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Click photos to enlarge fly fishing travel
Welcome to the Everglades
fly fishing travel
20 lbs. of fighting machine- what a battle
fly fishing travel
Ray Zechender and 28 lbs. of permit - Wow!
fly fishing travel
Jim Howeson with a 24 lb. permit - What a day!
fly fishing travel
Al Bunch shows off beautiful peacock bass
I recently traveled to the Naples, Florida area with friends for some light tackle in-shore and off-shore fishing. We brought an assortment of rods from 3 – 12 weights with reels and lines to match. We knew there would be a variety of fishing possibilities from largemouth and peacock bass to tarpon, snook and permit.

After arriving at the Fort Meyers, Florida airport we contacted our local guides and made arrangements to meet them early the next morning for some freshwater fishing in the Everglades.

Day One:

My buddy Peter and I fished with Jack Allen, the 77-year-old guru of light tackle top-water bass fishing. Jack had a secret spot where he thought we might catch up to 100 bass. So we went!

We launched Jack’s skiff and proceeded down a stretch of water that looked like the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, except for the alligators, which were numerous and very large. After a few minutes in the boat, Jack cut the outboard motor, turned on the electric motor and maneuvered us about 30 feet out, perpendicular to the bank. Peter and I rigged our 3- and 4-weight Winston rods with Jack’s proprietary popper patterns and made our first casts. It may be hard to believe that in less than five hours of fishing, Peter and I landed 303 largemouth bass. (Jack had a counter on his boat and kept track as the day progressed.) We must have hooked twice that many but most got away before we got them to the boat. My life-long dream came true that day in the Everglades.

Day Two:

The day started early as we had to meet our guides at 6 a.m. for a half-day of mangrove fishing just outside Ft. Meyers, Florida for snook, redfish, tarpon and anything else that might grab a fly. This fishing is done with 6-8 weight rods rigged with floating and intermediate lines. Fishing was a combination of sight and blind casting. We hooked and released redfish, snook and an assortment of snappers. I hooked a number of tarpon and lost them all including a nice 30-pounder. Well, live and learn.

That evening Peter and I went night fishing for snook and tarpon. We met our guide shortly before sunset, waited until dark and proceeded to the prime fishing spot-the lighted docks in front of huge mansions. We rigged our 8-weights with floating lines and a leader that tapered to 15 lb. with a 40 lb. shock tippet attached to the fly. Here’s how it works: The guide positions the boat within 30-50 feet from a dock that has a light shining directly into the water. The light attracts baitfish which in turn attracts snook and tarpon. We saw all of these fish very easily. (This is true sight fishing!) We took turns casting into the lighted areas and even though it was too dark to see our fly lines, we got pretty good at casting into the light. Once the fly hit the water, a slow and even strip would generally get the attention of a snook or tarpon. I hooked and lost eight tarpon. We both landed some nice snook and Peter lost a 35-pounder-the biggest one our guide had seen all year. Night fishing is so cool I can’t wait to do it again.

Day Three:

This was our day to go off-shore to fish behind the shrimp trawlers. The idea being that after they dump the baitfish overboard from their nets tuna, jacks, dorado, permit and other sport fish hang around the boats to feed on the chum.

The shrimp boats are 20-35 miles offshore. We saw acres of mullet, blue runners and other baitfish. We also saw more dolphin, sea turtles and sea birds than one could imagine.

We rigged our 10- and 12-weight rods with fast-sinking lines tied and big baitfish patterns. We landed dorado, triple tail, jacks, blue runners and many other species with the highlight of three permit over 20-pounds each that caused three grown men to cry for mercy. Yes!

Day Four:

Next up was peacock bass fishing in the Everglades. Our guide took us to a location where we could shallow-water sight fish for Peacocks in the 2-6 lb. range. We used our 8-weight rods rigged with floating lines and small baitfish imitations. We caught and released about 20 of these great fighting fish. As an aside we missed nine out of 10 strikes because these fish are so fast we couldn’t react quickly enough. Reaction time makes all the difference between hooking and missing these fish.

Day 5:

On this day we wanted to do some largemouth bass fishing in the Everglades and our guide took got us into over 200 bass between one and four pounds fishing top water flies on 3-5-weight rods strung with floating lines. The water was very clear, and we could see fish everywhere. So many fish; so little time!

Day 6:

Exhaustion set in last night but that wasn’t going to stop us for a day hunting big tarpon in the area known as the 10,000 Islands off Naples, Florida. This is one of the top three big tarpon fishing spots in the world. We met our guide and after rigging our 12-weight rods with floating lines and standard tarpon flies. The good news is that our guide put us in front of many large tarpon, none of which we could hook. At the end of the day, we changed tactics and went after snook and redfish, many of which we caught. As we pulled into the harbor the guide said this is “last chance cove” and, at last, we hooked and landed a couple of tarpon. Ending the day on a positive note melted our exhaustion away.

I have been lucky enough to have fished all over the world and must rate the Naples-Ft. Meyers, Florida area as one of the best I have ever experienced. I’m already planning next year’s trip. For more information just give me a call at the shop.

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