|I like long walks on the beach and sunsets, ladies.|
Hi honey, I'm home.
My father and step mother offered to fly myself, my wife, and the kids to Naples, FL for a week. Now, due to a mix of stress and associated bullshit, I never felt the urge to even look into this, so I went in blind knowing only there was a beach to walk, mangroves that would need a boat, and "a pond out back with little bluegills in it, but [your humble narrator] wasn't going to be interested in those little fish," or so thought my father.
Yep. Lies, BTW. Just about everything I read was lies, except for the guy who said "take a spinning rod." He was right, I think, although I ignored his advise. Also, the airlines said "nothing over 28 inches," which is also a lie.
Until they kill Osama and your return flight features extra anal security. But, that's not germain to the story. Its not, really, except to say I had my gear shipped back to me. Thats what everyone suggests, and that's what I did.
But look, this isn't about any of that. Its about presenting a story of more-or-less leaving for South West Florida on a lark (coz again, I did zero research in the months leading up to this), with 48 hours to gear and go. Its also about appending the tale of the Cabela's CGR rod, and determining its good and its bad side. I won't lie, the first part of this is ego, that crunchy bit people might care about, well that comes last.
|Carried on, NWK sucks.|
So, 48 hours to get ready? Maybe a bit longer, but the first half of that was wasted in buying a shiny new rod, then trying to find a line for it. That's the first part of the CGR story.
|There's a some clothes, too.|
With that, I threw two rods into the go pile, a TFO Jim Teeny 9' 8wt fast action rod and the CGR 7'6" 7/8wy. Two reels, an Abel Big Game and a Pflueger Medalist 1495, plus three lines (SA GPX 8WFF, SA Aircel 8WFF, and a mystery line, I think its a 7WFF but might be a different weight or even a weird taper). A collection of my Jersey Shore striper flies, assorted tying crap, wading boots and the odds and ends.
Now, it wasn't just for the beach, I knew I'd be able to work the ponds and what not. Because while I was told "just some little bluegills," that was from a Northerner who'd moved there and didn't fish, and didn't understand the idea of Florida's fish growin' season. So, I did have to cover two pretty divergent areas to maximize fun. Truthfully, though, for all the stuff I did bring, about 90% could've been skipped. Matter of fact, I couldn've reduced it to two handfuls of stuff, one for salt and one for fresh. Next time, I figure.
|Ladyfish, the "poor man's tarpon." Tiny and rad.|
Now, truth is, what people tell you that you need for snook on the beach appears to be shit. I was able to drop it all into the palm of my hands, plus a good pair of pliers (pliers are essential for saltwater angling, buy a nice set of stainless ones from a tackle shop). What's amazing about snook is they're literally 3-5' from the tide end, you can literally have dry toes and touch them with your rod tip. The ones that would cruise by appeared to be about 25-30", and almost seemed to gravitate to places with people. You just stalk above the water line, looking down into the last breaker, and spot the fish. Presentation is casting to put your streamer ahead of them so you can strip it away from them. The theory is they'll pursue and strike.. Or so they tell me, I never got past the "pursue" part. I think limestone trout anglers have an advantage here, as its very similar to presenting dries to wary rising browns.
|This bastard ruined the best snook follow I had.|
Everyone said fast action 8wt rod, I found myself wishing I had a decent 5wt rod because while the snook turned their nose up at me (I think one more day would've given me the skills to seal that deal), the lady fish were more than happy to oblige. These are the most awesome little fish, ever. Maybe about 8-14" of pure torpedo, they hammer your lure and then promptly take to the sky in fantastic little displays. These guys were all over the place, crashing bait or just coming out of knowhere in the surfline. They would've been a pleasure on super light tackle, I'd have killed to be picking these guys up on a willowly little 3wt rod. Next time. About the only time the fast rod was handy was when the tarpon would cruise the shoreline, which does happen, and frankly, is amazing to see 4' of silver beauty just 40' away from you. For what its worth, the one full time resident I met sight fishing for snook on the beach was armed with a simple 5wt rod and what appeared to be an Orvis Battenkill Barstock for a reel. The other tourist was toting his $800 Sage Z Axis and an $800 Abel Super Series reel. I dunno 'bout you, but I know which guy knows how to maximize fun on the shore. So much so that I put the fast action rod on a shelf and touched it no more for my trip, I stuck with the new Cabela's CGR 7/8 for the remainder of the trip's fishing.
Oh, and tarpon? Yes. Cruising the shore, 40' out from the beach. Its amazing to see, and something I never thought I'd get a chance to try. Not that I stood a chance, but fuck yeah I'd rocket that Clouser minnow out over his bow. Dude, its a fuckin tarpon! I'd have let 'em shatter my rod and smoke the reel for that.
Oh, yes, reel. Honestly, I own an Abel. I consider it to be an overpriced dalliance, bought specifically to batter into oblivion, but I hate it. Every bit of sand that gets into it makes it screech like mad, and you do feel awkward washing it around in the surf to try and degrit it. My Medalist? Who cared. I beat the piss out of that thing, and I loved it; how badly I wanted to nail a snook on it, next time for that, too. Anyways, used the Abel once, and when I go back again, I won't even bother with it. Medalist all the way, although I will drop the cash for the One Pfoot drag warsher.
|Seriously, this is it.|
So there you go, sight fishing for cruising snook on the shore is easy. You walk back about 10-15' from the trough were they cruise, and you just cast to them. Its easy, and they do follow. You are required to be a bit stealthy, and I would encourage a decent shock tippet, as everything will abrade the line (the lady fish make short work of it with their gill rakers). I was told early morning and evening, but to be honest, I saw more fish from 10am 'til 2pm than I ever did before 10am or after 5pm. I also saw them by people instead of away from them, someone I talked to believes they feel safer with people. I'm not arguing. Carry some glass minnow imitations, some 10ish pound tippet and a decent 15-20# shock leader. I wish I had flouro leaders and shock tippet, but didn't. I dunno, I seem to think getting it down quicker is a good idea, without too much weight hitting the water, but I'm pontificating. Next time. Add a pliers to remove the hooks if they go too deep, and, well, go fishing. Oh, and they say flats boots? Eff that, I went barefoot, although I won't argue the use of aquasocks for flat boots, but I didn't feel the need to make a special purchase...although the swollen, Ferrari red tops of my feet wish I would've. I didn't have time before I left, and I didn't care when I got there.
And man, you can't spit and not hit a prancing horse in Naples, Florida. Although the rich fucks don't seem to buy 'em in red?! Who buys a blue Ferrari? Old fuckers. That's who.
|Dead of night top water bass: FUCK YEAH!|
But, that's half the story. The other half is the ponds. Every Goddamned cluster of houses, shopping center, golf course, or couple hundred feet in Florida is a pond. Innocent, simple ponds of an half acre or so, and they contain the, ahem, "little sunnies."
I don't have a picture of one of those, but they're about 2" thick and the size of small plates. They will bend an 8wt glass rod significantly, and they will bolt and hold to the bottom. Our PA 'gills are fun, but these things would eat them for a mid morning snack. Not that the sunnies are it, either, because it appears these ponds all have large mouth bass with a median size of about 14" going up to about 20", and that's what you get just dickin' around. I bet a serious bass fisherman would've been pulling trophies out of these things, and as a guy who occassionally fishes for smallies, I could drink the bucketmouth Kool Aid pretty easily, coz when 20" of largemouth slams a 4/0 Gurgler out of the weeds and procedes to tailwalk his way over to you, well, shit son...To say nothing of the thrill of night time takes, or just watching one move up out of hte murk to eyeball the popper before smashing it out of the surface.
God damn, that's fun.
And they're dumb, in 30 minutes and one pass 'round the pond they chewed a bugger down to lead wraps and a trailing piece of chenille, and still kept smashing it. It was truly glorious.
Honestly, it was the simplicity of walking 30 feet from the lanai (a fancy word for screened in porch) to a pond loaded with hungry 2-3# bass that kept me from even caring about the gulf for so long. I can't begin to express how awesome it was, and how it was that very thing that made me almost want to move to Florida full time. And again, a handful of poppers and buggers, some 2x or 3x line, and you're in business.
So, with all that said, thus ends the little story about my trip. I went on the spur of the moment, and I did all my learning on the fly. If you've stumbled on this looking for tips on beach fishing the snook on the gulf coast, here's my advice:
- A 7 weight rod is gonna be best. You ain't gonna catch tarpon on the shore, but you might see 'em. You're castin' about 30-40', and most of that's over sand so you can stay back, anyways. This'll be good for flipping out poppers to the bass pond, too. You can easily cross both items off your list with one good versatile rod. Or, you can take a light rod and enjoy the ladyfish. Make the big ones more hard, too. Maybe you need that. I don't, but I think ladyfish are way fun. I like bluegills, too.
- Flourocarbon tippet. Especially shock tippet. These fish will destroy the tippet, so replace often. A flouro leader to help get it down would certainly help, as well. I think a poly leader would've been too much, but blind casting the trough would've been helped with it. The FC tippet would be nice for those ponds, as well as the shore, because of all the abrading against the reeds along the edge.
- Any old line. Whatever you like. Again, its like 40' casts top, til that tarpon sails by. Someone scoffed at my love of DTs and said I needed a fancy shooting taper or extreme WF. He was dead wrong. A bass taper line might help you with the ponds, but again, you'll know what you need to know. Otherwise, use what you've got.
- Giant striper flies are stupid big. Others I met who were doing this were suggesting small, size 2 through 6 flies, I used size 4. Make 'em sparse. I used all Clouser Minnows, because I love them. Gummi minnows or those EP Fiber minnows would've been good, too. Both other fly fishers had EP minnows, FWIW. The pond was ruled with the gurgler, hair popper, and wooly bugger.
The last thing I posted was my own review of the hot new Cabela's CGR. After putting it through a week on the Florida bass and gulf shore beaches, I wanted to amend a few things about it.
First off, as the Fiberglass Flyrodders forums do have to say, line matters. I don't know what my mystery line is, I think its a 7WFF, but the previous owner seems to have cut about 30' of runing line off the back end as its only about 55' long. Still, it definatly casts better than the 8WFF GPX or Aircel, until you upsize to the big 3/0 poppers, where the 8WFF Aircel comes into its own. The GPX line blows on this rod, period.
|Shitty cork, gettin' shittier.|
For what I was doing, stalking the edges of retainment ponds in the middle of crowded developments, or casting to cruising snook on the shore line, this rod was absolute aces. I can't imagine anything more suited to the task, and casting the rod was a pleasure. Tossing around the 8wt TFO Teeny along the NJ shore for a day left me with blisters and cramps, but this guy just felt good, and natural, and an extension of my arm. You didn't need that super fast action WF 90' cast bullshit except for the unreasonable tarpon shots which might present themselves. I admit, I had them and I took them, but with the odds stacked against me even with an "approved" 8wt/disc drag/et al sort of setup, would've relished losing the fish to "inferior" gear instead of just simply being outclassed. Make sense?
Now, one of the things I previously complained about was the cork, and you know what, it sucks even harder. It literally fell apart under my thumb, with a hole 1/8th of an inch deep and crumbling more with every cast. I'm not happy about that. Also, the first ferrule, betwixt butt and mid section, likes to open up slowly. That's probably because it needs time to wear and my awful pumping casting style.
The fish I was catching on it, 12" ladyfish, 18" largemouth, and 10" whatever-kind-of-sunnie (like a purplish bronze head and head lump? help me out here), all were an absolute blast on it. I wanted despertly to get a good run out of a snook, but alas it never did happen on this trip. Next one, I hope.
Over all, it's reconfirmed it as a great rod. It is absolutely my favourite bigger rod, and will easily replace my 9' graphite rods in 6wt and 8wt. I imagine it won't replace the 10wt, being the 10 is sort of solidly in the class of "specialty"(aka pointless) gear, but I assure you given a chance, I'll opt for the CGR in lieu of that one, too.
|A "small" bluegill. Heh.|