|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)|
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.
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.
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.