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.
It would be a difficult task to find a more personable and entertaining guide in the Bahamas than Tory Bevins.
Aside from his casting prowess, he’s a Raconteur of the first order.
If you find yourself on South Andros, look him up. He works at Andros South. If you’re fishing DIY or at another lodge, you can find him after quitting time at the small bar by Little Creek or up island at the Rust Barge.
His casting style is simple to understand and works incredibly well. Take a few minutes to get in the groove and you’ll be slinging string like a pro.
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.
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.
“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.
Fly fishing gets easier the longer you do it. Just like a pilot’s log book, filled with hours of experience, most often translates into the airplane becoming an extension of you, the more time you spend on the water, the more naturally the movements become.
Fly fishing and flying are very similar activities in my mind. Both require attention to detail in the three dimensional realm and flawless execution to pull it off the way it was meant to happen.
An uncoordinated turn in a plane is akin to a sloppy loop, sure it gets you there, but very inefficiently and the result ain’t pretty.
Thats where experience steps in and creates flow and prowess. Hard work is rewarded by becoming habit.
A health dose of obsession can be the driver that separates the elite from the also rans.
The folks that go, no matter the conditions, are the ones that will develop the skill set that is ultimately going to deliver consistent results. There is no quit in them, they persevere. The drive and motivation they possess help them achieve the level of competency that makes them successful on the water.
If you have the desire and feed it, you’ll reap the rewards long term.
When I see a film like Obsession by Patrick Rhea I know he’s to be the kind of guy that is fully invested.
Watch him work, there is no wasted energy with false casts and he’s accurate and purposeful in his movement. Most of all, he’s having a great time and at the end of the day, thats why we all do this thing called fly fishing.
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:
I hear it all the time; “If I could cast better, I would fly fish more.”
The secret to better casting is to cast more.
The secret to casting better is to cast more in challenging conditions.
The secret to casting better is to stick with it.
I flyfish 99.9% of the time. Its just what I’ve grown to love and its what I prefer. I may not produce the same numbers of caught fish as I once did with traditional tackle, but I find my experience more rewarding.
Casting more is key to getting better. Not on the lawn, but on the water. I’ve found that simply spending time on a local pond in the neighborhood is both a great way to unwind at the end of the day, the increased the frequency of working on casting translated to better and more successful time on the water when actually fishing.
Practice on the water is key. The rod and fly line are working in their intended environment.
Add to the practice sessions by introducing challenges that will cause you to fail. A tree in an uncomfortable place behind you, a stiff breeze or a dock that blocks the ideal casting lane will force you to problem solve when it matters least and give you experience that will prepare you for when it matters most, on the water actively fishing.
A challenge that is often overlooked, but will always present itself in the real world is a need to deliver the fly on your weak side. Spend time working on delivering a fly on the back cast. If you have confidence and accuracy on the back cast delivery, you’ll double the water you’re able to fish.
Lastly, leave the gear at home. All too often a spinning rod is the crutch that enables failure in fly fishing, especially in the saltwater environment. They are evil and sap your resolve to stay the course. Remove it and stay in the game even when the conditions are sporty. You’ll be forced to improve and the rewards will get bigger and better.
While its often the South Carolina Lowcountry that is top of mind when talking about flood tide opportunities for redfish in flooded spartina. The flats of St. Augustine and Jacksonville up through Fernandina are also prime for stalking redfish up in the grass.
Whether you choose to fish from a skiff or wade, its some of the most rewarding flyfishing that you’ll experience.
Here is a little taste of the North Florida good life from GShank on Vimeo.
Gotta love the marching fiddlers. Excellent shots!