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Balmy weather = hot fishing = July recap

July started hot, and ended even hotter, and I'm not talking about the days in the sun with a heat index well over 100.

The daytime reds went into their summer doldrums, but also really woke up at night time. The bay fishing was off the chain, and any day we could get out there, that's exactly what we did!

The beach brings a lot of mixed traffic in the summer, and everyone is looking for something unique. This month we ran kids trips, experienced Captains were in town fishing a new style, first fish caught on a fly for some folks, followed schools of blitzing Spanish Mackerel in the bay, and even went on a joy ride with someone who just wanted to see what operating a boat in big water was like! I. LOVE. MY. JOB!

Fly casting lessons!

Started off the month with fly lessons for Bob Deacon and Josh Kinas! These guys had both thrown flies at trout and other freshwater fish, but this was their first foray into saltwater with the long stick. The fish were still pretty picky only eating the smallest fry baitfish, but both of these guys got the hang of things with the "buggy whip" quickly, and got their first redfish on the fly. Bob was the first to get a take with a big boy that ran to structure and broke him off, and Josh followed with his first red to come to hand, and now they're both doomed to chase that feeling forever! It was a great trip, and I am really looking forward to getting out there with them again, soon!

Off the cuff!

Jamie Rankin and his two kids, James and Margaret were in town visiting family, and Grandpa wanted to make sure they got some time out on the water while they were here! It was a perfect set up - the spanish mackerel were active, the bluefish were biting, the redfish were popping shrimp inside - but there was one thing we hadn't considered... The winds turning to the north and picking up to more than double the forecast speed. We headed out to the lower bay, but it was a little bumpy for chasing schools of spanish with kids, so we headed out to where the big blues had been hiding. By the time we got out to the third island the winds had fully turned and things got bad fast. It was a long ride back with constant trim and speed adjustments, and zig-zagging to minimize the boat pounding in the heavy chop. It was rough to say the least, but with all that Jamie and his kids were incredibly polite and resilient in getting back to the safe haven of the inlet. Jamie's daughter, Margaret, pointed out a huge sea turtle, and we saw several blue crabs that were being swept out towards the ocean. The kids loved being able to drive the boat for a bit, and I did my best to answer all of James' thorough questions regarding boats and boat components. We made an effort inside with the time we had left for redfish that were tucked back in a cove and swimming all around us, and even with Jamie and Margaret fishing hard, we couldn't coerce one to bite. Sometimes things go wrong, and I want to be completely transparent in my recap posts. Unfortunately, I couldn't have asked for a better group to have on the boat when it did. Jamie and his kids were incredibly polite and patient, and Jamie should be proud of himself as a man and a father as it showed in how his kids handled the trip not going to plan. I would love to have the three of them back on the boat if they'd be willing to have me as a Captain.

Side note: James went into the snack bag and held up a healthy snack and a 6-pack of Oreos behind it while his Dad was fishing on the bow, and said "Dad, can I have these?", after getting the approval from Dad (who could only see the healthy option), he ravaged the Oreos - and the organic fruit and veggie sauce pack somehow made it back to port. Well played, James. Well played.

"Ben" waiting a long time for this one...

Ben Wiedemer and I booked our July trip back in March or so - knowing that this would be the last official king tide of the season. With that flood coming to slack high tide just before sunset, we didn't even have to get up early for this one! Ben is a talented fly angler with a lot of saltwater experience, and that helped as the fish out on the flat were being close lipped. We probably saw somewhere around 30 reds out on the flat, and had legitimate shots at 10 or so. Ben took advantage of those shots, but the shallow reds simply didn't comply. They had the same things on their mind as Ben and I had been thinking about for a few months... the buffet of fiddler crabs that would be accessible when the water got up into the grass. As the water moved into the marsh we were able to get back to some prime feeding spots, and were initially concerned that the big reds were going to continue avoiding anything artificial, but once the tails came up they began turning on and bumping the fly. We had to move all the way to the far end of the backwater saltwater pond, but when a big spot on a copper and blue tail swirled just outside a feeder creek, Ben laid down a perfect presentation. With a splash the fish was on - but did everything she could to break free - took the fly and ran at us, ran under the boat, headed towards a grass island - all of which were handled expertly by the angler. After a few runs pulling and recovering drag, Ben brought the top-of-slot 25" fish to hand, and she had some shoulders on her! Dream tournament fish. It was great to fish with a talented angler, especially one that understood all it takes to get them to eat when they don't want to.

As a note - Ben bought this trip in an auction to support the Central Virginia Chapter of Quail Forever. This group works to conserve upland wildlife habitat, and they do a great job of it. If you'd like to learn more and see how you can help, please check them out at or at

Spots and Croakers and Shells and More!

Thomas and his two boys made it out for a kids trip, and boy did we get on 'em! They just moved to the area recently and Thomas decided to let his boys try their hands at saltwater fishing before it was time to buckle down at school. Cason and Travis were some competitive kids - counting each fish and trying to announce who had caught more. I'm going to play it safe and say in the end it was a tie! They both won, though, as they had lots of fun catching and naming each of their spot and small croaker they pulled up (Cason wasn't particularly happy that Dad used one of the named ones to see if any reds hiding under a nearby dock could be convinced to eat) . The boys really got the feel for casting, and the fish were coming so fast that we didn't get a lot of time to do anything but take them off, reload the hooks, and cast out again. Eventually the bite slowed as the tide continued to roll out, but that also gave us the chance to get up on a sandbar, run around for a bit, and collect the quality kind of shells you just don't find at the oceanfront. Dad had to limit the number of them the boys wanted to bring home, but they made their selections, and we headed back to the dock after a great trip. Thank you, Thomas, for booking with VB Backwater - you should be proud of what polite and fun boys that you're raising. You're all welcome on the boat any time.

Captain Brian tries something new!

After dealing with a lot of family health challenges, and work being overwhelming, Brian and his wife needed a vacation, and I'm really happy they chose to come to Virginia Beach! Brian hasn't been able to do much fishing lately, but loves it and he knows his stuff. I was confident on how and where I wanted to approach redfish the evening we went out, but Brian was confident that he wanted some live bait in the well. That actually ended up working out perfectly, because we had a great time filling up the livewell and conversing, and while we were in the best spot for baitfish, we saw a lot of feeding action under a light that was about 250 yards into the cove. Brian was used to much heavier braid and big lures and rigs, so he took some practice casts away from the light, and on the first one got a take (didn't result in a hookup - we've all been surprised before!). The fish didn't care for the live spot we had, and Brian wasn't accustomed to the light line, so after a few shots that were a little long we had pushed down the fish we were targeting and decided to move on. We made a trek down to a different branch of the river system (coming a bit closer than desired to the shoaling warning buoy), and when we got to the mouth of the river, we arrived at just the right time - the water was boiling with fish. We snuck up to about 60 feet away, and this time Brian's cast was spot on - and the rod immediately doubled over. Brian played the big fish perfectly as it took drag on multiple runs, and I hurried to help use the boat to move it away from the structure. When the fish finally came to hand, it was a 24"+ redfish "with shoulders" and stunning coloration. We had a few more shots, but the change in gear and lack of recent practice kept the other attempts from hitting the bullseye like the first one did. It was a great time out there, and a pile of fun to be on the boat and getting to know Brian. I'm proud to say that I consider myself excellent at customizing fishing adventures for the client's goals and success - but I usually only include swimming on kid's trips. You'll have to find and ask Brian if you want to know more about how to incorporate it in a half-day night charter. It was a great time, and I hope you got the rest and relaxation you needed and deserve while you were here in town. Beautiful fish, Brian, and I look forward to doing it again, soon!

David takes a skiff for a spin!

I got a unique request from David Schmookler who lives near my old stomping grounds in the mountains of Virginia. He is a fan of taking boats out for a spin, usually renting them on a local lake, but had never been out on the big water to try his hand at piloting a vessel. We took off from Virginia Beach and ran all over the lower Chesapeake Bay, through the bridge tunnel, out to the Atlantic Ocean, and near big ships traveling through the Baltimore Channel near the Eastern Shore. David hadn't ever driven a boat with a weight to horsepower ratio like a Hell's Bay, and man did he ever enjoy himself! His excitement was contagious and made me realize that I shouldn't take the opportunity that I have to spend as much time on the water as I do, for granted. We saw blitzing schools of fish, we ran hard through wake that left us above the water, and we even got to travel along with some dolphins that appeared curious about what it was we were doing out there! It was really cool to run along side them like that! Getting to know David and hear some of his and his family's recent adventures was just great. I hope that we get to do it again sometime, and next go around we might even get around to fishing! Thank you, David, for booking that trip with me, and I had a wonderful time with you out there.

Thank you to everyone who took a trip with me during July, and I hope that we get to do it again, soon. I hope the rest of your summer is great, and if there's anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks for making some great memories with me and VB Backwater!!!!

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