At the beginning of the month, Kat and I fished the Sugarloaf Showdown with Doug Kilpatrick. Over the last few years this tournament has become a fun way for the LKGA to benefit the Guides Trust Foundation, and with Irma’s recent taxation of both organizations it was a great way to get back to normal and support the guides. In a tournament that allows both spin and fly fishing, our approach was simple: have fun, fish both and enjoy a few days on the water with Doug.
The first day was a prefish day, and we did our best to make it count. We ran around in the new boat, burning gas and giving the motor a chance to stretch its legs. The fishing we found was not notable, however, and we decided to make a change in our approach for the first day of fishing. Overall we found only two permit shots while fishing, and what would have been a dozen or more barracuda shots if we had been throwing at them instead of resting them for the following day.
On the tournament day Doug elected to change our location up, not being satisfied with what we’d found the day before. We fished in shifts, with one of us on the bow with the permit rod and the other on the cooler, throwing the tube for barracuda. I was able to pick up a large barracuda to start, which we quickly logged on the scorecard and released:
We continued on in the face of increasing wind and few targets to throw at, keeping with our plan of a mix of fly and spin fishing as we pushed along. The fishing stayed tough, and while Doug considered making a move for new places he smartly assumed it to be a grind no matter where we were and made a stand for the rest of the afternoon. I was able to scrape a bonefish out on a upwind shot to a single, and we kept it wet for the photo:
We switched to a fly rod for the barracuda when it appeared there were enough around, and had a great bite from a large one that came unbuttoned. Another few casts at fish nearby were met with at best a slow follow, and in the final hours we switched back to Kat on the bow ready for permit and me on the cooler, hurling the green tube downwind and hoping for another cuda. We got what we were hoping for with the latter of these efforts, and soon released another barracuda on the spinning rod. When the tournament time expired we headed in, and handed in our scorecard at Sugarloaf Lodge.
The next day was the second and last of the competition days, and we found ourselves in second place going in. John Benvenuto and Scott Christian were in the lead with a bonefish and two barracuda, though for each of those they enjoyed fly-caught premium points. We figured out a plan for the final day that involved an all-out barracuda on fly assault, and made a long run to where we wanted to be.
I started off by hooking a large barracuda on my second cast of the morning, though after it cleared the line to the reel it came unbuttoned. Kat missed one on the spinning rod, and then she hooked and landed a scoring fish in a few minutes. Here’s the pic:
With that we were beginning to believe we might be able to get three barracuda on fly with time left over for a shot at a permit as the water warmed up in the late afternoon. We stayed focused on the task at hand and continued to cover water in the overcast, hoping for number two. We stuck with this plan throughout the morning, and while things had started off looking great by the early afternoon we were still looking for another to add to our scorecard. Doug worked hard, and had us in position for a few bites from large fish on fly, though in every case the fly came out before we could catch the points. As the day neared expiration, we kept with the plan and dug our heels in. The sun came out and we made our way to a last flat, hoping to find a high note to end on. The barracuda were there in all of their smudgy glory, nosing in to the falling current and waiting for a hapless baitfish to slide by. We coaxed a bite from a barracuda, and then saw a pair of feeding permit. Kat slid the permit rod out and passed it to me, and Doug fell away from the pair of fish. I stripped out some line and got a cast off in their direction, though by the time the fly landed the permit seemed to be compromised. We kept on fishing with an eye on the clock, and when we missed another bite from a large barracuda we were within minutes of having to leave. Soon Doug spotted another fish on the bank, and we got from a shot in its direction the best thing tournaments, even fun ones, have to offer: a chance to end on a high note. We netted the fish and photographed it quickly:
After that Doug made a valiant upwind return to the bank, and we had a single shot before the alarm sounded. We ran home, knocking a few things loose on the new boat, and there found that we had been unable to overtake John Benvenuto and Scott Christian who retained their lead from day 1 through the finish. We were even unable to hold on to second place, as Captain Tim Carlisle and Peter Vandergrift caught two bonefish on spin and one on fly to slide in to second place. Our third place was one we were proud of, and we got a great piece of artwork from Jorge Martinez to hang at the house.
I’d like to mention how nice it is to fish in a tournament that’s not as highly pressured as most are, and thanks are in order to Doug Kilpatrick who gave it his all in the face of a stiff wind all three days.
I fished some last week with Ian and Simon, and both of these days were tremendously fun but slow in terms of fish caught. I’ll get that report up tomorrow, meaning I’ll be current before I fish again on Wednesday this week with Ian Slater and my friend Tim Gay.