Well, after the success of my first trip to the Everglades of 2010, I couldn’t help but have another go. It was nearing the end of summer and I knew I wasn’t going to have another chance until next year. I was limited on time on the first trip and only fly fished for cichlids for about 45 minutes. This ate away at me for weeks afterwards until finally…I couldn’t take it anymore.
I loaded up a kayak in the back of the Jeep, grabbed my gear, and drove the 3.5 hours down to Florida City early one Saturday morning. I launched the yak at 8:00 am sharp and went to town in the same canal I’d caught fish in before.
I certainly wasn’t prepared for the best day of fly fishing I’ve had to date. Over the course of the day I landed:
14 Mayan Cichlids and 1 Oscar (not shown):
1 Butterfly Peacock Bass (my 1st on the fly. Hit like a ton of bricks):
8 Fat gills:
And…*drum roll*…43 Largemouth Bass (none over 2lbs):
The overwhelming heat and sun got to me around 4:30 that afternoon. The wind had picked up at that point too making it difficult to control the yak and cast at the same time so I headed back. While I was paddling back to the Jeep, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day and I was sunburned to boot. I made it back to the hotel, dragged the yak into the room, ordered a pizza, and collapsed on the bed.
After gorging myself on super supreme stuffed crust, I was feeling quite a bit better. Some storms that had been floating around had worked their way offshore, so I decided to go make a few casts back down at the same canal before it got dark(it was only a few miles from the hotel). I stopped by a gas station to buy some aloe for my terrible sunburn, but found that they wanted 18$ for a tiny little bottle of it. I decided to just suffer.
Once down at the canal, I walked a few hundred yards from the Jeep and started casting. A dumb fly kept lighting on my face, so my casting resembled that of someone with a terrible twitch. I also noticed a few mosquitoes trying to bite my ankles. I proceeded to just brush them off and keep fishing. Soon, I started catching fish! I also realized that I had no way to keep them so I walked back to the Jeep to grab a small cooler. It was gradually getting later in the evening and I got to watch a beautiful sunset over the Everglades as I continued to walk further and further down the canal, catching fish as I did so. I started having to swat my legs and neck more and more often as I began to accumulated a few more blood sucking followers. I kept fishing and catching and didn’t really realize that I was in trouble until it was too late. With one final cast, I looked up to see that the sun had sunk far below the horizon, and that all its rays were now just a dim glow. That’s when I noticed the roar. I looked down to see my arms and legs were solid black with mosquitoes. I practically flew up the canal bank, secured my fly to the rod, and grabbed my cooler. I’ve got to get back to the Jeep before I…
My thoughts drifted off as I realized that I’d managed to walk over a mile from the Jeep. By now, the deer flies had begun swarming my face. With fly rod and cooler in had, I did the only thing I could do: Run screaming like a little girl.
With a mile time that could have qualified me for the summer Olympics, I made it back to the Jeep sweaty, bloody, and nearly crying with a mixture of pain and joy. I quickly threw my gear in the cab, hopped in, and drove off down the highway with the windows down, trying to flush the bugs out of the cab. Once back at the hotel, a combination of severe sunburn and hundreds of bug bites lead to a fever. I can safely say, however, that I haven’t slept that well in a LONG time.
I got up Sunday morning and fished the canal again, however, not with the same amount of success. I still caught 5 more Cichlids and 10 more Largemouth. I noticed that cichlid fishing is much like bluegill fishing in that the bite is on fire early morning/late evening and whenever it gets cloudy. The Mayans put up an unbelievable fight and even with the 5 wt I was having trouble keeping them out of the sunken timber and structure. Two of them managed to get onto the reel as well. The biggest ones were between 10 and 11 inches.
From what I’ve read (and seen), the cichlid fishing isn’t all that spectacular in the summer months because of higher water levels in the canals. Apparently late winter/spring is the time to go when water levels are low. One of these days I’ll have to escape from school and make another trip in the springtime.