If you follow me on twitter (if you’re one of the 15 people that reads this blog then I’m going to be offended if you aren’t!) then you know Rachel and I have been in Florida for the last week. In fact, by the time this posts we’ll be back to normal life in Nashville.
We flew down last Tuesday to meet Rachel’s mother, 14 year old brother, and one of his friends to stay at our place in Destin. Let me just say really quick that a 45 minute flight from Nashville to Panama City (then another 45 minute drive to Destin) kicks the crap out of a +7 hour drive from Nashville to Destin. God bless Southwest and their ‘wanna get away’ fares. The plan was to spend the week relaxing, and hopefully fishing while we were there.
When we arrived late Tuesday night the weather was pretty much the way it would be for the entire trip; it was incredibly windy. The surf was incredibly unforgiving for five straight days. That lead me to believe my best chances for catching fish would be at the jetties. Instead, I watched Bill Dance and Roland Martin on NBC Sports for a few day. I did tie flies and tried laying out on the beach (so freakin’ boring) during those times, which was nice because the whole key to the trip was to stay low-key.
Rachel’s brother Jack and his friend Jesse wanted to go fishing during those first few days, too. So we took out the ole’ surf rods, rigged ’em up, and headed down to the jetties.
I rigged the guys up with cut bait on down rigs, and after they started fishing I decided to pull out my small South Bend fiberglass rod. The guys were nailing pinfish, grunts, and some other baitfish that I couldn’t i.d. so I decided to chunk a clouser into the swarm and see what I could come up with. It wasn’t my first attempt at Grunts and Pinfish on a fly rod, and honestly, if you like plucking bluegills then I’d say that Grunts and Pins are the saltwater equivalent. They’re easy to find, and easy to hook with a small enough fly.
Saturday rolled in and rained all day long. That pushed me off the water and into Bass Pro and the Orvis store. Fortunately, it never really stormed. We just received a ton of soaking rain. I’m not 100% but that seemed to prime the next few days for better fishing.
I’m new to surf fishing on the fly so I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach it. The only real strategy I used was scout the sandbars and cast at schools. I was lucky that right in front of our place the sandbar took a hard right closer to shore. In watching that dog-leg I could see baitfish following the sandbar and turning into shore at that point. Winds were still 15-25 mph, with gusts up to 30 & 40 mph according to the weather channel. I tied on an orange and tan Crazy Charlie fly, and as soon as traffic showed up I started casting.
On Sunday I hooked into a mess of Hardtail Jacks, and then Monday it was Leatherjackets. All members of the Jack family and would probably make fantastic shark bait on a bigger rig.
One of my last casts on Monday as the sun was going down hit hard and swift. I knew it wasn’t a hardtail or leatherjacket when the line started screaming off the reel, and in the distance I saw a fish come completely out of the water 3 or 4 times before I could start reeling in line. This fish didn’t fight for hours like I thought it might based on the first two runs it took. In fact, it only took about 5 to 10 minutes to get it in.
If there’s one thing I learned about surf casting it’s that however fast action your rod is you could always use a faster one. There’s zero finesse when it comes to fish in the surf. Even the 8″ leatherjackets left zero doubt that they were attacking my fly. Couple that with the strong winds, and a fast action rod is just what you need. Still, my 8 wt didn’t hook a fish that took it to it’s limit, but I’m confident there are fish out there that would (permit, mackerel, etc.).
The ladyfish was certainly the best catch of the trip. She fought hard, and danced well across the water while bringing her in. None of the fish caught this trip would be anything that would impress a local, or anyone with the means or equipment to cast the bay flats for reds, specks, etc., but it certainly was a lot of fun for someone who isn’t used to fly casting in the surf.
*All pictures are courtesy of my wonderful wife who actually remembers to take pictures. I think it’s fairly easy to tell which posts have her pictures in them and which ones have pictures that I have taken. Yeah, I’m bad at taking pictures.