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FW Fla report

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Just back in trout country after three weeks on the road. During the run, I fished eight days in southwest Florida: four days on Estero Bay, two days in the 10,000 Islands running out of Goodland, and two days on Florida Bay, launching in Flamingo.

Hit the bull's eye on the weather: warm, calm and steady, until the rest of the continent's crappy weather finally got down there on Monday. I fished a 7wt Xi3 mainly, given the light winds, but also used a couple 8s, a 9, and a 10 briefly. My terminal rigging was a 9' 16# fluoro leader with 30# fluoro bite tippet pretty much the entire time.

On Estero, launching from Lovers Key, I was blind fishing mangrove edges mostly, mainly for reds, with the occasional snook, sheepshead or jack in the mix. A #2 tan kwan/toad hybrid weighted with red Psuedo Eyes was the hot fly. Rather than run all over, I keyed on an area that was producing fish for me, and got comfortable running the boat in that environment, and understanding the tides. My fish ran mostly in the 17-22" range, with a few pushing into the upper 20s. Twice I got wrecked by bigger fish, red or snook I presume.

More of the same from Goodland, with a wider variety of by-catch in the mix: baby goliaths, ladyfish swarms, lots of small jack crevalle. I found some snook hot spots -- felt like the run of warm and steady weather kicked the snook bite in.

I had three days planned for Florida Bay, a place I was more familiar with from irregular trips to the Keys and guided days, but the weather stomped Day Three. Still, the sightfishing for redfish, and the snook fishing in the island moats, was excellent using toad variations. Again, tan/sand was the best color. The last good day started out glass-calm, and I ran south from Flamingo to a well-known spot that I understand hasn't ever really recovered from the freeze in 2012. Polling the flat I was not finding anything but then noticed activity in a channel cutting across it. Polled over there and boom a poon rolls. Damn if there weren't DOZENS of them hanging around in there. I dorked with them for a while, but I'm not any kind of experienced tarpon angler and did not hook up. The morning clouds burned off, the day got bright and in about an hour or so they were gone. Still, it was an incredible and unexpected encounter.

Any of the days outfished every guided day I've had down there. I've caught tarpon, and it would have been the cherry on top to stick one on my own. But still, all in all, a great time, and a great learning experience.
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