Friday, May 29, 2015

Great Beavertail Skiffs Video

This was shot during a record cold February morning on the Manatee River but the results were well worth it.  I really can't say enough great things about this company and the custom boats they create.  In just five short years, Beavertail has gone from building a single 18 foot skiff to their current seven different models, with another on the way.  No other brand in this market has matched their growth and that success is entirely thanks to BT's owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie.  Great people and great friends. 

The Beavertail Skiffs Story from Almost Blue on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pine Island Office Space

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pine Island Eagle

This one likes to hang out on the east side of Jug Creek on the north end of Pine Island.                 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tarpon Fishing Clinic With The Pine Island Fly Fishing Club

Want to learn to do this?  Trust me, it's not as hard as you think, especially over the next few months when the conditions are right.  Stop by the Matlacha Park community center this Tuesday, the 26th at 6:30pm for the monthly Pine Island Fly Fishers meeting and we'll talk all things tarpon.  If you haven't been to one of these before it's a very informal get-together and you'll meet a lot of great people and future fishing buddies.  We ask a $3 donation to help cover the hall rental but parking and everything else is free.  Hope to see you there. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Matlacha Slams

Too windy to chase tarpon with the fly rods today so we stayed near the mangroves instead. A livewell full of shrimp produced lots of snook, trout, and redfish for my buddy Sam and his girlfriend Diana. The secret this time of year is getting the baits under the branches.  You'll lose some tackle but the results are worth it. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Juvenile Tarpon Are Here

I caught this one in a local canal on live bait. I know that's kind of cheating but sometimes you've got to do it. We'll be hooking these guys all over Matlacha Pass and Pine Island until October on all kinds of tackle.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Lily Camera Waterproof Drone

Like it or not, I think we'll be seeing more than a few of these buzzing around people's skiffs next tarpon season.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bad Picture Of Beautiful Pine Island Tarpon

I had my camera almost ready when this small tarpon ate the fly on the east side of Cayo Costa this weekend.  It spit the hook right after this which is the usual outcome for first time anglers.  The autofocus on my D3100 is usually too slow for these shots but it's a great camera keep on a boat. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Little Pine Island Redfish

Nice change of pace today.  We put down the fly rods and ignored the tarpon to chase edible fish with spinning gear instead.  Local angler Harvey Zorn brought in this beautifully colored red with a live shrimp off the north tip of Little Pine.  We also landed several dozen trout further north included a near limit of slot-legal keepers.  Great conditions out there this weekend for anyone looking to grill something.  You've got incoming tide for most of the morning and just enough breeze to keep you cool until the thunderstorms roll in later in the day.  Look for the mullet jumping around the mangroves and you'll find nice redfish hanging with them. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Great Waterfront Vacation Rental On Pine Island

If you're still trying to put together a last minute tarpon trip down here check out my friend's place at the Four Winds Marina.  It's available right now for a week or month long rentals.  Best of all, it's just a few minutes boat ride to some of the best flats in all of SW Florida.  You can see the details here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pine Island Permit

Permit are not uncommon in the waters of SW FL but we rarely catch them on the flats.  My buddy Eric landed this little one from a school he spotted over a Matlacha Pass sandbar this morning.  He was using a 3" Gulp Shrimp which you can see in the permit's mouth.  It's not easy to get these fish to hit any kind of artificial in shallow water so that makes this an even more impressive catch. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Keystone Custom Rods Of Cape Coral, FL

Here's a closer look at some of the excellent wrapping work my buddy Capt. Don Moorhead does with his rod building business located right here in Cape Coral.  He builds both spin and fly fishing outfits so check out his website at

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Charlotte Harbor Cobia

Now that the winds have dropped back to a more tolerable level, I've been spending more time up in the harbor.  The brighter sand bars are full of life and even though the tarpon are everyone's main target, lots of cobia are hanging on the backs of cruising stingrays.  These are a really easy fish to catch since they hit almost anything that moves.  This one ate a white Gulp on a 1/8th ounce jig head.  Live crabs are an even better bait since that's what the cobia are hoping to find shooting out from under the rays.  This fish was well under the legal size of 33" so it went back in the water. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Best Tarpon Fly

Ok, it's the best fly according to me. This is the famous Tarpon Bunny, first created back in the 1970's, and I can honestly credit at least 90% of the tarpon I've hooked over the last decade to this pattern. The two versions pictured here are in my favorite color scheme; a black rabbit fur tail and red crosscut fur head. One is unweighted and the other has a set of small dumbbell eyes for use in deeper water. Both are tied on 2/0 Owner SSW Cutting Point hooks.

The Tarpon Bunny in these colors triggers strikes better than anything else I've ever used. I've caught fish with it here on Pine Island as well as down in the Keys, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. It also works great on sea trout and a handful of other local inshore species. Even our saltwater catfish seem to be liking it these days, (unfortunately.)

It's an exceptionally easy pattern to tie and also available at most fly shops or online. If you're anywhere near some tarpon over the next few months you'll need a half dozen of these in your box.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Coming Soon...

I'm talking about the flat calm water you see in this photo, which was taken this time last year.  The tarpon have actually been here for a couple of months but you wouldn't know that if you've been fighting the 20mph winds we've had all around Pine Island these last few weeks.  Trust me, it'll get better.  Probably not this week, but soon, and scenes like the one in the photo will become a lot more common until the end of summer.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fine Tune Your Fly Cast For Tarpon Season

 From this month's Nautical Mile Magazine.  I wrote this quite a while ago but always like to repost it this time of year:

Now that tarpon season is here it’s time to think about your casting distance with a fly rod. A lot of “experts” will tell you that you need to be able to make at least an 80 foot cast in order to catch anything on the flats. You’ll occasionally read this in magazines and often hear it from too many guides.  In all honesty, the 80 foot cast is a very demanding requirement for an experienced angler and a terribly discouraging one for most beginners.  And in my experience, it’s simply not necessary. 

Nearly all of the tarpon I’ve caught over the years were hooked within 50 feet of my boat, and that’s a cast that anyone can make. Even if you’ve never touched a fly rod before, a decent guide or instructor can get you casting out to 50 feet within an hour.  The trick is to do it quickly and accurately, and this is the part that takes a fair amount of practice.

In many fly fishing situations, from the time your guide points out a cruising tarpon to the moment you’ll need to start your cast is around 10 seconds. You’ll have the first 5 seconds to spot the target for yourself and the next 5 to get the fly in the water and in front of your fish. This is a really narrow window but when we’re talking about just 50 feet it can easily be done.

Here’s an exercise you should try if you’re thinking of getting serious with a fly rod around Pine Island or any other saltwater destination, and all you’ll need to do is find an empty baseball field. 

String up your 10-weight fly rod with a 1/0 baitfish pattern and stand on the pitcher’s mound.  The distance to home plate is 60’, which is what I’ve found to be the maximum distance of the average successful tarpon shot. 

Next, strip out at least 80 feet of fly line from your reel. Leave a rod’s length fly line hanging from the rod tip and hold the fly in your opposite hand by the eye of its hook. Have your partner hit the stopwatch and start counting out loud. At the same moment you’ll start your false casts, aiming for the home plate. When the count hits “5,” stop your casting and present your fly.

So how close are you to home?

If you realistically want to catch a big tarpon on a fly, in the conditions you’re going to find in Florida this time of year, you should be within a foot of the plate. If you’ve actually hit the plate then you‘re well ahead of the crowd but should still keep practicing.

So what happens if you’ve been flailing away for hours and still can’t get to the plate in those 5 seconds? Well then it’s time to stop what you’re doing and get some real instruction. I’ve seen a lot of self-taught anglers who’ve taught themselves some seriously bad habits.

If you’re one of these folks you may be totally effective with a fly rod on a trout stream but it just won’t happen on the flats. One hour of being taught the proper saltwater techniques, whether it’s on a ball field or on the deck of a boat, will get you to home plate in no time.