Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple Tarpon Flies

With the tarpon already rolling around in Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, it's time to start gearing up to chase these fish with the fly rod.  In the fifteen years that I've been guiding, at least 90% of the tarpon I've hooked from my boat have been fooled by a few versions these simple but very effective rabbit fur streamers.  There are a lot of trendy flies such as Toads and Puglisis getting all the attention lately but you can't beat a classic Tarpon Bunny.  These patterns, tied on 2/0 Owner SC15 hooks, are the easiest of all tarpon flies to tie.  They're nothing more than two inches of Zonker strip for the tail and chenille or cross-cut fur for the head.  You can easily churn out a dozen of them in an hour even if your tying skills are still at the beginner's level.  Tarpon of all sizes love them and so will you when you see how much money you can save by whipping up a few of your own.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Matlacha Snook

Here's a shot my buddy Don Moorehead sent me on Friday after his morning trip in the southern part of Matlacha Pass.  He landed this excellent snook on a topwater lure as well as two big redfish and several keeper sized sea trout.  An hour earlier I poled through the exact same spot with a paying charter, also using the same lures, and caught absolutely nothing.  On the bright side, I showed Don this particular bay back in January and we caught nine reds that day so I'm taking partial credit for his success.  Actually, Don is the owner of Keystone Custom Rods and great angler so I'm not surprised that he picked up a Slam on a day that I could only catch ladyfish. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kayak Fly Fishing From Matlacha

East coast angler Andrew Wideroff sent me this shot of a really nice upper-slot sized redfish that he caught on fly during a very low tide late last week.  He and his buddy Sebastian stopped by Florida Paddlesports the day before and I pointed them in the direction of one of my favorite bays in Matlacha Pass that they could easily paddle to in less than an hour.  None of the fish were tailing down there so that makes this an even more impressive catch.  I was working the same spot with my skiff and a spin fishing client but came home empty handed.

Any time we have negative low tides in the Pass jumping in a kayak is a great idea.  There is a free kayak and canoe launch site at Matlacha Park and some of the best flats in the area are less than a mile away.  Even if you don't want to make the effort to paddle that distance you can toss a small kayak into you boat and use it as a ferry out to the flats.  A lot of folks who own very capable flats and bay boats are stopping by the kayak shop lately to check out this option.  Just because the redfish are playing around in only six inches of water doesn't mean you can't easily get to them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beavertail Fly Line Tamer

Just got this e-mailed to me from my buddy Mark Fisher at Beavertail Skiffs:


The new Beavertail Rail Fly Tamer was built out of one necessity and that was Line management. All of us, I don’t care who you are have been in the situation where you need to make a cast and cant because your line is wrapped around something on the boat or it laying in the water and it takes too many false cast to pull it off the water and the result is no cast, no fish, no fun.

Well, with that one single thing in mind the Beavertail Rail Fly Tamer wascreated, with most of the credit going to Rob Kramarz of www.chaostheorycharters.com in Key West. He is a extraordinary guide in the Keys with Tarpon and Permit being his specialty, with that said he knows the importance of Line management. Without it, it’s the difference between and fish of a lifetime and total frustration.

The Rail system is set up like a roller coaster, with wheels that hook under and over the 1″ aluminum rail. This lets the fly tamer move effortlessly by using your foot to move it right to left. We did this so that you never take your eye off the fish when casting. The system can use any kind of tamer from collapsible to rigid, big or small, just simply attach it to the pre-drilled holes in the roller plate and your done. The height of the plate is pre determined to go over your feet on the casting platform. This will let you move it effortlessly and not be a obtrusive while fishing. I guess they say ingenuity comes from necessity. The Beavertail gang of Tarpon maniacs will give this a thorough testing this spring and I am looking forward to any and all feedback.

Best Regards
Mark L Fisher

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Matlacha Slam

My favorite Canadians Bill Lee and Leo Duperron teamed up today to land an inshore Slam.  The redfish were everywhere all morning and the pair we landed were 30 and 31 inches.  The guys were really hoping for a smaller red to put on the grill but catching two oversized ones is a good kind of problem to have.  The 24 inch snook and 18 inch trout came right at the high tide mark in the southern part of Matlacha Pass.  All of these fish were caught on topwaters and released after posing for these shots.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Matlacha Redfish Story

From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:
We were skating across the surface of Matlacha Pass, heading north on a windless, flat calm January morning. It should have been an effortless trip towards Charlotte Harbor and over to Pine Island Sound, but it wasn’t. Instead of taking in the normally beautiful scenery that surrounds us on this run my eyes were glued to the screen of my little dash mounted GPS because there simply was no scenery.

A quick moving cold front dropped the air temperature into the mid-50s the night before, creating an unusually dense fog and making the familiar channel markers of the Pass impossible to follow. It was also the bottom of a very low winter tide and straying outside the channel would mean an instant grounding. Running through dense fog is still very unnerving to me due to my Keys and Caribbean fishing background, two locales where fog is exceptionally rare, so I said a quick prayer to the satellite gods beaming their signals down to my Garmin 440 and held the throttle steady at 25 mph.

Perched on the cooler in front of me was my good friend Capt. Mike Bartlett, up visiting me from Key West. The further I pushed into the solid wall of fog the more grateful I was for his presence. Mike and I have known each other for over a decade and he’s hands-down one of the best flats guides in all of Florida. Having Mike on my boat felt as reassuring as having Lindbergh in the co-pilot’s seat. Even though Matlacha wasn’t his home waters his trained set of eyes boosted my confidence that I wouldn’t plow us into an oncoming shrimp trawler.

We were heading to the west side of Pine Island and the huge grass flat which stretches from Big Jim Creek to the Pineland Marina. All the ingredients were there that morning for several hours of tailing redfish and braving the fog and low water was a necessary evil in order to get to Ground Zero.

I especially wanted Mike to see this. We’d guided together for years down in Key West and even after I left the island he continued to put me on quality fish every time I returned for a visit. Now it was my turn. He’d been up here before but this time I really owed Mike a good trip. He was eager to bend his new Sage fly rod on a big tailing red and more importantly I wanted to show him that the flats in my current backyard of Pine Island were every bit as productive as those in the Keys. I just had to get us there in one piece.

We made it to the northern entrance of Jug Creek and I slowed down for the shortcut that took us at idle speed past the Four Winds Marina and into Back Bay. The fog continued to thicken and the water kept getting shallower. Five minutes later, when we entered Little Bokeelia Bay and I goosed the throttle forward to get back on plane, I quickly knew I was in trouble. I normally shoot right across the shallow water there but this time something important was missing: the water.

My Beavertail skiff only needs six inches to float and I was suddenly in no more than five. I hit the bottom doing only 20 mph so it wasn’t a really bad impact. Mike and I were both pitched forward but at least we stayed in the boat. I’d been through this cut well over a hundred times and had a fully functioning GPS but I still managed to miss the narrow channel and ground the skiff beautifully.

Thank God I had Mike onboard and not a paying customer. I could easily take his sarcastic “Ever drive a boat before?” comments without feeling like a total idiot or getting the slightest urge to punch him in the face. He’d witnessed my stupidity before and had done the same thing a time or two himself down in the Keys. The worst part was the jeers from the passing crab boat as I stood in the thick mud and slowly pushed my skiff back toward the channel.

A few minutes later we were back on plane, weaving our way out of Little Bokeelia Bay and into Pine Island Sound. The fog was still wrapped around us like a wet blanket and there was no hint of a blue sky coming anytime soon. Fortunately we wouldn’t need the sunlight that morning. The water in the Sound was still dead calm and the tide just started flooding. I swung the bow back to the east for a few minutes until I was shallow enough to feel the Yamaha bump the bottom once again. This time I killed the engine before the hull made contact with the grass bed.

Thanks to the fog the silence was immediate. Mike and I could only see a hundred yards in any direction but that was all we needed. Within less than a minute the tails started to break the surface. They were mostly singles at first but occasionally a smaller school of half a dozen would appear. Soon there were orange triangles waving in the air everywhere we looked.

After a nerve wracking half hour run and a muddy and embarrassing grounding, I’d found the mother lode of Pine Island redfish that I’d promised my buddy from Key West.

“Oh wow!” was the first thing Mike said as he stepped onto the bow and started to cast his fly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Matlacha Fishing Report: Sea Trout

Trout and pompano have been the highlights of my charters this week.  The strong southeast winds kept us in the relatively sheltered water of the Indian Fields, a vast area to the north of Matlacha that consists of some great grass flats.  The type of fishing we did was nothing more complicated that bouncing shrimp tipped jigs across the bottoms.  This resulted in constant hook-ups, mostly on trout in the 12 to 15 inch range and with a handful of ladyfish and a few delicious pompano thrown in for good measure.  Nothing record setting this week, just a lot of rod bending fun for my anglers lucky enough to avoid the big storms that were hitting their relatives in the northeast.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Awesome Hammerhead Video

This has been around for a while now but it's still worth another look. A big hammerhead like this is actually rare on the Bahamian bonefish flats where this was filmed.  I've seen plenty of big lemon and blacktip sharks over there but nothing like this.  There's some swearing here but who can blame them. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Beavertail Skiffs BT3: First Photos

These are the first shots of the new BT3 from Beavertail Skiffs that was delivered to my buddy Capt. Mike Bartlett in Key West yesterday.  This is a fantastic looking flats boat priced in the low $30,000's with a motor and trailer.  I'll be heading down there in two weeks to go permit fishing on it and will have a full review then.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Proud Parents: Bald Eagles Nesting Off Matlacha

This pair of bald eagles has maintained the same nest on a small island just north of Matlacha for the past few years.  They produce a single chick each spring and this one poked his head up for the first time the other day.  These photos aren't great since I was using the 55-200 lens on my Nikon and they're heavily cropped.  I also missed the last bit of sunlight by two minutes.  There are tons of big trout and mullet swimming on the flat just under this nest so he'll be eating like a pig and growing very quickly over the next few weeks.  If any of you bird watchers out there want a look at him give me a call.