Well I guess spending everyday on the water is really starting to pay off, not just for my clients but also myself as an angler and competitor! The Salty Fly Tournament is known as one of the largest Saltwater Fly Fishing tournaments in the country. 2016’s competition was their biggest yet with about 110 teams competing for not just the wonderful prizes including cash and fly gear but the chance to hold the title for another year!
It started with a Saturday morning 4:45 am wake up call to make the 45 minute drive to the check in and another 45 minute race back to the skiff to begin the day. Once on the skiff my partner Capt. Jon Brett and I started working the deep grass flats for trout. As we drifted we both flung large heavy chartreuse clousers and work our way into a school of smaller trout. We caught about a dozen fish most being within 8-11 inches. Jon ended up catching a 16.75 inch trout and we made the decision to start looking for the redfish although the first light trout bite is always the most consistent we had enough light to start sight fishing.
Our previous day of scouting had paid off with several shots at redfish a couple of eats and one 29.5 inch red. We decided to try and repeat our game plan on tournament day. The conditions early on provided light winds and relatively no cloud cover. As we pushed the same areas we had the day before we noticed the tide was not conducive for what we wanted to do. In attempt to find fish it was important that we scrambled to plan B and relocated after a short boat ride to our next spot.
As I pushed Jon down a shoreline we started seeing life and big reds blowing out under the boat. I kept pushing the skiff when all of a sudden I spotted a redfish at our 3 o clock and alerted Jon to its presence. He could not see the fish so I guided him into the shot and the fish thrashed the small fly. So we were on the board with a 16.75 inch trout and now a 19 inch red, which up to this day had been the smallest redfish he and I had caught the whole winter.
The next couple of hours were filled with clouds, stronger winds, a lack of fish, and sheer panic.
Our big break came after the tide had rushed back onto the flat and we had run over a large redfish and decided to stop and start poling. Like clockwork our fish started marching down the shoreline feeding along the way. it was 1 pm and we had to both be back to the check in before 3pm in order to qualify for a chance to win. In order to make it to the check in on time we had to be off the water no later than 1:45. As it came down to the final minutes we spotted a redfish in prime position, Jon made a beautiful cast and the fish ate the fly and took off towards deep water. With 14 pound flourocarbon as the bite tippet we had to baby the fish back to the boat where I hopped in the water and bear hugged it to ensure we did not lose the fish when handling it.
After the measurement and release we continued our hunt. I looked 80 feet way up on the shoreline and spotted our next target. Jon couldn’t see it initially but I poled him towards it and he spotted the fish. After laying out the first cast which was too far ahead of the fish Jon delicately picked the line back up and shot the fly 5 feet closer to the fish. The fish picked up and made his way towards what he had noticed was crawling along the bottom.
“Bump it, he is on it!” I said as I watched with out moving a muscle in my body while holding the boat in position. (Jon starts pulling fly out of water to re cast) “Leave it he is going to eat” I yelled, and not more than 2 seconds later the fish came out of his shell to devour the fly! We let the fish run across the flat and started hooting and hollering!
In the last 10 minutes of fishing we landed a 27 inch and 28 inch redfish to ease our anxiety of what had been a slow day. It was now time to make the sprint back to the finish line. We pulled in to the weigh in with 30 minutes to spare and waited over an hour with knots in our stomachs to be announced the victors of the 2016 Salty Fly!
It was a tough day on the water for everyone in the tournament, we had somewhat lousy tides, cloud cover, and strong winds to deal with. I want to congratulate the other teams that also finished strong!