2017-04-20 / Outdoors

Now this is real ‘fly’ fishing

Here in Southwest Florida, our weather during the spring is fantastic — cool nights, warm days, clear water.

The absence of rain has left the water in Charlotte Harbor very clear. For fisher folk, this is a great time to sight fish the flats. Redfish, snook, cobia, shark, trout and many more species are a lot of fun to catch. Even 200-pound tarpon traveling in big schools are coming into Boca Grande Pass and into the harbor. I mean schools of 20 to 30 silver kings looking like giant sardines as their silver, shiny sides glisten in the sunlight.

I have a unique way to enjoy this area and find fish in the clear water. Just like birds such as pelicans, I can fly about 200 feet above the water’s surface. Yes, it’s in an airplane, but mine is rigged with amphibious floats so I can put the wheels down and use runways or grass airstrips, or I can retract the wheels and land on the water at a chosen fishing spot or beach.

Capt. Dennis Kirk fishing. 
COURTESY PHOTO Capt. Dennis Kirk fishing. COURTESY PHOTO This past week I did just that. Down the eastern side of Charlotte Harbor, just south of Burnt Store, is an area called Two Pines (so named because, a long time ago, there were two pine trees along the shore). There is a curved sand bar all along this area and, as I scout for fish from the air, I can judge their location and direction. I always carry several fishing rods and gear in my storage area. One is a spinning rod and reel; the other is an eight-weight fly rod. Both are great for flats fishing.

I spot some movement on the surface just inside the sandbar as I circle above. I need to be careful because if the shadow of the plane goes by or over the fish, they will scatter, thinking it’s a larger predator (which, of course, I am). I do my landing checklist to make sure my wheels are up for a water landing — otherwise I’m a candidate for a wreck with potentially fatal results.

I double-check the gear as I slowly descend to the water’s surface. Tiny ripples from the 5-knot breeze look like diamonds on the water as they reflect the sun. The touchdown is gentle, and Nancy (my wife) always tells me I land better on the water. (I guess that’s because I am a Pisces.) I slowly glide up to the sandbar with the engine off, climb out and set the anchor in the shallow water. It is very clear and about 80 degrees.

Flying barefoot is a real Florida experience. The silence is all around. A few mullet splash as they leap clear of the water, arching to re-enter their underwater world. A few frigate birds glide high overhead and some noisy terns flitter about.

I ready my fly rod and use a homemade silver-streaked fly I made. Anything with reflective quality will work on the flats. I strip some line off the reel; it coils by my legs and floats on the surface. I arch the rod gently back and forth, with each forward motion letting more line out. Finally the fly settles on the smooth water ahead about 50 feet out, then gently sinks. The tippet leader disappears into the water.

My first cast was not productive, but the following several produced good spotted sea trout. These 18- to 20-inch fish are fun with my light fly rod. I spot a shark just off the sandbar by the edge of the grassy area, its dorsal fin piercing the surface of the water as its body and tail undulate slowly back and forth. It is a beautiful creature.

Taking off from the world’s longest runway — the water — is a thrill in itself. Being able to see Charlotte Harbor from the air is an interesting way to enjoy our great outdoors.

Fair winds; calms seas ¦

— Capt. Dennis Kirk has been traveling the Peace River since 1979. His life adventures are written from various chapters in his three decades of experience in Southwest Florida. He is part owner of the Nav-A-Gator, a riverfront restaurant and marina in Lake Suzy, just off Kings Highway. For more information, call 627- 3474.

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