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.
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.
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”!!!
Well, after much thought I finally decided to let go of my 17 HPX-V. This boat has brought me many memories and caught loads of fish. As of a couple of years ago, I went and did a complete makeover on the boat rigging it for tarpon and bonefishing on the ocean. This means it has been modified to run faster and drier then most other 17 HPX-Vs. This skiff is set up to handle big water, float shallow enough to conquer the demands of Flamingo, Biscayne Bay, and the Florida Keys, and display maximum agility while on the pole. Set up to run with maximum bow lift, this skiff can run on it’s pad trimmed high with the tabs all the way up. All service, installations, and modifications done by Shallow Water Customs and Erics Outboards.
2004 Maverick 17 HPX-V
-Tournament Console with 3 plumbed wells
-2009 Ameritrail Trailer (loaded and set for dry launch)
-Powerwinch RC30 for trailer
-Garmin 545 GPS
-Wang Anchor Bracket with 5′ Wang Anchor
-Custom Toe rails by Shallow Water Customs
-All pumps recently replaced by Shallow Water Customs
-All brand new wiring and switches rigged by Shallow Water Customs on March 2010.
-both brand new Lenco Trim Tab Actuators and trim tab switch
-Navman 2100 Fuel Scan meter
-Lowrance depth finder/water temp gauge (2.5 round gauge)
-Custom Sea Deck in cockpit, on front deck, and under rod gunnels
-New higher Capacity Aluminum Gas Tank installed by Maverick Boat Co.
-Powertech 3 blade 19 pitch PTR Prop
The entire hull is structurally perfect… no squeaks, no flex, no weak spots, nothing annoying to have to put up with. Motor purrs like a kitten and runs great. Trailer hubs never touched saltwater.
Tarpon and Bonefish are two of the most sought after species by fly fisherman from Biscayne Bay to Key West. We hold a very special fishery here where we don’t have the fish that are easiest to catch, nor do we have the biggest population of either of the two species here, but what we have here in South Florida are some of the worlds biggest, toughest, and most challenging bonefish and tarpon. As a guide in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys, it always brings a smile to my face on days where I have seen my anglers from various experience levels conquer their firsts. Because I don’t guide full time, I get to spend quite a bit of time on the bow as well on my off days and study and learn these fish from the angler’s point of view. This aids in helping me coach the marksman on the tippy end of the skiff in delivering their presentation and finally sealing the deal.
In recent weeks, I guided two incredible anglers to their first tarpon and bonefish on fly. In the few recent days, I was able to accomplish the same again with another two anglers, but this time, these two anglers were not locals. My buddy Capt. Willy Le of Titusville caught his first big tarpon on fly on the bow of my Maverick Mirage. In the days to follow, I then guided a Noweigian angler from London to both his biggest bonefish and his first tarpon on fly (before this day, he had only saltwater fished in Mexico).
It’s a great feeling to be the man on the watch tower when you have anglers who can listen and get it done… but then again, there is a part of me that would rather be on the pointy end of the skiff most of the time. This is where guide becomes angler, fish becomes teacher, and fly tackle is put to it’s rounds. All the coaching and directing I’ve done from the watch tower comes into question at this point. This gives new definition to practicing what I preach…
My buddy Dr. Tony and his father joined me for a day of tarpon fishing recently in the upper Keys. Tony’s dad brought the HD Video camera and was able to capture some great footage of lots of tarpon, lots of frustrating moments, and moments of victories. Our afternoon of fishing was great as we threw at singles, pairs, and giant hoards of big tarpon travelling up and down the ocean side of the Keys. We started off with lots of tough shots into a strong breeze at fish that were snuffing our presentation on every good shot. A quick fly change and adjustment in presentation was key and I finally hooked a rather large tarpon throwing into one of the biggest strings of tarpon I had ever seen in my life. The victory dance ended before it began as the silver beast leaped several times into the air while I was clearing the flyline and had the last loop of line wrap around my watch. It was a quick death for my brand new monic fly line as the watch cut right through the fly line in one loud “SNAP”. I made up for this the next round as I hooked and tamed one shortly afterwards. Tony hooked another fish minutes later that made for Miami and never looked back. We tried to chase but the fish was still ripping line off of Tony’s reel like as if we were sitting still. I didn’t manage to shoot a bunch of photos but I did manage to shoot a couple shots. Our main focus was on shooting video so stay tuned for some raw footage from this day.
Bonefishing isn’t the greatest this time of year as days are very warm and shots are limited to the cooler hours but knowing how to work with this can lead to some pretty good fishing. It also helps when you are fishing with one of the world’s best bonefisherman (Tim Mahaffey). Office work was a pretty slow week so my buddy Tim and I decided to take off for 4 hours during the middle of one day and do a little bonefishing in Biscayne Bay before having to return to our land locked duties. In the short time we fished, we managed to catch 4 decent bonefish on fly, one of which was close to double digit status. On this day, we fished with Monic full clear fly lines which gave us the edge when the water was ultra clear, winds were low, and the sun was high. Fishing with full clear fly lines do take a little bit of getting used to, but because you now to read the fish in relation to where your fly landed, it does force you to become a better angler.
Days are getting longer and temperatures are getting warmer, but the fishing is as always… AS GOOD AS EVER!! Stay tuned for more of the good stuff…
100211 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo, FL
It is tough to find good seafood in the Florida Keys. Why, you ask? Because with so many seafood restaurants and so much access to fresh seafood, it is hard to chose a place to eat at.
I recently made a second visit to the Key Largo Conch House (http://www.keylargocoffeehouse.com) with my buddy Jeremy after a long and tiring day of tarpon fishing. The first time I ate there was impressive, but the second time absolutely blew me away. The atmosphere is a casual “Keys’y” laid back type feel, but not the touristy sand and island feel that just about every other restaurant has; the Conch House had more of a locals place feel to it. The Conch House is nestled admist a forest of trees, hidden and discreet. Don’t let the bushy “shack in the middle of the woods” outlook fool you though. What lies inside is some of the best food, cleanest presentation, and best service around in Key Largo. You feel right at home, comfortable, and not overwhelmed with that touristy feel like in most other restaurants in the Keys.
This is the place to be if you like a quality home cooked quality meal. The Lobster and Conch Ceviche is a must order item on the menu. This dish is prepared with the freshest ingredients and spiced just right. It is a refreshing dish to start your meal after a long day of being out on the water. Couple this dish with the fried cracked conch appetizer and you have the perfect yin and yang. The cracked conch is lightly breaded and with herbs mixed into the light breading and fried to perfection, not too dry, but not soggy with grease, just perfect. The Yellowtail fish tacos hit the spot just right for lunch. I had the Yellowtail Florentine last time for dinner and was very impressed. The presentation was great and the taste was second to none. It was definitely the best yellowtail snapper dish I had ever had. If you crave deserts, they have a selection of home made deserts that are different each day. The home made Key Lime Pie was the best pie I had ever had. It was not too tangy, nor too sweet… the texture was smooth and I actually finished an entire slice of Key Lime Pie for the first time in my life. The Conch House also offers a large variety of different teas and coffee, which they are famous for. Being Asian, I have had just about every type of tea imaginable and I will admit that the Conch House offers some of the most amazing iced tea. I will definitely be back to try the different flavor tea and coffee they offer.
Visit the restuarants website at www.keylargocoffeehouse.com or better yet; next time you are in Key Largo, get in your car and drive down to the Key Largo Conch House for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I guarantee you will be impressed.
Spring break had finally come and I took a week off to log some days on the water. The initial plans were to spend 3 days down in the lower Keys but due to circustances, that plan had to be put on hold for now. Instead, I chose to do something I had wanted to do in a long time. In 5 days straight, I fished in 4 different locations throughout Florida in 4 different style Maverick Mirage skiffs. Fishing had it’s ups and downs, but company was great, the overall experience was great, and I had a blast doing this. Upon introduction of the Mirage series of skiffs, Maverick Boat Co. revolutionalized the shallow water fishing industry. In 2000, Maverick introduced the HPX series of Mirage skiffs. These new hulls, floated shallower, rode drier, and were dead quiet. The HPX-Tunnel introduced stealth with the ability to float shallow, run in water once through too shallow for anything but a jon boat, zero hull slap. The 17 HPX-V allowed for anglers to take advantage of shallower draft while still providing a dry smooth ride in the rough and of coarse, zero hull slap. The 15 HPX-V, HPX-Micro, and 18 HPX-V later joined the line of Mirage line of skiffs and continue to raise the bar. I got to fish all 4 models in the last 5 days.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Tunnel
Desitnation: Titusville, FL
My buddy Will invited me to spend a day fishing on his HPX-Tunnel up in Titusville so I took advantage of the situation and got to get out on the water with him for a few hours before I had to head back down to pick up my skiff at Maverick Boat Co. and head back home. We met up at dawn and got an early start, making our way through the shallows to get to our destination. The Mirage tunnel skiff handled the Lagoon chop fairly well and got us into some real shallow water where we would start our search. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds so we waited for the water to warm up, blind casting some shorelines in the meanwhile. Blind casting was not too fruitful so we made our way to the flats a little early to wait out the tailers. Once the sun broke through the clouds, the water warmed up, and the light revealed to us a couple of big red tails flags waving in the distance. With 9wt in hand, I tied on a simple modified redfish slider and had a few refusals before coming tight to a few smaller redfish. The day then revealed to us something different. Big grey tails began popping up and the through of being cold and throwing at reluctant oversized redfish had left my mind in a hurry. Being from South FL, we don’t get many opportunities to fish tailing black drum. We approached the first of many and this fish ate my redfish slider. After landing that big drum, we caught several more on a variety of flies ranging from a black merkin crab to black rattle shrimp flies. These drum aggresively attacked the rattle shrimp. It was pretty amazing. My buddy Will is fairly new to the fly game and managed to catch his first and second black drum on fly. Screams and high fives defined the degree to Will’s new fly fishing addiction. Time ran out and we left the fish tailing for the next group of dedicated anglers to find. This was definitely a cool experience neither of us will ever forget. I then headed home and made a stop at Maverick Boat Co. to bring my skiff back home after a minor nip/tuck.
Day 2 & 3
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 18 HPX-V
Desination: Key Largo and Florida Bay
My buddy Jeremy picked up a new 18 HPX-V with a Yamaha F115 last weekend so we spent the next couple of days tweaking the boat, testing it under real life conditions, and trying to get this boat dialed in properly. Unfortunately, the TRO model prop we have on this motor is not the right prop for the job so we are still waiting on different props to test out. Rest assured, several props are on their way and this boat will be dialed in. We will have more technical info for this setup shortly. Our first day on the water was rained out so we just took the boat out to run around Blackwater sound in Key Largo to make sure everything was in top order. The weather finally gave us a break the next day and we were able to take the 18 HPX out that afternoon for her maiden fishing voyage. We started out fishing East of Flamingo and had a few shots at some very big redfish that were reluctant to eat any of our offerings. From here, we boogeyd out to the oceanside of the Keys and paid a visit to one of flats where bonefish have taken residence. Jeremy managed to hook his first bonefish but the fish ran away from the boat first filling the air with the sound of the screaming drag. Then the bonefish turned and screamed towards the boat. My buddy reeled as fast as he could but could not keep up as the fish ran under the boat and spit the hook. The wind had picked up and the clouds rolled in so we headed back in staying bone dry and comfortable as we ran through a 2ft chop. Earlier in the day, while poling around in some real skinny stuff, I was amazed again to see how this boat performs on the pushpole. The 18 HPX drafted significantly shallow as we poled through some real skinny water. To put things into perspective, the only part of the push pole submerged in the water was the foot. It had to be no deeper then 8 inches and the 18 HPX was not even touching the bottom. When we had hit a hump no deeper then 6 inches, the 18 HPX was a breeze to push off it. The effort to push this boat was no more then pushing my 17 HPX-V with F90 but the stability when poling around in rough water and heavy winds was second to none. This is truley a remarkable poling skiff with an amazing hull. I will likely find myself in one in the near future.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Micro
My buddy Jason also picked up a new Maverick Mirage this last week. For the type of shallow water fishing he plans to do and the long range runs out west, Jason opted for the HPX-Micro. With the inevitable implementation of the pole and troll zones that are to be enfored at Flamingo in the near future, the ability to run in shallow water will not as big of a factor as the ability to pole easily for longer distances, float shallower, and be a ble to take to handle running in a slight chop. The HPX-Micro fits this bill perfectly. The skiff floats in extremely shallow water. We poled around in water with the tips of grass protruding from the surface and slid along with ease as we poled for great lengths chasing down big schools of redfish pushing across the flats. The ability to be able to pole fast and set up on these fish is vital to success. Jason and I managed to feed countless numbers of redfish on a variety of lures and flies. I must admit, even having caught plenty of redfish on fly in my past, there is still nothing cooler then watching a big school of redfish dogpile on top of each other to try to eat a topwater plug. After being taken in by the cool ad I’d seen in a fishing magazine, I bought one of Bomber’s new Badonkadonk ( I also liked the name) topwater plugs and fed it to a bunch of redfish today. The fishing this day was spectacular as we plucked doubles off of each of the different schools of fish. Not only were there large numbers of fish in each school, but we encountered at least a dozen different schools of redfish up in the real skinny stuff. With the water continuing to warm the sight fishing opportunities on the flats is returning to the way it should be. Fishing can only get better from here. On the way back to the ramp, the wind had kicked up pretty bad but the Micro took to the chop surprisingly well and we stayed dry. The only thing I would change on the Micro is the engine HP rating. I would love to see a F60 or F70 on the rear of this boat. The F40 performed nicely and fuel economy is second to none, but the ability to scoot around faster would be nice. I must say though that even with an F40, the Micro was able to jump on plane in less then a boat’s length and with very little squat once tabs were applied. I also got to test one of Carbon Marine/Loop’s new push poles. These poles are amazingly stiff and light weight. I did not find a problem at all poling it in both shallow or deep water. The Carbon Marine Loop push poles are pretty impressive and priced unbeleivably cheaper then the Stiffy poles. After having used the Loop push pole, I highly recommend one for the absolute best value per performance.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 17 HPX-V
Location: Key West and The Marquesas
During my 5th and final day on the water, I decided to take my own 17 HPX-V out to fish as south as I can go. Jeremy, David McCleaf, and I headed down to Key West to throw crabs and flies at Permit. Jeremy had never caught nor had a shot at a permit before but this day we produced many shots. Our first few shots came off a strip bank where there we had shots at 3 big fish. One cast was dead on but the fish spooked and didn’t eat (welcome to permit fishing). Towards the end of the day, we decided to make the journey across Boca Grande channel and look for some permit over at the Marquesas. We had 5 more solid shots at the end of the day and Jeremy ended up hooking his first permit. The fish ran under the boat during the fight and somehow ended up breaking off. This was a heart breaker but we were very content with the amount of shots we had and the fish we hooked. The day was growing late and the wind was steadily picking up so we decided to head back. Running back was no walk in the park. We made our way across Boca Grande channel again but the wind and current had sped up this time creating a consistant 3ft chop with a 4 to 5 footer mixed in here and there. I had the skiff airborne several times but she felt solid running across the chop and brought us home dry, humbled, and in one peice. Boca Grande channel is a definitely a force to be reckoned with but having the right skiff for the crossing is a must. Once Jeremy gets his GPS installed, we are going to try taking the 18 across to the Marquesas. This time, I can perhaps hopefully capitalize on my first permit on fly.
Spring is finally here and I am absolutely THRILLED about the warmer weather and good fishing to come. Stay tuned… the next journey has just begun!!