French West Indies, Guadeloupe: Snook, Some Get Big!
Even though it's not technically the end of the year, this year provided me with some of my best fly fishing surprises. I enjoy chasing all of the tropical fish that the French West Indies have to offer, but I especially have come to enjoy fishing for the snook in shallow water. The biggest snook that we have run across so far is the 18lb fish in the picture. He was in very shallow water, with only 1 inch of water over his back. That day, I had already been poling around and covered about 100 yards of mangrove shoreline without seeing a fish. Nonetheless, I kept poling very slowly and looking for a snook even though the clouds were rolling in making it even harder to see fish. There were only 3 small coves left to check before we reached the end of this shoreline. We approached the final cove and there he was. The water was a bit cloudy and I could only see small parts of the fish. “It might be a big one? Can you see him? Ten O’clock, 35 feet and facing to the right. The fly fisherman on the bow replied, “Ya, I think I see him.” Very cautiously I said, “Make the cast and I will tell you when to drop the fly … more left, more left … drop it!” Then, it was a game of “strip, stop .. strip .. stop.” The fish was moving and trying to grab the fly but the angler kept “trout setting.” The fish was now 15 feet or so from the boat. “Cast again! Drop it! Fish on!” We did it! The fish grabbed the fly about 5 feet from the boat and took off like a lightning bolt. What a battle! I was so excited and the guy on the bow did great as I tried to pole my best and keep the boat and fish out of the mangroves.
After a few runs and close calls we finally landed the fish! Total teamwork! I was so excited for us to land a snook that size and grateful that the fish decided not to run into the mangroves as most snook usually do. This was the first ever saltwater fly fishing trip for Jean-Philippe and he was wondering why I was so excited. After talking with him I learned that he thought it was common to catch snook this sized in Guadeloupe and hoped to take another! We did catch 2 other legal size fish that day and a nice baby tarpon in another spot; but the big snook was certainly the catch of the day. Snook and tarpon have been very active this year. The weather has been really rainy and the water has been a bit stained for the last couple weeks. I had been blind casting for baby tarpon with a 9 weight fly rod, which proved to be a big mistake. It wasn’t a baby that surged from the brown water to take my fly, rather a 120 pound tarpon. I knew from the get go that this game was over before it started. I was able to hold onto him for 10 minutes or so and a got a nice lap dance less than 15 feet from the boat before he wore through the 30 pound shock tippet. Fishing is fishing and I like those failures because with every “failure” I lean more. Fish this spot only with a 12 weight and 80lb shock tippet. Anyway, I have five day of fishing this week. Hopefully this time I can get a picture of a giant tarpon lap dance or beat the Guadeloupe fly caught snook record. See you next time!