We’ve just now moved into September and already the weather forecasters are warning that we’re going to run out of names for all of our unborn tropical storms yet to come. We are just getting into real “hurricane prime time,” say the weather-folks. There are only 21 names that come from our alphabet… we don’t use Q, U, X, Y or Z. After our alphabet is gone we start to use the Greek alphabet as names … Alpha, Beta, Gamma and so on.
What does all this mean to you? Well, to me, it means a few things. First, I have to take care of my yearly prep for the possible ‘cane attack. I will do things like cutting long limbs and dead wood out of our big oak and pine trees, cleaning roof gutters and clearing the drainage ditch in front of our house as thoroughly as I can.
Second, it means I need to get on the water as much as possible, both with clients and for myself. You never know which one of these named storms may come our way, sending us into hiding and literally “blowing” the fishing apart for a while.
Then, there’s also the fact that things start to change right about now. I know it’s not fall yet, but it is coming, and conditions and patterns are starting to show it. Snook are moving off the beaches. Redfish are starting to school up to play their autumn games. Tarpon are pretty much off the beach and either moving on with the migration or into the Harbor. Fish in general seem to be moving around a lot.
I’ve had the “feast or famine” modes hit me a couple of times in the last two weeks. One day we caught everything that moved: Tarpon, snook, reds, trout, jacks, bluefish, macks, ladies, gag grouper and more. It was an epic morning.
Then, the next day — in the same area, at the same time of day — we caught a one trout, one snook, and a few ladyfish. I know the rest of those fish were somewhere eating. The slimy little suckers have fins and they will use them. Don’t give up. Just keep moving, keep looking for signs, and keep casting!
Water temps are up, but there are still fish in the backcountry as well as the Harbor. No matter where you catch them, make sure to revive these summertime fish really well before release. If possible, leave them in the water for dehooking — don’t take them from the water unless absolutely necessary.
The more we handle these fish, the more slime we will remove. The slime coat is what protects them from infections caused by the bacteria in the water. Protect yourself too. If you get a cut, fin poke or oyster scrape — really, any kind of skin breakage — while on the water this time of year, clean the area well. Go heavy on the antibacterial ointment, too.
While you are in the backcountry, you may want to carry that 10 weight with a foot or so of wire connecting your fly. I had a client loose a decent snook to a 5-foot bull shark the other day. We didn’t get our bull, but we did manage to catch two 3-foot blacktips. Always a fun pull! Use a long de-hooker if you have one, and leave the shark in the water. If you can’t remove the hook, use your wire cutters to cut as close to the fly as possible.
Topwater is a great way to catch fish right now, and it will be until it starts to really cool down. There is nothing more fun than throwing a gurgler or hard-bodied popper before sun-up — blurp, blurp, ka-bam!!
Some of our pre-dawn conversations may go like this: “What is it?” “Did you hear that big pop? It’s a snook. Be ready; it will jump in just a second.” Or maybe, “Whatever it is won’t take it. It keeps missing the popper!” “Just keep popping, it’s probably a redfish trying to get on top of it. Don’t lift the rod, just keep popping the fly.” “Got him!”
Besides the poppers, the standard baitfish patterns are still working too. Try a 2- to 3-inch Puglisi pattern, a Lefty’s Deceiver or a spoon fly — and of course, for deeper water, the ever-consistent Clouser. Remember as the sun gets up later in the morning to start working the mangrove shadows. You may want to switch your popper for a streamer if you can give up that anticipation of a topwater explosion.
So to sum up: Get your hurricane prep done, tie up some poppers, grab your rod, go fish and as always …
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.