I’ve been to Southwest Florida (SWF) before, so when she who must be obeyed suggested we spend the month of April there for some “RR and FF,” I jumped at the opportunity.
I knew the fly fishing part was true and not something made up to get me to travel. However, I’d forgotten some of the differences between Durango and SWF. For instance, all the cars in SWF are perpetually clean, and not one of them has a cracked windshield. The vehicles are also different. One dealership is a combination Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover and Maserati. All the dogs are also small – it must be so they’ll fit into the small cars.
Grits are a basic food group, and waitresses at the coffee shop will call you “Honey” or “Sweetheart.” Another item I had forgotten were the number of really great cigar stores, enough to make a dedicated cigar smoker go weak in the knees. So much for the non-fly fishing aspects of the journey.
The one similarity SWF has with Durango is the number of really great places to fly fish. There is the Gulf of Mexico, canals that are similar to irrigation ditches only with alligators and water moccasins, mangroves, and fresh water lakes and ponds.
To fly fish these different areas, several rod weights are needed. I think the Gulf is best fished with an 8- or 9-weight rod. The mangroves and canals are easily fished with a 7-weight; the ponds and lakes can be fished with a 6-weight. For lines and leaders there are numerous options. Since I rarely fish deeper than five feet I always use a floating line. There are lines designed for salt water and they work great. Leaders need to be nothing less than 10-pound test. When in doubt, always go to a heavier leader. There are a multitude of flies for salt water. However, Crazy Charley’s, Clousers in a variety of colors and some poppers seem to work best. If you’re going to take only one rod, make it the 8-weight.
With the four options of types of areas to fly fish, next time I’m in SWF I would concentrate on one or two areas instead of trying to cover all four. I think it would be more productive.
The Gulf is limitless. From our abode, the nearest land mass was the country of Mexico. Trying to figure out that much water, without a boat, was a challenge. I found walking along the beach and water line to be the best. You can blind cast for only so long. Once you spot a fish, try and get in front of it before making a cast. Fish in the ocean can be lined like anywhere else. When walking the beach you’ll see trout, snook and ladyfish.
I really enjoyed the canals. As I said, “be aware of the alligators and snakes.” There are even signs that say, “Don’t feed or harass the alligators.” Well duh.
The canals are clear, so a 9-foot leader is needed. For flies, I used poppers and Clousers. I caught perch that had sharp teeth and bent my 7-weight in half. I’ve also been told the canals around Miami are home to peacock bass.
Some of the mangroves can be wade fished, others require a boat, canoe or kayak. Snook really like to hide out in the mangroves. You need to move with stealth in the mangroves as it is easy to see fish, and if you can see them they can see you. I caught a really large snook on a popper that was feeding in about 12 inches of water.
Fresh water lakes and ponds are everywhere, and many are open to the public. The lakes and ponds are home to bass, and many of them are sizable. Use whatever rod and flies you use to fish for bass around Durango. However, with the constant presence of wind, a 6- or 7-weight would be great.
It was great fun to be away from the spring snow and mud. But it’s good to be home to dirty pickups with cracked windshields and big dogs in the beds. Next spring when I get to feeling really old and tired of paying state income taxes, I think I’ll head back to SWF.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.