It was an interesting summer to say the least……Tarpon season, in which we fly fisherman look so forward to each year was one of the hardest seasons I can remember. We were plagued with bad weather, bad luck, dirty water and mechanical skiff issues all season long. The only thing we had going for us was the fact that if we did make it out to the beach, we were stabbing poons on every outing!! This said, makes it even more frustrating, for that we have full confidence that we will put metal to their mouthes but just cannot get out to do so… Being weekend warriors, we missed full months at a time due to negative weather conditions. Yet, there were a handfull of beautiful days that allowed us to put a few bugs in the faces of some giant poon!
And then something happens that totally throws your tarpon season into high gear….A trip to the Everglades National Park (ENP)..Hooking 8 Big Tarpon by 10AM on fly will allow you to quickly forget about the bad days you previously had!!! Long-time, good friend Capt. Jesse Lavender and I were to make a poon day in the glades and that we did. Not the highlight of the day, but a great story…”Jess – there is a big girl laid up, eleven o’clock, 60 ft…” “Ok, got it”… Cast..strip, Lady fish eats fly…tarpon then destroys hooked lady fish on top and off she goes! Fish ended up throwing the hook (Or lady fish, I should say but nonetheless just another aspect to an epic day fly fishing for tarpon in the glades. I hear they are still around in some parts of the glades…Look for a post poon season report in the upcomming weeks….
Tis the season where snook should also be crashing bait around spill-ways and sandbars up and along the Rivers of SWFL….It has been a really, really slow start in that regard. I have had days where we can land North of double-digits in regards to quantity, but I have yet to see a snook over 35″ be landed…and our summer is running out.. This was an everyday occurance last year…Here are a few photos from the iphone of snook season “so far” from the SWFL Rivers. Stay tuned – this will get good.
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.
This Friday the 13th I got out this morning with my buddy Hank for a little sweet water fishing. Though I live near plenty of fresh water ponds full of bass and bluegill, I find myself drawn to the saltwater when I go wet a line. Today was the day however I took Hank’s invite to do some fresh water fly fishing.
Hank in is trolling motored canoe and me in SUP. We were launching our craft way up the river at Ray’s canoe hideaway. A quaint little establishment tucked away in a corner of what you can almost say, old Florida.
Photo note: All photos shot on the Nikon AW100 point and shoot.
Ray’s place consist of a rustic building draped in old Christmas lights and inside full of canoe rental gear. A couple picnic tables and the ramp was pretty much it.
The launch fee was $6.00. A steal considering you have someone to watch you truck while you were gone and all. Not that it’s a problem but you never know these days.
The launch was carpeted as to not scratch the boat with a nice gradual slope.
The yellow popping bug was pretty much what we used on our 5wt the entire time.
My first fish of the day 5minutes after I launch was this little snook on the popper. I gotta say on a 5wt it was an awesome fight!
Hank with one of his many blue gills.
My two other species, the bluegill and the large mouth bass.
We packed it in about noon time to grab some lunch. I had a blast and will definitely do this laid back fishing more often. Besides if it’s too windy fresh water is always a good place to hide.
Nothing like a buddy with a motor for the easy ride home…
Last week I was out of town for a few days attending DOA writer’s event at River Palm cottages. The writer’s event is a once a year event put on by DOA lures to help network with writers and manufacturer involved with the company through out the years. It is an invite only event with only about 20-30 people get to attend each year in the summer time.
Essentially it is a very laid back atmosphere where the writers/photographers/manufactures mingle, eat, drink and fish for two days. I find this a lot more fun than attending the shows since everyone is not “on guard”.
Amongst the sponsors this year was Johnson outdoors(Minnkota, Canon down riggers, Humminbird), Hobie Kayaks, Plano, Seagar, Costa Del Mar, Shimano and of course River Palm Cottages. I got to talk to many of the manufacture about up and coming products as well as test out some of the new gear on the verge of being release this year.(more on this later)
The weather we had for the 2 day event was very stormy and cloudy for the most part. One minute it would be fine then 15minutes later a rain shower would come down on us. The mornings usually was calm and predictable and as the day goes by the storm clouds would build up and it starts to pour down. The weather made for some interesting fishing indeed.
The first day on my boat was local guide, Captain Greg Snyder and Blair Wiggins the host of the TV show Addictive Fishing. These guys are excellent fisherman and a blast to hang out with. They are good friends and you can definitely tell.
Greg was running his 22′ Action craft Costal bay and wanted to go for snook early in the morning, hit the tarpon then go after permit. The snook at first light started off a bit slow but they got going good. The lure of choice that day was the Clear with silver specks DOA 1/4oz shrimp. We had several break offs on the 40lb leader and manage to land a few, the largest being about 10lbs.
Next we moved on to the tarpon which rolling right off the beach. Casting shrimp, terror eyes and bait busters we did not get an eat on our boat. The boat next to us did get an eat on a DOA cal jerk bait. The fish was hooked on 15lb braid and took quite a long time to land. Since the boat was with the event I snapped some shots before leaving to look for permit.
Now when Greg told me he has been catching permit on DOA terror eyes I shook my head but deep down inside I sorta, well, kinda didn’t really thought it was a consistent thing. With the overcast skies seeing the permit flashing was next to impossible. We drove around for a while catching random bonito, blue runners and such. Around 2 pm the cloud started to clear for us and could see large flashes in the distance. Up on further inspecting these were large 20-30lb Jacks which we did not want any part of.
Just as we were about to move, a pod of permit swam up to the back of boat. Everyone started casting the brown terror eyes(304 Rootbeer/Gold Glitter). I can remember thinking, “I wished we had some crabs..” then Greg hooks up. Then I was thinking “Jack?” but it wasn’t moving fast. Greg brings in a nice permit and was then a believer. I put down the camera and started to cast along with Blair. The Blair hooks up and lands his. After some photos I then hooked up one. Unfortunately mine got wrapped around the wreck/structure and broke me off.
At this point the bite slowed and the storms started to rolled and so we decided to called the trip and head back to River Palms to join everyone for dinner. The next 2 days was filled with over cast skies and intermittent thunder storms. This was definitely not fun for taking good photos.
This change in the weather slowed the fishing down for us while fishing with with Mark Nichols of DOA and Hobie Kayak guys. There were fish caught but not of the size we were looking for. Darn mother nature turned the switch on us and it just did not happen for us that day. It was however, quite an adventure that day dodging storms. I also got some great video of Mark’s 15 year boat filled with all kinds of useful and funny contraptions he conjured up.
Quick video of How to work a DOA Terror Eyz for permit. If you look carefully I’m using the new 2012 Shimano Stradic FJ and the new Shimano $49.00 price point spinning rod. (for the price it’s excellent!)
January 2010 in Florida the temperature got near or bellow freezing for 10 days. This created a fish kill for our tropical species of fish the likes of which I have never witness. The result was the closure of snooks. The West coast of Florida remains closed but the East coast is now open to normal harvest regulations.
Thankfully we did not get another severe winter this year. Winter is almost over and things are looking better and better as time goes by.
This was shot with a gopro at a marina down in Miami during the cold spell. The water is crystal clear because it was so cold all the algae in the water died. You can see pods of stun snook and a bone fish clinging on.
note: Go pro underwater focus issues. Due to the curve underwater(over the lens) housing of the gopro when you take videos with it underwater it tends to focus on the lens and not what you are pointing at. I understand they are coming out with a fix for this very soon.
If you can’t wait, eye of mine currently has a modified housing for better underwater footage using the go pro. They run $79-$99.
This was NOT shot with the corrective lens.
DT Special and Supreme Bendback
Schminnow, BSF (Borski Shrimp Fly/ Big Snook Fly), Backcountry Baitfish
And the Chartreuse Toad
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.
Yesterday Cameron, Rachelle and I had plans to get out to do some fishing and if we get lucky get a shot for the 2011 Saltyshores Calendar. As luck may have it, this cold front came rolling in and it dropped some nice degrees over night. It was cold, windy and overcast skies. Regardless, plans were made, we were going. We loaded the Kayak on to my dusted off yesterday Ranger Skiff and we made the run to our fishing grounds.
We waited until it got light enough and the mullet to get active showing us the pot holes. I didn’t bring much tackle since this was Cameron’s fishing hole and I wanted to fish what he was fishing. He brought two rod and the only thing he had tied on was Slayer Jig heads and the Mirrolure Lil John. He tells me he has been killing the fish on these things in the last few weeks.
Even though I have had a few packs of Lil John I never fished yet. I asked why he liked them and he tells me he likes the action and how tough they are. The scent they have whether it really works or not gives the angler a little more confidence as well. Confidence that’s the one thing I’ve noticed about most of the good anglers I’ve fished with. These guys believe they can catch fish until we get back to the ramp. So I have to believe one of the key trait in being a good angler no matter what level is being confident.
Once we stopped that day, the boat did not move. We caught probably 15 reds, 26″ snook, sheepshead and a 23″ trout. Every single fish was caught on the Mirrolure Lil’ John. Cameron had the Lil John on the Red Slayer 1/4 oz jig head and I had mine on the 1/16th oz chartreuse DOA jig head.
By lunch time we had gotten our Calendar shot, caught tons of fish, we were done. I suggested we head back because Rachelle was freezing cold. Cameron begrudgingly agreed as the fish was still chewing pretty good and we were leaving them biting. We called it a day, a really good day.
Photo note: as you can see from the background, it was pretty over cast so the lighting was not the greatest. The external flash was used to light things up for many of the shots, if not everything would look gray. I used the Nikon Sb600 flash which sells for $200 at Amazon. The built in flash just isn’t versatile nor powerful enough. The external flash is probably the one best investment you could make to take better photos, after all photography is all about the lighting.
The Everglades is part of what I consider my local waters. The usual shallow water suspects sought after during chillier days are redfish and snook (yes snook). The temperatures are starting to stabilize with highs in the 80s during the day and lows into the 60s in the evening and wee hours of morning. Though I did not miss the massive cold temperatures of this past winter, I did miss the occassional warmer winter days and slightly chilly morning run through buttonwood canal. The backcountry of Flamingo becomes a real special place after extreme warmth of summer passes. Whether planning on coralling wads of finger mullet and pilchards into your baitwell or simply tying on your favorite lure or fly, the Everglades will fail to dissapoint the bait soaker or sight fisherman in us. Once you are exiting out of Buttonwood canal you enter natures realm of big fish eat small fish, starting from Coot Bay, into Whitewater Bay, Oyster Bay, Shark River, and the entire gulf coast outside of there. The incredible fishing is only bested by the vast unspoiled wildlife that surrounds you. Now that the mullet are here, porpoises, tarpon, and other big predators are having their fill devouring massive quantities of these half-brained delicacies. It’s pretty cool watching a redfish chase down and flare it’s gills at a small mullet imitation fly or soft plastic, but feeling a helpless baitfish at the end of your line struggling as a big redfish or snook closes in, is pretty exciting in it’s own aspect.
Rod: G Loomis NRX 9 foot, 9 Weight Fly Rod
Reel: Nautilus NV G8 Fly Reel
The latest and greatest from G Loomis has finally dropped in stores and I was one of the fortunate ones who got to take one out for a test spin. We put the new G Loomis NRX 9 foot, 9wt Flyrod to the test on some bonefish flats in the upper Keys this past weekend. Brewing storms around us made for a little bit of wind in the AM but it eventually slicked off through the day so we got to test the 9wt NRX out in the whole gammut of conditions. We arrived at our destination to be greeted by my favorite silvery frustration… cracked out bonefish. The fish seemed tense and moving at an erratic pace. I had to extend the leader to 20ft after the wind laid down and the NRX still had no problem turning over a weighted bonefish fly. I had a number of good shots in the next few hours and I ended up hooking 6 fish but losing 5 fish before landing one for a hero shot. Once the winds pick up and skies are clear, I can’t wait to fish this rod in Downtown Islamorada for monster bonefish.
When the winds kicked up in the AM, the NRX had no problem shooting right into it. The rod has plenty of reserve and I never once felt like the wind was going to over take the rod. While casting, both in the wind and not, you could feel where the line was at all times. Being resilient to a “muscle’d cast”, I was able to correct my loop mid cast when the fish or the wind would change directions and lay the line out where it needed to go. When needed, it took little effort to pick up the line from 50 feet out and punch it back out without having to make another false cast. The butt and mid section felt a bit stiff but not so stiff as to lose line feel. The softer tip makes up for the stiff backbone though and allows for shorter casts. The NRX also balances better with a lighter weight reel. The Nautilus NV G8 perfectly balanced out the 9wt NRX. Natuilus is one of the only reel companies building lighter weight reels that are still structurally solid to accomodate the lighter weight rods on the market today. Since, I am a firm beleiver in using clear fly lines for summer time bonefishing, I was using a Monic Clear Tropical taper, which has a longer belly and though it was great for longer casts, it took a little more manipulation for those shorter casts. When I switched out to a Monic Phantom Tip line which has fatter head and more aggressive taper, the shorter casts were easier, while it still held line in the air and shot out long casts extremely well. I would say that the best line to use on the 9wt NRX would be something between a redfish and bonefish taper as it compliments the rod’s strength extremely well. I wouldn’t go as far as over-lining the rod though as it doesn’t need to go to that extreme. I was amazed though that the line feel was still excellent even with lighter bonefish tapers. Another plus to the NRX was that even though it had the REC Recoil stripper guides, they were not noisy at all, like those on the Crosscurrents. The sensitivity of the rod is unreal as I felt every bonefish that bit the fly (I rarely felt that bite in the past when I fished other rods). At one point, I retied a lighter fly, stepped back on the casting platform and watched a group of big tailers pop out of the deep water right in front of the boat and tail 20ft in front of the skiff. I made a quick roll cast and laid the fly admist the tails. As the fly settled on the bottom I not only watched, but could also feel the bonefish pinning the fly down into the grass and knaw on it like a rabid pitbull to a chew toy. This is what makes the NRX what it is… is the sensitivity it possess while still retaining lots of backbone when you need to put the heat to a fish charging for cover. I didn end up breaking off that big fish though as one of my blood knots slipped as I was clearing line. This 9wt NRX is what I will claim to be the best all around Flyrod for fishing in South FL. If you are chasing small tarpon, redfish, bonefish, permit, and smaller pelagics, this 9wt is a must have.
The 7wt, 8wt, 9wt, 11wt, and 12wt NRX Flyrods are currently available at The Flyshop of Miami to test so if you are in South Florida and am curious to see what these rods feel like, go see Dave or Jorge at the fly shop and check them out.
I might be working on a little video clip soon so stay tuned!!