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How to Catch Panfish on Fly

Is it brim? Or bream? Or both? They’re known by different names — panfish, bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish and shellcracker among others.

Semantics aside, theses small freshwater fish are known for their voracious appetites and fly-rod fun. Everyone who has ever held a cane pole in their youth probably caught one or two of these hand-sized creatures.

They’re everywhere in the Lower 48. You’ll find them in ponds, lakes and rivers. And there’s no better way to shake off the rust from a long-rod layoff. Panfish provide plenty of consistent action — on topwater or subsurface.

Below are a few tips for these feisty little guys.

When and Where for Panfish

Any pond or lake in the continental United States probably has panfish. Because they’re a warmwater species, they’re more prevalent in the south, southeast and mid-atlantic regions.

They’re not as sexy as trout, but they’re infinitely more accessible. Any retention pond or golf course pond likely will hold bream. With trout, you might have to travel. With brim, you might not have to leave your neighborhood.

The best time of year for panfish, in general, is in the spring, when the fish move into the shallows to spawn. The timing of this depends on geography and water temperature.  A good rule of thumb is 60, 65 degrees.

How to Fish for Panfish

Once you find a body of water, look for shade and shoreline structure — logs, patches of grass, stumps, sticks, etc. Work these areas early and late in the day. You can catch panfish all day, but it’s tougher as the sun rises, particularly once summer arrives.

Once the air and water temperatures warm, the little fish will head for slightly deeper water. Look for drop-offs. You may need an intermediate line to find deeper fish, but you can keep things simple with a floating line and a longer leader.

Simply cast, count to 10, let your weighted fly sink, then slowly retrieve your offering. How long you count, of course, depends on the depth of the water and where the fish are holding. A bit of trial-and-error is usually required.

You can also use a strike indicator. The plop of the indicator often will cause curious fish to investigate and yield a strike.

Flies to Use for Panfish

Poppers, poppers and more poppers. You simply can’t have enough of these. Boogle bugs and Sneaky Petes and Bumble Bees are known for their productivity. Toss these toward cover, let the rings created by the impact of the offering hitting the water dissipate and strip. Repeat, varying the intensity of the strips and the length of the pauses. Fishing with poppers is a waiting game. Panfish like to study their prey before the strike. Wait as long as you can stand it.

For subsurface flies, you can’t go wrong with standard trout nymphs —- a hare’s ear, pheasant tail or a brassie. A hopper-dropper can be a productive tactic when crickets and beetles scurry about.

For streamers, you can’t beat a woolly bugger or a muddler minnow. Bass like both as well.

The Gear for Panfish

Some anglers prefer a 2 or 3-weight rod. Small fish, light rod. Not a bad choice. However, it’s not a bad idea to swing a 5-weight, which provides enough backbone to make those bigger poppers turn over. And if you happen to run into a bass, you will have enough stick to win that battle.

TFO’s Bug Launcher, Axiom II and NXT are good choices. You don’t need a high-end reel. The NXT LA is a great value.

As for a line and leader. Stick with a weight-forward line and a 3 or 4X, 7-to-9 foot leader. Remember, this is not technical fishing. When in doubt, simplify.

Panfish often inhale their prey, so don’t forget your hemostats. Panfish have tiny mouths. Pliers usually don’t dig deep enough.

Panfish are a blast. They’re easy to catch and almost always willing to spar. They’re great for kids to learn or for inexperienced anglers to build confidence. Even veteran long-rodders can benefit.

Questions, comments about panfish on a fly rod? Feel free to visit one of our social media pages.

Stillwater Fly-Fishing Basics

Fish need the essentials — food, cover and current. Any angler worth his weight in split shot knows that.

But what if you happen to fly fish a lake and there’s no obvious current? One of the three variables is gone. What to do?

That’s one of the reasons many fly anglers bypass lakes and ponds. Typically, they learn to fish rivers and creeks and simply fail to try stillwater situations.

And if they do, they struggle and return to their comfort zone. Below are a few basics to help shorten that learning curve.

Transportation

We’re not talking about buying a new SUV. To fish lakes, you will need a boat, float tube, canoe or kayak. Wading simply isn’t an option. Shoreline fishing is possible, but you’re limited by the amount of water you can cover. And stillwater fishing demands a bit of prospecting. You can only do so much on foot.

The Equipment for Stillwater

We’ll keep this simple. A 9-foot, 6-weight Axiom II rod is a good all-around choice. It’s big enough for bass, but not too heavy for trout. Rod weight is not set in stone. The species and size of the fish as well as the size of your fly will dictate rod selection.

You will need floating and sinking lines and a long leader. The depth of the fish dictates your choices. Sinking lines work better for deeper fish, but are cumbersome to cast. Floating lines cast better, but limit how deep you can fish.

The reel needs to more than a storage unit for line. Fish in lakes, in general, tend to be bigger than those in rivers and creeks. You will want a reel with a sealed drag. TFO’s Power fits the bill.

How to Find Fish in Stillwater

An entire chapter coudn’t cover this topic, but here are some basics. Find the cover —- shoreline shade, rocks, logs, brushpiles and grass beds — and you’ll usually find the fish. Cover provides protection and yields food. This isn’t groundbreaking info, but the key is to find the cover near an inflow, which is possible a source of current. On many suburban ponds, this could be as subtle as a small culvert. Remember, the less energy fish have to expend, the more comfortable they are. A comfortable fish is a happy fish. Happy fish feed.

Stillwater Techniques

We’ve covered sinking and long leaders. Many times in ponds and lakes, you have to probe different depths. The countdown method is the best way to do this. Cast, let the fly sink and count to 10 and retrieve. Do this again, with a longer count until you reach the desired depth.

Retrieves need to vary. In many situations, slower and shorter is better, but there is no formula. Finding fish is a trial-and-error process. This is where experience matters.

Stillwater fishing can be intimidating. New challenges are never easy. But those perseverant enough to navigate the initial obstacles are often rewarded in spades.

Comments, questions about stillwater fishing on fly, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

TFO’s Taylor Makes Angling History

Wanda Taylor is considered one of fly fishing’s female pioneers. The TFO advisor has now further etched her name in angling lore. It’s there in black and white.

A world record.

Propelled by the guidance of fellow TFOer Jake Jordan, Taylor set the IGFA mark in early February when she bagged a 33-pound spearfish off Kona, Hawaii. Official confirmation came from the IGFA late last week when Taylor received a certificate, which noted the tippet class (20 pounds), along with the weight and date of the catch.

For the record, Taylor used TFO’s heavy-duty Bluewater rod with a pink and white Jake Jordan Big Popper Marlin fly.

“I’ve never been one to chase world records, but I had the opportunity to (do so),” Taylor said. “I know what it means to Jake and the team. It was pretty special and for women in general. There are people who have a passion for it. I’m not sure I have a passion for it. I count it as a blessing to have that opportunity to do it. It wasn’t something where I woke up and wanted to break a world record.”

Jordan and his crew suspected the fish was a possible world record moments after the catch, but had to wait nearly four months for the IGFA to navigate the approval process.

“I had never experienced this before,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know if it was going to be a long wait or a short wait. I didn’t realize the process of a world record is from around the world, not just from Florida, Georgia or Hawaii. They have thousands and thousands of entries. It just takes a while to test the leaders, to make sure everything was correctly done. With all that in mind, it was really a short wait.”

Turns out, the wait was worth it.

“I was surprised how beautiful (the certificate) is,” Taylor said. “They are so well done. The fish is on the document. It’s raised, really beautifully done. I was really relieved for the captain (and crew). They had a lot of records on conventional tackle. This one was on fly and one that’s rare as a short-bill spearfish.”

The trip to Hawaii came as a part of Jordan’s Spearfish Fly Fishing School. All were aboard Captain Kevin Nakamaru’s 37 Merritt “Northern Lights.”

Give Taylor credit for landing the fish; give the captain and crew credit for putting her in proper position.

“They were huge,” Taylor said. “It makes a difference if you have a captain that knows what he’s doing. It’s a team effort. The key is keeping your watch angle, so the captain can see what you’re doing. You have to keep calm, so you can hear what the captain is saying and know what he’s seeing because he’s the one with the view. You don’t have that view because you’re in the back of the boat. It’s important to have that communication.”

Comments on Wanda’s record? Questions? Feel free to check in one of our social media pages.

Big Flies Weigh You Down? Try the Clouser Rod

Ever had trouble casting those big saltwater flies? I have. A Clouser Minnow with big dumbbell eyes is my kryptonite. Serviceable loops elude me.

It might be my casting. Might be my rod. The former is more likely; the latter is an easier fix. TFO’s Clouser rod might help me sling the heavy metal.

One Clouser meets another. And what better person to discuss the issue than the man who invented the Clouser Minnow and designed the Clouser Rod.

“It’s made to cast weighted flies,” TFO Advisor Bob Clouser said during an interview from his Pennsylvania home last week. “It’s not super fast; it’s not super slow. It’s in between. It has a moderately fast action. It also has built-in action that most people don’t notice or talk about. It’s called progressive (action). That aids in casting. The more line weight the rod picks up, the farther down the blank it bends. The farther down the blank it bends, it’s stronger than the next piece up. It’s going to bring the rod tip pretty much even. You can have 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet of line. It’s going to set it off as the same speed as the 20-foot of line. It’s all matched with weight moving weight.

“If you’re a really fast caster, you probably won’t like the rod. If you want the rod to work itself, you’ll love it.”

The idea for the Clouser rod was hatched from an obvious trend —- a fly rod market that caters to the angler who wants tight loops and long distance.

“Everything was too fast,” Clouser said. “You don’t have to work this thing hard. It will pick up all lengths of fly line because of its progressive speed.”

TFO’s Clouser is Clouser’s second crack at a rod designed to throw big flies. His first, which measured 8 feet, 9 inches, was with a TFO competitor.

“We built that same action into a 9-foot rod (with TFO),” Clouser said. “What we had to do was speed it up because of that 3 inches of rod tip. So it’s hair quicker than the 8-foot, 9-inch was. It’s not that noticeable, but we had to beef it up a little bit.”

The Clouser is suited for a variety of fish, in freshwater and saltwater.

“I use an 8-weight for just about everything,” Clouser said. “I fish a lot of saltwater. I fish a lot of jacks. A lot of redfish. Even albacore. Even with the albacore, I would recommend a 9 for them. But that 8-weight, if you fight them off the reel, that rod will handle any fish.”

And let’s not forget the smallmouth, one of Clouser’s favorite species.

“Oh my god yes,” he said. “The reason: The smallmouth will hit flies from 2 inches long to 6, 8 inches long. Of course the bigger the fly, heavier (the rod) is. The 8-weight will handle that casting.”

As for a complementary reel, there’s no better option than the TFO Power. You can’t beat it for durability.

“It’s very good if you’re going to do saltwater,” Clouser said. “It’s very good if you’re going to do heavy-duty fishing.  If you’re just going to do freshwater fishing, the BVK will handle that.”

If you need security against that fish of a lifetime, the Power is the way to go.

“Super strong drag system,” Clouser said. “Just a super good reel.”

Comments on the Clouser rod or Power reel? Feel free to weigh in on one of our social media pages.

Time to Simplify with Tenkara

I have a problem. I have a to-do list and it’s not getting any shorter. At the top of my personal inventory.

Organize Fly-Fishing Stuff

When I started in fly fishing some 30 years ago, I had a box of gear. Now I have an entire room of angling accessories. Rods, reels, waders, boots and fly boxes have created a mountain of clutter. Do I really need all it? No. Does it make me feel better that I have it? Perhaps.

Fly fishing has a lot of cool stuff. And it’s fun to dabble with a different rod every now and then. But, there’s no doubt that I need to simplify.

The essence of Tenkara illustrates this point perfectly. I look like a pack mule when I go fishing. Centuries ago, the Japanese, the inventors of Tenkara, probably used a simple satchel. They caught fish with the essentials.

There’s something to be said for that elegant simplicity. Less is more when it comes to Tenkara. Below are a few reasons why.

Portability

With a traditional fly-fishing setup, you have a rod and a reel, fly line, backing and a leader.

With Tenkara, there’s your rod and, essentially, your leader. And each setup, because of the telescopic aspect of the rod, can be stored in a small sling-pack, backpack, or vest.

If you fish on small streams or have to hike very far, Tenkara can’t be beat for portability. You can set up — and break down — streamside.

You’ll Fish More

Ever dread having to put together your rod when you’re eager to fish after a long week at work? I have.

To me there’s nothing more frustrating than having to assemble a four-piece rod and rig everything before you make the first cast. And if you’re in a hurry, inevitably you will miss threading a guide, which means you will have to re-rig.

With Tenkara, you can set up in a minute, 90 seconds tops. Fewer moving parts means less can go wrong. I like that.

The Drift

Fly-fishing success largely hinges on a line control. Because Tenkara rods extend to 11, 12, 13 feet, it’s ideal for maintaining long, drag-free floats not easily attainable with traditional 9-foot fly rods. Like high-stick nymphing? Tenkara may be the perfect fit for you.

Affordability

Prices vary in the fly-fishing market, but, in general it’s difficult to find a high-quality freshwater setup — rod, reel and fly line — for less than $300, $400. Since you’re not paying for a reel, you can get started in Tenkara for less, in the neighborhood of $200, $250. The TFO Soft Hackle Cutthroat is great for small streams. It breaks down to 20 inches and extends to 8 feet, 6 inches.

You’ll Catch More Fish

Tenkara will improve your overall fishing ability. With traditional fly-fishing, we all crave tighter loops and more distance. Hence, many of us try to reach that streamside brown with a sizzling double haul of a cast. With Tenkara, you quickly learn to art of short casts and stealth. You can catch that same fish, but with different skills.

Any suggestions, comments about Tenkara, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages. Tight lines.

The Mayfly Project: Fostering Hope for Kids Who Need It

The next time you fish, take a look around, in the parking lot or on the water. You’ll no doubt see a few men and maybe a woman or two. But rarely will you see a youngster.

Fly fishing, without a doubt, is getting gray behind the ears, which begs the question: When this generation passes, who will replace them?

Many non-profits protect the water and resources, but will there be anyone to enjoy what’s left? Thanks to The Mayfly Project another generation will be ready to enjoy their time on the water. They just don’t take kids fishing. They take kids who need to fish. Kids who need direction and stability.

Foster kids.

TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to Mayfly founder Jess Westbrook and co-founder Kaitlin Barnhart to chat about The Mayfly Project. Both are passionate about their mission. Below are excerpts of last week’s phone interview.

TFO: Obvious question: When did The Mayfly Project start?

KB: “2015, in Arkansas. That’s when Jess started The Mayfly Project. I joined forces with Jess in 2016, when we decided to create a national program together. When we met, I think we talked for about for two hours, what our ideas were, what we were both doing. We had a lot of conversations since I’m in Idaho and he’s in Arkansas.”

TFO: What was the general catalyst for the idea and the mission?

KB: “For me, it was mental health for kids. I have a background in mental health working with foster kids. I used fly fishing to help them cope. I knew it would help with their mental health.”

JW: “The idea for me came from having a lot of anxiety. I had fly fished all of my life. It wasn’t until I used fly fishing to help with my anxiety when one day at church we had someone talk about foster children. I knew I wanted to give back. Once I heard that (in church) about foster kids, I knew that’s how I wanted to give back.”

TFO: Can you elaborate on The Mayfly Project’s mission? I know you all take kids fishing. But I know it’s obviously more than that.

KB: “Our goals are to take the kids fly fishing and to give them a break from a stressful life, to teach them the coping skills that come with fly fishing, to teach them about conservation and how to take care of the rivers. Those are our main goals with the kids. We have a conservation initiative where the kids earn buttons as they go through the programs. Then there’s a mental health part it where we help our mentees build self-confidence through fly-fishing success.

TFO: Where do the kids come from? How do you find them? How does all that work?

KB: “It takes work to find the kids because every state is different. (Foster kids) are a heavily protected population. We usually try to work with group homes. That way we can work with the staff there. Otherwise, we work with individual foster families with support from the Department of Health and Welfare.”

TFO: So, just foster kids. Not other kids?

KB: “Just foster kids. They don’t get out very often. It’s a population that usually doesn’t get these types of experiences. That’s the main reason.  And it’s a group that has had to deal with mental illness. Fly fishing has proven to help with that.”

TFO: If you read on the internet and in magazines, there’s a movement afoot to get women involved in fly fishing. Kids just don’t get the publicity in that regard. Given that, how important is it to get kids involved, not just foster kids, but kids in general?

JW: “We have a motto: Our kids need rivers. Our rivers need kids. So the kids are definitely future stewards of our land. So getting them involved and having then get bit by the bug that we’re all bit by is important, so that they’ll continue to preserve our land. They’re the future. If they love it, they’ll take care of it.”

KB: “For them to connect with nature is our goal. Jess and I have talked about that: The rivers have become our home. For kids we work with, and the next generation, we want the outdoors to be their home, too. Because once you identify with the outdoors as your home, it becomes a place you want to protect.”

TFO: How rewarding is it for you all when you help kids make that connection?

JW: “It’s super rewarding. We find that our kids really buy into this. We’re finding that kids are really taking to it. Fly fishing tends to have people who are very passionate. The support we’ve had from everybody and the stuff we’re been able to outfit our kids with, our kids are set up to fly fish on their own once they leave our program. We’re finding that providing them with gear and knowledge, they fall in love with it just like we do. We see these success stories almost weekly. It’s cool seeing kids actually buying into it.”

TFO: You have sponsors. TFO is one of those? How much has that helped your program?

JW: “We actually had a TFO/Mayfly Project rod that just came out. We’ve been working on that for a little while. I actually got those in hand about three weeks ago. We haven’t released them on our website. But we’re really excited about that. TFO has been great supporting us. You guys have been awesome. Our sponsors are a huge part of why this thing happened.”

Questions, comments about The Mayfly Project, feel free to reach out on one of our social media pages.

Women Are Fishing More Than Ever — And They’re Not Going Anywhere

Women are everywhere on the water. Fishing has long been a male-dominated pastime, but that trend has changed. Fly fishing, and fishing in general, is no longer your father’s sport. It’s your mother’s and your sister’s. It is, in essence, for everyone, male or female.

Few have really studied this phenomenon. Steve Kantner was astute enough write about it in depth with his new book, Fifty Women Who Fish. Published by Wild River Press, the book features lengthy profiles of some of the most famous women anglers, including legendary caster Joan Wulff, television host and guide April Vokey, DUN Magazine editor Jen Ripple, longtime Miami Herald outdoor writer Sue Cocking and world-record holder Meredith McCord among others.

TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to Kantner at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home to discuss his book, which is his third. The other two are The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing South Florida on Foot and Backcountry Flies: Tying and Fishing Florida Patterns, from Swamp to Surf.

Fifty Women Who Fish is due to be released later this spring. You can order copies here.

Below are excerpts from the phone interview.

TFO: Here’s a simple question: How long did the book take, from start to finish?

SK: “Well, from its actual conception to its actual delivery, I started in January two years ago, and now we’re going into April, so you’d say about 28 months.”

TFO: Was this book more difficult than your first two books?

SK: “The level of depth. … You’ll see.”

TFO: The fly book is somewhat formulaic. But this is a series of in-depth profiles, right?

SK: “It’s a 200-and-something-page book. And you have to try do it right. A lot of the fly book, the problem was that I’m a lousy photographer, and I had to try to get all the photos done. … But here you’re talking about sweeping concepts and people’s lives. One girl was locked inside of her house until she was 9 years old.”

TFO: The profiles, did they take a long time to write and to do the interviewing?

SK: “The thing I worry about is sometimes you get to know these women and you’re talking to them, I wanted them to be comfortable. That’s why I let them see things as the process evolved. I didn’t want them to be afraid because this would have some longevity. It’s not like a Facebook post. No one knew them better than they did. I didn’t want the profiles to be press releases, but I wanted the women to be confident in what was presented.”

TFO: What was the most rewarding aspect of the process?

SK: “I got to know and understand women a lot better. I think the most rewarding thing is I gave these women a voice to their concerns and to their fears and to their aspirations. I tried to let them be all that they could be.”

TFO: What was it like talking to Joan Wulff?

“That was a couple times. (My publisher) Tom Pero knows her pretty well. I talked to her a bunch of times. Her stich is the First Lady of Fly Fishing. I’ve known her for years. She came pretty clean with her life. She’s a lovely lady, 92 years old. She was big not only for women’s fishing, but for everybody. She came from a large family. Her father was Jimmy Salvato. He had a sports store in a suburb of Patterson, N.J. That was back in the day when you sent your sons to college, but not your daughters. She always had a little edge about that. … From the first time she went fishing, she knew it was for her.

“I didn’t know her (late) husband Lee. But the guys that I know that knew him either liked him or they didn’t. Most of them really liked him a lot.”

TFO: Were most of the women pretty receptive to being profiled?

SK: “Yes. Once they realized I was authentic. In the beginning, imagine how it would be when someone calls you up and wants to ask you secrets? I came on slow, deliberately. You look at all the weird stuff we have in our society. I don’t know about you, but I get about 10 crank calls a day — ransom ware and locking up your computer. Imagine what it’s like getting a call where they might not know you.”

TFO: Did you have trouble coming up with 50 names to profile?

“No. The problem I really worried about was there’s one who’s particularly deserving that I would have liked to have added, but you can’t have a title like 51 Women Who Fish. I didn’t know this woman personally, but if there’s a sequel, she’s on my list.

“I’m kind of a sucker. I was sending stuff out and I really had to ride herd on it: ‘Are you interested. If you’re not, say so.’ But you know how it is, it’s not normal thinking. They don’t say, ‘No thanks. Not interested.’ What I was afraid of was getting 51 responses and I would have to tell someone no. That would be devastating. I would then defeat the purpose that I started out to do, which is to give them a fair shake. Fortunately everything fell into place.”

Toby Uppinghouse Transitions into Advisory Role

TFO proudly welcomes Toby Uppinghouse of Sacramento, California into an advisory role.

Retiring from his responsibilities as sales rep in the region, Toby humbly will transition the territory into the hands of Sales Rep Clint Nicholson.

TFO warmly thanks Toby for his dedication and efforts as a sales rep and true ambassador of the sport. All of us in Dallas are excited for the future.

While managing TFO sales in California for thirteen years, Toby’s relationship and industry acumen helped grow and nurture a critical foundation for TFO product. With his infectious smile and laugh, Toby has not only become a staple in his community for how an industry member should act, but has been the right, “TFO,” type of person from the beginning.

We excitedly look for continued growth and brand awareness through his participation at dealer events and consumer shows.

Toby will continue to operate his immensely successful guide and outfitting business, Edgewater Outfitters, while focusing on big picture relationships and product development with the existing TFO design team. Toby will also be an important contributor to our social media presence due to his talents behind a camera lens.

While the California Delta, and northern California trout and steelhead rivers are home, Toby has been an active angler and guide in Montana, Alaska and Mexico. His vast experience in both fresh and saltwater will continue to be a welcome addition to the sport and TFO team.

Toby is an active contributor and leader in the Cast Hope organization. Cast Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization positively impacting kids and their mentors in the communities of Northern California, Southern California, and Western Nevada through free fly fishing and outdoor experiences. Through programs, clients help build mentoring relationships, fly fishing skills, outdoor knowledge, sustainable practices, and personal values. Cast Hope’s gift of the outdoors empowers each mentoring pair to grow closer as they participate in healthy hobbies together.

Toby and his wife Sue, who dwarfs her husband’s good looks by many miles, currently preside in Sacramento with their dogs Hunter and Sammy, and probably far too many boats in the drive-way.

Peacock Bass Are Closer to Home Than You Think

I am not, by nature, a morning person. Give me an evening drake hatch over morning tricos any day.

When I lived in West Palm Beach a few years ago, peacock bass fit into my daily routine just fine. I could never get up early enough for morning largemouth bass, but peacocks were usually waiting for me as the afternoon climbed high in the sky.

Peacock bass, native to tropical South America, are alive and well in Florida, which means you don’t have to schlep to the Amazon to catch one. However, if you have a chance to travel abroad for peacocks, do not hesitate to do so. The fishing can be phenomenal.

Closer to home, we have the Florida Keys, which as we know, offer world-class fishing. If you happen to stop in Miami on the way during a bonefish trip, it’s not a bad idea to try your hand at landing a peacock. You won’t need a boat; you won’t need a guide. Here’s what you need to know:

Where to Find Peacock Bass

In the continental United States, you have one option: South Florida. The farther south you go, the better. For instance, you won’t find many peacocks in Palm Beach, but you might find a few in Lake Worth, which is a few miles south. Fort Lauderdale and Miami afford even more opportunities.

The reason: Water temperature. Peacocks need warm, tropical temperatures. Eighty degrees is their sweet spot. Anything lower than 60 degrees and they struggle to survive.

Peacock bass were first introduced to Florida by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in the mid 1980s to combat the burgeoning population of Oscars, which gorge on juvenile bass. So, in essence, one bass helped another.

The best place to find peacocks is the maze of flood-control canals that cover much of southern Florida. Many are no wider than 40 feet. Most are accessible by foot and are home to baby tarpon, snook and many exotic species — Oscars, tilapia and mayans among others.

How to Fish for Peacock Bass

You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. In fact, mid day is often the best time to target peacocks. Look for structure and current. Culverts often produce.

You can blind cast, but I prefer to sight fish. Sight fishing requires stealth and accurate casts. Once the fly has been presented, strip fast. If one hand is not fast enough, try two hands.

The Gear for Peacock Bass

For fly, use a 5 or 6-weight Axiom II rod with a floating line. Some anglers use a sink tip, but I’ve found peacocks usually run pretty shallow, so you don’t necessarily need the extra weight. For leaders, I use a 7 to 9-foot leader with a 10, 12-pound tippet.

South Florida peacocks usually run a few pounds, so you don’t need a heavy-duty reel to land one. However, baby tarpon, carp and snook abound. If you happen to hook one these fish, you will have your hands full. I recommend a Power or BVK reel, just in case.

You’ll likely be fishing in un-mowed, long grass and brush. A stripping basket helps manage excess fly line.

For those who like to spin fish, use a light outfit. TFO’s Trout-Panfish series is a good option.

Flies and lures are fairly straight forward. Clouser Minnows,Dalhberg Divers, Gurglers, Top Dogs and Rat-L-Traps serve as the usual standbys.

Safety

It’s hot in Florida. South Florida stays hot year round. Make sure to stay hydrated. Bring water and your sports drink of choice. Wear comfortable, light-weight clothing with a hat. Polarized glasses offer better visibility and eye protection. Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Walk carefully and keep a close eye out for alligators and snakes. Both try to avoid humans, but if you do see one of these critters, walk around — and away —- from them to ensure a stress-free day of angling.

Questions, comments about peacock bass fishing? Feel free to weigh in on one of social media pages.

TFO Ambassador Chris Thompson

At some point, one’s life memories and friends become so cherished that they can cause you to dream in color. Such has been my relationship with Chris and his two “Brothers”.

Sometime back around 2005, three Gunnery Sergeant Marines ended up in Quantico, VA after multiple tours of duty. One of the three, Alex Colonna, had (and still has) a cute blonde wife (Chrissy) who met and endeared herself to Lefty Kreh at a regional consumer fly fishing show. Alex, Chris and the “third Brother”, Paul Norman, were in various stages of learning to fly fish and Chrissy boldly asked Lefty if she could buy a casting lesson for Alex’s USMC retirement gift. Lefty kindly declined, but offered to have Alex and his brothers come to his house. Paul was deployed and couldn’t join them. Chris tagged along with Alex and they were treated to a full afternoon with Lefty at his home in Frederick, MD.

The boys didn’t realize Lefty was a WWII veteran who fought through the Battle of the Bulge … and Lefty didn’t fully realize that they were both active duty Marines with a passion for fly fishing. About six months after that fateful meeting, Paul Norman was medevaced back from a tour in Iraq and they all became great friends of Lefty’s. The bond formed was so strong in the initial meeting that Lefty gave Chris one of our prototype 389-4 Finesse rods that had Lefty’s signature electric-pen engraved on the reel seat. Grateful, humbled and a bit confused, Chris emailed me to find out exactly what he had received from Lefty.

It turned out that Chris had a pre-approved prototype that we action tweaked and not a rod I would suggest he fish. I reply “It will make a great wall hanger-memento so I’ll send you one of the production models”. Chris replied “things are tight until next payday … and I don’t know when I can afford it”. “Chris, if you impressed Lefty to the degree that he gave you that rod – I’m doing the same thing”. We became great friends.

But let’s go back to Chris’ beginnings where he was born in Goldsboro, NC near Camp Lejeune, a major USMC military base. Although Chris’ biological father was active Air Force, he separated from Chris’ mom while Chris was young and many of his formative years were with his biological grandfather, Elmer – a USMC veteran of WWII’s Pacific theater. Both he, and Chris’ dad, Cecil, who adopted him when he was young, were excellent shots and avid anglers so as we say, “the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree” given their early influence with Chris.

After high school, Chris joined the Marines, graduated first in his Scout Sniper school training and after active duty tours, primarily in Europe, he ended up as an instructor back at the Infantry School at Camp Lejeune– and continued to fish for bass with gear until meeting Paul Norman. Paul introduced Chris to fly fishing. In spite of the claim that Paul was not a very good instructor … Chris freely admitted that he was not a very good student either! Chris, Alex and Paul became what I’ve called the “Fly Fishing Band of Brothers”. Another great example of how fly fishing, casting and fly tying makes friendships even stronger.

On one of my early trips to the Project Healing Waters (PHWFF) Two Fly event in Syria, VA, Chris and his brothers offered to both deliver me to the event and to help in any way they could. PHWFF founder and retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson’s response to my suggestion that they would like to attend was “Navy guys love Marines! Bring them along”! Another set of friends entered Chris’ life and he so moved by the good work of PHWFF that he recently assumed the Program Lead position for the PHWFF Camp Lejeune Program near his home.

Of all the great times I’ve had with Chris, one of the most memorable was spending three days in Florida with my longtime friend and television host of The Seahunter where we filmed Chris’ first tarpon, first shark and first blackfin tuna out of Key West with Captain Mike Weinhofer of Compass Rose Charters – the blackfin highlights are here and definitely worth a watch:

Chris’ all-time favorite specie is false albacore which arrive out of the gulf stream to the shallows off NC when the bait balls start coming out of the many estuaries on the way to the Atlantic. Weighing from 15 to as much as 25 pounds and cruising at 40 MPH while attacking bait in water as shallow as 20 feet makes for an incredible fight on fly tackle. His most memorable catch was a near 100 pound tarpon with me and Rob Fordyce (another television event) in 2015. We had chased tarpon all day and finally decided that a certain Flamingo Park flat could produce a chance at redfish. Within minutes of picking up an 8 weight and storing the 10 weight, the tarpon showed up less than 50 feet from the bow … a quick back cast, hookup and great fight brought the magnificent fish to Rob’s hand. I must admit it was one of my more memorable catches to watch as well.

Chris lives with his beautiful fly fishing wife Kellie and three of their five children in Hubert, NC. Saltwater fly fishing opportunities abound and they have only a short drive to the Shenandoah Mountains for trout. We’re honored to have him as a member of the TFO Ambassador family.