Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Big Black

Smooth morning run
Stephen Skarka booked his day on the water. He is a instructor of fly fishing for Penn State University and runs Kinzua fly fishing school. Apparently you can get 1 PE credit for taking his class. Patient and kind Stephen takes instruction from a charter guide extremely well. This was evident in the video we made on how to whip big fish.

Dark clouds poor visibility
The conditions that day were high water and not much sun. We saw nice redfish but Steve could not see them until to late because of the poor visibility. We scattered quite a few groups. Eventually the clouds broke open just long enough to spot fish. Luckily we were polling a bank with clean water and big redfish at that time. At the edge of a cove, Steve got some great shots over the next 30 yards on three bull redfish. All three allowed the fly to pass within striking range but they showed no interest. I spotted a large tail fanning like an Asian dancer in the shallows of an opening so I began to pole in that direction.

The tail showed a few more times allowing me to call the spot and Steve to get a bead on the fish off in the distance. By the time we arrived the sun was shrouded by clouds. I held the boat in place and scanned the area for quit a while. The shadow of an outline appeared so I called for the cast. Steve shot his line and landed far right of the fish. I said trying to be polite "You must be casting at a different fish than the one I see." This does happen a lot. I sight one fish and the client sees another. Anyway Steve calmly took another shot that landed on target. The big fish began to slowly follow. At this point I could not definitely identify the species. I had my suspensions though, Big Black drum.

"He ate it" I exclaimed and Steve raised his rod in the traditional trout hook set style. I called for a better hook set as the fish made the first run. Steve gave a tug on the tight line. This tug was not near strong enough for my liking, but I try not to over correct the clients. Steve fought the fish while regaling me with destination stories of large browns and steelhead. Since the last trips fish took so long to land, I decided to give a lesson on how to whip a big fish.
Huge 34 pound Black drum
Check out the size of that tail

After 30 minuets I hand landed the 34 pound Black Drum. Steve was  delighted. I was hoping for a redfish but the client did not care at all about the species. This was his first saltwater fish on fly and it was huge. Smiles and congratulations followed as a well deserved calmness fell over the boat.

Monday, February 11, 2013

34 pounder "Swamp thing"

Nice face shot of 21 pound redfish
This week I fished Doug Brady of a Belize fly guide. The sight fishing conditions were poor to say the least. Smaller fish in inches of water were tough to spot. The big boys were almost impossible to see more than a few yards from the boat. I split my time on searching the shallows and the deep holes in an attempt to keep things interesting in the Biloxi marsh. Bobby and Doug were both fine casters. I had a strong feeling if a fish made a mistake these boys would take full advantage of the situation.

Bobby's first bull redfish
We landed a few nice fish but nothing to tell your mother about. A small window of opportunity came when the cloud cover that plagued us all day gave way. A nice fish emerged from the dark tinted water. As I guessed earlier Bobby made a fine cast and the fish ate. I was relived to no end because these boys had made a long trip to find some bull redfish. I had forgotten my camera in the Bronco so we used their i-phones to snap a few pictures.

The day wore on and was about to come to a close. I decided to check one more pocket. The casters changed positions and Bobby was back in the Octagon. He spotted a marsh monster in almost no water. Bobby made the cast and the big bull red must have seen the fly in the air. The fish ate as soon as the Magic Mohawk fly hit the surface.

The bull redfish powered out of the shallows and went straight into deep water. Bobby's neon orange backing was out about 20 yards. The fish drug the boat around for about twenty minuets when Bobby asked "Will this fish ever tire and come into the boat." I had no real answer for the frustrated angler. I concentrated on keeping him in good spirts mentally. After the first hour it was apparent Bobby was getting pissed. Doug was feeding him beer and talking smack. I kept reminding Bobby this is exactly what you wanted back at breakfast. Bobby did not want to hear any of it. The rain began to fall the bugs came out and it was getting dark.

After two hours Bobby was obviously ready to give up. He wanted nothing more than an end to this epic battle. I decided to stop fighting the fish in deep water and allowed the boat to drift back into the shallow bank. We had been drug over 3/4 a mile and enough was enough. The tactic worked and I saw the fish nick named swamp thing. It was huge but not record class. I grabbed above the tail which is almost like a handle on big redfish. I knew Bobby's arms were sore so I handled the 34 pound bull redfish for the pictures. Unfortunately all batteries were dead in both i-phones. Doug attempted to use his new Go-Pro but did not know how to turn on the camera. To this day I still do not know if there is any footage of this battle.

Captain John Iverson

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First trips in February

Hunting in skinny water
February is starting out with a bang. I am seeing plenty of average sized redfish and a good number of bull reds. Dolphins stole the show on the first two trips. We saw a pair hunting in the skinny waters of a canal on the first trip. The water was so shallow that the top half of the dolphins were completely exposed. When they are in this mode all you see is violent tail trashing, massive accelerations and just a general malaise of scared bait fish and dolphins converge.

Rene E had his day on the water. I qualified him on casting and decided we needed to start with some of the smaller more aggressive redfish. Rene got multiple easy shots at these shallow water reds producing this fine example of a Biloxi Marsh redfish.

Fine example of a redfish
It was only a half day so around 11:30 am I went hunting for larger fish referred to as pigs. It was not long at all before I spotted a marsh monster on the surface at 50 yards.
I stuck my stiffy pole in the muck at 35 feet from the fish allowing it to slide through my hands.Wind would push us into Rene's casting range which is little too close for comfort. The first shot was short but the second shot was definitely close enough to produce an eat. As Rene stripped he must have hit the fish with the fly because she spooked instead of eating. The bull redfish swam along side the boat but strong cross winds kept his fly landing behind the fish. This missed opportunity was a lot of fun to watch because the client's get so pumped up.

Morning run
The next two boat trip called for the same game plan. Get the clients some practice on smaller aggressive fish then look for the big boys. Several good opportunitiess presented themselves but did not produce an eater. Again time was short due to a half day trip on this Super Bowl Sunday. After enjoying a pod of dolphins playing underneath the boat we went searching for big fish. I moved to a new bank and polled parallel about 20 yards out. We immediately began seeing big black drum. This is an excellent indicator bull redfish are probably in the area.

 Dolphin mother with baby

Single dolphin appeared three feet from the boat

I continued to put more distance between the boat and the bank. Soon I found the line and started seeing big redfish. The clients were having trouble seeing the big fish deep in tinted water. I had to call adjustments to position and distance for each of my  fly fisherman's casts. Dave got a shot into the eat zone on a big boy and the bull began to follow. He ate the fly so close to the boat that a good hook set was impossible. I called for a better hook set when the fish makes the first run. The client made the mistake of letting the redfish pull the rod down. When the rod is pointed at the redfish there is no shock absorbing quality. All the pressure is on the leader. The client tried to stop the 20+ pounder's run causing the fish to break off. Wanting more time with the aggressive bulls both clients began frantically dialing their cell phones in hopes of contacting the other boat. No cell coverage sealed our fate. Today is the story of the one that got away.