I am still behind on these reports, so I’m trying to catch up as best I can. Given that these are fishing reports that have morphed into a blog of sorts (at the expense of an update of current conditions on the flats) I thought it might be prudent to provide an update of the weather and the fishing at the moment instead of only reporting on things that happened a few weeks ago. The weather has been spotty, perched right on the edge of getting perfect. It seems each time the water temperatures rise and the wind lays down some we are hit with yet another cold front to shake things up. At the moment we’re in a cold spell, though the weather is slated to improve this week and I’m sure when things turn around it will have been worth the wait.

With that out of the way, I’ll bring this report back to the week after the Cuda Bowl, when I fished with Doug Kilpatrick. The cold front that had caused a cancellation of the first day of the tournament was in full effect when we fished, and we made a decision to throw some tube lures at barracuda. As a pretty focused fly fisherman, I have always been interested in the barracuda’s obsession with the tubular worm baits. Every year in the Cuda Bowl, even if we have what I feel is stellar fishing and great luck, the tube guys take the most inches handily. It’s actually embarassing to admit, but before I fished with Doug I could only remember catching a single barracuda on a spinning rod, and it was on a lipped plug with Aaron Snell after we had weighed in (and released) a then-world record lemon shark on 2 lb tippet. That’s another story, and before I get too sidetracked I’ll get back to what happened with Doug.

For me, it was great to spend some time with a spinning rod. I learned that, mostly, I would love to be able to cover as much water with a fly in a day as I did in an hour with a tube. I learned that setting the hook is a pain, and most bites can easily turn into slack. And I learned, for sure, that fish that are too cold are still pretty disinterested in anything that comes across the–even if it is a tube.

We did find a few opportunities to throw the fly, and while a few large fish chased the fly we couldn’t get any to open up. We caught a couple on tubes, and when the light got low we headed home.

The next day was another cold one, and this day we were lucky enough to be joined by John O’Hearn. Clearly, having a guide as talented as Doug is a great thing when you’re fishing. Add to that another guide as talented as John, and all you need to do is sit back and watch things unfold.

The fishing was again difficult and the water still cold, but the company took the edge off and we soon had a 5 dollar pot going for the first fish, utilizing the Cuda Bowl minimum of 24 inches to qualify. I got there first, but soon the bet evolved into the first “nice proper” fish. John caught a 34 in the early afternoon that he took out of the running on the grounds of it not being nice and proper enough, and our bet then became the biggest of the day after that. We found a small wreck that John had wanted to check out, and amazingly the fishing for giant grey snapper was great on jigs. In a half hour, John and Doug and I caught a limit of greys, the largest of which was likely approaching 5 pounds. Our bait well full with dinner and an hour or so left in the day, we moved on to finish the bet in a final spot.

It was John that won the bet with a very large fish over 45 inches, and even though Doug and I tried to make an effort to beat him out we knew this was statistically impossible. John collected his 10 bucks at the dock and took home the bulk of the protein for the kids. I’d like to thank Doug Kilpatrick for putting out a great effort (and up with the tough weather), and John for joining us on the second day and taking our money and snapper.

After this trip with Doug, I had John O’Hearn booked for a pair of days. As with the two days with Doug, we booked the time with expectations of permit fishing in what we hoped would be an early window of weather. The reality didn’t quite match up, and we left with an approaching cold front and water temperatures of only 66 degrees. Idiotically undeterred, we rigged up the 4 pound and tried to give the permit record an effort. At the first spot, we found a few barracuda and stripped out the cuda rod for a shot at something if the permit weren’t around. Within 20 minutes we spotted a pair of permit that didn’t see the fly when we threw it near them, and they blew out when we got closer. A large barracuda pulled our attention higher on the bank, and I was looking at it when John told me bluntly “11 o’clock, 30 feet.” I tossed the fly into what I realized as the fly landed was a small group of permit, and we repositioned the cast a second time when they turned into the current. A fish peeled away from the group and fell in behind the fly, and I took a long strip to animate the fly and came tight on the pull. We quickly cleared the line and started after the fish. Not knowing exactly how big the permit was we gave chase as if it was over the existing record of 24 pounds, though we both knew deep down this fish wouldn’t do it. On a different day, where we thought we might get some more shots on the bank, we likely would break this fish off so as not to make a scene at the expense of another shot at a record. On this day, in the cold water and clouds, we were just happy to have hooked one and made it our new mission just to catch the fish. John had forgotten the net, however, and this made our job tough. While we do intend to catch and release the permit record if we ever catch it, we do carry a small pick gaff in the event we hook a big one that can’t be netted. This fish, however, was not big enough to consider taking a risk for its life and we made a new goal up as we went: catch this fish on 4 lb tippet with no gaff or net, just get the old-school grab if we could.

After 15 minutes of pulling as much as we dared and chasing the permit around, it finally gave up and allowed John to grab its tail. We got some photos of the fish before we let it go:

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I should probably end this report with this fish, since the rest of the day was less than interesting to write about. John’s motor finally chewed the cyanide, and while this has usually caused some amount of discord it was nothing this day that a permit on 4 pound couldn’t overcome. Add to that the fact that we had a great tide on the long bank we were fishing, and we simply made the best of John’s recent loss and poled until Shane Wood picked us up at 3 for a generous tow in. The rest of our fishing was devoid of permit completely, though we did find a few large barracuda to throw at before the day was over.

The next day we permit fished exclusively, and while the weather remained cold and the water decidedly permit free we gave it our best effort in hopes that we might get lucky again. We didn’t, and for our full day’s efforts we only saw some mud from a single permit and never got  shot.

I’d like to thank John for a fun pair of days and a great permit capture to kick off the new year. I’ll be fishing with John again on Monday and Tuesday, and my guess is we’ll be on the permit program with the light line once again.

 

I’m almost current on the reports–all I have to upload is the three days early in the week that I had with Steve Huff and Jason Schratwieser in pursuit of the six. We had a great time and  there’s lots to write about, though no record. More to come.

 

nathaniel