Friday, November 13, 2009

Fishing success a matter of perspective

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Isn't it just a matter of perspective?

The pessimist will claim it's half empty. The optimist, of course, will say it's half full.
Fishing success, too, is a matter of perspective. What one angler perceives to be a bad day, another angler claim it's a good day.

Years ago, I took my Dad to Lake Okeechobee to fish with famed guide Glen Hunter. We fished long and hard and totaled 39 bass to 6 pounds.

"I'm really sorry that the fishing was so slow today," Hunter said after the trip. "You'll have to come back again when it's good."

I didn't say a word.

A year later, I ran into Hunter and he asked about my Dad.

"How's he doing?," Hunter inquired. "We need to get him out on the lake again. I'm really sorry the bite was off when we took him."

I just smiled.

"Glen, it may have been slow to you," I said. "But what you don't understand is that while you were apologizing, my Dad was basking in the glow of the best fishing trip of his life."

Guides often are their worst enemy. Many don't take into consideration the experience of their clients.

Ladyfish are great for some and not for others.

I had a client from Chicago who was new to salt water and relatively new to fly fishing. He hired me for a half-day outing.

My dilemma was where to take him?

We needed hungry fish in easy conditions.

The light bulb finally lit.

Little Sarasota Bay!

There were tons of leaping ladyfish roaming the Intracoastal Waterway and they would be just perfect.

We launched at the Main Street pier in Osprey and paddled about 200 yards west to the edge of the ICW. I had him anchor within range of the fish. He was about 30 feet away.

The only problem was he couldn't cast 30 feet. He struggled to hit 25.

What to do?

The solution readily became apparent.

"Ron," I said, "lift your anchor and move five feet closer, then drop it."

He did.

"Now, cast as far as you can," I instructed.

After six false casts, he sent the Clouser Deep Minnow toward it's target. Luckily, the distance was there.

I suggested that he let it sink, then begin a fast retrieve.

He was pleasantly surprised when his line tightened before he had moved the fly five feet.

"I've got one!" he yelled, giggling like a little boy.

It was the first of who knows how many ladyfish over the course of the morning.

The neophyte fly rodder caught fish after fish.

Easy as pie.

Sometimes inexperience backfires in your face.

My first kayak charter was great -- at least in my opinion. I took a fellow from Atlanta out on his first fishing trip ever. We launched at Joe Bay. Fish were hungry and they were large. Using light jigs, we caught and released 50 spotted seatrout from 18 to 25 inches and 15 redfish from 29 to 34.

I felt pretty darn good.

On the way home, I asked, "So, do you think you'd like to do this again?"

He replied, "Yeah, maybe, but do you think next time we could go after some big fish?

Talk about the bubble bursting ...

Bob Nutting called me one day and inquired about a fly-fishing trip. We talked for a while and then tried to settle on a date.

I gave him his pick of days I had open.
"Well," he said, "the Pirates are home that day and on the road the next two.

"How about Wednesday?"

Wednesday was fine for me, so we agreed.
"Let me ask you a question, if you don't mind?" I said. "Are you a Pirates fan? Or are you with the team?"

He paused, then said, "I'm with the team. I took over as principle owner in January."

I Googled Bob Nutting and not only found out that he had been with the Pirates for awhile before buying the team, but also he is a world-class fly angler. He had a number of fly world records to his credit.

March in Florida is baseball time. Major League teams converge upon the state to train prior to the regular season. They take advantage of the state's warm and balmy weather.

The day we were scheduled to fish dawned cold and windy. We were met by a bluebird sky (high pressure) as we launched at Cockroach Bay. A strong northeast wind coupled with a low tide made things pretty tough.

We paddled out into Tampa Bay, anchored the kayaks on a sand bar and began to wade. Not more than five minutes into the trip, a hefty snook moved off the grass in front of us and onto the sand bar.

"There's a nice snook," I said softly. "Put the fly about three feet in front."

Nutting did so with the aplomb of a master. He was quick and on-target. He let the fly sink, then began to twitch it.

The snook -- at least a 10-pounder -- charged, then moved off at the last second.

That was the only shot we got on the sand bar, so we waded back to the kayaks and paddled inshore.

Things were excruciatingly slow.

Fortunately, the wind slowed, the sun came out and the water warmed up in early afternoon. We paddled out to a line of mangroves, anchored the kayaks and began to wade. Over the next 90 minutes, Nutting cast to 16 redfish and snook.

He didn't hook up, but he had plenty of opportunity.

And with most fly fishers, that's all they ask.

Nutting didn't get a hit, yet he had a great day.

I received my biggest tip to date -- on a day when my angler didn't land a fish.
A had a fly trip last last year with an angler from Sarasota and his stepfather. Both were adequate with the fly rod, but conditions weren't exactly great. We launched at Whitfield Avenue and began working our way south.
When I have fly anglers, I will usually carry a spinning rod rigged with a jig to use as a fish finder. I used it to find a few ladyfish just off the sand bar. As they began catching the ladies, I attended to their needs, changing flies, retying and making sure their leaders were in good shape.
When we got to the channel leading into the Crosley-Horton Estate, we anchored the boats and got out. We waded to the edge of the channel and began casting.
"Would you mind if I used the spinning rod?" Jamie asked.
I handed him the spinner and took his fly rod.
A few moments later, he hooked a pretty nice fish. We had no idea what it was, but figured it was a redfish. My clients have hooked a number of big reds in that channel.
But this fish was different. It was strong and fast.
And when it tried to jump, it gave itself away. It was a hefty snook.
Jamie, who works at the Out of Door Academy, handled the situation like an expert. He eased the fish near and I was able to lip it with my Boca Grip. Turned out to be 32 inches and about 10 pounds.
Jamie was thrilled. Jamie and I are pictured above right.
Doesn't take a lot of fish to make the day.

A few years ago, I was fishing by myself. When I get that opportunity, I love to head for Lake Manatee to fly fish. There are days at the big lake when you cannot go wrong.

This was not one of those days. It was really slow.

I like to start out with a popping bug. But the fish told me that a popper wasn't what they wanted.

So, I switched to a No. 12 nymph under a strike indicator. I caught a few fish, but the action was still slow.

I cut the tiny nymph off and tied on a new creation, a fly I named the Nymph FLY. The fly's body was made of Fuzzy Leach Yarn -- hence Nymph FLY.

I really didn't expect it to produce much. It was tied on a No. 8 hook, so I figured it would be a little too big. But I started catch fish -- and quality fish at that.

I caught several hand-sized bluegill. I caught a couple of 2-pound speckled perch. I caught shellcracker. And I hooked a large fish that had me stumped.

It didn't jump, but it was strong. It slugged it out and took me into the backing. Every time I'd gain line, I'd quickly lose it. And with 3.5-pound tippet, I had to be careful.

My patience paid off. After about 5 minutes, I landed a 5-pound tilapia, one of the largest I'd ever caught.

My totals for the day: Five large bluegill, two hefty speckled perch, three beefy shellcracker and a 5-pound blue tilapia. Eleven quality fish.

I've had several 100-fish day at Lake Manatee, so 11 fish pales in comparison. But they were all really nice fish and came on a very slow day. I figured out the pattern and what the fish wanted.

Those 11 fish will always be in my mind.

What it all means is that if you're determined to have a good time, you probably will. Conversely, if you want it to be a bad time, then rest assured it will.

It's your choice.

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