Kent Johnson from Montana spends his winters in warmer climates to get away from the frozen lakes and icy streams back at home. This year he is in Florida with his 5th wheel in tow and his wife by his side and they plan to travel the whole state staying in each region for 2 weeks then on to the next. This week he is staying on the outskirts of East Orlando and called me up to target Redfish with a fly rod. Kent has traveled the world with his fly rod and has caught Bonefish, Salmon, Tarpon, Permit, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, etc. but always had trouble with the Red Drum in Florida. After several attempts in the past years, he has failed to catch one until today, January 10, 2012, which was a very special day for him.
On a sandy flat of 8-12″, we would encounter Laid up Sea Trout, laid up Redfish and also large schools of Redfish. The water was crystal clear and not a lick of wind making the whole river sheet glass, which also made the fish very spooky. Kent had over 50 shots of both Trout and Reds but most of them blew off by seeing the fly line soaring through the air. The ones that didn’t spook off are the ones that either trailed the fly for a few yards before turning away, or ate the fly that imitated a small baitfish.
After landing a few nice Sea Trout (which Kent can also check off his list now) I see a pod of upper to over slot Redfish approaching us. I quickly position the skiff for Kent to fire off a long cast next to the school which he did perfectly without spooking the fish. Once the pod of fish headed towards the fly, Kent makes 3 or 4 quick strips which gets a fishes attention which then turned on the fly and ate. Now Kents first ever Redfish is hooked up on the end of his line and the battle begins.
It wasn’t too long after the release of his first Redfish when he made a perfect cast to his 2nd Redfish ever caught.
After a bunch more shots and spooky fish, the wind picked up which made it tough to get the fly in the right spot so we called it a great day and headed back to ramp.
Congrats Kent on your Redfish and I hope you enjoy the memories that these photographs will bring back to you!
-Capt. Willy Le
The last 2 trips for Native Fly Charters was with new clients Kyle and Chip from Georgia on the last couple of days of 2011. This was their first trip to the East Coast of Florida to do some fishing and their main goal was to see and catch tailing Redfish. On the first day of the 2 day fishing adventure, it seemed like it was going to be cloudy, cold, and windy for the first half of the day so I took them in the Indian River along the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for some big Trout that have been roaming the flats. Making long casts with topwater lures around sand holes resulted in some nice trout and some fun blowups.
Once the clouds finally cleared up, the skies were blue bird and the wind laid down giving us the perfect glassy conditions for an afternoon of tailing Redfish. This day was the first major cold front of the year for Florida, making the fish a little sluggish. Most of the fish refused Kyle and Chips offerings except for this one Redfish at the end of the day that was tailing 10ft from the boat. Kyle made a perfect presentation by slowing down the retrieve and dropping the D.O.A. 3″ Shadtail CAL right in front of the fishes nose.
The next day our main goal was Redfish all day in the Mosquito Lagoon. The morning temperatures were in the 50′s with slick calm conditions and blue bird skies. We found Redfish in small groups pushing on the flats first thing in the morning but these fish were on a mission to get somewhere and were pretty spooky. After chasing those fish around for a while with no luck, we headed to another flat where we would see some single fish cruising around still sluggish from the cold morning and also spooky. They too did not want to cooperate with us. It wasn’t until the sun heated up the flats late in the afternoon when the Redfish wanted to tail and start feeding. Kyle and Chip both had numerous shots at tailing fish but did not quite get it close enough to the fish until the fish saw us and took off. A couple fish did get hooked up but only one came to the boat at the end of the day. Both Kyle and Chip ended 2011 in a great way, they got to see some great Wildlife including a family of Wild Hogs wading in the water, Momma Dolphins teaching their babies how to catch mullet, Manatees, Alligators, Exotic Birds, and best of all they got to see the Tailing Redfish that they came here to see. They get to go home with great memories and great photographs! Next on the list for them is Tarpon so we will be seeing more of these guys in the future!
This was a perfect way to end my 2011. Weather was beautiful, I got to spend it on the water and met 2 new very cool friends that work hard for a living and love to hunt and fish! Happy New Year everyone!
-Capt. Willy Le
With the combination of great weather and friends coming in from out town I took the opportunity to do fishing. The weather has been in the 80′s every day this past week and the fishing on the flats has been pretty darn good. I even had a friend catch a snook out on the flats.
The bite out front has been excellent. Flounder, redfish, ladyfish, and and abundant of trout. In the clear water(spooky fish) the trick is to do long cast with artificial. Jigs has been the #1 producer, DOA cals, Mirrolure Lil jon etc.
One of the lure I’ve bee using a bunch lately has been the Paul Brown lures. They are heavy lure that I can cast a mile using braided line. The lure suspend so I can still use it 2′ of water over grass. It has been very productive for trout. The fish of the day though was a nice 29″ redfish on the Fat Boy Jim Brown.
Photo note: All shots taken by the Nikon AW100 16mp waterproof camera Point and shoot camera.
Glass Minnows all over the flats
Night fishing with Kapers
Trout Fishing has been excellent.
Even got my friend to start to catch them on fly.
Sheeps head are moving in onto the flats as well this time of year in Tampa.
My biggest red fish from Tampa in quite a long time came on the Paul Brown Fat boy. Pink is the best producing color this year.
I have been using the TFO Garry Loomis GT series rod. I have to say I’m quite impressed with these rods. The first year they came out they were just ok. The step up in quality and design made a big difference to me. The ergonomic handle is much improved, lifetime warranty, lighter, and the guide is proprietary and more durable.
With the Halloween coming this means the new moon is upon us. To me this means the fall low tides will be super low. In Tampa that means the water cools down the fish gets shallow and concentrated when the water flushes out of the bay. Knowing this, I wanted to get out on this fall new moon phase when the tides will be extra low.
I have known Jason Stock for several years now. Jason is the epitome of an avid fisherman. Well before he was ever a captain, he was constantly on the water fishing inshore and offshore. Fishing in bad weather, wading, kayaking, in tournaments, you name it. Anyone can pass the test and be a captain but this passion for fishing really makes for a dam good fishing guide.
Jason has always kayak guided but have recently added a Hellsbay Marquessa to this year. He wanted to out and do some low tide fishing with the new ride. Meeting Jason at the ramp on Friday 8am I dealt with more traffic than I thought I had to. Once we got on the water though there we were rewarded with very little congestion.
Working edges of drained flats we strictly used top water super spook jr. We find it very effective working ares with lots of bait. This time of year there is no shortage of mullet around and finding them was not an issue. In the morning we caught red fish, snook and lots of trout. The trophy fish came about lunch time however. After I lost a big trout on top water we decided to get out and wade fish to be more stealthy.
This resulted in a Jason hooking up to a big moma gator trout. After a few more we took
If you have not caught a trout over 25″ in skinny water, they are a different beast compared to the normal 15″ fish you ski in. The fight compares more to a big snook, zig zaging with quick runs, head shakes and jumps. Big trout are awesome and has to be at top of the list of exciting shallow water game fish.
This past Sunday I took the Ranger out to fish and shoot some video with Lauren. We needed to get some B-rolls for a fishing pilot we are working on called 3F adventures.
With tide being super low again we decided to get a little fishing in. At first the bite was sporadic with a few fish here and there. Then Lauren noticed a shrimp floating by. This changed the whole game. She tied on a DOA shrimp and was getting a bite almost on every other cast.
To be completely honest, even though I use DOA swim tails I am not a big fan of using the shrimp. If you look back at all my reports I have always been using their CAL swim tails to catch fish most notably the gold rush color. So it came to no surprise I did not want to change lures. I was being quite stubborn attributing the bite to luck. After a 6 to zero run though I could not deny it any longer.
I changed over and started to catch some fish. We caught snook, redfish and trout for almost 2 hours straight. The bite was excellent, it was tough to put the rods down to get some photos of the big trout we were catching.
Overall DOA shrimp made the day. The colors that stood out was the Stark Naked 420. We also used a similar color with flecks and chartreuse tail. I tried the clear one, the clear with gold specks and it just didn’t work work as well.
When the tide die the bite stopped. We finished the B-roll videos and ended the day with 30 plus fish to brag about. Next low tide tide you know what’s gonna be in my tackle box.
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.
I have a friend down in Matlache Florida that moved to Vail Colorado last year. Lane just wanted a change of scenery. He just packed his bags one day and decided to go. Being twenty seven years old, single and no ties you can do things like that. He moved there in November and started to teach ski and snow board lessons to tourist and now is working with the fish and wildlife services up there. Basically he hasn’t looked back.
When he came down this past May to do some fishing with me we spoke of me heading up to Vail Colorado to do some fishing. I wasn’t quite sure if I would have the time or energy this summer. Knowing Vail to be a very expensive area I wasn’t quite sure about the cost of flights, places to stay either.
Months past by and things started to come together. During the off season the hotels are empty and the flights were cheap. I got a ticket to Vail for $400.00. I was staying at Lane’s apartment so the hotel bill was out of the equation as well. All I would have to worry about was food and the cost of getting around. I like this kind of trip much better than a guided tour for the most part because you get to do things that is off the beaten path. Besides it would be much less touristy.
The flight to Vail was a quick one compared to Thailand that was for sure. I flew out of Tampa at 2:30pm and got there but 6pm.(time zone changes) I was playing solitaire watched movies on my IPAD the entire way. BTW: the IPAD is an awesome plane travel companion. The battery last like 7 hours and packs a bunch of entertainment.
Lane picked me up and the first thing we did was stopped by a near by stream to break out the fly rod to wet test it. Today I was using the on loan combo of the Mystic 5wt with a Nautilus NV 5wt reel. In hind sight I could have gotten away with the lighter, cheaper Nautilus FW series reel. The rod took a little getting use to as I was use to the action of saltwater fly rods. After about 15minutes however, I pretty much had it down.
We opted not to nymph this evening so we threw streamers to mimic a local minnow which the trout feed upon. We fished the area for a couple hours with fish all around us flipping happily. We got two eats but could never landed the fish. I was a little jet lagged and tired so we headed back to Lane’s apartment to unload all my gear for the two day trip.
I knew I was in Colorado when I felt out of breath climbing up some stairs when we went and grabbed a burger and wings for dinner. I really knew I was in a touristy area when I stopped by to get an ice cream cone and the guy guy behind the counter said “that will be $7.00 sir”. Heck that cost as much as my burger!
The next morning we were up at 5am to make the one and a half hour drive to the fishing hole. We pulled up to the parking to see a nice Porche 911 parked there. Now since we were to meet Lane’s buddy Luke, who also worked for the fish and game I knew this definite was not Luke’s ride. I mean, unless Luke has a trust fund or they are flying square groupers into Colorado these days.
Luke arrived a little later than us and proceeded to hook up on streamers immediately. A small brown then a couple of nice rainbows. Lane then proceeded to get a nice 20″ rainbow as well. I was camera trigger happy and neglected to fish much during all this of course and missed out on the morning bite as usual.
The scenery is just awe inspiring in Colorado. With lush plant life, streams filled fish pretty much every where. The mountains, wild birds, wild game and lots of open wilderness all around. The air is crisp and basically no humidity. I mean it can be 50 degrees and I’m wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt. When it was 80 degrees outside I wasn’t sweating a drop. If it was 80 degrees in Florida I don’t even want to be outside for very long. When it is 50 degrees in Florida I need a jacket. It’s weird how humidity affects your comfort level.
Anyways I digress. After the sun was nice and bright we decided to head over to another river. There we did mostly nymphing and the bite was on fire. For a while there it was one cast after another we would get a rainbow on. The flies of nymphing you can barely see. They are so small it was literally the size of a small “J” on your computer screen and some even smaller! At times I couldn’t even tell if I still had a fly on or not.
After a quick pizza in the local pizza parlor which by the way only cost $5.00 for 2 slice of cheese with drinks, we were off to do a float trip with another buddy’s of Lane. Alex who is part owner of the local flyshop slash guide service in town called The Mintun Anglers met us at the ramp with his float boat. It took a bit to set up the shuttle for the float trip but it was well worth it. We drift/float the Colorado and caught a bunch of brown trout. I have to admit Alex kicked my ass, out catching me like 8 to 1. What the hell I was happy just taking in the beauty of the entire place. The last time I did a float trip was in Alaska last year. The fish were bigger up there but the weather is better in Colorado so take your pick.
After the float trip and already a 12 hour day we were 3 starving fisherman. Alex recommended a place called The Charcoal Burgerl which wasn’t too far away from where were put the boat back on the trailer. We placed order and had to wait about 15minutes for a burger. I believe they actually make the burgers from scratch and grill on the charcoal just like the sign said. The burger tasted like it was home made minus the spices. It was filling but I have to say wasn’t very tasty. Regardless we were for filled of our dinner obligations that night.
With the jet lag, thin air and being up running around fishing for 14 hours now, I fell asleep on the drive back to Lane’s house which was still another 1.5 hours away. Needless to say, after a shower I was out like a light! I have been in Colorado 1.5 days how and have yet to see Lane’s apartment in daylight. Yes it has been quite a long 1.5 days.
Day 2 we are up 5am again to go hunt for more fish. Today, honestly I really didn’t care to fish very much. I was more about absorbing the atmosphere and culture of the Vail. Being the hardcore fisherman that we are we still ended up fishing til about noon. The sun was out today, it was beautiful. We decided to take a short cut through the mountains via the forest roads.
When we got the entrance of the forest road there was a road closed sign on it. Lane looked at the map real quick and confident he could go around it. Or so it seemed. We made a quick stop at a local country store to get some beef jerky and drinks and off we go on the dirt roads. The 1 hour trip turned into 2 hours, then 3 hours. We were kinda sorta lost. All was not lost however, as the scenery got better and better as we climb the road not so often traveled. We got some really cool scenic shots, saw some wild deer about 30′ away, beavers, and tons of birds.
Not planning for such long tripped we even stopped and got some nice raspberries along the trail. The was pretty cool, I haven’t eaten wild berries since I was kid. The berries were everywhere really but at this point with hours of bouncing up and down on the rough roads we were getting hungry.
Hour number 3 we ran into and ATV/bow hunter that was cool enough to give us directions to cross the mountain so we could get home once again. After even a rougher ride we finally got onto some paved roads. I got a phone single and called in to order something interesting to eat. The place we have been talked about all day was to eat some game animals at a place called the GAS House. The place is like a nice cozy local pub/restaurant. Cold beer and some food was on the way.
I order the variety pack appetizer. This consist of quail, elk, deer, pheasant sausages. We got there and gobbled it up quickly and the bartender informed us the appetizer were 50% during happy hour which was even better! I ordered truffle fries, more quail, and a nice serving of rocky mountain oysters. I never had truffle fries or rocky mountain oysters(bull testicles) and I have to say it was pretty good. The RMO, tasted like fried chicken gizzards but more tender.
After a cold beer and some food we were off to Lane’s kick ball championship game. The won the semis and the won the finals so we didn’t get out of there until almost 9pm. Yes another 15 hour day for us and at this point I am wishing I was about 10 years younger! We were off to get a real dinner tonight at the Minton Country Club. Well it’s not really a country club, just a restaurant named so. Lane works there part time and tells me it’s the best steak in town.
We walked in and they place was empty! Normally this is scary because you figures the food must be bad or something. The tell me every place is dead in late August because it’s off season in Vail this time of year. Lane assure me so and we picking our steak in no time. I like my steak medium rare and at this place if it’s not it’s totally your fault. Yes because you get to cook your own steak of all things. Yep, you actually get up walk up to the grill and put your steak on the grill and cook them. They had basting sauce and all. They tell me during season the place is packed and all the grills they have are filled with people cooking steaks and talking with a drink in their hand. Lane even tells me Britney Spears goes there every so often, I can’t imagine.
The next day I was up at 6am and flying back to Tampa by 8am. Awesome trip and a ton of stuff packed in there for a 2 day trip. Things I need to remember when I go back there either to ski or in the spring for the flowers and fishing. Felt wading boots is a must along with breathable waders. Loose some dam weight and get in better shape. With the thin air I was huffing and puffing going up stairs, quite embarrassing! Bring less clothing. With the temperature the way it was you don’t sweat. Besides under clothing you can just almost wear the same thing everyday.
We had a rare couple of days with light winds, bright sun and the right tides. The redfishing was off the charts Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday we moved off the flats and up the Brownsville ship channel and hooked up on a fat trout and a nice Texas snook.
I had the chance to attend the Vero Backcountry Fly tournament hosted by the Vero Backcountry and Maverick Boat Co. this past weekend. As with similar events in the past that MBC has hosted, this event allowed for some friendly competition and a chance for fly fisherman with similar interests to get together and socialize a bit. On the more serious side of the tournament, anglers targetted 4 species; redfish, trout, snook, and sheepshead to bring home the top honors. I had never realized the great sight fishing opportunites that Vero Beach and Fort Pierce has to offer. Not were we able to target these species via sight fishing, but we had shots at 3ft long trout laid up on the flats. These big trout definitely proved to be the most challenging species I have ever tried to sightfish on a flyrod… I have earned a whole new respect for the species. Capt. Eric Davis and I teamed up and stalked the shallows in my Mirage managing to feed over a dozen redfish, hooking 8, pulling the hooks on 5, and landing 3. After a few frustrating hours of throwing at big stubborn mega trout, we ended up dredging flies in deeper water and catching a dozen or so small trout. Our fishing was pretty good actually, but not good enough to take the top honors from team Maverick Boat Co. (Charlie Johnson and owner Scott Deal), whom posted redfish, trout, and sheepshead. An incredible time was had by all with raffles and some sweet prizes. Plans for next year’s event is already in the works. If you guys are looking to sample some of Vero Beach’s best sight fishing, make sure to contact Capt. Eric Davis.
The past few weeks leading to this event have been pretty interesting. My buddy Paul and I had a chance to get out the prior weekend and sight fish redfish for an hour or so in Flamingo before the massive front chased us off. Blue bird skies followed the front and it made for some great photo opportunities on the water between my study breaks. The cold temperatures finally subsided a bit today and we were greeted with some warmer temps as the day wore on. I certainly hope this is a start of a warming trend that will last. Fishing should be absolutely stellar once we have some consitantly mild temperatures. These March ninja cold fronts need to end already. I will be spending some time in the lower Keys in a weeks so I really do hope the weather leading up to my Spring break will finally be warm enough to allow the water temperatures to climb back up. We need this warm up… bring on the tarpon, bring on the permit, and bring on the big bonefish.
Here are some of the recent photos I finally found time to process tonight:
For those of us in college, this week is either spring break or mid term week so good luck in whatever event you are facing. Catch you guys later…