Steve and Noah’s Excellent Adventure

Some, or rather most days that we get to spend on the water, are made up of a lot of time on the push pole. Lots of searching for fish, and not always getting the shots we want. If you can catch a few redfish it is considered a pretty good day. Every once in a while though the stars align, and you get that perfect combination of great weather, the right moon phase, happy fish and the water all to yourself. A few weeks ago Steve Seinberg, of Southern Culture On The Fly magazine, and myself found ourselves in one of those perfect days. We launched Steve’s beautiful Hell’s Bay Professional at a little after 7:00 am and made a short run to one of our favorite flats. It was a waning crescent moon, the day before a cold front and we had light and variable winds. In October. The perfect combination. Per usual I grabbed the push pole and Steve began to cast a gurgler around the pods of baitfish, and a few casts later he got a small trout. No larger fish seemed to be in the pods of mullet however so we began to pole up to some mangrove shorelines. It didn’t take very long and Steve had a redfish waking behind his gurgler. That fish tried three times and finally got it into it’s mouth. Probably a 20” fish or so. Nothing big but watching the eat like that is always great. At this point Steve has only been on the bow for maybe 15 minuets and so instead of switching up like we usually would after a fish I just told him to stay up there, and see if he couldn’t stick a bigger one. Sure enough not 5 minuets later he lays a cast out right at a point in the mangrove shoreline. Here comes the wake and a bigger redfish tries to eat it but misses it. All of a sudden I noticed a redfish not 6 feet from the boat. I call it out. “Steve redfish! 3:00 6 feet!” He didn’t even really cast. Just plopped the gurgler in front of the fish and twitched it once. That red came straight up. Like completely vertical. And sucked it down. Redfish number 2. Steve landed that fish and then missed another, because as soon as he released that fish there were more swimming towards us. After missing that redfish I had a thought. Try a hopper dropper. Normally this is a technique for fresh water trout but I wanted to see if it would work for reds. After a little coaxing on my part Steve tied about 12” of leader to the bend of his gurgler hook to which he tied a small black redfish Fly with light bead chain eyes. To say that it works would be an understatement. The very first redfish that he cast the rig to ate the dropper. And then the next and then another. Mind you this is all happening so fast I haven’t even left the poling platform! After Steve caught his 5th redfish he graciously agreed to let me have some fun, and I grabbed my trusty Clutch Archipelago 6 and it wasn’t more than 10 minuets and I was connected to a nice 26” redfish. I think at this point Steve and I realized we were experiencing something special, one of those “do no wrong” type of days where the fish are willing to take almost any fly. We were literally laughing about the hopper dropper most of the morning, and we took some fun pictures of our fish. Steve pushed me around for a little longer and I was able to stick a couple more reds, at this point I was throwing a new shrimp pattern, the blackened shrimp taco. The fish couldn’t get enough of it. The day continued like that with us switching up fairly regularly, Steve even got a nice trout and a snook to complete his slam! I got a nice 25” juvi tarpon next, and then another red. Then Steve got another red and another and another, I honestly lost track of how many fish we caught at one point. Steve got a nice black drum and then we switched places again. I had a pod of tarpon swim by but they saw the boat and spooked, Steve pushed the boat out just a little deeper on the flat and then I saw them. “Steve stop the boat!” I whispered as loud as I could. Which in hindsight is kind of a ridiculous thing to do. But you tend you do ridiculous things when you see a school of 50 bull redfish immediately in front of you. He quickly stopped our forwards momentum with the push pole and I made a cast. No reaction. These fish didn’t care about my little shrimp. They were finning and happy right in front of me. So I tried a purple and black shrimp. That got a look from a couple but not an eat. Next I tried a bigger crab pattern. Nope. These fish were still in front of us, Steve, who was just holding us in place with the push pole, told me to grab a big EP purple and black baitfish. So I did. Steve called out the shot, a nice bull was only 25 feet away at 10:00, giving me the perfect angle and shot. I dropped the fly about 4 feet in front of the fish. Strip, strip, and the fish swims right up to the fly. Strip, the fish inhales, and I strip one more time and feel the hook point stick into the fish’s jaw. Steve laughed. “On a 6wt? Good luck buddy!” And the battle began. That fish ran, the first and longest run thankfully wasn’t more than 120 feet though, and after a little time looking at my backing I was able to get fly line back on the reel. Not wanting to prolong the fight and risk killing the fish I made a decision. The rod was going to break or I was going to break the will of this fish. I’ve never felt a rod flex like that. The cork handle was bending sometimes when I would turn the fish’s head. I don’t recommend this. But the rod held! Lots of side pressure and not letting the fish have even an inch without absolutely fighting for it, I had the fish boatside in a little over 15 minutes. Thankfully I was using 20 pound leader so I wasn’t worried about it breaking. Steve landed the fish and we got some shots before releasing her, without measuring it I’d say she was 42” or so, maybe a little bigger. My personal best redfish on a fly, and with a 6wt at that! After thanking Steve for putting me on that fish, he proceeded to stick one more nice just over slot redfish, and we called it a day. I think we caught a total of 22 fish or so, I had 6 redfish and a bull plus a tarpon, and Steve had a pile of reds, 2 trout, a snook and a black drum. Truly an epic day, and my best day of fly fishing, ever. It won’t ever be forgotten. Days like that are what we usually only dream about but sometimes, if you fish enough, those day dreams become reality. So get out there and fish, because you never know, it just might be that perfect day.

-Noah Miller

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