Monday, July 10, 2017

July On Pine Island

From this month's Nautical Mile Magazine:

July has always been one of my favorite months to fish on Pine Island.  For starters, every worthwhile species to chase on the flats are here in good numbers.  Tarpon season is still in full swing, big sharks are all over the shallows, redfish will tail on the flat calm mornings, and spawning snook are cruising the beaches.  And best of all, the boat traffic out there, at least on the weekdays, is at a minimum with the snowbirds all back up north.

The only drawback to July is the fact that we're in the middle of summer and the heat and humidity are off the charts.  But that's not exactly a bad thing, especially for fly fishermen looking for smaller tarpon on light tackle. 

Every saltwater fly angler lives for the thought of cruising into a sheltered bay and spotting a school of several dozen slow rolling tarpon.  This is the time of year when that can happen on any given morning around here.  When the waters get greasy calm, that's the time to break out the light to mid-size fly rods and toss 1/0 patterns at 5 to 10 pound fish. 

Baby tarpon school up by the dozens since there is safety in numbers.  They can be almost anywhere but the man-made canals all over Pine Island and Cape Coral are holding them right now and the live bait guys have been catching them with ease with free lined pinfish.  Getting one to hit a fly is a much more difficult chore, and that mostly has to do with the water depth. 

All my fly rods were strung up with weight forward floating lines which are perfect for the flats or clear waters less than 6 feet deep.  They've never worked well in the canals which are very dark and usually around 10 feet deep or more.  I recently started casting a clear tip, intermediate fly line from Royal Wulff on my 9-weight rod and the results were immediate.  Once this line started dragging my flies down and extra couple of feet the canal tarpon started eating. 

Casting an intermediate fly line is a bit of a chore for beginners but once you've done it a few times it becomes a lot of fun.  You can actually shoot these lines for a very long distance compared to the more common floating lines.  They'll definitely get your light flies in front of the deeper swimming tarpon in the canals can be equally effective along the passes off the Gulf islands.  Keep and intermediate line on a spare reel and you'll be surprised how useful it can be this time of year. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

An Exploding Tarpon

Friday, June 23, 2017

2013 Beavertail Strike For Sale

This is an excellent Beavertail Strike in like new condition located in Cape Coral.  Click here for a more detailed listing or call David at 701-509-1624.  The Strike/F70 combo is one of the best technical poling skiffs ever built and this one is ready to fish for a recreational angler or guide.  This is the only one like it on the market right now so don't let it slip away if you're in the market for a great high end flats boat. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pine Island Permit

I came across a very rare sight this morning: a big school of tailing permit in the north end of Pine Island Sound.  These fish are not uncommon in the deeper waters here in SW Florida but you don't often see them behaving like this on the flats anywhere north of the Keys.  These permit hung out for at least a half hour and ignored every fly I dropped on them.  At least they let me get a handful of mediocre photo to prove they were out there. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

June On Pine Island

I'm always skeptical when I hear about some amazing new or "secret" fly that suddenly becomes all the rage in saltwater fishing. These are usually nothing more than slight tweaks to proven patterns aimed mostly at the fly catalogs than the fish.  The permit fishing fraternity usually has some of the worst offenders here. These guys regularly do little more than reinvent Del Brown’s classic Merkin Crab fly but still manage to get magazine articles written about their "new" creations. There are always a few exceptions to this, the Avalon Crab from Cuba is one example that is different and actually works, but I haven’t seen all that many real innovations for inshore anglers over the past decade.

  I felt the same way about the Tarpon Toad when I first came across it several years ago down in the Keys. The former Olympic skier and expert angler Andy Mill was absolutely dominating every tournament he fished and was using Capt. Tim Hoover's version of the Toad almost exclusively. The pattern itself is yet another evolution of the Merkin fly but fine-tuned specifically to work on the Florida Keys tarpon. Andy was also doing some other unique things such as tying his Toads on relatively small 1/0 hooks, dropping his shock leaders down to 60# test, and casting a stealthier 10-weight rod to fool the heavily pressured fish that cruised the Islamorada flats. It was a pretty unbeatable combination for several years and these guys rewrote the record books during the most competitive fly fishing tournaments in the world.

  At that time I was (and for the most part still am) seriously dedicated to the classic Tarpon Bunny fly, a relic from the 1970s which I usually tie in red and black on a 2/0 Owner hook. I've caught the vast majority of my tarpon on this pattern and usually pull it out of my box first thing every morning. It’s worked very well for me in the Keys, much of the Caribbean, and definitely here around Pine Island. But the Tarpon Bunny doesn't stay on my leader as long as it used to. These days if I get one refusal from a well placed cast, I immediately switch to a Toad of the same color. If that fly gets ignored I'll go to another Toad of a brighter shade, usually chartreuse, especially in lighter water like we have right now off the Gulf beaches.

  The Tarpon Toad has a really unique action underwater, meaning it has almost no action. Unlike traditional flies like Cockroaches, the Toad basically hovers on an even plane when stripped instead of bouncing. This is actually a natural movement for prey as anyone who's watched shrimp swim around in a bait tank will know. This is most likely the secret to the Tarpon Toad's success. Imitating the prey's physical movement is far more important than imitating the prey's actual look when it comes to saltwater fly fishing.

If you're an experienced tarpon fisherman your fly box is probably half full of Toads already. If you're new to the sport, stocking up on this pattern is a great place to start. They’re easy to tie and widely available in fly shops and online. The Tarpon Toad is one of those trendy flies that wound up here to stay and may help you rewrite your own record book.