“The sun had just emerged from behind a bit of cloud cover as the shadow appeared at our feet. ‘I think that’s a fish,’ I said to Scott as we started backpedaling down the hot sand, frantically stripping fly line off of our reels. My first cast moved the dark shape a few feet closer into the sandy shallows, where Scott’s fly was perfectly positioned for a follow-up shot. ‘He’s on it,’ I shouted at the very moment when the silhouette surged forward in one of the most violent, aggressive takes either of us had ever witnessed. In an instant, fly line was peeling off of Scott’s reel with backing soon to follow. Marveling at the deep bend in the 8-weight rod, we both laughed in amazement, as we knew we had finally tied into a good one…”
One of the most under-appreciated saltwater sight-fishing targets is certainly the common snook. During the summer months, these fish creep into the shallow waters off of Florida’s Gulf Coast where they patrol the beaches in search of love and a cheap meal. If you’re an angler, you probably already know where this is going. Low, winds, high sun, and clear water are the ticket. Find a day that meets these parameters and you may be in for a real treat. The key is to hit the beach and start walking. Good days are spent covering lots of ground and casting small fly offerings to single shadows and schools of silhouettes that suddenly materialize from the sandy bottom like apparitions. Snook dine on an array of baitfish and small crustaceans, but these fish are no easy sell. Land your fly too close and they spook; cast at the wrong angle and your fly ends up washed onto the beach by the waves (these fish are often mere inches from the sandy shoreline). You may jog a quarter mile, planting cast after cast in front of the same group of fish as they trail your flies with vicious intent, only to turn off at the last second. Eats are never a sure thing, but when things come together, you’re in for headshakes, aerial acrobatics, and strong runs. Smooth drags and large arbor fly reels are important when fighting these fish, as well as a solid bite tippet to avoid breaking off from the chafing of their abrasive mouths and razor-sharp gill plates. Other crucial gear includes pliers, ample sun-protective clothing and sunblock, a stripping basket, plenty of water, and a good pair of polarized sunglasses. With such a low barrier to entry, this fishery offers amazing opportunities for experienced DIY anglers and new fly fishing converts looking to have their first saltwater sight-fishing experience.