Trout, snook, reds and also sheepshead prowl skinny water looking for shrimp, crabs, baitfish and any of their other favorite morsels. As the tide carries the water off the flats, feeding fish must follow or be left exposed. The same fish will follow the tide as it comes in to continue feeding. Finding a protected area free from boating and people activity is essential to keep these fish happy. Look for any disturbances in the shallows that indicate the presence of your quarry. Nervous water, wakes, scattering baitfish, slow waving exposed tails, and schools of mullet deserve your attention. The presence of feeding birds will show you the area that has the best concentration of fish food as they have the same diet. Stealth is the key. A boat may have to be abandoned. Canoes and kayaks will get you shallower and keep your profile and shadow low, wading is often your best option. As you wade a line tied to your waist can bring a paddle craft with you and save a hike back to an anchored boat. A floating salt water taper on a 7 wt fly rod with a fast action will present your fly with little disturbance and allow you to pick up line off the water easily. Leaders over 9 feet in length tapered to 15 pound test will give you an edge. Use a loop knot to allow the fly to give more action when stripped. Weedless flies with the hook pointed up will resist snagging. Bead chain eyes in the shallows are preferred over heavier weighted eyes to avoid frightening fish and assure a soft presentation. Your favorite crab or shrimp pattern in size 4-6 in a color that matches the bottom is ideal. Make your cast close to where the fish is looking or headed in a straight line and without slack. Avoid lining the fish which will scare your intended target as well as most of his friends.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpatdamico.com or (727) 504-8649.