Day 3 – Finding 10-90 water

We had in mind to fish the mouth of Lostman’s River, one of three major tidal rivers that feed seawater and fish to the Everglades backcountry. This is why we brought the flats boats. We could comfortably make the run to the outside and back in a timely fashion. The map would easily get us there then we’ll just have to figure things out. Along the way we spotted a blitz of fish on the surface. A quick you-turn put us up current of the pod. With poppers at the end of the fly lines it only took a couple of casts and a pop of the fly to entice a strike. Who knows how many jacks we could have caught. It was a sure thing when you cast the fly into the blitz. We had our fun then moved on. We had a different fish on the brain and the mouth of the river was in sight with low tide and sight casting conditions coming on fast.
You never know if you are actually going to find fish prowling a flat in a foot of water. You always keep in mind that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water. This needs repeating. 10 percent of the water holds 90 percent of the fish. The feeding jacks we just left were contained in a very small pod in a very big ocean. There is a lot of empty water out there and you have to be mindful of that when you’re exploring new ground. Find one and you’ll likely find more. I say it out loud every time I find myself in the 10 percent zone. When the conveyer belt of food funnels bait along the right edge or down the right rip line predators line up for the all you can eat special.
So we roamed about fishing different edges with current, along oyster bars that fell off into deeper water, and poled the flats searching for something big with a taste for crab on it’s brain. We did find the occasional, out of range redfish roaming the shallows and sea trout holed up during the low tide. You don’t get your hopes too high when you’re on foreign ground. A fish here and there tells you you’re at least in the neighborhood. Then out of nowhere a major explosion from something big after something small appeared on a point way across the river. We know we need to get there. A cast or two has to be planted on that precise spot but there is a lot of productive looking water along the way. So we probed along casting stink bait in the form of Berkley GULP at every textbook pocket of water on our way across.
The initial strike from a big fish wants to tear the rod from your hand. The drag is cranked down so a hook can be set into a boney jaw followed by an attempt to somehow contain the fish and stop it from wrapping you up in the tangle of debris that is everywhere. Before it’s over a major fish is on every side of the boat. You may even suspect your reel’s spool isn’t holding quite enough line for the task. When a big fish comes there can be a helpless feeling if you’re sporting too light of tackle. You can only hope you just might win the battle and get your catch to the boat for a closer inspection.
You win some and you loose some. I remember the first big tarpon I hooked and had on long enough to do battle with. My guide, Thomas, eventually stopped chasing the beast, staked the boat then sat down and made this comment “Now lets see who wins, good luck.” That one ended with a snap shot as did this. We finally boated a very big female snook. She was a 33”, full figured gal I’m guessing weighed 15-18 pounds. When I turned her loose I finally exhaled. This was my biggest to date. It wasn’t fly caught but what a trill and a half.
Now that we believed we knew exactly where every other big fish in the sea was holding we cast GULP shrimp till the stink wore off then started finding our way home. The map showed a narrow side channel leading to a small bay with an exit at the other end that kept us going in the right direction. Surely there would be tidal current inviting fish into the opening and the bay beyond. We found about every fish the seas offers there. I even saw a tarpon roll along a deep mangrove edge. All the stars had lined up and we found ourselves on another nice piece of that 10 percent water. We had to make tracks for camp before nightfall but we both promised we would be back the next day. The place stunk of fish and we needed to unlock its secrets.
Tomorrow would be moving day. You are only allowed a 3 night stay on any ground site so we’ll need to pack all our stuff and move to a chickee stand for a one night stay then back to Lostman’s Five ground site to finish the trip out.