Oct 14

Interview with Conway Bowman

Conway Bowman gets around. Based out of San Diego where he guides for, of all thinks, Mako sharks on the fly, he also hosts Conway Bowman’s World of Fly Fishing. His previous show, Dollar Wise Fly, focused on how to get the trip without the sting to your wallet. Conway agreed to do an interview here, so I’ll get you to it.

Photo: Yucatan Tarpon! Had great adventure with lots of baby tarpon hooked and landed on the fly!! What's your favorite saltwater place to fish? #fun #livingthedream #babytarpon #Cerveza #Yucatan #Tryingstuff #seehappy #catchhappy #orvisflyfishing #yeticooler @columbia1938 @spyoptic @orvis @yeticoolers

California doesn’t spring to mind when people think of saltwater fly fishing, but you seem to have carved out a pretty good fishery down there in San Diego. How does catching a Mako on a fly compare to other fly caught big game?

First off, California lives in the shadows of other great saltwater fisheries like Florida and the Gulf coast.  California is the victim of an East Coast bias, like many other sports. We just don’t have the fishing population ,popularity or  media attention as  the east coast. That being said, the West coast has some of the greatest blue water fly fishing anywhere. The Mako shark is the star in my opinion. The fighting and acrobatic qualities of the mako shark plus is eagerness to take the fly within a few feet of a boat puts it up there, if not higher, with Marlin and sailfish. Additionally, San Diego , is unique in that there is no other place in the world a fly angler can constantly target a blue water game fish that is over 100 lbs with a  fly within a couple miles from the beach.

I saw on the website mention of Corbina as “bonefish of the west coast.” What is that fishing experience like? And, are those Mission Bay bonefish worth the time/effort?

The Corbina is a highly sought after fish with the fly rod here is so cal. It can be as difficult to catch on the fly ( or on bait) as the Permit. They require the fly angler to present a fly quickly and accurately under adverse conditions (i.e. breaking surf and difficult lighting conditions). The Corbina is almost impossible to see even in perfect conditions so this adds to the difficulty in catching them. The approach is sight fishing in very skinny water, using floating or light sinking lines and fly patterns that imitate a mole crab.

The bonefish here is so cal are more of a deep water fish that are caught incidentally rather than targeted. This is a symptom of not having clear shallow flats available on our bays. I will say there are times of the year when the bonefish can be targeted in deep channels with sinking lines and various shrimp and bait fish patterns. But to get a classic tailing bonefish scenario in clear skinny water just does not happen as far as I know.

Through World of Fly Fishing you are getting to get out and about with a fly rod in hand, where are some of the places you are looking forward to checking out? Any of those bonefish destinations?

Yep I’m very fortunate to be able to travel, get paid and fish all over the world! Best gig in town I must say! Iceland is high on my list for Atlantic Salmon. As far as bonefish, I’ve fished Christmas Island , Belize, Bahamas and Yucatan so that leaves the Seychelles to explore. Hopefully I can do this sooner than later.

You previously had a show focused on good fishing without dropping a ton of cash. What lessons did you learn about getting after it without hemorrhaging cash in the process?

“Dollar Wise Fly”! That was a great show, unfortunately it had a short run, but it really connected with the audience. Still to this day, I receive emails about how that show demonstrated to people that you did not have to spend a ton of cash to have a great fishing trip. It’s so true, with a little research the frugal angler can go out and have a world class fishing experience and not mortgage  the house. Get a tent, rent a camper, do some research of best times, places and go for it! Spend money on good beer!!

 What is your go-to rod/reel for bonefishing?

Orvis H2 9 foot 8 wt with a Orvis Mirage IV. Floating line ( Hydros bonefish or SA Bonefish)

Many of us were lucky to have a saltwater mentor, someone who shaves years off the learning curve. Did you have such a person in your life?

Yes, I’ve had a few. My father john, who took me fishing at age two and who continues to inspire me to go out and fish!!  Bill Storud, who owned the only fly shop in San Diego, Stroud Tackle, was a huge influence early in my fishing life. He taught me how to cast a Penn Jig Master and how to fish a live anchovy. Also how to fight large saltwater fish from a boat I can hear him now over 40 years later (“ keep your shoulders square to the fish at all times”!! “Don’t horse the fish”!!) Capt Lou Fador, who taught me so much about the behavior of Mako sharks and where and when to fish for them. Nick Curcione, who inspired me to take my 14 foot aluminum skiff offshore and target Makos.

When you are out on the water a lot you tend to see things that other people just would never see. You have to be out there to experience it. Is there anything you’ve seen out on the water that was special, unique, scary or funny that fits that description?

It’s all inspiring. Every second, every day, every form of life from the most micro jelly fish to the largest blue whale. It’s a privilege to be able to hit the water and just be in the moment.

Photo: One of my favorite fish to catch on the fly! What's yours and where? #redfish #redfishfever #neworleans #flyfishing #flyfishingforredfish #happy #catchhappy @spyoptic @orvis @yeticoolers @howlerbros @columbia1938

What is your favorite species to chase, and why?

FISH! Any and ALL!!!!!

Thanks Conway and I hope to see you on the water down in San Diego one of these days!

Oct 14

Casting from Gink and Gasoline

The folks over at Gink and Gasoline are doing a fine, fine job, Olympic Medalists and all. They have a post with some casting tips to help you on the flats and it is good advice.

Good technique and timing can input far more power into the casting system than sheer muscle and effort. Casting as hard as I could worked against me ten fold. I wasn’t allowing the rod to do the work and I lost control of my casting stroke in the process. Both of which, ended up opening up my loops and keeping me from consistently laying out a straight leader on the water during my presentation.

Saltwater flats casting is just different from most anything else you are going to do. It has its own set of skills and you are not magically imbued with them just because you’ve caught a bazillion trout.

The big difference is the wind. The wind can be your friend, putting a little chop on the water makes the fish feel more comfortable and masks your approach and cast. When you are looking into the face of a 15 mph wind, or a 25 mph wind, things can go badly, and quickly.

Read the tips from Gink and Gasoline and then go practice a bit. Doesn’t make sense to spend a couple grand on getting to some dream location without working on your ability to deliver at game time.

Me, casting, in Belize.

Me, casting, in Belize.

Oct 14

Belize, the Book

I got a wonderful gift in the mail late last week, a beautiful book about a beautiful place.

The book is simply called “Fly Fishing Belize” and it is written and photographed by Jim Klug.

Solid work, Jim.

Solid work, Jim.

Belize has a special place in my heart. My first trip, in 2010, got me a grand slam.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

My second trip, in 2012, was my honeymoon.

Honeymoon Bonefish

Honeymoon Bonefish

My wife has agreed we can go back for our 5th anniversary. Just three more years to wait!

I’ve only been to Ambergris, but the book covers the whole of the fishable country. The book is complete with Jim’s fantastic pictures, the rich history of the fly fishing personalities who have worked and played on the waters of Belize.

It is a great book. If you love Belize, and I know many of you do, you should check it out. It will become a treasured possession.

Oct 14

Silver Kings on TV

I was happy to be shown a link to “Silver Kings.” This is… well… let them tell you:

Silver Kings is a Docu-Style, Outdoor show about two fly-fishing captains and their clients competing in tarpon tournaments in Islamorada, Florida. Filmed during the tarpon migration, the show exposes the visual beauty of Islamorada and the fast action of fly-fishing for tarpon in the most unique fishing environment in the US… the Florida Keys.

Yeah, that.

The odds of me fishing a tournament are right up there with the odds of me winning America’s Top Model. I’m just not out there, I don’t have that kind of free cash sitting around and I don’t have the vacation time. I’m a west coaster, too, and we generally don’t go in for the tournaments, but I’ve always been kind of curious about what they are and how the look from the inside. This show gives that insider look.

There are two guides in the program, Bou Bosso and Rob Fordyce. I’ve heard Rob’s name passed around by folks as he’s a long time Keys guide with a good reputation. Seeing him on the show… dear god, the man is built like a tank and looks like an MMA fighter.

If you like tarpon or the Keys or have ever been curious about what a tournament looks like from the inside, you should check this out.


Oct 14

Nautilus Reels and BTT

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust got a great ally recently in Nautilus Reels. Sounds like they’ll donate 5% to BTT for their award-winning NV-Monster reel and will sign the purchaser up for a year of BTT membership.


I interviewed Kristen Mustad a few years back and got a chance to fish a Nautilus reel back in 2010 on a trip to Belize. Loved it.

Great to see Nautilus partnering up with BTT.

Oct 14

Interview with Bill Howard from Mars Bay, Andros

This interview was originally in the Angling Destinations newsletter.

Mars Bay is located in South Andros, one of the best spots for bonefish on the globe. Do you think Andros deserves the reputation as the bonefishing capital of the world?
Yes, I would have to agree, you’ll not find a better bone fishery on the planet. I’ve often said that there are more bonefish in the waters around Andros than you can shake a fly rod at. Over the years I’ve met hundreds of fishermen at the lodge. Between them they’ve covered every bone fishery on the planet. They tell me South Andros is the best bone fishery. I have one very experienced group of fishermen that actually has fished the entire planet. They’ve booked a couple weeks every  year since I opened. They tell me South Andros is as good as it gets, there’s no need to travel anyplace else.

How have you seen South Andros change over the years? Things seem to move a big slow on South Andros, in terms of change, but is there anything someone who fished Andros 20 years ago would find surprising about the South Andros of today?
When I first arrived on the island twelve years ago there was no internet or cell service. Actually, we did have 14.4 dial up that didn’t work. Now we have DSL that is fairly reliable but you won’t be streaming any movies. And cell service is good. We also have direct flights to/from Ft Lauderdale/Congotown now. What used to be an all day ordeal and an overnight stay in Florida or Nassau is now an hour and fifteen minute flight. Beside that…..nothing has changed. It’s like groundhog day. My neighbors are still bailing water from a well and washing cloths in a wash tub. If anything there has been a noticeable drop in population and economic activity.
What is your favorite Bahamian cuisine specialty? (I”m a cracked conch guy myself)
We have a rotating menu at the lodge. There are dishes we serve that are unique to the Bahamas. They are nearly impossible to find, not available, or very expensive elsewhere. If you come to the lodge I make sure those items are first on the menu. Unfortunately, because of that I get stuck eating the same thing over and over. Ask any fisherman that has been to Mars Bay; I won’t eat lobster anymore…..nasty critters. I’ll usually have a hotdog or leftovers on lobster night. I’m almost to that point with cracked conch. I never get tired of fish. My favorite dish is a whole, skin on, scaled and gutted, lane snapper with the daylights fried out of it! I did take it off the menu and rarely serve it to the fishing guests without checking first. Not all, but most don’t know how to eat a whole fish and make mess out of it.  Not mention your dinner is staring back at you.
Andros can provide the angler with a shot at numbers or size. What do you see most anglers coming to Mars Bay to pursue?
It depends on the fishermen. Generally, most fishermen just want to catch fish. Those newer to bonefishing are more interested in numbers and enjoy fishing the schools. The more experienced bonefishermen are looking for larger fish and prefer casting to sets, pairs, and cruising singles. Occasionally I do get the fisherman that says, “I only want to catch big fish.”……don’t we all. I can advise your guide and he’ll do what he can but I would suggest taking what the day gives you. You’ll get your shots.
Has anyone ever forgotten to pack their rod?
No, but occasionally luggage gets delayed. I’ve had to completely outfit a few fishermen over the years, no problem. Between my gear and other guests there’s always plenty to go around.

Andros has more mangroves than just about anywhere. Do you see the ecosystem there in Andros still being in good shape?
The ecosystem is in great shape. Everything looks as it did when I first arrived on the island.
Andros is such a special place. What do you love most about Andros?
It’s is incredibly beautiful. The water is as clear as the air and filled with shades of blues and greens that a camera can’t capture. The flats and islands of the southern tip seem limitless. You probably won’t see another boat all day and you feel as if your the only person on the planet. It’s a spiritual experience. What love most is the climate. While you’re scraping ice off your windshield in the morning I’m sitting on the beach, wearing shorts and barefoot, sipping coffee and watching the sun rise.

Sounds pretty good Bill. Sounds pretty good.  

Oct 14

What you won’t enjoy in the Keys

You like conch fritters? Me too.

You know what you won’t have in the Keys? Conch fritters from conch caught in the Keys. Simply put, they’ve been over-fished to the brink of destruction and are now illegal to harvest in Florida waters.

I’m not from Florida… far from it. But it seems like things need to change if Florida is going to continue producing for all those tourists who come down to play. If you keep everything you catch, regardless of whether you plan on eating it or not, there will simply be fewer of those fish around the next time you head out on that charter boat.

It is pictures like this that have me scratching my head. You think they are going to eat all those smaller fish? I doubt it. If not… why kill them? Is gaffing the only way these guys know how to land a fish?

When I see that 84% of lobsters in the Keys are caught in their first year of life (they can live to be 20), I have to wonder how the fishery could possibly thrive under such pressure. Visually, it is striking to see all those lobster traps set out. Hundreds upon hundreds of them, one after another after another. You just look at it all and have to think “How is this sustainable?”

There seem to be PLENTY of mullet around and the big, migratory tarpon will come to eat the mullet, so maybe the tarpon won’t be impacted by the general catch & kill mentality. You have to think you can’t screw with things too much, though, right?

Am I wrong? Can we keep this up?

Bison skulls from around the time when we nearly killed off all the Bison.

Oct 14

A Lemon at Last

I’ve cast at a fair number of lemon sharks. Several times I’ve seen them light up on a fly, put on the gas, charge it, then put their nose right on the thing and decide they really aren’t that peckish at the moment. That’s been how it has gone time and time again.

Then, fishing with Derek Rust somewhere between the Everglades and Marathon, it happened. It was the last cast of the day and it was hoped the wake coming at us was a redfish. It wasn’t, it was a 2-3′ lemon shark. As I stopped stripping the thing just casually swam over the fly and ate it. I wasn’t even trying to catch it at that point.

I got him right on the lip and the fight was short. Got him to the side of the boat and got him released. We didn’t think Lemons could be taken out of the water, so you won’t see the typical trophy shots. This is the shot I got.

A starter shark, not a maneater.

A starter shark, not a maneater.

Still, it was a lemon, on a fly, even if it was mostly on accident.

Bonefish on the Brain: 1

Lemon Sharks: 15

Oct 14

A couple of cool things about my day with Derek and Dan

The gang

The gang

There were some really cool parts to my one fishing day there in the Keys with guide Derek Rust and Dan Dow from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

First, as we were running from one of the many point As to Bs Derek spotted a pod of dolphins. We spotted at least three pods that day. This pod we approached in the boat and the dolphins turned and started following us, playing in the wake of the skiff. They jumped out of the water, gracefully slipping back below. They raced alongside the boat and seemed to play. I mean, you just don’t see that stuff unless you are out there.

Another cool thing to see was the Everglades. I was last in the glades when I was about 10. Thirty years later and here I am again, in the back country, looking for fish. It was so peaceful out there. Some of the flats had turtle grass so thick and lush it could have been a 70’s shag carpet of green. Really cool to see that environment out there. I want to go back.

Now that is purdy

Now that is purdy

Dan on deck. Everglades before us.

Dan on deck. Everglades before us.

Oct 14

Thoughts on Eating in the Keys

Here are some things I don’t go to the Keys for.

1. Five Guys. There are TWO of these in Key West. I have those in California. I didn’t travel a couple thousand miles to eat at Five Guys, even if it is awesome. I guess that’s for the locals, or at least I hope it is for the locals.

2. Mexican Food. I’m from California. I have plenty of Mexican options at home. Now, if it were Cuban food, I might be game, as that’s pretty rare where I’m from. But Mexican? I can get that at home.

3. And this one baffles me… Salmon. Two places we went the “fish of the day” was salmon. Um… what boat did the salmon come off of? I want some fresh, local seafood when I’m in the Keys, not some farm-raised devil fish from Canada. Why would anyone order Salmon in Marathon or Key West or Miami? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

On the other hand… I ate a lot of Mahi Mahi. I have no idea if it was caught off the coast here or if it was long-lined from the pacific and shipped as a block of frozen fish… but it is at least possible it was from local waters, so I’ll cling to that illusion.