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Hatbill or Toso?

Paratroopers over Paw Paw

Hatbill or Tosohatchee? That was the question for last Saturday. I really wanted to put in at Hatbill, check out the first and second junctions, maybe make a run up to Orange Mound and the T-split, or run down towards the Indian Mounds. I wanted to catch some fish somewhere different, but nooooo… Ray, the guy who has had multiple 20+ fish days this season needed his double-digit fix again! He is like a shad-catching junkie that just can’t quit! He wasn’t interested in exploring new areas, and was hell bent on fishing from Toso again. An intervention may be warranted.

Of course, none of that is true. Well… maybe the multiple 20+ fish thing is. In reality it was the weather that forced the decision the morning of. There was an 80% chance of a passing thunderstorm at 3:00pm. It’s one thing if storms are forecasted early or late in the day, you can adjust your time on the water accordingly. But to be out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the day during a storm is no bueno. Based on the radar and the track of the looming front, I figured it would likely pass north of us if we fished from Tosohatchee. If it didn’t, we at least had the 7 Palms and Catfish Hotel shelters within close reach to ride it out for an hour or so.

The thunderstorm never materialized (although they did get rain out of CS Lee) but the wind did (20-30 from the SSE.) Similar to prior trips this year, the fish gave themselves away (along with the birds) and we quickly got to work. However, similar to my trip with Mike on Wednesday, the fish were a bit more finicky and did not want the fly stripped aggressively. They also did not seem to want the give-and-take that worked that last trip, but instead wanted it dead drifted or at the end of the swing, or something altogether different.

To be honest, I never really figured out exactly what they wanted, and while I caught my fill of fish, I did not catch two on the same fly, or same presentation. I was glad to have plenty of options in my fly boxes, as well as the single hand rod and switch rod with me. I caught fish on a Crazy Charlie (albeit a smaller size than prior weeks,) Gambusia Hairwing, TJ’s Aluminium (run tandem behind the Gambusia Hairwing after it stopped performing,) a Fry Fly, a Fry Fly hung one foot below an indicator, Brian Larsen’s Green/ White Shad Fly, and so on. I dead drifted flies, swung flies, skated flies, high-sticked flies, stripped flies, figure-of-eighted flies, and even used the conventional rod for a bit, and never got two the same way. Ray however, he seemed to crack the code and had the most consistency on a classic C. Boyd Pfieffer Fly, The Simple One. Pretty cool to catch ’em on a classic and still get double digits (that junkie!)

While we fished, we noticed an airplane make multiple passes, and then got to see multiple groups of paratroopers jump near Paw Paw Mound. I can’t say I have ever seen that before. Check out the video…

We motored downstream of Paw Paw just to have a look, and with the gage at 3.25ft found a couple of turns that were getting too shallow even for the canoe. We went from overflowing rivers to rivers that are starting to dry up a lot faster than I would have expected. That mixed with faster than average warming temperatures, and I am starting to wonder how much longer we may have this season. We need rain, BAD! We are about 1.5ft below median right now, with no rain in the near forecast!

Late in the day we ran up to 7 Palms and ran in to Zain and his dad. We fished the alternate channel for a while together. It was full of fish, finicky fish. A group was there earlier in the day (come to find out it was Brian Larsen and friends) and I am pretty sure the fish were on to us. Zain managed one in the wake of the Sportpal as Ray and I motored back upstream.

We did manage to catch a few more fish upstream, and then returned to the launch. As we did, we saw a couple guys that had been cast netting from shore, cleaning their catch there, and tossing the guts into the river… with a couple of alligators happy to oblige. SMH, feeding alligators is illegal, but what do these jackasses know? As we landed the boat, and began packing our gear in the Jeep, it was clear that they knew we were on to them, and with a series of hurried whistles and yells they wrangled the rest of the pack from the river into a white van and red sedan.

We have noticed more and more trash laying around, not just at the end of Powerline Rd, but on the river as well. Everywhere these guys cast net, there are now glass bottles, beer cans, and other crap lying around. While I am happy to pick up the random piece of litter, it has gotten to the point where I would be filling multiple yard bags each trip.

What has been truly bizarre, is the ever-increasing selection of clothing left behind. Boots, shoes, socks, shirts, boxers, tighty-whities, you name it. Ray for one, has added some Italian loafers and fancy glasses to his collection from this cache. Ehehehe! We have joked, maybe the mob have been dumping bodies out here or something. Come to find out, it’s not that nefarious, it’s just these very same jackasses. I literally watched a guy take off his shirt, wipe his feet with it, get into the crappy sedan he rode in on, and LEAVE THE SHIRT! Who does that!?! It took everything I had not to give this crowd a piece of my mind. However, a cooler head prevailed. I don’t need to be getting in to fist (or gun) fight 12 miles into a wilderness management area. I also don’t need to come back to my car after a long day of fishing and find my tires slashed next outing. Logic sucks sometimes.

At least some semblance of justice was served this day, because as Ray and I approached the exit to Tosohatchee, FWC had pulled both of these jokers over. The officer checked us quickly to make sure we had our day pass and waved us on. It was clear that the cast netters had not gotten a day pass and were being ticketed. Chances are they didn’t have fishing licenses either, so it may have turned into an expensive tilapia trip for these idiots. Would have been cheaper to buy a bag at Publix. We told the officer what we saw, this day and over multiple weeks, and moved on. Hopefully these guys get trespassed, but who knows. I may avoid Toso for a bit.


  1. L.Lutton

    I went with Luc D. years ago. We had his Gheenoe and wade fished out of that. After turning a corner after having been harassed twice by a 7 footer, I saw three giants on a bluff 70 yards from where we had been fishing. Last time I wade fished that area. Cast netters were not an issue at that time and I recall being checked for boat registration when we were pulling out.

  2. Philippe Richen

    Great report, been hoping to get one more shot this week. Are the paratroopers a new way to get to fly fish the area? I just imagine that as you are landing you see that you are dropping in the middle of a gator group.

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