Over the last week, I fished in the March Merkin, once again with John O’Hearn. Our fishing started Monday morning, with hopes of finding some fish to throw at and get into the right head space for the tournament. Our fishing was decent, though the fish weren’t in as good a mood as we’d hoped. We started off in the morning with a shot at a tailing fish that didn’t enjoy our presentation, though soon thereafter we had a fine opportunity at a small permit that jumped all over our fly. We tried to change up the fish-pose for something new, and while it looks like I’m sour in the picture I’m actually ecstatic to have caught a fish:
We chased after a few more fish in the morning, and while we had a number of decent shots at tailing fish we were not able to make another fish err. We left the fish (and the large number of skiffs that also seemed to be chasing them around) in mid-afternoon, in search of something new. We found a large single tailing fish that blew out when we cast at it, and a school of smaller fish that never let us get close before we took off for places new and hopefully permit filled. We found a single fish in the early afternoon that took to our game handily, and after a few long strips we were tight to another permit. This fish was larger than the little one we caught earlier, and while it went into a channel and gave a good account of itself we had it in the boat in short order:
After we finished with our second fish we were happy but now nervous about catching another. Before a tournament it’s always nice to catch one, but more than two starts to feel like there’s been a bit of wasting one’s luck before the competition. We found a few more fish to work with in the afternoon and threw at them with little desire to catch before we headed home. All in all, we felt good about our fishing on the non-tournament day.
Day Two (first tournament day):
With an 8:30 departure and the ability to fish until 5 PM, we had our work cut out for us to find and stay in fish as best we could. Very early on the first day, John found a tailing permit that allowed us to get into a good position for a shot. The fly landed and the fish ripped around behind it, and John and I were both holding our breath waiting to come tight. The fish slipped in behind the fly and just as quickly passed it, either missing it or electing not to make a mistake. We had another shot in short order at another pair of tailers, and again the fish swung in behind the fly and looked as near to getting hooked as a permit could. Once again, we had nothing to show for the shot and I got back into the boat for some more looking. Within an hour, John found us another tailing fish and we got the fly nearby it after a few minutes of walking into position. This fish also made a hard shove at the fly, and this fish again didn’t make things work to our favor.
We bumped along in the latter part of the day, chasing after a shot that might work. We had a few shots in the afternoon, none of which were perfect, though we felt with at least one of them something would happen. It didn’t, and we headed back to the dock with blanks on our scorecard. There, we found that only one boat had caught any fish that day: Will Benson, fishing with Mike Dawes, had caught two fish each about 26 inches long. While their lead was decent John and I both felt that we might be able to make things even out on the second tournament day.
Day Three (second tournament day):
We made a run on the second morning, and found a large single tailing fish to give a walk to. As I was wading to the large single, a different school of fish crossed in front of me. While I was able to get the fly in the middle of the school, the fish were already tipped off to something amiss and swam over the fly on their way off the flat. The large single fish was gone, and we kept up our search without finding anything. John soon called a move to a nearby bank, and there we found two perfect opportunities. Both were wading shots at large single fish, tailing in the calm, and we were able to get the fly in front of both of them. Neither ate the fly, though the first of them rooted after it and we felt for the fourth time in half as many days that we were about to come tight. The second fish swam off into the glare, and my cast at it landed in some tough visibility. The fish stopped, I stripped, and came tight. At first I thought it was a smaller fish when we watched the large permit trot off away from us unattached, but in short order we found that it was in fact a small turtle that the fly had found the shell of. I handed the rod off to John, who carefully pulled the turtle in and took the fly out. We had another shot at a single fish that appeared completely disinterested, and then John moved away to a new spot.
For a few hours, we saw no permit and few signs of life, and in the early afternoon John made a long run to areas new to us. The first stop held no fish, but the second was a boon: a large number of fish slid over the bank as we fished it, though the glare made it tough to see them. The best we could muster was another near miss from a pair of fish, and when the clock ran out we headed home without a fish.
At the dock, we found that a few more fish had been caught. Don Gable and Mike Ward had a 30 inch fish on the board that had been nearly eaten by a hammerhead, and according to Don it was quite the game of keep away. Jared Raskob had caught a smaller fish with Sam Kaufman, and Joe Rodriguez and Mark Richens posted a 22 inch fish also. The numbers remained low and the tournament was still anyone’s going in to the last day.
Day Four (final tournament day):
We knew where the fish were yesterday, and after looking for some early tailers for an hour or two we headed to give them a shot. We had, on our final day of fishing, four shots that felt like they would work. None did, and John and I both commented on how rough the treatment was. Of note were two fish that swerved in behind the fly and even wiggled, in addition to a place we fished that seemed to have a large number of fish that we couldn’t see in the glare. We left at 5 PM, heading home to see if anyone had been able to beat Mike and Will.
Jared Raskob and Sam Kaufman had come close, bagging a second fish but losing the grand champion honors on inches. He took second place, and Don Gable and Mike Ward took third place as well as biggest fish with their 30 inch fish on the second day.
I’d like to congratulate Mike and Will on a fine showing, and I’m looking forward to fishing against them again next year.
Sunday and Monday with Simon.
More to come,