A welcome surprise

A welcome surprise

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 4 June 2019

In the wake of my less than rewarding tarpon trip I felt like I needed some assurance, so I loaded up my canoe and usual tackle and took off for familiar waters. I was less than excited. I had a strong suspicion that I knew what I would find, not that it would be all bad, just that most parts would be as expected. There was only a slight chance that something would surprise me, but with that slight chance in mind I readied for a trip.

The switch has been flipped here in south Florida. It feels like summer now: hot, humid, calm with a sun that feels like it wants to broil your skin right off of you.  And it will if you allow it, so a full coverage of clothing is required. Unlike most years, it has not rained much yet. Usually, the largest amount of rainfall happens right about now. It is sometimes referred to as the summer monsoon. Normally it would rain, and rain hard, for somewhere around two weeks straight. It seemed like a curse when I was in school as it would happen right at the start of summer vacation, and all it would do is rain. So far, the rains have been light and scattered here on the east coast. Over on the west coast, where I was heading to fish, there had been slightly more rain.


So, not only did I know that the creeks would be uncomfortably humid, but there was also the chance that the first hatch of mosquitoes awaited me: another reason for a full coverage of clothing despite the heat. In addition, the trees would likely be very wet at dawn, dripping actually, so I was almost guaranteed to get soaked from every branch that shook. Canoeing down a mangrove creek can be an awe inspiring adventure during some times of the year, but early summertime is not one of them.


Despite all the negatives listed above, part of me really was looking forward to getting back out in what I consider my home waters. There was a need to confirm that things were still OK out there. Which meant I would have a day full of tight flylines and silvery fish in the air, even though they might not of gigantic proportions. Also, I had a few new flies to try. Well, actually not new patterns but recent potential improvements on patterns that I have been tweaking for years.


I also have a handful of new toys that I wanted to play with. Most of them are of the technical realm: a waterproof tablet with GPS/satellite photo software; a WiFi cordless depth finder that records and stores data to the same tablet; and even an underwater microphone (hydrophone) to record the ambient subsurface sounds of the mangrove environment. None of these toys are absolutely new, it is just that I have not spent much time with them as fishing has always seemed to get in the way.  One new but not really technical piece of equipment that I truly was looking forward to using was a new pair of binoculars. It may seem a bit nerdy, but I really do like to eavesdrop on birds, and especially with high quality lenses. I replaced a fabulous pair of decades old Nikons with a modern pair of same make and the optics are amazing.


After some soul searching, I decided on not launching from one of my more usual locations. Instead, I launched from a commercial boat ramp, or that is what I planned. The usual cost to launch a boat anywhere in the area is $20, but for canoes and kayaks it was less. Well, now they want $20 for using the ramp no matter what type of craft. Really? I almost went for it, but I actually don’t like using the ramps as the boaters are impatient and I don’t like to hurry. So, at the last minute I asked what it cost to launch off the seawall at the parking lot? “No cost, I guess”, was the reply from the befuddled dude at the register. So that’s how it went, and how it will go until they think of some new way to milk the paddling public.


By launching there I swapped the upper mangrove creeks for a longer but much more comfortable ride across miles of open water. I could still access the back waters by going up the creeks but it would be later in the day after things became more comfortable. Besides, I could strap on the outboard motor and eliminate a lot of physical exercise, both heading out and coming back.


There is a medium sized river that is generally overlooked by most anglers. Annually it is a nesting rookery for Swallow-tail Kites. They are likely the most impressive Everglades bird species. A startling black and white raptor, they summer here and winter in central South America, making the 7000 mile migration twice each year. And hardly ever flapping a wing!


That is where I headed first. It took well over an hour, but the ride was calm and reassuring; allowing time for probably the best breakfast I have had in months. At the river mouth I started scanning the riparian trees for resting Kites with my new binocs. The river has, in the past, offered up some decent larger tarpon fishing so I scanned the waters too. And I saw a roll!


There were tarpon. Not huge ones mind you, but decent fish in the 50 to 75# range. Resident fish: big enough to be the apex predators but, for what ever reason, not drawn to the annual assembly in the Keys to spawn.


There were not a lot of them, but true to form they held to the specific spots they usually do, and swinging a slow mullet fly through the lies produced better than usual. I put four in the air and brought two close to the canoe. I was not really prepared for them so the first one was hooked on a snook leader and I was actually glad when it threw the hook. I quickly dropped down to a lighter tippet so I could “release” them easier. Although not of “big boy” size, it is foolish, no actually stupid, to bring a tarpon of that size into a canoe.


The morning gone, I headed up the creeks to one of my old favorites and I found that everything seems to be right in that world. More tarpon, much smaller, and a handful of snook assured me that, if needed, I can still rely on some things to be pretty much the same.  Since this is SL, I will report that many of those fish were caught on an HT6, which I found to be very comfortable for the task at hand.


After that, I headed back. The paddle down the creek was splendid, and motoring across the open waters into a very slight chop was a perfect setting for enjoying a cold beer. I never did get a chance to play with my technical toys.


The crowds were gone by the time I got back so I used the ramp to reload. Hah!