There is no denying it; Central Florida is a great place for fly fishing. From the backwaters of Mosquito Lagoon to Orlando’s many lakes, Central Florida holds some of the best sport fish in the world.
Author Trey Dyer with a nice bass caught on a chartreuse topwater popping fly in Orlando, Florida.
While I love targeting these fish from a vessel, some of my most productive days have come from fishing the shorelines on foot. Although this approach was born out of necessity during my broke high school and college days, I still frequently embark on fishing trips armed with nothing but my truck, my rod, and my flies.
This post (the first of a three part series) is in honor of using this often overlooked approach to target bass.
Most of Orlando’s lakes are very shallow, often reaching depths of less than 12 feet. The bass in these lakes can almost always be found along the shorelines near vegetation, lily pads and docks. In many instances, bass stage in less than two feet of water, and when the water is clear enough, can be sight fished.
The key to catching bass from foot is to keep moving. While it may be tempting to set up in one spot and cast continuously, if there are no bass in the particular spot you are fishing from, you have no chance. After working an area thoroughly with no luck, pick it up and keep moving. The difference between catching a bass and getting skunked could be walking 25 yards down the shore.
The Flies and How to Work Them
Many different flies work for bass fishing in the Orlando lakes. Personally, I only use two: the topwater popper and the clouser minnow.
The Topwater Popper
A topwater popper fly is my number one producer when fishing from shore. Because you are unable to cover as much water by foot, you want to make sure your fly gets noticed by the bass lurking close to shore. With the noise they make, popper flies are a great way for fish nearby to notice your offering.
A simple “pop and pause” is a great way to work these flies. Often times the biggest hits will come on the pause. The visual displays and explosive eats that come from working these flies are a huge part of why I love fishing them.
For color of the fly, I usually try to match the watercolor. If the water is dark of cloudy, use chartreuse or black/purple flies. Use white or blue if the water is clean and clear.
The Clouser Minnow
If the popper fly is not producing fish, I’ll switch over to a clouser minnow. At certain times of the year, especially in the coldest months, the bass become lethargic and getting them to eat a topwater fly can be difficult.
A clouser minnow will sink down in the water column closer to where the bass are staging, making it easier for them to eat. Clouser minnows with weed guards also allow anglers to fish heavily vegetated areas where bass love to hang out (something a topwater popper does not allow).
The colors I use for clouser minnows are same as the popper flies: chartreuse when the water is cloudy and white when the water is clear.
Where to Fish
Almost every freshwater lake, river, and pond in Central Florida hold bass. You can pretty much go to any waterway and have a good chance at catching one. However, some spots are more productive than others, and are often times hiding in plain sight.
Lake Ivanhoe near downtown Orlando
Lake Ivanhoe, just north of downtown Orlando, is a historically solid bass lake. With ample shorelines accessible to the public, nestled in a beautiful and quiet neighborhood, Lake Ivanhoe is a great place to start.
One of my favorite places to fly fish for bass is the links. With numerous golf courses and hundreds of ponds and waterways, there is never a shortage of new holes to try.
With the constant upkeep on the courses, the growth fertilizers and plant growth nutrients used to treat the grass often drain into the water hazards; because of this, the bass grow to unbelievable sizes. Two of the three biggest bass I have caught came out of golf course ponds. With wide open spaces on most fairways, golf courses in Central Florida provide a great venue for fly fishing for bass.
The University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is dotted with many small lakes and ponds throughout the campus that hold large numbers of aggressive fish. Catching a campus bass is one of my favorite activities before a UCF football game.
Word to the wise: make sure you are allowed to fish a particular pond or lake before throwing a line. In some of the lakes on UCF’s Campus, you are not allowed to fish in them and you could possibly be trespassing by doing so. If there is no sign or fence telling you not to enter, then it is safe to assume that you are free to fish.
One of the best kept secrets in Central Florida is the magical waters of Disney. Throughout Disney, lakes and ponds with some of the biggest, fiercest bass in Orlando are waiting to pounce on the first fly thrown their way. With most visitors spending their time in the parks instead of on the lakes, these bass are some of the most under-fished in Central Florida. This makes them aggressive and ready to strike, often with multiple fish competing to grab your fly.
Bass fishing on fly does not take a boat. It takes persistence. These techniques and spots are a good place to start. Remember, almost every body of water in Central Florida can hold bass and are worth exploring. Your very own honey hole could be right out your back door.