Last year at this time I found tarpon nearby. So 3 days back, I checked. Bingo, they are there once again. Tarpon time returns. I did not see as many fish as last year. In fact, I saw only about a third. With luck, more tarpon may be on their way.
Tarpon Time Returns
Today, I took my first shot at them. The wind was northeast. After two days of very heavy SSE winds, now we have damn cold front to deal with. I put in the whole morning without a hookup. These fish were very tough last year; and I expect the same trouble this time around. But I’m going to put in the effort and see what I can do. After all, Kings from kayaks is a killer game!
Ok, ready for some excuses? The wind has been keeping me off the water. And when I do get out the fishing has been poor. Not sure whats going on. Perhaps its just me. Perhaps its the high pressure we have been under the influence of for a week. Along the New England coast, high pressure in the spring is a killer. Maybe its the same down here. Not sure.
Released Spotted Seatrout
Yesterday morning the wind was down. So I got out and caught some spotted seatrout. “Trout” often save the angler’s day in Charlotte Harbor. They bite readily and are easy to find. Unfortunately, “trout” run on the small side in these waters. A 15 inch one is a keeper. And a fair percent of the fish you hook are under that. Told you they were small. The one in the picture is 18 inch and would be considered a bigger “trout”. Too bad they don’t grow larger like they do the east coast of Florida.
A couple days ago, I was poling down the flat when I ran into Dave. Dave is considered by many to be one of – if not the best – local fly fisherman. I’ve been fishing here about 18 months; Dave has been fishing these waters about 30 years! So I have a lot to learn from Dave. And he has been kind enough to share his knowledge, including a strategy he calls “heave” & “leave”.
Dave with a “heave” and “leave” redfish
Turned out he had a school of redfish milling around in front of him. They were out a bit, hanging just beyond a dark patch of grass. The fish moved back and forth, but occasionally they came into range. Now common practice is to heave a fly out in front of the school, and let it sink. When the lead fish arrives, you begin a slow retrieve, and hope the fish grabs the fly. But Dave had a different plan.
“Heave” and “Leave” Redfish
Dave told me about a tactic he learned from the late Brock Affel (?). After the fly settles, Dave leaves it on the bottom, allowing the lead fish to swim by it. Only when the rest of the school reaches the fly does he start a retrieve. This is the “heave” and “leave” strategy. Sounded like what some guys do just before the bar closes. LOL
So whats the reasoning behind this idea. The lead fish is on high alert for danger, and anything that moves -including your fly- may spook that fish. Which in turn spooks the entire school. By permitting the lead fish to pass by, you avoid that potential problem. And very often the next few fish to arrive are less wary and more ready to eat. Interesting stuff.
When fishing the flats, there are two basic angling strategies; and they are the same two you use anywhere. You move around -wetting a line in a number of places – hoping to find the fish. Or you head to proven spot -one that often holds fish- and stick it out until they arrive. Obviously, in both cases you still have to judge the wind and the tide.
Which way is better? Neither strategy is superior to the other. Some days you’re better off searching around; some days you’re better off staying put. But there is one thing I’m sure is true. If on a given day one strategy isn’t working, give the other a chance.
Yesterday’s Redfish being Released
On the flats, I call these two strategies “pole” or “post”. Either I “pole” the kayak around hunting for action, or I “post”myself in a good location and see whats up. Yesterday I spent the majority of the day “poling”. Came up empty handed. So I switched gears and “posted” myself in a known hot spot. In short order I hooked 4 fish. That’s the nature of angling; its always a challenge.
During the winter, the wind comes up here in Florida. Depending on its strength and direction, some days it makes fly fishing very difficult. With that in mind, recently I bought a 10 pound spinning outfit, and some suspending twitch baits. Today it paid off.
Releasing a Jack on the Flats
Towards the end of the afternoon, the wind rose in the west, and I put away the fly rod. Using a Mirrodine 17 MR, I put the spinning rod to work on a flat near the marina. About ten casts in, I got a violent strike; one that literally sent white water into the air. Then the drag sang for several minutes, emitting hundreds of feet of line as the fish rocketed across the flat. I was hoping it was a huge red. Instead it turned out to be a 7 plus pound jack. What a war. Man these jack are as good as it gets on the flats.
I was out on the flats yesterday, and ran into Pete, an avid angler from the local fly club. Pete has a motorized kayak or two. Frankly I’m seeing more and more kayaks with electric motors. His Ocean Kayak is set up for two different ones. He has a “Torqeedo” and a “Watersnake”. The “Torqeedo” is a high tech product out of Germany, that runs on a lithium battery, much like a laptop. At 15 pound for motor and battery, its very light weight, but an expensive unit. The “Watersnake” is a low cost option and runs off a wet cell 12 volt wheelchair battery that he stores under the front hatch.
Pete’s kayak with a Watersnake installed
Pete has had some troubles with his “Torqeedo”. The “Watersnake”, on the other hand has yet to bite him. Pete cajoled a friend into building a bracket for his kayak that holds either electric unit. Sweet science that. These electric motors greatly increase his range, and lower his workload. Kayaks just keep getting more and more interesting.
Watersnake Electric Trolling Motor installed
Spent the whole day on the flats of Charlotte Harbor. Launched an hour after sunrise. Came back in around 4pm. The fishing has been slow, but things are heating up a bit. Caught a nice red and a decent snook. Rays running around. Plenty of bait filtering in too. Its small at this point. But the temperature is rising daily. And I know the fishing is going to crank up very soon.
In the weeks ahead, I expect more reds, more snook and trout will be prowling the flats. And they will be more agressive too. Ready to take a fly. Then by month’s end, tarpon will start to arrive. Great news. Game on!
I went to get the mail today and ran into Polyphemus. No, not the legendary cyclops that trapped Odysseus and his men. Polyphemus the moth. This one was about 5 inches across, big enough to cover most of your hand. It reminded me of nights on Martha’s Vineyard. Occasionally we would return to the house from Dogfish Bar around 3AM. On damp, foggy nights, the wall under the night light would be covered with moths of all sizes and colors, including giant luna moths. It looked like a fleet of alien spaceships.
Polyphemus at the post box
This photograph doesn’t do polyphemus justice. See the small “eye” on each wing? Well the under wings each have a huge colorful “eye”. Unfortunately they’re hidden at the moment. These “eyes” are how the moth got its reference to the cyclop. But to show you the other eyes, I would have had to disturb this moth. Better to let it live, for tonight it will mate.