Showing posts with label St. Johns River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Johns River. Show all posts

October 8, 2016

After Hurricane Matthew

Before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to thank all of my friends & family who reached out to see if we were making out okay over the last 48 hours. It's humbling knowing all the people that are thinking of you when real shit's about to go down. Happy to report is K.C., Lilly, & I made it through Matthew unscathed. Our thoughts now turn toward the folks in coastal Georgia and the Carolinas who will have to deal with this nonsense next...

Image: CNN
If you're reading this late on Friday night or on Saturday morning, it looks like the hurricane has finally passed over our palatial suburban estate bringing a lot of wind and rain, but fortunately, no flooding, roof damage, or power loss. We live in a spot that's a bit removed from the beaches and just far away from the St. Johns River to not be in an evacuation/flood zone. At least this time.

As attractive as beachfront or Intercoastal property might seem to an "angler" like me, scenarios like this certainly make me glad I don't own any. St. Augustine got hit really, really hard. Water breached the seawall fairly early on Friday afternoon and Avenida Menendez was quickly under several feet of water, as were all the businesses that run along it. 

Makes me sad, "the Old City" is one of my favorite places in the area, even with all of the crazy tourists running around. I probably shouldn't leave out that Jacksonville Beach & Daytona Beach appear to have been hit pretty hard as well. It's going to take a while before those places are the same again. I hope once the water recedes, there are some (organized) opportunities for normal folks like me to help these areas. We've got a few gallons of bottled water I'm sure somebody could use.

Fortunately, we just need to deal with some light backyard debris, which I'm so thankful for. 

My neighbor looks to be in the same boat, but for whatever the reason, the excessive rains created a small pond alongside his backyard fence. At least it's pretty far away from his house. I guess he just needs to wait for it to drain through the sandy soil...

I don't know, I think I'm ready to move a bit more North and/or West. Almost four years in and I still haven't taken to Florida living. Blizzards may suck, but at least they don't threaten to kill you. You just stay inside and drink all day. Jack Daniels & a snowblower or floods & projectiles thrown at your house at 90 mph? Seems like an easy choice to me.

February 8, 2016

Florida Shad, Bream, & A Bonus Fish On The Fly

Needed to get out fishing, it had been far too long. And by fishing I mean not "spend an hour or two fishing retention ponds" fishing, but real, "go somewhere cool and fish all day" fishing.

Recalling that this was about the same time of year that I headed out to chase the annual Florida shad run with Captain Rich Santos in 2015, I popped him last minute note to see if he was booked solid yet... Lucky for me, he had an opening this on Saturday, which I jumped on, cold & rainy weather forecast be damned.

I'm not going to lie and tell you the catching part of the fishing experience was stellar. Cold temps, lack of sun, and an abundance of wind seemed to put the fish down, but damn it didn't matter. When your nerves are frazzled from working non-stop at 1,000 miles per hour since Thanksgiving, you'll revel in the peacefulness that moving water, abundant nature, no cell service, and the occasional tight line provides.

However, it wasn't like the catching was poor. It was a very successful trip. We caught some shad.

We caught some bream.

And we caught a "Sunshine Bass," a hybrid striper, which was a first for me. A powerful fish, you know immediately when one of these takes your fly that there's no shad on the end of the line.

One word. Awesome.

I can't end the post without giving props to Captain Rich & his First Coast Fly Fishing Unlimited guide service. Not only is he extremely personable - the kind of guy you'll easily call your friend after a few minutes - but he just finds a way to put you on fish, even in tough circumstances. I've been out with Rich three times now, and my opinion of him only gets stronger each time. If you're ever in Jacksonville and want to go fishing, Rich is the man (& a great photographer too)!

March 11, 2015

Video - Fly Fishing for Shad on the Upper St. Johns River

Look Mom, your son's in a video!

Captain Rich Santos just uploaded a video edit of our outing in February that I highlighted last month HERE on the blog .

If you're curious what Florida's "Shad Alley" is all about, check it out!
(Thanks for the video Rich!)

If you happen to be in the Jacksonville area and want to get a rod bent, a full list of Captain Rich's guide services (as well as many other resources) are available on his website

February 28, 2015

The St. Johns River Alliance Highlights Shad Alley

Here's a nice video put together by the St. Johns River Alliance about "Shad Alley," the area of Florida I fished earlier this month. It's such a neat spot, the video does a good job showing off the diversity of the St. Johns River.

Plus, it's less than 3 minutes long and well worth the watch.

h/t Capt. Rich Santos

February 9, 2015

Fly Fishing The Florida Shad Run

I lived in Philadelphia for 35 years, and outside of one aborted attempt, I never tried to go shad fishing. Not once. Many do, and look forward to the annual event, to the point that there is even a Shadfest in not-too-distant New Hope (PA) & Lambertville (NJ) that celebrates the rite of spring.

When I moved to Florida, I learned that shad also run all the way down here...who'd a thunk it? Not me at least. I thought Florida was redfish, speckled trout, and snook. I also discovered that the same guide that took me out for flood tide redfish in kayaks last fall, Captain Rich Santos of First Coast Fly Fishing Unlimited, also ran guided trips to go and catch them...well, that was an immediate no-brainer that I decided to address come the new year.

Unfortunately, due to whatever Mother Nature had up her sleeve (mostly high water levels) the shad decided to run a little later this year, so our January trip turned into a February trip, which happened to be last Saturday.

mitzi skiff
Captain Rich & His 16' Mitzi Skiff

Being a total newbie to this type of fishing, I learned 4 things about shad.

1.  They are camera shy
American Shad don't like to be caught. It's not that they won't hit your fly once you find them, actually quite the opposite.  It's that they have no tolerance for being netted, nor do they like to be in your boat as you remove the hook. They are pretty much one solid muscle that freaks out nuts until you get them back in the water. At least if you don't exhaust them to death during the fight. Which leads to...

2.  They are sharp
Captain Rich warned me about their bellies being sharp.  He said bring gloves, but I didn't have any other than thin solar gloves. But we had to of course get at least one grip & grin photo to validate the trip...

florida fly fishing shad
Grip n' Grin
Photo by Rich Santos

I'm smiling through the pain in this picture, my left pinky finger is hamburger. (Actually, it's not that bad, nothing a quick band-aiding couldn't fix). Let's just say that I don't need another photo of a shad in hand and "keep 'em wet" will largely apply from now on.

3.  They are slimy
Like incredibly slimy. Like Ghostbusters slimy. Like imagine if your fish came out of the water drenched in an inch thick layer of KY jelly. I tried to hold the one above and it started going into convulsions so I tried to brace it against my chest instead of having it flop around the deck of the skiff. Um, yeah...not the best idea.

Cleaning up after the "money shot"  :)
Photo by Rich Santos

4.  They are also darn good fighters on a 6-weight fly rod
What a blast!  The biggest one of the day was just above 19 inches long, and very thick.  Awesome fight, complete with acrobatics! Shad like to run, jump, all that fun stuff.

bent rod fly fishing shad florida
Fish On!
Photo by Rich Santos

Shad are pretty awesome, and I'll be back for more. Even though I'm kinda mad because I now know what I was missing up in Pennsylvania all these years...

But enough about the shad. The experience of fishing is always about more than the fish you're chasing.

The area of Central Florida that Captain Rich took me to was very interesting. It's the headwaters of the St. Johns River, so the waterway is far more narrow than up north where I live just outside of Jacksonville. It also happens to run through some fields, pastures, whatever you want to call them, that houses an incredible amount of animal life.

Livestock such as cows and horses graze the banks (under the shade of palm trees of all things...which is kind of a foreign concept to a Yankee), while flocks and flocks of different bird species are everywhere. We even saw a camera-shy bald eagle. White pelicans were in especially high concentration while we were out...because, they like to eat shad...and they're not stupid. While they winter in the South, there's no better place to be than "Shad Alley."

A Bunch Of Pelicans Standing On A Flooded Bank
Photo by Rich Santos

Oh, and did I mention the's Florida after all, right? We saw two on the day, this one was somewhat cooperative when it came to taking pictures, although it really didn't care for us bothering its sunning.

The Tolerant Gator
Photo by Rich Santos

And I won't even get into the local "wildlife" piloting the multiple airboats and gyrocopter (yes, gyrocopter) zooming all around and about all over the place. Let's just say it was an amazing display.

Overall, the day was a huge success.  I scored my first 4.5 shad on the fly (the .5 is for the long distance release on the final one of the day), explored a very new and unique area to me which I'd recommend to anyone, and got to learn some new tricks from one of the best guides in Northeast Florida. Oh, and it was 70 degrees with beautiful blue skies the first weekend of February. It'd be real hard to top that again if I tried!

If you happen to be in the Jacksonville area and want to get a rod bent, a full list of Captain Rich's guide services (as well as many other resources) are available on his website

January 4, 2015

Leave The Fly Rods At Home

I fished from the wooden pier that's near my house yesterday.
Like with a spinning rod and bait and all that stuff.
Crazy, right?  I know, it's been a while...

I didn't catch anything, but that's OK...nobody else out there was having any luck either.
Honestly, it's the first time I brought a rod, so I don't even know what I'm supposed to catch there...
Probably donkeytail scuttlebutt...or a bespectacled marlin...or Apalachicola seahorses...I'm pretty sure they're all native to these waters.

I'll take the skunk...I can think of far worse places to be the first week of January.

August 18, 2014

Scenes From Old Shands Bridge Pier

The Old Shands Bridge Pier is no more than a 10 minute drive from my front door.  The original bridge spanning the St. Johns River to Green Cove Springs, found its use for transportation ended in the 1960s.  Today, the renovated remnants provide quite the opportunity for local fishermen to try and bring dinner to hand.  I visited yesterday to find it relatively uncrowded, but full of stories to tell.

March 23, 2014

A Fly Guy Lost In a BASS World

Really...what sort of redneck goes to a B.A.S.S. tournament?  I guess I do...

Found out last week that the Bassmaster Elite Series was making a stop about 40 minutes from my house down in Palatka, Florida.  With the Saturday weigh-in scheduled for 4 PM, I took the opportunity after lunch yesterday to run down and see what one of these are all about.  Anybody who knows me knows I'm willing to try just about anything's too short to "poo-poo" things due to preconceived notions.

Riverfront Park in Palatka is pretty nice.  There is not really a whole lot going on in that part of Florida, actually what looks like a lot of farmland in the surrounding areas, but the marina was gorgeous, they really did it up nice.

Not tenkara

Plus, pretty much every angler's truck and trailer was parked in the field on the grounds.  That was a sight to see.  Reminded me of walking around the garage area of a NASCAR race.  BASS...NASCAR...uh, what am I turning into?

Skeet Reese's awesome monstrosity of a ride

There was a little expo going on.  Basically a bunch of canopies set up, about 2/3 were vendors/sponsors and the other 1/3 was food.  Names you'd expect to see where there...Berkley, Shimano, Toyota Trucks, Yamaha, Power Pole, and Costa (which in addition to hocking sunglasses was repping fly fishing via GEOBASS), just to name a few.

Shaw Grigsby in the Sno-Cone line

Then the weigh in.  Oh, the weigh in.  I was not expecting the large stage, big screen TV, and what amounted to a commentators tent (complete with Mark Zona) there for the 50 angler procession.

I was a little bummed by the fact that I suppose the "names" I recognize weren't in the final 50.  I guess they didn't make the cut from Friday to no KVD, Ike, or Skeet.  Either way, the guys that were there were hauling some big bass (the emcee referred to a few as "Bassquatch") out of their livewells.  (Let's be honest, I'm not going to pretend I remember who all of these anglers pictured below are).

In the end, the field was narrowed down to 12 for Sunday's final day of fishing.  Chris Lane (pictured above & below) had a pretty unbeatable lead of almost 13 pounds of fish.  He had caught over 75 pounds of bass between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  You can only weigh 5 fish each day, so you do the math on how impressive that is...crazy.  The one pictured above was 9 and a half pounds.

What's $50...?
The Dirty Dozen

Of all the things I guess I witnessed/learned I suppose there were three takeaways...

First, B.A.S.S. throws a pretty fun event.  As snarky as some of my comments may have been above, it was top notch and I had a great time.  If they show up near you, it's worth taking a look (plus, it's free).  If they show up in Palatka again next year, I probably will too.

Second, the anglers seem to just be pretty normal folks.  When not in the boats they just hung out among the rest of us; there didn't seem to be any egos.

Finally, the St. Johns River / Lake George in March equals killer sight fishing in 3 feet of water for bass.  REALLY big bass.