year, new opportunities
Still recovering from the holidays but I
finally got back to the keyboard to get an article out. Speaking of
the holidays I hope all of you got exactly what you wanted or at the
least have been able to use or exchange what you did get. I did not
snag any new equipment but I did get a couple of trips in before returning
to the real world of work. I hope to catch up with the photo archives
for the past few months and share those trips.
Of my wanderings around the internet I read about others accounts
and I know that there are many who are not fortunate to have year
round fishing weather. Some places where the winter weather does not
deter the fish it sure makes it uncomfortable for the angler (I have
seen the articles about chasing striper up the east coast). I am in
the middle so I can only complain half as much.
Still there is great fishing to be had in most of the flats even far
north of the still comfortable Florida Keys. Even though the weather
seems mild to those above the surface the slight dip still forces
some of the regular flats inhabitants to look for warmer climates
for a short while anyway. The fish that do hang around may behave
differently than in warmer weather and sometimes it is actually a
benefit to the flats angler.
Redfish have made a good comeback over the past decade thanks to some
good conservation rules and it is rare to find a flat that does not
hold some reds whether hogs or slot size. Of course there is no predicting
how they will feed or how jumpy they will be. On my recent trip to
Tampa Bay my good friend Dave Latimer shuttled me out to one of his
favorite flats where we abandon the Polar skiff and wade the long
The weather was chilly and waders were a welcome piece of equipment.
I can not stress how great the breathable waders are. I guess I did
get some equipment as I purchased a pair of waders after omitting
those from my packing. So now I have a pair I leave back 'home' in
Florida so I am prepared next time. The great thing is that you can
pick up a decent pair of breathable waders for about $100 or less.
These are not Gore-Tex™ but they work very well at half the
price. I use my breathable waders when it is to cool to wade wet on
the trout stream and by adding layers underneath they are warm enough
even when the weather does get cold enough for snow in north Georgia.
Back to the reds we found, and there were plenty. In the colder water
you can expect these fish to be moving less and looking for warmer
or warming water. They are likely to be in larger schools. In many
areas the winter water conditions provide more visibility and little
or no floating grass. The visibility can be good and bad for the angler.
You see the fish, the fish see you. On my outing we could easily see
the fish and even though many times pods of nice fish came as close
as rod length, they did not spook as much as you would expect. Fish
can be unpredictable. No matter how an angler prepares there is always
the possibility that the fish will be elusive. The wind was up early
so I have no plans of testing my challenged fly casting skills so
we were using artificials. As always silver spoon (or 'wobble' lure
as I was trying) is a good bet. It should be fished slower in cool
weather. It caught a few fish. Also a standard is a jerk bait such
as the Mr. Twister Exude. The color of choice is something else as
several different colors seemed to work (white as well as a root beer,
or baby bream color).
Along with the reds that are usually available, trout, speckled trout
are a species available in winter. I had a second trip on the way
back to Georgia as I stopped through Jacksonville. Jack Walker and
I fished the Guana River reservoir on a blustery day. We put the Hobie
kayak pedal system to good use as the open body of water funneled
a 10 - 20 mph headwind at us. I used the same outfits I had while
wading down in Tampa but we were trolling on the way to what was reported
to be a hot spot about two miles up from the dam. Jack was first to
score with a nice little trout. He had several others trolling to
the hole and also had a couple of slot sized reds. He was using a
diving plug that ran about three feet as I recall. With the open water
is is hard to say what those fish may have been holding on.
When we got to the hot spot we found a couple of anglers already there
tied off to the bank soaking baits. We chatted a bit and decided to
head back to the launch. I had fished the little cove on the way over
the other boat with no result. This was probably the only protected
place on the reservoir and it was great to be out of the wind. The
area looked like it should hold fish and I was working the banks thoroughly
with an exude, a white exude. There was no action and I wrote it off
to my typical luck in Jacksonville. Before heading back I changed
to a 'baby bream' colored exude and worked the exact same area not
30 yards from the back of the cove where we pulled over to the bank.
That made all the difference as I caught a nice little slot red on
my second cast. I had another bump that I missed but it was definitely
getting attention. While Jack trolled back down the middle I worked
the cuts and structure along the bank as the wind blew us back to
the launch. I had a couple of nice trout and several hits I missed.
There will be many more opportunities to come this year. I trust that
will be true for all of you. Whether you are braving the cold to fish
your local waters, traveling somewhere more comfortable or just getting
gear ready for your first good opportunity it is not hard to imagine
the pull of the fish right where you are. And that may be the promise
of the trip to come.
Get out and fish. Wherever you go, whatever you use make it a point
to enjoy yourself.
Let me know what you think.