Fishing with John + Special Guests, Aaron Snell and Dave Skok

Fishing with John + Special Guests, Aaron Snell and Dave Skok

My good friend Dave Skok just wrapped up a visit to Key West, fishing a day each with me and Kat and Aaron Snell. Prior to his arrival down here he spent three days fishing in the Everglades with Steve Huff, catching (unsurprisingly) the snook of his lifetime and (even less surprisingly) having the time of his life with Steve in the mangroves. Kat and I are headed up there together in a few weeks, intent on throwing 4# tippet at snook, and hearing Dave relate his exploits made us both more than excited to make the drive. While he was down here we each went with him and Aaron Snell for a day, and though the weather was imperfect the company was superb. We caught some small tarpon and looked for some barracuda, relaxed and had a blast. At times it’s easy to get focused on tournaments and records, and while this is fulfilling in its own way it can also be nice to just go out with some good friends and enjoy fishing for its own sake.
Perhaps as a precursor to the aforementioned enjoyment of fun fishing with no specific goal in mind, the week prior I fished two days with John O’Hearn in pursuit of the 4# permit world record, and we were joined first by Zach Stells and then by Scott Collins. Both days of fishing were slow, lacking a large number of targets, though we had three chances that could have worked out if not for things like cloud glare and fish moving erratically. We tried as best we could, and while two of these shots seemed to be at fish that were likely bigger than the 24-pound current record we were unable to convert any of them to a shot that felt like it was about to work in our favor.
The second day was similar to the first in terms of shot quantity but with a marked increase in the quality of these opportunities. The first was at a tailing fish that appeared not to be big enough, and this fish came perilously close to being practice for the hook set when it swerved at the fly and tracked it down to the bottom. We spent a few fishless hours after this in search of more before going back to where we had the two close calls on day one. We were met immediately with a large tailing permit, and we were able to lie in wait for the fish to rumble towards us and get a cast off in front of it. This fish also made a hard move towards the fly, maintaining its approach, so we had to attempt a hook set in case the fish had eaten it and kept closing the gap. The fish spooked away, and while disappointing it was also thrilling. The next shot was at a pair of fish, though first it was only a single tail that called us over to where they were. Again we were able to post up where they were coming to and get a shot at both. Sadly, in retrospect, the one I threw at was the only one I was aware of when we made the presentation. The fish stopped and I started to strip fast to re-present, and it was too late that I realized the other member of the pair was tracking hard after the fly. I stopped stripping to let the bite happen, though this fish kept coming and lost the fly in the grass before turning around to meet up with the other. I got the fly into the developing bustle–both fish were now aware that something was going on and we had a small but closing window in which to convince them that it wasn’t a threat. The fly landed but the fish both peeled off to the side, then kept swimming into the glare behind me. I lost them in the glare, and after a few hopeful moments we saw both squirreling off the flat, leaving behind them two distinct wave forms. Our window had closed, and we’d had our chance. Sometimes, that’s all that’s given.
After this we kept on for a few hours, blowing out a single fish that we never had a shot at before we called it a day.
As always, I’d like to thank John O’Hearn for this and other recent trips in pursuit of the record, and while our fishing has been tough lately we are more than happy to wait it out as long as it takes. Thanks are also due to Zach Stells and Scott Collins, who took time from their schedules to help us out. Next week I’ve got a day with Brian Helms, and two weeks after that Kat and I are headed to the Everglades with Steve. Reports will follow, as usual.


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Nathaniel Linville

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