With Redfish, Snook, and Jacks Crossed off the list. The next thing we set out after was a Tarpon. Being so late in the season it was unlikely that we would have any shots with flies at mature tarpon on the west side of Florida, we headed to the everglades in search of some juveniles, with some local information from Pat.
We showed up to the lakes, about a 45 minute drive from our doorstep. We had a bit of a late start because grandma wanted to cook us breakfast, so I'll blame it on her. We arrived as a group of kayak based fishermen were coming in. All they could talk about was the big Snook they were plugging on gear. Showing us pictures of 27"+ Snook got our blood boiling, but in reality we weren't looking for Snook. They also mentioned some places where they had seen baby tarpon rolling and after being pointed in the right direction, we unloaded our ultra light aluminum canoe and got to it.
The first stop was a small bay off the main lake. Coming through the tunnel, the first thing we noticed was the massive gators basking in the sun. One was potentially as long as our canoe. Pretty uneasy feeling, but they were shy, never letting us get close. I had two rods strung up, one with a black/purple tarpon toad, and the other with the typical white Snook minnow. We were told to look for boils and rolls that were the tell tale signs, but its pretty damn impossibly to tell what was rolling, whether it was a ever annoying mullet, or a tarpon. It only took a few searching casts, and right as my fly landed in a tiny little pocket among the mangroves, the water flushed like a toilet boil. I was shocked, I had zero clue as to what had hooked. Practically zero hook set, basically with my pants around my ankles, I was sitting down in the canoe just getting used to things. I was not prepared in the slightest. This fish put some stress on my 7 weight Sage Method. Obviously I had hooked something full of piss and vinegar because this was no typical Snook. What felt like an eternity went by, dogging this fish around the mangroves, and by the time we finally saw this thing -
About 20 minutes into the day, again I hooked the fish I wanted. This battle proceeded to end rather quickly as I got the silver prince tired enough to bring near the canoe. Right as I reached down, he made one last jump, almost into the boat, landed on my thigh, and bounced off, gone. Like that it was over. I was pretty ecstatic but at the same time frustrated. Would I have landed that fish had I been on my game? Probably. No hook set to a tarpon and you're pretty well on the losing side of the battle from the get go.
We spent most of the next few days probing the lake looking for tarpon, but all we really found was micro Snook. There was a point where I went 10/10 on casts/hook ups, and would continue to repeat the same thing over and over. After awhile the little buggers started to get annoying. But sure enough, as the sun was coming down, we started seeing some bigger Snook movement. After about a dozen Snook your shock leader is pretty well trashed, and being from a trout background... I never would've thought to check. Once again dropping my fly inches from the mangroves into the tiny little buckets the Snook call home, one strip, and something with some serious anger just crushed my fly... and POP.
30lb test shock, snapped like thread. Probably should have checked that after the little runts. Snook have almost no teeth, and their mouths are like sand paper, they make short work of any type of line. Only thing Sam could say from the back of the Canoe was "That didn't seem like a normal fish....".
Confidence was a bit rattled, and as the sun came down, we booked it out of the tunnels as fast as we could paddle. We had No G.P.S, and the long tunnels shaped as mazes could easily mess with you even in the best daylight. It wasn't something we wanted to try and do in pitch black darkness. That or worse case scenario, camp out with the massive reptilian neighbors that call the everglades home.
We spent the remaining days we had fishing the lake system in hopes of putting our hands on silver king. All we could fool were the hundreds micro Snook. We accomplished quite a bit in the 7 days we had in Florida. While the only really big fish we touched was the Red, there's something rewarding about figuring the fishing out, and prepping yourself for future trips. Without a doubt in my mind, we'll be back. Hopefully with a 12 Weight and an 8 Weight, roaming the beaches in search of Pig Snook and Mature Tarpon this Summer. But the constantly dropping Canadian dollar might delay that adventure.
Hope you enjoyed the brief summary of our trip to Florida. We had a blast down there and plan to be back in the near future. Marsh Species out of Canoe is a thrill and a half, and having a fish spin you 180 degrees in your canoe is something I'll never not get a kick out of.