Flyfishing for Redfish in Tampa Bay

Flyfishing for redfish isn’t easy. It’s even harder in Tampa Bay. However, this past weekend we had beautiful weather and I was able to hop on a skiff to chase some tail.


Why Flyfishing for Redfish in Tampa Bay is so Tough 

Lefty Kreh once said, “We fish for Islamorada bonefish to practice for Tampa Bay redfish”. Hopefully, I didn’t butcher that quote too badly, but the point is this, redfish in Tampa Bay are hard. A big reason for this is that these fish see lures, baits and flies 365 days a year. Tampa is one of the most densely populated cities in the state, and with more and more people moving here every day, it puts even more pressure on a fishery that is already getting pounded on a daily basis.

Flyfishing for any species is hard, but combine that fact with near-constant angling pressure, weather considerations and less fish due to water quality issues and habitat degradation, and you have all the makings of a frustrating day. While our day certainly had its frustrations, it also had triumphs.

Morning Glory

We had gorgeous weather lined up, favorable wind and plenty of warm sun. It’s days like these when usually nothing happens. I have found that when conditions look amazing and you’re super prepared, you end up catching very little. However, on this day, it was not the case. After a short run from the ramp, we came to our first spot. Chris took the polling platform and Alex, the casting platform. 

The glare of the early morning sun was horrendous, but when fish are as big as the one we saw, they truly can’t hide. A beautiful laid-up redfish was sunning itself along the shoreline. Alex delivered a beautiful cast that got the attention of the fish which made a beeline for the fly. The results speak for themselves.


Delivering the cast


Flyfishing for redfish


Now it was my turn.

Shots, Shots, Shots 

I was now up on the platform and as we polled along, I sighted several snook, one being particularly large. Despite my multiple casts, I couldn’t elicit any interest from him. Even the one small fish that showed interest in my fly was unhappy with the presentation and ultimately turned his nose up at it. No matter. It was a long day with more to come.

We continued moving along when I spotted a very large redfish, roughly the same size as the fish that was caught just a short time earlier. The red was facing away from the skiff and my cast wasn’t where it needed to be. This resulted in a cloud of dust and the fish spooking, however, he was still milling around allowing me to make a second cast. With this second cast, the infuriated redfish engulfed my offering and took off. However, it was not to be. One tiny graze of an oyster and the fight was over before it had even begun.

Redfish on fly are hard, and I had just lost a stud. A bit crestfallen, we soldiered on.

Redfish on fly from a polling platform
Chris keeping a keen eye for the next shot

This time it was Chris who spotted the fish, I could barely make it out, but I made my cast and presented the fly in accordance with his direction from up top. The fish obliged and I was a happy camper. It wasn’t the biggest red in the world, but again, in case you had forgotten, redfish on fly are hard.

Tampa Bay Beauty

As we put in the work for the rest of the day, we appreciated the beauty of Tampa Bay. Tons of bird life, beautiful water, rays, and we even caught the air show that was taking place at MacDill Air Force Base.

Going Away Present 

After polling many spots and making a few more casts, we came to our last spot of the day. From atop the platform, Alex spied a redfish slowly coming out of the tree line. Chris delivered an expert cast ahead of the fish, and after a few timely ticks of the fly, the fish crushed his offering. It was another solid red.


Chris at the ready to stand and deliver


Flyfishing for redfish in Tampa Bay
The result of a well-presented fly


All in all, it was a great day. Amazing weather, great fishing and the opportunity to share it with good people. Fun was had by all, and this day served to whet my appetite for more as up to this point, I hadn’t touched my fly rod in SEVEN MONTHS – far too long. I will be back out there again soon, flyfishing for redfish or other such creatures.

Until next time, tight lines.


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