Obsession; A Novice's Tale of Florida Redfish

“Obsession” as described within a dictionary as “enthusiasm, addiction, mania, phobia, fixation, infatuation and ruling passion” may describe the feeling that affects anyone who enjoys the sport or hobby of fishing. The reference of a “ruling passion” is my personal favourite but can any of the terms mentioned really describe the feeling of the pursuit of trying to catch a fish from stream, river, and lake or sea? I use the word obsession as I believe that is the feeling that has now become the core of my every waking hour.

The reason for this feeling was born little over two years ago when talking about fishing with a friend who mentioned fly fishing. Although I had “dabbled” a few times my fishing career over the last 25 years was predominately coarse match fishing and could not understand the attraction of trying to throw and trick a fish with some chicken feathers on a hook! The conversation obviously ran onto the statement of the perfect fishing experience and challenge. The conversation then reached its zenith when I mentioned that I owned a property in Florida in the US but had never tried the fishing out there. Within 2 weeks the plan was formed for a “red eye” long weekend trip out to Florida and to fly fish in October. My friend Brett, although that term can be used loosely given the cost to my bank account since he stated we should give Florida a go, carried out the homework for the venue, fish and then the required guide!

So the venue was to be Mosquito Lagoon, predominately fishing for Red Drum AKA Redfish. Our guide for our two days fishing was Capt Nathaniel Lemmon. So that was the start of the obsession! Rods, reels, lines, flies all purchased, flights confirmed and then the fly casting practice sessions on my local field! The amount of times my neighbours would slow down their cars and shout out that I would not catch anything although my favourite one was from a rather informed neighbour who asked if I was trying to catch a Grass carp!

Mosquito Lagoon
mosquito lagoonThe day arrived for both Brett and me to make our way to Gatwick airport and start the 9 hour flight journey to the sun shine state. On arriving at the villa we contacted Nathaniel to try and get the low down on what he was expecting and what we would be expecting! It was at this point that the Capt was requested to wear a crash helmet and padding as my form of casting with a weighted size 2 hook was at least fairly deadly! Although not to the fish!

We arrived at the Oak Hill area of Mosquito Lagoon at 6am the next morning feeling like two school kids waiting from Christmas. Although Brett was an accomplished fly angler, I on the other hand was feeling a little apprehensive! Our Capt arrived and firm handshakes were exchanged and then we all looked out onto Mosquito Lagoon! The word that summed this up, stunning! We launched the skiff, keeping to the no wake zone and then free of any restrictions took off over this stunning and vast area of water. The smell of the salt and brackish water stimulating all the senses while skimming across the water was a sense that has remained. After passing schools of dolphins and a couple of manatees the sun was slow rising and it was time to fish!

We slowed into a large bay surrounded by mangroves which Egrets, Herons and Ospreys had declared their roosts. The engine shut down with Nathaniel climbing onto the poling platform we set off on our sight fishing experience. Brett took to the bow first, as I was not feeling confident in my ability to cast to and catch the Reds I had read and been told about. This was not an issue with Brett as he was an accomplished caster and being able to throw a full line. This was something he did like reminding me repeatedly!

redfishAfter 10 minutes Nathaniel whispered “Redfish 30 ft at 12 o’clock”! Brett was onto it immediately whereas I could not see anything! Watching Brett cast to the invisible fish it all came into focus. The fly landed just in front of the Red but no take. After 30 minutes it was my turn “up front”. “Fish 40ft 2 o’clock” was stated behind me! As I started searching for the fish, I saw the dorsal fin break the surface. Well to say that my cast was the perfect fly presentation would not be the truth, more like I tried to harpoon the fish with the fly! But the obsession had started to feed into my soul!

As we headed into the early afternoon we had both had a few decent shots but no fish. Then as we came to a stop at the mouth of a small creek Nathaniel pointed out a Red that was cruising its way down the shoreline towards us. Again I struggled to make out the fish. This caused Brett to start questioning my eyesight and my parenthood! At last when the fish was about 20 ft from the bow I saw it and the strange thing is I knew I was going to catch it! Two false casts and I dropped the shrimp fly right in its path and a quick flash of its fins and the line went taught! Strip strike and I was in! The 7lb Red was landed after a spirited and dogged fight! The obsession, seeping even further into my soul. 
On returning to the villa after that first day the wheels had been set in my mind. The location was truly stunning and actually hunting down fish and casting to these beautiful fish had already changed my perspective on fly fishing as a whole. Where else had I been where Ospreys where common place and being able to watch pods of Dolphins chasing after baitfish? We sat by the pool drinking a beer or two and discussed the days fishing we had just experienced. Only 1 redfish between us had been landed but this was no deterrent to our hopes!  So the poor caster had outdone the master on this occasion 1 to 0. I did mention this to Brett but he stated I had caught the fish by default because basically I was rubbish at casting!

The next day we both “snared” a fish a piece with Brett unbuttoning two others. On leaving the water and thanking Capt Nathaniel we then headed to Bass Pro so Brett could buy some fly tying materials to replenish his stocks, after being worn down mentally by Brett, I made the decision that I had to further my salt water fly fishing experience! So the next step was tying my own flies! This again was to commence a very expensive outlay over the coming months for every piece of material required to tie every fly ever devised! On the journey back across the Atlantic we discussed when we would be coming back. This thought never left me. I started fishing my local reservoir to try and improve my casting although I could not get into the fishing for Rainbow Trout. Always in my minds eyes I was watching the Mosquito Lagoon reds with tails and backs breaking the surface.

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