Last week I was able to take some time off of work and focus on getting ready for X-mas, clearing my head and getting out on the water for a few days for some much needed tight line therapy.
The middle of last week warmed up just above the freezing mark and there was decent cloud cover so I took off towards the big alkaline lake.
The wind was blowing just slightly in my face and the rollers were pretty decent. It certainly felt fishy out there.
But once I was on the water the wind shut down and the bite wasn’t really there. I decided to wait it out awhile until the sun came off the water.
You always hear people say “Once the sun hits the mountain tops, they’ll push in”. And there is honestly a lot of truth to that this time of year.
So as the sun started its slow move towards the mountain tops and the winds picked up a bit I completely missed a hook set when the balanced leech I was floating below a bobber when down….
Pissed at myself for missing what could have been my only opportunity of the afternoon to land a fish I stayed focused on that bobber for about another hour with not more than a twitch.
So I switched rigs and started throwing the old trusty beetle/bugger combo and it wasn’t long before they got some interest.
I ended up landed a few fishing in that last hour of light, all came on the OG popcorn beetle from Doug O.
Man once that sun goes down it get cold quick! So I packed up the ladder chair and headed home for some family time and a warm bowl of soup.
The next morning I woke up early and met my buddy Bailie at Mountain Hardware in Truckee to pick up a few last minute essentials before we hit the river for a day of trout chasing.
Bailie has been awesome about showing me new tricks and techniques while fishing “his side” of the Big T and this trip was no exception.
Over the next few hours we hit a few different spots and each one held fish. Not all made it to the net but two stand outs did.
These 2 were beautiful wild trout, healthy and full of fight.
It was exactly the time I needed on the water to clear made head and get back into the swing of things. Big thanks to Bailie for taking me out and showing me some good winter Big T fishing! Check out Bailie’s photography page, amazing stuff!
I hope you all had a good holiday, let’s see what adventures 2017 brings! Until next time, tight lines and strong knots!
So a few weeks back I got a text from our buddy Chuck asking if I could make a last minute trip over the hill to fish for some stripers off of his boat the Ragin’ Cajun. He just recently added a jet to it and wanted a few guinea pigs to go out with him on it’s maiden voyage.
Luckily I had taken the whole week off from work to fish and get my mind right. My buddy Jordan from Basin Fly Company was also going to be able to make the trip. So we got all set to carpool down to Gold Country to meet up with Chuck and head out to the river the next morning.
The next morning I picked up Jordan and we were on the road by 9am or so and made it to Chuck’s house at 11am. We said hi to the pups and family, loaded our gear and hit the highway on our way to the river.
On the way Chuck took a call and the eavesdropping on my end made it sound like a pretty good concert was in the works…more to come on that one.
So once we hit the river we launched and were fishing within a few minutes.
This was mine and Jordan’s first time fishing for stripers on the fly and we weren’t expecting to really land anything. But man were we wrong.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon Chuck put Jordan and I on fish after fish until the sun set and we had to call it an evening.
Photo by Jordan Wilcher
I can’t tell you how addicting this trip was, ever since it’s all I’ve been thinking about and can’t wait until the next one.
But back to that concert conversation Chuck was having.
This is a concert not to be missed and here’s a little more information about the amazing the amazing non-profit Cast Hope.
“Cast Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization looking to provide kids with the gift of the outdoors. As an organization it is our desire to bring kids and mentors together outside through the sport of fly fishing. In this day and era it seems that our lives are constantly bombarded with screens, whether tvs, computers, ipads, ipods, and gaming systems. Here at Cast Hope we want to break that pattern by immersing people into the environment. Through guided fly fishing trips, fishing clinics, fly tying events, camp outs, road trips, and conservation outings we are trying to create a healthy hobby that kids and mentors can do together. We believe if you provide a positive experience for kids where they grow deeper in their relationship with the mentor, learn how to effecitvely fly fish, receive free necessary equipment, find out that the outdoors has much more to offer than their latest gadget, and learn about how to conserve and sustain our natural resources, then they will naturally want to become outdoor enthusiasts. As an organization it is important for us to provide an environment where kids can become stewards of the outdoors and fly fishing.”
Back in June the boys and I made a trip down to San Diego to do a little sharkin’. I’m not talkin’ about pleasure boatin’ or daily sailin’…
Prior to the trip we did our research about the area, the fishery and who would be the best guide to take us out. It wasn’t long before all signs were pointing towards Capt. Dave Trimble and On The Fly Charters.
So we got in the books with Dave for two full days of Mako shark fishing and got all of our travel plans squared away.
The morning of the first trip came quick and we were geared up for the day ahead of us. Everet who was our guide for the day met us at the dock.
Getting to the fishing grounds was a little more bumpy than usual from what we could tell by Everet’s apologizes, but we were pretty used to gnarly rides over to the back side of Pyramid Lake so we weren’t phased much.
Once we got out Everet started the chum slick and we waited patiently for our toothy friends to make an appearance.
It wasn’t long until we had a small 2ft baby blue shark in the slick making it’s way over to the boat. We joked about wishing we had a 3wt rod to fight him on. Out of nowhere a violent splash hit the water, the blue shark was gone and we had a really fired up Mako in the slick. I believe that blue shark lost its life in that split second. RIP little blue.
I (Dave) was up to bat first. So I got my fly in front of the sharks face and he grabbed it right away. I strip set the hell out of that fly and within seconds the hook popped out…
I was so pissed at myself thinking I blew my chance; Everet quickly calmed me down saying that the shark isn’t going anywhere. It thinks with all the blood n the water he has a big meal waiting for him, so a little poke in his mouth isn’t going to scare him away.
Everet was dead on because the shark circled back and within a minute I had him back on and secure as he at first tried biting his was out of the situation, than in the blink of an eye had peeled about 100 yds of backing off of the reel and went air-born at the end of that freight train run.
Jason also got into a nice shark himself, which also gave him one hell of a fight. After putting up that fight and getting him back to the side of the boat, Jason’s shark was still all full of piss and vinegar and get us some great photo opportunities while I was trying bite our GoPro’s.
Day 2 we were out with Capt. Dave Trimble and no different than Everet, he was a great guy to fish with.
The day started off quick with Matt hooking up to a smaller Mako, but the hook slipped and caught the little guy near his gills. We quickly put a stop to the fight and released the Mako right away to avoid any harm. As Capt . Dave says, he’s a shark hugger and we are also. So we told Matt he’d still be up to bat when the next one showed up.
Well that next up to bat was several hours down the road, but to kill the time we all talked about our fishing experiences while listening to some good old fashion hip-hop. Wu-Tang in particular.
But when Capt. Dave called out “Shark in the slick!” we were all at attention. Again Matt had his name on this one and stuck, fought and landed it like a champ, really putting that Galvan Reel to work!
We were toying with the idea of a grip and grin with Matt’s shark…seriously, it seems small enough to manage. But when Capt. Dave been over the rail to see about picking this guy up and another shark was right below it!
So we quickly released Matt’s shark and I was right there throwing a fly at the one waiting.
So again I stuck, fought and went to release my shark when ANOTHER shark was waiting in the wings.
We were already going to be late getting back to the dock and we didn’t care if we missed our flight so Jason was up next and got that line tight on our 4th Mako of the day.
After over insane hour of back to back to back Mako hookups we powered back to the dock trying to possibly still catch our flight home.
Capt. Dave even went to so far to drop us off and while the engine was still running said “Get out of here and just pay me tomorrow.” How many guides would do that for there clients to hopefully help them make their flight?!
So in the end we made our flight, hooked and landed 6 Mako sharks, captured 100’s of imagine, hours of video and made some new friends along the way.
If you even find yourself in San Diego and want to go out with a top notch guide service, look no further than Capt. Dave Trimble and On The Fly Charters. I promise you will not be disappointed.
And just an unsolicited shout out to Galvan Reels. That was my first experience personally using one, and after fighting two Mako sharks with it, a Galvan we be my next reel purchased, no questions asked.
Until next time friends.
“Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.”
WTLGT is hosting the newest movie from Hank Patterson “Mystery of the CuttyRainBrown” here in Reno on March 18th at Craft Wine and Beer!!!!
All of the proceeds will go directly to support Reel Recovery in Northern Nevada and Northern California. Below is the Reel Recovery mission statement.
” The mission of Reel Recovery is to help men in the cancer recovery process by introducing them to the healing powers of the sport of fly-fishing, while providing a safe, supportive environment to explore their personal experiences of cancer with others who share their stories.”
The doors will open at 6:00pm and the show will start at 7pm.
Craft has the best selection of craft beer and small farm wineries in town and with their newly remodeled events room this a perfect venue to host the film at.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Craft Beer and Wine or at the Reno Fly Shop by CASH ONLY.
If you choose to use PayPal you can get your tickets here by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will send you the PayPal link and I’ll mail the tickets to you or meet you if you’re in the Reno/Sparks area.
We hope to see all you all on March 18th watching a great film, drinking some great libations and supporting a great cause!
Man has it really been 2 months since I’ve written a post on this here interwebz??? Well apparently I’ve been slacking. Nothing new for this time of year really. For yours truly (Dave) the holiday season means many hours spent at work and not nearly enough hours spent fishing.
But over the last few months the crew has been on a few adventures and have been putting our hours in at Pyramid Lake.
The Pyramid Lake opener was a banger like usual. The actual day on the opener was a really wet and rainy day. There were fish to be caught but not in the numbers and sizes we’ve seen in years past. The next day though…that was a whole different story.
From the time the sun came up until it set, fishing was lights out! We caught fish on every jig and fly imaginable. The winner again this year for flies was Jan Nemec’s “Hook Up” and the newly tied “Deep Water Hook Up”.
With the Deep Water we were able to get the fly down fast and strip vertically up thorough the tui chub bait balls.
The big cutty’s couldn’t resist them and we netted several double digit fish that day. The biggest going 15 pounds.
Since then the cold weather has pushed in and shore fishing has taken its place on the top of our list. This time of year can be a grind out there, but the chance of hooking and landing a 20 cutthroat trout is always just one cast away and that is what keeps us out there grinding away in the freezing cold temps and bone chilling winds.
Dave, Jason and Kelly took a break from Pyramid to go fish across state line with our buddy Bailie a few weeks ago.
Busting out the 5wt was certainly a change of pace compared to the heavy lines and 8wt rods we have been accustomed to as of late.
There was a recent snowfall but the trails down to the river weren’t bad. And for our short hike we were rewarded with the river all to ourselves expect for one other couple and their feisty pup who kept swinging by to say hello.
We all got into some fish and for me I caught the prettiest rainbow I’ve seen in a long time. This guy was in some fairly skinny water but took down a tiny midge and gave me a good fight.
The other adventure the crew might get into is hunting. Glenn has already been hunting, some of us are interested and other aren’t quite sure just yet. But we didn’t even have an option to try it until we got our hunters safety course out of the way.
So Jason, Kelly, Matt and myself all signed up to take the class together on a weekend in November.
I won’t go into all the details, but in the 8 hours class I heard several racist remarks and undertones, learned about hunting elk in Idaho because you can buy a tag over the counter, sweet Rambo knives with flint and fishing hooks in the handle and everything that your teacher tells you about bird hunting is 99% incorrect.
Needless to say we all left that class not feeling any more confident about hunting than when we walked in. Luckily we have tons of close friends who hunt and also guide hunting trips. We are in good hands, I feel bad for the handful of 8-10 year old kids in there having to sit through that nonsense. And yes, we have reported the teachers to NDOW.
But other than that we are looking forward to 2016 and what new adventures are out there waiting for us. I know there’s a chance of another Florida Keys trip, others in the group have Alaska and the Bahamas booked. Personally I’d like to throw some flies at Mako Sharks off the coast of San Diego.
But as we check some of these off the list i’ll report back. Until then from, the WTLGT crew have a happy new year and be safe out there.
A big thanks to our buddy Bailie Thys for taking us out on his home waters and taking some awesome pics for us!
A few weeks back the whole crew plus our buddy Tom hit the road in search of some Sac River Salmon with some awesome pit stops along the way.
Tom and Glenn rode together as they left later than the rest of us. Our car consisted of Matt, Kelly, Jason and myself.
The night before we all were sending our usual organized chaos of text messages ironing out our plan of the trip ahead. We decided that the 4 of us would head up towards the North Fork of the Yuba in search of some wild rainbows and that Glenn and Tom were going to try their luck at “combat fishing” in Oroville.
As dawn broke the next morning the Yuba River crew shoved off into the mountains. None of us had fished this area before but with some guidance from Jon Baiocchi and our friends over at Streamworks we knew what spots to hit and what these spooky trout were currently biting on.
So after some twists and turns and a member of the crew getting a little car sick we were pulled off the side of the road looking for any signs of life on the river.
First and foremost this was some seriously beautiful country and the river was crystal clear. We immediately spotted a lot of rainbows in the 10′-12′ range. But with the water being so clear, they undoubtedly spotted us as well.
We spent the next few hours exploring this new to us river. We all went in different directions and at the end of the days we had several rainbows to the net and a new location to check out next time we are in the area.
We went in search of lunch and ended up in Downieville for some pizza before heading towards Oroville to see if we could meet up with Glenn and Tom and see what all the fuss was about this so called “combat fishing”.
Pulling into Oroville was an experience in itself. Right off of freeway we see a homeless looking gentleman arguing with another man about some religious points of view. With a picket sign in hand and a creeper van parked not far away this gentleman was positive we were all going to hell. Well I guess the homeless guy didn’t agree and they were in a spirited conversation regarding that topic.
As we laughed and made our right turn towards the Lake Oroville Dam we saw a billboard that made us all say “WTF?!”
“Life is better with teeth!” the sign proclaimed with the name and number of a local dentist displayed right below.
Now I mean no disrespect to anyone out there reading this that lives, lived or has friends/family who live in Oroville. But from what we’ve heard the meth problem in the area is pretty bad. But if the local dentistry industry is capitalizing on the opportunity. That some cold blooded capitalism right there.
Once we visited the Dam and was told how to find the “combat zone” we made are way back down the hill. There wasn’t much combat to speak of and Glenn and Tom somehow hitched a ride on an acquaintances boat for the day so they weren’t squaring off against anyone when we showed up…bummer.
The salmon run had been slowly building up where as the same time last year they were stacked in the river system. But there were still a good handful of folks “flossing” for them but we didn’t see any getting caught. This didn’t make us feel warm and fuzzy about our chances of getting into them the next morning. But we had in our opinion the best guide on the river to help us with that challenge.
The next morning we met our guide and friend Scott Feist of Feisty Fish Guide Service in the parking lot of a nearby McDonald’s which was only a few hundred yards from the launch ramp.
Scott has eaten a bad seafood burrito or something the night before and was feeling just a tad bit under the weather as expected after eating less than fresh ocean creatures. But like the professional he is he power through the battle raging in his belly and we shoved off just before sunrise.
It wasn’t more than a few minutes before the laughs and shit talking began. Glenn must he had a flashback to a day he went marlin fishing or something because the first nibble he felt on the end of his line sent him into a hook set that could have landed Moby Dick.
He set the hook so damn hard he rocketed backward in his chair almost going over the back of the boat ultimately landing him on his ass. Man, this made Kelly laugh for at least the next 2 hours. But I will say, he did land that 2 pound pike minnow like a champion….
Over the course of the day there were many more laughs to be had. With every hook up there were the screams of “Don’t fuck this up!” coming from every direction. Every time Scott would tell one of us to keep the “rod low” while fighting our fish the rest of would be yelling “Rob Lowe!!!”
Whenever one of us set the hook and nothing was on the other end there would be the “That’s not a fish” or “You just missed a 30 pounder!”
Basically we are a bunch of little kids that talk shit and play grab ass in every aspect of fishing, other than catching fish.
This was our 3rd trip with Scott over the past 2 seasons and he’s used to our shenanigans at this point. He even went so far as to call us the #dreamteam. That’s a little far fetched in my opinion, but we do get down and fish our asses off but make sure we have a damn good time doing it.
As the other 2 trips have proven Scott is a master of his craft. He’s the best damn guide on the river and his numbers and customer loyalty prove it. At this point you better get a trip booked now for next season because a seat on his boat is damn hard to come by.
Not only is Scott awesome to spend a day on the water with, Captain Jack makes the day even better. Such a good pup and boat dog.
At the end of the day the crew went 6 for 6. No lost fish and we all brought some quality meat home to the loved ones.
Scott and Captain Jack, you know we’ll be seeing you again next season and for any of you out there that are looking for an awesome salmon trip…look no further.
Until next time go out and explore. There are too many opportunities to see something for the first time. Don’t let those slip by.
A few weeks back the crew and I went to an event hosted by our own local shop The Reno Fly Shop. The event was called Caffeinated Casting and was held at a local coffee shop Hub Coffee Roasters.
Jim the owner of The Reno Fly Shop brought out all types of gear to demo. Rods, reels and different brands of fly lines were there to be played with if you were so inclined.
Personally I fell in love with an Echo 7wt paired with an AirFlo shooting head line. No joke, I’ve been thinking about that setup since the event. It will be mine soon enough.
So not only could you demo the gear, Jim organzied an accuracy casting competition as well as a distance competition. Prizes were given to the most accurate, longest combined 3 casts and an overall longest cast.
The WTLGT crew isn’t know for our accuracy casting as we well demonstrated on our trip to the Florida Keys earlier in the year… But we do know how to throw some bombs out at the old alkaline lake.
So we originally only signed up for the distant comp, but shortly after watching others start the accuracy casting and seeing how much fun it was, we all jumped on the list as well.
We did better than we expected. I actually tied for 3rd, which only meant I got lucky and the wind help carry the yarn on the end of my tippet to it’s home inside 1 of the 3 rings placed on the lawn.
Next up was distance and we all held our own. Even though Glenn tried to take my head off with a wild cast…but of course I was in his “casting lane”
At the end of the day there was a raffle for all who participated and I’m pretty sure everyone walked away with some pretty cool prizes.
It’s events like this that make a locally owned fly shop stand apart from the big box stores.
I was able to watch an awesome casting clinic, demo new to me rods, participate in a fun competition, see products from Streamworks and Adams Built and enjoy a morning with friends and like minded people all willing to learn a few new tricks about fly fishing…all for the insanely low price of…FREE.
Now I’m just as guilty as the next guy for shopping at some of the big box stores around town.
Hell, a couple of weeks ago it was 7:30pm on a Saturday night. We were off to fish the Yuba and Sac River and I didn’t have my California License purchased. So I ran into the big box, grabbed my license, some floatant and a few ant patterns and was on my way.
But if I would have planned out my day better I could have got all of these things locally and kept my money helping shops that actually care about it’s local angler and not just the gross profit margin on Q2 sales.
So I’m going to try and support local whenever I can, I know it’s not always realistic and the other places have their place in the fishing world. But if I can, I’ll be seeing Jim and the dudes at the Reno Fly Shop more often and I hope you all try and do the same.
Until next time tie some flies and support your local bug dealer.
This has been a summer of exploration for theWTLGT crew. With Pyramid closing for trout fishing at the end on June and our beloved Truckee River in desperate need of water, our normal “go to” spots are no longer an option.
Over the last month or so we have put away the 5wt and 8wt rods and have busted out the 3wt’s and headed towards the mountains looking for small stream and still water that haven’t been as beaten up from the drought and/or over fishing.
I few weeks back Glenn took Matt and I up to a creek he used to fish about 15 years ago. As you can imagine, fishing a place 15 years prior might take some time finding again. So after several u turns and a few WTF moments we found the creek Glenn has been looking for.
I can say, this place hadn’t looked like it had been fished since Glenn was last up there. No usual signs of humanity, which sadly equates to the empty beer bottles, red bull cans and cigarette butts we have all been so accustom to seeing.
The creek bank was very overgrown with trees and brush, so finding a spot to access proved to be a little bit of a challenge. But once I did I waded into the middle of the small creek with the cold mountain water filling my old pair of Vans I found myself a nice rock to sit on and take in the beauty of this untouched little creek.
That day consisted of all 3 of us catching between 6 and a dozen feisty brook trout each. These fish were healthy and living the dream in this fresh, cool water. Our finned friends on the Truckee would be envious to say the least.
After getting our fill of brook trout and mosquito bites we took a detour and checked out a few of the lakes in the area. No fishing was done, but a few of these spots would be great camping and float tubing destinations. Maybe next summer.
The next adventure sent Kelly, Jason, Matt and Glenn to Desert Creek. This trek was about 2 hours from Reno and turned out to be well worth the trip.
I didn’t get to go on this adventure but from the sounds of it, it was similar to the other creek due to it being overgrown and whatnot, but instead of brook trout, the crew was rewarded with rainbows, browns and even tiger trout.
Last to report is the trip that Glenn and Jason took with their families out East of Reno to the Ruby Marshes.
The Rubies are known for beautiful scenery and monster trout. On this trip the scenery stayed true but the trout weren’t having it. This was somewhat expected from reports we got from friends that live in the area.
But even though the trout were tight lipped, the bass bite didn’t disappoint. Glenn got into a good handful of bass spin fishing from his canoe.
After the day of exploring and fishing they had dinner at the Star…Which I’ve never been to and is now on my lists of places I need to eat at real soon.
We are all planning a trip back to the marshes this Fall once the weather cools off a bit and the trout bite is back on. But until then we are looking forward to our trip next week with Scott from Feisty Fish Guide Service for our annual Sac River King Salmon trip.
So once we are back and hopefully our freezers are stocked I’ll give a report on how that trip went.
Until then keep those lines tight and support your local fly shop!
A couple of highlight fishing adventures to cover in this blog. The last few weeks have entailed some camping, hiking, and fishing adventures that the crew won’t soon forget, including some “bucket list” catches for some of the boys.
We’ll start with the Knott Creek camping/fishing adventure. Knott Creek Reservoir has been a staple for some of the WtLGT crew over many many years. It is undoubtedly one of our favorite fishing spots. It’s remote, beautiful, and loaded with monster fish.
It is a lengthy drive from Reno, about 5hrs total including some fairly rough terrain towards the end…but it is more than worth it. Almost every year at least a couple of the guys get out there on the opener or at some point during the season. It’s loaded with large Rainbows, Cuttbows, and unfortunately dwindling Tiger trout. In the past, this reservoir held some of the largest Tiger trout you could find, unfortunately drought put a strangle hold on them. About 1 1/2 years ago, there was a mass die off caused by an algae bloom. The bloom depleted the oxygen and early heat was the culprit. Sad, but it appears after this latest outing that they are coming back strong as indicated below by some nice sized catches from Kelly and Glenn!
In addition to the elusive Tiger’s, you can land some monster rainbows of up to 30″ in some instances. We had several well over 20″ and all looked healthy.
As you can see in the pics, this is primarily a float tube lake, shore fishing can be had, but the float tube gives you the best access and best fish numbers. All-in-all, we spent 2 days camping/fishing at Knott and everyone had 20+ fish easily over that span. We were also lucky enough to bump into our longtime friend and fellow angler, Jesse Bond. Jesse is an accomplished musician and currently plays in the PJ MORTON band with Maroon 5 keyboard player PJ Morton. Check them out if you have a chance. It was a great 2 day trip that we hope to do over and over again, assuming we actually get water on the West Coast…
Knott Creek was just the first stop on this fish tour. Next, we revisited an old thorn in our side…a little high mountain lake. In a previous blog post, we tried throwing some bugs at a few golden trout here…to no avail. Glenn had great success luring a few goldens on a spinning setup, but Jason and Kelly had no luck getting them to bite a fly. This trip, however, went MUCH differently. Dave, Glenn, Kelly, and Jason all made trips up to this hidden gem and all had success using dry flies. It was the first golden trout on the fly for Jason, Kelly, and Dave and will not soon be forgotten. For most of the WtLGT crew, we are now only a Bull trout and/or a Lake trout short of the IGFA Trout Grand Slam. Some of us do not care much about this, but others consider it a great feat. Here are some pics from the Golden trip, including Jason preparing his son Gage to be able to slay it when he can actually hold the rod…
With the Truckee River off-limits due to the drought, we keep trying to find new spots to get our fishing fix. Wherever there is water, we want to be there tossing lines. We have some more Salmon excursions upcoming, and we are planning on a stop on the American River for some fly time along the way. We will document that of course and you should see it up here in the Aug/Sept. time frame. We’ll also be posting up some photos and stories from Jason’s recent Alaska trip, as well as some small stream brookie fishing some of the boys partook in recently too. With Pyramid Lake on hiatus until October, we keep searching for new waters to tell you about. Feel free to tell us about some of your faves! Until next time, TIGHT LINES!
Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I have no excuses other than flat out slacking. But we do have a bunch to write about at least!
A month ago the crew and family went on a journey across the country to the Florida Keys to relax, reflect and fish after some trying times with a death in the family.
Between the WTLGT Crew and our families we had 15 of us on this adventure and for my daughter and Jason’s son it was their first time flying on a plane.
Traveling with that many people, babies and a ton of fishing gear we made it from Reno to Fort Lauderdale with very minimal issues. Which was a nice surprise as we were all on edge that our children would be unruly and we would be shunned and considered the asshole parents on our flights.
Once we landed around 11pm in Fort Lauderdale we got our rental cars and headed for the hotel which was close to get some rest for the adventure that was to follow.
The next morning we headed out on our 2 1/2 hour drive down to Duck Key and the Hawks Cay Resort. We took our time heading down stopping for lunch at Tower of Pizza in Key Largo which has been a family tradition over the last 20 years. I’m pretty sure nothing has changed over those 20 years including the prices!
After lunch we checked out World Wide Sportsman and watched the tarpon, string rays and nurse sharks snack away on the leftovers from the charter boats that were cleaning their daily catch of Mahi and Black Fin Tuna at the boat dock.
Then we headed to Robbie’s.
Robbie’s is famous for allowing you to buy a bucket of bait to try and hand feed the hungry tarpon that reside there though out the year. This sounds fun in theory but once you have the bait in hand and a 120 pound tarpon starts looking like he’s interested in what you have, your instincts kick in and you drop the bait and get the hell out of the way as quick as possible.
After several tries I (Dave) finally got my nerves in check and kept my arm in place while a big tarpon came up and took the baitfish right out of my hand. Kelly got the perfect angle and below is the slow motion video of the take. Pretty awesome to see such a big fish so close.
We hung out at Robbie’s for a bit because there was a big accident up near our hotel and since it’s only a two lane highway, traffic was backed up for miles. My parents had left prior to us and after a while gave us the green light to head to the resort.
When we were about 2 miles from the resort traffic came to a standstill on the bridge we were crossing. Apparently there was another accident and we heard rumors there was a fatality. So most people got out of their cars and enjoyed the scenery as the sun started heading down for the day.
For most of us this wasn’t a big deal. We were in paradise and the view was pretty amazing. But for one of the crew, this was a nightmare. We aren’t sure if it was the heavy lunch of pizza and garlic bread or the nerves of fly fishing for tarpon the size of the ones we just fed…but nature was calling. And not the easily disposed of number #1.
So if you are ever find yourself stuck on a bridge over shark infested waters in bumper to bumper traffic please note that a plastic grocery bag, a space between your dashboard and passage seat and a pack of baby wipes will get you out of that situation feeling like a million bucks.
Once that “shitty” situation was behind us the traffic started moving and we were checking into our villa that we’d call home for the rest of the week.
5am came calling and Jason and I set off to the Marina at Hawk’s Cay Resort to meet up with Capt. Derek Rust of Rusty Fly Charters. Kelly and Matt also had their charter set up with Capt. Jeff Malone of Tarpon Time, but they had a little later departure time than Jason and I did.
I had talked with Derek the night before and we both agreed that since neither of us had any salt water fly fishing experience that going after juvenile tarpon would be a good game plan before trying to tackle the monsters that are migrating through the Keys right now.
So after a quick introduction and realizing he was from Tahoe and we had several mutual friends in the Reno/Truckee area went shoved off to try our luck in the mangroves.
I was first up on deck as we slowly polled our way into the shallows looking for rolling tarpon. Derek had got us familiar with the clock system when we first got on board, so when he says “Tarpon, 11 o’ clock at 50 feet” I start getting ready. When he says “go now!” I start my cast, 2, 3, 4, 5…false casts later I lay down a cast into a pile of fly line that resembled my father’s spaghetti dinner at Tower of Pizza the day before than it did any self-respecting fly anglers cast.
“What the hell am I doing?!?” I thought to myself. I am by no means a great fly caster, but I can normally hold my own among my friends at Pyramid. But this was a different game. No shooting head, no big wooly bugger/beetle combo, and accuracy was needed more than anything. Bombing a 100 foot blind cast at Pyramid is one thing. Accurately landing a 50 foot shot at a moving target in an area the smaller than the size of a trash can lid with a minimal amount of false casts is a whole new world for me.
So needless to say the next hour on deck was a big learning experience, I got my ass handed to me and gave Jason a shot on bow.
Jason had a different issue than me. He could cast a mile; distance wasn’t an issue for him. But since Tarpon have very good eye sight if you over shoot your cast even without hitting the water they’ll spook so quick you’ll never even have a shot at them.
So I think I can speak for Jason and say his first hour on the bow was an ass kicker as well. But man, we were in paradise, sight fishing for Tarpon, seeing other cool species like sting rays, red fish and nurse sharks, there wasn’t a place I’d rather be to get my ass kicked and eat a little humble pie.
After some coaching and a pep talk from Capt. Derek I was back up to bat. This time my nerves were a little calmer and I was ready to take in as much as I could learn.
The now familiar “Tarpon, 10 o’ clock, go now!” was whispered from behind me. I saw the tarpon slowly working its way down the edge of the mangroves. I took 2 maybe 3 false casts and laid the fly about 5 feet in front of him.
“Strip, strip, bump, bump, bump, stop…bump, bump, SET!” I had successfully gotten a Tarpon to notice, chase and eat my half ass presented fly. Now I won’t go into detail regarding strip set vs. trout set. Let’s just say I had to fight back ever thing I know of fly fishing and stuck the tarpon with a strip set with a little trout set thrown in as well.
I had the fish on for only a few seconds before he spit the hook and vanished into the mangroves.
Now losing a big trout on the Truckee is a heart breaker. But to actually get a Tarpon to eat my fly regardless of landing it or not? I was on cloud nine! My adrenaline was pumping and high fives were given. At that second I was fully addicted to this new world of sight fishing.
After that I was buzzing with excitement and we spent the rest of the day polling through different spots of Capt. Derek’s choosing and making shots at tarpon and even a 10# red fish until our day of guiding had come to a close.
On the Tarpon Time, Matt and Kelly were having a good day as well. Matt got hooked into a little barracuda that played nice until he was about to get his picture taken and decided to bite through the leader taking the fly with him.
Kelly had a few takes and actually landed a baby tarpon! Below is the view from the GoPro that he had mounted on his chest.
Day two started off very similar to day one. Glass calm seas, lots of game fish in the shallows and several shots at some nice tarpon for both boats. Then both boats turned things up a bit.
The guys on the Tarpon Time got into a for nice Jacks near the 7 Mile Bridge and decided to use one to try and get some black tip sharks near the boat for a shot at one on the fly.
That game of cat and mouse lasted a while then a few good sized bull sharks showed up to the party. The excitement of hooking up on the fly was there, but also the knowledge that if hooked that would most likely be a 2 hour fight.
In the end the sharks bumped the flies but never committed to the take. Which was probably just as well, but it was cool seeing such a big predator in the wild.
On the Rusty Fly, Capt. Derek took us two a few new spots. One of the coolest was deep into the mangroves where there were old rusted out boats and other random stuff that probably shouldn’t be sitting in the ocean. But it reminded me of being way back into the Amazon somewhere. We saw huge iguanas and a matinee that swam right under our boat.
We were polling towards a good size tarpon that was rolling in the back of this lane. But we never got a good shot at it. But I did get a shot at a monster snook that took interest but wouldn’t commit and then had another tarpon eat but I was slow on the strip set. I tried to fire the fly back at the hungry fella but ended up firing the fly right into a tree instead…
So after freeing the fly and scaring anything I could have possibly had a chance on catching Capt. Derek shoved off and gave us an awesome opportunity.
Derek took us out to the ocean side to try and find some of the big boys we’ve seen in photos and videos leading up to this adventure and it wasn’t more than a few minutes that we had cruising tarpon heading our way.
What at first looks like a patch of dark sea grass or a friggin’ log floating in open water were actually schools of migrating tarpon. So again we were standing on the bow of the boat timing casts and sending flies in the path of sometimes up to 30 migrating tarpon.
Jason and I spent the next 2 hours watching countless 100+ pound fish cruise by without a care in the world. Once in a while one would turn and play with of emotions (and heart rates) and pretend he liked what we were serving, only to turn back to his school and keep on keeping on.
I need to mention that this big league tarpon experience was “off the clock” so to speak. Our guide trip time had come and gone. Capt. Derek did us a favor by giving us the chance at these fish while he could have been off the water enjoying a few cocktails.
As he put it, it was “job security” and he couldn’t be more right.
I’m telling you, if you’re a trout angler that hasn’t fished saltwater before here are a few tips of advice from myself and the crew.
1) If you think you’re a good fly caster…you aren’t.
2) If you think you are a great fly caster, you might be ok. Maybe.
3) Regardless how good you think you are, practice…practice…practice before you think about even booking your trip.
4) Practice strip setting.
5) After your adventure plan on consuming your days thinking about the trip, the missed opportunities, the blown shots, the beautiful scenery and the knowledge you gained and how bad you want to go back ASAP and try again and again at fooling one of those big fish with a little fur and a few feathers.
I have to give a huge thank you to Capt. Derek and Capt. Jeff. They put us on fish all day long and taught us a tremendous amount about a world of fly fishing we’ve only read about in books and seen in videos.
Job Security is a huge understatement, you both have made clients for life and if any of you out there are looking for a few kick ass guides when you visit the Keys, there’s no need to look any further.
Also a big shout out to the guys at Streamworks with the proper tools so we didn’t lose any fingers to hungry fish on this trip and the Jan Nemec of Mimic Fly for giving us more flies than we knew what to do with!
We have a few more posts coming soon with recent trips to middle of nowhere Nevada and some high mountain Golden Trout adventures.
Until next time keep those lines tights and don’t trout set a tarpon…