Walt Palen was raised on the Southwest Coast of Florida on the pristine waters of Charlotte Harbor. The endless miles of the mangrove back country were a perfect playground for a growing boy. At age sixteen Walt became a certified SCUBA diver. Boating, fishing, diving, spear fishing, and water skiing were all part of the routine. A passion for fresh and saltwater light tackle artificial expanded to fly fishing and fly tying. Walt enjoys travel and has fished throughout the United States and Canada for an assortment of species. Walts last two trips were to Nova Scotia and the upper reaches of Washington State hiking and targeting salmon and steelhead with the fly rod. Walt is an avid inshore kayak tournament fisherman and took second place in the 2014 Adventure Fishing World Championship in the Everglades paddling 23 miles in one day in his Native Ultimate 14.5.
You can reach out to him on Facebook - ShallowFly Walt - or Instagram - Shallowfly_Walt.
When fishing from a kayak, space is always a concern. When fly fishing in windy conditions, line management is a big issue. You can always up your fly rod size and cast a lower cast, but when you’re stripping the line to the deck it can get out of control.
At 3:00am I rolled into Josh Slager’s driveway in Lakeland, FL and we started our journey to the East Coast for the Emily's 2014 Inshore Fishing Tournament. Emily is a ten-year-old little girl who is the only one in the world who has the genetic disorder Chromosome 2q36 Deletion Syndrome. She also has autism and epilepsy. This is an annual tournament to help raise funds for Emily’s therapy at her special school, which costs $29,000 a year.
I live and grew up fishing in Florida, and it’s a thrill each and every time I fish. I recently vacationed in upper reaches of the Northwest at the base of the breathtaking landscape of Olympic National Park. It’s surrounded by the Olympic rain forest, and is known for the outdoor filming of the movie Twilight - La Push, WA.
It’s springtime here in Florida, and that means fish both fresh and salt are active - very active. This trip, we agreed to fish the freshwater. We had just had two days of rain, so we knew there would be flowing water from culverts and overflows between lakes that would concentrate fish. The place we chose to launch the kayaks is a management area called Tenoroc.
Have you ever fished a freshwater Pit in Florida for bass and copperheads?
It’s Spring time here in Florida and that means fish both fresh and salt are active; very active. This trip we agreed to fish the fresh water. We just had two days of rain, so we knew there would be flowing water from culverts and over-flows between lakes that would concentrate fish. The place we chose to launch the kayaks is a management area called Tenoroc.
Pict 1 and optional 1 A
Tenoroc is reclaimed land with a series of lakes or pits as some call them. These were formed from phosphate mining back in the 1960’s. This habitat flows into the Peace River and is managed by biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
There are many lakes all with their own personality. The majority have regular well maintained boat ramp, but allow only trolling motors and only a few of the largest ones allow internal combustion motors to be run at idle only. Some are hand launch solely for kayaks and canoes. They are all managed meaning there are strict limits on any bass you are allowed to keep. This is a place you expect to not just fish but catch, and the chances of bass over 5 lbs. are great, and over 10 lbs. not uncommon.
Today our weapons of choice were both fly rods and spinning rods. My buddies had their 6 and 8 wts for larger bass.
My choice was a 3 wt rod 7’ 6 “ 5 piece rod and super lightweight Orvis Battenkill II reel. This set up was recommended to me many years ago by Allen Wyatt at the Andy Thornal Company and has provided more enjoyment than I could imagine. There is something about the shorter 7’ 6” rod and ultra-light weight set up that make small bass and larger pan fish feel like you’re bringing in sea monsters from the deep and will definitely make you smile.
Due to all the new fresh cooling water from the past two days of rain happy fish were jumping all over just like there was a hatch on a trout stream. We found a large culvert pipe draining water from the lake we were on into the next pit. The fish were like salmon swimming against the current through the 50 yards or so of pipe and then jumping out of the pipe into our lake right in front of us. It was a crazy site and non-stop the whole time we were there.
We caught a variety of fish and many with the fly rods. The fish were all dark in color. The bass almost all black with some dark olive green. They hit hard both by the rushing water and in the back hidden pockets of the maze of surrounding islands. Small #4 size dark colored Clouser Minnows imitating baitfish were the fly of choice. We let them sink then moved them erratically like a minnow darting to avoiding its aggressor.
Next were bluegill and then the older larger Copperheads.The name Copperhead is the result of the deep purple coloration of mature bluegill males with a copper band across the top of its head. Typically a Florida bluegill male will develop the coloration pattern when it is 4 years old or older, and it becomes much more vivid during the spawn between April and September.
Pict 7 and pict 8
The last catch of the day was a beast of a Tilapia on my ultralight spinning rod using a roadrunner. This fish too taking on the dark coloration almost like a record breaking copperhead with the same purple hue. This was one heck of a fight as it was wrongly hooked in the top back fin and the way the drag was pulling made me wonder if I had monster bass since I know there are many monsters to be had here.
Tenoroc is true old Florida. The land is beautiful with a diverse habitat of marsh, woods, and water. There are hiking and horseback riding trails, bird watching but most importantly quality fishing for big largemouth bass and pan fish of all kinds. This is remote territory with almost 7000 acres of woods and water. With that comes respect and planning as you are the visitor and many of the creatures much larger than you. Watch your step, leave only footprints, and enjoy the sights of the rattle snakes, moccasins, and massive alligators that will be joining you on every visit.
More importantly catch some fish but most importantly enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors in a Tenoroc near you.
Live life by the minute and get outdoors and have some fun!
Over a recent weekend, fishing partner Josh Slager and I met with fellow fly fishermen and falconers Eric Edwards and Spence for a St. Johns River shad fishing trip, followed by hunting with a merlin. This came about at the last minute but, wow, what a great day indeed!
The second-annual Adventure Fishing World Championship (AFWC) was an adventure check point fishing tournament with 100 kayakers on fifty two-person teams. At the start of the tournament, each team received an envelope with a topo map marked with checkpoints. When the gun went off, it was up to you and your partner to determine what check points to go, to and in what order. You could only count one fish per check point, and had to catch fish at minimum of three check points.
Some days everything just comes together - the weather is perfect, you pick the right fly, and you find the right spot. This was one of those days. After an evening of tying flies, I woke up and loaded my Bull Bay Rods 8wt “Excel” series fly rod, with my Waterworks Lamson fly reel, loaded it into my Native “Ultimate 12” kayak and off I went.