It is now January, and in times past South Florida would be entering the coldest two months of the year. It was not uncommon for cold fronts to start coming through as early as the last weeks of October. Those cold fronts would initiate a series of events that could be counted upon to provide some really interesting fly fishing. Of course, some years were colder or warmer than others, but that series of events was usually quite dependable. It just might be a little earlier or later, but mostly the results were the same.
So far this year, the winter of 2018/2019, it is still rather warm. I would say outside my house, right now, the air temperature is in the upper 70s. I’m sure that is wonderful for our tourists and our tourist-centric economy, but it leaves a lot to be desired from this angler’s point of view. One real problem, in my mind, has been one of inconsistency. Instead of a steady decline in air temperature, if plotted, this year’s temps would look much like a sine wave: undulating up and down almost rhythmically. And never dropping down to the pre-Anthropocene average daily lows.
In the past, that relatively steady drop in average daily air temperature would be followed by a similar drop in water temperature. The change in the water would instigate an impressive adjustment of station for many different species of local fish. It was something to really look forward to. Sadly, not so much anymore.
In the past, by now, I would have been done targeting most of the semi-tropical gamefish as they would be almost in a hibernation mode. Instead, I would be turning my sights to the north where the waters could be downright chilly, for Florida standards anyway. If the water temperatures would drop into the low 50s, or below, and stay there for a few days, a very special flyfishing opportunity would present itself.
There is a seldom targeted by fly inshore saltwater species called a Black Drum which would seem to be quite similar to the common freshwater carp in both habit and fishing tactics. Although not quick to take a fly, they will if the presentation is perfect. And, while they will never win a beauty contest, nor are they a flashy fighter, they do get to rather a large size and they can present an exciting sight-fishing target. They are a bottom grubbing species that prefers the deepest inshore holes and large structure like bridges, but when the water gets cold they will move to the shallows to warm up in the sun. When feeding in the shallows they tip down and tail much like a bonefish, except that their tails are the size of an old fashion house broom.
Just inshore of the east coast of central Florida there is a long shallow lagoon adjacent to where the US space agency launched many of the rockets and space shuttles. For security reasons, boats were (and still are) prohibited from these waters. Wading and hand-propelled craft were/are allowed however, except during launch times.
Paddling slowly along on a cold day with a bright sun and cloudless skies and casting flies to huge tails sticking above the surface might now be a thing of the past. Due to the warming winters and recurring algae blooms in most of Florida’s lagoons, including the one where motors are not allowed, has all but eliminated this unusual but delightful fishery. When hooked, these fish were capable of towing a canoe around for upwards of an hour!