Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From the far north to the far south . . .

Last Friday the conditions were finally good, concerning water temps, tides, winds, etc. and I was able to get out on the water for a serious fishing trip.  Last fall I had been poking around trying to find a trustworthy guide to take me out for some SW Florida fly fishing.  Wouldn't you know it?  I found a renowned Maine guide guiding local Florida waters.  The deeper I dug, the more I like going with a known entity, rather than trusting online hype.  So I contacted Dan Legere, owner of The Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, Maine.  I have been in the shop numerous times, but usually dealt with Penney, while Dan was out guiding the East Outlet or West Branch of the Penobscot.  I had booked trips through Dan's shop, but always was assigned one of his guiding associates.  So, when I saw that Dan had been guiding winters in Florida for a few years, I couldn't resist booking him for a day of back country fly fishing here in Florida.
Since I spend three months in Florida on winter vacation, there was not any sense of urgency in the timing.  I had told Dan to contact me when the conditions were good. We were going to go in January, but being at the tail end of weather systems generated by the "Polar Vortex" (sounds like a character in a kids' animated Christmas video) there was too much wind and cold weather for a good trip.  Then about 10 days ago I got an email from Dan announcing mid-day low tides and light winds in the upcoming week.  I picked a day and away we went.
When I met Dan in the big box store parking lot he gave me a choice of two fishing scenarios:  a shot at sight fishing to tailing redfish (a long drive and run to the spot with no guarantee of results) or a short drive and run to a mixed bag of fish, but unlikely to have sight fishing.  I chose the closer trip with more time on the water.  Turned out to be a good choice.
Within a half hour of meeting, we were motoring out on Rookery Bay, a huge mangrove preserve area dotted with islands and connecting creeks, located between Marco Island and Naples.  We saw a kayaker and a canoe at the launch, but for the next 8 hours, we didn't see another person or craft. We fished our way into the remote areas of the huge preserve, catching the occasional baby tarpon or jack around oyster bars or holes near points of islands.  Then we started to hit some holes where connecting creeks pinched between islands and began to get some snook.  Snook are kinda like bass on steroids.  They hit hard, do head-shaking jumps, try to wrap your line in deep cover and generally fight like hell.  Most of the snook were in the 12 to 16 inch range, but fought like much larger fish. We had been working our way deeper and deeper into the back country and at dead low tide we stopped for a sandwich.  Then we began to fish our way back as the tide was coming in.  You want to fish the back country at low tide, so the bait fish (and predators) cannot get back into the deep mangroves. At low tide, the bait and the bigger fish are forced into creeks, holes and channels where we can have a chance of fishing to them.
We had a great time catching snook in the creeks and channels and baby tarpon and jacks in the deep holes near oyster bars.  Then we made a short run to a narrow connecting creek and got a couple nicer snook.  As we moved deeper into a narrow pinched area a much larger fish sucked in my fly and all hell broke loose. Head-shaking jumps,deep runs, diving under the boat, and headlong dashes towards the cover of the mangrove roots.  This was the fish of the day - a 28+ inch snook.  We fished a couple more spots and got a couple more fish, but nothing approaching the excitement of "The Big One."
All-in-all it was a great day on the water.  Challenging fish, but catchable with the right approach; good company with terrific local knowledge and time away from my usual winter routine of golf, tennis, beach!  I'll post a link to the video, when i get it edited and uploaded.
I'll be back for another trip with Dan next winter.  In the meantime, here is a list of coming attractions:
March 1 & 2 Fly Fish NH Show in Pelham - my partner Jim is show chairman - stop by and tell him I sent you
Our  Northeast Fly fishing School Classes start in April and run weekends through July. Check here for dates and locations. In addition to classes in Greater Boston (Hollis, NH), we have locations in Henniker, NH and Lincoln, NH.  On April 24 (note the date change from April 17  ) at 7:00PM we'll be giving a presentation about fishing the Great North Woods of NH at Concord Outfitters Fly Shop in West Concord, MA. Stop in and say hi.
Tomorrow I am going fishing with a long-time friend and fishing buddy on Charlotte Harbor.  I don't expect any big snook, but watch for my report in a few days.

UPDATE:  I uploaded the video of the triop to my YouTube Channel:  http://www.youtube.com/user/gerrycrow5190?feature=mhee

The trip to Charlotte Harbor was a bust.  REAL windy and just about unfishable, although I discovered you can make a REALLY long roll cast downwind with a weighted fly in a 25MPH wind.

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