For most, December brings images of Santa, catchy songs and cooler weather. To a fish head such as myself, I think of strong winds, low tides and hungry fish. As fly anglers, we are faced with the challenge of wind that can make our coveted time on the water a nightmare. In the following, we’ll discuss some ways to make the most of the chilly December days here in Tampa Bay.
The first tip for being successful this time of year is to strategically plan your outings. Check wind and tide, and let that dictate your game plan. With cooler weather approaching, we begin to see stronger north winds battering us fly anglers. If the wind is strong, plan to fish the protected areas on the southern side of your hunting grounds. The back creeks and bays that litter the Upper Bay are perfect for dodging gusts and avoiding gray hairs.
With the tides creeping into the negatives, fishing for our traditional species shifts, and can confuse anglers, leaving you with an empty camera roll and a long ride home. Use the low water to your advantage. Combined with the wind, your typical flat can become a desert before you know it. This makes finding fish much easier due to the lack of hiding spots. Under these conditions, you’ll find reds, snook and large speckled trout laying in the troughs, cuts, pockets and channels that can be found on the flats. While locating these fish can be simple, catching them can prove to be a tougher challenge.
Clear water, cooler temperatures and limited shelter can leave fish weary and sluggish. For fly anglers, this is a tough combination. For me, the best approach to be successful is to hop out and wade these knee-to-ankle deep areas and try to spot fish. Polarized glasses are a must for this situation. Look for any silhouette that looks strange and give it a shot. You may be rewarded with a healthy red or, even better, a “gator” sea trout. As for fly selection, smaller whitish baitfish patterns like peanuts or kwans in pinks, whites, tans and browns work best for me.
If you are fortunate enough to hook and land a large sea trout, please remember to treat them carefully. Fish over 20 inches are mostly female and provide Tampa Bay with the future population of the nation’s favorite inshore gamefish. Wet hands, lip grips and quick pictures are recommended.
As always, Good Luck and Happy Holidays!