Fly Fishing Bass Orlando

fly fishing for bass

Central Florida’s many ponds offer superb fly fishing opportunities.

Fly Fishing Bass Orlando

Some of the most fun and exciting fly fishing in central Florida involves chasing largemouth bass. Almost every body of water larger than a couple acres holds bass. They’re not the only species in that water, either. Spotted gar, bowfin, various sunfish species, crappie, and other fishes make every day fishing here an adventure. Read on for hints on how and where to go Fly Fishing Bass Orlando.

Fly Fishing Bass Tackle

You need a fly rod and reel with a floating line. I use a nine foot, four-weight Temple Fork for most of my bass fishing; however, friends and acquaintances glance askance. Lots of the fish are small, and you’ve also got all those sunfish species. The little rod makes it more challenging when the big boys hit. Unless they’re near lumber it usually works, too. Use what you want. It will work.

fly fishing for bass

This bass was subdued with a four-weight.

I like a nine or ten foot leader with a ten or twelve pound tippet. Knotless leaders work well in weedy areas if the tippet is beefy enough.

Fly Fishing Bass Flies

fly fishing for bass

Small poppers designed for bluegills will tempt sizable bass.

People accuse me of being a minimalist. My flies may reflect this philosophy.

Regardless of where you fish or what you fish for, being able to cover the water column is always important. Carry surface flies, slow sinkers, and some that sink like an anvil. Since bass fishing always involves weeds, blowdowns, and other structure, weedguards on flies are likewise important.

fly fishing for bass

Gurglers are easy to make and very effective. Don’t forget the weed guard!

My preference by a wide margin is to use surface flies. The strikes! Incredible! I like Gurglers and the Brickhead, a foam popper. Rubber legs and marabou are featured in a lot of them, but the fish don’t seem to care if the tail is something juicy or just inexpensive wig hair. Simple works! Most are on size 4 or 2 stinger hooks (gotta throw them with that little rod), but bluegill poppers often work, too. Just because bass have huge mouths doesn’t mean you have to use a huge bait!

fly fishing for bass

The brickhead popper works well and is easy to cast.

Slow sinkers include any of the myriad unweighted streamer patterns, as well as eelworms and that sort of thing. This may be heresy, but bass seem to eat anything that looks like food in the two-to-four inch size range. I don’t think that pattern matters much if you show it to them in a convincing manner. Mind you, this piece is about how to catch bass, not giant bass. If all you want are bruisers then you probably should gear up. A five pounder on that four-weight is plenty, thank you! And all those one and two pound fish are pretty sporting.

fly fishing for bass

Streamer flies are also effective, although the visual element is missing. This one was tied with synthetics.

Most of my streamers are tied with synthetics. They shed water and are easy to cast. The fish eat them. They cover my needs. Again, size 2 is as large as you need to go.

Weighted flies only work on a clean bottom, such as sand. If it’s weedy they collect weed, even with the guard. Clouser minnows and bunny leeches fit the bill. You probably won’t use them much unless it’s cold out.

fly fishing for bass

While bass fishing expect to catch other species, like the aggressive little stumpknocker…

 

fly fishing for bass

…the spectacularly colored redbelly…

 

fly fishing for bass

…the feisty bluegill…

 

fly fishing for bass

…and even gar. There are other species, too.

There are thousands of fly patterns you can catch bass with here. Be able to cover the water column with offerings in that two-to-four inch size range and you will catch your share.

Fly Fishing Bass Techniques

OK, an anecdote here. During a recent June I fished a shallow, weedy pond, a fish factory. The bite was awesome from sunrise until about 930 AM, when it turned off like someone shut the faucet. I even tried sinking flies for an hour, to no avail. Rather than beat a dead horse I packed it in, never a bad idea when that June sun gets high.

The following day I fished a small stream, promising my bride to be home by lunchtime. Lunch came quick, man. The bite never slowed. On the contrary, it seemed to get better as the sun climbed to its zenith. I hated to leave.

Time of day can make a difference, especially during the heat of the summer (morning best) and the cool of winter (evenings best). But that may be more true in lakes and ponds than in streams. Central Florida has some awesome bass streams and the bite can last all day sometimes.

For surface fly use, roughly two-to-three feet of water seems to be the best depth, if there is food for the bass. Shallower the fish are often too spooky. Deeper they seem unwilling to come up. Cast around or parallel to shore, paying particular attention to weeds, breaks in those weeds, any type of lumber, stream mouths, points, pockets, anything that looks like a good ambush spot for the fish you’re after.

fly fishing for bass

If you find a spot like this you can assume there’s a nice fish there.

They may be fish but they need to make a living! Look for concentrations of bait- shiners, shad, bluegills. Look for active fish. Some days the fish are just going crazy. For example, at daybreak during late March and early April bass collect where the St. Johns River enters Lake Harney. Speculation is that they’re feeding on out-migrating shad fingerlings. Whatever they’re eating, they feed intensely for about an hour, until the sun gets up. So, you just cast where the fish are breaking.

fly fishing for bass

Redbellies on beds attract bass. Fish there!

Casting where you’ve seen a fish break is always a good idea. :-)

When they won’t come up for a surface fly it’s time to go below. Work the same types of areas. During the winter months this may be the only way you’ll get a bite. If it’s cold fish more slowly than you otherwise might.

Fly Fishing Bass Locations

fly fishing for bass

A central Florida pond with obvious fishing potential.

The above discussion on techniques does not address whether you’re on shore, wading, or fishing in a boat. For this article, fishing from a boat means a paddle-powered vessel, a canoe or a kayak.

Central Florida is loaded with “famous” bass lakes and the St. Johns River. Bass fishing is an institution here, and bass clubs have bass tournaments on all those name lakes and the river all the time.

Avoid those places like the plague.

Fishing success frequently is inversely proportional to fishing pressure. So you want to find small ponds and streams where a bass boat couldn’t possibly go. Think retention ponds, private waters, golf course ponds, and of course the three streams on the north and east of Orlando- the Wekiva River, the Rock Springs Run, and the Econlockhatchee River.

In east Orlando there is a middle school, Corner Lakes Middle. They have a fishing club there. On the property is a one acre retention pond where the kids in the club get to fish once a week. They always catch bass there.

If a pond has been there long enough to support rooted aquatic vegetation like pickerelweed or water lilies, fish will be established in it. They are frequently unsophisticated, cooperative fish too, perfect for the boatless fly fisher.

fly fishing for bass

A pond that looks like this is gonna have fish!

Retention ponds are a usually overlooked resource for fly fishermen. I fish local retention ponds in Oviedo two or three times a year and while I’ve never gotten any trophies, I’ve yet to be skunked.

Wading is the best way to fish ponds, whether natural or man-made, except that many central Florida ponds are surrounded by cattails and have soft bottoms. Where the cattails stop growing the water is up to your armpits. That makes casting difficult. Add in the large carnivorous reptiles and wading suddenly becomes a much less attractive option. My experience with ponds is that it’s best to stay on the banks.

fly fishing for bass

Do what you want. My preference is to avoid wading around these things.

There are stretches in all three rivers where you can wade, but you need a boat to reach them. There’s a canoe livery on Rock Springs Run called King’s Landing. There are canoes available for rent for the Wekiva River at Wekiva Springs State Park. And Joe at Peace of Mind Kayak Tours rents kayaks on the Econlockhatchee.

fly fishing for bass

Rock Springs Run is a beautiful and fish-filled stream.

Of course if you have your own canoe or kayak you can fish almost anywhere you can find access to water. Again, stick to the smaller bodies of water that do not have boat ramps.

When I first moved to Florida I heard about East Lake Toho from a number of people. I drove down there and launched my canoe. It does look magnificent, thick stands of bulrushes all the way around a very large lake. Airboats run at speed through those bulrushes and while I was out there I realized there was no way those guys could see me. I never went back. About a year later a canoeist on East Lake was killed by an airboat.

You’ll catch more fish in the smaller ponds anyway, because you’ll have way less competition.

Fly Fishing Bass Conclusion

We’ve discussed, tackle, flies, techniques, and locations, certainly enough to get you started. Please practice catch and release, and best of luck to you as you try Fly Fishing Bass Orlando!

If you’re looking for a guided fly fishing bass Orlando trip, please consider fishing with me. See our menu of fishing trips here…

All content in this article, including writing and photos, copyright John Kumiski 2015. All rights are reserved.




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