The day after the trip with Dave Skok and John boy, I drove to the Everglades for a pair of days with Steve Huff and Jason Schratwieser. I hadn’t fished with Jason since too long ago, and Steve and I were both looking greatly forward to spending some time with him. Jason is, in addition to being a great guy, a fantastic angler that is fun to watch on the bow. The weather was scheduled to be windy but warm and sunny, and after so many years of fishing in the grim light of cloud cover using six pound test I think we were all privately hoping that things would be a lot more fun with standard tackle. I brought a cobranagle bouquet, a tarpon rod and some full-hooked flies, as well as a snook rod if we were so inclined. We set out early on Thursday to take a look, and were welcomed without a cloud in the sky.

After a reasonable run into some territory that Steve wanted to look at we began the day by tossing some flies at a mangrove shoreline in hopes of moving a large snook. Steve reported to us as we were fishing that the last week had yielded a small number of bites from snook, all of them large, which added an even more hopeful bearing to our covering of overhanging roots. We stuck with this plan for the first few hours before Steve decided it was time for a look to tarpon country for a battle. The first place we went showed a fair number of fish rolling and busting in the distance, and Jason stayed up on the bow with the tarpon rod as we looked. After 30 minutes we left, not finding the shots we were hoping for, and moved on to another basin nearby to continue our hunt.

Here the fish were in great supply, and after a few free jumps in the distance we spotted a large fish in the water that allowed us a great shot in its direction. The fly landed in a reasonable enough spot to get a reaction, though the fish ducked hard away as we dragged the feathers by the sealed jaws. I had another shot at an off angle, and after a third poor quality shot passed the rod back to Jason so that he might have a chance. What seems as I’m reporting it to be good fishing was actually taking place over the course of an hour or more, and while the shot density was very low the population of fish appeared to be large: a span of 10 minutes didn’t pass without another roll or bust to draw our attention back to what we were doing and keep us on our toes. Jason had a similar number of shots to mine in the next hour, though none were as good as the first we had. We stuck with it after a fly change, and when I got back up I had a shot at a smaller fish moving slowly toward us. This fish fell in behind the fly, appearing near to bursting open with a bite before it shied strongly away from the boat. We stuck with the tarpon fishing for another hour or so before Steve wisely made a move in the direction of a nearby shoreline for a snook. The water was high, and we were able to get a close up view of the healing shoreline scab that Irma drunkenly pulled up the edges of on her recent fall break bender to the Everglades. Jason stuck with the shoreline, landing one and losing a few more tiny snook in our pursuit of a large one with which to redeem ourselves. I’m not sure there is any theater greater than watching a good friend throw tight loops at a shoreline Steve Huff selected, hoping each time the fly might get interrupted by a giant snook, and I enjoyed the hell out of watching the show after I had been on the bow.

For the rest of the afternoon we bumped around from shoreline to shoreline, poking toward the ragged tangles of roots and mangrove branches. We didn’t find much, though as the fishing proved tougher than we hoped we just moved the dial back on our expectations: when we started we’d hoped for some great tarpon fishing; by the late afternoon we were in search of a nice snook. Steve brought us to the right side of some islands in the now falling water, and Jason and I swapped ups as we bounced from one mangrove clump to the next.

At the final minute Jason made a cast that he couldn’t get back to the boat without a nice snook getting in the way, and we ended the day perfectly with a line-sided colon at the end of our effort (-):

 

With that our day was done, and we headed back to Steve and Patty’s for dinner.

The next day some weather was headed our way in the afternoon, so the plan was to run as far as we could in the AM pretty before the PM ugly got to us.

We made the morning run, fishing for snook in some shallow swales as the tide rose. This part of the Everglades, those past where most anyone would be stopped or stop themselves, in search of snook sliding around is one that I haven’t been able to see much of, mostly due to my idiotic fixation with the six. I have Steve to thank for sharing the good stuff with us, and I was even able to catch a nice snook on a cast nearby an exposed mangrove root:

Jason was less lucky, as the fish refused to comply with the tidal perfection, and after a pair of hours spent looking for more snook we left and headed to find a tarpon to throw at.

Steve had a few ideas where we might find one (imagine that), and while the water was dingy from Irma’s fall visit we went to them and looked. A few fish rolled in the milk, and after identifying a place we thought was reasonable to make a stand we dug our heels in to the tarpon dirt and made some casts. This lasted for a few hours, through a few location changes and pokings-of-our-noses into places nearby that Steve thought worthwhile. We never found a group of tarpon big enough to stay engaged to, however, and moved on after lunch.

We returned to the site of what tarpon shots we had the day before, and there found a much larger concentration of tarpon. A minute didn’t pass without watching a sailing free jump, bust or roll, and Steve poled out into the growing afternoon wind to find one. We stuck with it for an hour or more, staying alert but never seeing a single target in the water to throw our stupid feathers at. After all the years of scraping for a bite or two in the clouds, praying for sun and warm weather, now we had both (not to mention a large population of tarpon surrounding us), and couldn’t buy a shot. The opportunity that for a second time seemed so great once again expired slowly. Without a shot we gave up, moving on after a hard effort.

The rest of the afternoon we spent snook fishing again, this time staying farther from home. We kept at it until we had to leave, earlier this day than the last from the distance, and had a beautiful ride home in the failing light, watching the mangroves light up like they were lit from above, us in a plane passing overhead.

As always, I would like to thank Steve for a great trip. After the Merkin this week I head up that way once again, and Chad will be along for what we hope to be a final shot at the six. After last March’s loss of a fish at the boat, I think we’re due to put the thing to bed.

I’ll be current after I get the day with Ian in the beginning of the week up, and the March Merkin starts Tuesday. Weather looks tough, so it will be a grind.

 

nat