With Amanda out of town for the weekend and CCA’s STAR tournament coming to a close, my goal for the weekend was to try to land a speck on the fly rod worthy enough to take the top spot. 1.62 lbs was the weight to beat and given the great weather conditions the goal seemed pretty attainable. True I had never caught a speck that size on the fly rod before but I’ve also never targeted them. The good weather gave me the confidence to explore new water that had potential for holding big specks.
It was pretty early in the morning when I hit the road on Saturday.
Somewhere along the way my odometer hit the jackpot. Could this be a sign that luck was on my side today?
After a brief sunrise paddle from the beach into the Gulf I was ready to do battle. As I said before conditions were excellent for a day in the Cuda 12 offshore. With bait skipping out of the water, it didn’t take long for my topwater to find it’s target.
Fifteen minutes of forearm pumping action later this Jack found his way into my net. Well, his head found it’s way into my net. The net was far too small to fit his body and as he wiggled and squirmed to free himself he managed to shake loose the one treble that held him, slipping out of the net with ease and leaving me with a tangled mess of net and Top Dog. Not to be deterred I paddled back to the nervous water and within a few casts was hooked up with another beast. This was a shorter fight and rather than another net attempt I just dragged him into the boat trusting the braid would hold.
The GoPro never fails to provide an interesting perspective while out on the water, I especially enjoy when it makes big fish look even bigger. The Jack Crevalle were a lot of fun, they were my first from the kayak, but they cut into prime topwater time for trout. I was throwing the Top Dog hoping to locate trout first, then once I did, I would break out the fly rod and hopefully catch what I needed. It took about thirty minutes of walking the dog, but I finally got a trout to the boat, a good one too.
At 19.75″ this fish was over 2 lbs easy and of course it came when I wasn’t throwing the fly rod. At least I knew there were big ones around, so I began throwing the fly rod. I had one of Blake’s poppers tied on hoping to replicate the previous catch. Soon enough I got a big strike from a fish, but as it leapt from the water I could tell it was a big ladyfish. It was the biggest one I’ve ever hooked, it looked like a baby tarpon as it exploded out of the water. As I got it near the boat it made one last jump and finally threw the hook. Usually when ladyfish throw the hook I’m relieved, not a big fan of the blood and slime they leave behind, but this one was so big it would have been nice just to take it’s picture. I kept at it a bit longer, keenly aware of the big thunderhead forming not too far away. Being new to the offshore game I decided to head in when I saw a waterspout form.
After eating a snack I decided to give the marsh a try. By now the tide was falling so I figured the redfish would be pretty active and despite the pop up thunderstorms in the area conditions were still pretty good to sightfish. That proved to be the case as I was able to catch four reds in the first pond I went into, all between 18-22″.
I spent the rest of the day exploring marsh I had never laid eyes, a lot of it was covered in mangroves and had a hard sand bottom, which made me feel like I was back in Chokoloskee. I only wish I could have had a Havana Cafe cuban sandwich for lunch. In one mangrove lined bayou I fooled a nice red to eat my BP crab fly only to have an oyster cut my line after the brief fight. Then I found a spot where the tide was falling out of a bayou into a canal and picked up a few small ladyfish and specks on Gulp under a cork. Sightfishing for reds picked up again at the end of the day as reds began crashing bait along the shoreline of a pond I was in. I caught a nice 28.5″ red on the fly rod and had him on the measuring board lined up for a picture only to have him jump off before I could get a shot of him. I kind of abandoned taking pictures throughout the middle part of the day so it was only fitting that the first one I wanted to take a picture of gave me the slip.
After donating the fish I had in my freezer to a buddy to cook up for United Way I decided today would be one for harvest. It’s always nice when the trout rival the redfish in size, too bad I couldn’t find any more that size and on the fly. I’d be back out Sunday to give it another shot though.