Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part One

Florida Snook

By Capt. Scott Hamilton

Florida fly fishermen celebrated the opening of the Snook season the first of September. Trout fisherman may wonder what's the big deal about Snook. Those who have fly fished for Snook claim if the rest of the country had Snook instead of Trout or Bass, Snook would be the most popular fish in the country.

Snook are a terrific fly rod species. They will take flies readily, jump, and make short runs. Especially for any kind of available cover, where it will attempt to break you off. This is a strong fishing fish. With shoulders. A large Snook will go over 30 pounds.

Access to these fish is another plus. Snook are found in shallow coastal waters, estuaries, as well as brackish and freshwater in the winter months. With many of the same habits as Black Bass, Snook can be taken on some of the same flies and tackle used for Black Bass.

Snook are found up and down the Florida coast, with the concentration of fish below a line roughly from Tampa Bay on the west side to Port Canaveral on the Atlantic side.

Tackle requirements depend on where you wish to fish. Fishing for big Snook around Mangroves requires a rod and leader system with backbone. A nine weight rod with 16 lb. leader will be more likely to hold a big fish.

Experienced anglers on grass flats can do rather nicely with a seven-weight system, even if the fish are large. Without the possible of cover or mangroves the fish will make short runs and jump until it is tired out.

A word of warning, Snook have raspy, abrasive lips - and gill plates with cutting edges. Opinions differ on what is the optimum requirement for a shock leader. 30 pound mono would probaly be first choice.

The Fish!

The area around Palm Beach has an incredible array of targets for fly fishing during the fall. September sees the beginning of the bait migration. Mullett, menhaden, pilchards and a host of fish head south for the winter!

Hot on the heels of the bait fish are the big predators, tarpon, snook, permit, shark, jack crevalle and barracuda. Every fish gets in on this last heavy feed of the summer. Even sailfish will come in close to the beach after schools of baitfish.

Further offshore, the reef has king mackerel, cobia, false albacore, spanish mackerel and sailfish on the prowl. And dolphin, blackfin and yellowfin tuna, wahoo and even marlin are found just beyond the reef. There is excellent night fishing for snook and tarpon in the waterways and inlets.

The Flies . . .

For fall fishing, use the match the hatch rule. Flies tied to resemble baitfish in very small sizes (clouser minnows and glass minnow imitations) to huge (sailfish streamer size) will be needed to cover all the possible situations.

Matching the size of the bait fish you find as you fish the region is as - or more important than matching the color. In fact, the same size in a different color will at times draw strikes just because the fly stands out from the bait school better.

Lefty's Deceiver in size's two through 4/0 in natural and bright colors, Seaducers, and large poppers will all work.

The Gear . . .

These fish will run on the large size, so heavier fly tackle is needed. Basic fly fishing gear is a nine or ten weight rod, with a reel that holds a minimum of 250 yards of backing.

Lighter rods can be used for the smaller fish. This area abounds in fish that will make a trout rod dance like never before. Keep in mind that fighting big fish on light fly rods, (especially at this time of the year,) results in feeding sharks or 'cudas. It takes the predator fish an amazingly short time to zero in on a prolonged fight.

Twelve weight rods (and up) are needed for the bigger sailfish, tuna, and tarpon. You will still have your hands full, but you will get the fish in quickly and released in good condition.

Terminal Tackle

Most of our fish require at least a heavy mono bite tippet. Mackerel and 'cudas will need steel bite tippets.

Adjust the length of your leaders depending on water clarity. The inshore water is brackish and tannic so your leader can be short. But near the beach and offshore, water clarity can exceed a hundred feet. Flourocarbon leaders can be priceless here.

Offshore, sinking lines are more effective, either in slow or fast sink versions. If working the surface area, monocore or slime lines will be much easier to cast than floating lines.

Sometimes getting the fly just one foot down can mean all the difference in getting - or not getting strikes. Except when fishing inside in shallow water, poppers are the only flies you'll want a floating line for.

Sharp hooks and good knots! ~ Capt. Scott (Hamilton)

About Captain Scott:
JC and the LadyFisher had the pleasure of fishing with Scott, he's a great guide, supurb boat handler, his boat "Time to Fly" is a custom rigged, 21' Wahoo especially designed for fly fishing. We had a great time, and caught fish! Highly recommended, contact him at: Hamilton Fly Fishing Charters 561-439-8592.

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