Springtime is the right time for catching redfish on fly in Florida. And there are few that do it better than Captain Willy Le in the Mosquito Lagoon and East Central Florida. He’s a full time guide and recently joined the AIO app. Willy was born on the Island of Guam after his parents and five siblings escaped Vietnam after the "Fall of Saigon" in 1975. He moved to Florida in 1980 (at the age of 1) so he is the first Vietnamese/American in his entire family. Ever since Captain Willy was old enough to hold a fishing rod, he grew up fishing the lakes and shallow waters of Orlando and the saltwater flats from Flagler County down to the Florida Keys. We asked him a little bit about guiding for all these years, as well as a few tips to help you catch more redfish on fly.
AIO: How did you get into fishing/guiding?
WL: It wasn’t until after I graduated high school in 1997 that I really discovered the art of sight fishing for redfish and tarpon in the Mosquito Lagoon, which runs along the Canaveral National Seashore. Every chance I got, I took my little 10-foot aluminum jon boat - powered by a makeshift push pole - and went exploring for fish. It gave me a lot of time to study their behavior and feeding patterns.
AIO: DId you always fly fish?
WL: No. I started fly fishing right after I met fly fishing legends Flip Pallot and Chico Fernandez while I was working as a camera boat operator for one of Flip's T.V. shows. I was so fascinated with the art of fly casting from watching them that I went and purchased a fly rod the next day and started to practice fly casting. It took me years of practice and a few words of wisdom from Flip, but I finally became pretty competent at it and became a guide.
AIO: Give us a few tips for how to catch more Florida Redfish on fly.
#1) The best tip I can give you is to approach and search for fish using a push pole instead of a trolling motor. Using a push pole is way more stealthy and can get you in the position for a perfect fly shot without spooking the fish. It really makes a huge difference.
#2) Using the right fly for the time of year and color of the water is critical. I like natural patterns/smaller flies for clean/clear water and darker bigger flies for dirty water. The water changes a lot around here based on rain and temperature, so you have to be prepared for it.
#3) If you are fishing with a guide, listen to your guide. If he says cast at 11 o'clock at 40 feet but you see a fish at 1 o'clock at 20 feet … cast the one your guide tells you to. The fish he sees could be feeding more aggressively or just a better angle than the other. The thing that really gets to guides is if they put you on fish and you don’t listen to them; they want you to catch the fish just as much as you do - maybe even more - so they are working hard to give you the best shots at the right fish.
#4) If had to choose a time to catch redfish on fly in Mosquito Lagoon, it would be right now, in the spring. The water is still clean from the winter, and the fish get snappy once water and air temperatures warm up after a cool Florida winter. The fish tend to act more lively and ready to eat a well placed fly.
#5) The right set up is usually a 7-wt or 8-wt fast-action rod with a floating, short tapered fly line (I like Cortland’s new Redfish taper.) The leader should be at least 9 feet long and tapered with about 18 inches of 16 lb. fluorocarbon bite tippet. If you prefer to tie your own leaders like myself, my leader recipe for redfish would be 6 feet of 40 lb., 3 feet of 30 lb., 18 inches of 20 lb., and 18 inches of 16 lb., all fluorocarbon.
Those are some basic tips that I think are important, but most important is to just have fun and don't get stressed or feel bad. If you miss shots or don't catch any fish that day, there's always next time!