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Doing what it says on the tin

In recent years I have experienced the hart ache of the travel rod. Yes they all travel, they all fit in the suitcase and yes they all fish then the big one then bang !!!!!! Then the crazy fight with a broken rod which normally ends in tears. In the last few years I have been lucky to be linked with Snowbee helping them to develop rods for the US market. Things are going very well and Snowbees sponsored kingfish boat after wining a pro tour round of the championship is now leading the Yamaha pro tour and Capt Ron Mitchell of Team Bandit was telling me the other day this Snowbee rod is the only rod I would not change anything. When a pro fishing capt of many years tells you that you know you have done something right. Check them out at www.fishska.comand see how some people have to make a living yes that’s there job.

Back to me and Snowbee whilst testing one of there travel rod combos a rod that was a popping rod that by changing parts became a 6ft 6in boat rod we found a outstanding heavy jigging rod. If there is fish to test a rod it is our wreck donkeys the amberjack. With jigging in 200ft often these fish are taken at less than 100ft and run straight to the bottom. This rod was amazing taming fish to over 50lb the first few fights I have to admit I kept as far away as possible but the rod took it no problem. If you look at the rod no flat spots and still plenty left in the butt section. Sorted a travel rod that can take big fish and travel.

After talking to Russell Weston at Snowbee I think we might be talking the one piece version for the US and a two piece version for the UK. Check out www.snowbee.co.uk  they are coming out with some amazing new rods and reels. I use the US version of there new lever drag machined reel and I have abused this for over a year with fish the UK anglers dream about and no problems.

Sailfish fever

With the last week of our season started Fish the Dream shuts down for the main part of the hurricane season. We have fished on in early years but one year we had to evacuate four times and with guests and a disabled wife it is just not worth the hassle. With deck temps in the 100s and high humidity most anglers tended to wilt as well so we decided not to fish the summer. We will be starting our fishing holidays again in October when the Florida Keys starts its dry season and temps start to fall to our winter temps of high 70s and low 80s just the tonic you need when back in the UK autumn can be bad. The one fish that shines in the fall is the sailfish these fish come in with the cold fronts and tick all the boxes.

It is hard to describe just how colourful they are and they are one of the fish that lights up during a fight. As a game fish like tarpon they do it all,long hard runs many huge jumps and its not over till they want it. The nice thing about sails is the very many varied method’s we use to catch them. Yes we catch allot trolling but the UK anglers just don’t seem to take to trolling as our US cousins do. My favorite method has got to be the kite, this presents a fish dancing on the top of the water and the take can be a explosion of water followed by a screaming reel and a sail grey-hounding away on the surface.

During the start of the sailfish run they will chase the bait schools right into the reef when it is possible to pitch a live bait in less than 20 ft of water to the feeding fish, top sight fishing. During the autumn we have the start of the main tuna run and till you have tasted tuna less than 1 hr old just seared on the barbie you have not eaten fish. As this is out of our main season we still have a few dates left, and we can offer a bit of discount as well. It was during the autumn that the base record of 55 species was done so there is plenty to fish for so just get in touch.

Stop dreaming

What a week John has just had did I make the right choice for him to run Fish the Dream when I had to come back to the UK or what. Keep with John at www.riverworks.co.uk  After a fantastic year what with the exploits of Henry Gilbey and friends and too many ticked boxes, first 200lb Tarpon ect we are booking up faster than any year before. During a stunning fight with a tarpon at sunrise Ian one of Slater group summed it up. I’ve watched this on TV seen it in magazines and never thought I would be doing it but here I am hooked up to the king of game fish.

It doesn’t get any better, dont wait to long I am sure 2012 will once again be a sell out year. If you get in touch email rdngd@aol.com  or phone 01668 216173 I am sure I can work out a deal just for you.

The right mix ?

Its nice to have a party on a fishing holiday that like to mix it up and don’t fish 25/8. Don’t get me wrong I am as hardcore as the next guy but some times it helps me out to mend broken tackle and fettle the engines etc. When I first met John Slater he said his group liked the odd beer and what better place to do it than the Florida Keys and on there trip one night was planned in Key West. If you like the odd night out then a night in Key West should be on your bucket list, fun fun fun and no trouble. They had there share of       3am starts so one night out seemed fine by me, as I tell everyone the party controls the holiday start when you want and come back when you want.

This party really gelled as my wife Helen said the crack, banter what every you call it never stopped. This group of all ages have fished together many times and it showed, and are welcome back any time. As it has it there were a few not ticked boxes not a ploy on my part to get them back but there are so many boxes to tick in the Florida Keys very few do it all on one trip.

Bait fishing????

While on the grouper wreck with the Slater group the other week Jamie had a fish on the medium ledger rod. The fish made long hard runs shark like but as he had no wire on no bite offs. What gave the fish away was every so often is would stop and be hard to move but then would make another long hard run. After a very good long hard scrap Jamie got the fish to the boat and yes I called it right a near 80lb sting ray.

I know it seems a shame but this fish was kept for bait. Stingray is the number one bait for big hammerhead shark in fact our 1000 lb fish was caught on sting ray. It is common to see many stings in the face area when we catch big hammerhead and a fish like Jamie’s gives us many good baits. In fact on this day one of our 250lb grouper was caught on a piece of this fish. The stops during the fight are when the fish finds a bit of sand and beds down. I was shown a way of getting the fish back on the move again by pulling as hard as you can on the line then playing the line like a guitar string this annoys the fish and it will run again.

O! M! G!

If there is on fish in the Florida Keys that gets the cry OH MY GOD its got to be the goliath grouper. We have been very lucky with these fish during our fishing holidays. It took some years to get it right but now we get big and I mean up to 400lb back to the boat on most trips when it all goes right. The wreck we go to is in only 11 ft of water and the water never goes clear which is why they stay there. The anchoring has to be precise as we have to get the fish to come to us and have only seconds to turn the fish away from the wreck. Some we don’t stop and I think there must be fish well over 500lb so no chance they just go where they want even on 80lb gear.

The day we went with the John and his party it was far from ideal wind against a turning tide but we still managed two around the 250 mark, Derek’s just said high and went, Jamie’s was fine for a few photos before we released it. After a brutal fight normally with two people in murky water the first sight of these fish is a sight that lasts with most anglers for a lifetime. No long runs no jumps but the sheer power of the fish is hard to describe one guy said it must be like hooking a moving car.It has been rumored that this fish might be put back on the take list after a very successful come back from near extinction in 1999. With a take anything diet and having to eat 7 to 10 % of body weight each day they are becoming the dominant fish on many wrecks. This once again proves the Americans have got it right on fish management and fish given the chance will come back from the brink big style.

More smiles

If the amberjack is known as the wreck donkey its cousin the jack crevalle is know as the street fighter. This member of the jack family is responsible for many a smile for people on our fishing holidays. Not during the fight as they DON’T know the word game over but when the fight is over and the photos are being taken. During John Slater’s trip this fine 20 lb + fish was taken on the long rod and nearly spooled John with a first run over 250yds. The look on an anglers face as the spool is nearly emptied always brings a smile to my face as well. They just don’t do this back home is often the cry, well in the Florida Keys they do which is why you come is my reply.

The long rod is often a good method as big fish will often hang back then dart in to take a fish on the edge of the chum. I use a strong live bait blue runner being my favorite and sett in very shallow 1 to 2 ft a bit like a kite bait. Stinger rig with a small treble and drag sett to hook the fish but allow a long run. Rod is then put in a rod holder and left till the screaming drag lets you know its fish on the rod holder is a very fisher person and does just what its told.

By catch

As you may or not know we use crabs for the tarpon at 7 mile bridge most old school guides still use mullet as there number one bait. So crab versus mullet, well mullet are a very good bait but in  my opinion have a few problems they are best when just caughtand as we go at 3 am you cant catch them. So they have to be caught the day before and need a big live well or pen to keep them in top condition. They need a strong tide to keep them on top of the water and also suffer form being a good bait for cuda and shark not what you want on a tarpon trip. Crabs can be found in most bait shops and will live all week in the live well. It always comes as a surprise to new anglers that a crab no more than 2 in across will catch a 150lb+ tarpon but they do and you can take them off the hooks to use the next day. The other thing is the by catch the other fish we seem to catch at 7 mile bridge on our little crabs is permit as they make there way to and from the spawning grounds. My last party of the last session was a group from my home area of Northumberland and the organizers son Jamie had on stunning trophy permit 23lb on a tarpon trip well done.

Catch up

I am back in the UK for my summer break [ to heal cuts and bruises ] but what a last session many boat PB’s and fishing of the charts. The fishing holidays are now being run by my friend and top skip John Aplin check out how he is doing at www.riverworks.co.ukif he has time will blog how its all going. What a last week with Henry Gilbey and all his crew to many surreal moments and fish for the head to take in, but when a member or the crew asks will it hurt if I jump off your boat at 25mph I was speechless but I did go back for him wait for the you tube.

Round up of Lee and Alan’s week perfect weather and fish to match. Lee had one Florida Keys box to tick that was the dorado so on a calm day offshore we went. Now it is becoming a start point for offshore the AJ wreck, this day the AJ were on fire and lived up to the name reef donkeys. Poor Alan what a wake up to fishing as he said carp fish will never be the same. Fish were taken on jigs and live bait, the advantage of the jig the fish can be taken at mid water so only 100ft to bring them up but some go straight down to 200ft.

When both Lee and Alan had had enough it was off in search of dorado. Not a lot of weed or debris so eyes peeled for birds then in the distance two boats sitting not moving so off we went. They had found a log and feeding fish it always seems a bit strange to UK anglers but it is perfectly OK to fish with other boats on a piece of debris. In fact we all were talking to the other boats and a good time was had by all and Lee had a nice keeper dorado job done.

Last photo a nice black grouper taken by Alan on the permit make by haveing a live bait deep and did it tase good or what. Fantastic week for Lee and Alan loads of PB’s and boxes ticked and two guys who will smile for a long time.