I searched for months for the skiff I have now owned for the past 9 years. After missing a couple of similar models, I finally got the jump on everyone and got the first look at my 1998 Hells Bay Whipray – “Mosquito Lagoon” Edition, (the 33rd hull built) when my son was less than a day old. I left the hospital a day later to see it for the first time. I wrote a check that afternoon, knowing I had found my saltwater soulmate.
The near decade we’ve spent together has been epic. She’s taken me on lots of adventures across the Sunshine State.
There is something special about that old skiff. Today, I watched Flip Pallot opine, in the way only he can, the History of Hells Bay Boatworks. It was fantastic.
In addition to hearing his thoughts on the journey that lead to the revolutionary skiffs we love, I’ve talked a lot with Chris Morejohn, the architect behind the design. Having him remember my skiff and sharing details of its history was fulfilling and deepened my bond with it further.
A lot of people say there is no “perfect” skiff. They’ve never been on mine.
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.