About three weeks ago I got a call from Kent. He was
traveling to Atlanta for the holidays and wanted to know
if I could take one of his charters. Actually it was a
hand-me-down charter from someone else. No one had a
boat big enough for four people. My flats skiff is just
shy of nineteen feet. So I got the honors. It's ok.
I mean I can take four people (5 including yours truly).
It means that people have to take turns casting. Can
you imagine the confusion with four people trying to fly
cast from a flats boat. I wasn't interested in becoming
the first human pincushion.
I picked them up at the Critter Fleet in Ponce Inlet.
Four big guys from Tennessee boarded my boat. I thought
for the first time ever, I could have exceeded my weight
limitations. I'm sure we had over twelve hundred pounds
of people in the boat. This called for an immediate change
in plans. Poling was out of the question. I'm sure any
movement in the cockpit would have eliminated me off the
tower. Hey! It would have lightened up the boat. We
were definitely going to use the trolling motors.
"Captain. What are we fishing for?"
"Jacks and Spinner Sharks," came my reply. I was heading
for some fast moving water behind Disappearing Island and
Rock House Creek. This is deep water with a slough that
drops from about six-inches off an easterly sandbar to
about 25-feet. I knew that I needed to get them on some
big nasty fish, stretch those lines and give them one hell
of an experience. The trolling motors and the engine would
be our answer and some big flies. Positioning them next
to the rip was tricky.
Three of these gentlemen brought their own 8-wt rods, which
I let them use. The wind was light to none, so casting wasn't
a problem. With a big fish on an 8-wt rod, you need to
play the fish more. You can't just crank them in.
Larry was first up on the casting deck. He was using my 10-wt DFR.
"Go Larry", his comrades yelled.
I tied on a red/silver deer hair fly, and instructed him
to cast to the edge of the rip along the sand bar. Allowing
the fly to swing into the eddy and then start the strip.
It wasn't long before some jacks appeared. They were small
and moved ahead of the fly to where the tippet was tied to
the fly line. They started to nibble on the green covering
on the loop connection. I had Larry move the line for a wet
haul and recast, which he did. This time I moved him closer
to the edge of the bar so that he could cast out on to the bar
itself and then drag the fly into the rip. This worked.
As the fly fluttered into the rip, I said "Strip, strip,
strip, faster, Larry, strip."
On the sixth strip, the Jack hit the fly so hard I thought
Larry would go overboard. Down the Jack went pulling hard
on the line and the rod was bent to the butt.
"Walk him around."
Larry walked along the gunnel trying to hold the rod up and
control his balance. His friends patted him on the back and
moved out of his way. I turned the boat around to keep the
Jack free of us. This was a big Jack. For almost twenty
minutes that Jack came up and dove several times. Once he
tried to race across the bar and Larry let him spool into
the backing before the Jack reversed and came straight back
at us and dove under the boat. I was hoping we could get
the Jack up by the boat because Larry was showing signs of
fatigue. I reached under the bench and pulled out my long
handled net. When the Jack resurfaced, I put the trolling
motors in high by-pass and motored over to the Jack and
signally Larry to position the fish towards me. Larry
bagged a nice 15-pound Jack. His buddies took the picture
while I managed the boat position and the release of this
"I'm next! I want one of those too" yelled Allan. He wanted
to use his 8-wt rod, so I put one of my pink KG Bucktail flies
on a shock tippet tied to his tippet. I moved closer to Rock
House Creek. I could hear baitfish being trashed along the
reeds next to another bar. It didn't sound like a Jack, more
like a Tarpon or a shark. Small spinner sharks move up along
our inlets in the winter. Tarpon was unlikely, since it was
too cold for them. Spinner sharks are mean. They pull very
hard and run like offshore power boats.
I positioned us just near the rip, close enough for Allan to
cast to its edge. Again the smaller Jacks started following
the fly. Then they disappeared. I motioned to Allan to stop
the strip. The fly started to sink and then the water exploded
and the line started coming off the spool. Panic was written
on his face. He didn't know what to do and it was clear he
couldn't hear me. Allan instinctively put the rod tip down
and then yanked with all his might. I just thought, "oh, no,
don't do that." I was sure he'd break the rod tip. But
the Sage didn't break (could have).
"It's not a Tuna!" John yelled at him. And he was right.
You never set a hook like that using a fly rod. The fish
will set the hook himself. I use really, really sharp hooks.
Once there is any tension on the hook, it goes right in and
won't come out as long as the line is tight. Again we were
spooling into the backing. Allan got some help from his
comrades, while I chased the fish with the engine. We were
moving into Rock House Creek and towards the inlet. We
couldn't see the fish, but the way it was pulling and the
heading, I figured we had a spinner shark. I didn't want
to risk Allan breaking his rod or breaking off the fish.
Almost out of the creek and heading towards the mouth of
the Indian River, the fish reversed direction and started
heading back into the creek. I thought this kind of strange,
but went with the flow. About half way in the creek the fish
started moving towards a sandbar on the south side and into
flat water. Now I was really curious to see what Allan had tagged.
In the shallow water, a ten-pound trout was wearing out. This
was a really beautiful trout and Allan was just tickled by his
catch. The front lip on the trout was ripped and a big gapping
hole was evident. I turned and looked at Allan.
"Allan, please, in the future don't set the hook so hard.
Look at this poor creature." Allan just looked at me, confused.
"What's your problem Captain?" was his reply, "You're going
to clean him anyway, right?"
"No, Sir." I came back. "Trout are out of season, he's going
"But he's my fish. I'm keeping him, he's mine!"
"Wrong again." I said. "Allan, you've caught a beautiful
trout. We'll take the picture and then say farewell to this
guy." An argument played out and then I released his fish.
Allan was not a happy camper. I fished his buddies until
noon and then dropped them back at Ponce. We caught five
Jacks and one Spotted Sea Trout, 75 pounds of fish. This
was a great trip by anyone's standards.
Just remember to watch those lips. If you aren't fishing
for large Blue Fin Tuna, on a Tuna boat, don't try to
dislodge the lips from your fish.
Catch/Release: it's the right thing to do.
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.