Reading Gnu Bee Flyer's article on attending the
Washington Fish-In didn't help lessen my excitement
and the anticipation I was feeling. It was only a
few weeks till the Florida Fish-In, and I'd already
been packed for a while. Last years Florida Fish-In
was my first. I had such a great time I planned to
attend the next one before I left.
Last spring, or maybe it was late winter, I got a
call from my former neighbor from Michigan, my
friend, Dan. He wanted to know where he could find
a rod building kit for a fly rod. In order for you
to understand the strangeness of the question at
hand you must first understand that in the almost
two years that I lived there, Dan never once fly
fished. In fact, he told me, more that once when
we were fishing off of his pontoon boat out on the
lake we were living on, that if I hit him with my
fly, I'd be swimming back to shore.
So, you see, it was a bit of a strange question.
Hook and Hackle was of course my first choice...
actually, it was the only one I knew of. And then,
thinking there was only one obvious answer to why
he wanted to build a fly rod, I asked him who it
was for. His reply caught me a little off-guard,
he was building it for himself!
You could have just about pushed me over with a
size 26 dry fly hackle. I was sure I'd
misinterpreted his answer, because he didn't fly
fish, but sure enough, he wanted to build himself
a 4wt fly rod for chasing bass, bluegill, and
My next question was, "When did you start fly fishing?"
"Last summer," he said rather matter-of-factly.
Unbeknownst to me, Dan used to take great pleasure
in watching me attempt to teach another one of my
neighbors to fly fish. Dan would get a cup of coffee
or pepsi, and sit down in his porch and laugh himself
silly watching my neighbor, Ray, try and cast. It was
for me, an exercise in futility, you'd have to know
Ray to understand, and when it was all said and done,
Dan came to the conclusion that fly fishing couldn't
possibly be as hard as it looked...all he had to do
was exactly the opposite of what Ray had been doing.
After some time on the phone talking about all sorts
of different related subjects, we had a trip planned
to do some saltwater fly fishing in a state who's name
I shall refrain from using.
I refrain because it was by far the worst vacation
experience I've ever had, Dan as well. Never in all
my life had either of us been treated so rudely. I
was expecting the "Florida" experience that I'd received
at last years Fish-In, but was sorely disappointed,
and in an effort to redeem myself, I suggested Dan
come with me to this years Fish-In. He agreed to come,
but not before he informed me that if it was anything
like our last trip, he would never fish with me again.
A promise I believed he would keep.
As time passed and plans were made, the excitement
started building. I'd called Kevin at Casey Key
Anglers and Outfitters, Gill, and even Captain
Tony Petrella who'd hosted the Fish-In last year.
I was primed and ready.
My flight got in a few hours late because of Delta
grounding all the planes that were associated with
the electrical problems they were having. Not a big
deal really, but it cut my fishing by several hours.
When I got down there the first thing I noticed was
how bad the weather was while I was waiting for Gill
(FLskibum) to pick me up. 80 and sunny...pretty much
the entire time I was there. It was tough, but I made
Dan had a campsite reserved at the Mayaka River State
Park, so Gill and I drove straight there to meet up
with Dan, relax for a few minutes and then head to
the fly shop, Casey Key Anglers and Outfitters. When
we got there, Dave (Saltydancindave) had left packets
of information about the area along with maps and
directions to several places for us to fish. Kevin
was again, kind enough to point out a few places
for us to try, and showed us some pictures of some
of the fish that had been caught recently. We also
met Bill (reload556) who wasn't going to be able to
fish on Friday, but wanted us to let him know about
Saturday. I told him I'd call and let him know what
we would be doing.
With my non-resident license in hand, we made the
short drive to Blind Pass to try our luck. It was
pretty late in the evening, prime time to fish the
flats and mangroves for snook, redfish, and speckled
trout. Mullet were schooling everywhere, but somehow
all three of us managed to catch nary a redfish. The
only one of us who had any luck that night was me,
with a gigantic 5 inch pinfish.
Night snook fishing was next. Last year, Kevin
had told me about a bridge where you could fish
by the lights at night from shore. I had an
absolute blast there several nights in a row,
so that's where we went. There was already one
fisherman there, he had a spinning rod, and a
fly rod handy, but told us the fish had lock-jaw.
Try as we did, we couldn't get a thing to eat any
of our flies. Dan and Gill walked up onto the
bridge to get a better vantage point to look
at the fish in the lights, where they saw some,
as they described, "three footers" waiting in
the shadows, but well out of reach of any of my
casts. I didn't dare go up there to look, it
would have been too much temptation. I had one
of them on last year, for just a second. It shot
out of the darkness as my fly drifted through the
bridge light, swallowed it, and then shot back to
the shadows from whence it came. I pulled for all
I was worth, but it was no use. It broke me off
on the pilings only a few seconds later...I wanted
revenge...it's illegal to fish from the bridge, and
I don't think Dan or Gill would have bailed me out
of jail. I think they would have divided all my
gear equally, and left me to sing the 'Fulsome
Prison Blues' as I wasted away dreaming of big snook.
We packed up, and went and ate a hearty dinner from
McDonalds, and then drove the 24 miles back to the
campsite, where I think it might have taken Dan and
Gill a combined total of three minutes to fall asleep.
The next morning we were up with the rest of the
snowbirds, I think it was about 9:30 am when we
finally managed to rouse Gill. We loaded everything
we needed back up, and then hit the trail.
We stopped in at the fly shop where Kevin gave
us directions to a favorite honey hole for some
speckled trout. Let me tell you about a long
paddle in a canoe. I'm not sure how far it was,
but it felt like 5 miles...one way. Gill fished
his way there, Dan and I paddled straight there
because we wanted to get into the fish as soon
Having never been there, we were a little unsure
of where to position the canoe, but we dropped
anchor anyway and started fishing. On his second
cast, Dan hooked into a 21" speckled trout! That
thing was fat and long...and delicious, there was
no doubt that we were in the right spot. After
quite some time without so much as a bite I
noticed that we had drifted out quite a ways on
the outgoing tide. We paddled back and fished it
again, but only caught a ladyfish. By then Gill
had caught up with us. With the tide going out,
we drifted back in the direction we came, fishing
all the way, catching ladyfish after ladyfish,
tearing up 30lb fluorocarbon like it was dental
floss and cussing at how the little buggers can
tear a fly to shreds...but we had fun. As we rode
the current we fished across one little area that
held several trout for Dan that were just under
the slot limit, but he also got one that was
legal...dinner for sure!
A few hours later we were back at the boat ramp,
tired and hungry, the sun was on it's way down,
so we headed off to a local seafood joint for
some oysters on the half shell, finished with a
cold beer (pepsi for Dan), and then a huge platter
of food that hit the spot just right. I called
Dave (Saltydancindave), and Bill on the way to
see where and when for Saturday.
We met at the Kingfisher for breakfast followed
by a walk on the beach for snook, and whatever
else we could run into, followed by fishing Blind
Pass and the surrounding area. I also called Captain
Tony Petrella to get his latest fishing report. When
I told him what we were planning, he said forget
walking the beach, he wanted us to meet him where
he would be meeting his clients, and he'd show us
where to fish from the kayaks, out from Indian
Mound boat ramp.
Of course, we got up late, and had to cancel on
breakfast in order to make it to meet up with
Capt. Tony. I called Bill and Dave to apologize,
and told them what Capt. Tony told me, so they
decided to fish across the intracoastal waterway
from us at Blind Pass. Dan and I each got into
some ladyfish, lots of them. Dan also caught a
big puffer fish on a clouser. As we drifted
across the bay, both Dan and I caught a few
more trout, all legal, dinner AND breakfast!
After paddling around and fishing for a few hours
we thought it proper to paddle across the waterway
to say hi to Dave and bill, and to see how their
fishing had been going. Neither one had had so
much as a bump. Bill had to leave, and Dave had
some running around town that he wanted to do, but
agreed to meet Gill at the Indian Mound ramp to
join him in his canoe. We fished around the area
for several more hours boating a few more ladyfish,
and then packed it all in so we could make it to
the BBQ at Capt. Tony's house.
We all got to Capt. Tony's at just about the
same time. His new puppy, Heart, was straining
at his collar as Kate, Tony's beautiful bride,
held him back to try and save us from being
licked to death. Ghost, as she did last year,
took it all in stride. In all it was a great
evening, the company, the food, the drinks,
and the stories. We ate till we just about
couldn't move, well, I did, and then Kate
came out with some brownies that were still
warm...heaven...beer and chocolate brownies.
The next morning we met Bill at the Blind Pass
beach to walk the beach to some rocks that were
on the far side of two miles up the beach. The
water was almost glass calm, the wind at our
backs. We fished to sheepshead, snook, and I
think there were even a few pompano in the mix
as well. When we finally got to the rocks, and
I mean finally, there were only two other people
fishing, slinging bait, but they were catching.
Dan and I eased in next to them and were into
fish almost immediately. Blue runner's, and small
skipjack (as the locals called them). It is flat
out amazing how hard those little fish can pull.
Every time I hooked one and saw the bend in my 8wt,
I would be anticipating something a bit bigger than
what popped out of the water. If you haven't
experienced the salt, you definitely need to
take a trip to do so.
Shortly after we got there, Bill let out a whoop
with a nice bend in his rod as his first ever
saltwater fish on a fly tested his tippet, a
nice Spanish mackerel. I don't think I could
have wiped the smile off of his face with my
12 wt, it was great to share that experience
with him. He landed several more fish while we
were out there. As did Dan and I. Gill had slept
in a bit and made the hike a bit later. We all
caught fish that day. For me, it was the highlight
of the trip. I'd been dreaming of walking the beach
and surf fishing since my trip down there the year
before. We had so much fun that Dan and I did it
again the next day, and the next and the next.
Gill and Bill had to go back to work, which left
me and Dan with nothing to do but fish, so we did.
We hit the beach every day, and caught fish every
time. I'd been searching for a 6wt rod for a while,
and found a nice Temple Forks 4pc. I liked at the
fly shop. Kevin let me cast it, and home it went.
I used it the last day we fished, and broke it in
on several very nice ladyfish, skipjack, and a
My only regret was leaving Dan down there for
another week to fish by himself, I would loved
to have joined him, but work was calling. I
suppose I'll have to wait for next years Florida
Fish-In to see if I can get in range of some of
the feeding frenzies we witnessed just out of
casting range off of the beach. I hope some of
you join me/us too.
I'd particularly like to thank everyone who helped
make this years trip a success. Kevin, Captain Tony,
Gill, Dave, Bill, and Dan. I had a fantastic time
with everyone, thank you guys for making some
special memories with me...I propose a sunburn
contest for next year to see who can come up with
the best 'emblazoned V'...lol.
For more information on fishing the Venice, Florida
area please contact Kevin at Casey Key Anglers and
Outfitters (941) 483-1115, or check them out on the
web at www.caseykeyanglersandoutfitters.com Or you
can call Captain Tony Patrella at (941) 496-4289. ~ Thunderthumbs