Fly Fishing Sarasota
Helpful fly fishing articles and links to other pages that any angler would find useful are located throughout the page. Regular updates will be made to this page to provide the most recent and relevant fly fishing information. Visiting anglers will get a very good feel for the fly fishing options and opportunities available in Sarasota, FL. Techniques, flies, the nearest fly shops, and more are listed below.
I go over many of my favorite areas to fly fish in the Sarasota area and I share some of the great places we go on trips. If you’d like to find out more about a fly fishing trip with me, then click the button below. Best wishes on all of your fly fishing adventures.
-Captain Brian Boehm
Where to Fish
The waters around Sarasota, Florida provide endless opportunities for visiting and area fly anglers. I know the waters from lower Tampa Bay all the way down to Charlotte Harbor very well. These are zones where I run fly fishing charters and they all offer something unique for the interested fly angler.
Lower Tampa Bay
Lower Tampa Bay starts just south of the Skyway Bridge. It runs east from the Skyway and ends at Port Manatee. Between the Skyway and Port Manatee is miles of flats, back country mangrove creeks, and coves. It’s a beautiful area where you can regularly find snook, redfish, tarpon, and more great inshore species.
Terra Ceia sits on the south shore just west of the Skyway. On the outside of Terra Ceia there are expansive flats that run west to the mouth of Terra Ceia Bay and the Manatee River. These waters are spectacularly clear. It’s a beautiful zone where long sand bars give way to grass flats. It’s an area where you can find redfish, snook, tarpon, the occasional cobia and more.
On the inside of Terra Ceia is an awesome back country area with creeks and coves that eventually transitions into Terra Ceia Bay. You will find that tides are very important to your success in this area. Another great feature of Terra Ceia is that fly anglers can always find a place to get out of the wind – regardless of which direction it’s coming from.
Another area that lends itself to fly fishing is Palma Sola Bay. Palma Sola is north of Sarasota Bay by a few miles. The bathymetry of Palma Sola is one of the characteristics that make this a unique fishery. This area is known for being an excellent winter fishery. It’s accessible to wading anglers and it produces good numbers of redfish, trout, and snook.
At the northernmost reaches of Sarasota Bay is Cortez. Cortez is the oldest working fishing village in Florida. The flats around Cortez are a good place to look for inshore gamefish. This place tends to attract redfish and larger seatrout in shallow water. The deeper channels and mangrove islands attract a fair number of snook as well.
Sarasota Bay is home to a wide variety of species that can be targeted with a fly rod. Long Bar is a historic bar that divides the southern two thirds of the bay from the northern third. It’s an area where anglers can catch redfish, seatrout, snook, and tarpon during certain parts of the year. The clear water here offers some excellent sight fishing opportunities for fly fishing.
South of Sarasota Bay is Roberts Bay, Little Sarasota Bay, & Blackburn Bay. These zones offer good wind protection for fly anglers. Snook, redfish, and trout are the main species to target, but juvenile tarpon fishing can be great during certain parts of the year.
South of Sarasota is Venice. There are a few small bays between Nokomis and Venice, but this area is primarily known for its exceptional night fishing. This is where you will find the fabled waters of Snook Alley. A zone made famous by its morphology and prolific numbers of snook. This is a great place for fly fishing. Especially on big tides, when the water flows more like a river.
Charlotte Harbor & Placida
South of Venice is Placida and Charlotte Harbor. Some of the best back country fishing in all of Florida can be found in this zone. Turtle Bay, Bull Bay, Whidden Creek, and other areas are home to snook, redfish, tarpon, and other species.
The wild back country is a beautiful place to visit. The shallow nature of this place reduces the amount of boat traffic you will see. It’s a great place to get away from the crowd and to feel like you’re the only angler on the water.
The Barrier Islands & Gulf of Mexico
A distinct geographic feature of this area in Florida is the existence of barrier keys/islands. Between the Gulf of Mexico and mainland are a long series of barrier islands. They protect the mainland during storms and they create and foster our inshore environment.
The water that divides the northern shoreline of one island from the southern shoreline of the other is known as a pass. Passes let inshore water out into the Gulf during outgoing tides and let Gulf water in during incoming tides. The passes themselves provide some excellent fly fishing opportunities during the year.
Our barrier islands have beautiful beaches. The beauty of our beaches draws people to them from around the world. Very few people take advantage of great fly fishing opportunities right off of our beaches. From Anna Maria Island all the way down to Gasparilla Island, there are opportunities to fly fish throughout the year.
A local tradition amongst fly and light tackle anglers is to target snook on the beach. During certain parts of the year, it provides fly anglers with some of the best sight fishing opportunities in the world. You’ll be surprised how effective a little white fly is on the ghosts of the beach.
The Gulf of Mexico is a giant basin of fly fishing goodness. Fly anglers will appreciate the pelagic species that seasonally move through our area. False Albacore, Large Jack Crevalle, Bluefish, and more are all great targets for fly fishing. Species like cobia and tripletail will keep you busy during other parts of the year.
Rivers & Creeks
We have three really good brackish rivers in our area. Fishing the Manatee River, the Myakka River, and the Peace River will be one of the most unique experiences you can have around Sarasota. These rivers hold inshore gamefish throughout the year, but the winter time is when they really shine.
As temperatures drop in the Gulf and on the inshore flats, many fish begin to head up river towards warmer water. Snook, especially, are governed by water temperatures. These rivers offer some awesome opportunities to catch snook.
Much of the fishing in rivers is very much back country. River braids, mangrove islands, and small shallow coves are everywhere. The options are limitless in these back country wonderlands. Redfish love brackish rivers and schools of jacks are a common sight.
There are plenty of other great places for a fly angler to focus in the Sarasota area. And each category could be the chapter of a book on fly fishing in Sarasota. The links within the text above lead to articles that explore and elaborate further on each area.
Inshore Slam Species
Snook are a premiere saltwater gamefish and they are an excellent species to target when fly fishing. They will be in different zones throughout the year. In the winter, you can find them regularly in brackish rivers. In the summer, many of these same fish will be cruising along the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
Redfish are a great species to target with the fly. Redfish like to work for their food compared to other species that are content to wait and sabotage their meals. They seem to constantly be on the move. Redfish can be found as far out as the Gulf of Mexico and as far in as the shallowest reaches of brackish rivers.
We have tarpon in our area waters in all but the coldest months of the year. Even then, most of them are around far up in brackish rivers. Tarpon should be near the top of every fly anglers list of fish to catch. I can tell you assuredly that these fish, whether adult or juvenile, live up to the hype. They are electric.
Adult tarpon are mainly found in the Gulf of Mexico during spring and summer in our area. We will see some adult tarpon on the inside in spring and late summer. Juvenile tarpon hang around much longer and can be found in rivers, on the flats, and in the back country. Hooking a thirty pound fish on a gurler in the back country is one of the coolest things a fly angler can experience.
Speckled Seatrout are prevalent throughout the Sarasota area. The majority of the seatrout are class-size fish in the 12-18” range. However, we have plenty of larger seatrout around Sarasota. Fish over 20” are not uncommon and seatrout over 25” are caught throughout the year. Seatrout are a beautiful fish with a natural camouflage that makes them lethal predators on grass flats
Fly Fishing Options
Fly Fishing the Beach
The beach offers fly anglers a variety of species to target. Around here, snook are the prize of the beach. Beach snook fishing is a bit of a local pastime for fly anglers in the area. It’s some of the best sight fishing a fly angler will find anywhere. The summer is prime time for beach snook.
There are many other species to enjoy on the beach, they are just less dependable than beach snook. For instance, anglers can find seatrout, redfish, jacks, mackeral, and even false albacore in the surf. A simple white fly is often the best bet for the beach. The DT minnow or the schminnow will work just fine for you.
Fly Rod Weight – 7-8 weights
Fly line – A floating or clear sink tip line (1-1.5 IPS) will do the job. A 20-25 pound test bite guard on the end of your leader will handle most fish you encounter on the beach
Best Fly – Schminnow or DT special
Fly Fishing Dock Lights
Dock light fishing is sight fishing at night where snook, reds, and tarpon gather around underwater lights. This type of fishing is done from a skiff and is a popular fishing charter amongst my fly fishing clients. We have some really big snook around our area and targeting them at night is one of the most effective ways to hook a big one on a fly rod.
Sight fishing snook on dock lights with a fly rod is incredible fun. And it’s a trip that generally goes well regardless of your skill level. The other benefit of night fishing on dock lights is that there won’t be a many other boats out. During certain times of the year, dock lights are the best place to catch tarpon on the fly as well.
Fly Rod Weight – 8-9 weights (10-11 weights when larger tarpon are around)
Fly line – A floating or clear sink tip line (1-1.5 IPS). A bite guard of 25-30 pound test will work well on most nights. If you find larger fish around, then it might be advantageous to step up to 40 pound or higher.
Best Fly – JT clouser (link to this fly pattern near end of article)
Fly Fishing the Shallow Flats
Fly fishing on the shallow flats is a beautiful experience. Presenting a fly to a fish in shallow clear water requires some skill. Snook, redfish, and even tarpon can be found in shallow water. Shallow water is where you’ll find larger seatrout as well.
The sights and sounds that you experience in skinny water will put a smile on even the most calloused angler’s face. If you find that sight fishing isn’t an option due to water clarity, then you can run a gurgler next to mangroves or pick apart potholes. It’s an extremely enjoyable experience.
Fly Rod Weight – 7-9 weights (9 is preferable for larger juvenile tarpon)
Fly line – Both a floating and a clear sink tip line (1-1.5 IPS). If you can only choose one, then go with the floating line.
Best Fly – EP baitfish pattern
Fly Fishing the Back Country
As mentioned above, there are back country areas to the north and south of Sarasota.The back country area south of Sarasota is likely my favorite. Bull Bay, Turtle Bay, and other back country areas are beacons of pure wilderness. The shallow water of the back country was made to be fly fished.
It’s a mangrove island jungle separated by creeks, coves, and shallow flats. Snook, redfish, tarpon, and seatrout are all present in the back country. Pinning a fly in a tarpon’s cheek in the back country is one of the purest experiences a fly angler can have.
Fly Rod Weight – 7-9 weights (9 is preferable for larger juvenile tarpon)
Fly line – Floating and a clear sink tip line (1-1.5 IPS).
Best Fly – Backcountry Special
Fly Fishing for Tarpon in the Gulf
Just off the beaches of Sarasota, is world class tarpon fishing during certain parts of the year. The tarpon migration in the summer can be legendary around Siesta Key. We get a good push of adult tarpon from May-July.
The shallow water around Gulf sandbars is one of the coolest places a fly angler can hook a tarpon. It’s 100% sightfishing for fish in the 100 pound class. Feeding a tarpon a tiny fly in crystal clear Gulf water is an unforgettable experience.
Fly Rod Weight – 11-12 weight
Fly line – Floating and a clear sink tip line. Using a clear floating line is beneficial. I’ll cover that later in this post.
Best Fly – Tarpon Toad
Fly Fishing the Deep Grass
The deep grass is a place that offers action. Whether you’re fishing with conventional tackle or a fly rod, if you go to the deep grass, you go there for action. If you’re the type of fly angler that is less into sight fishing and more into action, then the deep grass is where you want to be. The key with fishing the deep grass is locating fish. Once you find a fish, make sure to mark the area because there are likely many more fish in the same spot.
Fly Rod Weight – 7-8 weight
Fly line – Full intermediate
Best Fly – Clouser Deep Minnow
Quiet Waters Blog
May was a good month for fishing in Southwest Florida. Snook, redfish, seatrout, & tarpon were targeted on Quiet Waters fishing trips – run out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. Sight fishing was the focus of fly fishing charters throughout the month....
Anglers on recent Quiet Waters fishing trips, run out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, experienced good sight fishing conditions in shallow water and excellent dock light fishing. We had a mix of light tackle and fly fishing trips. Wind played a factor in...
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, […]
Sarasota, FL offers some of the best fly fishing for snook on dock lights in all of Florida. This is the perfect trip for those anglers targeting snook with a fly rod. This comprehensive article breaks down the integral parts of fly fishing for snook on dock lights and gives the prime areas to find big snook on dock lights in Sarasota.
If you’re looking for the best books on fly fishing in Florida, then you should find this list helpful. This list is made up of fly fishing books that Captain Brian Boehm, a Florida fly fishing guide, has read and recommends. Though there are many books written on the subject, not all are worth owning. […]
Fly fishing for tarpon is about as good as it gets for fly anglers. It only takes one fish before the process becomes habit-forming. An unholy amount of dopamine floods the brain’s reward center when your fly line comes tight to a tarpon. Interventions are useless to those anglers obsessed with fly fishing for tarpon. […]
- An entertaining fishing blog to keep up on is this one
- We have two fly shops in Sarasota. CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. The other is the Compound Boardshop on South Osprey Avenue near the north Siesta bridge.