Well, I went out yesterday for the first time since April. My buddy, Apple, who'd moved north of Ft Lauderdale had talked about it but didn't call beforehand that he was coming down. Then yesterday AM called at about 8:30 saying he was three miles from my place.
So I hurriedly grabbed my gear together, an 8 and a 12 wt. , and threw it into his truck, then off we went to the state boat launch and headed out to the reef in his flats boat. We quickly located some ballyhoo and stopped to catch a dozen for teasers. Hoos were showering in the distance off the reef edge, so I began rigging my 12 wt while he started catching hoos and discovered my tip wouldn't fit into the butt section. Small wonder since it was the tip to my 9 wt – the only other 2-piece sage I own- which has identical wraps and color as the 12.
I tied an old tandem rigged sailfish fly that I’d cut the trailing hook off of, changed out the 8wt leader and discovered I could cast it OK. The 8wt. had a Ross BG 5 on it that I’d caught some pretty big dolphin on. It will put about 6 ½ lbs of drag on the line with a full spool. That’s a lot of weight for something weighing 40-65 pounds average to be hauling around. Kind of like someone weighing 150 lbs running from a relentless hatchet murderer while dragging a 20 lb weight behind him.
Within about 10 minutes of reaching our spot, he raised a sail on the teaser, played the fish masterfully, and I managed to land the fly where I wanted it - in clear view of the fish, but a behind him so he’d be taking the fly going away from the boat. The sail hit it real agressively, like my bird dog (when he was still alive) attacking the food in his bowl. He pulled up tight, my heart was thumping like crazy and after about 4 seconds he spit the hook. But it woke me right up.
5 minutes later, we raised another one that crashed the bait immediately without any advance warning from the hoo, and after a short battle with my buddy for the hoo, made off with a nice breakfast not to return for a second course. That was it for the next several hours. We hd gotten out late and the morning bite was over.
It was a beautiful day, very light breeze, sunny and warm. So we bump trolled the teaser along the dirty- water edge, and told each other fishing stories and strategized for a few hours, spotted something busting a little further out and made a pass with the teaser. We had a spunky little hoo on that exhibited olympian aerobatic prowess, sucessfully eluding a large kingfish trying to eat him on two sucessive attacks. The third attack was spectacular as the hoo suddenly did a quick fake and tailwalked about 30 feet just miliseconds before the kingfish came “skyrocketing” out of the depths, chopping only air. For his extraordinary feats, we unanimously agreed to unwire him and release him close to the reef edge to rejoin his buddies.
The state park launch locks down at sunset so we would miss the best of the evening bite, but were hoping that it would start early. We figured, to be safe, we should leave our spot by 4:15 to avoid any chance of getting locked in. At 10 minutes to 4, the edge erupted with a huge and spectacular shower of ballyhoo that stayed up for what seemed like forever. Though we didn’t see any sail tails, beaks or fins, it had to be sails under them.
So we headed over, the only boat around now. The fish were close to the reef edge and our teaser was constantly harrassed by ocean tallys and small reef fish, the most persistent of which we threw cut bait at to keep them off our hoo.
Our hoo was super nervous, and both of us , jacked on adrenaline, were even more jumpy. Suddenly, our backup teaser, calmly swimming a few feet behind the transom just out of our prop wash, tailwalked up the side of the boat and then under it as a sailfish, dorsal fin fully extended, took a slash at him about 6 feet behind the transom then disappeared into the dark water – too close to throw a fly to.
While we were intently watching the teaser tended by Apple coming up into where we had been, our backup hoo came out from under the skiff , and shortly thereafter a smaller sail also made a run at him. At that point, another huge shower of hoo’s started up 400 yds behind us.
By now, we had exceeded our 4:15 deadline by nearly 20 minutes, and the wind had picked up and shifted. So we had to beat feet into the wind (or beat “back” in my case) back to the launch through increasing chop, leaving the hoos and sailfish to themselves. So today, I am once again hobbling around with lower back pain – but not enough to prevent walking. My brain keeps telling me that it has learned its host’s limitations, but it is obviously mistaken, and once again my body is paying the price.
Many fly fishermen think going for teased sails is not fly fishing. And from some of the sport fishing boats, I agree – it’s not even possible to cast from them, half the time they are trolling the fly, the sport is all in fish fighting ability and boatmanship, and it costs a fortune besides.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and isn’t the way Apple and I do it. Everything happens super fast, and both the teaser man and the rod man have to be totally focused all the time to have a chance for success. Rarely do we burn 5 gallons of gas, unless we go offshore during the middle of the day looking for other fish, like dolphin; then we might burn 7 – 8 at the most.
So the day ended with great companionship, plans and hopes for upcoming adventures, and no shoulder pain when casting. It was a great day of fishing – despite zero catching. There is always next time for that part.
Jim, that sounds like a great day, except for the pain bit! And it's good to hear that when I pick up a 12wt for tarpon, that I can use it for other quarries as well! Keep the saltwater stories coming, I'm having to live vicariously through you until I make it back to Florida for break. Hopefully we'll get a chance to fish together some time in the future!
Great story! I used to launch from a state park in Pensacola, and they had a "Fisherman's Pass" that cost like 50 bucks a year and that included the combination to the lock, so we could come and go as we pleased. that worked out great since I was always either launching after dark, coming in after dark, or launching before daylight. Since it was 4 bucks to launch, and I probably fished 60 or 70 days a year it was a no brainer simply because of the money, not to mention the access. that's been 10 years ago though, it might not even be available any more. I'd love to get into the sails on fly. We fished for the often down your way but always with spin gear.
Jim: Great story, you had me riveted to my seat, that sure sounds like a fun fly fishing adventure, too bad you have to deal with the boat ramp closure. Sorry to hear your having back pain! That can really suck.
Jim what a great read and a great story-- and hats off to you both for showing mercy to that brave ballyhoo - very cool! It reminds me of the B17 crews in WW II that were released from flying bombing runs after 25 missions.