Now’s my chill-out time when I can fish for the sheer pleasure of it Having eventually been allowed to leave the UK, everything went as smooth as it possibly could and our hardy band arrived in Key West bang on time. We have now fished for three days and sport has been as good as I can recall on two and average on the other, mostly because a cold front pushed through - an unusual event for late April.
We have cold fronts all the time in the UK, but never have I experienced anything as dramatic as the Key West version. The day dawned humid and overcast and there had been rain. We ran out to the Marquesas Islands about
25 miles west to fish for sharks, but the fishing was poor.
Suddenly the sky grew much darker, there was a peal of thunder and the heavens opened for maybe 15 minutes. The rain eased, but out of nowhere the temperature nosedived by at least seven degrees. It was like going out of a centrally-heated house on a winter’s day and all we had were a few sharks and four tarpon between three crews.
I suppose what that does is emphasise how good the first and third days were. On Day 1 Roy Marlow’s crew hooked 13 tarpon and successfully released eight - my crew had seven released in 11 hook-ups. Harry’s team travelled offshore into a pretty heavy sea, with 20mph winds. He suffered a bit with mal-de-mer and they came back early with just a dorado and some bonito.
Day 3, following the front, the weather had freshened and the temperature was back up into the low eighties, but with crystal-clear skies.
Team Harry had three big amberjacks and 10 sharks, and lost a huge hammerhead that took a dead 8lb bonito. Its tail cut the 200lb mono above the 2.5m wire trace ¬ how long was that fish?
Daiwa sales director Robin Morley’s team fished offshore, taking one sailfish and a 20lb female dorado, and then got badly worn out by catching amberjacks over a wreck.
I fished with Roy Marlow and Geoff Handley on Manny Ravelo’s boat ‘Another Grouper’, starting offshore where Roy had a sail first put-in, Geoff had one, his first-ever, next drop, and then I eventually caught a bonito. We hooked both sailfish close to the wreck of the USS Vandenburg which we saw being towed into the harbour on last year’s trip.
The eastbound current had slowed, so Manny took us for a ride west, to a spot on the reef where permit shoal prior to spawning. Last year there were virtually none, but probably thanks to a real winter and proper spring they are back in encouraging numbers I’ve not seen for several years.
We finished with 16 of these members of the jack family, Geoff losing his permit virginity by catching one on a crab. The cheeky monkey even had three on fly - something even experienced Keys anglers have never done. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it!