Friday, November 27, 2009

Marco in Review

This post probably should have been 7 daily posts for the 7 days I spent on Marco. Let's begin by saying that "the bait was on the beach".

I shot this video with my Olympus Stylus off of a rock pile.

But, back to the beginning.

I flew in on Friday afternoon and settled into the digs with the family. We chose a rental home instead of a hotel and that proved to be a wise move. With a private pool and beach access only 1 block away, we were well positioned. I drove down to Sunshine Ace and bought my license from Don, a kind and helpful sort. I planted my self poolside with a Sam Adams and watched the kids swim while planning an early morning assault on the beach the following morning. At 5:30 on Saturday morning I made my way to the beach. I'm still learning the saltwater game, but one thing I know is that birds are good:

(so this was a positive sight to see)

OK, this is the part of the post when I tell you about the Ladyfish.
This is a true statement: I could've caught one on every cast.
Now, I've caught Ladyfish before, 10"-12" versions that fight kind of like brootrout, plus they put on a pretty good airshow from time to time. What I haven't caught before is fish in the 25"+ class. They'll pull you into your backing, leap like a tarpon and then when you bring them to hand, they slime and shit on you (seriously).

After hooking and landing dozens of Ladies, I followed the beach down to a rock pile where the birds were reacting to blitz after blitz of baitfish. I climbed up onto the rocks and noticed a guy fly fishing. His name was Andy and he was working the beach with the same results. Despite having already landed 60 (est.) fish, I stood on the rocks and continued to blast away at the Ladyfish until....
Every 2-3 minutes a rush of Ladyfish would push the bait against the rocks and 50-70 (again an est.) fish would surge off the bottom near the rocks and lay waste to the bait. Being a bright and observant angler it only took me an hour to realize that the secondary surge of fish weren't Ladyfish but Snook. By timing my casts so that my fly landed post Ladyfish rush and pre Snook surge, I managed to get 3 of the 70. Pretty exciting stuff.
That evening on the beach, the Mackerel blasted through and I was able to connect with them as well.

On Sunday morning I hightailed it back to the rocks.
The Ladyfish and bait were back in force. I also saw a juvenile Goliath Grouper in the rocks below my feet. It wasn't the 400 pound beast that it's parents probably are, but a 40 pound fish in 3' of clear water is pretty fun to see. I didn't cast to it (you can catch them, but you cannot keep them as they are protected).
I met a guy named Tom who was fishing gear and bait. I invited him to join me on the rock pile and after a failed attempt at enticing the Goliath with a live shrimp, we worked over the Snook and Ladyfish together. We caught Ladyfish on command, but I also landed a Snook and a few Mackerel and Tom caught a Sheepshead.

On Monday I eased out of the ranch until late morning and then took a walk to Tigertail beach. With a tide almost low I walked the lagoon between the beach and the Island and explored under a hot sun. The bait was largely absent from this end of the island, but I caught a couple of Ladyfish, watched the schools of Mullet ride the waves

and, after reading about the possibilities in a guide book, found a shark's tooth on the beach among the seashells.

Tuesday night I plotted an assault on the Mackerel and found out that the teeth on these critters not only destroys flies, but also will strip the pvc off of a flyline.

On Wednesday morning, with rain looming, I took a drive and fished the bridge to Goodland and also the Marco bridge. There was some bait being crashed, but I only managed one Grouper.

It was a short day of fishing since we were headed to Naples to visit a few shops, including Mangrove Outfitters which, if you go, is one of the only fly shops in the area. I secured a new 8wt Mastery Redfish Taper line and a few other little toys. It's a well stocked shop that should have everything that you need if you find yourself a little short on gear.

On Thursday, the day of our departure, I again snuck out of the house at 5:30 am and decided to fish the beach. With a light surf and birds and bait a-plenty, I found myself in the middle of a pelican, tern, gull, bait, Ladyfish, Jack blitz. Some decent sized jacks were pushing the bait around and everything went berserk. I had to pull my fly away from birds, hooked a tern on a cast (and had to pull it in to cut the line). I landed a few jacks but didn't get off as many casts as I wanted because the airspace was a little crowded with fowl. Then, an amazing thing happened. The dolphins that occasionally made an appearance a few hundred yards out, joined me in the fishing. I don't know for sure, but I suspect they learned quickly that the stunned Ladyfish and Jacks I was releasing made easy targets. With a small crowd gathered on the beach watching the show, I did my best to cast away from the dolphins and even tried to move down the beach away from them, but they followed me wherever I went. Luckily, my sister and my niece were on the beach and took some video and photos. Check it (Let it download completely before playing and watch it in HD):

Marco Island is a solid outing. Chances are good that I'll be back.

For Starters...

See the BEFORE photo in the pre-trip post.
This is what happens when Mackerel, Ladyfish, Grouper, Snook and Jacks get a hold of a fly:

This is the AFTER photo...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Next Week...

Destination: Marco Island, FL
Purpose: Spanish Mackerel, Snook, Pompano (er...I mean Thanksgiving)
Full report upon return.

A few last minute flies for the trip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I received a call on Sunday afternoon from a friend who suggested we skip work on Monday and go fish a Lake Michigan trib for steelhead. I emailed the boss and told him my plan... straight-up. No coughing, no flu like symptoms, just "I'm going fishing".
His response: "Sounds like fun, have a blast."

We met at 5:30 and blasted east. Overcast, drizzle, 48 degrees. Perfect.
This was my first visit to this particular river and I was keyed just to see it. First glimpse showed good flow, ever so slightly off color and dark kings everywhere...every riffle, run, pool, tailout. Not being to easily excited by the rotting, closed mouth giants, I focused my attention on the 2' to 4' deep, walking speed runs that I have come to associate with good steelhead water. I fouled a few chinook even swinging unweighted flies. I added a little weight and continued until...
Bump and tug, headshaking and some short but sturdy runs. After a minute or two I caught sight of the fish and was please to see the black spots of a nice brown. My pal netted it and we took a few snapshots to celebrate shaking my skunk.
The morning passed quickly, fishing blind in the deeper runs and trying to dodge the ubiquitous dark chinook. Nothing.
I turned my attention to a pod of dark, but not yet decaying, kings battling on the edge of where a pool ended and a riffle began. Though I had a fish follow my 4" long intruder, nothing happened. They'd chase, but not seize.
I switched back to a spey style fly in hopes of finding a steelhead with a little enthusiasm for my offering. I fished it unweighted with a floating line to (hopefully) avoid fouling any kings. At the head of a new run, 3 or 4 swings through, I saw a bright fish twist and flash 50' out. I placed my next cast to run my swing through the zone. The rest of this story is open for discussion. The fish when it was finally landed was a 18, 19 maybe 20 pound hen chinook. The fly swung past her unweighted and the fly stuck in the middle of her upper lip. She was by far the brightest chinook I saw that day and I was happy to have tussled with her. She gave 3 or 4 good runs and took a while to bring in close enough to net. I'm not a big believer in biting kings in the river. I've read that they can be teased and taunted into striking, but my earlier efforts at that technique failed. I'm not convinced that she "ate", but despite my best efforts at avoiding fouling, feeding or flossing these fish, the fly ended up in the eating end of this one...

Friday, September 25, 2009

...I think until mid-October.

I found myself in Maine this week. Touching base with clients and prospective clients. Noting the color of the trees and the cool nights, I inquired about the stripers and asked if they had moved south yet. "No," I was told, "they're usually around until mid-October."

I did my job and worked my way from Biddeford to Bar Harbor. The 8 wt tucked into my luggage made an appeal at night as I checked into each hotel.

And then, like Poe's Madman, the plea's from my Tell-Tale 8wt became too much and on Thursday I made a mad dash to a spot south of Portland where I'd had some luck with Stripers in the past.

I fished the falling tide and was rewarded with a strong fish that peeled backing and made my arm sore. Another angler, from PA, interested in the tussle was kind enough to take my camera and shoot a few photos. (Thanks PA guy.)

As a friend of mine is fond of saying in justification for night fishing: "All it takes is one".



Outgoing Tide

September Sundown

Have you seen my backing?

My largest far.

September 19,20

"....When I was five
I was just alive
But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever;
so I think I'll be six now
for ever and ever".
A.A. Milne

My fine friend "T" called me a couple weeks ago and suggested that he may bring his six year old son to a favorite trout stream where we, in the past (before six year olds), spent many hours fishing, staring at fires and sleeping in tents. He thought it might be a good idea if I joined him and brought my 5 year old daughter along. The two kids had never met except when they were too small to recall. And so the pencil on the calendar became pen and we went.

T and I never really had any grand illusions of converting these children into lifelong fly fishing addicts, but it wasn't entirely off the menu. We did manage to get the kids to hold an actual flyrod, but the creek and bugs, dirt and toads were too much of a distraction. So, we stood on the banks of a fine trout stream, bathed in the warm September sun, sipped beer and allowed that though trout fishing is a fine way to spend a is being a father.

They swam and laughed, fell and skipped, caught crayfish, toads and grasshoppers. They played
and played
and played.

Never a quarrel was heard, nor a discipline required.
After dinner as we sat near the fire T's son turned in his camp chair and said sleepily,
"Dad.... I'm not sure why, but this S'more is cheering me up."

And that, was worth the price of admission.

The other thing to do with a blue ribbon trout stream.

T and I decided a size 6 olive/gold woolly bugger tied on a Mustad 9671 would match this nicely.

Oblivious of trout

This steep bank on the spring creek provided hours of entertainment.

No amphibians were harmed during the posting of this blog

This is about the sum total of our fishing lessons

September 13th - Firsts

My two year old "caught" her first fish.
I cast, I set, we reeled, she squealed.
"It hopped out of the watto!", she cried, after this smallmouth gave a 3' leap next to the dock.

(Quite a tug on the Tweety Bird Rod I might add.)

Scenes from up North

September 8th

Went to the local State Park with my girls.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 6 and 7

My older brother drove down for a night out on the sand islands of the Big W.
I was hoping to show him the River and a few of it's smallmouth residents.
I forgot that it was Labor Day weekend.
The smallmouth were also on vacation.
All was not lost however. The traffic died down at dusk and the cool evening kept the bugs away.
The beer was cold, the river quiet and the tent camping was perfect.
We did manage to fool a few SMB's, but the dry fly fishing for mooneye was hot. We tried some twilight gar fishing with crease flies, but didn't connect.

It was great to spend time on the water and around the campfire with you bro.
Thanks for making the trip!

Island campsite


Jon Johnson in for the night.

Misty Morning

Mooneye on top.

Keeping the sand out of the reels.

SMB. On.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Notes on the weekend...

Hit the big W with JP this weekend.
A picture is worth 1000 words....

Friday, August 28, 2009

RI Striper

While working in New England this week, I worked an evening of fishing in Rhode Island into my schedule. The surf was heavy (the were a hundred people surfing the waves on the other side of the lighthouse pictured below). I strung up my eight weight and walked a jetty for 300 yards before deciding that I would die or lose a flyline if I attempted to fish. Plan B. I hit the rocky beach below the lighthouse and found a trough with nice waves crashing over it. Double haul, cast...strip, double haul, cast...strip. From what I could tell, there wasn't a better place nearby to be soaking my dumbell eyed Bad Hair Day, so I just kept casting. A few surfcasters arrived (which gave me a little confidence that I had picked a decent spot). Then they left. I stayed and kept casting. My polarized glasses salted up and the sun was going down. I snapped a quick photo of the red orb sinking into the earth and kept casting. Strike. A swirl at the end of my retrieve at the lip of the trough. A clean miss. I popped the BHD back into the foaming water stripped and Bang. Striper on. It was a decent fish maybe 20-22" and it made my day. I had one more hit a few casts later, but the night ended with 1 fish landed. I suppose some day after I do this for a few more years, a 1 schoolie night might be a bummer. For now however, it's victory.