Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Turn

This spring has been filled with high winds and cold weather, so when the weather gave me a chance, I knew there was one place I had to be...on the Eastern Shore chasing Bull Reds. I took my new Wilderness Systems Thresher 140 in hopes of testing out its ability to handle the breakers and be maneuverable enough to fight and land big reds. Well we got on 'em...I was first with a 47" caught on a paddle tail with Billy Ragulsky capturing some photos. So far the Thresher is quickly becoming my favorite kayak with a good mix of speed, stability and storage, but I will wait until I put some more miles on the her before I write a review as I want it to be thorough. Billy got a Citation, but I'll let him tell the story on Thanks for the phenomenal photos Billy!

Photo By: Billy Ragulsky

Photo By: Billy Ragulsky

Photo By: Billy Ragulsky

Photo By: Billy Ragulsky

Photo By: Billy Ragulsky

Thursday, May 28, 2015

One Hell of a Story...

I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of bull redfish season in Virginia last fall, landing quite a few in the 40-50" range and my new personal best at a whopping 53"! However, I wasn't able to get out on a kayak to try my luck and was promised a shot at making it happen when they came around again.

So, when Jay said the temps were starting to warm up and he had a good feeling about getting on the water, I made the trip up ready to catch my first big fish from a kayak. After a nine hour drive and four measly hours of sleep, we got up and jumped in the truck ready to try our luck.

We started the day trolling a large paddle tail, looking for movement in the water to indicate they were in the area. Early in the morning, Jay got a huge tug on the line, but it wasn't meant to be. The fish just spit out the lure and hightailed it out of the area.

Beautiful start to the day

After trying a couple different locations and a variety of techniques for about six hours, we decided to take a break and post up with some large chunks of crab in a spot they had been spotted the previous year. Mind you, this is VA we're talking about here, and this Florida girl thinks weather less than 85 degrees is freezing. So after about another three hours of waiting them out, we decided that if we hadn't had any action in the next 20 minutes, we'd call it a day and head in.

We aren't in Florida anymore...

Like it always happens, whether you're taking a bite of your food or swig from your drink, once you decide to let your guard down, they strike. All of a sudden one of the rods doubles over and the line takes a big leap forward. The hook is set and Jay grabs the other rods to start reeling them in while I get pulled off after the fish. 

With the water temps still a little low, this red wasn't really fighting hard. I was bummed when she only made one good run before easily being reeled in next to my kayak. However, I should have knocked on wood because this big girl wasn't done with me yet. 

I kid you not, she is maybe a foot to the left of my kayak, looks up, sees me and decides to bolt. Not forward like a nice fishy, nope -- diagonally under the boat and backwards. As I was clearly instructed by Jay before we set out, I was determined to keep my rod tip straight in front of me so that I don't get pulled sideways and over by allowing my line to turn. If only I had known what was to come...

Either the rod wasn't flexible enough or the drag was a tiny bit too tight, I'll never know. But when that fish took off I did my duty and kept the rod pointed to the bow of the boat waiting for it to turn me, but it never did. Within five seconds, my rod broke not in just one place, but two!

Guess who owes Jay a new rod?

I'm not giving up that easy, so I continue to fight the monster with half a rod, managing to reel it back up to the kayak. She clearly had a plan to get me in that water, because she did the same exact thing again...floats next to my boat for 30 seconds about a foot down, looks up, sees me and bolts diagonally across and behind my kayak! This time, there was no keeping the rod tip in front, as I didn't really have a rod tip anymore. So my arm goes left, and I go over.

If she thought she had me, boy was she wrong. I wasn't going to let my trophy go without proving I had done it. So while trying to keep it together in waders full of water and kayak bobbing around upside down behind me, I manage to reel the fish back in and next to where Jay had jumped in beside me to help out. He puts my Lucid Fishing grips on her and secures it tight, and we set off towards shore towing our boats and walking (also swimming) in cold, windy, overcast weather all the way to an oyster-laden stretch of shoreline -- pics or it didn't happen right?

My waders are full of water and every layer I had on is soaked weighing me down, so I strip down to the basics and brave the temps to get our shots. Luckily, this was the only time my fish decided to cooperate, so despite the not-so-ideal conditions, we got a few good ones before safely releasing my 45" bull redfish healthy and ready to take on the next angler -- good luck whoever you are, this one is crafty!

At the time I was cursing life, but looking back on it now...well it's one hell of a story, and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fishing Florida with Meghan Lorraine

A born and bred Florida girl, the sun, sand and surf have been my heart and soul since before I can even remember. However, I've only been traveling the waters of this sunshine state fishing for the last eight years or so. So when I can talk Jay down from the trophy reds and monster cobia of Virginia, I jump at the chance to get on the water together in my home state. 

As luck would have it, the couple that introduced us happened to get married in the Keys and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to take a mini fishing adventure in Florida with some amazing fisherman we've been dying to get out with. To kick it off, we got in a half day of fishing in my neck of the woods here in Jacksonville. The wind wasn't really cooperating and the water was chocolate milk, but Jay was able to spot a slot red pushing bait and hook up using a soft plastic.

His Under Armour fishing shirt matched the fish ;)

Rockin the new Buff

After starting on that high-note, we headed down to Key Largo to soak in some sun before the big day. It's hard being on the water without a fishing pole in our hands, but even the most dedicated have to take a break every now and then.

Fruity drinks and soaking in the sun in my new suit from Frankie's Bikinis were our only agenda pre-wedding

A little tarpon feeding at Robbie's

So, after a weekend of love, laughter and happily ever after with the couple, we got right down to business. We hooked up with Honson Lau, a well-respected and much admired fly fisherman (and former guide) to get on the early tarpon run down in Key Largo. Neither Jay nor I are very adept at fly fishing, so we had a couple backup plans just in case the fish weren't biting what we were throwing. 

I started out with a new design from SpoolTek and Jay hit up the pink Hogy. We must have seen 30-40 good sized tarpon run within easy casting distance, but they just weren't interested. Changing it up to see if some live bait action would entice them, we threw out a small crab on a wooden popping cork -- Jay's favorite -- right in front of their noses, but they didn't even bother giving it a second look. Sensing that they were more interesting in chasing the females than having a bite to eat, Honson started fishing a small fly to resemble the local worm hatch.

Honson putting a little heat on with his Nautilus fly reel

It was prime time, with small schools coming from both the North and South, and he got some great shots at each group, but nothing could turn their heads for more than a second. We decided they just weren't having it today and went in search of bonefish. Heading into the backcountry a little ways, we managed to find one lone bonefish, but a barracuda scared it off before we could get a good shot. So what do you do when you spend all day going hard on the water only to strike out? It's time for a drink!

Posting up dockside with Maverick Boats
A little day drinking makes everything better

Don't worry folks, we're going to head back down with Honson this summer to redeem ourselves and land our first tarpon before the season is over! 

Next up, we headed up to Fort Lauderdale to fish with Rob Valderrey  of for my first offshore kayak fishing trip. Starting our day off early, we headed to grab some live bait at the local shop, but apparently lady luck wasn't on our side. After waiting an hour for the Goggle Eyes to arrive, only a few of them even made it alive to the water. The pressure was on, but we were determined to make it work. 

Now for the fun first surf launch. The waves weren't too major so it wasn't like I was going out in a 4ft swell, but it makes you a little nervous to make it out the first time without going sideways and flipping over. Luckily, we timed the breaks right and I was able to paddle out without any problems -- success! The guys headed out shortly after...

Jay cutting through the surf on his Wilderness Systems Thresher

We started off trolling Rat-L-Traps on the way out with Rob catching a couple small bonitos and a spanish mackerel, setting ourselves up in about 150 feet of water to do a slow drift back towards shore. Jay caught a blue runner which he gave to Rob for bait, which quickly was chomped on by something massive that unfortunately let go halfway through the fight.

About that time, I spotted a weed line that I just knew had to have fish on it. I start trolling it when the line gives a quick tug on the drag, then it's quickly gone along with my bait. I snap up the last live bait we've got and get out there trolling again. Right about the time I was going to turn around and head back to the guys, my rod doubles over and the line starts screaming. I manage to get my rod out of the holder after about 20 seconds of struggle and get ready for a wild ride. 

My biggest fear when fighting this fish offshore is that a hungry shark will come take a giant bite out of my fish before I can even get it in the boat. So about five minutes into the fight, I start yelling to the guys to get over to me with the gaff. Apparently I was farther away than originally thought and they couldn't hear a word I said. Luckily, they did notice me spinning around in circles as I would muscle the kingfish up before he would take the line down for a another long run. By the time they got over to where I was, the fish was fatigued from the fight, and I got it next to Rob's boat where he was able to gaff it and throw it in my yak for photos.

Not one to risk my fingers, I quickly scooped up my Lucid grips and got down to the business of documenting this 46" beast as my first offshore kayak fishing success story. After Jay had gotten his fill of photos -- soooo many photos -- with no live bait and Rob having to work that evening, we decided it was time to head in.

Rockin Jay's Smith Optics

Thanks to YakAttack for helping to hook up my new yak

Tested out my Lucid Fishing Grips on this bad boy

When we got to shore and took out the fish for photos, the inevitable happened...everyone started asking Jay or Rob how they caught it. Not a single person while I was holding up the fish in my hands for better photos assumed I was the one who hooked, fought and landed this fish. We had to keep explaining that no, it wasn't Jay or Rob, it was the little blonde girl in the bikini. I get it, I really do...there's huge misconceptions or stereotypes about girls in the fishing or outdoor industry and unfortunately, they ring true with a portion of women -- especially in Florida. 

But whether fishing in a bikini, button-down or burka, we can still out-fish the best of the boys some, most or every day. ;)

My Adventure Technology paddle makes this shot :)