Category Archives: Saltwater

The Legend of Tarpon Bay

Saltwater Fly Fishing is a rapidly growing sector of the Fly Fishing “industry.” I am unable to put my finger on the specific reasons for this trend, however I assume it has to do with the allure of large fish, warm weather, soothing waves and recovering game fish populations in the southern United States. Fly Fishing the salt water is beyond doubt a unique challenge, certainly more difficult than bait fishing the ocean.

Sanibel Island is a special place for Fly Fishing, a fine vacation spot and a frequent haunt of the Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing team. The island is home to Norm Ziegler who authored the book, “Snook on the Fly.” My last time on the island was in 2014; it had been too long since fishing the beaches last. Owing to my international travel for work I had accumulated miles and was able to snag a free flight and first class upgrade from Delta.

The perks of a first class upgrade

The occasion for this momentous escapade was Mark’s 35th birthday, coincidently, the first time I came to Sanibel was for Mark’s 30th. Time flies when you are Fly Fishing the world and all. Typically the best time to target Snook in Sanibel is June and July, however a good trip for the birthday is always in order.

The gulf was basically un fishable here.

Arriving at Sanibel Island was a bit worrying with some brisk weather changes occurring which had an adverse impact on fishing. When we got there it was cloudy and a massive storm system had settled in that Mark refers to as an “eastern wave,” as the storm moves across Florida from east to west. Standing on the beach in the rain and fishing yielded one Sea Trout for Mark. The water was far too choppy for effective Fly Fishing.

When we awoke the next morning, the weather front was circling, with thunder boomers all night. It is easy to fish in the rain but not advisable in a thunder storm. The good news was that the rain cleared around 11AM allowing us calm water to fish. As soon as I cast a line in the water, I saw the bait out on the second bar. There appeared to be some mackerel and ladyfish out there. Since it was already past the golden hour for Snook I figured to tie on a glass minnow and give it a shot. Sure enough landed a nice mackerel and had a few bumps until they bit my fly off. The skunk was now off of the trip.

The next day was to be the highlight of my time on this expedition. Mark’s mom had given him a “Benny” for us to rent a canoe and head out on Tarpon Bay to hunt for Gator Trout, Redfish and Snook in the Mangroves. Well she probably just figured to go on a leisurely canoe ride. This boat ride was to be anything but a leisurely three hour cruise…

Attempting to cast under the mangroves.

We were trapped in a weather rut this week with the rain, thunderstorms, wind and rough gulf water. This was forcing a re-thought of the strategy landing us squarely at Tarpon Bay Marina a facility where Randy Wayne White worked until 1987. The marina rents out long canoes with a motor and paddles right on Tarpon Bay. This offers the opportunity to land a Redfish, Sea Trout and a Snook also known as an inshore slam.

Pursuing the Snook with a fly rod requires the correct fly pattern for the environment, which you are seeking a fish in. Typically a saltwater fly pattern’s effectiveness is color driven. This is why Norm’s Crystal Schminnow is the best fly for seeking Snook in the Sanibel Island environs. It mimics common baitfish and shrimp at the same time, exciting the predatory instinct of the Snook.

Heading out at 8AM after a run to Bailey’s for breakfast we were equipped with a Canoe, two paddles and a fully charged battery. The day was forecast to be a little windy though not unfishable. Mark used his shrimp bait and a popping cork to land a nice gator trout (large Sea Trout). I was using a tan shrimp pattern and sort of drifting it with small actions. I had a few little nibbles but no solid connections. The wind kicked up hard forcing us to move to the leeward side of some mangroves.

Mark’s Gator Trout caught using a popping cork and a live shrimp.

To pull Snook out of the mangroves with a fly rod you need to do a few things. First rig up on an 8WT rod and at least 30 lb shock tippet, this gives the angler the ability to tractor the fish out before wrapping up in the mangroves. Second, your cast needs to slide in under the mangrove branch or right near it, this takes some practice however it pays off when the Snook are in the nooks and crannies under the mangroves. Third, once you get the hook up, you need to lower your rod tip to the water and retrieve to prevent that Snook from tangling in the mangrove roots.

The Snook that I wrestled from under the mangroves with my 8WT fly rod.

As we pulled around the leeward side of the mangroves the boat aligned with my typical casting distance and I fired out about 60 feet of line. The schminnow unfurled on the water, sliding right into the mangrove, at a point I worried it would become stuck. I performed two small strip retrieves and the fly just stopped hard, Snook on! Next I moved the pole for the set and lowered the line tip into the water, keeping the tension on at all times. My finger began to burn from the fast stripping and tension, however I did not give up. The Snook had some nice runs in it putting up quite the fight and punishing my hand. Finally the Snook was in the boat and we had success!

We turned deeper into the mangroves and I had a few quick battles with smaller Snook but the wind started to get worse and our electric motor was acting up. Taking the safe decision we set off towards the marina to have the boat fixed before continuing, it was lunchtime after all. As we pushed across Tarpon Bay in the direction from which we came the motor continued to lose thrust. Each section of the journey we backtracked over became increasingly difficult to head against the wind. Not helping the matter is that the wind speed itself was increasing while clouds gathered in the distance.

As the entire situation began to seem hopeless, the marina gave us a ring on Mark’s mobile advising us to return and seek cover. Upon hearing of our predicament the marina sent out a rescue boat, which was very welcome. Thanks to the rescue, we made it back to the marina and did not get blown out to sea!

Calm Water for Fishing on the day I departed.

Sanibel 2015 Take II

A short but sweet trip with my lady Danielle and our good Moose Knuckle buddy Mark, we hung around the beach in search of some fun red fish and the rather elusive snook! To our surprise and amazement we came across something so much more enchanting and fun that we couldn’t believe it until it happened 2 days in a row! Check out the pictures below to enjoy the fun we had!

My fisher lady!
My fisher lady!

 

Little Snook
Little Snook
Jack on the Fly
Jack on the Fly

Check out some of the fly rods we used on this trip over at Best Rod Fishing.

Summer’s End

Like a blink of an eye the 2015 summer lip ripping session has come and almost gone. A solid year of bass, trout, beers, and bonfires. Lets take a few minutes to highlight some of our favorite moments.
(Also 2 ice fishing pictures that never made it into the mix yet, and, not to brag, are my first 1 of each fish caught!)

Starting out we turn to Maryland for the shad run. Accompanied by my good MKFF buddies Mark and Dave, we truly made an impact on the fishing scene; The river and the bars.

Flipping Shad
Flipping Shad
Well behaved shad
Well behaved shad
Heading home scenery
Heading home scenery

The following weekend was also spent in Maryland, while we prepared the family boat for the upcoming warm weather sailing season. Dave and I set-up behind the boat with some hot dogs on the lines and sat and waited. Here are the results.

Dave with a nice sized cat
Dave with a nice sized cat
3 foot eel!
3 foot eel!

Maryland out of the way we can focus on some close to home fishing!!

We head to Lake Hopatcong with some fun hybrid striper fun with my buddy Mark and his son Mark. Here’s our outcome!

Me with my first hyrid
Me with my first hyrid
Little Mark with his trophy!
Little Mark with his trophy!

And onto some local fishing with a local pond and beautiful Paulinskill river!

My beautiful girlfriend Danielle sporting her new rod and outfit!
My beautiful girlfriend Danielle sporting her new rod and outfit!
Same spot trout
Same spot trout
Same stream just 100 yards up. Paulinskill small mouth bass.
Same stream just 100 yards up. Paulinskill small mouth bass.
Local pond Large Mouth Bass!
Local pond Large Mouth Bass!

Now let’s head to some deeper water with an unexpected, typically cold temperature, guest! Off the tip on Montauk we took our friends boat out a little bit in search of Stripers! Unfortunately, we came up shore but we got a few surprises instead!

Sea Bass with a beefy hump!
Sea Bass with a beefy hump!
Unexpected shad. We caught about 25 of them the beginning of August, 125 feet down.
Unexpected shad. We caught about 25 of them the beginning of August, 125 feet down.
Our newest member, TJ, with a big Blue Fish.
Our newest member, TJ, with a big Blue Fish.

Now, the finale, those two new fish promises! Introducing for the first time ever by this blog, and this angler in particular….

Lake Trout from the Adirondacks, NY.
Lake Trout from the Adirondacks, NY.
Northern Pike from North New Jersey.
Northern Pike from North New Jersey.

So, this concludes a quick update of the ventures and fish caught by the MKFF crew. Hope you enjoyed viewing them as much as we had catching them! Come on back soon for some more updates, pictures, and good times!!

Some upcoming blogs will cover the Pulaski Salmon run in October and another awesome trip to Sanibel Island!