Fishing with Captain Chris Hargiss
Rusty Chinnis | sun
When a plan comes together it’s a surprise, a pleasure and all too often a rare occurrence. I can’t remember all the times I’ve heard stories of how fish are massed on a flat and eager to eat a fly.
When I hear this I actually cringe because, more often than not, the fish are nowhere to be found. When Captain Chris Hargiss announced to Steve Traves and me that we would be fishing a certain flat where the redfish had been holding for over a week, he did preface the remark with the fact that they had also often had a bad case of lockjaw. His answer to unlocking that puzzle was to go into stealth mode and get in the water to pursue the fish.
I was glad when I heard that we would be wade fishing because it’s an effective way to approach spooky fish, and it’s one of my favorite ways to pursue them. There’s something special about getting into the fish’s element.
Everything came together for us that day, including a good tide, favorable wind and gin clear water. We pulled up to the flat in Sarasota Bay, and found ourselves in a lush meadow of grass pock marked with white sand holes. The tide was low and incoming, and the holes were laid out from the shoreline in shallow water, mid-range depth and deep water. Hargiss predicted that the action would start out in the deeper water, and then we would find the fish moving up on the flat with the tide. Since we were fishing an incoming tide, he anchored in shallow water and started to explore the flat.
To test his theory, Hargiss struck out for the deepest holes while I waded the mid-range grass and Traves explored holes and oyster bars in the shallows. Experience over the years has shown me that reds can surprise you and be in some extremely shallow water, but on this day Hargiss was quick to prove his prediction. After he reached the outer edge of the flat, it was only minutes before I began to see him hunch to lower his profile and make casts into holes on the outer edges of the flats. Ten minutes later, he hooked and landed a nice trout, which he found among a group of large reds.
Although I was wading some very good looking flats and seeing a redfish now and again, I started wading for deeper water and a photograph when Hargiss, after making repeated casts, finally came up with a very nice redfish. The area he was fishing featured large expanses of sand allowing us to fish the area without getting in each other’s way. All of a sudden it became apparent why he wanted to wade because even with an extremely stealthy approach the fish were still very spooky. After making a number of casts at cruising fish I finally had one engulf my fly only to have the fly pull loose seconds later.
After a few more spooked fish and a couple of refusals, I tied on an old favorite bendback fly that mimicked a shrimp. On my second cast, I hooked up again, only to feel the line go slack after one short run. Unfortunately, I used that fly for another half hour getting two more takes before discovering that the hook had broken.
While all this was going on, Hargiss was making cast after cast to reluctant reds only to have a ladyfish steal the fly from an eager redfish. Moments later, he hooked a snook that went through his 20-pound leader, denying him a grand slam. While all this was going on, Traves was also finding reds coming inshore with the tide, and although he had shots, and a few refusals, he came up empty handed as I did. While many anglers would have considered the numbers at the end of the trip disappointing, we felt quite the opposite. While we would like to have landed a few reds, we also had lots of opportunities and learned something from every fish we spooked or missed the hook set on.
We were both impressed with Hargiss’ enthusiasm, his tackle and the obvious detail he paid to his boat and all his equipment. Depending on the season, he is available for tarpon, redfish, snook, kingfish, triple tail, false albacore and a host of other species.
Hargiss insists on having the best equipment when pursuing Florida’s challenging gamefish, and that’s what he gives his clients with his Hell’s Bay Professional 17.8, a skiff that runs dry, poles in the skinniest of water and is extremely quiet. Powered by a Yamaha 90hp outboard, he can get to the action quickly when needed with a top speed of over 40 mph. He can comfortably accommodate up to two anglers for any of his fishing excursions.
His rates for two anglers include full day trips (8 hours), half day trips, and night trips (4-6 hours). He charges extra for a third angler. Fly Quest Charters can also provide extra guide(s) for multiple anglers on a business outing. Hargiss can be booked through Traves shop, Anna Maria Island Outfitters, at 941-254-4996 or visit his website at www.flyquestcharters.com