Feb 16

What to bring

Hatch Magazine put up a post on packing for your saltwater trip. These sorts of lists are always worth reading.

Got me thinking about some of the odd and ends I bring.

Socks. Cheap, white, mass-produced socks. In my opinion, that’s the best thing to wear with your wading boots. Forget the neoprene booties. The cheap white socks will do a good job of protecting your feet from the grit and sand. When done for the day, just toss them out.

Desitin. More commonly known as a butt cream for you baby, Desitin is a good thing to have if you end up getting a wading rash. If you have tried to walk a flat with one of those, it sucks. This can help address the issue.

Trip Saver.

Damn good to have.

A spinning rod. That’s right. A frigging spinning rod. I’ll tell you… I’ve had some days just wrenched from the trash-heap by having a spinning rod in the boat with a big, massive pencil popper for cudas. When you get tired of getting your ass handed to you for 5 or 6 hours in a row, hooking and landing a cuda on a spinning rig is just pure fun.

Everything else I bring is pretty standard.

  • Quick dry pants
  • Long sleeved shirts
  • Hat
  • Sun mask
  • Sun gloves
  • Sun Screen
  • 2 8wts
  • 1 10wt
  • A few hundred flies
  • First aid kit
  • Extras Kit with superglue and rod tips and kevlar thread, etc.
  • Wading boots
  • Dry Bag
  • Hip gear bag
  • Cameras
  • Solar panel for emergency charging
  • Spools and spools of extra mono and fluoro and wire. Be ready for whatever comes at ya
  • Sunglasses
  • Good pair of pliers

Feb 16

Native Intelligence

I’m reading my daughter The River Why. She’s nine and if she wants me to still read to her, I’m going to damn well pick the book.

The River Why might be a bit heady and she didn’t like the part with Abe and we haven’t come to the nakedness part. I’ve also had to substitute “shit” with “shoot,” but only because if I didn’t she’d go run and tell her mom (my ex-wife) I was reading her dirty words.

One part I rediscovered was the bit about “native intelligence.”

“A native is a man or creature or plan indigenous to a limited geographical area – a space boundaried and defined by mountains, rivers, or coastline (not by latitudes, longitudes, or state and county lines), with its own peculiar mixture of weeds, trees, bugs, birds, flowers, streams, hills, rocks, and critters (including people), its own nuances of rain, wind, and seasonal change. Native intelligence develops through an unspoken or soft-spoken relationship with these interwoven things: it evolves as the native involves himself in his region. A non-native awakes in the morning in a body in a bed in a room in a building or a street in a county in a state in a nation. A native awakens in the center of a little cosmos – or a big one, if his intelligence is vast – and he wears his cosmos like a robe, senses the barely perceptible shiftings, migrations, moods, and machinations of its creatures, its growing green things, its earth and sky.” David James Duncan, The River Why

I have known that kind of native intelligence and I have lost it, like a foreign language fading from disuse and time.

I was only a guide for one season up in the mountains of Northern California, but I felt like I was developing this kind of native intelligence, but I also noticed in the years since that this intelligence has dimmed. I no longer feel the pulse of those rivers as finely and sometimes I don’t feel it at all. I still know spots and techniques that work, but I don’t know the mood of the place. I still stumble upon a secret from time to time, but they are spoken with such whispers now and my ears are not so sharp.

Native Intelligence

Native Intelligence

This native intelligence is on display with any good guide. For me, the native intelligence of flats guides is particularly impressive as the flats are so different from my mountain childhood home, where I once had and lost it myself. These guides know the tides and the movements of the fish and how to find a leeward flat when it is blowing 20. They can look at a fish from 200 feet and get a sense of its mood and what will or won’t work, just like they can get up in the morning and look at the sky and know how the day will go.

I’ll never develop that kind of intelligence by fishing a week in a place or by fishing every year in a different place. That sort of knowledge comes with years of consistent effort and a desire to posses it. That sort of knowledge comes from having a home water and investing time. A lot of time.

I have a new home water, but I’ve hardly made the first payment and it will be a long time before it is all paid off and owned outright.

In two weeks I’m heading to the Bahamas. Part of that time will be spent soaking in the native intelligence of the guides who will be waking up in their own cosmos. The rest of the trip I’ll be trying to develop a fraction of that intelligence for myself.

I can’t wait.

Jan 16

Back at the vice

We moved and in that process all my fly tying materials, even the desk itself, were packed up and carted the 2.7 miles from the first house to our new home (I’m never moving again). This was the sixth move for the fly tying desk in the past 9 years, but it is still with me.

Moved, but not ready.

Moved, but not ready.

The new home didn’t have room for my desk, but the garage did have room and that’s where it ended up. It is a little cold in there, but this is California, so a little cold is just that and nothing a space heater couldn’t rectify.

Now… now I have a trip on the books and speeding toward me like Christmas or my anniversary, close now and soon it will be right on top of me and I better get to planning  and actually DOING stuff to get ready or I won’t be.

So the boxes got unpacked and put away and I figured out how to get some power over to my little detached corner for the light and the heater and found a folding chair and now I’m back in business.

It felt good to be back at the vice after a few months of not being there. It felt good to set up a little bit of tropical thinking in this little corner of suburbia.

I tied flies for bonefish to reject, to flee and to crush, all of these outcomes are almost certain to happen, maybe even on the same cast.

Two weeks and they are getting on a plane (on planes, plural) with me and flying across the country and then out of it and touching down in a place I don’t know well at all, but kind of love and know I will love for the rest of my days and I’m going to use those bits of metal and plastic and thread to carry out one of those imperatives of my soul, of my being, to look for the shadow on the sandy flat, the movement contrary to the chop or the current, the flash of a tail, the gray ghost in his stunning habitat.

I think about that as I’m wrapping the bare hook in my garage with the space heater humming and a glass of not-very-good rum sitting mostly undrunk on my desk, getting in a Caribbean mindset. I think of what might look good to a bonefish. I think about movement and flash and what might tangle and how something might fish and the colors that might be intoxicating or repulsive to a creature with a brain the size of a pea and who will outsmart me more than I will outsmart it.

And I tie. I tie each fly in its own way, creating what seems to be asking to be created. Whip finish and head cement and take out from the jaws of the vice and put it with its new fraternity and put the next blank canvas in the vice and think again of skinny water, casting decks and polarized lenses.

The haul for the night.

The haul for the night.

Jan 16

The Wire

The RIO wire

The RIO wire

I can’t go to the skinny water without my wire, I admit it.

At first, barracuda were the enemy, the predators of bonefish and bonefish were what I was out to catch. It seemed natural to hate them and their ability to turn a landed bonefish into half a landed bonefish.

As predators they excel. Their speed and power and aggression are really astounding. And… aren’t those pretty good traits in a game fish?

My hatred turned to curiosity and then to outright joy.

I’ll say it. I love barracuda.

When they decide to go after a fly they destroy it, shred it, make it a fraction of its former self. When you hook one they jump like skinnier, madder tarpon. They throw rooster tails of water on their lightning runs. They are electric.

They can also hurt you. Badly. Maybe not kill you, but they could take off a finger or two.

“It ain’t wilderness unless there’s a critter that can kill you and eat you.” – Doug Peacock.

So, with a trip on the horizion, it was time to buy some new wire. I’m going for the bonefish, but I’ll enjoy the cudas too.

Jan 16

The 8 Weight Shootout

The Yellowstone Angler put out their 8 Weight Shootout, comparing the 8 weights from around the industry from the pricey Helios 2 to the cheap Echo Base.

fly rods

I think I’ve cast five or six of these rods and my go-to bonefish rod is the Orvis Helios 2. I also own Reddington Predator 10 and 12 weights. I also also have a TFO Clouser 8 wt. and a Rise 8 wt. as well (just to lay down my saltwater rods, I think I have 16 fly rods in all weights).

The good news, I feel safe in proclaiming, is that there are a lot of great options out there.

There are also some bad ones… and this group doesn’t pull punches.

Here is a rod that is slow in action, heavy in swing weight, and performs badly at all distances.

Don’t get that one.

I would have like to see Clutch and Rise in the mix as well, but they have done a good job putting this together.

Jan 16

The plan is coming together

The destination is Abaco. The dates are February. The quarry is bonefish. My travel companion is Aaron.

We are getting a handle on where we are going to be when and I’m getting excited.

I’m looking forward to getting a little more time at Abaco Lodge, to meeting Oliver White in person, and to exploring more of the Island (which looks more and more interesting the longer I look).

I know which rods I’m bringing and I’m going through my flies, looking at what I might need to tie up for the trip.

Is there anything better than having a trip on the books to look forward to?

Jan 16

Blackadore Disaster

Raise a hand if you’ve been to Belize.

A not-small Jack.

A not-small Jack.

Wonderful place. I love it there and really hope to hold my wife to her PROMISE that we could return for our 5th anniversary (we honeymooned there), if not sooner.

If you’ve fished there, you know one of the reasons why it is special… the diversity and quality of the fishing. The Belizians have gone further than most in putting in place protections for their game fish, which is to be applauded.

So, leave it up to some Hollywood nitwit to ruin it (or at least some of it).

Blackadore Caye is a located within view of Savannah Caye, one of the prime spots to go hunting for tarpon. It was at Savannah that I hooked (and lost) my first tarpon. It was where I landed my largest jack (maybe 20 pounds?). It is not a great place for a resort, but that is what Leonardo DiCaprio is doing.

This is the disaster of a resort.

This is supposed to be eco-everything. No fossil fuel use. Composted waste. All solar/wind. They make it sound like a godsend.

I can’t imagine it will be anything short of a disaster. You just can’t build something like that in a place like that and have it be zero impact. The thing that will be impacted first will likely be the fishing at Savannah Caye. More boat traffic isn’t going to do anyone any favors. It also seems the resort will make the island off-limits to the locals because the clientele for a place like this get uncomfortable when there are un-uniformed/non-drink-serving brown people around.

This map would seem to suggest that the Belizian people know what they want to do with Blackadore Caye:

Seems like the people of Belize want Blackadore to not become a resort, but seems like Belize isn’t going to get what they want from Leo.

Funny thing. Leo accepted a Golden Globe recently and dedicated his award to native people.

That’s some grade A hypocrisy right there. Leo should listen to Leo on this one.

There is a Facebook page for Defend Blackadore Caye. Join it. I just did.

Blackadore Caye, as a resort, is a lessening of everything Belize really is. It doesn’t need improving on, not like this, not by Leonardo.


Jan 16

Playing the Odds and a Bit of Trust


I’ve talked to a few people and here is what I’m going to say is the current state of affairs.

The bill will not come up for a vote in February. It isn’t ready. No one has seen it. The most recent comments from Gray are pure politics in the worst sense of that word, which is saying something.

There is no reason to hold off on planning your trip.

When and if ANYTHING happens, there won’t be some short little window of notice. Folks in the know don’t think anything is likely to happen, or at least nothing that really impacts the DIY angler more than maybe buying a license.

So… while Gray’s comments are irresponsible, he is a politician and that seems to be mostly what they do.

See you in the Bahamas.

Jan 16

Is this thing coming for a vote? Part 2

Yesterday the Tribune published a story saying the flats regulation bill would hit the Cabinet in February.

This caught us all by surprise, since no one had heard a peep about the final draft getting released, much less it coming up for a vote. I made some inquiries and two distinct possibilities are emerging.

  1. Good ole’ Minister Gray has been super sneaky and the bill is getting ready for a February vote.
  2. Good ole’ Minister Gray is playing politics and wants to have something positive to talk about despite the fact nothing is actually happening.

Now, the worrywart in me fears #1, but the cynic in me sees #2 as the more likely of the two possibilities.

#2 seems more possible when you talk to folks out there (people who really shhould know) and they have not heard boo about this thing moving forward.

Another very non-scientific observation from a reader out in the Bahamas right now. He’s been going about this time for several years and this year he’s seen only one other angler, which is very different from years past. It is his belief that the talk about banning DIY has caused folks seen on the flats in years past to head elsewhere. It is just one data point, but it does tend to agree with what this side of the debate has been arguing for a long time, mainly that you can’t threaten and bully your visitors and expect them to still visit.

The unfortunate bit about Gray’s comments are that they come just as many anglers are looking at their 2016 to make plans. Gray throws doubt on all of that and it is a very simple thing right now for someone just to put a different destination into Kayak. Playing politics with the livelihood of the very people he is supposed to be representing is damn near criminal. He’s either an idiot or an asshole… maybe a little of column A and a little of column B.

I’ll have my own (wading) boots on the ground in another month and I will be asking a lot of questions when I get there. More answers will be forthcoming.

Jan 16

Bahamas Regulations Coming to a Vote??

Just saw this…

Um... damn.

Um… damn.

This does not sound great. First, it does not sound great because the news comes from the mouth of Minister Gray, an individual who has shown nothing but hostility toward DIY anglers/tourists.

Second, it does not sound great because no one I know has seen a revised draft. Given the absolutely craptastic first and second drafts of this thing, hearing there is a third does nothing to make me feel at ease.

I’m working the channels to learn what I can about the proposal and how real this news is. I’ll keep you posted.