Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A new species on fly rod is always a memorable occasion

Author Steve Gibson shows off a first, a sailfin catfish from Lake Manatee. (John Weimer photo)

I'm a little different. I think.
While most people I know don't give a hoot about catching a new species, I'm all over it any time I get the chance.
I've been that way since the day I started fishing.
I remember a trip to Costa Rica in the early 1990s. My hosts wanted to pursue snook and tarpon -- species I catch all the time while angling around my home in Sarasota, Fla.
I've caught more snook and tarpon than any angler has a right to catch. With that in mind, I opted for Costa Rican native species.
During my stay, I caught guapote, roncadore and mojarra -- three species that were new to me and unavailable in my home waters. I didn't catch any snook or tarpon, but I was quite happy with the results.
Just the other day, I caught a new species near my home. I had been trying to catch a sailfin catfish around the boat launch at Lake Manatee. They are pretty easy to spot around the launch. However, I had tried a couple times without success.
After a fun day fly fishing for bluegill and other species with John Weimer of Sarasota, I decided to try my luck on these prehistoric catfish once again. Only this time, I would pursue them with a No. 12 Gibby's Snymph, a tiny nymph pattern which usually produces good numbers of fish.
I didn't expect much. Why should I? I'd never had a sailfish cat show even the slightest interest in anything I cast in front of them.
But they apparently loved the Snymph. The cats were plentiful in the shallows along the shoreline just north of the launch. I waded along slowly and look for them on the bottom. When I'd spot one, I would cast the fly in front of them and let it sink to the bottom.
I hooked and lost two fish quickly. The third fish wasn't so lucky. I was solidly connected to the 2-pound fish on my 1-weight TFO Finesse.
The fight was unremarkable. The fish was slow and sluggish, but nothing the 1-weight rod couldn't handle. After a couple of minutes, Weimer, who was wading beside me, was able to net the dark-colored catfish.
I was extremely happy. Not because of the battle. Not because they're good on the table. But because it was my first on fly!
Actually, according the Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they're pretty decent on the table. Sailfin cats are not indigenous to Florida, but have been in state waters since the 1950s. They were probably introduced by tropical-fish enthusiast who dumped the contents of his/her aquarium into a backyard canal or pond.
The rest is history.
Over the years, I 've caught a number of first-time species on fly, including oscar, peacock bass, Mayan cichlid, Midas cichlid, blue tilapia, spotted tilapia, sheepshead and others.
Every time I catch a fish on fly rod that I've never caught before is a memorable occasion!