12.20.2012

Back from the Sunshine State

Well, this place has been awfully quiet as of late!

Shingle Creek near Orlando
Back on the 7th of December, I headed down to Mickey Mouse's home town for a convention. It was a pretty simple trip with only one real customer down there so I had a lot of free time to do some exploring.

Most of my fishing was done on a neat little water system called Shingle Creek. It winds its way through central Florida and offers varied scenery and environments. In some places, it looks like an urban drainage ditch and other places it looks like a wild creek running through unexplored swampland. It offers a pretty large variety of fish species including bass, snakehead, carp, bluegills, and even some tilapia.

The first couple of outings were more exploratory in nature and trying to figure out what these bass like. I started tossing larger streamers, poppers, and other various large flies all with no real success.

Typical size for the bass 
Eventually, I decided to go in the complete opposite direction and tied on the tiniest popper I had in my pack in hopes of at least hooking up with some of the the bluegills that I kept seeing popping at the surface. With that decision came almost instant success. Bass of all sizes were taking swipes at the little pink popper and I even managed to land a few of them. What I really found interesting was the variety of "largemouth" bass out there. From what I could tell, I caught three different types throughout the system - regular largemouth, suwanee, and spotted. None of them were very large or picture worthy, but still fun to catch.

What I really found interesting were the hazards and dangers of fishing down there. Initially, my fears were focused on alligators. I had these little mental scenarios of me bending down to pick up a fish and having a gator pop out of the water with its massive jaws snapping for my head (I know...I've been watching too many sci-fi movies).

As I spent time out there, I realized that the odds of that happening were pretty slim and the place isn't as infested as you might think. I did learn what the real danger is though....twice. I think it was the second day that I was out there that I found myself stalking some big carp rooting along the banks. These fish were incredibly spooky and I figured out that the only way to get close enough to them was to basically crawl on the ground until you were right at the bank. As I was putting this into practice, I suddenly felt a burning sensation on my legs and ankles. As I looked down to see what the cause of this was, I noticed more red ants on my legs than I cared to count. I quickly dropped my fly rod and began to furiously swat them all off of my leg. It took a few minutes to get them all, but eventually the bites stopped coming.

Fast forward a day or so later and some nonstop itching, I found myself on a different part of the same river casting to some gar. I learned my lesson that crawling along the ground was probably not a good idea so I gave up on my carp and stuck to fish that didn't require me to do so. As I am standing there casting, I once again feel an immense burning on my ankles causing me to look down and see my shoes and legs swarmed by these evil red ants. I also noticed at that time that I was standing on a huge nest. I quickly moved off of the nest and began the same swatting routine as a couple of days earlier.

The second time was all it took for me to become very aware of were I was stepping and standing. It also caused me to realize that these things are everywhere! I don't think you can walk more than ten feet along the banks of this creek without seeing a nest. THIS is the real danger to look out for when you are there! I will note that it is now the 20th of December and I am STILL itching!

The weather was not our friend this day!

Moving on to day 5 of my trip, I found myself with an entire day without any meetings so I met up with a gentlemen named Tom. Tom is a friend of a friend who retired down that way and fishes Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River for redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, and a whole bunch of other flats fish. We hit the water around 730am and hoped for some big reds on the fly but we had a tough time finding any. The ones we did find were unbelievably spooky and had zero interest in our offerings. We did managed to find a few willing speckled trout that saved the day from a skunk. None of them had any size to them, but it was still nice to feel the tug at the other end on the line.

First saltwater fish on the fly

In addition to the trout, we saw some really awesome wildlife that I do not see on a regular basis. Porpoises were feeding in the shallows and a lone manatee was swimming near the mouth of a channel off the Indian River. A plethora of birds including ospreys, vultures, and others that I know nothing of were out there enjoying the periods between torrential downpours. This abundant wildlife made the entire day a major success in my book.

We spooked the dolphin!

About a week after I arrived, my wife and son flew out to meet me down there. When I met them at the gate, my little man was so excited to see me that he was literally shaking as I took him out of his stroller. His warm arms and little hands wrapped around my neck as his head buried into my shoulder. It was the most heartwarming hug I have ever felt in my life. For nearly 20 minutes, he didn't let go or move a muscle; he just stayed in my arms and held on tight. If you aren't a parent, it is the moments like these that you cherish most.

My in-laws live about an hour south of Orlando so we drove down to spend a few days with them. We spent lots of time outside playing in the grass, in Grandpa's garage and boat, and at various parks around the area. He was exhausted every night and slept great!

Playing with the hose in December

All in all, it was a great trip. I love being able to mix work trips with a bit of family time and vacation. I am truly one of the lucky ones



© 2012, BrookFieldAngler

12 comments:

  1. Great trip report. Been freezing here in the center of the country. It's nice to read about a good trip in a warmer climate this time of year.

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    1. Well I am back home in Chicago now and we are under a winter storm warning...back to reality for me!

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  2. Sounds like fire ants my friend, sorry for you. That canal/creek could send me there bt itself. Love the kid shots.

    Gregg

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    1. Thanks, Gregg! Fire ants they were...hundreds of them!

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  3. That is a great report and those ants are pure evil. The part about hugging your son... I know exactly what you describe and it's a feeling you can only experience fully first-hand. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Albert. I honestly never knew or could have imagined what it would be like until it happened. Truly one of the greatest feelings that a person could possibly experience.

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  4. Your son reminds me of my son when he was little, I know the feeling. Florida is one place I am going to fish when my wife retires at the end of this year. She has a sister who lives in Florida. I think I would be more interested in the inland streams as oppose to the open water. Thanks for sharing a great trip

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    1. The inland streams are great and I generally agree that they are fantastic. The flats though are truly amazing and I think if I moved that way, I would spend the majority of my time on them. Depending on season, you could catch tarpon, reds, trout, snook, ladyfish, etc...It's the ultimate fishing in 2 foot of water for miles and miles

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  5. Great read, sounds like quite the adventure. I'm not a fan of spiders or ants so your post reinforced my thoughts there. As a new dad myself, I can understand how that hug must have felt.

    (I'm not seeing an "add comment" option so I guess I have to reply in someone else's comment) : )

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    1. Spiders are definitely not my favorite but generally I don't worry too much about them. These ants attack in massive armies though and definitely worry me more than spiders.

      To add a comment, just type in that box below and it shows up as a new comment.

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  6. Nice to hear you had such a great trip. And what a way to end it. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my friend.

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