Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fishin' with Micky

Whenever I fly into Orlando, it seems like I'm going to Disney World. Kids on the plane have their Micky Mouse stuff on and are all excited for their chance to meet Micky. My first trip to Disney as a kid was not very exciting and subsequent trips with my kids bordered on downright boredom.

Never really understood the fascination with Disney World that most children and some adults have. My idea of a great amusement park is Cedar Point or King's Island or any park with great roller coasters. For me, guess it's more about the thrill than the entertainment.

Last week I traveled to Orlando on business and for the first time after of dozens of trips to this city I decided to bring a fly rod. I know there are large bass in the countless ponds and drainage easements that dot the Central Florida region, so I figured it was worth the 20 bucks for a 3 day license for the chance to chase some bass in the morning and evening.

Stuff bought at Orlando Outfitters
Whenever I travel to a new area to fish, I always do some googling to find the local fly fishing resources.  First on the search for Fly Fishing Orlando was Orlando Outfitters. I called, left a message and the owner, Chris Barco called back the next morning with some suggestions. Chris told me to come by the shop and we could look on the maps for a couple of places close to where I was staying.

Like almost all fly shop owners, Chris is one of those guys you need to meet. Full of life and energy, he was working hard when I arrived at his shop getting several clients set up with flies, lines and gear. His help had left for the evening so he asked me if I could wait while he finished lining a couple of reels.  Of course, I can wait and explore his expansive fly shop. The shop is one of the biggest fly shops I've been to. Tons of tying materials, flies, clothing, rods, reels -- everything you would expect in a well stocked shop and more.

When he finished up he took me behind the counter to look at maps of water near my hotel. Just by the google map images, he could tell me which ones would be accessible and ones that might be more difficult to access. We picked a couple of local ponds close to the hotel and one park that had public access to Lake Toho (Lake Tohopekaliga). Chris had some great stories to share about fishing the golf course ponds along with suggestions on how to master these places--more info than I want to share here. I picked up the latest Drake Magazine along with a couple of bass bugs and was on my way.

Had about two hours to fish the next morning, so I went to one of the ponds across the road from the hotel.  As I drove down the dirt access road, I ignored the big NO TRESPASSING sign and parked out of sight from the main road. Fish were rising and I was chucking bugs at them without any luck.  A pair of eyes broke the surface about 20 feet from the shore right where I was throwing my fly.  We had a bit of a stare down contest, but I decided to let the 4 ft Alligator keep his fishing hole and started to walk away. The gator started to swim towards me as I backed away from the shore, so I picked up my pace and walked around to the far side of the pond.

Fishing for another 20 minutes on the other side of the pond also brought no luck, so as I was tying on a different fly, a older gentleman drove up talking on a cell phone. When he hung up, he politely told me that I was on private property and although I seemed like a "nice gentleman" there was no hunting or fishing allowed here and he asked me to leave. I wasn't having any luck and my time was up for the morning, so I packed up and left.

Double Rainbow on Lake Toho
That evening, went to Lake Toho to fish with the bait chuckers and spin casters. Saw a huge fish in the shallows and was told it was a Monk fish by one of the bait guys. They where catching bass and bluegills but I continued to not have any luck throwing bass bugs.

Saw more alligators, much smaller, beautiful birds, turtles and lots of rising fish, but nothing would take the 1/2 dozen bugs, nymphs and drys that I tried. Also watched a small squall line blow over the lake providing a wonderful double rainbow as the sun was setting.

As a final attempt to defeat the skunk, I tied on an olive Klinkhammer as many bugs where hatching and at least one fish would have an interest in a little buggy floating emerger.

I'd cast out and let the fly sit, slowly pulling it back in occasionally. Some fish were rising to the bug, but just were knocking it under the surface which would require me to retrieve and recast to put it back in the surface film.

Flying bluegill caught on Olive Klinkhammer
On one of these retrieves, this poor little bluegill became airborne and landed in the weeds next to me. He survived his roller coaster ride on the end of my line and was released.

Back at the hotel that night, I started to scope out the ponds around the golf course on the property. One of them was probably a Koi pond with Carp. These carp where huge and I was very tempted.

They were mudding and taking bugs on the surface so I know they would have been easy pickin', but didn't want to deal with several onlookers and hotel security.

Carp in Koi Pond on Resort Property
As always, good to get out and explore new water, meet new people and take a shot at landing some fish, regardless of the size and type.

Thanks for listening.