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Winter break: Clousers and Sun

Post by Jon Aqui on Dec. 19, 2010 at 9:53 am with 5 Comments »
December 20, 2010 1:47 pm

Where: The beach

When: The past two weeks or so

Species Pursued:  Whatever was out there

Flies used: Various clousers, conehead squid, chum baby

Song of the trip: “7-29-04 The Day Of,” David Holmes, from the Ocean’s 12 Soundtrack

I think I could get used to vacationing in the Caribbean during the winter.

Like last year, I had accrued an abundance of time off and had to find a way to burn it before year’s end.

Seeing as how I had such a great time the previous winter, St. John was an easy choice.

Now about getting that air fare down below $1,000…

As luck (and Sara’s incessant web scouring) would have it, we found a really, really good deal on tickets.  Even better,  nothing on the itinerary said “Delta,” so we  booked the flights and bade good riddance to the rain, wind and overall sogginess of Washington.

Both flights went smoothly, a good omen.  In fact, everything went smoothly, which greatly contributed to how quickly I unwound on this trip–a good thing, because we had barely gotten settled when the call of the warm sand on a sunny beach suddenly took hold of us.

“We still have a couple of hours of daylight left.  You want to–?”

“I’ll change into my swimsuit.”

Less than 20 minutes later, we stood on a familiar stretch of shoreline, golden-white sand underfoot.  Venturing out ankle-deep, I was reminded of why I love the Caribbean so much.

I turned to Sara, gave her a familiar nod, and waded a little further out.

Learning my lessons from the last visit, I changed my equipment and approach this time around, mixing the familiar and tried-and-true with a novel setup geared toward eliciting the best from the most abundant local species.

The clouser unhooked easily from the guide, and I stripped line from the reel, shaking the shooting head outside of the tip, then getting some running line ready.

Roll casting everything to the top, I took aim at a likely spot and let ‘er fly.

The fishing tunnel vision set in–the sound of the waves lapping the shore became muffled, the pelicans divebombing glass minnows melted into the periphery, the sun’s intensity eased.

I counted down, letting the intermediate head sink.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

Enough–time to bring a little piece of home to the Virgin Islands.

Strip, strip.

Strip.

Strip.

A familiar tug.  I instinctively strip set, then raised the tip.

The 2 weight ECHO flexed happily.

The fish fought hard, using its broad body to its advantage.

But the clouser held firm.

Fly-caught Palometa, St. John

First cast, first fish.  Two hours after getting off the plane!

Unbeknownst to it, the palometa betrayed more than its own presence–the fish typically form shoals and with that in mind, I went back to work.

Soon after, I landed two smaller ones, followed by some lively encounters with small lady fish.  If you think resident coho can be tricky to keep hooked, these little bonnetheads take things to a new level.

Fly caught lady fish St. John

Finally, I managed to land one.  They get bigger, but this guy put on a great show on the 2 weight.

Before I knew it, the sun was setting.

The day may have been over, but the trip was just beginning.

Here’s a visual recount of the rest of my time enjoying the sun and warmth:

Bar Jack St. John

A bar jack–we’ll get to them later.

Sea Turtle and remora.  St. John

Never seen that before.  Made me wonder if any sharks were around…

Sea star, sea turtle and remora St. John

The stuff you see when you do a little snorkeling in St. John.

Sea turtle St. John Virgin Islands

Small Horse Eye Jack St. John Virgin Islands

A small horse eye jack–schools of these guys are everywhere.

Fly caught Horse Eye Jack St. John Virgin Islands

Like I said, everywhere.

Yellowtail Snapper St. John Virigin Islands

So were little yellowtail snappers.

Small Fly caught Blue Runner St. John Virigin Islands

Mental note–blue runners like chartreuse clousers.

Fly caught baby horse eye jack  St. John Virigin Islands

Peach over white works, too.

Fly caught blue runner jack  St. John Virigin Islands

As does red over white.

Fly caught palometa St. John Virigin Islands

Another palometa.

Fly caught horse eye jack St. John Virigin Islands

Too much fun–like super-charged bluegill.

Fly caught palometa jack St. John Virigin Islands

Same goes for these guys.

Fly caught yellowtail snapper St. John Virigin Islands

These, on the other hand, are like catching sculpins.

Conch St. John Virgin Islands

Conch fritters, anyone?

Conch Lameshur Bay St. John Virgin Islands

Conchs were plentiful on this trip.

Fly caught strawberry grouper, St. John Virgin Islands

This was a nice surprise–a strawberry grouper.  The VI version of rockfish.

Fly caught strawberry grouper, St. John Virgin Islands

Except that you can’t lip them like rockfish.  Their needle sharp teeth get in the way. :)

Fly caught palometa, St. John Virgin Islands

A really nice palometa.  They don’t get too much bigger than this.

Fly caught palometa, St. John Virgin Islands

Palometa like chartreuse over white, too!

Fly caught bar jack, St. John Virgin Islands

A nice little bar jack.  1) Take a tuna, scale it down and mix it with a sea run cutthroat.  2) Attach to a two weight.  3) Have fun.

Fly caught bar jack, St. John Virgin Islands

Another nice bar jack.  Repeat steps 1-3.

ECHO 2 weight used on St. John beaches, Virgin Islands

The Caribbean “fairy wand” after a great morning of fishing.  The 8 weight I brought for bonefish never made it out of the tube…

Fly caught horse eye jack, St. John Virgin Islands

Starting another morning off right!

Fly caught horse eye jack, St. John Virgin Islands

A close up reason of why they’re called “horse eye” jacks.

Fly caught yellowtail snapper, St. John Virgin Islands

Barracudas were particularly nasty this morning.  I lost quite a few flies and little snappers to their ambushes.

Fly caught blue runner, St. John Virgin Islands

This blue runner put up an awesome fight, going so far as to take line off the reel.  It was part of a big blitz that I sat on for about 5 minutes.  Very reminiscent of winter resident coho blitzes–minus the waders and about 40 degrees warmer, of course. :)

Fly caught bar jack, St. John Virgin Islands

Bar jacks showed up to the party, too.

Meanwhile, Sara catches some rays.

Bug bites.  Vicious bug bites.  The price you pay for good fishing.  Nothing Cortizone won’t fix.

Sunrise, St. John Virgin Islands

What I got to wake up to for the past 11 days.  Kind of makes it hard to get out of bed and go fishing for resident coho.  I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of things, though.

Just not this weekend.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Jon, what a great trip report!
    looks like an amazing trip!
    I chuckled when reading though the 2 weight action…
    I guess not many people take this approach, great idea!
    Mark

  2. Very, very nice! Kind of fishing i love!
    It gave inspiration to try my odds at a local beach down here in Brazil.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post! Love all the pictures and the detail. Would you mind sharing which beach you fished? I’ve been to St. John a number of times, but I’ve never brought my rod along. Looks like it could be fun though, and I’d love to start teaching my 8 year old nephew how to fly fish this year….

  4. Hello,

    May I ask if you are aware of the kind of bugs that bit you? My daughter has bites that look very similar to yours and we can’t find the source.

    Thanks

  5. GLX Fisherman says:

    Looks like you had an experience of a lifetime! You make me jealous :)
    http://americanlegacyfishing.com

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