When your college 'fishing dude' and close buddy is on the opposite coast of the US, its tough for all the obvious reasons.....After keeping in touch with Tyler over the past few years via phone calls, emails, and texts, we both came to the realization that a fishing trip just simply had to be planned...and so we delivered!
Had the pleasure of bringing Tyler to the southern coast of Georgia, a place that I've been blessed to have grown up fishing since I was a kid, where the culmination of the St Mary's River and the Atlantic Ocean creates a thriving nutrient-rich ecosystem. With freshwater and saltwater mixing, water-clarity is a constant challenge to the fishing. You hope for the incoming ocean tide to bring in green and clear water, but the flow of the St. Mary's River, heavy rains, and all combined with muddy sediment along the intercoastal seafloor can impact the conditions. But it is what it is and we fished hard thru it, havin a great time as always...
Year-round species down there include speckled seatrout, red drum, whiting, sharks, but in the summer months there is a lot of the bigger gamefish and pelagic species that voyage north from Florida following the massive bait schools of mullet and menhaden. As Tyler witnessed on a couple days, all-out chaos can ensue on these bait pods. Jacks, Bull Reds, Tarpon, Sharks and other miscellaneous gamefish are predating on these bait pods. We even saw multiple King Mackerel sky-rocket 10 feet in the air through a Pogy school. These were big kings too - upwards of 30-40 lbs. I'd never seen them be within a few hundred yards from shore.
Our trip in mid-August was planned with the mentality of giving us the best possible shot at an apex summer predator; the mighty Tarpon. August brought fast-moving tropical storms that were totally unpredictable and swiftly snuck up on us during our expeditions. We fished hard through the day and night. Had multiple shots at Tarpon, but couldn't get one to take. That said, we got into a variety of fish with a multitude of tactics, see below for some visuals!
Tyler with a nice seatrout
Notable quotes / memories that gave us a chuckle:
"You high-holin' me right now?"
Tyler's "pocket tacklebox"... Whenever we needed tackle, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Tyler kept pulling out the exact tackle we needed out of his pocket.
"the infamous seagull phone call"
"a tippy John Boat"
I know its an effort to get down there, but glad you got to experience that diverse fishing spot. Awesome time!....Let's plan another trip soon!
Olympic Peninsula winter, a few years ago. The plan is to meet four visiting anglers plus one of my buddies in the grocery store parking lot at 6:00 am. My buddy and I are to informally guide the visitors on a river that requires a lengthy drive and our own shuttle. The visitors are from Texas and Colorado and they are not experienced steelheaders or Spey casters, but they are keen anglers, and loose business colleagues, so we'll show them what's what. They'll probably get skunked, and we've told them this information before they booked their flights, but they said that's fine, and are just looking forward to doing the thing.
6:00 am, grocery store parking lot. Me, and four clients, no sign of the other 'guide'.
6:11 am, grocery store parking lot. My phone rings; my buddy. I take a few steps away from the excited, waiting anglers.
"Yo, where you at?"
"Dude. Last night went a pretty late. I'm running behind."
"I'll be there in 20."
I return to the circle of excited, waiting anglers.
"Is he close?"
"Kind of. He'll be here in 20."
6:43 am, grocery store parking lot. My buddy pulls in, and parks diagonally across four spots with his boat. The door flings open.
"Holy shit! I think I'm still drunk!"
"I had to pull over once because I thought I was going to boot, and then I almost aced a deer!"
Nervous chuckles from the four excited, waiting anglers.
"Holy shit man, I..."
I cut him off.
"OK, yea, let's go."
Two of the four excited, waiting, now nervous anglers climb into my truck, and the other two reluctantly climb into their own, to run the shuttle. I sense thankfulness that they're not getting into my buddy's. We make the drive south. We drop the boats in, throw gear in, double check everything, and then run the shuttle, my buddy and I in our rigs, the two excited, waiting, nervous anglers from Texas in theirs.
At the take out, we park the trailers and climb in with the Texans, my buddy and I in the back seat. Typical guide-client conversation ensues.
"How's the season been? Have you caught any? What are the reports? What flies do you like? How long have you been out here?"
Short, vague answers.
"When's the last time you fished this river?"
"Ha!" my buddy chirps. "I've never even fuckin' seen it!"
The two excited, waiting, nervous, now questioning anglers shoot a glance to each other.
You're on a flight from somewhere to JFK, New York City. You transferred somewhere - Philadelphia perhaps - and on the final leg, you're pleasantly surprised to see that the hope of every single traveling heterosexual human has come true: your seat assignment is next to an attractive human of the opposite sex of roughly the same age.
You chart your course, pick your opening line, and try it out; it seems to be well-received. A conversation ensues. You start with questions as to place of origin, current locale, recent happenings, eventually occupation.
An actor, they say. They reside in Hoboken, a new hipster haven, you realize. Soon you're hearing about the life of a Hoboken hipster actor, a life you know very little, if anything, about. But then the conversation turns to books, which you can speak to a little, even suggest some. It appears you appear interesting to the Hoboken hipster actor.
Then the conversation turns to travel and places they have been. You have been to a few places and even a few of the same. You offer your thoughts on them, and again, it appears you appear interesting.
No details of yourself have been disclosed, so eventually, finally, they inquire. You pause slightly, to consider your answer, and perhaps proudly inject a little drama into the situation. Your answer attempts to summarize why you know about some books and why you've been to some places. You also attempt to impress them with your response, which you know is not the norm. You're sure that it will impress them. You tell them that you work in the fly fishing industry.
There's a pond in western Washington that a buddy told me about. It's small, 15 acres, and has one access point. The put-in is the exact minimum diameter to turn a truck and trailer around in, and dump the boat in. It reminds me of ponds in Maine and it doesn't feel like Washington there.
Once, a good buddy from England was visiting for work and we fished the pond together. We were planning to go steelheading, but it had rained a lot and the river blew out. So we went to this pond; neither of us had been there.
If I remember correctly, I missed a strike or had a follow on my first cast. In this instance, that was exactly the sign of things to come as we had quite a day of catching. We didn't count, or I don't remember the count, but I do know we were at 20 in short time.
Eventually we tired of catching them in on streamers, so we rigged up a dry fly stick. We had seen a few rises, but couldn't make out any bugs on the water. We took turns, one guy fishing, one guy rowing the boat slowly down the shore, and we worked structure and drop-offs.
A fish rose within range, under some overhanging trees. My buddy took his shot and his fly landed in the branch. Gently shaking his rod, the fly fell out of the tree and landed about where the fish had rose. The fish rose again, and took the fly. We laughed, landed the fish, and switched seats.
Once settled, I started working the same area. I made several casts but nothing happened. We agreed to move on but before we did, my buddy suggested I take a shot at the same spot he had just caught his fish in.
I made my cast and it too landed directly in the same overhanging limb. I too shook the rod gently and the fly fluttered out of the tree onto the water. Another fish rose and took it. We caught eyes, exchanged a telepathic agreement that we should try this method another time, then switched spots again.
But we could not repeat it. Specifically, my buddy seemed unable to cast into the tree! Perfect cast after perfect cast onto the water, he pulled them all back and tried to put that fly into that limb again, but after some number of tries, he shrugged and motioned further down the bank. We carried on. Have you ever had that happen to you? You're trying to make a very specific cast, and you try and try again, and you just can't get it quite right, so you give up, for a moment, on actually trying to catch a fish, and only on that one very specific cast you're trying to make and you either finally make the cast, and feel good about it, or you never make the very specific cast, and you just basically surrender, give up and move on, but 'moving on' actually means just returning to fishing, which is totally fine and good anyway, so your failure to make the very specific cast doesn't bother you very much, but only a little. Has that ever happened to you?
Sometimes I forget that not everyone fishes the same way that we do. Yes it's true. There are very serious, very competitive fisherman out there, professionals no less, that don't do what we do at all. And sometimes its easy to forget that this whole other extremely serious cohort of fisherman are out there fishing the way that they fish, and they probably don't really think about us, fishing the way that we do. We're just different.
Allow me to introduce you to Ronnie Capps...
Ronnie Capps is a "Champion Tournament Pro Crappie Fisherman." And from everything that I can see, he is an absolute fucking legend. Clark and I were introduced to Ronnie through somewhat fortuitous happenstance. This guy Jason that used to work for our company was a freshwater bass fisherman, and he left an old BassMasters magazine in our social lounge at the office. Clark and I were grabbing a coffee, saw that magazine and took a gander, and in there was an article about Ronnie Capps. I believe the article was titled "Spider Rigging for Summer Slabs."
Yes indeed Ronnie Capps is world famous for his "spider rigging" technique. Until I saw this article, I had no idea what "spider rigging" was. Now I know it is the GO-TO way to tournament fish for crappies. You fish long cane poles around the circumference of your boat, up to 20 at a time, giving the appearance of a multi-legged arachnid, and you beat the shit out of the slabs.
So if you didn't know, now you know... Ronnie Capps is a world famous slab hunter. He's so famous, that if you Google "Ronnie Capps, Slab Hunter" you'll get a picture of his year book photo as a distinguished alumni and the celebrity pride of some southern backwoods vocational high school. What a tie! What a look...
And here you all are, the pride of the BFC, tying away with your fur and feathers, referencing "hatches," and Lee Wulff and Lefty Kreh. Totally unaware that there's a real fisherman down there in Alabama, working 20 baited cane poles at a time, hammering record slabs, while big chested southern belles grind on his lap...
So where am I going with this? Well, every now and then, a man needs to embrace his inner Ronnie Capps and seek out the sweet-water slabs. And if there's one thing I strive to do as a father, it's to make sure my son Mateo knows how to handle a healthy slab on live bait. And last weekend, I swear, the great Ronnie Capps spoke to me in a vision... And he said, "Show your son the way of the Slab. Go to Cabellas, buy your son a slab pole, and put him on the meat." And so that is what I did.
Move over Ronnie Capps. There's a new sheriff in town.
Thanks to Clark and his lovely wife Katherine for providing the slabs. Mateo is currently looking online for a spider rig set up.