I fish SW Florida flats on a regular basis. While there are a great variety of species to chuck a fly at, you don’t always need dozens of different patterns. A few will do. That suspicion was supported by a lecture I recently attended by Capt Skip Zink. He pointed out that you are really trying to match only three things: baitfish, crabs, and shrimp. Not so hard.
Lately I’ve relied heavily on just two flies: a baitfish pattern, and a crab pattern. We all know there are many excellent baitfish patterns to pick from, but I’ve been using a good old Lefty’s Deceiver. It is never a bad choice. Easy to tie, and easy to buy. In the Northeast I used them from size 1# up to size 5/0#. In Florida I go smaller – size 2# up to size 1/0#. I dressed the ones below to look like small spotted seatrout. They’re size 1#
Crabs flies are essential for redfish, especially after the forage fish exit the flats in the fall. Once again there are plently of patterns to choose from. I like the “Kwan” style. Its a bit like a crab, a bit like a shrimp, and it is a fair baitfish imitation as well. Great. The one below has a “mono” weed guard, and rubber legs. The body is brown Woolly Chenille; it is very easy to work with and has some bulk. The tail is orange Craft Fur. Sizes? I use 1# down to 6#.
Crab flies should sink. Hence, you may want to add some weight. Lead eyes sink fast, but make more disturbance when they land. So in real skinny water bead chain eyes – such as the ones in the picture – may be a better choice. But either way, a little weight has another advantage. It helps straighten out the leader, making for a more accurate cast.