Did someone say COLD? Yes it has been cold down here on the coast. It’s finally beginning to feel like winter around the Cape Fear Coast. However these warm spells keep funneling through and the fish don’t seem to mind.
Yesterday I had the extreme privilege of guiding a wonderful couple, Dale & Annah Perry, from Manteo, NC. Dale had never caught a redfish on fly in NC and has lived here for quite a while. Dale is an ardent Tarpon angler and he and Annah both fish out of their Hells Bay skiff in Islamorada as often as possible. It’s a lot of fun for me to have anglers who are passionate about shallow water fishing and enjoy it so much as to embrace it as a lifestyle. I was pleasantly surprised at how many people we knew in common in the fishing industry.
The morning started off cool but the winds were light and the weather man promised us some afternoon sun. So while the “sighting” of fish, my job, was difficult the three of us took the time to get the feel of some top water action, fishing a jerk bait and a little fly technique too. Annah surprised Dale and I both with how quickly she mastered the topwater technique which is no easy task. Seeing that Dale was an accomplished fly caster made me want to get him some fly opportunities but for the life of me the fish were not in a normal pattern yesterday.
Finally towards the end of the afternoon and with time running out on daylight I spotted the school in a place we had looked earlier in the tide. I could see the fish backing and one tailed from 80 yards away. As soon as we got to withing 60 feet of where we had seen the school a small group of about 15 fish made a push and headed away from us. We were fishing in about 5 inches of water and the fish were sensitive to the noise our feet made on the boat deck. A few more pushes on the pole and I started seeing fish winking, not little fish either. Dale’s first cast with the fly landed just inside the first school of fish and bumped them, still with a few strips of the fly one redfish charged and nabbed the fly. Dale instinctively stripped to set the hook and the fish had already let go of the fly. He immediately cast back into the school and a larger fish broke from the school and followed the fly to withing fifteen feet of the boat. This fish was so aggressive his back was out of the water as he tracked and then charged the fly, it was an excellent bite. When Dale’s fish felt line pressure it sprinted off of the flat peeling line off of the deck and spooked the school we had been casting to. Dale quickly brought to hand his 7 + lb. redfish and his first on the fly in NC. Now we could clearly see the schools pushing in the flat calm light and it appeared that there were at least 150 fish on the flat with us!
We took a couple of photos of Dale’s fish and released it so we could give Annah a fair shot with her jerk bait. I pushed the boat into position quietly and the school came back again. Dale laid two nice shots in on the school but had a wind knot in the leader we needed to fix or we risked being broken off. So I instructed Annah to fire in on the lead fish and she did so expertly. Two twitches of her rod tip and she was tight to a nice 6 lb. redfish.
After the last couple of encounters the fish were becoming more sensitive to pressure from us and we started throwing the topwater plug for distance. It paid off. On the last circuit down the flat Dale got the hooks in one last fish of about 7 lbs. on the topwater, a great bite and super fight. The light was about gone and we had a decent trip back to the boat ramp so we left before it got dark.
Many thanks to Annah and Dale for braving the cold and giving me the opportunity to share this wonderful winter redfishing with them.
Remember this is a great time of year to enjoy sight casting to large schools of redfish on the flats. I am watching the weather patterns and picking the warm, windless days to get my anglers out on the water. Don’t hesitate to call or email me for spectacular winter redfishing opportunities.
Tight Loops & Lines,
Captain Seth Vernon~