Tips for fly fishing on your beach vacation in the dog days of summer

  About to head to your favorite beach for a summer vacation? Well here a few tips to help you land some fish in the heat and among the tourists.

 Find a secluded stretch of beach for your best chance at sight fishing.

Find a secluded stretch of beach for your best chance at sight fishing.

Wake up early

  Don't plan on sleeping in on your vacation if you want to fish the prime time of the day.  Get out there as early as you can to avoid the crowds and families playing in the water scaring away all the fish.  Of course, you will still have to deal with the beach walkers/runners in the morning, but at least they won't be in the water.  Even then, try and find a stretch of beach that doesn't have many high rises or better yet, none at all, to distance yourself from the walkers.  The further away you get from people, the better your chances are of finding fish.  You'd be surprised at how close fish will swim to the shore and how many fish you will see when no one is around.  

Walk the shoreline

  As you walk the beach and distance yourself from the crowds, be sure to keep your eyes on the water. Both redfish and pompano will likely be hugging the bottom.  Redfish are much easier to find, in my opinion. They will be a silver color with a light blue tail cruising the shoreline.  A pompano is much more difficult to sight fish because of its slender shape.  The black color on the tip of its tail and dorsal fin can be a give away if you are able to spot one.  Both redfish and pompano could be single or with a small school.  I've had best results casting at schools.  The solo fish are very difficult to fool.  Once you have spotted some fish, be sure you give the fly enough time to sink before stripping.  Once you believe the fish is within sight of the fly, begin stripping.

 Redfish caught in July from the shoreline in Destin, Fl on a sand flea fly.

Redfish caught in July from the shoreline in Destin, Fl on a sand flea fly.

Sandbars

If you are able to spot fish further out, or just need to wade out deeper in order to keep from having to stop casting so the beach walkers can walk by without fear of snagging them, you will likely be able to wade out to a sandbar.  Don't be afraid to cast back to shore even though you are out on a sandbar.  The disadvantage of wading on a sandbar is not having the height to spot fish that you have from the shoreline.  

Stand on the edge of deep cuts

  If you are having trouble finding fish from shore and decide to wade, your best bet on finding fish are where deep cuts meet shallow water.  The deep cuts will most likely have bait funneling in and out which in turn will attract larger fish.  

Suns out buns out

  Once the sun rises, the redfish are the first to leave the beach and head for deeper water. Pompano will still be nearby, just be sure to keep distance from the crowds that will now be huge.  In come the lady fish, jacks, hardtails, bluefish and spanish mackerel.  I've caught all the above in the afternoon, all day long, in crowded beaches.  

Kayak / paddle board

  If you are able to get out on a kayak or paddle board, the morning is again your best time to get out because once the wave runners and parasailing boats come out, good luck.  The stand up factor from a paddle board is a great asset for spotting fish.   If you are interested, tarpon frequent the panhandle and alabama gulf coast during these summer months but are extremely difficult to jump due to constant boating pressure.  If you do plan on fly fishing for them, bring at least a 10wt, a 12wt is ideal.  For flies, bring a plethora.  Just because a certain fly works in the Florida Keys doesn't mean that fly will work somewhere else.  These fish are chasing large mullet and ladyfish so don't be afraid to throw big flies.  

Flies

  For redfish and pompano throw heavy flies and hop them along the bottom.  I prefer a sand flea or marbled sand flea. If they aren't hitting that then I prefer to cast heavy clousers in chartreuse/white or all white with some flash. The heavy weight will get the flies passed the ladyfish and other toothy fish and into the strike zone of the desired species.  For lady fish, hard tails, blue fish, jacks and spanish mackerel, lightly weighted clousers stripped fast will likely get the attention of one of these fish. A little orange will help attract spanish macs and bluefish.  

Leaders

  The crystal clear water of the emerald coast has humbled me many times and if you want to catch fish you have to play by their rules.  For redfish and pompano in the early morning I prefer to scale down to 10-12 lb tippet.  Be prepared to lose a bunch of flies if the ladyfish or bluefish are out that early though.  If you are targeting ladyfish, blues, hardballs and jacks, you can get away with 20 lb tippet.  

Rod and reel

  An 8 wt rod and reel is the ideal setup for surf fishing.  I prefer a reel with a sealed drag to keep out saltwater and sand. A weight forward floating line will work just fine, but I prefer an intermediate clear tip fly line to get the fly down and keep the waves from picking up the motion of the fly.  The cabelas line is a great line at a great price and is my go-to for this type of fishing.

UV Epoxy needs some sun

  UV epoxy has greatly improved the world of fly tying in multiple ways.  From building heads on streamers to adding a protective layer over exposed thread wraps, most can agree that UV epoxy has a special place on their fly tying table.  

 After putting on a layer of uv epoxy, be sure to set it out in direct sunlight for at least an hour.

After putting on a layer of uv epoxy, be sure to set it out in direct sunlight for at least an hour.

  While it is a mainstay on my table, there are a couple major setbacks.  The first being the price. Not only is the epoxy expensive, but so is the uv light.  I won't say what brand I use because I believe there is not one perfect product. Ive tried out three or four of the top uv epoxy brands and all have similar results, both good and bad.  Besides the price, the other major setback is tackiness.  

  If your fly is tacky, that means the epoxy is not fully cured and therefore will break off/ chip away easier than a fully cured fly.  I've read on many other blogs that leaving the fly out in the sun won't help take away the tackiness. I've had the complete opposite results.  In the summer time I leave my flies out in direct sunlight for at least an hour, double that for winter, turning it every so often, making sure to expose the fly on all sides towards the sunlight in order to get a full cure on the fly.  

 Some Vlahos' Marbled Sand Fleas tanning to get a full cure.

Some Vlahos' Marbled Sand Fleas tanning to get a full cure.

  Back to the price, specifically the flashlight.  The prices of the lights on a few of the well known brands are absurd.  The flashlight is great for one step in my opinion, setting the epoxy.  Once I have it set or "flash cured," I put it out in direct sunlight to finish the fly.  Here is a link to a light you can get at your local wal-mart that works just as well for only $10. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Rayovac-VBUV-B-Rayovac-Value-Bright-9-LED-UV-Flashlight/22086108

 Cheap uv light that works just as well as the more expensive uv lights.  I use it to set the epoxy, then put the fly out in the sun to completely cure the fly.

Cheap uv light that works just as well as the more expensive uv lights.  I use it to set the epoxy, then put the fly out in the sun to completely cure the fly.

  

Destin Trip Report

We arrived in Destin late Friday night and stayed at my Dad's on Choctawhatchee bay.  

 One of my instagram photos was picked up by the Northwest Florida Daily News and was in print the day we arrived.  

One of my instagram photos was picked up by the Northwest Florida Daily News and was in print the day we arrived.  

 Later in the week we stayed at the Hilton SanDestin for a convention.  This was convenient for me because it happens to be right next door to a beautiful state park where the fish outnumber the people, rare for a Destin summer.  If you walk far enough, like I did, not a single soul will walk by.  And that's how I like it!

Later in the week we stayed at the Hilton SanDestin for a convention.  This was convenient for me because it happens to be right next door to a beautiful state park where the fish outnumber the people, rare for a Destin summer.  If you walk far enough, like I did, not a single soul will walk by.  And that's how I like it!

 Where a freshwater lake meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Where a freshwater lake meets the Gulf of Mexico.

 I spotted several schools of redfish in the early morning before the sun rose too high.  This red ate a sand flea fly that I tie and sell on the site  Click here for the fly .  He put up a great fight before I slid him up on the beach to take a few pictures.  Of course, I let him go.  

I spotted several schools of redfish in the early morning before the sun rose too high.  This red ate a sand flea fly that I tie and sell on the site Click here for the fly.  He put up a great fight before I slid him up on the beach to take a few pictures.  Of course, I let him go.  

 The number of stingrays along the beach was unreal.  Way more than any trip out to the Louisiana or Mississippi barrier islands.  With the water so clear, they were easy to spot and I had no worries wading in the water near them.  

The number of stingrays along the beach was unreal.  Way more than any trip out to the Louisiana or Mississippi barrier islands.  With the water so clear, they were easy to spot and I had no worries wading in the water near them.  

 I spotted many blacktip sharks and spinner sharks throughout the trip.  A hammerhead even came in close and went after a ladyfish I had hooked.  It didn't stick around for long, and neither did I. 

I spotted many blacktip sharks and spinner sharks throughout the trip.  A hammerhead even came in close and went after a ladyfish I had hooked.  It didn't stick around for long, and neither did I. 

 I spotted a sea turtle every morning.

I spotted a sea turtle every morning.

  On our final day, my wife Marica and I took a long walk down the beach and watched some dolphin feeding and jumping clear out of the water at the same time.  It was pretty awesome.  

On our final day, my wife Marica and I took a long walk down the beach and watched some dolphin feeding and jumping clear out of the water at the same time.  It was pretty awesome.  

 Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

 Tight loop.  No fish were harmed, but it was still a pretty great morning. 

Tight loop. No fish were harmed, but it was still a pretty great morning. 

 Ended the trip with a lunch at Pompano Joe's with Marica and our friend Rebecca.   Till next time...

Ended the trip with a lunch at Pompano Joe's with Marica and our friend Rebecca. 

Till next time...