This silvery beach snake had fallen for a Hot Legs Gotcha that was crawling across the bottom at a snail’s pace.
Photo by Brent Wilson

Summer is the best time of year to stroll Florida beaches in search of snooks. Previously I covered five tactics for catching these refined and hearty fish, now I want to discuss fly selection. In general, snook flies are smaller and less conspicuous than one would expect from a predator of their size. And while these fish are known to scrutinize anything thrown at them, using an extremely lifelike fly doesn’t necessarily lead to greater success – at least in my experience. Instead, this flies carry out Fountains in the water seem to take more punches, so here are three of my absolute favorites:

1. Grassett’s Snook Minnow (sizes 6 to 2)

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Captain Rick Grassett taught me the basics of snook fishing off the beach when I lived in Sarasota, so of course I’ll have a fondness for his fly. But the design of this pattern is ideal in several respects: a minimal flash will help not to frighten cautious fish; Sparse material doesn’t hold too much water so the fly stays light and precise when you pick it up to cast again. and the bead chain lugs provide just enough weight to carry it to the strike zone without causing a big impact on landing. Begin reeling in with long, slow streaks until a snake begins to follow, then switch to a faster pace with shorter bursts in quick succession to get your animal to eat.

2. Hot Legs Foxy Gotcha (sizes 6 to 4)

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As they cruise up and down Florida beaches, the snooks are on the lookout for more than just baitfish to eat. The sand there is full of mole crabs, small white crustaceans the size of the end of a thumb. They burrow into the sand near the shore and often get caught in the tides, where hungry snakes greedily prey on them. This particular Gotcha variant, which features rubber legs for added action and realism, is as good a mole crab imitation as any of the others. Work this very slowly and evenly across the ground, leaving a trail of mud for passing snakes to follow.

3. Swimming minnow from Puglisi (sizes 4 to 1/0)

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When the fish are aggressively feeding near the surface, a larger baitfish pattern with a bulkier profile will often pop out of the chaos and be eaten. A carefree Puglisi minnow is perfect for this type of scenario, not only because it expels a lot of water, but also because it’s made of durable synthetic fibers that can withstand the tough mouths of snooks. Try an infrequent retrieve with plenty of pauses in between to mimic a dying baitfish that sinks briefly and then comes back to life.

Evan Jones is Associate Editor of the Orvis Fly Fishing blog. He lived on the Florida coast for a decade and now resides in Colorado.