Beginner to Fly fishing the surf who,what,when,where, and how

Troutfrthwin

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Hello,

I am mostly a Trout fisherman for the most part and when trout fishing I am usually going for wild trout in small mountain streams or messing around with stockeys in urban areas. I am going to Pensacola in late March and would like to fly fish the surf.

There is barely any info out there on this subject so I turn to you, What can I catch in March in the surf in Pensacola? What flies should I use? How do I read the water? Are there any flies that could catch whiting and croaker if I am desperate for a tug on the line?

I already have and 8wht and plan on getting sinking line.
 

dswice

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Hi Troutfrthwin and welcome to the forum!

March can be a tough time to surf fly fish in the Pensacola area. Lower water temps, frontal systems moving through, plus regular high wind can make fly fishing difficult. However, spotted sea trout and redfish along with blues, croaker, and whiting are sometimes available for those willing to put in the time and effort. My recommendation is to try a weighted clouser pattern (pink and white or chartreuse and white) or something similar like a Kreelex jig (gold) and apply a generous shot of Pro-Cure scent on it every 20 minutes or so. Also, certain crab patterns (weighted) can be good.

Rather than fish the open surf, I would suggest targeting grass beds, oyster bars, or riprap, which are more likely to be found in nearby creeks and canals. Study a map of the area for these potential fish holding zones. Also, visit some of the local tackle shops and if you buy a few items they may share key areas to try. Finally, if it's an option, hiring a local guide for at least a 1/2 day can make all the difference. Good luck!
 

fatbillybob

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No thread will do this topic justice. I'm new to the surf too. Best answer is as posted above. Hire a guide and prepared to be blown away at the level of difficulty. I have fushed for most my life and hired more guides than i can count. For me flyfishing the surf is the most complicated flyfishing i have ever done. I'm hooked on it venturing into my 1st 2 hand big stick and the new world outside overhead casting. I'm loving the snake roll with a skagit head
 

hunter1

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Hi, and welcome to the forum from Maryland. I mostly FF for trout also, but do hit the surf alot also. Good advise in hireing a guid for you fishing area. You can also learn alot on you tube. I like FF jetties better than the surf. But a guide is the way to go. tight lines.
 

fatbillybob

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Hunter

Do you like jetties because of obvious structure? Are you blind casting structure or sight fishing specific fish on jetties?
 

deceiverbob

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As said above, March fishing can be tough on the northern Gulf. Temps can range from 30's to 80's in the same week. Dswice's advice on flies is good. I would also add some bonefish type patterns like Crazy Charlies or Gotchas to the flybox also. A few in bright colors, pink, chartreuse and orange, and a few in tan and white. Bumping these flies along the bottom will catch whiting and possibly a pompano. To me the fish in the surf that are the most fun to catch are ladyfish but I think that water temps will still be too chilly for them when you get there.

Also surf fishing on the Gulf is much different than the Atlantic coast. The surf is much smaller and the tides are also much smaller. A three foot tide is huge here and there is only one high tide and one low tide a day. Most of the jetties are at the mouths of large bays (called passes on the Gulf) and the currents, especially on falling tides will be swift.

For grass beds, I would scout Santa Rosa sound on Google Earth, Grass beds will appear dark brown or black against the white sand bottom. Look for areas with parking nearby, but be prepared to hike at least a half mile to some areas. In March the water will probably still be cold enough to warrant the use of chest waders. Bait fish imitations and, if the water is warm enough, topwater flies can be effective over and around the grass.
 

hunter1

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Hunter

Do you like jetties because of obvious structure? Are you blind casting structure or sight fishing specific fish on jetties?
Often time blind fishing jetties. Like any body of water you FF, you kinda have to know what kind of structure your looking for.Same go's with the beach, learn to read the water. Yes , I like the structure at the jetties. The flats at the cape are really the best for FF a beach. People say FF DE beaches is a waste of time, I disagree, Most people cast beyond the fish, same as in surf casting. Most fish I have caught from the beach wereright in front of me and out to 30 yds. Learn to read the beaches, there big and you don't want to cast blindly. :cool:
 

karstopo

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Borski bonefish sliders work over here in the surf for whiting and croaker. Fish are often in the first gut off the beach behind the break. Drifting the pattern with the current on floating line or intermediate tips and/or 12-15’ long fluorocarbon leaders has been productive.

The surf here is almost always not about blasting out long, random casts, but rather ~50’ casts more or less to very specific targets or zones in the gut/bar structure. The fish don’t tend to be randomly distributed, but on narrow parts of the structure. Casts and drifts outside the payoff areas tend to get zero takes. I spend most of my time trying hone in on where exactly on the structure the fish are orienting. If I get that determined, then I try and do repeat presentations to the same spots over and over and the move along the beach looking for that structure as I go.

Bars and guts from the beach might look all the same more or less, but are most definitely not uniform as one goes up and down a beach. Some guts are deeper and steeper in one area, bars might be more abrupt. Currents, sometimes sort of a hard to detect rip current, set up periodically to send beach breaker water towards offshore and might cut across the longshore current that is prevalent. Any offshore moving current that you can find is a good place to probe and search for fish.

There’s a ton going on with the surf and it’s a very dynamic zone. The way I approach it is to try to understand how the structure might look if the water is stripped away and then overlay the currents on that.
 

karstopo

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I do most of my surf fishing with a very old and somewhat degraded floating line that at this point is more like a slow intermediate tip, the business end of the line just does not float anymore, especially with the all fluorocarbon leaders I use. Then, I tend to have on 12-15’ leaders and weight some of my patterns with tungsten, tungsten sinks flies 2X faster than lead, gram for gram. Whiting tend to be near the bottom, so are the various flatfish. Speckled trout can be anywhere in the water column so it’s nice to have some slow sinking or suspending flies in the box. Most of the other fish one might find in the surf will be more up or down depending on their natures. The surf being so dynamic and turbulent tends to make it difficult to get flies in the zone if the payoff zone is near the bottom. But, I like at least some of the line out beyond the tip to float as I can then do mends to set up drifts as I wish.

Another way to put it is that if the fish are up in the column definitely a floating line or slow intermediate tip can work and work well. Current and the strength of that comes into play. You can fish up near the surface even with fluorocarbon leaders and a flyline tip that tends to sink providing the fly has enough positive buoyancy to resist the line and leader. It will be harder to fish deep enough if the fish are feeding deeper with an all high floating line, a 9’ leader and a fly that is only marginally negatively buoyant. So somehow, you will have to rig up things to get the fly in the zone. It could be with perhaps split shot, sink tip line, tungsten weighting or alternatively much larger and heavier lead weighting. But, if you are after fish along the bottom in the anything beyond a calm surf in more than 2’ feet or so, don’t really expect to get it done with ordinary rigs on floating line.
 

Troutfrthwin

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Thanks a ton for all the info, I am really just after anything that will bite in the surf, my other option is to fish some brackish lakes nearby depending on how covid is going, are these areas any good in late March? Also, will the water still be cold during the last week of march? I was hoping to have some fun playing around with ladyfish. Again thanks a ton for all the info!
 

fatbillybob

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There’s a ton going on with the surf and it’s a very dynamic zone.
Agreed! I'm self taught flyfishing surf and it has been the most challenging flyfishing I have ever done. I really like it and the surf is under 10mins from my house.
 

fatbillybob

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I have never been to pensocola but I'm in Florida annually for racing cars and fishing so that's Homestead/Miami/keys, Sebring/Tampa, and Daytona. All I can say is there are fish everywhere. 90% of my Fl flyfishing is in the Florida winter Jan-March and I am never dissappointed. So I bet you will be fine too. I see guys fishing ditches along the road and pulling out big snook. It is amazing.
 

fatbillybob

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would surf guys recommend an intermediate line if I can take one line?
I think you need to look at the water you are fishing how fast the waves are breaking depth structure etc. I use a skagit head fast sink around 6"/sec. in my area. I want that fly down fast so I can get to stripping. I can see how conditions on a different beach would be intermediate or for me a skadi floater. I have but just don't use inters...I'm not sure why really. I've always been good floating or sinking.
 

karstopo

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Looks like at Pensacola water temperatures are mid 70s in late March based on 2020.

But, if you look at 2019, the water temperature was in the 60s.

So it depends.
 

karstopo

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