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Southern Saltwater

Fly Fishing Magazine Edition 9 January 2019

Close Look: Naples/Marco Island

www.southernsaltwaterflyfishing.com


From the Editor Editor Jimmy Jacobs jimmyjacobs@mindspring.com Publisher Don Kirk don@southerntrout.com Associate Publisher Claude Preston, III claude@southerntrout.com From the Editor

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et me begin by wishing all our Managing Editor readers a very Happy New Leah Kirk Year. Southern Saltwater Fly Fish leah@southerntrout.com ing had a great 2018, with our subscriber base increasing by more Assoc. Managing Editor than 50 percent. We look forward Loryn Lathem to delivering interesting reading loryn@southerntrout.com in the coming year to keep those numbers growing. Hopefully, we’ll see more Field Editor Polly Dean reader comments like this one: pollydean22@gmail.com I’m enjoying your Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine. Contributors We have a small place in Florida Bill AuCoin Ed Mashburn south of Cocoa/Kennedy Space Andy L. Dear Paul MacInnis Center near our daughter that Polly Dean we visit several times a year. I’ve been most interested in learning about fishing opportunities in the Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing is a publication of Southern Unlimited, LLC. It is produced in conjunction with Southern area, but haven’t had much luck. The article about tarpon fishing Trout Magazine and Southerntrout.com. Copyright 2018 north of the Space Center (Space Southern Unlimited, LLC All rights reserved. 2 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Coast Backcountry Tarpon by Paul MacInnis, Nov/Dec 2018) is very interesting to me. It’s about an hour’s drive from us and I’ve always wanted to fish for baby tarpon. The article gives a lot of good info and I’ll probably visit the local Fly Fishers International club. Thanks Sid Elliott

destination coverage are articles by Bob Borgwat on Nicaraguan tarpon, Robert Sloan chasing flounder in Sabine Lake, Texas, and Field Editor Polly Dean pursuing tarpon at Little Torch Key in Florida. Hope you enjoy the stories and let us hear from you. Jimmy Jacobs Editor

JOURNEYS OF SGI St. George Island, Florida

On a less happy note, back on the last day of November the fly fishing community lost a good friend with the passing of President George H.W. Bush. The former president had a long history of participating in and supporting our sport. Much of that angling took place in the brine from Maine to the Florida Keys. Back in 1995 I had the chance to briefly visit with Mr. Bush during the social hour of the George Bush/Cheeca Lodge Bonefish Tournament at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada. That evening he mingled with the

crowd, speaking with everyone. During another visit we got to look around the presidential suite, where a pair of Mr. Bush’s autographed cowboy boots were on display. As has been noted by many commentators, he was a man of the people, and will be missed. In this issue we continue to add to our stable of thoroughbred writers. The Close Look section covering Naples and Marco Island in southwest Florida is anchored by Capt. Rob Modys’ first contribution to the magazine. He takes us in search of snook and tarpon. Up in Sebastian, Florida, veteran outdoor newspaper columnist Sue Cocking writes about the mullet run along the beaches and the predators that follow the baitfish. Also new to our pages is Matt Reilly, with a feature on the Legends of the Fly tournament and the fishing in general at Virginia Beach, Virginia. Rounding out our

40 E 3rd Street, St. George Island (850)927-3259 www.sgislandjourneys.com info@sgislandjourneys.com

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This Issue Editor's Letter

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Solarez 6 Fly Fishing the Sebastian Mullet Run

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3

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Legends of the Fly 18 Tournament Shining a Light on a Local Fishery and Local Veterans The Mauser Waterman Series 28 Flat Fish on the Fly in Sabine Lake

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Dawn Patrol 42 on Little Porch Key CLOSE LOOK Naples/Marco Island Two Fish and 10,000 Islands 58 239 Flies Goes Retail

72

A New Breed of Tier

82

The Boat House Motel History and Snook

94

Knocking at the Door 104 A Millenial at the Poling Platform Nigaragua Tarpon 2.0 The Challenge Met

110

End of the Line Best Little Bar Restaurant in Goodland

124

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110


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58 72

42 94

104

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On September 30, 2018, Solarez, in partnership with Southern Trout and Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazines, Dr. Slick Fly Tying Tools and FlyTyer Magazine launched The Solarez UV Revolution World Tour. Rock Concerts? NO. Instead, an awareness program exploring all of the different types of flies that can be tied with Solarez UV Resins. So, just what is this Solarez UV Revolution World Tour? It is a contest and social media tour directed at the fly tying and fly fishing world that will generate awareness and the unique application value of using Solarez in constructing flies. This program is running from September 30, 2018, through April 1, 2019, and will create an opportunity for fly ters from all over the world to showcase their fly tying abilities. REQUIREMENTS: Tyers will be required to post a photo of their fly with an accompanying Solarez UV Product and pattern ingredients for the fly on one of the four Solarez Facebook pages: North America, Europe, Australia or New Zealand. Entrants should select the Facebook page that geographically represents them. Posts that do not include the Solarez product with fly and pattern will be deleted immediately. Only those posts meeting the requirements will remain.

So, what happens next?

The top 5 contributors with the most Facebook ‘likes’ at the end of each month will receive a t-shirt and an additional 5 t-shirts will be awarded via a random drawing from those who posted likes. Drawings will be held on last day 6 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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SOLA

UV Rev World Tou


AREZ

volution ur Contest

of each month and winners will be announced during the first week of the following month. (All t-shirts will be size XL to manage inventory) On October 1, the first drawing wasfrom individuals who “likeed” the Solarez Page from September 19 - September 30. This contest will be announced “softly” via Solarez Facebook pages, shares, Pro Team Members, and partner posts. For the final drawing in April, we will start the whole process over again. October will set the stage for November, December, January, February, and the last on in March, for a total of 7 months in each geographical area. TWO (2) GRAND PRIZES, will be randomly drawn from tyers who have submitted flies for the World Tour and all those who have provided likes. Votes will only be collected for flies posted on Solarez Facebook pages. Contributor flies will be shared with Partner Facebook pages. Partners will also be encouraged to offer monthly prizes from random drawings from monthly ‘likers’ of their own individual Facebook pages. Winners will be shared/posted on all Solarez Facebook pages. Southern Trout and Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing magazines will be featuring some Pro Team and consumer flies in each issue over the next 6 months. Of course, they will be respective of either trout or saltwater patterns. Dr. Slick will provide fly-tying tools monthly. Flytyer Magazine will be supporting this tour program by highlighting flies. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Fly Fishing the S J

ust beyond the Sebastian Inlet surf break, stretching for a half-mile to the south, the Atlantic was a cauldron of small, seething, pulsing brown blobs streaming every which way on the green surface. Suddenly the mass parted and the sea erupted in a foamy white explosion like a depth charge as a gleaming silver torpedo rolled through the chaos.

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Sebastian Mullet Run By Sue Cocking

Welcome to the epicenter of Florida's Bill Grady on the lookout fall mullet run - the seasonal southward mifor tarpon in the surf. gration of bait fish being pursued by ravenPhoto by Sue Cocking. ous legions of tarpon and other game fish. Usually firing off between mid-September and mid-October near Sebastian - a small, non-touristy fishing town on the central east coast - this is the most exciting event of the year for the near-shore and surf angler.

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A vast majority of mullet run anglers choose to match the hatch by dropping a cast net on the teeming school and then hurling one of the baits on heavy spinning tackle toward a tarpon on the surface. But for the fly fisher, the bait migration presents the supreme challenge of enticing a finicky, enigmatic, high-value target species to eat a manmade creation of fur, feathers and thread - while surrounded by the real thing. "Like trying to hit Powerball," said Vero Beach surf fly fisher Bill Grady. "It's one of those things where you just can't call it. There are days I'm surrounded with fish and never get a strike."

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Grady fishes strictly on foot, tracking the mullet schools by car along the coast between Melbourne and Fort Pierce at every public access point. It's hot, physically-demanding hunting, walking the beach, casting a sturdy 10-weight for hours on end and often to no avail. Still, his determination never flags. However, Sebastian-based light-tackle guide Captain Glyn Austin says even live bait fishing aboard a boat is not a gimme; there will be days of multiple bites followed by even more days of goose eggs.

The water exploding as a school of mullet flee their pursuers. Photo by Sue Cocking. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Fly fishing along the beach from his bay boat, Austin aims to stay ahead of the mullet schools and directs his clients to cast back to them when a tarpon is seen crashing. But fishing from shore, the angler must abide by the rhythms of the surf. "Quarter the surf at 45 degrees. Mend the line over the break," Grady said. "Be patient. Fish painfully slow in the surf-- the slowest you can strip while still maintaining contact with the fly." Grady favors a 10-weight rod with either a full intermediate line or an intermediate sink tip. A floating line, he said, will not be effective. The reel is loaded with 250 yards of hollow-core braided backing connected to 35-pound-test braided running line with a Rio Outbound short shooting head. Leaders are typically 6 feet of 50-pound monofilament. Grady ties his own flies - 4- to 5-inch bait fish patterns that mimic mullet, pinfish, croakers or ladyfish with 2/0 or 3/0 hooks. 12 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

A tarpon takes to the air when it feels the bite of the hook. Photo by Sue Cocking.

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"I make them bigger and flashier using a lot of synthetics. It doesn't have to be a perfect facsimile, but the correct profile," he said. Happily, there is plenty of desirable bycatch during the mullet run. In addition to tarpon, anglers may expect to encounter sharks, snook, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, and possibly kingfish and cobia. Since all are chasing the same prey, there's little need to continually switch flies. "Tarpon are my favorite, but I'm thrilled to catch anything," Grady said. Chances are, you will be too.

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Capt. Hiriam’s Resort in Sebastian, Florida. Photo courtesy of Capt. Hiram’s Resort.

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Under Florida law, tarpon are pretty much a catch-and-releaseonly species. To check the regulations for other saltwater species, go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website at myfwc.com. To book a fly charter with Captain Glyn Austin, call (321) 863-8085. To book a fly charter with Captain Mike Peppe, call (77) 559-6834. To purchase flies for the mullet run drop in at Harry Goode's Outdoor Shop in Melbourne Their number is (321) 723-4751. For accommodations in Sebastian, check out Capt. Hiram's Resort (www.hirams.com; 1-888-HIRAMS1) or Best Western Plus Sebastian at (772) 388-9300.

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Harry Goode’s Outdoor Shop in Melbourne, Florida. Photo by Polly Dean.

Sue Cocking has been one of the most influential outdoor journalists in Florida during the last quarter century. She was a columnist for two decades for the Miami Herald, as well as appearing on both radio and television in that market. Sue also has been a staff writer for Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts website. Her writing now can be found online at VeroNews.com. 16 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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“IʼVE NEVER MET A REILLY ROD I DIDNʼT HATE.” (Say all trophy fish) We upset a lot of fish. But we’ll win your heart. Whether you’re spending a relaxing day on the lake, exploring the saltwater backcountry, bushwacking a high mountain blueline or stalking the flats where we’re headed is where you’re going.

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Legends of the Fly Tournament The waters around Virginia Beach produce some big seatrout. Photo by Charlie Church.

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Shining a Light on a Local Fishery and Local Veterans

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n the pre-dawn hours, there’s a surprising amount of activity in the urban saltwater fishing community of Virginia Beach. Anticipation is rising. Some anglers have been scouting and pre-fishing for weeks, dialing in a fishery for when results matter. For others, it’s the first morning on a new piece of water. For the organizers, it’s a year’s worth of planning and devotion culminating. As dawn breaks, the sky is heavy, and a light wind filters in from the northwest. Two-angler teams are sliding into their favorite spots, ready to roll the dice and enjoy a day on Virginia’s bountiful coastal waters. The third annual Legends of the Fly Tournament is under way.

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Legends of the Fly

Born in 2015, the brainchild of John Fall and Art Webb, Legends of the Fly is a charitable organization that aims to raise awareness of the wonderful saltwater fly fishing opportunities off of Virginia’s coast and serve as a fundraiser for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), an organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing, which holds many fundraising events throughout the year. “I was inspired by my experience at the Mossy Creek Invitational and wanted to duplicate it on our home waters,” Fall said, who serves as the organization’s director. “My good friends, Colby and Brian Trow, introduced my wife and me to the needed contacts at PHWFF and it took off.” Since its inception, Legends of the Fly has raised over $15,000 for PHWFF, and the group has aggressive plans for 2019. The tournament is held each fall in Virginia Beach, where two-angler teams spread out on local waters in boats, kayaks, and waders. It is a catch-and-release, slam-based tournament, and is restricted to fly fishing only. Participants take a photo of the fish they want to register on an approved measuring device with an indicator that verifies that it was caught the day of the tournament. A speckled trout, striped bass, and red drum make up the three-fish slam, and the team with the largest combined length of the three fish takes first place. In the event that no one completes a slam, a bluefish may be used as a wild card fish, substituted for the fish needed to finish the slam. 20 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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The anglers gathered for the Legends of the Fly awards event. Photo by Charlie Church

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A Saltwater Fly Fishing Destination

Part of the goal of the fall Legends of the Fly tournament is to draw attention to coastal Virginia’s robust saltwater fisheries, and the slam structure of the tournament highlights that well. “Fall fishing in the Virginia Beach area is hard to beat,” said Charlie Church, a board member for Legends of the Fly and an avid local angler. “Speckled trout, striped bass and red drum all feed heavily before they move to wintering locations.” Red drum activity tends to peak in September and October, while speckled trout activity is highest in October and November, and striped bass action can remain heavy throughout the fall and winter. “This can make for some incredible fly fishing opportunities,” Church said. Church admits that fishing can become a little slow in the winter months, but those anglers willing to work hard can find fish. “On a warm 22 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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And the winners are Robert Misiaszek and Steve Tegtmeyer. Photo by Charlie Church

year, anglers can target specks, reds, and stripers by finding warmer water, but some years it can be very tough,” he said. As spring begins to break, the action begins to pick up quickly. “We have been seeing a big bluefish bite in the past few years, and these things will absolutely crush a topwater fly,” Church said. “Resident stripers become more consistent. Speckled trout will start moving back onto the flats to feed before they start spawning.” The end of April also brings with it a trophy red drum fishery. “From late April through early June can be incredible fishing for huge red drum,” Church said. “After that, these fish will roam Chesapeake Bay in schools and can provide some incredible sight fishing to the lucky anglers who come across this. In the fall, they all school up and head out of the bay.” This exciting fishery has the potential to produce fish over 50 pounds and did produce one 53-pound specimen, a pending world record, on the fly in 2018. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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During the summer months, the bay fills up with cobia, providing a fun and unique sight-fishing opportunity. If puppy drum are around in numbers, fishing the flats and inlets can be productive this time of year for both the small drum and trout. The pure diversity of species available to the saltwater fly angler in eastern Virginia makes it an overlooked destination among more talked-about saltwater Meccas. “We have the ability to target a diverse selection of species - cobia, drum, puppy drum, speckled trout, bluefish, striped bass, and sharks,” Fall said. “You can also head off shore and target white and blue marlin, sailfish, mahi-mahi, and even tuna. If you have the patience and time you can head to the Eastern Shore and try your luck with tarpon. More and more of the silver kings are being landed on a fly.”

The Weigh-In

Back at Chick’s Oyster Bar, tournament participants gather for the final weigh-in. Recognition and awards are given for the biggest speckled trout and the biggest striped bass (no red drum were caught in 2018), and a host of other fun divisions. And, in a fitting conclusive act of justice, and for the first time in the tournament’s history, the overall winner of the three-fish slam tournament was the team of Steve Tegtmeyer and Robert Misiaszek—two PHWFF participants whose very participation was made possible by supporting organizations like Legends of the Fly. In 2018, $7,595 was raised for PHWFF. One PHWFF participant said, “Thank you from my heart for a wonderful fishing and educational day on the water.” 24 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Striped bass is another of the species targeted in the tournament. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Matt Reilly is a full-time fly fishing guide, freelance writer, and outdoor columnist based in southwest Virginia. Find more of his work at mattreillyflyfishing. com.

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terman Series

M

auser may not be one of the biggest names in the fly rod game, but when it comes to dedication to the sport and their products, they definitely rate near the top. As they say, these rods are built by hardcore anglers for hardcore anglers. Their USA made Waterman Series of rods are designed to please the most discriminating angler. They also are built to a standard that allows the rods to withstand the harshest saltwater environments, but still be equally at home on lakes and streams. The 4and 5-weight versions have a moderate action, and the 6- through 12-weight models are designed with a faster action, while still having plenty of responsiveness and liveliness.

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Their fast rod tip recovery allows for straight line paths, with more distance and accuracy when shooting line. These rods quickly load with ease for short distance sight casting, but have enough power to launch a fly to a distant target. "Effortless" is the word that comes up most often when someone picks up and casts the Waterman for the first time. We tend to agree. Upon taking the Waterman Series 990, 9-weight out for a trial run, it was easy in the hand, offered plenty of power, but was responsive enough to allow for quick short casts as well.

The Mauser folks emphasize that “cheap” and “value” are not interchangeable. To them cheap is a dirty word, as they always strive to build the highest quality products available, and they price them accordingly. At the same time, they point out that you can be assured you are always getting your money’s worth. All their rods are handbuilt in coastal North Carolina and field tested in the harsh conditions of the southern Outer Banks of the Old North State. 30 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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All the Mauser blanks are rolled from high modulus graphite and hand-sanded to a smooth finish. They also choose not to paint the blanks, which makes for a lighter rod. That reduced weight translates into less tip vibration, making recover from a cast exceptionally quick.

All Waterman Series rods use Mike McCoy Snake Brand snake guides and tip tops. These have a completely round shape, which means less friction on the line and faster line speeds for longer casts. The two stripping guides are Fuji Guides that are super strong and light weight, with corrosion-resistant titanium frames. They also have super hard, slick-shooting silicon carbide inserts. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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The cork grips on the Waterman rods feature high-quality Flor-Grade cork. The 4-and 5-weights have half-well grips. On the 6- to 12-weights a fullwell grip is offered, along with a fighting butt tipped with rubberized cork ends. All the rods have CNC machined, aerospace-grade 6061-T6 aluminum reel seats with hard anodized black finishes. Double-nut Delrin washer inserts complete the reel seat set up. All Waterman rods are four-piece models. The 4-weight is 8 feet, 6 inches, while all others are 9-foot rods. Once you purchase a Waterman rod, you should register it with Mauser. That provides the original owner with a lifetime warranty of free replacement for product defects. It also provides a Lifetime Repair Policy covering accidently breaks or damage to the rod. Those repair costs run from $60 to $85 dollars for each incident. The MSRP for the Waterman Series is $695 for all weights. For additional information, check out mauserflyfishing.com.

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Flat Fish on the F By Robert Sloan

I

caught my first flounder on a fly while fishing on Sabine Lake. Actually I was fishing a small popper along a mud and shell flat for trout when I saw a founder jump out of the water while chasing a small finger mullet. I put the popper in the general area, made a couple of strips and caught my first flounder on the fly. Since that time I’ve figured out that flounder will eat flies all day long. The key to catching flounder on a fly depends on two things. One is to fish a body of water that holds lots of flounder. Second, fish water that has the bottom and depth that flounder will hold and feed in. Sabine Lake on the Louisiana and Texas border is probably the best flounder fishing destination along the entire Gulf Coast. The lake record is a whopper weighing 13 pounds, which is also the Texas state record.

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an up th on an


Fly in Sabine Lake Sabine Lake on the Texas/Louisiana border is one of the top spots for the flat fish on the Gulf Coast. Photo by Robert Sloan.

Sabine Lake is the perfect founder hatchery. It’s got miles, upon miles of shallow flats with a mud bottom and scattered oyster shells. That’s prime flounder habitat. But the absolute best spots to pinpoint Sabine flounder are the mouths of bayous nd cuts feeding into the lower end of the lake. The best possible situation is to set p at the mouth of a bayou on a falling tide. That’s when flounder will be holding in he deep channel and on the adjacent shallow flats. What I’ll do is position my boat n the flat so that I can fish both the shallow and deep water. I’ll stake out the bow nd use a Power Pole on the stern to position for perfect casts. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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A Clouser Minnow is perfect for catching flounder. It can be fished shallow or deep. Since the water is mostly tea colored on Sabine most of the time, the best fly colors are white, chartreuse, orange, red and black. Best color combinations are white/chartreuse, red/white and black/ chartreuse.

The firm bottom on much of Sabine Lake is ideal for wade fishing. Photo by Robert Sloan.

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The key to catching flounder is to bump a fly along bottom. Sure, they can be caught on poppers and spoons, but flounder typically lay on bottom and ambush their prey. When a big streamer is bumped in front of them flounder will whack it. When you feel the bite set the hook. It’s commonly thought that you have to hesitate on the hook set when you feel the bite. Not true. It’s almost a sure bet that when you catch one flounder, there are more nearby. That’s why it’s always a good idea to fan cast the entire area. The channels in bayous and guts feeding into Sabine are about 4 to 7 feet deep. When fishing deep it’s best to rig up with a sink-tip line. I’ll usually fish for flounder with a 6- to 7-weight Temple Fork Outfitters rod. It’s perfect for catching 1 1/2- to 2-pound flounder. While fishing these areas, flounder are not all you’ll encounter.

Catching numbers of speckled trout on Sabine is the best I’ve ever seen, period. During late winter and early spring one of my top angling options is to grab an 8-weight fly rod, a box of big streamers and wade down the Louisiana shoreline on the lower end of Sabine. This is when you have the opportunity to catch solid trout in the 4- to 8-pound class. It’s not fast fishing by any means, but on any cast the next bite could be from a wall class trout. The wild thing is that these trout will be mixed in with some thick shouldered redfish. A few of the best areas to fish are from Blue Buck Point and on up towards Coffee Ground Cove. That’s about 10 miles of water. Prior to making a cast the No. 1 key is to locate mullet. What I’ll normally do about this time of year is put in at the SGS Causeway Bait & Tackle boat ramp, cross the lake to Blue Buck Point and work my way along the lower lake shoreline up towards Johnson Bayou. The SGS Causeway ramp is located on January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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the southern tip of Pleasure Island where Sabine Lake meets Sabine Pass. It’s about a mile from Blue Buck Point. This is the south end of the lake and a section of shoreline that offers protected water on a southerly breeze. From Blue Buck you can fish east towards Johnson Bayou – that’s about 7 miles of water. Again, the ticket to success is to find mullet jumping along the shoreline. During late winter and early spring, you won’t see that many mullet. However, if you see three or four mullet along a stretch of 100 yards that’s good water. This particular shoreline is perfect for wading – it is firm footing and you can wade right up along the shoreline. What I’ll do is wade 5 to 10 yards off the shoreline so I can make casts in all directions. When wading on Sabine the go-to fly is again a Clouser. It’s a good imitation of a finger mullet or shad. Plus, it can be worked along bottom in some of the deeper guts. A lightweight No. 2 Clouser in red/white or chartreuse/white can be worked at middepths on a slow retrieve. Something you want to remember is that cold water fish are lethargic. That’s why a slow presentation is best. Sabine Lake is user friendly for conventional boats, kayaks, bank fishing and wading. Two of the best places to launch a boat are at the SGS Causeway ramp or the ramp next to Waterview RV Resort on the upper end of Pleasure Island. If you’re going to be kayaking your best bet is to cross over the causeway bridge on the lower end of the lake and launch at the Louisiana boat ramp at the northwest end of the bridge. A Texas or Louisiana fishing license can be used to fish Sabine Lake. The only quirk is that if you have a Texas license you can only fish along the shorelines. If you venture up a bayou or cut along the Louisiana shoreline you’ll need a Louisiana license.

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Robert Sloan is a veteran outdoor writer and former fishing guide headquartered in Port O’Connor, Texas. He is credited with having taken the heaviest fish ever caught in the Lone State State on a fly rod – a 53.44-pound state-record cobia.


Clouser Minnows are good options for catching both flounder and seatrout on Sabine Lake. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

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CHECK OUT THE ACTION I FISH

OFFSHORE, INSHORE, FRESHWATER

HUNT

DUCKS, WATERFOWL & MORE


IN PLAQUEMINES PARISH SEE

TOURS, SIGHTS & ATTRACTIONS

STAY

LODGING AND DINING

ATTEND

PARISH EVENTS


Dawn Patrol on Little Torch Key by Polly Dean

“The lower Florida Keys is the best place in the world to sight fish tarpon.” - Captain Scott Yetter, Sight Fish Charters sightfishfloridakeys.com 42 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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A hook up at the crack of dawn. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

“L

ook for rollers,� Captain Scott Yetter said as we cruised the shoreline in the early hours of dawn. The sky was still a swash of pale yellows, pinks and blues. The sun had not yet made its appearance above the horizon. With the flat calm of the water's surface, it was easy to spot the tarpon as they lazily rolled, exposing their backs and dorsal fins. Several made their locations known by the sound of a splash. Quickly turning our heads it was easy to spot the ripples as they expanded along the smooth surface. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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I cast, dropping the Gurgler fly a few feet in front of the small tarpon. “Keep your rod low and pointed toward the fly,� instructed the captain. After a couple of long, slow strips I felt a bump. I tugged the line and felt nothing. I continued to strip, and the tarpon grabbed the fly a second time. Tightening my grasp, I pulled the line hard and straight back. This time my tug was met with a hard resistance and the next moment, a silver flash came streaking out of the water!

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First fish at first light. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

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This pattern of spotting and casting to rolling tarpon continued as my fishing partner and I took turns on the bow of the boat. Unlike many times when the tarpon seem to be taunting us in easy casting range, but are aggravatingly not interested in eating, these juvenile fish were quite cooperative and loads of fun. Additionally, the fish were forgiving in that they gave us multiple strikes – up to three or four – allowing us more chances to perfect our strip sets. Because the tarpon do tend to hit multiple times, Yetter reminded us that by using a strip set rather than raising the rod to set the hook, it keeps the fly in front of them for the next attempt. On average, most anglers will miss a few takes before successfully embedding the hook in a tarpon's extremely hard mouth. I learned that by extending my rod hand out farther, I had more room between the rod and my body to make longer strips, thus my hand was holding the line a greater percentage of the time. Invariably, the fish will choose that split second to take the fly hard when one's stripping hand is reaching forward to grab the line again, increasing the chances of a missed fish.

A juvenile tarpon taking to the air. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

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Tips and Techniques

Capt. Scott Yetter guides anglers from Marathon to the Marquesas. Though he has nearly 20 years of guiding experience in the Keys, he didn't start out there. He grew up in Pennsylvania fishing freshwater lakes and streams. A midlife “change of direction” from the corporate world led him to Montana where he began guiding. With summers being short in the Big Sky State, he began spending the remainder of the year guiding in the Florida Keys. “I was driving across South Dakota in April. It was brown and there was snow on the ground. I was dressed in a tee shirt and flip flops. That's when I realized I was still in the Keys,” Yetter said, as he explained how he came to the realization that he belonged in the Keys. Having spent half a lifetime fly fishing in freshwater and converting to the salt, he is patient and an ideal tutor to anglers who are new to casting a fly in saltwater.

Capt. Scott Yetter providing pointers from the casting platform. Photo by Polly Dean.

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Yetter equips his 8- to 10-weight rods with a less-visible blue fly line and 9- to 12-foot leaders tapered to a 30-pound tippet. He prefers the one piece rods, such as those made by Hardy. He cites an advantage to the one-piece rods - the rod sections won't come apart in the case of a tangled line getting caught in the guides when a fish is hooked up. The captain shared tips for reducing your odds of spooking your targeted fish, too. He suggests keeping the number of false casts to a minmum. “If false casts are needed, make them to the side rather than over the fish, and then drop the fly in place,� Yetter says. For weighted flies, side-arming the casts also allows for a softer landing of your offering.

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Lower Keys Tarpon

By the thousands, tarpon travel through the lower Keys during their spring migration run. Large tarpon ranging from 75 to 150 pounds are found on the flats from February through June, with April, May and June being the peak time. Resident tarpon can be found year round when conditions are favorable. Warmer days with light wind are best. The tarpon prefer water that is 70 degrees or higher. “Rollers” are more common when the water is slick. Tarpon are less likely to roll when the water has a chop to it. The captain also prefers cloudy conditions over sunny. The fish are less apt to “spook.” Summer and fall are good times for targeting the baby 'poons.

The author with a lower Keys baby tarpon. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

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The lower Keys present a ton of shallow water options from tarpon, to bonefish, to permit and redfish, and with miles and miles of shallow flats, competition from other anglers is minimal. Don't underestimate or overlook the smaller-sized tarpon. They strike with a vengeance, and fight like a bulldog, with an aerial display second to none. Polly Dean is an award-winning outdoor journalist and photographer, homebased in Athens, Georgia. She has fly-fished extensively throughout the southeastern states and Caribbean, and is a field editor for Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine.

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Dusk at Parmer’s Resort on Little Torch Key. Photo by Polly Dean.

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Parmer’s Resort

For those that remember the good ol' days in the Florida Keys, Parmer's Resort takes you back to those early times. Spread over 5 acres, their collection of cottages, efficiency studios and basic rooms will suit every need, whether a family getaway or a headquarters for your fishing party. The Muller family own the resort and come from five generations of innkeepers in New England. They had been visiting the Keys since the era when ferries still linked some of the islands. In 2017 they made the move down south and bought Parmer’s, becoming the resorts third owners since it first opened its doors in the 1970s. Located on Little Torch Key, Parmer's Resort is on a quiet residential street, less than 25 miles from Key West and minutes to Bahia Honda State Park. The resort has its own 90-foot sand beach for relaxing and a pier with boat slips for access to the area's fishing. The Mullers and their staff take the extra step to accommodate their guests. Free WiFi, light breakfast buffet, afternoon cookies, Bocce ball, four holes of mini-golf and a heated pool enhance one's stay. Adirondack chairs, hammocks, grills and picnic table are available for use. Nearby you find kayak and paddleboard rentals, boat rental and outfitters offering snorkel or dive trips. Guests have the option of adding daily maid service, and all units have television. But don’t worry about ringing phones during your stay. You won’t find those in the units. Just a few blocks down the road from Parmer’s is Kiki’s Sandbar and Grille, a favorite watering hole and grill with the locals. And with local charter guides close by, Parmer's Resort is standing by to make your fishing trip to the lower Keys all it can be. Parmersresort.com January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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KiKi’s Sandbar & Grille

Just down the street from Parmer’s and within walking distance is KiKi’s Sandbar & Grille, one of those eclectic watering holes for which the Florida Keys are famous. With its back to Pine Channel, it’s also possible to reach it by boat, tying up to their dock on the water. If you arrive that way, while you stroll in along the dock, watch for their resident bull sharks in the water!

Kiki’s at night from the water. Photo by Polly Dean.

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You get a hint about the laid-back atmosphere while walking through the parking lot past the vintage truck parked high on a pile of rocks and the authentic Cuban refugee boat grounded there. The grille features indoor and outdoor seating and great homemade fresh seafood. If you choose, you can bring in your day’s catch and the chef will prepare it for you. And, during the lobster season, their motto is “you grab’em and we grill’em.” The outside beach bar area is dog friendly, has a full bar, as well as serving a wide selection of craft beers and wines. Open seven days a week, they also present a regular schedule of live music. Check out their menu at kikissandbar.com.

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Reel in the memories. Sitting on the most biodiverse estuary in the Northern Hemisphere, Martin County is a fisherman’s paradise. Ocean, lake and river ecosystems are home to more than 800 species of fish, from the ever-popular sailfish and snook to largemouth bass and perch. Forget your gear? Visit one of Martin’s many bait and tackle shops or outdoor retailers. Inshore, offshore, saltwater or fresh, head out for an adventure and reel in the memories.

DiscoverMartin.com


Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing

CLOSE LOOK Naples/Marco Island.

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Two Fish & 1 By Capt. Rob Modys

T

he state of Florida has many highly sought after fly fishing locations. Homosassa, Mosquito Lagoon and the Florida Keys are all on the goto lists of most serious fly anglers. But the one that I’ve long put at the top of the list is the Ten Thousand Islands. This prized angling location is the largest expanse of mangrove forest in North America. It begins just south of Marco Island and continues south almost 40 miles to Lostmans River. Everywhere you look there is nothing but

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10,000 Islands

Making the run into the 10,000 Islands. Photo by Nick Davis.

water and mangroves. It covers almost 55 square miles on Florida’s southwest coast, and Lostmans River got its name for a reason. It’s very easy to get turned around and direction-challenged in the Ten Thousand Islands. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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So why venture to a place where few go? Because of the fish lots of fish. Just about every saltwater species can be targeted from tarpon, snook and redfish to seatrout, pompano and jacks. Because of the remoteness of the area there’s very little pressure on the fish and most readily accept a well-cast fly.

Searching for fish in the middle of nowhere. Photo by Nick Davis.

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I met local guide Captain Derill Lee in Goodland at the Goodland Boating Park. Its location is perfect for almost instant access to the north end of the Ten Thousand Islands and the amenities of Marco Island. This was the first time I’d fished with Capt. Lee and I must say I was impressed with his choice of transportation. He recently purchased a Hell’s Bay Professional Skiff and it was fully equipped and very comfortable even in a light chop.

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We left the dock at first light and headed south toward Fakahatchee Bay. Our destination was actually secret, but I can assure readers that Capt. Derill was in no danger of me giving it away. We must have passed at least 200 islands before arriving at “the spot,� and I honestly had no idea where we were. The author on the casting deck fighting a fish. Photo by Nick Davis.

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Eventually we slowed down at the mouth of a small river and idled up about a mile before shutting down the engine. The silence was deafening. We were so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the nearest city that there was no sound of cars, planes or human activity. We didn’t see another boat the entire trip. The only sound was the occasional bird call, or the pop of a snook hitting bait along the mangrove edges.

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The captain told me to make my first cast of the morning just off a nearby point where he’d seen movement and small bait fleeing out of the way. I put the fly where instructed and barely had a chance to begin stripping the line on the 8-weight rod when a large push of water rose up behind the fly. The snook inhaled it and the fight was on. She ran under the boat and then headed off the stern for open water, but suddenly turned back toward the manCapt. Lee and the author with a 10,000 Island tarpon. Photo by Nick Davis.

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grove. I managed to stop her and gain some line back, but she was determined. As I got her close to the boat she decided she wasn’t having anything to do with my ugly mug. She took one look and headed back to the mangrove and this time there was no stopping her. The leader popped, the line went limp and she was gone. Snook fishing at its finest. Those of us that love going after them have lots of tales about the ones that got away. After all, those make the best stories.

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We regrouped and continued to work the mangrove shoreline, but the snook seemed more alert to our presence, and while we had plenty of quick takes the only hookups we could manage were a few very small snook, ladyfish and lots of mystery follows. We were burning daylight and Derill suggested we make a move to another area a bit farther back before we lost the tide and the advantage of moving water. The next stop was similar to the first except for one major difference. There were snook hitting bait everywhere and small tarpon were rolling within casting distance. It’s hard to pass up tarpon when they seem to be actively eating, especially with a fly rod in hand. It turned out these were more than willing to take a fly. In the heat of battle, I actually lost count of how many were jumped, but we landed several that were in the 10- to 15-pound range. I’ve done a lot of fishing and I have to say, that was without a doubt the most fun I’ve had with a fly rod in years. As we traveled back to civilization I think Capt. Lee said it best. “This is a piece of Florida that is as natural now as it was long ago. It’s pristine and hopefully will remain that way for generations to come.” I could tell by his voice that he takes great pride in showing anglers the area and he’s also a true steward of this unique environment. I made a promise to myself to return as often as possible. 66 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Snook were hitting bait everywhere at the second stop. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

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Capt. Derill Lee at the tying vise. Photo by Nick Davis. 68 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Capt. Derill Lee is a Naples, Florida native and has been fishing the Ten Thousand Islands for most of his life. His father, Capt. Sparky Lee, was also a noted guide in the area in the 1980s and ’90s. Derill is a full-time guide, but also puts time in at 239 Flies, a fly fishing shop located in Bonita Springs. He can be contacted via his website at leeguideco.com or by phone at (23) 2481154. He specializes in guiding fly and artificial lure spin anglers to catches of tarpon, snook and redfish as well as a host of other species. Fishing on your own is doable in the Ten Thousand Islands, but I would highly recommend a professional guide if this is the first time you’ve visited the area. Capt. Rob Modys hosts the live broadcast show Reel Talk Radio in southwest Florida. He also is a freelance magazine writer, as well as a member of the Florida Guides Association and member and past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. He is headquartered in Fort Myers.

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239 Flies Goes Retail F

irst opening for business back in 2012, 239 Flies took the plunge in 2018 to add a retail store to its worldwide Internet operations. Up until that time the company offered quality flies and tying material through its website, along with a variety of accessories. But in late February of last year the doors swung open on the company’s “world headquarters brick and mortar” as they refer to it. Located in Bonita Springs, Florida, the shop offers a full line of rods, reels accessories and clothing, with the emphasis on saltwater fly fishing. Neither the success of the original business or the new shop was a forgone conclusion. “It was started reluctantly as a website that offered custom flies tied by an under-privileged redhead with caviar taste and a tuna fish budget,” Nick Davis, now the president of the company, joked. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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“We try to be the best blend of knowledge and skill, but also be approachable and personable,” he explained. “Fly fishing in general, we believe has always been too exclusive. We let people in our club and let them have fun once they’re inside.” That attitude has paid off for 239 Flies. “It’s growing like a weed,” Davis continued. “Remember what I said about letting people in the club?” A couple of points that are always a concern in the retail business is how has interest in fly fishing and the resultant growth in business been over the last couple of decades. “Well, that’s kind of tough for me to answer,” Nick said, “because two decades ago I was in the 6th grade. I had a terrible bowl cut, I was pudgy and awkward as hell. I will say that when I picked up a fly rod my sophomore year of high school, it wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do. Now, there’re fly fishing clubs in middle schools in my area. I would say overall interest has sky-rocketed. You don’t have to be a millionaire anymore to fly fish. Companies now make quality gear and the price tag doesn’t have a comma in it. But ultimately, fly fishing is just cooler.” One really important part of the business is maintaining a full-service operation. “Fly fishing is very technical,” Davis said. “Getting into it can be a daunting task. If my shop isn’t there, and someone in my area wants to take up the sport, they’d resort to Amazon for their gear. I highly doubt Jeff Bezos is going to explain the difference between a redfish and a bonefish taper to them.” In keeping with that full-service mindset, 239 Flies stocks rods, reels, lines and leaders. “If you don’t have a rod, it’s pretty tough to cast a line – unless you’re Steve Rajeff,” the president offered. “So we carry lots of both.” 74 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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With regard to rods, those run the gamut from moderately priced to top of the line, including Echo, TFO, G. Loomis, Scott and Thomas & Thomas. Similarly, the reel selection has 3-Tand, Allen Fly Fishing, Echo, Hatch Outdoors, Seigler, Waterworks Lamson, Nautilus and Tibor models. For leaders and lines, you find Air Flo, Rio, Mason and Scientific Angler. Does having a shop put more newcomers to the sport in touch with 239 Flies? “Hard to put a number on it,” Davis noted. “I’ll say plenty though, which is great in my opinion.” When it comes to advice for these novice fly fishers, Davis leans on another fount of wisdom. “In the words of Jedi master Yoda,” Davis said, “‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ The learning curve is steep. But once you work your way through it, the reward is the sweetest fruit you’ll ever taste.” The shop also has a group of in-house guides available. “We do have in-house guides,” Davis confirmed. “They also manage the dayto-day in the shop. Derill, Casey and Evan are not only phenomenal guides, but extremely knowledgeable in equipment and rigging. “One really nice thing we do is try to meet with our clients in the shop before their trip to go over what they have and what they might need,” he added. “This really gets the most out of their trip. And, they’re doing it with the same person. Each one of them knows what’s biting and where, and what their biting on. This really cuts out a lot of the guess work.” January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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With regard to 239 Flies business model, the shop still emphasizes fly tying. “Fly tying is the foundation this empire is built on,” Davis said. “Teaching someone to tie flies is like teaching them how to fish. With one, they won’t go hungry and in this case they won’t ever get bored.” The shop offers plenty of help to customers wanting to learn to tie. “I can say with confidence, we have the best fly tying videos on the Internet,” Davis stated. “We also offer an all-encompassing Do-It-Yourself Kit in several different patterns. Again, taking a lot of guess work out and shortening the learning curve. We also do fly tying nights at the HQ, but that’s really just an excuse to hang out, drink beer and get loud.” As you might expect from someone deeply involved in the fly fishing business, Nick Davis sees a trend in the sport in his area. “Yeah, everyone has a damn beard,” he said, with tongue firmly in his cheek. “It’s south Florida. It’s 100 degrees and there’s no fire wood. Shave that stupid thing off!” For more information on 239 Flies, visit them online at 239flies. com or drop in at the shop at 3431Bonita Beach Road, Unit #205 in Bonita Springs, Florida. 78 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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A NEW BREED A

s in fly fishing, each generation also heralds the arrival of a new breed of fly tiers. Nick Davis fits nicely into that scenario. He has spent 28 of his 31 years in Naples, Florida, where he learned to fish and eventually transitioned to angling with the long rod.

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OF TIER Nick Davis at the tying vise.

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Davis specializes in EP Minnow style patterns.

“Well, I started off like any angler, fishing in grandpa’s backyard,” he explained, “which is cool, because as fate would see it, it’s now my backyard.” That early fishing was in freshwater for largemouth bass. “In saltwater, I started fishing seriously in high school with my buddy Ben,” Davis continued. “We started off fishing the ponds at a golf course we both worked at, then graduated to saltwater.” From there they moved on to boats and tarpon. 84 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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"I was reading an article in a magazine, while killing time at work on that golf course,” Davis recounted. “I had gone from a 4000-series spinning reel, to the 2500, and when I saw the article I thought, ‘Hmmm, maybe this is next.’ Maybe the hardware store has some fly stuff in the fishing department. That hardware store is now my daughter’s orthodontist, but it’s where I learned to cast a fly rod.” From then on he considered fly fishing “semi cheap” entertainment. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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That was also the period when he first became interested in fly tying. “When you’re in high school, and flies are $8 a pop, you need to be resourceful,” Davis pointed out. “I was fairly self-taught, but my buddy Drew Chicone was a large part of my inspiration. He’s been doing it at a high level for a long time – great guy too, glad to call him a friend.” It was not very long before he was tying commercially, something he no longer does. “I did love the work and it was very professionally rewarding,” Davis said. “But it’s a grind. It is how the whole 239 Flies got started.” 86 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Nick Davis with a redfish that fell for one of his creations. Photo by Drew Naeckle.

Once the company was taking off, his duties as president were the impetus for ending his commercial tying. It is a company he has described as “a Fortune 5,000,000 power house.” Needless to say, Nick enjoys sarcasm and exaggeration. He noted that having turned fly tying into a business, the idea of competitive tying was of little interest. “Keep the awards – I can’t pay my mortgage with them,” Davis mused. But, he did mention one competitive event. “I did, however, have a disgraceful showing in the 2017 ICAST Iron Fly. I was sitting next to my good buddy Matt Calies. It was like the kids who didn’t pay attention in the back of the class and flunked the test. We laugh about it still.” January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Early on Nick’s interest in fly fishing turned to tarpon. When Davis first got into saltwater flies, he focused on Enrico Puglisi style minnow patterns. That’s because, as he explained, “Everything eats a minnow.” He also admits to not being “a gatherer,” preferring to stick with commercially available materials. His approach to tying is a one of practicality. “I’m not an old school guy,” Davis offered. “I think old school has its place for nostalgia purposes, but you don’t see PGA golfers out there with persimmon drivers. Modern technology and techniques win out in my book. I can show someone how to hand-roll a minnow of $100 worth of natural materials they’ll have to hunt for to find the best pack. Then there 88 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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is how each goes on a hook and the time and craftsmanship that goes into it. That’s a big ask of someone who works 9 to 5 and fishes on the weekend. I’ll show them how to turn three brushes, make awesome and rewarding flies they’ll be happy with and take pride in.” January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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That attitude led him to tying certain patterns. “A lot of Enrico Puglisi’s materials can be spun and combined to make awesome and effective flies,” Davis said. “With his A2Z Minnow, you can spin nine different variants off of it and really cover a lot of room in your fly box.” When it comes to fishing the area around Naples, the selection of flies he recommends having in that fly box is simple. “I carry variations of three essential flies,” he explained, “a minnow, a shrimp and a crab.” 90 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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The Redfish Ritalin is one of Davis’ go-to patterns.

Davis does regularly teach others to tie these days. “That’s kind of my job at 239 Flies,” he laughed. “Anyone who brings their vise into the shop, I’ll sit down with. We also have beer drinking – I mean fly tying nights – the last Thursday of the month at 239 Flies. It’s always a great turn out and a great time.” In closing, Nick Davis offered some advice to newcomers to tying. “Fly tying is like fly fishing,” he said. “You’re going to suck at it at first. Just keep watering the tree. It’ll bear fruit before you know it.” January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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764 Miami Circle, Atlanta, Georgia 30324| Phone: (404) 237-3473

www.thefishhawk.com


GALVAN FLY REELS

Simple, rugged, and classically styled. www.galvanflyreels.com


CLOSE LOOK Naples/Marco Island.

T

he Boat House Motel is a slice of Old Florida in the heart of a fabulous vacation destination. But, it also offers a great place to headquarter your angling trip to the shores of Marco Island in southwest Florida. Situated on the north end of the island in the Olde Marco Historic Village that dates from 1870, The Boat House is family-owned and operated by Desiree and Nick Buhelos, but its pedigree goes much farther back. Photo by Claude Preston

The Boat H History

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Claude Preston with his snook taken from The Boat House Motel dock. Photo courtesy of Claude Preston.

In fact, the property was original the site of the Griffis & Griffis Mercantile store early in the 20th century. In the 1960s the present building was opened as an extension of what is now the nearby Olde Marco Inn & Suites, catering to high-end fishing clients. Later the Mackle brothers of the Deltona Corporation bought the facility to use as housing for workers building the Marriott hotel. In 1994 the property was purchased by the Buhelos family. Desiree Buhelos explains the motel’s appeal as being, “Our casual Old Florida vibe and the fishing,” she said. “We are a snook hole and folks come from all over the country to fish from our dock.” Backing up that assertion is the accompanying photo of SSFF Associate Publisher Claude Preston with a snook he took on his fly rod from under the dock lights at The Boat House on Collier Creek. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Desiree went on to explain that their high season for visitors is January through April, but also during the open season for snook fishing. The open seasons around Marco Island run from March 1 until April 30 and again from September 1 to November 30. She also pointed out that many of their guests come from the Midwest, Texas and Europe, but they also host a more local clientele from other parts of Florida. Of special interest to anglers that want to bring their own vessels, The Boat House has three slips that can handle boats up to 24 feet long.

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The Boat House sits on the shores of Collier Creek at the north end of the island. Photo courtesy of The Boat House Motel.

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Photos courtesy of The Boat House Motel and Collier County Museums, Naples.

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The Boat House has an array of accommodations available. All of the motel rooms are deluxe, including one king studio, eight queen guest rooms, nine king guest rooms and two waterfront king guest rooms. Additionally, three one-bedroom condominiums are offered, as well as the two-bedroom, two-bath Gazebo House. Coffee makers, cable television, telephones and wireless Internet are provided in all rooms. There also is a heated swimming pool with a surrounding deck, both of which face west providing great views of the area’s outstanding sunsets.

After a day on the water, it is a short stroll to a number of fine restaurants in the village. For more details on The Boat House Motel, visit theboathousemotel.com.

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Y

ou probably haven’t heard of Capt. Colin McMullen down on Marco Island, but it’s a good bet that you will. In any sport, there always is a new generation nipping at the heels of veterans, and it is no different for fly fishing guides. Also, those younger guys tend to have a lot of enthusiasm and are hungrier for success.

Capt. McMullen got his 100-ton masters captain license back when he was just 19. Now, despite being barely into his third decade, this is his third year of guiding fly fishers. All the while, he also has been working on a Marine Sciences degree. Once finished with his academics, he plans to expand his present clientele. The captain splits his time between Fort Myers during the week and Marco Island on weekends when he doesn’t have classes to attend. He has spent his entire life around saltwater, coming from a family that has been connected to the sea.

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Knocking at the Door

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“I was born in Massachusetts on Cape Cod,” he explained, “and lived there year-round until I was 4 years old. My parents then moved my brother and me down to Marco. I attended school during the fall, winter and spring months. My family still spent every summer on Cape Cod running the family business, a passenger ferry to Nantucket Island.” When they sold the business, Florida became Colin’s full-time home. “I bought my first fly rod in 2004, when I was 7 years old,” he recounted. “I began practicing my double haul in our front yard. That same year I caught my first sight-fished snook on a fly from the beach and have had the bug since.” Capt. McMullen points to a couple of influences during those early years. “My father is an avid fisherman, but can’t throw a fly to save his life,” he mused. “Regardless, he taught me how to bait fish with spinning and conventional tackle, both inshore and offshore around Marco and Cape Cod. He has been my biggest mentor, when it comes to general fishing tactics, boating and being a captain.”

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As for fly fishing, “A very few of us local kids got the bug bad, and learned about our home water by fishing every chance we got.” Slowly they learned from that personal experience and from each other. “Seeing both Jose Wejebe and Flip Pallot on television undoubtedly had a part in influencing my pursuit of fish on the long rod.” Capt. McMullen describes the area on which he guides as the waters around Marco Island, as well as the Ten Thousand Islands. “My area has a lot of mangrove islands with muddy shorelines, oyster beds, tidal creeks, open mud flats, large open bays, beaches and shoals,” the captain said.

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Within that region, there are plenty of options with regard to species of fish. “In my area, the most common species to target in shallow water on the fly is redfish,” he pointed out. “Redfish are relatively abundant, active and willing to eat the fly regardless of the season or water temperature.” But, there are other targets as well. “Snook are a little more sensitive to temperature than redfish, but can also be targeted year round and are highly sought after on the fly. Tripletail are also fun to catch on the fly and can be targeted throughout stone crab season, or anytime you find floating debris while running offshore. Tarpon season in my area, like anywhere else on the Gulf Coast can be epic. When around, tarpon are by far my favorite species to target.” With all that variety readily at hand, there are certain fly patterns that the captain wants to have. “The five essential flies I carry include a deer hair head mud minnow, a shrimp pattern, a Gurgler, a medium-sized Tarpon Bunny and a suspending deer hair head mullet pattern,” McMullen said.

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“I have big plans for Fly Fishing Marco Island, and even bigger plans for how I will incorporate my marine science degree into my passion for fly fishing,” McMullen offered. “I worry, however, that unless both the Florida and federal governments take action on current environmental concerns, I will not be able to grow my business to its true potential. My current focus is on my academics, because I hope I will be able to help save the very species that my passion depends on.” Capt. Colin McMullen is a young man that we suspect we’ll hear a great deal more about in the near the future. You can contact his guide service, Fly Fishing Marco Island at flyfishingmarcoisland.com.

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Nicaragua Tar

The Challenge Me T

he largest tarpon in the world swim off the Caribbean shoreline of Nicaragua, sometimes within earshot of the waves crashing on the beach just beyond the idyllic jungle setting of Rio Indio Lodge. In August 2004, a group of three anglers combined their strength to land and release a tarpon here that taped 9 feet, 2 inches long, and a girth of 48 inches — substantially longer, and likely heavier, than the all-tackle, world-record tarpon of 286 pounds, 9 ounces caught in 2003 off Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

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rpon 2.0

et

By Bob Borgwat

The Rio Indio at Greytown, Nicaragua. Photo by Bob Borgwat.

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Tarpon of that caliber weren’t likely among the hundreds of tarpon staged last May off Greytown (also known as San Juan del Sur), just beyond the mouths of the Rio Indio and Rio San Juan. In spring, where the rivers meet the sea within a couple miles of each other, the tarpon schools are heading south after a continental run that starts in Venezuela, moves northward, and is suspected to enter the southern Gulf of Mexico. Or, maybe, they turn east off the Yucatan and swim a southeast loop from Cuba through the eastern Caribbean. No one really knows where these world-class tarpon go after working northward along the eastern shorelines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. The hundreds of tarpon I cast flies at in May are later joined in September by thousands more of their kind, and individual fish tend to scale much larger. My first fish hooked last spring was estimated at 130 pounds by our guide, Rosendo. It would be an average fish in September, I was told, when the migration carries the largest fish of the season. But larger tarpon I didn’t need when Arno Laubscher of ScientificFly and I explored the fishing of Greytown and Rio Indio Lodge.

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The author casting to a tarpon. Photo by Amo Laubscher.

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The ‘Bob Borgwat’s Bunny” fly. Photo by Amo Laubsher.

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In this far southeast corner of Nicaragua, the lodge sits like a shining jewel off nearby black-sand beaches that line the sea, where open-water tarpon fishing attracts anglers from all over the world. Our fishing would confirm that interest, which we planned to share with our corps of travel-fishing clients and our Chasing Targets fishing program. Before flying 1,500 miles south from Atlanta to Greytown, I held just two years of tarpon fishing under my belt. During those trips to Florida, I felt like a teenager with adolescent hormones running rampant. I had gotten close, but had not made a hookup count. A dozen “eats� from among hundreds of casts to the tarpon on the Homosassa flats only led to missed strikes and fish broken off on their leaps.

This time, I was fishing what could be the greatest tarpon fishery in the world. The open sea stretched for thousands of miles eastward as we drifted the deep, nearshore flats off the river mouths. No need to run for miles. After breaking through the waves at the passes, Rosendo never ran the boat more than a couple miles north and south to positions along rips, over colored or clear water and over troughs. We fished it all those, using an assortment of custom-tied flies and sinking lines.

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Unlike the shallow, pocked Florida flats, the water here was deep — 20 to 30 feet over a hard sand bottom. Bait — mostly “chickenfish” Rosendo called them — individually snapped and sputtered on the surface. Tarpon rolled, but not once close enough to cast at them. Rather, we cast toward the mostly deep schools of baitfish. It wore on me — blind-casting a 12-weight, Sage Salt HD fly rod, armed with a Rio Leviathan 500-grain sinking line isn’t fun. When it came, the strike was sharp, quick and deep beneath the surface. It wasn’t the “heavy” feeling of a tarpon eating the fly as on my previous trips. The line was ripped from my stripping hand, spinning the Tibor Pacific reel well into the backing as the tarpon jumped four or five times without a hookset 116 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

A hooked silver king takes to the air. Photo by Amo Laubsher.

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- then the line went limp. I didn’t stand a chance. Two days later, I felt the familiar pressure of a tarpon eating a fly, when the Triple B (a then unnamed pattern now celebrated as “Bob Borgwat’s Bunny”) fly pattern called up a second fish for me. With a deep, strong haul of my left hand, the steel sank into the fish’s jaw, and the next five or six minutes were “routine” for a hooked tarpon — five or six leaps, thrashing head shakes, cartwheeling tail-walks, and a couple hundred feet of backing burned off the reel in various bursts of speed and strength. Twenty minutes later the rod arched over the gunnel as the fish sounded beneath the boat. The tug of war beat me up. With no more than 35 feet of fly line off the reel, the fight was at a standstill. At times, the rod pulsed deeply, ramming the stubborn fish’s attitude into my forearms that fought to January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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keep the rod off the top of the gunnel. Three, four, five trips around the boat, stern to bow to stern, collected little line. Seventy-five minutes into the fight, the tarpon turned topside. Rosendo missed the leader twice before he clutched it in his fists. With its belly up, the tarpon rolled, sucked air and leapt at boat-side. Rosendo lost his grip and the tarpon sounded. Another 30 minutes later, I warned him I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, do this a third time when the tarpon rolled again at boat-side. The tarpon had me whipped, but so was he. Estimated at just 80 pounds, my first tarpon to hand wasn’t big, but landing it on a fly rod proved to be the hardest thing I’ve ever physically done. Fighting it vertically, in deep water, caused much of my pain. A tarpon hooked in shallow water of 5 to 8 feet is fought horizontally, where the rod provides

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The author’s “little” 80-pound tarpon. Photo by Amo Laubsher.

far more leverage and power against the fish’s strength. The Nicaragua tarpon season was “closing” around Arno and I, when we traveled to Rio Indio Lodge and Greytown — not officially closing, but from the standpoint that the weather was growing hot and uncomfortable just north of the equator. We had five tarpon to boat-side before the week closed and Rio Indio suspended its operations until late August. Bob Borgwat is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine. He also operates Reel Angling Adventures Guide service in Suches, Georgia. www.reelanglingadventures.com

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Chasing Targets

Chasing Targets takes aim on global angling adventures, matching anglers and ultimate fly-fishing sites around the world with the highest quality fly-fishing tackle and flies to get the job done. Started as a product-development company, ScientificFly has grown since 2001 to become the largest fly supplier in South Africa. Over the years, ScientificFly expanded its product range to much more comprehensive pattern collections, as well as adding a range of fly-tying components and materials. Being only a distributor, the company felt a strong need to interact with the end-user, when it comes to product development and testing. The Chasing Targets travel program matches anglers and their destinations with the highest quality fly-fishing tackle and flies to get the job done at ultimate fly-fishing sites around the world. The fly-fishing experience of ScientificFly’s team dates back to the 1980s, and its fly-fishing industry involvement began in the early ‘90s, specializing in product development, commercial fly-tying, fly-fishing photography and feature-story writing. The team’s global fly-fishing experience ensures every trip to be the adventure of a lifetime. Join a hosted trip to hand-selected, personally explored destinations, booked by the Scientific Fly team that makes sure your gear matches the action ahead. Learn more about our Rio Indio Lodge Tarpon Fishing adventure on the ScientificFly website. Coming soon, adventures targeting peacock bass in Colombia and tigerfish in Zambia. For more information, visit ScientificFly. com/chasing-targets-fishing-trips January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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End of the Line

A

dmittedly, the title is a play on words, since this is the only “Little Bar Restaurant� in the waterfront community on the mainland across from Marco Island. Nevertheless, the eatery and watering hole definitely lives up to that description.

Best Little Bar Resta By Jimmy Jacobs

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aurant in Goodland

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End of the Line

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The Little Bar operates on the “Ends of the Earth Good Times Theory.” The idea is when you have gone as far as you can on the land, you are where you likely find the best food, friendliest people and greatest entertainment. A right turn out of the harbor on which the building sits takes you directly into the Ten Thousand Islands. But, that theory is not just words – the bar and restaurant operates on that philosophy. Obviously, that makes this place a perfect fit for Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing’s End of the Line coverage. From the outside, the Little Bar Restaurant, which has been in business since 1978, seems non-descript, but once through the door that changes. The interior of the bar and restaurant could pass for a museum. Co-owner Ray Bozicnik brought an eclectic array of items with him when he moved to Goodland from the Chicago area. The back bar is over 100 years old and comes from a neighborhood joint frequented by Al Capone in Cicero. The stained glass above the bar is from the Everleigh Sisters’ Sporting House that closed just before World War I, and the door with the Perrier Jouet mirror was their backdoor, which got the most use. Also scattered around the establishments are parts of a pipe organ salvaged from the Civil War era Mentone Springs Hotel in Mentone, Alabama. January 2019 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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End of the Line While interesting, those artifacts are not why patrons keep returning to the Little Bar. It’s the fresh seafood, fully-stocked bar, good service and Friday to Sunday live music that creates the siren song. They also have many special parties and events throughout the year to keep things lively. Besides the inside dining room and bar, they also have a deck overlooking the harbor. Open seven days a week from November to June, starting at 11:30 a.m., the bar stays open at least until midnight, or, as they advertise, until everyone is through singing. If you need more reasons to visit Goodland and the Little Bar Restaurant, Ray Bozicnik sums those up. “The fish are biting, the women are beautiful and the men are hunks!” Check out their website for the full menu, music and events schedule or directions at littlebarrestaurant.com. Jimmy Jacobs is the editor of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Magazine. 128 l www.sosaltwaterflyfishing.com

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Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Issue 9 January 2019  
Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing Issue 9 January 2019