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florida keys

Middle Keys Trip – May 2013

Just returned from our annual spring trip to the keys. As usual, we spent hours in the shallow water trying to convince tarpon to eat our flies. I’ve got an elevated respect for guys like Honson and Collin and the Florida guides and recreational anglers who are feeding these fish on a regular basis…this is not an easy game. We endured countless rejected shots from ocean swimmers, but it is worth the price of admission to watch them stream by the boat in clear water. Not to mention, I feel like we are learning a little more about these awesome fish with every failed attempt…which is really what it is all about. Fortunately, there’s always a tarpon around willing to eat an artificial lure or a live mullet at a bridge…allowing us visitors a chance to put some fish in the air before they make it up to the Carolinas. Looking forward to next time.

fishing under bridge Taylor & Courtney Ocean blakes tarpon jumping down and dirty edit tarpon grass blake leader tarpon submerged chicken_edit01 sunrise at billys Vaca Cut courtney tarpon splash edit02 courtney tarpon head under bridge blake and jordan tarpon C&T Sunset 3

Expedition along side the Tarpon Fishing Legend.

BluemoonApte

Silver in the Fall

I made a decision earlier this year to take time off from guiding starting this Fall.  I set forth to rediscover the feeling of being the dude on the bow of the skiff facing a great technical fishery right at my doorstep.  Of coarse, this can only be possible with an alternative source of income as I am no trustafarian.  This past summer was all all about calm windless days, waving flags, and lots of copper.  The days spent on the water this Fall amongst friends was set in the Everglades and upper end of the Florida Keys, primarily focusing on silver-clad gamefish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shameless plug this time goes to Maverick Boat Company.  My first ride in a new Mirage 18 HPX-V was back in 2009 and from there-on, I knew this was to be my next skiff.  I sold my 17 Mirage HPX-V shortly after that demo ride and have been fishing in my 18 HPX-V for the last couple of years.  For my style of fishing, the 18 Mirage was just the work horse technical fishing platform I needed.  A Mercury 115 Optimax ProXs found it’s way on my transom this past year, replacing the 90 horsepower Yamaha I had originally hung on the skiff.  This set-up is perfect, achieving fuel efficient 40mph cruise speeds and top speeds in the low to mid 50s.  The extra 6lbs on the transom was negligible taking into account the extra speed gained from the motor swap.  Recent fishing trips and tournament days have really pushed the limits of this great skiff… traveling over 100 miles a day, covering lots of water, getting there at just the right tide, and remaining stealthy once arriving at the stalking grounds.  Kudos to Maverick as all performance expectations were exceeded.  It is almost time for a new skiff soon and I may actually have an itch for something a little bit different.  Though the idea a new skiff is tempting, it is difficult to not to fish another season out of my 18 Mirage.  I guess time will tell…

Redneck Roadtrip – Florida Keys Tarpon

Took a raodtrip down to the middle keys last week with a couple of buds to chase the silver king. It became apparent  that all three of us have a certifiable obsession with this fish that should probably be addressed by a professional. We were really hoping that we would luck up on the worm hatch and we were rewarded with a couple of nights of worm-slurping goodness (thanks Derek Rust for the heads up). Seeing hundreds of tarpon rolling and eating worms all around your boat is an unblievable experience.  However, the fish become more challenging to catch during the worm hatch than we had previously thought. The live bait bite pretty much shut down on the hatch and even though we were getting hundreds of shots, we weren’t getting much response from our worm flies.  So leave it to some rednecks from SC to deploy the electric chicken jerk bait because it “sorta looks like a worm”. We hadn’t seen anyone hook-up all night at the bridge, but within 5mins of dropping an exude funky chicken behind the boat, we had a nice fish on.  For the two nights during the hatch, we did a number on the big tarpon and went through all of our electric chicken baits – who would have thought that dangling a redfish bait behind the boat would put so many stubborn fish in the air.

 

Was able to stop and stay in Oak Hill, FL for a couple of nights on the way home to fish the Lagoon and see my friend Eddie. We got on a really great trout bite and got to do a little bit of redfishing.

I’m thinking Blake should rock this mustache full time - he grew it for the week of tarpon fishing and said it was his lucky poon-stache - hahaha.

 Thanks to Honson, Derek, and Eddie for helping to make sure our fishing was productive.

Capt. Jay Nelson

www.winyahguide.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last few weeks to end the summer and start this Fall…

FINALLY… we had a taste of some slightly cooler air and light NE breezes last weekend. The slow transition from summer to fall has been evident in nature. The way the fish behave, the feel of the air, the lack of hot women prancing around at the boat ramp in Miami, my being able to stay out longer during a day of fishing, and my willingness to spend the extra 15 minutes outside cleaning the boat meticulously after a day on the water. I’ve spent a few days in the past couple of months pre-fishing for the Herman Lucerne Tournament but it seems that the last couple of days spent pre-fishing would be the ones that matter most with the changing conditions. Practice days for tournaments such as these can be harsh so I had to take some “me” time to do what I really wanted to do this time of year… chase after bonefish, permit, and tarpon.

We had good success on our practice days fo the Hreman Lucerne Backcountry Memorial fishing tournament. The challenge is to catch 7 species within the Everglades National Park in 2 days… redfish, bonefish, tarpon, black drum, seatrout, snapper, and snook. Though it is a difficult format, if our last 2 practice days will give us any merit, then I will feel confident. Jeremy and I will have to mix in blind casting, sight fishing, trolling motors, poling, fly fishing, plug fishing, jig fishing, and just about every style of fishing you can do in the glade’s to meet what nature throws at us these next couple of days. The good news is, my Maverick 18 HPX-V skiff is set up to do it all. I’m taking a day off to rest tomorrow before the weekend of hardcore fishing begins. Wish me luck and I wish you all good fishing this next weekend…

Thick Skin…

Thankfully, it has been a warm end of winter.  All the signs point to great potential this next season.  Spring is almost upon us and th evidence is in the air.  We had a taste of what’s to come recently and I am confident that this will be another epic season in the opaque waters of the Florida Keys.  Hues of brown and gold are soon to be replaced with blues and silvers… dark water amber water with clear torquoise seas…

If the thought if this is not enough to give your skin goose bumps, perhaps these recent images some of nature’s iron clad skin will…

Mirage in the Keys… SKIFF PORN, Part 1!!!!

I spent this last weekend hanging out in the Keys at the Alderman’s.  It’s always a chill time in the Keys.. fresh seafood, a little bonefishing, cold beer, and a very relaxed atmostphere.   My buddy Jeremy and I decided to put together a little poker run/mini-shoot to an island in the middle of Florida Bay one afternoon.  With 3 Maverick Mirages (two 18 HPX-Vs and a 17 HPX-V) and Juanki’s “Lake and Spray”, we headed out and shot a few cool photos on the water.  So within this chilled out weekend, we did manage to sneak out for 3 early hours of some slightly serious business… bonefishing!!!  They were there…. they ate shrimp… they ran like hell when they felt the pinch… and your sun glove smelled like hell after you released one. 

Between the photoshoot, giant stone crab claws for dinner, bonefish wreslting, and being amongst great company… the weekend was as always… incredible!!!  Enjoy some skiff porn….

Stay tuned… more to come shortly!!!

Muddy Fall fishing in South FL.

Fall has definitely set in, followed by cooling temperatures, lobster sized live shrimp in the baitwell, blue bird skies, and lots of muddy minded fish.  Redfish in Flamingo are swimming on the mud in the afternoon heat and hanging off the deep end of mud banks on cool mornings.  Bonefish on the other side of this little world in Islamorada are mudding their tails off, fattening up for the winter.  The deep backcountry of the Everglades is also teeming with life.  On a recent day in the backcountry, we caught snook, redfish, bream (I haven’t caught a pan fish on fly in over a decade), and gar all in the same few coves.   As temperatures cool, catches of 40+ redfish are becomming less uncommon in a single day.  We’ve been having a ball catching a bunch of backcountry redfish on DOA CAL shad tails in the new Fiji Chicken color fished on a 1/8oz or 1/4oz chartruese CAL jighead.  Fall fishing is just straight up fun and relaxing.

Days have been real windy so it has been fun tackling some big chop in big water in my new 18 Maverick Mirage.  I recently added a Minnkota Riptide ST trolling motor with iPilot for some of the deeper water backcountry stuff and it has worked amazing.  The spot lock feature on the iPilot trolling motor is pretty amazing (thought it does kinda promote my laziness).  

This is definitely a cool time of year to fish…

Stay tuned for more skiff fish porn…

The end of one and beginning of next…… the INCUBATION.

All my life, I have always tried to seek out the best of the best and this comes especially true when choosing my next flats skiff.  This will my my third skiff I own and my third product from Maverick Boat Company as well.  Currently, Maverick Boats is building my next skiff… and for the first time, I was able to build one from scratch with every little nit pick detail that I desired.  After a 12 year run fishing the shallows from Flamingo to Islamorada, I have finally spec’ed out everything I wanted in a skiff; both for guiding and for fun fishing days. 

I learned to run a boat and fish the shallows at age 12 on a Hewes/Maverick Light Tackle 18 flats skiff (currently the Redfisher 18).  It had a 2 tone commander blue and white hull with Yamaha 150HP Saltwater Series motor, lots of weight, and a fishy attitude.   I tried to get into places where this big flats boat was pushed to it’s limits from big water Dolphin fishing to shallow water Redfishing.  This was hardly a skiff, but a big water flats boat, which my buddies and I actually did end up still trying to pole.  For many years, I first learned to fish Whitewater Bay before learning how to fish the flats out front in Florida Bay.  Along the way, my buddy Capt. Frank had also taught me how to bonefish in Key Largo as well as introduce me to fly fishing.  I did a lot of this in either Frank’s Hewes Bayfisher 18 or my Hewes Light Tackle 18.  These bigger skiffs were adequate and got me where I needed to be dry and comfortably.  I fished the hell out of my 18 Light Tackle from the day I bought it in 1998 until the day I sold it in 2004.

Hewes Light Tackle 18... my first boat!

Flamingo Redfish on DOA... 1999

I had sold my Hewes somewhere in my blurry college career and after all the partying and crazy nights out had gotten passed out of my system, it was time to get back to my life long love of inshore fishing.  As time wore on, I began to realize that fishing can be more technical then what it was.  There had to be a way sneak up on fish weary fish in shallow water and catch them with various methods from DOAs to flies.  I searched for the right skiff that would still give me both an incredible ride and be able to do all the various types of technical fishing from Flamingo to the Keys.  I joined the Maverick Boats manufacturers forum, read all the fishing reports from various guides on that forum and studying the Tournament Tales blog with Tim Mahaffey (who I never thought I would have the pleasure of fishing with many years later).  After having the pleasure of being able to fish on 17 HPX-V skiffs with Capt. Dave Sutton and Capt. Eric Herstedt, I was convinced that this would be my next skiff.  In the year 2006, I ended up purchasing the Redfish Tour skiff owned by the Hueston Brothers.  This was a 2004 Maverick 17 HPX-V with lots of batteries, trolling motor, and fly line snags.  Down the road, I ended up having the crew at Shallow Water Customs and Castaway Customs (SeaDeck) revamp the entire skiff and made it what it was… one bad ass fly fishing machine.  Along this same road, I met a ton of people, some I regretted ever meeting, and some who I consider amongst my closest friends now.  I later found being a fishing guide to be my outlet to justify being able to spend more time on the water and not feel guilty about it.  At this point… something simple became a lot more complicated.  One that that never got too complicated though, was how to run in a big chop and sneak up on weary fish in that 17 HPX-V.  Somewhere along the line, I met Sam Root and became part of the contributors here at Salty Shores.  I tested a number of different skiffs less then a year ago that made me ponder and brought back that “I want more out of this” train of thought.  A couple of months ago, I decided to sell that 17 HPX-V and make the leap towards bigger (yes bigger), shallower, and better things… well, maybe not better, but slightly different.

Maverick HPX-V 17... 2006 to 2010.

Upper Keys Tarpon on Fly... 2010

August 2010.  The real waiting finally begins as the clock ticks and time winds down towards the next skiff I will get behind the wheel and push pole of.  The incubation process has started; here she sits in the mold… with dreams of Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, Redfish, and Snook, amongst other finned characters, ahead of her… All the many years of skiff building heart and soul, the latest technologies, and dreams have intertwine into fiberglass and carbon/kevlar. 

Hull inside the plug

VARIS... Vacuum Aided Resin Infusion System

In the next few weeks, I will keep an updated blog on Saltyshores of the entire skiff building process that goes into a Maverick Mirage HPX from start to finish.  Until next time…. stay tuned for the “Hatching”!!!

Florida Keys Ad, by Mark

June 16th 2010

Florida Keys advertising utilizing one of my photos and the creative mind of my friend Mark Slatko.