The Snook is the most elusive game-fish on the flats!!!! I continually bring up the controversy over which fish is harder to catch — a Permit or a big Snook. When I say a big Snook, I mean any Snook over 32 inches long. I firmly believe that the most challenging Florida fly fishing is for giant Snook. They are the most wary and finicky fish on the flats, but when they decide to eat … well, they finally seem stupid. Then, the work begins, and you have to see if you can land them!
I won’t fish with anything less than 30 lb test anymore after watching too many of these beasts slip away from me and my clients over the years. When you finally hook a giant, trust me — you really don’t want to lose them. Even though I love chasing the big ones, my favorite Snook fishing occurs when the water temps and tides are suitable for the fish to occupy water so shallow that I am still surprised they can be there. Once, when I was guiding Steve Huff, he told me that Snook can go anywhere, anytime — no matter how deep the water is.
I proved this to Tom McGuane one day when we were fishing in water so shallow that when I came off plane, he looked at me with a confused look on his face — like why did you just run aground. We will never get the boat out of here! When boat came off plane, we literally stopped in about 3 inches of water. I said to him, “just hop out of the boat, walk over there and wait… I will be there in just a minute.” When I got my flies ready and walked across the flat to where he was standing, the tide started to come in steadily. The Snook began to either come one by one or in strings like tarpon. They were swimming with their backs out of the water, busting bait on their way and eating our top water sliders until dark. We stood side by side and managed to land 38 Snook in inches of water all between 22 and 32 inches long.
Casting a small floating bait-fish in front of the Snook, giving it a twitch and watching the snook adjust to eat your fly is the name of the game. As the fish tail kicks in inches of water, comes in, pulverizes the fly and then proceeds with explosive runs & jumps in no water, you realize this is perhaps the only fish on the planet with these qualities. Bonefish do this, but they don’t eat on the surface, don’t jump and don’t chew through leader either. You have to be on your game just to get one of these fish to eat your fly, and lots of times you won’t land them until you really know how to fight them. Snook inhabit so many different types of water here in Florida from passes, beaches, seawalls, docks, channels, potholes, deep mangroves, tidal creeks, rivers, flats and on and on.
Blind casting works great for Snook and has its own rewards and challenges. Learning to effectively cast to the right locations, choosing the right fly and stripping the fly in a way that they find irresistible takes time and commitment.
Florida Sight fishing for Snook has its own challenges, too. First, you gotta spot the fish. Secondly, you have to read his body language to know where to cast the fly. Finally, you have to move the fly in a way that makes Mr. Snook close the deal. Believe me when I say that they don’t eat the fly just because you put in the water! Presentation is everything in Florida Snook fly fishing, and even with a good presentation, they won’t always eat. Many guides nowadays chum the Snook, and then throw flies. This isn’t my style. I personally enjoy the challenge of stalking and catching each Snook, and I want to remember them.
For me, tie a good fly, get out of the boat, learn how to see the snook, cast to the snook, strip the fly and fight the fish… YOU will never forget what it took to catch him! Patience, perseverance and commitment to understanding the Snook and what makes him eat your fly are the keys to success. Bring it on!