Key West Redbone Superfly and SLAM Tournaments

Had the chance to fish the SLAM tournament last weekend and the preceding Superfly event. The Lower Keys are addictive for saltwater flyrodders and I can say that they haven't changed much since I left. We had a great tournament, with celebrity anglers baseball hall-of-famer Wade Boggs and astronaut Bruce Melnick hosting the festivities. Fishing with Islamorada flats ace Rusty Albury, I had a number of shots at bonefish, permit and a couple of tarpon during the Superfly. The bonefish were exceedingly fickle, which is unusual in the Lower Keys. Most of the time, when a fly or jig hits the water, they are on it before it hits the bottom. The Superfly is a unique tournament concept, based on the freshwater One Fly held in Jackson Hole. It has a slight twist, though. Rather than being limited to one actual fly, you can use multiple flies. They must, however, be the same pattern and color. You can tweak the amount of weight and the hook size to account for permit, tarpon or bonefish. Our weapon of choice? A tan-colored toad-looking thing. Although we were fishless during the Superfly, I did have one of the best casts I've ever made to a permit (and not caught one). About midway through the day, we were following a trail of small muds. We thought it was a couple of mudding bonefish in 2-3 feet of water, but couldn't make them out - just the occasional fresh mud. Finally, about 150 feet from the last mud, we see about a 25-pound perm wallow up and turn right towards us. Closing fast, I put about a 60-footer right on its nose with the fly, maybe a foot or 18 inches in front of the fish. As it tracked the fly, the fish was up and happy, wallowing from side to side with its big lips open and pec fins moving. Just as it was about to pile on the fly, a school of 10-inch long jack crevalle bounced of the bow of Albury's Hell's Bay 17.8 Pro, then headed right at the perm, blowing him out. To say we were disappointed is an understatement at the least. During the SLAM (Southern Most Light Tackle Angler Masters), I had the chance to fish with investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero from Channel 7 in Miami. The weather was terrible both days, and we spent a lot of time dodging thunderstorms. We went fishless right to the wire on the first day, right up until about 2:30 in the afternoon when we witnessed some of the most incredible tailing bonefish activity we've ever seen. Literally hundreds of fish swarming up onto a flat on the Gulf edge of the lower Florida Keys. We managed to bang out a couple on spinning rods before lines out at 3 pm. I would have given anything to be able to hop over with the fly rod and fish out the rest of the tide, but tournament rules forbade us from fishing after lines out. Day two started off with a bang, as we promptly went 0-4 on tarpon - including one 20-pounder that Carmel had right next to the boat, but just out of reach (rules require the guide touch the leader). The odd thing is, she had the fish on for 10 minutes, survived all the initial jumps, then the fish frayed through the 40-pound fluorocarbon leader right at the boat. Anybody that tarpon fishes knows that if you survive the initial jumps (especially with a circle hook) you should land the fish. Very unusual to lose a fish after that long. The only thing I can figure is that the leader crossed over the hinge of the fish's mouth and got as if with a pair of sidecutters. We had a couple of more shots at perms and bonefish, but the unsettled weather and heavy rain really made things tough. Time well spent on the water with good company and for a good cause. The SLAM and Superfly are part of the Redbone Tournament Series, dedicated to helping catch a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. For more information, visit their website at www.redbone.org. -Capt. Ted Lund