Nick Vlahos (@sandbar_flies on Instagram) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but he grew up in Georgia. An avid fly angler, these days Nick travels between homes in Louisiana and Destin, Florida.
“I grew up in Georgia, mainly. I started fishing when I was four or five,” he says. “But I didn’t start fly fishing until I was thirteen or fourteen, after moving to Georgia. I started fly fishing for rainbow and brook trout in the mountains of north Georgia when my mom’s stepdad got me my first fly rod.”
He returned to Baton Rouge to go to college.
“It was when I started going to school at LSU [Louisiana State] that I got into saltwater fly fishing,” Nick says. “I started fly fishing out of a kayak for redfish.”
His go-to pattern for redfish is the Sandbar Mullet fly — which he ties himself and markets through his company, Sandbar Flies, as well as major outlets like Orvis.
“I like to throw it and a medium dumbbell weight to get down to the fish pretty quickly,” Nick says. “My favorite color for it is tan and purple.”
Nick didn’t always tie his own flies, though.
“Most of my buddies tied their own flies. They’d make fun of me because I didn’t, and I would bum flies off of them,” he says. “But then I actually won a fly fishing contest, and I got a gift card to Cabela’s. I spent most of it on fly-tying material and a vise, and everything I needed to get started. That was about seven or eight years ago.”
It didn’t take long for him to catch the fly-tying bug.
“From there, I was just hooked,” Nick said. “All my buddies then thought my patterns were better than theirs. So, I just stuck with it. And eventually, my flies got picked up through Orvis. I tie all the time, now.”
Nick concentrates his fly tying work on saltwater patterns — particularly those that are effective for the inshore species along the Florida and Louisiana Gulf Coasts.
“I tie based on the species that I target, mainly,” he says. “So, I create patterns for redfish and pompano, mostly. I’ll also go after tarpon, speckled trout and black drum.”
Sometimes, though, Nick’s flies will attract a species he’s not targeting.
“In Louisiana, sheepshead — which are known as the permit of Louisiana — are really picky. But they will also sometimes hit a fly, even if I’m going after redfish,” he says.
Nick sees an even wider variety of species when he fishes closer to Destin.
“In Florida, you get all the same species as Louisiana — and more,” he says. “You’ll get tarpon and bonito close to the beach in Destin. You can even catch snapper on the fly, amberjack, mahi mahi. There’s definitely a lot more species you can cover, there.”
Ultimately, it’s the challenge of fly fishing that keeps getting Nick back out on the water.
“I try to get out as much as I can,” he says. “You learn something new every time you go. It’s hard to conquer fishing — the fish are always in the mood for a different fly or they’re not there when you think they’re going to be.”