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Wintering around…


 
Most of the technical fishing slows down a bit as old man winter settles on his rocking chair down in at the purple isle. The one track minded individuals wait until the spring time. But until then, there are many things to do to pass the time. The venerable Florida bay redfish is always around to help us through this waiting game.
 

 

 

 

 
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Sometimes, the moon and stars align for a short window, or rather a sneak peak of the season ahead we look forward to. This fortunate soul was able to experience the short flurry this year, while in great company. We all grew up with heroes we looked up to in the world of athletes. Depending on which sport you are passionate about, your hero could be Micheal Jordan, Bo Jackson, Lebron James, Wayne Gretski, etc… and while most of my friends looked up to names in the world of basketball, football, and other sports, fishing had always been my number one sport and my number one passion so it would be natural that I grew up looking towards the greats in this sport like Lefty Kreh, Stu Apte, Jose Wajebe, Flip Pallot, Tim Mahaffey, and of coarse Andy Mill. Imagine a day of playing basket ball with Lebron or doing laps on the track with Hurley Haywood. An equal effect in my world would be a day of fishing with the man who wrote the book on tarpon; Andy Mill, who’s passion for chasing tarpon has greatly influenced my obsession for this magnificent fish. This is certainly one spring to look forward to.
 

 

 

 

 
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So until next time… Stay tuned…

Pursuit of the ultimate Purple Isle Slam.

It has become tradition for good friend Capt. Tim Mahaffey (www.flatshead.com) and I to take a day to pursue and attempt a 5 fish slam on fly that to my knowledge has not been documented in the past. These 5 species are the most sought after gamefish in Islamorada; Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Bonefish, and Permit. To achieve a feat like such would be the ultimate accomplishment, but to document this with professional cameras and a pro photographer will certainly raise the bar. Timing had to be perfect, the skiff had to be set up right, and the fly anglers on the skiff had to have their act together and be able to work well as a team poling and/or fishing.

Our tools: My Mercury 115ProXs powered Maverick 18 Mirage flats boat, a range of old school and new school G Loomis fly rods, lots of different flies, and lady luck.

With my good buddy Rick De Paiva tagging along to capture todays events, we headed off into the darkness of morning in search of silver. The day started off as planned with a 50lb Everglades tarpon to the boat for a quick photo, fly extraction, and safe release. The next species we would spend time on would be the elusive snook. Luckily, our first snooky looking hole held some small tarpon and a snook that was willing to eat a minnow fly. I fought the snook more carefully then I had fought any other snook I have ever hooked. With some luck, I kept the sub-slot snook out of the snags in the water and it finally came to hand. With two out of the way, we moved on to the venerable redfish. We poled the 18ft Maverick flats boat up onto a very shallow flat where the tide was bottoming out. The tide had not been right yet and the mood displayed by the fish were evident of this. It didn’t take long for the tide to turn over and the water to start moving again. Once this happened, our flat lit up with happy spotted flats waving about in a very civilized manner. We caught half a dozen redfish on the tail covered flat before moving off to find our 2 other species in Islamorada. It was difficult leaving so many fish but to catch our next two species, we had to race time and tide. Luckily, at 50mph+ we arrived where we needed to be right on time. While bonefishing, we had a quick shot at a pair of permit that didn’t seem interested in our offerings. Our bonefishing led us to find an area with better current flow. Once we found that, it yielded 4 bonefish shots, 3 fish hooked, and 2 bonefish landed. The toughest of the 5 species was the last challenge to complete our already epic day of fishing. We poled our way onto a flat that should hold permit only to have the red zone on the flat run over by a weekend angler in an Actioncraft with rods flying out the back of his poling platform rod holders and cuda tubes doing pinwheels. Disappointed at what had just occurred, we poled the rest of that flat and didn’t get that permit shot we needed. Coming this close to achieving the ultimate slam only means we should attempt this again another time. Perhaps our next attempt will be more rewarding, as if the day of fishing we just had wasn’t rewarding enough.

Just when you thought it was over…

With all the strange weather systems that moved through early in June, it made for many days when fishing conditions were tough. We had lots of wind, cloudy days, and now very rainy days here in South FL. There were lots of days when conditions were just not right but when things were as they should be the poons still swim with vigor and chew on flies with much enthusiasm…

All the classic June fishing for big tarpon on fly, though was spotty at times, still went off this month. We found days with very few fish swimming, but other days when fishing was nothing short of spectacular.

Define Text book tarpon fishing: One Gold Cup late afternoon of fishing… 1 shot, 1 fish, 5 minutes of pulling, and past Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament champion Tim Mahaffey has this 110lb tarpon on its side and ready for fly extraction.

During days when cloudy or rainy conditions did not allow us to tarpon fish, Capt. Jeremy Alderman and I spent afternoons poling our Maverick Flats skiffs in the shallowest flats chucking flies at tailing sheepshead and redfish near Key Largo.

Thanks to Nautilus Fly Reels and G Loomis Fly Rods for providing the tackle to make it all happen. The new FWX and NV series Nautilus Fly reels have realy raised the bar of what a fly reel should be. They are the lightest reels in their class and offer the smoothest sealed drags. With all the extremely light weight rods on the market, it should only be right to balance them with lighter fly reels.

I just got back from the west coast of FL. Capt. Rick De Paiva and I recently fished the A.W. Dimock Tarpon on fly tournament in Fort Myers. Being a tarpon fisherman in the Keys, it is fun to see something different during the season. Fishing against local guides and tarpon fisherman, we missed the 1st place spot by a mere 4 minutes but had some pretty good fishing. I managed to drive the hook into 5 Tarpon before finally catching one. Had we leadered any of the previous 4, the tournament would have been ours. But that’s how it goes. It was a fun time being one of the top boats to put tarpon in the air amongst other fellow tarpon fly rodders around us. Gosh, I love tarpon fishing. Congrats to Captains Chris Rush and Randall Marsh for winning the tournament again. You guys squeaked by us this year but we are coming for you next year with a stronger resolve.

July is right around the corner and I leave to spend a few days at the DOA Lures writers event tomorrow in Stuart. It looks like we may possibly have some rainy weather but the company will always be great, food will be amazing, and fish will chew on DOA plastic.

Stay tuned…

Warm Weather + Howler Bro.’s Clothing

Gone are the days of wearing jackets, jeans, and hoodies…hopefully.  Gone are the days of sitting in a creek in the Everglades to catch 50 undersized redfish…hopefully.  And gone are the arctic blasts that keep our warm weather fish from being happy…hopefully.

It is really starting to feel like the warmer weather starting to set in.  My 2 favorite species to target on a fly rod are starting to find this favorable and fishing has certainly been pretty good when the stars lined up.  As the warmth really starts to settle in, the sight of dark water will soon be replaced by bright torquise hues, green backed figures, and spiked up fins.  The early season stuff is fun, but I can’t wait to get to the meat and potatoes.

Speaking of warm weather… I got a couple of technical fishing shirts from Howler Bro.’s the other day and have been wearing them during these warm days on the water.  I can honestly say that I have found the most comfortable fishing shirt on the market that I’ve worn so far.   The  unmistakable monkey brand is definitely cool and made unique from everything else on the market.  These are definitely premium clothes, that are comfortable to wear, and make a statement about the fly fishing and surfing lifestyle.   Check it out… www.howlerbros.com

Pictured: Howler Bro's Loggerhead shirt and Monkey mesh hat, Nautilus NV G9 Fly Reel, G Loomis NRX Fly rod

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…

Fall Field Testing and upcomming events…

As we wake in the early hours now to grace the cool fresh morning air, I’m not the only one who is glad that the days of hot sweltering summer heat are almost behind us.  A transitional change is definitely in the air.  With the arrival of the equinox, the Chinese mid-Autumn festival, and season premiers of your favorite soap operas on TV, Autumn/Fall is upon us.  This change in season should bring about days when fish will stay active through most of the day.  This also brought about the massive migration of mullet and other baitfish down the Florida coast, with them pelagic predators nipping on their heels.  I welcome this change and embrace it with an entire arsenal of baitfish flies and the latest lures from DOA Lures.

Mullet headed south

Speaking of DOA Lures, they have released a new color for the CAL jerkbait known as #425 Watermelon/Clear Holographic.  This new color is VERY fishy as have been wacking quite a few clear water redfish from Flamingo to Islamorada with it.  We term the phrase “match the hatch” in Fall and this color matches the miriad of small fin fish that are found in vast numbers on the flats this Fall.  When matched with one of DOA’s hot heads on either a weighted or unweighted weedless hook, they look absolutely irresitable.  You can also chuck these light jerkbaits a mile with the G Loomis Greenwater GWR930S 10lb Power Pro.

Image by Jerry McBride and Ron Romano (SLAM Mag)

Flamingo Redfish on #425 DOA CAL Jerkbait

The ideal conditions have provided shots at some tarpon, both big and small.  With all the baitfish roaming around, you sometimes don’t know when to expect to find some laid up tarpon or group of baby tarpon to throw a fly at.

Islmorada Baby Poon

The bigger variety in Dark Water...

Redzone apparel had provided me with a couple of their SPF50 micro-fiber shirts.  The printing is guaranteed not to fade on these shirts as they are permanantly embeded into the color on the shirts.  They are comfortable to wear all day and look real sharp.  I like them!!!  They also produce shirts for the many boat manufacturers on the market, including Maverick Boat Company.  Jeff Harrell of Finatic Designs (same guy who designed that cool Rasta Tarpon “one love” sticker) and Ken of Breathe like a Fish have sent me a couple of their face masks with the breathable vent holes.  Unlike the popular Original Buffs, these face masks have overhanging flaps on the front and rear of the mask that are perfect for shirts that don’t have some sort of mock turtleneck or raised neck.  I just thought that idea and the meshed breathe holes were a great idea I’d mention.  Also be on the lookout for a new bonefish and fly shirt design from Ihuntfish.  I had a chance to see it in person and thought it was a pretty cool design.

I have been eyeing MinnKota’s new iPilot system on their trolling motors and it looks like I will be testing a reveiwing one very soon as I have on the way to be part of a removable setup on my Maverick 18 Mirage.  This new skiff is extremely versatile and the addition of a trolling motor should open some doors for a variety of different types of fishing.  I used to shun trolling motors but I think having the iPilot system with spot-lock will be pretty cool.  Of coarse, it will be removable for days when I plan to stay on the pole all day.  I’ll look forward to using the new iPilot and reviewing it.

For those of you who fish EP Flies, Enrico Puglisi will be at the Vero Backcountry this coming Thursday (Oct. 7th).  Maverick Boat Co. and Vero Backcountry will be hosting the Maverick/Backcountry Cup, fly tournament on Saturday, December 4th.  Mark your calendars for this date, as this proves to be a real fun tournament with lots of cool prizes and great comraderie.  I will have more info on the tournament up shortly.  If you are interested in registering or inquiring about the tournament, contact Capt. Eric Davis at the Vero Backcountry or Charlie Johnson at Maverick Boat Company.

Stay tuned… Fall is only starting to rev up and there should be lots of great things to come from big bonefish in Islamorada to absolute baitfish slaughtering mayhem in the Gulf.

Running the rough… breaking in the new Mirage

I recently made the switch from a Maverick Mirage 17 HPX-V to an 18 HPX-V and spent the last couple of weeks breaking in the motor on the 18 HPX-V.  The 17 HPX-V definitely had a fun feel to it and just had this personality that can’t ever be duplicated by any other skiff on this planet.  It definitely stands on its own.  The 18 HPX-V is different in it’s own world and displays much more confidence and an ability to stand firm when conditions are at their toughest.  These are two very different machines, both with the same mission in mind. 

This is the time of year when fishing can be spotty with the fast warming water temperatures and limited light.  I call it the season of uncertainty.  The only thing certain about late summer is the tropical activity manifesting in our waters.  Tropical systems brewing in the Atlantic and Gulf can turn  even the calmest bay into a slaughter house of big chop within a single day… sometimes even within minutes.   The last few weeks have brought forth some stormy weather and the 18 HPX has faced some of the nastiest conditions head on crossing some of the biggest chop that I have seen in Biscayne Bay and the Keys.  The boat felt solid while running a big windy chop and leaping large swells birthed from large yachts.  We’ve covered some great distances in the last few days on the water but when time came for a serious day of fishing, there was no dissapointment.  The solid ride got us through the choppy water and the shallow draft got us to the bonefish as we can now pole accross the shallow bar rather then having to go around it.  The fishing had been very spotty with short windows of shots.  We made due with what we had and took advantage of the new abilities we were given to finally break in this new skiff in many aspects.

Versatility defined… Chucking flies at tailing bonefish in Islamorada, slinging muddlers at Tarpon in Flamingo, and dropping crabs in the path of Permit in Marathon in a single day burning less then 1/2 a tank of gas! 

First slime on new boat!

stay tuned…

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”!!!