I was in Daytona, Florida, for a triathlon and whenever I travel I take the opportunity to squeeze in some fishing. Florida has some cracking fishing, unfortunately early December is not peak season but the timing was out of my control.
My guide was Captain Justin, Right in Sight Charters, and we were targeting new species to me. Mostly redfish, but might find Black Drum or Sea Trout (different to English sea trout, they aren’t even trout).
We met at the Mosquito Lagoon for a 6hr day. As we motored out it was refreshing to get an honest outlook from a guide. They are usually very positive but he was very open that the conditions were not ideal. We would do our best but if nothing was happening we might only do 4 hrs. The water had cooled very quickly, visibility was low and the level was high. On the plus side it wasn’t raining.
We sped through the mangroves which quickly disorientated me. I would get lost so quickly here as it all looks the same and there are no landmarks because it’s so flat. There were loads of dolphins and I asked about alligators but apparently they are much further south which was a shame, good news for my triathlon swim though!!
Arriving at our first spot, I took to the platform at the front of the boat and Justin, with is pole, on the punt platform at the back. It was nice to have a single handed rod back in my hand after a few years of only salmon fishing with large double handed spey rods.
As we entered the first pool a fish moved off before Justin had time to direct me, a promising start. We moved along the bank as looking for fish in the shallows feeding but with the visibility so low it had to be very shallow. It was confusing as there were so many fish around, most of them were mullet so it was hard to identify what I was looking for.
As we edged forward we could see the puffs of mud of spooked redfish but they were sitting too deep to actually see the fish. This continued through the first pool and by the time we moved on I hadn’t cast to a fish which was frustrating.
This continued through the next couple of spots and things weren’t looking good. The positives were Justin was a nice guy and there was so much wildlife. Birds everywhere and a lot of dolphins, they also have manatees but didn’t locate any of them. Frustratingly the Ospreys were having no issues catching plenty of fish.
We moved to a completely different area as the sun came out which really helped the visibility but all we were seeing were the mud clouds of spooked fish. They were just sitting slightly too deep to see.
Finally I saw a fish move off the front so I cast but landed the fly on top of it. Justin called to cast again in front but mid cast it spooked and was off. It was a Black Drum but at least it was some excitement even if short lived. We also saw a couple of stingrays move off which was nice. While the catchable fish were not playing ball the rest of the wildlife was awesome.
Justin spoke to another guide and they had only seen one fish so we were doing better than them. We agreed we would try one more spot as we were over 3 hrs in and if nothing would call it a day.
The first half of the mangrove island was a very familiar story and we were about to call it a day when we heard a splash from around the next corner. A redfish feeding.
We slowly punted along the bank and finally saw a fish cruising along the bank. I cast but my first cast was way off the mark. Justin told me to cast well ahead of the fish and second time I was in the right area. He told me to wait…. wait… start stripping go go go. Then I felt the take and struck. It came straight out. Ahhhhhhh!!!
You wait 3 30 hours for a chance and then blow it. You aren’t meant to strike with the rod you strike with the line and then lift the rod when the hook is set. I knew this from my last time salt water bone fishing. While I should have know better I felt Justin should have briefed me, but given we hadn’t even seen a fish till now he hadn’t had much opportunity.
We heard another fish jump and continued on to getin position. It was swimming down the bank and this time I nailed my first cast, perfectly in front of the fish. Go go go. As I stripped the fly the fish charged after it splashing and making major bow wave through the water but pulled out at the last second!! Ahhhhh again! This time I did nothing wrong but if it was easy it wouldn’t be fun.
The sun had come out and started warming the water up which allowed the fish to move in to the shallower water. Over the next 2 hours we started to see a few fish but only half chances. We would see the fish and cast but they would move, nothing like the first two where they were cruising and had a good opportunity to present the fly.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any further action. My casting just wasn’t up to the level required for the half chances, this combined with my mistake and one bit of bad luck meant no fish. It was a shame it took nearly 4 hrs for an opportunity and only 2 hrs of active fishing. I think if I had 6 hrs of half chances and the occasional good chance I would have had some success. As it is I am afraid I have no evidence of a Redfish.
While that is a negative, fly fishing is not all about the fish, it was a fun new experience and I got to fish for different species in a new part of the world. it was also a reminder of how exciting salt water sight fishing is. I look forward to the next opportunity and next time will remember how to strike!!
One of the main takeaways though was I couldn’t live in Florida, it is so flat!! I take the mountains of Vancouver and the hills of England for granted as without any definition the landscape is so boring! That being said one cool side note was the 3000 mile Intercoastal Waterway. This is a water highway that runs from Boston to the tip of Florida. People migrate North in the Spring and South in the Winter living on their boats.
Now back to the real reason for the trip, one of my bucket list races – Challenge Daytona. This will be a hard and fast race, especially given the absence of those mountains and hills!