16
Dec 17

2017 – A review

What an odd year it’s been.

I got out, I went some new places, I had some different experiences, I caught some new species, I met some new people.

It was another year where my days fishing for trout diminished. I think I fished for trout exactly three days… all with my daughter and a bit with my son (who landed his first trout), and for fewer combined hours than I’d normally fish in a single day. It just gets harder and harder to get away and make the drive North or East to find trout water. Kids. Work. Wife. It just isn’t fitting into an increasingly full life. I can’t really even complain about that, it’s just an observation.

I continued to find some time around the edges to get to the Bay and fish for stripers. I didn’t do this as much as I would have liked to, but I caught some, even the odd halibut. I saw plenty of seals and pelicans and very few other anglers.

My first trip of the year was to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. It is a trip I’ll look back on with sadness, given the later actions of my fishing partner, but the fishing itself was pretty interesting. I caught my first Peacock Bass, which was pretty fun, as well as my first Mayan. I went night tarpon fishing in Biscayne Bay (remember, my son’s middle name is Biscayne) on a night of high winds and low expectations. We didn’t catch anything more than a single jack, but we did have tarpon rolling on the shadow line of the bridge and it is something I really want to do again. I got to fish with David as well, who showed me one of his spots.

Just a fun, fun fish to catch on a fly rod.

A Mayan on David’s water

My second trip of the year was to Belize for Spring Break with my girl. We went to Caye Caulker and stayed at Sea Dreams. It was a pretty awesome trip, full of bonefish caught from the dock and very little time wearing shoes of any kind. The day of fly fishing resulted in one nice snook and a really good soaking from the rain. Lots of great memories from that trip.

My Belize Snook

One of the highlights from Spring Break 2017.

Awesome

Nice cuda.

My third trip of the year was to Oahu for a family vacation. I had a day to fish and I managed to break my O’io curse, landing three, hooking seven and seeing my first adult Giant Trevally and my first ever milkfish. It was a pretty good day on the water… opened my eyes a bit to the Hawaii bonefish game.

My fourth trip was to Mexico, Mahahual, with my dad in July. I think it was maybe a bit too late in the year as it was HOT. This was, in retrospect, not the best trip for my dad. The heat and unsteady footing were not his friends. Still, he caught his first tarpon (baby) and had his first grabs from adult tarpon. I caught some babies, had more than one eat from the big guys and caught my first trigger fish. It was a good trip that would have been made better by maybe 8 degrees less heat.

Nick with my trigger

Dad’s First Sabalito

My fifth trip was down to the marshes of Louisiana, DIY kayaking for redfish with a group largely from Alabama. This was a great experience. I had never fished out of a kayak like that and was a bit shaky, but managed to catch three reds and my first speckled trout. I met James, another blog reader, and enjoyed our day on the water.

My first DIY redfish

Don’t you love the hazey GoPro pictures?

That rounded out my fishing for the year. It is now approaching mid-December and I might, might get another day or two of throwing for stripers in the Bay, but beyond that, my fishing is pretty much wrapped up for 2017.

New species: Peacock Bass, Trigger Fish, Speckled Trout
New guides fished with:
New fishing friends made:

 


12
Dec 17

The BEST looking reel

Right?

Introducing the new Redington I.D. reel. This is probably going to go on my striper rig.

Thanks Redington!


06
Dec 17

In praise of the woman angler

It has been a bit hard to see so many icons fall these last few months. Some were folks that have been important to me (oh Louis…), but my discomfort is more than made up for by women maybe getting out from some of the absolute horse shite they’ve been dealing with for just about forever.

I’ve interviewed many female anglers here on the blog and I very much try to stay away from the “As a woman angler…” questions because they are anglers, not female anglers, they are anglers, most better than me, all more widely traveled, all with more interesting stories. Kind of ridiculous for me to try and put them in some side bucket, as if to say they are the best of that subset, when they are at the top of THE game, not just THEIR game. Ya know?

I was a guide for a very short time many, many years ago. I think I took away more that season than I gave, although I got to put more than a few anglers on their first trout, which is a pretty awesome thing to facilitate.

What I did learn from that one season on the water is that I’d prefer a woman angler over a guy, even if she was a first-timer. The reason for that is simple and known to all guides the world over.

Women listen.

It’s that simple. They listen to the guide. Their ego is set aside so they can learn and they take it in and they internalize it and they use it.

Men are often less easy to inform. They know already, they think. Or, they want to impress the guide with their prowess. It is an odd thing to hire a guide and then try to show off instead of learn, but it is something that happens again and again and again, on waters all over the world.

One thing I said back those years ago and still say, when explaining the right amount of power to put into a cast goes something like this…

I could likely out wrestle Joan Wulff and I could take her in feat of strength, but she can out cast me. It has less to do with power and more to do with technique and applying the right amount of power in the right place.

I think there is something there we can all learn from, although I’m still learning myself.

In this moment, when, hopefully, women get to cast off some of the crap they’ve had to deal with for way too long, I want to say, I see you and value you and hope to meet you on the water.


05
Dec 17

Number 1 thing on my Christmas Wishlist

It is the critical element.

Every trip I’ve ever had, or ever will, will start with this vital component.

It gets harder and harder to find these days.

Work is humming and there are a thousand little things poking up that demand my attention.

There are the kids. They need their watering and care as well if they are to grow big and strong.

There is my wife, who has her own deficit of this magical element,

Who also needs some of my focus,

And the marriage itself also requires maintenance and nurturing.

And friendships and family and things around the house,

My garage could use a good bit of straightening up.

The thing I need,

The prerequisite for any bit of walking flats and finding fish

is

Time.

So precious

Because scarcity creates value,

Basic economics.

Time.

I need a week, or at least five days,

Without commitments already made,

And without anything too vital on either end,

When it works for the kids and the wife and work.

I check the calendar like a racetrack junkie checking the race results.

The square peg of my need to walk in shin deep water looking for contrary shadows

Is confronted by the round holes of modern life.

I need to make this happen.


04
Dec 17

A post for SOs and spouses… this is what your flats fisherman wants for Christmas (2017).

Folks… forward this on to your loved ones if you’d like to drop hints, but don’t want to just fill out an Amazon Wish List.

Flats Anglers have needs… special needs… needs that are different from Rocky Mountain trout anglers or a bass fisherman. We are special.

First… there is the sun. The sun is kind of brutal out there on the flats. There’s no shade wading a flat or standing on a flats skiff. So… here are a few thing we might need to stay un-crisp.

The Patagonia Men’s Tropic Comfort Hoody II.
Long name, but a pretty awesome shirt for the sun. The hood, the high collar, the thumb holes… I like it all. I have one in blue and I want more.

M'S TROPIC COMFORT HOODY II, Tailored Grey (TGY)

And since we’re on Patagonia… let’s talk about the Guidewater II Pants.
I have several pairs of these. I love them. After a day in the salt they sort of harden to be similar to armor. I love that feeling. I’ve torn a couple pairs at this point, but those were 100% my fault.

M'S GUIDEWATER II PANTS, El Cap Khaki (ELKH)

I also have this hat
Trucker caps are cool… but if you are like me (a bit bald) the mesh doesn’t do what I need it to in terms of keeping me from burning.

Fitz Roy Tarpon Stretch Fit Hat, Navy Blue (NVYB)

And because it is part of the uniform and part of not burning… how about a Stalker Mask from Skinny Water Culture.

SWC Tail Pima Cotton Stalker Mask

Everyone NEEDS good sunglasses out on the flats. I prefer Costas, which is pretty much what 95% of the fly anglers I know fish with.

A trigger, and Costas

In terms of our feet… well… that is less about sun and more about coral/shells/urchins. There are two boots I’ve used lately. My heavy boots were from Patagonia, but a look on their website and they DON’T MAKE THEM ANYMORE! Crap!

Luckily, others do. Here’s the other pair of flats boots I have. The Simms Zipit Bootie II.
These pack down nicely to save room. I have these a size too small, sadly, which can make a day on the water a bit uncomfortable (I wear a 14 and it can be hard to get what I need in this department). It looks very much like Simms has you covered in their other designs as well. I mean… Simms… pretty solid.

You need a pack while you are out there, and I recently converted over to the Thunderhead sling pack by Fishpond. In addition to being just an awesome company (love their conservation ethic), the sling does a couple of things really well. It is waterproof. I can leave my phone in that thing without worrying. Second, it is big enough for me to carry everything I need without sacrificing. Third, with it sitting higher than a hip pack if I leave a zipper open in haste, it isn’t going to fill up with water with one deep step. I’m a fan.

Now… on to the rod and reel end of things.

Let’s start with the most important element piece of hard gear for the salt… the reel.

The best budget option out there right now, by far, is the Behemoth from Redington. I mean… at $129 you can pick up three of these for the price of one of the bigger named reels. They are not likely to fish for 20 years, but if you need a back-up or want to pick up a rig for your first trip without fully investing… this is a great option.

Other reels I think highly of..

I’ve always wanted a Galvan T8. At $430, this is what passes for a mid-range reel for saltwater. They are also a California company, which is cool.

Image result for galvan t8

It seems these days a lot of the top anglers I see are sporting the Hatch 7+. At $650, this is a solid high-end reel.

FinaticGen2_7Plus_SpoolSide_GrayBlack_LA_web

Now… on to the rods, which some would argue is just as important as the reel… maybe even more important.

On the budget side of things, the revamped Redington Predator is a good, solid option. Budget, for a saltwater rod, is about $300. I’ve got three Predators, an 8, 10 and 12. When you are going multi-species and are looking at three rods, it gets hard to fathom getting three $800 rods. The Predator helps get you around that.

For the top end of the market… I love, love, love my Orvis Helios 2. Now, they have a third version of this rod out now, so, you’d have to settle for an H3 (which is supposed to be even better).

Helios 3D 8-Weight 9' Fly Rod

Other rods that are beloved by anglers I deeply respect include…
The Meridian from Scott.
The Sage Salt HD.

In terms of fly lines, I’ve pretty much been a RIO guy for a while.
I like their standard bonefish line. They have a Quickshooter line as well, and I’d recommend that if you are going to primarily wading for your bones, or if you might need a little bit more loading on your rod. They also have a directcore line, which I haven’t fished, but seems really promising.

Bonefish

That’s it.

OK. That’s not IT. There is a ton more. There is tippet and leaders and flies and fly tying material and boat bags and then the actual boats… kayaks, SUPs, skiffs. Nippers, pliers, tippet holders, coolers… so much gear to have so much fun. The gear is half the fun (OK, maybe 10%, but still, you need this stuff to get out there and get after it.)

OTHER Stuff:

Flyfishing for Bonefish by Dick Brown
Fly Fishing Belize by Jim Klug
Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Elusive Fish by Chip Dombrowski
GT: A Flyfisher’s Guide by Peter McLeod
Fly-Fishing the Yucatan by Rod Hamilton (and others)
Yeti Tundra cooler
Fishpond Thunderhead Duffle
Skinny Water Culture Tarponist t-shirt
Estrada Art Tarpon Slime t-shirt
Body Glide (seriously)


03
Dec 17

Get Lionfish on the Menu

If you see it on a menu, buy it.
If you see it in a store, buy it.

Lionfish.

Damn hoover of an invasive species which is really screwing with reefs in the Caribbean. I’ve seen these fish in Belize. I’ve seen them in Cuba.

Cool story.


29
Nov 17

Two hours in the Bay

Every once in a while I’ll catch a window. Last weekend I had one, bookended by dad duties, and I snatched it.

I drove the 5 minutes to my new home water and realized I picked up the wrong boots, but crammed my feet into then anyway, and I set about the methodical duty of searching for unseen fish with a fly.

The wind had laid down, something it seems to do rarely in the SF Bay, and the casting was easy, rhythmic.

There was some sort of seal party going on as I saw one pop up 40 feet in front of me, give me a quick glance and then slide below the surface again. Then I saw another seal heading in, back to San Leandro Bay. Then I saw another, and another, just heads poking above the water, wakes in their path. There was a commotion further down with loud splashing and snorting, but I was too far away to see what was happening there, and besides, I found some fish.

Cast, sink, strip, strip, strip and then the pull. Such a great feeling. I managed three stripers before I had to retreat back to adulthood, but it was really nice to get some time on/in the water, getting some stealthy nature in hand amidst the million dollar homes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Always worth it to get on the water.


22
Nov 17

Seven Years Ago – I got lucky

Oh thanks Facebook Memories. I saw a pic today from seven years ago of me holding a tarpon from Belize.

There it is. Amazing.

That fish capped of a really wild day of fishing out of El Pescador with my friend Shane from The Fly Shop in Redding.

That tarpon was the final piece of my grand slam, made even more special because it was with my first (and only) permit and my first tarpon.

What a wild day that was. I know, looking back, and I knew at the time, that the biggest factor in all of that coming together was my tremendous skill luck. Really, I had no business tying into a grand slam. My friend Shane certainly did have a claim to one as he’s one of the best anglers I know. He actually hooked both a permit and a tarpon that day (as well a mess of bonefish… it is Belize after all). He already had a grand slam to his name and he is good enough to catch a grand slam on skill.

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

Me? I needed luck.

Now I’m a much better angler than I was back then. I’ve put the time in. My casting is better. My understanding is deeper. I’ve now been spurned by a few permit and understand on a better level than, basically, permit are jerks. I’d be more likely to catch a grand slam on skill now, but back then, it was luck.

I’m OK with that.

Bone


17
Nov 17

Bahamas Regs… where things stand now at the end of 2017

I’ve been traveling, so haven’t posted more about this, but I’m sneaking a few minutes here at work to get some more news out.

The Bahamas regs put into place earlier in the year are still on the books, but won’t be enforced until a thorough review can take place. 

I’ve seen this from two sources and am trying to get an official confirmation.

So, you can go to the Bahamas and fish however you are used to fishing. For the short/intermediate term, things revert to how they’ve always been.

This makes me want to put the Bahamas back on my travel list for 2018. The uncertainty caused by the regulations have hit the Bahamas hard. Business is down, for most lodges, between 25-50%. That’s a big hit for some places that eek by to begin with. What the govt. of the Bahamas wants to do now is encourage their anglers to come back. So… consider it. I know for me a cold Kalik would go down pretty well.

mmmmm

Here is Beau Beasly’s recent article from MidCurrent.

It is almost certain a license will remain part of what happens down the road, but not until you can get that license on-line, easily, and without having to go to a govt. office that isn’t even open on weekends.

I think most everything else is up for review and I hope it is a thoughtful, inclusive process and produces an end product that puts the Bahamas at the top of resource management. One can hope.


14
Nov 17

How to Handle Bonefish

You want your bonefish to live long and prosper after you release it? Well, here are some thoughts. You’ll notice I’m not immune from making bad decisions. I do, from time to time, but I want to be better. That’s the goal.

The risk to the fish by our poor actions is not insignificant. Here’s a post from years ago about that very thing.

For best results, the angler should minimize two things.

  • Air Exposure – How long the fish is out of the water.
  • Handling – How much you touch the bonefish.

This is important because when you release a bonefish back into the salt, there are other things waiting to eat them. They don’t get a chance to catch their breath or recover. A bonefish survives because it can swim faster, react quicker than the sharks and cuda’s trying to eat them and if they are impaired when you let them go they stand a decent chance of becoming food for one of those predators.

Here are the grades of handling for bonefish.

A+ Handling

You have hooked the fish and fought it to the boat. You admire the fish while it is in the water, still swimming, on the end of your line. You reach down with your pliers and simply pop the fly out of the fish’s mouth (since you are fishing barbless).

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = 0.

(This is WAY easier to do after you’ve caught about 8 fish.)

B+ Handling

You have hooked and fought a bonefish. Getting the fish to the boat you reach into the water and cradle the fish in your hands. Maybe you take a picture of the fish in the water, maybe even underwater. You unhook the fish and let it swim away.

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = A little.

B Handling

You hook the fish, fight it in and you quickly bring the fish out of the water for a picture. The fish is out of the water for just a few seconds.

  • Air Exposure = A little.
  • Handling = Not that much.

South Andros Bonefish. Photo by Andrew Bennett

D- Handling

You hook that fish and get it in. You bring the fish out of the water and hold it, mid-air, out of the water, maybe sitting in the middle of the boat, while your friend or your guide snap a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Too Much.

That’s an o’io.

F Handling

You hold that fish up with a boga, in the middle of the boat for a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Way, Way, Way too much.

That green hat, my first decent bonefish and some horrible fish handling.

Here is what the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has to say on the matter.

We all can do better. As I looked through my own pictures I was bummed to see my picture from Hawaii, just recently, that was poor handling. I think it was faster than it looked like, but I could have done better. It is harder to always be in the A camp. I think as long has you have an A- average, you are doing pretty damn well.

Other considerations you should keep in mind are to limit the duration of the fight (get that fish in as soon as you can) and never touch a bonefish with a dry hand (or dry anything).

It really is about education and the more we spread the word and encourage other anglers to learn about how to do things right, most will opt to do things right.