A Fight to the Finish
Once the strike occurs, strip-strike with authority for a solid hook-set. After you make the cast, place the rod tip in the water. If the rod tip is left in the air, slack develops immediately, and when you strip, you simply will be moving the slack up and down. If a fish hits while your rod tip is raised, you will have to remove the slack before connecting with the fish. Placing the rod tip in the water keeps your line tight so when the strike does occur, a sharp strip will drive the hook home.
Landing a snook on the beach differs greatly from a backcountry battle. While snook can make good runs, beach fights generally don’t last too long. As with tarpon, “bowing” to an airborne snook keeps it buttoned up.
I believe most lost fish come unglued when they swim toward the angler. When this happens, the natural tendency is to raise the rod tip and reel quickly to eliminate slack. As the reel is cranked, the tip wiggles back and forth — the same motion that you might use to free a snag. A better tactic is to drop the rod tip into the water and then reel. The water resistance keeps tension on the fish until the slack is gone.
When you land your snook, be very careful not to lift the fish by its lower jaw alone, but rather support its underside as well. A long battle can be fatiguing to a large snook, particularly in the summer. Subdue the fish quickly, and never drag it onto the sand. Before you release the fish, make sure it’s strong enough to swim away unaided.
Equipment and Rigging
Rods: A 9-foot 8-weight rod with an appropriate-size reel is the perfect setup for beach snook. Many visitors bring 9- and 10-weights, but a day or so of blind-casting will usually justify the purchase of an 8 before the trip home. You can catch snook on lighter outfits, but picking up and swiftly delivering a No. 2 fly in breezy conditions can be a tall order with lighter equipment.
Lines: A floating line works well in most situations. A line such as a bonefish taper will load the rod quickly and shoot well, allowing for gentle presentations on longer casts. Intermediate lines have their place as well. When you’re sight-fishing and snook are extra spooky, a clear intermediate line provides stealthier presentations and allows the use of a shorter leader. The downside is a slower, more difficult pickup when taking a second shot at a moving fish. Intermediate lines really shine when there is wave action. A floating line will follow the contour of the surface, and every wave will add just that much more slack, while an intermediate line will cut through the wave to give a direct connection to the fly.
Leaders: For me, a simple formula works best, and here it is. For sight-fishing, I prefer a 9-footer that follows the 50 percent, 25 percent, 25 percent formula. The 4½-foot butt is 40-pound-test, the 2¼-foot midsection is 30-pound-test, and the 2¼-foot tippet is 20-pound-test. In addition, a 12-inch bite tippet of 30-pound-test may be added if you expect to encounter larger females, as wear from their rough mouths can substantially weaken the material. I prefer mono for the butt and midsection and fluorocarbon for the tippet and bite tippet. On the terminal end, I use a nonslip loop knot that allows the fly to swing freely.
Fly Fishing for Beach Snook
A Fight to the Finish