Why would anyone fish for grouper or snapper on a flyrod?
1. You will CATCH MORE FISH than anyone else on your boat!
2.It is much EASIER ON YOUR BACK than fishing with a heavy spinning rod!
3.You will HAVE MORE FUN than any other anglers!
4.Ladies LOVE TO USE THIS METHOD, just try to get the rod out of their hands!
5.It is MORE EXCITING than sitting there waiting for the fish to bite!
6.You will have better FISH STORIES than all your friends back at the dock!
How does using a fly rod catch more fish? First, let me tell you how I discovered this technique, and yes, it is all about the technique of using the fly rod that bring in the fish.
As a charter captain aboard my JAGUAR 35′ CATAMARAN center console boat, the Golden StreakER, I have lots of room along the rails to line up anglers when drift fishing for Grouper. This drift technique is described in my article printed in the January/February, 2004, edition of Big Game Fishing Journal.
I use those methods to find the best fishing spots, cover more ground, and catch more and bigger fish.
I will often run 50 miles or more out of Key West, which takes less than an hour in the Golden StreakER, to reach my favorite set of grouper holes, which I refer to as grouper heaven. This is found by using my Navionics chip installed into the Lowrance GPS which has hot fishing spots on the charts.Upon arrival, I set up my anglers with Shakespeare Ugly Stick stand up rods, and they immediately start catching grouper and snapper. I mark the hot spots on my plotter and drift over those areas repeatedly.
Most of the anglers on the Golden StreakER will catch and release 15 to 35 grouper during a day charter. We release 95% of these, only keeping a few big ones in the cooler for dinner. We often hit the limit of 50 fish per angler, not including the big legal fish we keep for dinner. Since we release so many fish, I use only Mustad Demon circle hooks for bottom fishing; these are the sharpest and best hooks to use. These allow the fish to be caught in the corner of the mouth, with an easier release and less injury to the fish.
Once everybody is set up and catching fish, I pull out my Cortland heavy-duty fly rod and reel. I prefer a 9 or 10-weight rod, and Cortland fly line with a 3′ clear mono segment at the tip of the line. Cortland fits the bill because they offer solid rods and reels in a modest price range of less than $200.
As soon as I start catching grouper and snapper on the fly rod, I pass it on to one of the other anglers. I usually give the rod to a female angler, because it is easier to battle big fish with the fly rod, and lots more fun as well. Trying to get the rod back from a female angler is like trying to take away a fine piece of jewelry. Most will not go back to the regular spinning reels after catching a few fish, and some have even added a fly rod outfit to their Christmas list. It is the success of my technique that has led me to bring a second fly rod on the boat for anyone else that wants to have fun.
Two different basic methods of using the fly rod provide two different kinds of results. I will share both methods later, but first, how did I discover the grouper and snapper fly rod technique.
My introduction to fly rod fishing was through the invitation of my good friend Gilbert Silverman, a fly fishing enthusiast in Manchester, Vermont.
He invited me to spend a week to learn fly-fishing methods and the lore of the rivers.
We started out at the State Line Diner near the New York and Vermont border, enjoying a solid breakfast with all of the local anglers and guides. The guides meet for breakfast to divide up all of the good fishing spots along the river, and after a three-egg breakfast, I followed my guide to the fishing hole we had chosen.
Upon reaching the river, I proudly pulled out five fly rods that I had recently purchased at a garage sale, only to be told by the guide that these were just junk. Fortunately, I had only paid $5 each, and the guide lent me a $900 graphite rod to use for the day. We slipped into waders, and slipped into the river with trout jumping all around us.
My guide gave me a small fly to use and five minutes of training on casting with the fly rod. I proceeded to cast the line around myself, into the trees, and I even hooked my guides hat, while almost falling into the river.
After fifteen minutes of casting, the guide announced that it was time to quit, and when I asked why, he explained that the fish were just not rising anymore.
I spent the next hour listening as the guide instructed me on the different types, sizes and colors of flies, and their various uses. He then mentioned a special fly that he had invented, and suggested that we might try it, but that it had a very special use. This fly was designed to be cast onto the opposite bank of a stream, twitched into the water, and then twitched three times specifically before re-casting because a trout knows that a real fly will fly away after the third twitch.
He expertly cast the fly onto the opposite bank and then with three quick twitches ” BANG” a big trout had risen to grab the fly. He laughed as he handed me the rod, and explained that he had given this spiel one hundred times before, and this was the first time he had hooked a fish on the first try using this fly and method. Later when I caught up with Gilbert and told him about the guide’s instructions and the results, Gil laughed so hard he nearly “wet his waders”!
I was hooked on fly-fishing and have improved over the years, but I am still a better boat fisherman than a stream man. The main lesson I took from my fly fishing week was; that a specific fly motion can have big results in catching a specific type of fish.
I had invited my good friend Frank Mensur to go fishing one day near a communications tower fifty miles out of Key West, in the gulf. There are some big cobia that visit this tower early in the morning, and I told him to bring his fly rod to see if we couldn’t catch a cobia or two on the fly rod.
Frank is an avid fly fisherman who travels to New Zealand for about a month every year, and fishes Key West for Tarpon daily during the month of May.
Winds were forecast at 10 mph out of the south, a perfect condition to run out into the gulf, and we set out for a good day of fishing. [As a side note, I have just discovered a new lure for top water casting that is really great. It is called the Gopher, and this lure drives Kingfish and Cobia crazy. Go to (www.gopherbaitco.com) for more information.]
We started up the Northwest channel into the Gulf and soon encountered 4′ to 5′ seas. These are caused by the tide running against a strong south wind, and after hitting a few of these waves I decided to turn around and head for one of my great spots on the Atlantic side. No use beating our brains out against those seas, and Frank appreciated my decision as we ran to fish some of my favorite reef patches in the Hawks Channel.
The Hawks Channel runs between the islands and the reef on the Atlantic side. We anchored on one of my favorite humps and started catching grouper, snapper, grunts, and triggerfish. Jokingly, I suggested to Frank that he get out his fly rod and try it here. He laughed at me and kept fishing with his spinning rod.
Just to give him a hard time, I got out my Cortland fly rod and reel, tied on a bright yellow 3/8 once jig. While stripping off line, I got such a hard bite that I nearly lost the rod. After setting the hook and a fighting a small battle, I landed a nice 4-lb. mangrove snapper (gray snapper). Frank cracked that it was just beginners luck!
I cast again over the 25′ deep bottom and proceeded to strip out line. WHAM, another hook up and in a few minutes I had boated another nice gray snapper.
Frank reiterated his comment about beginners luck and opined that the special jig I used that was the reason for my success. I gave him a jig just like it to use, and being very stubborn, he tied it to his spinning rod. He didn’t get one hook up in the next hour, while I caught ten gray snappers in the 3 to 5 lb. range.
Since I had caught my limit and his, we called it a day and headed home.
Frank finally conceded that maybe the fly rod had something to do with my success. After all, gray snappers are line shy and have keen eyes, making them normally difficult to catch. They will eat your chum, but not bite a baited hook. This was a delightful surprise to catch them this way, however, I wasn’t sure if the fly rod had anything to do with my unusual success!
My next fishing trip, I was anxious to try the technique again and see if it was for real, or just a fluke. This trip was out into the Gulf, and after I had all my anglers set up and fishing, I reached for my Cortland fly rod and reel outfit. Because we were drifting at a faster pace than the previous trip, I selected a much heavier jig. WOW!! The first time I dropped it down, out came a nice gray snapper.
I passed the fly rod to an interested angler and surprisingly, no had no results. He gave me back the fly rod and using my technique, I hooked up another gray. This led me to believe that it was my special jigging technique and not just the jig I was using that was bringing success. I passed the rod to another angler and coached him on my technique, and shortly, he hooked up a nice snapper. He was really thrilled at the action of the fly rod, as he had never caught a fish on a fly rod before, especially a snapper. I thought to myself, if this works for snapper, how about grouper?
Meanwhile, all my anglers were catching grouper, grunts, porgies, and yellow tail snappers, all on conventional rods and spinning reel outfits, but not one angler caught a gray snapper! Had I really discovered something? You bet! What I was doing with the motion of the fly rod and jig had turned on the grays. They didn’t have time to be line shy, they had to grab this jig or miss the meal.
I varied the size (weight) of the jigs to find the right depth for gray snapper, and by accident, I discovered that with heavier jigs I started to hook up grouper. From experience, it takes a different technique for grouper because they head for the rocks as soon as they grab the bait. It is important to pull like heck when you first get a bite. Then hang on, and if you get him coming your way, you are in for a good fight. Try it, you’ll love it, and every fish will seem like the biggest fish you ever caught.
What is the technique? First, tie a 3′ mono leader with a swivel to the fly line and a jig or plastic DOA lure (Bait Buster) these have been great. The mullet or green top colors work best. If I need to get deeper in the water column, I add a small egg sinker above the swivel on the fly line. I adjust the weights so I can hit the bottom for grouper and lighter weights for snapper. By changing the weight of the jigs, you can adjust the depth of the lure to find snapper. This method also works for Bass fishing in freshwater lakes!
The action of the fly rod produces a distinctive swimming motion that excites the fish to attack the bait, as opposed to a stationary bait that is just swinging with the tide or current. The quick jerky motion of the plastic lures make them seem life like, and jigs look like shrimp that are diving into the bottom. Tipping jigs with a piece of cut bait or strip of squid that is ½” wide and 3″ long, often excites the fish to strike. The added natural smell of the bait will entice a strike if all else fails.
Once the line with mono leader and appropriate weight is ready, and the lure is selected and baited, begin to strip off 2′ to 3′ lengths of line until your jig or lure reaches the bottom or your projected depth. Then, lift the rod up in long 3′ to 5′ sweeps, letting the jig or lure settle evenly between sweeps of the rod.
When you get a strike, jerk the rod up hard to set the hook, with the flexibility of the fly rod, you need a good solid jerk to set the hook. Then lift and reel like mad so the fish can’t dart back into the rocks with your lure. Settle down for a nice battle, and bring your fish to the boat to be netted. If you haven’t hooked a fish in one minute, you’ve been robbed of bait, or if you are using a plastic lure, there just aren’t any fish in the area.
My fly rod method is a real killer, and the only time it does not work is when there are no fish around, or the tide is at ebb. Remember fish feed when food is flowing around them, and no tide means no food drifting by, and thus no bites. It is similar to people sitting down to dinner, if they have an empty plate in front of them, they don’t eat. Put a full plate of food in front of them and they will eat. The best fishing is always just before ebb tide or slightly after it begins to flow again, and if you are not getting fish at this point, try a new spot.
Once you find a hot spot, try this method. If you don’t succeed initially, don’t give up! This method does work, although it takes some flexibility in presentation to start the fish into a feeding frenzy! I am surprised at how often I have to change weights or jig sizes to find the ideal combination for the conditions, but as soon as I dial in the right combination, look out! I can out fish everyone on the boat 2 or 3 fish to one against anglers using conventional spinning rods.
I recently took my friend KEN DOMANSKI fishing with me in Key West. He watched me pull in fish after fish using my fly rod. He moved right next to me with his spinning rod and began catching more fish than any other angler on the boat. He figured that my jigging action had excited the fish into a frenzy and being close, he was benefiting indirectly from my technique.
I gave him the fly rod and coached him on my method. At first, he did not get a bite, but I coached him to use the 3′ to 5′ sweeps of the rod, and shortly thereafter, he started hooking up grouper. After landing several fish he commented “This is like cheating. it is too easy” As with most anglers who try my method, he wouldn’t give up the fly rod for the rest of the day.
I have two Cortland fly rod outfits on board the Golden Streak, and as soon as I get an angler hooked on my method, I get out the second fly rod outfit to catch a few fish myself. I have also purchased some suction cup fly rod holders made by Moonlighter (www.outercapeangling.com) to hold the fly rods when unhooking fish. I also use a Boca Buddy suction cup made by Moonlighter to keep the Boca gripper handy. These accessories keep things organized in the boat when using the fly rods.
True blue fly fishing anglers will say that this is just bottom fishing with a fly rod, however, stationary bait on a spinning rod does not have anywhere near the excitement to the fish that the fly rod provides. It is more fun, it is less strain on the back, and it beats sitting on the gunnel watching the tip of your spinning rod for a bite.
I am having FUN and so are my anglers, and that is what fishing is all about. Try it and you will like it too, and you don’t have to buy a $1,000 fly rod. Cortland makes a nice line of fly rods and reels that are modestly priced under $200, so if some big fish pulls the rod and reel out of your hand, you won’t cry as hard. In fact, I would recommend that you purchase two fly rod outfits for your boat. Once your wife, or friends start catching fish on the fly rod, you will need a second rig to get in on the fun yourself.
Remember if you don’t get any action the first time you use the fly rod, don’t give up! Try and try again, change the presentation, and your target depth, and when you hit on the right combination of weight, lure and motion.WOW!!!!
You will never give up fly rod fishing from your boat.
This article should get you started catching big grouper and snapper with a fly rod, or during the winter months, you can come to Key West and fish with me. Let me show you my technique and how it works, and if I can’t out fish you with the fly rod, I’ll give it to you. I am also available for charter during the summer in Detroit for some of the hottest small mouth bass fishing in the world.