When to go Where and Why


June, July, August

June July and August are exceptional months for backing reds. Normally you would look for low tides early in the morning. I like early morning low a tides because this is when the wind is (usually)nonexistent and water temperatures are the coolest. The best fishing is two hours before and after low tide. This is when everything is concentrated into a much smaller area. Baitfish and crabs are no longer hidden in the oysters because the oysters are high and dry. This gives the Redfish an opportunity for an easy meal. If they’re willing to expose themselves in the shallow water around the oyster beds there is plenty of food for them to feed on.
This is what the fly fisherman is looking for! Feeding Redfish in 6” of water

The best flies are ones tied with bead chain or mini lead eyes. The fly need to sink but it can’t make too much of a splash or it will spook the fish. The bead chain Kwan, the Johnny Rocket and the Fox Clouser are all great flies that work.

These are also one of the best months for fly fishing the surf. The last couple years there have been large black drum in 3 to 10 pound range. They will hit flies if you present the fly in the right manner. You need to cast up current so the fly drifts naturally in the current. You must keep a straight line so that you’re in contact with the fly at all times. This is not easy to do in the rolling surf. Long slow strips seem to work the best. The Stripper Swiper and the Action Crab have been two of the best flies.
Look for schools of puppy drum right in the breakers at the north tip of Little Talbot Island. Puppy drum are smaller schooling drum and there's a good chance that there could be some reds along with them. The reds won’t be in with the school drum but along the outside edges. It’s usually a good idea to make a couple of casts to that deeper edge before trying for the puppy drum. You might be surprised with a 10 pound red.

Blues and Ladyfish are also found in the breakers at this time of the year. Look for diving birds or spraying bait and you’ll find these marauding game fish. Make sure you have a shock tippet or you’re going to lose a lot of flies. I use 30lb. fluorocarbon.
The near shore waters along Florida’s northeast coast is home to world class Jack fishing. Every June 25lb to 50lb Jacks can be found crashing pogy pods along with Tarpon, Sharks and everything else that love pogies. If you plan on trying for these bruisers you will need a heavy weight fly rod. A 10 weight is a minimum and a 12 weight isn’t over kill. A clear intermediate sinking tip or full sinking line works best.
The first thing is to locate a bait pod. I usually zig zag back and forth between the beach and two miles out. Bait pods are easier to locate if the sun is out so it's best to start looking around 9:30 AM. Once you locate a bait pod it’s best to approach it with a trolling motor. I find that a trolling motor doesn’t spook the bait pod or fish that might be in the area. Even if you don’t see a fish you still want to make several casts along each edge of each bait pod. You never know what’s there. Big minnow patterns like the Surfn’ Wooly, Puglisi Off Shore Minnow or The Major Bunker will all work if presented in the right way.

The hardest part of fly fishing for trout under dock lights is getting you to go. It‘s hard changing your habits and go fishing when you would normally be sleeping. All I can tell you is that it’s worth it!! It’s not uncommon to catch 25 trout or more on an outing. When have you ever caught 25 trout on a fly? You can do it if you will make yourself get out of bed and go.

There are a number of areas with lighted docks in Northeast Florida. Two of my favorites are the Palm Valley area where you have six miles of docks and the St. Augustine inlet area. The key is finding docks with lights next to the water. The lower the dock light the better the fishing. You want the light as close to the water as possible so the best fishing is the four hours around high tide. The tide at the Palm Valley docks is two hours later than St. Augustine docks so adjust your time accordingly.

When you find a dock with a light close to the water you need to approach it quietly. You should be seeing fish actively feeding and you don’t want to put them down by motoring up to the light and throwing your anchor out. I use my trolling motor to get into position and then quietly anchor my boat. The best flies are small minnow patterns size’s #6 and #8. The Gummy minnow and The Troutn’ Woolly are two of my favorites. The first couple of fish are usually the easiest to catch then they seem to get smarter. When this happens start casting to the edges of the light and vary your retrieves and you’ll catch a few more trout.

If you would like to catch a big red at low tide in the morning or one cruising in the surf or 30lb Jack under a bait pod or some trout under the lights You can book a guided trip by Calling Capt. John Bottko 904-757-5757 or 904-977-2220.

Springtime Fly Fishing Opportunities

Jacksonville, Amelia Island, St. Augustine

March, April, May

If you haven’t caught an over sized red, I mean a stud red, on your fly rod March and April is the time to do it. Reds normally stay in our marshes for four years. The first year they grow to about 12”, the second year to about 18”, the third year to about 24”and in their fourth year they reach 27”to 30”. When they reach this 27” to 30” range they leave are back country marshes and head to the ocean. That’s the norm but there is always a few fish that hang around a fifth year. These fish will grow to 30” to 34” before leaving the marshes and will weight 10lb to 15lb. The window of opportunity to catch a 30” plus red is the early spring. They will hang around our back country marshes until the bait shows up along beaches. This is when small shrimp and mud minnow aren’t enough and mullet and pogey’s become the food of choice.

Usually around April 15 the first Spanish mackerel start showing up in the N. E. Florida. Once they show up the action should continue for about a month. The Spanish Mackerel is a great fly rod fish because their favorite meal is the glass minnow which is an easy fly to imitate. Spanish like to push these small minnows to the surface were they attack from all sides. This activity attracts birds and makes finding the action easy. Once we find the fish we like to use a trolling motor to approach... With the trolling motor you can also stay with the school catching fish after fish. There are also Blues, Jacks and Ladyfish mixed in.

If you would like to try for 20 to 50lb fish on the fly April is the time to do it. The Cobia run shows up along our coast when the water temp reaches 68 degrees. This is sometime in late March or early April. The Cobia follows the Manta Rays as they move north. Our guides fish the middle of the day from 10:00 AM till 3:00 PM when the sun is highest over head. This is a hunting trip trying to find that free swimmer or Manta Ray with cobia on its back. Cobia are not usually spooky and will eat a fly when presented. Tripletail is another great fly rod fish that shows up the same time as the Cobia. You will sight fish to these fish that are lying below crab pots or free swimming. Both are excellent eating.

May is the month I start guiding in the surf for Reds. This is a unique fishery that is only found in N. E. Florida. You will be taken to sand islands in the ocean and sight fish to big reds cruising the beach. These Reds are there looking for a meal and will take a fly readily.

This is also the time to catch a trout on top water. You will fly fish poppers early mornings on high tides.

Spring is one of the best times of the year for a variety fish on the fly rod. Big Reds in the marsh and in the surf… Spanish Mackerel, Jacks, Ladyfish, and Blues feeding on glass minnows…Cobia cruising with Manta Rays… Tripletail on crab pots… Trout on top water….
These are the opportunities you will find on a guided trip.

You can book a guided trip by Calling Capt. John Bottko 904-757-5757 or 904-977-2220.

Saltwater Fish Caught in N.E. Florida on a Flyrod

Species Best Months Best Fly Best Location Best Tide
Redfish Jan. thru Dec. Black Clouser size #4 Backend of Tidal Creeks off ICW 3 hours before & after low
Seatrout Jan. thru Dec. Chartreuse Clouser #4 ICW & the mouths of tidal creeks clear, higher moving tides
Flounder Jan. thru Dec.

Black Clouser or mud minnow pattern

Mouth of tidal creeks on outgoing tide Mid to low tides falling
Jacks Apr. thru Nov. Any baitfish or glass minnow fly, size 2 ICW & the mouths of tidal creeks High, moving & clear water
Bluefish Nov. thru May Baitfish or minnow pattern, long shank hook, size 2 Inlets and ICW High, moving & clear water
Ladyfish May thru Oct. Baitfish or minnow pattern, size 2 Inlets, ICW and large deep flats

High, moving & clear water

Spanish Mackerel April thru July Baitfish or minnow pattern, long shank hook, size 2 Off the end of the jetties, find glass minnow schools Outgoing tide, calm wind
Cobia April thru June Eel or baitfish pattern, weighted with 1/0 hook Offshore from the poggie pods out to 40' depth Calm, bright days, outgoing tide
Sheepshead April thru Nov Crab or black spoon fly #4 hook Flood tides on spartina grass flats

Flood tides

Black Drum April thru Nov. Black clouser, #4 hook Large intracoastal flats Low to mid tides
Tarpon June thru Nov.

Black & purple baitfish with 2/0 SC 15 hook

Poggie Pods Clear bright days, low wind.