We finally got a break from windy, stormy weather if not from the cold. When I arrived at one of my favorite spots north of Sebastian Inlet at 5:45 AM the waves were breaking on the beach but were only about 2ft. high. The temperature was only 56 but yesterday’s wind had died to little more than 5mph from the Northeast and there was a very light swell. Best of all, there were no fishermen in sight, only a lone jogger headed off to the north.
I rigged up my 8wt. and began to work my way toward the inlet with what little wind there was coming over my left shoulder. Walking about 10’ back from the swash, it was pretty dark and hard to see but an occasional baitfish broke right in the first wave. I found myself counting my casting pace – cast-retrieve slowly for about 20 paces-stop- cast again; just as we used to do when fishing an Atlantic salmon stream. It was clear with only the occasional light of a sport or commercial fishing boat as it left the inlet. A half hour of this brought me within sight of the north jetty and I carefully fished the little point here but, no follow of strike.
I sat down for a few minutes and just watched the swell slowly rolling in over the surfers break. Now, the sky showed early sign of first light which, would be about 6:45 so, I began to work my way back the way I came. Moved a little slower now because this has always been the magic time of morning for me; when my luck has been best on this beach. It’s too early for the north migrating Tarpon but, there had been reports of big – over slot-limit Redfish and same nice Sea Trout before the last storm blew through. Fifteen minutes later, with the sky lighter, I thought I saw a little explosion of small baitfish about a hundred yards ahead, only about 6-7 feet from the sand.
I tied on a 4” white fly now and, moving slowly now, I saw the bait splash again and made out the tell-tale swirl of a nice fish under it about 75 feet away. I worked out my fly and cast just to seaward of the last swirl and about 5 feet short of it. I counted to ten, letting the fly sink about 6” then, twitch, twitch…. There was another splash of baitfish as my fly startled them. Then, a big swirl and I tightened down as the fish turned away and exploded on the surface. Now, it ran out toward the second bar and I was fast to a heavy fish. We played tug-of-war now, moving with the tide, down the beach another hundred yards before I could get a good look.
There it was, a beautiful big Snook shining iridescent in the shallow water. I waded out and brought it in to my feet – beautiful snook which against my rod measured just under 36” as I held it against my boot, worked the hook out and released it. By the tables put out by the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute that fish should weigh around 12 pounds and is my personal best snook since moving here in 2006. It took a 4” Polar Bear Deceiver. Before first light I had fished a 4” Tan/Brown Woolhead Mullet fly with no luck.
Now it was first light and the sun was just about to break over the horizon to the east. Looking down the beach to the south I could see several pods of baitfish being chased by larger fish so, checking my knot and leader, I moved off toward the action which was moving toward me. I set up about 100’ below another pod of breaking baitfish and cast a little ahead and seaward of them. A slow retrieve brought two short swirls but no hookup.
Moving down toward the next pod of fish I cast again and the sea exploded as the fly settled onto the crest of a little wave. I was on again, but to a much smaller fish. Working it into my feet, I reached down and released another Snook of about 15”.
Checking the leader, it was frayed so, I cut it back and tied in another white fly but, this one only a little more than 2” long. I worked south again toward where I had started and another shower of baitfish indicated a larger predator was moving down the beach toward me. I stopped and cast and had a repeat of the last time only, this time when I got it in it was a nice little Redfish of about 13”. As I straightened up from releasing it, I noticed not a sign of a fish or baitfish in any direction with the exception of a pair of Porpoise about 300’ off the beach, moving north, just outside the outer bar.
The flies I used were a tan/brown Woolhead Mullet tied on a #2 hook. The Polar Bear Snook were sparsely-tied over a silver flashabou body with a polar bear wing over which were tied 4 strands of silver flashabou over which was a topping of three green peacock herles. The large one was tied on a 1/0 hook and the smaller on a size 1. I was using my Sage XP 9’ with a Rio WF9 intermediate clear line. For fly-fishing the surf here I use a butt section of 40# mono loop-loop to a 15# or 20# fluorocarbon tippet.
Snook season has been closed except for catch and release until September 1 in the entire state. Many snook died from a cold spell we had last month. While there are some Tarpon in the lagoons now, most moved south by mid December and will not return to these waters until April or May. Tarpon also suffered a die-off from the cold but, mostly to the south of us between Miami and Key West. Redfish were not affected by the freeze and provide excellent beach fishing during most of the season.
Bill Hubbard © Feb. 15, 2010
Melbourne, FL on the Indian River Lagoon