Wow….. FL Keys in August described in one word.
I am sweating right now just thinking about it. Needless to say, the fish shared my sentiments. We did not get skunked, but it was definitely hard work getting shots. A few things for my to do list next time:
- After 5 years away from the salt, my strip strike most definitely needs work and practice
- After 5 years away from the salt, my 9 wt double haul needs work and practice
- After 5 years away from the salt, don’t let 5 years go by before your next trip!!!!!!
So on our first day in Marathon, my father and I paddled our yaks out onto the Jacktar Flat hoping for some afternoon shots. Outside of one small cuda, I don’t think we saw a single fish, but it was a beautiful day and we at least got our feet wet.
Day two we spent the day on the water with our guide Barry Hoffman. If anyone is looking for a very patient and experienced guide I highly recommend him! He worked hard to get us on fish all day. I would love to tell you about my perfectly placed cast right in the path of a feeding bonefish, or the redfish that I pulled out of his hiding place in the mangroves…. but alas I cannot tell a lie! But I can however tell you about the 4 shots at tailing bones that I shorted, lined, and practically bonked on the head with my fly sending them speeding off to parts unknown. I can also tell you about 3 shots at reds that had similar results… Ughhhh. Yes, we each caught about 20 seatrout and had a beautiful day on the water but in the partnership that is guide and angler I did not hold up my end of the contract.
Day three we spent the morning working the flats from our kayaks and I could see in my father’s face (lifelong bass fisherman) that the idea of sweating his ass off in 2 feet of water with no action to be found was not his cup of tea. We went in for lunch and I suggested that we do something that was a bit more his speed so we spent the afternoon on a drift boat fishing the reefs for yellow tail. I would normally give you some caustic comments about that type of fishing but I actually had a good time. I think part of it was that I had absolutely no expectations at all and the other was that I got to spend an afternoon on a boat with my dad! The one interesting part of the day for me was it was the second time in a decade that I fished with conventional tackle.
The next morning was my last in the keys and I made the most of it. I woke early and was fishing the canal behind our lodge for some juvenile tarpon that are resident there. I started out with a shrimp pattern that I created for the trip and jumped two but did not land either. Then they really started to feed up top so I switched to a gurgler and jumped three more, landing one. (see above comment on improving my strip strike!!!!) As luck would have it I of course landed the smallest of the five but left with a HUGE smile on my face as the fishing gods did not let me leave the Keys “tarponless”.
That day we drove back up to Boca Raton for a day and a half of bass fishing on the golf course ponds that my dad frequents. I told him on our trip that he is a spoiled fisherman and I stand by that comment! He fishes lakes and ponds that see virtually zero fishing pressure and chases fish that have a 12 month growing season. (must be nice!) We worked a few ponds with moderate success and dad being the rebel that he is decided we should sneak out onto the course and fish a pond that is off limits since it is on the fairway side. JACKPOT! We found some rock structure and for about 2 hours hooked into more bass than we could count. None were huge but the majority slotted in between 1 and 3 lbs and it was great action. Just as the bite subsided we were booted and left like two giggling kids that just got away with cutting class.
I left Florida with a red nose, cracked skin, a tired casting shoulder, and a great trip with my dad that I will always remember. It was such a departure from my creek and stream fishing back home in Pennsylvania and a true test of my fishing skills. Some I passed, some I failed, and that is what keeps you coming back the next time!
It had been over 20 years since my father and I had been on a true fishing trip together. By the end of the trip I felt ashamed that I had let it go that long. We are two different types of fisherman who chase fish in two very different ways but it has always been one of the bonds that have held father and son together. We both had an amazing time and have committed to not allow another 20 years to mark the next venture. As always….
Good Luck and Tight Lines!