I've fished with a ton of fishing guides over the years (over 250) and Captain Phillip is in the top three YES THREE of all the captains I have been out with. The force is strong in this one, and just a fantastic guide to go fishing with. Strong recommended. Cheers.
-Steve Chapman of Fishing Florida Radio Show.
Welcome to Anchored Charters Guide Service. The home of the Emerald Coast’s premiere guide service specializing in Bay Fishing, Beach Fishing, and Offshore/Deep Sea fishing all on light tackle Spin or Fly. Due to our outstanding fishery and the most versatile guides we offer a large variety of fishing trips to insure you, our client, will have an experience like no other. We offer both half and full day trips, night Shark encounter trips as well as trips you can customize for small to large groups for everything from Corporate trips to Family reunions. We also offer a family sightseeing and Island excursions. Let us provide you with memories that will last forever and traditions that you will have year after year.
Unique Things Happen In Leap Years
By Vic Attardo
Every four years the spinning Earth gives us an extra day to make of it whatever we will. Capt. Phillip Wilds and I needed that extra day, plus one, to land the largest red snapper on a fly rod ever seen on the guide’s boat, as well as a lot of other Florida boats.
Catching a bottom dwelling reef fish on a fly rod is a tall order by itself but to land one weighing at least 15 pounds is leap-year worthy. The catch was made on March 1 just out from Panama City in the Gulf of Mexico in some 75 feet of water. Of course, the snapper wasn’t hooked that deep but it had every intention of returning to the bottom once it felt the bite of the hook. It took a fly rod that could bend all the way down to the handle and a show-stopping drag to prevent it from going down, down and away.
Wilds is embedded in three generations of commercial and charter boat fishermen and he literally danced around his 20-foot flats boat when the fish was secure.
“I’ve never seen a snapper this big on a fly rod!” Wilds yelled to heaven. “Never, never, never.”
Me, I spent the next minute uncramping my right hand from the clutching grip that had held the snapper in the Gulf’s blue waters. When Wilds told me how spectacular a catch this was — in size and style — then I got really excited.
Red snappers are deep dwellers and this one was actually holding around a sunken tugboat. The eerie outline of the ship’s hull was clearly revealed on the Hummingbird sonar. The way the colored screen portrayed the tug, complete with a dense halo of fish around its stacks, made it seem like a character in a Pixar movie.
Before the fly rod-action, we had been dropping shrimp down to the tug and had hooked a couple of fine snappers — but nothing compared to what was to come. The day before we caught a beautiful ten-pounder on bait, and Wilds did not get as excited as he soon would become.
Satisfied with our bait catch, Wilds started tossing scoops of slightly unfrozen menhaden over the side of the boat.
He had a plan he was holding close to the vest. If it didn’t happen then, nothing gained nothing lost. But as the nearly stationary bubbles on the Gulf’s surface began to skate with a fresh tide, Wilds announced he had seen a snapper close to the surface.
“Did you see that?” he asked, the plan starting to develop around him.
I hadn’t seen THAT so I put down my bait rod and stared over the side. As I did Wilds readied a fly rod — an 8wt. Temple Fork. He ended the leader with a custom made Enrico Puglisi fly, a Peanut Bunker pattern but without the weed guard and without the bunker’s flank spots. The custom job looked an awful lot like the offered menhaden.
Very soon I saw the THAT & more — a pod of snappers slashing at the bits of bait fish we chummed. They appeared behind the boat, their optic orange bodies performing incredible gymnastics as they attacked the easy meal.
Next came the catching.
I feel as comfortable with a fly rod as a spinning outfit or a bait caster and I was all prepared to make a mighty fly cast but Wilds told me to just drift the fly back to the fish and be ready.
Pulling line off the reel, I let the slack fall under the rod tip and waited for the current to draw it away. But the technique wasn’t quite right.
Standing in the stern Wilds could see everything the rising snappers were doing but from my position amidships I didn’t have the best view. I could still see the orange disks rushing around about three to five feet below the surface but I couldn’t pick out the fly or exactly how the fish were reacting. Also I was dropping too much slack from the rod tip. I knew I wanted a straight line to feel the strike but initially I didn’t have the timing.
“They’re not taking the fly because it’s not drifting like the chum,” Wilds said.
I knew how to correct this. Pulling in the fly, I sent it back on another trajectory this time with less slack and tighter loops below the rod tip so it was carried smoothly by the current.
As soon as I managed to match the tempo the line went tight and the rod ached from the heavy pull. But just as quick as the strike, the fish was gone. Perhaps I hadn’t strip-set the fly as hard as Wilds had told me; perhaps it was just a bit of bad fortune. A tinge of despair entered my thoughts because I didn’t know how many chances I’d have.
Pulling the line in I readied for another presentation, another castless drift behind the boat, when a regrouped pod of snappers came towards the surface.
I had the timing all set.
The next strike nearly ripped the rod from my hands — absolutely, truly, literally, nearly ripped it from my hands. While my right was on the cork, I needed my left hand reaching up ahead of the butt to stop it from sailing into the Gulf.
I have seen fly rods bend from the weight of hundreds of big fish but not until this snapper latched on had I ever seen a fly rod forced into such a painful curve. The 8wt was strangled down to the handle. I feared it would “snap like a saltine” — a phrase Wilds would later use to describe what had happened to other fly rods when their owners tried to land a red snapper of lesser size. As the rod doubled under I even squinted my eyes because I’d seen graphite pieces firecracker towards their owners’ faces as they mishandled their equipment.
Getting the rod butt in my belly button, I put the fish on the reel and turned the handle as best I could. It didn’t turn easily. A 15-pound fish might not sound like a critical weight for an angler and a fly rod — indeed I’ve caught twenty-pound pike and thirty-pound salmon that didn’t not give me or the rod such a hard time. Those fish wanted to go out and out; this fish, at least at first, went down and down towards the deep bottom. Another thing entirely.
The Orvis reel’s drag was screwed down tight and still the fish pulled out line. What developed wasn’t so much a tug-of-war battle as a flat out, hold-on-as-best I could fight. Fortunately this snapper decided it would rather flee across the water than go down. If it had continued on its bottom trajectory, Wilds and I later agreed it could not have been stopped.
Doing what I was barely able to do, reeling hard, bracing the handle in my gut and being mean and nasty, pulling it back every time it turned to run, I eventually got the fish on the surface and Wilds made a scoop like a second baseman seizing an oversize beach ball. As angry as a ticked off bull dog, the snapper was in the boat.
Only then did Wilds get dancing, declaring that in all his years he had never seen such a snapper — estimated at any easy 15 pounds — caught on a fly rod. Since it was catch and release season, we’ll never know officially.
Just as we completed the catch two fighter jets from the nearby Tyndall Air Force Base flew overhead like in a Super Bowl salute. That was good enough. We saluted back.
Oh yes, we caught another red snapper on the fly rod before running out of chum. The fish was beautiful and big but not nearly as the Leap Year behemoth.
UNIQUE THINGS HAPPEN IN LEAP YEARS
By Vic Attardo
- Red Fish
- Jack crevalle
- False Albacore
- Spanish Mackerel
- Blue Fish
- Red Snapper
- King Macherel
- Offshore/Deep Sea
- Bay Fishing
- Flats Fishing
- Artificial Fishing
- Fly Fishing
- Duck Hunting