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Fishing with Roger Fernandez and Steven Tejera

I’m deep in the catch-up game at this point, getting through a relaxed fall without deadlines of writing these reports in order or as quickly as I can. This report goes back over a month to the middle of October, when I went to Miami to fish as Roger Fernandez’s guest with Steven Tejera.

If I may do some reminding here, since for some of the readership the Keys tournaments might not be front and center on their newsfeed, Steven and Roger recently won the Gold Cup and followed that up with a fly-only win in the Herman Lucerne. Between these two accomplishments it’s easy to tell they’re both people of the most talented kind, and I was extremely lucky to be invited along with them.

We started out in the morning looking for bonefish, and had a few shots at giant translucent tails in the early light. I was up (Roger, in addition to being a great angler is a generous person to fish with and offered my far more than my share of bow time throughout the day), and I could not get things right enough to satisfy the mouths that were attached to the tails we saw. We went onward, looking for bonefish and finding plenty. I can say that the bonefish in Biscayne Bay are very different from our fish here in the lower Keys, and not just in size: the fish we found up there were much harder to convince than ours farther south, and I can see clearly that I have nearly no idea what to do with the educated stripes in Biscayne Bay.

I finally hooked one from a large school, losing it when it took me shallow on the bank on which we’d hooked it, and missed another bite that surprised me before I could strip tight. Roger had a few shots as well, though none as good as the ones I’d had. We kept looking for the large bonefish until the tide got right in a place that Steven thought we could find a permit–I needed no convincing to give this a try.

We found a group of fish in some deeper water, and after a few botched attempts at using my lower Keys approach finally listened to Steven and Roger and hooked one. I was foiled by a bratty little ampersand of fly line that lodged itself in the stripping guide as the fish ran, and there was nothing that I could do once it wedged itself tightly in its new wiry home. I tried what I could to fix things but couldn’t, watching as the line came tight and the fish broke off against the tangle. We kept on, Roger now up, and he had a few hard looks from these fish that seemed to be losing interest. We left and fished nearby, not finding anything before returning to the fish once again for another try. Determining that things were in fact over we moved on in search of a large bonefish, finding one shot of less than stellar quality. We moved towards the end of the day with the plan of finding another permit.

We had two more stops in us, and Roger was up for the first. We didn’t find anything there and went nearby to make our final stand. I was up thanks to Roger’s generosity (I suspect Roger knew the second place was the more probable shot producer), and kept an eye for the school of fish that both Roger and Steven told me were often in the area. We were about to leave when they showed up, and with the first few casts we were able to get to them to follow but not commit. The fish remained nearby as Steven kept us in range, and even looking into the sun we could see the brown backs stiffly sliding as they roped by in line. We finally changed flies to see what we could get from that, and as soon as we switched to one of Dave Skok’s newer inventions (“The [redacted]”) we had a large fish peel away from its group and line it up. Another smaller permit rushed the fly as well, pivoting around the larger fish and stealing from it the small crab puppet. From the beginning things looked sadly similar to the other fish I hooked: a snarl of line snapped tight to the first stripping guide, and until Steven pointed out that we were using a four-piece rod it looked as though we were going to lose this one as well. His reminder of the fact that the rod was able to be taken apart came just in time, however, and I removed the top three sections of the rod and sent them overboard with the knot to deal with later.

The permit ran a few times and Steven kept pace, Roger standing by to laugh if the cause arose, and when things settled down we were able to get ahold of the rod and idle along with the fish while I pulled the knot apart. We were able to get things back on the reel and normal after a minute of this, and when the rod was finally put back together things started to feel a lot more normal and likely to end with a capture. Not to be deterred by the patter of palms on our own backs the permit found a coral head in the channel it had run in to and wrapped us around it. While I maintained my confidence we could escape from this new predicament our luck had run out, and after a tense minute the fish was gone, free for its clever sidestepping of our best efforts. We wound up the rod and headed home, disappointed that for such a dynamic day of fishing and with as many shots as we’d had we weren’t able to get a fish in our hands.

I’d like to again thank Roger for the invitation and Steven for the effort, and I can’t wait to get back to Biscayne Bay with those two and get some revenge.

I’m headed to the Everglades week after next with Steve and Chad, and hope to close out 2018 with the six. More to come as always in that story. In January Kat and I will be heading to New Zealand with my folks so these pages won’t get any attention after we leave until the beginning of February. I’ll get the Everglades report posted before I leave.

 

nate

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