Category Archives: Florida

FLA.

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Boca Grande, home of tournament Reds, Snook and Tarpon. A controversial battle ground for the snag factor in tournament tarpon fishing, home to millionaires and celebrities, golf carts and banyan trees.

Our guide was tireless for two days, putting us under mangroves, along sand bars and into the open ocean.. I caught a snook on my first cast of the morning, on a brand new Enrico Puglisi white bait fish imitation, and shortly after was casting my first twelve weight at rolling tarpon. It was like casting the push pole, but I got the hang of it. The tarpon never cared. On they rolled…..

We got a good look at some huge manatee, came alongside a 10 foot hammerhead shark, and witnessed the beauty of a colossal eagle ray cruising the shallows. We waded, and cast from the boat. We fished through rain storms and under baking sun. We didn’t catch many fish, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

It was late in the day when I caught the redfish that won my the top spot trophy for the fly division. While the fishing had been slow for every boat, ours hauled int he biggest red, and thus stood sunburned and slightly drunk beside the Gulf on a pool deck, surrounded by the revelers at the post tournament cocktail hour that included dinner, an auction, and and incredible sunset. I caught the Red on a small clouser that I retired when I returned home – pinning it to the corner of the frame that houses the award – a hand-drawn cruising red by a local artist. I’m proud of it…..

057Camera 360

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Filed under Boca Grande, Flats, Florida, Guided Fishing, Ocean, On the road, Redfish, Skiff, Snook, Tarpon, Travel

South Florida Dispatch

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I was hoping to report the days fishing in this space, as it happened. A foolish idea in hindsight. When I have the time and space and the comfort of home, I look forward to recounting the last few days. The fishing has been, by all accounts, very slow. That, and a day full of less then optimal weather conditions did not, however, dampen the spirits of my fellow anglers and their respective guides. Tarpon have been sighted, dramatically so, but not caught. Red fish and snook have not been so lucky, but have been returned safely to the warm Florida waters. We are having a damn good time.

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Filed under Fishing, Florida, Places, Red Fish, Snook, Tarpon

Proceed.

(It’s been quiet around here. This blog tends to roll with the seasons, and looking at the slow rain outside, I realize we’ve only just emerged from a long, cold winter. When the ponds and creeks were frozen over, and the saltwater catch slowed to nothing, I took time to do many things other than fishing, including starting a business and working on some other projects. Now, despite the weather, spring is here and the fishing is good, and only looks to get better. Thanks for sticking around – Neil)

I decided this year to spare you the “Spring has Sprung” post. Although a staple of fishing blogs, being the seminal season for anglers, even I was tired of the concept. Yes, the Osprey’s arrived, the Henbit bloomed and the horseshoe crabs have appeared. It’s all quite wonderful, but time isn’t in abundance as it once was. So down to business, it is…..

Striped bass, bluefish and flounder are all being caught in keeper sizes and numbers along the beaches here in southern DE. The reports from the trout waters up north have all been positive, although the shad have not yet shown in big numbers. I’ve been capitalizing on all the above, but it’s the warm, clear waters of Florida that are calling me now.

Camera 360

I’m 24 hours from boarding a plane bound for the gulf coast, and Boca Grande. I am participating in a catch & release tournament – a charitable benefit in pursuit of redfish, trout, snook, and tarpon. Gear is being prepped as best as can be by an angler stepping into somewhat unfamiliar waters.

The particular brand of jitters I’m experiencing is a combination of several undeniable truths:

Travel – I like traveling, do it as often as I can, enjoy flying (for the most part), and am not the kind to bitch about a 3 hour hop to sunshine and blue water. That said, any time I travel, the 48 hours before departure are always a quiet meditation – running checklists of gear, clothing, identification, flight numbers and departure times.

Fishing with a guide – I’ve never done it. Although I’m expecting to be assigned a helpful, professional guide who understands I’m in town for charity and fun, you never know. I also have no idea if this guide will think I cast like a slob and should probably never be allowed near a fly rod. I think this comes from having never had a formal lesson in fly casting. As a self taught angler, I’m always self conscious that what I’m doing looks like hell to a trained professional. I also don’t want to sink a 1/0 hook into his boat. Or him, for that matter.

Tarpon – Redfish and snook excite the hell out of me. To be truthful, those two species are the ones that I’m most anxious to chase, but let’s face it. I’m the minority. Most of these guys want to hook into a 150lb tarpon. Don’t get me wrong – so do I. But I fear I’m improperly armed. I’m heading down with an 8wt and a 6wt. A 150lb fish sounds like 10wt game to me. Also, it’s tarpon. A legendary, revered target of fly anglers. If I do get a shot at one, I really don’t want to screw it up.

Despite by grumblings, I remain optimistic and excited. Not long now, it;s good fishing, cool drinks and pleasant accommodations. Did I mention I was invited, and therefore expenses are covered? That helps, too.

I’ll be reporting back on these pages every evening. My posts may be short until I can return home and soak in the experience to the degree required to get a decent account on paper.

Good to see you again. Let’s go fishing…..

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Filed under Fishing, Florida, Places, Saltwater, Seasons, Spring

FLA.*

Florida Flats

Florida Flats

(* – written upon returning from Florida in late November, 2012.)

The wish was that, upon returning from my trip to Florida, I’d be posting a glorious photograph in this space of myself, hoisting a silver and gold red fish with a fly rod in my teeth. The clear Florida waters would be glistening behind me, lapping against a white sand shore line of mangroves and palm trees. Not to be, it seems.

My time fishing was limited, but I expected as much, and that was fine. Fishing wasn’t the priority on this short vacation to Treasure Island, just south of Tampa Bay, FL. I was there to spend time with my brother, catch a show, and escape the creeping cold of my home waters, just for a moment. With those objectives accomplished, I was able to sneak away for a while with my fly rod. With so much water around me, the question was….where?

Internet research will take you so far. You can get the general idea of what to fish for, flies to use, leader lengths and the like. Specific information on where to fish is different. The internet hasn’t changed this aspect of the game – the local knowledge is still the best. Knowing this, I looked up local fly shops, and found Tampa Bay on the Fly, and pointed the rental car in it’s general direction.

Once the woman who lives in my phone guided me safely to the shop, I walked in to findĀ  owner Enver Hysni and a friend sitting at the fly tying table.

Tampa Bay on the Fly

Tampa Bay on the Fly

Locals tying flies

Locals tying flies

Tying is encouraged at Enver’s store, as was demonstrated by the heaps of hackle, marabou and hooks scattered all over the large table in the center of the shop. The guys greeted me warmly, asked me if I wanted a drink, and then asked just who the hell I was and what the hell was I doing there?

I explained that I had a fly rod and no idea what the hell to do with it, and where I was staying. Without a word, Enver grabbed a map and a pen, and a local fishing guidelines book, laid it all out on a glass display counter, and began marking it up with a pen. It turns out a stretch of park land, just 20 minutes south of my hotel, could be a good place to find cruising reds. I loaded up on local flies, some odds and ends I can’t get near my home, and a few leaders, lead eyes and a selection of other random flies I could put to use. When you encounter such friendly people who take the time to load you up on so much local knowledge, you find a way to pay them back as best you can. You buy stuff. It’s just good etiquette.

Fort Desoto Park lies at the south end of a slither of land that stretches through Mullet Key Bayou. Despite being home to a civil war era fort and beautiful mangrove lined lagoons, I was here to fish the grass beds of the south east beaches. After stringing up a rod and pulling on my waders, I crested the small rise that blocks the ocean view from the parking lot, and was immediately greeted with the acrobatics of Mullet Key’s namesake. Breaching and leaping mullet fish of significant size were jumping out of the water in all directions. Knowing these were not the best species to try to catch on the fly, I tied on one of Enver’s Redfish Wasp flies and waded in,

The point at Fort Desoto.

shuffling my feet for rays, as instructed.

I caught two fish that day. One was a small lady fish, the second a contender for the worlds smallest tarpon. I didn’t even photograph them, thinking bigger, more impressive fish would eventually materialize. Conditions were less than optimal. I was on a falling tide, and the water was churned up and cloudy. Sight fishing wasn’t an option unless I found tailing fish, but the only tails in the air I found belonged to the abundant mullet. I cast along grass beds, shorelines and sand bars, walked the beach, tried different flies, and came up empty for the rest of the day. It would be a lie to suggest that I didn’t mind my lack of good fishing, but there were several positives to all this. For one, this area is stunningly beautiful. The weather was warm and sunny and the white sand beaches were blinding against the backdrop of blue sky and mangroves and thick palms. I had a mile or so of isolated beach to myself, and I marveled at the sheer volume of birds, fish, lizards and other critters that roam the park grounds. In between futile casts, I took a lot of pictures, took in the landscape, and bathed in warm sun.

The following day, myself, my brother and a few friends woke up with the sun to take a charter boat out of John’s Pass. Today, we would catch many fish. In fact, we would simply loot the ocean without much effort.

After pounding out for over and hour in 4 to 6 foot seas, getting soaked in the early morning chill, our captain handed us those stubby little boat rods and baited them for us. All we had to do was flick a switch and watch the bait tumble down into over 65 feet of water.Camera 360 Then wait. If one of the five in my party did not hook a fish within five minutes, we would move – maybe as short a distance as 100 yards, and drop the lines again. When we encountered a school of red grouper or porgy, we would haul them in by the dozen.

Thank goodness I was on this boat with family, good people, and a nice guy for a Captain, or this would have been miserable. Being amongst friends was fun, and it was interesting to see some fish I’d never seen before, but this trip only confirmed my long-held suspicions about deep sea fishing; that all this bouncing around in a boat for several long hours of dipping a line in and reeling it up again just isn’t my cup of tea. To me, it feels like clubbing seals. It’s too easy, requires no effort unless your the captain, and provides me little -to-no satisfaction. And, as someone that doesn’t mind Camera 360someone keeping an abundant fish to eat, but releases almost every fish I catch, I found theĀ  expediency of it all somewhat off-putting. Fish an inch or so too short to Camera 360keep were tossed overboard like a Frisbee; pink, swollen swim bladders protruding from their mouths from being yanked from the depths too quickly. Thankfully, fish fit to keep were put to good use, as two of my friends on board were professional chefs employed to cook for a hundred or so people, all of whom will enjoy some variation of grouper for a month.

Ultimately, I’ve chalked the fishing end this trip down south up as a scouting expedition. I like the small town feel of Treasure Island, I know where to go to find fish next time. I know where to get a kayak, and a damn good Cuban sandwich and a beer when the sun sets. I know a good fly shop, and the guy who owns it, and with the exceptionally cheap bars, restaurants, air fare and hotels, I know I’ll be back – next time, only to fish. I’ll get that red fish photo yet…..

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Filed under Fishing, Fishy Water, Florida, Fly Shop, Grouper, Porgy