It’s almost May. It’s Florida, and it’s about get hot as spring is preparing to yield to summer’s swelter. It’s a little too early for tarpon and too late for redfish. Nevertheless, inshore fishermen have a viable option — snook on the beach.
From early May through late August, snook roam the surf on both coasts of the Sunshine State, providing anglers an excellent opportunity for sight fishing. It’s not as exciting as bonefish in the Bahamas, but it’s an affordable, fun way to spend summer mornings.
Below are a few tips to help you get started.
Beach snook is largely a Florida affair. The linesider can be found on both coasts of the state in the spring and summer as the sporting fish leaves the passes in search of baitfish along the beach. Buyer beware: You won’t find many sight-fishing opportunities on the beach north of Tampa or Fort Pierce.
Snook need warm water. Anglers need calm, flat surf. Both are available in the southern parts of Florida. Top spots on the gulf coast are Honeymoon Island and Fort DeSoto (Tampa/St. Petersburg), Casey Key (Sarasota) and Sanibel (Fort Myers area). On the Atlantic side, Hobe Sound and Bathtub Beach near Stuart are worth the trip to the Treasure Coast.
The Right Conditions
As with any form of sight fishing, the sun, wind and surf all have to work in concert for prime visibility. You want the sun at your back. That means an early start on the west coast; and a later start on the east coast. I start around 8:30 or so in Tampa and around 11 in Jupiter and Stuart. You can fish later, but may have to dodge afternoon thunderstorms.
With the wind, you want an east wind on the gulf side; and a west wind on the atlantic. Both scenarios help flatten the surf and make casting a little easier. Ideally, I like the wind 10 miles an hour less.
Even more important is the height of the surf. Waves of a foot or less make it easier to see the fish. Waves of 1-2 feet are manageable. Anything bigger than that leads to a lot of bind casting. Surflineis one of the best sources to evaluate these conditions.
Beach snook fishing requires a lot of walking but little wading. Stay on the sand as much as possible. You’ll scare fewer fish.
Scan the surf. Look where the secondary waves form and break. Fish use the waves for cover, or they merely wait for the wave to break and try to pin the bait — mullet and pinfish — along the trough. Most of the fish will be in mere inches of water —- ankle to knee deep.
To ensure better visibility, wear a hat with a wide brim with a quality pair of polarized sunglasses.
I like to keep things simple. I use two main flies —Lefty Kreh’sDeceiver and Norm Zeigler’s Schminnow — and have caught scads of fish on sizes 1, 2 and 4. The Schminnow is easy to tie. The Deceiver is more time consuming at the vise, but a classic that almost always produces in darker colors. It is one of my all-time favorites.
I use two different rods —- an 8-weight on the gulf coast and a 10-weight on the east coast. The reason? Atlantic snook are bigger and it’s not unusual to run into a tarpon on the beach on that side of the state. My favorite TFO rod is the Axiom II. It’s sturdy yet smooth. The same could said for thePower Reel, which is sexy but very serviceable under difficult saltwater conditions.
Wind and waves constantly tug at your fly line. A stripping basket is a must.
You can either use a floating line or an intermediate line. If the surf is a tad high, I use the intermediate. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Leaders are simple — 5 feet of 40-pound mono attached with a blood knot to 4 feet of 20 or 30-pound fluorocarbon.
For conventional gear, I like the 7-foot GIS Inshore, an ideal rod for blind casting when conditions don’t allow for sight fishing. Regardless of your weapon of choice, beach snook are a blast.
Thoughts? If you have additional tips, feel free to comment below or drop us a line on social media.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Lefty Kreh. It was nearly 30 years ago. I had just started to fly fish and was mingling with a local glad-hander at a fly-fishing show near Charlottesville, Va.
A weathered looking fellow walked in wearing a pair of khakis, a chamois shirt and a sheepish grin. And in mid-sentence, the local celebrity I was chatting up shot out of his chair toward Lefty like a spring creek brown after a hopper.
Though somewhat startled, Lefty handled the social ambush with a firm handshake and a pat on the back.
I was a relatively young adult, but I learned two things that winter afternoon. People are drawn to Lefty, and there’s a good reason why. He makes everyone, no matter where they are on the social pecking order, feel like a rock star, even though he’s the rock star.
I’m sure others have similar stories that have been shared since Bernard Victor Kreh passed away last week at the age of 93. He is nationally known for his books, lectures, videos and the ability to teach us to throw a fly farther and more accurately than we thought possible. But to those at Temple Fork Outfitters, he is considered one of the initial bedrocks of a proud company.
Lefty joined TFO 15 years ago. As the company’s first advisor, he had a significant say in every single-handed fly rod TFO produced since February of 2003, from the Signature Series to the Axiom II, which was released this fall.
But Lefty was more to TFO than a mere gatekeeper for affordable, quality fly rods. He believed in TFO’s mission and its people. He was the type guy who would rather promote others than himself. He asked there be no funeral. Cremation was more his style. And those close to him made sure those wishes were carried out, along with the request that he spend his last hours wearing his favorite TFO hat and shirt.
How’s that for loyalty?
Below are memories and anecdotes about Lefty from well-known folks in the fly fishing community. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section.
TFO Chairman Rick Pope on Lefty’s legacy:
“Fly casting is the easy answer. …Affordability would be neck and neck with fly casting. He’s a guy that wore $14 Sears Chinos. As has often been quoted, by the time you spent more than $150 on a rod, it’s often going to outperform the caster. Barrier to entry. He was not flashy. He was a frugal guy. It was a way that he saw to get more people in the sport, which all circles back to our mission statement.”
“I knew who Lefty was. I had read a lot of his books as a young person, by young I mean 8, 9 years old. Unbeknownst to me, he had written a book, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, which I had. My parents had given this book of Lefty’s to Flip (Pallot). Flip sent it off to Lefty and he wrote a nice note inside the book and actually glued a fly in there and made sure when he sent the book back, to list his phone number, to call him. Lefty Kreh, I mean here is this little kid, who is just eat up with fly fishing, Lefty Kreh was Babe Ruth, the Babe Ruth of fly fishing, so the thought that he … I was scared to even call him. My dad told me that if he put his number in there, he wanted me to call him. And I did, Lefty spent probably 20, 30 minutes on the phone with me. We met later, through Flip, and we became good friends and have been good friends our whole lives.
“The reason I told that story is it fits what I’m going to say about Lefty and the fishing industry. Lefty, to me, was probably the most iconic ambassador of fly fishing. There’s obvious things. He wrote books and did classes all over the world and taught tens of thousands of people how to fly cast. More importantly, Lefty, as a man, when he went somewhere everyone knew who he was, everyone wanted to talk to Lefty. He took the time to talk to these people not with a handshake or a hug, but he took time to hear their story. What was their background? And if that doesn’t say something. … There’s not a lot of people like that on this earth. Lefty, as a whole, was the greatest ambassador for those reasons as much as any of the other things he did.”
Ross Purnell, editor, Fly Fisherman Magazine
“Lefty Kreh changed fly fishing more than any other person because he was the greatest teacher we’ve ever known. Yes, he knew more about casting, knots, fly-tying, and tackle than the rest of us, but his humble and outgoing personality was his greatest contribution to our sport. Because of that, he became a mentor to an entire generation of guides, writers and instructors. Whether they realize it or not, literally everyone who fly fishes has learned directly or indirectly from Lefty. He’s changed all of us . . . for the better.”
Vaughn Cochran, artist and president/owner of Blackfly Outfitter/Lodge/Restaurant
“I recognized what a powerful personality he was many years ago and I wanted to paint him for lots of reasons. Never one to go along with the crowd, I decided to paint Lefty in a ‘Pop Art’ style. I completed the series of nine paintings that were featured in a one-man show at the IGFA gallery several years ago. Every time I saw Lefty at a fishing show he would always say, ‘If you think I look like that, you need glasses.’ We had conversations about all sorts of subjects, but our favorite was all the different portraits I did of him over the years. One of my favorites was the portrait I did of him when we decided to name the rooms at the Blackfly Lodge in the Bahamas after famous fishing personalities. Of course, his name came up first so I came up with this painting. Around the top of the painting is one of Lefty’s more famous quotes, ‘Throwing a crab to a permit is like rolling a wine bottle into a jail cell.’’’
Lori-Ann Murphy, President of Reel Women Fishing Adventures, former cast member of Buccaneers and Bones
“Lefty has recently written a letter to his fly-fishing friends. It strikes me so funny because he even explains in this letter his (health) condition so everyone can understand what is going on with him! It’s like he is showing us his cast or explaining why he invented a pulley system for his mail from the mailbox. Who does this? Special characters who want to share their life findings. And we thank them! We thank you Lefty! Thank you for taking the time to share you with us.”
John Randolph, former publisher Fly Fisherman Magazine, as told to FFM.
“Famed British fly-fishing writer John Goddard, whom Lefty called the best trout fisherman he ever saw, told me once of a Lefty encounter on the River Kennett. There was a large brown trout there that no one could catch. It lay in a particularly difficult spot to which it was virtually impossible to present the fly without drag. Goddard pointed out the trout to Lefty, who was his guest on the club water. Goddard explained: ‘Bloody hell, he caught that trout on his first cast! No one else could have made that fly presentation, only Lefty.’’’
Flip Pallot, TFO advisor, as told to Fly Fisherman Magazine
“My house in Homestead, Florida, was totally destroyed (after Hurricane Andrew). There was not a tree left standing, and most homes were reduced to rubble. Miraculously, after a day or two, with Diane and me living in the bed of a pickup truck, Lefty materialized through mountains of debris. We hugged . . . and cried . . . . and Lefty handed me a paper sack. In it was $25,000 that Lefty and his wife Ev had stashed away for an emergency. ‘You and Diane may need this,’ he said. ‘Ev and I will not. Don’t worry about paying it back, we really don’t need it.’ I had thought to have the measure of Lefty. I was short. As it turned out, we had no need for the money either, but Lefty was there for me all the same.”
“Lefty’s been everything to me as far as a lot of things in my career. He’s introduced me to tons of people. He got me hooked up with TFO. Back in the late ‘90s, he got me hooked up with Umpqua with my first patterns. He’s always had a place, definitely, in my career. I owe him a lot.”
I am sorry to relay sad information to all of you.
Bernard Victor Kreh “Lefty” passed away today in the presence of his family. He passed without pain. He told us multiple times during the worsening of his illness how lucky he was to have so many friends. During these last few weeks he was so sick and without energy that he was unable to respond to any emails and the many phone messages left for him. I can say this was a-great comfort to him.
There will be a celebration of his life in the upcoming weeks. We will update you when plans are made.
Lefty would want us to celebrate life and not mourn him.
Tight Lines, best wishes,
The Kreh Family
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to:
Greater Baltimore Medical Center / Gilchrist hospice in honor of Lefty Kreh
Mail to: GBMC Philanthropy, 6701 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21204 or contribute online at: https://www.gbmc.org/donate (Under “Designation” choose “Other.” Then in the next field, type: “Lefty Kreh Memorial”) or call: 443-849-3303.
I started my saltwater fly-fishing quest nearly eight years ago when I lived in Tampa, Fla. Having spent most of my life inland, I had visions of daily tailing redfish.
Reality quick set in that spring. I saw a handful of fish my first few months, and that learning curve didn’t happen by accident.
Fly fishing for reds is largely a winter pursuit. Sure, there are exceptions. Tailing reds in the grass are summer and early-fall affairs on the Northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts, but generally speaking winter beats summer almost every time for quality reds with a fly rod or light spinning gear.
Here are a few tips I learned along the way to this realization. A few of these nuggets of info may help you if you have time to fish the flats before spring and summer arrive.
You want to fish late in the day, if possible. Pick a later tide and get out when the sun has had a chance to warm the water. Can you get out early? Yes, but early birds will often be disappointed by sluggish, lethargic fish.
If the stars align and you find a strong afternoon tide, mud flats produce the best results. Reds often use the heat of the dark bottom to warm up. A word of caution: Do not get out and wade. Muddy flats rarely yield secure footing.
Fish when you have time, but if you can, schedule your outings around a strong incoming tide. Reds often feed on moving water and the less water you have to deal with means two important things: The fish have fewer places to go; and equally important, they’re easier to see in skinny water.
A negative low afternoon tide is ideal, but it’s not crucial. You can live with an extra inch or two of water, so don’t stay home because you don’t get the perfect tide.
As far as depth, I like shin to knee deep height, which amounts to about a foot or so. It’s enough water that the fish feel relatively secure, and you should be able to notice a few wakes and maybe a tail or two.
The Wind Is Not Your Friend
Wind is a reality of saltwater fishing. A breeze of 10 miles an hour or less works for me. If the wind picks up, I generally try to find a leeward shoreline. Many anglers only take wind into account as it relates to casting, but even more important is the wind’s effect on tidal flow.
In Tampa Bay, for instance, a south wind pushes water into the Bay; a north wind, by contrast, pushes water out of the Bay. Generally, you want a north wind, at least in Tampa Bay. The goal, of course, is to fish a flat with as little water as possible.
Wind can also delay the tide. True story: I went out with a guide near Fort Desoto in St. Petersburg, Fla. Tails were everywhere. The next day, I went out solo and didn’t see a single tail on the same flat on the same tide. The reason: A steady breeze held up the tide. There wasn’t enough water for the reds to come up on the flat, and unfortunately I didn’t push out a bit farther towards slightly deeper water where the fish were holding. It was a matter of wading out a few hundred yards, but I wasn’t confident enough to adjust.
Flies and Equipment
You can’t go wrong with an EP Crab (size 4) in brown or tan. I tie them toad style, but I’m not sure the shape really matters. A mylar spoon fly is my go-to for a searching pattern. A dark Clouser is always a good stand-by for just about any species, saltwater of fresh.
As far as conventional lures, a Gulp shrimp or gold spoon are good go-to options and should be in anyone’s saltwater tackle box.
My go-to fly rods are the TFO’s Axiom II. Before that, I was smitten with theLefty Kreh’sTiCR X. The AII adapts to your stroke. I’m a fast-action caster and it loads quickly with enough juice to pierce a formidable breeze. Pair the AIIwith a Power Reeland you have a quality saltwater setup that will handle just about any fish on the flats.
For standard gear, TFO’sGIS inshore series offers an array of sticks to match your saltwater needs, durable enough to handle just about any situation, sensitive enough to provide just the right feel and good-looking enough to impress your buddies back at the dock.
Try these tips with your favorite TFO gear. Let us know how you fare.
Blane Chocklett is a professional guide and fly tier. The TFO advisor is also a writer. His first book, published by Headwaters, is due out this fall. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect.
I know you haven’t definitely decided on a title other than Game Changer, which is the name of one of your patterns. But what about the content — patterns, tying techniques, I assume?
“It is going to be that with fishing anecdotes and my thoughts on that side of it. The other part of it will be fishing techniques as well. Maybe a little bit of everything. Fishing techniques, using these style of flies and my thought process on those, predatory fish and how they respond to the bait that they feed on. Also tying techniques, my patterns and fishing techniques and anecdotes.”
Where are you at this juncture in the editorial process?
“I’m pretty much done with my part. The editing part is where we are right now. They might have a couple questions, to add stuff or change things. So the writing part’s done. We’re still in the process of piecing it all together and putting it all together. (Editor Jay Nichols) said it probably would be available September or October.”
Since you’re done with the bulk of your work, how long did that take?
“Way longer than it should have. Six years, probably. But that was because of my scheduling and me not getting to it when I should have.”
That’s a lot of work. …
“It is a lot of work and life gets in the way and stuff. I had a bunch of different things going on, but it was a good thing, too, because a lot of things (in the book) developed during that time that I can add to it. But during that time frame, Lefty (Kreh) told me I could have written two or three books.”
Who’s the Publisher?
“Jay Nichols. Headwater Books.”
How did the relationship come about?
“Lefty invited me up to his house with my wife and we spent the day with him (and) Jay. He said he had a lunch meeting set up for us. The meeting was with Jay Nichols. Lefty had said before we met that I was going to write a book. We were able to get a contract done at lunch. My original contract was with Stackpole, but since I was not able to get it done when they wanted it done, we felt like it would be less stress on both us that we worked on it with (Jay’s) publishing company that he owns. Jay has a unique deal where he’s the head editor of Stackpole on the fishing side of things and also has his own publishing company, too. He has a different deal. When we switched over, it was a whole lot less stress.”
Obvious question: How big was Lefty’s role in this?
“Lefty’s been everything to me as far as a lot of things in my career. He’s introduced me to tons of people. He got me hooked up with TFO. Back in the late ‘90s, he got me hooked up with Umpqua with my first patterns. He’s always had a place, definitely, in my career. I owe him a lot.”
I assume, when you started this book, you had a pretty clear objective. Now that you’re almost done, did you accomplish what you wanted?
“I think we definitely did. There’s also a lot more we could add. Jay said there’s definitely enough for two more books. That’s probably something we’re going to do in the future. Get this one out and then the next year or so get back on it and work on a couple more. There was so much information that Jay felt like we had to leave a lot of things out. You have to have a cutoff at some point. There’s definitely room for future books since we didn’t cover everything, that’s for sure. But did we cover the most relevant things that I’m doing at this time.”
I know it’s not over, but what was the most enjoyable thing about the process?
“I would say working with Jay and getting to know him and forming a great friendship with him and some of the things that go with it. Jay has a huge background in the industry with a lot of great authors. He was the editor for FlyFisherman Magazine. That opened the door to work with (Fly Fisherman editor) Ross Purnell. Just working with Jay and his patience and seeing how good he is with what he does in holding my hand through the process. I’m not a writer at all. I don’t pretend to be. A great editor makes you look good. That was my favorite part. Also, there was learning about myself. He would ask questions that would really make me think about what I’m doing, the fly design and my fishing. That really opened my eyes to the things that I wasn’t really aware of with the way I was thinking about things. I learned a lot about myself and how I am designing these flies. It was really introspective and makes you start thinking about things. Teaching me how to write was really cool as well.”
What was the most difficult or challenging thing about the book?
“The act of getting down to it and putting it on paper. The discipline to get it done. The only way Jay could get me to get down to it was where we would block days off where we would spend four, five days at my house. I would spend four, five days at his house. We’d rent a cabin and get away from everything. That was the biggest thing, finding the time and making yourself sit down and do it.”
Any advice to someone doing this?
“Make sure you have a really good editor, one that you can trust and feel comfortable with. Make sure you’re ready for the task at hand. It is a huge undertaking.”
Blane reviewed TFO’s Axiom IIin this post. And when you take a look at his book, let us know what you think.
I must be getting older, because, I am, by nature, a fair-weather fisherman. When I was younger, I fished hard, regardless of the weather or household responsibilities. When I wasn’t working. I fished, I bird hunted or piddled around with my Lab. I was outside all the time.
I probably was a better, more skilled outdoorsman back then. The tradeoff now is I have a more balanced life. But as I sit and ponder the possibilities of 2018, I’m slowly running out of excuses not to improve on my fishing. Maybe you don’t have enough time to fish, but you can improve as a fisherman.
The avenue to my angling progress sits just a few feet away from me next to my fireplace, almost within arm’s reach of my computer.
Say hello to the TFO’s Accelerator, a fly-casting aid that looks like a miniature fly rod in a slender plastic tube. I’ve tinkered with a handful of indoor yarn rods, but the Accelerator intrigued me even more.
I’ve always struggled with too long of a casting stroke. Some people use too short of a stroke. I cast with too long of a stroke.
I admire how Lefty Kreh can lengthen his stroke and maintain tracking with clean, crisp stops. I, unfortunately, am still trying to find that harmony.
The Accelerator has helped me take the next step, but more on that later. First, let me explain how the thing works.
It’s really pretty self-explanatory. Grab the cork handle and mimic a casting motion. As you do that, you’ll hear a ball bearing roll back and forth in the top section of the tubing. Two clicks from the ball bearing on each part of the cast — the back cast and forward cast — means your timing is spot on. Hear only one click? Your timing or stroke length is off.
As you get more comfortable, extend the handle to imitate longer casts and tug on the rubber band attached to the top of the cork handle to simulate the double haul.
The Accelerator, invented by IFFF instructorFloyd Dean, is largely an auditory device. Yarn rods are visual. Loop formation — or the lack of it — provides feedback. The Accelerator’s feedback is more definitive, particularly for the beginner.
With my long stroke, the clicks initially lacked fluidity. I then shortened my movements, and the bearing flowed in perfect harmony. Incrementally, I lengthened my stroke and the bearing obliged.
The moral of the story: It’s better to start short. I, of course, was seduced by the insatiable desire to see how far I could cast. Longer, of course, is not always better.
Now, after a few sessions with the Accelerator, I can consistently cast farther — 80 or 90 feet — with less effort. Giddy with excitement, I called Dean at his Sausalito, Calif. home. We chatted for about 30 minutes.
A couple nuggets of info emerged from our gabfest. Dean invented the Accelerator about 10 years ago. He’s only had one complaint — that it’s too noisy — but 99 percent of the feedback has been positive. Casting guruPeter Hayes likes it. I like it, too.
Watch Floyd Dead demonstrate the Accelerator here and be sure to let us know what you think about it as a casting tool.
Since I joined the sport in 1949, TFO’s Impact has become my favorite fly rod for general fly fishing. I’d like to explain why.
First, it’s important to realize the amount of bend put in the rod when it stops at the end of the stroke is what unrolls line to target.
A stroke is a movement to deliver something from the starting point to the target. The proper stroke makes it possible for the baseball player to make a bunt or hit a home run or to throw the Frisbee a short or long distance. A proper stroke can be short or long but it must continue to smoothly accelerate or go faster and faster, ending in the direction you want to deliver an object. The stroke can start slow or fast but must accelerate to the end. I believe understanding a good stroke is the most important factor when fly-casting.
Conventional fly-casting techniques suggest stopping the backcast a little past vertical. If the forward cast begins from this position, it allows the angler only a relatively short stroke. However, the rod needs to bend more to deliver a forward cast with heavier lines and flies, into the wind or for more distance. Such a short stroke requires more effort to bend the rod to do job. Experienced casters have learned to drift the rod hand well back allowing a longer stroke (forward cast) with less effort.
I think the Impactseries that TFO designed is a revolutionary rod that can help fly fisherman improve and appreciate a proper casting stroke. Almost all modern fly rods are flexible near the tip but increase in diameter and stiffness toward the rod handle, requiring more effort to bend the lower portion. The Impact is different. From the tip the rod tapers slowly in diameter to the reel seat without lacking in power or strength. This design offers many advantages.
Range of Power – Modern fly rods usually cast well the line designed for it and one lighter or one heavier in size. The Impact rod bends easily from tip to the butt so it handles a number of line sizes. For example I can fish effectively with my 8-weight Impact with lines from 5 to 9 weight. I’ve never cast another rod so versatile that it would handle five different line-weights. It also is not as critical to have just the right amount of line outside before the backcast.
Rod Recovery – Watch the rod tip of a great caster. The tips stops smoothly and doesn’t bounce up and down. For most fly fishermen the tip vibrates on the stop because the lower portion of the rod is so much stiffer. The vibrating tip produces undesirable shock waves in the line. Because Impact rods taper smoothly throughout, the tip stabilizes quickly – eliminating any bounce at the end of the cast.
Roll Casting – During roll casting a greater portion of the Impact bends allowing most anglers to roll cast so much better.
Durability – It is one of the toughest rods I’ve ever fished. Using a 20-pound tippet on an 8-weight rod I hooked a redfish of almost 20 pounds in the Louisiana swamp and fully expected to break the rod but didn’t. Unlike a fast action rod, the extreme load in the fight with this fish was spread throughout the rod – reducing the “high stick” break risk.
In summary, the generally accepted casting stroke is rather short which requires much more effort to load the rod deeply. Casters who use this method who have tried an Impact rod do not like it all. The Impact rod requires a longer than normal strokes so the rod bends more and less effort is needed by the caster. Keep this in mind and give an Impact rod a try – I believe you’ll appreciate the Impact design as much as I do.
Interested in the Impact series?
Click here to read more about the Impact rod and here to locate a dealer nearest you!