Pufferbelly fish saves the day

By Jill Toler

I had a successful first kayak fishing trip so I decided to up the stakes and try a fishing trip in an area that has tidal current and possibly wind. Who am I kidding, more like probably wind. I checked the forecast that indicated the wind would blow WNW 5-10 mph. You would think after all these years of experience with forecast vs. actual wind speeds that I would know better. Always add at least 5 mph to the forecast, then add another 5 just for good measure. Still, I would not be deterred and decided to try fishing at the Harker’s Island bridge. Specks [speckled sea trout] were being caught and I wanted in on the action.

Fishing Buddy and I made a plan to meet at the foot of the bridge. I was running about 10 minutes behind because my little dog, June Bug, did not want to come back into the house on such a beautiful morning. After all, there are marvelous things happening in the backyard at 7:50 am…

I arrived at the destination and as I crossed the bridge I spotted Fishing Buddy already on the water and hooked up with a fish. I had been nervous for two days anticipating what it would be like to deal with wind and tide. When I realized that I was on my own getting unloaded, geared up, and paddling to the fishing spot I sort of got scared and began doubting my ability. I actually went out a little ways and turned right back around for the shore to calm my nerves. A few deep breaths and words of encouragement from myself found me paddling away from security and right into chaos. Not only would there be wind and tide, but there would be boat traffic and wakes. I managed to pick my way through boats and make it over to where Fishing Buddy was catching a fish on just about every cast. I thought, “this is going to be epic!” I chose the wrong word for the coming experience.

Anchoring in a kayak is way different than anchoring in a boat. I’m glad that I installed that anchor trolley, but I would have been more happy had I actually learned how it works prior to being smack dab in the middle of the excitement. To say that it took me a while to get the anchor deployed, set, and secured so as to position my kayak in the direction that I needed would be a major understatement. There is a lot to learn of kayak fishing.

Finally, the anchor was set and by sending it towards the back of the kayak the wind or tide or something turned me right around so that I was facing the action and not staring at the beautiful homes along the shoreline. I was able to make a cast and hooked right up…….with a pufferbelly. Some folks call them blowtoads, blowfish, puffers, etc. I call them, “I ain’t getting skunked today!”

Somehow, my fly line got wrapped up in my reel and just as my luck would have it, the bite shut down by the time I got everything straightened out. I tried a few more spots, but no takers.

It wasn’t the worst day because I did catch one fish and I challenged myself. I learned a lot that day and will make some adjustments for my next trip and will be better prepared for the adventure.

At lunch, Fishing Buddy told me that I did very well considering the wind, tide, and boat traffic. She also said that she had a heck of a time staying in position and that it was a tough day to fly fish from a kayak. I went, I saw, I learned, and I can’t wait to do it again.



More fly fishing from Jill’s W700 »


  1. fish

    Thanks Jill,

    Well, not every day can be a great one, I guess… but not only did you get some real-life kayak fishing experience, you also posted this funny story for everyone here to enjoy 😀


  2. Bassman


    That’s why they call it fishing, not catching. However, Southern Puffers are very good to eat if you can fillet out and deep fry the two strips at the top of the back. In the Chesapeake Bay, we call them Sea Squab. I don’t know of any other angler who has caught a puffer fish on fly rod. You might have one for the record book.

    Harkers Island is a delightful coastal hamlet. The boats crafted there are seagoing wonders with beautiful flared bows that throw water back to the sea.

    Surely, you are turning some of those old bar dog waterman’s heads with your WW700. They appreciate a vessel’s fine lines and a lady who can cast a fly line.

    How many other folks in this forum have caught a puffer fish on a fly rod?


    Larry J.

  3. Jill Toler

    Thank you Larry J. The coolest fish I ever caught on a fly was a stargazer; it was beautiful.
    Funny you mention about folks noticing the W700. As I was heading home last week from my fishing trip I passed over the Ward’s Creek bridge and noticed a kayaker paddling around. The closer I got the more he tried to see what was hanging out the back of the truck. I slowed down so he could get a good look and I declare he was trying to stand up to see my awesome yellow boat. I’m not sure his kayak was one that you really stand up in though.

Leave a Comment