Sunday, July 15, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

A night trip with Jared had been in the works for some time. Busy lives and an inherent lack of sleep had been seeming to get in the way lately though. All of the same questions came up again prior to Thursday night's planned trip. "How's the radar look? Tides? Should we just get to bed for an early start tomorrow? What if the docklights aren't on?" Planning for night trips seems to always walk the tight rope of "Should I stay or should I go?"

Luckily this time, the motivation of chasing my first fly rod snook outweighed the desire for sleep. After some coffee and approval from the wife, which I am suspicious was silent barter for dishes and laundry later in the week, we set off. The plan was to hit an area with good water flow and a significant number of dock lights within paddling distance to avoid getting shut out by the potential of lights being off.

Armed with my 8 weight, and Jared with a handful of D.O.A. shrimp, we got the kayaks wet around 11:30 P.M. From the launch, we could see at least a few docklights illuminating the water. Now all we needed to know is if they were holding fish. After a quick paddle across the channel, we were welcomed to the sound of surface busting. 

A few casts in and Jared had hooked up. The fish stayed low in the water column, which was a blessing as it didn't disturb the fish feeding in the light. After a quick fight, both of us were surprised when we found out the reason this fish stayed low in the column. It was a red! A solid 21 inch red to start off the night would prove to be a good omen.

Envious of Jared's good fortune, and delighted by the prospect of not only my first fly rod snook but also the potential of a fly rod redfish, I began casting like a mad man. Almost immediately thereafter, I had hooked up on the fly. The quick strike and enthusiastic aerial acrobatics almost immediately gave the fishes identity away. A large ladyfish had come to play with one of Steve Gibson's DT Special's. Dejected that it wasn't a snook, but happy to have the skunk off my back, we continued on.  

There's a funny thing about fishing docklights. The visual aspect of seeing the fish, especially when they are grouped up by the dozen, has such an alluring draw. I made the mistake of switching to a topwater fly to make it an even more visual game. I had so many follows but no strikes, I failed to match the hatch of glass minnows they were feeding on. You can't make the fish eat what you want them to, you have to feed them what they are eating. 

And eating they were. Jared's next fish was a nice cookie cutter snook, that promptly regurgitated almost a dozen 2 inch glass minnows while he unhooked it. That was my sign to switch to the docklight standby fly, the crystal schminnow. I had tied a few up to keep handy for docklights and beach snook fishing and I am glad I did. I almost immediately had a hookup. I missed the hookset only to have another. Also a miss. Patience is a virtue.

Knowing how close I was to finally catching a fly rod snook, I took a deep breath, and slowed down. A few more casts and another hookup, wait for it, wait for it... and it was set. What a hell of a run. As most smart fish do, it took me around a piling. Having had the same thing happen earlier in the week and losing my first snook on the fly to a barnacle shredded line, I took it slow. I let the line go loose, and chased it around the dock. It did not want to come out from under, at least not on that side. It bolted in to open water on the other side of the dock. Knowing what I had to do, I dismounted my kayak light and tossed my extra rod over to Jared. Determined not to lose this fish, I let it drag me under the dock and out the other side. This was an incredible series of events that will bring a smile and a laugh to both of our faces for years to come.  Luckily on the other side of the dock, the snook was just about as worn out as I was. He posed for a quick snapshot of the memory and I let him on his way. Not a giant fish by any standards but a giant step for me in my fly fishing exploits.  

A slight drizzle and no lighting made for a terrible picture, but the memory remains. We proceeded to hook up at least every other cast at that dock for another 30 minutes or so. The fish were so actively feeding it was incredible. If you want to know what it sounded like, throw a bag of Orville Redenbacher in the microwave and listen. Surprisingly enough, just like popcorn, the action came to an almost immediate halt. Within a matter of a minute, it went from almost a pop every second to a pop every 5 seconds to no pops at all. Before the action stopped though we each had 4 fish to the boat, Jared with the redfish and three snook, and I with three snook and a ladyfish.

As it was getting late, we chose to try one other docklight that was on the way back to the launch. Earlier in the night as I was retying my shock leader, Jared had paddled over to this light and hooked a snook on his first cast. He said he lost it, and all of the fish went deeper when it jumped. We paddled up and the fish were there, but not very active. A few casts yielded some follows and a missed hookup, and just like before, all of the fish seemed to move deeper after the disturbance. Almost ready to head in, we decided a couple of more casts letting our presentations sink a bit before starting the retreive would suffice. That proved to be very successful for me, as the first cast I hooked up. This was a very interesting fight, and I mentioned to Jared a few times during that it felt like it was a bigger snook. We also noted however, that it didn't make any jumps or break the surface at all. This fish was strong and had a few runs in it. Not wanting another situation like before with much more difficult docks to navigate, I couldn't afford to be as light and patient with this fish. I managed to keep it turned and was only a few feet from losing it to not only a dock but a moored sailboat as well. Once I got it to the side of the kayak, I was ecstatic. It was a red, and I had just caught my first red on the fly. A solid 22 inch male that was drumming loudly as I unhooked him. After a quick snapshot, he swam off to fight again another day.

Again not the best picture, but the memory will last forever. I normally don't write so much about a fishing trip, but what happened in this one is something I will look back on with a smile for the rest of my life. Not only am I excited about these firsts, but I am excited for the many seconds to follow!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quick Kayak Fishing Report

For the first time in too long I was able to take out my kayak for a fishing trip. I chose a stretch of coastline to launch on with about 15 docks spread over about a half mile. I like this area because it isn't uncommon to catch an inshore slam off of one dock. Unfortunately however, that wasn't the case today. 

I got an early start, launching the kayak when only the mosquitoes were awake. I had about an hour of night left to work with so I headed on over to some docklights. As luck would have it, only one of the usual 6 lights was on, and it was the farthest of the bunch to paddle to. I made it to the dock with about 45 minutes left before sunrise, and was excited to see some silhouettes roaming in the illuminated water. I tossed a freshly tied crystal schminnow into the mix and had three consecutive casts where snook and trout were literally fighting each other for the chance to get a taste of estaz. My fourth cast yielded a solid slot size trout, but unfortunately the battle spooked all of the remaining snook out of the light to their daytime haunts. 

I moved along as the sun came up to some docks that tend to be productive after sunrise. I hooked up with a small snook on a DOA shrimp along with a few small trout. While that was fun, my desire to expand my "species caught on fly" list came into play and I fished almost exclusively with my BVK the rest of the day. 

I switched to a fly that fishes a bit deeper and began blind casting around a dock that has held redfish for me in the past. It was also the dock that I caught my first ever saltwater fish on the fly a couple of months prior. Almost on queue, my second cast yielded a bent rod. The fish headed straight down and fought hard. I reeled in my slack and by the time I got the fish to the reel it was headed for open water. I was ok with that so I pulled my anchor (a sight to see, bent rod in one hand trying to keep tension on the line with a hand behind me pulling the anchor) and set off. I fought this fish very delicately, I wanted to at least get it close enough to see it. I was almost positive it was a redfish until I saw it. It is an odd feeling when the adrenaline rush of your potential first redfish on the fly is flushed away at the sight of a catfish. I wasn't sure if I should be upset that I was fooled by what some may call a junk fish, or if I could still appreciate the fish for the sport of the fight as much as I had before I saw it, back when I thought it was a redfish. 

Any way you look at it, I did have an exciting fight and added a new species, while not necessarily a sought after one, to my list. A few more trout came to the kayak, but nothing worth noting. Until next time... 

Catching Up

The fishing has been inconsistent of late. That's not to say the fish haven't been biting consistently, but more to say I haven't been able to wet a line as consistently as I would like. In my defense, the fishing time has been cut back because a few good things have happened recently...

Anyways... onto the fishy stuff. I recently picked up a Peak Rotary Vise from Flying Fish Outfitters in Nokomis. I have only tied a dozen or so flies on it so far but I can tell that this vise will be with me for a long time. It is my first rotary vise and just that detail makes many of the flies I like to tie so much easier. It was a steep purchase for a novice like myself, but I do feel like this could potentially be my last vise I will ever need to buy. Lately I have really begun to get the saltwater fly rod itch and as a result tied up some baitfish imitations. Here are a few examples...

I like the final result of the EP baitfish, but I haven't become very quick or proficient at tying them. The Crystal Schminnow is a very simple tie and also a very effective fly. The Bendback is a pretty easy tie and does a great job simulating the small almost translucent baitfish that snook love to key in on on the beaches this time of year. These are all pretty basic saltwater flies with many different step by step instructions online. I like to see a few different ways to tie a fly, and then tie my own combining my favorite parts of each person's individual style. As Steve of Gibbys Fishing Blog says, "A good fly is easy to tie and catches fish" That advice is something I will definitely be sticking to in my fly tying endeavors. 

Some blog news now, as you can see I have added a Twitter button that will link you to the blogs Twitter page. I will tweet all of my new posts there along with some articles and links that go along with the fishing theme. Also, now that the wedding has passed and life is settling back down to normal, I expect to post a bit more frequently. I really enjoy recapping my trips and having a log to look back on, and sharing tips, tricks, fishing reports and product reviews with anyone who reads is an added bonus. Look for more posts and a possible layout change in the near future!