Picking the Right Flies for Scouting New Locales

Picking the right flies for scouting new saltwater spots - where to fish, what to look for, and the best choice for flies...

This is a story about scouting a new place to try your skills at flyfishing, and what fly experts – people with experience on the water and flyrods in their hands – choose when they are fishing a spot they’ve never fished before. 

Picking Flies Based on Where the Fish Should Be

If you are talking about fishing new waters – or even revisiting waters you haven’t fished for a long time, you should know these three things. First, he looks at the structure. He knows that in a new spot the fish are going to be where fish always are – The Three Ps -- a point, a pocket, or a pass.

Where to Cast your Flies Determines the Fly of Choice

A point is described as anything that sticks in the water that causes the flow of water to change or be disrupted. For example, a dock is a point, and so is a peninsula. Water moving right to left causes fish to sit on the opposite side to wait for bait.

A Pocket is anything from a small ‘bay’ to any closed area of water with one opening. A bay is a pocket, but so is a hole in the mangroves no bigger than the hood of your car. The bay holds lots of fish -- those holes hold trophies you can count on sitting there at least sometimes during a particular month or season.

A Pass is a pass. It is a tighter spot where water needs to squeeze through an area.

Of the places you will likely find fish hanging out and being predators, the “Three Ps” will get you off to a good start.

000 New Spot Old Files 3 PThis is the top of Fort Desoto Park in Pinellas County. The red arrows indicate Points, the Green arrows Passes, and the Yellow arrows show small (and larger) Pockets. Those are the first structures you should try fishing any time you go to a new spot.

Where in the Water Column?

There are three places you are likely to find fish in the water column -- On the top, in the middle, or on the bottom. It all depends on what species of fish you are looking for. This basic rule of thumb – that there are three kinds of fish based on the structure of their jawline – will help you pick the right fly for the right fish. The three kinds of fish are:

Inferior fish are fish that feed on the bottom. They will roll sideways and strike a topwater lure, but their lower jaw is shorter than their upper jaw and their eyes are built to look down easier than up. They include redfish and catfish.

Terminal Fish have top and bottom jaws that are the same length. They are more open-water predators than structure fish, but of the three places you are going to look, the passes are where you will find them. Even small tight passes often hold them. They include the mackerels, which are often in the reach of fly anglers. Even large offshore predators like wahoo and the tunas are terminal species. They are looking in front of themselves and most likely to strike a fly designed to simulate a baitfish.

Superior fish include the top target recreational fish, including tarpon, Largemouth bass, and the elusive snook. Their bottom jaws are shorter than their upper jaws, and as a result are the most likely of all species to hit a topwater lure.

Three Fish, Three Spots, Three Kinds of Flies

As we said above, there are three places you will find fish if you’re scouting new water -- Points, pockets, and passes. There are three kinds of fish you’re likely to catch. Inferior feeders such as redfish that are looking for food on the bottom most of the time; fish that swim in open passes and flats and strike swimming lures – most likely mackerel but inclusive of all fish; and fish that look up – like snook or largemouth bass. In saltwater, where a multitude of different species abound, you can catch any of the three fish in any of the places we described in the water column. But if you are fishing for largemouth, you should consider that they too will eat a bait on the bottom, in the middle of the column and certainly on the surface. So you need three kinds of flies regardless of where you are scouting:

Topwater Flies

The most exciting lures to choose – and lures you should surely have in your box in several colors and varieties – are topwater lures. Topwater lures bubble, splash and otherwise disturb the surface.

000 New Spot Old Flies Bub

A topwater fly like this popping bug will make fish that look up – like snook, largemouth, tarpon, and most other fish strike the fly in dramatic fashion. Nothing in the world is quite like a large fish grabbing a topwater fly when you just spent two hours not getting a strike and casting over and over and over again.

Swimming Fish Simulators

These lures are designed to fool a fish. They look like sardines or other small fish, and sometimes are colored brightly not only to attract a fish so they strike in anger, but to help anglers see the fly and better respond when they’re sight casting – throwing that delicate and weightless fly directly where they saw the exact fish they are trying to catch.

000 New Spot Old Flies Swi

Flies for the Bottom Feeders

Inferior fish are not called inferior because they are less of a challenge, a fight, or a joy on the dinner table than a “superior fish.” Tarpon, in fact, and ladyfish – another great open-water but superior fish to try your fly luck at – are disgusting to some. Slimy, nasty, and able to eject gray matter (poop) that will permanently stain your skin it seems, they are far from good eating fish. But the bottom feeders like redfish are so good, that trends developed frying them in cast iron pans, which nearly led to their extinction or near-elimination from local waters.

000 New Spot Old Files Cra

Flies best suited for fish that eat crabs and shrimp are, well, made to look like crabs and shrimp.

000 New Spot Old Flies Shr

Picking the Right Flies for New Fishy Spots

There is clearly a lot to talk about here, but what we tried to do is cover most of the groundwork for you to successfully take a few flies to a new spot to see what you can catch.

We suggest a box of flies with a few different colors and variety of action. Have some topwater flies, including bubblers and poppers; some swimming lures, including a few that look like the fish they simulate; and a few really bright green and pink ones, as well as a few crabs and shrimp flies. Fish those in Florida waters, and fish them near the Three Ps -- points, pockets, and passes, and your fly success is likely to improve.


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