Yesterday I fished with RT as the guest of my father in law, Tim Vallilee. We also brought along John Vallilee, Kat’s brother. Also on board (and receiving by unanimous decision the Hardest Worker Award for the day) was Patrick, RT’s mate. Over the last few years, I’ve had some tough luck on the offshore front. With this trip, I hoped to turn things around a bit.
The plan was to look for cobia, as Tim wanted very much to tussle with these bravest of Gulf swimmers. Our fishing started a little before 7:30, and we made a run for some bait: the better to coax with, of course. The pilchard situation was far from perfect, and Patrick had to throw the net at least a dozen times and pick through the slim pay off each time. Within two hours we had close to our fill of pilchards, though as is always the case we hoped for more. This was accomplished with a last stop and a single throw that made our bait situation quite good before we headed out for some wrecks that RT thought might hold some cobia.
At the first wreck, we were greeted by a large phalanx of decent-sized jack crevalle. Tim tussled with them on fly for a while, which we hoped might bring any nearby cobia up for a look. The jack attack lasted for a little under an hour before RT called a move somewhere nearby for a new perspective. The next spot brought more of the same: no cobia, but plenty of fun stuff to keep us occupied. Specifically, a large number of barracuda were happy to take out our little green pilchard infantry. Tim spent some time working on the barracudas, and after a few missed bites and a fly change to show them something new was able to get a grab from a nice fish that stayed connected. We released the barracuda and headed on to another place RT thought a cobia might be living.
At this next spot we made a drift in hard search of the cobia with jigs, catching nothing before returning up current of the structure and making a stationary plea in the form of jettisoned baitfish deliciousness. The bait flew and this time there were a few different arrivals into the melee. The barracuda returned, but so too did some yellowtail snapper and a yellow jack fall victim to our baits. We stuck with the fish for an hour and a half, and in that time Tim landed another nice cuda on fly. As we discussed what to do for the afternoon, RT offered up two options: continue on into the Gulf for kingfish on fly and surely some tasty bottom fare, or head out to the Atlantic in search of the blackfin tuna that had been plentiful the day before. Tim decided that blackfin were (hopefully) on the menu, and after a brief stop to get more bait (and seal Patricks Hard Worker Award) we shot out to the Atlantic.
Arriving at the wreck RT wanted to fish we pulled up along Chris Trosset, RT’s son. With both boats throwing bait together, we figured it would only be a matter of time before the tunas showed up and gave us some love. As it was, we only saw a few blackfin bust way out behind us, and even with consistent jigging were only able to get a single bite from an unknown animal that bit us off. Chris caught an African pompano, which was neat to see, and caught a couple bonita before he relocated. We stuck with our chumming, and when Chris radioed that he was in the presence of tunas Patrick pulled the anchor and we headed that way.
Immediately, we had some fish up next to the boat and a few hooked up on bait. Both were bonita, though when we landed them the blackfins showed up. We made a few casts into the boils with bait, and were rewarded with a pair of blackfin tuna finally on the line. Tim’s was lost and John’s was brought on board for dinner, and soon we were out of the tuna and relocated to the beginning of a long and final drift. I had made an effort to get fly-ready for a final shot on fly. One thing that made it hard was the fly situation: after Tim had fed the balance of our pilchard flies to the barracudas, I opened a box that I thought contained all of my offshore stuff. Instead, I was met with a smattering of flies I had wanted to save for various reasons. Gift flies from people I wanted to keep, especially perfect Skok flies that I pulled from the shop inventory over the years, etc., were all I had. I guess that’s what I get for trying to organize my flies. Sigh.
From these, I had picked a perfect bendback that Dave Skok had tied. The fly looked great in the water, of course, but I was concerned that the bent-back hook might prevent a solid hook up from a hard-charging tuna. This fear was made worse by the first bite I got, which did not result in the hook up I’d hoped for. I kept the fly in play, and in another 10 feet was rewarded with a slashing br0nze explosion. I stayed tight to the fish onto the reel, and even though I was concerned about the hook it seemed at this point like it was already in the spot it needed to be. I fought the fish, and soon looked over to see Tim also tight to a tuna on a spinning rod. In short order, our day had gone from being tough to awesome, and in the eleventh hour to boot.
Tim’s fish ended up being eaten by a shark, and this caused me even more anxiety about losing mine. No such fate befell my tuna, and in a few short minutes we had the fish in the box and cooling down for dinner. John had caught another in this time as well, bringing our tuna count to an even four.
With that we were done, and headed home for a nice dinner at Hurricane Hole.
I’d like to thank Tim Vallilee for the invitation, and RT for sticking with a tough beat on the water until it all came right again. Thanks are in store also for Patrick, who showed us all what a real day of hard work looks like.
I’ll be in Ocala for some non-fishing stuff at the beginning of January, and then Frankie Marion will be down in the beginning of the month shooting some b-roll for the permit video. My parents will be here from 3-9 January, and we’ve got a few days with Pat Bracher to barracuda fish. Michael Hetzel arrives on 15 January for an extended stay, and starting on the 27 Frankie will return for ten days to shoot the new barracuda project, which he’s tentatively titled “Water Wolf”, thanks to Dave Skok.
Reports, pictures, videos etc. will follow as usual.
More to come,