Friday, October 31, 2014

A Halloween Pumpkin

The  redfish are absolutely gorgeous this time of year, especially the ones pulled out of the dark flats in Matlacha Pass.  Local angler Steve Smith caught this bright orange beauty using a Gulp under Cajun Cork in less than two feet of water.  We're coming into some excellent low morning  tides for these guys over the next week so get your fly rods ready.  Should be lots of tails out there if the winds lay down after this weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pine Island's Snook Population

Right now you can catch juvenile snook like this guy on just about every shoreline in Matlacha Pass on the east side of Pine Island.  A live shrimp under a cork will pull them and if you're chumming with whitebait you can catch them by the dozens on some of the deeper holes next to the mangroves.  Getting a snook that's actually in the slot is a serious chore though, at least it has been for me this season.  I haven't seen too many other folks cleaning any back at the Matlacha ramp either and that's actually not a bad thing.  I'm convinced that our snook population is in fine shape since the 2010 freeze and in a few years we'll see an explosion of slot-sized or larger fish.  I probably won't get to eat one this year but that's not the end of the world, we've got plenty of trout and reds to keep the grill busy.  For now I'm keeping my 1/0 Owner hooks debarbed and enjoying the strikes from these juveniles. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sad Pelican

This guy went away hungry since I came back with no fish to clean.  He made me feel even worse about it by staring at me like that. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sunset Eclipse

We had a partial solar eclipse yesterday.  I didn't even realize it was happening until I looked through my lens at the sunset.  This is definitely something you don't see too often. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

72 MPH In The Beavertail Lightning


I shot this video last month while we were test driving the first production BT Lightning.  It's a bit shaky because I was using a handheld Flip camera but you can see the speed on the GPS pretty well at the end.  This boat was rigged with a 200hp Evinrude and has hit 75 with a single passenger and a light load.  No other 20 footer on the market can match this performance and the Lightning is actually rated for 300hp.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Key West Barracuda And Other Sights

Bonefish were our main target but I'll cast at anything that swims, especially barracuda.  They're one of my favorite things to photograph but so is just about everything else down in the Keys. 
A three footer that nailed a tube lure in two feet of water.

The business end.  You do NOT want to put your fingers in there. 

Tube lures also work well on lemon sharks.  This four footer ripped off a hundred yards of line and made several jumps just like a barracuda.

Heading offshore on Capt. Mike Bartlett's  Mako 23.

Sandy Bartlett hooked up on a yellowtail in eighty feet of water.

Green iguanas are a common sight all over the Keys these days.  They're considered a pest by many but are actually harmless and very beautiful lizards, too.

A British Hawker Hunter over Boca Chica air station.  These fifty year old jets are civilian owned but hired by the Navy for Top Gun training.  The blimp in the photo is the Fat Albert radar balloon tethered over Cudjoe Key ten miles to the north. 

Waterfront property on Key West. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bonefish On The Key West Flats

I never miss the chance to make the 300 mile drive down to Key West and chase bones with my friend Capt. Mike Bartlett.  We found a ton of fish the first morning but only managed to land three. They were all beauties and really attacked the flies.
The weather couldn't have been better and despite the falling tides we saw over a hundred bones on this particular flat.  When I was guiding down there ten years ago I never spotted a single one in that same area.  Despite what some organizations are saying recently, the bonefish population in the Keys is in great shape and according to Mike, it's actually increasing. 

We were throwing small crab patterns, which worked perfectly, but Mike has also had great success with old fashioned Clouser Minnows in the past.  As always, presentation is more important than the actual fly. 

If you want to book a trip with Capt. Mike (and you should) give him a call at (305)797-2452 or check out his website at

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jack Attack Off Matlacha

I love everything about these fish.  The ten pound jack crevalles that are cruising the shallows right now are one of the greatest things you'll ever catch on light tackle.  My friend Andy Glosser from PA landed this one on a white Skitter Walk lure after we saw it busting on the surface in another boat's wake.  Watching a big jack hit a top water is the most entertaining thing in all of flats fishing and it's not too tough to do in October.  Work the tree lines at high tide and look for the birds diving on the surface in the deeper water any time of day.  If you see a flock of terns hitting the surface it's almost a sure thing that some crevalles will be under them this time of year. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Beavertail Elite For Sale, $36,000


This is Beavertail's demo boat and currently has very low hours on its Etec 90.  The Elite features a standard Kevlar hull and this one also has a handful of great extras like a forward casting platform, rope wrapped wheel, and an upgraded Garmin GPS.  The retail price would be $42,000 and you can pick this one up for only $36,000.  That's an absolute steal, especially if you compare it to its competition such as a Hell's Bay Professional or Maverick HPX.  Both of those boats would easily cost you over $50,000 if rigged the same way.  Click here for more details or call Liz at 941-705-2090.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reddish Egret In Flight

One of my favorite birds.  Snapped this one off Bokeelia late in the afternoon. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Beavertail Ambush: The Ultimate Microskiff

My friends at Beavertail recently took over production of the popular Ambush line of skiffs. This 13 footer was introduced in 2011 by the Pelican boat company and got great reviews. The BT version is going to sell for a slightly lower price and I'd expect to see a whole line of really cool options come out over the next few months. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Post Cold Front Catches

Our water temps took a ten degree nosedive after Saturday which slowed things down a bit but definitely didn't turn off the bite.  The big reds and snook are really starting to hit out in the Pass.   

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Snook Are Biting Everywhere.

 The snook are all over the mangroves in Matlacha Pass.  Most of them have been smaller than the 29 inch beauty my buddy Vic Maffee landed just before the cold front, but they're hitting almost anything.  We landed a handful this morning on fly and an equal amount yesterday with shrimp under corks.  Getting a slot-legal fish like the one in the photo is still a chore but they're out there and some strong tides this week and a ton of bait in the water should help a lot. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spoon Flies For Redfish In October

From this month's Nautical Mile newspaper:

It’s October and we've got a lot of redfish prowling the Pine Island flats.  Even though our water is cooling off and clearing up, they can still be very difficult to spot unless they're tailing at low tide.  When you're lucky enough to find them doing this, getting one to eat a fly isn't always a sure thing.  That problem begins with the fact that a tailing redfish has already found a morsel of food on the bottom, usually a small crab hiding under the turtle grass, and is actively trying to get at it.  When a red's attention is focused it's hard to pull them away from an easy meal digging itself into the mud.  The best way to do that with a fly rod is to throw them something even easier to find and eat. 

Most flies are designed to land softly on the surface and quietly slip through the water.  This rarely gets the attention of a redfish with its face in the mud, which is why I love throwing spoon flies.  These have been around since the 1980's and evolved into several unique configurations.  The first ones were made from ordinary tinfoil and a few anglers even used Lee Press-On Nails with great success, but it's the Mylar and epoxy patterns created by Gainesville's Capt. Jim Dupre that are my favorites for their pure simplicity.  These flies work no differently than the classic gold spoons that conventional anglers have used to catch all sorts of fish for more than a century.  They wobble and flash and generally make a great imitation of a crippled shiner, something irresistible to just about any predator in the ocean. 

It's that wobble that's especially effective on tailing redfish.  With their eyes, nose and mouth buried in the mud, reds can still sense movement in the water though their lateral line, the powerful sensory organ that runs from the middle of their head to the back of their tails.  The vibration of the Dupre Spoon as it flutters by is very effective at tricking them into thinking a crippled baitfish right overhead.  That will quickly pull their mouths out of the mud and straight after the fly.

The Dupre Spoon is relatively easy to cast on a light fly rod like a 7-weight.  They’re a lot more aerodynamic than other spoons but when the wind kicks up you'll want to use an 8 or 9-weight rod to give them some extra punch.  You'll also want to land these flies right on top of most tailing redfish.  I actually aim for their heads, or at least where I think their heads might be in the dark water.  Yes, this will occasionally spook your target but most of the time it creates a reaction strike, especially when you're throwing into a school of tailing reds.  In most schooling situations, competition overcomes caution and the first fish to see the fly usually eats it. 

One very important thing about almost all spoon flies is that they're easily made weedless.  A simple piece of wire or stiff mono tied at the eye of the hook and extending to the point will slide off most of the grass you'll pull it through on the flats.  This is very important since every angler knows that a hungry red will turn away from any artificial that's dragging even a bit of vegetation behind it.  A small, weedless spoon fly will maintain its action even in the thickest low tide grass. 

The only drawbacks to the spoon fly is that they're not very easy to tie or inexpensive to purchase.  The Dupre Spoon that I like so much retails for around $7 in most shops and online.  That's a pretty steep markup for a few cents worth of materials, but in my book it's more than worth it.  Getting all of that Mylar and epoxy just right isn't easy and the flies themselves are almost as indestructible as their spin fishing counterparts made of actual metal.  Pick up a few Dupre Spoons if you don't have them in your box already.  When the reds are tailing in the thickest grass off Matlacha and Pine Island, there's no better fly to have on the end of your leader.