Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Everglades Adventure-2009

Our trip began in Everglades City, in south Florida.

We were scheduled to fish one day with Capt. Ned Small, and after meeting him the first morning, he felt we might have some shots at tarpon.

Most of the tarpon, at this time, are laid up, which mean they are not eating, and are usually found laying motionless under the mangroves. Spotting this fish is not easy, but Ned located a few fish, although some were impossible to reach due to the thick mangroves. One fish gave me a small window and on my second cast, I was able to drop the fly in front of the fish. It only took a couple of short strips to bring the tarpon to the fly and we watched as he enhaled the black and purple Neutralizer.

Everglades Adventure-2009

This trip started like many others:

A call to my guide, months in advance, to set dates for a trip to the Everglades/10,000 Islands of South Florida. However, my guide, Bill Blanton, called to tell me that he needed surgery and was setting me up with 2 top local guides.

Well, my wife and I were not disappointed.

Our first guide, Ned Small, indicated that the weather was bad, but it might allow us to search for "laid-up" tarpon. This meant that they were not really in a mood to eat, and it would be tough to get a fly in front of them since they normally "lay-up" under the mangroves! From experience, I knew my neutral buoyancy fly, the Neutralizer, would be a good choice in these situations, and we were not disappointed!

Note about the Neutralizer:
The key to the Neutralizer is that is does not sink, but suspends about 12 inches under the surface when using a heavy bite leader. This places the fly just above the fish, which is critical with tarpon, and also allows the angler to fish it very slowly and seductively!

Our first tarpon was located under a huge overhanging mangrove, and it required a tight cast to reach the fish. On the second cast the fly dropped right in front of the tarpon and after a couple of short strips, the fish inhaled the fly......

.....and a 60 lb. Tarpon was airborne!

My wife, Eloise, had never witnessed the explosive jumps of a big tarpon, and she was amazed at their power and jumping ability!

This fish gave us a show........ is a video clip from our first tarpon!!

This fish was tough, and pulled the skiff several hundred yards before we could really get control.

An interesting twist to this fight:......nearing the end of the fight we heard a another skiff motoring nearby, and..... order to prevent having this angler, and captain, see our fish, I allowed the line to go slack. They had no idea I was connected to a tarpon. Ned, our captain, laughed, and thanked me for not "tipping our hand" to the passing skiff. Check out the video!

Moving on to another bay, we located another small pod of tarpon, and these fish were out away from the mangroves, and in open water where we could reach them. Ned poled the skiff quietly into position, and.............
........a beautiful 50 lb. tarpon ate the black & purple Neutralizer and reached for the sky!

!!!!!What a great day with Captain Ned Small!!!!!


For the final 3 days of our trip, we were scheduled to fish with Bert Barkus, a salty, seasoned veteran of the 'glades. With the weather/wind blowing from the west, we were short of options, and this meant we could not sight-fish the gulf-side, but would be forced to fish the bights and creeks in the back country. With plenty of snook and great structure there was more than enough fishing (and fish) to keep us busy.

We had a number of memorable events on this part of our trip. First, we had a big bull shark attack a small snook, which reminded us to "stay in the boat"! Bert had mentioned that I should not take long to release our fish, or to put our hands in the we know why!

Bert seemed to always know when to move and it didn't take long for us to find the snook. We boated over 60 snook in 3 days, and had several snook over 15 lbs. come to the fly. Unfortunately, none of these bigger fish made a solid connection to the fly.
Here is a clip of the typical cover we fished for snook. I just couldn't keep this fish out of the dead mangrove!!!

Although I tried top water bugs, we settled on my Floating Minnow as the "go to" fly. This fly is tied with just enough foam to allow the fly to sink slowly, yet when it is stripped it rises to the surface. The snook wanted a fly just under the surface, and the Floating Minnow did the job! Of course, it was fitted with my double mono weedguard, absolutely necessary to drive the fly in tight to the cover. Since this fly tracked near the surface, all the takes were like top water, with explosive blow-ups!
It was awesome!

Another memorable fish came very unexpectedly. While casting to a mangrove point, a huge snook rushed the fly, but missed....and when I made a second cast, she came again. Each time she failed to connect with the hook. However, when I made the 3rd cast, the fly was met with an explosive and solid strike..........from a 20 lb. Tarpon!!! I don't think I have ever been disappointed catching a tarpon.......but I sure wanted to get a closer look at that big snook. This fish was a lot of fun and gave us a great show.

The BIG surprise of the trip came in the last 10 minutes of the last day. We had been fishing a shoreline for snook, and were about the call it quits. Although we had seen tarpon here and there, in the coves, there was no pattern, so we didn't concentrate on them. As we drifted away from the shore, and as Bert started to secure the boat for the run home, I decided to continue throwing my bug. While blind casting into open water, a massive tarpon engulfed my Floating Minnow, and in an instant my 8 wt. was bent to the butt, and backing poured off my reel! What a thrill! After 2-3 jumps Eloise was able to calm down and get the video started, but we were not able to record very much. However, from the video you can get an idea just how big this fish was. Bert estimated the tarpon to be around 130 lbs.!!

The Everglades are amazing. There is so much life, and natural beauty, it is hard to believe!

The list of charactors included: Bull sharks, lemon shark (that actually ate my black & purple Neutralizer!!), black drum, redfish, manta rays, jacks, snook, and tarpon. Unfortunately, the water was very dirty/stained, and sight fishing just wasn't on the menu. Redfish and black drum were only momentary sightings. The deer flies and mosquitos made brief attacks, but really weren't bad.

Although the fishing was tough, I enjoyed the challenge. A great fly fishing experience. It was especially great to have my wife along, who enjoyed the experience too!

I hope we have a chance to return to the 10,000 Islands of south Florida!