Back from the Deep South

Every spring my wife and the kids make a break for our southern roots and have some family time and a little rest and relaxation at the beach, either the Florida Panhandle or Charleston SC, well this year it was Florida and the trip all turned out wonderfully despite the Low pressure system that followed us from Wyoming. 
Our trip began in Atlanta, my roots are there, and while the girls shopped I fished some small creeks near downtown and enjoyed a day on the Chattahoochee with my dad. Its cool catching brillant redbreasted sunfish in the city, people look at you like your crazy and they don't know what lurks in those feeder streams to the Hooch. As always the Chattahoochee produced some big fish encounters that make for great memories with my dad. I had been catching a mixed bag of bluegills, crappie and small largemouths on a medium sized foxy clouser, when I spotted what at first I thought was a nice carp, once I nailed the right cast the pig flarred her gills and sucked in the little minnow, oh, my! It was the largest bass I had ever hooked, maybe 10lbs or more and she kicked my ass! She knew exactly what to do and my little 6wt. couldn't stop her from rolling in the log jam a short distance downstream, amazingly enough I didn't break her off, the hook pulled out and I finished the day with that fly catching 7 different species, sweet.
Next, my wife and I were off for a wedding in Jasper, Alabama and we were lucky enough to be guests at the Bear Branch Lodge, primarily a wingshooting venue but they do have awesome largemouth bass fishing as well. My buddies and I, there for the wedding, ripped lips for two days drinking beer and telling stories while the girls did their luncheon stuff and shot shotguns. We were all spoiled rotten and had an incredible trip, a big thanks goes out to the Kellys and Bear Branch Lodge, check it out!
From Alabama we headed south to the Florida Panhandle... the weather was stirring and was off and on for the next week, some areas saw over a foot of rain. I fished in the surf zones with pretty good success for ladyfish and bluefish, not bad for just hanging around with the kids.
After a few days catching up with the family it was time to get serious and I flew down to meet a good client and friend, Skip Hildebrand in Ft. Meyers. Our outpost for the first three days was his condo on Pine Island litterally minutes from the Boca Grande Pass. Skip is fairly new to the area so we explored around finding nice gamefish almost everywhere, yet not what we were looking for- Snook and Tarpon. We vowed not to fish live bait, that hurts, and I focused a lot on flies but the jigs were deadly and I couldn't help myself at times. All the rain and wind cooled the water so the snook and tarpon had vanished... that is my usual luck, but we spanked ladyfish, small jacks, mackerels and tons of good sized speckled seatrout, I was happy. Our final day was with Joe McNichols out of Naples, he has been guiding the Everglades park area for over 25 years, so we felt confident he could show us some species that had eluded us thus far. Perhaps our best weather day with light wind and bright sun for good sight fishing, we looked for tarpon. Our first sighting looked very promising and then a rogue boat comes out of nowhere, as if sent from the fish gods, and blows right through my rolling tarpon... I was pissed but I got over it. That turned out to be my only shot of the day for the silver king. Once we realized the tarpon were not around in enough numbers to pursue we started chasing two of my favorite light tackle species, redfish and snook. By the days end we boated 6 nice snook and a few nice redfish... I had never been to the Everglades to fish like that, even though there was no tarpon for me that day, I plan to return and soak up more of that hot, humid charm. It was beautiful!

I'm back in Jackson now and we are fishing the South Fork and the Firehole... stay tuned for shorter reports- Scott


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