Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a few days on the water with my good friend, Ben. As always, I picked him up at the Orlando International Airport and within an hour or two, he was tight on a redfish. Its become quite the tradition for us.
Ben is working on a new YouTube project and it was a “work trip” for him, so it seemed fitting to put him on the back of the skiff.
Here’s the result of that effort to get him up to speed with a push pole.
I’d say he’s well on his way to becoming a regular Pusherman.
In addition to stabbing a few fish in the face, we spent time talking about more technical issues like the following:
Make sure to follow Ben on his new YouTube channel, Huge Fly Fisherman, more content is on the way, including conservation issues facing Mosquito Lagoon.
Ben will also have his writings about the state of conservation efforts in Mosquito Lagoon featured in This Is Fly magazine very soon, check it out.
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.
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.
One of my partners in crime recently found out that we have been granted access to a condo in the Bahamas when we want to take advantage of it. The news sent my mind reeling with thoughts of morning tides that overtake mangrove propagules that have taken root in soft marl in the far reaches of a coastal creek.
The image of sunlight flashing from an upturned tail breaking the surface draws me like a moth to flame.
I have things that could be more productive that need to be down, yet I pour over aerial maps on Bing and Google looking for areas of promise that will soon be within reach.
To me there is nothing more rewarding than plotting a course that takes me to a new area where I think bonefish will await my unfurling loop of fly line.
The hunt is still a ways away, so for now I’ll continue to plan.
When I step into the warm salty waters somewhere within the archipelago of The Bahamas, I’ll be ready.
I recently completed a wonderful multi-day trip in Florida Bay, staying a few nights under the clouds and stars atop a Chickee in Everglades National Park.
The weather was a bit chilly and the wind was blowing near a gale for a good portion of the trip, but the fish didn’t seem to mind too much.
I’m no trailblazer in this regard. Lots of folks have been there & done that, as will many more to follow.
If you haven’t, drop it in the proverbial bucket and make sure you reach in and fish it out before you die.
Sitting in the dark over the clear briny water watching the bioluminescent algae flash in pulses reminiscent of lightning bugs on a cool August evening in Appalachia will enlighten you and draw you closer to nature in a way that is hard to explain. Its no wonder ancient tribes had such respect and viewed their environment in such reverent awe.
Below is a great example of an Over Night from Livit Films.
As you can see the opportunities in the Everglades are vast and friendships simply grow stronger there.
Now for the Public Service Announcement portion of this entry:
I run a tiller skiff. Its my preference when it comes to how to operate a vessel. I feel in touch with the water in a way that is hard to reduce to words. I respect it too.
Years ago, I was running a tiller skiff across a deep basin in an estuary in Central Florida when the lower unit collided with a marine mammal of greater mass. In the blink of an eye, I was sent headlong into the water as the skiff turned a sharp 45-90 degrees and was suddenly no longer beneath me.
When I emerged from below the surface, I was met with silence, but for the rhythmic splashing of my wake lapping the waterline of the skiff where she sat a few dozen yards away.
A great friend had always demanded the kill switch be worn when we duck hunted and the habit had stuck.
If it had not been for that switch and lanyard, I may have been in for a long swim or worse.
In a nut shell; if you’re operating a vessel, especially a tiller steering equipped skiff. ALWAYS WEAR YOUR KILL SWITCH LANYARD.
That concludes this PSA, brought to you by the wet guy dragging himself across the gunnel to fish another day.
“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.”
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.
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.
“Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.”
A lot goes on in my mind when I’m standing on the bow of a skiff awaiting a glimpse of the intended target of the day. Whether it be a bonefish, redfish or tarpon the decision making process remains the same. The responses vary and their sum total dictate the difference between success and failure.
Understanding how to best choreograph your response in the face of chaos will dramatically improve your results.
I find it helpful to draw from past training that was unrelated to fly fishing and apply its principles to help me on the water.
The training highlighted the human decision making process. A simple acronym of the equation OODA sums it up.
It translates to Observe + Orient + Decide = Act.
It describes what we as humans do all day long, every day, as we move through life. How well you apply it in specific, performance driven, instances directly relates to how successful we will be in that particular endeavor.
My son and I exploit each other’s failure in the Observe part of the equation routinely around the house. Its a never ending game. One of us lurks around a corner or behind a piece of furniture awaiting the other to casually pass by, oblivious of the others presence. When one of us strikes, the victim is typically left reeling, trying to recover from being startled, sometimes to epic proportions.
When on the water, I do my able best to observe my entire surroundings. The Observe component is important. Your situational awareness has to be on point to spot fish at a distance. The further out you can set your range, the more time you’ll have to complete the remaining portion of the equation.
Orient is a simple way of describing the process of recognizing what is happening within your immediate focus and situate yourself for a response. When you have inadequate time to orient, chaos follows.
Once you have processed the observation and orient to meet its particular challenge, you’ll only then come to a decision on how you’ll respond. The Decide portion of the problem in my opinion is where the game is won or lost. Taking time to process the information you’re absorbing properly allows you to execute a cast when and if its time to do so.
In real world, daily life, the Decide component is often the easiest to parse and thereby get yourself in trouble. Think of it in terms of traveling down the interstate at 65 MPH with only 5 feet between your bumper and the car in front of you. The best mind can’t complete the Observe, Orient & Decide in that space. You’re going to end up making an insurance claim if you make it a habit.
On the water it most likely means a lot of missed shots and blown out fish.
By compressing the OOD, you’ll have ample time to Act.
Be diligent in the complex portion of the equation where you have to recognize an opportunity, prepare your response and decide based on great preparation to turn it into a cast. Both you and Buddah will be jolly.