A very good question and one that has me doubting my typical approach. 2 inches of rain in 45 minutes will cause such thinking. After driving 5 hours, you are going to fish regardless of conditions. It is slow to the point where laziness has proven to be more productive than switching flies. At least then you have an excuse for not hooking up—your weren’t really trying that hard, right? Suddenly you realize you can always manage to catch a buzz. Efficiency becomes the priority. Why waste time casting when there are only 2 beers left in the cooler? It is early bird gets the worm here and you must move quickly.
Other than one slow** trip, things have been fishing pretty well.
Some other highlights from the past month include..
-Carp and visor season has begun.
-Franchi goes fishing. Trout beware.
-Casting for Recovery is still an incredible event. Past reflections on this powerful organization can be found HERE or HERE.
**the reef is the only place where 20+ fish days can be considered slow
Caught up in my obsession for brown trout, some of the time I feel I do not give my first love, the rainbow trout, the credit it deserves. Rainbows will earn your respect through their elusiveness but capture your admiration, with their beauty. I know fishing isn’t supposed to get emotional or anything but the following is a much overdue shout out to a trout-thank you rainbows.
Words: Jack Reis
Photos: Jack Reis, Andrew Joselow, and Jake Sneeden
My eyes drooped and I let out a long yawn as my cab crossed the causeway connecting Gasparilla Island to the mainland, headed back to Ft. Meyers for my flight home. The driver gasped and scolded me for yawning. She clearly was not interested in spending the next hour and a half listening to me snore. Being a native of New England she was more than content to fill me in on the Bruins games I had missed while I was fishing, but my mind was elsewhere.
For nearly 150 years visitors have flocked to Gasparilla and the Charlotte Harbor area to experience the abundant angling opportunities it has to offer. Prior to its designation as America’s first sport fishing paradise, the native Calusa Indians had relied on the fishery for over 3000 years. Today the main thoroughfare into Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande Pass, has evolved into a case study in the importance of conserving tarpon habitats. Each spring tarpon travel more than 100 miles to congregate in the deep holes of the pass to rest, eat and prepare to spawn. However, jigging techniques used in the area and mishandling fish at the boat have jeopardized the sustainability of this habitat.
I had heard stories claiming that Boca Grande was on its way to becoming the next Port Aransas, so when I got the invite to fish the area with a group of friends who do so frequently I jumped at the opportunity to find out for myself. I knew that we would mainly be targeting snook and red drum, but I fantasized about getting to see the goliath tarpon that those waters are so famous for. Naturally my 10wt snuck its way into my bag. For the first few days of our trip, I familiarized myself with the golf cart community of Boca Grande and the mangrove alleys and open flats that lie just to the east. We had a few good shots at reds and would periodically claim to have seen a snook, but jacks and trout seemed to be the most aggressive fish around. For those first few days, the only tarpon we saw were those making the intrepid journey through the pass, navigating the gauntlet of boats, a circus we were not interested in joining. Clearly we trout bums were in over our heads.
Thankfully we were able to make arrangements to go out with Jamie Allen, a Vermont native who, like us, was curious to find out what all the fuss with salt water was about, but never caught his flight home. Twenty years went by and he still finds himself loving life in Southwest Florida. When we met Jamie at the dock, he said something I will never forget, “we are going after tarpon, I don’t care what you guys want to do.” Loose lips sink ships and probably result in a slew of other bad things, so I made a mental note to keep the fact that I had never seen one of these fish in person, to myself. I suspect Jamie was not fooled. If my inexperience wasn’t exposed by my thousand yard stare, or my uncharacteristic silence, my first shot at one of these fish told the whole story. Within five minutes of arriving at Jamie’s selected coordinates, I was up on the platform trying to cast to a 200lb tarpon that had quietly slid within 40 feet of our boat. Jamie was issuing instructions to me in the loudest whisper I had ever heard. Line was coiled in knots around my feet and my mind had become completely disconnected from my body. He had warned me about this, but I realized very quickly that nothing could have prepared me for that moment. The fish spooked out faster than it had appeared and my cohorts consoled me, explaining that “I wanted nothing to do with a fish that size.” The truth was that I did. I wanted everything to do with that fish and although I botched each one of the following shots I had over the next two days, that first sighting was burned into my mind. It is very difficult to explain the adrenaline rush you get when a fish you’ve only read about in books and watched endlessly in videos suddenly appears in front of you. If you have the presence of mind to collect your jaw from the floor you will quickly realize that the window to act is very small. So many things have to come together in such a short period of time to land one of these fish on the fly. From up on the poling platform, Jamie was probably able to see the lights were on, but no one was home. I had the fever.
In the following days we caught countless cobia, a fish that demands respect from saltwater anglers and fights like a bull. These fish are commonly mistaken by western anglers like myself for sharks because of the horizontal orientation of their pectoral fins and large size. Make no mistake, these fish are a hell of a lot of fun, particularly for someone new to the saltwater fly fishing world.
What I saw in Charlotte Harbor was a community with a deep appreciation for their incredible resources and people that had traveled from around the globe to satisfy their own fascination with that incredible species. I also saw a place with an incredible opportunity to preserve one of the world’s great fisheries. The locals and guides that I met there seem to be of the same mindset and my hopes for the area’s future are high.
The whole experience was oddly reminiscent of the first time I went fishing for trout in a western river. I was fascinated by the idea that there was something under the water that I still didn’t quite understand. All I knew was that I wanted to get a closer look and until I felt the tug on the line and saw the flash of a rainbow on the other end, I was not satisfied. My trip to Gasparilla served a number of purposes. I had the opportunity to reconnect with the best of friends, make new ones and explore an area I had never been to before-all characteristics of a successful fly fishing trip. I was also left with an intense sense of anticipation for the next time I get the opportunity to cast to a giant tarpon. For now all I know is I need a nap, and the Bruins are up over the Wings, 3-1.
Dry fly season is almost here and lucky for you, Jack Reis has put together a tying video of one of his go to summer bugs. Need a Hopper to hang in front of your dropper? A Bee to go with your bird fly? What about an indicator with a hook in it that floats like a cruise ship? Then you need to look no further than Slater's Tugboat. Appropriately named by James Tarras, this pattern needs a reserved seat in your dry fly box. To watch it in full screen, we suggest viewing on vimeo.
My antidote to 95% of the fishing videos out there. You won't have to wait 5 minutes to see a fish because the movie is only 4 minutes long! In our latest feature, we battled wild trout, numbing weather, and even a ninja in waders. For better quality watch on vimeo and in full screen HD. For more of our video shorts, check out the "flicks" page. Grab yourself a cold beverage and enjoy!
Theres only so much you can learn from a book. For most of the things that I find worth learning, you actually got to get out and do it. As fisherman we are all inherently stubborn so it can be difficult to try something new when you already know everything. Realization that an omnipotent angler does not exist can help push personal bias aside and cause you to try new things. That is something I have admittedly not been great at—trying something new, or speaking as a fisherman, messing around with different techniques. Recently, between stubborn Cheesman fish and discussions with Scott Spooner and Kevin Best, I have been almost exclusively right angle nymphing. I am usually not great at sharing any beneficial information regarding fly fishing as it is a dog eat dog world out there and some things you just have to learn through experience but for the lucky dozen or so of you that actually read this stuff, here is your reward for sticking it out. It will require you to tie more blood knots but I think its worth it. Enjoy the move from checkers to chess.
You may have been born a male, but fishing in Wyoming in February makes you a man. Have you ever needed to rely on a Toaster Oven for warmth? What about wait over 45 minutes in the morning for the “hotel’s” cleaning lady to finish up in the one communal bathroom? How about purposely try and lose a fish at the boat so that you don't have to get your hands wet? If this sounds like something you've recently experienced then I'm guessing you have traveled to Alcova Wyoming.
Jack Reis, Will Kurtz, and myself all assembled for a common goal-to take advantage of the low traffic season on the Reef while getting into some pre spawn rainbows. No weather forecaster was going to snow on our parade so Friday after work we had the boat in tow heading north. At the moment we didn't know that was going to be the last time any of us would have feeling in our fingers but even in hindsight I don't think we would have changed a thing.
To the non-angler, Wyoming might simply seem like 98,000 square miles of rolling grassland leading to a ski metropolis named after Michael Jackson’s Hole but instead it is quite the opposite. Our countries least populous state boasts river’s accessible by a boat and much to the dismay of my fellow Colorado “greenies"; the fight of Wyoming fish make Colorado fish seem like malnourished stuffed animals. I was once told to never turn down a trip to the Reef-truer words haven’t been spoken. Regardless of the season or weather forecast, if you can make the trip, do yourself a favor and go.
Naming something is hard, even overwhelming. The process can be so difficult because names stay around—from decades to life, names are permanent.
As with all things relevant, nomenclature has its place in fly fishing. It started years ago in the naming of favorite fishing holes. The infamous brown trout filled "toilet bowl" was an obvious name choice because of its notable appearance. Other near by spots did not have as distinct of features to naturally generate a name but they still needed to be called something. Creativity quickly became the driving factor and unnamed pools slowly became marks on the map. The Tom Collins Pull Off and The Morons now have an identity in my books. Whether it is simply a point of reference between friends or a highway of foot traffic like the Hog Trough on the Taylor, pools soon had labels.
Few have experience in the field of fly fishing nomenclature like the Basalt Boys of Taylor Creek. The shear number of namable features in their surrounding area has given them the practice to master this science and move from naming spots to flies. Cat Poo, Bobby Knights, Night Riders and Mello Yello are now all appetizers on a trout's menu but might not be in your Cabela's catalogue just yet.
My past weekend’s journey was no different from previous. Trips to Basalt have the required 1 hour shrimping session before the rift raft becomes exhausting and I need to move on. I was able to sight fish to one 25 incher who I managed to hook and lose before landing. It was especially nice because it seems the things that we miss out on are what we remember the most so losing this fish and then getting to see him out of the water was a fun change from the typical middle fin to disappearing act. After that the call of surrounding waters became too loud to ignore and I was soon able to enjoy the benefits the rest of the valley offers. I got to spend time picking the brain of local all stars Scott Spooner and Kirk Webb, but also learned more about the history of the area and how some names came to be.
Living truthfully with one priority in mind. 2013 Fishing license count reached 5-Wyoming, Idaho, Texas, Ohio, and of course Colorado.
I also had to include a recent Rio pic for you. 42 pounds and still growing! #thankfulshesnotaweinerdog