Another year, another RedFly.
This tournament holds a special place for me – I absolutely LOVE redfish, even though they absolutely do not love me. The RedFly is an annual tournament in which you pursue only redfish, on fly…the largest two fish in length are weighed in. First, let me tell you about RedFly 2018…my partner Takoda and I caught a beautiful red totaling to 27″. We needed just one more red and we would have been seriously in the running. Unfortunately, the stars just didn’t align for us and the redfish didn’t want to cooperate. At the end of the day, only 13 fish were weighed in, ours actually being the 2nd largest.
Now…2019 is a whole new year and one for redemption. I had a new partner this year, and her name is Lisa Lowman. That’s right…another female. The coolest part about this year is that we are the first and only all female team to ever compete in the RedFly series. To say that I am proud is an understatement.
I spent a lot more time pre-fishing this year, and definitely went into tournament morning with the confidence that I can put us on the fish we needed to place. Lisa and I met at the weigh-in at 5:30am and socialized for a bit during the captains meeting.
As soon as the meeting ended at 6:30am, we hit the road. We were not fishing directly in the Tampa area, as per my decision the day prior. I wanted to get away from the bay for a number of reasons, but mainly to avoid the other anglers (66 in total) and to find some less pressured fish. This ended up being the best decision for my team. Lisa and I launched the skiff, and went straight to our first spot based on wind and light. We went over the typical ‘directions’ of time and distance that I will give any angler on the bow of my skiff, and we were immediately on the same page. We blew a couple of fish out poling into the spot, which was a bummer…but told me we were in the right spot. Not more than 5 minutes later, we had our first real shot – and Lisa did great listening to me, even though she couldn’t see the fish she was casting to. First cast, slightly too far to the right. With a shift and a push of the skiff, she was able to get visual contact with the fish and make a more accurate presentation. We were on the board at 9am.
We were elated – shortly after landing this fish, Lisa proceeded to tell me that this was her first Florida redfish on fly – no small task. I truly believe Tampa and the surrounding areas have some of the most difficult redfish to catch on fly. They are spooky, smart, and receive a lot of pressure. We had a round of congratulations, snapped our pictures for weigh-in, and released the fish.
No more than 10 minutes later, I had Lisa lined up on a second shot – two fish, and a much more difficult presentation. The initial fish I wanted her to cast to had pushed farther back under the mangrove, and so we focused our attention on a smaller fish near the edge of some grass instead. I positioned the boat, talked Lisa into the shot, and she made her presentation. With a couple adjustments from both of us, we were hooked into our second fish of the day at 9:20am.
Okay – we can relax. We had two fish, which we suspected would be a huge success regardless of size. Last year, only a handful of teams even weighed in two fish, so I knew we were in a good position. Our goal for the rest of the day was to upgrade our fish in size, and make it back to the weigh-in on time. We poled for hours, and around 11am, the wind kicked up to about 20+mph. We knew that if the other competitors hadn’t already gotten their fish, they would be hard pressed to make it happen in the windy conditions. We found quite a few more fish, some much larger, but we just didn’t connect with any of them.
After some fun with a local, we decided to head back to the ramp at 2pm to make sure we were at the weigh-in with plenty of time to spare. We arrived at 3:40pm, 20 minutes early. The final tally had us sitting at 49″ of fish, putting us right in 5th place against 66 other anglers. We missed 4th place by half an inch – thank you gnarly first redfish, if only you had a tail.
Regardless of the final standings, the day was a total win for me. Lisa caught her first two redfish on fly in Florida, the first female team to compete placed in top 5, and it was our first time fishing together. You cannot ask for much more than that!