Knot on Call

A few times a year I have the pleasure of pushing around a local physician who typically brings his nephew or a fellow colleague. He is a great guy to be around and a hell of an angler, so I always look forward to his trips.

Our day was to being down in the Mosquito Lagoon and fish the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We were in that time of year where the temps are cooling a little, the water is dropping(should be) and the water cleans up. Well, with all the named storms that did fly-bys on Florida this year, we had water stacked in from late summer all the way into late fall.

Thankfully, is not the norm but when a very active hurricane season and a number of near misses it has been the card we were dealt. It is frustrating for me as well as a number of guides that depend on sight-fishing, mostly with fly rods, to put clients on fish. We could cut and soak bait or blind cast all day but for me, that is just not my game. I like the stalk and the visual aspect of fishing, or I would just assume not go and reschedule.

This morning was calm and although the water was up, I was prepared with stretches of clean water where redfish had been patrolling regularly. A short run and a flip of the coin to see who was to take the bow first, we had a redfish buzz the tower almost immediately, a good sign. We had to fight the sun a little for a short stretch but it was a necessary evil due to the nature of the location. Two good shots and one pulled hook was all she wrote for the first location. Time to move.

We made a short run to be greeted by porpoises feeding heavily at our next spot, guess they found the same school I did. Move again.

The next area requires a long pole through our infamous Pole and Troll zone. Reason I call it infamous is because a number of people feel it has a bad reputation and refuse to obey the rules, or they are ignorant or they subscribe to the ignorance is bliss idiom. I digress and need to stow this soapbox.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Anyway, we pole a long stretch to find clean water and immediately greeted by active fish. Two boats enter the same area but with head nods and slight waves we all pay equal respect and each boat lands nice fish from the area. It is a wonderful sight seeing everyone respect distance, the fish and all benefit. A quick photo and the redfish eases back to join the group. A few more shots to nervous redfish yield no takes so we push our way out.

So…Two Surgeons Step on the Bow

I continued my planned milk run but each location shows a boat(s) already posted up. I continue to check boxes and move on. It got to a point where the boats where on every shoreline and I was not about to force my way in to just find redfish that were pressured and run over all day. I defer to the Docs. “Yall want to make a long run that will have less boats and give solid shots?” They knew the answer and it always feels good to have clients that trust your judgement. The Tohatsu wound up and off we went. There was a heavy chop for most of the run but they did not notice. The 12 Degree Chittum Mangrove makes up for Mother Nature’s Attitude.

The long run pays off with a handful of solid trout in half a dozen casts. They are setup on the edges of the shadows.   All we need to do was present the feathers within striking distance and the trout were more than willing to play. This continued for more than a hundred yards.   Instead of trading the bow every fish it was every third fish, a good feeling for sure.

Indian River One Hander

The rest of the afternoon played itself out the same.  Trout were eager, a few black drum were shy and the snook were snobby. All and all, a blast with clients who have become good friends, the way it should be.

Indian River Trout

I am very lucky to still keep in touch with a number of clients and outfitters during my Trek Safaris days and hosted trips. That was the break that shot me down this path.  Thankfully I can still guide great people in beautiful locations.  That will never get old.

Brothers and Redfish

As the summer dragged on we had been fairly lucky to not have any named storms knock on our door plus the afternoon storms had been fairly light. What does that mean? Our water levels in the Lagoon have been lower and the lack of rain also helps keep the algae bloom at bay when really affects the water quality.
I received a call from a younger guy who had moved out west for his time in the military and he was taking a week off to come home to Florida and spend time with family and needed to catch his first redfish on fly. He had not seen his brother in some time and wanted to spend time on the water with him as well.

Side note, he got into fly fishing after moving out west and also a shop rat at Fish West, one of the leading fly shops both online and brick and mortar. The coolest part about that is I had no idea until we got to talking while fishing. The reason I think that is cool is he never bragged or beat his chest about working at a fly shop or acting like he knows everything because he works in a shop. Sadly, this goes both ways all too often, and I feel their pain. I managed an Orvis shop a number of years ago while guiding and hosting trips and trust me, people who work in fly shops do not NEED to hear you are a guide. You can travel to new water, shop local, ask questions and there is no need to start the conversation with you are a guide. As with many things, it is not what you say but how you say it…

*Climbs down off Soapbox*

Once he got home he sent me a few note on a blog post he was putting together for the Fish West Website that I will quote in here as I think his writing deserves to be noted as you can feel his excitement and it was my pleasure to have him and his brother on the skiff….”The excitement was palpable, I was finally able to go home to Florida with a fly rod in hand. This was a big deal to me; the guys at Fiswest heard about it for two months. I knew that I would need to be guided to learn the areas for my self-sustained trips; this is when the research started.”

Nathan was the ideal client, we spoke on the phone a number of times, both knew what to expect and I appreciate him staying in touch, asking question and most off all practicing…. “I called him to introduce myself and explain my skill level and intentions. He was more than excited to get out me out on the lagoon and to school me up on fly fishing in the salt. He gave me drills and expectations for my casting distance as well as handling the wind we may encounter. Your guide is most importantly your teacher. Make them aware of what you need to learn.”

Pete’s Redfish

Upon him climbing up on the platform you could see his smile and feel his excitement. The redfish were ready to play, “We saw our first tailing Redfish fifteen minutes into the day and we were on. My first cast of the day went right to him. Unfortunately it wasn’t the fly, it was my line.” I think he got a little buck fever as two healthy groups of tailing redfish right off the bow almost immediately will get anyones heart pumping!

As the morning went on the redfish were a little snobby and I feel it was wearing on the guys a little. Nathan’s brother had made a nice pitch to a bank crawling redfish and that fish jumped all over his jig! It was exactly what we needed. Sometime a quick break is all you need. We had been poling a small bay that was loaded with fish but we were unable to connect and I could feel the wind come out of his sails… “We stopped and sat while I had a beer or two. We talked about our shared love of trout and rap music. My mind was back in the game. The pressure to catch fish is a trap that most of us will fall into if it is a new species or a new body of water. Remember that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. If your cast is bad it doesn’t matter how fast you get the fly out, you won’t catch what you’re after.

Beers for the Boys

Sometimes a couple beers and a few laughs out on the water with your brother is all you need to get back into the game. It worked. His brother grabbed a bank crawling redfish, high fives all around then Nathan hopped back up and you could feel the momentum shift as not 5 minutes later we pushed around a corner and… “we saw them. There was my chance. We had about five tailing Reds without a care in the world besides the food in front of them. Chris turned the boat, I took a breath, and the fly was off. Turning my mind off made it all come easy. My cast was precise, my leading was the best it had been, and I got my eat! Excitement filled the boat and my heart was racing a mile a minute. I set the fly, raised my rod tip, and began stripping. Just because the fish is bigger than you are used to, you don’t have to bring it to the reel. Many fish are lost because people want to watch that reel spin. The fish will let you know when it is time to go to the reel. It was a great feeling to have Chris cheering me on as he knew this was the biggest moment of my fishing career and a top 10 moment of my life.”

Nathan’s First Redfish

For me, there is nothing like watching someone stick their first redfish, whether it is 15 minutes into the day or late in the 4th quarter, it is very rewarding and exactly why I do this. In his blog I feel like he expressed a few good points in hidesight and want to leave you with one final quote from his Blog Post… “These last few things are what I figured out for myself. I believe that if you walk away without a few pages of notes you have wasted the day. Do not argue about your approach and do not discredit them because you think you know better. There is a reason they are guiding, and there is a reason you booked them. LISTEN! Remember that they are also on the boat. Chris pushed the skiff for eight hours, imagine how you would feel if someone only talked to you when a fish popped up. Don’t “include” them in your conversation, have a conversation with them. Be a human being, don’t drink too much, keep the fish wet, and enjoy yourself.

I had a blast with the Brothers and look forward to many more redfish with them!

Welcome to the Sickness

Of the charter clients that I push in the Lagoon, a vast majority of them are either new to the sport or looking for that first redfish on fly. I treat it as a great honor that many choose me to help them venture into a new sport or challenge of fly fishing and have the confidence in me to deliver that first redfish on fly. I have always enjoyed a challenge – whether in my has been days of baseball or during my day job and especially on the water. It creates an incredible high from accomplishment and the bond and friendship created between client and guide it unmeasurable. I live for that moment when the client’s hands are shaking as they hold that first Redfish on fly.

Enter Pierre, not new to fishing but brand new to fly fishing. Brand new as in, only hard work, no fish yet, not even a panfish. Needless to say I had my work cut out for me. The good news was, he is an excellent Bass and inshore angler, so he understand fish, movements, what works with the conventional tackle, now all we needed to do was get the fly in front of some willing Redfish and seal the deal. Not always an easy task with our snooty Mosquito Lagoon Redfish.

One of the things that seems to help on the water is a little dose of beginners luck. Not that you have to be a beginner in fly fishing but maybe you have never fished saltwater or caught a redfish on fly, a little beginner vibe helps us all at one point or another.

In addition to being new to fly fishing we only had a short half day to get it done but remember, if it was easy everyone would do it so off we went. Good news, the weather was excellent, a little bit of cloud cover but calm winds helped show a fish pushing or a shy tail barely breaking the surface.

At out first stop we sorted out all the kinks, talk about using 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock… you would be surprised at how few people understand analog time, especially when the excitement of sightfishing takes over. We talked about some basic casting dynamics and explained proper stripping techniques and how to lay line out. Good to go.

The first shoreline we stopped at was one that has produced time and time again with beautiful scenery and happy fish. It was a beautiful March morning.  Wading birds and active bait greeted us as we pushed the first 100yds. Anticipation was high and being sure to help Pierre settle in and let his casting practice take over is always you want to work on with a new angler. They are constantly thinking about trying to do everything right that their mind can get in the way. As I called the first few fish out I could tell a little bit of buck fever was getting the best of him but it was early and he was easily seeing the fish so it was just going to be a matter of time.

As a little stroke of luck would have it a group of smaller, confident tailing fish approached the boat and both of us saw them from at least two cast lengths out. It gave Pierre a few calming breaths to get ready and with two false casts let his shrimp imitation go.. “Great cast, let it sit as they move in, small strips, smaller, keep coming… he’s got it!” Strip set and it was on. A few short bursts and a beautiful small Red made his way safely into the net. The elation and deep breath took all the weight off his shoulders for future Redfish. With shaky hands he gently held the fish for a photo and eased him back into the water and a quick tail kick, he was gone.

First Mosquito Lagoon Redfish on Fly

First Fish and First Redfish on Fly!

 

High Fives and welcome to the Sickness!

A few more good shots as clouds continued to build and one last Redfish to hand before we had to head in made for a wonderful beginning to a new addiction for Pierre. He’ll be back.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Well Done Pierre! Beautiful Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Couples That Fish Together…

The wife and I have known Jason and Cathy for a number of years now and they were one of the first couples we became friends with when we moved to Central Florida from Jacksonville.  Jason and I fish together a bunch, we have traveled together, fish locally, fish tournaments, you name it, we have chased it.  The wives are great together too and enjoy a day on the boat as much as a day by the pool. For all the trips and days on the water, it was brought to my attention, Cathy had yet to catch a solid Redfish up on the flats. Needless to say I was surprised, she bass fishes with Jason and also has caught Bonefish in Mexico along with a host of other saltwater species… how could the redfish have eluded her? Well, let’s do this. 

Full disclosure…(Flashback) I found this out one afternoon when Jason and I were planning on chasing some tailers on a summer evening and Cathy wanted to join and just relax on the skiff.  We had a few hours one evening, the storms dissipated and we made a break for the Lagoon. Foss (jason) had a hot hand on the bow and grabbed a few tailing fish before he let me take a few shots.

I connected with one before taking my place back up high and as we approached a small group of tailers, Cathy says, “You know I have never caught a redfish like this”. I about fell off the platform. So obviously she was up, right now. The first group didn’t go as planned and light was fading but a upper-slot fish appears out of the grass not 10 feet from the bow.  She gives a shot backhand with the jig and since shots like that rarely work…. shit, HE ATE IT!  Cathy leans on him as he proceeds to cut a swatch across this grass flat, the Stradic is screaming, Jason has his fist in the air and I am cheering… The Line Goes Slack… My heart sinks and expletives fly from the pretty blonde on the bow. Although the few hours were great by most standards, we all felt the wind out of our sails when that hook pulled. The hook was sharp, the knots held… sometimes weird shit happens. 

Fast forward to now, a few months later, Cathy is still talking about the one that got away, and we all remember it a little to vividly.  Got the new skiff, and it is a calm January day, perfect for us to get Cathy on one she deserves.  We launched in the north end of the Lagoon as the water was clear and I had been following some solid fish in the grass over the past weeks and it was setting up to be ideal.  Although a little convincing was needed she was first up. We pushed a low water, slick shoreline that had clean patches of grass where the flat was beginning to wake up. Cloud cover was present but it played into our favor as we were in skinny enough water that full sun might have given our location away to the sharp eye of over-slot redfish.  If they were in here, we would see their backs out of the water and could approach with caution. 

Ahead, there were signs of a redfish slow cruising, a long, lazy wake with just the very tips of his tail peaking above the surface. Cathy, on the casting platform was armed with a DOA and ready to take her first shot. The fish paused and put his head down to eat and now was her shot. Direction was good but she over shot him a little and as he got back to cruising, the line grazed his back and he was gone. No worries, plenty of fish here, and not 40 feet up the shoreline was one going away from us super tight to the mangroves. He ducked behind a small island about the size of the skiff so I made the decision to cut him off on the other side. Two quick pushes and he came around the island just as we approached him. “It’s a nice left to right, go head and give him a little room and he will swim right to it”, I told her. “What if I throw it in the mangroves?”….. I said ”you won’t, let it go”…

It was a textbook cast at a shoreline crawler. Her lure landed softy about 10 feet in front ,and as he approached, I told her “hit it once and he will jump it”… she did, and man did he crush it.  He went from 30 foot off the bow out to 100, in a split second. It was another impressive run by a Redfish but the hook held this time and Cathy countered his runs by gaining on him little by little. Pretty soon he was taking one step forward and two steps back until she eased that over-slot red into the net. Not sure who was more excited and relieved, Cathy, Jason or me! A few quick photos, healthy release and toast of a cocktail, Cathy had her skinny water Redfish and it was a gem.  Even Jason snuck in on the photo, they joked and said this is how married couples with no kids do a Christmas card! 

I had to cut all the excitement short as there was a tailing fish about 80 feet and closing quick. Cathy graciously deferred the bow to Jason and what seemed to be all in one motion, he stepped up, made a cast and was hooked up as soon as it hit the water. All I did was a quarter spin to give him a better angle and I was back down to net his fish. Of course his was smaller, which we joking was fitting but as we released him, Cathy and Jason both said, “Your turn”. Now I don’t get on the bow much, mainly because I enjoy putting people on fish but it seemed right to try and all get at least one each. Well Jason wasn’t on the back long as another crawler was tight to the shoreline.  I took my shot and lead him about a rod length and all it took was one hop and he had it and was headed to the horizon.  Cathy played net lady, I eased him in and after a quick photo he was on his way again. 

Sometimes things just comes together and we made one stop and didn’t have to push more than 50 yards of a shoreline for all three of us to get on the board. Jason grabbed another tailer before we had to head in but it was an eventful few hours on the Lagoon.