Last week, after recovering from the Gold Cup and catching up on some much needed sleep, I fished with Ian Slater for a half a day to attempt getting in to permit shape before the Del Brown. The fishing was slow (though not as slow as a 9 weight rod felt after tarpon season), and we only had four or five solid shots.

A single fish bit the fly twice, though neither time was I able to get the hook buried. The fishing lasted long enough for us to have another couple nice shots at fish, but all of these resulted in the fish fleeing unattached. Ian had to be at work at 2 so we called it a short day and headed in at 1 PM.

After the day with Ian, Joe Rodriguez and I were scheduled to fish the Poor Boys tournament (as we have the last two years) in Islamorada. We fished a day to get ready, then two tournament days. Here’s how it went down:

Day One (prefish day):

Joe and I decided to fish a relaxed day before the tournament, leaving late and not working too hard. With Kat’s mom in town and both of us coming down from a tough Gold Cup week (Joe’s Gold Cup week, of course, much less tough in the end than others), we didn’t want to work too hard. We met at Joe’s house at 7 AM and headed to Islamorada to find some scales.

Our fishing was tough in the morning, and we were plagued by tough light. The fishing was sporadic, though there were enough fish to wait it out. With the added difficulty of the cloud cover, however, we were in a tough spot: we sat and waited, hoping for something to swim by at an angle we could see before it was too late. By the afternoon we were able to squeeze a single bite from the glare, and we stopped fishing at 3  to get back home.

Day Two (first tournament day):

We left late again, electing not to kill ourselves with an early start from Islamorada. The glare was again a problem, and by the early afternoon we had only jumped a single fish for our efforts. The fish started moving better in the afternoon, and we hooked a large fish just before the 3PM lines out at 2:40. After getting the release on the leader we discussed fighting this fish since we’d worked so hard to hook it, but we decided to instead break it off, get greedy and hope for another. We got back to the anchor with only 20 minutes to go, and on our second shot the bet paid off: another shot, and another bite. The fish rattled off and we gave chase, securing our second release for the day at 2:53–seven minutes before lines out, and only 13 minutes after our first fish. At check-in we found that we were tied with a fair number of boats for second place. In first with four fish was Brian Helms and Kathy and Oliver Hoar, so we had our work cut out for us the next day.

Day Three (last tournament day)

This day we left on time from Islamorada at 6 AM, which was an effort to maximize our fishing and try to pull something out on the last day. We had a few early shots at rollers, and two of them looked sure to work, but nothing came of our early efforts. As the sun got higher we began to see a fair number of fish, though again we were in trouble with the light. The fish were coming from the glare, and we could barely see them before it was too late. I hooked a fish out of a string that we saw only ten feet away, coming tight briefly to a fish and losing it soon after. Given the leader release format of the tournament, however, this fish made it on our score card at 10:10 since the leader was within the rod tip when we came tight–a gift that we were happy to receive. Another hour passed and we had another pair of fish that gave up a bite–this one on the third shot as they swam away after both refusing the fly. The fish ran away and jumped a few times and then slowed down, allowing us to get another fast leader release at 11:15. With this we were now only even with Brian, though we had watched him catch at least one between our two. The fishing stayed steady, and while we had a fair number of very close follows we weren’t able to get another fish at that spot. We relocated for the last hour, hoping to repeat our repeater from the day before. Our last fish came late, another going away shot that was eaten by a smaller 50 pound fish. This fish immediately got wrapped up in the leader and took a few giant jumps. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve seen a fish jump as high as this one did, ever. We got the release at 2:20, and fished the last 40 minutes to some more close follows but not another bite.

At the dock we confirmed that our second day efforts had not been enough to beat Brian and Kathy and Oliver, who had two on the last day for six total. We ended up in second place. I had a fantastic time fishing with Joe, and it was great to talk to him while we were fishing about his recent Gold Cup win more.

I’m fully caught up with these reports now, and tomorrow I start fishing in the Del Brown. I’m sure I’ll have something to report after it’s over.

 

more to come,

 

nathaniel