Category Archives: Catch & Release

Tailer Park Turtle Patrol

I recently had the pleasure of getting on the water with Michael Marco to chase redfish in Mosquito Lagoon. It had been quite some time since we had last fished together, so we were overdue to spend some time on the skiff.

 

Like me, Michael spends a good bit of time on the road logging what we like to call “windshield time”. I was cruising northbound on Interstate 95 and had decided to call and check in to see how his new Skimmer Skiff was coming along and found out he was actually in the area for a day or two, so we quickly hatched a plan to capitalize on the opportunity to get on the water.

 

When he arrived in the early evening a good number of thunderstorms were just beginning to fire off and drift through the area. After watching the radar for a while, we accepted the reality of having to cancel our evening patrol plans, but quickly pivoted to dinner plans at the local, Goodrich Seafood.

 

There is no doubt when you roll through Goodrich that the food will be fresh and the beers cold, so we made the short drive there and had a feast.

 

After returning home, we put out a call to fellow Fly Fishing After Dark Podcast members Avery and Cameron to join us for some beers. Once they arrived we spent a few hours catching up and telling lies.

 

Michael was freshly back in town from a trip to the former Soviet Union where he and his father had spent a week fly fishing for taimen. Other than a very scant few details to peak our interest, he kept stories of the adventure to himself so that we can bring him on a future episode of the podcast to reveal them for the first time. Based on the couple of nuggets he did share, I can’t wait!

 

The next morning we made the two-minute trip to the landing to launch the skiff as the sun was breaking the horizon over the eastern horizon. Surprisingly, we ended up finding redfish sparse, despite the cooling rains the evening prior. The handful we saw while Michael was up, were of the prissy variety for which our home waters are known.

 

As we prepared to pole off of a flat to fire up the engine and scoot across the channel, we spotted what we at first thought was a hawksbill terrapin. As we poled over to take a closer look, we were both shocked to see it was actually a Florida Box Turtle that was swimming, albeit slowly, across the skinny flat separating two islands. We scooped the obviously tired dude up and gave him a skiff ride with the plan to release him later.

Michael insisted on poling the next flat, so I got the chance to fish for a bit, which was great.

 

We eventually found some more agreeable fish and I was rewarded with a nice redfish that ate a well placed fly before it could even be stripped. The redfish literally made a hard U-turn and inhaled the fly that had dropped six inches away along its right side. It was the kind of eat you don’t forget.

fly fishing saltwater

We exchanged ends of the skiff and worked for a while to get Michael a fish, but despite some epic casts and even a follow that we both expected to end in a hook-up, we had to end the day before we tallied a second fish.

 

Work was calling for us both and more importantly, Michael had an appointment he needed to keep, the delivery of his shiny new Skimmer Skiff.

 

As we idled towards deeper water preparing to run back to put the skiff on the trailer, I saw what I thought was a crab trap buoy. Moments after looking at it, I saw a head pop up and realized it was a turtle of some kind.   Turns out, it was another Florida Box Turtle! We scooped him up too and gave him a lift back to the Tailer Park along with his smaller cousin who had already been chilling with us.

male box turtles

Both of the box turtles were set free to roam the neighborhood shortly after getting back to the house.

It was great spending time with Michael, and without a doubt it will be a trip I wont forget, not just because of the great redfish moment, but also for the unique opportunity to encounter two box turtles swimming in a saltwater estuary.

 

Fly-fishing never fails to deliver great friendships and amazing experiences. I’m looking forward to hearing the full taimen story, getting out on Michael’s new skiff or some other adventure that leads us to amazing places.

 

Summer Solstice

How did you celebrate the longest day of the year?

While in the midst of a 10 day road trip across portions of Pennsylvania & New York, I spent the evening on Chautauqua Lake near Bemus Point catching up with a great friend.

Eric Peterson grew up along the shores of the glacier formed lake and knows it well. He’s been guiding in the area for years.  When I called to let him know that I’d be in the area, he insisted we hook up and fish.  Who am I to refuse?

Eric has always been a generous soul.  He is responsible for putting  me on my first Lake Erie steelhead and smallmouth bass.  He’s also an incredible fly tier.  He helps me keep my fly box stocked with flies that are so beautiful, I feel guilty fishing them.

The plan was to hunt for my first muskie.  I’m a realist and had a measured, pessimistic outlook, fully expecting to cast a lot and catch nothing.

A mere twenty minutes after launching, that changed.

fly fishing guide NY

The cast was about 50 feet, hucking a 400 grain, sinking line out and stripping it back after giving the fly a 10-count to sink along the edge of a weed line.

At around 40 feet the violent take thumped in my stripping hand and I strip set hard – a few times.

Once the fish was safely in the net and boat, we couldn’t contain ourselves, we had done the impossible, cheating the fish of 10,000 casts by significant digits.

musky fly fishing

We celebrated with cold beers, continued casting and occasionally simply laughed again at the absurdity of my success.

We watched the sun sink low to the horizon, knowing the days were again going to begin to grow shorter, but we had seized the moment and etched it into our memories for life.

Thanks fly fishing!

 

What Happens After Dark?

Fly Anglers are typically found outdoors when the sun is shining or about to be.

The exploits that happen before and after the sun makes its trek from east to west are the stuff that brings it full circle and creates the basis of the lifestyle.

You know you’ve shot beer out both nose holes at the campfire, thats what I’m talking about.  Unedited, raw and no volume button in sight.

You can find that fly fishing vibe here:  Fly Fishing After Dark

From stories being recount from a day on the water, to analysis of the latest fad sweeping Instagram, you’ll get a fresh new perspective that hasn’t seen the desk of an industry insider before the publish button is clicked.

 

IFTD 2015 – Playing Hookie on Day 3

After spending two days at the Flood Tide Company booth, I ducked out to film a little with Catch 1 Films on the home water; Mosquito Lagoon.

ONE: mosquito lagoon

Its always great to spend time on the water with friends.  Being able to relive the moments in film is priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

Lifestyle

When I hear people talk of fly fishing as a sport, I silently disagree and hope that they might someday evolve and recognize it in its purest form, a lifestyle.

While it may seem off-putting or elitist to say, its truly how I feel.  To me, its more than reaching for a different piece of equipment when I’m fishing.  Fly fishing is what bends my perception of this planet.  You know, the one that sports a surface made up primarily of water.  I see through that lens  when I view my day, week or future years.  When I talk with friends, it is always there, even if just below the surface.

Fly fishing wasn’t always that for me, but it has been now for so long, I have a hard time remembering it any other way.

As a kid, I travelled a lot on summer breaks from school.  Camping our way from Memorial Day to Labor Day, my family and I have explored all over the United States and Canada.  My memories from those adventures are cherished, yet more recent travels spurred by fly fishing have meant more to me.

The reason for the enhanced quality of the fly fishing travel is certainly due to the bonds that were made and kept with fellow anglers that accompanied me.

There  have been many fish caught and released along the way, yet its the camaraderie that my memory keeps vivid.

Sports have seasons, competition and champions.  The fly fishing lifestyle I’ve grown to love has none.

When I see companies that recognize that lifestyle matters more than SPF factor and how waterproof a bag might be, I’m more inclined to spend my money with them.

Howler Brothers is one such company.  If you don’t get the sense that these guys are living a lifestyle, you may not have a pulse or have given up on life.

Fly Fishing is calling, will you Heed the Call?

Howler Brothers

Here Comes The Sun

I’m headed out to fish today & the forecast is fantastic!  Its the kind of day often referred to as Chamber of Commerce conditions.  Little to no wind, maybe a breeze.  Cloudless, bluebird skies will dominate the day.

Today’s conditions will make it very important to respect the sun.  Every cast I make will be undertaken with the sun’s position as part of my casting equation.

Shadows, no matter how small, matter.  Fly line overhead has the ability to cast a shadow.  A moving shadow, like that of a bird, makes every targeted fish nervous and will instantly change its personality from hunter to hunted.

When looking at an approaching fish, I always visualize where the fly, leader or fly line will cast a shadow and plan my angle accordingly to limit the effect it may have.

By avoiding having a shadow wreck an opportunity, you’ll increase your success rate by being aware of the sun.

 

Its More Than A Feeling

“Then we got into a labyrinth, and, when we thought we were at the end,
came out again at the beginning, having still to see as much as ever.” 
― Plato

 

I try to take something away from every outing on the water.  A little moment or big, it doesn’t matter; just a piece of the puzzle that fits into the ever sprawling mosaic of experience that builds my bigger picture of fly fishing.

As the sun sank to my west, I stood in the cockpit of my skiff and chased it towards the horizon.  Lying before me was the gear I had needed to be self reliant for a couple of nights in Everglades National Park.

salt bum fly fishing expedition
At peace running through Florida Bay.

The feeling I had was one of achievement.  I had arrived with a few goals in mind and I had checked them off the list along with a couple more that were simply icing on the cake.

The trip was made in the company of a great friend and fellow fly angler.

The great feelings aside, we learned a lot and more importantly, nourished the desire to return and build upon it.

Capture A Memory – Summon Your Inner Photographer

Every fish that comes aboard my skiff  or comes to hand doesn’t get its mugshot taken, but when it happens, the subject most likely swims away muttering unspeakable things about the paparazzi.

I’m a catch and release angler at heart, so photos are the hallmark of my experience.  My number one maxim: The most memorable  fish is the one you release.

I really focus on the fish when capturing images to document my time on the water.  Sure, I include human subjects at times, but for the most part the focus is on the prize.

I’ve been taking pictures for decades.  I used to burn lots of images on film back when 35 mm was king.  I sent rolls upon rolls away to a mail order processor in hopes of seeing an image that was worthy of a matte and frame.

Digital changed that.  What it didn’t change was the basics of photography.

My father has thousands upon thousands of 35 mm slides from travels across the world, his understanding of photography was from experience as well as formal training and I was lucky enough to have him as a coach and mentor.

His guidance built my photographic foundation and shaped how I view the world and subjects through a lens.

The Gallery above is just a random selection from a photo dump from my iPhone.  It demonstrates a couple of the principles that I believe could be helpful in improving your photography skills.

Composition is King

When you frame an image, pull the subject in closer.  The idea of everything in view is often the enemy of a great image.  Just like having a clear focus, the composition of the entire image is better tight.  Have a subject and commit to it.  Put the subject in view, not just in the center, but make it dominate the frame.

More is Better

Don’t get hung up on the composition so much so that you miss the shot, you can fine tune it later with a small amount of editing.  Pull in the image and start firing.  I hammer down the shutter and get a handful of images.  Its within the affray where I find the gems.  Action begets success.

Sort it Out

Take a few moments when you get off the water to do a cursory, quick edit to discard the horrible and unusable, but be careful not to be quick to discard.  Soft or slightly out of focus can often be fixed with editing and a detail within an otherwise uninteresting image may be mined out with cropping.  After the initial weeding, walk away.  When you come back to the images later, you’ll likely see them with a more creative eye.

Get To Know Your Camera

I shoot a lot with the camera on my phone simply because its there and easily accessible.  I have a whole stable of Nikons ranging from DSLR to a basic AA battery powered point and shoot model I take on expeditions where charging batteries will be difficult.  Each camera gives differing results and I know like reflex how the shot needs to look on the LCD screen to be ideal for usefulness.  I only got to that point by experience with each camera.  Experience came at the expense of a lot of crappy images.  Now that I know them well, its become very easy and quick to compose images and capture them.  A bump to get depth of field and I’m ready to roll.

Lastly, but most importantly, keep our friend’s health in mind when setting up shots.  In the water, breathing, until the moment you’re ready to pull the trigger and capture your best fish.