Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fishing has been good in between cold fronts

Spotted seatrout have been providing a bulk of the action.

December fishing has been a matter of dodging fronts and scraping ice off the kayaks.

During any warming trend, we have been finding excellent spotted seatrout action in Palma Sola Bay. Most of the fish are being caught on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with gold paddle tails, MirrOlures Tiny MirrOdine and Clouser Deep Minnow flies.

The trout have been ranging from undersize to 22 inches. There have been outings where a majority of the trout run from 17 to 22 inches, with few small fish.

Tide is the key. Most of the action has been taking place along channel edges on the incoming tide.

Redfish are making their presence known, too. Most are small, but we have taken a few in the slot (18 to 27 inches). Reds are holding along channel edges and around docks. D.O.A. CAL Jigs are the ticket to redfish success.

Flounder also are cooperating. A slowly worked jig along the bottom is a sure way to find flatties.

Dave Robinson of Sarasota fished with me and we totaled more than 50 trout, 10 redfish and several flounder. We used CAL Jigs, jerks worms and MirrOdines.

Dick Badman, a winter visitor from Pennsylvania, caught some really nice trout on Clouser Deep Minnows.

I took a busman’s holiday on Friday and did well before the wind started to blow. Started out with eight trout and a flounder on my first 10 casts. Ended the day with 30 trout, two flounder and two reds.

I look for good action between fronts. A warming trend should spark bluefish, pompano, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout over the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay.

Even though the water temperature plummeted to 53 degrees, I haven’t heard of any substantial snook kills. We don’t need any more cold weather.

My calendar is filling up, so figure out what date(s) you’d like to fish and let me know.

I would like to thank my sponsors: Native Watercraft, D.O.A. Lures, Temple Fork Outfitters.

Happy Holidays to all!

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fishing has been good despite the cold weather

I'm pretty impressed by the fishing, considering the freezing weather we've experienced over the last two weeks. There has been ice on my windshield nearly every morning.
A week ago, I fished with Dave Robinson of Sarasota and totaled 28 spotted seatrout, eight redfish and a pair of flounder. Many of the trout were in the slot or slightly over (slot limit is 15 to 20 inches).
On Thursday there was ice on the kayaks when I pulled out of my driveway to meet Dick Badman of Pennsylvania. We fished Palma Sola Bay and did well, catching and releasing 20 trout to 21 inches and a flounder. Most of the fish were taken on a 1/16-ounce D.O.A. CAL Jig with a gold paddle tail. The MirrOlure Tiny MirrOdine also produced a few fish.
I'm thinking the action should really improve if we get a few days of warm weather.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Southern Drawl's November fishing report

Todd Dawson landed this fine pompano on a D.O.A. CAL Jig with gold paddle tail.

We’re at the beginning of some fine fishing over the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay.

Over the last week, we started catching good numbers of spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, gag grouper and a few Spanish mackerel.

Stu Black and Peter Sullivan of Ontario joined me for a 6-hour outing in Sarasota Bay off Stephen’s Point. It was a memorable trip because Stu caught his first fish on fly rod, a fine spotted seatrout.

The duo combined for a good catch of spotted seatrout, ladyfish and a couple of bluefish. Pompano were conspicuously absent.
Fly fisher Joe McColl of Tampa and a nice bluefish.

That changed the next trip when fly fisher Joe McColl of Tampa joined me. We fished off Stephen’s Point and had steady action on spotted seatrout, ladyfish, bluefish and pompano. We managed blues to 3 pounds and pomps to 2 ½. Most of the spotted seatrout were small.

Small trout had been the name of the game until Todd Dawson of Bradenton and his son, Andy, fished with me. Again, steady action was the name of the game. They caught spotted seatrout to 22 inches, bluefish to 3 pounds and pompano to 3. I managed a trout that went 24 inches. What luck!

Bob Parker, past president of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota, and I fished early in the week and did well. Parker managed spotted seatrout, gag grouper and a nice Spanish mackerel. I landed spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano and ladyfish.

Top fly has been my Big Eye Baitfish. Everything seems to like it!

Sam Buehrer of Ohio fished Buttonwood Harbor and off Whale Key with me an had fun on light spin tackle. Buehrer landed a bunch of spotted seatrout and ladyfish, plus a nice Spanish mackerel and a 4-pound pompano. All were taken on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with gold paddle tails.

Brian Green of Ontario and his buddy, Keith, fished with me on a very windy and tough day. Brian did manage 12 spotted seatrout and a small redfish on fly.

This action is just the beginning of what’s in store. An approaching cold front should really heat up the bite.

Last December was excellent for pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and spotted seatrout.

If you’ve never caught a pompano on fly, now is the time. They pull hard and make determined runs.

A good option is to book a 6-hour trip and get out before the sun comes up. That way, you’ll get a shot of snook under the lights. When that action subsides, we’ll head out to fish the deep grass.

My new fleet of 2011 Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s has arrived and I’m thrilled. They not only look sharp, but also fish great!

On a side note, I want to let everyone know that my wife, Kathy, is recovering nicely from her recent surgery after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She didn’t feel too hot for a week, but now has returned to work and feels very good.

If you’re interested in tailing redfish, Pine Island Sound is the place on those days when the wind cooperates and we get a negative low tide. In addition, spotted seatrout, snook and tarpon are possibilities in the Sound.

I also do freshwater trips on local lakes and streams for bass, bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch and channel cats.

December is booking up, so choose a day and let me know.

Again, I’d like to mention my terrific sponsors: Native Watercraft, TRO fly rods and spinning rods and D.O.A. Lures.

Happy holidays to all.

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fishing just getting better and better in Sarasota Bay

A beautiful Sarasota Bay pompano that fell for Gibby's Big Eye Baitfish Fly
I had an inkling fishing was getting ready break loose.
On Monday, I took Bob Parker of Sarasota out on the inaugural voyage of the new 2011 Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5s. Fishing was very good.
We fish the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay and caught a variety of fish: spotted seatrout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and gag grouper.
Action was steady.
November and December on Sarasota Bay can be very good.
Top fly, as usual, was my Big Eye Baitfish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interest and effort the most important ingredients of fly fishing

The author battles a Sarasota Bay pompano on fly rod while standing in his Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 kayak
I've been fly fishing for more than 45 years and more than 20 in salt water.
I started out fly fishing for bluegill and other panfish while growing up in Ohio. I began concentrating on the sport after I moved to Florida in 1971.
For the most part, I concentrated on fresh water, casting popping bugs to bluegill. I really enjoyed catching bluegills on fly rod and still do.
The only reason I didn't fly fish in the salt is that there were no fly shops in Sarasota and certainly no equipment. I did, however, catch my first tarpon on fly in 1976. I caught my first snook a couple of years later. Since then, I've caught tarpon to 165 pounds, snook to 20, redfish to 15, spotted seatrout to 5, Spanish mackerel to 7 1/2, jack crevalle, cobia, bonefish, permit, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, flounder, barramundi, amberjack, gag grouper and a variety of other species.
While I'm certainly not the best fly caster around, I do cast well enough to catch plenty of fish. I've won a number of fly-fishing tournaments over the years.
I've long wondered why fly casting is so difficult for so many people? I've come to the conclusion it's for a number of reasons. First, many people feel they can pay for a couple of lessons and become proficient without having to really work at it.
My belief is that success of lack thereof in fly casting is directly proportional to the amount of time, effort and interest a beginner has in the sport. If someone wants to be a good fly caster, he certainly will become one if he really wants to do it and dedicates his time to it.
I gave a lesson to a prominent Sarasota real estate broker and her boyfriend a few years back. It was quickly apparent neither would succeed easily. They struggled throughout the hour of instruction. Finally, I asked, "So, tell me, what's your interest in fly casting?
"Oh, we're going to Islamorada next week to fly fish for bonefish!"
They were headed for the Bonefish Capital of Florida and thought they'd be successful after one lesson.
No way.
I take a lot of fly fisher fishing. Some are decent. Some fair. And a lot of them struggle. Most are from the north and have been fly fishing small streams for trout for many years. Long casts aren't required on those streams. In fact, a cast is rarely required.
I call what they do "fly flipping" rather than fly casting. They flip the fly 15 to 20 feet upstream and let it then float with the current.
When they get out on the saltwater flats, 15 to 20 feet is all they can muster.
You don't have to cast 100 feet to be successful in the salt. If you can make an accurate 50-foot cast, you're in business. And a 50-foot cast is quite easy.
But casting 50 feet for many clients is something that has proven to be quit difficult.
There are those who can cast 80, 90 or 100 feet with no problem whatsoever. However, they have no clue when it comes to fly fishing.
Sure, you have to learn to cast a fly before you can actually fish with a fly rod. But fly casting and fly fishing are two separate endeavors.
Once you learn how to cast, you then have to learn how to fish.
What flies to use?
What lines?
You also have to learn to tie a few knots, how to attach backing to a reel, fly line to backing, butt leader to fly line and many other things.
You have to learn to double haul, roll cast, sidearm cast and accurately cast into tight spots.
And don't forget you have to learn all about the species you're seeking.
I've seen anglers who can cast 100 feet, but can't catch fish. They have no idea how to fish. They can cast, yet they can't fish.
I place more emphasis on fishing than casting. If you can cast 50 feet accurately and know how to fish, you're well ahead of the curve.
I had a guy out this past summer who could cast 80 feet with ease. I'd point out a snook 20 feet away, and he'd cast 80 feet.
Every time.
I truly believe you're either born and angler or you're not. There are born musicians and artists.
I can't carry a tune or draw a straight line.
But I can catch fish.
And that's what I was born to do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sixth annual MCFF/CCA Fall Fly Fishing Challenge results

From Capt. Rick Grassett:

The 2010 Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/Coastal Conservation Association “Fall Fly Fishing Challenge”, headquartered at the Sarasota Outboard Club, was held on Saturday, November 6, 2010. A total of 28 fly anglers in 2 divisions participated in the catch, photo and release event targeting multiple species in a points per inch format. The event is a fun, friendly competition designed to promote the sport of fly fishing and benefit conservation efforts of both organizations. Sponsors of the event were Orvis, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, Economy Tackle, Tampa Angler, Cook’s Sportland, Fisherman’s Edge, Discount Tackle Outlet, New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, Andy Thornal Co. and Flying Fish Outfitters.

Fly Angler Division-open to all anglers except guides and licensed captains

Grand Champion-Highest point total

Robert Fischer, Tampa, FL, 405.75 points

2nd Place

Tom Cawthon, Seminole, FL, 248.75 points

3rd Place

Walt Plasson, Sarasota, FL, 197.25 points

Open Division- Guides, licensed captains, their fishing partners and any other angler who wishes to participate

Grand Champion-Largest redfish, snook and trout

Dusty Sprague, North Port, FL, 43.75"

Redfish-Total inches

Capt. Scott Dalton, Bradenton, FL, 116.75"

Snook-Total inches

Steve Gibson, Sarasota, FL, 115.25"

Trout-Total inches

Jeff Lemieux, North Port, FL, 48.5"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Despite the weather, fishing the tourney was a good idea

Co-tournament director Rick Grassett, left, presents me with a plaque and gift certificate after winning the Snook Division of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers/Coastal Conservation Association Fall Fly Fishing Challenge. (Photo by Bob Parker)
Poor weather is the bane of fishing tournaments.

Of course, the weather was perfect for two weeks leading up to the 6th annual Mangrove Coast/Coastal Conservation Association Fall Fly Fishing Challenge. A front moved through the day before the event, bringing with it wind and cold.

I’ve fished the event since its inception. In fact, the tournament was the brainchild of myself and Capt. Rick Grassett. I didn’t want to miss this year’s tourney, but when you fish out of a kayak, you don’t have many options.

I arrived at the captains’ meeting at City Island early Saturday. The wind was whipping out of the east. I had planned to fish Buttonwood Harbor, but it didn’t look good.

Despite the weather, we had a good turnout. More than 30 fly anglers showed up for the meeting.

After the meeting, I headed up Longboat Key for Buttonwood Harbor. When I arrived, I got out of the truck and walked through the mangroves to the water. I was met by a stiff wind and whitecaps. I talked with another kayaker there who hadn’t launched his boat.

I decided not to launch. I got back in the truck and headed for the other side of the bay. I figured I would launch at Stephen’s Point and have at least a little protection.

Good choice!

It was still dark when I arrived. I figured I would get a few shots at snook around a dock light in the basin. I paddled to the light and could see a few snook . I hooked a fish on my second cast and was able to subdue it a few minutes later.

It wasn’t a huge snook, but it was good enough. Since the tournament is catch, photo and release, there are no size limits. So, My 20.5-inch snook gave me a good start. Shortly after I took a picture of the snook and released it, it was too light to fish the dock. The light had been turned off and the snook disappeared. I still made a few casts – just in case.

Then, I paddled out into Sarasota Bay and fished a couple of docks on the point. I hooked a small snook on the third dock. Over the next hour, I caught, photographed and released six more snook. That gave me 115 inches.

Not bad.

I decided to give trout a try. I paddled just south of the point and anchored on a grass patch. I caught and released several trout. When the action slowed, I’d find another grass patch and anchor. I caught quite a few trout, using this technique. I had 103 inches of trout.

Now, all I had to get was a redfish to complete the slam. I cast along the east shoreline for two hours, but couldn’t find a red.

By this time, the wind was blowing 25 miles per hour out of the north. I knew I’d have a tough time paddling back to the launch. It was indeed tough, and I paddled into four-foot seas. I was fine once I paddled into the basin.

I cast along docks on my way in, but only managed a flounder. I stowed my gear and put the kayak on the trailer. I edited my photos and filled out my scorecard.

Time to head to the Sarasota Outboard Club to turn in my photos and card.

You get a sense of how everyone did by the demeanor of anglers at the club. I could tell, most hadn’t done very well.

Dusty Sprague of North Port had the only slam (snook, trout and redfish). Since it as the only one, didn’t matter than it was small.

A couple of guys did well on redfish in the north bay around Long Bar. Few did well on trout or snook.

I felt good that I decided to enter only my snook photos.

Turned out to be a wise decision. I won the Snook Division – easily. I won a $75 gift certificate from The Tampa Angler and a plaque. I also won a bunch of prizes on the raffle, including a fly line, Puglisi fibers and a $25 gift certificate.

I wondered whether I’d even be able to fish.

I’m glad I did.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Myakka Minnow works well throughout the country

Jonathan Allred said Texas bluegill love the Mighty Myakka Minnow

 I knew I'd come up with a great fly. I had no idea it would work so well across the country.

Jonathan Allred, a client of mine from near Dallas, Texas, emailed me some photos of some hefty bluegill he caught using the Myakka Minnow.

I'd given Allred a couple of Myakka Minnows during his last trip here. I wondered if he'd had the chance to use them?

He did well. And, he said, "with a red tail, they'd be perfect for grayling in Alaska."

Allred isn't the first to tout the Myakka Minnow. I received an email from Steve Piper of San Diego, Calif.

"I saw your FAOL article and tied up a couple on Friday night.

"We were fishing Diamond Valley Lake in SoCal and stripers and largemouth were busting threadfin shad. They were so focused on the shad that they would not take our flies. Sounded very much like the situation you described with fish and minnows.

"Most of the morning, we had to let the flies drop way down in the water column below the boils -- to 20 feet or so -- to catch a few.

"However, during some long lulls, I tried the Myakka Minnow -- shad variation -- white marabou

tail, pearl diamond braid body with felt tip cool gray back, and UV knot sense to seal the body, no weight. It seemed like everytime I cast it, it turned up a fish -- all very small -- including 8-10" largemouth and a plump bluegill.

"We went back to fishing big flies deep, but at the very end of our session, I tried the Myakka again to see if it really was "magic" -- yep, nailed another small bass to end the day.

"We were laughin'..."

"Got a Myakka for the big models? That was amazing."

Glad you had a wonderful experience with this amazing fly. And, yes, I do have a Myakka Minnow for larger fish.

The beauty of the fly is that it can be tied on any size hook to meet your needs. A couple of years ago, Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict in Sarasota told me that he has some large tarpon eating glass minnows, but couldn't get them to hit conventional tarpon flies. I tied him up a couple of Myakka Minnows on 3/0 hooks and gave them to him.

Couple of days later, he called to tell me that he'd finally jumped a couple of those tarpon.

"All they wanted was the Myakka Minnow," Grassett said.

Another angler in North Carolina emailed me to order a dozen Myakka Minnows. I tied them and sent them to him.

He said they were heading to the Florida Everglades and had heard the minnow worked well there. But I didn't hear from him for six months.

Finally, I received an email, detailing his trip. He told me they didn't catch a fish at the first stop, so they put the boat on trailer and headed for another spot.

Same story.

"Finally, I remembered I had the Myakka Minnows you tied," he said. "I put one on and started catching fish. It's the only fly they'd hit.

"The Myakka Minnow said the day!"

On another occasion, Capt. Al White of Boca on the Fly and I took famed fly tyer Ward Bean to the Everglades. It was the wrong time of year, but Bean, who resided in Iowa, was in town and wanted to go.

Bean ties some elaborate hair bugs. They're so beautiful that I consider them works of art.

If was last June, the water was up and it was hot. I was no time to be in the 'Glades. I usually fish there late November through April (the dry season).

Fish was slow as expected. Bean caught a couple of fish on his hair bugs and other flies. I totaled 40 assorted fish (oscar, Mayan cichlid, bass, bluegill, stumpknocker and peacock bass) on the Myakka Minnow. I offered Bean a couple of minnows, but he wanted to stick with his flies.

Although I'm not a commercial fly tyer, I do take orders for the Myakka Minnow. Because of the epoxy work involved, I sell them only by the dozen. Cost is $45 per dozen (plus shipping).

If you want to try this amazing fly, you can email me at or call me at (941) 284-3406.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Captain Catastrophe was an accident looking for a place to happen

I fished with a lot of guides over the years during my 35-year career as a professional outdoors writer. And I will tell you a vast majority know their business.

I've had a lot of great outings.

However, there a few that didn't go so well.

In March of 1999, I got a notice from a Chamber of Commerce in West Central Florida inviting me to spend a day and participate in a number of opportunities they were offering. Of course, the objective was to get journalists to return home and publicize good things about that county.

I threw the letter in the waste basket and had forgotten the whole thing when I received a phone call a week letter.

"We'd really love for you to come up and see just what we have to offer."

I am a sucker. I'll admit it. So, I reluctantly relented and agree.

Choices included saltwater fishing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and freshwater fishing.

I opted for freshwater fishing.

They told me who the guide would be and gave me his phone number. I called him the afternoon before I was to drive up and discussed logistics.

"Do I need to bring anything?" I asked.

"Nah, I got everything," he said.

He instructed me to meet him at a bait shop on the banks of the river at 7 a.m.

He was there when I arrived and we walked into the shop to get bait. He placed a 5-gallon bucket on the counter said, “Give us 10-dozen shiners.”

The fellow took the bucket and headed for the shiner tanks in the back of his shop. When he returned, he put the bucket on the counter and said, “That will be $150.”

The guide looked at me and said, “Pay the man.”

I was stunned and I paid. I didn’t mind paying for the bait, but I sure wish I had known it was expected.

But that was just the first of several surprises on the day. When he headed out to the dock, I discovered his “bass boat” actually was a 25-year-old pontoon. And his rods and reels were out of a 1955 Montgomery Ward catalog. They were glass rods, with ancient spinning reels filled halfway with 10-year-old monofilament.

It was plain to see that this guy wasn’t a bass guide. He really wasn’t a fisherman at all.

We didn’t catch a fish that day.

I later learned he ran river tours aboard that dilapidated old pontoon.

Another blacksheep was a fellow I named Capt. Catastrophe. Every trip I ever made with him was a calamity.

I won’t go into detail on most, but I will tell you that he lost sunglasses, bent the axle on the boat trailer and ran onto oyster bars.

A day or two before a scheduled outing, he called and asked, “What ya want to do?”

I told him that I’d do whatever he wanted. He was the guide.

“We could fish the bay for trout. I had a couple of folks out the other day who caught some nice trout on fly.

“Or we could head down south a fish for snook.”

I thought snook sounded good.

So, we met and headed south. I knew we were in trouble when it became obvious he had no idea where the boat ramp was. When we finally found it, it didn’t take but a minute before he ran the boat onto a mud flat. We were stuck. We got it off after about 15 minutes of pushing (we had to get out of the boat). But we were stuck on another in just a minute or two.

Half hour later, we ran into an oyster bar.

Don’t ask me why I fished with this fellow again, but I did. I figured out his problem was that he didn’t do what he was capable of doing. He was capable of hitting singles, but always wanted to slam a home run.

He asked me to meet him at ramp south of Venice at 1 p.m. Although I like to get on the water early, it was his trip. We head south down the Intracoastal and into a creek. There, he said, we’d fly fish for snook. I landed a 10-incher the first hour. Two hours later, I jumped a 5-pound tarpon.

That was it.

On our way out of the creek, two fellows in another boat passed by and asked how we did.

“Great!” said Capt. Catastrophe. “We got snook and we got about a 35-pound tarpon on fly.”


Capt. Cat heads the list of catastrophe trips over the years. There haven’t been many, but there have been a few.

Hunker down, think positively and get ready for a battle

Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

But when something happens to you, just go out to a busy street and you’ll quickly realize that life goes on. Cars pass by and no one in them is aware of your problems.

That’s the way life is.

Yesterday, my family received some terrible health news. I don’t want to go into detail nor do I want to divulge who it is. The news was shocking. It was like a bolt of lightning going through your body. And the sudden thoughts were like darts piercing your brain.

I was at the bedside of my father when he passed on Dec. 22, 1996. It was a shock, but not unexpected. He was 75 years old and had been in the hospital for a week. I talked with him every day and was convinced he was feeling better. I didn’t think there was any urgency to fly north.

But on Saturday morning, I received a call from my youngest brother that Dad had suffered a massive heart attack during the night and wasn’t expected to make it. I arranged a flight and headed for Ohio. I left the warmth of sunny Florida for the cold and gray of southwestern Ohio.

I didn’t get into Dayton until about 5 p.m. Two of my brothers were waiting for me at the airport and we hurried to the hospital. When we got to Dad’s floor, two of my sisters in law and my other brother were with my Dad.

He looked peaceful in the bed. He didn’t appear to be in any pain. He was unconscious and sedated. He was hooked up to a myriad of machines.

I don’t know if he could hear me or not, but I said to him, “Dad, Marshall won the National Championship (Div. I-AA) today. The Herd clobbered Montana.”

That might be a strange thing to say in such a situation, but I knew my Dad would want to know. He attended Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., prior to becoming a Navy pilot during World War II. He always had an interest in the Thundering Herd. In fact, he’d attended a Marshall game just a few weeks prior and had watched the Herd pummel Southern Conference foe The Citadel.

Marshall football, for those not familiar, wasn’t something that was impressive for many years. In fact, when I attended MU, I didn’t see the Herd win a game until November of my junior year. MU had the losingest program in the nation for years.

For the Herd to be competing for national championships in football at any level was amazing.

So, I knew Dad would want to know.

He passed a few minutes later.

It was almost as if he waited until I arrived.

My mother had passed 13 months earlier. I wasn’t with her at the time, but I had spent the previous two weeks with her. We had some great talks and shared a lot of memories.

“Steve, I dream that I’m OK, but I know that will never happen,” she said.

Mom died from complications of emphysema in November of 1995.

My wife’s father passed in July of 2009. Ironically, he was in Dayton at the time, living with his wife. She was with him the last few days.

It’s always tough when you lose your parents. But you’ll always have great memories. And it’s somewhat easier to take when they’ve already lived a majority of their live.

But when you get the news that someone very close to you has that nasty, insidious disease no one wants to talk about, well, it’s just not fair.

We cried yesterday. We laughed. We took a walk. We sat and hugged.

We decided we’d fight this thing and maintain positive attitudes.

Just a little while ago, I received a call that the survival rate of this particular disease is very high and extremely curable.

“Just the type I wanted,” I was told.

Who would have ever thunk that?

We did.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Manatee River cats dig the Myakka Minnow and other flies

This a perfect place to find catfish along the Manatee River

I don’t get taken into the backing of my fly line very often. It’s pretty rare for a redfish or snook to do it.

This 6-pound channel catfish put up quite a battle
 But I get taken into the backing quite often in fresh water.

I’ve discovered channel catfish are suckers for my Myakka Minnow. I’ve hooked about 15 big cats over the past two weeks and I’ve been into the backing four times.

When a channel cat inhales the fly, the battle is on. They jump and make lengthy runs. When they decided to head into the vegetation, I’m usually helpless. Most of the time I’m using a 1- or 2-weight rod and fishing for bluegill and other small panfish. Light rods aren’t meant to tame a cat.

I was fishing the Manatee River out of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway ( last week and hooked five big cats on successive casts. Why they suddenly turned on, I don’t know. Anyway, I lost four of them pretty quickly. Light rods and 8X tippet are great cat gear.

But I did land one. It was a 6-pounder that decided to head for open water. I was able to back my kayak away from the fallen tree and out in the open. A few minutes later, I was able to beach the boat on a sand bar and fight the fish standing up. It took more than five minutes to subdue that stubborn fish.

Channel catfish can grow to be up to four feet in length and weigh more than 50 pounds. They can live to be at least 40 years old.

Channel catfish can be found in both lakes and reservoirs and in more fast-moving waters such as rivers and streams. They are more numerous in lakes and streams. They prefer clear water with sandy to rocky bottom. Channel catfish are seldom found in areas with dense vegetation. They are normally found in freshwater, but do very well in brackish water.

Saltwater catfish are not prized. Even though a gafftopsail catfish are among saltwater’s best fighting fish, they are rarely targeted.

It’s just the opposite in fresh water where catfish are prized catches. In fact, there are guides throughout the country who make a pretty good living taking anglers out for monster catfish.

Channel catfish are extremely good to eat. Their meat is very tender and mild.

I don’t specifically target them, but I do enjoy it when I hook one. If I was to target them, I’d beef up to at least a 6-weight rod and 2X or 3X tippet. They seem to be structure oriented and I often encounter them around fallen trees.

In the Manatee River, you’ll find them in the deep river bends. And you’ll know it’s a really good spot if there are fallen trees in the bend. Most of the time, the catfish will try to get into the tree branches or whatever structure they’re around. So, you’re first take if you’re going to have any chance of landing them is to get them away from the structure.

I’ve hooked just about all of my channel cats on the Myakka Minnow. However, I think they’ll hit Wooly Buggers, Clousers and other subsurface fly. I’ve not had one rise up to take a popper, though.

Often, I’m lulled into a false sense of calmness when fishing for bluegill. You’ll catch 20 or so and then have all hell break loose when a channel cat interrupts the serenity of your outing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Slow down for fast fishing action

This is a perfect place to cast a popping bug or other fly on sprawling Lake Manatee.
You pass DeSoto Memorial Speedway, home of the Snowbird Nationals, on your way to Lake Manatee.

This gorgeous Lake Manatee bluegill fell for a No. 10 popping bug.
The drag strip is home of testosterone and high speed.

But when you get to Lake Manatee, it’s time to slow down. Way down. The slower you fish, the better you’ll do. I’ve learned this since I began fishing from a kayak years ago.

Capt. Jim Klopfer of Adventure Charters was my guest on Lake Manatee recently and he quickly caught on how slow we were fishing.

“We’ve been here an hour, but we’ve only fished 50 yards,” he said.

The key to success on Lake Manatee and many of Florida’s freshwater lakes and streams is to slow things down. And when you think you’re really fishing slow, then you need to slow it down some more.

Dry flies work well at Lake Manatee.
 My latest outing is a perfect example. I launched my Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 at the Lake Manatee Fish Camp ramp shortly after dawn. I paddled east under the State Road 64 bridge and along the north shoreline for about 15 minutes. My destination was a point just beyond the first island in the lake.

I caught a hand-sized bluegill on my first cast. I was using a No. 10 chartreuse popping bug on a 4-weight rod. I was using a 7 ½-foot leader with a 7X tippet. I concentrated on that area for the first hour, not moving more than 50 feet. The end result was 17 bluegill, most of which were ¾ of a pound to a pound.

I’ve fished Lake Manatee with powerboaters. Most are very good anglers. But most move far too quickly. They’re on the trolling motor continuously. If you don’t hit your target on your first cast, you won’t get another shot because you’ll be well past it by the time you’re ready for another cast.

I’ll pull up to a likely spot in the kayak and fish it slowly and completely. If there’s a pocket in the vegetation, I might make a dozen casts before moving on. I’ll hit every opening along the way.

I’ve found when you fish slow, you fish thoroughly. You don’t miss many spots. You cover your area completely.

This stumpknocker fell for a popping bug.
 Lake Manatee is a tough nut to crack. There are those who fish the lake for the first time and never return. The reason is they catch few fish and can’t figure the old gal out.

Florida anglers are shoreline anglers. That doesn’t mean they fish from land. It means most cast toward the shoreline vegetation. That’s a very good strategy in most Florida lakes and it works in Lake Manatee – if you know what you’re doing.

You can fish some of the shoreline at Lake Manatee, but not all. Reason is that hyacinths float to the shoreline and pile up. Cast to the edge of them and there could be nothing but empty water underneath. The true shoreline might be 10 or 15 feet in back of the hyacinth jam.

So, when fishing the lake, try to find areas void of hyacinth jams. It’s tough, but you can do it if you just open your eyes.

When you see a tree on the shore or a fallen tree, you’re in the right area. And this is where we usually concentrate. I’ll often make a dozen or more casts in such an area. It’s a trick that I learned years ago when competing in bass tournament.

A typical Lake Manatee speckled perch (black crappie).
 When you find fish, don’t leave them. Fish the area until the action stops. I remember winning a bass tournament during which I didn’t leave a 200-yard stretch of hydrilla all day. The fish were there and I was able to catch enough to win the tournament.

I guess an outboard motor and a trolling motor are just the incentive needed to move quickly. If you don’t get a fish on the first cast, just move 100 yards down the lake. If it’s not going on, crank the engine and head 10 miles north, east, south or west. Move because you have the ability.

When you’re fishing from a kayak, you don’t have that ability. You have to fish where you are.

What that means is that you get to know your spots intimately. You learn every inch of the lake, river or bay you’re fishing.

And that means you’re able to fish slowly. You’re able to make repeatedly casts into a spot you think holds fish.

And when you catch a fish around a fallen tree what do you do? Move on?


You make another cast.

If you’re like me, you might make 12 more casts. And there are days when those 12 casts result in several more fish.

Slow down.

You’ve got all day to do it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Every day is different at beautiful Lake Manatee

Another beautiful sunrise at Lake Manatee

I have a client who asked me to call him when the action gets hot.

“I’ll just fly in the next day,” he said.

One of eight channel catfis that hit the Myakka Minnow

No way.

You can’t judge fishing tomorrow by what’s going on today. And what would I feel like if he purchased an airline ticket, flew into town and the fishing suddenly went south? Or if a high pressure system moved into the area? Or we were hit by thunderstorms or gale-force wind?

My last two outings are a study in contradiction. One was wonderful and the other quite slow.

I fished Lake Manatee, perhaps my favorite Florida lake, the first day and did wonderfully. Things started out slowly, but picked up as the morning went on. Using the Myakka Minnow, I caught 60 bluegill, stumpknocker and shellcracker. In addition, I caught a pair of bass and landed two of the eight channel cats I hooked.
Even little bass can't resist the Myakka Minnow

Quality day and quality fish.

The best morning, I met Dusty Sprague of North Port. We were going to fish out of his renovated Bass Tracker, a beautiful aluminum skiff. We launched at the Lake Manatee Fish Camp ramp and headed east under the bridge and along the north shoreline. Things started out slow, but we weren’t worried because it was that way the morning prior.

After an hour, we had only two or three small bluegill. In fact, the fish weren’t hitting the Myakka Minnow at all. I was getting them on a No. 12 Aunt Sarah’s Homely Daughter nymph under a strike indicator. Sprague was using something similarly small.

The morning was crisp and bright. Only a few clouds were in the sky, indicating that perhaps a high-pressure system had pushed into the area. The wind was out of the northeast.
A nice bass on the Maykka Minnow

We were protected along the northeast shore and quite comfortable. But things would have been better had the fish cooperated just a little better.

We started picking up a few more fish and then the Myakka Minnow began to works its charm. After both of us switched to that fly, we combined to catch 25 or 30 bluegill and a couple of stumpknocker. We didn’t land any bass or shellcracker. We didn’t hook a catfish.

It was 180 degrees from the day prior.

Most of the bluegill were small, with only four being “hand sized.”

We did encounter schooling bass. However, every time we approached them, they’d go down. Shouldn’t be too much longer before they begin to stay on the surface longer.

The day prior, I’d hooked eight channel cats and landed two. This trip resulted in no hookups.
A typical Lake Manatee copperhead bluegill

Channel catfish are trophies among freshwater anglers. They hit savagely, pull like an elephant and are tough on fly rod to land. The two cats I landed were only about 3 pounds, yet they took about 5 minutes before I couldn’t get them alongside my kayak.

In addition, channel cats are excellent on the table.

The main thing about fishing Lake Manatee is that you often are lulled into a false sense of what’s going on. You’ll catch a hand-sized bluegill and follow that with seven or eight smaller fish. The bites are all the same.

This will continue and then you get the familiar take of a bluegill and set the hook. But the water erupts, your rod bends deeply and line begins to streak out the rod tip.

You’re quickly aware you don’t have a bluegill.

Channel cats often will take you into your backing – if you can get them away from the vegetation. If they decide to head to the shoreline, you don’t have much of a chance. But if they head out into the open lake, you have hope.

You never know when the cat bite will take place. You’ll hook none for three days straight, then they’ll with reckless abandon the fourth day.

Don’t tell your buddies. The fish just might get lockjaw the next morning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lightly fished Lake Manatee is a fly angler's paradise

Sunrise on Lake Manatee often is quite beath-taking

Just one of many bluegill on the Myakka Minnow

Lake Manatee is perhaps my favorite lake to fish.

One reason is that it's close to home. Another is that the lake produces a lot of fish.

I made my first trip of fall to Lake Manatee and wasn't disappointed. I launched my Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 shortly after dawn and began catching bluegill and stumpknocker almost immediately on a popper and dropper (bead-head nymph).

The action slowed down after about 30 minutes, so I paddled along the north shoreline to an area where I usually do fairly well. But the popper and dropper just wasn't working. I switched a fly that normally produces, my FLY Nymph.

Wasn't the answer. Got nothing on it.

I noticed a fallen tree about 10 yards from me and figured I'd switch to the Myakka Minnow that I had on my 2-weight rod when I got there. First cast resulted in a feisty, hand-sized bluegill. Over the next three hours, I must have caught 70 bluegill, a few shellcracker and a couple of stumpknocker.

This Lake Manatee largemouth bass fell for a Myakka Minnow

The highlight of the outing was four fish that I couldn't land. I hooked and lost four large channel cats on the Myakka Minnow. Two broke off quickly. I fought another for about 30 seconds when the hook pulled. The fourth fish hit near the shoreline vegetation and headed for the middle of the lake. I back-paddled furiously and fought the fish at the same time. When I was about 50 yards from the shoreline, I concentrated on what I figured to be at least a 10-pound cat. I got the fish on the reel, but that's when the hooked pulled.

I've encountered the cats on a number of occasions. They hit flies readily. They're stronger than an elephant and fight when great determination.

But they're too much for the 2-weight.

Last time this happened to me, I decided to fish a 4-weight with 8-pound tippet. I only hooked one channel cat, but I landed it. To show you how strong these fish are, it took me 5 minutes to land the fish. And it only weighed 3 pounds!

We're entering a special time of year for Lake Manatee, a 2,400-acre reservoir, is located nine miles east of Interstate 75 off State Road 64 in Manatee County. Won't be long before we start catching fat speckled perch (black crappie) which are a blast on fly rod.

There's a 20-horsepower restriction on outboard motors on the lake. If your outboard is larger, you can use your trolling motor.

I launch at Lake Manatee Fish Camp, 23745 State Road 64 E (941-322-8500). Launching is free and the ramp is decent.

I paddle under the bridge and fish the east side of the lake, usually concentrating on the north shoreline.

While I target panfish, I do catch my share of bass. I've taken largemouth to 6 pounds on a variety of panfish flies.

Bass will school this time of year. So, it's important that you keep your eyes and ears open. You can usually hear the bass busting shade in the old river channel. This often takes place in early to mid afternoon the water warms up. That's when the shad begin feeding on plankton.

These aren't typical school bass. They're often 2 to 5 pounds. And they'll hit most anything. The key is to get the fly to the fish quickly.

Flies I prefer include a No. 12 bead-head nymph that I call Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter, my FLY Nymph, Wooly Buggers, No. 10 popping bugs and the ever-mighty Myakka Minnow.

Although the lake has an official name, I call it Gibby's Lake because I'm often the only angler out there. So, it kind of feels like it's my private lake.

Lake Manatee State Park ( is located at 20007 State Road 64. It's a great place to camp.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sixth annual Fall Fly Fishing Challenge scheduled Nov. 6

The Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers and Sarasota Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will hold their 6th annual Fall Fly Fishing Challenge Nov. 6 out of the Ken Thompson Park boat ramp on City Island in Sarasota.

The catch, photo and release fly fishing event will feature an Open Division, for guides and anglers fishing with guides (all anglers are eligible to compete in the Open Division) and a Fly Angler Division (no guides allowed in Fly Angler Division).

In the Open Division, eligible species include snook, redfish and spotted sea trout. Those in the Fly Angler Division will fish for a variety of species, including snook, redfish, spotted sea trout, bluefish, ladyfish, flounder, snapper, jack crevalle, pompano and permit based on a point system.

Entry fee is $50 and includes an awards BBQ at Sarasota Outboard Club.
Applications will be available at area tackle shops or on line at and .
Call Rick Grassett at (941) 923-7799 or e-mail for more info.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The story of the Mighty Myakka Minnow

The Mighty Myakka Minnow was born out of frustration. I’m sure you’ve been there.

Imagine a day on the water with fish busting minnows throughout the morning. But after several hours, you still have nothing to show for your efforts. You cast into the spray of minnows, but your offerings are ignored repeatedly. The fish are so keyed into the tiny minnows that they ignore everything else.

Although the scenery is nice and weather gorgeous, it sure would be nice to feel the tug of a largemouth bass or hand-sized bluegill.

This happened to me several times while fly fishing on the Myakka River near my home in Sarasota, Fla.

After one unproductive outing, I decided to try and come up with a fly which would imitate the minnows the fish were so excited about.

I knew that the fly had to be no more than an inch long. It had to look like a minnow. It had to sink. It had to have large eyes.

After a few hours of trial and tribulation, I came up with a workable prototype and couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Next time out to the river, I had several Myakka Minnows in my box and one tied on my 4-weight fly rod. It didn’t take long to realize that I’d hit a home run. I picked up bass, bluegill, stumpknocker and tilapia while blind-casting. I kept my eyes open for scattering minnows. When I saw fish attacking minnows, I’d cast the Myakka Minnow into the fray.

Success is so sweet!

Over the years, the fly has worked very well and achieved a national reputation of sorts. It’s a pattern the Flymasters of Indianapolis featured in their Intermediate Fly Tying Class last spring. I’ve had email inquiries about the fly from interested anglers all over the country. I’ve even sold hundreds of them.

The fly isn’t a magic fly. But it does work very well when small minnows are the main food source. Then, it seems to be magic.

In fresh water, the fly has produced bass, bluegill, shellcracker, stumpknocker, redbreast sunfish, speckled perch and tilapia. Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota caught a nice brown trout on the Myakka Minnow in Montana. I have caught barramundi on it. You can tie it on larger hooks and go after saltwater fish. It has resulted in spotted seatrout, snook, redfish, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, tarpon and little tunny.

Capt. John Hand of Ruskin took a couple of No. 1 Myakka Minnows with him on a trip to Nicaraugua. He was targeting guapote (rainbow bass) and mojarra. He caught both.

“The Myakka Minnow was the only fly they’d hit,” said Hand. “And my guide said he’d never seen either species caught on fly.”

Stephen Piper of San Diego, Calif., emailed me and told me a similar story:

"We were fishing Diamond Valley Lake in SoCal and stripers and largemouth were busting threadfin shad. They were so focused on the shad that they would not take our flies.

"Sounded very much like the situation you described with fish and minnows -- were you fishing largemouth?

"Most of the morning, we had to let the flies drop way down in the water column below the boils -- to 20 feet or
 so -- to catch a few.

"However, during some long lulls, I tried the Myakka Minnow -- shad variation - white marabou

tail, pearl diamond braid body with felt tip cool gray back, and UV knot sense to seal the

body, no weight. It seemed like everytime I cast it, it turned up a fish - all very small - including 8-10-inch largemouth

and a plump bluegill.

"We went back to fishing big flies deep, but at the very end of our

session, I tried the Myakka again to see if it really was "magic?"

"Yep,  nailed another small bass to end the day.

"We were laughin' . . .

"Got a Myakka for the big models? That was amazing."

I sure do. The beauty of the fly is that you can tie it on any size hook to meet your needs. You can tie it small. You can tie it large.

About three years ago, Capt. Grassett had some large tarpon located around the Ringling Bridge on Sarasota Bay. They were feeding on glass minnows.

"But they won't hit any fly I throw," Grassett said.

That night, I tied up some "tarpon version" Myakka Minnows on 3/0 hooks and gave them to Grassett the next day.

A few days late, I got a call.

"Finally figured those tarpon out and jumped three," said Grassett. "All they'd hit was your Myakka Minnow."

I’ve discovered exotic species in the Florida Everglades absolutely love the Myakka Minnow. Used to be that I’d catch oscar and Mayan cichlids on poppers. But when the topwater bite ended, that was the signal to go home. However, I’ve learned it’s really the signal to tie on a Myakka Minnow. The fly has taken thousands of exotics over the years.

It’s a fun fly to fish and an easy fly to tie.

I’m sure there are similar flies out there somewhere, but the pattern was born in my head. I’ve never seen a fly like it in any shop or catalog.

Tie and few and see what you think.

What works best for me is to cast it out, let is sink for a couple of counts, then work it in erratically. I like a couple of 2-inch strips and a pause. But you’ll figure out what works best for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer action has been good for spin and fly anglers

This summer has been good for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing.

We have been catching some of the largest spotted seatrout we’ve seen in years. In addition, we’ve encountered schools of large redfish and a surprising number of tarpon.

In Sarasota Bay, my anglers have been getting spotted seatrout to 25 inches on D.O.A. CAL Jigs, D.O.A. Shrimp, my Big Eye Baitfish Fly and Clouser Deep Minnows. In addition, they’ve been getting bluefish to 3 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 2, loads of ladyfish and a few jack crevalle.

We’ve been encountering schools of breaking fish and diving birds most every morning while fishing Sarasota Bay. Usually, it’s a combination of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish – with spotted seatrout underneath them. This is a great opportunity for fly and spin anglers.

The larger trout have been hanging out around grass edges and in sand holes. We’ve been getting large trout on about 90 percent of our trips.

We’ve also been getting on some schools of large redfish in Sarasota Bay. On one outing, we got six reds from 29 to 33 inches on Bomber Badonkadonks and D.O.A. Big Fish Lures (BFL). The next day, we found the school again and caught a pair of oversized reds on topwater plugs.

We launched on Charlotte Harbor and immediately got into tarpon from 20 to more than 100 pounds. We jumped seven fish and landed a 25-pounder. Most of the action has been taking place on D.O.A. TerrorEyz, D.O.A. Baitbusters and D.O.A. BFL’s. We look for steady tarpon activity there the rest of the month.

John Mallia of Buffalo, N.Y., joined me for a couple of outings. We fished Sarasota Bay and did well on spotted seatrout, ladyfish and bluefish. We sight-fished several bonnethead sharks, but didn’t hook up. John did have a couple of exciting follows!

The next day we headed to Charlotte Harbor to look for tarpon. The silver kings didn’t show up, but we found the mother lode of spotted seatrout. We caught and released 50 trout on D.O.A. CAL Jigs.

Randy Honaker of Centerville, Ohio (in the photos) and I fished southern Tampa Bay and did well. We couldn’t find redfish schools, but we did land a small one while blind-casting. Randy caught and released spotted seatrout to 24 inches, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel. He caught all of the fish on a beadchain-eye Clouser Deep Minnow.

We have been encountered large schools of large reds in southern Tampa Bay. On one outing, we landed eight reds to 33 inches on Badonkadonks and BFL’s. Another trip produced two oversized reds on the same lures.

I fished with a friend of mine, Rick Grassett of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, and was lucky enough to catch and release and 25-inch redfish on a Prince of Tides fly. I used a 7-weight fly rod and floating line.

As the weather and water cool, we anticipate good action from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor. Tarpon should please the rest of the month. In addition, redfish and spotted seatrout action should continue.

For those who want to tangle with snook, we can get out before daylight and target them on flies or jigs around dock lights. After that, we’ll head out on the flats for trout, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish.

We look for pompano to start showing up in late fall. Last year, we had days for 20 or more pompano to nearly 5 pounds on flies and jigs in December.

Again, I’d like to thank my sponsors: Native Watercraft, D.O.A. Lures, TFO fly rods and spinning rods, Peak Vises and Dri-Grip Sunscreen.

I have some openings in September and October. Fishing is good. Give me a call!

Steve Gibson

Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406

Redfish (arguably) are Florida's toughest when it comes to fly fishing the backcountry

What's the toughest saltwater backcountry gamefish on fly?
Spotted seatrout?
Definitely not.
Well, no, but we don't have a lot of them.
Certainly -- if you were talking about fly fishing the flats in the Florida Keys.
But along Florida's west coast, it's my opinion that redfish are the toughest fish to fool on fly. They're savvy, leery, spooky and downright elusive.
Now, we're not talking about deep-water reds, the fish you might find schooled up in 3 feet of water or more. We're talking about redfish that take to the flats and root along the bottom for worms, crabs, shrimp and whatever other morsels they might find.
I encountered a large school of aggressive redfish a week ago in southern Tampa Bay. I could have closed my eyes, cast with my left hand and probably hooked up easily. It's that simple when the fish are schooled up and patrolling just off the flat.
But when you encountered single fish or small pods in the shallows, it becomes another game.
"They're tough," said Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service in Sarasota. "If you go out and get one on fly, you've had a good day."
Grassett and I fished the shallows the other day. We actually looked for the big schoolers, but couldn't find them. So, we opted to comb the flats. We found a nice group of reds and decided to concentrate on them. They were in about 18 inches of water and were moving around slowly.
I was up first and opted to cast a chartreuse-and-white, bead-eye Clouser Deep Minnow on my 7-weight Temple Fork Outfitters TiCRX rod. After several refusals, I switched to a Prince of Tides fly, a known redfish killer. Didn't take long before I was hooked up to a feisty 25-inch red. The fish took the fly not 15 feet from Grassett's Action Craft flats skiff.
After I landed the fish and took a few photos, it was Grassett's turn on the bow. He had a red charge the fly, but set the hook a little too quickly.
At that point, clouds ruined the day. They block the sun and, in effect, ended all sight-fishing.
"Still, it was a very good day," said Grassett. "Any time you can get a red on fly around here, you've done well."
We both agreed that we would be more apt to catch a bonefish on fly in the Florida Keys than we would to nab a red locally.
"No doubt," Grassett said. "Keys bonefish are easier than our redfish when it comes to fly fishing."