The Neon Crab Fly Works

A few posts back I showed you a brightly colored, neon crab fly. Wow is it ugly. And then I went on to tell you why it may prove effective on the flats. Well I can now report back that the neon crab fly works, and works well.

Redfish on a Crab Fly

The Neon Crab Fly Works

Today I was lucky enough to come across a school of redfish. I’ll venture to say there were upwards of thirty reds in total, milling in a deep trench off the sandbar. Now, these were small redfish, running 22″-26″. Still I was glad to see them. And the fact they were ganged up was great news. Schooling reds are often aggressive. You gotta love that, right? And schooling reds have a tendency stay to in one area, at least for a time. I’m not saying they’re motionless. Rather they typically circle slowly, coming back every few minutes. Which allows you time to prepare for another cast.  You gotta love that too.

Neon Crab Fly

Neon Crab Fly

If you have been fly-fishing for awhile, you know that realistic flies can be deadly. At the vise, we often strive to be as exact to life as possible. But at the same time,  you also know that “attractor” patterns work too. Something that looks all wrong can, at times, be totally right. And that’s where this neon crab fly fits in. It attracts fish, catches their eye, draws them over to investigate.

Over a period of hour I hooked and landed a handful of reds on this radioactive neon crab fly. It worked just fine. In fact the reds inhaled the fly deeply in their mouths. Yes, they wanted the crazy looking thing. My outfit was a Scott STS 6-weight fly rod armed with a floating fly line. My leader was 15 foot, tapered to 12 pound test. Why so long? The long leader provides not only stealth, it permits the fly to sink faster, get down where it belongs.

 

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Redfish ride Rays

Why is chum so damn effective? Face it; gamefish are born opportunist. Even a rank amateur angler can toss some bait in the water and bring fish arunning. Its a snap. No wonder chumming is a huge deal here in Florida. It pays dividends like nothing else. No skill required.

Are redfish opportunists? Of course. And that’s why redfish ride rays. As a stingray wanders slowly along, its wings inevitably kick up the bottom. Its typically a cloud of silt and sand, but mixed in are little delicacies that redfish love. Shrimp, crabs,  crustaceans, marine worms. Yes, its a smorgasbord of yummy seafood delights. A natural chum line.

Redfish ride Rays

Redfish ride Rays

When you see a big stingray coming down the beach, hold your fire for a moment. There may be reds right behind the ray. Expect them to be only a foot or two back, ready to pounce on anything the ray uncovers. Could be one red; could be two or more. Hard to say.

If you see reds, immediately drop your fly over the ray’s backs. One twitch is all it should take. Most of the time, reds riding rays are on red alert. God, that was an awful pun. But these ray riding reds tend to be super aggressive, and grab anything they see. Hey they’re opportunist. In fact the red in the picture was caught last evening by my friend Dave. You guessed it. This red was riding a ray. By the way spotted seatrout, and snook can ride rays too.

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A Porta-Bote

The wind is cranking again; I’m stuck in port. So I decided to take a bike ride down to the ramp just to look around. And there in the parking lot were two guys preparing to launch a Porta-Bote.

Porta-Bote

Porta-Bote

I’m a huge fan of small crafts, of all kinds – canoes, kayaks, Gheenoes, SUPs, skiffs, prams, driftboats….etc. At the moment, my favorite is a Diablo Paddlesports Adios SOT-SUP hybrid yak. Still I have to say this Porta-Bote is pretty cool. At fourteen feet long, it is, I believe, the largest boat the company offers. The owner tells me the hull is made from a very strong plastic resin.The beam is 60″, and draws a miserly 4″ Now get this: remove the seats and the boat folds in half along the centerline. The end result you ask? A 14 foot long slab, varying in thickness from 3″-7″, and weighting around 100 pounds. Well, that means two guys could easily pick it up and stack it again a garage wall. Or even hoist it to the ceiling. Get a load of that.

Porta-Bote

Porta-Bote

The craft appears to have plenty of free-board, so I bet it rides fairly dry. And there is adequate room for two anglers to fish all day. Nice. Moreover, I have to think this thing is a snap to tow. A four cylinder car would do fine. And it would be no problem for one man to launch and retrieve this boat.

As I mentioned it is a windy day. But these guys were only taking the Porta-Bote for a short ride. Their sole mission was just to see how modification they had done were working out. Cool little boat.

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The Church of St. Kilcatherine in Ireland

Recently a number of people came by to view the first four posts on this site. Those posts pertain to the Church of St. Kilcatherine in Ireland. It is, at times, also referred to by the ancient names of Chellchatthigern, Cill Chaitighern, St. Caithinghearn, and kyllcharrine. By whatever name you chose, however, this ancient stone church is a place of great intrigue.

You’ll find it near the small village of Eyeries, on Ireland’s Beara peninsula, sitting high on a knoll overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor, with the Miskish Mountains rising to the south. Believe me it is well worth a visit, for a trip here is a time machine. The first building on this site is thought to have been done in the 7th century by the same monks that made the famous beehive cells atop the precarious perch of Skellig Michael. The church in the picture was likely built slightly later. Still we’re going back over 1000 years, well back into the Dark Ages.

Church of St. Kilcatherine or "Cill Chaitighern"

Church of St. Kilcatherine
or “Cill Chaitighern”

In the original posts I mentioned my fascination with the variety of  crosses found in the church’s cemetery. Frankly I’ve never forgotten them. Along with their sheer variety, they are wide-believed to be among Ireland’s oldest. With those things in mind, allow me to take a moment to show you a few of these many crosses. Hopefully you will find them of interest too.

The Earliest Christian Cross in Ireland?

The Earliest Christian Cross in Ireland ?

The cross to the left was made in the 7th century or 8th, and has stood vigil here over 1200 year. Amazing. That age makes it perhaps the earliest Christian cross in all of Ireland. Standing about 5 feet tall and 20 inches at its widest point, it is crudely constructed. Although the date puts us well into the Iron Age, the cross appears – at least to eye -to have been made by simply striking one stone against another.

another cross new webIt should be no surprise that the graveyard contains a number of  Celtic Crosses. The Celtic Cross is not only well-known, it is a bold and attractive design. But what surprised me was the large number of unusual crosses.

Now lets take walk into the graveyard. Check out the cross to the left, for example. Taller than wide, it has the basics of the common Latin cross, but look at the arms. They radiate out in spear-like points. This is sometimes called a “barbed cross”.

Also look farther back to the right and rear. There is a tombstone that has lost what is a Maltese or Pattee, or Iron Cross.

In the next photograph we see a strong, sturdy looking cross, with a square center. For me it holds a powerful, and almost military stance. And in that notion may be the source of these many cross designs. Perhaps they are born out of heraldry, a desire that began around the 11th century for knights, rulers, families and tribes to brand themselves with special emblems, coat-0f-arms and flags.  Very often these things contained symbols such as swords, shields, and mythological beast. But they also could hold unique Christian crosses.

In the photograph below, we see  a cluster of three different crosses. With their clean hard edges, these are clearly of more recent origin, and may had been made by the same person.

The middle tombstone is the shortest and simplest. With its height and its arms near equal, its may be called a Greek style cross. The other two are taller than wide and so are similar to the Latin cross.Two of these have circular centers similar to a Celtic Cross.

All three have arms terminating in unexpected shapes. The one to the right, I’ll call a Canterbury Cross, also referred to as a Consecration Cross. The one to the left, is a Coptic Cross.

Three Different Crosses

Three Different Crosses

Yes, there are more I could show you. Still I hope my point had been made. There is a sense of mystery here, a hint of the infinite – a feeling one is in touch with lives and centuries long pass.

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A One Tide Day

Today was a one tide day.  That’s right one tide from sunup to sundown. Low tide arrived around 3:38 AM, and high followed at 7:47 PM. Get a load of that, 16 hours of painfully slow incoming water. Total tidal range you ask? About two feet. How crazy is that stuff? But that’s Florida for you. Unlike my native New England, tides are complicated down here.

Typically I avoid one tide days like the plague. Why? The fishing is apt to be as slow as the water. Today, however, after a long period the wind was finally down, the sun was out, and I just felt a burning urge to get out and pole down the flat. Yeah, it was time to hit the water.

Twenty- Seven Inch Spotted Seatrout

Twenty- Seven Inch Spotted Seatrout

The morning flat was like glass, raising my hopes of seeing a “tail”.  Alas, that wasn’t in the cards. No shots at reds. So I parked the Adios on the sandbar, got out, and waded along, chucking a fly over the grassy beds on the bar’s outer edge. A couple casts later, a big spotted seatrout nailed the crab fly. That fish measured  22″ and the Boga reported it to be a crack under three pounds. As I have mentioned prior, Charlotte Harbor is a nursery area for “trout.” So any “trout” over “15” is called a better fish, and any “trout” over 18″ is a big one. A 22″inch “trout” is heading toward…….huge.

A slow but steady bite for good size “trout” continued all morning. Nice. Kept my 6-weight rod bent. Still the best one was yet to come. Around noon, I was working a deep trough when I got a wicked strike. The fish fought hard, running out line several times, and staying deep before circling me twice. Sure felt like a small redfish to me. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a 27″ spotted seatrout, weighing 4 pounds. My best  Charlotte Harbor “trout” ever. What a fine one tide day!

Released Spotted Seatrout

Released Spotted Seatrout

 

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A Neon Crab Fly

When you think about colors for crab flies, you steer toward olive green, tan, brown and other drab earth tones. And why not? You’re “matching the hatch”, so to speak, or perhaps we should say “matching the marine”.  Nevertheless, brightly colored flat’s flies always have a place in your fly box. Never forget that. Truth is they can work wonders, sometime out performing realistic flies. And that is why you might want to tie a neon crab fly.

Neon Crab Fly

Neon Crab Fly

I’ve known some time that adding one bright color to a crab fly could increase its redfish attracting appeal. (For me that color was typically either orange or pink.) Why might that be so? A bright color helps a redfish spot the fly from a distance, especially in water that isn’t perfectly clear. In other words the color increases the fly’s effective range. And when the red gets over to the fly, the bright color contrast well with the bottom making the fly an easy target.

Don’t believe bright colors have a place on the flats? Ok..chew on this. Some of the most effective bonefish flies contain bold color. The Pink Puff comes immediately to mind. Its been a damn good “bone” fly for a long, long time. Spawning shrimp patterns often have a bright color aboard, usually in their butt. And many anglers add pink, orange or chartreuse wings to their Crazy Charlie or Gotcha. Hey, attractor patterns plain work.

Neon Crab Fly

Neon Crab Fly

As you can see in the photos, I tied a totally neon crab fly.  Ugly you say? Ahhhh…..Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Hell, it even looks a wee bit radioactive. But it just might be a killer. Time will tell. It has a pink Craft Fur tail, a variegated orange chenille body, bright colored rubber legs, small lead dumbbell up front, and Spirit River Glassy Eyes.  All of that lovely stuff riding a Mustad size 2# C70SD Big Game hook. Damn thing probably glows in the dark.

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More Pompano on a Fly

A Pompano Swims off

More Pompano on a Fly

Yesterday I fished a fair bit of the incoming tide out on the sandbar. Water clarity was excellent, although sight-fishing was hampered by a stiff breeze and a steady stream of clouds which got worse as the day worn on. Nevertheless, as the tide came over the bar, a number of fish began cruising around including some decent redfish. Unfortunately those reds were very uncooperative, ignoring every offering I sent their way. Damn. Disappointing to say the least. Reds can be super tough. But the day still had its rewards –more pompano on a fly.

Pompano on a 6-Weight Fly rod

Pompano on a 6-Weight Fly rod

Once again the pompano attacked the orange crab fly shown in the prior post. But don’t forget pink and chartreuse crab flies work well too. My delivery system included a Scott STS 6-Weight, a floating line, and a fourteen foot leader tapered to 12 pound fluorocarbon. Frankly the long, fine leader was intended for the redfish. They are cautious critters in clear water. Florida pompano, on the other hand, are aggressive, and a shorter, stouter leader would have worked just fine.

Pink Crab Flies work to

Pink Crab Fly

Spotted Sea Trout

Spotted Sea Trout

Along with several pompano, I hooked and released some better spotted sea trout. They were working the turtle grass beds on the bar. When I say “better”, I mean for Charlotte Harbor. These waters are strictly a nursery ground for spotted sea trout, and anything over 15 inches is a better fish. The “trout” were caught on the same rig and the same fly. So there you have it: orange flies works well on these flats. And yes, reds like orange flies too. You just have to show them orange on days when they are willing to bite!

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Pompano like Orange Flies

Here in Charlotte Harbor, we have pompano at this time of year. Typically they are found in our passes as well as along the sandbars. I don’t get a chance to fish for them in the passes, but I do run into them on the bars. These are not huge fish by any standard, averaging 1.5 to 4 pounds, but they are terrific on a fly rod, one of my favorite quarry. Pompano are lightning fast, powerful, and fight hard and long as the devil. You got to love them, especially on a light fly rod. A 6 or 7-weight is perfect.

Sandbar Pompano

Sandbar Pompano

Pompano are active when the water is active. In my area, the right conditions occur when wind or tide is pushing waves over the sandbar. Pompano are primarily bottom feeders, and turbulence stirs up the bottom making food more available, prompting the pompano to chow down. I usually find them either along the deep forward edge of the bar, or right on the bar itself. Still occasionally I’ve caught them on the inside edge, where the bar meets the grass beds.

Pompano like Orange Flies

Pompano like Orange Flies

So what flies work? Pompano like orange flies. As well as pink flies; chartreuse is a good choice too. Why those colors? My guess is this: bright flies show up well in rough water, and contrast sharply with the bottom. In other words, pompano find them fast. Beyond color, size matters too. Pompano have small mouths. So keep you flies small. Sizes 2# and 4# are about right. I also recommend you use a weighted fly, one that stays near the bottom. Hey, that’s where pompano are focused. By the way, like most fast growing fish, pompano are aggressive, striking hard and usually hooking themselves in the process. Since their mouths are rubber-like, hooks holds very well. All you have to do is hang on!

 

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A Redfish on St.Paddy’s Day

Launched the Adios the other morning at 6:30AM.  Still dark and plenty foggy. Why so early in the inky dinky? I wanted to catch a redfish on St.Paddy’s Day. And we had a dawn low tide that promised to hold a few “tailers”.

As soon as I reached the flat I spied “tails” waving through the fog. Not many mind you, but hell I only need one. Right? Easing off the Adios, I crept forward with my trusty 6-weight and dropped an feathered offering nearby. Bingo, a red grabbed hold. Now there’s the luck of the Irish!

Unfortunately, after that, “tailing reds” became rarer than hen’s teeth. I only saw two other “tails” that morning and only got a cast to one. And that cast was instantly nabbed by a snook! My friend Dave calls them “hitchhiker” snook. They followed reds around the flat, hanging back in the shadows, ready to pounce on anything the redfish stirs up.

March Red websize

Sight-fishing for Redfish

Later that morning, out on the sandbar, I tried sight-fishing for reds coming up on the flat with the rising tide. A group of three chunky reds, circled by me. Within thirty feet. Four minutes later they did the same. So I placed a crab fly in their preferred path and waited for them to reappear. They showed again, and as they swam up, I twitched the crab fly. One red inhaled it. Yeah, the Irish are lucky!

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A Few Redfish

Well, the wind have been  hellacious of late.  Whipping out of the northeast and now out of the southeast.  No way I dared launch the kayak. This morning NOAA even listed a rip current warning for my area. Surprise, surprise. Its a mess out there.

Luckily, Sunday morning I caught a boat ride with Dave. We left the ramp at 6AM. Yes, in the dark and yes, the damn wind was already honking. White caps, and breakers rolled across Charlotte Harbor. But we managed a few redfish. Dave got four and I hooked two.

Fly for Tailing Redfish

Fly for Tailing Redfish

A negative low tide coupled with a night-long north wind had pushed huge amounts of water out of the harbor. The flats were wicked low, as low as I have even seen. Large sections were completely high and dry. And many other areas held only ankle depth.

Fortunately we did spot a couple of “tailing” reds in the deeper pockets along the sandbar’s inside edge. I hooked one, although it dragged the leader through the turtle grass and got off. Still it felt good to hook a “tailer”.

Later as the tide started to rise, we switched to sight-fishing on the sandbar. The water was murky and lumped up with the wind. So visibility was limited, but true to form Dave started hooking reds on a crab fly. He’s good.

Redfish on a Merkin

Redfish on a Merkin

Man, I struggled to see those fish. Believe me, it was tough. Thankfully Dave came over and helped me. With his assistance, I caught one on a Merkin crab fly. After that we headed home.

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