Monday morning started in a nice casual manner. The only
oddity was waking at 4 am. I could have slept a couple of
more hours. How nice that would have been. This was going
to be a different kind of day. Summer was over and the
7-day churn of constant guided fly-fishing trips had come
to an end.
This is the time of year when the fishing gets really hot.
The locals enjoy this time the most, because they have the
rivers and creeks all to themselves. With the tourists
leaving, Daytona Beach looks like a deserted mining town.
This is a great time to get back to the fly tying and
replenish the stocks before the next season.
Sometime before noon the telephone rang and Chuck's voice
boomed, "Morning Captain! Wanted to touch base and see what
you were up to. Whatcha say me, Angelo and you go
fishing tonight. We'll pay for the gas. Take us some place
where we can get our lines stretched?"
How can you refuse two great friends?
That evening, I pulled up in from of Angelo's house and as
usual there he stood ready to go. Angelo is the kind of
friend everyone should have at least once in their life.
He is an artist by trade, and not just with a paintbrush.
Angelo is the kindest, patient individual I know. He can
sculpt wood, metal, cement, paint and create. Anything he
touches turns into a work of art.
Next stop is Chuck's house. Chuck is a retired charter boat
captain who tuna fished out of Long Island and now runs a
business out of Daytona Beach. Chuck is Mr. Organized.
All his belongings are organized and indexed, so he can
find anything on a moment's notice. This probably how
he got the coveted nickname of, "Mr. Tidy Bowl."
All the fly rods and flies stowed, we headed down to New Smyrna
to fish the North Bridge pier and fenders. By the time we
launched and got to the bridge it was already 7 pm and the
tide was still coming in. Only two hours to go before we
faced the outgoing turn. We were using big flies and some
mighty ugly ones just for fun. I had a tandem fly that was
never used because it had two hooks (4/0 and 2/0).
I couldn't really figure what we would use to throw it. Chuck
had a 12-wt Pinnacle. But I decided to keep the tandem in the
box and we could try it later. Angelo had the first hook
up using a modified tan Clouser. The fish took the fly and
headed for the fenders of the bridge and swam between the boards.
There was not a prayer of a chance in landing that fish,
so we broke off the leader. It's a good wake up call when
you are trolling by the fenders, everyone kept on their toes
paying attention to the drift and the proximity of the line
After a couple of more passes Chuck hooked up a nice 2½ pound
Mangrove Snapper and then a 5 pound Redfish. Chuck and Angelo
are using dark deceivers and changing flies a lot. I've been
working an ultra hair bug on the outside of the fenders and
stripping as fast as I can. I'd like to hook up a big Jack
I kept working this fly until I thought my arm was going to fall
off. Using my 10-wt, I threw the fly to the current as close
to the back fender as possible. Wouldn't you know that the fly
hit the fender and it bounced into the water. I couldn't have
placed it better if I had been standing right there! I let the
fly drift a little and then gave a tug. Then another. And
on the third tug, a big snook gobbled up that fly and started
a ferocious run. About 15 minutes later I pulled a 7-pound
Snook from the River, dehooked it and let 'em go.
Chuck and Angelo were still doing pretty well and we were all
having a great time. Chuck said, "Captain. Hand me over that
big ole' ugly fly. The two boys in your box. I wanted to try
throwing them with this 12-wt." So I handed the tandem to Chuck.
He put on a 60-pound bite tippet and started to work the fly.
I must say it turned over very nicely and Chuck admitted that
the weight ratio made it easy to cast. After a while thought
I noticed that he was just letting it drift with the current.
Chuck was holding the rod with one hand and lighting a cigarette
when his rod almost got pulled out of his hand, and him almost
out of the boat. The biggest Tarpon I'd seen in the river in
a long, long time had the tandem mullet flies and bee-lining
down the river. That 12-wt was smoking. Chuck's cigarette,
lighter and pack were in the river. We had a great chase
with this big "poon" taking us for a ride. Just past the
bridge the tarpon reversed direction and came three feet out
of the water in front of the boat. We all got drenched.
Chuck fought this fish from the first hook up at 8 pm until
Angelo said, "Hey guys, there's the Coast Guard Station."
I looked at my watch. 11pm. Whoa! It didn't seem like 3
hours. That tarpon made countless runs back and forth up
the river, towing us along all the time. The trolling motors
weren't really helping. Another hour passed and we were
heading out the inlet with the tide. Chuck was
tiring. He still had the rod tip up but he was sitting down
on the console seat.
I had the engine on now. The trolling motor couldn't slow
this tarpon. We followed him out the inlet and around the
buoy north along Ponce. For another mile this tarpon was
pulling strong, then the line went slack. "Good." Chuck
said, "We've worn him out." Three seconds later this tarpon
came within six feet of the boat, rolled on his side and the
sounded. As he made his dive you could hear the unmistakable
sound of graphite shattering. Chuck still held what was left
of the 12-wt rod down to the last stripping guide when the line
made its final stretch and snap.
"Bye, bye, Fly!" were Chuck's last words of the night. Since
then, I've tied countless numbers of tandem flies.
Doug is a USCG Licensed Captain and fly-fishing guide from New Smyrna Beach, FL
a member of CCA, FFF, AFF, APCA, FOWA, the Action Craft Saltwater Team,
and the Orvis and Redington Pro-Guide Program. He can be reached at 386-679-5814.