July has always been one of my favorite months to fish on Pine Island. For starters, every worthwhile species to chase on the flats are here in good numbers. Tarpon season is still in full swing, big sharks are all over the shallows, redfish will tail on the flat calm mornings, and spawning snook are cruising the beaches. And best of all, the boat traffic out there, at least on the weekdays, is at a minimum with the snowbirds all back up north.
The only drawback to July is the fact that we're in the middle of summer and the heat and humidity are off the charts. But that's not exactly a bad thing, especially for fly fishermen looking for smaller tarpon on light tackle.
Every saltwater fly angler lives for the thought of cruising into a sheltered bay and spotting a school of several dozen slow rolling tarpon. This is the time of year when that can happen on any given morning around here. When the waters get greasy calm, that's the time to break out the light to mid-size fly rods and toss 1/0 patterns at 5 to 10 pound fish.
Baby tarpon school up by the dozens since there is safety in numbers. They can be almost anywhere but the man-made canals all over Pine Island and Cape Coral are holding them right now and the live bait guys have been catching them with ease with free lined pinfish. Getting one to hit a fly is a much more difficult chore, and that mostly has to do with the water depth.
All my fly rods were strung up with weight forward floating lines which are perfect for the flats or clear waters less than 6 feet deep. They've never worked well in the canals which are very dark and usually around 10 feet deep or more. I recently started casting a clear tip, intermediate fly line from Royal Wulff on my 9-weight rod and the results were immediate. Once this line started dragging my flies down and extra couple of feet the canal tarpon started eating.
Casting an intermediate fly line is a bit of a chore for beginners but once you've done it a few times it becomes a lot of fun. You can actually shoot these lines for a very long distance compared to the more common floating lines. They'll definitely get your light flies in front of the deeper swimming tarpon in the canals can be equally effective along the passes off the Gulf islands. Keep and intermediate line on a spare reel and you'll be surprised how useful it can be this time of year.