Earlier this year I was invited to the International Fish and Tackle Dealer show in Orlando, Florida by my good friend Edgar Diaz. Edgar is the owner and artist behind Sight Line Provisions, a company that specializes in leather bracelets and cuffs geared towards fly fishing and the outdoors industries. Of course, I said yes, as this is the crème de la crème of all fishing and outdoors retailer conventions. I was joined by other mutual friends; Grant Braudrick was one such friend. Most of the people attending the convention were planning to go tarpon fishing with guides the following weekend. I, on the other hand, did not have that luxury. My daughters 1st birthday was coming up that same weekend and I would not have missed that for anything. Grant found out that I was not going to have a chance to fish and took it upon himself to take me out regardless. With that, we hatched a plan to play hooky on the second day of the convention to see If we could get into some poon. No, not that kind of poon you sicko…
Grant is one of those guys that you meet and instantly know he is a solid person with a good heart and would give you the last fly in his box to make sure you had a good day on the water. During our 45 minute road trip Grant and I chatted about fishing, music and how he broke out of the corporate world to become a full-time musician and a part-time fly fisherman from Dallas, Texas.
Grant grew up in a musical family. His mom was a piano player and singer, his aunt was a guitar player, and when Grant was 14, he picked up the guitar and found that he had a natural talent for music. At 17 Grant was already an accomplished musician, playing several gigs around the Fort Worth area; and in 2008 had the unique opportunity to play for the troops in Kuwait and Iraq. He and the band travelled in Black Hawk helicopters from base to base entertaining the soldiers during their deployments. Grant said this all happened at a very impressionable time and changed his perspective on life in a major way. After getting back stateside, Grant emersed himself in the corporate world, but knew right away this is not what he wanted to do. He had that rambling bone and he had to keep moving. And that is exactly what he did. Seven years ago, Grant quit the corporate world and pursued his dream of becoming a musician. He now travels around the country playing music under the name Good Ole G, and fly fishes everywhere he goes. Grant is now a rep for Rainy’s Flies, Sight Line Provisions, Temple Fork Outfitters, and Diablo Kayaks. Make sure you check out Good Ole G on ReverbNation.
Grant pulled up an app on his phone called Fishbrain. Now, I have seen a bunch of fishing apps before but nothing with as much detail and actual solid advice as Fishbrain provided. Grant launched the app and found an area where we would target these air-sucking, silver goliaths not too far away. So, the next day we headed out to Merit Island. Driving through Florida was a trip to me, but growing up in rural Minnesota, it was also strangely familiar. The corn fields and maple trees were replaced with sugar cane and palm trees. After a 45-minute drive we came up on our destination. We pulled off to the side of a road and to the left of us found a shallow stained water canal, not more than 3 to 4 feet deep. Being new to the tarpon game, I was not hopeful. Turns out juvenile tarpon will hole up in shallow canals until they are large enough to head out to the open ocean. Grant tells me that these fish will reach about 60 pounds before they head out to deeper pastures.
We started fishing near where we parked and listened to our surroundings. Tarpon, like so many other fish, are air breathers: every now and again they will come to the surface to suck a bit of air. When you hear a gulping noise or see a fish breach the surface this is what’s called “rolling.” About a half hour of scouting the banks we didn’t see anything but some spotted gar, and decide to try another spot. We drove up the road a little ways and saw a pool where there looked like there could be some fish holding up. We made a couple casts and both of us hooked up right away. They were spotted gar. Still, they were a fun fight and confidence boosters. All of a sudden we heard a huge splash about 100 yards up the canal. We looked at each other, jumped in the truck and raced to where we thought we heard it. We hopped out, grabbed our gear and started hucking clousers and deceivers into the stained water. We could hear juveniles sucking air from the opposite bank. We knew we were in the right spot. Just then, Grant hooked up on a fish and knew right away that it was a tarpon. These fish will usually jump completely out of the water within the first few seconds of the fight. Sure enough, Grant’s fish shot out of the water with an astonishing flip: it had to be 30 pounds. We were both in awe but just as suddenly as it was there, it was gone. Tarpon are known escape artists. It extremely couter intuitive but when tarpon jump you have to “bow to the king” and feed them your line or they will break you off, or shake the hook, so just hooking one and seeing it jump is still considered a good day. Grant tells me that they have extremely bony faces and there are only a couple of spots you can get a good hook set into: either the upper palate or, ideally, the crease where the lower jaw meets the upper. If you get your hook set there, you’re golden.
Soon after Grant rolled his fish, I got a take. This fish jumped right away, and even though it was not a 30-pounder, I was still stoked to land my first tarpon. The fish hit that clouser minnow so fast and furious that the fly went through his gill plate and hooked him under his lip. We simply snipped the fly free and threaded the leader out of his mouth to reduce any damage to the fish, got a couple snapshots and set him free.
Shortly after, I hooked into another fish. By the fight it gave me I thought it was another tarpon, but knew it couldn’t have been because it didn’t jump. After a good fight this beautiful Mayan cichlid came to the surface.
Thanks to Grant, I was able to catch a tarpon, a gar, and a Mayan cichlid, completing my Florida back roads grand slam, and by the weekend, I was home with my family to celebrate a special birthday with my baby girl.
Remember, always bow to the king and never miss your Princess’s birthday.