Featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs
On The Fly Saltwater
by Claude Preston
In early June, I once again made what is becoming an annual trip to the Sanibel Island, Florida area. On my visit last year, the week I chose was when a tropical low was sitting in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing strong on-shore southwest winds. If you have fished that area you know that such winds in the summer are not the norm and can eliminate half of the fishing.
This year however I was greeted with more normal northeast to east northeast winds, which made for fairly calm conditions in Pine Island Sound and on the beaches of Sanibel. Each morning, except for one day, I would head out to the beach for a morning walk looking for snook as they would cruise the shoreline.
Releasing a snook on Pine Island Sound. Photo by Capt. Paul Hobby.
This year, however, I wanted to do something a little different and see some of the other water that makes up the Fort Myers and Sanibel area. I was fortunate enough to connect with a veteran guide of 30 years in Captain Paul Hobby, and after talking, he came up with a great plan for us and we were set for a day while I was in town.
Capt. Hobby is a third-generation native and to this day he still resides in Fort Myers, about 2 miles from where he launches his boat five to six days a week. Guiding out of one of the sweetest rides out there, the Maverick HPX-V-18, it enables him to get away from the crowds and get into some super shallow spots without the fish even knowing he is there.
Paul is a firm believer that no place is too far, if that is where the fish are. While he typically fishes the Pine Island Sound area, he also frequents areas of the Caloosahatchee River, Matlacha Pass, and even some of the barrier islands. Each fishery offers its own unique habitat and can require a different approach. Pine Island Sound is full of shallow water grass flats that are usually crystal clear with some tidal creeks. Meanwhile, the Matlacha Pass area also has creeks and grass flats, but also numerous oyster bars and yellow stained water. Finally there is the Calloosahatchee River, which can be a little deeper with tanic acid stained water and home to some big snook, which is where we spent most of our time on this trip.
The author with a big Sanibel snook. Photo by Capt. Paul Hobby.
Fly-fishing for snook, can be very rewarding when done correctly. It is required when presenting a fly that the fly must look like it is trying to flee away from the snook. Once you get the snook’s attention and he turns to the fly, you need to “make the fly come alive.” The worst thing you can do is slow down or stop the fly. That almost always results in the fish turning away at the last second.
Once the snook commits it is up to you to drive the hook home with a strip set. No trout set here – just raising the rod never works, which I know can be hard. I always tell myself just keep stripping.
The areas surrounding Sanibel and Fort Myers are home to a healthy population of seatrout, and snook. The redfish are there, but their numbers are still suffering from some lingering effects from the red tide of 2018. All of the species can be taken on an Enrico Puglisi Peanut Butter Fly of any color; Capt. Paul admits that is his “go to” fly. He also likes a Dupree Spoon Fly for redfish and a Clouser Minnow is almost unbeatable for seatrout.
Capt. Paul says that he has seen many changes over his 30-plus years as a guide in the area. One of those changes is the number of guides that now call that area their home water. Gone are the days when you could show up to the ramp at 6:30 and know the handful of guides at the ramp that day. Boat traffic around Sanibel and Fort Myers has become pretty heavy on weekends, and my advice is to go during the week if you can.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a great guide, and if he comes with the experience of Capt. Paul it is an incredible bonus and advantage on the water. Capt. Hobby specializes in fly-fishing, welcomes all levels of experience and is really good when someone is trying to improve their game and learn while on the boat. If you find yourself heading to the Sanibel or Fort Myers areas and are looking for a great day of fly fishing, make sure to contact Capt. Paul Hobby. He can be reached through his website.