I got the word via text – water looked good, the mackerel were in, and Chris just caught another one. I couldn’t jump in the truck fast enough. “Smacks” are toothy speedsters, usually the first pelagic fish to move in near shore and present fly chuckers a chance from the jetty. A small, flashy fly to imitate the anchovies that were schooled in abundance around the granite slabs, and it was game on.
Chris Lancaster and Captain Ken Jones greeted me when I reached them, with Capt. Ken reaching out to shake my hand while mid-fight with a scrappy smack. The water was a beautiful green, winds were manageable and I wasted no time finding a flat-topped rock of my own. The bite died away for a bit just as I got there (of course), and we wandered down the jetty trying to avoid the slick patches of algae and overhanging lines from bait fishermen. Reaching the end, we stood up on a high rock and watched through the swell as jacks and sharks herded baitfish against the jetty. Between wind and waves we couldn’t reach these fish… or could we? Only one way to find out. Capt Ken took a whack at it.
Being a lefty really helped him out here, as the wind was pushing from right to left. He threw some impressive casts right in the money zone, timed between big swells to avoid getting line and leader sucked into the hungry rocks. It seemed that the jetty won that round though - no fish rose to the occasion, although we knew they were there. We watched bonita boil just out of range, taking the sight with the stoic acceptance of men who have decided they would rather catch fish on the fly. Sometimes you win, sometimes the fish win. You hope for a day more in your favor.
Then the call came in - did we want to take a quick ride on a panga and get after the fish from upwind? Absolutely! We headed for land, and scrambled onto the vessel.
After we set up and started a drift down the rocks, Chris was up to bat at the front of the boat.
Before, while fishing from the rocks, we had been content to throw smaller flies and catch Spanish. Now that we were able to buck the wind and deposit flies firmly in big game territory, we switched to large hunks of fuzz and feather. In the failing light, we repositioned with Capt. Ken up in the bow throwing big baitfish patterns and me in the stern. I was out of position to throw a fly rod so I grabbed a spinning rod and started chunking a stickbait, ripping it along and hoping for a fast moving predator. After carefully probing the water in range, I switched retrieve methods and Bam! Watched a jack wake up right to the boat and slam the lure.
Capt. Ken had one more good follow, but the fish wouldn't commit. Dadgum jacks anyway - they're notorious for that.
As the light faded from us, we reflected it had been a pretty dang good day... and the tarpon aren't even here yet!