Tampa Bay Florida Fly Fishing Report for Feb and March

Fantastic, early, spring-like weather got the fishing pretty hot in and around the southern part of Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg.

Saltwater Fly Fishing Guide – Captain Russ Shirley, Tampa Bay. On board the ‘Salty Fly,’ my custom Silver King flats skiff, anglers caught various species on the flats the past 2 months. With February having weather we’d usually see in late Spring, just about everything that swims was available, including a few early season Tarpon. Fishing the south side flats from St. Petersburg to Ft. De Soto and beyond, my anglers caught Snook, Spotted Sea Trout, Spanish Mackerel and large Crevalle Jack.

Week of February 11, 2018. I had the pleasure to have aboard fly fishing anglers Ken and Kris Ann Butterfield. Starting with blue bird skies, the flats lit up due to an approaching light cold front and increasing southerly winds. When fishing very shallow, grass flats, it’s important to have the necessary skill levels of accuracy and distance with your casts. Most fish will eat if the fly is presented naturally, with the right feeding angle and correct fly movement. Dealing with wind is something every angler, especially fly fishermen, will need to adapt to. And that old saying, “The wind is your friend,” is very true. The best advice I can give you is: 1) Learn how to throw the tightest loop possible. 2) After you’ve been successful throwing that tight loop consistently, commit your tight loop casting to muscle memory. 3) Then, and only then, learn to double haul. This is saltwater folks, and the fish don’t like to hang near you or near the boat. Also, to assist your success in this environment, polarized sunglasses are probably the single most important item needed. Personally, after all these years, I use Smith Optics Ignitor Lens for normal skies, and their Amber Lens for cloudy, low-light conditions.

Week of February 18, 2018.

I had the pleasure of light-tackle fishing with a most interesting Veterinary Optician, Sam Eaton. Recently retired, Sam and his wife Emilie own and run a very successful business in Denmark, Wisconsin: Eaton Highland Red Deer Farm. We sited a group of Spotted Sea Trout that Sam deftly had fun catching and I got treated to some great stories from his past. Sam told an awesome story which had me rolling on the deck laughing, about him performing an enema on a very sick and plugged-up, 18-foot boa constrictor and the aftermath that followed. Yikes! Sam’s probably glad he’s retired after reliving that story. Thanks Sam, for your dedication to the animal world and for being the coolest Veterinary Optician I know.

The next day, with a low and rising tide, clear blue skies and increasing sunlight, Ken, another Veterinary Optician and I, searched for a bucket list species. When I found out Ken was good at freshwater bass fishing with artificials, I figured he’d be perfect for Snook fishing. And he was! Ken successfully landed his largest Trout ever and lost a beast-of-a-fish with a hook pull just a few casts later. Anyway, we proudly boated 2 for 3 and enjoyed a perfect fishing day together.

Week of March 4, 2018.

Once the stationary, high-pressure system had moved off, it was back to sight-fishing for different species, especially once the winds and dirty water became more prevalent on and around the flats. Luckily, I was able to find some hidden treasures.

Capt. Russ Shirley

Salty Fly Charters

St. Petersburg, Florida

Website: www.captruss.com

Email: russ@captruss.com

Phone: 727-459-3896