If a title like that doesn't catch your attention then nothing will, but trying to fool a fish that for the most part is unwilling to take any type of bait can be a true test of will, sanity, and patience. Each year during the spring we'll hit the local lakes and ponds looking to hook into one of the regions more successful invasive species, the Blue Tilapia.
Blue Tilapia have expanded their range to include just about every waterway imaginable across the state and their spawning beds make for a pretty conspicuous clue that they're in the area. Tilapia spawn right after most of the bass and their beds can make the sandy shallows look like a moonscape. Each bowl-shaped nest is about the size of a truck tire and during the peak of the season there will be a single, fiercely-aggressive, and meticulously-cleaning, tilapia parent. Their aggressive nature and obsessive compulsive cleaning is what we use to our advantage when trying to catch one on fly.
Unfortunately though, this is a waiting game with very limited casting followed by extended periods of standing as still as a hunting heron, and then impossibly light strikes. The normal scenario includes finding an active bed with a fish on it, the fish spooks, you cast into the bed, the fish eventually returns, it stares at the fly for a while, it picks up the fly and tries to move it out of the bed, fight on. I've actually stood over a single bed for upwards of 15 minutes waiting for the fish to return after fleeing the bed, only to have it spook again or come to rest in the bed without noticing my fly. That can be more than a little irritating.
Five or six weight rods with fairly light leaders and smallish and lightly dressed flies are the tools of the trade when chasing tilapia because they aren't overly powerful nor are the flies so large as to require a heavyweight rod. About the only trick to hooking up is using a fly that's large enough to get the fish's attention but dressed sparsely enough that the fish gets the hook in its mouth rather than a bunch of fluffy material. A simple wooly bugger or something similar should work pretty well if you find cooperative fish. Bowfishing is another popular method of taking tilapia during the spawn but there's no way to practice catch an release with an arrow so it's only a method to explore if you have a way to dispose of your catch
So why would anyone go through all this for a very low likelihood of success? Because it's a fish, there's a ton of them around, they'll eventually bite, and are a lot of fun on a fly rod. Scott and I are in an informal competition to catch the most fish species on fly so he just had to get one since I've already checked that one off the list. Living in a place with as many fish as Florida means that we throw a fly at anything that swims no matter how tough or uncooperative it might be. Being well-rounded and flexible allows us to extend our season through the entire year, with very little down time. We might even come home with something for dinner on occasion.
Brian "Beastman" Eastman