All photographs on this page are available for purchase

All photographs on this page are available for purchase

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Foot Pursuit gets some Old School Flotation

A few weeks ago, the Ditch Fishing Master, my buddy an co fly fishing addict Chris got a call from friend of his.  He had come across a pile of old rental canoes from a state park all of which were damaged.  When I say damaged, I mean minor imperfections.  But, through some liability issue, they are not able to use them for public rental use anymore.   Luckily, we were able to snag one of the better vessels before they were sent to their death at the local Transfer Station.  Chris took her home, cleaned her up, and did some minor fiberglass work.  He patched a hole literally the size of a quarter which was located just under the gunnel on the canoe.  The hole was in a spot where it would have only taken in water if you were 12 beers deep and were slumped over in an alcohol induced nap and swamped it yourself.  Not that I have ever done that, but, I may have witnessed something similar on a canoe trip mission on the Sacco river in Maine.  But, that is another story for another time.  And, for the protection of the accused, no names will be mentioned here.  Anyways, after Chris finished the sanding and patching process, we set out for a test float/fly fishing mission on a local waterway.

We arrived at the Creek at O'dark Thirty, loaded up the new ride with a couple of 5 wts. and an 8wt. just for good measure, and launched her off on her maiden voyage with her new owner.  We had heard that this creek was Tidal and chock full of baby Snook and other popular game fish, and this proved to be true.  We launched the canoe, sat 3 feet off of the ramp,and Chris began casting at a small section of moving water which was dumping out of the mangroves due to the tide rushing back to the Atlantic.  Second cast, Snook on, well, let me say, baby Snook on.  It absolutely crushed a Glades Minnow pattern that Chris has improved and perfected.  This was an epic start to a nothing less than an epic day.

We continued exploring the Creek for the better part of the day.  We fished all of the bridges, mangrove pockets, and shaded areas we could find and absolutely put on a Baby Snook BEAT DOWN!!  After about 30 minutes of hooking Snook on almost every cast with the Glades Minnow, we decided to throw nothing but deer hair divers.  We put some dry fly floatant on the diver to make it ride a bit higher in the water column and we started popping it on the surface.  It turned out to be Snook Crack!  It worked even better than the Minnow pattern we were throwing.  It was getting gobbled by everything in the Creek.  We landed probably 25 Snook on it, not to mention, had about another 30 eat it and not get stuck. Total, we probably boated over 40 Snook.....but who's counting.  All were about the same size, but, we did get land one that pushing 20". Stellar day to say the least!!

This creek is nothing less than beautiful in places.  Stretches of this canal are so pristine that you would think you were deep in the Everglades backcountry, and, other stretches are littered with trash, old tires and Interstate 95 road noise.  None the less, we found all kinds of fish here.  We saw hundreds of baby Snook, some chunky slobby Snook well into the 30' range, Mayan Cichlids, schools of Jacks and some Tarpon.   We had 1 Poon eat the fly but did not stick him.....probably a good thing being armed only with a 5 wt!  We will definitely be back to explore this creek some more another time,and, we will come loaded up with a bigger arsenal and try to get into some canoe Tarpon.  Landing them might be an issue........but we will see.  What a great day!  I am looking forward to our next exploration there no doubt.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beach Snook in the Keys

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to check out a new fishing spot down here in the lower Keys.  I had heard great things about this flat from a good buddy of mine and figured what the hell, why not give it a shot.  I had been tying Bonefish  flies for the past few nights and was hoping to lace into a couple slabs,  so, I loaded up the truck with way too much crap and rolled out.  I arrived at the flat after a short drive from Marathon.  I strung up the 9 wt with a small Merkin rip-off of mine in hopes to maybe run into a Bone or a Permit and wanted to have a fly that might tempt either one if an opportunity should arise.  I got to the water and noticed that a big plus tide had pulled all of the seaweed off of the beach and neatly placed it everywhere!  The flat was littered with it,and this was going to make it very hard to sight fish.  So instead of wading in the water, I decided to pull out an Eastern Sierra lake sight fishing we would use in the high alpine lakes in the Tahoe area.  Basically, we would post up on top of the biggest rocks around and hurry up and wait for some fish to come by.  This is nothing new or revolutionary, but it is an extremely helpful way to spot fish when fishing from shore.  It can be extremely rewarding at times, and also can be the exact opposite at others.  Only time will decide which way the balance beam shall tip on each outing.

I walked down the beach for a bit and got to a spot where the Seaweed was at its least, I hopped up on the rocks and started scanning the water or any sign of movement.  I waited and waited and saw nothing.  I waited some more and still nothing.  I looked to the east and saw a grip of Gulls diving into the water.  I ran down the beach hoping to find a school of Tarpon or maybe some big Jacks killing bait on the surface, but, instead I found a bunch of Seagulls playing grab ass with each other.  Those dirty bastards!  What a waste of time!!  I probably missed the mother load of Bonefish cruising the flats while chasing some damn Gulls.  Disappointed at the sight of birds crashing the surface with zero fish busting bait in the area, I started to head back towards my less grass filled point on the flat.  I stopped just short of where I was on lookout before and posted up for a while on top of the rock wall.  I again waited for a while and didn't see any signs of life on the flat.  As the day began more and more to look like a bust, I decided to give it one more shot at the first spot I had spent time at.  I headed back up the beach and was looking into the water just outside of the weed line.  The water had a brown tint near the weeds and was looking kind of funky.  I was questioning why I was out there in the present conditions at all.  Not only was the water clarity poor due to the weeds, but it was also soiled with loud ass swimmers and sunbathers drinking their faces off and basking in the humidity.  I was about to throw the fly rod,in the truck,call it quits and follow suit,but, a big shadow cruising the weed line caught my eye.  I could not make out what kind of fish it was, but I could make out a large forked tail of some sort, and if I had to guess I would have said it was a big slobby Bonefish due to the nature of the flat I was on.  I positioned myself in front of the fish, made a cast a little too close to it and it scooted off.  The fish didn't go too far and resumed cruising the weed line.  I ran up the beach and got in front of it again and made another cast.  This time I dropped it a little bit further away from the fish.  I let the crab imitation sink a bit and stripped it across the shadows face.  He turned on it and inhaled my fly!  I was expecting a blistering run from what was surely a personal best Florida Keys Bonefish of my career, but instead I got a bunch of gnarly head shakes.  This was acting unlike any Bonefish I had ever caught before.... it thrashed some more and then launched out of the water.  I was blinded by the brightness of this fish all except for it's lateral line that looked like it was laid down on it's skin by a Black Magic Marker.  I had somehow hooked a decent Snook on a Merkin on the beach in the Keys.  The fish thrashed a few more times, and then hauled ass and ran me almost into the backing.  He finally slowed down and turned and made a run straight back at me on the beach.  He was starting to give up and I waded into the weed line to lip the fish.  He kicked a few more times and then threw up the white flag.  I bent down and grabbed a fist full of Snook lips.  I laid the fish down on the Seaweed and admired it's beauty for a few seconds while I fumbled for my camera.  I managed to snap off a few overexposed shots before I set her free, and watched the Snook swim back off the end of the flat. 
After letting the Snook go, I looked at my fly to see what kind of shape it was in after the battle.  It was then that I realized that I was suppose to be fishing for Bones and did not have any bite tippet on my leader.  I got very lucky and landed this fish on straight 12 lb tippet somehow.  I guess even the sun shines on a dog's ass some days. I was grateful to not have left this fish with my ugly Merkin rip off in it's mouth.  So, I re-rigged my leader again and climbed back on top of my rocky perch to stare off  into the Atlantic again.  I ended up staying there for another hour or so.  I ended up seeing 4 Snook total, and two Bonefish that were swimming about 40mph through the flat.  I didn't get any good shots at any of these other fish, and after landing one decent Snook I decided to hang it up an call it a day.  I had fun exploring new water, had some great excitement and anticipation at the thought of a fish boil by all of the bird activity, and got lucky landing a Snook with no bite tippet......not a bad day at all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ditch Hippo

The canals in South Eastern Florida differ greatly from one to another. Some run through suburban backyards,others run through downtown city blocks, and some have thick canopies on the banks littered with Palm trees, Ficus Trees and other vegetation looking much like the canals in the Everglades. Certain times of year the Ficus trees blossom drop their fruit into the canals. When this happens it raises interest of a few hungry species of fish in the canals that like to eat the fruit, one of them being the Grass Carp. This is the best time you will have a chance at hooking one of the Grass Carp that inhabit these waters. They are true giants who prove to be quite challenging to stalk with their keen vision, and a sixth sense of just knowing you are there. Not to mention that these Carp eat different types of grasses, after all, that is why they were planted in these canals to begin with. They are responsible for the underwater "Landscaping" if you will in the canals to keep the weed growth down. This poses an issue to the fly fisherman who wants to target one of these beasts. What fly represents grass? Well, nothing on the market that I have seen...I have done plenty of research on Grass Carp patterns and have only found a few designed to target the Grassy but are not in production so you will have to tie them yourself. One is a Boa Hair tied fly that have a bit of Peacock Hurl tied into them to imitate a piece of grass, the other is a Ficus Berry fly. The Berry Flies are constructed from Styrofoam balls much like trout cork indicators which are glued to a hook and are painted to match the Ficus Berry. I have found both patterns raise little if any interest to the huge Canal Carp most of the time, but, once in a while, when conditions are right and you have a little bit of luck, you can get one to eat a properly presented Berry imitation.

Last weekend I made a trip back to the mainland to get some things in order to finalize my move to the Florida Keys.  I hit  up my buddy Chris and we made plans to do a little Bonefishing at a spot I had found outside of Miami.  We tied some flies, gassed up the truck and motored to the flat.  We made the 30 minute drive, suited up and waded out into the Atlantic.  Shortly after getting into the water I spotted a GIANT Bonefish that probably went 12+lbs cruising like a mad man through the water.  By the time I got Chris to see the fish it was too late to get a shot at it.  It had dipped off the end of the flat into the channel and we never saw it again that day.  So,  we continued wading towards my favorite sand flat hoping to find another BIG Bone.  By the time we made it to the prime zone, the thunder clouds had moved in and we lost all visibility.  We both decided that this day was a loss and we agreed to head back to Lauderdale and get some breakfast. 

While we were eating, the heavens opened up and it rained like hell!  The streets flooded almost instantly.  Lets just say that the drainage at sea level in Florida is less than ideal. We checked the weather and found a break in the systems and decided to try out one of the local canals nearby since it was still early in a.m.  Rain can mean great canal fishing!  Everything in the canals seem to go on the chomp after a new rainfall, especially Tarpon.  We headed out the door and made a short drive to the ditch.  Upon our arrival, we had no idea what was in store for us.  Chris rigged up his 5 wt with one of his great looking, ever so productive minnow patterns which will work for everything from Ditch Tarpon, to Snake Heads.  I on the other hand, was thinking a little bit different.  I decided to focus my efforts on the freshwater Ditch Permit, Ditch Hippo or otherwise known as the Grass Carp.  I was hoping for some good luck since I was fishing with the Ditch Fishing master himself.....Chris has many years of canal fishing in the Ft Lauderdale area and  has many impressive catches in the ditches on light tippets.  For instance, he has landed 25 lb Tarpon on a 5 wt running straight 8lb Maxima with no shock tippet section in his leader, and has landed a 30 lb Grass Carp on his 0 wt running straight 6 lb.  Not too shabby.  So, in order to keep it real in honor of Chris, I decided to throw my Sage SLT 4 wt. dry fly rod that I brought to Florida with me from trout country.  I strung it up with one of Chris's Berry Flies and we headed up the bank. Chris was throwing casts along the weed line and was hooking all kinds of fish.  He landed a few small Bass, a Peacock, and a few Mayan Cichlids.  We spotted a few Snakeheads chilling up in the Grass, but could not get them to commit and make the bad decision and eat the fly.  We kept heading up the canal and stopped by one of the bridges.  I spotted a monster Grass Carp tailing on the surface.  He was floating around and eating off of some of the grass mats near the bank.  I crept down and made a ninja cast at the fish.  I got lucky and put it right in front of his face.  He did not even react!  What a dick head!!  He just kept on chomping away on stinky canal grass.  He sat there for a minute and then turned towards me and slowly made his way towards my direction.  I picked up my fly and made another cast at the fish.  I put the fly down about 2 feet in front of the Carp.  He cruised over to it and sucked it in!  I am not going  lie to you guys, I froze.  I have seen probably 100 of these fish in the canals, and have cast to probably about 40 of them, some of them were good shots but none were this perfect.  To actually see my fly disappear into the mouth of this giant vegetarian was indescribable.  As I stood there doing nothing, Chris was yelling at me that "He ate it, set it".  By the time I reacted to it, it was probably 2.5 seconds after the actual take.  I buried the hook with a strip set, the fish turned and broke me off instantly! This fish was pushing 30 lbs without a doubt!   I threw my rod down into the grass and laughed my ass off.  Chris was cracking up at my tarpon set on this fish and he had every right to bust my balls.  I finally got one to eat the Berry and I blew it.  Oh well, I hooked one and saw it eat, I was stoked on the day and was happy regardless of the outcome.

I figured that it would be a while before I would get another shot, but somehow I must have tickled the Grass Carp's nuts just right that day.  Chris spotted another Ditch Hippo pigging out on a Ficus Tree branch that was hanging in the water.  I snuck my fat ass over to tree and set up for a cast.  I made a cast and plopped the fly down right next to the tree.  The carp rushed it, blew up on it like a Tarpon, and completely missed the fly.  Surprisingly enough, he went right back to what he was doing before and began dining on the Ficus again.  I could not believe he did not spook.  I waited a minute, and made a second cast at the tree.  The Carp rushed the fly again, but, this time he ate the crap out of it.  I lifted the rod and got tight to him, and then it was game on!  The fish took off into the deep water.  I put as much torque on him as my 4 wt could muster up, but, there is just not that much backbone in a slow action dry fly rod.  I managed to stop the fish briefly, then he ripped to the other side of the canal, then turned around and came straight back at me.  He thrashed around on the surface and wore himself out pretty good.  This turned out to be the last of the long runs. He made a few more small last ditch efforts to flee but could not shake the hook, and after a few, I managed to ease him over to the bank and tail him.  I had finally managed to get my hands on a Grass Carp!  All the prior attempts had finally paid off and I guess I finally had put in enough time for one to eat the fly.

Some species of fish will track flies and refuse them at the last minute, some will boil on and miss a fly, Tarpon will eat and jump you off sometimes, Grass Carp hardly ever show the slightest interest in a fly! Nothing! They just keep on swimming as if they did not even see your presentation. Once in a while you will get a brief consideration of eating the fly from a Grass Carp before the turn away and give you the finger and basically laugh right on your face. It is totally brutal, and is a game of extreme patience. But, when one eats, you will be very happy in all of your efforts and time invested wile your line is screaming off of your reel.   Carp get a lot of Crap and don't get the respect they deserve.  They fight hard and are tough to get to eat the fly.  Give them a shot sometime, you will see what I am talking about.
I almost lost him.  He straightened the hook out pretty badly...... I guess I got lucky

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ditch Fishing

Southern Florida is loaded with canals of all shapes and sizes that intermingle with the Intracoastal Waterways. The canal vary greatly from one to another....some run parallel to Interstates which are littered with roadside trash and spare car parts, and some are so pristine and quiet that you would think you were lost out in Hells Bay deep in the Everglades National Park.  These canals connect like a series of highways for fish to run all the way from the salt into the Everglades if they so choose. This means at any point in time you can encounter ocean species deep inland along with all kinds of other species of fish in the sweet water. Our main targets when fishing these canals range from Tarpon, Snook, Peacock Bass, and Largemouth Bass, but, we also have plenty of shots at all kinds of other, not so popular species.  You never know what you might find cruising the banks of the waterways in search of a meal.  Stay tuned for some stories of Foot Pursuit Fly Fishing in the Florida Ditches