Saturday, January 7, 2017

Wind, Rain and Cedar Key Yakkin'

Looking out the window this morning I can only imagine what it was like on Thursday afternoon when Nick Althauser and I went out to chase redfish around the oyster flats near Cedar Key, FL. It rained all night overnight as a front blew in a took the warm temperatures with it, where ever that is. It's still raining on and off, cold, with gusts of wind that shudder the awning on Prime Mover (our travel trailer) every few minutes. So all there is to do this morning is sit inside, write, simmer a pot of chili on the stove and dream of warmer, calmer days.

Nick Rigging his Rod at the Launch

As surprising as it may seem, to me especially, Thursday was the first time I ever sat in a kayak on the water. I really liked the experience, that is after the perfunctory dunk I took trying to sit in it the first time. It wasn't a full dunk but I did have a wet left arm up to the pit and a damp ass before I got the knack of staying upright. Then there was that initial wobbly feeling as I started out across the flat where Daniel from Cedar Key Paddling had steered us. The wobbles didn't last too long. Once I stopped thinking about wobbling and started thinking about fishing it was all too easy.

With the incoming tide and a short 3 hour window before pick-up time Daniel launched us on a beach near an expanse of oyster beds. His advice was to fish the edges of the oyster beds where the reds come in and feed on the tide. The conditions couldn't have been better with low winds, incoming tide and sunny skies.
Nick Landing The Fish of the Day

I would like to report that Nick and I caught a boat load of fish that kept us busy the entire time. But........ what really happened was us trying to figure out how this redfishing works. We're trout guys with minimal saltwater experience, although I wouldn't mind changing the latter. Damn that was FUN!

The water here isn't as clear as it is in most other locations across Florida. Probably due to the extremely shallow conditions. The night before as Nick, I and our wives sat in Steamers Restaurant waiting on our waitress Nick pointed out a power plant on the horizon where he had done an engineering study many moons ago. The study was for a cooling water intake location. The intake required a depth of 30 feet. Using charts and sounding equipment it was determined that the nearest 30 foot depth was over 7 miles offshore. Like I said, shallow.

Given the slightly off-colored water and our low positions in the kayaks sight-fishing was out. The best we could hope for was blind casting to likely spots or looking for active fish in shallow water. Finding active fish wasn't that hard but the population of mullet in the flats is off the charts. It took some time to determine the difference between the mullet and the redfish. Then all we had to do was get the kayaks into position without running over an oyster bed, guess which direction the redfish was moving and place the fly in a position close enough to get their attention without spooking them. Piece of cake right? Not always.

We both had several follows, I had one touch by a fish that didn't hook up but mostly I skidded over lots of oysters, blew lots of casts and generally just flailed around and had a good time. Near the end of our allotted time I had what was most certainly a redfish in my sights working the back of a small cut. Cruising in at a good speed with line stripped and stored in the floor of the kayak I pulled into position and stopped with what felt like deft yak handling skills. Insert image of me patting my own back here...........

As I lifted the rod out of the holder I heard the faint cry of my name........and again. I turned to see Nick's rod bent as the redfish on the end of his line slowly turned his kayak. Have you ever had one of those moments when you're right there, the efforts of the day feel like they're about to pay off and suddenly you're faced with a choice. Mine was to try for this fish and ignore Nick who most certainly was destined to land a redfish presenting a photo opportunity and our chance to record the event.

With a heavy sigh, not too heavy, I spooled the line, turned and made it to Nick's kayak just as the redfish was spent enough to be landed.  We took advantage of the photo op with huge grins and congratulatory expressions. It's no surprise that Nick scored while I didn't. He's far more patient and methodical in his approach to practically everything than I am. He's a confident angler, smooth and accurate caster, experienced paddler and jut generally a pleasure to be around in any situation.

With little time left I headed back to the back of the cut I had been in to find the redfish I was after had vacated the area, most likely having something to do with my noisy exit. Just a few minutes later I saw Daniel's truck and trailer pulling onto the parking area. It was time to go.

It seems that I will have to add redfish to the list of fish tried for and not captured. It's not quite as high on the nemesis fish list as a large striper but it's moving up fast along with a good-size walleye. I may be able to break the redfish jinx this March however when I spend a few days in Rockport, TX with Jeff at Fly Fish Rockport.

Until then I'll just sit and listen to the rain outside our little house on wheels, rock with the wind and think about the one that got away...........for now.