Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fly Fishing the Lower Florida Keys 2011

(Double click on the images for an enlarged view)

The family was on spring break in Key West at the end of April 2011 and I was all geared up to do some flats fishing. Unfortunately, the wind was not about to cooperate. It blew east or SE 15-25 the whole week we were there and it was dificult to find any lee at all (at least by wading).

I ended up trying to fish 2 different days.

The first day, I checked out some spots on the Atlantic side of Sugerloaf Key that looked good on google earth images and were mentioned in Stu Apte's Key's fishing book as good spots to find fish.

The access to southern Sugarloaf flats is tricky and because of parking restrictions will involve a fair bit of walking to get to the flat. Zen Park is closed, but there is room to park adjacent to the street. This spot shows potential.

Looking for the way to the secret spot on Sugerloaf Key

Sometimes you need to bushwhack through the mangrove to get to the flat

Next I went to the end of Little Torch Key to fish the flats NE of the point at the end of the road. I had to bushwhack some to get to the flat, but nothing horrendous. The flat was nice, but as soon as you got 100 from the mangrove shore, the water got bumpy and it was difficult to see. I did see jumping fish and a moving mud, but it turned out that this was a school of grunts not bones. I picked a few grunts out of the pack.

I finally thought I had a bone when I hooked up and my reel started to sing. Alas, it was a bonnethead shark. I pulled him into the shallows, a place he did not want to go, and got the hook out with my Leatherman pliers. He was released and revived none the worse for the wear.

The reward - small grunts feeding in the muds

And a small bonnethead shark...

The second day, I was advised to check out a flat on No Name Key - over the bridge, past, the No Name bar. I was a little unsure about parking since you're in the Key Deer wildlife area. The map I had showed roads throughut the refuge (probably from when the area was slated for development). The "roads" are still there, but totally overgrown, pitted, and you cannot drive on them through the refuge. You can walk on them however, and I spent a good hour hoofing it over a mile or two to reach the flat on the southwest corner of the key.

The beginning of the trail at Key Deer refuge on No Name Key

Makin' my way...

Nearing the coast...

Step through the portal...

It was a pretty flat, but again the wind was not my friend, and you really couldn't see to cast. I blind casted to patchy sand/grass areas that I hoped would be ambush spots. After hours of casting and moving, I did hook one small fish, but performed the long line release.

Too much chop for me. I couldn't see anything at distance and just blind casted the whole time....

So there you have it. Both days of fishing were a bust. Nice flats, but I think I need to go to the Keys in August and suffer the heat for a chance at some calm days with less wind, warmer waters, and more abundant fishing opportunity.

It's no wonder people flock to Mallory Square for these daily sunsets.

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