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.
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.
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.
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
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.