The days approaching my 2012 Everglades trip seemed to crawl by. It was relatively difficult to actually focus on anything but the upcoming trip. I had plans to land my first Snook and my first Tarpon on the fly rod. But this year was going to be a lot different than previous years. It would actually be my first trip without kayaking.
That’s right…The Flying Kayak would be…well…fishing from a boat. A brand spankin’ new Gheenoe to be precise. My dad recently purchased one and we would be putting it to the test in Hell’s Bay.
The night prior to our first backcountry trip was practically sleepless. I’d roll over and check the clock appoximately every 12 seconds. Five O’clock finally rolled around and since I couldn’t stand it any longer, I got out of bed and started getting ready. Almost simultaneously, my dad walked out of his room, ready to start the day as well.
Even after waking up earlier than need be, we got off to a purposeful late start. Since neither of us had ventured into the backcountry from Flamingo before, we opted to wait until it got at least light enough to see. Our objective for the day was to make it into Hell’s Bay and the surrounding area. Well, that, and to lay into the Snook and Tarpon.
I honestly don’t know much about Snook fishing. Since we don’t have them where I’m from, my limited experience has been just flipping jerk shad underneath mangroves and hoping for the best. If I intended to actually land one on the fly, I’d have to come up with something a bit more productive than just “hoping for the best”.
Using the GPS and my vague memory of google-earth satellite pictures, we wandered our way into Hell’s Bay. I found the layout of the creek bottoms to be pretty interesting. The bottom wasn’t a uniform depth, but rather there’d be channels that butted right up against the edge of the mangroves. These deep sides held the current from incoming and outgoing tides. The opposite side of the creek would be much shallower, around 1 ft deep. We fished these deeper sides in hopes of finding the Snook, but it wasn’t working. I did have a small Black Snapper come up and strike my lure, but he failed to get hooked.
After wandering around for a few hours, we began to stumble into small bays that were choked up with thick aquatic vegetation. We fished these bays with no luck as well. And as if we needed any more difficulty catching fish, Mother Nature decided to send her sure-fired method of preventing anglers of success. Dolphin
|Time to leave|
The question then came up: “Now what?”
The Everglades Backcountry is enormous. It’d take a lifetime to even get to know half of it. We opted to work our way back out into Whitewater Bay and try to fish an area out of the wind. I should note that there wasn’t a breath of wind on the water until I picked up my fly rod. The resulting gale forced us to find places to fish that were out of the wind.
Once back in Whitewater Bay, we started working along the edge of a shoreline. I had switched from a jerk shad to a DOA shrimp. My confidence in the DOA’s had risen slightly after my most recent trip to Port St. Joe, so I decided to give it another try. It didn’t take long before I had my first hook-up of the day.
Just a few casts later and I started catching Black Snapper in the 10-12 inch range. A little further down the shoreline and I had another strike. This one practically underneath the boat.
Another few casts and I landed a pretty little Speckled Trout.
Apparently these fish were enjoying the DOA’s. Since we only had a few in the tacklebox, I made sure to maneuver the boat into the mangroves to retrieve the lure after every bad cast (which happens on a near constant occassion).
It was getting long past mid-day now and the bite seemed to be slowing down. My dad and I decided it was getting to be time to head back, just after we fished one last little stretch of shoreline. I cast my DOA shrimp right up along the edge of an old dead tree and let it sink. After a few twitches, I felt a strike, set the hook, and began reeling in about a 10 inch Black Snapper. What happened next, I could have never been ready for. The fish fought his way to the surface and in an instant, disappeared in an explosion of water and foam. I saw a giant tan Snook tail disappearing back into the tannin stained water, and my drag began to sing.
But only for a second. I was broken off almost immediately by a Snook big enough to swallow a Snapper…whole.
Part II soon to come. Stay tuned!