I picked up my anglers in the soft light of dawn at
JB's Fish Camp. Slowly I pushed us back from the dock
and we got underway. We moved at idle speed south along
a bank of boat docks and oyster beds. You could just make
out the island around Turner Flats.
Fog from the Atlantic Ocean poured over the islands and
hung like a blanket on the water. Visibility was poor.
I've traveled these waters so many times, it was like
walking the parking lot at Walmart. I love the morning
air and the sound the water makes. I couldn't see much
and certainly no other boats. Mosquito Lagoon was all
ours. You could barely make out palmettos on the western
The air was still except for the heavy mist. We moved
effortlessly in our shallow draft boat running like ghosts
in the early morning gray. Birds flocked along the shore.
Egrets and Wood Storks sat on branches or walked quietly
scanning the water for food. A Rosette Spoonbill walked
in the subdued shadow of a Great Snowy Egret. A pair of
Ospreys flanked the opening to what I thought was an entry
to Catman Creek.
Moving again, we passed just north of Eldora Plantation.
I noticed two pushes on the grass line across from Pumpkin
Point. Normally I would have pulled over, but I wanted to
reach the creek while there was still enough light. I
figured the fog would lift by mid-morning and we would
surprise a school of redfish.
My anglers were excited, but at the same time apprehensive.
Rod Wilson and his cousin Gary were from Buffalo and had
never seen or caught redfish. So this was a really special
adventure. Both were experienced anglers, having fly-fished
in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys for bonefish and tarpon.
They had heard about Mosquito Lagoon and stories of monster
redfish and spotted sea trout. But they were understandably
eerie about moving so fast in the fog.
Finally we reached the creek opening, or so I thought. It
would take a good hour to pole up to Sally's Island. Two
days before we had our hands full with a school of redfish,
about 100 or so in the 27 to 32 inch range. I was bound
and determined for a repeat performance.
The boat settled down into the morning mist and the quiet
of the water. Looking around we could see the defused
shadows of neighboring islands and small coves of white
and black mangrove. The water was high for this time
of year. Recent storms had dumped 17 inches of rain on
us and the lagoon rose to new proportions, flooding a
lot of flats that would normally be impassable. Scanning
the water, I couldn't make out any pushes. The water was
fairly clear and you could see the small pods on blades of
turtle grass. They looked iridescent.
I climbed onto the poling platform and started to push us
ahead. The fog was really thick and visibility limited to
about 100-feet. Still, it was great being there and moving
slowly over the grass. Here a long narrow bar is flanked
to the west by high palmettos. A deep hole runs parallel
to the shoreline. It's a great place for redfish in the
late fall. The slough runs back south again and around
behind Gaines Island. I figured if we didn't see any reds
on the east side we could follow the shoreline until we
ran out of real estate.
The game plan was to pole to the edge of the island and
stalk some reds. After an hour I couldn't see the island.
I kept poling along watching and listening for any movement.
The boat slid easily over the shallow flat. Rod and Gary
were full of anticipation. You could see it in their
expressions, as they intently followed by gaze along
the grass line.
Finally, I saw a push moving ahead at two o'clock, about
five to six feet off the grass line. This was a big
red cruising just below the waterline. He looked like
a huge submarine throwing out a long wake. I motioned
to Rod. Quietly he stepped onto the deck and prepared
his line for the cast. He held the fly in his left hand
and looped about 20 feet of line on his arm, like a
fisherman getting ready to throw a cast net. He watched
my finger as I pointed in the direction of the push.
Rod was an experienced fly caster and I knew that he
uld lead the fish with plenty of time to work magic
with the fly. He threw the intermediate line 80 feet
on his first cast. I wondered how lucky I could get
having such a fine caster on board. This should be
like picking ducks off at a carnival shooting gallery.
Rod threw that Borski Slider repeatedly, but no one wanted
to eat. We saw continuous pushes and he led each fish by
at least 10 feet. I think it is always the way.
When you get an exceptional fly caster on board, the fish
won't bite. I poled for another 30 minutes and still
couldn't see the island. Rod took a breather while Gary
got up into casting position.
We pushed up into a narrow cut between two islands. A
four-foot slough ran to the northwest bank and two Ospreys
perched on branches across from each other. I thought there
had to be trout in this area. So Gary, with a KG pink and
white buck tail fly, threw to the edge of the rip and let
the fly settle and drift to the bottom. On his third or
fourth strip the line went taught and he fought to keep
the tension at the same time keeping the rod tip up.
Finally, the fish made a run across the bow and rolled.
It was a beautiful redfish. With each run, Gary feed the
free line out until he could work it from the reel. Twice
the redfish made passes and runs along the slough. Eventually
he pulled the redfish in for a picture and release. Just
about this time the sun was poking its nose through the mist.
Good light is a necessity for sight fishing. Reds are easily
spotted from the tower in shallow water. They stand out
like copper plated dishes and you can see them 200 yards away.
Gary got back up on the bow. The next cast brought him
another redfish. And, then it was time for Rod to take the
bow. Eventually they boated and released seven redfish. Their
day was packed with memories of the hunt and fighting these
awesome fish. The sun finally came out which made picture
taking all the more easier. Even before we headed back,
Gary and Rod were already planning their next trip to New
Smyrna Beach. This was an experience they would share with
their colleagues back at the State University of New York.
The fishing wasn't as spectacular as days before. But how
could anyone complain about catching seven redfish on fly. It
was a superb day by anyone's standards. The two men from
Buffalo will return, as do many anglers who visit our area
for the first time. It's called "fishing fever." It gets
in your blood and gives you an unmistakable rush.
It is the beauty and magic of Mosquito Lagoon, one of the
largest estuaries in North America, second only to Chesapeake
Bay. She has more than 4,000 species of birds, animals,
reptiles, and aquatic creatures. The majesty of nature
is all around us. You can't help to be captured by the
awe of this place. With many islands and backwaters,
each area is different and at the same time alike.
Catch a glimpse of a horseshoe crab as it scurries through
the grass, or a skate flapping its wings to dust the sand
off while it moves effortlessly. See the multitude of
shore birds that migrate here each year. It is finding
new places and exploring our environment. Fishing brings
people together and becomes a great connection of life. No
matter the conditions. Just being in this place, fog, rain
or pure sunshine, and then if you catch fish - well that's
just the icing on the cake.
Rod and Gary were on cloud 9 and couldn't wait to share
the success of their adventure with strangers on the dock
as we returned to JB's. Everybody was excited, and a
little astonished that we didn't keep any fish. The redfish
are still out there roaming the wonderful garden of Mosquito
Lagoon. We never did get to Sally's Island. I made wrong
turn and found a new place to fish. Isn't that just like
life when you take a wrong turn and find something new.
Just like New Smyrna Beach with its many hidden treasures. ~ Doug
Capt. Doug Sinclair is guide from New Smyrna Beach, Florida who
specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters. Doug
charters the waters from Mosquito Lagoon to Palm Coast.
Catch him on the web at
www.coastalflyfishing.com or call him at 1-386-424-1075.