Fly’n Off the Deep End
By CAPT. BRENT GASKILL
Fly rods have gained popularity over the years as being effective saltwater tools for tackling a variety of species. Most often they are used in the skinny stuff to stalk redfish, snook, permit, bonefish, or even a little deeper for tarpon. Taking the flies offshore to water deeper than the rod is long opens up a whole different realm of fishing opportunities from the beach to as far as you care to go.
Offshore fly-fishing is nothing new. It’s been done in many exotic locals around the world challenging fish of all sizes. Here in the Tampa Bay area, most anglers are surprised at the number of fish that can be taken with a fly in deep water. When the conditions are right Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonito, barracuda, sharks, snapper, amberjack, blackfin tuna, and more can all be caught.
Mackerel are probably the easiest to target as they can be found right off the beaches. Concentrated bird activity will give away their location as the macks push bait schools to the surface and feed at lightning speed. Schoolie size kingfish can sometimes be mixed in with the Spanish or can be found a little further out on their own. What the mackerel lack in size can be made up for in their numbers and cooperation. The kings will step it up a notch with their increase in size and speed providing great action on the fly.
Artificial reefs at mid water depths will hold an abundance of fish throughout the summer that are willing to eat a fly. Common catches here include bonito and barracuda. While they may be considered a nuisance by many, these two can quickly show you the backing on your fly line that you haven’t seen since it was new.
Out deeper, amberjack become top competitors when they feed on the surface over wrecks in 100+ feet of water. Typical AJ gear consists of conventional 4/0 reels loaded with 60-pound test on big 8-foot rods. Showing up with a fly rod to do battle can initially seem like bringing a knife to a gunfight. The amount of pressure that can be put on a fish with the limber rods is amazing however and big fish can be beat down relatively quickly.
Offshore fly tackle generally consists of quality 8-weight to 10-weight rods with reels capable of holding a lot of backing. We seldom get out the 12-weight unless it’s absolutely necessary and have gone as light a 6-weights just to increase the challenge.
Choosing the right fly is important. Clouser and Deceiver variations are the most popular as they mimic baitfish. Matching the size and color of the fly pattern to the baits in the area will be the most effective.
Catching fish on the fly is not as difficult as many believe. In some circles it’s an achievement of obtaining the highest level of angling prowess and can become quite snooty. In reality, it’s simply taking fishing skills to the next level just as switching from live bait to artificial lures. It’s all about the challenge and fun of fooling fish with something manmade.
Capt. Brent Gaskill can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 727- 510-1009. He is a full-time guide in the Tampa Bay area specializing in both inshore and offshore fishing.