Take a Matlacha getaway
From February 9, 2011 issue
The view towards the Burnt Store Bar from your room
at Sun and Moon will inspire the explorer in you.
Matlacha is only a two hour drive from Anna Maria, but for me it's a refreshing getaway, a vacation, a quick immersion into one of Florida's richest natural resources. One look at the map is all it takes to appreciate the setting of this Florida treasure. Located near the southern edge of Charlotte Harbor, it's adjacent to Matlacha Pass, the Burnt Store Bar and Pine Island. It's a great destination for the casual tourist, the dedicated angler or the passionate kayaker. When I travel to Matlacha it's usually to enjoy the vast flats and the excellent sport of chasing tailing redfish with a fly, but there's so much else to enjoy.
The Sun and Moon, (www.sunandmoon.net) is my home away from home when I visit Matlacha and Pine Island. This unique bed and breakfast is situated right on the water with expansive views over a lush mangrove forest. The afternoon I arrived I witnessed a procession of over a dozen manatees making their way down the channel past the Sun and Moon's dock. That evening I watched as dozens of snook swam lazily in the falling tidal current under the dock's strategically placed light. If you've ever wanted to catch a snook, this is the best place I've encountered in my 30 years in Florida! One of the real pleasures of this place is that you never have to get back in your car after you arrive. There are many great restaurants and unique shops just a short walk away. The Sun and Moon's manager, Curt Peer, can lead you on a kayak adventure through the mangrove forests, set you up with a fishing trip, or arrange a sightseeing tour of this watery wonderland. If all that seems like just too much work, you can relax by the pool, read a book and meditate on the spectacular sunrises and sunsets that paint the estuary's horizon.
Being an avid angler I enjoyed my afternoon and evening at the Sun and Moon, but eagerly awaited the next morning when I met up with Captain Joe Harley (www.snooktown.com) and my good friend Rick Grassett. We left Harley's dock before sunrise and made a short run to a vast flat bordering Matlacha Pass. Harley had located a good concentration of redfish the day before, and as the sun rose over the mangrove forest to the east, tails began to pop above the water's surface. Although a front was poised just to our north and south winds of 15-20 m.p.h. were predicted, we were greeted with gentle breezes in the early morning hours. Grassett was first up and made some excellent casts to pods of redfish, hooking up twice. As luck would have it, neither strike culminated in a hook-up, and after several more shots he graciously yielded the bow to me. After making two good presentations to tailing fish that either didn't see my fly or rejected it, I hooked up to a big red that had rushed the fly. After a hard run that neared my backing, I was applying pressure, and getting the fish under control when the line went slack. Thinking that the fish had broken the leader, I reeled in to find that the hook had been straightened and slightly bent. After several more shots the wind that had been predicted came up, and the redfish disappeared. After looking for cruising fish in nearby potholes and finding none, Harley decided to make a move to the mangrove maze on the Burnt Store bar. For the balance of the morning and the early afternoon, we explored what I consider one of the most beautiful locations in Florida. We found nice schools of snook that wouldn't take our flies, and landed numerous trout, spending a portion of our time in the shade of the mangroves enjoying a rare, balmy winter day.
The next morning Scott Swartz, of nearby St. James City, joined Harley and I. Swartz is the founder of the Florida Fly Fishing Schools, (www.floridaflyfishingschools.com) is an FFF Certified Master Casting Instructor and an IGFA record holder. After a leisurely breakfast at the Perfect Cup, we made our way back to the Harley's canal front home and boarded his boat. Once again we headed to the same flat we had fished the day before, arriving soon after the sun had crested the horizon. This morning the wind was fresh from the south, blowing near the threshold where redfish will not tail. Although the winds increased steadily Swartz and I managed several good shots at tailing reds. The steadily rising wind caused the redfish to disappear once again, and the specter of the advancing front caused us to make the wise decision to cut the trip short. With most of the day ahead of me, I opted to enjoy my time taking pictures on the island and having one of the best salads I've ever tasted at Little Lilly's Island Deli on Pine Island. I ended my two days on Matlacha that afternoon with a leisurely drive back home.
Anna Maria provides both anglers, tourists and residents with some of the most memorable Florida landscapes while also featuring a wealth of amenities. If you have the desire for a quick getaway to another unique destination Matlacha is sure to please.