The drive from Sarasota to where we fish in The Everglades is about 2 1/2 hours. But it's not bad when you have someone with you. Talking passes the time nicely.
Capt. Pete Greenan of Sarasota joined me on Monday for the first 'Glades trip of the season. We talked about fly fishing all the way down.
Greenan is one of Sarasota's fly-fishing pioneers. He hooked me on the sport many years ago. We've caught everything together on fly: snook, spotted seatrout, redfish, tarpon, jack crevalle, false albacore and other species.
On Monday, our targets included oscar, Mayan cichlid, bass, bluegill and whatever else might be lurking in the depths of The 'Glades.
We arrived at our spot about about 6:30. We unloaded the kayaks -- Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s -- and placed them near the water. We then grabbed life vests, anchors, paddles, seats, milk crates, fly boxes, leader and fly rods and put them in the kayaks.
We hit the water at 7.
We knew we were in for a good day. And we weren't wrong. Greenan hooked a fat oscar on his first cast. It was the first of 200 we would land that day.
The water level was low. That's important because it concentrates the fish. We don't fish during the rainy season (June through September) because the water level is up and the fish can spread out over millions of acres. Plus, the air temperature is much more comfortable in winter and there are no bugs.
That Greenan hooked an oscar on the first cast was an indication of things to come. By our conservative count, we landed more than 300 fish. Other species included Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill, stumpknocker, warmouth perch, speckled perch and peacock bass.
Ironically, we had never caught peacock bass or speckled perch at this particular spot.
We used 3- and 4-weight fly rods, floating lines and 7 1/2-foot leaders with 8-pound tippet. You can't use much lighter tippet because oscar are so strong. Their first move is to head back into the structure. You need to prevent that from happening.
We started out with No. 10 popping bugs, but switched to the ever-popular Myakka Minnow within a half hour. For The 'Glades, I tie black MMs because most of the small minnows along the shoreline are that color.
It was easy to find the fish. All we had to do was watch them bust minnows or thump the bulrushes and reeds. A quick cast usually resulted in a hookup.
Greenan is a veteran saltwater fishing guide (www.floridaflyfishing.com), but he loves nothing more than to take a break and spend a day in the Florida Everglades fly fishing for oscar and other species.
It's usually a day for bent rods and fast action.
I run Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (www.kayakfishingsarasota.com). Everglades trips are available from December through April.
You can reach me at (941) 284-3406.