It’s finally time to get this up here, and I’m pleased to report that the 2015 Del Brown was one of the best tournaments I’ve ever had the privilege of fishing in. I’m going to go through our own fishing, with a discussion of the results and what was happening outside our own boat as I go.
Day One: Prefish Day
Aaron and I left at what would be tournament hours to get an idea of where the animals night be, and while we only saw a single permit we were able to catch two bonefish in the second hour of our fishing. One was a very nice fish, and with the second one released we headed on our way to look for permit. Aaron snapped a few pictures of the bonefish:
On the run to our next spot, Aaron looked at me and calmly said “We might be screwed”. The trim had stopped working on his motor, and while we tried to fix it for nearly an hour we were unable to get things moving anew. We tried to fish with the motor down, all the while on the phone to our friends to try to find a boat to use for the tournament. We had generous offers from Greg Kelly and Dave Dalu, and in the end Aaron decided to go with Dave’s Superskiff. I should mention here: an offer to let someone borrow your skiff is a serious one, and both Greg and Dave are true friends for offering up their rides for tournament use. After getting his boat on the trailer and dropping it off, we went to Dave’s house in Big Pine for the new boat, put it on the trailer, and I headed off to the tournament dinner while Aaron got the new rig ready for the next day.
Day Two (First Tournament Day)
With Dave’s generosity under us (seriously, I owe you one!), we went forward with the fishing on day one. The conditions had slicked off, and the glass finish on the water kept us on our toes. Our first shot came in the late morning, when we had a pair of fish tip up in the calm just as Aaron hopped down to get a drink of water. The fish remained tails up long enough for me to get a cast off, though our toss was foiled when a knot in the running line jammed in to the first guide. As I was untangling the small but effective mess, the fish skittered away from us and were gone.
We had another shot a few minutes later, and while I would have liked to get out and wade after this fish in the calm it was on the far side of a channel that was too deep to cross on foot. I took my shot from the boat in the channel, and while the fish looked pleased with the fly initially it soon realized something was amiss and darted off the flat. We continued on our way at this spot without seeing another fish before we moved elsewhere.
At our next location we saw a single permit and a small group, both not feeding and each fleeing before we could take a cast in their direction. Aaron spotted a group of bonefish, and I threw a cast into their midst that got an easy bite. The fish came off after the first run, though the second time we saw the school we came tight again and this time landed a stout bonefish for a mark on our scorecard (in this tournament, there is a bonefish division). Here’s what the little guy looked like:
We continued on our way into the early afternoon, looking for some interruption. I made a good cast, and while the fish fell in easily behind the fly it never made the error we required. After following the fly for 20 feet, it got too close for comfort and left.
We had one more shot at a fish soon thereafter, but we lost sight of it in the clouds. The fish may well have been interested in our offering, as we saw movement in the glare, but we never came tight and never again saw the fish after the sky cleared. When the clock ran out we headed home, to interesting news at the check-in: Kat Vallilee Linville, fishing with Drew Delashmit, was in first place. While a few other teams managed to catch a fish, Kat’s fish was well over 30 inches and as such qualified for 200 points, putting her ahead of the other teams that had a 150-pointer. Here’s what her fish looked like:
Justin Rea and Jeff Massey managed a nice fish, as did Matt Fitzgerald and Joe Skrumbellos. Ivar Bolander and Steve Friedman also put one on the board. Good teams all, and with that they kept the pressure on Drew and Kat to perform the next day.
Day Three (Second Tournament Day)
This day was even more calm than the day prior, and it looked all but impossible. Aaron and I bumped around for a bit, never finding anything in great supply. This changed when Aaron brought us to a place where we could see some fish slinking around in the calm. As soon as we shut down, a few permit swung close to the boat and I hopped out to give them a walk. I had a few shots at permit, and also some at unknown animals: everything, in the calm, looks like it could be a permit. Soon, Aaron saw a push of water approaching from a long way off and I again walked over to the line and sat still, not wanting to move as the fish swam towards me. In a show of idiotic impatience, I decided to stack my line next to me, which only caused it to tangle. The leader then wrapped around my rod in the commotion, and the shot I was hoping to take expired before I could get it sorted. When I finally fixed my leader and line I could only see the end of the push maybe 25 feet from me, and I threw the fly out a few feet ahead of the push and slowly stripped the fly. The push got more pointed, until a slim black tail pushed out of the water and the permit ate the fly. I cleared the running line (still tangled), and hopped back in the boat so we could pole the fish down. At 25.75 inches it wasn’t a small fish, but still not what we needed to keep up with the rest of the field. Here are some pictures from Aaron showing some wading just before we hooked the fish as well as a few of the animal itself:
After measuring and releasing this fish, we hung around for a while waiting for more to throw at. This never happened, and we soon moved on to look elsewhere.
At our final stop we had two shots at fish. One was a single large permit that looked as near to eating the fly as it could be before sensing the boat and spooking off. The other was at a pair of fish on the same flat, which I approached wading. I was barely able to get the fly in the air before they spooked off, and when we checked the time upon my return to the boat to see how much time we had we realized it was 3:25, five minutes before the lines out alarm went off and we had to reel up. We poled down the edge, waiting for the digital surrender to sound.
When we returned to check in, we found that we were far from the only people to catch fish. Joe and Matt had put another one on the board, as had Justin and Jeff. Ivar and Steve did as well, and so too did Kat and Drew: strong work from all of these teams. Mike Bartlett and Nick Worswick also put one on the board, Nick’s first. Kat remained in the lead, with a 150-pointer on the second day to add to her 200 points from the day before. Going in to the third day, Kat and Drew were still in the lead and had everyone on their toes. Drew got a few pics of her second fish, a 24.5 incher:
Day Four (Final Tournament Day)
The final day of competition was a truly different day than the rest. It was windy enough to feel like a regular permit day, and while this was good for some plans it was the death of ours. Based on the slick-calm wading we had found the day before, our plan for the day was to return to the spot and give the fish another shot, this time more prepared for what was yesterday a nearly accidental find. With the chop on the water we were unable to see far enough into the endless basin, and ended up burning a few hours in fishless search mode.
Aaron called a move in the late morning, and at the next spot we found a group of fish feeding in the moving water. I put the fly in what I felt was a good spot, though it glided through the three fish with only a half-hearted chase from one of them to show for it. As the fish moved farther upcurrent and continued to feed I stripped in some line to cast again, though a small barracuda bit our crab fly and took it off. Frustrated, I grabbed another rod and stripped out. We saw another two fish on the bank, though neither of them allowed us to get the fly close before they ran off.
At our next spot, Aaron hit the mother lode: a bunch of (very) large permit tailed and mudded on the bank, and tolerated our presence very well, but none ate the fly. Of special note was a large fish that crossed laterally behind us, a mere 20 feet from the stern, allowing us to cast at it 5 times before it slowly moved off. We had a total of maybe 8 shots on the bank, and while a few of them could have worked none of them did. We took off to one more nearby spot, and Aaron got us another two shots there before we moved to our final destination for the day.
What we were hoping for there never happened, and in our final three hours we were met with only a single shot. The alarm sounded and we headed in, catching Drew and Kat on the way. A thumbs down from Kat confirmed that their two fish from the past two days would be all for them, and we went back to check in with the knowledge that any of the teams could beat them if they had a decent day.
Once again, Scott Collins saved the hurt for the last day. He and Ed Young had a bang-up day with three fish: one small, one medium, and one over 30 for a total of 450 points. This (incredibly) strong showing looked like it would secure them first place honors, until Joe Skrumbellos and Matt Fitzgerald showed up with a two fish strap to add to their one-a-day pace set over the last two days. With that, the leader board re-shuffled again. In first place, Matt and Joe knocked it out of the park with a consistent three days of great fishing. The Angling Company would like to congratulate these two on a rock-solid tournament, and hats are off. In second, Scott Collins and Ed Young kept it up through the last day with an astounding three fish finish under the wire. And in third, Drew Delashmit and Kat Vallilee Linville rounded out the podium with their monster from the first day and a medium from day two. For said monster, they also won biggest fish honors. The bonefish division was won by Justin Rea and Jeff Massey, who also ended up in fourth place overall.
I’d like to mention again how impressive Joe Skrumbellos’ and Matt Fitzgerald’s efforts were, and how proud I am of our very own Kat Vallilee Linville who, after fly fishing for a short two years, kept everyone on their toes until the final minutes of a truly inspiring competition thanks to Captain Drew Delashmit’s mad skills.
Thanks are also of course due to Dave Dalu, who kept Aaron and me on the water when it counted most. If you haven’t figured it out by now, in addition to a stellar angler Dave is a great guy and one that I am lucky to call a true friend.
I’ve got no more catching up to do on these reports, and the next scheduled fishing I’ve got is in a week and a half, when Kat and I will go to Apalachicola to fish for three days with David Mangum. After that, I’ve got lots planned in August: an assault on the 2kg tippet permit record, and a visit from Dave Skok in the middle of the month. I’m sure I’ll slip out for a day before we leave for the panhandle, and I’ll post a report here.
More to come, and again thanks to Loren Rea for an amazing job yet again with the Del Brown.