Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall Flyfishing

I had the privilege of guiding Ted Thomas and Dennis Matt from Virginia for the third or fourth time. Last year, we had "storybook" flyfishing--some of the best I've ever experienced, even though we had north winds and cloudy conditions for much of the time. Once again, we faced north winds every morning during their three days on the way--pretty low breezes at dawn, but stiffer north winds from late morning onward. This makes for difficult sight casting, because as the sun gets lower in the southern sky during the fall-winter, it creates a glare against the water surface. During our normal prevailing southeast winds, the sun is behind you, so there is less glare on the surface of the water.

We went immediately to a place where we'd scored big time last year, and poled into the area only to find no fish, and a strong-enough wind to hide the subtle signs of feeding reds, even if they'd been there. After half an hour of fruitless poling, I got up and headed out of the back lagoon. As we passed a shoreline, suddenly there were v-wakes everywhere, so I abruptly shut down and began poling into the shoreline. As the water settled, it became clear that we'd found the motherland of reds. For the next two hours or so, we waded the shoreline and had one shot after another at reds feeding with their backs out of the water in calm conditions. It was quite dramatic to see two or three golden backs reflected in the early morning sunlight slowly making their way toward the wading anglers. It was not easy flyfishing, however, given the calmness of the wind, and the sensitivity of the fish. A hard landing, or a foot short of the mark resulted in a lost opportunity. But Dennis and Ted are old hands at this subtle action, and managed to catch several nice reds before the wind came up. Here's two photos of 'doubles' that occurred during that initial wade.

The rest of the three days were difficult because of the north wind, and clouds, but nonetheless quite productive. We returned to same shoreline on the second morning, leaving the dock much earlier than usual in order to make sure we were the first ones there. We shut down and tied knots with the help of flashlights as the rosy dawn brightened to the point of being able to see the reds feeding in four or five inches of water along the glasswort-lined shoreline.

On each day we hit the sand by midday and landed a few fish there, even though the sunlight was intermittent, and the tides higher than usual. 

On the third morning, we returned to the same west-side lagoon, hoping for another bountiful early-morning wade along the shoreline. Alas, the fish had were not there, so we headed further south poking in and out of intimate backwaters, hoping to find some cruising or tailing fish. We stopped at one place, because 100 terns were diving on bait, and we thought that perhaps a few feeding reds could be found in the area. We saw nothing but decided to pole through the area. Just as soon as I climbed up on the poling platform, I saw a wake approaching from the west--about 100 yards away. Dennis grabbed his rod, stripped some line into the casting basket and prepared to intercept the incoming red. He made a perfect cast of a Kingfisher spoon fly, and hooked a nice 26+" red, which he landed after a lengthy fight.

After prospecting further south, we returned to same lagoon where we'd been catching fish at daybreak, and tried another shoreline. Ted got out and waded ahead of Dennis and me, and found cruising reds in water so shallow that I had to leave the Stilt 50 yards offshore while we waded in closer to capitalize on Ted's discovery. The guys had several shots at singles and doubles that were cruising down the shoreline with backs out of the water. Interestingly, it was the same exact location where we'd caught 10 reds a year before when they'd fished with me.

It was a wonderful three days, even though the north wind made it difficult at times. Ted and Dennis adjusted well to the demands, and as always were deeply grateful to be able to flyfish such an extraordinary flyfishery.

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