Vol 6 No. 44 - July 26, 2006
Tails of Matlacha - Part II
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
Rusty Chinnis caught this nice redfish, right, while
working the flats around Matlacha.
By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Captain Steve Bailey also fishes widely in Pine Island
Sound and Charlotte Harbor, but concentrates his efforts
on the western side of Pine Island from St. James City
to Pineland. Its a good bet that Bailey knows the
sound like the back of his hand.
When Flip Pallot shot a segment of his show, "Walkers
Cay Chronicles," there, it was Bailey he called on
to make the show a success. Bailey not only provides access
to some of Floridas richest waters, but also brings
a lifetime of fly tying and fly fishing experience to
the table. In addition to guiding some of fishings
great anglers, Bailey has tied flies for Pallot and fly
fishing legend Lefty Kreh. He is also an accomplished
photographer and has an excellent knowledge of the local
flora and fauna.
On a cool morning in November, I fished with him on the
southern end of Pine Sound. We met at the Punta Rasa boat
ramp at the foot of the Sanibel causeway, and made a fifteen
minute ride run north. Bailey took his 16-foot Hells
Bay Whipray off plane next to an expansive flat and mounted
the poling platform. For as far as the eye could see,
there was nothing except green seagrass and white wading
birds. We were positioned at the end of an immense flat,
and poling towards the shallow grass edge as I mounted
the casting platform. As I stripped line from my seven
weight outfit, tails began to pierce the mirror smooth
water and faint shapes spooked at the approach of the
Bailey had placed me right in the middle of an amazing
concentration of redfish, snook and trout. While the fish
created terrific target practice, they were studiously
avoiding everything we threw at them during the first
hour of fishing. As the tide began to come back into the
sound mid-morning, the fish suddenly started to take notice
of our flies. I missed several reds before landing a nice
28-inch fish. During the balance of the morning we had
numerous shots at reds and trout, getting at least 7 to
8 hook ups.
Bailey and I took turns, landing mostly tailing reds and
a couple of sight fished trout. When the water topped
the magic one foot mark, we moved a bit farther to the
south and began poling a shallower flat that was sandy
with patches of grass. This was one of the most beautiful
flats I had fished in Pine Island Sound and was covered
in tailing redfish and big trout. The water was crystal
clear, which made for some challenging sight fishing.
We were able to spot redfish when they thrust tails into
the air and then track them underwater as we closed in
on their location.
Bailey was on the bow when a large tail began waving about
50 feet from the boat. It disappeared almost as suddenly
as it had appeared, but as I poled him within thirty feet
we could make out the fishs dark shape against the
cream-colored sand bottom. Bailey made a perfect leading
cast in the direction the red was feeding and waited a
split second as it closed on the fly. With a short strip,
we watched as the fish wheeled and consumed the fly. The
fight was classic redfish with short head-wallowing runs.
Bailey finds redfish by looking for surface action. His
number one indicator is the presence of schools of mullet.
In most cases, he will stop and survey a promising flat
before poling into shallow water. If he sees no mullet
or baitfish action, he doesnt bother fishing the
flat. If mullet are present, and the waters are the right
depth and moving, redfish are a distinct possibility.
Baileys favorite fly is the Clouser Minnow. Lefty
Kreh showed Bailey the pattern long before he remembers
anything being written about it.
"I was tying some flies for Flip Pallot at the time.
Soon, he sent me a letter and told me to tie all the hair
on top, as he thought the fly would ride and fish better.
Thats the way I have tied this pattern ever since,"
He ties the flies using small 1/50 oz lead eyes on a number
2 hook. He also adds a 20-pound, Hard Mason, two-legged
weed guard. His favorite color combinations are white
and chartreuse and white and tan. When he is fishing for
tailing redfish in clear, shallow water and thick grass,
the Clouser Minnow doesnt work. It lands too hard,
sinks too quickly, and hangs up even with a weed guard.
These conditions call for a fly that lands lightly, suspends
and wont get lost in the grass. He hasnt found
a fly that works any better than a Sea-ducer under these
conditions. He ties the fly on a size 2 hook with a two-legged
weed guard and mixed colors. His favorite combination
is a white hackle with yellow and grizzly splayed feathers.
"This is a very old color combination but one that
is seldom seen today," says Bailey. "It makes
a beautiful mottled color fly that could resemble a shrimp
He uses thick, webby, saddle hackles for wrapping the
hook shank and matches the hackles for size. If he wants
a Sea-ducer to sink quicker, he uses hackles with very
little web. The fly also appeals to Bailey because it
doesnt take much movement to bring it to life and
its easy to pickup for another cast. His favorite
outfit is an eight weight with a 10- to 12- foot monofilament
leader. He builds his leaders with 6 feet of 30, 3 feet
of 20, 1.5 feet of 15-pound. He adds an 18- to 24- inch
piece of 20-inch fluorocarbon bite tippet, attaching the
fly with a perfection loop.
There is no better way to learn about the magic of Pine
Islands tailing redfish than to fish with astute
guides who take their fishing seriously. While the waters
surrounding Pine Island arent as pristine as they
were in the days of the Calusa, they still harbor shoals
of tailing redfish, as well as snook, trout and a host
of other species.
DePaiva and Bailey gave me a terrific introduction to
the two faces of Pine Island, an area as close to old
Florida as anglers are likely to find on the coast of
Florida. The story of the area abounds with tails that
will quicken the heart of the most jaded fly angler.
Captain Rick DePaiva can be reached at 239-246-8726 or
by e-mail at Flynutt@aol.com. His Web-site is www.saltwaterflyfishing.org
Captain Steve Bailey can be reached at 239-489-1379 or
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web-site is www.captainstevebailey.com.
When fishing the south end of Pine Island Sound from
the Punta Rasa boat ramp, the County Inn & Suites
is a mile from the ramp. Call 239-454-9292 for reservations.
When fishing the north end of Pine Island Sound, the Tarpon
Lodge is conveniently located next to the Pineland Marina.
Contact it at 239-283-3999, or visit the web site at www.tarponlodge.com.
When fishing the east side of the Island near Matlacha,
the Sun and Moon Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located
a mile from the public boat ramp in Matlacha. Call 239-283-3192
or 888-321 3192 for reservations, or visit the web site
For information on the Lee County area, go to www.fortmyerssanibel.com
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