Fishing with Steve Huff and Ian Slater, getting current

Fishing with Steve Huff and Ian Slater, getting current

After the March Merkin I fished with Ian Slater for a day. We had decent if unremarkable permit fishing, breaking off a fish that reminded me how lucky I was to hang on to the ones that mattered in the tournament. We were further beaten down by some idiot in a center console that approached us on the flat with their motor running while we were taking a shot, and throughout all of this I was laughing at the brilliance of the bad luck being withheld until after the tournament torches were extinguished.

After this day I was invited to spend a day with John O’Hearn and Lawson “Dr. Love” Stiff. The weather was horrid, and we spent a hard 8 hours in search of a shot. We blew out a single in the early afternoon, but didn’t find any shots that were workable. In the afternoon John found us a great shot that would have worked had it not been chewed to tangly pieces by the wind, and after hanging around for an hour or more in hopes of another we called it a day and headed home.

After this day I fished early last week with Ian Slater before we drove up to fish with Steve for three days. We enjoyed a loping day of tarpon fishing, moving around enough to keep things always changing. We hooked and nearly landed a nice fish in the morning, losing it sadly to a bull shark that couldn’t be chased off with the boat. We hooked another and missed it before we moved elsewhere, trying some older flies to see if they still worked. We hooked and fought two with the Coker Smoker, loving the contemporary results of an old favorite, and then split to places far away to get try some other classics on some laid up tarpon. Ian got us a handful of shots, one of which convinced a giant to crack open. I was unable to get tight to the animal, however, and we finished the day nearby for a few hours of frustrating fishing at tarpon that wouldn’t bite.

After this day we packed up and headed north, making our way across the state to fish once again with Steve Huff. Ian joined us as gaff man, as Chad had an existing charter on the days Steve had available, and the cold weather that has plagued us of late on these trips for the six arrived exactly on time: when we left Key West it was 80 degrees and blowing 10; when we woke up the next morning the temperature was in the low 50’s and the wind howled near 25.

Our fishing was slowed by the conditions, though we made the best of what was left after the last winter front jostled its windy way in. We snook fished the first morning, waiting for the afternoon and the warmer temperatures we hoped it would bring. We looked for tarpon in the afternoon and found none, spotting only a single fish rolling a hundred yards away that looked possibly big enough for us to pick a fight with.

The days were stitched together with snook, cigars, an occasional redfish and a healthy dose of dark humor. The largest snook we caught narrowly (by a quarter-inch) escaped the fryer, and we enjoyed a few sight shots on our second day on some shallow water. The tarpon fishing never made its way back to Everglades City while we were there, and the machine that was purpose-built for a world record was aimed instead at some shorelines and fun.

Even though the lights never turned on while we were there, we still had fun in the dark, and I’d like to thanks Steve for pouring a solid effort into a sad weather soup.

After this trip fished for a day with Brian Helms, a good friend and guide that I’ve been meaning to fish with for a while now. The weather was again far from perfect, and he made the best of some transitional conditions. I caught a few large barracuda, had a few permit shots, and threw at a fair number of tarpon in the afternoon once things warmed up. I was unable to get a bite from the permit and tarpon, but given the chilly conditions I was happy that we had as many to throw at as we did.

I know I’ve run quickly through a few days here, but beyond the joy of a hard effort there hasn’t been much to report since the March Merkin. I’ve been out this week with Simon Becker and Ian Slater, and I’ll get those up. I’m busier than usual and will keep these pages up but perhaps less frequently than I’d like. They’re not going anywhere, however, so feel free to check back as I get current further.

More to come,



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Nathaniel Linville

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