Tarpon Fishing The Homosassa River

Giant Tarpon Fishing – Crystal River, Chassahowitzka River and the Homosassa River

If you are interested in Giant Tarpon fishing the areas around Crystal River, Chassahowitzka River and the Homosassa River, located on the west coast of Florida (also known as Florida’s Nature Coast), read on!

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Where the Gulf of Mexico and the land along the central west coast of Florida converge you will find the world renowned giant  tarpon fishery, the twelve-pound, sixteen-pound and twenty-pound fly IGFA fishing records are currently held from this beautiful area of Florida. In fact, over the years, all of the major giant tarpon fly fishing records have been caught off of Florida’s central west coast in the Homosassa area.

To be more specific, the three current record giant tarpon mentioned above were caught in an area between the Chassahowitzka River, which is just south of the Homosassa River and Pine Island which is adjacent to the Weeki Wachee River. This fairly large flats-fishing area is known for its light colored bottom often referred to as “Oklahoma” by the guides and knowledgeable anglers. The pale sandy (and rocky) bottom offers an advantage for sight fishing as the tarpon are easier to see versus fishing over a darker sea grass bottom found from the Homosassa River north to the Crystal River.

Tarpon Fishing Homosassa

The Story: A Tarpon Odyssey

There are many beautiful rivers in Florida, but none give me the joy of the Homosassa.  Cool spring water provides a seemingly endless supply of fresh water from the Crystal, Homosassa, Chassahowitzka River, and their tributaries. As those rivers snake their way toward to Gulf of Mexico the water begins to turn brackish. Within a few miles, the subtropical landscape gives way to meadows of saw grass. The saw grass gradually transforms to black needle grass and then to mangrove islands tight with brush. Beyond is the shallow beginning of the Gulf of Mexico where limestone bedrock reaches for the surfaces in the form of invisible obstacles. All that talk about the treacherous waters here is no joke. For the unwary, the gulf waters take no prisoners.

Tarpon Fishing Homosassa

Tarpon Photo courtesy of Capt. Dan Clymer

The coastal marshes that surround Homosassa are nature’s high production factories in terms of fertility. The coastal marshes gain their extraordinary productivity from the abundance of nutrients delivered by the abundant fresh water rivers and the tide, which disperses the nutrients over the broad shallow flats. Where there is food there are fish.

After a brief run out to the fishing grounds the engine is quieted. The 12 weight Sage fly rod coupled with a Hatch Tarpon reel is slowly removed from under the gunnel. The Rio fly line lays coiled upon the deck ready for action. The search begins. Arms are flexed and the push pole bends, silently propelling the skiff in search of the elusive tarpon.

Three brown pelicans sweep low alongside our skiff. They beat three long stokes upwards in unison. Once, twice, now gone. Left behind is the low sound of the gentle clear warm water quietly lapping against the hull.  Eyes strain in the first light for something which to focus upon. A tarpon breaks the surface and disappears into concentric rings. Another fish rolls further out. You can see the passing pod’s silhouette through the translucent water.

The fly begins its graceful journey as the line unrolls in tight loops along a perfect plane then shoots briskly through the guides. The fly sinks deep. A short hard tug on the fly line and the rods bends. The feeling is unmistakable.  A moment later the water erupts in an explosion. The air is full of fish. The rod bends deeply with a great heaviness on the end. The line shears through the water and sounds like a ripping bed sheet. The fly reel spins wildly. A tarpon is on.

After three majestic jumps the fish sounds with surging energy and charges off like a locomotive. Fly line is surrendered and retaken. The tarpon breaks the surface for a gulp of air and then submerges with liquid fury. The rod bends and recovers. The tarpon twist and turns as she tries to get away from the mysterious power holding her.

The battle is over in twenty minutes. The magnificent fish is eased to the side of the boat to be admired. The silver sides of the tarpon seem to drain back into the Gulf. Her fins seem almost transparent. That huge eye stares in wonderment.  After pausing for a brief moment she is gone to be reclaimed by the gulf. Only her memory remains.

Fly Fishing Homosassa

Clearly this is the best time of the year to be here. Fish are everywhere and the finest tarpon fishing in the United States is here in my own backyard.

The suns brightness burns a hole in the sky. The water is as clear and flat as a windowpane and shimmers in the sun. You can see right to the bottom and watch the turtle grass sway in the current. Seagulls lift in the easy breeze and call to one another. The man-a war birds are riding the thermals skyward. Inland the cumulus clouds are piling up. Sounds of distant thunder bolts echo in the background as dramatic changes of light emanate from the ever changing sky and sea.

It is times like this that you wonder just what you have done right in your life to deserve such a gift.

Fishing for Tarpon:

Migratory fish begin to show from the middle to late April and their numbers will increase in May through June. The fishery is weather dependant, so if it a bit cool, the tarpon arrival will be delayed. The current tarpon season was delayed due to the unseasonable cool weather which Florida, Bahamas and the Northern Caribbean have experienced this year.

Fly Fishing for Tarpon at Homosassa

For the average angler, the most common way to find tarpon is to look for rollers. Tarpon have a primitive lung and frequently come to the surface to take a breath of air. After they drop back down they will usually let off some bubbles which you may see on a calm day. Another tip off is nervous water which is caused by the movement of fish below the surface.

If you really want to catch a tarpon you may consider hiring a guide. This is their business and the top guides perform their vocation very well.

The Gear for Catching Tarpon:

We all enjoy a fun day fishing, and there is probably nothing as exciting as catching a tarpon on light tackle. And to make the joy complete the contest is almost always at close quarters. The first time a 100-pound tarpon silver rocket goes off 20 feet from you, you’ll know what brought you to tarpon fishing.  No fly fisherman ever forgets the first time he hooks a large tarpon. Small tarpon, 25 pounds or less, certainly make an impression. But, the really big tarpon, especially those more than 100 pounds, really do something to your mind.

Flats Fishing for Homosassa TarponThe most important factor in fly fishing for a tarpon is adequate tackle. You see a lot of guys fooling around with light tackle, showing off, trying to set records. Those guys really don’t impress me. With the right tackle you won’t lose as many fish and you can make the fight shorter for those you do catch. You need a good sturdy 11wt or 12wt fly rod, such as a Sage One and a quality reel, such as a Hatch 11 Plus, capable of holding at least 250 yards of 30# backing. Add in a RIO Tarpon Fly Line which has front taper designed to cast large flies and you will have a first-class tarpon rig.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a good tarpon rig, although the better you become at casting, the more you will want to spend.

Your drag should be set at 20% of your line strength. So, if you are using a 20 lb. class tippet, you drag setting should be set at 4 lbs. straight off the reel. A small scale is very handy for setting the drag. If the fish gets more than two hundred feet away, back off the drag a bit, the smaller the arbor/line diameter the greater the drag.

I have had anglers balk at this, but it works. It is very difficult to break 20 lb. test line with an 80 lb. test bite tippet on an average Homosassa fish, which arguably average sixty to a hundred pounds. Occasionally a tarpon will swallow the fly with only the class tippet in its mouth for which you will certainly lose as their coarse abrasive lips are like a file and will quickly cut the line.

If you have little drag set on your reel and the tarpon strikes, you will be into your backing in seconds. Then what are you going to do? Well, probably chase the fish and start a long dragged-out fight.

Personally, I only use 20 lb. test line. I have, or anglers in my skiff have caught hundreds and hundreds of tarpon. Again, for most tarpon it’s very difficult to break 20 lb. test line. Most of the time when we get a tarpon close to the boat we just take a fillet knife, strike the tippet and let the fish go on its way.

The really big world-record tarpon, which are few and far between, are treated differently as they can easily break light weight tippets, but unless you are chasing a record, don’t worry about it.

People who brag about two and three hour fights have seen too many reruns of The Old Man and the Sea. It may be noble but it isn’t sport. What do you accomplish by playing tug-of-war with a tarpon. Well, if the sharks don’t kill and eat the tarpon, the lactic acid build up within the fish might! All you have done at this point is kill a great game fish that no other angler will get pleasure from again. The tarpon won’t like it either.  All the romance of tarpon fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish.

Flats Fishing Homossasa for Tarpon


A good example of why you should not fight a tarpon to exhaustion

With some knowledge about tackle and fighting fish we can keep the trauma to the fish at a minimum.  And don’t forget, the larger female fish are laden with millions of eggs of which only a few will reach maturity. Tarpon are a precious resource and we need your help to preserve them.

The Techniques for Catching Tarpon:

The best angle to cast to a tarpon is across their path of travel. Head shots are the tough, but when you have a opportunity, you take whatever you can get.  Time permitting, a great tarpon guide will anticipate the movement of the fish and line you up for the best presentation.

When fishing a string of tarpon, if you have the time aim for the second or third fish in the column. If the second or third spook, the rest of the school may not follow, if the lead fish spooks, there is a good chance the of the school will follow.

When fishing a daisy-chain of tarpon, you cast to the outside edge of the fish coming towards you. Cast in the middle and there a good chance you will spook the fish. If you are content, consider just watching the fish rotate in the circle which is an amazing act of nature. The experts can only surmise why tarpon daisy-chain; is it a pre-spawning dance or mating ritual? Only the tarpon know!

When stripping in the line have the rod low and pointed directly at the fish. Sometimes you can slap them beside the head with a fly and they won’t eat it, other times it’s like rolling a wine bottle across a jail cell floor!

When a tarpon hits the fly, expect him to strike hard. Set the hook with a strip strike. The tarpon pinches down hard on the shock tippet so strike the fish several times.  Never strike a tarpon by rising the tip of the rod as you will pull the fly out of the strike zone if the fish misses the fly.

As the fish takes off with the fly, sweep the rod in the opposite direction from the way the fish turns, with pressure on the bottom of the rod. As the fight continues make sure, you are holding the fly line tight so the fish does not come off the fly and be aware of your fly line as the fish strips it away.

The fly line comes through the guides very fast and can easily foul. After the hook is in, clear the line to the reel and get ready to go at it again.

Now comes the part where that carefully sharpened hook pays dividends. When the tarpon jumps be prepared to give the line controlled slack. The jump is usually the time a tarpon will throw the hook, so this is the most critical time. When the tarpon comes out of the water, all the weight of the fish stretches the line to the max as the fish moves away from you. Usually the hook is not embedded deep enough in the tarpon’s mouth to remain there while the tarpon is thrashing back and forth. You can compensate for this by bowing to the fish, but, remember to keep some tension on the line.

Applying constant pressure on the tarpon will get the job done with a minimum of time and with maximum efficiency.

You want to apply as much pressure on the tarpon as you can without breaking the leader. Keep your rod tip low, always opposite the direction the fish is heading. Then with the bottom of the rod, use short pumps, recovering line each time. When the fish gets close to the boat, they will frequently try to get to the surface to gulp in oxygen. You can prevent this and shorten the fight by placing your rod down low, even into the water. This technique can shorten the fight considerably.

Giant Tarpon Fishing Homosassa

Just remember, land your quarry quickly and don’t play the fish to exhaustion.  A tarpon is too valuable a resource to be caught only once (this goes for all fish). If the fish goes left, you go right; if the fish goes right, you go left; if the fish jumps, bow to it, if the fish comes to you, pull back. With the fish at boat side, cut the leader close to the mouth for a quick release. With adequate tackle and the proper drag setting you should have most fish boat side in less than 20 minutes.

Hooking a large fish is a tremendous rush. Everyone should experience the enormous strength of these fish at least once in their lives. But, killing a fish for no other reason than personal enjoyment runs counter to the very conservation ethic that defines our sport.

  Catch and release: Good techniques to help reduce fish mortality:

Trapon Fishing the flats of Homosassa


We don’t recommend you do this to a tarpon. Tarpon are not fond of this technique either.

1. Land the fish as quickly and efficiently as possible; the longer the fight the greater the stress on the fish.

2. Avoid removing the fish from the water.

3. To photograph a fish have someone ready with a camera and do it quickly. Keep the fish in the water if possible.

4. Use barbless hooks or pinch the barbs down. They are not only easier to remove from the fish they are also easier to remove from your fishing partners!

 Tricks of the Trade:

Clothing: Clothing for fishing should be selected from two viewpoints- comfort for the angler, and invisibility to the fish.

Knots: Arguably, the six most important knots involved in flats fishing are the Bimini twist, nail knot, blood knot, and the Uni knot (or uni loop) which ties your flies to the tippet.

For tarpon leaders, you need to connect two lines of unequal diameter. The Huffnagle and Albright knots are old standards. The Slim Beauty is my knot of choice.

Also, I like use a snell knot to tie my tarpon flies to the bite tippet. Some anglers use a loop such as the perfection loop.

The place to learn and perfect your knots is at home, not on the flats while you are trying to catch fish!

Fly lines: Make sure your lines are cleaned before you go on the trip and every day or so while you are fishing. Dirty fly lines drag through the guides and reduce the distance of your cast. There are several good fly line cleaners on the market which you should have. If you have not purchased a new line in a while this may be a good time to do it.

We like the Rio fly lines. You will need several lines to cover all the tarpon fishing conditions. For laid-up floating tarpon or tarpon high in the water column, obviously you need a floating line. A clear sink tip line or clear sinking line is best when the fish are deeper in the water column. I even keep a lead core line ready, as at least once a year you may find the tarpon hugging the bottom in deeper water, and a fast sinking line is the only way you going to get your fly down there.

Always stretch the line and leader before fishing.The line’s memory retains coils from being stored on the reel which is much harder to cast unless you straighten the line out.

A little trick I have learned is to mark the sweet spot on the fly line which will help you judge when you have the right amount of shooting line available. You can do this with a marking pen or just tie a nail knot at the proper location.

Leaders: After catching any fish always recheck your knots, and check the leader for frays. An easy way to straighten a leader is stretch the line an rub your fingers up and down the line until the friction heats the line and straightens it.

Hooks: You are spending a good deal of money on the trip and tackle, so don’t chinch on hooks. Get the best hooks you can for your flies. A carefully sharpened hook pays dividends (especially with tarpon). I like a ceramic sharpening stone and I keep one ready on the boat for easy access. Triangulating the point works best.  The Owner Cutting Point and Eagle Claw Diamond Point hooks need no sharpening (at least initially).

Tackle: Make sure your have cleaned and lubricated your reels. Check those guides. Ceramic rod guides that crack or chip have rough edges which can damage a fly line.

Keep in mind that 3 or 4 piece rods are much more convenient than 2 piece rods and can be carried with you on commercial flights, thus alleviating any worries about lost or damaged rods. There is no doubt that travel rods are easier to carry on the plane and in the boat.

You’re Guide: The most important person in determining your fishing success (besides yourself) is your guide. Listen to him and try his methods first. If his method’s fail you might try some of your own. Remember: He lives in the area and his advice should not be ignored! Establish a rapport and communicate throughout the day. Try and stay upbeat even when the fishing is slow, he will try harder.

Capt. Dan Clymer fishing the flats of Homosassa

Capt. Dan Clymer

You: You are spending a good sum of money and valuable time to go fishing, hopefully to have a good time and enjoy yourself. You need to be over-prepared.We have seen people go fishing with all the best intentions, but end up angry at themselves, the guide, and sometimes other people because they did not spend any time preparing for the occasion.

First: If you are fly-fishing you need to practice, practice, and practice. You need to practice not only for your timing but also too built up your casting muscles. There is usually a breeze and you will seldom get a perfect downwind cast, especially for tarpon. Practice casting into and across the wind! If there is snow on the ground where you are located, find a gym or warehouse.

Second: Have all you equipment organized and ready to go well before the excursion. Make sure you have back up rods, reels, and fly lines.

Third: Make sure you have plenty of flies. Don’t worry about having too many flies. You can always use them again or somewhere else. You should have plenty of pre-tied leaders or material to make leaders.

Fifth: Have realistic expectations. Factor in the weather and other circumstances beyond your control. The angler rarely gets perfect weather for the entire trip. I tell my clients if you get more than three good days of fishing out of six this time of the year you are lucky

Sixth: Have Fun

Seventh: If you have any questions about tarpon fishing at Homosassa or information about any other Caribbean destination just call Edward R. Johnston. It’s easy, just dial 800-771-2202. We will be happy to help!

A note since this article was written:  Effective June 12, 2013 – FWC UNANIMOUSLY VOTES TO MAKE BONEFISH AND TARPON CATCH AND RELEASE IN FLORIDA!  The new rule not only protects tarpon in Florida waters, but extends catch and
release regulations into federal waters off of Florida.

The newly adopted regulations include the following provisions:

·         Eliminating all harvest of tarpon with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an IGFA record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.

·         Keeping the tarpon tag price at $50 per tag but limiting them to one tag per person, per year.

·         Modifying the tarpon tag program, including reporting requirements and shifting the start and end date for when the tarpon tag is valid.

·         Requiring that tarpon remain in the water and are released near the site of capture.

·         Discontinuing the bonefish tournament exemption permit that allows tournament anglers to temporarily possess bonefish for transport to a tournament scale (this brings the state in line with similar rules in the National Parks in the Keys).

Read more at Bonefish and Tarpon Trust  and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

 

Tarpon Fishing the Flats of Homosassa

Tarpon Photo courtesy of Captain Clymer

 

A partial list of Homosassa Guides

 

Captain Dan Clymer    Withlacoochee River * Crystal River * Homosassa River  * Chassahowitzka River

You can call Dan at 352-418-2160

Capt. Jim Farrior       Crystal River * Homosassa River * Chassahowitzka River * Weeki Wachee River

You can call Jim Farrior at 352-621-3190 or 352-422-1992

Captain Jim Long   Withlacoochee River * Crystal River * Homosassa River * Chassahowitzka River * Weeki Wachee River

Call Jim Long at 352-422-1303

Captain Steve Kilpatrick   Withlacoochee River * Crystal River * Homosassa River * Chassahowitzka River * Weeki Wachee River

Captain John Bazo     Crystal River * Homosassa River * Chassahowitzka River * Weeki Wachee River

Call John Bazo at 352-895-7811 or email at  J.Bazo@Yahoo.com

 Captain Rick Lefiles   Withlacoochee River * Crystal River * Homosassa River

Call Rick Lefiles at 352-400-0133

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Fly Fishing for Tarpon in the Yucatan

Finally; if you cannot work in a May or June Homosassa tarpon Trip consider the Yucatan. The season in the Yucatan is all summer long. Granted, you will not find the huge tarpon found around Homosassa Florida, but you will find plenty of the smaller (fun) sized fish.

Your writer, Edward Johnston has visited the Yucatan thirty times in the past twenty-two years and he knows where to find the fish!

A fine Campeche tarpon, up close.

A fine Campeche tarpon, up close.

 

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave. Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474)

1-800-771-2202

All Photgraphs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2014 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2014

Flats Fishing Homosassa for Giant Tarpon

An early morning tarpon jumping near Homosassa

Blackfly Lodge – Schooner Bay Abaco Island Bahamas

Blackfly Lodge – Luxury Lodging & Excellent Flats Fishing at Black Fly Bonefish Lodge

 The new Black Fly Bonefish Lodge is open for business at Schooner Bay, Abaco Island Bahamas. Black Fly Lodge officially opened this past March and enthusiastic anglers are making the trek, keen to sample the great bonefishing found on south side of Great Abaco Island. The launch of the new Black Fly Bonefish Lodge’s marks an important milestone for luxury Bahamian fishing lodges. If you are interested in bonefishing on Abaco Island and  Black Fly Lodge  please read on!

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge - Abaco Bahamas

There is something about the allure of the Bahamas; the beauty of the azure ocean; the smell of the salty air and the soothing sound of the waves; the feel of the moisture on your face as the ocean wind swirls it around; maybe it’s just a great place to get away from it all.  Perhaps, because the Bahamas are located just off the coast of Florida, but far enough away culturally and visually that there is a feeling of adventure.

For this quest I am heading to the Abacos which are a string of Bahamian islands located approximately 175 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida. The mainland is Great Abaco, the third largest island in the Bahamas.

For anglers, the main target in the Bahamas is bonefish.  Shimmering silver out of water, but grey green shadows below the surface, bonefish are difficult to see in the water and provide a worthy piscine adversary.

 Arrival Abaco Island

We left Florida on a United turbo-prop flight originating in Orlando, conveniently, just an hour and a half drive from my home in Homosassa/Crystal River. The sky was overcast and dark with rain when we left.  The ominous thoughts of the storms in the making were discomforting. The plane climbed smoothly through the clouds and finally sunlight poured into the cabin. The captain cut back the throttle and leveled off. The interminable cloud cover below us extended to the horizon and was not a good sign.

Finally the thick layer of clouds started to break up a bit. From our vantage point, white cumulous clouds hung like lily pads over the sapphire ocean below and wispy cirrus were suspended high in the blue sky above. Our flight path took us over the vast shallow flats of Grand Bahama Island and the Little Bahama Bank.

 Black Fly Lodge overlooking the harbor at Schooner Bay

The name “Bahamas” comes from the Spanish baja mar which means shallow sea. The cobalt blue water of the Gulf Stream gradually turns into many shades of radiant blue then a marine landscape of bright white coral sand under sparkling clear water. From the eastern edge of the Florida Straight to Great Abaco Island there is a 200 mile stretch of shallow water most of it less than twenty-feet deep.

The change in the sound of the engines signaled the beginning of our descent. A slight change of course and we were lined up for Marsh Harbor.

The Bahamas weather is generally pleasant; however, a winter or early spring cool front can create quite a breeze which obviously affects fishing quality. Summer tropical rains with their overcast conditions can make visibility a challenge and there is also the occasional hurricane. The official hurricane season is June to November, but mid-August to late September is generally the period of highest risk.

On this fine late March day the air was warm and velvety and a light breeze ruffled the palm trees. Yes this was the gorgeous weather the Bahama Islands are known for. However, the angler rarely gets perfect weather for the entire trip. I tell my clients if you get more than three good days of fishing out of six this time of the year you are lucky.

I stopped by Abaco lodge for a short visit before heading down to Black Fly Lodge as I had six happy clients lodged there and they had already spent three days fishing the Marls of Abaco. Their fishing reports were excellent with numerous catches including several big heavy bonefish. However, after reviewing the weather reports, the apprehension of the foreboding weather was in their minds as well.

The next day was different; I could paint a pretty picture of the weather and write that high in the sky a beautiful rainbow arched over the clear blue horizon and the bonefish happily danced and jumped over shimming crystal clear waters, eager to take a fly. The truth is the heavy weather we had left in Florida the day before had arrived and was making fishing life difficult, nevertheless, any seasoned angler understands, you take the weather like it comes and make the best of it. With harsh weather, fishing life is not over, just different. I will dwell upon this later.

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island Bahamas

 

 Schooner Bay at Abaco Island

 Schooner Bay is the brainchild of developer Orjan Lindroth and is located approximately 25 miles south of Marsh Harbor near the southern end of Great Abaco Island. The development enjoys a prominent location in a pristine environment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Schooner Bay boasts the only protected harbor for twenty miles in each direction and possesses beautiful beaches for miles both north and south where you can curl your toes in the sugar white sand.  Schooner Bay on South Abaco Island

Orjan Lindroth hired a team of architects, planners and engineers to help create his dream of a walk-able traditional Bahamian village. Orjan has given great thought to this sustainable pedestrian community where a person can stroll throughout the neighborhood and everything you need is within easy reach.

Orjan’s vision is to provide a simple beautiful efficient lifestyle in this small town and he is well on his way to providing it.

This report is about fishing Abaco Island and it would take great detail to fully describe the plans for this practical and livable development. Once you have visited Schooner Bay you will understand why ultimately this development will be a great out-island family and fishing destination. (We at Leisure Time Travel can help make this happen!)

The Lodge 

Black Fly Lodge  is situated prominently at Harbor Square, perched on top of a slight hill and overlooking the marina in Schooner Bay. The harbor area has been designed to be the principle gathering place for the Schooner Bay development.

This elegant two-story colonial-style plantation building was built in the form of a traditional Bahamian manor. The construction of the building adhered to demanding specifications and is solid as a rock. The whole structure sits on a massive concrete foundation (I know, as I visited the site under construction a year ago). The first floor exterior walls of the new lodge are constructed of vertical formed cast in place concrete. The second floor is poured in-place concrete and the second story exterior walls are built of 2” X 6” structural steel studs sheathed with plywood. The hip roof is covered with real wood shingles. Blackfly Lodge will be around for a long-long time!
Black Fly Boneffish Lodge Abaco Island Bahamas

As for aesthetics, functional wood porches and balconies on the facade and sides of the building dominate the appearance. A cement plaster finish swathes the first floor exterior walls and a light outer layer of wood siding envelops the second floor exterior walls, all painted in a subtle off-white pastel with bright white trim. Dark shutters frame the door and windows, and the soft hues of the wood shingles all combine to create a pleasing curb-site appeal.

As you step inside, the unique and intimate atmosphere will immediately put you at ease. Large windows allow ample light to flow in and a cool soft off-white pastel is the color of the interior. Fans of Vaughn Cochran art will be pleased to know that his work and logo adorn the walls throughout the Blackfly Lodge (and boats).

The lodge features a public restaurant and cozy little bar on the main floor. And. don’t worry about retaining your place at the table, Blackfly Lodge guest are first to have dinner seating, if there are any places at the table left then the general public can slip in and join the crowd. I am sure if outside guest show up at the lodge they will make interesting dinner partners.

Kitchen responsibilities are supervised under the watchful eye of master chef Devon Roker who trained at the culinary institute of Ft. Lauderdale and served in some of the best hotels in Nassau including the great kitchen of Compass Point. One word to describe chef Devon’s abilities would be “exceptional “.

Everyone generally dines together at one big table served in the Black Fly Club dining room from a set menu featuring gourmet dinners which include delicious locally caught fish, lobster, stone crab claws, aged beef, chicken and fresh vegetables from the Schooner Bay farm.

One evening developer Orjan Lindroth joined us and I was pleased to sit next to him. I asked him dozens of questions about anything from what materials the road would be paved with, how the community geothermal heat exchange system works, how the Schooner Bay hydroponic gardening was coming along, approximate build-out time of the development and a few curve balls, such as had he read Evan Cottman’s book “Out Island Doctor” which he had, and did he speak Swedish, which he does.  I can tell you with absolute certainty; Orjan Lindroth is an exceptionally knowledgeable gentleman (about a lot of things).

The Accommodations

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island BahamasBlack Fly Lodge offers unique comfortable accommodations with eight private rooms each with a ceiling fan, private bathroom, and air conditioning. Guest accommodations are located on the second floor which is off limits to the public. There is a wrap-around verandah overlooking the picturesque Schooner Bay harbor and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Typically there is one angler to the room, however if you wish to bring your spouse there are a couple of larger rooms with bigger beds. I would suggest you book well in advance if you wish to have one of the larger rooms (feel free to give us a call and we can arrange this for you!).

In the event you want to check your email or go online, for you convenience there is free Wi-Fi access.

Boats and equipment

 Anglers generally leave the Black Fly Club at about 8:00 am and normally return by 4:30 pm.  Anglers are provided with a picnic lunch and their selection of drinks for the day.

The Black Fly Lodge has brand new East Cape Skiffs rigged with new light weight Evinrude e-tech 90HP engines. The skiffs have comfortable padded seats, a custom leaning bar on the casting platform, rod storage and ample dry storage lockers.

As a long-time flats skiff owner I was very impressed by the boat and motor.

This was my first ride in an East Cape Vantage skiff. The Black Fly Lodge skiffs have been customized to their specifications. The good-looking open-water 19-foot skiff has an ample beam and she is built to take on rough water. I can certainly vouch for the reasonably dry ride as my fishing partner and I were literally smashed by big seas and high winds for three solid days.

Having guided tarpon anglers at Homosassa for many years, I know how to pole a boat. I jumped up on the poling platform one day and poled along a nice flat for perhaps twenty-minutes (I have already noted the wind was howling). The skiff tracked true and in amazingly skinny water for a boat of this size. One word to describe the new East Cape Vantage technical skiff would be “extraordinary”.

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge - East Cape Skiff
I have normally used Mercury motors on my boats, although I have owned Johnson, Yamaha and Suzuki motors in the past, so I have some experience with outboard motors. I was immediately surprised how quiet the Evinrude e-tech 90HP outboard was.  While visiting various Caribbean fishing lodges, I usually bring along a pair of ear muffs to deaden the sound of the Yahama 2-strokes found at many of these places. This is not the case with the Evinrude e-tech. The Evinrude motor is quiet and it is powerful. Paired with East Cape Vantage, you have a high-performance skiff. 

The Fishing

As far as the shallow water angler is concerned, the Bahama Islands  have long been known for the seaside charm, white sandy beaches, aquamarine water, and one of the best areas in the world to stalk bonefish.

BBlack Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Islan Bahamas

The main target on Abaco Island is also bonefish.  There are some permit to be found in certain areas, an occasional tarpon, sharks, barracuda and variety snappers. Off-shore fishing is also available at Black Fly Lodge. The lodge has purchased a 31′ Yellowfin for off-shore fishing and can accommodate up to 4 anglers.  You can check the rates for offshore fishing here.

Captain Clint Kemp, co-owner of Black Fly Lodge, is very involved in conservation and the health of the fishery and insists on catch-and release fishing using barbless hooks.

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island BahamasThe flats, creeks and bays surrounding south Abaco Island offer some of the finest light tackle fishing found anywhere. The great majority of the fishing is from boats, but there are ample opportunities for wading.

The fishing is divided into six different fishing zones, each area a little different. During a week’s time you will probably visit all of six of the fishing zones. The Schooner Bay ramp is the closest and is less than a half of a mile from the lodge. The remaining boat launch points are just 10-20 minutes away from the Black Fly Bonefish Club with the exception of Cross Harbour which is approximately 30 minutes away (but worth the trip!).

You can read more about the fishing zones in our previous 2012 Black Fly Lodge post found here.

The first morning, my friend John Stout and I polished off a hearty Black Fly Lodge breakfast at 7:00 am and met our guide Derek a half an hour later. The East Cape skiff was attached to the truck and ready to go. Captain Derek had the storage hatches open ready to store our gear. We stashed our equipment, jumped in the truck and continued on to the boat ramp.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this report, the weather was less than optimal. The early morning overcast leaden sky projected a menacing look as we boarded our waiting boat.

We quickly left the dock. Captain Derek swung our skiff into the shallow Schooner Bay channel and we headed west in search of those elusive grey ghosts. The morning run was cool and the scenery was spectacular. The reflection of light on the water as our skiff carved a smooth path across the skinny mangrove studded flat was awesome. For me, this never gets old.

At the end of the Schooner Bay channel, Captain Derek tried to bring us around a point to the north so we could investigate the southern end of the Marls. The squally breeze of the north wind was just too harsh to make the crossing, even for the seaworthy boat we were riding in. Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island Bahamas

Just to give you an idea of the wind, we had a Fly Line Tamer, which is a device to store your fly line and keep the line from blowing overboard. The Fly Line Tamer is a cylindrical unit about 36″ High x 12″ wide with a weighted non-skid bottom and an open top which allows you to cast quickly without worrying about your line getting tangled. While my fishing partner John Stout was on the bow a gust of wind came along and blew the Fly Line Tamer into the water. As John hoisted the Fly Line Tamer back into the boat I suggested that he just leave the remaining five inches of water in the can as it would help hold it down.

Captain Derek knows what he is doing and took us south to an area where we could fish the lee side of the shore with some relief from the wind. With the morning sun behind us and a somewhat smoother surface it was easy to spot a fish at a distance.

John Stout was on the bow; with a faint shoulder tap to get his attention, I pointed ahead.

A few hundred feet in front of the skiff translucent tails were happily wiggling. Aside from the muffled crunch of our push pole we were in stealth mode.

Turtle grass and sea fans wobbled in the current. Suddenly, a pair of grey ghosts materialized on our port side within casting distance.

John adroitly loaded his Sage rod with a Rio Bonefish line.  The long forward taper of the Rio line turns over impressively and is perfect to smooth out the casting loop on long shots like this.

The fly landed on the fish’s nose. The water exploded before I could contort my face into a wince. We turned to each other and shrugged simultaneously. Oh well, on to the next fish.  We traveled too far to be foiled easily.

A bonefish is a solid bundle of pure instincts and it does not take much to spook them, but we can and do outfox them.

John and I both scored a fish as the morning progressed and we decided to call it a day just after noon and headed in. Back at the lodge, backgammon was the game of choice on this afternoon.

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island BahamasOur second day was again windy with the addition of heavy thunderstorms. Near our boat ramp we investigated a small mangrove estuary where small tarpon were known to live. We did find a dozen or so baby poon’s and a few bones as well, but could not entice them to the fly. The thunderstorms unleashed several bolts of lightning to close for comfort and we headed back to the ramp and to a shelter for a while. After the squall cleared we tried the flats again, but the storms returned and we decided we had enough of the foul weather by lunchtime.

The stakes were raised that afternoon on the backgammon board. Given that you could not fish-out your excess energy on the bonefish you could direct it on your fellow backgammon players.

One the third day the morning was fresh. The clouds parted and the sun burst through giving us some much needed visibility. There was still a stiff breeze from the northeast but the water cleared and the tide was right. We headed down to the south end of the island to an area called Cross Harbour where permit are known to frequent. John and I were on a mission and focused on permit  all day. It was a couple of hours before we spied a pair a small permit. John made a nice cast but the fish did not seem to notice. On the second cast John did have a nice follow but the permit turned off near the boat.  We found a large school of bonefish mulling around but passed on them.

After lunch Captain Derek brought us to the mouth of a lagoon where the tide was near the bottom but still flowing out at a steady pace. There were some smaller bones around but we did not fool with them. Captain Derek knew permit were occasionally found of this spot and it was not long before we had our shots. There were no permit caught on this day but we had set our eyes on the fish and that in itself was exciting.

We came, we saw, but we did not triumph over the wily bonefish or neurotic permit. However, we did have a good time.

I would consider this an average winter/spring week in the Bahamas. Sometimes you will get balmy weather for weeks at a time, but this time of the year cold fronts affect the Caribbean. The angler rarely gets perfect weather for the entire trip. I tell my clients if you get more than three good days of fishing out of six this time of the year you are lucky. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I had six happy clients lodged at Abaco Lodge and they had three good days fishing the Marls of Abaco before the front approached. I am sure the anglers that replaced us after the front had good fishing as well.

Last year, during a trip in March 2012 the weather was more cooperative and we did quite well. You can read our previous 2012 Black Fly Lodge post here.

The lodge has a small fly shop with a good selection of local fly patterns and some technical clothing should you have the need or just want to stock up. And for you avid fly tyers, the vice is on the table and tying materials are within easy reach for your fly-tying enjoyment.

Conclusion

Before dawn on departure day I had my only chance during my brief visit to catch a glimpse of the rising sun. I walked down to the kitchen and poured myself a fresh cup of coffee and went back up and settled into a nice rattan chair.

The sound of halyards clanged against the mast on the couple of boats in the harbor below. As my eyes adjusted to the early morning light I noticed the tide was just coming in. The setting made me think of the hundreds of mornings I have spent in the pre-dawn darkness at Homosassa waiting for the first tarpon to roll.

A cool ocean breeze with the smell of fresh salty air was coming in from the east which bade well for the incoming anglers. In the distance you could hear crashing sound of the surf pummeling against the beach. Seagulls slowly started their morning cacophony of cries.

The whole experience, both on land and on water is exceptional at Black Fly Lodge. The staff at the lodge and the guides make a genuine effort to take good care of you.

You will be rewarded with excellent flats fishing for bonefish and an occasionally permit. The area has hundreds of flats, many which offer protection from north winds.

True taste of the Abaco out island fishing experience; great fishing, fantastic guides, handsome accommodations and beautiful scenery make Black Fly the perfect combination for your next fishing trip or family vacation.

 

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island Bahamas

***

It does not take long for your senses to adjust to the solitude and the vast open spaces of the Bahamas. The sky so blue and ever clear, layers of clouds moving different speeds, and the crystalline waters carve a backdrop unlike any you have seen. If you have been there then you know already, if you haven’t been, then go now! Just remember, Edward Johnston told you so……….Book now for the rest of this year and/or reserve your spot at the new Lodge  in 2014. Call us now at 800-771-2202 or 352-795-3474.

Click here for rates.

 Visit our main Blackfly Lodge page here.

 Read our 2012  Blackfly Lodge report here.

 More photographs can be view here

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave.

Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474)

1-800-771-2202

 All Photographs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2013 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2013

 

Black Fly Bonefish Lodge Abaco Island Bahamas

Ascension Bay Permit on the Fly

The Pursuit of Giant Permit with Dr. Rick Weisenburger (a.k.a. “Dr. Dick”)

This is a story about permit fishing at Ascension Bay Mexico with my good friend and client, Dr. Rick Weisenburger and a bunch of other cool guys. Fourteen enthusiastic anglers converged at Casa Blanca Lodge on Ascension Bay to search for permit. It was an unusual fall week at Casa Blanca Lodge and Ascension Bay for permit fishing on the Fly.

Ascension Bay permit : Dr. Rick & Augustin

My good friend and client, Dr. Rick Weisenburger lives in a nearby State, but he occasionally has reasons to visit Florida. He called me recently and said he would be passing through my home town of Crystal River on a certain date and he would like to stop by and visit with me. I readily agreed as I like “Dr. Dick” immensely and always look forward to spending a little time together.

On the agreed date Rick Weisenburger called me in the morning and said he would be by my travel office by noon. He was an hour early and I was quite surprised. Not by the early arrival, but by the souvenir he brought me.

You see, Rick Weisenburger, twelve of our fishing buddies and I had one heck of a good week fishing at Ascension Bay from Casa Blanca Lodge. As a reminder of the great time we had, Rick brought me a memento from our trip

Our group of fourteen anglers fishing out of ten Dolphin skiffs caught a total of thirty permit during this certain week. Rick Weisenburger caught several including the permit in the photo at the top of this story. Dr. Rick had a fiberglass replica made of the large permit he caught and bestowed upon me.

Wow….I was delighted. What a thoughtful gift! That huge permit is already mounted on the wall in my office. I gaze at it every day and reminisce about the many wonderful and exciting trips I have take to the Yucatan. Thanks again Dr. Dick !!!

Dr. Rick Weisenburger giant permit

 

THE STORY

 Ascension Bay offers the angler one of the best places in the world to catch a permit on the fly and is arguable one of the finest saltwater flats’ fisheries in the world

Edward Russell Johnston of Leisure Time Travel and a group of ardent anglers visited the Casa Blanca lodge at Ascension Bay during a blustery fall week. Despite the fact that three days of fishing were hampered by strong northeast winds and a cold front, our group of fourteen anglers caught 30 permit during the week!

ARRIVAL DAY – The undulating coast line of the Yucatan peninsula became visible from about 100 miles out in the Boeing 737. As we neared Cancun the Caribbean water colors stair cased from the deepest blue, to azure, to aquamarine, to palest green where the waters lap the famous coral sand beaches.Ascension Bay permit

The first breath of Gulf air became fact. The warmth of the Caribbean was apparent. Once through customs we were quickly back into the air on a charter flight to our final destination, Ascension Bay. Soft trade wind clouds floated in a clear blue sky. Islands appeared with luxuriant vegetation shading white sand beaches.

A fine rain scattered on the windshield as we started our decent toward Casa Blanca. The water below was a myriad of turquoise and blues. We could see palm trees spread far along the shore. The coral reef edged deep blue water. The lumbering Cessna Carvan landed at Punta Pajaros (Pa-ha-row-s) just a short distance from the lodge. “Team Homosassa” was on the ground. Fourteen eager anglers were ready to tangle with all Ascension Bay had to offer, especially the wily permit.

DAY ONE – Our first fishing day was great. The sky was clear and the weather was very nice with warm temperatures and a prevailing wind. Our group caught 11 permit that day.

DAY TWO – A cold front moved in slowed things down. The wind changed to the northeast and started too blown hard. Thunder clouds overspread the whole heaven and only occasionally was the sky clear. Light showers in the afternoon became torrential the evening. We caught two permit.

DAY THREE – A Total blow out. It rained hard and steady. The wind was so high it was extremely difficult to fish. No permit. We did have a great party in the lodge that night!

Dr. Curt Johnson's Permit : Casa Blanca LodgeDAY FOUR – The wind was still from the northeast but staring to slow down a bit. The temperature had dropped considerably from the beginning of our week. The main bay was still muddy from the turbulence, but there were areas of clear water. We caught three permit.

DAY FIVE – The morning was fresh. The clouds parted and the sun burst through. There was still a mild breeze from the northeast but the water cleared and the tide was right. Most of the casting was into the wind, but we caught 11 permit. All the permit caught on this day were big fish. Most of the permit were in the 15-20 pound range, but one was in the mid-thirties and the whopper permit caught by Dr. Rick Weisenburger was even larger; an exceptionally good day in any angler’s book.

DAY SIX – Last day. The wind shifted to the west with a mild breeze. There were plenty of permit but they were very spooky. We caught three permit one of which was well more than thirty pounds. (Note: most of the anglers had 30# Boca-grips for weighing so when they bottomed out we had to estimate)

CONCLUSION

I would consider this an average fall week at Ascension Bay. Sometimes you will get balmy weather for weeks at a time, but this is fall and cold fronts affect the Caribbean. The angler rarely gets perfect weather for the entire trip. I tell my clients if you get more than three good days of fishing out of six this time of the year you are lucky. Call the specialists at Leisure Time Travel today and get the counsel to assist you in booking the best fishing adventure you’ve ever experienced.

Edward Johnston, of Leisure Time Travel, has visited the Yucatan peninsula  30 times in the past twenty years and has caught 80 Ascension Bay permit with a fly rod .

Why take chances with your precious time? We’ve been there numerous times. There is no substitute for first-hand experience.

Tight lines !

Edward Johnston

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave. Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

All photographs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2013 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2013

Ascesnion Bay permit

Edward Johnston with a nice Ascesnion Bay permit