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Backwater Canals: Fly Fishing In Florida

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Bass fishing is one of the most popular types of fishing in Florida. A lot of professional tournaments are held throughout the year. Lake Okeechobee is one of the most well known destinations for this, as well as big largemouth bass. What makes Okeechobee such a successful area is that it is surrounded by a huge wetlands and canals that drain the whole region on the way to the Everglades.

Even though the water seems a little darker and slow moving, it is actually quite clean, and provides great habitat for a variety of warm water species. The typical bass and bluegill abound in these canals, as well as species like cichlids, peacock bass, and alligator gar. The intrigue of fishing new waters and not knowing what you were going to catch reminded me off my youth finding new streams. What is great about these areas are that they are fairly accessible, and usually not a big body of water. Thirty to forty feet casts are all that are necessary, and some basic streamers are all you need to have a great afternoon of fishing.

Since nearly all the species in these waterways are predators, you are looking for overhanging bushes, fallen debris in the water, or little spots of deeper water around vegetation. These are places where fish can hide and ambush their prey. Early in the morning or around twilight poppers are a great fly to get attention. Try to land it somewhere as it has fallen out of a bush or tree. I tend to let it sit a couple seconds before moving it. You'd be surprised how many fish react to the fly just hitting the water. As the day progresses I tend to stick with darker colors. Black, brown, or green wooly buggers, or darker clousers or zonkers produce very well. If the sun comes out and it is bright, I have found a Kreel-X is deadly, as well as some white and chartreuse clousers.

My setup for fly fishing is just a 5 weight rod with floating line, and a 2x leader for those larger flies. A simple strip technique works great. You might want to mix up your timing or length sometimes, as some fish will see it as an injured bait fish, easier prey. Also get your rod tip low to the water to help the fly sink. You will feel the fish hit and it will basically hook itself as they usually take the fly and turn. Use a strip set to hook up solidly and keep pressure on to land those larger fish.

Just one word of cation. These canals are home to alligators and should not be taken lightly. While 99% of gators want absolutely nothing to do with you, going in the morning or evening provides less lighting for you. Do not wade these waters, no stuck fly in a bush is worth losing your casting arm. Otherwise, these areas are safe, provide great fishing opportunities, and provides another look at some of the amazing wildlife that we don't normally get to see; and you might catch a new species you've never seen before.


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