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If you plan on fly fishing in Sarasota, then this list of the best flies will be invaluable. These are some of the most effective flies that I use on my fishing charters. The flies on this list will put fish in the boat. I rely on some of these flies to fool big snook, redfish, and tarpon. Other flies on this list excel at attracting lots of fish. The effectiveness of these flies is not limited to Sarasota. They will catch fish all over the Gulfcoast of Florida.

An EP fly

An EP pinfish fly for shallow water

The list of best flies for fly fishing in Sarasota is thoughtful and informative. I run my fly fishing charters in shallow water, so the flies on this list are primarily shallow water flies. They are designed to catch fish on the flats, in the back country, on the nearshore Gulf (tarpon), and on dock lights.

There are excellent fly patterns on this list. You’ll find timeless classics, newer patterns, and a few of my personal flies. The fly patterns that I tied have been specifically customized for the Sarasota area. I like a couple patterns so much that I considered not sharing them and leaving them off the best flies list.

Following is a comprehensive list of the best flies for fishing in Sarasota:

To book a fly fishing trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Seaducer Fly & Similar Patterns.

The seaducer fly works unbelievably well at nearly every inshore saltwater destination. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the seaducer is a great fly pattern for fishing in Sarasota. It’s a classic pattern used and tied by some of the sport’s greatest innovators. And it’s a fly pattern with an endless number of variations and close cousins. Many flies that go by other names are either variations of the seaducer or pretty darn close.

A sea-ducer fly fishing fly

A seaducer fly variation that I tie

The seaducer fly boasts a large profile, yet it’s nearly weightless. Good luck finding another fly that can match the seaducer’s weight to profile size ratio. It’s so light that it barely makes a ripple when it lands. This makes it an ideal fly for sight fishing.

Seaducers have a lot of natural movement built into them. Which means they are a great option for wary shallow water fish like snook and redfish. It’s not an intrusive fly and when presented properly, it won’t spook many fish. Often the natural movement of a seaducer is enough to peak the interest of fish.

Versatile Variations & Similar Patterns

One of the most popular locations to use the seaducer style fly in Sarasota is on the beach for snook in the summer. On Sarasota beaches, the DT special is a well-known fly pattern. It’s one of the most effective flies an angler can use to target shallow water beach snook. If you’ve ever tied a DT special, you’ll understand why I categorized it as a seaducer type fly. The main difference is that the tail material isn’t flaired out.

A fly for the beach

Ross, a friend and client, tied this DT special

Seaducer style flies are a great choice for tarpon along Sarasota’s beaches. The cockroach fly is a classic tarpon fly developed in the Florida Keys. It’s still a great fly to bump along in front of adult tarpon in the Gulf. There are plenty of other tarpon flies that are some variation of a palmered neck/saddle hackle for the head and body with tails made of flared hackle feathers. And that is because this classic fly remains a great producer.

The seaducer is perfect for shallow water applications. Don’t head to the back country without bringing a few. They can mimic a wide variety of back country life depending on what type of feathers are used. A seaducer can be a shrimp (check further down the list), crab, or a fish.

Gurgler Fly (Garthside Gurgler)

The Gurgler was a fly created by Jack Garthside and originally known as the Garthside Gurgler. Jack has since passed, but his contributions to the sport of fly fishing live on. The gurgler works just as well in Sarasota, FL as it does everywhere else. It is the go-to surface fly for fly anglers everywhere.

garthside gurgler fly

The cupped head gives this gurgler some pop

In Sarasota, the gurgler is a pattern you want in your box. It  works well on a  wide variety of saltwater species. Snook and juvenile tarpon have a special affinity for this little surface bug. Happy redfish and shallow water seatrout will have no problem slurping down this fly either. Other sporty fish like bluefish and jack crevalles find a gurgler irresistible at times.

I use the gurgler in a variety of situations here in Sarasota. When you’re fishing around mangroves, the gurgler should be one of your first choices. You’ll find that it’s highly effective in low light. Early in the morning around mangrove islands with current is probably my favorite time to use this fly.

Gurgler Fly Variations

Since its creation, fly tyers have customized the gurgler’s design to their liking. There are many variations of this popular pattern. The variation that I believe is best suited to the waters around Sarasota is a gurgler with a recessed popper-like head. This variation (see image above) involves compressing the foam on the head into a forward facing cup that grabs more water.

angler holds a jack

Gurglers in white or black will do the job

This gives the gurgler a little more bite when it’s stripped through the water. A gurgler head tied this way tends to dig in and grab more water when you strip it. It makes for a louder fly that can call fish out from a farther distance away.

A traditionally tied gurgler will work just fine, so don’t sweat it if you can’t find or tie one with a cupped head. Jack Garthside’s pattern tied to original specifications still catches plenty of saltwater species. But if you find yourself in a situation (choppy water) that requires more commotion, then this gurgler variation may be exactly what you need.

Tarpon Toad Fly

The tarpon toad fly is a pattern that serious fly anglers fishing for tarpon in Sarasota keep in their fly box. Generally speaking, it’s a newer fly pattern. Gary Merriman, a fly shop owner in Georgia, introduced the first tarpon toad to the sport of fly fishing in the early ‘90’s. The two features that stand out most on this fly are that it doesn’t sink out of the zone too quickly and it has a good hook-up ratio

tarpon toad fly

A tarpon toad with foam eyes to ride high

It’s an odd looking fly that doesn’t seem to resemble anything. It was unbelievably effective when introduced. It became popularized when people noticed that Andy Mill, one of the greatest fly anglers to ever target tarpon, was using the pattern. It remains an effective fly and you should definitely have a handful of these in your tarpon fly box.

Best Tarpon Toad Colors

As far as what colors work best, that’s something that you will have to decide for yourself. I will say that just about all anglers that target tarpon on the fly always make sure they have a dark toad in their box.  Just about every tarpon fly box in Sarasota has a purple or black toad in it. Thoughtful fly anglers use different color toads for different conditions.The more places you fish for tarpon with a toad, the more you’ll realize that the best color to use will vary depending on location.

To book a fly fishing trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

The JT Clouser

A clouser minnow fly

The JT clouser is a great glass minnow pattern

A good glass minnow pattern is critical to anyone planning on fly fishing anywhere in Sarasota. The JT clouser is a fly that can be fished effectively throughout the year. It catches fish everywhere. The original pattern was tied with deer hair, but deer hair is easily destroyed by toothy salt water fish. You will find the synthetic fiber JT clouser is a durable fly that can take a beating.

The JT clouser fishes best as a smaller fly. A size 2 hook with extra small clouser eyes seems to be the sweet spot for this fly. The first place I would recommend trying this fly is on the beach for beach snook. You’ll find it to be a great pattern to cast ahead of swimming snook and then bump to life as they approach. It’s also a pattern and movement that they see less frequently on the beach.

Great Dock Light Fly

monster snook caught on a fly rod

Another Big Snook on the JT Clouser

The second place you’ll want to use this fly regularly is at night on dock lights. On dock lights, this fly can really do some damage. It passes as a small shrimp, glass minnow, or baitfish fry. It’s very effective at targeting snook that are lower in the water column or snook that are feeding in very heavy current. If you use the JT clouser on Sarasota dock lights, you won’t be disappointed.

The flats and back country around Sarasota are all ideal places to use the JT clouser. It’s a fly that does well in water from 2 – 5’ in depth. Tying it with a weed guard is highly recommended if you plan on using it on the flats or in the back country. This is a fly that should always have a place in your fly box. Clousers are not the sexiest flies, but man they really work.

If you’re interested in learning how to tie the JT clouser and the story behind the fly, then click here

Enrico Puglisi (EP) Baitfish Fly

EP minnow flies

Pinfish EP minnow patterns catch big fish

EP fiber transformed the world of fly tying when it was introduced to the sport. Flies tied with EP fibers are extremely durable and realistic. And there are certain times that fish prefer EP flies over all other offerings. The profile of an EP fly is likely its best attribute. EP baitfish flies can look remarkably realistic. If you’re fly fishing anywhere near Sarasota, make sure you have a few EP baitfish patterns.

There are plenty of EP baitfish patterns to choose from. Carrying a few different flies in your box is wise. I would recommend carrying a larger pinfish pattern and a more diminutive pattern to represent a baitfish. My box has a variety of EP pinfish variations as well as smaller EP pilchard flies.

The EP pinfish pattern is a good option for snook or reds on the flats around Sarasota. In shallow water, large seatrout rarely allow an EP pinfish fly to sneak by. It represents a large and easy meal. An EP fly is solid choice for schooling redfish. It gives them a solid profile to key in on and it pushes a bit of water which they can feel. When redfish are schooling, they have to feed aggressively. Otherwise, they’ll lose out to other fish in the school.

EP Flies are Excellent for Snook

A fly dangles from a snook's mouth

Another snook on an EP fly

Snook especially are susceptible to EP baitfish patterns. It represents a large meal and snook take notice. This is a great fly for the back country, around mangroves, and oyster bars. As effective as these flies are during the daylight, they are probably even more lethal at night. They are one of the best flies to target large snook on dock lights with. The large profile pinfish fly is ideal for big snook on dock lights. Large snook can be mesmerized by these flies, often trailing only inches behind the fly before they commit.

To book a fly fishing trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

Floating Minnow Fly

floating minnow fly

An odd looking bug that works bigly

The floating minnow fly is an odd looking bug. To be honest, if I hadn’t created it I probably would never try it. Odd looks aside, it’s a great fly for fly fishing in Sarasota. You will find that this surface oriented fly is a versatile pattern that is effective on many species. There is excellent shallow water fishing in the Sarasota area and this fly shines in skinny water. The foam head keeps this fly perched in the upper water column.

The floating minnow fly slides downward in the water column when it’s stripped. The fly slowly rises to the surface between strips. This fly works well in a variety of situations. It’s a great fly around mangroves where snook are hiding. Snook often pounce on this fly quickly if it lands within a few feet of them.

Perfect Fly for Snook, Reds, & More

A redfish tail

Schooling redfish love the floating minnow

If you’re around schools of bait in shallow water, then this fly pattern should be at the top of your list of flies to try. On windy days, bait can be blown into shallow water where it is subjected to the merciless attacks of snook, redfish, seatrout, and juvenile tarpon. The floating minnow fly is an ideal fly for the fish that are looking and feeding up. It stands out with its red head and lively marabou tail. In fact, there have been times when the floating minnow is the only fly that fish will eat.

The floating minnow fly is a great situational fly. It’s well suited for shallow water sight fishing. The design of this fly allows it to land in the water softly. In other words, it won’t spook fish. Once it hits the water it stays in its landing spot until you decide to move it. You don’t have to worry about this fly sinking down into the grass.

The Evolution of the Floating Minnow

The concept for this fly pattern evolved from the floating minnow fly pattern that Bob Clouser sells on his website. Bob Clouser’s pattern calls for a prefabricated foam head with a bucktail body and tail. This minnow fly pattern is different.

an angler holds a snook

Snook love the floating minnow fly

This fly went through numerous iterations before I settled on this final pattern. The tail, made from long strands of marabou, adds incredible action to the fly. The marabou is surprisingly durable and holds up well to fish. The body is still made from bucktail, but the primary purpose of the bucktail is to prevent the marabou from fouling on the hook.

I use sheet foam rather than the prefabricated foam head. And I borrowed a technique of wrapping foam around eyes to build a head from Charles at Wink’s Flies. It’s an effective and sturdy head that pushes a little water while keeping the fly high in the water column. There will be an instructional tying video on this fly down the road. Until then, feel free to reverse engineer it or email me for more details.

Back Country Special Fly

The back country special fly is a chunky fly that doesn’t have any incredible traits or characteristics that would lead you to believe that it’s worth using. It doesn’t have great movement or action, but this fly really works. I suppose the marabou tail is difficult for following fish to ignore. You will find that it works especially well on back country redfish.

the back country special fly

A simple fly that gets impressive results

There are multiple colors and variations of this fly for you to choose from. In the Sarasota area, I find that redfish seem to favor the back country special fly in the color purple. It may be due to the fact that purple is such an easy color for fish to track. Either way, redfish always seem to track it eagerly before they commit.

A Better Fly for Redfish than Snook

For snook, chartreuse or white seem to be the most effective. But if you’re targeting snook in the back country, there may be better fly pattern options. These are simple flies to tie and some version of them is available at most fly shops. If you know how to tie flies, the back country special is a very easy tie.

I tie them on a size 2 mustad tarpon series hook. The tail consists of a healthy clump of marabou. The body is EP fibers trimmed and shaped with scissors. Bead chain eyes probably aren’t necessary, but they certainly give the fly a finished look. Shallow to moderately shallow water seems to be the most effective place to fish these flies.

Shrimp Fly

shrimp fly

This shrimp fly pattern gets results

No fly box is complete without a few shrimp patterns. In Sarasota, a good shrimp fly will garner interest from snook, redfish, tripletail and seatrout. A good shrimp fly is also a great pattern if you’re in the niche group that likes targeting sheepshead on the fly. A shrimp fly is a great option when you’re fishing shallow grass flats with potholes.

Many Shrimp Fly Options

You have a lot of shrimp fly patterns to choose from. Borski’s fur shrimp fly pattern is a good one. The shrimpy sea-ducer (see what I’m saying about sea-ducers?) is a reliable pattern as well. I have one that I’m particularly fond of.  It’s a beefed up bonefish pattern with longer crazy legs. It can be tied with bead chain eyes or extra small clouser eyes.  I prefer the extra small clouser eyes on a size 4 hook.

The clouser motion combined with the extra-long crazy legs give the fly a very realistic fleeing shrimp motion. The krystal flash wrapped around the hook shank resembles a carp or bonefish fly pattern. Fox hair provides excellent natural movement in water.The benefit of fox hair over marabou is that it’s much more durable and slightly more rigid. It’s the ideal material for a shrimp fly.

You will find that many species of fish find this shrimp fly pattern enticing. It’s a small nonthreatening fly that flat out catches fish. The other benefit of longer crazy legs is that it enlarges the profile of the shrimp fly without adding much weight. You will want to check the fly occasionally for fouling. The extra-long crazy legs will foul, but I haven’t found a way to foul-proof the fly without destroying it’s profile and action.

shrimp flies laying on a table

This shrimp pattern is excellent on dock lights

Conclusion

So there you have it, a comprehensive list of the best flies for fly fishing in Sarasota. Have I given you all of my favorite fly patterns? No, but I have certainly been more than generous. If you keep these fly patterns in your fly box, you’ll have no problem catching fish in Sarasota, FL. If you’re not catching fish with these flies, it’s probably not the flies fault!

Thanks for reading and checking in to Capt. Brian’s Quiet Waters.

To book a fly fishing trip with Captain Brian, Click Here. or you can text/call 941-400-6218

See you on the water soon!

Captain Brian Boehm
Quiet Waters Fishing
941-400-6218
Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Sarasota, FL