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.
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.
Every fish that comes aboard my skiff or comes to hand doesn’t get its mugshot taken, but when it happens, the subject most likely swims away muttering unspeakable things about the paparazzi.
I’m a catch and release angler at heart, so photos are the hallmark of my experience. My number one maxim: The most memorable fish is the one you release.
I really focus on the fish when capturing images to document my time on the water. Sure, I include human subjects at times, but for the most part the focus is on the prize.
I’ve been taking pictures for decades. I used to burn lots of images on film back when 35 mm was king. I sent rolls upon rolls away to a mail order processor in hopes of seeing an image that was worthy of a matte and frame.
Digital changed that. What it didn’t change was the basics of photography.
My father has thousands upon thousands of 35 mm slides from travels across the world, his understanding of photography was from experience as well as formal training and I was lucky enough to have him as a coach and mentor.
His guidance built my photographic foundation and shaped how I view the world and subjects through a lens.
The Gallery above is just a random selection from a photo dump from my iPhone. It demonstrates a couple of the principles that I believe could be helpful in improving your photography skills.
Composition is King
When you frame an image, pull the subject in closer. The idea of everything in view is often the enemy of a great image. Just like having a clear focus, the composition of the entire image is better tight. Have a subject and commit to it. Put the subject in view, not just in the center, but make it dominate the frame.
More is Better
Don’t get hung up on the composition so much so that you miss the shot, you can fine tune it later with a small amount of editing. Pull in the image and start firing. I hammer down the shutter and get a handful of images. Its within the affray where I find the gems. Action begets success.
Sort it Out
Take a few moments when you get off the water to do a cursory, quick edit to discard the horrible and unusable, but be careful not to be quick to discard. Soft or slightly out of focus can often be fixed with editing and a detail within an otherwise uninteresting image may be mined out with cropping. After the initial weeding, walk away. When you come back to the images later, you’ll likely see them with a more creative eye.
Get To Know Your Camera
I shoot a lot with the camera on my phone simply because its there and easily accessible. I have a whole stable of Nikons ranging from DSLR to a basic AA battery powered point and shoot model I take on expeditions where charging batteries will be difficult. Each camera gives differing results and I know like reflex how the shot needs to look on the LCD screen to be ideal for usefulness. I only got to that point by experience with each camera. Experience came at the expense of a lot of crappy images. Now that I know them well, its become very easy and quick to compose images and capture them. A bump to get depth of field and I’m ready to roll.
Lastly, but most importantly, keep our friend’s health in mind when setting up shots. In the water, breathing, until the moment you’re ready to pull the trigger and capture your best fish.
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:
Until this week, I’ve always thought there was only one place to go to enjoy wading for redfish in a place that evokes the feeling of bonefishing a Bahamas flat. A few years ago it was the Lower Laguna Madre of Southwest Texas where I had experienced it for the first time.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is also just such a place. Recently I spent the better part of 3.5 hours walking the shoreline there looking for redfish in gin clear water over hard sand bottom. The set-up is identical to what you normally see reserved for bonefish. My timing was off, I was there on an extremely high tide, so I passed on wading and remained on the narrow ribbon of beach along the water’s edge. Nonetheless, I saw a handful of redfish, all solitary hunters, that were plying the same shoreline. This time they were a bit too wary of my offerings and all of the shots I took ended without a hook-up, despite a couple of promising follows.
There are literally miles of flats available. Hard sand bottom with sparse sea grasses stretch on from horizon to horizon.
The idea of spending time on the Redneck Riviera has grown in appeal by significant digits.
For now, I’ll carry the panhandle skunk back home with me, but rest assured, I’ll return again with a sharper plan and better timing. I love bonefishing, I love it even more when the expected gray ghost is actually a copper rocket.
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!