Here’s a clip of my Redfish to add to Honsons write up while he was up here visiting the Mosquito Lagoon…
As we commute down the Florida Keys, we look towards the Atlantic and see the sight of many poling skiffs lined up along the flats edges and bay boats floating bobbers down the many channels that run perpendicular to them. Those lucky enough can catch the spectacle of a tarpon jumping at the end of an angler’s line. It is no secret, tarpon season is in full swing. I’ve spent time in both the Upper and Lower Keys and had a chance to see some really cool stuff chucking flies at Tarpon. We fly fished for tarpon as we do each year in every different way or form. We’ve already had some big days on the water this year with a seemingly unlimited amount of shots some days and even a double digit number of hook-ups a day. Heck, we even filmed a major fishing show that will air in it’s next season. Wait until you see some of the epic shots.
Watching a bait under a cork being pulled under by a freight train, ticking a small fly in front of a string of tarpon on the clear ocean side and pulling a fish away from the school to eat your fly, dropping a fly in front of a big laid up backcountry fish… there is certainly something special about tarpon fishing in all it’s different froms.
We had a few big number days throwing flies at big laid up Tarpon in Florida Bay…
It seemed we have thrown at an unimaginable number of fish stringing along on the ocean side of the Keys…
…and we met with great success on days when the fish decided to chew…
Sometimes staying home is not an option. When you get the hall pass to go fishing, the seas seem to know and decide to kick up a notch to try to scare people away. This is why I decided to buy a bigger boat this year, but one that can still pole with stealthiness and ease, while being able to tackle the demands of running through rough weather and fighting big fish that pull you offshore when winds kick up to 20kts+. My new Maverick Mirage HPX-V 18 has proven to be an AMAZING boat for ocean fishing.
No matter where you are feeding poons, once the steel makes contact with flesh, the majestic gentle giants revert to rage-driven silver missles, leaving traces of fury and anger in a frothing sea…
The infamous palolo worm hatch should happen any day now and it has caused a change in mood for both fish and fisherman. Many tarpon fisherman are trying to rally up their buddies and arrange to call in sick days at the office to drive down to the lower Keys to catch this worm hatch, where fields of tarpon will be sipping these small worms off the surface with the tide sweeping them out from under rock and coral. Many tarpon themselves are reluctant to swim during the day, and hunker down by the bridge to await the meal of worms. What is it about these little worms that turn out Tarpon into crack heads? This still boggles my mind but I’m not complaning as long as I can still tie a red rubber band to a hook and feed it to tarpon thats feinding a worm fix. We found another type of hatch before the worm though and I got to drift around and watch a couple buddies pull on some bridge tarpon.
This is definitely the heart of tarpon season. I beleive the best has yet to come as fish are gearing up for pre and post worm mode as we speak. I think it’s time I got off my laptop now and resume my duties on the water to catch the remainder of my favorite time of year. So until next time….
For those travelling down to the Keys to fish during tarpon season, here are a few restaurants you should consider:
- Key Largo Conch House (Breakfast and Tea or Coffee)
- Lazy Dayz, Islamorada (Dinner)
- El Sibonay, Key West
- Square Grouper, Sugarloaf Key (Must try the seafood stew)
- Ms. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo
- Village Gourmet, Islamorada (Wraps and Croissants)
- Ziggy Mad Dogs, Islamorada (Top Shelf dining)
- Green Turtle Inn, Islamorada
The cold has set in this winter and it is too damn cold. Sight fishing in south Floridahas become very limited and there are few days that can call for epic tarpon or bonefishing so Sam Root, Joe Welborne, Eddie O, Capt. Will Le, and I decided to make a trip out west to the Marsh and experience some of the finer redfishing that exists there. Eddie and I volunteered to tow our skiffs out west so we greased our bearings, did the full trailer inspection, and made ready for our long journey ahead. We made lodging arrangements at Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix. The accomodations were good and made boat storage very convenient. My goal though, was to learn how to navigate and fish in a fishery that is completely new to me, figure out where to find big redfish, and have a fun time doing so. No, I don’t plan on ever guiding there in those waters, but I do plan on making a trip there annually to partake in the world’s best winter fishery. I’m sure as you all may have read from Sam and Willy’s reports, fishing was a bunch of fun.
We arrived after a push of cold weather accompanying very high winds and freezing temperatures washed through the marsh. This made the water was dirty and real cold. We bunched up in many layers of clothing and embarked on a mission into the Marsh. The first day brought hope as we had a bright sun and calm winds. It didn’t take us long to find the elements we had been looking for to locate fish, as we started off catching numerous smaller (7-10lb) redfish on light fly rods, but we were after the famed giant redfish that this marsh was popular for. We ran around for a bit and found where bigger fish would hold but lost out light. We settled for catching a bunch of fish in the 12-15lb range given the limited visibility we had. It is just amazing how aggressive these redfish were… definitely a nice reprieve from what we normally face here in Florida. There was zero light our second day on the water. We could barely see a foot into the water but made the best of it anyways and still ended up catching more 15lb redfish… we doubled, trippled, and quadroupled up on fly. This is truley the most amazing winter fishery in the world. Don’t buy the media hype about the Oil spill.. the marsh is very alive and full of the most aggressive redfish in the world.
We got to sample some of Louisiana’s fine cajun food but I think the best eats we had by far was the Pho at Pho Tau Bay. It took us 2 hours of wandering around lost in New Orleans to finally find this Pho restaurant, but it was well Pho-king worth it. However, the most memorible meal was the one we had before we left. Willy mentioned we should eat at Willy Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans for some fried chicken. Let me tell you, this was the absolute best fried chicken I had ever eaten. There is no surprise that Willy Mae’s was featured on several TV programs on the food network.
This was to be a true test of fishing ability and equipment. The Maverick 18 HPX-V I was running made for a perfect fishing platform in this environment as we ran through the marsh, through shallow mud ponds, and poled quietly big laid up redfish. We also got to test the 9wt G Loomis NRX’s ability to handle big flies and it proved to be quite the amazing rod for both long and short casts. For those in the entry level fly market, we got to test the first TFO 9wt BVK to come off the production line. The new 9wt BVK is a very fast and powerful fly rod and definitely benefits from an aggressive taper and heavier grain fly line such as a Wulff Burmuda Triangle Taper or Airflo Ridge. The 9wt BVK is by far the best 9wt rod that TFO has ever made though. For smaller 10lb class redfish, I got to use my 7wt G Loomis Shorestalker, which was a little light for the big flies we were throwing, but it surprisingly was able to turn over some pretty large flies well. This is a powerful little pistol of a fly rod. We mainly used Nautilus NV and FWX reels on most of the flyrods we fished. These Nautilus reels are truely amazing.
Between the good eats and great fishing, I think it was the camaraderie amongst good company that will never be forgotten. I can’t wait to be back next year.
Capt. Willy Le and I made our way North to the Mosquito Lagoon, the day after the tournament in Vero. A front was threatening to approach us further south so we drove north of the cold front and fished behind it. This would prove to be a good choice as I had a little time to fish before having to head back down to Miami. The cloudy conditions always make it tough to sight fish but we had small 5 minute windows of light that would allow us to capitalize on what shots we had… patterning out the fish, we set ourselves up for quite a few great shots as the sun peaked. The fishing was nothing short of spectacular. We caught 8 redfish out of the 13 we stuck metal to in the 3 hours. This was definitely a lot of fun feeding fish that aggressively attack a well placed fly. We got to test a few new fly patterns I had developed earlier that week and I am happy to report great success and a new fly that has found itself into my back of tricks.
I got to cast and test some new gear this trip so stay tuned for an update for all the fly and spin gear heads out there…
The cool winter weather should send lots of fish up on the shallow mud flats trying to warm themselves in the afternoon sun. At this point in the game, a quiet shallow draft skiff and a good pair of polarized glasses will be vital for sneaking up on these weary fish. Think small flies, small arties, and stealthy presentations… break out the 6wt or 7wt and tie some small weighted and unweighted muddlers.
Happy Holidays… stay tuned…
The time had finally come for my new Maverick 18 HPX-V to revisit it’s home waters where it was made for the first time. Capt. Eric Davis and I teamed up to fish the Maverick Boats/Vero Backcountry Fly Tournament this past weekend in Vero Beach. With high water and limited visibility, it did involve more blind casting then I would have liked to do with a fly rod but when the time was right, we eventually got into the right areas and were able to sight fish for redfish and trout. It wasn’t a big problem finding cruising redfish, but getting the bite was tough (lots of follows and lots of refusals) as I had to go through several different fly patterns to find the right one. And even still… I could develop a more effective one for next time I target these Vero redfish. They are definitely a lot different from the Everglades redfish that I am used to feeding flies to. We ended up going 2 for 2 on redfish (measured a 23″ Red) and 1 for 2 on big seatrout (measured a 23″ trout), for 46 total inches. This was not enough to seal the victory as fellow Maverick Mirage owner Mark Wolaver and his partner edged us out of the top spot. Wolaver measured a nice snook and an even bigger seatrout. Eric and I landed in 2nd place this tournament. Capt. Willy Le and his partner Dominic measured the biggest redfish of the tournament, Wolaver measured the biggest seatrout, and Camp measured the biggest snook. No sheepshead were caught to my knowledge. Congratulations to all the anglers who worked hard and caught some fish for some tournament points. The format of this tournament is fun every year and the challenges faced makes for a better fly fisherman and more stories to be shared around the picnic table. The food and accomodations provided by The Vero Backcountry and Maverick Boats was a top notch family atmosphere. Thanks to all the organizers who make this tournament possible… I look forward to fishing the next one this coming April.
Following the success of their affordable and top quality Feather Weight (FW) series of fly reels, Nautilus Reels has recently released their new FWX series of reels. The new FWX reels offer both upgraded and new features from their predecessor. New features include a redesigned lighter weight frame and housing (with looks very similar to their NVG series), TORQ-X one way clutch for instant drag engagement, Laser ID for marking line identification, a light weight sealed SCF (carbon fiber) drag, and all the other features we all came to love about the FW reels. Sizes range from 3wt sizes to 8wt sizes. Visit your local flyshop to purchase one of these. The FWX 3/4 and 5/6 should have already hit all major local fly shops. The FWX 7/8 should be delivered soon. Stop by and purchase or order yours today. Another added bonus is that Nautilus offers their custom shop, which can anodize the reel in any color combination you choose upon ordering the reel.
Pricing and Line Capacities are as follows:
FWX 3/4: WF3F + 110 yds of 20lb backing. 3.6 oz. $240 (reel)/$105 (spool)
FWX 5/6: WF5F + 150 yds of 20lb backing. 3.8 oz. $250 (reel)/$125 (spool)
FWX 7/8: WF7F + 200 yds of 20lb backing. 4.1 oz. $280 (reel)/$145 (spool)
I will be testing the new FWX 7/8 in the next following weeks on my 7wt setup. This reel should be excellent for bass, redfish, snook, and baby tarpon. I got to pair the 7/8 with a 7wt G Loomis Shorestalker flyrod and the combo felt pretty incredible while tossing it around in the field. These reels are a real bargain!!!
Stay tuned for more updates…
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…
The madness has started and I have far behind on my updates and write-ups. Here is a cool little saga that took place not too long ago…
Capt. Frank, David McCleaf, and I decided to sneak out for a day of fishing one snotty morning before the tarpon madness started. Poons were only at a mere trickle and we had 15-20kt winds through the day and lots of overcast skies that morning. After setting up at our favorite ocean side flat and 20 minutes into sitting, I had 1 poon shot, close. I managed to feed my first ocean side tarpon of the 2010 year that day right under my pushpole from an anchored position. We didnt see another sign of life after catching that fish so we moved on and I opted to pick up my 9wt rod to chase my other favorite denizen of the shallows….bonefish. My 2nd cast of the day was to a single mudding bonefish, resulting in the sweet melodies of a screaming drag and a nice performance by a respectable fish just under weight status. My 3rd cast of the day was to a group of mudding fish, which again was accepted by one of the group of weight class bonefish. 3 fish on 3 consecutives casts on a snotty day… this was a day I will always remember.
Photos courtesy of David McCleaf:
The next days to follow provided us with calm winds and real civilized conditons. The tarpon swam, they swam hard, we fished hard, and have had the most incredible tarpon fishing that I have ever experienced in my life. Stay tuned for the next update…
It is miraculous what one can accomplish when all conditions line up and winds decide to give you a break. I got to experience a day of fishing under a sun lit sky with not a drop of wind this past week. These are days when memories are made, fish are especially alert, and one’s sanity is challenged. Having been blessed with so much potential on such a day, how could one not take advantage of the great resource that surrounds us in the Florida Keys? Arming ourselves with nothing but feathers and fly rods, I pointed the nose of my Maverick Mirage skiff towards a couple of different destinations with a mission in mind. David McCleaf, Jeremy, and I had begun our first journey of the year chasing two of my all time favorite gamefish… The King and the Silver Knight, both clad in shining scaled armor with an appetite that would rival that of the obese kings of medeival time. Needless to say Poons were chewing and bones were plowing on this very day. It was a Guide’s day off basically handed to us on a silver platter. To call this day Epic would be an understatement. Perhaps some photos from this very day could help in animating these words.
Some less then perfect conditions were just around the horizon and I sat at home that evening reminiscing on this perfect day, preparing mentally for what challenges lie ahead. Wind, clouds, big seas, and all of Poseidon’s fury faced us the following days. I did sneak off one of those days… but that will be another story left for a soon but later date.
Photos courtesy of David McCleaf:
Stay tuned guys and gals… there are lots more to come…