Friday, March 27, 2015

There are tricks to success when fishing The 'Glades and the Myakka Minnow

Rob Halupka battles an Everglades oscar from a canal along Alligator Alley. Notice that the spot features lily pads in front of trees. On this particular day, the fish were congregating in holes behind the front edge of the pads.
I received an email from fly angler Howard Beamer about catching fish in The Everglades and, in particular, on my Myakka Minnow.

Beamer had fished a canal along the Tamiami Trail a day prior to a trip I made. He found conditions pretty tough.
A school of Myakka Minnows ready to catch fish.

"I talked to Joe Mahler yesteday and he said you got 75 oscar the day after we fished the same area," Beamer wrote. "OK, so what's your secret?

"I used your Myakka Minnow and only landed three. What a blast!

"I had never caught an oscar before."

His appetite for the diminutive panfish has been whetted.

He will satisfy that hunger once he understands how to fish The 'Glades and how to fish the Myakka Minnow.

To newcomers, the shorelines of every canal down there look the same.

But they're not.

They're are subtle differences that can make the difference between catching a lot of fish and catch just a few.

For the most part, the shoreline consists of lily pads, bulrushes, rocks and trees. The key to success is to determine what structure the fish are hanging around. Once you figure that out, you can pinpoint them and eliminate those areas not holding fish.

On my trip, the fish were around pockets in the lily pads, and, in particular, pockets in the pads in front of trees. We caught very few fish casting to the front edge of the pads.

Once my client, Rob Halupka of Toronto and I figured that out, we caught fish consistently.

Over the course of the day, we caught 75 oscar, 30 bluegill, 15 stumpknocker, 12 Mayan cichlid and maybe six largemouth bass.

Not a bad day.

Once I located the fish, it still took my client a while before he figured things out.

Accurate casts are a must. If you miss your target, how can you expect to catch a fish?

When fishing from a kayak, you don't need to be any more than 20-25 feet from your target. That's the beauty of paddle craft.

Only take out the amount of fly line you need to cast. If you're trying to make a 25-foot cast, there's  no reason to have more line than that off your reel.

Be alert at all times.

On many occasions, I would see a tell-tale wake heading toward the fly when it hit the water. That was my signal that a fish was about ready to inhale it. Most of the time, they did.

Watching the end of your fly line is very important. After casting the Myakka Minnow to a likely looking spot, I let it sink. I would strip it in slowly in one-inch increments.

Most of the time, I didn't feel a hit. I saw the line dart to the left, dart to the right or dart straight ahead. That was the signal that a fish had taken the fly and to set the hook.

On some occasions, the line simply wouldn't move when I stripped it. That also was a signal.

"Those fish sure hit lightly," said Halupka, an experience fly fisher. "I'm  sure there were plenty of times that a fish took the fly and I didn't know it."

Another important technique is to keep the tip of your fly rod at the water's surface or even in the water. That eliminates slack line and helps you detect hits a little better.

As with any fly, the Myakka Minnow isn't magic. If the fish are hitting small minnows, it will work -- provided it's fished correctly. Most of the time, correctly means slowly.

When fish are visibly aggressive, you can speed things up a bit.

Let the fish tell you what they want. They will -- if you let them.

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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Here's hoping the weather has settled and the wind is manageable

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton, Fla., battles a feisty Everglades oscar on fly rod out of his NuCanoe Frontier.
February wasn't the best of months for Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing for a number of reasons.

Chief culprit was wind and cold weather. We often can prepare for cold weather by dressing warmly. 

Vinny Caruso's first peacock bass.
There's little we can do about wind.

For much of the month, we targeted spotted seatrout, perhaps the most plentiful species in Sarasota Bay and surrounding waters. We averaged more than 30 trout per trip, catching a high of 50 on one outing. Most of the fish were below slot (minimum 15 inches), but we did catch a few larger trout to 20 inches.

One highlight took place when we caught five pompano from one of our favorite spots in Buttonwood Harbor. That spot yielded strong pompano action the year prior. However, similar action hasn't materialized this time around. We caught the pompano on Vudu Shrimp (

We visited The Everglades on a couple of occasions and did well. On the first trip, we caught 50 oscar, 15 largemouth bass to 4 pounds, 20 bluegill and a pair of Mayan cichlid. All of the fish were caught on fly rod and Myakka Minnows.

If you fly fish and have never tried the Myakka Minnow, you should do so. I created this fly for panfish and other species about 10 years ago after a frustrating day on the Myakka River . You can read about it at:

If you like to fly fish in fresh water, you should give the Myakka Minnow a try. You can order then from me. I am the sole source of Myakka Minnows in the country. Minimum order is a dozen. Cost is $60 (plus shipping and handling). I offer them in black, gold, copper and silver. To order, call me at (941) 284-3406 or email me (

The second trip to The 'Glades was interesting. Vinny Caruso of Bradenton, Fla., and I visited a spot along U.S. 41. The morning was chilly and the fish were hunkered down. We fished an hour without a hit. So, we loaded the kayaks on the trailer and headed for Alligator Alley.

We caught a number of fish early (Vinny caught his first peacock bass), including bass and bluegill. But the action didn't get going until it warmed up. That's when the action  exploded. We caught oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, bluegill and shellcracker. I caught the largest bluegill I've ever caught in Florida. Vinny caught his largest shellcracker.

All fish were caught on Myakka Minnows.

A cold front moved through the following week, keeping us off the water for nine days. I used the time to tie flies, an activity I had been unable to do prior to my eye surgeries. With great vision, tying flies is now fun and easy!

I tied plenty of Myakka Minnows, plus Clouser Deep Minnows, Gibby's Trout Dusters, Gibby's Snook Flies and Gibby's Big Eye Baitfish.

I visited Tampa Bay on the Fly (www., a fine fly shop located in Tampa and owner by Enver Hysni. The shop is a great source for materials and equipment. I also visited Bill Jackson's ( in Pinellas Park, to pick up tying supplies.

When the weather settled, I returned to Sarasota Bay. Fishing off Stephens Point, I caught 32 spotted seatrout, two impressive Spanish mackerel and several ladyfish on MirrOlure MirrOdines ( I prefer the Mini MirrOdine (14MR) in most any color. This is my "go-to" lure in most saltwater situations.

Dave Robinson of Sarasota joined me for a day on Sarasota Bay. We launched at Buttonwood Harbor and did pretty well. We combined to catch 30 spotted seatrout to 20 inches, ladyfish and a pompano. A majority of the fish were caught on the 14MR MirrOdine.  A majority of the trout were slot fish (15 to 20 inches).

Richard Ives of Detroit and a buddy fished Buttonwood Harbor with me the next day. We caught plenty of trout, but most were under slot.

We're hoping the weather this month is better than February. We're looking for improved fishing.

MARCH FORECAST: We look for improved action on all fronts. Spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jack crevalle and ladyfish should be plentiful over the deep grass on the east and west sides of Sarasota Bay. Redfish action should improve on the flats, particular early in the day on topwater plugs and spoons. Night snook action is expected to heat up  around lighted docks. In fresh water, we anticipate strong action on fly rod in The Everglades for oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass and bluegill. Locally, bluegill, speckled perch, largemouth bass and channel catfish will cooperate on fly in Lake Manatee and the Manatee River.

March is a busy month and we're booking daily. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule a trip.

Also, you can keep up with my activities by viewing my blog ( I also report daily on Twitter (@gibby3474) and on Facebook.

We've added a GoPro camera to our arsenal and will begin adding video for you view pleasure.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl  Kayak Fishing

(941) 284-3406