Fly Fishing the Backcountry

Backcountry fly fishing for saltwater species is one of the most interesting and challenging ways to enjoy the great sport of fly fishing. It is always different with a wide variety of species, situations and locations. All you need is a 6 weight or heavier fly rod, some basic fly patterns and to be in the correct geography.



Backcountry is nothing more than inland waters with access to the open seas. Game fish follow the food that ride the tides in and out, and for a nominally skilled fly fisher that means casting to a myriad of species depending on geography and season. Backcountry water is widely available in the US from the Texas coast, along the gulf to Florida, and then up the Atlantic coast, with Florida having the most fish-able water with the easiest access.

Around late February to early March backcountry fly fishing begins to improve in Florida and other southern regions. Although this is seasonally transitional and winds can be brutal, it is still a great time to escape Northern waters that may still be iced in, and/or not yet productive. The 10,000 islands area around Naples is a backcountry haven, although far from the only one, with virtually every species known to man using it as a feeding or breeding area. For the do-it-yourselfer on a budget it is very possible to forgo any water craft and just wade. Fishing around bridges, canals, even mangrove flats have firm enough bottoms most of the time; although some are too soft. You can even forgo wading and just fish from the bank eliminating need for checked bag fees if flying. Canals are especially well-suited for this, although sometimes you need to watch traffic behind you when timing your back cast.

One other affordable possibility is to rent a canoe or small power craft from a local marina. Make sure though you have a chart, and are able to read it, along with a gps as getting turned around in remote, unfamiliar water is easy to do.

Sight casting is usually available and adds to the excitement and anticipation, but other times casting to likely fish holds will produce fish when you least expect it. Snook, baby tarpon, jacks are all possibilities and the variety just adds to the experience. As for favorite backcountry flies, a basic assortment will include standbys like the Clouser Minnow and Lefty’s Deceiver in a variety of colors, supplemented with some crab and shrimp patterns.
The when to fish is more vital than the where; the water fish are caught can sometimes be shocking, but look for structure man-made or natural. Cuts and channels become travel lanes during tidal movements and are always a good bet. It pays to observe water during low tide, if the bottom can easily be seen to view optimal fishing lanes later.

By far the most important element is the tides. Always have a tide schedule for your area, available either online or at sporting goods shops. The tides will be listed for the major pass in the area, usually a bay or jetty. Unless you are fishing right there you will need to make adjustments to the posted times. South of the posted area high tide will hit earlier usually about an hour for every fifteen miles, and for every mile inland tides are delayed about twenty minutes. However these are just guidelines locals or your own observation can be more exact.

Tide provides the movement, the current if you will, reading fast moving current is similar to reading rivers, advantageous lies are sometimes easy to pinpoint. Other areas though the current is subtle; which is when scouting at low tide is helpful. Fish activity is often visible, as is bird activity; another helpful clue to food availability; then other times casting blind is your only option.

Peak flow tide is when water is moving the absolute fastest in the current cycle. Peak flow generally occurs halfway between high tide and low tide. All things being equal fishing an hour to ninety minutes either side of the peak flow is optimum. Most fly fishers have a preference of incoming tide, as new areas are being flooded and food is being rushed in, perhaps the urgency of the game fish is greater. The most important thing though is the moving water, which moves the food, which moves the fish.

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The Blog of Big Y Fly Co: Fly Fishing the Backcountry
Fly Fishing the Backcountry
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