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.
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.
There is something about the south that draws you in and wraps its arms around you in a big comforting hug. From the mountains of appalachia where Southern Culture On The Fly is composed and published to the marshes of the Lowcountry where Flood Tide Co. calls home, there is a vibe that invites you into the fold like a long lost brother who’s home for the weekend.
Every time a new video drops, you know its going to be sweeter than molasses.
A lot has been said recently about an Arctic Grayling’s voracious appetite for rodents. No doubt about it, when you’re throwing a mouse pattern in Western Alaska for rainbow trout, you’re going to see your fair share of this:
Fly Out Media got out the camera recently when the rainbows were more than happy to oblige.
When you’re alone on the dance floor its not uncommon to feel a bit self-conscious and imagine the spotlight shining down on you exposing all of your flaws.
Performance anxiety can ruin the moment if you let it. To date, there is no little blue pill that you can take before you head out the door to ensure you’ll be ready when that sexy [insert species] shows up looking to tussle.
Many times I’ve stood on the poling platform methodically pushing across a flat and I’ve quietly admired the smooth tight loops being formed by the angler up front who has lofted the fly for a momentary break from the monotony of the stalk.
That admiration quickly erodes as their cast crumbles when a fish appears, ready to be fed fur and feathers.
These failures are more often than not simply a by product of rushing and loosing focus on the casting stroke.
I’ve adopted a new policy for my skiff that focuses on providing positive feedback on those perfect, yet lonely false casts that will never find a target. I ALWAYS make sure to point out the results of the relaxed cast. Its beauty, grace and distance are all noted. Its followed by the reminder: Keep that cast, and take it easy when the fish shows up. Time is on our side. Don’t rush it, take it easy.
I’m no original thinker, so don’t take my word for it, listen to Andros South’s very own raconteur:
If you need to, hum the lyrics from this Eagles tune to yourself:
Lighten up while you still can
don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy…
Tailing redfish are extremely fun to target when sight fishing. Depending on the type of bottom they are feeding over, they can also be frustrating beyond belief to feed successfully.
One of the reasons for it in thick grass is the fact that their vision is impaired by the grass itself.
The next time you’re experiencing apparent refusals, keep in mind it may simply be that the fly is not being seen.
Switching to a top water fly may be contrary to conventional wisdom, but it works.
Cast a foot or two ahead of the direction the fish is feeding and wait for it to move. A couple of subtle strips is usually all it takes to get their immediate attention and you find yourself clearing line and getting on the reel.
The fall lunar cycle is piling water up inshore, now more than ever, you might consider this different approach to tailers. It could spell the difference between success and failure.