Pine Island Tail

“I don’t know about this rain, man,” John Milcetich said to me as we hopped in the truck and began our drive to the ramp. “You think it’s going to stop?”

“It’s Florida in July. It rains a couple of hours every day, and then it clears up. We’ll be okay. It will stop.”

This evening the rain kept pounding for an extra hour, but by 7 PM we were ready to roll. The evening low tide and dying winds due to the dissipating storms made conditions just right for stalking some tailing redfish in the shallows of Pine Island Sound. Due to the quickly sinking sun, I knew we were limited on time, but I was still plenty confident we’d have a few opportunities at some tailing fish. After quickly unloading our kayaks and gear, we began making our way to the promised lands.

The flash of lightning off in the distance briefly caught my attention but quickly left my mind as I returned to my daydream about the new reel I had picked up just a few days earlier. Like any true fishermen, purchasing a new reel for me is like opening that present you wanted as a kid on Christmas morning. It just puts a big ass smile on your face! This particular reel though was a little different than all of the others I’d purchased in the past. After some recent frustrations with the few big corporations that have a very firm grip on the market for “saltwater” fishing gear; my good friend, Tim Sommer, and I decided to try our hand in the business of making fishing products. This particular reel, in all respects, was MY reel.

“Rolling Tarpon,” John whispered as he pointed off in the distance.

“Are you sure?” I began to respond, as a 20 lbs tarpon rolled off my bow.

It always amazes me how John and I will go a year without fishing together, and then without second guessing, we will both effectively work a group of fish with nothing more than a couple of hand gestures. Flats telepathy is what I like to call it. It’s so calm and serene out there on a slicked out summer evening that our thoughts seem to travel to one another without disruption. I suppose ten years of fishing together might have something to do with it as well!

As John rigged up his whippy stick, I began casting a weedless paddle tail in front of a group of rolling fish. Within the first few casts, I had juvie tarpon skyrocketing out of the water on my bait. Not a bad way to test out our new reel, the Osprey, I thought to myself. Certainly not the right lure for the job, though. For those who know tarpon, they have very tough mouths and are infamously known for spitting the hook! Preparing to fail by failing to plan for anything other than redfish, I decided to pick up the camera and shoot some photos of John as he jumped some fish on the fly.

After documenting one landed fish and watching John send about fifteen flying, I found myself once again searching for gold. Yes, it is true. I am a gold digger through and through. I just love the chase, making the right cast, and the seemingly endless, hard-nosed fight redfish put up after you set the hook! I mean come on! What better way to test out a brand new carbon fiber disc drag than on a big bull red!?

It didn’t take long to find what I was targeting. Tarpon continued to roll in the distance, but my eyes were dead set on a large tail flagging me down about 50 yards out. I quietly sat down (I often stand to spot my fish), and slowly worked my kayak into position. The first cast was a poor one, but the red didn’t seem to mind! Big wake pushin’, hard thump, hook set…Ziiiiiing! Feeeeesh on! Sleigh ride time!

40, 30, 20, 10, 5…she could GO ALL THE WAY… Time to put the brakes on as I tightened up my drag a smidge and turned this big girl’s head. I knew by the depth of the water, the size of the wake, and the length of the initial run that this was a BIG fish! John caught the action from behind and watched as I put the new reel to the test. Solid run after solid run is what gets my blood pumping and keeps me coming back.

“Will all this grass break me off or cause a pulled hook?”

“What if she catches me on the Micro Powerpole?”

“Gotta play this just right!”

Lots of crazy thoughts run through my head when I hook a story and picture worthy fish like this one, but that’s what keeps it exciting. There’s nothing quite like the battle between man and a big fish! After a five to ten minute fight, I landed one of the largest reds I’ve ever caught in my hometown waters. Thirty-five inches and thick!

I thought to myself as I watched the sun sink below the horizon, “Yep I believe that this reel will do just fine.”

Ty Nelson