Fishing With Jay: Everglades

When texting buddies call you it’s never good. So when Captain Court Douthit dinged Jay’s phone, he knew the whip had come down.

The Pig Farm crew was rolling into town for their annual tarpon fly trip, but Court was stuck on the bench with a leg injury. So it was up to Jay to save the day with a state-of-the-art world-class epic fishing awesomeness of monumental proportions. The down side being that Jay knows nothing about guiding for tarpon.
So the plan was hatched. Chase some ditch monsters.

Roll down to some arbitrary South Florida canals, sling some bugs and get some tugs. What could go wrong?
Well, a bunch. For starters, we’re zipping over to the west coast, packing the bus with fly fishermen and then dipping down to the historic Tamiami Trail, a 90-mile strip of asphalt that runs through the Everglades from downtown Naples to the Calle Ocho section of Little Havana.

The canals, ditches and bridges that run along the Trail are home to some of the heaviest locals, from tarpon and snook to bucketfaced bass and two species of Thrill Kill Cult loving freshwater gars. And let’s not forget the exotics—Mayan cichlids, jaguar guapote, Oscars, peacock bass and more…

Pull off the road, find a spot to park along the bordering canal, and you’re fishing. Oh, and at all times, watch where you step, because snakes abound in this wild part of town.

From there, it’s as simple as flipping out the fly while watching your backcast for cars whizzing by, and your distance for a bazillion Brazilian pepper trees lining the opposite bank, and keeping an eye peeled for something that might swim up and eat you. Fortunately, there’s also a slalom course of aquatic weeds and lily pads to dodge as you work your fly through the kill box.

Fishing the Trail is not an exact science. The key is to find moving water, which tends to funnel food to the in-water wrecking crew. It helps if there’s a bridge nearby or some shady ambush points. Feasting birds along the bank is always a good sign. As are showering baitfish. Gathering buzzards, not so much.

“Networking was the key here,” said Jay. “I hit up a bunch of my Naples connections and squeezed them for what to look for, what to look out for, and some places to start. That was like a three beer conversation, but it helped eliminate the dead zones.”

There’s nothing that says we’re here to slay like a packed short bus full of sketchy dudes from the middle of the country with Jay as their “tour guide.” Jay ramped up the effort to include the “from the bus” challenge.
From canal to canal, checking bridges and embankments, it’s a hit or miss game of peacock bass pinball until you find the right conditions for the chew. But once they did, it was one long afternoon of “What is that?”

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