I agonized over this story. Here was Johnny Miller telling me not to
utter a word about this spot. I wanted to fish High Bridge so bad
that I would convince charter clients that this was the place to fish.
Old place but not fished recently. We were coming back from St.
Augustine when I made a wrong turn - or so I thought. There it
was this beautiful stretch of water.
"They really should have guard rails on the side of the road."
"The State isn't going to put in guard rails just to keep you from
going in the creek. Slow down for Pete's sake," yelled Annie.
Nobody fished there. Almost nobody. Johnny Miller fished there
a lot. And I wanted to fish there a lot, too.
So it was easy when Dave called to find out if I wanted to fish on my
"I'll pick you up on the way to River Breeze," he barked over the phone.
"No, no, no!" I came back. With authority and confidence I said, "we're
fishing Bulow Creek tomorrow."
"Ok, meet me at my house and we'll drive over together."
"Can I bring Robbie?"
"Of course, and just bring an 8wt."
Bulow Creek is an out-of-the-way area of many canals and connecting
saltwater lakes for mosquito control and the production of sugar cane.
A plantation was established in 1821 by Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow.
He acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness bordering a tidal creek. Using
slave labor, he cleared 2,200 acres and planted sugar cane, cotton, rice
and indigo. Major Bulow died in 1823, leaving the newly established
plantation to his seventeen-year old son, John Joachim Bulow.
J.J. Bulow became a rich planter. His sugar mill, constructed of local
"coquina" rock (broken oyster shells mixed with clay and concrete), was
the largest mill in East Florida. At the boat slips, flatboats were loaded
with barrels of raw sugar and molasses and floated down Bulow Creek
to be shipped north. This frontier industry came to an abrupt end at the
outbreak of the Second Seminole War. In January 1836, a band of
raiding Seminole Indians, resisting removal to the West, looted and
burned the plantation.
The coquina walls and chimneys of the sugar mill remain standing as a
monument to the rise and fall of the sugar plantations of East Florida.
Bulow Creek and the upper Halifax River are a nature lovers delight.
Bald eagles, red-shouldered Hawks, swallow-tailed kites, and Florida
otters are occasionally seen. The water is teeming with redfish, spotted
sea trout, snook, tarpon, jacks, and bluefish. The deep water from the
Inter-coastal Waterway brings these formidable predators south from
Matanzas Inlet and River to gorge themselves on the black and striped
mullet, pinfish, pig fish and a variety of other baits including crabs.
Bait fish and birds were everywhere. A pair of Osprey swooped
down for some late breakfast.
We launched early and got a good start despite the early morning smoke
and fog. The hardest decision was whether to go north or south. We
went south. The river was all but disserted. We saw one boat in two
hours, and we saw the same boat later in the morning when we headed
north towards Flagler.
Dave was using his Sage 8 wt and I my 8wt Wayfarer. I started off using
an orange/black hair bug. Each cast was deliberately thrown to the grass
line and then striped back. Dave used a Dr.M's Snookzit. We would throw
to the grass line and keep the strip constant all the way back to the boat.
On a little turn in the creek, he managed a nice 4-pound trout. About ten
minutes later we managed another trout, and another, and another. About
the closest you'll get to paradise fishing for spotted sea trout - this place
had it all. Take my word for it. This was one productive place and it just
got better as we poled down through a few canals. They all looked the
same. We had to keep a target object in view so we wouldn't get lost.
No. We aren't showing you the pictures of our catch. The exact location
is not for distribution. But here is a clue.
There is a push off to the left of the bushes. The biggest red I've ever
seen in such skinny water. The old girl had to be 48 inches in length.
I almost dropped the camera in the creek. And, Dave almost fell out
of the boat when I backed into to him watching the Redfish. Needless
to say we spooked the lady and she bolted. We had such a great day
exploring, fishing and watching nature.
Oh, did I tell you we got stuck on a mud flat? Yeah, these things happen
sometimes. Don't loose your cool - Dave got out and stepped into the mud.
We got unstuck for about ten minutes, but Dave lost his shoe in the mud.
Then we saw it floating with the tide towards another flat. It took another
30 minutes to retrieve his shoe. Then we got stuck a second time. We
were laughing so hard that I thought Dave was crying. I finally decided
to throw the anchor as far as I could towards the deeper cut of the channel.
It looked like I was lassoing a cow. But that actually worked.
Put that in your notebook. All said, we had a terrific day.
Even Robbie enjoyed sleeping where the fly line would tangle in his paws.
Dave was beside himself. Standing on a gunnel and stripping into the boat
his line would tangle on our deck shoes under the deck. Finally out of
frustration he decided to take the poling platform.
"What's your favorite spot to fish?"
I couldn't believe he was asking me this question. This is so hard to answer.
I just said something stupid like, "this moment in time." But I was serious.
We Floridians, or Crackers as we are sometimes called, have such a pot of
gold for fishing areas. Each one offers something new. Even though what
you see is really the same thing. It is hard to dismiss the beauty of an eagle,
hawk, ibis, red-winged black bird and any of a couple of thousand species
of animals, birds, and fish. We are so blessed by this fortune, and to charter
clients here everyday, life just can't get any better.
Next time you're in Florida or planning a trip here, call or write me. Let me
share my knowledge of saltwater fly-fishing in Northeast Florida. You'll have a great time.
Catch & Release: Protect the Species. ~ "Doug"
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.