A Year Fishing The Everglades Special, Half Way Through A Bad Decision

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By Paul Pucket

“I have the best year of fishing I may ever experience, all around this continent, and I am stuck with one damn fly! Wow, am I stupid?”

Fishing wise, I have never had a year like this one. I am fishing in places I have never fished and feel very lucky to have the opportunities. The main difference between this year, and the prior years spent chasing these mindless, slimy, instinctual creatures, is that I am limited to one fly. All year. The Everglades Special.

I have now reached the halfway mark, and have a few thoughts about this adventure. Working in the Lowcountry Flyshop in Charleston, I have heard a few people discuss the idea that you could use the Everglades Special for any species of fish, especially the redfish that swim in our parts. So I took on the challenge, without really even thinking it through, and here I am, with one flybox containing a single pattern.

My first few would-be angling conquests were big goose-eggs. Winter here in Charleston means slow, lethargic, picky reds. It also means clear water and huge wads of fish. The fishing can be really great.

Winter was cold here. I chose my fishing days wisely. Well, as wisely as I could, not having a boat and depending on friends to get me out. One day in early March, with Harry Tomlinson and Doug Roland, I got my first redfish on the Everglades Special. If felt good, like I’d accomplished something. I’d caught a largemouth bass a few days before, so now I had scored two species. I fished a few more times in February and March. A couple of fish were caught, nothing out of the ordinary, but I had my eyes on the biggest test I would face all year, a permit.

Looking past the permit for a second, down the line I had Florida tarpon, Utah trout, Alaska kings and rainbows, Tennessee carp and Jackson Hole trout. Maybe fall in Montana and definitely fall reds. A lot to accomplish, for me and my Everglades Special. As I read this back to myself, I’m thinking, I have the best year of fishing I may ever experience, all around this continent, and I am stuck with one damn fly! Wow, am I stupid?

So, back to the permit trip to Punta Allen’s Palometa Club. Not just permit, of course. Bones, snapper, and jacks –I’m counting these species too. Stick to the plan, that was the only plan. I had tied some small versions of the Everglades Special for bones and snapper on a size six hook and also had tied a weighted version to get down quick. I figured if I was gonna use this fly for permit, I could find a loophole. Nobody said I couldn’t.

Imagine having to explain to your Mexican/Mayan permit guide that you can only use one fly. They do speak pretty good English. Think about how stupid you must sound, coming all the way here to fish for the hardest fish you can get to eat a fly, and you have a baitfish pattern, with dumbbell weight eyes, meant to mimic a crab but looks like a baitfish. Dumb.

The first day, I had this weighted Everglades Special. in front of a few fish. They never really gave it a second look. After all I had heard about permit fishing, this sounded normal. I never flinched, never thought about defeat. On day two, we saw a little more action, right out of the gate.

I was with Bill Purmort and he let me have first crack. I cast to a duo of feeding fish, zig zagging, eating, looking, swimming at my fly. Three times I had a great presentation to these fish and nothing. Finally I hear, In broken English, “Get outta there, this is no good. You must change fly, Bill…get in the water, Paul…back to boat.” I was in ‘time out’ in a Panga.

Koriano was mad and I was frustrated. I looked at my fly. I had a thought. I grabbed the pliers with the cutters and went to town. I cut a lot of the tail off, tangled the hairs and created a V shape behind the hook to imitate crab claws. I had an Everglades Special Crab Convertible. Call it cheating, I don’t care.

Two hours later, I had a couple fish coming my way, I cast to 12 o’clock, 10 feet in front of the fish. I settled in in, stripped a nice slow and long 3 feet.

“Eat! Eat! Eat!” says Koriano.

WHAT??? I never felt it. Oh well, I got a damn eat at least, or he just wanted me to feel better, either way, I slept that night.

Day 3 was a good one. Not so much for me, but for the other guy from Charleston. He decided to limit himself to only using a bamboo rod. Can you imagine what these guides were thinking. I would have loved to have been at the breakfast table after day one. David Porter got his permit, it was quite a feat and was so satisfying to watch, I was proud of him and you couldn’t have ripped that smile off for a hundred years.

Day 4, the final day, and my Everglades Special crab conversion thingamijiggy was ready for battle. I was with my good friend (and badass film maker) Ryan Griffin. We know each other from our Jackson, Wyoming days and we were having a blast fishing together. It was about noon and rumblings called for lunch and a cold beer, then all hell broke loose.

Ryan was on the bow when we came across a school of about three-, or four-hundred permit. Their dorsals barely breaking the surface, moving in such a way they begged us to cast to them. Just milling around in 6-8 feet of water. Ryan had a few casts as I waited in agony for my chance. He decided to change flies and I got my chance. I had changed to a typical, lightweight Everglades Special. I cast like I had never cast before. This had to be it.

They weren’t really tailing, just swimming. Why wouldn’t they eat it? If I were cruising around in the mall, and a Jimmy John’s sandwich sample just finds its way, teeter tottering in front of me, even though I am in search of a burger or beer, yeah..I’m gonna eat it. Why the hell not?

“What the hell are you doing…you must change your fly!!!”

There it was again, that scream. I packed up my pride, and my stubbornness, put it in my boat bag and let him tie on a Raghead Crab. I cast it into the school. Strip, strip….tight. That’s all it takes sometimes. Would I have caught that fish on an Everglades Special? On the next cast? Maybe, who the hell knows? I caught my first permit and was very excited, but I didn’t write it on the box because, well, it wasn’t on THE fly.

My tarpon trip was coming up. I wasn’t too worried, tarpon eat these type of flies and thought I should be ok, but of course the double-edged sword of the worm hatch reared its head. Due to weather, we fished a couple hours in the morning, then chased the elusive worm hatch in the evening at the bridge. This meant that when the worms hatch and I am fishing an Everglades Special, I may as well be fishing with a number sixteen Parachute Adams. The fish are there for one thing and one thing only, the Palolo Worm.

The first day we went to the backcountry, my favorite place to be, with Captain Joel Dickey. The fish weren’t rolling, like they usually do back there. We happened to come across some birds feeding and sure enough a few tarpon were getting in on the shrimp action. Joel gave me some shit. He looked at me with that “Joel” look and said, “Well, we sure as hell ain’t in the Everglades.”

I told him to just wait and see, I’d show him. I really did have a huge amount of confidence in the Everglades Special I’d tied on a tarpon hook. Tre Miller locked up to his fish, then it was my turn as I casted to the meatball of silver. A few strips, pick up, re-cast, then I came tight. It flew through the air 3 or 4 times, putting on a show. Relief and excitement. We boated the fish. It was a small fish, but still, it was on the box. I had caught my tarpon with the Everglades Special.

We did go to the bridges the next 3 evenings and one night it did go off. A little. About thirty minutes before dark the worms came out and the fish were everywhere. I stooped to tying on a worm fly. How could do anything else? I had my prize in my pocket, so why the hell not. I hooked a good one, fought it for a while, then it swam free to the ocean side. Seeing those fish jump and fight is like nothing else. It never gets old!

So, this is where we go flats fishing for reds and it has been a tough year. People caught fish. Not so much the guys out wading, being kind of stuck to one spot. I’m not sure why but it has been a tough early summer for the mud hikers. In 10 wading trips, I have seen 2 tails, and they didn’t play the game.

On to Utah. The mountain weather and cold water is a good thing and I fall off the wagon. I had every intention of using the Everglades Special. It really is just a trout streamer, after all. Then I hear words like, “Stonefly, Green Drake, PMD and big fish rising.” And I see them for the first time and let’s just say I called it a halftime special. I have been restricted to only one fly for over five months and just needed, well, wanted a break. Who’s writing the rules to this game anyway? I figured I would go with it. We had a great time in Utah, visiting my girlfriend’s family and even got Sara on her first fly rod fish, so successful I shall call it.

When I got back from Utah, just a few weeks ago, my buddy Harry asked me to go with him redfishing. I chose to go, wisely, for it was one of those days. The fish were happy, eating on the surface, getting after the floating Everglades Special, and the Rattling version. We had a blast, a day I will never forget and one that made me very happy I took this challenge.

It will be fun to look back and say, “I did it.” Next I have the Alaska trip. kings, rainbow and chums. I don’t plan on straying. I think the big bows will love this fly and the kings won’t be able to stand that thing dancing in their face. I’ll report back with more catches, and failures soon.

I do not suggest trying this at home.

Paul Puckett
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “A Year Fishing The Everglades Special, Half Way Through A Bad Decision

  1. LOL….this is honestly my GO-TO fly. Though I do live in the Everglades…which I’m sure helps tremendously. My only switch is this fly in black in purple if I’m going for tarpon!

  2. Great story Paul. Not a course I would choose for fishing around the world… but heck, it is surely a challenge and you have a lot more years in front of you than I do…

    You need to come see our year old Chessie, Pilot, who is Brody’s son. North Georgia trout also beckon.

  3. Great perspective Paul, and even more entertaining watching part of your adventure….saw you were having success in AK…see you soon.

  4. Pingback: July 25, 2014: Feather and Fin Link Round-Up | Feather and Fin

  5. I love Palometo Club. I would have cried if all I had to toss at permit all week was anything but a crab. You did the right thing for your sanity!

    By the way, I changed the strings on that guitar you painted and left in the lodge. It had only four when I arrived last summer. It is hard to find extra guitar strings in Punta Allen, BTW.

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