Sunday, June 9, 2013

South Florida

Last Saturday I wondered what I did wrong to deserve the oncoming weather I was about to fly 2500 miles to intercept.  The forecast for South Florida was looking poor and my wife and I actually thought about turning the plane toward Baja instead. We decided to flip a  coin and Florida came up heads, so Florida we went. The 7 day forecast was at 40-60% daily chance of rain so I figured we could dodge the T-Storms and make the best of it. Before we get on the plane things had increased to 90% percipitation all week.  An uneventful flight and beautiful sunset drive across Alligator Alley and we were soon set for a week in Naples. I had fishing plans for the next six days so I preped gear and watched the Weather Channel keep talking about that orange blob off the Yucatan heading directly in our direction.

I was trying to be optomistic until Monday morning the orange blob had the Name Andrea. Tropical Storm Andrea. Nice, A tropical depression  was  fast tracking our way and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.  I wasn't pleasant to be around on Monday as the rain increased and my mood deminished.

My plans for the week were to be ON the water more days than not and sight fishing beach Snook the rest of the time.  It wasn't looking like either of those options were going to happen. About 10 am I decided I was just going to have to deal with it,  stop bitching and go fishing. There wasn't any lighting to speak of, just moderate 80 degree rain and Paul Wolter had given some good starting point's.. I was going to have  to go take in the Glades and see what I could do on my own. As it turned out, I caught plenty of fish.  The weather was crap but the lighting stayed away and made the hot humid weather tolerable and thankfully fishable.  It was a tremendous amount of fun and i'm looking forward to going back in the fall. This is the third Florida trip in a row where Iv'e been hit with some sort of weather related issue so I'm due for a good weather trip at some point.

I spent the majority of my time DIY fly fishing the Tamiami Trail. The trail runs from Tampa south through the heart of the Everglades to Miami. Iv'e traveled some great Fishing highways around the country but this has to be one of the best I have experienced in terms of variety,  solitude and unique beauty. Keep in mind summer is the off season. It's hot, infested with Mesquitos, snakes, Gators and No See Ums this time of year. It is deserted for the part since the snow birds have long headed north for cooler climes.

Tamiami Trail US 41

It takes a a couple of days to just scratch the surface of the sights and a week to really soak it in and get off the beaten path. I happen to be staying on the western side of US 41 in Naples and had plenty of time while I waited for the eweather to break so we could get out and chase Tarpon.

The lower SW  side of the Glades has more of marine influence and that's where you find Tarpon, Snook and other Saltwater spiecies in greater numbers. As you cross the midway point heading toward Miami, the landscape changes dramatically and it becomes  more of a lush tropical freshwater Invironment with Largemouth, Peacock Bass and lot's of other introduced exotic pan fish. It's beautiful, accessable and loaded with fish through out the entire length though. My wife and I took a day and drove Trail from Naples to Miami. It took us, with all the side trips, and quick fishing and photo stops a full day to do the round trip. A long day, and we spent some time popping in and out of Glades access points. We had just barely scratched the surface and the scenery and wildlife was awesome. We really enjoyed it and I reccomend the trip.

Myan Cichlid

Butterfly Peacock Bass

Over the course of the week the fishing went from a slow start to a steady bite once I got my bearings. The heavy rain and small storm surge had pushed lots of tarpon deep into the backwater areas off the main channels. I believe that actually helped put fish in areas that were accessable to me, and may have otherwise not held those fish with normal water levels.  Most of the tarpon were 3-5lbs. Snook were in the 15-18in class and I missed a shot at donkey on day two. The fish just simply missed the fly.

I used a 7wt for the smaller babies and a 9 for the bigger fish and just locked down and hoped things would not break. I found a couple of areas that were holding better quality Tarpon in the 20-30lb+ class. I jumped 4 or 5 bigger fish and landed two. Both in he 20lb class. The bigger specimens are difficult to handle solo, and even harder to get a photo with out damaging you, your gear or the fish so I didn't get as good of shots on the bigger fish that I would have liked too. My other concern was that since I was deep in the freshwater zone, gator's are present and are threat to you and the thrashing fish. A quick easy release is important.

Black over Olive was getting eaten all week.
 A good friend of mine took me too a place where he targets Tilapia on the fly. Large Tilapia! They don't attack flies but they do eat if your persistant.  Somebody coined them as Carpy, and I think that would be a good description. This area also had a good number of Grass Carp that I could not get to go to save my life. I really wanted one but it just wasn't in the cards. 

Big Boy

Over all It was a great trip. The fishing was not easy with relentless rain, wind and Extreme humidity, bugs up the ass  but I wouldn't change a thing. I don't mind working for fish and it was cool to see the Everglades from the ground level up close and personal.  I enjoy the warm tropical weather and unique scenery of the Everglades. It's a remarkable and resiliant place. We have done all we can to destroy it but it some how keeps thriving full of life and  I look forward to going back and exploring more soon. Here are random photos in no particular order.

Folks coming out to get a glimpse of the first sun in several days. Me included!


Brent Wilson said...

Outstanding photos. Love those burrowing owls.

David Knapp said...

Looks like a great trip! I've enjoyed paddling in the Everglades a couple of times now but have not spent much time in the freshwater portion. I think I need to explore that side of things based on the success you had...

Mark Kautz-Shoreman said...

I was going to make a comment about you and Dave Knapp comparing notes, but there he is already. Nice thing about South Florida is that there are fish everywhere. Talipia is a good eating fish. You can find it at the local supermarket most of the time. Glad you had fun.

David McKenzie said...

Thanks Brent. David, depending on the time of year, the western portion of tamiami trial will change in salinity. I was surprised to see lady fish, tarpon, snook, largemouth bass and bluegill in one pond. Even though it's not that unusuall I t just seemed odd to me. Another creek had pompano and tilapia..go figure this wasn't my first trip to the trail but definitely spent more time than previous since the wind and rain blew out the coastal areas we wanted to target tarpon on. There is always something to fish for there even if it's casting poppers to gar when nothing else is happening.