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.
Enough–time to bring a little piece of home to the Virgin Islands.
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.
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.
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:
A bar jack–we’ll get to them later.
Never seen that before. Made me wonder if any sharks were around…
The stuff you see when you do a little snorkeling in St. John.
A small horse eye jack–schools of these guys are everywhere.
Like I said, everywhere.
So were little yellowtail snappers.
Mental note–blue runners like chartreuse clousers.
Peach over white works, too.
As does red over white.
Too much fun–like super-charged bluegill.
Same goes for these guys.
These, on the other hand, are like catching sculpins.
Conch fritters, anyone?
Conchs were plentiful on this trip.
This was a nice surprise–a strawberry grouper. The VI version of rockfish.
Except that you can’t lip them like rockfish. Their needle sharp teeth get in the way.
A really nice palometa. They don’t get too much bigger than this.
Palometa like chartreuse over white, too!
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.
Another nice bar jack. Repeat steps 1-3.
The Caribbean “fairy wand” after a great morning of fishing. The 8 weight I brought for bonefish never made it out of the tube…
Starting another morning off right!
A close up reason of why they’re called “horse eye” jacks.
Barracudas were particularly nasty this morning. I lost quite a few flies and little snappers to their ambushes.
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.
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.
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.