Passion for the sport of angling and the outdoors is what drives many diehard anglers like myself towards the ultimate goal of the perfect day on the water. Many of us only dream of such a day, and in my life, I’ve been blessed by more than my share. This was the case once more on Monday, as my good friend and lagoon mentor Captain John Kumiski joined me on a venture into the backwaters of the Banana River No-Motor Zone.
With the goal of catching my first respectable redfish on fly, and hopefully taking a shot at the mystical black drum, John and I have been talking about this expedition all summer. You see, my specialty has always been light tackle spin fishing, and for years, my good friends and expert fly guides Captains John, and Rodney Smith have challenge me to take the next step up into the saltwater fly fishing arena.
We started our endeavor at around 0930, as the cool 50-degree morning air deterred an early start. The skis were crystal clear with a 10-knot northwest wind, which is very manageable for winter’s day on the lagoon. As we paddled into the zone, I had one of those feelings you get in the pit of my stomach. I knew the catching was going to be good, and in this case, and my intuition was dead on as my fly-fishing lesson soon began.
Paddling into our first stop, we spooked a substantial school of large black drum and decided to stake out the canoe and wade with the hopes the school would settle down. The fish were still present as we waded back into the area, but the hip deep muddy water made site fishing tricky, and we soon gave up hopes of a clean shot. As we worked our way back to the canoe, John initiated my fishing lesson by scoring the first of what he called stupid redfish. I was next to have a good shot at a nice redfish, but I planted my fly squarely between his eyes, and as it bolted in the direction of John, John presented the perfect cast and the waking fish slammed on the brakes and devoured John’s fly. Fish number two was on, and before we departed stop number one, Johns score was three respectable redfish and two hefty sea trout to my squat.
Next, John polled me along the shore and we quickly spotted another stupid fish swimming straight at us, and I missed the strike four times before finally sticking the fat redfish. As I worked my redfish to the boat, three more redfish approached, and John hooked one for what would be the first of our four double hookups.
The hot bite continued for the remainder of the trip, and at one point John asked me when I was planning on calling it a day. Together we agreed that this day would only end when the fish wised up or the sun set. We quickly lost count of the number of quality fish caught, but a conservative estimate would be about 30 redfish up to 20 pounds, and at least 25 sea trout up to 7 pounds. All with the exception of four fish were taken on clouser minnows, chartreuse and black, orange and black, and purple and black. Oh by the way, John ended the day catching another hefty redfish on his last cast only a couple hundred yards from the ramp, as the sun settled into the lagoon.
Now, you may think this was the most unbelievable fishing story you’ve ever heard before, but today I returned to the Zone with both of my mentors, Captain John and Captain Rodney Smith, and the catching greatly improved over Monday.
We pushed away from our launch site at about 0830 facing a gentle north breeze, and clear sunny skis. As the day grew longer, the air warmed up, the breeze lay down, and our catching bonanza commenced. Combined, we each caught double the amount of fish taken on Monday, with a number of triple hook-ups, and we each caught a slam, redfish, sea trout, and snook. Top hook for the day was Captain John, with a fat 30-pound plus redfish. The majority of the fish caught were top of the slot or larger, and again taken on various flies. Yes, I am convinced there are fish gods, and this week, they have been grinning from ear to ear.
On a side note, only a few black drum were seen on the flat with none taken, so I still have a big black drum on fly on my list for later.
As always, if you have any questions or need information, please contact me.
Good luck and great fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn