The last two day I fished with Aaron Snell. We fished alone the first day, and Dave Dalu joined us yesterday. Dave and I were supposed to fish again today with Captain Ray Vasquez, but we had to reschedule the day due to family commitments.
Aaron and I began at a reasonable 9:30 AM. We ran to our first spot, and didn’t see much. Our second spot was near a channel, and as we came tight against the stake we watched a fish roll in the channel. While deep water is not ideal for the six, if we hooked a fish it would either drop into the basin upcurrent, or fall with the water across a shallow bar on the Gulf side; with a dearth of large fish in shallow areas, we decided to take our chances in the channel. It took us a few minutes, but we hooked one. Neither Aaron nor I could see the fish very well when it ate, though we were pretty sure it wasn’t record material. As such, we set about trying to make the fish at least jump for the camera; instead we watched a few rolls and nothing more in the 20 minutes we were attached to it. The fish was followed by a buddy, and after we broke the fish off we watched them both cross the shallow bar into the deep.
Following that we went to another spot, where we had found fish the week prior. We were there for perhaps two hours; the fishing was great, but the catching was tough. The fish kept us interested:
As is typical in basins, the fish had a tendency to be rather touchy. We did feed one that ate coming right at the boat but the fly never found a seat. Another half hour and we left for spot #4.
We arrived in our last spot of the day and immediately had a shot. The cloud cover, however, prevented us from seeing fish. That said, we picked it apart and had a few shots at fish that were all 6 material. The tarpon, however, were very touchy. One fish, laid up high and sitting in the current, fled as soon as Aaron pointed at it–not a good sign and one that we hoped wouldn’t be repeated. Not long after this, Aaron and I both spotted a fish over a sand patch about 150 yards away. Our excitement over its size and location was tempered by the recent fleeing; as we pushed up to it I remember wishing for it all to happen faster, as the anticipation was leading to an overproduction of “I’m going to screw this up” brain chemicals. Sure enough, as Aaron pushed the boat into position, the fish fled–this time, coming straight for us. It was all I could do to fire off a cast in its line, and I was suprised when the fish opened its mouth and gobbled. Our elation was short lived, however, as the fish kept coming and never closed its mouth. In fact, the only mistake the fish made was eating the fly. As the fish cut towards the boat on a now slack line and raised its head out of the water and shook, the fly went flying. So much for that fish, though our confidence returned and we were back in the game. Our next shot was at a pair of cruising fish at 10 o’clock–our cast was on target and our fly was quickly inhaled.
This fish acted perfectly, allowing us to nearly turn it over after 20 minutes. We could tell that it wasn’t big enough, but we pulled on it for a while anyway just for fun and photographs. After a half hour I broke it off and we headed for home.
On the second of two days with Aaron, Dave Dalu was with us. I have talked about Dave’s mad skills here before, and it came as no suprise that he dominated the fishing. We decided to fish out front and save our 6-pursuit for later; our intention was just to catch fish and hang out with Dave.
I was up first and had a few shots before relinquishing the bow. It didn’t take Dave long to get a cast in front of a nice group of tarpon, and he quickly dried one off and pulled the hook next to the boat after flipping the fish a few times. A short distance release, suited to the pace of the day. Right before the hook came out, Aaron snapped this photo:
I was up again in short order. In retrospect, this is when I realized I was having an off day; I threw at a couple, had a few sniff the fly, but couldn’t get one to commit. I gave the bow to Dave once again (in keeping with friendly rules) and he once again put one in the air. I was up, and missed another few shots, before we left for greener pastures.
Dave was up, and as we pulled into our next spot Aaron said “someone get a rod ready. Quick.” I handed Dave his weapon, and as he stripped out line we saw a group of fish coming across the sand at us. It took him two casts, to be fair, but one was soon in the air. After the fish threw the hook on a great third jump, Dave reeled in a scale that the leader had pulled off the fish when it landed:
I tried for a while longer and had a few shots, though my off day continued. While one fish out of a pair looked ready to crack, it simply wouldn’t do it. As the tide died we left to try our hand at the six, and I spun up a fresh bimini during the run.
We arrived at a basin for the late afternoon session, and had a few shots at fish that were close to impossible to see in the glare. One pair of fish was travelling, and while I put the fly in front of the lead fish and watched him turn we simply couldn’t buy a grab. We continued to fish in increasing glare until finally Aaron had us on an edge full of tarpon that we could see only because their tails were sticking out of the water. I had a few casts that should have (could have, would have) worked, but my losing streak continued. I gave Dave the bow for the remainder of the tail session, content to sit and hope for the deafening silence to be shattered by the drying cycle. It wasn’t, they didn’t, whatever. After another hour we left for home.
And I must say this: I did pull a blank out there yesterday. But doing it next to one of the best tarpon anglers in the world made it sting a little less, and I can live with that.