Thursday, September 01, 2016

Emigrant Wilderness-Huckleberry Lake

Words, and even pictures, cannot capture the beauty of the Emigrant Wilderness, we visited recently.  Yes, it took a 21 mile horse pack trip to find it.  Yes, it was hard and even painful....  
....but the rewards were indescribable! 

Huge domes loomed above us at almost every turn in the trail!

Beauty Everywhere!

Finally, we get our first glimpse of Huckleberry Lake and we were stunned!

This is the view from our camp site....
....and every view of Huckleberry Lake was amazing.

Islands, huge boulders, and side lakes give Huckleberry Lake amazing beauty, character, and fishing potential. 

 Flats like this one enabled us to wade and float tiny ant patterns over the drop-off, where big rainbows were cruising, eager to eat our flies!

All 6 of us were equipped with float tubes and caught double digit rainbows and brook trout each day.  
Most of the rainbows averaged over 15" with some around 18", and even a few at the magical 20" mark!

This big trout was typical of our daily catch!.....

....and Dan's monster, 17 1/2" brook words!

One day, Nate Kowal and I, packing only dry fly rods, fished from shore, seeking shallow water, bank feeding, rainbows.  
It proved to be a good move.  We encountered big 15-20 inch rainbows all along the shore, and even though I'm sure few people fish Huckleberry Lake, they were spooky and required stealth and the right fly.  Tiny size 18 baetis and ant patterns did the trick!  With water gin-clear, we could see the fish clearly as they rose to sip our flies from the surface!  
It was magical!

With the experience of our great day fishing from shore,  the next day Philip Salibi and I ventured along the lake, probing the shallows for big feeding rainbows.

(Did I mention the beautiful scenery....EVERYWHERE?)

Although Philip had little fly fishing experience, and no dry fly experience, he was a quick study, casting to bank-feeding rainbows, all along the lake shore.

I certainly didn't need to ask him to smile!

Tiny ants, and baetis, along with big hoppers, made up our offerings, near shore.

Even though these fish are rarely fished, stealth was required!

Nate's brother, Philip, along with Mike and Dan, were fish-catching machines, from the float tube.  Most days the catches were way over 20 fish, fishing with streamers, and even hoppers and ants! 

After a long day of fishing, our appetizers really capped off the day!  Each of us packed in with horse and mule, so we had plenty of room for "essentials" like beer, cheese, and salami!

Sometimes the "road less traveled" requires effort, and even discomfort, but I am thankful to have been able to walk this trail with a great group of guys!

Many thanks to Philip Kowal, Nate Kowal, Mike Farracane, Dan Palm, & Philip Salibi, for a great trip!

I am especially thankful to our Creator for providing such an amazing part of the world!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Florida Mixed Bag-2016

Our family trip to Atlanta provided an opportunity to visit
a new area:
Amelia Island, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida

With help from a buddy in Jacksonville, I contacted long time Jacksonville guide, 
John Bottko.

The weather was unsettled and stormy much of the week, and our fishing was concentrated on the marsh, behind Amelia Island, fishing for redfish.  

I had hoped for nice weather so we could fish the ocean, for cobia, but this was not on the program, this week.
Given that we were fishing specifically on the tide meant we would be fishing 1/2 days.  

John worked hard to find fish, and I did hook several nice reds, during the mid day tide.  We ran a long distance to an area that had produced earlier in the week, but found a pod of dolphins feeding in the area, and this meant "no redfish" for us. 

However, while casting to reds, I hooked into a nice flounder, my first on a fly.  It was a great bonus fish, and totally unexpected.  


As the tide turned and started in, we moved to a huge sand bar that stretched for at least a mile.  It was more like wading the sandy flats in the Bahamas, with clear water and white sand.  Unfortunately, no redfish came our way, but we did see a big nurse shark, and an equally big black tip shark, that cruised by to check us out.  Since they were a bit too close for comfort, we retreated to shallow water.   
My second day I was scheduled to fish with Rich Santos, 
in St. Augustine.

With a stormy forecast, we headed out hoping for a short window, during the tide, to fish the backcountry marsh.  

It didn't take long and I was hooked up to a sea trout, and we were hopeful the tide would bring us more fish.

Speckled Sea Trout

We continued to work the oyster beds (in the background), casting a black/gold Redmeat Neutralizer, for redfish, and I was rewarded with a typical St. Augustine red.


As the weather turned bad, and we were thinking that our day might be over....

 Tarpon in the air!!

....and continuing to cast to the shallow oyster beds, I was surprised to hook a tarpon, totally unexpected.  This 15 lb. tarpon put on a great show for us, and really "made the trip".  This was a first for Captain Rich, in 17 years of guiding the backcountry!

We realized that our 1/2 day session was about to be rained out, but decided to fish one last oyster bed.... 

Toad fish?!!

.......and we were surprised AGAIN!  The line just STOPPED.....and started to move off, resembling nothing else I had caught.  When we got a look at the fish we were puzzled and shocked to find this strange creature with my fly in its mouth.  It was a toad fish. 
 This fish felt just like a toad with slimy, slick skin.  

I am not sure I have ever caught such a variety of species, and in only 2, 4 hour sessions on the water! 

It proves that you just never know what might happen when you are on the water. 

Many thanks to my friend, Aubrey Thompson, for recommending John and Rich.  I had a great time, and look forward to returning to the marsh for more fly fishing adventure! 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Great Inagua, Bahamas II

Hurricane Joaquin left a huge mark on the Bahamas, just prior to our trip, with homes blown away, and people devastated!  Even the breakwater near our duplex was smashed up even more than when we were here during hurricane Sandy.   

(pictures from hurricane Sandy)

This trip we missed the hurricane, and found poor weather, but great fishing.

Launching through the mangroves.

 The inland lake is an amazing place.  Landlocked species of all kinds swim here, but it is the tarpon and snook that bring us back each year!  Since hurricane Joaquin dumped so much water on Inagua, the lake was very stained, and for some reason, while we were there, we found rolling tarpon everywhere (so were the mosquitoes!).  
In fact, the first day, there were so many fish rolling, our guide, Ezzard, simply poled us to the middle of a huge bay and anchored.  Mike Scott and I had to be ready for a quick, and accurate shot, as the approaching tarpon rolled near us.

It didn't take long to hook up with the typical 25-40 lb. tarpon....but I was surprised to connect with a couple of the bigger residents.

 Ezzard estimated this tarpon to be about 90 lbs. and he informed us this might be the largest tarpon ever taken in the lower lake!  Yes, we were in the right place at the right time!

 This big girl put on quite a show!!

With tarpon rolling everywhere Mike decided to throw a gurgler, and enjoyed the topwater action!

Typical action from "Junior Size" tarpon...

...this particular day was very special for me...
...14 tarpon taken with just one fly...
...the Mujarra Neutralizer!


With high tides we were forced to search out estuary backcountry, for skinny water flats that contained bonefish.  That meant flats with scattered bushes and small mangroves-plenty of obstacles for the speedy bonefish to separate you from your fly!
No broad, white sandy flats here!  It was more like hunting, and a lot of fun!

 Even in the rain, the bonefish were eager to please!

Typical backcountry bonefish

Bonefish AP, again, was my #1 bonefish fly!

 One of the bigger bonefish we found within the estuary.

On the last day we were able to venture
to the "upper lake", in search of snook and tarpon...

...and although we didn't find the bigger snook, we were not disappointed! 

The all-chartreuse Floating Minnow was the fly of choice for these snook!

...and another medium sized snook.

With no restaurants, we typically cook our own meals, and our group did a great job preparing the food!
Many thanks to Walt, Bill and Mike. 

Given the fact that Mike Scott traveled from Alaska, taking 3 days to get to Inagua, I tip my cap.  Mike brought a box of amazing goodies, including his own smoked salmon!  Thanks Mike!  You are a terrific cook, as well as a great fishing partner!

I am thankful for another wonderful adventure on Great Inagua!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Great Inagua, Bahamas I

I got a great chance to make a second trip to Great Inagua, this past September.  When Doug called me, to ask if I could fill in for his partner, who had to cancel, I jumped at the chance.  

Our first evening on Inagua was one of the two "Fish Fry" evenings of the week.  Cracked conch, fish, shrimp, and BBQ chicken were plentiful at the oceanside "restaurants".
(I won't mention the mosquitoes!)

With calm winds and good tides, it looked to be prime permit fishing conditions.  However, after 3 days, with only 2 shots apiece, it was clear that the permit had other ideas.  

Fortunately, there are plenty of good sized bonefish, on Great Inagua, so we made the best of poor permit fishing. 

As we were fishing along, I spotted a big trigger fish, and dropped the AP Bonefish fly in front of the hungry fish. 

It was cool to watch it nose down and eat the fly!  It was awesome....for a few seconds...  
...since we were near a mangrove island, the trigger made a dash for the trees, and although I applied as much pressure as I could, to the 12 lbs. test, the trigger made it to the mangroves.  
Forget catching the was now  a matter of retrieving my fly & line.
Let's see....he went in about here...., still no fish, or the end of my leader...
...maybe here...Yes!  Fortunately, I was able to find the fly (fish long gone), clip it, and pull my line from the trees... 
...Yep!  I love fly fishing!

In addition to the bonefish, I have wanted to catch a Mutton Snapper, on the fly, and I found one to make the day complete!
What a beautiful fish!

Next we decided to shift our attention to the "Lake".  This is a landlocked body of water, operated by the Morton Salt Company, that holds a good population of medium size (25-60 lb.) tarpon.  

As we poled along the mangroves, we spotted several tarpon cruising a small cove.  As I dropped the Tarpon Neutralizer fly, into the corner, a tarpon turned and ate the fly in a flash.  I was tight to my first tarpon of the trip...

...and eventually, I had my hands on our first tarpon.

Doug was "up" next and he made the best of the opportunity.

This high flying acrobat really made the trip, as 50 lbs. of energy exploded into the air.

Fortunately we were in a relatively open area, and Doug could really apply the pressure!

Doug and I had a blast hunting tarpon in small pockets, and casting into tight lanes.  This type of fly fishing has got to be my favorite!

Yes, those are tarpon boiling in the background!

I think our smiles tell the story!

Thanks Doug, for a great trip, and fantastic memories!