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A great week in the Keys

About an hour ago, a long, red line on the radar passed over Key West and bringing the end to what has been a truly great week of fishing here in Key West. It all started last weekend with a day that Don and I had jumping 3 tarpon and landing 4 really nice bonefish and then continued all week with fantastic permit fishing and some good night tarpon fishing, as well.

Each day produced 15 to 20 good shots at permit and I also fished 2 night charters, boating 4 fish and jumping another 10. I fished Thursday with Craig Cantelmo from Van Staal and his buddy Glen. The happy angler in the photo is Glen with his first permit on fly. We won’t talk about the permit that got away from Craig…

The next week looks a bit blustery but hopefull things will calm down and we will get back to what has so far been an outstanding permit season. See you on the water.




Three days TAIL……

Well….After spending the last three days on the water fishing Permit I think
it’s safe to say the 2012 Permit season is off to a great start!

Angler Alex Maher from Jackson Wyoming took his spot on the bow of my boat Wednesday hoping to catch his first Permit in the Florida Keys. We set out early on the falling tide, under partly cloudy skies, wind south 5-10 with water temps around 74*. I slowly polled up to our first flat to find four or five fish tailing and working in VERY shallow, slick water. They were so shallow their backs were exposed and we even watched one fish swim on his side as he worked to cross a shallow bar. We worked through the slack and then rising tide for about two hours throwing at tailing fish and managed to get one solid eat that never came tight. The fish had turned and “ate the fly” while traveling quickly down current towards the boat making it almost impossible to get a solid hook set. “Lets find another.”

Alex and I continued fish through the top of the high getting a dozen or so shots….It was now 2pm. After a brief roll over the tide started to drop….FAST!

It wasn’t long until we spotted a good sized Permit slowly moving across the flat and slightly away. “Eleven O’clock 70 feet going away…You got him?”  “GOT HIM!” I made another push and Alex launched his cast placing it about a foot in front of the going away fish and slightly left. The fish turned….Alex gave a long slow strip…another….and then the fish inhaled the fly! “YES!!!!”

Fifteen minutes later…..”MR PERMIT IS IN THE BOAT”

Day two would prove to be very different. We worked hard under clear blue skies to find fish and only managed 7 shots on the day. The Permit were unsettled, and on the move showing little to no interest on properly placed flies. The number of fish on the flats had also decreased. Was it the lack of wind, (south 0-5) the super high water, the fly?

Day three………We woke to clear skies, wind S 10-15, and 72* Time for a major move! Alex and I headed east…passing up the flats that provided us with lots of shots and a fish day one and punished us on day two. We polled a couple small flats and another very long edge that provided only four shots. After a few moves and four more shots it was time for lunch. WE were the only ones eating.

Shortly after lunch we boated a 4 lb bone that was eager to eat our Permit fly.  1/3 of the “slam” in the boat, now lets get that PERM! The 3 foot tide was now making skinny water tough to find.

After racking my brain I remembered a little flat that I had fished last year on a very high tide that held some good fish. We polled into the spot and blew out a solid fish….then another. The light was really bad, the direction not quite right so I decided to poll out, bump up, and come around from the back. The new approach had me polling into the tide, with the fish facing away. Not perfect, but we could see the black sickle tails and had the wind at our back. It wasn’t long and we were back into fish after 6 quick shots we spotted a group of fish at 40 feet and took a shot. The group moved away to the right and then did something I have never seen a Permit do……they started “daisy chaining”! CRAZY! Alex quickly threw his next cast on the outside of the chain (like we do with Tarpon) “plop” strip, strip, SET! After fighting off a small shark we landed our first fish of the day…..a good one!

With more fish on the flat, Alex and I decided to continue fishing permit and spend the last hour of our day looking for a Tarpon for the slam. We landed our second Permit of the day about 20 minutes later. This guy was the first one to the fly beating his other three friends earning a seat in my boat and a tag in his back!







Alex and I decided to leave the flat and head out for that Tarpon in hopes of getting his first Keys slam.  After a short ride we arrived on one of my favorite early season tarpon spots. It didn’t take long for the shot to come…in fact it might have come too quick. “1 0’clock…30 feet Alex!” Alex quickly dropped his fly and put in a few good strips….strip, strip, strip, SET!  A heavy silence filled the boat….no jump, no screaming line, no chrome. Game over……

“Next time buddy……Next time!”

Permit season is HERE! Get some!




Spring is on the way

It’s days like today that make “winter” in Key West, and the days of being stuck in the house while the water temp is in the mid 60’s and the wind is North at 35 and gusty, worth it. With the right combination of weather the winter permit fishing can be stellar and today was one of those days.

Don and I had shots at very relaxed, happy (by permit standards) fish on virtually every flat we fished with each of us landing a fish. Each of our fish tracked and went down on the fly like Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D) chasing an Oscar Meyer…

More days like today are right around the corner!


Don’s best Barney Frank impersonation ^^^

A picture is worth a thousand words….

Your Key West fishing report for Thursday Jan, 5th……

Windy surprise

Tired of not being on the water due to some pretty heavy wind for the last several days, Don and I decided to get out there and see if we could put a serious bend in the fly rod anyway. The permit fishing has been pretty damn good whenever we have had a decent day but today was not one of those with the all wind and also some clouds that we would have to deal with. Spinners and blacktips were on todays menu.

We headed out with the Sand Key weather buoy reading gusts at 30 knots so the plan was to catch some bait, find some shelter from the wind, and start chumming.

Bait was easy to come by so we made quick work of that and headed for a nearby channel that had a mangrove island to cut down the wind for us. The running was pretty wet and brutal but it was all good once we go anchored up on the spot.

After getting our slick going it didn’t take long before we say the first fish come at us. Don took his place on the bow and made some casts at what we felt like were 3 different blacktips. His fly drew the attention of 2 of the fish but neither was quite ready to commit yet.

About that time we got some serious cloud cover that totally killed any visibility that we had. We knew we had sharks in the slick so Don kept his fly out in the zone. I started cutting some small chunks to give the fish a taste of what brought them to the boat and get them in a more cooperative mood. As I was cutting, I heard Don say something through the wind and turned around to see him clearing line.

His fish seemed a little slow for a blacktip and I was thinking lemon shark until it broke the water in the middle of the channel…POON! And a large tarpon at that! The jump was one of those halfway out of the water jumps that are so common with the big fish. Don was stoked to have a big poon on the fly rod during a nasty day in the middle of December and I was more than happy to see it, too.

This fish had no intention of getting anywhere near the boat, taking him way into the backing going up current. We didn’t want to have to leave the slick and motor after him but it was looking like we had no choice. We had 60 lb. wire to the fly so we weren’t worried about him chewing through but this fish just did not want to stop. Just as I was about to toss the anchor Don yelled that he had the fish turned and he was now running back at us. He kept coming all the way to the boat and kept going, down current now, on an even longer run. With even more line out and a few trap buoys in the area, it was now time to follow the fish.

I started the motor and got Don back on the fly line so he could really start putting the hurt on this tarpon. With the cool water temps, the fish had some serious energy and he put Don through a good workout. After about 15 more minutes and some cussing and grunting, Don finally had him beat and I leadered him and broke him off as he jumped. SIck. WIndy, cloudy, cool, mid December, wire leader, shark fly… tarpon?

Our day was made now but I wanted to pull on something so we headed back to the anchor. It didn’t take long to have the blacktips back at the boat and after one short strike and some other lookers, I was hooked up. My shark identified itself as a spinner soon after I got it on the reel as it came out of the water spinning like a top. If you have never gotten to witness a hooked spinner, I highly recommend that you put it on your list. These fish are extremely strong, acrobatic, and have some serious endurance. My fish gave us 5 jumps before we settled into the tug of war. After 15-20 minutes I managed to coax it back to the boat and get the release on it.

Don and I were more than satisfied now, so we took the sloppy ride back to the marina and called it a day. Sure beat sitting at home and watching the wind blow on a day with no football to watch!

That’s part of fishing that I love so much, you just never know what will happen or what you will see.


Looking down the line…….

It’s that time of the year again, time to look “down the line” at the the 2012 fishing season and the steps we can all take to get ready for another reel screaming season.

First and foremost…….GET YOUR DAYS BOOKED NOW! The most talented flats guides in the Keys book well before the new year. The prime windows are the first to go. Get some!

Practice, Practice, Practice…….Start taking the time now to get out and do a little casting. Take advantage of the windy days by grabbing the rods you intend on using and spend at least 30 minutes per session casting from multiple angles into, and across the wind.

Cold, rainy, snowy days are great days to go thru your gear. Check your lines for cracks, clean your reels, look at your rods for wear in the guides and inspect for “nicks” on the blank. Replace all cracked, cut, and scuffed lines before arriving in the Keys.

Order your flies now……Most guides have their own special flies, but we all have standard fly patterns that will be used during your trip. Talk to your guide about these flies and get them ordered, most preferred tiers are too busy to take orders just prior to the season.

These are just a few things you can do to get ready for 2012!

Capt. Don