Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Islamorada Tarpon on the Feed

From the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Garden and Gun, a little contrast to all those trout-sipping-mayflies videos.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

No Trash Fish

If I had a dollar for every time I read something about jacks being underrated, I could afford to go permit fishing. The sheer number of this type of article leads me to believe that jacks aren't as underappreciated as the authors would like us to believe. What it tells me is that these are the fish we're not supposed to like, but do anyway.

Jacks, of course, are related to permit, but they're like the cousins no one wants to admit they have -- rough around the edges, unrefined, too quick to pick a fight. These are the same qualities, however, that make them more fun to hang out with.

Such is the case with the jack crevalle. I don't target them specifically, mainly because they tend to move around, and they do it quickly, especially when they're on the feed. When they stick around someplace, like they did one day I fished a power plant outflow on a chilly winter morning a few years back, the action can be great. That day, I caught medium-sized jacks on a topwater plug until they had straightened all the trebles.

Usually, I catch them on accident, but there have been many times when a jack has shown up to save an otherwise slow day, most of the time pulling harder than whatever fish I was trying to catch in the first place (there really aren't too many fish out there that are stronger, pound for pound). This happened only last Saturday, when the remnants of a mini cold front was passing through, and the wind was whipping me around the bayou I usually fish. The flats on the outside were simply impossible. Paddling was hard. Casting was hard. And the fish must have been hunkered down, riding it out like I should have been, but when you have an allotted time to fish, you take it.

Before my time was up, the tide turned around and started to come in. Mullet schools rode the incoming, and it looked like some of the smaller ones, maybe, were getting picked off by predators. On one of my final casts, I hooked a small jack that gave me a nice little fight before I let it go. That fish made my day, and I appreciated it plenty.

My guess is that jacks have a bigger fan club than people would have you believe, it's just that no one wants to admit it.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

FL Issues on Eat More Brook Trout

The title of this post may sound like random words strung together by a new blog post generating computer program, but they make much more sense when you know that Eat More Brook Trout is a blog written by Chris Hunt, whose writings have appeared in numerous fly-fishing-related publications.

Anyway, he's put together quite an informative article on some of the issues that are affecting and will further affect the future of fishing (pretty alliterative, huh?) in the Sunshine State. Check it out.

Florida's Dirty Little Secret

Monday, October 28, 2013

Screw a One-Horse Open Sleigh (Bull-Sharking from a Kayak)

Admittedly, not fly fishing, but this looks like fun. The only question I have is wouldn't it be more sporting from a paddleboard? Skip to about 4:20 for the good stuff.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gar Quest Part 1

In my freshwater sojourns as of late, I haven't had as much luck with the bass, and I've been eschewing the bluegill entirely. I have, however, discovered that the place where I've been fishing has a healthy population of gar.

Just for fun, I've been casting at them with my bass popper. It's always enjoyable to target a fish, present a fly, and entice a bite, but with gar, the problem is setting the hook. It's not hard to get a gar to bite. With their armored scales and their mouthful of teeth, they don't have much to worry about (aside from the occasional hungry gator), so they don't spook too easily, and they seem to have the attitude that if something is moving, it must be food. I tried different hooksetting techniques with each gar to take the popper, ranging from a hard strip strike (teeth cut the line) to a gentle trout set (fish stayed on for a few seconds until it realized all it had to do was open its mouth).

All of this has resulted in a new determination to catch one of these fish on fly. The generally agreed-upon strategy is to use a fly that will entangle the gar's teeth. I'm sure this is frowned upon by purists, but so are gar, so I figure what the hell, I'll give it a try. I've tied up a few flies with EP fiber and a few with an old gar standby -- nylon rope. These are ugly flies, but like I said, the gar seem not to be too discerning, so they'll probably be shredded in short order.

Now all I have to do is get out there and catch one of these swamp creatures so I can get back to the salt.

To be continued...


Sunday, October 13, 2013

New SCOF

The new issue of Southern Culture on the Fly is out. For those not in the know, SCOF is a cool e-zine that covers everything fly fishing in the Southeast, with great photography, some videos, and nice articles, as they say, "served with a side of grits."

Go read the fall issue of SCOF


Friday, October 11, 2013

Becoming a Bass Master

I've only had a few hours here and there to fish lately, and instead of loading the car with the paddleboard and all its accoutrements, I've been hitting the freshwater with the 4-weight, doing some bank fishing.

When I see the bass tournaments on TV, I turn the channel. There's just something that turns me off about the sparkly, sponsorship-emblazoned water rockets swarming around the lake, carrying bass pros that yank three-pound fish into their boats with 50-pound test to store them in a live well until they're weighed at the end of the day. That's the vision I have of bass fishing, a prejudice that lets an entire fishery slip from my consciousness for years at a time.

But since I've been dipping my toe in the freshwater as of late, I've had the chance to discover that I really like fishing for bass. It's like a latent primordial redneck has arisen within me that has lain dormant, waiting to be baptized in the blackwater gator hole from whence he came -- except this one uses a fly rod rather than a flippin' stick. Snook, my regular quarry, grow larger and stronger than a largemouth. They swim faster and jump higher. But there's something to be said for the suddenness of a bass striking a topwater fly. That strike is quick and full of malevolence, no matter the size of the fish, and at least where I've been fishing, it comes from nowhere. The fly is bobbing on the surface, and then it's annihilated. Fly fishing for largemouth bass could be described as periods of stillness interrupted by sudden violence. And it's a lot of fun. One of these days I'll commit for real and tie up some big hair bugs, put the paddleboard on a lake, and sling the 8-weight in search of a hawg.

My rewards for hitting 8-inch holes in the duckweed from 15 feet:





Deer Hair


Tying with deer hair and my wife's TV preferences -- not so different.

Before:

After:

Fabulous.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

7venth Sun Mangrove DIPA

Although there isn't a cool fishy label, I've got to include a beer named after one of my favorite habitats to fish, because after a day beating the shorelines for snook and untangling flies from branches, you might appreciate this one's mighty 10% ABV.

7venth Sun is a local craft brewery that specializes in small-batch barrel-aged beers, and I recently had a chance to try its Mangrove Double IPA at Olde Bay Cafe and Fish Market, which is located right down the street from the brewery, in Dunedin, Florida. The beer itself is one of the most tasty I've ever had. I'm not exactly a beer geek who knows all the correct terms to describe its flavor profile, but I will say that after finishing one and then taking a sip of Miller Lite from the community pitcher, it made the mass-produced beer taste like fizzy toilet water by comparison.

7venth Sun beers may not be too widely available, but if anyone out there is in the Tampa Bay area and has the chance to try one, I'd highly recommend it.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Is It Fall Yet? (with Sharks)

When I left my house to go fishing Sunday morning, the thermometer in my rearview mirror read 69, which was the first time I'd seen the 60s in months. I knew I was headed to a flat where I might find some redfish, and my hopes were that they'd be starting to school up with the cooler weather and water temperatures. No such luck. I drifted and paddled across a couple miles of flats, picking up only a sea trout and a mangrove snapper (not counting one overly aggressive pinfish).

I did see three reds, but not before they managed to see me. A sheepshead ignored about four casts before deciding to swim away. Overall, not much action. That is, until I turn a corner into a bay, across which I was supposed to meet my family for lunch. Here, schools of mullet and other baitfish were being harassed by predator fish, including a three-foot bonnethead and a five-foot blacktip. The blacktip was remaining pretty visible, and I had to decide whether to cast at him with the 20-pound mono leader on my rod or just turn on the GoPro and try to catch him that way. I was already late for lunch, so I chose the latter. Keep in mind, objects in GoPro are closer than they appear.

video

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

5-7-5

Too rainy to fish
Might as well write a half-assed
Haiku for my blog

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: Pulp Fly


I don’t know how it is in the rest of the country, but it seems like the supply of good fly fishing literature has dwindled in recent years in my neck of the woods. When I got into the sport, in the 90s, my local Barnes and Noble had a good three or four shelves worth of fishing books, most of the titles related to fly fishing. That may have been due to the efforts of Robert Redford, but even so, it’s how I became acquainted with John Gierach, Robert Traver, Nick Lyons, and Jerry Dennis. Now, though, the same store stocks the better portion of only one shelf, mostly with how-to/where-to books.

These days, I feed my need to read (about fly fishing) with a few excellent periodicals, like The Drake and The Flyfish Journal, as well as some really great blogs and e-magazines, such as This is Fly and Southern Culture on the Fly. Still, as I sit and re-read my battered copy of McGuane’s The Longest Silence, I find myself itching for new book-length publications. 

When I recently discovered Pulp Fly, an e-book of fly-fishing-related short stories and essays, I was eager, yet dubious. Why, I thought, would it only be published as an e-book if the quality of the stories was up to snuff? Then I saw that some of the contributing authors had written for some of the periodicals and blogs that I’ve come to enjoy. So I hit the appropriate buttons and downloaded volumes 1 and 2 to my Kindle.

Upon finishing both volumes, perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay Pulp Fly is that these are not stories about fly fishing. The fishing serves as a motif, a thread to tie the very different pieces together. These stories are about people. They are all people who fly fish, sure, but the act of fishing is merely a stroke of characterization, which for me, serves to strengthen the pieces because I find myself connected to them through this shared passion. 

That’s where the similarities between stories ends, however. To call them varied would be an understatement, as the pieces cross multiple genres, such as crime and science fiction, with many striving toward the literary and one serialized piece that pays distinct homage to the genesis (at least in my mind) of American literary flyfishery: Hemingway’s Big Two Hearted River.

Pulp Fly bills itself as filling a niche occupied in the 20th century by pulp magazines -- inexpensive repositories of entertaining adventure and mystery stories churned out by young or upcoming writers, some of whom, like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, and John D. MacDonald, would go on to publish some of the most popular and enduring stories and novels of their time. I would say that on this note, Pulp Fly succeeds in its objective, had such a niche in fly fishing literature ever existed. In any case, it does now, and I’m glad Pulp Fly is there to fill it.




Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Carolina Dreaming


Florida summers are hot. There’s no escaping it. It’s hot in the morning, hot in the evening, blazing hot in the afternoon, and slightly less hot in the middle of the night. The  weather warms in April and doesn’t let up until October or November. So despite loving the fishing down here, there are times, in the midst of this endless summer, when I find myself yearning to be up high up some cold mountain trickle dapping for colorful little wild brookies

It would be a long drive up to North Carolina to get anything like that, so I turn to the next best thing: bluegill. While we have no mountains and the temperature can’t be helped, at least I can fish for colorful little freshwater fish with my 4-weight and flies that look like bugs.  

This morning I had that freshwater feeling, so I dug out some hoppers and nymphs from my last trout fishing excursion a couple years ago, knocked the rust off the 4-weight, and headed out. I probably drove past a hundred retention ponds full of bluegill to get somewhere a little more natural -- a slow-moving blackwater creek flowing through a nearby park. It’s not exactly wild, but it’s a pretty close approximation for its location in the middle of a metropolitan area, and Fish and Wildlife did recently pull a wayward 11-foot, 700-pound crocodile out of the lake that feeds the creek. They released it 300 miles away, where it was born, near Key Largo, I guess so it wouldn’t have a bad influence on our local alligators.



I strung up my rod, tied on one of the hoppers, and on my third cast, a bluegill slurped it down with a smacking kiss. I brought it in and let it go, thinking that I would have a couple hours of fun with the little fish on surface flies. I was mistaken. I had not another bite the entire morning. I switched flies. I tried fishing on the surface, under the surface, tight to the bank, in deeper water, in the sun, in the shade, and couldn’t buy another look. So after an hour or so, when I snapped off a fly on a DO NOT FEED OR MOLEST the alligators sign, I reeled it in and drove home. But I guess I got what I was looking for after all -- the bluegill doing their best trout imitation by turning selective and tough to catch.





Friday, September 20, 2013

SweetWater

Beer number 2: Anything from SweetWater. SweetWater, out of Atlanta, puts out a line of nice beers. They sport a rainbow trout on the label, and you don't have to feel any guilt about drinking them because SweetWater is a contributor to the Waterkeeper Alliance, which works to preserve rivers, streams, and coastlines and keep them clean and free of pollution. So do your part to fight pollution and have a couple SweetWaters.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5-7-5

The humble haiku. Have you seen them? Yes. Even about fishing? Uh huh. Written them yourself? In seventh-grade English class. So why bother?

It might be fun and a way to squeeze in a little creativity in a very short amount of time. Anyway, here goes:

Mythic proportions
Through fish-eyed GoPro lenses
Become commonplace


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cast and Repeat


The water hisses against the underside of my SUP as I paddle across a small saltwater lake, connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a short creek that cuts underneath an impassable tangle of mangroves. The clouds hang low in the sky, purple and swollen with rain that has yet to fall. I feel their weight somewhere deep within my consciousness and kneel as I strip line from my reel. From my knees I lift the line into the air, casting sidearm toward a hole in the shoreline, a shadowed cave where the snook of my imagination dwells, a thick beast of a fish hovering near the bottom, finning slowly against the tide, growing with each false cast until I let the line go and send my fly to its fate.

I strip the line through my fingers, waiting for the fly, an abstract foam and feather shrimp imitation that I had lovingly tied only hours before, to be engulfed, to be sucked into the raspy maw of a backcountry leviathan. Strip. strip. strip. The fly pops on the surface. Rain begins to drizzle, pattering on the brim of my hat. Strip. strip. strip. The fly is moving farther from the edge, out of the strike zone. Nothing.

I repeat the exercise again and again, dissecting the shoreline. With each cast, hope ebbs and wanes, until a fish strikes. Not the snook that’s been swimming in my head, but a snook. It takes the fly just as I’m about to lift my line from the water once again, a pleasant surprise, but overmatched by my eight-weight rod. It jumps two times, shaking its head and cartwheeling back into the water. The fight is over quickly, and I slide the fish into my hand, maybe fifteen inches long, warm like the water, like the air, like me. 

It happens like this three more times this evening -- two snook and a chunky mangrove snapper that fought bigger than it was. Thunder sounds in the distance, and I reel in my line, hook my fly in the stripping guide of my rod, and paddle back across the lake, water hissing softly underneath me.




Ready to Go

Friday, September 13, 2013

Low and Clear

I realize that I may be a little late to the game on this one and that the movie's been around for a little while, but it hasn't been on iTunes all that long, so it's new to me. Low and Clear is a documentary about two old friends (one of them J.T. Van Zandt, son of Townes) whose bond was built through fishing. After drifting apart through factors of geography, responsibilities, and the diverging currents of different lives, the two men get together to test that old bond on a steelheading trip to British Colombia. The film includes a compelling story, some good music, and gorgeous cinematography featuring both B.C. and the Texas coast. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend finding it on iTunes and giving it a watch.


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Harrison vs. McGuane

Nice article on MidCurrent about two of my favorite authors. Try Ninety-Two in the Shade or The Longest Silence by McGuane and A Good Day to Die by Harrison.






Thursday, September 12, 2013

Favorite Flies: Gurgler

I would say that when I've gone out lately (mostly to fish for sea trout over grass flats or snook in the mangroves) the first fly I tie on is the gurgler. It's light, easy to cast, floats well, and produces great topwater strikes. Because it's really just the foam with that cupped lip that makes it a gurgler, you can tie it with an endless variety of body and tail materials. I'll often tie mine with a marabou tail, so no matter how slow I fish it or how little I move it, the fly always has that wavy, undulating motion.  I've seen some ugly gurglers out there, but also some really nice ones. I'm sure they all work fine, but I think it's more satisfying to tie and fish a good-looking fly. Some of the prettiest ones I've seen (such as the one below) are on 239flies.com.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fish and Beer Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

In the interest of expanding my piscatorial obsession to incorporate other vices, I'm starting a list of fish-related beers. I'll be only listing the ones I can vouch for, but if anyone has suggestions, I'll be sure to give them a try.

Beer number 1: Bell's Two Hearted Ale. What self-respecting English major could see this on a menu and not order it? Camping, fly fishing for trout with live hoppers, PTSD -- this Hemingway classic has it all, and it comes in beer form. Even if you never read it, you can drink it.


A really cool snook video from Glades Outfitters to help pass the work week.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Haunted by Waters

I might as well admit it up front. I came to fly fishing through the movie. Never mind that the closest trout stream is probably a 10-hour drive from home, it sank into my consciousness. When I saw Flip Pallot and Jose Wejebe doing their thing in the saltwater on ESPN, I realized that maybe I, too, could be haunted by waters, as is the apparent fate of all who pick up fly fishing as a hobby. Without further adieu, let us now pay tribute to the best lines of a great movie and even better book.