3 Guide-Tested Patterns for Everglades National Park

Written by: Evan Jones and Capt. Jason Sullivan

Capt. Jason Sullivan with a Florida Bay tarpon.

Everglades National Park is one of the more productive and unique fisheries in the world. Located at the southern tip of Florida below the subtropical line, where southward-flowing fresh water finally collides with the salty Gulf, the Everglades is a brackish haven for many species of both freshwater and saltwater game fish. While the region is indeed teeming with life, the fish have more than 1.5 million acres of murky wetlands to roam, and are rather infamous for moving frequently in search of seasonal prey, making them surprisingly tough to catch consistently with a fly rod. Fortunately, we caught up with Capt. Jason Sullivan of Rising Tide Charters, a South Florida native who has been fishing the area for his entire life and was the 2018 Endorsed Saltwater Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year. He was kind enough to share three trusted guide patterns for the ‘Glades that you can throw with confidence all year round.

1. Shrimpy

Flies that incorporate brown, tan, and/or orange are a must for fishing the Everglades backcountry or the flats of Florida Bay. You can add weight to this one for deeper areas, but I like to fish this fly to tailing redfish and laid-up snook in extremely shallow water. In that scenario, I don’t use any weight because I want it to be close to the surface, just as a shrimp would be.  

Hook: Wide-gap saltwater hook (here, a Gamakatsu SC-15), size 1.
Thread: Color to match the body, 210-denier.
Eye (optional): small bead-chain to medium brass dumbbell.
Body: Brown Craft Fur, with black barring.
Collar: Orange EP Shrimp Dub brush (trimmed).
Notes: Barring can be added to the craft fur using either a black permanent marker or a gold paint marker. If you add eyes, try to position them between the body and the collar, so the fly lands quieter.  

2. Bird Dog

Just as its name suggests, this fly is more of a search bait. I typically blind-cast with this baitfish pattern when the conditions don’t allow us to sight-fish. Throwing it around points and downed trees and using quick strips to retrieve usually entices the bite. 

Bird Dog
Hook: Wide-gap saltwater hook (here, a Gamakatsu SC-15), size 1/0.
Thread: Color to match the body, 210-denier.
Body: White EP Ze-Brush.
Collar: Red EP Ze-Brush.
Notes: Experiment with different contrasting color combinations, and try adding a weed guard when using this fly to prospect under mangrove branches. 

3. River Monster

Mullet  make up a huge part of adult tarpon’s diets in the ‘Glades, and this pattern imitates them well in dark water. This fly can be fished closer to the bottom or just under the surface, depending what type of weight you put on it. For laid-up fish, I will just use bead chain eyes. In either case, I fish this fly using longer and slower strips.

River Monster
Hook: Strong wire, wide-gap saltwater hook (here, a Gamakatsu SL-12s), size 2/0-3/0.
Thread: Black, 210-denier.
Eyes: small bead-chain to medium brass dumbbell.
Body: black Ostrich.
Collar: black EP 3-inch Foxy Brush.
Notes: Tie this pattern using a variety of eye weights so that you can cover a variety of water depths.

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