As an avid Fly Fisherman that frequents the water in North Georgia rivers at least 200 days a year, I recently found myself unbelievably excited to take a family vacation down to New Smyrna Beach Florida for a little bit of Salt Water Action! I take one or two trips a year which allow me to target Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, Dorado, etc.. Each trip on the salt allows me to improve for the next trip and over the years I am getting insulted and yelled at less and less by my courageous guides. This was the first leg of our journey which would potentially reach its climax in Islamorada Florida! My rule of thumb for official family vacations with the Wife and kids is that one out of three days can safely be allocated towards me disappearing from family activities for some focused Fly Fishing. With Covid being alive and well in Florida (and everywhere for that matter) we decided to book private housing so that we could cook for ourselves and minimize contact with other tourists and humans in general. Face masks, gloves and lysol were in full effect as we occasionally stopped at gas stations for bio breaks and fuel.
I wasn't sure what I was going to get into as far as fly fishing in NSB but I went ahead and booked a guide that specialized in fly fishing with a great reputation and an impressive Instagram gallery of thrilled clientele. My choice was Captain Justin Price. Due to trying to book a trip only a week out from my arrival I was lucky that he had a cancellation for a full day adventure which I quickly took advantage of.
Meeting Justin in the morning we had the usual fly banter and feeling out process for both of us to understand who we were dealing with for the day. I quickly assessed that he was the real deal and my optimism for the day escalated quickly. I am sure that Justin assessed that I was a bit of a crazy backwoods mountain man from North Georgia and that if I applied generous amounts of sunscreen and tempered my tales of Georgia Trout, we would probably make it back to civilization in one piece at the end of the day. Captain Justin’s Boat was immaculate and perfectly set up for an incredible day of shooting fly line. We spent most of the morning polling through the mangroves for smaller redfish and had a delightful time. The incredible beauty and peacefulness of this area rivals anywhere else I have had the honor of flyfishing.
After an engaging morning and a lite lunch we set out for some bigger Redfish and Justin set out for one of his favorite locations that had a high likelihood of producing these legendary monsters that I had seen in his photo galleries online. Once in place and armed with a new 9wt I had ordered for the trip, I was set up and ready to get to work on the casting platform. Justin was elevated at the back of the boat sighting for Reds that were rising to feed on unsuspecting prey. Timing was a key element of the strategy as it usually is. Getting my fly in front of the Red and stripping it in time with the average movement and speed of the prey has the potential to lure one of these majestic reds to eat!
The first massive red that chased my fly came up, opened its large mouth and closed on it in what seemed like slow motion to me! In my excitement, once I saw it take the fly and submerged slightly I strip set the fly with the force similar to that 3rd pull on a lawnmower cord that won't start! The fly came right out of the trophy’s mouth and started flying back towards my mouth instead! With great reserve and poise my trusted guide advised me to let the fish take the fly, feel the pull and set the lazer sharp hook with only a moderately firm strip set. Ok……. I was ready for the next opportunity... and in the back of my mind I was praying that there would indeed be another shot at one of these incredible beasts!
Sure enough Justin’s laser vision picked up another beast on the prowl and he called it out at 11 o’clock. I was ready…. One false cast and a haul put my fly perfectly ahead of the cruising red and within a few strips of passing right in front of the red’s trajectory! Sure enough it rose, took the fly and dove pulling tension and allowed me to effectively set the hook with the proper amount of reserve and discipline!
Once the Red felt my pull it was off and soon we were past the fly line and into the backing! The strength of this copper and gold clad creature was amazing. Each moment it would cease running I would begin reeling it in and pulling it back towards the boat. Every time I thought I was making some headway the freight train would up and take off again and again. There were some wood posts jutting up towards the shore and this tank instinctively knew to head for them. With every bit of resolve I had I tried to swing him back away from the structure that would surely sever my line! It was amazing and as I was in the midst of this incredible battle a pontoon boat of tourists pulled up like they were watching the hillbilly version of the Old Man and the Sea! Now with an audience to add to the pressure of bringing this fish in I continued what seemed like an endless battle. My arms were starting to weaken and somehow I felt that the Redfish was not weakening in proportion to my own strain! The hooting and hollering from the pontoon boat gave me another jolt of energy and resolve to see this through with whatever style I could muster! Finally the powerful creature was near the boat and we were maneuvering to take hold and secure it for a photo to chronicle this amazing conquest! Just as I thought we were done and in the safety zone the beast flailed and with every last bit of its resolve dove under the boat and in an instant my 9wt exploded into pieces! From behind me ghasps and schrieds were heard from the audience on the pontoon boat! Captain Justin quickly told me to just keep reeling with my now 3 foot rod! I did as the master guide instructed and with a few grunts and “Oh Shits” we got a hold of the majestic creature and carefully brought it on board for a quick photo and a quick release back into the deep. The Red Bull weighed in at 44lbs! Captain Justin Price took great care in the protection of this Red and as a Trout Man that appreciates the care and safety of fishery conservation, I really appreciated his authentic respect of this Red which was undeniably one of the funnest flyfishing days I have ever had! After that battle I moved up to a 10wt rod for the rest of the day!
Every time I am fortunate enough to flyfish on salt water I walk away stronger and go back to the mountains with deeper insights and ability that apply to my daily practices and methods! The funny thing is with saltwater flyfishing I often find myself critical of what I could have done different or better where with backwoods river fly fishing I just do my thing, have a good time and for the most part meet some great looking trout! You can see some of my adventures on instagram @dobbin. As well you can catch up with Captain Justin Price on instagram @captjustin_price
I can't wait for another opportunity to get back to New Smyrna Beach for another outing with Captain Justin Price. Next time I will book several days with him far in advance!! The Best of Times!
About Dobbin Buck, Georgia, USA - Entrepreneur, Volunteer, Fly Fishing Guide, Angler
Raised in northern Minnesota at the gateway to the Boundry Waters Canoe Area, Dobbin Buck has been a lifetime outdoorsman who picked up his obsession for fly fishing from his father who was a lifelong diehard fly fisherman. Dobbin is a fly fishing guide in north Georgia and also is on the Board of Directors for veteransflyfishing.org a non profit dedicated to teaching military veterans fly fishing skills and providing mentorship for them to become guides or advanced anglers! Dobbin has fly fished worldwide and owns fisheries in both north Georgia and upstate NY on the Battenkill River. He balances his obsession for fly fishing with being an Entrepreneur (Troutpreneur) that employs nearly 50 people at his cabin based marketing agency in the backwoods of north Georgia. Dobbin also enjoys the backwoods with his wife Elizabeth and two kids! Follow some of Dobbin’s fly fishing adventures on Instagram: @dobbin