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In hour last days in Florida Noah and I fished our favorite ditch quite a bit. I was maintaining hope that it would produce a brown hoplo or a rhamdia. Though I was able to catch the meat we wanted for camp dinners, and plenty of fish that we didn't want to kill, I did not get a new catfish species.
I did, however, catch a bowfin on my 3wt. St. Croix Avid with 3x tippet... fully on purpose. I spotted the fish, I jigged my Walt's in front of it's grumpy face, and of course it ate. I managed to pin it well and damn was I ever in for a fight. I did land that fish though. My first bowfin in months. I was pretty happy with that.
I also got a yellow bullhead. Though I have this species on my life list I did not have a photo of the one I caught years ago. And yeah, I was pretty happy with that too. Now I have only two species that I need to re-catch and photograph, and I'll tell you what... both are going to be really tough. Bluespotted sunfish and brown shark.
On our last morning Noah and I didn't really fish the ditch as we had on every other visit. We basically just targeted the gar with topwater stuff, which was very entertaining though not productive in terms of fish to hand. We then waded in the swamp, which was much the same.
Then we said goodbye to Jupiter and started North, towards Melbourne, where we big farewell to my grandparents, then found some hardhead catfish.
Further north still, we ended our fishing where it had started on Cape Canaveral, in a last ditch attempt to find a redfish. The conditions were poor. We didn't find fish. It didn't matter.
Before the sun set we had put Georgia and much of South Carolina behind us. I felt good about going home. We were both physically tired. We had caught a huge number of fish. I had added 29 new species and one hybrid to my life-list. I got a truly large backcountry snook. Noah caught a world record class spotfin porcupinfish. I caught a lake chubsucker on the fly! We hadn't just done well, we had crushed it. We caught lots of fish, and some big fish, in some of the most beautiful places I've ever been. We didn't hire guides, we didn't read a ton of fishing reports, we didn't even go to a tackle shape even once and ask where the bite was. We did our own thing, and it worked.
The lesson here is that if you fish really hard, perfect your casting and presentation, read a lot, know what to expect, and gain an extensive knowledge of behavior of ambush predator, hunter predator, pelagic, inshore, freshwater, saltwater, bottom feeder, surface feeder, micro, large species... you can go anywhere and catch anything. I am largely self taught, but I also listen to anybody who I think I can learn anything from. I am stubborn. I am willing to break or at least bend the loosely defined "rules" of the sport. If something doesn't work I will make it work. If someone tells me I won't be able to catch a certain species or a certain size fish with a fly rod, it just hardens my resolve. I am relentless in pursuit, both of fish and every little bit of knowledge that pertains to fish, fishing, and watersheds. This is why I can go 1,450 miles from home and not just hold my own but catch species rarely if ever caught on the fly before, numbers of true trophy fish, and do almost everything I set out to do. There were things I wanted to catch but didn't, yes, but I will double down and catch them as soon as that opportunity provides itself. There is no short cut to being a truly skilled angler. It is all about time on the water, how persistent you are, and how you present yourself.
Fish hard, be observant, be respectful, and be willing to both learn and teach.