SOUZA OUTDOORS COLUMN: Having fun with fly fishing

I fish using just about any kind of fishing rig I can get my hands on, but my real passion is fly fishing. Fly fishing takes a different mindset than most other ways of pursuing this sport. You need room to cast, be a good enough caster to deal with the wind and you have to deliver a just about weightless fly to a target you really can’t see. It’s not the most practical way to fish, but it’s plenty of fun.

To do this you need a fly, a leader, a fly line, reel and a fly rod. The fly rod is the center of the system. This rod is the tool that delivers the fly line. Fly rods are made to a do a variety of different jobs. They are rated using a number system from 1 through 18. The lower weights, as they are called, start at 1 through 3. They are made for ultra-light fishing. 

Trout are usually the target using these rods, but at one time, when Orvis came out with their 1-weight, people around here were using them to catch schoolie stripers during the early season. You don’t hear about his any more because these little schoolie stripers were a handful for most anglers, which meant there were plenty of expensive broken rods.

Weights 4 through 7 are standard weight fly rods for freshwater; most experienced fly anglers have at least one of each. For a beginner, the cost for that amount of gear is just crazy, so you need to pick one good rod to get you started. If you just fish using dry flies, wet flies and nymphs, a 5-weight is the best choice.

If you fish using all the flies I listed plus streamers, then a 6-weight is the best all-around rod. Seven-weight fly rods are kind of the top end for average freshwater fishing. Guys who spend most of their time streamer fishing or using other large flies enjoy these rods for the extra kick you get casting.

Eight-weights are used for largemouth bass in freshwater and bonefish in the tropics. They cast a slightly heavier line, which, in turn, makes life easier casting large bass bugs or making long casts on windy flats for bones.

Nine through 18 are made for saltwater fishing, and once again there are rods for every job. I’m going to jump right up to the big rods in sizes 13 to 18. You probably don’t need any of these rods. These are made for big tuna, marlin and just about anything else you probably shouldn’t be chasing with a fly.  

At one time I owned a 14-weight Sage big game stick. I could cast the entire 90 feet of line in spite of its weight, but it was no joy. The real purpose of this rod is to lift a big fish up from the depths to the transom of a boat. This rod was not really made for casting but for the fight. If you ever need a rod of this size, the skipper of a charter boat will have one for you.

Nine through 12 are the practical saltwater weights. Nine is the minimum for most saltwater fishing here and down the coast. Although I have used an 8 weight many times while fishing for snook in the mangroves in Tampa Bay, I’d rather use the 9 weight to beat the constant wind coming in from the coast. It’s strong enough to cast into the wind and defeat good-size fish in the salt. At times, I overload the rod with a 10-weight line.

This gives the rod help loading quicker for the cast. This way I have less line in the air as I make the cast and the extra weight also helps in the wind. In Florida, I’ve also used a 9-weight to pull fat largemouth bass out of tall grass in some of the big lakes.

The 10-weight is my favorite. It’s beefy enough to handle just about anything around here. Overload it with an 11-weight line and it’s a rocket in the wind. It also has plenty of lift. I fish out of a kayak and the lift is important when the fighting angle gets past a downward 45 degrees. The lift is very important when I fish a beach and especially on ocean beaches. Hook a striper in the surf and you are not only fighting the fish but also the wave action and any undertow coming off the beach.

The 10-weight I use these days is a Temple Fork Outfitters TiCr-X four-piece, nine-foot rod. It casts well in the wind, has plenty of lifting power and has a strong backbone when playing a fish. If I’m heading out for a day’s fishing with only one fly rod for saltwater, I usually pick the 10-weight.

The big stick is a 12-weight. Most people own these for tarpon fishing. You can handle just about any size tarpon with these rods. They are usually a good balance between castability and lifting power. 

Just like my other rigs, mine is set up with a line one size bigger. The 13-weight line is a Cortland intermediate with the first 30 feet dyed green and the running line is white. It’s loaded into a Piranha 4.25 fly reel with a special spool that holds 600 yards of 30-pound test braid. The thought of a tarpon taking that much line is something I wouldn’t want to deal with, but most Florida guides expect you to have enough backing to defeat a big fish.

I fish in Tampa Bay, where the fish are not on the surface like in the Florida Keys. I use intermediate line so it can sink just a foot or so below the surface to help get the fly down in front of the fish. If I needed to use this rig in the Keys, I would apply line cleaner. Line cleaner is used for floating lines and this would make my line float for many casts before it wears out.

I’ve also use the silicone cleaners that come with Cortland floating line to make the line stay on top for a few minutes. This rod is also used in the fall, when bigger stripers are making their way south. Once again, it’s for lifting power to fight bigger fish in while fishing in the surf. A few years ago, I was bringing in a 27-pound striper at Gooseberry Island during some rough water, using a 9-weight G Loomis GLX, which is a tough and well built rod. As I got the fish to the shore, it kept turning out to sea as the waves rolled out. I applied what I though was maximum pressure, never lifting the rod more than 30 degree off the horizon. Using this pressure, I turned the fish and it finally came toward me.

Just before I beached the striper, the rod exploded at the middle ferrule. I most likely overstressed it in the heavy water during the fight. Since then, I never undergun while fishing rough water or surf.

I hope this gives you a basic idea what kind of fly rod you may need if you decide to get into this aspect of fishing. Fly fishing is the most impractical way to catch a fish, but to me, it’s the most fun.

Email staff photographer Dave Souza at

This entry was posted in Florida Keys Fishing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Recent Posts

  • Contact Us

  • Facebook page for the War Bird Sportfishing Charter Boat Twitter Account for Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Guide and Charter Boat Captain of the War Bird RSS Feed for Posts from Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Charters - the War Bird
    Google Plus

    To Book a Deep Sea
    Fishing Charter
    (305) 394-7420

    Florida Keys Fishing in Key Largo

  • To Book The War Bird
    (305) 394-7420

    • Sailfish
    • Dolphin - Mahi Mahi
    • Wahoo
    • King Mackerel
    • Tuna - Black Fin Tuna
    • Marlin

    • Yellowtail Snapper
    • Mutton Snapper
    • Cubera Snapper
    • Mangrove Snapper
    • Grouper
    • Kingfish - King Mackerel
    • Spanish and Cero Mackerel
    • Hogfish
    • Amberjack
    • Cobia
    • Baracuda

  • The Fish House
    Key Largo's Finest Seafood Restaurant
    102401 Overseas Hwy
    Key Largo, FL 33037

    Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    Dinner: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
    No Reservations, just come on in!

  • Pages

  • Meta

  • Offshore Sportfishing in the Florida Keys

  • Tags

  • Facebook page for the War Bird Sportfishing Charter Boat Twitter Account for Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Guide and Charter Boat Captain of the War Bird RSS Feed for Posts from Captain Dana Banks - Key Largo Fishing Charters - the War Bird

    To Book a Deep Sea
    Fishing Charter
    (305) 394-7420