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!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Emigrant Wilderness 2015-A trip to the "Tall and Uncut".

Our annual horse pack trip...
                       ...into the Emigrant Wilderness
was even better than our great trip last year!  

With strong sure-footed horses, and fully-packed mules, we were off and climbing.  Starting at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station, at 6,240 ft. we climbed up and over Mosquito Pass, at about 9,400 ft.  (This is the reason old guys use horses, and not backpacks.)  
Of course, packing our float tubes, waders, propane stove, beer, etc. may have something to do with it too!  Grin!

Passing through volcanic mountains, into the granite and glacier  country, is spectacular, and will lush green around us it was obvious that the high country had received more rain than the drought stricken lowlands, not more than 2 hours away.  

Finally, after cresting Mosquito Pass, Dan Palm and I walked the last couple of miles.....and finally caught sight of Emigrant Lake, our home for the next 6 days.

With clouds building over the Sierra Nevada, Dan and I hustled to get our tents set up and our "kitchen" covered, just in case the heavens decided open up rain.  

....step into the kitchen!

 With overcast skies, several days, we were greeted to spectacular light shows, right at sunset.

We discovered something new this trip, at sunset:  CADDIS....
.....and to a fly fisherman, this means feeding trout!

We decided to sit on the shore and hope the wind would drop, and give us an opportunity to cast our caddis offerings to hungry trout.
On this first evening, even in the wind, I glimpsed a big rainbow suck in a tiny caddis fly, and I quickly stripped off line and shot a cast to the spot.  Seconds later I was fast to a strong, fat rainbow...

...and our first "dry fly rainbow" was in the net...a "bank feeder" in about 12" of water!

Although we did quite well the first couple of days, it was time to explore new areas of the huge lake, so we packed up our tubes and head west.  

Using Type 3 sink tip lines, Intermediate lines, and 150 gr. sink tip lines, we fished nymphs and big streamer patterns, like the Alaska Special, we used last year. 

The native rainbows and brook trout ate them up!

Most of our rainbows averaged about 17" 
with some a little over 18".

 However, an incredible 20" rainbow, more like a steelhead, topped our catch for the week, taken on a Prince Nymph!

 Dan with a big, fat Emigrant Lake Rainbow!

As we kicked back on a hidden beach, for a shore lunch of granola bars, and filtered water, this was the backdrop to the excellent fishing.  The beauty of this high country is breath taking!

With the wind kicking up in the afternoon, I switched to a floating line, and tossed big brown and green hoppers up against the rocky shoreline, and was greeted with explosive strikes, as the rainbows surged from the depths, and inhaled the offering.  Sometimes the bows would simply suck in the fly, undetected in the chop.  It was a blast!

There are few words to describe the beauty of a big native brook trout!....Like me, they don't miss many meals.  Grin!

....or the subtle colors in a big native rainbow!

This pair are on the dinner invitation list! 


After a week filled with jumping and fighting trout, it was time to greet our wranglers, pack up, and head back over Mosquito Pass.

After riding through Lunch Meadow, and Sheep Camp, we stopped at Grouse Creek for a lunch break of dry salami and Asiago cheese-just about the last of our food.  

The stream was beautiful, and a welcome stopping point.

You can almost make out the brookies in this beautiful pool.  


Not long after this picture was taken, we scrambled to get our rain gear on, as rain and hail fell from the sky!


Once again, I am grateful for this incredible experience.  
To witness a place so untouched.  
To share it with a good friend, and thank God for making it all possible. 

A day is coming when I will not be able to make this type of trip, and you can be sure I treasure every minute I am allowed to experience God's creation as He intended!