Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring Break 2019: Florida Keys & General Vicinity

Previous spring breaks were Forestville MN - good time of year to be in the woods of SE MN.  Kids apparently have graduated up though and stated clearly a desire to "go somewhere" which means fly on a plane or take a big road trip.  Some deliberation; some planning; some conflicts in that our gal couldn't come along (another obligation).  Minimal luggage: each took a backpack and we had one big gear bag that included several rods, reels, tackle, fly boxes, sun clothing and a lot of footwear.  More footwear than pants; this is a general tendency on most trips with which I am associated; always maintaining that the footwear is critical - need foot comfort and the right application for given environs, tasks and undertakings.  It proved out pretty well here.  We wore the same clothes a lot which was just fine.  The gear bag weighed 47.5 lbs; this was known because I kept checking it on my carp scale against the standard of 50 lbs beyond which one's bag is considered oversized; that label comes with all kinds of hassles and fees.  When we checked it in I told them the weight ahead of time and it was right on; as stated previously we do not mess around with fish weights; we do not exaggerate and the implication is that our tools are well-calibrated to collect the information. 

As sign indicates; paddle in only.  These kayaks were owned by the AIRBNB person; pretty cool to have this access.  We had never before paddled on salwater, that I remember.

Easy access, no motors or loud noises; "free" within the context of things we had already paid and set up.  No real "activities" beyond just getting here and wading, fishing, swimming and looking around.  And yet the boys have indicated to me that this was probably their favorite day.

Got a decent number of small barracuda blind casting.  New specie on the fly for me.  Older kid tried it; requires pretty fast stripping and good contact with streamer.  The hits are hard and if lucky enough to observe them they come as silver flashes only.

Snorkeling day.  Went out to a reef area; no land in sight; main goal being kick everyone off the boat and see how it goes.  There was a little trepidation for kids but they overcame it.  Some moderate hyperventilating by one person but it calmed down.  I think it's good to get uncomfortable and then get sorted.

One particular discomfort was due to loose tooth being aggravated by the snorkel.  We discussed it in the water.  Some facts were stated.  In the end the kid reached in and pulled his tooth out and let it sink to the bottom of the ocean.  He solved the problem and moved forward.  There was more blood than pictured here; I was a little late in capturing a good moment.  Removing one's tooth while approximately neutrally buoyant in foreign saltwater and rolling waves.

First fish of the trip caught on any type of gear was this puffer (pics are not in order; I couldn't make it happen when uploading them).  It puffed up when initially taken from the water.  Apparently the flesh is very toxic to humans.  Sweet looking fish.

On this same flat, behind the kid...   I got one look at a 4-5 foot gray fish of some specie not known.  By its shape I figure shark.  I got in pretty good position and put a clouser on its face...    indeed it turned a 90 and followed as long as I could strip...  then I ran out of line, which must have made fish wonder why prey item would stop...   thus resulting in disinterest and resumption of previous course parallel to shore.  That and one giant chrome bumper cuda that did not eat were my best flats fishing targets - great memories and clear visions despite no fish to hand in those cases.

We mainly just went with the good ol state parks.  They provided access to really cool and interesting water.  The fascination with these saltwater flats is remarkable: miles of walking in all directions, knee deep water; who knows what one might encounter.  Add to this mystery the fly rod in hand and you really have it going: ready to hit whatever target may show: I will put a clouser on your ass and make you eat it and then take you into the shallows and wrestle you into submission only to let you go in a minute or so (that's the approach and hope anyway; actual realization of that sequence proved to be difficult and relatively scaled down).  This particular flat pictured was not a state park but rather result of a moderately deep dive into researching all the accessible flats along the keys.  Folks were very generous in offering tips; this was a good one.  We basically had to hurry across the main busy road and hop in the water; many folks waved and gave us thumbs up; only people in the water.

Boys and their cousins often focused on catching amphibians and reptiles; as they should be as were their fathers before them.  Florida is good for that pursuit.

Replica of Hemingway's boat.

Put fingers on the keys.

Lunch on the patio just off the Zane Grey Lounge.


This is a place worthy of some serious hangout.  Would want to redo the food menu and prep and maybe some other things but the vibe and the venue were pretty serious.

Caught some unknown species; this was one of them.  Flat and sand-colored; apparently a benthic dweller.

Down by the water at the AIRBNB.  We picked this place because it provided water access - swimming and snorkeling, kayaking.  We saw some cool fish just off this dock/patio, including one nice cuda that came around every day. 

Somehow we lucked into the best half day trip in the Everglades; better than anything I could have deliberately crafted or planned.  Basically we drove through a very interestingly zoned municipality called Florida City; then looked for the first sign indicating a walking trail (the visitor center was closed).  Enter the Anhinga Trail - not far into the park, and essentially a scaled-down concentration of most of what you'd hope to see: the gators, the birds, the fish and general low-lying wilderness (albeit run-through by man's pavement trails and a building or two).

Pretty close to the gator.

The lament by the kids: no fishing allowed.  Just fish everywhere.  Instead of catching them the boys threw crickets and watched the eats.

Far as I know, The Anhinga.

Last "big" thing we did was head out with Oracle Expeditions - great dude and a patient and helpful guide (Chris Lenahan).  He put us on fish right away and we three guys took turns basically sight fishing to jacks and snook.  Pretty badass.  Especially throwing in these green lights that emanate from the floor of the bay; adding some mystery vibe and also attracting baitfish and thus big fish and thus anglers.

First jack hooked by young guy; the rod literally nearly shook its way out of his hands; I was watching this all very closely.  The boy going between struggle and laughing then finally mixing both in a great show.

No really big ones but the deal was we got to watch most of the eats, and in many cases there were several visible wakes running down the fly.

The irony being that these 100 million dollar yachts have lights that attract fish and thus fishy people who (generally I would assume) stand in contrast to owners of the vessels (who are likely not really focused in on pisces or anything related).

After kids got fish, this was my first to hand.  It was actually one of the only completely blind catches of the night.  It was a moderate challenge adjusting to the darkness - not seeing your loop (I think even while not looking directly at your line you get into the habit of "seeing it" peripherally).  I hooked a dock piling right before catching this fish and I was pretty bummed and embarrassed; just hated moving over to the good water to pick the hook out of the wood.  But few casts later I curved around the dock up toward shore and stripped back; came tight; first snook.  Kind of badass.

Last day we did something inside.  I was okay with the idea because we pushed pretty hard and logged a lot of miles walking in and around water.  Overall seven nights.

The salt is a real bitch when it comes to gear.