First Tarpon Experience Night Fishing in Biscayne Bay

I just got back from a wedding/family reunion trip to Miami that I had hopefully tagged a fishing side trip onto. However, I was going crazy with all the family stuff and desperately wanted to get out and fish. On a whim I called Captain Dave Hunt up on Sunday afternoon and after some schedule synching he said that the fish and the tides were such that a 3:30 am outing under Miami’s skyline would definitely yield some Tarpon. 1 hookup would be a bad night. See item 2) here Captain Dave Hunt’s pageIMG_1745

It turned out better than I could have imagined. Dave is an enthusiastic fly fishing guide with great respect for the fish and the fishery. He said that we would definitely catch fish and that no one else would be out there because of the early morning timing of the tides. He was right on both counts.

He picked me up 15 minutes late due to some overnight interstate construction and was a bit panicked about losing the 15 minutes. We got the boat launched and went out to a causeway we were going to work. While this is night fishing it’s not really all that dark. Road light, harbor lights and the brightly lit skyline make the place glitter. We were planning to work a shadow line of road lights along the causeway but when we got to the first section, all the lights on our side of the road were out! We ran over to another section and found the lights on and started casting a 10 wt with a shrimp fly at the shadow line. It was kind of like river fishing where you let it swing with the current under the causeway arches and strip it back. It took a while to get a first take. Since I was really focused on not screwing up with a ‘trout set’ instead of the required ‘strip set’, I did a bit too hard and broke the fly off on the first fish. The fish felt like a ton of bricks and left a crater of a swirl under the arch. I got a few more sticks but didn’t get hooked up. I guess Dave saw I was okay with the 10 wt and the sinking tip so he set up with his 12 wt. That was a good thing since we quickly hooked up with a 150lb monster (his estimate) that immediately ran under the causeway taking us on a Biscayne Bay sleigh ride. Now Dave clearly knows his stuff and can really handle the boat, but the hookup required him to move from the trolling motor on the bow to the console while I move from the rear deck to the front. The fish took us under the arch so fast that I had to lay down on the floor and Dave had to use his hands to guide us thru the arch without scrapping off the short casting decks along with our heads.

This was my first Tarpon and my first big game fish ever. Apparently it was not just any fish. Dave said it was the biggest one he had ever had hooked up from this particular boat. I have to take him at his word.

The fish was absolutely prehistoric. The fight went on for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes, I have no idea. He jumped, rolled, sucked air and slapped gill plates.

That beast of a fish turned me into a sweat soaked wet noodle before we parted ways. Thanks to Captain Dave Hunt for putting me on the fish and summarizing the experience:

“That tarpon was a monster hands down. Think about the thousands of times sharks have tried to eat her while you and I are watching TV having a beer. Now you know what it is to have a large wild animal attached to you! Leaving the bridge for deeper water-the jumps-running under the boat-gulping air and re-entering the fight down deep-working the current close to boat where you could not pull on her is the sign of a big—-wild—–experienced animal maybe 80 years old. A fishing pioneer might have hooked her 50 years ago. I consider it a privilege on your part to have the honor to do 10 rounds with that gladiator. You were whipped-she was whipped but you BOTH kept on fighting BOTH changing the angles to beat each other in the chess game, I witnessed the event one of the highlights of my fly fishing career. I think the knot pull was a blessing, and I call it a “draw”. You might meet her again one day.”

The only thing I could say after it was over was, “can we go find some smaller fish?” (We did)

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Two Days on the South Mills River – Day 2 Tragedy

My Thomas & Thomas 4 weight was lost.  That rod has been with me for about 30 years.  It was the first fly rod I picked with a purpose; I found I like a slower action and I needed a 4 piece travel rod for Montana.

It did provide a reason to pull out the Tenkara I picked up at the last Winston Salem Fly Fishing Convention.  I had a 4 wt Sage with me but a reel with only a sinking tip line.  I also had an 8 wt which is 10X overkill for the South Mills.

It was a very pleasant afternoon.

Two Days on the South Mills River – Day 1

Several firsts took place on this trip to the North Carolina Mountains.

I drove (!!) from Durham to Brevard by way of Modern Nissan in Mooresville.  Easily my longest drive of the 21st century.

The new Rogue was muddied.

I ‘buddy fished’ with Owen.  This involves taking turns fishing ‘point’ as we moved up stream, trading off when a fish was caught.  I rigged with a dry, he with nymphs.

We set the date for this trip a month previous and Owen had said the upper South Mill River would be a good choice.  He likes to hike in and I like to be led, we suited up and hiked to the dimunitive but beautiful Big Falls.  It was an hour walk in and we intended to fish it out but we both knew that was impossible.

However, the fish were willing, mostly small with some nice 6 to 9 inchers and all stream bred gorgeous.  We grand slammed the species with hungry Rainbows, harder fighting Browns and a Brookie.  We were surprised at the Brook Trout but my sense is this stream has so many natural blockages in it that many sections of the stream may only be linked in the highest spring runoffs.  Perhaps the Brookies find enough room to grow big enough to survive Brown predation.  Who knows but all three species were there.

I realized midway through the day that I never had enough confidence in my fishing success to ‘buddy fish’ with anyone.  It was nice fishing with someone that had the necessary knowledge.