Well itís been a week since I returned from a trip to the Florida Keys. Even though the weather could have been better it was a blast. I learned a lot in the process of preparing and attempting to fish the flats down there.
My guide was great we had tarpon rolling all around the boat after a 10 minute cruise out of the slip in Cow key, some really large fish mixed in too. Chris gives me the 12wt rigged with an intermediate and a toad. I start flailing the 12wt around, had a hard time getting off a decent cast, later I realized I was holding the rod at the top of the cork as I normally do but that was all wrong on this rod, unfortunately I discovered this a little too late. I did have 3 very large permit chase the toad but I guess the 80lb shocker was a tip off for them. There was a small window for hitting these fish in the channel so we headed for the flats.
First flat we hit had been loaded with permit the days before but the weather took a turn the night before, definitely cooled things off no perms but we saw a couple of cudas. I managed to scare off the cuda but the good new was I could see the fish very easily. We tried several flats and I had three shots at permit but couldnít connect. Even managed to spot one on my own, even though they are good sized fish from the side view if they are not tailing they look almost transparent, just a slight difference in the water. I wasnít clicking with the 10wt floater Ė long leader and heavy crab so I chucked a blue crab at a couple of fish but do dice. These are very cool fish and Iíd take one any way I could hook it.
More flats and some great scenery later we see some more cudas and sharks but only 2 bones Iíve kicked over to the 9wt. now and can get a descent cast off, not great but descent. 2 bones come out of nowhere and are about a leaders length away, took a shot at them but my close in presentation was awful. No more bones, not for lack of trying though Chris worked his butt off poling what must have been miles, motoring from flat to flat somewhere off Boca Grande we decided to head back to the tarpon. Weather on the Atlantic side was not conducive to sighting layed up fish so back to the honey hole.
While Iím still not exactly sure where we were most of the time I know the Marquesaís were well within sight, almost went there but the buddy boat bailed and for good reason, the wind was due to pick up and it wouldnít have been a fun ride making the crossing in the 16í skiff.
We get back to the tarpon who are not really into the fly but Iíve got the casting down on the 12wt now and can make a respectable cast. Chris has a backup plan and live lines a pinfish off the back. After a few drifts and a lot of blind casting we have a taker apparently the pinfish looked better than my fly. At this point Iím ready to catch one of these guys anyway I can and LT spin gear is a challenge on these bruisers. Many jumps and about 20 minutes later the fish is at boat side, ~50lbs is the guesstimate a great day of fishing made much better with a little catching.
I donít mean to taint the fly board with my live bait fish but considering it was entirely a fly trip up to that point and the days after I figured Iíd post. The next couple of days I only saw baitfish sharks and cuda and my casting improved when using my own gear. Lesson learned, bring your own gear but I opted to go with the guides rigs which were all top end stuff, Tibors, T&T Winstons, etcÖ I just would have been better off with my own 9 & 10wt. The crab on a long leader still eludes me but with more practice I will get that figured out too.
Thanks for all the advice and great patterns posted on this board.
Wading Ė I ended up going with the Simm flats sneakers Ė fantastic boots and in they do come in a wide size. Iíve got to say with the wet wading socks they were the most comfortable boots Iíve worn. I did my homework and hit all the spots that had shore access, quite a few spots once you find access. Got in the lee of the wind but the water temp was noticeably colder Thursday through Sunday with a 35mph wind on Friday. Hey thatís weather.
Weed guards Ė Iíll give them a shot up in my neck of the woods, a small mono guard works surprisingly well and while I cannot attest to it spooking fish or not, Iíll go with the general consensus that it doesnít bother the fish.
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