Davis masters the Pompano river with his fly rod


Once again, Suntree’s Jerry Davis catches a prized pompano in the Indian River with his fly rod.

Over the past three weeks he has averaged four to five per trip along a 4 1/2 mile section of the west side of the river between Turkey Creek in Palm Bay and the south end of Rocky Point near Malabar in southern Brevard.

“There are six to eight key places where I can usually find the pompano outfit,” said Davis, who uses his boat to reach the places where he then goes overboard and wades.

Davis makes a point of being on the water in the first light of day and by 9:30 am he’s on his way home.

“It’s usually an early morning bite and I might have to try a couple of places before I find them,” said Davis, 70, a retired school principal from his native California.

Bill Sargent

Most spots have drops of about three feet of water to five or six feet, creating a hollow, but he’s found that the pompano also likes submerged structures like the broken parts of old docks. They are also attracted to drop offs around the river cuttings islands along the Intracoastal Waterway.

“It’s a case of blind casting until you find them,” he said. “I will be standing in two to three feet of water and casting my fly in deeper water.”

Pompano, prized as a table dish, are bottom feeders that rarely show up on the surface, except when disturbed as by a passing boat. But when the water is clear, as was the case south of Melbourne, sometimes reflections of moving fish can be spotted.

While some pompanos reside in the estuarine system, most are ocean residents who move through creeks like Sebastian in the Indian River Lagoon for reasons that can only be speculated.

“Usually we do better in the river between January and April, but I think all the dirt and algae that we’ve had recently along the waves, and now the rain and runoff we’ve had, has pushed a lot of pompano in the river, ”Davis said.

Pompano requires clean conditions and, for this reason, is generally recognized as an oceanic species, especially along the waves where it feeds heavily on sand fleas, small crabs and other crustaceans.

“I’ve been fishing for them for about 12 years now, so I’ve learned to look for the clean water they like, the type of bottom they want and most importantly how to get them flying,” said Davis, who retired to Suntree 15 years ago, having spent years fly fishing for freshwater trout in the High Sierra.

Gary Giles, guide and fly fishing specialist from Palm Bay, is a close friend of Davis who got him interested in saltwater fly fishing, especially in the Indian River, and they have made countless trips together.

Giles has always been willing to share his fishing expertise with others and Davis demonstrates the same helpful attitude.

“Gary became my mentor and basically taught me everything I learned about river fishing,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t have so much fun without Gary Giles.”

One of Giles’ strengths is the methods of finding and catching the river pompano with fly gear. He also fly fishes for tarpon and snook in the river and in creeks and backwater canals, and a week ago he had a day of fly fishing for largemouth bass in the Stick Marsh.

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Bright colors of orange and yellow, and sometimes red, are almost always incorporated into pompano lures. The colors mimic the orange colored egg sac on the underside of the sand fleas, making it a prime forage.

The Clouser minnows typically make some of the best pompano fly fishing patterns and Giles designed what he calls the Giles Clouser, tied on a # 2 hook with weighted eyes and an overall yellow-orange body with a mid-section. pink and a white body. When properly attached, a Clouser’s hook beard rises when retrieved.

For his own use, Davis attaches a variation of the Giles’ Clouser starting with a Mustad 34007 O’Shaughnessy style hook. For weight he uses medium sized lead eyes on a red head and they are followed by handcrafted orange and yellow colored fur material for the body. Several bands of Krystal Flash are included for a natural and flashy look. It presses on the barb of the hook to facilitate releases. The finished fly is two inches long.

Davis does not sell his flies and the Giles Clouser was available in the past at Harry Goode’s Outdoors Shop in Melbourne.

There are many pompano flies available, some mimicking sand fleas and crabs, and they all undoubtedly work when presented correctly. Any 1 1/2 to 2 inch Clouser minnow pattern with bright colors would work.

Davis uses a 7 weight fly rod with a floating line and a nine foot leader with a 10 to 12 pound tip. The length of the leader allows the weighted fly to reach the bottom.

“After a cast, I count four to five seconds, then I start a series of two or three short strips and a pause, followed by the same, while working slowly. The bands produce a pattern of short bounces.

“If they hit the tail, stop and let it sit for a while. Then start the rebound again and there’s a good chance the fish will come back, ”added Davis.

Pompano’s are finicky and are easily scared off by movement and vibration. For these reasons, wading is recommended. Anchor the boat a good distance from your fishing area.

“When you find a school, don’t move around a lot or they’ll detect it and move around,” Davis said. “If you do everything right, you could get three or four in this place. “

Davis has caught fish as large as 3 1/2 pounds, usually females with eggs, which he releases.

“The full bodied pompano fights as well as any jack crevalle of the same size,” he said. “Just another reason I prefer the fly rod.”

Most of the drops of clean water creating a deep hollow become a potential feeding area for the pompanos. The Wabasso area gives catches south of Sebastian as well as areas to the north currently in production.

Those using spinning or conventional gear will do best using the same slow, bouncy retrievals with lures like Nylures, Doc’s Goofy Jigs, or brightly colored plastic tail larvae.

Bill Sargent from Melbourne has been writing about sports and the outdoors for FLORIDA TODAY for over 49 years. Contact Sargent at [email protected]


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