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.
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.
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.
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.
In fly fishing, I believe that failure is not an institution we believe in. At least not like most of the “normal” populace.
Who in the world would chase permit, for example, if they believed in failure? Really, its a low percentage game of tides, winds, fly design, fly placement and fly movement; and thats before we even consider the fish as part of the equation. I know plenty of people that have tried, yet have never hoisted a permit above the water for a quick photo before loosing it to have it swim away to fight another day. I’m in that category. Still yet, I have friends who have caught one, a year or two ago and they still pour money, time and frustration at the next one. Surely this behavior supports the theory, failure is not an option.
For sure, there are plenty of species other than permit swimming in water, all across this globe, that are targeted by fly anglers that often serve up these micro defeats on a daily basis.
Turns out, its what we love. How many times have you heard; “If catching them was easy, everyone would do it.”.
To a fly fisher the experience is paramount. The preparation, from the rigging of gear, selection of a “spot” and other environmental considerations are a big part of it. We study the angles.
Each experience we have on the water is a step forward to achieve a goal. Once it is attained, we reset the board and begin again. The reset can be triggered by capturing a fish or simply the lack of it.
Even when you’ve been wearing a skunk for weeks, it happens; you’ll still get up and get gear together and go tackle the day, in search of a little taste of victory.
I’m seeing that happen now with my son. He’s a skateboarder. He and his friends are cut from the same cloth that we are. To them failure doesn’t exist either. No matter the amount of pain, agony or otherwise, when they choose to skate an obstacle or learn a new trick, they are committed. They will try over and over again, until they achieve the success they’re aiming for.
As I’ve been spending more and more time with them, going to a skatepark or pulling into a random alley so they can flagrantly skate a ledge behind some business in the shadow of a “No Skateboarding” sign, I’m inspired by their dedication to the principle – Failure Is Not An Option.
A couple of his friends have recently picked up a fly rod and started using it more and more to chase backyard bass and even redfish when they can hitch a ride on a skiff. I know they’re well suited for it and hearing their outlandish stories confirms it.
Skaters are much like fly fishermen when it comes to documenting their adventures, if not even better. Perhaps its generational, but their affinity for video is second to none and they’re good at it.
My son worked for a couple of months to amass enough “footie” to put together this short video.
I can’t wait for him to get bitten by the fly fishing bug so I’ll have my very own “filmer” to chronicle our time on the water.
For now, I’ll wrap myself in the comfort of knowing that he has no fear of failure, actually he laughs in its face, and wait for him to join me on the skiff.
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.
At the end of 2014 the family and I packed up and headed west in order to give my son his first experience seeing snow. By all measures the trip was a wild success. Truly a spur of the moment idea, we threw together an itinerary on the fly and let the adventure unfold on its own terms.
Despite being billed as a family trip I found enough time to sneak off and stepped out for an afternoon session that quickly had me longing for a saltier environment. Say what you will about trout guys having trouble with the double haul, fishing with gloves is harder!
The greatest part of the journey was the discovery of the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program. It has sparked an insatiable appetite in my child for spending time outdoors learning about history, wildlife and conservation.
Since our return we’ve dedicated time to visiting a few National Memorial sites that we likely wouldn’t have in order to complete the Junior Ranger programs there. As an unintended consequence, our family is now more actively engaged in finding new places to visit and learn about.
If you have little ones, check out the program and get out there, you’ll spend amazing quality time with them and they’ll soak up knowledge at an alarming rate. Their program’s motto sums it up nicely; Explore – Learn – Protect