best flies for snook

How to Fly Fish for Snook (Setup, Flies, and More)

Whether you are sprinting across beach sand to make that cast or standing on the bow of the skiff sight fishing, Snook are a great species to chase on the fly.

 So, they aren’t tarpon or a bull red, but any angler that has fished for Snook will probably tell you they would choose a 40″ snook in the groves over any other species, any day!

So why? Simply put, Snook are just more of a challenge to catch and so much fun to fight. They can be very picky on the day and turn their noses up to most of your fly box but when you hook one, boy it’s fun!

This is what I love about targeting Snook, Linesiders as they are known in Florida.

Snook caught fly fishing
Snook caught fly fishing

A few years back, I had a Snook mission that will go down in the memory banks as one of the best days on the water, period!

We hadn’t planned it this way, one never does, but things seem to fall into place on the day, and one opportunity flowed into the next.

We started with a few dawn snook off the bow of the skiff, followed by a quiet beach session which is often the case but ended off with a sight fished 30LBS snook caught on a Bendback in the water grass.

It is days like these that make you love Snook.

Steps for Catching Snook with a Fly Rod    

Being able to target these fish in a few different environments makes you think you may need a few different setups. This is not the case, and with a few techniques and flies’ changes, you will be catching Snook in no time.

1. Get the Right Gear

Selecting the right gear for the days fishing is very important. As I mentioned, you won’t need to change your fly rod weight but rather your line and flies. For beach fishing a heavier fly rod for larger flies with a rocket taper fly line would be best.

The mangroves and grass plains will use the same weight rod, floating lines and flies with the possibility of an intermediate line being used.

2. Finding Snook Water

Finding Snook can be the tricky part. You can find Snook in most of the southern coastal waters of the USA. As long as the water temperature is right, they will be there. Once you find them getting the strike is the easiest part. Well, that said, they can be trickier in the cooler months. Fish a surface popper on the falling tide in the mangroves and grass flats.

This is the best time for Snook. Snook tend to cruise in singles or smaller shoals on the beach before they spawn in the river mouths or inlets. These fish are great to catch in the early morning or late evening. Don’t ignore the fact that a midday sight fished Snook will eat. This can be some of the best fishing you will have.

3. Food Selection A.K.A Flies

Understanding what a Snook eats in the water system is key. This will help with fly choice and the way you fish it. The falling tide in the labyrinth of mangroves is surface or sub-surface baitfish time. The Snook naturally chase baitfish out the shallows, and with the falling tide, the baitfish are forced into the dangerous depths.

Bendback Flies for Snook
Bendback Flies for Snook – image UMPQUA

This is the perfect recipe for some surface action. Bendbacks are a great choice for Snook in these areas, especially the flats. Allow it to sink a little and bounce on the shallow bottom. The Snook love these flies. When the fish move into the deeper waters and drop-offs, a sinking line DI3 with a Deceiver pattern is excellent for fish. Give it some time to sink, then retrieve with slower, longer strips.

4. Presentation

If casting to a singular cruising fish, try cast from the 90° angle and lead with sufficient room to allow the fly to drop and swim correctly. If the water is gin clear, you may need to drift off the shoal with some distance between you, which means longer leaders and casts.

Whatever the scenario, stay focused and have confidence in the fly you are fishing. This is one of the best pieces of advice given to me by my father. Have confidence in the fly you are fishing. Without it, the day is wasted.

A great example of this was when I was a teenager. I used to tie flies for the local fly shop. Nothing fancy, just the basic trout streamer and attractor patterns. I went through a stage when I was tying all kinds of weird and wonderful hybrid variations.

I would fish these patterns with an almost obsessive nature, trying to convince myself they would be the next big thing. Needless to say, nothing was caught, and a quick change to the old faithful woolly bugger got the redemption tally up rather quickly.

Guide Tip: The point I’m trying to make here is that you should fish what you are confident in, and if you have a short time on the water, you shouldn’t be playing around with new patterns.

Tie on what works, fish it the way it should be fished, and you will be in for a great session.

Selecting Fly Fishing Gear for Snook

Fly Rod – my go-to rod for Snook is the SAGE Foundation Outfit 8wt. I enjoy fishing with a heavier rod for Snook for two reasons. Firstly, I like to have a fly rod with a little more backbone, especially when fighting a snook in the tight mangroves. Secondly, it’s beneficial to have the heavier rod to cast the bigger bass bugs and deer hair flies.

Fly Line – Fly lines are pretty basic and nothing special here. I use a floating line for most of my flats and mangrove work. With an intermediate or slow sinking line if I want to get deeper. It all depends on the time of year, really. A rocket taper for the heavier flies and wind will work great for the surf approach. Remember, there are a few other things you need to be content with in the surf, so have your fly line sorted and ready.

Fly Fishing Reel – you are going to want a fly reel with a good drag. Snook pull hard, and a reel with a shady drag won’t last long and may result in lost fish. The start-up inertia is an important thing to look for, and you don’t want any! This jerky motion will result in popped tippets and lost fish.

Guide Tip: The Sage Foundation Outfit comes with a sweet Sage Spectrum C Fly Reel. Heck with this outfit all you need to do is add a fly. Shortcut link to Amazon for current prices and reviews -> Sage Foundation Fly Rod Outfit get the 8 weight rod.

Leader and Tippet – I like to keep my leaders 9′ in length. Nothing fancy or to too long. I always fish a 2x tippet to start and adjust accordingly as I need to. Remember, you aren’t changing flies that often with Snook, so don’t give yourself too much length for knots as you would with trout or bass.

Favorite Flies for Snook

Snook can be picky eaters, but as I have mentioned earlier, it’s important to know what to fish when, to guarantee success. Below I will go through the top 6 flies I always have in y fly box.

Flies that catch Snook
Flies that catch Snook
  1. Dahlberg Diver is a must for a surface fly, and it pushes water very well and gets the fish going. I like them in greens, yellows, and reds tied on the Gamakatsu B10s. A weed guard is a must for this pattern to prevent loss. If you tie your own, you will know the pain of losing one of these beauties.
  2. Marabou Muddler is a classic fly, and I love fishing them for trout, bass, and even Snook. I fished in a size #1/#2 hook with natural deer hair head, and an orange, green or brown body works best. Fish them close to the bank and retrieve them with long forceful strips. You can also fish this pattern on an intermediate line to make it a subsurface pattern as well. This has proven to be very effective at times as well.
  3. Poppin Flats Shrimp is one of those classic shrimp patterns that can be used for anything on the flats really. Sight fishing for Snook on the flats can be amazing, and with a Poppin shrimp, the chances of a hook-up are great. Fished in natural colors on a size #1 is my preferred way when sight fishing to Snook. Lead the fish with enough space for the fly to land and settle.
  4. The Crystal River Shrimp is the second shrimp pattern I have in my fly box for Snook. It’s a great second option for Snook, and they can’t seem to leave it alone. It has all the right triggers in browns and tans. Used for shoals or singular fish, let the fly sink enough before you start a slow retrieve. The retrieve is key; a figure of eight works well for me.
  5. Bendbacks are one of my trusted baitfish patterns I fish for Snook. Fished with the same mindset as a bushwhacker for bass, the pause between strips triggers the eat. The fluttering motion on the drop is what does it. #2s and #4s are good sizes in black and chartreuse. The hook point riding up helps not get hung up in the weeds.
  6. Clouser Minnow is a must in any fly box, in my opinion. I even have small ones tied in my freshwater boxes. The flashier color combinations work for Snook in size #2. You can carry a few different weights for various scenarios. Fish the Clouser like you would work in any medium to deep water conditions. Allow the fly to sink, vary the receive and watch for the tale on the drop.

Guide Tip: I’ve got a complete list of the flies I like for snook. Don’t be afraid of having to many flies, casting into the grass and mangroves is going to loose flies. Read 11 Best Flies for Snook

How I Like to Setup my Fly Rod for Snook

Setting up one fly rod for a Snook session doesn’t need to be complicated. That said, it can be as complicated as you choose to make it. I’m a simple guy and tend to always opt for the option that requires the least amount of fuss but still delivers the results needed.

Rod- My choice rod is a 9′ 8wt fast action fly rod. You don’t have to fish a fast-action fly rod, fish what is most comfortable for you. Have the right weight reel to the fly rod with a good quality floating line.

Leaders and knots- I like to use the 9′ leader. I tie my own leaders using the Lefty’s Kreh 50% leader rule. It makes a great general tapered leader. For my leader to fly the knot used is the Albright knot if there isn’t a welded loop on the fly line. Most modern lines have this easier connection these days.

For the leader construction, I use the blood knot to attach the two pieces of the line. Then, for Tippet to leader, I use a blood knot or a loop-to-loop knot. Tippet to fly, I use the Rapala knot or a clinch knot.

Flies the above-mentioned flies work well for me as long as they are fished in the right conditions and with the right techniques. If the Snook are visibly chasing baitfish on the surface, then a surface game is on. Tie on that Dahlberg Diver and get it in the water. If the fish are actively feeding on the oyster banks, then a shrimp pattern is best in these conditions. Look for the singular cruising fish in the beach backline waters and use a larger baitfish pattern to attract the fish.

What Additional Gear is Great to Have when fishing for Snook

When out on the water, it is always great to have a few comforts that make the day even better, and when the going gets tough, these little comforts can really save the day.

  • A flask of hot coffee can be a lifesaver even on a warm day. An early start to get to the water and a good cup of coffee get the day going in the right direction
  • If on a skiff, then a cooler box keeps the refreshments chilled and the lunch cool. There is nothing worse than fishing on an empty stomach, and the box can double as a stool for added height on the bow if you need some.
  •  A raincoat is a must in the everglades and mangroves. That windy rain can come out of nowhere.
  • I always say a line box is best to have when on a skiff. It just prevents any line from getting tangled around your feet. This can often lead to lost fish.
  • If you are fishing from the beach, a good pair of flats and wading boots are needed.
  • A stripping basket is a lifesaver when fishing in the surf.
  • A good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must with a low light backup pair.

Download a FREE fly fishing checklist PDF. Great for double checking gear before a trip -> FLY FISHING CHECKLIST

When is the Best Time to Fly Fish for Snook?

Snook tends to be more active when the baitfish show up in mid-June, and they feed on all the small baitfish and croakers. The bigger baitfish are around as the season moves into July, so get the heavier larger flies out and ready.

April to July, the bays and flats are where you will find the Snook, there may be more tarpon than Snook at this time of the year, and you may be tempted to have a cast at one, but don’t lose focus.

From July, the baitfish move into bigger shoals attracting bigger fish. You will start to see the cruising fish here on the hunt. As August approaches, the large females will be fattening up for their spawn, and smaller males usually surround them. This is a good time to target the smaller males.

The tidal zones are a great place to target the Snook. 2 hours before the high tide and 2 hours after the high tide is best. Work the churning gullies and sand holes first. Early mornings and late evenings are best but never pass up a midday fish either.

Guide Tip: FLORIDA! Seriously the state is a breeding ground for snook. I’ve got a complete guide where to go. Read – Best Places to Fly Fish in Florida

Where to Find Snook

Mangroves and grass flats are great places to find Snook. The overhanging trees and flooded grass plains are where they find food. Shrimp, crabs, and baitfish are on the menu, so make sure you have a few patterns to imitate. The plains are usually flooded on a high tide, so work these areas near a deeper channel or hole.

Beach, fish anywhere you are allowed to in Palm beach county. Many beaches don’t allow fishing but find one that does, and you should be in for some fun. Work the backline if you can get there and the areas where a river mouth or rock outcrop may be. The Snook will concentrate on these areas for food.

Different Fly Fishing Techniques for Catching Snook

Ok, so you have a rough idea of where the Snook will be, so now we have to decide how to fish for them. Use your surroundings to help you decide, are there fish or baitfish on the surface? Do you think the fish are deeper, or can you see them cruising the backline?

snook fly fishing
snook fly fishing

Decide on your fly and get to work.

Sight-fished Snook are great fun from the beach or boat. Whichever you are doing, make sure you are as perpendicular to the moving fish as possible and lead the fish with enough space for the fly to settle and the fish to make a visual. Hungry Snook won’t worry about a miss cast but the bigger females can be picky.

Blind fished Snook can also be great fun. When you hit that part of the day, things have been slow for an hour or two. You and your buddy have run out of general conversations. It’s time to tie on the ‘old faithful’ and get back in the game.

For me, the ‘old faithful’ is a Clouser minnow. Work the deeper drops from the shallows covering all the water columns in an orderly fashion. If you don’t have much luck, then move. Don’t be afraid to move around, especially on the flats.

Tips for Catching Snook with a Fly

As easy as Snook can be to hook on a fly, they can also be incredibly difficult to hook somedays. I’m not sure what it is, but they can give you grey hair at times.

Below are a few pointers that I remind myself to follow when the going gets tough.

  1. Don’t overthink the situation. As fly fishers, we tend to overthink the situation at times but don’t! Stick to what works, and don’t give up.
  2. Fish the brighter/ shinier colors when the sun is out and the darker natural colors on cloud-covered days.
  3. Lead the fish enough, especially when fishing from the beach.
  4. Use the water temp to guide you as well. Yes, you can find the fish in the cooler water, but you will have a better chance when it’s around the 70°F mark.
  5. Don’t be outgunned, Snook. Pull hard, so don’t rock up with your trout rod and think you will be ok. Fish an 8wt rod for optimal performance.
  6. Don’t forget to have fun! This is what It’s all about.

Fighting, Netting, and Handling Snook

So, you have been working hard the whole day, cast after cast, and nothing! You decide to change spots and move to a previously productive spot. You arrive, and things look good. You have that feeling, there is a slight breeze from the back onto the grass, and you have seen signs of fish in the area.

You see a cruising fish out of the corner of your eye, make the cast, and it’s perfect! The fish turns slightly and speeds up in approach. Within seconds, hell breaks loose, and the line is peeling off your reel. After a good fight, you get the fish next to the boat. No need to net it as Snook can be mouthed without any issues.

You mouth the fish, don’t lift it out of the water. Let’s advocate keeping fish as wet as possible. Get a few snaps and release it with a strong send-off.

Last Cast for Snook

There you have it, we don’t claim to be professionals at catching Snook, but we sure do love fishing for them.

We want as many people as possible to give Snook fishing a go, and now with the above information, we hope to guide a few on their way to Snook success.

For more info on what flies to use and how to fish them, do check out Best Flies for Snook

Always remember to have fun out on the water and appreciate the outdoors.

Tight lines!

More Snook Articles

Kyle Knight writer Guide Recommended

Kyle Knight

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.

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