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."