Tuesday, January 4, 2011


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I have been offered a fantastic opportunity to head south this April with two of my best fishing buddies- Marty and Tim. I am really excited about spending time with these two brothers and having a chance to fish with Cordell Baum Jr. too... This is going to be a blast! We are going to have shots at so many different fish from bones, reds, tarpon, peacock bass, sharks, snook, jacks.... lots of different opportunities indeed!

Gerry Gruendling with a snook
But I have to admit (a bit selfishly) that I am really looking forward to a couple of days in the backcountry of Flamingo, Florida. Twice in the late '90's I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Flamingo with Gerry Gruendling- one of my professors at SUNY Plattsburgh. We had a great time both times we went. It was the first time I had fished the salt, and despite my lack of experience, we did pretty well. I had equipment that wasn't ideal for the task at hand, but it held up (a reel I still have and use has a lot of corrosion even after 13 years). My flies worked well. And it was a lot of fun.

Our angling competition
If you have not ever been to Flamingo,  (or perhaps have not even heard of it) it is the last outpost on the absolute southern tip of mainland Florida. It is deep in the heart of Everglades National Park. There used to be a small marina store, fish cleaning station, boat launch, park ranger station, restaurant and hotel there. Now it is just a boat launch, ranger station and small marina store thanks to a couple of hurricanes in 2005. A storm surge of 9 feet has a tendency to do that. The boat launch leads to a canal system up into Coot Bay and then ultimately into Whitewater Bay. This is some of the best backcountry fishing available in Florida. There is also a boat launch that puts you onto the flats of Florida Bay which is some of the best redfishing in the Sunshine State. On top of the amazing fishing, the wildlife is stunning. Manatees, dolphins, a huge diversity of bird species, insects (oh, the mosquitos!) and reptiles. South Florida is the only place in the world where you find alligators and crocodiles naturally occurring. And you get to see both of them at the same time there. 

Mud Pond
Both times I went down there we went no motor into the networks of lakes and ponds near Flamingo. Paddling through the mangroves is an experience in itself. The very first morning we were there we took the canoe trail from Coot Bay into Mud Pond. The canoe trail is maybe 8 feet wide or so, really just a creek hacked out of the mangroves. Within a couple of hundred feet, a family of raccoons  ran through the mangroves right over our heads. Quite an introduction. Just looking through the impenetrable growth of the mangrove roots puts you in a completely different frame of mind. And the water color is like nothing else you have ever seen. The no-motor lakes of ENP are great places to fish. Humans (most notably most fishermen), being primarily lazy creatures, rarely venture into these areas. Because of this, there are incredible fishing opportunities for those adventurous anglers willing to head back into these places. Within about 10 minutes of being in Mud, I had my first snook. What an awesome fish. We were spooking redfish and snook like crazy too. I can't wait to put my vastly improved angling skills to work back there this April!

My very first 'poon- the story of this day will come later!
Over those two trips I caught snook, redfish, tarpon, ladyfish, jacks, and Cichlosoma umbriferum  (an exotic introduction, but a blast anyway!). I saw some humungous fish like big boy tarpon, stingrays, and sharks and saw a lot of other fish like sheephead, bonnethead sharks, topfin catfish and black drum. I learned a lot about fishing the back country, what to use, how to do it which I parlayed into some techniques for pike and bass back home. There are a lot of similarities to the two styles of fly fishing. 

First snook ever
I also learned one of the most important lessons I have ever learned about fly fishing- how to tie knots. Gerry and I started fishing Coot Bay. We took the canal and started from eastern shore and worked our way all around the edge of the bay. Gerry really took care of me that day- I fished the entire time without even a follow. We got almost to Tarpon Creek (the way into Whitewater Bay) before I had a take. Now, being a poor college kid I did not have a lot of money to buy good leaders so I had built my own out of mono that I had. Those mono leaders worked pretty well for the most part. I ran into a problem with a knot though. The fish that slammed my bunny fly was a snook. Not just any snook, this puppy was a monster. I think it was easily 40" or better. Yes, it was a freakin' mammoth fish. It inhaled that fly and then I had about 2 seconds of pulling and one of my blood knots gave..... I have tied a whole lot of blood knots since then. I tend to tie them for fun now. I can tie them super fast (clients have been surprised how quickly I hand them back their rigs to fish). And I tie them well. And I test them before fishing them. That was one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned about fly fishing. I took it to heart. As much as it sucked, I would not change that moment for anything. It helped me to become the angler I am now.

Now, thanks to one of my best friends, I am heading back to Flamingo. I am much more prepared for the fishing available. Cordell called the three of us sharpshooters in one of his recent emails and said we should be "deadly".  I tend to agree.

You will be reading a lot more about the preparations. Some flies are done already. I will post up some pictures soon. This is going to be an interesting trip.... 


  1. you looked like you just rolled off the Dead tour. nice poon

  2. Thanks hippy! It was actually the Ominous Seapods tour, the Dead were passe to me at that point!

  3. great picture of you there man i laughed so much at roughfishers comment my head fell off . your gonna have a blast mind you need another break after ive been to vt in may buddy