This was no expedition, but it had all the components. Cold and dreary,
the day beckoned with a steady rain. Like the sounds of a brass brush
on symbols, the drops made a light tatter on the roof of my truck. Days
before we had canceled the charter because of lightning and thunder in
Brad and Mike arrived at the ramp just behind me. Looking at me, Brad
winced as a drop of water fell from his hat to his nose. They both had that
look of, "this will blow over and it will be a bright, sunny day." We all knew better. Such was the draw. Once in awhile, in Florida, it rains. And, we needed rain very badly. Rain isn't so bad except when there is a lot of wind.
It's just that I would rather not start out wet.
We set up the rods, stowed the gear, and pushed off from the ramp just before
7am. The wind blew steadily out of the north. Brad was first up with a nine-weight. Tied to his 16 pound tippet was a chartreuse/white deceiver to which I had some minor color adjustments and was eager to find out the results.
Standing at the bow, Brad moved his arms like he is conducting a symphony orchestra.
But instead of a foot-long baton, his right hand held a nine-foot graphite rod arching
back and forth with the regularity of a metronome.
A bit of feather and fur, hiding a needle-sharp barbless hook, shot into the wind.
The blowing rain, the wind and cold made fishing a little uncomfortable.
Mike, guide and owner of Lewis & Clark Expeditions (Helena, MT), knew full
well that any day on the water, was a good day.
We moved along past Eldora Plantation south and across from Doris Leeper's
old house. I thought with the rain and all, using the push pole from the tower
could be really interesting. There is nothing worse than a wet slippery poling
platform; so I opted for the 'electric push-pole.' As I dropped the tabs to start
the trolling motors, I heard an awful whine. I looked into the water off the
starboard stern and was mortified at what I saw - the prop blade and pin shot
off leaving only the shaft attached to the motor. OK, it was time for plan B -- use
the push pole. The platform was real slippery, so I tried the sit-on-the-platform
method. I looked like an older Huckleberry Finn, with the long pole sculling
the water behind the boat.
We drifted south, with occasional steerage adjustments from my push pole.
As cloudy and rainy as it was, I was amazed by the clarity of the water. I
was surprised at the water depth on the west side of the channel, it was
about four feet deep. In twenty years fishing this area I've never seen
Mosquito Lagoon so shallow.
Poling along the west side of the channel running from Pumpkin Point to
the mouth of the Shot Gun, I didn't see any Redfish. All the time, Brad
kept up his pace of constant casting and retrieving. He was a showman
of outstanding casting skills, especially in these conditions. But no hook
ups. I could tell that he was getting tired.
Just near the mouth of the Shot Gun, a pod of Dolphin broke the surface.
They dove and then rolled forward over the crests, tails clearing the water
on each dive.
"Look! What's that?" Mike asked.
He had never been this close to Bottlenose Dolphin. Just ten feet away, eight
fish ranging from about 30 pounds to 150 pounds played in the water. We
stopped and watched these beautiful mammals for about twenty minutes.
Mike sat back, propped his feet up on the gunnel smiled from ear to ear
and watched them intently.
"This is better than fishing. What a great area this is."
I poled into the Goodrich Lease. No Fish. Not even a Spotted Sea Trout. I
poled along the Shot Gun to Peg's Flat. This is my all time favorite flat that holds
monster trout, but I couldn't get over the bar that protects the entrance. And
this wasn't a day for wading. The wind was picking up with white caps breaking.
I knew we had to find a place shielded from the wind where we could fish - but
where? Old Pilot Cove came to mind, so that's where we headed. The ride
there was rough. The boat handled very well and we would have been dry,
except for the rain driving straight at us. What a relief when I pulled past
Turner Flats into the quiet water heading west along big mangroves and pines.
Back on the deck, Brad started casting. The trailing fluorescent yellow fly line
hissed through the rod's guides until it reached the apex of its flight and the fly
dropped softly into the water next to the rip from a creek tail-out. Rod tip
pointing toward the shimmering surface, Brad began stripping the line slowly
in quick, short tugs. The retrieve kept the fly just off the bottom.
As the fly approached the boat, he arched the rod tip back and with a slight
pulling motion from his left hand did a water-haul and recast to the same spot
sixty feet away. He let the fly sink (counting "4,5,6") then began another strip.
"Nice," came Mike's reply.
On the fourth strip the line went tight and the rod bent in half. Brad played
this schoolie Spotted Sea Trout for about ten minutes. With a heavier tippet
you can boat and release a trout quickly, avoiding any undue stress on the fish.
This little guy was 18-inches. Once released, Brad cast back to the edge
of the rip. Within four or five strips, he caught another trout. After his second
release, I changed Mike's fly to a Pink Bucktail. Mike and Brad made several
more hookups. The trout were somewhat lethargic, but welcome fighters.
Most were in the slot limit from 18 to 22 inches. They just loved munching
our flies. And the fight, though short-lived, was fun and exciting.
"This is what fly-fishing is all about," said Mike.
Wet and chilled to the bone, we motored back to the ramp, back into the
snarling north wind and more rain. The wind had picked up to 20 mph.
For many fly-fishing anglers, the challenge of presenting a fly to a wary fish
and having him eat it is more than just putting food on the table. It is being
out in nature for the joy of its beauty, the thrill of the hook set, and the
reverence of releasing one's quarry to fight another day.
It never once stopped raining. Despite an otherwise miserable day, we
did have a great time on the water.
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.