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In these pages are what you need to know to get the most out of your outdoor adventures along Florida's Space Coast. Also, if you are in the area be sure to check out the Local Services Directory located on the left side of each page of Space Coast Outdoors for great outdoor adventures, dining, nightlife, lodging, fishing, and more. And be sure to check out Memories and other Random Thoughts just below, a series of blog posts featuring Articles, Trip Reports, whatever, check it out! Memories and Other Random Thoughts Shiloh Swamp via Turnbul Creek Posted March 25th Somewhere in the collection of crap I call my stuff is a 3 ring binder with protective sheets filled with 35mm slides. One of them, I am hoping is of the photo at left, because it is of one of the coolest places I have ever paddled a boat to. In this case the boat was my first, a red 15' Coleman Canoe. However, by paddling North you the creek narrows dramatically unti it is barely wider than a canoe or kayak. About a mile up the creek, after passing by a beautiful stand of cypress and through what seems to be a wilderness canopy you come to this "pond" in the middle of the swamp. Even though it was probably less than a mile from the launch site, I felt as if I had traveled to a primordial Eden. I remember sitting in the canoe, just quietly taking it all in, letting sights and sounds imprint a photograph on my memory that no film or digital file can do justice. That's why we paddle! During his lifetime Lefty fished on every continent with the exception of Antartica, catching species of fish in the process. He also was the Author of 32 books on fishing, all of which are revered by anglers. He was also the designer of one of the most popular saltwater flies of all time, the "Lefty's Deceiver" which was honored on a first class postage stamp by the US postal service in I remember during my casting lesson he chided me for breaking my wrist during the cast. When I told him how hard it was trying to break 30 years of bad habits he laughed, "You aint getting no sympathy from me, quit breaking your damn wrist! It seemed so effortless for him, he was that good. I will always remember the opportunity I had to meet and talk to this legendary angler and author. He passed away on Wednesday, March 14th at the age of 93 and will be sorely missed. But I didn't want to let that stop me so my plan was pretty simple. I would launch the yak in the early morning before the wind blew in and paddle to the north, then when the wind came up I would let it carry me back to the launch site. The water clarity wasn't the greatest as the wind had stirred the water for several days but for right now it was fairly calm, just a slight breeze out of the south. It was one of those days where baitfish activity was non-existent so I was relegated to pretty much blind casting, laying out a clouser minnow with my 8 weight fly rod near creek mouths and mangrove shorelines. Finally I found my approaching a shoreline with the branches of a dead tree protruding out of the water about 10 yards from the shore. I stopped paddling, let the boat quiet down, lay the paddle accross my lap, picked up the 8 weight, and lay the clousers minnow next to the tree. The clouser minnow is tied so the hook rides up, reducing the chances of a hangup. But its not foolproof and I initially thought I had hooked a submerged branch. I didn't feel any hard strike, just a weight on the end of the line. Then I saw a swirl and the line began stripping through the guides of the rod, then off the reel. Each time I got him fairly close to the kayak he would turn and make another run, although each run seemed to be getting shorter and less powerful. After a few runs, I was able to get him next to the kayak, cradle him into the yak, take a cell phone photo of him, the fly rod and my feet, and then spend the next few minutes carefully reviving him for the release by holding him upright in the water with the water flowing over his gills until with a rapid flip of his tail he informed me he was ready to go. It was then that I realized my plan had failed. I was thinking I could paddle north and then coast home when the wind picked up from the north, like it had for the last several days. This time however, it picked up from the south, making my trip back to the launch site a bit more challenging. Time to start paddling home to end another great day. One thing I have always noticed though, People who fish from the shoreline will stand right on the shore and cast out into the lake as far as they can, while people in boats will cast to the shore. Those fishing from shore are just trying to cover as much water as possible, while those fishing from a boat are casting to where the fish actually hang out, at least in the spring and early summer. Indeed on many occasions I have walked up to the shoreline, spooked a fish right at the water's edge, cast out and caught nothing. Then I revised my "approach", literally, and it has definitely helped to improve my catch rate. First of all, Park away from the water and rig up at the car or truck, not at the water's edge. I pack light when I fish, carrying one small soft tackle bag that holds a few plastic boxes with a few lures, and the rod so I can walk-n-fish. I know braided line is all the rage but I am still fond of Stren monofilament, 8 on a light spinning outfit. It's what I have always fished with. What has changed, as I mentioned before is my "approach". Instead of walking to the shoreline and casting out, I stop about 20 feet from the shoreline, and then cast 5 to 10 feet beyond the shoreline, working the worm back to the shore. When before I was lucky to catch one or two bass in an hour or two of fishing, since adopting this approach I have had days where I have caught bass within the same time frame. While most of them are in the 1 pound range, a few have been larger, including the 3 pounder pictured above, caught 1 ft from shore. It's days like these where instead of paddling a kayak, wading, or setting up "fishcamp" along a shoreline and soaking a live shrimp or other natural bait, I prefer "stalking" along mangrove lined canals and creeks, and fishing in whatever small openings to the water I can find. In the winter, cold snaps will drive the seatrout off of the flats to the often deeper, and warmer waters of the canals. These areas can be fishing hotspots in the winter. Using a medium action spinning outfit, I rig a O' wide gap worm hook with no weight, and rig weedless a soft plastic D. My favorite colors are either the white with a red or chartreuse tail, or the "Electric Chicken" color, a combination of green and pink. Rig befor you walk, carry eveything you need in a small soft tackle bag with a sholder strap, and go Walk-N-Fish. In many places on the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge there are trails running along canals and creeks just behind the mangroves lining the canals. However, there will be a few openings where you can cast into the canal. However before you step into these openings for a cast into the canal, approach the opening as quietly as you can. Fish have a lateral line running along each side of their body. These serve as an early warning system to the fish as they pick up vibrations in the water, including, I believe, the vibrations of your footsteps along the bank. Think of it as Trout Stalking or Hunting rather than fishing. Also don't present a visible profle. Stay off to one side of the opening behind the mangroves or back away from the water's edge if possible. The shad bait rigged weedless and weightless allows you to flip the bait quietly into the water. I try to flip it just beyond the outer edge of the mangroves on either side of the opening, then slowly twitch it back to you. Rigged as mentioned just above this bait represents a small baitfish, semi stunned by the cold, and easy prey to any seatrout holding up in the mangroves. Oftentimes, you can see the lure in the water as you're working it, and hopefully it will disappear in a flash as a hungry trout engulfs it, right at your feet!
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