The Hawley finished last week, and it was a great tournament to watch from afar. Three teams entered in to the last day with 12 releases–Captain Brian Helms and Rand Holstead, Captain Rob Fordyce and Julian Robertson, and Captain Paul Tejera and Steve Ward. When the smoke cleared after the final day of fishing Julian had won with 18 total releases, including six on the last day. In second was team Tejera/Ward with 17, and Brian rounded out the top three with a total of 14.
These reports have been slow of late. I know this. The problem is that I’ve been fishing a lot, which is good, though that has meant that my ability to document said fishing has been obstructed. I’ve been on the water for four days, and I’ve got another set upcoming before the Gold Cup that starts next week. A briefer-than-I’d-like recap of the days is what I’ve got time for, but luckily there was a bunch of fun stuff that makes for a nice highlight reel.
Ian and I spent a day of slow fishing in pre-worm conditions after the Golden Fly, and in the evening hours picked Kat up so that she might see her first proper worm hatch.
The next day was this Sunday past, when I was invited by Kat to fish with her and Simon. Simon has always been a special person to us both, considering it was on a charter with him that I asked Kat to marry me, and it felt like a long time since the three of us shared a skiff together. We set out early for some shots at tarpon, and it didn’t take Simon long to find us a few to throw at. The fish were scattered around, and we poled toward the rolls that were near enough to chase after. After a bit of positioning we came tight to a big one, which we fought nearly to the boat before the fly came out. As the sun crept higher we were joined too closely by another eager boat of humans, and we had to leave since it was clear that these people knew of nowhere else to fish but within 100 yards of us.
Simon didn’t have to run very far to find a place that also held fish (it’s nice to have options), and we stayed there for the rest of the morning hours hooking fish. Kat got a couple to the boat, I lost a few–the times were good:
As we tarpon fished we saw a few permit skitter nervously by the boat, and Simon decided to take us to a place that might have some. I had a shot as soon as we started fishing, and it oddly worked out perfectly. I hooked the small permit from the boat in the slick, something that I’ve rarely been able to pull off, though the universe held a final destiny kick in the throat: as Kat readied to grab the fish for the photo op, the hook simply pulled out. I haven’t lost a permit in this way in a number of years, and was frustrated by the now official spate of fish not making it to hand. Leading up to the biggest tournament of the year, it’s either nice to get the bad luck out of the way or simply painful; the choice, I suppose, is up to me.
Kat was up next, and there was a school of permit that gave me and her the opportunity to wade after. Kat had yet to catch her first permit on foot, and we both felt that this would be a great opportunity. She had a shot at the school that had led us out of the boat, and while a fish tailed on her fly it didn’t get her tight. We kept on, and within a few minutes saw some other fish heading towards us. We didn’t intercept them perfectly, and our first cast landed below them. They tracked up current of us, and Kat and I had to crouch down to get our shadows lower as Kat got a cast off in their direction. When the cast landed I figured good things were about to happen, and this was confirmed when a pale permit back swung behind the fly and wiggled on to the hook. Kat set the hook like a boss (of course) and she cleared the line to the reel. The fish was not enormous and gave a similarly sized account of itself, and within a few minutes I grabbed the tail for a photo. It was fantastic to be so close to a moment as meaningful as someone’s first permit from foot, and I quickly handed her the animal for some pictures:
After that we continued off, wading in different directions, Kat with Simon and me alone. I had a few low quality shots before I returned to the boat and poled it in their direction, and thereafter saw another few tails that I waded unsuccessfully after.
When the permit fishing timed out we went in search of a worm hatch, and found them in squiggly supply. Kat and I each jumped a few fish, I grabbed one (finally, some much-needed redemption), and we had a splendid time. When the light got low we made our way home, ending our 14-hour day with a pretty run in the failing light.
The next day I fished was with John O’Hearn. We had two days scheduled, though the first of these was spent moving boxes in to his new place in Key West. Irma, nearly nine months in the rearview, couldn’t help but cost us one last day of fishing before she disappeared completely. For this day I invited a young friend of mine, Chalmers Allen, who I’ve known for many years. We set out to tarpon fish and fish we did.
In the span of our loping day we had some incredible fishing. Chalmers fished at champion level, and while he missed some bites he was able to hook and catch, to hand, a monstrous tarpon on a leader that I’d tied for the Golden Fly. The hook up came from a rope of tarpon, curving around in a scattered chain, and was delivered beautifully by the largest of the group. He fought this fish, as well as my constant nagging to pull harder, for 20 minutes before he was able to get it off balance enough for me to grab.
It was great to watch, and as soon as I grabbed it he jumped in the water for a photo opportunity with a beast:
On the next shot I also hooked one, though this one was far smaller than the behemoth that Chalmers had picked a fight with. Chalmers grabbed this one for me:
After that the fishing slowed, though by this point we’d had enough of a fill of fish to not be worried. Chalmers and I took turns poling the boat, and even John boy got in to the action on the bow and hooked (briefly) a tarpon himself.
We expired in lock step with the slowing fishing, enjoying ourselves in the failing bite. We made a brief pass in another area before calling it a day.
Since then I’ve had two days, each slow in terms of captures. The first was with Wes Smith and Doug Kilpatrick, and we permit fished. Wes and I each had about 3 shots, none of which worked out. The second was yesterday, with Ian Slater. We tarpon fished, and had a tough time finding a groove. I lost an 80 pound fish after a brief fight when the hook pulled out, and missed another bite. Beyond that we looked hard and kept on the 100 grind.
Tomorrow I start with John, fishing up to and through the Gold Cup.
As always, a report of the results of the tournament + our fishing will follow.