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.
Recently, the family and i loaded up and headed north to Charleston to meet up with other friends and attend an annual social event hosted by Flood Tide Co.
I’ve been friends with the founders of the lifestyle brand for years and it makes going to the event more like a family reunion.
While in Charleston there are a multitude of amazing places to eat, drink and generally enjoy yourself. We made sure to take full advantage.
The first that is referred to in the title came for my friend Marc. He had never fished a flooded spartina grass meadow for tailing redfish, so it was a priority to give him a shot to cross off a bucket list item.
Despite being windier than most would like, we found a couple of kindred souls willing to brave the gale and swell on the Wando River on Friday morning.
We powered through sporty conditions as the wind and tide worked against each other, stacking up chop that at times made me wonder why we had ignored the small craft advisory.
Once we made our way far enough up the river, leeward shorelines welcomed us.
Marc took the bow of my skiff and we started our search.
His wonder and excitement was palpable. It was truly special to see his wonder and amazement as we pushed along over a meadow that had only hours before been high and dry.
We finally spotted a redfish tailing and maneuvered into position for a cast. The ending was less than favorable thanks to a “trout set”.
With a mistake behind us, we found another fish and began what would turn into a 8- 10 minute game of cat and mouse as the fish would appear and disappear in the grass, moving along in search of prey with zero clue as to our presence.
The pace got a bit frenetic as the wayward redfish moved steadily towards us. Casts were going long, wide, short; pretty much everywhere they could without being in the “spa” they needed to be.
In response to my suggestion; “hit it on the head…” Marc’s fly dropped by the fish’s left eye, maybe 3 inches away. The response by the redfish was a definitive surge to inhale the crab.
And, just like that, Marc had his first Lowcountry redfish on the fly.
We had a hard time wiping the smiles off our face the rest of the day.
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.
The overwhelming push on environmental issues that are far from clear like anthropologic climate change on social media sometimes results in easily understood and non controversial ones to be overlooked. For instance, water quality in our communities’ waterways has declined over the past decades, yet not a lot of people are aware of the issue and how easily they can change their behavior to improve it.
Whether inland or along the coast in Florida, decades of fertilization of yards has resulted in lush landscapes around most neighborhoods. The unintended consequence is run-off of excess fertilizer into adjacent streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. The resulting nutrient load in the water results in algae blooms and uncontrolled growth of various submerged and emergent grasses and plants. In the worst of cases, oxygen levels plummet and living creatures throughout the water column die.
Even cutting grass and allowing it to get washed into storm water sewers has the same effect, as the clippings contain high amounts of nutrients that are easily released into the water, upsetting the natural balance.
In order to combat these problems, many communities have asked their residents to suspend fertilizer application through the rainy season, June – December. Doing so will help to prevent the run-off from thunderstorms being so easily loaded with excess nutrients.
In addition, several counties and municipalities are using placards and public information campaigns to educate the population on how to avoid sending clippings downstream into bodies of water by simply being mindful of where your mower sheds clippings. Don’t blow them into the street, send them back across the yard where they can degrade and release the nutrients into the lawn, where you want them anyway.
Simple problems and simple solutions are easy to understand. They don’t contain hidden agendas or the creation of “credits” made out of a nebulous idea that go to an equally mysterious bank.
If your neighborhood lacks a similar program, get involved and get one started. The cost is low and the benefit to the environment is real.
Check out how its being done along the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, Florida. Its a great example of how little ideas can have a big impact.
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.
The stretch of dunes that comprises Canaveral National Seashore between New Smyrna Beach and NASA Kennedy Space Center are one of the last great remote stretches of coastal land in Florida. Boats explore the Atlantic to the east and Mosquito Lagoon to the west, but vehicular travel of the four wheel kind is no-existent on the barrier island between the two in most of Canaveral National Seashore. Miles of steep sandy beaches where you’ll struggle to find a human on a normal day lay in wait for exploration.
Before you head out there to find adventure, you’ll need to acquire a Backcountry Permit from the National Park Service. Its a $2 formality, so don’t let it slow you down.
Walking the beach with a fly rod in search of a surf traveling target can be spotty at best, but it is definitely worth it. From redfish, black drum and the occasional shark, targets will appear.
Take a good pack with you, you’ll likely end up finding a treasure of some kind along the beach and it will come in handy to get it home.
Water is paramount. At least a gallon of it if you plan to cover a few miles.
A fly rod between 7-9 weight depending on your preference is plenty for what you’ll encounter. It will likely be a bit breezy so, make sure what you take will allow you to cast well into the wind.
Crab, baitfish and shrimp patterns in varying weight and size are your go to flies. A handful will do, you won’t need a lot.
Be mindful of the weather, storms along the beach can approach rapidly and be severe. There is no cover on the beach from lightning.
As you begin to egress, pick up as much plastic as you have room for in your pack. Despite your commitment to Leave No Trace, lots of plastic is deposited on the beach by ocean currents and nature will appreciate your helping hand.