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Author Topic: Florida July 2015--Part I  (Read 1603 times)

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TWiles

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Florida July 2015--Part I
« on: July 19, 2015, 04:36:56 PM »
A road trip to Florida with my Brother Jay…I’ve been anticipating this trip for so long, and I couldn’t believe it was finally here. I prepped the Hog Island skiff with a bigger gas tank, front  platform, and stronger 24 V trolling motor, navigation lights—all with the goal of making her seaworthy for this trip.  As the departure date approached, I was burdened with a major problem that could not be ignored:  my right foot was steadily getting more bruised and swollen from a bug bite I received while hiking in sandals on the AT with my girls the week prior---either a deer tick or spider got me, and it was looking and feeling pretty bad after a week’s time.    I took a bottle of Amoxicillin along with my overpacked Tundra, as I packed gear for every possible fishing scenario from tarpon and bull sharks to ultralight flats fishing.



After a 12 hour drive, we towed and dropped off the Hog in our new home for the week:  the Dockside Inn.  This place was absolutely perfect, and it especially caters to fishermen, complete with secure trailer parking (close quarters)  and boat slips with a bait shop on the dock if needed. It was close to some great snook and tarpon water along with endless flats and mangroves  and canals of the Indian River.  It especially attracts the offshore fisherman, as the Ft Pierce inlet is minutes away—the gateway to some of the best bluewater fishing in the country.

(We actually drove in at night on a crazy crowded 4th of July weekend, but these photos show what it looked like during the peaceful middle of the week)























We commenced to unloading the ridiculous amount of gear into our room, and preparing a game plan on how to approach the overwhelming number of fishing options that lay at our doorstep.  Snook were our first target…all the while, I was getting more and more worried about my ballooning/swollen foot---but the fishing and insomnia took the role of our greatest priority.
After a quick run to Walmart to get supplies and licenses, the plan was to sleep a couple hours, and we would hit some snook holes from shore before daylight arrived.  Now the only thing about fishing a Jetty…you are definitely going to encounter some RATS!!!  They were out in full force, raiding the trash cans, scaring the crap out of me every time they would scurry by your footpath in the glow of the headlamp.  I think I had atleast two bump, my feet in the rocks that week.  I pressed on, and got right up next to the seawalls, stomping occaisionally to avoid any more encounters with them.
It didn’t take long before we got some good topwater crashes and thumps on swimbaits.










As the sun rose up, and the rats scurried away, Jay got the first mature sized snook we were hoping for:








On day 2, we drove and  fished with a good family friend in Pompano Beach, near Fort Lauderdale and tried for some offshore trolling along weedlines in the Gulfstream.  The catching was slow, but we had 10 Ballyhoo torn to shreds by suspected kingfish, but we never saw them.  Jay landed a fat bonito, but that was it for the catching.  We got caught in a sudden  squall that produced some blinding showers and 30 mph winds amongst incredible lightning that put the fear of God in us for about 30 minutes.  It was a great time, but the sailfish and mahi were elusive that morning.  I am still always amazed when I reach that gorgeous purple water, and see flying fish scatter across the waves.




The next few days, we found a couple more windows to pursue the snook night bite, targeting them on dock lights and along the jetty as well.  The docklight snook reminded me of watching a pod of trout sipping midges.  They absolutely would refuse any offering over ½ inch.  They would aggressively pursue tiny glass minnows as they passed into the lights.  It was fun to watch, but very frustrating to get so many refusals.  A quick trip to the hotel room to tie a few micro clousers, and I was in business.  You had to twitch the rod tip and get the fly to zig and zag, and then a large snook would quicky close in and gulp the fly, and then began the tug of war session to get their heads above water to Bill Dance them off the dock.   Several pulled me into the barnacles with instant snap offs, but it sure was fun.
As usual, Jay managed to get another mature snook, while the juveniles kept the bite interesting.





















We explored some back country, and we were immersed in all the great things that Florida has to offer.  I was particularly intrigued by some hard to reach canals that were barricaded by low lying bridges that were impassible during high tides.  Let’s just say, those waters will haunt me until I can go back and fish them properly.  The fish we saw back there are the size I never thought I would encounter---none of the photographs turned out due to the glare of the tea-stained water.  Unfortunately, none of the fish were feeding---jacks, tarpon, snook, redfish—it was the land of the giants, and I believe all the fish were slumbered from feeding at night on the fields of mullet.  I’ll brave the mosquitoes, gators, and impassible bridges until I time it right one day/night.





























Some interesting bycatches:


























Crab Caprese Salad---along with smoked Kingfish dip---pretty amazing restaurant called ON The Edge Bar and Grill right beside our hotel.  Some of the best Snapper entrées I’ve ever had as well.





The week was going great, and we were checking off our list on the fisheries we wanted to explore, but the looming cloud over my paradise was this darn right foot!   The Amoxicillin was not working and my foot swelling had progressed to full blown CELLULITIS.   I had a long talk with a buddy of mine who is an ER Doctor, and three words kept echoing in my head NECROTIZING ULCERATIVE FACIITIS .
This is what happens when the tissue layers start to break down, which may ultimately lead to an exploratory  curettage surgery or even an amputation. I kept nervously noticing people on crutches, and amputees with prosthetic limbs on TV screens and amongst the crowds people we noticed in public. It was definitely time for a visit to the ER. 
After lots of scurrying around to the hospital and pharmacies get some more potent antibiotics, I prepared cautiously to pursue more fishing, all the while still a bit worried about another trip to the ER for emergency surgery.
Standing on the boat was still possible, but not quite as comfortable as my leg now resembled that of an elephant:




TWiles

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2015, 04:53:09 PM »
Part II

With my watermelon foot slowly getting better, Jay and I abandoned all other fishing options, and we pursued our primary goal:  TARPON. 

With an early  dark:30, before dawn departure, we drove the Hog way back into the mangroves to revisit some waters I’ve been dreaming of revisiting for several years.  The water was smooth as glass, and we were greeted with pods of gulping tarpon steadily swimming against the tidal currents.  These are some of the most tranquil , peaceful settings followed by complete chaos of torture from lightning fast strikes and headshaking somersaults all in the glow of the cresting sunrise.  Absolutely exhilarating!  But the frustration of losing fish soon became our next challenge.  I spent hours and hours tying the perfect flies just getting ready for this scenario.  One major problem:  I tied almost every single one on a DAMN Gamakatsu SL12S hook.  They seemed like the right hook---good thick  wire, nice semi curved point like a 600SP—they stuck stripers really good this spring, but we could not get one of these to hold on to these juvenile tarpon.
We lost fish after fish, watching 10, 20, 30, 40, and 60+ pounders flash and spit the fly, with several eye-level leaps and backflip McTwists, only to see the line go limp in the ring of foam after the dynamite explosions of crashing fish turned the black water into a froth.  I must admit, a lot of these were user errors.  Nailing the strip-set, clearing the line, keeping tight, and bowing to the jumps----this routine has a steep learning curve…but we were losing SO many, that it was becoming a curse.
We owe a HUGE thank you to Dave Neely for sending us a stocked flybox full of his tarpon files from a recent trip.  I have one pattern that works like candy on these fish, but once they became wise to it, Jay switched to Dave’s flies, and soon found a pattern that they would readily eat,  even when they were inactive, and best of all, they were tied on a 3/0 Owner Aki hook.
Once we switched patterns, and I whipped up a few flies in the hotel on Owner Akis and Gamakatsu SC15’s….we finally started sticking some fish and keeping them on for more than 8 seconds.  For three days, we were in Tarpon heaven—exploring bends in the mangrove channels and watching the fish blitz on small bait and grass shrimp.   If we had the right hooks for the first 2 days, amongst the several active pods of happy feeding fish, there is no telling how many we could have landed.  Jay caught 4 and I landed 3, and we easily stuck hooks in over 50 tarpon.  I wish I had just one more full day to have a crack at them, but that will have to be on another summer day in the years to come.  The best of all, is we had it all to ourselves.  There were no lineups  of guides and tourists playing the BS hierarchy money game of who gets the best spots.





























































By the end of our stay on the East Coast, the swelling in my right foot finally ebbed away, and I could walk again like a normal human being.  It was hard to pack up and head west, leaving behind all our unfished waters that we intended to try; however, it was fun to explore the Gulf around Tampa for a bit.  Good ole Craig was kind to offer us some accommodations, but due to the fact he had just closed on a new home days before we were coming, we decided to let him get settled before we come and raid his fridge.  My best friend Chad and his wife hosted us on the outskirts of town, and  we decided to do some relaxing bottom fishing, and target some mangrove snappers on the bridge pilings.  We wound up hooking some nice trout in the mangroves, along with chasing a nice pod of large tarpon in the boat dock canals, but the west coast brutes weren’t willing to play. However, the mangroves were easy to find, and we took home 7-8 fish in two afternoons of fishing that we squeezed in between some massive thunderstorms.  I did not expect to see them, but MAN! We spotted some Jumbo snook cruising the bridge pilings in the overcast weather after the storms.  About 5 were over 40 inches, and they  couldn’t be coerced to bite.  Hope to take Craig up on some night fishing there the next time we make it down, and he’s a bit more settled.

On our drive across the state in the heart of marsh largemouth country—we stopped by this cool store.  It was like being a kid going to a candy store.  They had all sorts of tackle and rods.













Gator Hook




Bridge fishing for Mangrove snapper day #1: 

Sneaking sips of beer between the large waves from a passing thunderstorm.







Dinner:  Fish taco night #1  Half blackened, half fried, along with some blackened shrimp, and fresh homemade guacamole













We liked it so much, we decided to fish the after storm window the next afternoon, and do it again.  That’s when we spotted the large Tampa Snook.
Spraying down the Day’s rods:





Fish Taco Night #2: Blackened and fried again







After such a great journey, it was time to pack all the gear up and head home.  I kept some of the snapper fillets on ice in the Yeti, and Crystal and Bree absolutely loved the fresh catch dinner.  It was great to be back in  the mountains of east TN, and finally be walking without a limp anymore.  Oh how I missed my lovely wife and baby girl.  I can’t wait to show them all the places we discovered on this trip.











Until next time guys, I hope you all get to live out a dream like this one.
Travis

jgray

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2015, 06:40:11 PM »
Living the dream, TWiles!  There's some great memories there for you and your brother.

Steve Howard

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2015, 07:55:25 AM »
Nicely done.
Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum

Glenn Hawkins

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2015, 07:18:28 AM »
Excellent report!  Thanks Travis

mrl0004

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2015, 10:38:57 PM »
Awesome! I do miss the salt!
"Often, I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito-bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand, have I been in a place that was less than beautiful."

icthus

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Re: Florida July 2015--Part I
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2015, 07:17:34 AM »
SAAAWWEEEEETTTTT----
Pal
"You see the fish, make the cast. Tic, tic, hit him, no not a trout set!!!!!! What are you doing?"