Thursday, March 26, 2015

Trip to The Everglades is the perfect remedy after a slow day

Rob Halupka of Toronto battles an Everglades oscar on fly rod.
Rob Halupka and I experienced a very slow day in Sarasota Bay.

It was the slowest day I've encountered in my 10 years as a professional kayak fishing guide (

Things picked up considerably the next day when we drove south to The Everglades.

Oscar that fell for a Myakka Minnow Jig.
Halupka booked three days of fly fishing with me while he and his wife were visiting from Toronto and staying on Longboat Key. One of the days was in The 'Glades.

Fishing is fishing, but when you have the opportunity to catch species that you've never encountered, you need to grab it. There are no oscar, Mayan cichlid or peacock bass in Ontario.

Fishing The 'Glades is an all-day affair. We met at 4:30 a.m. for the drive south. We arrived at our destination shortly after dawn.

I have fished there many times over the years. And I've had only a few sub-par outings. This wouldn't be one of them. We found the fish early and were able to catch them throughout the day.

Halupka's first Mayan cichlid.
Key to success is figuring out a pattern.

To newcomers, everything looks the same. But to grizzled veterans, there are subtle differences. Shoreline cover along the canals consists for bulrushes, lily pads, rocks and trees. You have to figure out to what structure the fish are relating and home in on it. Once you figure it out, you can eliminate a lot of unproductive water.

On this outing, the fish were hanging out in small bays among the lily pads and around trees. So, we forgot all about the bulrushes and rocks.

Our tackle for the outing included 3- and 4-weight fly rods, floating lines, 7 1/2-foot leaders with 8-pound fluorocarbon tipper.

Fly of choice was Gibby's Myakka Minnow, one of the best panfish (and exotics) flies I've ever used. I tie the original Myakka Minnow and my new Myakka Minnow Jigs (1/124-ounce).

Conditions were simply perfect. There was little to no wind and it was overcast. When we found fish, we were able to stay on them with little trouble.

I fish out of NuCanoe Frontier 12s. They're simply the best fishing kayaks for fly anglers on the market. They're roomy, simple and unobtrusive. You can stand up and cast with ease.

Halupka ready to land an Everglades exotic.
One of the neat things about fishing from a kayak is that you don't have to make long casts. You can position your kayak within 20-25 feet of your target and simply flick your fly. Pick up the line and put it down.

No need for 50-foot or longer casts.

When fly fishing, I prefer to keep the bow of my kayak pointed in the direction of my target. In addition, I will put the tip of my fly rod in the water or near the water's surface. This eliminates slack line and you can feel all hits.

If the tip of your fly rod is a foot or more off the water's surface, there's a good chance you'll miss many hits. A fish can take the fly and spit it out without you ever knowing.

Oscar aren't large. They average maybe a pound. They grow up to about 4 pounds.

Don't let their size fool you. They're among the strongest fish in fresh water. That's why we've graduated to 8-pound fluorocarbon tippet. It's the only way we can keep from breaking off when oscar (and other fish) try to get back in the vegetation after they're hooked.

And, believe me, you'll still lose a few flies because you can't keep the fish out of the vegetation!
While fishing, I pay attention to what's going on around me. If I see a fish chasing minnows, I'll stop my retrieve, pick up my line and cast immediately. If you can get the fly to the active fish within a second or two, you have a good chance of hooking up.

On the latest trip, I saw fish making wakes heading to my flies a millisecond after it hit the water. This was my signal that something good was about to happen. On a least four occasions, I announced I was about ready to hook up -- and I did!

One time, I was watching Rob when I saw a huge wake heading toward where his fly hit the water. I told him he was about ready to hook up. He lifted the fly rod and was tight to a hefty oscar without ever feeling a hit.

"I didn't even notice the wake," he said. "I was watching my fly line."

Most of the time, all you have to do is to watch the end of your fly line. It's a built-in strike indicator. It might dart slightly to the left or right. Or might move forward. There's also the possibility that it might not move at all when you strip the line.

All mean you've probably got a fish.

On an average trip, you might catch up to 100 fish, half of which will be oscar.
These exotics can be traced back in south  Florida waters to 1954 when someone dumped the contents of their aquarium into a backyard pond or canal.

The rest is history.

While exotics might not be was fisheries biologists desire, they certainly have been a boon to those who fish those waters.

Be advised there are alligators in The Everglades.  For the most part, they will not let you get near them. They'll move off long before you're close enough to snap a decent photo.

Pythons are another concern. They're in The 'Glades, but I've never encountered one.

There are a number of recreation areas with boat ramps along Alligator Alley. You will find good fishing at every stop.

Essentials include cap or hat, sunscreen, polarized sunglasses and rain gear. If you have spent the winter up north and don't have a base tan, you might want to cover up with long-sleeved shirt and fishing pants.

Carry snacks, sandwiches and more water than you might think you'll need.

I have all-day trips to this fly-fishing paradise for $350 (one angler). The trip includes kayak, safety gear, paddle, all tackle and lunch. An extra angler is $50.

I fish The 'Glades from mid-December through May. After that the heat, rain and mosquitoes are unbearable.

If you've never caught oscar or Mayan cichlid, you should seriously consider allowing me to show you around .

Email me at or call me at 941-284-3406.

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