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Biscayne Bay Bonefish

My love for Emerald waters on tropical flats has been well documented and honestly, if I could fish for one species the rest of my life, it would be bonefish.

The way they track across a flat, their shear speed and fighting ability can send anyone’s heart racing. Plus, bonefish don’t live in ugly places.

I make the drive as often as I can, when the wind, weather and tides create an opportunity to fish Miami or the Northern Florida Keys. It is a long drive, a grueling day really, but when we succeed, it is the highest of highs. The only downside is those water and the fish that live there can dish out heaping spoonfuls of humble pie.

This trip I was accompanied by the wife and birddog for a little mid-week getaway to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. My good friend Johan offered to push and we all loaded up in his Chittum Skiff so I did not have to tow mine.

Biscayne Bay Sunrise

It was calling for full and calm winds, which is always more predictable on a Tuesday rather than a weekend. The weather did not disappoint but made for tougher bonefishing. For those that do not get to chase bonefish and permit often, full sun is important. In addition, calm winds make for easy casting but it can also create frustrating fishing and spooky fish.

Either way, I am just happy we are here and stepping on the bow for a change.

As with any trip, we had a planned milk run. Taking into account the tides, sun angle and when we were going to break for margaritas and tacos. With the tide not quite high, we went scanning for permit. Which is really just like walking into a Victoria Secret afterparty and expecting to leave with one of the models. Moving on…

I had a great shot at a fish in the 25lb range and got the typical follow, hard look and escape. Honestly, I need to take some of the blame on that fish, I zigged when she zagged and got the yips as I was stripping. She knew something was up and was gone.

As we continue, a small group of bonefish approached from my weak side, I dropped a short backhand not thinking much of it. As luck would have it, one of them broke from the group and jumped on the crab fly. A short fight and quick release and he was back in the pack. “That is why you never pass on a shot”, Johan said. I agree. Even if you are targeting permit and only permit, sometimes a small eager bonefish can breakthrough the haze and boost morale.

The wind continues to die down… It is not making it easy today. With the changing of the tide we decide to move to another flat. Unfortunately, within 20 minutes of our arrival we get a visit from a qualified captain. He is running what appears to be a 25′ walk-around with twin 300’s and apparently no mapping software. The captain comes in hot, skids to a halt and I am guessing call Sea-Tow.

We leave.

A quick, unanimous vote and we decide it is lunch time. We stake out at Boca Chita and break out all the fixins’ for tacos and Mel’s Famous Margaritas. The bird dog was excited to take a dip and cool off as well. Nothing like a half-hour happy hour to relax and reset before the afternoon push. Honestly, we don’t do that enough. Rarely, if ever do we stop and really take a break. I suppose because we drive so far and always want to maximize our opportunities it never really dawned on me a quick break can be what the day needs.

Biscayne Taco Bar

Our next move was a pretty good run from our lunch spot but no one was complaining. It is nice to have a little A/C before the next flat. The wind is almost gone and I know the mirror is not going to make this next flat easy. I went through and lengthened my leader and dropped down in tippet size to give me a little extra advantage. Also, the this flat being slightly shallower than what we had been fishing I was able to throw a lighter fly which also helps when making long casts and delicate presentations.

My first look was a group of three that were approaching from one o’clock. Not ideal, but we spotted them way out and Johan was able to quickly able to make the necessary adjustments. Took my shot and the fly settled as they approached. The lead fish was instantly interested but would not commit. I was running out of room just as the second fish pinned the fly and he was on. Although it was hot and calm this fish did not play around. As the fish took me into my backing a couple times, Johan said, “I think this is a better fish than we thought.”

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

After we scooped her up, we got in the water to put her in the sling. Just a hair over eight pounds. I’ll take it! After a long but beautiful day on Biscayne Bay, this was a high note to end on before the long ride home.

I think we are at the point that the Magic City Hustle can now be called, a Saturday. I love it.

Mosquito Lagoon Cold Front

Cold Front Seatrout and Redfish

Well, here we are, in one of those famous April cold fronts. The wind had most of the week shut down but low and behold we have a cold, clear, crips day and we are ready to rock.  We launched at Beacon 42 around mid-morning to allow all the boat ramp antics to take place before we arrived.  We made our way into one of our normal haunts and immediately started seeing fish. The water was crystal clean and although the fish were quite spooky, Jason got a small redfish to eat quickly. 

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

The traffic on the water was typical for a weekend day with beautiful weather.  This added pressure, coupled with the clear water never helps.  We were just going to have to slow down and use the clear skies to our advantage.  I decided to push out and adjust our approach, which proved to be the right move.  The angle of attack was not perfect, but we hid our shadows well and that was the difference. The first trout of the day was a beautiful fish. Not a giant but enough to wear the tag Gator.  

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout

As we proceeded across the flat we noticed that was was not alone.  Jason, called me off the platform to take a shot with the fly rod. He did not have to twist my arm. My bow session was a quick one. We spotted a large fish on the edge of a pothole. She was at 11 O’Clock, quartering away. That is my jam. Luckily, I kicked off the rust quickly and dropped the fly just beyond her reach. Two hops and she ate. Barely having to move a muscle…just the way they like it.  The colder water had her fired up quick when I came tight. She took me to the reel but not much further and I guided her into the net if fairly short order.  

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout on Fly

That is all I needed. Foss is back up. 

We were contemplating a move but decided otherwise as we had a clear path with not another boat in sight. The flat and shoreline ahead was an area I had not fished in a while but with the clean water it was worth a look. It did take us a couple hundred yards before we began seeing fish but they were grouped nicely and eager to eat. This stretch was packed with smaller trout and Jason would go four and five casts in a row with a bite. 

We were approaching a series of pot holes so a quick platform switch and I had a small trout on my first cast.  A basic shrimp fly was all it took.  The trout were eating it to the point it was unraveling.  That was my queue to climb back up top and give the bow back to Foss. As luck would have it, his next shot was to a belly crawling redfish. We joked that was the shot I wanted and he made it count.  

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

We moved one last time as we finally were approaching another skiff. We gave way picked another stretch. The trout followed. It was almost comical the amount of small trout he was catching.  As the sun began to fade we decided to make the run back and be thankful for the day we had. “Wish they were all like this”, Foss said. 

Mosquito Lagoon Sunset

 

The Season of Seatrout

For a number of months now the larger trout have been a blast. We have had tons of smaller trout in the area, more than I have seen in a while, eager to jump on a paddle tail or fly and it has been a welcome sight for a number of reasons. Ask anyone around and you will hear the same lack of redfish stories in the area. We do go in spurts but all in all, the redfishing has been down for January. We all know why but only some want to publicize the poor condition the lagoon is in.

I get it, most depend on it for their livelihood but I have been in the game of guiding, booking and hosting trips since 2007 and the number one rule is never lie to clients. It will bite you in the ass every time. I have seen it plenty of times from different outfitters and guides. They are incredibly shortsighted and feel they have to paint a glorious picture to get that client to book to then provide a poor experience. Guess what, they won’t be back. That was a one and done. I was always taught you want repeat clients. Do the right thing, work hard and you will have clients for many years to come.  You might even make lifelong friends in the process.

Speaking of the hard times on the Lagoon, thankfully we have a number of dedicated individuals who are fighting very hard to bring Mosquito Lagoon and many other parts of Florida back from the hard times. Check out Tailer Trash fly fishing podcast and their Dingy Derby coming April 4, 2020. It is to benefit the New Smyrna Beach Marine Discovery Center and Mosquito Lagoon. Check out the event: The 2nd Annual Dingy Derby and RSVP for the Pre-Party Thingy before the Dingy the Night before. Participate or Donate, it is a great time and a great cause that raised over $5,000 last year.

Let’s not be all doom and gloom. Mother Nature and her estuaries are very resilient and have been fighting man for many years. For the rough times Mosquito Lagoon has seen, we still see fish, have excellent days and make memories with friends and clients. So, if you are in the area, do not hesitate to reach out for a trip with myself or if I am unable to take you, I have a few fellow guides I am happy to reccommend.  They are not only super fishy but good people who will shoot you straight and provide a wonderful trip.

We were talking about Seatrout at some point, right? We had a few trips around the end of the holiday and the beginning of the new year that were stellar. Those larger Seatrout will begin to spawn in the Spring March – May and just like Largemouth Bass and other species, the pre-spawn feed it a blast.

Indian River Seatrout

Jason and I ventured out to a few areas we have seen larger fish during times and moon phases that usually have the trout active. Although we had some cloudy days which can make stalking these weary fish tough, we had a few short windows and were able to capitalize.

Mosquito Lagoon Seatrout

Foss who is typically armed with the trusty DOA Shirmp, was putting on a clinic.  We were stalking some larger ones, but blind casting into groups of the smaller fish, was almost too easy. I had enough watching the show and Foss was kind enough to give me some bow time. I pulled out the long rod and had a fly I grabbed from Flymen Fishing Co. and was rewarded quickly. There is just something about a big trout on the fly rod, it is a blast and hard to pass up the opportunity when presented.

Seatrout on Fly

Bonefish with Foss and Johan

Before all this COVID-19 fun began, Foss and I were due to make a Miami run and the weather was lining up to be a solid day.  My good friend Johan, had a few open days and said “leave your boat at the house and just ride down and I will push”.  Did not have to twist my arm to get a little bow time.  Foss and I loaded up at 1am and we were southbound and down. 

It was a typical day for this early in the year, winds from the northeast  and plenty of sun. Thankfully there was a warming trend from a light cold snap so the fish were back to being happy. The excitement is palpable as we begin to see the guitar shaped Hard Rock hotel. Not far behind are the high rise building of downtown Miami. A quick phone call to Johan, “Hey boys, y’all are early!” he said. “Naa we are just ready”, I replied.  

We load up our stuff, catch a few of the boat ramp antics as we idle out before Johan puts her on plane. There is nothing like feeling those emerald waters beneath your feet as the warm South Florida sun hits your face. Love our Florida winters.  The run across was easy.  Just a slight roll and a tiny bit of chop. We were planning on hunting tailing fish early in the day and then move as the tide changed. 

Foss and I have spent countless hours on a skiff, panga, bass boat.  You name it, we have fished it. So although Johan was a little hesitant, he was impressed we could simultaneously fish on the bow. I took the high post on the casting platform as Foss hanged ten on the nose. 

My first shot at a large tailing fish was a no go. First cast was good but a little off the mark as I didn’t trust the wind.  A quick pickup and put back was right in the zone, “I don’t think he saw it”, Johan barked. I felt the same. The fish just never reacted, just kept on his way as he moved out of range. 

The next fish came in at our two o’clock.  Rather than spinning the boat, Foss took his shot with the spinning rod.  Good cast, two hops and the fish blows out. oh well. We stalked a few more fish over the course of the next hour or so and as we approached the edge we saw a small group of fish patrolling an old prop scar.  I passed the backhand shot to Foss and with a great cast he was hooked up.  Two strong runs and the fish was boatside, unhooked and on his way safely. 

Good time to move.  We made a short and an adjustment to the plan with the shifting winds. I was on point and had a nice shot at incoming fish. The fly lands, a fish shoots out of the group, pins the fly.  I come tight but only for a split second and he is gone. My follow up shot, went ignored. Shit.  No time to sulk.

A small pair are approaching just as the last group. It was an exactly replay of the last shot but once I was tight, he was mine. Certainly not the size we were looking for but just a little singing of the reel before a quick boat-side release and I was all good. 

Early Bonefish

After sticking a few fish we decided to go look at some new water we had been eyeing. It was a little bit of a run but no one seemed to care. We exchanged a little time on the poling platform just looking and getting a feel for the area. It is always nice to see how the water moves across the flat, the sun angle, bottom topography.  It all matters and something you have to see in person. 

We did start seeing some larger singles and once we got Foss in range it didn’t take long.  This was a little better fish and had the attitude of his big brother. Jason was pulling away at this point but no one is really keeping score.  

The last stop of the day gave me two shots at really big fish.  Admittedly, I botched the first one. Just misjudged it. We were nose to nose and as we were both closing in on one another.  The cast long and leadered him right down his back and the fly just past his tail. I wasn’t happy.  That was the big fish I wanted and blew it.

Thankfully I did get another chance but this one wasn’t to be either. It all lined up right, cast, angle, fly swung in and he just wasn’t having it.   As the sun was getting a little low we decided to make our way off and see if we could get one more shot.  As I mentioned earlier, Foss had been on, and this final shot was no different. Same shot, 2 o’clock moving to twelve…good cast. Great eat!  

As he was fighting the fish I call out a shark, he was a little ways out but knew something was up.  Thankfully, we were able to keep the boat in between the two and as Johan hustled to close the gap between us and the Bonefish, Foss added a little extra pressure that would either bring him in or break him off safely.  This is one of the reasons we carry a net. We got just close enough to net him before he decided to make another break for it which could’ve done him in.

We supported him in the net as we pushed off the flat to the point we could lower the motor and idle away. Once we moved to an area that was all clear Foss hopped out and got a quick photo before releasing him.  

Bonefish to end the day

Just another great day with even better friends. A long ride home but reminiscing about the day on the water guides us home safely. 

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.

Still Waiting on Dorian and Catching Redfish

I rarely, rarely fish on holiday weekends due to crowds and lack of courtesy and all things that end up on the qualified captain… but this year was different. It was Labor day weekend but the State of Florida and The Bahamas had an incredibly powerful Hurricane Dorian bearing down on both of us. Typically the holiday weekends have my wife and I headed to see friends for golf and hanging by the pool but due to the impending storm those plans were cancelled. In hindsight, we would have had plenty of time to enjoy our weekend while Dorian crawled our way but since we decided to stay put and the weather looked good another trip was due for the lagoon. Two days before, I had Guffy and Dave on the skiff for an excellent day and although we were cutting it close with weather, Foss and I decided to give it a go… and glad we did.

We arrived at the ramp to be met with only one other boat, how refreshing. All Refuge ramps were closed due to storm prep so we had to launch at Riverbreeze although we were planning on running south. A launch at daylight was met with moderately brisk east winds but those were expected. We headed south and as always, very thankful I have the 12 degree Chittum as we were met with whitecaps in open water but those were eaten for breakfast.

Our first stop yielded three small fish in about six casts as we pushed for tighter cover. That area is known for smaller schooling fish but we had our hearts set on tailing fish or bank crawlers so we pushed tighter as the approaching storm brought extra water into Mosquito Lagoon.

Dirty water Redfish

Water clarity was off but some activity ahead kept our spirts high. I swapped Foss’s paddle tail color to a dark body and the chartreuse tail hoping to get their attention. The first group of fish pushing away from us were in a hurry so I got out from behind them and picked a better angle to cut them off. We pushed ahead, got Foss into range and his first cast into the group, has the Stradic singing. This fish had a much bigger ego than his size but I always appreciate the effort and a quick photo and release and I decided to move on as two boats were poling into the bay we were in.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish Release

Now seeing the increased water level I had a spot in mind, although a little longer run than we had planned, we both think it would be worth it. I don’t have to tell y’all, it was.

Big Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

After the long run we had the place to ourselves and the fish were happy to see us. Finding some skinnier water and backing Redfish, Foss put it where it needed to be and was hookup to an absolute stud. I would rather see one big fish eat in skinny water than catch ten blind casting! Thankfully 99% of my clients feel the same way!

Two smaller fish to hand and it was time to head in and meet the wives for lunch. Another stellar half day on Mosquito Lagoon!

Pre-Dorian Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

With the impending Hurricane Dorian there were a number of days leading up to the predicted landfall that were going to be clear and low winds, the calm before the storm if you will.

One thing I always try to do is fish right before a front or named storm as the approaching weather always seems to have the fish in a very corporative mood. This trip was no different, I had Guffy and his friend Dave on the skiff as Guff set it up to give his best friend Dave plenty of bow time of what was setting up to be a good day.

Landing Redfish

The day started as many do, launching in the refuge, making a a quick run and quietly poling our shoreline of choice. Early it was flat calm and the noseeums were feeding, on us. One of the many reasons I fish in pants no matter this time of year, I like to stay out of the sun as much as possible and number two, bugs. Doesn’t happen often but when the noseeums are out, they are out. Needless to say, the cigars were out early in the morning to offer some relief!

Our first stop had a number of tailing fish and it is always exciting to see separate groups of fish that you can work independently of one another as you move across the flat. If the first group doesn’t want to play you have your next target already in sight.

The first pair of tailing fish seemed happy and calm as we approached and although Dave’s first cast was off the mark he made an excellent correction with a clean pickup and put-back (no false casts) that did the trick. Two bumps and the first fish of the morning was on!

A beautiful redfish that had Dave out on reel and Guffy on the Rising Net, the first redfish came aboard, quick photo and release and Guffy’s turn on the bow was next, but not before a few sips of celebratory Maker’s Mark between the boys.

About as quick as Guff can step up on the platform and get line off the reel a group of tails rise up about two cast lengths away. As we approach and stare them down we notice it is a mixed bag. Guff asks, “Those aren’t all redfish are they?” I respond with “Nope, Good eye. It seems the Reds are feeding off of the Stingrays.” We slide in and Guffy lets one go, bump bump and he comes tight! “Something doesn’t feel right” Guffy says, it looks to be just a slow pull going away from the pack. Good news is the fish have not spooked. I tell Guff to point his rod right at the fish and pull the fly. Two things, if you have the ray hooked in the mouth, we can get him to the boat and released quickly or break him off. The other option and what typically happens is you have foul hooked the ray and a straight pull can free the fly and you are ready to cast.

Big Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Thankfully, the straight pull works and with very little pressure the fly comes right back at us. A quick inspection and all is good. Two quick false casts and Guff gets the fly back in on the Redfish Tails the line is immediately tight and this is a bigger Red than we expected to be in the group. The line clears easily and the fish is on the reel and almost out to the backing. As always Guffy is ear to ear smiling and loving his new Sage X in “Jaguars Teal” as he calls it. Dave nets the fish and a couple quick photos and a bruiser of a redfish slides away to fight another day.

Unfortunately, we got spotted by another skiff that just couldn’t resist letting us have the redfish we found to ourselves. If they needed to come in on us while we landed a fish, they must need to catch one worse than us so I just let them have it. We picked and move and thankfully met by a new group of fish, maybe it was karma but we would happily take it.

Dave was back up and took multiple shots into tailing fish that seemed to want nothing to do with his fly. On his third shot, slowly working the fly through the group we were all on pins and needles expecting an eat at any time. Nothing. I told Dave to give it one more shot and he strips the fly quickly twice to pick up and on the second strip, with the fly up on the surface, a redfish comes out of no where and eats! Thankfully it was a split second before Dave popped the fly into his backcast or it would have been a swing and a miss.

Dave Redfish

With time running out as we had to be in by lunch Guff put together a great two-minute drill on a group of redfish moving fairly quickly pushing bait and shrimp down the shoreline. We had to get on our horse and take the proper angle as they were moving away at a pretty good clip. If I had to guess we took 15-18 shots at these fish and they either ignored or snuck out quickly chasing shrimp. A few quick pushes to gain some ground and Guff lead them a little more and that is all it took. Just needed it in their zone. As Guffy had that fish boatside I couldn’t help but think all that ground we covered and as quickly as we covered it was all due to the Chittum Mangrove 18. Not only is she quiet but being able to chase and gain ground on active, quick moving, feeding fish, is second to none!

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Another great Pre-Storm day on the water. Going to hit it again tomorrow as Dorian has slowed down and increased our window. Pray for those in the path.

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

Bow time for Bonefish

Bow time for Bonefish

So a little while back I got a phone call from my buddy, Johan, about a cool opportunity to fish and work with Oliver Rogers, who is an incredible photographer and filmmaker. (Find him here : https://www.oliverrogersphotography.com ) He has been contracted by huge names in the fly fishing industry as well as worked on killer films like the “Beyond the Horizon” shot in Honduras. You might have seen in the Fly Fishing Film tour. (Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/250590472 ).  Anyway, he is a solid, down to earth dude as well as great with both a camera and a fly rod.  Johan, calls me and didn’t make it through his first sentence about the plan and I said “ I’m in”. Don’t care when, Don’t care where, I will be there. 

A little planning, weather watching, and group chat Bullshitting we finally decided on a place and time.  South Florida was the destination and although I am not going to reveal the exact location you can narrow it down to about a 100 mile stretch of Florida. I rode down the night before so I didn’t have to drive all night for a 630a meetup at the ramp. At my  5am wake up call, it took about two seconds to cuss the weatherman. Cue the howling winds… but if you let that scare you, better stay off the flats.  From all my times traveling, hosting trips or fishing, if you are chasing Bone, Permit or Tarpon you have to fight the wind, period.  At times you actually come to appreciate the wind, although it can make casting a little more difficult, it takes the edge off those sharp eyed bastards on the flats.  After a keep meetup at the ramp, load up all of Oliver’s gear we were idling out the cut and had Johan’s Chittum pointed to the horizon. 

Johan's Chittum Islamorada 18

Plans were set to intercept some bonefish at a beautiful, turtle flat on the incoming tide that was due to start moving around 8am. We had plenty of time to get into position, get the drone up, and watch these bonefish arrive right on time. This location offered everything you need to succeed with bonefish and permit.  We had the sun at our back matched with the tide so when the fish eased up on the flat, we would be there to nail’em. 

Even with the perfect setup shit can go wrong, fish can refuse a fly or you can make a less than perfect cast. Well, both of those happened. I am not one to sugar coat my screwups.  A weak shot delivered on my first opportunity wasn’t ideal but I sharpened it up from there. Next good fish followed to the the leader in the rod tip which although super exciting, something wasn’t just right.  Now, some people will immediately change a fly if they get a refusal but that just isn’t how I roll.  Whether, I am chasing Redfish, Bonefish or Permit, I don’t chase the right fly, if I don’t immediately get an eat. I want to make sure I am not the problem, whether presentation or retrieve, I have confidence in all flies I tie on, or I wouldn’t have tied it on in the first place.  Unless I have fish scattering when they see the fly I will not swap it out with just one refusal.  So, with a few quick shots, I felt like at least one of those should’ve eaten but that is how it goes. On to the next spot. 

Photo Oliver Rogers

Photo Oliver Rogers

When you see fish in a location and it is time to move on, we always try and replicate that first spot in-regards to the bottom, adjacent to a channel or a point…etc. There is always a reason they are on each flat at a specific time. For me it is about all parts of the puzzle that make this game so rewarding when you get to fly The W. Our next spot we had to do a little photography in addition to fishing, so to get the light and scene right we had to setup a little different than we would have liked but business is business.  Tide is still moving let’s get going. 

The next stop was the one I was looking forward to all morning, I have seen plenty of fish in the area each time I have fished this place, on this tide. It is going to happen.  We were not setup two minutes and Johan spots a group at One O’Clock, 80 feet. Johan spun the boat as we had a little room to give which allowed me to setup on these fish for a good shot. I hold a little more line in the air than I usually do when fishing for Redfish, as most of my Bonefish leaders in pressured water are around 14ft and turning it over quietly is a big part of this game. My Shrimp pattern lands, two of four fish turn to have a look and they are on it, one pins it as he is looking hard but just wouldn’t commit and we ran out of room before they turned off the fly. Hmm, maybe I need to speed it up a little. It was almost like the fly didn’t looked scared enough to make them commit. Keep in mind each fish we have seen so far is 7lb+ so they aren’t the 2lb dummies like in many tourist traps that eat bologna. 

I almost changed the fly and went for my box but we spot a massive fish slow rolling the mangrove shoreline with his back out of the water.  I had no time and had to take my shot. Fly lands, fish does not alter course, tracks right to it, noses down, I bump it once and he has it, he turns, I come tight…he is gone. I was shook. I had him, check the fly and its all good, still no idea what happened but I still think about that one. I have been very blessed to dance with a lot of bonefish on my fly rod but never a two digit fish. Good thing was, no need to change the fly! We had reached the end of the push and still had plenty of time for the tide so eased off to let those fish reset before pushing in on them again. 

Clearing Line

Photo Oliver Rogers

Thankfully, in our past experience, as long as the tide is moving, these fish refresh pretty good. We did a wide loop while I gave myself a little on the water pep-talk, because you can never let one blown shot cost you the next shot.  As we eased into the crease, I had the line stripped out and was on point. About 80 feet out we see what looks to be a group of 6-7 good fish working our way, very little boat correction was needed and I laid one out their way. It was a good shot and two fish were on it immediately, but you could tell they wouldn’t instantly commit, so I wasn’t going to let them look at it long.  A couple quick strips and they were back on it and interested. I quick stripped them and made them chase it, their competitive nature took over and in a few strips I had four fish hot on my shrimps tail. It was going to happen I could feel it, they just had that look. Well, I was running out of room and the leader was coming to the tiptop in a hurry when I dropped the fly, all four fish nosed down and one quick pop made one commit, I stuck him and next thing I know I was clearing line and we were on. Frustration when to laughter as both Oliver and Johan were cheering and although I was relived I had one we needed, this fight was far from over. The fish went from rod tip to the backing in a split second and decided to make one charge back at the boat but I had him tight the whole and in just a few minutes we had him boat side. 

Headed to the Horizon

Photo Oliver Rogers

It was nice to have three on the boat so the second he was ready, Oliver landed him while Johan held our position. A few quick photos on the deck and in the water and the fish swam off strong. What a relief. Sticking a difficult fish is pressure enough but knowing you need photos certainly do not make it any easier. Right near the end of the tide we convinced Oliver to put his camera down and he hopped up on the bow but he never really had a clean shot even though he made some great casts at hard angles but we got what we needed with time to spare. 

Good Bonefish

Photo Oliver Rogers

It is these ups and downs on the water with good friends that bring us back time and time again.

Although my bow time is limited and love watching others experience the thrill of a fish on fly, it is nice to kick the rust off and dance every now and then. Again, if you need a talented dude behind the lens, hit up Oliver, he never disappoints.  Also, if you are in the Keys or South Florida, get with Johan(@tarpon_tails), he is a great guy and one fishy dude. You will have the time of your life in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.