The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 48 - September 24, 2014

reel time

Fishing with Captain Rob Gilbert

Reel time

rusty chinnis | sun

Redfish tails pierce the surface on the grass flats on a late
afternoon feed.

When Steve Traves first mentioned the young guide he had met, I didn’t make the association with a man who was very well known in the Sarasota/Manatee area in the early 80s. When Traves arranged an afternoon of fishing with Captain Rob Gilbert, he mentioned that his grandfather was Ad Gilbert, a name I knew very well. Although I didn’t know Gilbert personally, I did know him by his reputation, so I asked my good friend Captain Rick Grassett about his memories of the elder Gilbert.

Grassett related, “I met Ad Gilbert when I first started guiding in the early 90s. At the time, he was a recently retired educator, I think a teacher and a principal. I knew him as a fishing guide, fly shop owner in Venice and mentor to many aspiring fly anglers back in the day.

"He also had a local TV fishing show on Comcast and gave many seminars in the area. He was one of the first guides that I knew who fly fished for tarpon, and he retired to Costa Rica to pursue another of his passions-sailfish on a fly. He was a pioneer of saltwater fly fishing in our area."

Rob Gilbert took Traves and I for an afternoon of red fishing one Monday to take advantage of a late falling tide. The hope was that we would find some tailing redfish. Gilbert has the perfect outfit for fly fishing. He runs a fully equipped Maverick 17 HPX-V Carbon Kevlar skiff powered by a 115 HP Yamaha outboard, navigated by a Garmin 740s, pushed by a 25' Carbon Marine G3LR push pole and stopped with the push of a button by a 8'-foot Power Pole. The skiff is perfect for handling the skinny water where tailing redfish are found.

We met at the Kingfish Ramp on Manatee Avenue at 5 p.m. and fished until dark from the edge of Anna Maria Sound to near the Manatee River. Early on we located pods of mullet where redfish are fond of schooling and got an occasional glimpse of a tail. It wasn’t until later that we found the reds actively feeding as the tide began to really fall out.

Traves was on the bow when we entered a cove and began to see tails pop from the water’s surface. Gilbert recommended a Dupree Spoon Fly that Traves attached to his 16-pound bite tippet. Gilbert coached Traves to cast past the fish imagining an oval where the tail was popping up and aiming for what would be the edge. The fly should then be worked by popping it in and out of the grass with a stripping motion.

Gilbert was a pleasure to fish as I watched an affable guide coach his angler in a firm, but completely unassuming manner. He explained how sensitive the redfish could be in such skinny water on a calm afternoon cautioning against rocking the boat during a cast. Suddenly Gilbert directed us to look about 300 feet towards a mangrove shoreline and had Traves swing his rod until we both could see tails in the distance. Poling into range, we were confronted with what must have been a large school of reds as up to almost a dozen tails would pierce the surface at any given time.

As we closed in, Traves made several short casts then waited until we were a bit closer and made what looked like a perfect cast just past the tailing fish. Unfortunately, the line or spoon must have touched the tail of one of the fish sending the whole school into deeper water.

I took the rod and after a few minutes of hunting the nearby flats tails began to once again break the surface, this time spread over a wide area. Gilbert poled me into perfect position and on two occasions, as luck would have it, we were foiled again. Once an unseen red was spooked by my line and bolted, taking the tailing red along with it.

On my second opportunity, a school of spooky mullet sent my red’s tail under. Soon after the tide began to slow and the tails disappeared as the reds stopped feeding. Although we were too late for the incoming tide, we did enjoy a spectacular sunset that would have made the day in itself.

I was impressed with Gilbert’s manner, his tackle and his technique and recommend him highly. To reach him for a charter, contact him at 941-224-4121 or visit his website at

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