Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 12 March 2019
This past weekend it finally happened! A buddy and I brought three beautiful snook to the canoe on our flyrods. We actually went 3 out of 4 that were hooked. For a brief moment, we even had on a double header, but that ended shortly after my shouts of exuberance, and number four threw the hook. There were a few others that tried to eat our flies too, but despite their best efforts, we were able to deftly snatch the flies away from them just in time.
I wish I could take some credit for our success, but it really was all on the snook. After weeks of presenting flies and seeing fish either bolt away or very, very slowly slink off, this day they acted like they had not eaten anything for months. That is quite possibly very close to reality.
It is really sobering to realize how much fishing success depends on the mood of the fish. The truth is, there was no change in tactics by the anglers. It was the same fishing partner, same canoe, same rods, lines, and flies. At one point my buddy presented a fly about 10 feet in front of a snook that we spotted in the shallows. Our previous experiences had us using these extremely passive presentations as, in the past, even a lead this long would put the fish on alert. This day, the fish accelerated like a torpedo to smash the fly almost the instant it landed on the water!
I have witnessed this split personality in snook over the years. After months of presenting flies to frustratingly picky fish, all of a sudden, they will completely switch personality and eat just about anything that moves. It wasn’t quite that easy on this last trip, and believe it or not, that is not a bad thing. When they eat with abandon it almost takes the fun out of it.
Well, don’t get me wrong, fighting fish is a lot more fun than being rejected, and by the end of the winter I usually feel like I deserve a banquet day. Still, banner days leave an empty feeling of not really solving the puzzle.
Over the last few months, I have completely ignored probably the finest backwater large tarpon fishing that will take place in 2019. From the reports I received, it looks like it was a better than average season. In retrospect, I probably blew it. While I was pulling my hair out trying to get these snook to simply show interest in a fly, I could have been pulling on the face of unusually willing tarpon. Maybe next year I will be smart enough to remember that when the snook are being passive, the tarpon are likely acting aggressively.
There is another side to this though. Backwater tarpon fishing, for all the fun that it provides, is much like casino fishing. If you just keep putting your fly in the water you will likely, sooner or later, get one to eat. Then all hell breaks loose. Of course, this depends on being able to find where the fish are staging. The ability to predict and/or find the fish is a large part of the expertise required. You know they are there because you can occasionally see them, but you seldom see them eat. You can sure feel it though! That surprise is probably the biggest thrill of it all.
These winter snook are a very different game. Besides having to locate them, once you do, you really have to convince them to eat. And the damn things are just so visible! It is all right there in front of you. Usually, when they do decide to taste the fly, which is truly rare, it is after a rather prolonged follow, so there is no surprise “tug”, in fact, it is quite the opposite. It takes everything I have to not react until I feel the fish on the line. Quite often that is where I still fail.
So, maybe it is really a pipe dream, but I cannot stop trying to solve this riddle. Although, up to this point I must admit I have made little progress, each time I go out and try I come home with some new observations and ideas. I have some really outside the box ideas from this last trip. Now that they are feeling a little more like playing along maybe I can fit another piece into the puzzle.