Marlin
 

 


It happened April 23 for only the third time in 16 years. For those of you who don't know about THE SLAM it's a redfish, pompano, and jack crevalle caught the same day on fly. You might think it wouldn't be that difficult, but I've had over a thousand fly-casters on the boat during the past sixteen years, and it's happened just three times. Long odds. What's even more incredible is Bob Jenkins from Aspen, Colorado, achieved it in 2016 and last Tuesday, April 23, 2019, he did it again!

It was a perfect day for fly-fishing with bright sunshine, blue skies, clear water, and a light northerly breeze. The migrating jacks and pompano showed up a couple weeks ago, and we were in a big hurry to get out to the Gulf which was as flat as a pancake. We're talking about .3' seas! But I knew of one small inside flat holding some very nice redfish and decided to go there first.

I found these redfish a month ago and have had numerous clients casting to them, but no one has been able to get a fish to eat. The closest was on April 3 when Atlanta's Kevin Maxey (Grand Slam in 2012) had a big fish aggressively follow the fly for 20' before refusing right at the boat. I know the area well and poled the skiff very close to shore "tip-toeing" as quietly as possible, drifted the last fifty feet, and eased the anchor over in 2' of water leaving the skiff sitting over a grass bed surrounded by numerous sand spots. Jenkins took the bow with his trusty TFO "Mangrove" 8wt and the "old faithful" EP baitfish... same fly Kevin's fish followed on April 3. It was 9:30 in the morning and glassy-calm which made for excellent visibility to the west, south, and north, but the eastern view was into the sun over a sheet of glass. As opposed to standing on the poling platform I got down on the deck to minimize our profile and stared to the east into the glare while Jenkins watched for fish coming from the west, south, or north. We waited. I had seen a dozen reds here the day before, but we were an hour earlier on the tide and all was quiet. We continued waiting. After about a half hour I saw a dark object move onto the outer edge of a small sand spot eighty feet to the east of us. It sat still, I alerted Jenkins, and we both tried to determine if it was a fish or a ray and which way it was facing. Bob decided to try a cast and laid out as beautiful a 90' cast as I've ever seen. The cast had a slight upward angle and was directed a few feet right of the dark object. The leader turned over, straightened out, and the fly dropped quietly three feet to the right and five feet beyond the target. The end of the flyline landed softly on the water five feet short of the sand spot, and nothing moved....a good sign. Jenkins let the fly sink, and as it dropped in the water column the dark object slowly moved toward it. After a count of five, Bob made one l-o-n-g strip and the redfish charged the fly and absolutely crushed it! Man, what a rush! After about fifteen minutes and numerous runs into the backing he brought the fish to the net, and as you can see it was a beauty. Quite a fish in 2' of water! We sat there for an additional half hour, but nothing else was happening so we took off for the Gulf with Leg 1 of THE SLAM in our pocket.


We crossed the tide line at Pickens Point, and the water turned to that beautiful emerald blue/green of the Bahamas. There were plenty of boats along shore waiting for the Blue Angels, so we headed east a few miles to a secluded area of beach that we knew held some schools of big redfish sometimes accompanied by our next target...pompano. We found a school of over a hundred reds close to shore, pulled in to the inner bar, and began poling in their direction. Bob was armed with a 9wt "Mangrove" rod, heavy sink tip line, and an EP mullet imitation. As we poled toward the school several pompano and a good number of Spanish mackerel shot by the boat, but we had our sites set on another redfish. It was still early in the day, and our quest for THE SLAM would have to wait. You'd have to be crazy to pass up a school of a hundred big redfish in less than three feet of water! After a few missed opportunities Jenkins connected with a nice fish, landed and released it, and then we decided to shift gears and try to find a pompano.

A slight breeze had picked up from the ESE, and we ran a mile more to the east and started poling back to the west with the sun and wind at our back. The sight-fishing was perfect with translucent water and very little current. Bob had his Mangrove 8wt ready with a pompano rocket. We were looking for pompano close to shore and also watching farther out hoping to see a westbound school of jack crevalle. They usually show up when you're not ready, but we were locked and loaded with the 10wt and big white popper within easy reach.

Problem was there weren't any pompano. We saw plenty of nice Spanish mackerel cruising just outside the inner bar, but that was it. After about a half mile we found a deep cut angling toward shore. As we got closer I could see it was loaded with fish, and they were "flashing" a dozen at a time. As soon as we reached casting range Jenkins fired the fly out there and hooked up immediately. After a short run the line went slack, and I thought we had found a huge school of bluefish. I called out "do you still have a fly?" He quickly stripped in, saw the fly was intact, and recast. This time we saw the pompano follow and eat the fly while hundreds more raced around and under the boat trying to escape. We had happened upon a giant school of spawning pompano! I poled the boat away from the mouth of the cut while Bob carefully fought the pompano. It's amazing how fast they are. They'll double back on you in a heartbeat and come unbuttoned. But not this time. I netted the fish, got the picture, and Bob released it unharmed. Leg 2 of THE SLAM in the bag!

All we needed was the jack crevalle, but the school of pompano was re-forming and we just had to get after them. The search for jacks would have to wait. Jenkins hooked up again, and this time the pompano pulled a "Crazy Ivan" and the hook fell out. As he was recasting I saw something moving in my peripheral vision, and there they were...a giant school of jacks moving west at high speed just outside the bar. Jenkins saw them as they passed us, and we both shifted into hyperspeed. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I poled into water deep enough to crank up the motor so we could run ahead of the school. Bob secured the 8wt and got the 10wt out and under control. We could still see the school a couple hundred yards down the beach, and we made a wide loop around them far enough out so they wouldn't be spooked by the sound of the motor. I set the boat up 300 yards ahead of them, and we waited. Jenkins job was to get the popper as far from the boat as possible and in front of the advancing school, but he couldn't cast too soon because many times they'll change direction at the last minute. So we waited until the whole mass was bearing down on us, and he made the cast. There were two problems. It took more false casts than normal to get the cast going, and the school of fish was moving faster than he anticipated. Half the school was past us before the fly hit the water, and the remaining fish were too spooked to eat. So we let them get well past before we fired it up again to repeat the process.

Now the problem was three boats 500 yards down the beach directly in line with the school, and if that wasn't bad enough the jacks were heading straight for a big pod of dolphin. All we could do was run well past the boats and hope the school settled down before reaching us, but it didn't turn out that way. The dolphins chased the school causing the jacks to run deep. We didn't even see them until they passed us, and we once again ran well down the beach ahead of the fish hoping for one more shot. By the time they got to us this time they had slowed down and moved back to the surface. We were drifting with the motor off when they came into range, and Jenkins put the fly on the money and started stripping. Two fish came over to investigate and a third larger jack climbed over them and inhaled the fly. It felt good knowing the big popper had a barb and we were using a straight shot of 50# tippet. After about 20 minutes Bob landed the fish to the applause of a bunch of shore anglers. The Emerald Coast Grand Slam was his for the second time! It was just 2 o'clock, but we pulled up on the sandbar, put the rods away, and cracked open a couple Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPAs brought along just in case the magic happened. And it certainly had...

Itís always a great day on the water with Gulf Breeze Guide Service!

Gulf Breeze Guide Service
P.O. Box 251
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32562
-0251 (USA)
Tel: 850.934.3292 or 850.261.9035 (cell)
Email:
gbgsfishing@aol.com

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