Mosquito Lagoon, Florida, March 31-April 2, 2017
The cliche goes,”There is a first time for everything,” a phrase I repeated in my head as Jin told me it was my turn to stand on the bow of a flats boat to start fly fishing for Redfish as we slowly poled along one of the many inlets that make up the Mosquito Lagoon in Florida.
Jin invited me along to fish with
Capt. John Turcot of Backcountry On Fly, an experienced guide who specializes in fly fishing for Redfish in the Mosquito Lagoon. On the first day our morning fishing expedition was delayed until early afternoon by an unstable weather pattern that pushed a storm across the water but we eventually met John at a marina just outside New Smyrna Beach and we quickly motored to a nearby spot to begin fishing.
After the engine was raised John assumed his position on the poling platform while one of us would stand on the bow, line stripped out, fly in hand, ready to cast according to the instructions he called out. The bow was 12 o’clock and 45 degrees left and right were 9 and 3 o’clock respectively. However it is quite easy to get the directions mixed up if you are standing sideways to the bow and John is calling out 11 o’clock, 2 o’clock or whatever. More than a few times I was casting to the wrong spot. Another problem for me—I didn’t know what I was looking for. Yeah, it’s Redfish, but for a first-timer like me, what am I supposed to look for? Jin told me just look for something red that’s moving. A couple of times I threw the fly at drifting reddish seaweed. But when I finally got a look at a Redfish, I knew what the general shape and coloration looked like and after a while they were easier to spot.
John would quietly pole the boat and we all scanned the water. If the angler on the bow spotted something fishy John told us it was OK to make the cast.
The strong wind presented a problem. Redfish will only present themselves if the wind is blowing strongly in your face. Backcast, no problem. Forward cast…a disaster, with the fly stopping midair after traveling 10 feet, leader and fly line piling up behind it and everything collapsing in a heap. However Jin soon stuck a Red and brought it to hand then I found myself taking my turn on the bow of the boat.
John poled slowly along the shallows, always scanning the water for the telltale signs of Redfish. The water was extremely shallow, just a couple feet deep in most places, so we had to be very quiet and careful. Besides Reds we also saw a good number of Sea Trout, catfish, stingrays, porpoises and manatees. I had the opportunity to cast to a few Reds that John spotted but I blew the casts. When fly fishing for cruising bonefish, my usual procedure is to cast way ahead of the moving fish then strip the fly into position. John and Jin said to cast right at them—put it right on top of the fish so they will see the fly as it sinks. And they were not kidding when they said to put it right on top of the fish, literally inches away or right on top of them. I fumbled around but managed to hook and land a fish, then traded places on the bow with Jin, who stuck a few more Reds before we headed back to the dock.
The following day we motored a bit further south to fish in a few spots that might hold tailing Reds. The wind was down and it was glassy calm as we pulled into an inlet to begin fishing. I could see, in the distance, the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center which was designed to assemble large space vehicles like the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon and the Space Shuttle. The low early morning light threw a killer glare on the water but Jin soon boated a fish. I took my turn on the bow and managed to plop the fly in the middle of a school of feeding Reds. One of them whipped around and slurped up the shrimp fly and after a brief fight I brought it in to the boat.
We continued to fish throughout the day. We saw porpoises and manatees, more sea trout and a few more boats with fly anglers. But the Mosquito Lagoon is a big body of water and John had his secret spots for Redfish dialed in. We spotted, then casted, to Redfish.
Sometimes we got lucky and there was a fish on the line. Other times they just turned their noses up at the fly and continued to slowly swim away. And sometimes they were just lying motionless on the bottom, not moving until we just about ran them over with the boat.
For the final day of fishing we hit a few spots that were closer in. Again, the wind turned out to be a factor in where we decided to fish. The shots we had were within 10 to 20 feet, but if you had to compensate for the wind because it would blow your line, and fly, way off the mark. It always seemed to blow the hardest just as you delivered your shot at the fish. Again, Jin quickly boated a fish and I took a turn at the bow and got a fish too. As the day wore on Jin had a few more shots at moving fish and in one spot it was multiple targets appearing in quick succession. Two fish at 9 o’clock, 10 feet…school at 11 o’clock, 15 feet…fish at 2 o’clock, 20 feet. It was crazy busy for awhile, then everything went quiet. I took a turn on the bow and had a couple shots before yielding the spot to Jin for the remainder of the short day, since we had to clean up and be on the road to the airport in Orlando by 3pm.

It was a great trip. A learning experience for me. And Capt. John Turcot was a very patient and entertaining guide.

DIRECTIONS: We stayed at a hotel in New Smyrna Beach, about an hour and a half north of Orlando via I-95. Capt. Turcot is based in Titusville but he recommended we stay in New Smyrna Beach because there was more going on and there was a wide variety of restaurants available. We especially liked the Third Wave Cafe and Coffee Shop, about fifty yards from the hotel. The coffee shop served potent caffeinated brews in the morning and the restaurant features an excellent menu of hand made, oven baked pizzas, appetizers and entrees.

EQUIPMENT: We used a variety of rods from 7 to 9 weight. Our reels were spooled with Rio Redfish, Rio Saltwater, or Rio Bonefish lines. Leaders were 9 feet of fluorocarbon tapered down to 16 pound tippet. I started out using a line with 20 pound tippet but didn’t get as many bites as Jin. When I stepped down to 16 pound, my take percentage went up. You could get away with using a shorter leader but we stuck with 9 feet. Most of the shots are very close to the boat. You might want to overline your rod by one line weight (9 weight line on an 8 weight rod) to load the stick for the short cast. Lines like the Rio Redfish and Rio Permit lines are already a half line weight heavier than normal.