Permit, what’s the big deal?

This months website theme is all about our love for permit fishing with a fly rod, no, it’s a passion, no, it’s an really a sick addiction! Just ask some of the anglers who do this on a regular basis. Most estimates of how much their addiction costs are hidden from their spouses and denied by themselves. Some of us, although addicted, suffer in silence in our normal lives but search the internet for those who fish for us. Just because it’s one of the most difficult fish to catch with a fly rod doesn’t deter us, no, it actually is the thing that keeps our addiction boiling within us.

There are stories that have been told over time about an angler that showed up to fish at a remote lodge and hits the flats and catches a permit on his first cast, looks around at the guide and asks, “what’s the big deal”? That actually happened to an angler that I guided in the Keys many years ago, as a matter of fact, it was his first time to even fish in saltwater. A school of about 50 permit rose up out of a channel in Jewfish Basin heading directly to us. A simple cast with a standard merkin in the general direction of the lead fish drew an instant eat and the party was on. The two of us who witnessed this crime against all that’s holy about permit fishing nearly threw up. That’s just not fair, it’s not paying your dues.

Lefty Kreh

If your using a spinning rod to catch a permit, you’re playing a different game. In fact, is’t so different that
Lefty Kreh once said, “Throwing a crab to a permit is like rolling a wine bottle into a jail cell.” It’s not that it doesn’t count, it’s just not the same! I once speculated in another article how to grade the types of permit opportunities along the lines of difficulty, with a single permit tailing in very shallow water as the most difficult. That got a 10! Permit schooled up during the spawn in 60 to 90 feet of water being the easiest. That got a 1. All the others were in between and debatable as to the score they would receive. What it all essentially boils down to is that you caught a permit and it doesn’t matter how big it was or how you caught it…..but it counts more if it’s on a fly!

Til next time,

Redfish/Hurricane Season or, why we love hurricanes when they create great tides and don’t hit us…..again!

Before I get into redfishing, some of you may have noticed that we have changed our website yet again. This is a good thing in our opinion as were trying to make our site as easy as we possibly can for you to find what you’re looking for. We will probably continue to update and modify our website until the world blows up. Hopefully that’s not as soon as it appears to be on some days.

Our home page strategy is to have two parts. One, the top of the page is where you search the navigation or you go to find something specific. Two, the body of the opening page is to have a theme where we will concentrate on things related to whatever that theme is. The theme part is the most fun and it will give you visual suggestions and links to the products you might be interested in.

It’s going to be a while before the entire site is redone, but we look forward to your feedback on how we’re doing.

Now about our theme….Redfishing.
It’s fall and all of you local guides and fish heads know that the fall tides present us with my favorite kind of fishing that is available here in north Florida. Floodtide fishing! We like it so much that we named our annual festival the Floodtide Festival. Redfishing in the flooded grass flats along the inter coastal waterway is about as good as it gets for those of us who love sight fishing on a the fly. These beautiful sparkling golden yellow, and sometimes red, marsh prowlers tail up just like a bonefish on a Bahamian flat and defy you to place a fly in just the right place so they can find it. If it’s a big fish your drag will announce it’s working and you might get a glimpse of your backing.
Fishing for redfish is not a “gimmie” like some inexperienced anglers have thought. It requires a stealthy approach by foot or in a boat. The cast must be sure and well placed. Like my friend Bill Oliver always said, “throw at the end with the teeth on it.” Sometimes you just can’t tell which way they’re facing until it’s too late.

Some tips you need to learn: Know which kind of grass to walk in. The green grass grows in soft mud….not good. If you see a path of water with no grass in it, it’s probably a channel and you’ll be over your head in two seconds….not good. Don”t piss off an alligator if you see him before he sees you…..not good. That goes for snakes too. Most importantly, don’t wade if you have open wounds or cuts on your legs. Some of the tidal water is polluted and those cuts and wounds can become seriously infected.

Like all fishing, it takes a bit of practice to be successful on a north Florida grass flat and it’s best to go with a guide for the first few times. It’s incredibly exciting and very rewarding to finally hold one of these fish up for the camera. Sometimes I even eat one!

Fishing on the day before a hurricane.

I’m writing while listening to weather reports of a catastrophic hurricane that is not very far from powering through the Lesser Antilles and on it’s way to my former home in the Florida Keys. Cat 5 at the moment and possible getting stronger to a cat 6 if the wind speed goes up another 26 miles per hour. Many years ago I was living in Isla Mujeres Mexico and we got word of an approaching storm from friends in the states who were watching the weather channel in the US. We had no idea a storm was coming much less the monster that was tearing through the Caribbean like a saw blade ripping through soft wood. Hurricane Gilbert was it’s name and it was hyped up on warm water and some sort of universal energy that promised for it to be remembered forever. Turned out it was the “hurricane of the century.”

Our island concrete bunker style house on the island was built by two gracious German ladies that knew eventually their house would be in the path of some kind of hurricane of some unknown strength. We didn’t realize it at the time we moved in but they had a plan to survive anything that could come their way. There was no plywood for shutters to be had because there wasn’t a lumber store on the island so I stole the wood off of a local real estate sign to board up my windows. I didn’t feel bad since the hurricane was going to remove the plywood anyway.

That done and preparations complete I turned my attention to my charter that I had planned for that afternoon. I knew that I wasn’t going to see any money from any charters anytime soon so this was my last chance to fund our account for a while. I carried my 25 horse Johnson to my skiff that had been given to me by Capt Stu from Jack Nicklaus’ sport fishing yacht “Sea Bear”….they found it floating in the middle of the ocean on their way over from Key West.

All loaded up my boat and picked up my angler at the town dock. We took a short ride to the middle of the lagoon not too far from the ferry dock in downtown Isla. I set our drift and asked my guy to blind cast in the direction of a long channel that ran north and south in-between two flats . First cast we hooked up an 80 pound tarpon using a 52M Mirror Lure. We landed that fish pretty quick and re set in the same spot and jumped two more. On one cast the fish threw the lure and another fish picked it up and we jumped him too. This crazy scenario of jumping and catching tarpon went on for the next 3 hours being continually hooked up or fighting a fish the entire time. Final count was around 15 fish in the air. That might have been my best 3 hours of tarpon fishing ever.

We motored back to the dock exhausted and happy from a memorable day of fishing. I don’t think the guy tipped me but that was OK, I had just as much fun as if I had caught the fish myself. The next day Hurricane Gilbert slammed into our beautiful island and tore it apart. One of the freighters that was in the harbor clocked the highest wind speed before his anemometer broke at 219 mph. It was a sad day when we came out of hiding to discover what Gilbert had done to us. We left the island so as not to put any extra strain on supplies that were coming in and we returned that spring to finish the sailfish season but it was never the same again. Good by Isla Mujeres, I’ll never forget that one incredible pre hurricane day of tarpon fishing.

The Big Eclipse and my advice about seeing it.

If you’ve ever wanted to go night fishing but not have to spend the whole night doing it, the eclipse this Monday is your chance. Think of it, you won’t loose any sleep because you’re already awake. You won’t get lost trying to find you fishing spot because you can see it easily in the daylight before the dragon eats the sun. The boat ramp will probably not be very crowded since they will all be somewhere else trying to see what happens when the moon cuts across the sun and they will be looking at a pinhole on a sheet of paper instead of enjoying the fishing with a bunch of freaked out fish. You won’t have to make a lot of coffee just to stay awake and you won’t be tired at work the next day because you stayed up half the night. If the night fishing isn’t all that great, you can call it quits after several minutes depending on where you are and go fishing in the daylight like you normally would……you won’t have invested a lot of time on this adventure.

What should you do?

All in all, I think giving the eclipse fishing thing will be a lot of fun and very efficient. So don’t bother with buying special glasses that you’ll never wear again or if you live long enough to see the next one you probably won’t be able to find your glasses that you bought in 2017. All you really need to do to enjoy the eclipse is don’t look at the friggin sun.


Floodtide Festival, Saturday August 19th, 2017

So, what is the Floodtide Festival? Well, like any good festival, The Blackfly Floodtide Festival is an gathering of enthusiastic anglers and fishing manufacturers reps getting together to honor the best fishing event in North Florida by eating BarBQ and drinking beer. That’s right, this is a very sophisticated event!

We expect that it will be very crowded so there will be tons of parking in the new lot behind the shopping plaza and the Sherwin Williams paint store….look for the parking signs pointing you to the lot.

It starts at 10am and is over at 4pm.

The flood tides are seasonal and are brought on by the proximity of the moon causing extremely high tides from mid summer until October or November. The redfish in our case, know these tides are coming and swim up into the flooded grass to eat the various types of baits like crabs, grasshoppers and minnows that have moved onto the shallow flats. So the beauty of this mini migration onto higher ground is that because it’s so shallow, the redfish are clearly visible and sometimes stick their tails out of the water in the process of rooting out a crab from the muddy bottom. At that point, fly anglers can easily see the reds and cast a fly to the unsuspecting redfish. This type of fishing is really the highlight of the year here in North Florida and all of us anglers look forward to this flooding event and of course the Floodtide Festival.
You should be there because it’s a yearly chance to meet most of the local guides and all types of anglers who travel to the Jacksonville area just for this event and a chance to catch a redfish on fly. Then there’s the huge raffle featuring very very expensive rods and reels and art plus all kinds of gadgets that you know you need. The Blackfly Cafe will be open all day long serving our regular menu plus Andrew’s famous BarBQ and the Ballast Point Brewing Company will be serving beer. Raffle tickets are $10.00 and you get 2 beers, 2 raffle tickets and one of Andrews award winning BarBQ sandwiches. Additional tickets are $2.00 each. Blackfly Outfitter will be featuring deals galore along with casting lessons on our front lawn. Strike-Zone fishing will be participating this year with unbelievable deals on Kayaks and Paddle boards plus specials in the Strike-Zone store.

Well, the list is long but here are a few: East Cape Skiffs from Orlando (this is the boat company that we use at Blackfly Lodge), Guy Tillitson with TFO, Sage, Patagonia, Simms and the huge Simms bus, Nautilus reels, Artist Paul Puckett and Floodtide Company, Bullsugar representing the effort to repair the Everglades, Hatch Reels, the owner of Thomas & Thomas Fine Fly Rods, Orvis, representatives from our new marketing partners from Bienville Plantation near Lake City and Scott Rods. There’s actually more and you’ll see them if you come.