This is just a quick post, as frankly it is getting old writing about NOT finding shad. Last weekend I made two trips out of CS Lee, one on Saturday with Ray where fishing was the primary goal, and one on Monday with my wife Marci where a picnic and enjoying a day on the water was the goal.
With lows on Saturday morning down in to the mid 30’s and wind forecasted NNW at 15-20mph, I opted to sleep in, have an extra cup of coffee, pick up Ray at 9:00 and hit the water by 10:00am. Now, I should know better at this point because I have been doing this long enough, that with the gage height above 4ft, wading on a good day is a challenge. While I often say 4ft on the Harney gage is “fair game,” I also know that it means the creek mouths are thigh to waist high, and the east bank near the Econ is knee to thigh. Yea, it’s doable, but add in cold weather and a 20mph wind and the question becomes, is it worth it?
Add to that, with the high water this year, the grass on the east bank has grown closer to the edge of the cutbank, leaving a “tightrope-like” 6-12 inches of slippery space to walk on before plummeting off of the bank in to 4-5 feet of water. Stupid… but you fish when you can fish. FWIW, the current was so good that you could swing a T8 Tip and 5/32 hourglass weighted fly in spite of the 1-2ft rollers pushing upstream from the wind. Casting on the other hand, well that’s a different story. How’s your offhand Snap-T? How about your Double Spey? Oh, and single handers, forget about it!
When you need to get out of the wind, the Econlockhatchee River offers protection with its high cut banks, so Ray and I made the decision to make the run up to a section of the river also accessible by foot via Brumley Road. Todd has caught fish as early at Martin Luther King weekend in this section of river (I have not,) so it was worth a shot. As we arrived at the Lily Pool, we noticed the hurricane had knocked the large oak tree there into the head of the pool. With that and the slightly higher water, we opted not to fish it. Instead, we fished the Wives Pool with both the conventional and switch rods and did not find shad.
Fast forward to Monday, and I set out from CS Lee again under entirely different conditions, this time for a nice day on the water with my wife. Again, we slept in, enjoyed an extra cup of coffee at the house and got out on the water around 11am. This day there was absolutely no wind and the weather warmed in to the high 60’s, but with the water still high and cold, I didn’t bother with the east bank (especially because I chose to wet wade,) even though there were likely fish around. Instead, I opted again for the scenic ride up the Econ to the Wives Pool, where we setup chairs, enjoyed a nice picnic, and I enjoyed a cigar while taking in a few hours of peace and quiet. It was a wonderful day on the water together!
Of course, we did have to wet a couple of lines, but we did not find shad. However, on the ride back down river, we did see surface activity (what may have been shad washing) on a section of river accessible from the yellow trail. We did stop to check it out but did not spend a lot of time fishing it as we had to be off the water before 5:00.
If you are interested in hiking the Little Big Econ at Brumley Road in search of shad, I would say give it another two weeks or so before trying. I suspect there was an early run of fish with the high water that are probably way upstream, but hopefully another wave is coming. As for the St. Johns near the Econ, honestly, we just did not spend enough time fishing it to give a realistic report. I did however talk to two people on the water that had caught shad, just not at the east bank (because of the depth.) They are around and I would think anchoring up would likely yield fish.
The river is shaping up nicely now, and with water levels dropping down below 3.5ft during the coming weekend, we should start to see the squeegee happen, where all the bait that is on the floodplain drains into the main channel, and fish start to congregate and feed. The feeding frenzy for all species can be fantastic! From 3.5-2.5ft is my favorite time for this section of river, with 2.8ft being the “sweet spot,” where the river is pretty much back in its banks everywhere that is accessible from the ramp, and wading is no longer a chore. Starting this weekend, high water is no longer an excuse you can use for not fishing, so get to it!