Fly Fishing The Tamiami Trail 101

About the Trail

The Tamiami Trail is a road that was built in 1928 and its name is a contraction of “Tampa to Miami”. For some people the Tamiami Trail is just a way of getting from one side of the state to the other. A road that runs from the east to west coast, stretching about 90 miles across Florida. For others it’s something far greater.

Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Big Cypress National Preserve and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area surround the Trail. These natural preserves filter freshwater though the Everglades south through the trail mixing with saltwater creating an incredible and unique habitat.

Within the 90 mile stretch you’ll find a multitude of species eager to take a fly. One of the best things about the trail is that it can be one of the most rewarding on-foot fisheries in Florida. Bringing a smaller boat or canoe to access points along the trail gives you the ability to extend to an even more rewarding backcountry fishing adventure.

Fishing the Trail Basics

The Tamiami Trail is a unique area, primarily an on-foot fishery, again with the option to head into the backcountry on a canoe or kayak. The two lane road is connected by a multitude of small bridges and pull-offs that let you access the water that you will be fishing.

Fishing the Trail on-foot is as simple as driving down the road, pulling over at a bridge, culvert or spot that looks fishy, and fishing it.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Alligators can be hidden in plain sight along the bank. They’re used to seeing humans and will not shy away when you get close. Stay well clear of them.
  • The vehicle traffic behind you is fast and scary. Always stay alert when walking, casting and fishing.

The Fish that Live Here

The 80 mile span from Krome Ave to Collier Blvd holds some of the best multi-species fishing in Florida.


  • Tarpon
  • Snook
  • Jack Crevalle
  • Peacock Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Snakeheads

Like any fishery, the Trail can be hit or miss. The best thing to do is to get out and fish it. If you pay close attention to conditions the hit to miss ratio will exponentially start leaning to the hit side for you.

Environmental Change from East to West

Coming from the east, the fishery and environment changes as you drive west. And visa versa.

As you drive from Miami westward to highway 29 AKA Carnstown, you will notice a big change in foliage, birds, and just overall ecosystem. This is due to increased salinity in the water.

Just a rule of thumb is the further you move west, the higher the salinity levels become. Generally you see the biggest change from around 29 westward to Collier Blvd, the water becomes more brackish.

So for the freshwater fish (bass, peacocks and snakeheads) you will fish further out east; say east, past the L-28-Canal Eden Station. West, past 29 you will start to find the real brackish tarpon/snook habitat.

Some telltale signs are the vegetation. Hydrilla and lily pads only flourish in pure freshwater. As for the saltier westward side you will start to notice more red mangroves and maybe even a tarpon or two rolling.


The Trail is a pretty gnarly place and not for the faint of heart; but for the adventurer inside of us.

Boots that have some sort of ankle protection with a durable sole are a good precaution for stepping on snakes.

A long sleeve shirt and pants preferably with UPF sun protection and InsectShield woven in will protect you from the sun and bugs. Bug spray itself is a good idea, especially in the summer. Mosquitoes and No-See-Ums can be brutal.

Sunglasses, a hat and neckgaiter are additional essential sun protection.

If you’re bringing a boat or small watercraft make sure to have all the required boating safety equipment. Flares, whistle, life jackets, etc. As far as civilization is concerned, as soon as you get on a vessel and head away from the road you’re in the middle of nowhere.

A head lamp and rain gear are wise choices as well.

Bring plenty of water, more than you think you will need, as the summer sun will really beat on you.

Fly Fishing Gear

Ideally for the trail you’ll want a 6, 7 or 8 weight outfit. My preference is a 6 weight.

The 6 weight rod can handle the size flies you’ll be throwing. It has more than enough backbone for the size tarpon and snook on the trail, and it’s a blast on largemouth, snakeheads, peacock bass.

Reels are just line-holders when fishing the Trail. Balance and durability are the most important factors. You’ll want to balance your rod and a full aluminum reel is a good option just for the durability it offers over composite reels.

A fast loading, short headed line is very important because of the traffic behind you. You want to be able to load the rod and dump the fly out 20-40 ft with minimal line out of the tip. You want to minimize aerialzing line across the road on your backcast. The Rio Bonefish QuickShooter and Scientific Anglers Grand Slam fly lines are the best options.

Going with a 7 foot leader will also help with the short range loading and shooting. 16lb is our preference.

For the freshwater side fish a 16lb bite tippet as well. For the snook and tarpon on the saltier side use a 25lb bite tippet.

A small waist pack minimizes the time you spend walking back and forth to the car or truck. What to have in your waist pack: forceps to remove hooks/pinch your hook barbs (for safer releases), nippers, hook file (sometimes you will snag a rock or the guard rail dulling your hook).

Ole Florida’s Tamiami Trail Outfit Recommendation:
Sage Payload – 6wt+
Redington Rise III – 5/6
RIO Bonefish QuickShooter – WF6F
RIO Big Nasty Leader – 16lb
RIO Saltwater Mono – 16lb, 25lb
Check out this outfit

Where and What to Feed Them:

Tarpon & Snook:
Tarpon and snook are found in the same areas on the trail and have the same diet, consisting of small baitfish and shrimp.

Further out west past Highway 29 is the best of the best tarpon and snook fishing. Along Highway 41 there will be a bunch of smaller bridges and pull-offs available for you to fish. San Marco Rd also holds some smaller bridges and pull-offs that hold a very good concentration of tarpon and snook in the winter months. Just west of the Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a great pull-off on the north side of the road for happy rolling tarpon in the summer months. Winter really puts a damper on tarpon and snook if you happen to get a cold front chilling the water down drastically. Wait for the next heat spike after to warm the water up and fishing should be some of the best it can get.

Look for moving water, tarpon and snook being ambush predators will sit into the current almost like trout waiting for small prey to come past them only to make a vicious attack.

These six flies will collectively work for just about every circumstance you run into on the trail. Any of these flies will produce tarpon and snook year round, depending on the conditions when you decide to go. A few things will dictate your choice of what you tie on. A few tips for fly selection to help you out:

  • Muddy/dark water- Bigger profile, dark colors blacks/purples/browns.
  • Clear water – Smaller profile, natural and bright colors.
  • Cold water- Larger, bigger profile, slower stripping, heavier weighted flies, fish will be sluggish and looking to not exert as much energy for a meal.
  • Warmer water- Smaller twitchier bait fish/topwater flies. Fleeing prey really will entice a fishes instinct to eat.  Sound also attracts fish on the surface.

Tarpon and Snook Flies

  • EP Everglades Sp – 1/0
  • Polar Fiber Minnow – #4 White, #4 Black/Purple
  • Brushy Baitfish #2 Grey/Orange
  • Glades Minnow – #2 Olive/Grey
  • Clouser Minnow – #6 Black, #6 Chartreuse/White
  • RIO’s Guido Shrimp – 1/0 Black, 1/0 White

Largemouth Bass, Peacock Bass and Snakeheads:
After moving eastward toward the L-28 Eden Station you will really start to see the freshwater attributes show. From L-28 all the way east to Krome Ave is the most productive freshwater fishing. This habitat holds some of the best largemouth bass, peacock bass and snakehead fishing there is in the state.

With these fish being very structure oriented, finding them around downed trees, logs, big brush piles, or matts of lily pads/hydrilla is very common. Looking for structure is one of the most important things about freshwater fishing. Seeing baitfish on the shoreline or smaller fish in the area is a telltale sign that there will be bigger fish in the area.

Fishing the levees or spillways with good moving water, such as the L-67C or the L30/31, you will find fish congregating. But don’t forget to move down a few hundred yards past them on either side and give that area a try. Most people just fish very close to them, and there are a lot of un-pressured spots just a little out of the way. The possibility of there being freshwater tarpon and snook also holds strong in these spillway areas, although not super common the thought of hooking a big snook or tarpon more or less unsuspectingly is quite exciting.

Tips for fly selection: the same rules apply from the snook and tarpon section. The freshwater species feed and react to flies similarly.

  • Muddy/dark water- Bigger profile, dark colors blacks/purples/browns.
  • Clear water – Smaller profile, natural and bright colors.
  • Cold water- Larger, bigger profile, slower stripping, heavier weighted flies, fish will be sluggish and looking to not exert as much energy for a meal.
  • Warmer water- Smaller twitchier bait fish/topwater flies. Fleeing prey really will entice a fishes instinct to eat.  Sound also attracts fish on the surface.

Flies for Largemouth Bass, Peacock Bass and Snakeheads:

  • Messinger’s Frog – #10
  • Meat Whistle – #2 Black, #2 White
  • Hud’s Bushwacker – #1 Bluegill
  • Double Barrel Bass Bug – #6 Black
  • Low Fat Minnow – Shad 1/0
Tamiami Trail Box

The best way to get to know the Trail is to just go out and do it. It’s such an incredible fishery and a great way to spend a day. Also, locals, the Trail is something you can do to get you out and fishing when the weather dictates leaving the skiff in the garage.

Learning about the environments and ecosystems will help you in all aspects of your angling; understanding why things change, why fish move, how to convince them to eat your fly, these are the best parts of fly fishing. All of this comes together on Florida’s Tamiami Trail.

For a more visual representation of what to expect check out the video below.

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