By: Brendon Allen
Inshore fishing during the winter months in Southwest Florida can be outstanding for fly anglers looking to sight-cast redfish, speckled trout, and even snook. The water turns crystal clear due to fewer storms and less runoff while the lower tides present perfect conditions for targeting tailing fish. These conditions make the fish far easier to spot, but you still need the right fly to persuade that fish to bite. Let’s review a few patterns and color selections that are likely to make this outcome more probable.
Winter means cooler temperatures, and cooler temperatures mean that larger baitfish push into deeper waters, leaving inshore species to primarily feast on a diet of crustaceans and smaller baitfish. Fly patterns that mimic crabs and shrimp are go-to choices and can be purchased or tied in a variety of sizes and colors. Popular crab patterns include the Kung Fu Crab and Merkin crab, while popular shrimp patterns include the EP Spawning Shrimp and Borski Slider. The Kwan fly, which combines elements of both shrimp and crab features, is especially effective. As for baitfish patterns, the Seaducer, Deceiver, Clouser, and EP Minnow are excellent choices because of the variety of sizes and colors they can be tied and purchased in.
As far as sizes and colors, natural colors and smaller sizes work best during the winter months. Water clarity, bright skies, and low tides can make fish skittish of anything that looks out of place, so it’s important that your fly doesn’t stick out too much. Baitfish patterns that consist of tans, grays, olive, and white are excellent choices. Primarily using tans, browns, and pinks work best for crustacean patterns. In addition to color selection, choosing an appropriately weighted fly is crucial. In shallower water you’ll want to use a fly with bead chain or small dumbbell eyes to avoid spooking any prospective catch, while in deeper water, medium to large dumbbell eyes will help your fly sink to where the fish are eating. Regardless of weight and color, including weed guards on your fly will ensure that fish will be the only thing you’re catching.
Fly fishing in Southwest Florida during the winter can be an exhilarating experience because of the bountiful sight-casting opportunities. With the right fly selection, the possibility of catching that fish you’ve set your eyes on is just a cast away.