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Beginner fly angler has the luck

January 8, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Steven Lister called and signed up for my total beginner's saltwater fly fishing course. He cited the usual reasons for not trying fly fishing earlier in his fishing career, but thought it was about time to complete his angling bucket list.

His ultimate goal was to catch a bonefish on the flats in front of his condo in Islamorada (Fla. Keys). Here on a week's family visit, he decided to give my two-hour short course a whirl and get started on his fly fishing goal.

He arrived at the dock to get acquainted with the equipment and some basic practice casts on dry land before hitting the water for some real world casting.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

For those unfamiliar with the fly rod, a back and forth motion with the rod propels the heavy fly line backwards then forwards carrying the fly with it toward the target.

In fly fishing the line is cast rather than being pulled from a spool with a heavy lure as in spin fishing.

With the line in the air behind you, if the forward cast isn't started soon enough gravity takes over and the line, leader and fly fall to the water. At that point, as a beginner, you either have to reel in or gather up the line to recast.

I don't know how your luck has been running in 2016, but for Lister, his is in top form.

Finding a nice quiet cove we anchored and got started. On his second practice cast he failed to get the forward cast going soon enough dropping the line (and fly) to the water's surface near the mangroves.

When starting fly fishing I typically use a fly with the hook point clipped off. Reason being till one gets the hang of basic casting it's easy to bury the fly hook in the back of your head on your forward cast. (Wear a hat).

"Reel it back in and let's get set up to cast again," I said. As he turned toward the mangroves he started reeling. Within two turns of the reel handle the surface exploded and a yard-long snook took to the air multiple times.

Figuring with no hook this thrill wouldn't last long, but to my surprise the fat snook was still on and now pulling drag. Lister was hanging on for dear life as I coached him to reel when he could, and give line when he needed to.

After being airborne several times and being in and under the bushes several times both our nerves were frayed.

Finally, the snook was in hand's reach and I snagged him. Thirty-seven inches long and triple jaw, gill, and fin wrapped in leader line, the hookless fly still in its mouth.

Is there some kind of fly fishing record for backwards and hookless snook fly fishing? Congrats!

Trout flourishing in numbers, but small. Get out early for a gator using your biggest topwater plug around bars till it gets too cold driving the trout into deeper holes, basins, and channels.

Redfish action on smaller reds using shrimp around mangroves and docks.

Pompano showing up inshore. When cruising along in your boat and fish start jumping as you pass, you've found pomps, one of Florida's tastiest fish. Circle back and quietly fish the area with shrimp-tipped tiny jigs on light spinning tackle. Keep the jig hitting the bottom for these delicious members of the jack family.

Schools of bull reds are appearing offshore with bonito and king mackerel. Grouper and snapper action is ongoing, weather and winds permitting.

Dragging large diving plugs around secret GPS numbers might get you a grouper bite or a smoker king mac attack.

This is trophy snook time. Search out mangrove points on the flats and on bars till it gets too cold.

Cape canals, canal docks, marinas and deep creeks hold winter monsters.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or



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