Category Archives: Catch & Release

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.

Restraint

Its on.  There is plenty of social media chatter regarding the onslaught of shoreline cruisers along the Space Coast.  The buzz is confirmed, get out there.  Light flies, natural colors; you’re welcome.

 

I’ve been putting in a good bit of time plying the Mosquito Lagoon over the past couple of weeks.  When the opportunity presented, I took a few moments to simply enjoy the view.

 

 

On one of those recent afternoons I had the pleasure of spending part of my day with T.J. Saunders doing work from the front of the skiff.  If you ever find yourself visiting Tampa and need a guide, look him up:

Lucky Fly Charters

He is a masterful fly tier, if you need some tasty crustaceans or baitfish patterns, he’s your man.

OMG – The Essence of Fly Fishing

I truly believe the most pure and basic form of friendship is most often shared on the water. Fly fishing enhances those relationships and brings their joyful shine to the surface in a manner that is hard to deny.

A recent film by Dan Decibel captures it well.

Be prepared to have a silly grin of approval creep across your face:

Take a moment to follow him on Instagram (dj_dan_decibel) as well, you’ll surely enjoy his view of the world there as well.

Flood Tide – Mosquito Lagoon Edition

The lunar influence on the tides around Mosquito Lagoon are measurable, but unlike the tides of the spartina flats to the north it is a sustained level that impacts the estuary more so than the periodic incoming and outgoing tide cycle.

Fishing the flooded spartina in St. Augustine and Jacksonville is no doubt a worthwhile experience, but there are “flood” opportunities in Mosquito Lagoon. One of the most readily accessible of these atypical high water season fishing areas is manmade.

Over past decades the quest for control of salt marsh mosquitoes lead to the digging of many ditches across the entire lagoon to reduce breeding habitat. More recently, there has been an ongoing effort to remove the unintended consequence of this work, artificial upland areas created by piling spoil adjacent to the cuts.

Use Google Maps to locate remediated ditch lines where water is now allowed to sheet along the marsh and on high tides you will find redfish meandering along in the mangrove shoots looking for an unsuspecting crab or mosquito fish.

Slow Down & Pole

I’m astonished nearly ever time I spend time on the water in Mosquito Lagoon at the pace other anglers move through an area. Their arrival under power to a flat disrupts the natural flow of its inhabitants and rarely do they stick around long enough to see the true personality of the place before firing up the outboard and departing for the next stop on the milk run.

I’m certainly not complaining, this frenetic pace often leaves the best areas I frequent a veritable ghost town. The less human impact on the areas the better for my experience.

I was sitting at the end of a long dock alongside the intracoastal waterway a few weeks ago waiting on friend to arrive in his skiff when I had the chance to talk to a neighbor who was lamenting on his lack of success on the water. He was frustrated and seemed surprised when I said that there were lots of redfish in the areas he was getting skunked. As we talked more it became apparent to me that he was taking a random run and gun approach to his fishing and the lack of success was self imposed.

IMG_6397

I’m no expert, but I do spend a good bit of time on the water, so I shared with him what I felt were keys to my success.

1. Fish only three places that are in close proximity until you are confident that you understand when they are productive and why and have the track record to prove it.

2. Become intimate with the area, pole it, go slow and learn the nooks and crannies and what you should expect to find on low or high water. Dedicate time to simply sit back and observe, leave the rods stowed and observe the fish and their movements without pressure.

3. Write it down. Make note of conditions and what you found worked in those situations. I often refer to data from years past when I want a change of venue. I’m always surprised at how well I do when I go somewhere based on past notes vs. flying by the seat of my pants and hoping.

Time on the water is meant to be enjoyed. Slow down your roll and soak it all in, just don’t soak bait.