Big Old Belly Crawlers

There have been a few times in my life when it seems like putting in the extra effort to fish on a windy day really paid off. I had a Saturday morning free, and had planned to wade for a few hours, but after getting a text on Friday night from my buddy Alan, we decided to take his gheenoe and fish the same area together from it instead of wading. Alan’s gheenoe is a 15’4” High Sider, with a small platform on the back to push pole from and a power pole micro on the back. No motor, just a simple set up. We launched the boat at around 7:30 and Alan was kind enough to let me fish first. The weather man had called for winds from the WNW at 7-8mph but when we launched it was around 10-12mph almost dead North. And in the low 50’s. So not exactly ideal conditions, and Alan had to pole us a quarter mile into it to get to the spot we wanted to fish. After standing up and stripping 60’ of fly out and making a coupe of casts to get the line out and laying properly, we pushed into a cove mouth. All of a sudden in the back of the cove we saw a gigantic wake pushing, so big it looked like a small dolphin. It wasn’t. A 40” bull red materialized in the disturbed water, changing and eating a pod of large mullet. We were in shock for a few seconds, as bulls like that don’t typically like to get that shallow. I made a cast at the fish with my small black n tan fly but it wasn’t interested in my little offering, it wanted big mullet and nothing else. Still in shock we looked at each other and said “well that just happened.” Alan hadn’t pushed us another 30 yards when I saw a large Redfish moving away at an angle from us at about 30 feet. I laid a cast out on the right side of the fish and watched it turn and eat the fly. Hooked up within the first 10 minuets! And on a windy morning too! The fish ran hard and took me to the backing twice, and I could tell it was a solid fish. I landed the fish, around 32” and very healthy. Pretty much the perfect start to the morning. Alan was up next and ended up getting a nice black drum, after a few unlucky pulled hooks. It was a solid fish and at that point we were both happy, as we both had solid fish on a fairly windy day. I got back on the bow and pretty quickly found another good Redfish to cast at. I’d switched to a purple and black shrimp pattern at this point, and had a perfect angle to get the fly out in front of the fish. It zoomed in and sucked it down, and I was connected to another solid fish. This one took off like a bat out of hell and had me into my backing in under five seconds. While everyone wants to catch the “Bull” Redfish, to me a lower to mid 30” Redfish is the perfect fish. They run hard and fast and have the energy to dump line off of a reel. And they don’t take forever to land. After a couple minutes and some glorious runs I got the fish in, snapped some photos and released it. As I had only been on the bow for ten minutes or so, Alan graciously allowed me to stay up there and fish a little more. The next fish probably had him regretting that decision a little. I spotted it from around a hundred feet away, coming down the shoreline of a cove towards us. “That’s a big Red!” Alan positioned the gheenoe perfectly for me to make the shot and I laid a long cast out In from of the Redfish. A couple slow strips got the fly into the line the fish was working down and I waited until it was about three feet from the fly. A short quick strip got its attention and it turned and tracked the fly. Another strip had the fish following right behind it and I waited until it almost caught up to my Fly. The fish was fired up, a beautiful copper gold color, and it tipped up on my fly, it’s pectoral fins flared like a cat ready to pounce. A short quick strip was all it took and the fish opened its mouth and inhaled the fly. My left hand came back and the hook set. I was stoked! This was the biggest Redfish I’d caught all day, and I enjoyed a fun fight. It took a little longer to land this fish. If I had to guess without measuring I’d estimate is to be around 35-37” and around 15 pounds or so. A really solid fish, especially on a 6wt. We got some quality pictures (thanks Alan!) and switched back up. Alan had quite a few shots at slot reds, and ended up getting 3 or 4 of them cruising the edge of the mangroves. We tried to find him a bigger redfish but it seemed the big one I stuck was the last big one of the day we would see. We switched places again, since Alan had gotten quite a few fish, and now the sun was fully up. High sun and clear water had the fish acting really spooky and it took me making shots at around 20 fish before I found a dumb one around 24” right at the end of the flat we were working. Sticking a fish right before heading in is always a perfect end to an epic day. Big thanks to Alan for bringing his gheenoe and pushing me around on it! I’ll be replaying the eats we got that day in my head for a long time!

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