master Casting Instructor who mentored O’Byrne continues, “We have taught many courses together and his insight has always been outstanding. I would not hesitate to refer any fly fisher, beginner or advanced, to Chris for very meaningful instruction.”

 Chris’s ability to pass on the joys and methods of fly fishing is not limited to live events.  After contributing several articles to the Andy Thornal Fly Fishing Blog, he authored Begin the Adventure, the official notebook of our full day fly fishing school.  Covering all the topics of the school, it provides students an outline of topics, and a reference book for future use.  In the last few years, On the Fly, Fly Fisher and Florida Sportsman magazines have published his articles on the techniques and culture of fly fishing.  Look for The Beautiful Addiction, Chris’s soon to be published, unique and inspiring introduction to fly fishing book.

 We look forward to the future of Andy Thornal fly fishing programs and invite you to check us out on line, at one of our special programs, or in our store… where Great Adventures begin!

November 22, 2010


Maintenance Improves Fly Cast

Get the most performance out of the rod you already own – and it’s easier than you think!  Knowing that every one is stretching those fly fishing dollars, how’ bout a few tips to make that rod cast farther than ever. 

Clean your fly line-A clean fly line glides through the guides better than a sticky and dirty one.  Into a clean bucket, strip most of your fly line.  Add warm water and a drop or two of dishwashing soap.  Run the line through a soapy cloth or towel back and forth until it leaves no residual marks.  It can be that you need to strip the line through ten times to get it completely clean, particularly if you fish in tannic stained lakes.  Rinse, but not over a disposal (like one of my favorite customers.)  Fly line can get surprisingly caught in the bottom of the disposal!  Then strip through a clean cloth a final time to make sure the line is clean and dry.  (add 5 feet to your best cast)

 Lube your line-If needed, lube the line with one of the fly line specific lubes available.  There is the old trick of using Armor All or other tire and car products.  They are designed to shine, not lubricate, and they eventually become sticky.  Use lube that is made for your fly line and follow the directions.  Some are supposed to dry before use.  Others are good to go when wet. (add 5 feet to your best cast)

Stretch your line-This is almost as important as lubing your line.  A line that has a tendency to lay flat, will shoot through the guides easier that a line that tends to coil.  There are a variety of ways to stretch you fly line.  Perhaps the most common is to wrap you leader around a fence post, strip out your fly line, then stretch.  You’ll be able to stretch 5 to 8 feet with most fly lines.  Ease off gently and see if the line lies straight.  If not, do it again.  Repeat until it’s straight.  Usual three or four stretches is all you need.  Some braided monocore lines (tropical lines) won’t straighten.  I have used a bucket of hot water from the faucet to warm the line. Stretch the same way.  This is not needed on typical fly lines, just the tropical style salt water lines.  Another way to stretch line is 5 feet at a time.  I will sit in a chair and pull almost an arms length off the reel and stretch it to arms length.  I repeat this 15 times which is adequate for about 75 feet of line.  This technique is easily done in a flats boat or drift boat as needed.  (add 5 feet to your best cast)

 Clean your rod - When was the last time you cleaned every eyelet, and rod shaft with soap and water.  Surprisingly, gunk builds up on the eyelets, and only in the spots that the line rubs!  Clean the cork handle while you are at it! (add 2 feet to your best cast)

 This is fundamental maintenance, and can add 17 feet to your best cast!

This article was first printed in Coatal Angler Magazine December 2010 Lakeland edition.



September 18, 2010


Beginner's Guide for Bass Fly Fishing

I readily admit an obsession to fly fish for Bass. Topwater flies, suspending minnows, and sinking lines, I like them all, and every technique produces some nice fish. However,

bass fly fishing

can be made easier with minor tackle adjustments. Our home waters are Central Florida. And while Disney comes to mind for many, Kissimmee, Toho, Walk in the Water, and Lake Okeechobee are legendary in Bass fishing-all are within a 100 mile drive from our store ( And then there are the hidden ponds and pits, that only a dingy or canoe can get into.

Fishing a hidden lake.

Weedy Places
Around here, bass live in weedy places. Call it structure if you must, but most of us would call it a four letter word after your first three casts get hung. Usually a fly fishing casting technique (accuracy to the inch) is the suggested solution, but usually these guys don’t fish here. They don’t understand that I meant to cast in the weeds. Perhaps that is why conventional tackle fishermen get frustrated with a fly rod, and why many trout fishermen never learn to fly fish for Bass. What follows is a technique & equipment strategy. Be equipped to cast monster flies into difficult places…in other words, what bass like to eat, and where they like to eat it.

A Bass diet is diverse, thanks to their opportunistic dining. We know that they eat smaller fish, worms, bugs, crayfish, dragonflies, lizards, mice, and even ducklings. Our favorite casting instructor, Phil Chapman, is a retired fisheries biologist. His slide show, documents the things found in the bellies of largemouth bass. It shows little tiny bugs and worms, and huge 12 inch shad and mice in a 10lb bass belly. I find it amazing how bass will eat huge flies, but just as readily, they will take tiny flies.

Stewart’s Hula Frog

Large Surface Flies-Floating Line
The large surface flies are the most fun to fish. The action is right in front of you. And the vicious surface strikes are one of the greatest thrills of fishing. Watching a huge hole appear in the water as your fly disappears makes your heart pound! The problem occurs when trying to cast these huge bugs into tight quarters where the bass are lurking. I particularly enjoy fishing the lilies in the spring and summer. A large frog pattern or hard body popper are my weapons of choice. I like to fish them when he sun is high so they cast a shadow on/between the lilies where ole’ bucketmouth is casually looking up. I will intentionally smack cast the top of the lilies to get the fish’s attention, and then move slowly from lily pad to lily pad, in slurping quick strips, with an agonizingly long wait in between. When there is a strike, it usually comes when I am about to move the fly, as if the bass were timing his attack.

Hand tied Bass leader with quick change loop.

In this scenario it is easy to get hung. A weedless fly is a must, but so are stiff leaders. The typical 4x leader will not turn over the fly, and it is not strong enough, but most importantly, it is not stiff enough! Limber leaders get caught easily. We custom tie a leader for largemouth bass with a slick coating on the knots. It turns over big hair bugs, and the stiff tippet doesn’t get caught as easily, literally guiding the fly through the snags. And it is stout enough if you hook a big bass.

Hair bugs in bright or drab colors with rubber legs work well. Frog patterns with a light belly seem to be preferred, although the bass is only seeing a shadow from underneath. I also use a rubber legged, hard body popper or slider in a color that I can see. Surprisingly, black poppers catch a lot of fish, but make sure that you can see the face easily.

Non slip loop

Most of the time, I use a nonslip loop knot. This gives typically gives the fly a lot of freedom to do a seductive dance. It also allows the fly to work through cracks and snags, rocking in a natural way. The non-slip loop hides the snaggy tag of the leader. Knot strength is lower, but heavier, stiffer leaders have high strength.

Sub Surface Flies-Floating Line-Catch more fish
We know that more fish are caught below the surface, and sub surface flies catch more fish, period. Most conventional tackle fishermen that use plastic worms will find effective counter parts in the fly fishing arsenal. We like the Gulley worm, which comes in several colors. The tail floats, slightly, and the weedless hook will look familiar. There are a couple of good options to ‘Texas rig’ the fly and leader. Very small split-shot can be attached to the leader, and we also use a Carolina rigged brass bead head. Small baitfish patterns from Enrico Puglisi fish the water column from one to three feet down. These are suspending flies that can be fished very slowly or in a quick searching technique. They are very realistic, and the synthetic materials used are very durable.

Gulley Worm

We’ll change leaders when fishing clear water. Thinner leaders allow the flies to sink quicker. Classic knotless tapered leaders give good action and have less drag, so the flies sink more easily. Use them in areas when the flies are not being ripped over and through the structure-same places you would use conventional tackle like a crankbait or jig.

Clouser Minnow

The Clouser minnow is a stunningly simple and effective fly. First tied by Bob Clouser, with extensive endorsement by friend, Lefty Kreh (and the rest of us!) It is a fly fisherman’s jig. It can be tied small or large; we like a size two with lead eyes. They are typically tied on a stout galvanized hook, so they are salt water / rust resistant. The Clouser “swims” hook point up which makes it fairly weedless to structure on the bottom. I like to let the fly sink to the bottom, then with quick strips, and pauses, the fly hops across the bottom. Alternatively, fish with a slow strip, which drags the nose across the bottom, kicking up mud and sand. To fish high in the water column, immediately strip the fly when it hits the water. Keep it moving with quick strips. As the fly jigs up and down, you can cover a lot of water in this manner.

Full Sinking Lines

Fly Rods fish Deep with Sinking Line
While it is not as visual, a deep sinking line, fished with a short leader can be very effective. The Orvis Density Compensated Sinking Line, is easy to cast, and gets down quickly. I suggest the Type V with larger flies. Most anglers are tempted to use a Sink Tip, but we much prefer the full sinking line. This line does not cause a tailing loop when casting and does not ‘hinge’ on the retrieve so that there is no slack, and bites can easily be felt. Always use a 2 foot to 4 foot leader. Sometimes, I just use tippet. A fun method is to fish a sinking line is over submerged hydrilla. Larry Dahlberg suggests using one of his weedless diving flies with a short leader on a sinking line. Allow the line to sink to the top of the hydrilla (ten seconds or more.) The fly will be suspended above the weeds. Use a short quick retrieve and the fly dives into the top of the hydrilla! Some of my best fish have been caught using this technique. A suspending fly like the Puglisi Minnow or Lefty’s Deceiver on a three foot piece of tippet works well in deep water, also.

Dahlberg Style Diving Frog

Windy days are perfect for a sinking line. While it can be difficult to cast a floating line in the wind, the dense sinking line is fishable. And the fly turns over much easier because of the short leader/tippet. If the water is choppy, there is very little surface feeding. As you wait for the line to sink, it is straitening the leader. Retrieve a sinking line further than you would retrieve a floating line, and use a roll cast or two to get the fly to the surface, then begin you normal back cast. A sinking line expands fishing techniques, and may just save the day too!

It is not necessary to buy a second reel or rod and reel to fish a sinking line. Just use an extra spool for your reel that is pre-rigged with sinking line. Spools can be changed while on the water in less than a minute!

More information can be found in Dave Whitlock’s “Fly Fishing for Bass.” This has great instruction on methods, casting, flies, and reading the water.

Whitlock himself, does most of the illustrations which are unusually helpful. This is the definitive book on Fly Fishing for Bass.

We have simplified buying a quality fly rod outfits There are several great outfits, all at combo prices. And they are proven winners. These combinations cast well, and they are perfectly balanced for Bass Fly Fishing.

For info on Bass Fly Fishing Outfits, Click above graphic.

August 31, 2010


Fly Fishing in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park

by Chris O'Byrne

Chris O'Byrne spends his days teaching AP courses at Lake Region High School.  On Occasion you will find him working in our fly fishing shop, or selling a kayak.  He shares his insight on this recent trip to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park---and how about the fantastic photography! 

Who is the best basketball player ever?  Who wins, Superman or Batman?  Which is better for relaxation, an ocean view, or a mountain view?  Wonderful, timeless questions all.  Last June, because I care, I diligently researched one half of question #3.
 Our fly fishing trip to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) offered relaxation and more.  Hiking, history and lots of nature awaited us.

Fly Fishing in the Great Smokey Mountains

To prepare for the trip, I made use of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map.  The topographic representation allowed me to examine trails and altitudes to select likely fishing spots for each day.  National Geographic maps also show the road network of the given area, allowing us to plan driving routes for each day.  I studied the map for several weeks before the trip.  I studied the map each night, and because the National Geographic maps are waterproof, I took it right to the field, and referred to it often.  The map study showed that much of the fishing in the GSMNP, is best done with some hiking.  We did not make use of the many campgrounds in The Park, nor did we want to do much fishing in the many miles of water readily accessible from the roads.  We planned on walks of a few miles to fishing locations.
     We started with the upper portion of Abrams creek.  During the drive in, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies escorted us, and we encountered our first Black Bear.  The calm creature allowed us to stop and get out of the car to watch him (her?) a little more closely.  We walked from the Adams Creek Trailhead at Cades Cove, to a point about half way up to the falls.  As it was late in the morning, the best approach was to swing nymphs down-stream.  I was rewarded with the first fish of the trip, a small Brownie, tempted out from under a large rock by a Hare’s Ear Nymph.  I was fascinated watching a Kingfisher work up and down the stream.  Seclusion is tough to come by on this part of Abrams, and the fishing slows by afternoon, but The Park provides plenty of other activities.  After the walk back to the car, where we chanced on a Mountain Diamondback Rattlesnake, we drove to the Caves Cove Visitor’s Center to observe the historic displays. 

 Fly Fishing by the Waterfall

The grist mill is fully functional.  A Ranger operates the mill while giving an attention grabbing lecture.  The only light in the entire building is the sunlight which seeps through the cracks. So my Spotlight brand Rechargeable Flashlight enabled me to study the massive but intricate gearings located in the darkness at the bottom of the mill.


 Day two; we set out for The Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River.  The Ramsey Cascades Trail is approximately four miles from parking lot to Ramsey Cascades.  We chose to fish a spot two to three miles up the trail.  The hike was pleasant, with wading boots, hiking stove and emergency kit carried comfortably in backpack.  During the hike we spotted a Hedgehog, which darted across the trail and up the hill, and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  Once stream side, we dawned wading boots set packs aside and began fishing.  Wading at this altitude amounts to shorts walks through cold water, even n the summer, and climbing over boulders, to reach the small pockets on the other side.  In one large pool, a stone fly flitted around.  There were many fish present, and I took a fine rainbow by dapping into a little plunge pool.  Two others were hooked and released earlier than I planned.  As the fishing slowed in the late morning we prepared a streamside lunch, and studied the stream.  Then we changed into dry socks and hiking shoes for the hike down.  Later we made the long drive to Chattahoochee Valley. 

Cooking on the Trail

I had watched some Elk on a previous visit and wanted to make that experience part of this trip.  The extra time in the car was rewarded with a lengthy  view of a mother and baby moving through a grassy field.

 On Day 3, we opted for the section of Abrams Creek below the falls.  The map showed a short walk from the Abrams Creek campground, over a small hill, to a secluded stretch of Abrams Creek below the falls.  The stream is fairly wide here, and on both sides tree covered hills frame the pretty creek.  Due to the limestone of Cades Cove, Abrams features a great deal of mossy growth on the rocks.  With proper boots, wading was easy, but we spent some time pulling flies out of the plant life on the bottom.  Once he got the hang of this, Mike Donhaiser caught a nice Brown Trout casting a black nymph down and across the stream.

We spent several leisurely minutes changing out of wading gear for pleasant hike out.   We stole a few minutes to watch wildlife, cast to a few small trout rising on Kingfisher Creek.  While we walked, we planned our next trip; Sanibel Island for Snook on the beach.  And the ocean view!

Trout on the Trail in Great Smokey Mountain National Park


 Andy Thornal Fly Fishing Gear

April 28, 2010


Government might Choose my Fishing Shoes

Many Americans are screaming about the level of personal invasion by our government.  Whether it is airport security, eaves dropping phone calls, mandatory health care, or food labeling-most of us will have a complaint of some kind.  Surprisingly, you may want the government to choose your shoes, when it comes to your wading boots.

There is an epidemic in North American Trout and Salmon fishing areas called Whirling Disease.  My salt water brethren are saying “ whaaaaa?,” but any of our western trout friends know about the devastating impact to their fisheries.  There is a parasite that attacks the equilibrium organs of most trout and salmon, particularly our Rainbows and Cuthroat trout.  They are infected in the fingerling stage and eventually they loose their ability to control their bodies, making feeding difficult, and increasing their vulnerability to predators.

Ironically, the people that care the most about the fisheries are the ones most likely to spread the disease.  Boats can transfer it on the hull.  Clothing and waders can spread the disease.  But the major focus has been on the classic felt soled wading boot. It is easy for the felt soles to absorb the spores, and transport the whirling disease from river to river.  There are ways to prevent the transport of the disease, like disinfectant and allowing the “carrier” to dry, but felt soles are likely to disintegrate from repeated exposure to chemicals.

Studded Rubber Sole Wading Boot
If you have never waded a trout stream, usually the bottom is covered with a mixture of rock of various sizes from pebbles to baseballs to bowling balls to boulders.  Most of these rocks are covered in a delightful layer of slime that is slicker than Vaseline.  Add moving water and limited bottom visibility, and wade fishing is rather challenging.  Felt soled waders to the rescue.  The felt bottom is surprisingly sticky.  It greatly increases safety that makes wade fishing practical and fun.  But now whirling disease!

Fly fishermen are an industrious group of conservationist.  A wading boot was invented that would grip the slimy bottom with a rubber sole.  It works by piercing the slime all the way to the rocks, similar to studded golf shoes or baseball cleats.  This type of boot dries quickly (minutes rather than days) and is a huge asset in fighting the microbe.  It is also more resistant to disinfectants.  (It would be remiss to omit that every part of gear that touches the water should be cleansed and dried before changing to another river and spreading the disease.)  This also makes the wading boots much friendlier to any saltwater wading.

There is great resistance to changing from our beloved and reliable felt soles.  The issue is even more pronounced if your state is not affected by the disease.  However; there is no doubt that whirling disease is coming to a river near you.  A fellow fisher from out of state may unknowingly bring it to your waters, or you may unknowingly bring it home with you. And there is no doubt that using these new rubber soled boots will slow the spread of the disease but will not stop it.  The irony is that they appear to be superior to in traction.  And while a fisherman will jump on the newest fly and embrace new technology in fly rods, there is huge resistance to changing boots.  It is ironic that that there will likely be legislation by the government to choose your wading shoes in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.  The new rubber soled boots are also becoming a badge of conservation.  Some companies that promoted the new soles subtly promoted the product as a symbol of conservation; that who-so-ever wore rubber soled boots was most conscientious about their environment. And they are.  


January 12, 2010


Cold Water Flying

By: Capt. Jon Bull

Recently, temperatures have been barely rising above the mid 50’s. Nighttime temps are dipping below freezing in most parts of the state. Discussions of stunned or dead snook are consuming the online chat boards. Most anglers are deciding to stay at home rather than brave the elements. Many of those same anglers would say that it was time for the fly fishers to pack it in until spring approaches……they would be wrong. Winter time affords fly fishers a myriad of opportunities to get their tippets stretched on some of Florida’s most challenging game fish.

Cold Weather Fly Fishing for Redfish

The key to success is changing your philosophy and your strategy. I was recently asked what my strategies for winter time success were. This is what I came up with……

My strategy for this time of year is mid morning incoming tides. If it is low early in the morning (4:00-6:00), I would look for lee shorelines that are going to be exposed to the sun for the longest period of time during the morning and them hit them around 10:00-11:00….or later. I like my water depth to be between +0.5-1.0 ft. The redfish, trout, and sheepshead will be moving up the flats as soon as there is enough water to cover their backs. The sun exposure will warm the substrate and activate all the little creepy crawlies that they like to eat. Plus, that sun-exposed flat will have the warmest water on the flat…making it a natural spa….especially if it is dark, mud bottom. At the aforementioned water depth, I can pole my skiff and very easily sight fish from a distance.

I also look for wading birds to dictate where the fish will be. We see many egrets during the winter. Where they are wading is generally too shallow for my target species, but if there is a deeper trough or hole near them, I will bet the game fish are in there waiting for the tide to rise a little higher.

Crab Pattern for Sight Fishing with a 6 weight

In terms of gear, I like to scale down to a 6 wt. setup. The water is very high in oxygen content so the lighter rods will not cause any extra stress to reds, trout, and sheepies. They can handle it. In these gin clear water conditions, I also like to scale down my tippet size to 8-10#. I may even go to a 12# with no bite tippet. My flies will be “down and brown.” Think about what they are eating during this time of year, usually not greenbacks. Small shrimp and crab patterns will do the trick.

Always use loop knots to connect your fly to your tippet.
Make sure you allow extra time to adequately stretch out your fly line.

Slow retrieve caught this slot red

In terms of presentation, SLOW, SLOWER, and EVEN SLOWER THAN BEFORE. Things don’t move fast in the winter and shrimp and crabs do not move like a baitfish (fast). I like to strip my fly into position, let it settle, and then bump the fly as the fish approaches. Usually that will entice a strike….especially if there are multiple fish cruising together. I have found, recently, that the reds are hanging with the sheepies in groups of 2 or 3.

One last thing…..the “SLOW, SLOWER, and EVEN SLOWER THAN BEFORE” also applies to your POLING technique……NOT YOUR TROLLING TECHNIQUE. If you use your trolling motor in these conditions, forget it. You have to pole and you have to pole SLOWLY. These fish will be very spooky in those water depths and if you want a shot, you have to make like a hole in the water. Getting out and wading will also help if you do not have poling capabilities.

Waders make kayaking in the cold tolerable

So get out there and take advantage of the low angler/boat pressure on the flats. Just make sure that you add some extra clothes and a thermos of your favor Starbucks coffee to your gear list. And should the day’s effort result in fly fishing success, a flask of some other warming liquids wouldn’t hurt either!

Click Here to Browse Fly Fishing Gear

November 02, 2009


Fly Casting ›  

Long Accurate Fly Casting

If a fly fisherman can learn to control the shape of their “loop,” they will have pinpoint accuracy and increase their range. Controlling the loop is not difficult, but it is also not natural. It is very different from spin casting and bait casting. I liken fly casting-loop control to riding a bicycle. When the cast is right, you know it.

To make a good fly cast, make a tight loop. This is done by making a crisp stop at the end of both the forward and back cast. Do not follow through! It appears you stop half way through your cast. I call this a flick. If you stop the rod crisply, a tight loop rolls off. If you stop the rod spongy, a wide loop rolls off (if any loop at all.) Note that the tip of the rod is still very high at the end of the forward and back cast.

Tight loops are extremely efficient, allowing anglers to make 50 to 100 foot casts. They cut through the air, and focus energy in the direction of the cast, Wide loops burn distance by pushing the loop up against gravity. Wide loops are also air resistant and inaccurate. Most anglers attempt long casts by pushing the rod harder and faster. In fly casting, this does not work. It usually widens the loop! Contrary to what is natural, try tightening the loop (stopping the cast crisper.) A tight loop focuses energy in the direction of the cast, and can dramatically increase range.

Your first tight loop will zing fly line through the air. It is tempting to make the cast with the flick of the wrist. While effective on shorter casts, it will limit you range, and it will wear out your wrist. Make a cast by moving your arm in a straight line (like opening a door.) Use your wrist to finish the cast. You can cast all day with your arm. Also, remember to cast just as crisply on your back cast as your forward cast.

Controlling your loop will greatly enhance your fly fishing. It will allow you to make pinpoint casts at great distance. And your fly fishing will be more fun, with less effort. The secret is in the crisp stop of your cast.

This artice was originally published in Coastal Angler Magazine -Lakeland Edition July-2009