begin the winter gallery December 21 with a nice shot of Brandon
Pheabus and his dad Gary. The Gulf of Mexico was
spectacular...flat and clear... plus we had plenty of sunshine
for sight-fishing. There were schools of big redfish feeding
the inner sandbar, but we couldn't get them
to eat until Gary tied on one of his own creations. Brandon
had the first serious "follow" of the day on his next
cast and then landed this
beauty. I'm not sure who was happier, Brandon or Gary, but it was
for sure a very special father-son moment. A few days later Brandon,
a US Marine, was heading off to boot camp followed by training at
Camp Legume. It was an honor having him on the boat.
On December 27 we found plenty of redfish of this quality on the
sand and grass flats in Santa Rosa Sound east of Gulf Breeze. This
is Braden Barkley with his first redfish on fly.
about this monster redfish landed and released December 30 by
Dane Vansant! This is a 25# plus fish landed on Dane's 8 weight.
We catch some of our biggest redfish of the year during the winter
is off the
are many days when we won't see another boat... Terrific job on this
Dane doing a nice job resuscitating his redfish after the hard
fight and brief photo session...
farmer Bob Jenkins, Woody Creek, CO, on January 12 with a sixteen
pound redfish hooked in 2 1/2' of water on one of our favorite
flats in Santa Rosa Sound. We found dozens of big redfish like
in singles and doubles close to the dropoff along the outer edge
of the flat. The fish were spooky because of the shallow water,
so Jenkins placed the clouser minnow fifteen feet in front
of the cruising redfish. He let it sit on the bottom until the
fish came into range, and then one long strip did the trick.
It was poetry
to watch... a master in action. These big fish look like submarines
in the shallow water. The cool water temperature makes them
they'll usually accommodate an angler who puts
the fly in the right spot. Cold-water fly lines are important for
the winter fly-fishing. There are times when the water temperature
is in the high-50's making it impossible to get the memory out
to the Bahamas and you'll find my good friend Jonas Magnusson
and me January 15 on our annual sojourn to Staniel Cay. In this
clearing the line as a bonefish streaks across the flat heading
for the mangroves.
patiently waiting for bonefish to exit a tidal creek on the falling
tide. Not sure it could get more beautiful...especially in mid-January.
couple days later with my best fish of the trip...not huge but
not bad for Staniel Cay.
bonefish in the blue-green Bahamas water... It's a different
world down there and a fabulous, easy, inexpensive winter escape.
home to reality. Jonas hooked into a winter redfish on January
25. On days when neither of us is booked we like to wade the
looking for redfish along the beach. The water was somewhat tannin-colored
due to runoff from heavy rains
in early-January, but it was plenty clear to spot the fish.
Pretty little fish released unharmed...
truly with a similar-sized redfish that took a lightly-dressed
EP clouser minnow tied by my friend and expert fly-tier Matt Wegener.
Tobi Herron on February 3 with a killer redfish landed on light-tackle
and released along the shore of the
Gulf Islands National Seashore.
February 11 we went back to the flat where Bob Jenkins caught
his big fish a month earlier, and once again the "submarine" sized
redfish were active. Steve Clark landed this fish on the same fly
Jenkins used...a size 4 lightly-dressed tan/white EP clouser minnow.
You just can't beat shallow-water sight-fishing for redfish of this
quality on 8wt tackle.
father-in-law Peter Arcoma was also on the boat that day armed
with an ultra-light spinning outfit and a 1/3
Steve was on the bow with "first shot" priority typically
given to the fly-caster when this fish appeared within casting
Steve laid a couple nice casts in front of the fish but got no
interest. The fish spooked and disappeared off the stern. I was
to pole looking for another fish when I heard Peter's drag going
off. He had seen the fish refuse Steve's fly, watched it swim away
from the boat, and gentle flipped his spoon out in front of it.
nailed it, and Peter ended up with the catch-of-the-day. Double
click for a nice shot of Peter and Steve together with the redfish
weighed over 20 pounds.
||Gary and Diane Stephens
on February 23 with a fine bull redfish from Pensacola Pass.
How about that! Charles and Carolyn Binger
with a terrific redfish "double" caught and released while sight-fishing
March 10 along the edge of the Gulf.
Andy Anderson, from Scotland, teamed up with Chicago's Stephen
Miller on March 15 for some redfish sight-fishing along the shore
of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. A cold front had passed through
a couple days earlier leaving us with cool temperatures, plenty of
sunshine, and calm shoreline conditions. Andy landed the first fish
on a chartreuse/white half-and-half. Check out the silvery-tan color
of this fish camouflaged to live on the white-sandy bottom.
Stephen followed suit later with this beautiful, fat redfish...
Stephen was back the following day, and we found a pod of big redfish
on an inside flat close to Pensacola Pass. Stephen coaxed this 40"
redfish to eat a tan/white bucktail clouser minnow.
Sharp was in town from Little Rock a few days later on March
20, but the fish along the beach had lockjaw. So after spending two
frustrating hours with no takes we decided to run west of Pensacola
Pass to look for redfish along Johnson Beach.
As we crossed
the point on the west side I thought I saw some "color" out
on the Caucas Shoal. Turned out to be a school of 20-30 big fish,
they were eager to eat the fly. Greg hooked this redfish on 9wt
tackle, and it ran off the shoal into the deep water of Pensacola
minutes later he brought it to the boat. The fish ate a #2 tan/white
good friend Hutch from Idaho brought his nephew Paul Keith down
for a few days in mid-March hoping for light winds, clear
and lots of migrating jack crevalle and pompano. Unfortunately
the Gulf was blown out, and we spent all our time hiding from
and searching for fish on the inside flats. The highlight of the
trip was this very respectable redfish Paul landed March 21 while
sight-fishing a flat close to Pensacola Pass. It was his
redfish on fly, and now he knows what all the fuss is about. Good
weather straightened out the following week, and we were able
to explore some inside flats east of Gulf Breeze on the north
side of Santa Rosa Island. The water was perfect for sight-fishing,
and we found good numbers of redfish and trout in 2-3' of water.
Here's Tom Zakriski, Albany, NY, on March 28 with his first redfish
We went back to the same area the next day
and John Peschke landed this nice speckled trout on a tan baitfish
tied from EP fibers. Daughter Anna couldn't pass up the photo op...
Jay Lanier and I have had some great days
on the water, and March 31 was another one to add to the list.
We were fishing a school of big, spooky redfish that had zero interest
in any of the usual fly patterns. As a "Hail Mary" Jay tried a
twenty year old tarpon fly I had in the box, and the whole school
tried to eat it at the same time. Jay hooked up, fought the fish
for a few minutes, and the hook fell out. Of course the school
had disappeared, so I poled around until we found them again. Once
again Jay delivered the fly (using the same unorthodox presentation
as before), and this beauty beat the other fish to it. There's
a lot more to the story, but I can't put it in print. Let's just
say we "broke the code" on these fish, and I can hardly wait to
tie up more of the secret pattern for next spring. Jay knows what
I'm talking about...
Jay Pippen brought his son Will and friend Jack Hillman to town
the first week of April for some Spring Break R&R. Since these
guys are catch-and-release spin-fisherman I took them
to some favorite
sight-fishing flats usually reserved for "fly only". We were free-lining
live shrimp on ultra-light tackle, and the action was terrific.
Normally you can't get a sheepshead to eat a fly on the
flats, but a live shrimp is a different deal altogether. Jack tossed
the shrimp ten feet in front of this 3-4# sheepshead, and the
fish rushed over and inhaled it. Very cool to watch...
about this killer redfish! Will saw the fish coming down the
beach 10' from shore in a foot of water and
dropped the live shrimp in its path. It was a fabulous fight on
the light tackle.
we took time to resuscitate the fish and release it unharmed.
followed suit a little later with this beauty. It was almost
unfair. These fish were so innocent and unsuspecting
they'd break your heart.
Arculeo and Lloyd Johnson got rained out with a cold front passing
through April 5 and had to settle
for a half day on April 7. The wind was howling from the north,
but we had plenty of blue sky and sunshine. We launched the skiff
at Navy Point and snuck around the edge of NAS avoiding the big
in Pensacola Bay and headed for the Gulf. We rounded Pickens Point
and were pleased to find calm, clear water. There was a tide line
a few hundred yards to the east and to our delight a
dark blob of big fish were cruising around it. We knew it was jacks,
got out the big tackle, and it was GAME ON for
the next three hours. Here's Kevin with the first fish of the day
landed on a 3/0 white popper.
It took Lloyd a little while to get the feel
for throwing a big popper with a 12wt in a 20mph wind, but it all
came together, no one was injured, and he landed his first jack
crevalle on fly. Congratulations, Lloyd! The photo credit goes
to Kevin Arculeo...
Pippen and the "boys" were
back on April 8 and we found lots of activity west of Pensacola
Pass. It was a perfect day for sight-fishing...clear water, sunshine,
blue skies. Jay showed them how it's done with the first jack crevalle
of the day landed on a 4 1/2" "chug bug".
Jay was fighting his fish we noticed what looked like a
island as big as a house moving in our direction. It
was a school of at least 500 black drum "floating" along
just below the surface. Will Pippen
threw a SPRO bucktail into the school and let it sink. This fish
nailed it on the drop. What a beautiful, health fish! We hooked
and released a few more before refocusing our attention on the
caught the jacks on topwater plugs until everyone was worn out.
Here's a photo of a rare jack crevalle "double"
by Will Pippen and Jack Hillman. It started off as a triple hookup
which quickly turned into a three-ring circus as the fish took off
in different directions and all the lines (40# PowerPro) got wrapped
together. As I was trying to untangle them Jay's
and another line broke. Amazing as it sounds I just happened to be
holding on to the piece of broken line that was connected to
The jack crevalle was tired and only 20' from the boat, so
I handlined it in and we got the photo. Nice to have been wearing
Horn on April 12 with his first-ever pompano on fly. Too much
shore break that day to get close to the beach,
so we anchored just outside the break and waited for the fish to
come through. This fish (and others) ate a pompano rocket variation
in orange and yellow that Terry tied himself. Very satisfying to
check the elusive pompano off your life list.
Montana guide Kinney Scruggs had a memorable
39th birthday April 13 along the shore of Johnson Beach chasing
big jack crevalle. It took a few mishaps before Kinney got comfortable
the big popper on 12 wt tackle, but once he got it under control
the jacks were in trouble. Here he is proudly holding his first
fish of the day.
Kinney landed his second jack we were hailed over to a 40' sport-fishing
vessel for what we thought would
be "congratulations" on landing the two big jack crevalle
on fly. Instead we were greeted by a 6' buckass-naked woman who
happy to share her complete frontal view as she alerted us to a
park ranger with a stuck vehicle on the beach. It was quite a sight
and one that Kinney and I won't soon forget. The nude woman plus
two king-sized jack crevalle made for a birthday that's going
to be hard to top!
was a beautiful day April 18 for Bruce and Gregory Trumbull.
Gregory broke the ice with this lovely redfish
landed on light spinning tackle and a free-lined live shrimp. What
The fish didn't cooperate all day for Bruce
and his fly rod until this impressive speckled trout saved the
was back on the boat a few days later on April 21 with daughter
Heather's main squeeze Jake Tessler. We set up in
one of our favorite ambush spots waiting for the jack crevalle.
Bruce got "first shot" with a big popper on fly, and
Jake got all the long and into-the-wind shots. Bruce had fish all
the fly but never got a take; however, Jake slammed it to two jacks
of this quality. Bruce, who holds the amberjack boat record on
fly, has never landed a jack crevalle. On the outside he was thrilled
for Jake, but on the inside...
Bob Jenkins was back in town for some spring
action on April 24, and we found schools of jack crevalle west
of Pensacola Pass along Johnson Beach. Here's Jenkins with his
first fish of the day caught on the old faithful big white popper
tied by Ben Walters of Eastern Fly Outfitters. Double-click for
a nice shot of the release.
locals Tommy and Rita Bowen on a gorgeous April 25 morning. Tommy
fought this 23# redfish for a
half hour on light-tackle before bringing it to the net. The fish
ate a 1/2 oz gold Sidewinder spoon. The Acme Sidewinder spoons
come with treble hooks, but we replace them with barbless single
to protect the fish.
same afternoon it was so beautiful that Bob Jenkins
was up for some late-in-the-day fly-fishing. The water
east of Gulf Breeze was pristine for sight-fishing, and Jenkins
trout to eat a shrimp pattern.
Dave Rallis and MaryAnn Romero-Rallis, from
Atlanta, had some excellent sight-fishing on May 3. Dave had his
fly tackle, and MaryAnn was using spinning gear. Here's a picturesque
shot of MaryAnn with her first redfish of the morning.
We relocated to a favorite "big game" spot
hoping the jack crevalle would show up, and MaryAnn had a blast
catching this jack on heavy spinning tackle and a Storm "Chug Bug"
Johnson drove down from Montgomery to use a birthday gift certificate
from son Brian. On May 9 we had a glassy-calm morning which
made it easy to see the wakes created
by 300 jack crevalle cruising along the shoreline in three feet
of water. We positioned the boat in front of the advancing school,
bow with a 10wt fly rod. Ronnie got the fly to the fish multiple
times, but they just wouldn't take it. So in desperation he picked
up the spinning rod and heaved the big chug bug out into their
midst. One pop and this fish crushed it. A man's gotta do what
a man's gotta do!
hit that same stretch of beach the next morning and the jacks
were there again. This time Greg Speer from
Ft Collins, CO, connected with his Sage RPLXi 10wt, Tibor Riptide,
and one of his own 2/0 bangers. Double-click
for a great shot of the famous Rocket release.
Later in the day the Rocket landed his first
pompano of the year in spectacular water down Johnson Beach. The
fly was of course a Pompano Rocket tied by the co-inventor himself.
With two of the three Emerald Coast Grand Slam species down I suggested
we try to find a redfish. But Rocket declined saying he was
having too much fun with the pompano and that we'd by crazy to
leave the serenity of Johnson Beach to rush around looking for
redfish. He was right of course, and we spent the next few hours
catching and releasing pompano after pompano until the clouds came
Jenkins was baaack the next day
May 11, and we headed straight down Johnson Beach to the pompano
spot. There's that little yellow pompano rocket again...
we found the jacks near the Caucas Shoal and Jenkins put his
Hardy reel to work... Two down and one to go
on the Slam, but we never found a redfish.
David Parker brought daughters Maison and Ramsay
out on May 15, and once again the jack crevalle sight-fishing was
on fire. Maison's first fish was a monster approaching 25 pounds.
Ramsay worked her magic on this jack crevalle
a little later. The fish were crushing the topwater chug bugs...
to go, Dad! While Maison and Ramsay caught their breath David
picked up a rod and
put the muscle to this fish. That's a
or Facebook cover page if I've ever seen one...
Stewart, St Louis, booked May 18 and 19, and all we had to work
with were strong east winds, overcast
skies, and light rain. We got skunked in 7 hours of hard fishing
same on the 19th. I decided to try one last stretch of beach even
though it was going to be pretty darn rough for the skiff. Richard
carefully stepped up on the bow, and I got on the platform and
started poling down-wind a hundred feet from shore in the 1' breakers.
It was totally overcast and almost impossible to see anything on
the bottom even though it was only two feet deep. A small
grass patch appeared sixty feet away
at 10 o'clock,
could be a dark streak lying beside it. Richard put the fly right
on target, gave it one long strip, and this redfish hammered
it. We landed it, got the photo, and headed for the dock. Thirteen
hours of fishing and the magic happened in 5 seconds. When the
fishing gets tough ya gotta just keep on fishing!
wind blew hard for the next few days, but when brothers John
and Jerry Earll arrived on May 26 the Gulf of Mexico was
finally calm enough (barely) to look for the false albacore the
bottom-fishing guides had been talking about. Sure enough we found
them a couple miles offshore SE of Pensacola Pass. Jerry landed
numerous fish on light spinning tackle while brother John
went after them on fly. Here's John Earll with his first FA on
Matt Herron and Patrick Dickerson got into
the FA action on May 30 using 8wt fly tackle and #6 gummy minnows.
Here's a nice shot of Patrick with a false albacore that took him
well into the backing.
Patrick had caught "bonitos" many times on
spinning tackle but this was his first time to experience the thrill
of catching them on fly. You just can't beat it on 8wt tackle.
Nice colors on this fish June 1 for Duke Goeddel
who was in town to visit son Tyler an outfielder for the Pensacola
Bruce Trumbull June 9 with his first-ever jack
crevalle on fly! We were set up on an inside sandbar hoping for
some jacks when Capt Eddie Woodall called from the Gulf. He
found two good schools of jacks down the beach to the east and
had already landed numerous fish on spinning tackle. He said he'd
keep an eye on the fish if we wanted to make the 5 mile run out
there..which of course we did at top speed. We found Capt Eddie
but at first couldn't see the fish. He was standing on his center
console pointing at a stationary dark blob just outside the inner
bar. We watched that spot for five minutes, and it never moved.
I finally got up on the platform and poled us in range to check
it out. To our surprise it was indeed a school of jack crevalle,
and Bruce laid the popper out there perfectly. A couple pops and
the school came to life in a big way chasing the fly until this
fish finally crushed it right at the boat. Bruce strip-set multiple
times and then held on as the fish exploded away from the boat.
Twenty minutes later I netted it and the jack crevalle monkey was
finally off Bruce's back!
week of June 12 finds us fly-fishing for "baby" tarpon in the
waters around Cancun with the outstanding
guides from www.cancunflyfishing.net. Here's my good friend Hutch
(Ken Hutchison) and expert guide Enrique Trinidad with a typical
tarpon in the 12-14# range.
a setting! Tim Reischman with a baby tarpon caught and released
in the mouth of a tidal creek.
truly with a nice little fish in the ten pound range... These
fish are perfect for 8wt tackle, but you had best bring your
precision casting "A" game. Thanks to guides Enrique
and Bernardo for all their hard work. We had a blast!
Heacock closes out the spring photos with this very respectable
redfish on June 19 the day before the effects of Tropical Storm