Bass in Florida are like Led Zeppelin on the radio: Always on somewhere.
I’ve said that before* (in one of my infrequent posts on Buster Wants to Fish.) But I am saying it again because the words and the actions behind them are repeatable.
Sometimes I wonder if it seems like a broken record with me, and maybe it does, but we all need sporting traditions.
One of my main riffs goes like this: Fly down, rent car, criss-cross the State on back roads and wait for the rain to break. Drive past a body of water, look for access, cast.
The coasts and the Keys are incongruous with the interior, the land of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjory Kinnan Rawlings. All the way up to Shingle Creek (documented by a green highway sign on S.R. 528 as the Headwaters of the Everglades) the fresh water that flows South through Okeechobee and the big swamp is dyked, funneled, redirected, canal-ized and otherwise manipulated so that the River of Grass and Florida Bay do not get their full eventual dose.
The roads cut through cattle ranches and orange groves and migrant farms and small town main streets that maintain an Eisenhower ambience despite the scarcity of Buick Roadmasters.
The water is a distraction. It’s always sitting just off the main road or down obscure side streets, where it would remain undiscovered if not for the invasiveness of Google Maps. Whether it should rightfully be swampland or something other than a containment born of front-end loaders is past the point of consideration.
It could contain bass, and is impossible to pass by.
I was standing on a rock and I fell off it. I banged my shin, right in that spot where there’s nothing but skin over bone, and it hurt. The rod did not break. The reel had a gash in the bar stock but still worked fine. I pulled myself up and on to the beach and the person fishing near me laughed. (He was a plug fisherman.) I did not catch a fish.
This happened in New York. Fortunately there is a cure for every fishing drought and it’s called Florida. I fished from a lakeshore at dawn for bass and I did not fall in. There are alligators. I had pulled pork and sweet tea for lunch and a cuban with black beans and rice for dinner.
My friend further south has a boat and I ran down the turnpike and we idled through the inlet on an outgoing tide and the breakwater was loaded with pilchard. Two boats took turns drifting close to the rocks so someone could throw a cast net. When they hauled in the nets stunned pilchard fell out and snook bolted from the rocks and ate them.
Hooking a snook near structure can end badly because that’s what they do, and even on the beach their gill plates can cut through shock tippet or draw blood. Phonetically, the old-timers pronounce it snuke, but try mentioning that in a way that doesn’t make you seem like an asshole.
Pilchard are easy to mimic with fly tying materials, particularly super hair assembled with mono thread and epoxy in Hamilton Eat-Me fashion.
Snook also jump, and I like them very much.
I’m a bass man. What can I say?
A town without one is a barren town, where there are no shamrocks drawn in foam, where sparkling wine is allowed to be ordered, and where Shane Macgowan is heard only in minivan commercials.
A town with one has a first line of defense against Applebees.
Beacon for the weary
The fly line entangled in some shoreline debris and I looked down to yank it free, and at that moment a green shape chose to cut through the water to my popper. I had no tension on the line so I watched its fat profile surge and descend on the popper, create a brief interlude of chaos and disappear.
The excessively corpulent type of largemouth, the kind that would give FLW types arrhythmia, has eluded me for 12 years, ever since a memorable encounter on a small lake in Michigan. Since then I’ve had to settle for the small to decent to merely large.
The near misses are haunting.
In the end it gets added to the personal rolodex of frustration, along with the monster snook that broke free on the jump, the convincingly stuck tarpon that did the same, the bluefin tuna that spit the hook boat-side and the striped bass that straightened the hook before you even saw it.
It can reduce your evening to a good walk and and some attempted pictures of wading birds.
I’m a fan of the split level fishing photo, where half the shot is underwater and half is above, like this. Or this.
But when I stick my waterproof point and shoot (with the 73 second shutter delay) in there, they come out like this:
There’s a reason some people get paid for what they do.
…could be because something’s bogging it down.
Maybe it’s the need to further simplicity, maybe it’s a stubbornness to stick with a go-to that continually works over a broad spectrum of species and conditions. But fish that eat other fish tend to like these hard-headed flies with big eyes and synthetic hair. With stuff like Clear-Cure Goo they take two minutes to tie and last until you lose them or your knot fails.
I’ve likely repeated this thought far too many times in photos and typed words, but until something doesn’t work, it does. Know what I’m saying?
I believe in the clear.
I’ve been intrigued by Monic fly lines since first reading about the clear, monofilament-cored floating lines on Midcurrent. An article there by Paul Bruun outlays its history.
It’s been around since 1993, so I’m a little late to the game, but for the most part it seems to have a fanbase among anglers with a specific skill set–those casting to bonefish, tarpon and permit.
I decided to give it a go, opting for the All Weather Clear Floating Line in a 6 weight. I’ve fished it five days so far this year–all in warm water Florida lakes with large littoral zones, shallow bowl canals or box cut canals with extremely clear water. In all cases it’s stillwater or with a slow-moving current.
I like how the line loads and casts, but after laying down a cast and letting it still, the benefit is apparent. It blends in with the surface. I stick the rod tip in the water on retrieve and the line makes very little disturbance on the water. Following the cast, judging distance and all that is not a problem; I’m fishing size four to size 1/0 baitfish patterns or poppers so I just follow the fly.
I’ve quickly grown to love this line because I make a lot of casts parallel to shore or at a 45-degree angle and I’ve already noticed a decrease in line-spooked fish. I have yet to fish it in cold water other than for casting practice fresh out of the box. Monic says that memory could be a problem, but I’m high enough on the freshwater line to give the GSP Striper/Tuna line a go, too.