Tag Archives: dirty canals are beautiful

Accidental Triploid Encounters

As it swims closer along the bank it becomes apparent we are dealing with something of more substantial immensity than the chunky black bass standing sentinel over the drain pipe.

desperately seeking lawn clippings

It makes the heart skip a beat and the eyes move toward the bass bug tied to your tippet and the assorted others in your wallet, and you realize there’s a problem.

It swims lazily by and pokes at things and it could be 20 pounds. The ficus aren’t blooming and the man told you to tie up a green san juan worm because if someone’s trimming grass nearby it becomes a chum situation. Or match the hatch, if you choose to look at it that way. But you didn’t.

Then it swims away and you’re reduced to the pathetic recollection of movie quotes.

“He’s gone and we couldn’t do nothing about it.” *

Then it’s back to the bass and the realization that some things aren’t going to happen for you.



FLORIDA: The Ditch Slam

The Tri-Rail

The whole thing started with the least of expectations. I had a rod and some time to kill due to a delayed appointment. I made some casts. I caught nothing. I drove to the appointment. Delayed again, for another hour.

I google mapped. I found nearby water. I tried a new fly.

The Mayan Cichlid

On my first cast I caught a mayan cichlid. Sweet.

Then I saw a dark swirling shape hanging out near a submerged drain pipe. I made a cast.

The Largemouth Bass

A largemouth bass with a middling amount of heft liked my offering. OK, cool.

I released the bass. Then I saw two bulbous fish cruising the shoreline at a fast clip. I made a lead cast. One charged like a mofo.

The Oscar

It took off with the force of a Tri-Rail and I had to run down the bank for 20 feet or so until it settled. Actually took me to the reel. My uncertified genero-grip registered the openly hostile oscar at around two-pounds.

What an ornery little cuss.

This became interesting. The fly I had tied on looked similar to a juvie peacock, proving the cardinal law of fish: Everything eats everything. Could I make some sort of slam out of this?

My cell phone rang. I had to meet my appointment in 15 minutes. I was five minutes away.

Would a peacock bass hit a fly that looked kind of like a littler peacock?

The Peacock Bass

Death don’t have no mercy.

FLORIDA: Horse Country Rambling

“The pie and cake is mine to take,” –Don Edwards, Saddle Tramp

There is irony in the fact that some of my best opportunities to catch native wild freshwater fish exist in manmade drainage canals designed in part to turn what is naturally a swamp into solid ground.

A berm about a half mile away cordons off the real wild, the swamp water flowing southerly over limestone bedrock. But the wild creeps into the sanitized despite the best efforts of developers and trappers.

Alligators show up uninvited in golf course ponds and largemouth bass make their way into every reasonably oxygenated patch of freshwater. Out in horse country, miles away from the coast, the bass are the game. In the small canals inaccessible by bass boat or canoe they are unabashed. A long walk, with vigilance for gators, cottonmouths, and fire ants, gets rewarded.

I am a Florida expat; I haven’t lived there in 17 years but I still love much about it. But that doesn’t make me an apologist.

If You Knew It Was Your Last For A While

The fall didn’t end on such a hot note. The decent weather sandwiched between Noreasters left little windows of fishability. If you weren’t in a position to capitalize on those slots on the quick then, well, that was just too bad for you. Too bad for me for way too damn certain. [Exclamation point.]

I’m off to Florida next week and I’m not so sure what I’m going to find. Some bad shit went down, man. I haven’t heard much about my ditches on the inside, but butterfly peacocks die when the water temps fall below 60 degrees. Usually not a problem in South Florida but this year…The only way to know for sure is to keep casting.

FLORIDA: Tarpon Foot Work

Canal tarpon caught by Marshall DeMott.

The thing about Florida is, the accessible water to fly fish by foot can be staggering if you know where to find it, especially if you know which back waters serve as juvenile detention centers for the progeny of silver kings.

Marshall DeMott, a fly fishing guide based in Naples (and a regular at Flies and Fins), sent word of his hard work turned good fortune on a recent outing.

Most of you know that a good day on the canal is maybe two hookups….this was exceptional and we think the extremely cold weather shut down the hunger drive and when it warmed up, the Tarpon raided the lunch box.”

Well played.

FLORIDA: Bass and a New Weird Species

The bass can't resist the popper.
The bass can't resist the popper.

Going to high school reunions is a phenomenon we all must endure at some point, and so it was with my 20th down in Florida. I guess we had a hell of a class back in the day, as everyone who came back turned out to be pretty solid.

The fly ride.
The fly ride.

I stayed at my buddy Z’s house out in horse country. When you live in horse country you can have cool wheels like a John Deere Gator that your friends can take to explore the resident fly water. Z also has a center console that he took offshore dolphin fishing on Friday morning. I didn’t get there until Friday evening. I had three phone calls from the boat by the time I landed. Which means they were catching fish. Fishing friends don’t call unless to mock you for their success in your absence. Thankfully I got to experience some of their seven boated 10-15 pound mahi on the grill.

A badass oscar that mauled my popper.
A badass oscar that mauled a popper.

Bass fishing became my consolation prize. And because of it I added a new weird Florida invasive to my curriculum vitae. I’ve seen oscars act the badass bully in fish tanks and in the wilds of a Florida ditch it played the part. Rocked the popper and fought disproportionately hard for its size. Good times.

TYING: Bendback Experimentation

big o bendback

Copped this idea when I saw a version on the vise at Atlantic Outfitters. Not sure if they came up with the idea but I’d never seen it before at least. I brought home some Mustad 1/0 O’Shaugnessy hooks to give it a go.

It’s not really a bendback because you don’t have to physically alter the hook, but it’s the  same principle.  I tried something similar with bass hooks a while ago but gave that up because I didn’t like how they swam.

I like how these swim so far. Good vertical jigging action with a slow retrieve, and they bounce well along bottom. Now I just need to get down to my Florida ditches for some serious recon.

UPDATE: Here is an article by Henry Cowen about the development of using 60-degree jig hooks for fly tying.

Ditch Fishing Paraphernalia: Shorties

The Redington Predator and Temple Fork TiCrx short sixes.
The Redington Predator and Temple Fork TiCrx short sixes.

A man serious about the prospecting of ditches needs a shorty. As discovered researching  “A Brief History of Ditch Fishing” a 7’6″ snub-nosed can be a deadly weapon at close range. My dad’s old Horrocks-Ibbotson is to me a ranking northeast small stream trout rod (bought in his time for $12). But for my ditch forays I wanted a 6w with extra mustard.

I tried two less expensive commercial rods under eight feet: the Redington Predator and the Temple Fork TiCrx 6w. I’ve fished both of them in close quarters north and south since April, and used an anonymous 9′ 6w as the field test control. Here are my thoughts:

REDINGTON PREDATOR 71064: 7’10” six weight. The Redington Predator has backbone. It’s 4 inches longer and a half ounce lighter than the TiCrx, but it proved the stiffer rod for double hauling big clumsy flies in wind. The Predator allowed for better line control than the nine footer. It handled 150 grain sink line better than the TiCrx and would be more suited to light saltwater duty. Great for throwing big poppers and oversized streamers normally reserved for 8 or 9w duty. Not as great for soft presentations. $199, www.redington.com

TEMPLE FORK TICRX 0676 4 TX 7’6″ six weight. Once you calibrate loading the rod on back cast, the TiCrx shorty allows for accurate casts and tight loops. I could put shots under bridges and into bank overgrowth far better than with the nine footer and with greater accuracy than the Predator. It has more feel than the Predator but I didn’t like how it responded with the 150 grain sink. $250, www.templeforkflyrods.com

VERDICT: I like the Predator for big bugs, sinking line, and light salt, and the TiCrx for spots with no backcast room and tight fits. I may try to make my own ditch rod from a blank and either way if I’m walking a dirty canal I’m never bringing my neener again.

Redemtion in Largemouth

Pete Bass

I’ve been with the family upstate. Today I decided to walk a remnant of the canal system and sight fish to carp. The casts fell into place in front of mudding grubbers but the carp shunned every offering.

Humiliation forces the reconsideration of options; and the desperate idea of returning to the farm pond. But redemtion needed to come elsewhere, through a group of bass living under a bridge. They’re used to seeing shiners and worms and plastic ad nauseum and just don’t budge for much.

But it’s easy enough to pull of the road and jump the guardrail and slide down the embankment.

This bass came out of the shadow line and poked and poked and finally committed in a lazy inhalation of my fly. Good enough. Hooked it proper, smacking the rod tip on the concrete above.

I’ll try the carp again tomorrow.