Every Spring around the end of March and early April, I make a trip to Melbourne Beach, Florida to spend time with my girlfriend and her family. After a few years of chillin’ at the beach every day we are there, Annika and I decided it was time to begin exploring the local waters.
Her grandparents have a small Trailer house that sits right between the ocean to the East and the Indian River Lagoon to its West. Usually, her grandpa and I would just cast surf rods for whiting and whatever we could catch. The only true opportunity to catch fish from the beach would be in Florida’s summers. Therefore our best option was to go mess around all of the docks and risk the chance of walking on top of a stingray in the lagoon.
Thankfully, Annika and I had a few options, we had access to bikes, a golf cart, a two-person kayak, or wade fishing. We spent the first few days of our trip this year exploring the local docks wading, the fish are so pressured and picky. All the snook want is a live mullet, all the redfish want is to not be seen or cast at, and all the trout are out a bit deeper. So, we hopped on google earth and decided to try something new.
The next morning we woke up and biked 2.8 miles to some mangroves and get away from the docks. We parked the bikes at a pretty sketchier spot than what the maps had shown, but oh well, we’ll see if it bites back later....
At first sight, we had clear water so we wouldn’t be afraid of stepping on a stingray, some solid depth, and a lot of bait around. In hand, I had a 8wt white series ready to go with a snook pattern tied by my friend Logan Godby. I rigged up a 60-pound fluorocarbon lead to some 30lb fluorocarbon, nothing ready to hook into anything massive. Upon the clean rig and good-looking factors at this new spot, the conditions were just awful. For sight fishing, you want high sun, minimal wind, perfect sunglasses, and of course some, happy fish. We had 15-mile-per-hour winds, no sun, and Annika and I had to SHARE a pair of black lens polarized shades. The odds were not in our favor.
With unfavorable scenarios, we decided to get right to blind casting. There was one dock that we came across before getting into the mangroves. Annika was making some money side casts into the shallow water and shade. She casted into her fourth little shade line and handed me the rod as the fly sank, I took one strip and was tight. She said, “That’s my fish!” stole the rod right back and WE caught her first-ever snook. Only about an 18” fish, but it pulled a bit for her and was very exciting. We walked about a half mile of mangroves and spooked a few other random, laid-up snook. I saw an island up ahead with a lot of shade and a solid hole, depth. My first cast into the shade underneath this mangrove island, I got tight and missed the hook set. I looked back at Annika with my jaw-dropping in excitement. We had very few expectations with the conditions we were up against. I see some tails of snook hanging out of the shade, that’s what I had to have missed. I make another long cast, trying to tuck it in tight to just find myself snagging into a branch. I broke the fly off to avoid spooking all of the fish and re-tied on a new baitfish pattern, small and black with eyes. The first cast back in there, I get tight again. I strip set so hard, thinking it is a solid snook and sure enough, I send this mangrove snapper FLYING. Annika laughs behind me knowing I almost fell back with how hard I loaded myself up. The snook begin to scatter around, kind of spooking. I keep casting under there as I walk away and on about my eighth attempt, I get that little black baitfish so deep under the mangroves. I strip a few times, small ticks bringing it back to me. Just before my fly was in sight and out of the shade, I get smacked. I strip set hard and find myself a beautiful, strong, jumpy 23” snook.
The next afternoon, still windier than ever, Annika and I feel the urge to get our butts wet sitting in the little kayak. We go for a little paddle behind her house and find a covered bay from the wind with some docks. It was almost dusk, so no sight fishing. Annika stood up and I paddled in the back sitting down, our odds of falling off are very good.
For only about an hour of fishing with that same 30lb flouro, 8wt white series and the same small black baitfish, we were losing light. We blind casted under about three sets of docks with no luck, just one slimy catfish. At the end of this third dock, there was a little shaded boardwalk in tight and shallow. There were about 5 little windows to cast in. That poor fly, just smacking the wood pilings and barnacles every other cast. Anyways, Annika put a cast just by the second to last piling, hooking it the end of her leader just around that pillar, it was sweet. Although she strip sets into the pillar when she gets tight. I start paddling into it to get it un-snagged and I see a small swirl right next to it, she lifted her rod up in confusion and I go, “Is that a fish?” The imaginary pillar ended up just being a perfect, fat, 18” redfish that continued to drag her into structure until I jumped out of the kayak and we got it to hand. We screamed in joy together over the smallest redfish we’d seen, but it couldn’t have been more perfect. Fish, of all sizes, never fail to make you smile, especially when on a little “Do It Yourself” expedition. Annika told me after New Years that the one fish she wanted to catch this year was a redfish.
Photography & Written by Joe Evans
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