Snook, many may turn their heads when we mention this species as they are often a bycatch or a ‘just want to feel the bend in my rod’ species on a slow tarpon or redfish day. I, for one, love targeting Snook on fly and don’t think there are very many species that can be targeted in so many water systems.
I mean, if you think of the water systems in Florida’s south and central areas, you can target Snook or linesiders as they are referred to down there in so many different locations without changing much technique or your gear.
A few things like water temp and seasonality play a role in how you will approach a stretch of water, but the Snook should be there and you will be in for a great session if you have the correct flies.
What I love about targeting Snook on fly is that you can be throwing a super tight loop, landing that fly just under the mangroves one day. On another day, you can be punching the surf with a long line aiming for those large Snook patrolling the backline post their spawn.
This is what excites me about these fish. In addition to this, they eat with intent and punch well above their weight. Watching a Snook eat in the shallows gets the old ticker pounding there’s no doubt about that, and once hooked, the games begin!
Below I will go through what flies I tie and carry to cover all the different styles and scenarios to successfully catch Snook on the fly.
Guide Tip: Did you know that Snook can grow to over 50 lbs? Want to read more about the big boys? Read -> What is the Biggest Snook Ever Caught (With Maps and Tips)
1. Dahlberg Divers
The Dahlberg Diver is a must-have fly pattern when fishing in the countless grown, branched up Everglades areas. The fishing is close-quarter combat style with short, very accurate casts.
The tendency to get hung up in the trees is ever prevalent, so make sure you have a decent supply of this fly pattern. My favorite colors are greens, yellows, and reds of blended deer hair and tied on a Gamakatsu B10s # 1 with a mono weed guard is best.
2. Marabou Muddler
The Marabou Muddler can be found in many a fly box. This surface pattern is just a great pattern to fish when the surface game is on! For me, there is nothing quite like seeing that bow wave appear behind your popping fly. I like to fish them slightly bigger on a size #1 or #2 large gape hook with a weed guard.
Colors in tans, browns with a slight hot spot color work best. Fish up and close to the bank and plonked it back with speed, creating the most surface disturbance possible. This is my favorite way to fish the Marabou Muddler. If you tie your own flies, you will know the time it takes to produce one of these patterns, so a weed guard is so essential to curd your losses.
Guide Tip: Snook are all over in Florida. If you’re looking for more fish and places, check out my article -> 9 Best Places to Fly Fish in Florida
3. Poppin flats shrimp
Poppin flats shrimp is one of the few shrimp patterns I carry out on the water. Unless I’m targeting bonefish specifically, the Poppin Flats Shrimp is such a great pattern to fish and can be fished in many different conditions and can account for many different species. For Snook, the natural colors are my preference on a 1/0 hook.
Fished like you would any other shrimp pattern, the sight cast is important, and once the fish has seen the fly, they very seldomly refuse it. Buying these patterns is perfectly fine, but if you tie your own, the trickiest part is to get the silhouette of the shrimp right and in proportion to the rest of the fly. The fly hangs in the column between stripes and may even start to float to the surface. This hanging period is very productive as well, be ready!
4. Crystal River Shrimp
The Crystal River Shrimp is the second shrimp pattern I have in my fly box for Snook. It is a fishy-looking pattern; the Snook can’t leave it alone. Tied in natural colors in a size #2 or #4 is best. Sight fished at cruising shoals or singles, leading the fish and allowing time for the fly to sink is key. The classic twitch or figure-eight retrieve is best. Note, it’s handy to carry a few different weights of this pastern, especially when you are fishing a system that’s tides change drastically.
5. Flashtail Whistler
The Flashtail Whistler pattern is one of those fly patterns that just seems to work all the time. Nothing to its tying can represent anything from a small baitfish pattern to a swimming shrimp or prawn if retrieved accordingly. This pattern is extremely lightweight, which makes it ideal for sight fishing. Fished in reds and whites with some flash is my preferred color combo.
Guide Tip: Some of the same places that you’ll find Snook are home to Redfish. You might be wondering if you should target ‘Reds? Read about how big they get in -> What is the Biggest Redfish Ever Caught?
6. Clouser Minnows
The Clouser Minnow needs no introductions. This pattern catches fish everywhere and has accounted for over one hundred different species over the years. A straightforward pattern to fish and can be applied in so many different conditions. A baitfish imitation at heart, the flashier styles work well for Snook. Size #2 is my favorite with a 3mm tungsten dumbbell. This size pattern gets down fast enough and is easier to cast in the wind.
Bendbacks are a classic snook fly. A small streamer style pattern in origin with the neck of the hook bent back slightly. What this does is change the angle of the fibers so that they cover the actual hook point when wet.
Another great advantage of this pattern is that it rides hook point up so it can be fished in the shallowest parts of the feed zones and weeds without getting hung up. My preferred sizes are #2’s and #4’s in black and chartreuse. This is also a great redfish pattern.
8. Craft Fur Baitfish
The Craft Fur baitfish is one of the best baitfish patterns I have in my fly box. They are super simple to tie and just have such an attractive motion in the water. I mostly use these patterns when fishing from the beach, targeting those big Snook patrolling around. I have a few sizes tied up in more natural colors with a bit of flash in them. Sizes 2-4 and a few #1’s will get the job done.
9. EP baitfish
Ep Baitfish patterns have changed the fly fishing world. Well, at least for the fly tier. With the introduction of Enrico Puglisi’s EP fibers, we could start tying baitfish patterns to the exact imitation and sizing without creating an overly heavy fly when fishing. It’s best to match the baitfish colors to that of your local water systems.
I always think a more natural color with some lateral flash is the way to go. I prefer size #2 patterns, which allows me to turn them over in the wind.
10. BigEYE Baitfish
Bigeye Baitfish, it’s always worth having a few of these patterns in the backup box. Yes, they are bigger and take some skill to cast, especially when wet and after a long day on the water.
The Bigeye Baitfish can often be the fly to get that eat. With its overly big profile, it attracts fish from far to eat. Tied on the Gamakatsu SL 12 S 2/0, the large hook and extended ostrich plume tail feathers, mean business. These are also great flies for tarpon if you find an opportunity to have a cast at one.
11. Barry’s Pike Fly
Barry’s Pike Fly was originally developed for…pike. But works wonders for Snook. Its brush-style head and craft fur tail make a great taper and profile. It’s a relatively lightweight fly so that it can be fished in the shallows with ease. I like to fish the pattern when the sun’s out in lighter colors with some flash through the tail.
One of my favorite things about the Barry’s Pike Fly is that you can see it from far and most of the time see the eat, which gets the blood pumping!
An Easy Snook Fly to tie
The suggested pattern is the crystal river shrimp, which is easy to tie and has great versatility.
Setting up a Fly Rod for Snook
Having the correct setup in fly fishing is essential. You can get away with being overweight here and there but being underweight with your rod and reel can lead to lost fish and frustrations.
My ideal setup for Snook is a 9wt set up with a WF floating line, 9 ft leader, and tippet. This will change when fishing the mangroves and beach areas. A shorter rod 8′ is better for the mangroves with a shorter leader to make those close quarter casts.
While for the surf approaches, a 10′ 10wt rod is ideal for turning those larger flies over. When fishing for Snook off the beach, they can be spooky, so a stealthy approach is needed and be ready for those long accurate casts.
Tippet choice is 25-40 lbs. Depending on where you are fishing, a heavier tippet is needed to muscle the Snook away from any structure they so love swimming to when fishing around piers and bridges.
Recommended Gear List for Snook
Fly rods, reels, and lines are all personal choices when targeting Snook. Where you fish for them and when will determine what weight rod, reel, and lines are needed. A shorter rod would be better for the labyrinth of mangroves and brush. To make those close contact casts. When on the flats, a 9ft rod is excellent with a floating line for the shallow approach.
A slightly heavier rod is better to roll over those heavier flies when out in the surf. A nice little trick is underloading the 10wt to make it slightly faster. This gives you the best of both worlds when on the beach.
Waders and boots also depend on when and where you fish for Snook. For the colder months, I’m a wader’s man. I hate getting cold! When in the surf or on a boat, I wear activewear longs under my shorts. This just helps not to get too sunburnt. For all these conditions, the Simms flats boots are great. The new ones with the improved ankle height are awesome.
Bags and packs, I hate having too much gear on when fishing with heavier rods and gear. I like the freedom to cast, especially when double hauling. I have a boat bag with everything that I need on the boat.
I have a backpack with a second rod attached when in the surf with my roll of tippet on the side, and off I go. Some guys have a trolley for the beach, but it is entirely up to you.
Snook Questions and Answers
What size fly should I use for Snook?
The size fly you use when targeting Snook depends entirely on where and when you are fishing. The shallow flats or mud banks may call for a small crab shrimp pattern, while the backline in the surf may need a larger baitfish pattern. If you stick to the above selection, you will be well covered.
What’s the best way to hold a Snook?
When handling Snook, grip them in the mouth instead of the gills. The gills are rather sharp and can cut the skin relatively easily. Put your thumb in the mouth and hold under the anal fin with the other hand, is the best way for both angler and fish.
How to catch Snook on the fly?
Snook are great to catch on the fly; sight fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish for Snook. Seeing them eat the fly is excellent! Blind fishing for them is also very productive. If you work in the right areas, you will be productive.
One More Cast for Snook
I love targeting Snook on fly; I find them challenging at times but equally rewarding. Whether you are a beginner or an accomplished snook angler, there is always something to learn or a new spot to fish. So, grab your fly rod and flies and get out there and get your line stretched.
More Snook Articles
- Searching for big Snook? Read the details in -> What is the Biggest Snook Ever Caught (with Trophy Tips)
- Looking for a great place to chase Snook? Check out Florida, I’ve got maps and more -> Best Places to Fly Fish in Florida
- Are you looking for what to tie on your leader? Read -> 11 Best Flies for Snook (Flies that work)
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.
- A big thank you to the folks at Umpqua Fly Merchants – LINK UMPQUA. Years of supporting fly fisher-folks all over the world!