Winter in our local waters of North Florida does not yield
great numbers of fish to a fly fisherman, but can offer a
great variety. Saltwater fly fishing, in general, is seldom
done for one species and you often find strange and varied
things on your line's end. The typical leader is made stronger
than you need because size of the fish is never a constant either.
I once had a dinner in Spain that had so many types of sea
creatures in it you could not count them, let alone recognize
them. Unk Smith and I caught enough things on one day recently
to fill the wildest boulibaise ever cooked up in Europe. Like
this fishing day, the meal was a great experience.
We launched on a sunny cold (50 degree is cold for us here) day
to catch the out-going tide in a local bay near a warm water outlet
from a river. The run across the bay was cold and a little wet
but when we stopped, I had a speckled sea trout on the line within
a couple of casts. I was working with a new epoxy fly made with
all artificial hair. Unk put on the all time standard yellow and
white clouser fly and quickly hooked several of the trout and then
had a hard fighting fish take the hook. The fight was a deep hard
pull and we argued for while about what it was. Finally, he got
it to the surface and he had a stingray by the nose. You don't
target them but they eat things off the bottom too. I did get a
picture of the two-foot long thing but Unk was trying to get it
off before I could. He threw a couple more times and had another
hard pulling 'something' on. We always hope for a redfish but
usually a red will come to the surface and be seen fighting.
This fight went on for a good while on his six-weight rod and
turned out to be a fair sized (couple pounds) saltwater catfish.
I was fumbling for the camera as he was trying to get it off the
hook without spiking himself. He beat me to the release. If
he was going to catch a north Florida slam he did not want it
to include either of the two he had by now. A salt water slam
is usually three game fish but gets redefined locally, he could
have had a real winning slam if he could have had a jelly fish
After a couple of more trout we moved off to try and find the
elusive redfish. Unk poled from the platform on the stern and
I stood on the bow ready. This small boat from a distance looks
like a half-sunk "H" with us at either end. We together weigh
about a hundred pounds more than the boat. It did not take long
and we had a shot at a nice redfish lolling in the shallows
sucking up sun. He did not eat but Unk next spotted a huge
ray swimming towards us stirring up the bottom while eating
its' way along. Right behind it followed two large reds
catching the things fleeing from the ray. I threw the spoon
fly behind the ray into the mud cloud with fins and tails
sticking out. One of the beauties hit it like a freight
train going down hill and almost pulled me off the front
end. Unk, always the cool calm one, was suggesting techniques
at the top of his lung power. My cell phone rang right in
the middle of the fight. Unk later told me, 'he would have
killed me if I had tried to answer.' A guide gets all the
credit when a good fish is caught. The customer is only a
necessary evil to the process. Why a phone you ask? I am
on duty working constantly at my consulting job.
The fight lasted long enough, even on the heavy eight-weight
rod, to make any fisherman happy. He was big enough (about
ten pounds) to use the net on and took some time to revive
before releasing; he needed to be peppy enough to get away
from the sharks. We saw plenty more reds but not eating as
these were. Unk and I were practicing to be guides spotting
these guys, so it was still productive.
The next spot (all these 'spots' were within a few hundred
yards of each other) I hooked into a ladyfish on my six-weight
and got the jumping fish 'fix' for the day. On the next cast
a fair sized (foot and a half) needlefish ate my fly. Unk
caught a little jack cravelle to round out the day. He never
got the jellyfish.
Seven kinds of fish in about three hours seemed good for a slow
day. We headed in with smiles once again. Of course, we smile
any time we spend time on the water, even without fish. This
remote area is teaming with ducks, eagles, osprey, pelicans,
and many other water fowl this time or year.
In these the waters, but not caught this day, were bluefish,
sharks and several other fun things to find on a hook. The
water we float around in is truly a soup of wondrous variety.
With some care on the part of fisherman with catch-and-release
and put some sanity in the development of the land, we can
perhaps keep places like this alive for our grandkids.
But, if we don't get our sewage plants ahead of the development,
an area like this will be wiped out with a single housing
development binge. Such a growth is happening on the north
side of this bay and I bet the sewage plant will follow years
later with septic tanks overflowing well before. The problems
with drinking water for those that move into the houses is a
far more popular problem than the health of the fish.
One bad thing we saw on this day was a young pelican that landed
beside us when we were landing a trout. He obviously wanted the
fish. When it flew off empty handed we could see he was trailing
a fishing line from his rear. Somewhere inside of him a hook
was slowly killing him. ~ Capt. Scud Yates