South Carolina, commonly known to us sportsman as the “lowcountry”; is a part of the world rich in history, good food, great fishing, and that good ole’ southern hospitality of the true south. I had an opportunity to make my first visit to the lowcountry this early Fall. This was a great opportunity to live all the great things I had always read and heard about via old writings, bayside discussions, and social media. I spent a couple days in Beaufort and then in Charleston, taking part in some flood tide and lowtide fishing, cast and blasting, and without a doubt the best southern food this foodie has ever tasted.
The floodtide was a completely new experience itself. I witnessed the giant tides flush into the spartina marsh and fill in the once dry fields of spartina grass teaming with fiddler crabs and snails.
As the water rose, redfish began to snake their way into the grass, subtlety pushing over blades of grass like ninjas, sneaking into clearings and tailing on fiddler crabs.
And as the tide rose up and covered up the tails of redfish, it marked time to stow away the fly rods and replace it with a shotgun in hand. Shooting birds out of a flats skiff was a definite first and definitely won’t be the last. Rather then be stealthy, the name to this game is to make your presence known, flushing marsh hens (clapper rails for those curious about what they actually are) out of the grass, allowing us to take the shot. This is a practice rich in history to itself.
The cast and blast experience in the lowcountry was greatly complimented with some of the most beautiful coastal scenes I had ever witnessed.
Special thanks to my hosts for making my first visit really special:
Capt. Owen Plair (http://www.redfishbeaufort.com/)
Will Abbot (http://www.floodtideco.com/)
Andy and Connie Villacres
Len and Jeannie Villacres
Tarpon Tested Gear Review: Echo Prime 11wt Fly Rod, Nautilus NV G10 Fly Reel, Cortland Tropic Plus Fly Line
Technologies in Tarpon fishing have come a long way as demands in this fishery have changed since the days of the old Great Equalizer. Tarpon are without a doubt becoming more and more demanding of that perfect presentation. So there comes the give and take compromise between a fly rod labelled as a casting stick or a fish fighting stick. Finding that happy medium between the two is what makes a tarpon stick the best one in your hands. It is true that in most cases it is the indian, not the arrow, but it helps if the bow and arrow are fine tuned to make it easier for the indian to shoot/cast it into the wind, into a side wind, or lay down a presentation soft down wind.
Most tarpon fisherman I know who chase these fish with a fly rod prefer a 1 piece rod. There are many choices on the Market today offered from companies such as G Loomis (2 models), Echo, Hardy, Clutch, Orvis, and Biscayne Rod. There isn’t a best 11wt or 12wt rod, but rather one that fits you best. Choosing the right one for you means going out and casting each one before deciding on which one works for you. I am not on any pro-staff for either one of the aforementioned companies but I do fish rods in different weights from these companies mentioned. The opinions of this reviewer are completely unbiased.
Today I review one of the new comers to the 1pc market; the Echo Prime 11wt. The Prime is the least expensive off all the 1pc fly rods but don’t let the price tag or lack of brand exposure fool you. This 11wt is truly an awesome tarpon stick. It is the second best casting 1pc 11wt I have fished thus far. While not as fast as the Hardy Pro-Axis 1pc or G Loomis NRX Pro-1; the Echo Prime 11wt is fast enough to punch through all but the extremely windy days. It’s got a softer tip, which actually allows it to load fast for quick casts when fishing in the mud and fish float up unexpectedly. One remarkable thing about the 11 Prime is how smooth it casts and how tight the loops you can form with it with minimal effort. Weight and swing weight-wise, the Echo Prime feels very comparable to the Crosscurrent Pro-1, perhaps a tad bit lighter. The action on this rod is comparable to the older Sage RPLX-i. When the steel sinks into meat and a tarpon is attached, that is where this rod out-shines most. It is virtually indestructible, even at high stick angles. Another good remark I’d like to mention on this rod is the use of ceramic guides for the stripper guides, but one thing I’d like to see changed are the cheap clunky oversized snake guides. I feel the Echo Prime lineup of rods could benefit from lighter better quality snake guides. I’d gladly pay another $60 for this rod with that.
Because the Prime has a slightly slower tip then the faster Hardy 11 Pro-Axis 1pc that I am all very familiar with, I went ahead and paired it up with the lightest 5″ fly reel on the market. This would be the Nautilus NV G10. Pairing up with a lighter reel with any rod gives it a faster perceived feel. I’d wouldn’t even be afraid to go as far as dropping down to a NV11/12 or CCFx2 1012 to give this rod a faster feel. Yet, I’m a fan of chasing a tarpon down basically on plane so a 5″ reel is what I prefer on all my tarpon rods. The Nautilus NV Monster G10 sits on a NV Monster frame but has a larger diameter spool, reducing the need for excessive backing. I was able to fit 100yards of gel spun with 150 yards of 30lb dacron with an 11wt Cortland fly line. Without line and backing, the G10 weighs in at 9.9oz, making it truly the lightest fly reel in it’s class. The drag on the G10, as with all the NV lineup is completely sealed from the elements and uses carbon fiber and cork disks to apply the brakes. Most important to a tarpon reel, the drag is smooth and an absolute zero startup inertia. I have fished straight 60lb butt section to a fly and pulled on some very big tarpon with drag cranked down on the Nautilus NV Monster and it has proved more then strong enough to handle the extreme pressures. Obviously, this isn’t common practice in tarpon fishing, but I just wanted to see how the reel would hold up. Strength, light weight, and good looks; I would go on to say the Nautilus NV Monster and NV G1o are my preferred go to tarpon reels.
My fly line of choice with the Echo 11 Prime and Nautilus NV-G10 setup was the Cortland Saltwater and Cortland Tropic Plus Saltwater and Tropic Plus 9′ Intermediate tip lines. Unlike most other popular saltwater lines on the market that are oversized in grain weight, these Cortland Tropic Plus lines are true to grain weight and feature a 7-27-7 WF taper. It is not necessary to fish an extremely long leader with the Cortland lines. The Cortland Tropic Plus has a soft enough presentation so that longer leaders are not necessary (The purpose of longer leaders is to allow the fly to lay down a softer presentation). On the calmest of days, I am fishing a 14ft leader maximum but have been able to get away with a 10ft to 11ft leader on windier days. The Tropic Plus 9′ intermediate tip really allows for great control on your presentations to fickle FL Keys oceanside tarpon when the chop is up and current is strong.
Those with a more aggressive casting stroke who have a heavy push may prefer a rod like the G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 but this Echo/Nautilus/Cortland setup would definitely be preferable for those who enjoy casting a rod with a softer tip, and those who can throw tighter loops without having to push hard. Enjoy your time on the water and may you all have a great remainder of the Tarpon Season.
I get a lot of people that ask me “what do you like to do when your not guiding?”. Most people think that since I am a full time fishing guide, the last thing I want to do is fish.
For some guides/captains yes, but for me and a handful of others, all we can think about is going fishing on our days off. It’s a great way for us to get in on the action on the pointy end of the boat. It’s also a great way to stay on top of the fish and know how they are acting for upcoming charters.
I made a short video of a day off with fellow Mosquito Lagoon guide Capt. Billy Rotne….enjoy!
– Capt. Willy Le
The summer heat isn’t the only cause for anglers perspiring at the thought of our National Parks right now. The recent National Park closures have sparked some heat among us fisherman who really enjoy this great resource we have in South FL. Times like these leave me reflecting on the great memories raising Hell in the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks this past summer. Law Enforcement is now patrolling the boundary line entering the ENP from the Keys but I can’t help but feel tempted to cross over and pole some of my favorite flats until the blue lights chase us.
Fall is approaching now as we are adorned by NE winds following the last few storms of the year. As the season takes a shift, so does our fishery. The park closures have kept man out of the glades and there is no telling what we will find when the gates open up once more. I, for one am anxious to get back to my slices of heaven… Everglades and Biscayne National Park.
The Mosquito Lagoon water level has been low the past couple of weeks and the clarity has been really bad possibly from a brown algae bloom due to high nutrients in the water. That doesn’t mean that the fishing is bad though, it means that you just have to look harder.
Every Summer the Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River and Banana River goes through the same pattern, some years worst than others. I actually prefer to fish in dirty water rather than crystal clear, you don’t see as many fish, but when you do you can get pretty close to make multiple casts until it eats or spooks. I like to use very flashy flies and lures, especially ones with gold flash which reflects more light and you pretty much have to present the fly/lure right in the fishes mouths.
In the cleaner waters which is in the Indian and Banana Rivers right now, there are an abundance of glass minnows and mullet on the flats. Topwater lures have been working great like the MirrOLure Top Dog, Top Dog Jr. and She Pup series. On really calm mornings, I like to use something less noisy so I’ll tie on a D.O.A. Shallow Runner Baitbuster and do a steady retrieve on the surface letting the tail vibrate to top. Redfish, Trout, Snook and Tarpon love that!
These past couple of weeks, I’ve been leaving the Mosquito Lagoon Redfish alone and focusing on Tarpon in the backcountry waters of the Space Coast. Summer time is when they typically show up and most of my clients prefer to target them on fly. I get a lot of clients that are really good fly anglers up North in the small stream but when they come down here, it’s difficult for them to adapt to the style of saltwater fly fishing. I encourage all anglers that want to fly fish in Florida to learn how to double haul your line. That will increase the speed of your cast, the distance, and be able to cast in windy conditions which will increase the chances of catching the targeted species big time.
Andres from Brazil was having a tough time sending the fly out far enough to where the Tarpon were at. Tarpon here keep just enough distance from the boat to barely reach them with a flyrod. After trying for a couple hours with no luck reaching the fish, I set him up with a spin rod and a D.O.A. Baitbuster which he was glad to try. A couple casts to rolling fish, and Tarpon were in the air after that.
Andres also caught a few snook with the fly rod while blind casting against the shorelines.
Matt from South Florida brought his brother Ryan along to introduce him to the world of inshore sight fishing. After he got used to seeing what to look for and casting in the right spot, he started catching them and now he is hooked. Here’s Matt showing his brother how it’s done.
..and here is brother Ryan with his first sight casted Redfish. All fish caught using D.O.A. Shadtails.
Reid and his dad Rudy come up to fish the Lagoon with me at least once a year, they don’t have much sight fishing down in the Palm Beach area so they come up to enjoy some father and son time. Always a pleasure having them aboard and listening to them bust each others balls!
Luke was on a family vacation to Ormond Beach and wanted to scratch a Redfish on fly off of his bucket list. He did just that and caught a few more on top of it on a half day. I’d say that’s pretty good for not having much experience sight fishing for Redfish!
Stuart from North Carolina was pretty excited to catch his first tailing Redfish this day in the Indian River lagoon using a D.O.A. Shadtail.
On June 13th, I was invited to fish a fly only Invitational Tarpon tournament in the Brevard County area. The 2nd annual “Chase for the Chalice” is all for charity and Tarpon research. All of the money went to a German Shepherd rescue of Central Florida and all the tarpon caught and released needed to be swabbed for DNA for research. It was all great times with a great group of anglers and guides for a good cause. My good buddy Honson Lau from Miami came up to fish with me in this event. We ended up getting 1st place with our names on the Chalice that will be showcased at Harry Goodes Outdoor Shop in Melbourne, FL.
Right now from what I’ve been witnessing on the water lately, anglers will have a very good chance at chasing a Grand Slam on fly this Summer. That’s catching a Redfish, Sea Trout, Snook and Tarpon all in the same day which is a great accomplishment!
-Capt. Willy Le
If you can find a day that’s not windy or storming to get out and fish the Indian River or Mosquito Lagoon, then the fishing should be pretty good. Schools of redfish are still around and with the water temps warming up a bit, more singles should scatter the flats which I prefer to fish rather than large schools.
Lots of big sea trout are still lurking the sandy areas and have been taking well presented artificials and flies really well. I’ve been impressed with the numbers of big sea trout that I’ve seen this year.
Don Thomas – a well respected author, outdoor journalist, and photographer from Montana is a doing a piece on the Mosquito Lagoon for a couple fly fishing magazines. Here he displays a smaller fish that beat about 5 bigger fish to the fly, it was crazy watching them fight over it. His wife Lori took some great shots this day. To learn more about Don visit his site: www.donthomasbooks.com
…and something a little creative using Alissa’s eyes as the main subject.
-Capt. Willy Le
Now is the time to target schools of fish in all three lagoons, Mosquito, Indian, and Banana. With lower water levels, the fish will leave the shallow backwaters and all be concentrated around flats with deeper water nearby. Redfish, Black Drum, and even schools of Sea Trout can be found on healthy grass flats that hold bait fish and crustaceans.
With Spring around the corner, Redfish and Trout will be concentrated on bait fish so it’ll soon be time to break out the surface flies and topwater lures to see some explosive action.
John Kelly from Palm Beach, FL. comes up frequently to take advantage of Mosquito Lagoons excellent sight fishing opportunities. He proudly holds up a nice Redfish that he caught out of a pod of tailers using his 7wt fly rod.
Brett Reed from Chicago came down to target Redfish on fly but the winds were blowing pretty good that day so we decided to change plans and hit the backcountry creeks for Snook and Tarpon. Even though the tarpon were rolling all around us, Brett only managed a few to eat but none came to the boat…that’s tarpon fishing for ya. He did get a few small snook on fly.
Kershel Barfield from Stuart, FL. came up to fish the Mosquito Lagoon for his first time. We got into some large schools of Redfish this day which Kershel has never seen so many grouped up like that before. Well placed D.O.A. Shadtails did the trick on these fish.
BJ and Scott joined me on the Mosquito Lagoon for their annual fishing outing. Wind was cranking a bit but that didn’t keep them from catching fish. Golden Bream D.O.A. Shadtail was the hot lure this day.
A great day for Kevney Dugan from Bend, Oregon. He got his first Redfish on fly this day and witnessed Mosquito lagoon at it’s finest. The water was slick calm and we saw schools of Redfish pushing and tailing from a mile away. Kevney’s good casting ability landed him some nice fish.
I recently had a free day to get out and do some fishing for myself. I called up fellow Mosquito Lagoon guide Capt. Billy Rotne to do some exploring for bigger fish. We did some running around and found some good schools of fish ranging from 12-30lbs. Although I love watching other people catch fish while I’m on the poling platform, sometimes I gotta feel the tug for myself.
Capt. Willy Le
I hear a strong winter storm approaches our buddies in the NE this weekend and I reflect on how fortunate we are here in South Florida this time of year.
The classic sight fishing scenario in my home waters on the clearer side of the Everglades has been nothing short of epic this year. From fat redfish floating on the surface like a laid up poon to hoards of sheepshead tailing like a school of small permit (just as skittish and at times even tougher to catch on fly). Of coarse, all this fishing helps pass the time between poon season but is lots of fun nonetheless. It makes for a great opportunity to sharpen your skills using clear fly lines, turning over longer leaders, sneaking heavier flies into zones with skittish fish, and of coarse helping to calm your nerves before the day you are confronted with a more difficult or rewarding challenge.
So to my buddies in the NE, I leave you all with some fish porn and wish you all safe passage through this nasty winter storm. Stay tuned… there is far more to come shortly.