Everglades on the Fly

Capt. Bruce Miller looks is a grizzled redneck who has spent the better part of 30 years guiding clients from Everglades City about an hour south of Naples, Florida in the fabled Ten Thousand Islands. When you ask for him at the dock, he’s likely to spout, “Bruce? Oh I heard he was in jail!” My friend Kevin and I were turned on to Bruce from the legendary Jeff Legutki of Backcountry Fishing who was booked shooting a show with the even more legendary Jose Wejebe that weekend. We’d hit the jackpot, Bruce was in many ways the man who could puts on the fish during touch conditions, heavily stained water in some areas and on a half-day deadline.

On his Hell’s Bay Boatworks skiff, we zipped out out of  Lane Cove and in no time were skimming by hundreds of island as we dove deep into the backcountry in search of redfish, snook and trout. Sadly, the tarpon were pushed out of the bay by a couple of days of wind, they just couldn’t be found, so Kevin and I turned our task to a slam and trying to put as many different species in the boat that morning as we could. He’d be using a spinning reel, I would be using my 8wt flyrod, a GLH2O, that the Fly Shop had graciously fedexed directly to my Naples condo after breaking it on large bucketmouths a week earlier in Texas.

We pulled into a very quiet bay twenty minutes later and fished the lee side of islands out the wind, casting up into the Mangroves. It was a lesson in patience and exercise in accuracy that paid off eventually with a redfish on a brown deciever, played carefully to the boat. My first Red! Kevin hooked up immediately afterward at Bruce’s suggestion that he cast right back in where I had, probably a small pod of them, he mused.

My first red had not one but three beautiful black spots!

Later, we found a pile of a few juvenile snook, a number of short speckled trout, a flounder and even a mangrove snapper on the fly. I had a 20+” speckled trout on 10lb leader and  my guide was able to touch the leader as he broke free and fell back into the flats. He would have been a triumph to get into the boat, but his quick release was just as fine.

Planning SW FL Trip

So I’m taking a little late March vacation with some friends to Naples, FL for an extended weekend. As you can imagine, I’m planning to fish every day and I’ve got quite a few options. Here’ my itinerary:

If the weather is fine, on Friday in the early, early AM, I plan to wade and sight-fish for snook in the Passes (the inlets of two national parks). The Delnor Wiggins Pass State park is conveniently right in Naples and is the pass on the north end of the island, a natural outlet for the Cocohatchee River.

On Saturday, the plan is to do a guided trip for Tarpon. By March, the Tarpon should be migrating through the 10K islands area and I’ll rely on my guide to lead us to them. I hear they can be seen in the thousands and are typically in the 80 – 100lb weight class. That being said, I’m almost willing to pass up the Tarpon for a world-class in-shore guided sight-fishing for trophy snook, from Capt. Jeff Legutki.

If Sat goes over well, I might extend ourselves to a second day of tarpon fishing on the fly Sunday. If we get our fill or the weather bottoms out or my wife needs “my presence”, then I’ll head to the other “Passes” in Naples, either Clam Pass or Gordon’s Pass for more wade fishing for jack, snook, or what have you. I may use a guide for this “inshore” fishing because frankly, I’m a bit weary of gators. Clam Pass is the most remote beach, requiring a mile long walk on foot (or trolley) through a mangrove forest to the beach. There’s a retired Mainer down in Naples who guides the Passes on foot I’m looking into.

Monday AM I’ll get another walk-and-stalk in at whatever Pass produced best over the weekend.

My last trip to FL was a complete bust due to a hurricane and while I did manage some light wading and great practice casting, I was stymied. I’ve got a special no-rain dance and prayer session planned for this trip to Naples. Animals will be sacrificed.