A couple days ago I decided to go hit the water right before a cold front was scheduled to move through the area. The winds were predicted to be awful at about 10am that morning, and for the next few days after. Even with the short weather window I knew I better get out there before the weather really went sideways. I arrived at the Banana River No Motor Zone at 6am sharp under slick calm conditions. Knowing the weather was just a couple hours from setting in, I rushed to get everything ready and promptly shoved off in the Predator 13 at gray dawn.
I fished this same area last week and found a great spot with very aggressively feeding snook about 4 miles north of the launch. My aim was to rush up to this area before the forecasted north 20mph wind was scheduled to kick in, then use the wind to get a nice push home. Conditions were beautiful as I began making the trek north. Paddled about two miles before I noticed a familiar and welcome sight. Backs and tails breaking the shallow 18" deep water.
I naturally assumed these were Redfish, which is the most common fish encountered in the area I was fishing. I casted my lure, a 4" MrWiffelure sonic tail in Chartreuse, past the school and began ripping it back past them. I felt that familiar thump and set the hook. This felt like a solid Redfish, peeling drag and making nice runs, upsetting his schoolmates who were making a large wake as they moved farther north up the flat. After a couple of minutes, the fish stands on his head out there and I notice by his tail that this is not a Red, but a very spunky Black Drum. Black Drum are chiefly crustaecean eaters and don't usually hit lures that mimic fish unless they are really charged up and in that aggressive mood that they are sometimes found in. After a quick picture and release, I looked up to see the school still milling around and tailing on the shallow flat.
Now that I knew they were drum, I decided to throw something a bit more drummy at them. I had the small 2" Savage Gear Manic Shrimp rigged on my other pole . Put a dab of Blue Crab scented Pro Cure Bait Scent on it and casted over the school. Slowly dragged the shrimp across the bottom and as soon as it was within range of the school, I earned another thump. Another respectable Drum.
Usually after you catch a couple fish from a school, they begin to realize what is going on and become spooky or leave the flat entirely. Not these fish. They moved about 20 feet away and continued to tail happily. This time though I couldn't get a bite on the Manic Shrimp again. Switched up to a gulp crab and promptly put a third Drum on deck.
Again, the seemingly unspookable school moved just a few yards away, still in a great mood. Cast the gulp crab back at them and this time pulled out a small redfish that was hiding within the school of drum.
The crab was used up at this point, so I put on a gulp mantis shrimp and quickly boated a fourth Blackie.
This school was still displaying all the right behavior that the angler wants to see and I was tempted to stay and continue fishing for these hard pulling little guys. But, I noticed that the wind was beginning to kick in from the north, and with two miles north left to go before the target area, I knew it was now or never.
The area was just a small, unassuming looking ditch in the shoreline that holds finger mullet. The Snook, Redfish, and Seatrout know to stage up at the mouth of this ditch and wait for the finger mullet to make their way onto the flat. This provides them with an easy ambush point, which makes for a spot that holds fish more often than not. The snook in this hole on Sunday were making absolute pigs of themselves and I tried for a half an hour to get one on fly but they just wouldn't look at it. I suspected it was because there were literally thousands of baitfish here and perhaps my fly just did not get seen by the snook.
I brought the flyrod again, hoping for redemption on the Snook. As I paddled up, I saw fish in the mouth smashing mullet, but they weren't making the familiar POP that a snook makes as the suction of it's mouth breaks the surface. My best guess is that they were Redfish. There were a lot less finger mullet out there today so I figured this was my best chance to get a fly seen by the predator fish aggressively crashing bait in front of me. On the fourth cast, I finally get a hit. A nice little red comes up on the surface splashing. Not a spectacular fight, I stripped him in, BUT it was my first Red on fly and that had me absolutely stoked.
Casted around for a while after that unsuccessfully. At this point the wind was beginning to howl out of the north and the chop picked up considerably. I took this as an omen to begin my 4 mile journey home. I switched flies to a black slider type fly that I was told is killer on Black Drum. The plan was to drift on home and if I was lucky enough to encounter another school of drum, attempt to catch one on fly.
Less than 5 minutes into the drift, I see those gray tails again, popping up happily above the surface. I staked out the kayak about 50 feet away and slipped out, figuring my best chance would be on foot. Drum have poor eyesight, and I was able to get within 25 feet or so of the school to make it a very easy presentation. I stripped out a good bit of line and made a few false casts before I laid the fly right in the middle of them. Before it even hit the bottom I felt a nice bump and strip set hard. Had ahold of something, as the line was flying out of my hands but right before it got me to the reel, the pulling stopped.. A pulled hook. Not sure if I snagged the fish or if he just came off. Being brand new to fly fishing, this little encounter had my adrenaline pumping and my hands shaking. I HAD to get one at this point.
His schoolmates moved toward the shoreline and I followed. They promptly settled back down and I readied for another attempt. Same situation, all was required was a 25-30 ft cast. I laid the fly in the middle of them again and it sank to the bottom. After a couple short pulse strips, I felt another bump and set the hook for all I was worth. I had a hook in this one, as he took all the casting line immediately and got me right down to the reel. It was great to hear this reel scream after taking it out on like 8 trips with only one small snook to show for it. I have next to no experience fighting fish on fly so I was pretty liberal with the amount of line I let him take. He actually got me into the backing at one point. It took about 10 minutes but I finally landed him. The fight took much longer than needed due to my inexperience and he was somehow wrapped up in the leader. Got my hands around him and took a picture of my first Black Drum on fly! Quick photo and prompt release.
As I watched him swim away I felt an extreme feeling of satisfaction after having bad trip after bad trip on the fly rod. That one fish made my whole day. I was stoked before that fish just seeing the schools of drum feeding so aggressively. This all happened in the span of about 90 minutes, just before the cold front slid through our area. The timing was perfect, the bite was great, and I was back at the launch by 10:45am after a beautiful morning of catching. You can't ask for much more than that!