Making plans is an art- some people do it well, others just go with the flow. As a fly fisherman, spontaneous trips and going with the flow often produces the best adventures and most memorable catches.
South Florida is littered with unique fisheries. All bodies of water ultimately connect, and anglers find everything from Tarpon in drainage ditches, to Clown-Knife fish and peacock bass in lakes. The legendary Tamiami Trail runs from Miami to Tampa, but thats not important. What is important is that the canal parallels the road the whole way; and boasts a variety of fish just miles from the booming metropolis of miami. The Eastern end is mostly fresh water, home to peacocks, largemouth bass, gar, snakeheads and countless other fish. However, to the west lies mangrove trails, salt marsh and brackish water. Creating a nursery for juvenile tarpon, snook, snapper and anything else that finds its way in from the ocean.
Our destination was the salt marsh of the western Tamiami Trail, in the heart of Big Cypress Preserve. BOOM! one cast, one fish. A small snook shot out of a bush and inhaled my fly. I was pumped! But it was only the beginning…“The Trail” is a monotonous beast. All the water looks good. And all of it has fish, however, it is extremely hard to pinpoint them. Before we knew it, we had driven almost 100 miles west of Miami.
We kept pushing, looking for any sign of rolling fish or busting snook. I happened to look out the window and see a disturbance in a drainage culvert… Tarpon. I flipped around, pulled over and started casting, probably looking like an idiot to passing cars. Second Cast- my small white fly got inhaled and I broke off.. I was baffled at the strength of a 3 pound silver prince. I tied on a gurgler and 10 minutes later.. EXPLOSION. A small silver fish flew into the air. A 2 pound tarpon fell victim. 3 jumps later, i grabbed the leader, and of course, he had to jump again, and threw the hook… Classic
At this point, we were almost 100 miles from Miami. My buddy just so happened to own property and a boat in Marco Island, Florida. About 20 miles southwest of where we were. Naturally, without thinking, we hit the road again. Rolling into Marco with only fly rods and the clothes we were wearing. What could go wrong? We immediately loaded the boat with our rods and set out to fish some dock lights. Goliath Grouper, snook, tarpon, jacks and a variety of other fish call the lights home at night to feed. 2 snook fell victim to my size 6 Schminnow, then it went quiet.
After a brief moment of silence… All hell breaks loose! I saw something floating on a light about 200 feet up. Immediately, I recognized the fish. A tripletail! I thought he was dead, floating so still. I put my fly in front of him, and he came to life, inhaled my fly and took off. Whooped my butt on the 6 weight. After 2 failed landing attempts, we brought him to hand.
A sigh of relief and a moment of excitement. Our journey was a success, an impulsive, 100-mile drive and a new species on the fly. How could it be better?
You can find Jake Wood on Instagram @jakedwood14