After our success during the kayak tournament, my dad and I decided to give it another go in the Gulf. This time, however, I decided to bring only my fly rod and a big rod for Cobia.
Once again, we arrived at the beach just before sun rise and found that it was very calm. We soon had the yaks in the water and I began looking for the schools of spanish that we had seen two days prior. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any. On Saturday, the Spanish were all over the place. It almost didn’t matter where one cast. This day, however, they were few and far between. I decided that my best bet to land a Spanish on the fly would be to troll. I cast my 5 wt out to the side of the yak, stuck the rod in the holder, and went about paddling up and down the beach. It didn’t take long before my rod was doubled over and I began fighting a fish. Almost immediately upon hook up, the fish took out drag and I learned the hard way to keep my knuckles clear of the reel handle. After a few minutes of fighting, I discovered that I didn’t have my first Spanish hooked up on the fly rod. Instead, it was a Ladyfish.
They still put up a very good fight. The fight got rather interesting when my drag decided to fail. I may have had my drag set too loose, but when the fish finished making a long run, the reel backlashed and turned into a horrible nightmare. Fly line, much like other line or rope, tends to defy all laws of physics and can wrap itself around things in the most impossible ways. This was the case with my reel as I cursed at it in an attempt to untangle the mess. Meanwhile, my Ladyfish was busy attempting to wrap the rest of the line around my rudder directly behind me. After a few minutes I was forced to pull the fish into the boat by hand, release it, disassemble my reel, untangle the mess, and reassemble it.
With my reel now fixed, I went back to trolling and soon had another Ladyfish on. I passed my dad as he trolled the opposite direction of me and he told me that he had almost been spooled a few minutes prior. He said something grabbed his fly, started peeling line, and the hook just popped out when he was through over half his backing.
It wasn’t long after this that I hooked, and finally landed, my first Spanish on the fly rod. It was satisfying to me in that I wasn’t trolling for it. I had finally found a small school of Spanish and I was able to cast into the school and give the fly a few strips before the fish took it. After snapping a quick picture I let the fish go because I didn’t really want to clean more fish.
To my dismay, I watched as the fish took a nose dive, sunk like a rock to the bottom, and flipped upside down…dead as a hammer. I have a problem with people wasting meat and this kinda upset me. I could see the fish rolling slightly in the surf about 10 ft below the yak. I grabbed my cobia rod with the big jig, and dropped it right underneath the boat. I knew it was a long shot, but I gave it a try and to my shock, I snatched the fish right off the bottom and brought it back to the boat. I could never do it again if I tried, and I’m still kicking myself for not taking a picture of -that-.
About an hour and a few fish later, I noticed what looked like a big boat wake a few hundred yards off the beach. I knew, however, that there had been no boats that morning so I started paddling towards it. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a big school of Menhaden. I started casting the Cobia jig into the school in hopes that -something- would pick it up. I was rather surprised that absolutely nothing touched it. Something had the school balled up on the surface, but they weren’t interested in a big eel jig. I was kinda tired from the paddle out, so I flipped my fly back out behind the boat and started trolling. I trolled all the way back close to shore and around for about 15 minutes without a hook up. I decided to change flies since that one was obviously not working. When I reeled the line in, I was in for a shock.
A Cigar minnow. I’d never seen a live one before since we always just buy them frozen. I knew people could catch them on Sabiki rigs, but never thought one would hit a trolling fly. I decided to take the Cobia jig off the big rod and tie on a King rig. I hooked the Cig up to the big rod, cast it out behind the boat, and set the bait runner on. I paddled around for a few minutes looking for Spanish to cast the fly at and before I knew it, I heard the bait runner start to take line. My first thought was a King. I re-engaged the drag, set the hook, and started pulling in the fish with unfortunate ease. It ended up being a relatively big Spanish, but nothing more.
I got a chance to test out my underwater camera as well. I hooked a hardtail and didn’t really care if I lost it so I stuck the camera in the water and started taking pictures. It was rather difficult, however, to snap good pictures in one hand while fighting a fish in the other.
I also took a short video that turned out pretty good aside from my finger being in the way.
And that ended the day. We kept about 7 Spanish, caught a bunch of Ladyfish, a few hardtails, and my dad discovered what we think was the near-spooling culprit. He handed a small Jack Crevalle and was nearly spooled again before we pulled the yaks out of the water. Chances are, it was big Jacks that he was hooking. The bite turned off pretty early and since the fish weren’t as thick as they were two days before, we called it. I certainly can’t wait to get back out there later in the summer. Hopefully, the Kings will be a bit thicker then.