Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The wind blew, but the fly-fishing bite was stronger

The wind didn't prevent large spotted seatrout from taking a fly.
It was windy today.
Real windy.

Spotted seatrout are among salt water's prettiest fish.
So windy I was the only moron out fishing.

Most had sense enough to stay out of the wind.

To make things even worse, I was fly fishing. I took two fly rods out with me. I left the spinning gear at home.

Didn't make much sense since the wind was blowing out of the southeast at 22 miles per  hour, with gusts to 30.

But I launched my NuCanoe Pursuit and paddled almost directly into a stiff headwind. It took me a little longer than usual to reach my destination. Once there, I lowered the anchor, pulled it back to the stern and let the wind turn my kayak to the preferred direction.

First stop resulted in only one small ladyfish.

The Clouser Deep Minnow accounted for all fish.
I contemplated just calling it day, but decided to try one last spot before heading in. I paddled 100 yards south and anchored.

This time, I found spotted seatrout. I caught six in short order, and all were either in the slot (15 to 20 inches) or over. Largest trout of the outing was a plump 23-incher.

Not bad in such windy conditions.

I also added a small sugar trout before giving in to the conditions.

When it's windy, I find anchoring is the only way to go. You simply cannot present a fly and work it properly when you're on a wind-blown drift.

With my anchor trolley system, I can always face the desired direction simply by positioning my anchor properly.

It was tough working the fly even when anchored. The current was strong, and I was having to "mend" the line uptide in order to create a decent drift. That allowed me to work the fly slowly.

For this outing, I was using a 7-weight TFO TICRX fly rod with a sinktip line. Fly of choice was a chartreuse-and-white Clouser Deep Minnow, perhaps the best fly ever created for saltwater trout.

I landed six trout, but I'll bet I missed another half dozen. Plus, I had trout get off halfway back to the kayak.

Considering the conditions, I was quite pleased.

Quality ruled out over quantity on a day that simply was two windy except for mad dogs and me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fly fishing is simple and effective when you're in a kayak

Mick Coulas stands and casts from a NuCanoe Frontier.
Fly fishing from a kayak can be a frustrating and somewhat difficult endeavor. But it doesn't need to be.

In fact, once your understand the nuances, it's really quite simple.

I fish out of a NuCanoe Pursuit (, a boat that I strongly feel is the best kayak for fly fishing available. It's very stable, so standing a casting is easy. It's cockpit is spacious and uncluttered, so line management is a breeze.
Fly rod storage is simple in the Pursuit.

I feel that pedal kayaks should be left to spin fishers who are convinced they need to cover large amounts of water. They're not great for fly fishing. The pedals are not only great for propelling the kayak, but even better at grabbing fly line.

I like to keep things as simple and uncluttered as possible.

With the Pursuit, I can carry up to three extra fly rods and stow them out of the way in the internal rod tubes. These rod tubes really do the job.

When it comes to fly fishing from a kayak, casting distance is the key. The longer you can cast, the more water you can cover and the greater your chances are of hooking fish.

Realize, however, that one of the main benefits of fishing from a kayak is that you don't have to be as far away from your target as you would be in a powerboat. Rather than having to make 80-foot casts, you can more to within 40 or 50 feet of your target.

Those distances, however, can be a chore for many anglers. And it gets a tad tougher when you're sitting in a kayak.
The author gets ready to land a snook.

There are ways to increase your casting distance.

The best way is to stand up. If you're fishing from a NuCanoe Pursuit or Frontier, that's no problem. Both kayaks are perhaps the most stable fishing vessels out there. The Pursuit is 35 inches wide; the Frontier is 41. You can stand with great confidence.

If you must sit, there are ways to increase your distance. First, take only the amount of line off the reel that you need to cast. If you're going to cast 50 feet, there's not need to take 60 feet of line off the reel.

Make sure your backcast is high. You don't need your fly line hitting the water on the backcast.

To increase distance, I like to do a "water haul" on my forward cast. I allow the fly to "tick" the water, then pick it up immediately, allow the line to unroll fully on a backcast, then shoot it forward.

Fly fishing from a kayak is simple and effective.
Works like a charm.

Gaining distance will be no problem for those who can double haul, a technique that allows you to shoot line on both the forward and back casts, and increase line speed.

When fly fishing, I prefer to anchor my kayak in many situations. I have and anchor trolley on all of my kayaks, so I can allows have the wind at my back or face the direction I need.

One of the biggest mistakes many folks make is keeping the tip of their fly rod too high off the water. This puts unneeded slack into the line. If your rod tip is 18 inches off the water's surface, the fish then has to pull 18 inches before you'll even know you have a hit.

Put that rod tip IN the water or on the water's surface. The rod should also be pointed directly down the fly line.

I have watched many clients reel up slack line to "get the fish on the reel" too often. In most cases, that's not only unnecessary, but also can result in slack line and a lost fish.

Let the fish tell you whether it needs to "be on the reel." If the fish is large enough and strong enough, it will take line and you'll be on the reel.

Most fish can be "hand-stripped"  in.

For most fish, the reel 's only purpose is to hold the line at the end of the trip!

I like to carry two or three rods so that I can "work" the water column. I'll take one rod with a full floating line, one with a sinktip line and another with a sinking line. That way, I can work the water column from top to bottom.

When fly fishing, you can travel fair light. In addition to your rods, all you'll need is a fly box with all the flies you'll need,  extra leaders and tippet material. You'll also want to carry pliers, nippers and a landing tool or net.

When you're fly fishing, you can catch most any fish that swims in salt or fresh water.

And when you're in the right kayak, your odds of success simply skyrocket!

Fishing was good when we could get out in January

Everette Howell of Longboat battles one of many large spotted seatrout he caught on his outing.
If it wasn't for the dad-gummed wind, we could have fished more. Oh, well, that's January in Florida.

When we were able to get out, we did pretty good. We fished from Bradenton to Fort Myers, testing a variety of conditions with a variety of techniques.

Everette Howell shows off one of his trout.
Vinny Caruso of Bradenton joined me for a day of fly fishing on the Manatee River. We launched at Ray's Canoe Hideaway off Manatee River Road and paddled upstream to a small lagoon that usually holds fish. Action was slow on this outing, but we managed several hand-sized bluegill and three channel catfish on nymphs under strike indicators.

A few days later, we hit the Myakka River out of Snook Haven. We did fairly well. We caught and released 12 snook to 25 inches and six largemouth bass to three pounds.  We caught our fish on Clouser Deep Minnows, baitfish imitation flies and MirrOlure Lil Johns on light jigs.

Next time out on the river, action wasn't quite as good. We caught two snook, a redfish, two bass and a spotted gar on flies and MirrOlure Lil Johns. I did lose what I am fairly sure was a large snook on a Clouser.
Fly-fishing newcomer Vinny Caruso had no problem with shad.

Ken Babineau, president of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota, and Mick Coulas of Venice joined me for what turned out to be a slow day on the Myakka River. We fished hard, but caught only two small snook and a decent bass on Clouser Deep Minnows.

Vinny Caruso of Bradenton and I drove over to the Canaveral Marshes Conservation Area near Titusville to hook up with anglers from the Orlando Kayak Fishing Community. We didn't fish from kayaks, but hiked 1.7 miles to the St. Johns River to fly fish for shad.  The annual shad run takes place during January and February.

We fished hard and did fairly well. Vinny and I combined to catch 12 shad, 27 redbreast sunfish, seven  bluegill and a speckled perch.  The feisty American shad were as large as 19 inches.
We plan to drive over to the St. Johns to try our luck on shad at least once more.
Ken Babineau with a Myakka bass.

Our top flies were small baitfish imitations with bead-chain eyes and small silver spoon flies.
The best technique was to cast slightly upstream and allow the fly to swing downriver. Most hits took place as the line straightened out at about a 45-degree angle.

If you've never fished for shad, you owe it to yourself to do so at least once.

I drove down to Fort Myers to conduct a fly-fishing demonstration from a NuCanoe Frontier during the Florida Sportsman Show at the Lee County Fairgrounds. I talked with interested anglers and actuallly showed how to stand and fly cast.

During my demonstration, I caught and released six channel catfish and six large bluegill.

What a day!

Everette Howell, a retired neuro surgeon who has a home on Longboat, joined me for an instructional outing. Howell is an accomplished angler who wants to learn how to catch fish locally. We usually fish off Longboat Key, but switched it up because of the affects of red tide. There is no red tide in the area, but an outbreak last November  has slowed things way down in the Buttonwood Harbor area.
We drove to Perico Bayou in west Bradenton and launched. We fished a connector ditch between Palma Sola Bay and Perico Bayou that usually is filled with spotted seatrout this time of year.

It didn't let us down.

We conservatively caught and released 70 seatrout to 23 inches, eight flounder, eight ladyfish and a jack crevalle -- all in four hours.

"Best day of trout fishing I've ever had," Howell said.

All fish were caught on VuDu Shrimp.

FEBRUARY FORECAST:  I'm hoping the wind cooperates. I have quite a few trips booked and I'm looking forward to good fishing. Spotted seatrout should be the best bet around the deep grass areas. Pompano should show up, but that largely depends on the red tide. Redfish should be fair on the flats of Little Sarasota Bay.  I anticipate fair snook action in the Myakka River. In fresh water, bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch, bass and channel catfish are the best bets in Lake Manatee. The Manatee River should produce decent catches of bluegill and channel catfish.
If you're contemplating a kayak fishing trip, please book early. It's that time of year!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl  Kayak Fishing