Yesterday Aaron and I went fishing for the day with Thomas Rapone, who is down fishing with Captain Ryan Erickson in Little Torch.
Our day began with a small barracuda we spotted in a salt pond on the way to the dock from Aaron’s house. This little guy appeared to have an in-built water aerator: he would put his top jaw out of the water and shake it up and down, then pull the bubbles through his gills. As Aaron approached with the camera, he could see the ‘cuda stop and watch us before disappearing. The following photo shows the little guy before he vacated:
The barracuda, as it turns out, knew something we didn’t; he was preparing for the heat of the day that caught each one of us by stunning surprise.
Aaron first took us to look for tarpon, and while we had a few shots at smaller fish and even saw some larger ones we couldn’t get the bite. We moved into a nearby channel for a shot at a larger roller, though we never saw a fish and quickly moved into the backcountry for some permit and the bonefish we found the day before.
We looked for permit first, and while the tide was doing what we wanted it wasn’t doing it enough–we moved with the intention to return when the tide was moving faster. Our first flat netted us nothing, though Thomas saw a stingray.
Our second was equally bare, and by this time we were all feeling The Heat. It wasn’t just hot–it was mind-bending omelet-sizzle hot. And the fish noticed as well, staying in the deeper water, below where the surface temperature must have been approaching 95 degrees. This isn’t to say that we don’t have great fishing in July and August–if there’s even a bit of wind, it’s not only tolerable but the fishing can be transcendental. But in the sun, with no wind and no clouds (and not even a bonefish to keep your mind from masticating the heat into a pulpy literary mess) it’s a bit too much.
Thomas had two shots, one of which very nearly worked out. We saw the fish rise up, track the fly, and then turn away. I had a rod rigged with a large popping fly in the event we saw a shark, and I had a great shot at a 40 pound blacktip shark in a white sand hole that ran in terror from the large popper.
In the next few hours we saw very little, and eventually ended up nearer home in a good bit of moving water–this time, there was an infestation of small lemon sharks. I threw at a few before one ate, and I pulled the hook out of his mouth. A few minutes later I had another shot at a single fish, and threw the fly in front of him and twitched it. He rose up, opened his mouth, and treated me to the best of one of my favorite pasttimes: a successful free cast to a shark with a topwater fly. With all of this 6 pound fishing for tarpon (and an early tarpon season that allowed for 6 pursuit since January) I haven’t done much shark fishing–it remains, by far, one of my favorite things to do. Aaron took this picture of the 20 pounder before we released it:
With that we called it a day.