The morning broke clear over the great Bulow swamp in northeastern Volusia County.
The powder blue sky unmarked but for a pair of jet vapor trails that were already fading. With no filter for the Florida sun, the day’s forecast could only be hot.
With the tide running out strong, I was forced to work hard to paddle the kayak west. The water was clear and dark as the tannic acid stained swamp water rushed toward the Halifax River and the inlet.
As I passed over the broad mud flat, I stayed attentive to any movement that might give away the big reds that roam there. At times I paddle that flat without paying much attention, but I knew this day would be tough fishing and I had better not pass up any opportunities.
A young osprey fish hawk stood high atop a dead tree, watching for its own breakfast to appear. The young bird of prey and the old angler would both need to be at the top of their game to find success on this day. All around me was stillness. Not a breath of air; no fish feeding; no bait moving – nothing.
A couple other hardy souls were on the water to try their luck, but neither admitted to any strikes.
When I dropped my jig into a seven-foot hole, I had my first bite. I knew it was a trout and I could feel it munching the pink shrimp tail from the tip up to the hook. When I put the spotted sea trout in the boat, I was not surprised to find it had completely swallowed my lure.
Moving farther west and still working hard against a strong current, I came upon a family of otters. Mom let out a series of loud barks to warn me to stay a safe distance from her two youngsters. As she stood watch, her cute little pups plied the shoreline for crabs and mollusks.
Now I was a mile and a half inland and able to take a long slow ride on the tide as I caught my breath. Pretty quickly I tired of casting with no results, so I decided to take a chance and drag the lure behind the moving boat. Trolling a bottom lure is a great way to hook a snag and that happened almost right away. I broke it off and retied, but within minutes I was into the bottom once more. This time I managed to retrieve it but trolling was getting old.
As the stream narrowed, the tide speed picked up and just then I felt the telltale bite of a flounder. At first the flatfish was satisfied to just swim along with the moving boat, but once it felt the hook it took off and passed the kayak heading east. It was only a 17-inch fish, but I was happy to catch it on such a day.
Always the optimist I began to think I might be able to land an inshore grand slam of a trout, flounder and red drum, but it was only a pipe dream. I searched for a red, but the sun was now high up and I was forced to give up. As I headed back to the truck I had to smile. A trout and a flounder was about as good as you could hope for when fishing the summer doldrums.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.