Jul 17

On finishing

I do a lot of cooking and so I buy the big spice containers. I have to say, when I finish one, a big container of garlic powder or onion powder or cumin, there is a sense of accomplishment. Finishing one of those says “You are serious about it. You have put in your time.”

Running out of ink in a favorite pen or running out of paper in a work journal is the manifestation of effort expended. It is evidence. Proof.

So it is with a spool of thread at the tying desk. I like finishing spools of thread. I like running out of hooks and craft fur and crystal flash.

I’m putting in the time. I am putting in the wraps.

Not much left of this one.

Jul 17

Time with my vice

I forget just how much I enjoy sitting at the vice and pounding out some flies. My vice and tying table don’t live in the house. I’m relegated to the garage, but that means I can be a bit messier than my wife would allow inside, so it could be all for the best.

The desk is something I’ve had for 13 years now. I used it as a computer desk at one point before I saw the obvious and converted it into my tying desk. I’ve gone through a few vices, even one that was sent to me by a reader of the blog. This vice works well. I’m not sure of the brand, as that has never been really important to me. I just need it to work and this works.

I’ve been tying for Mexico, which happens in about a week. I need to go through my existing boxes and pull out flies that I know I won’t fish. Some flies have been sitting there for years and are rusty, others I have consistently bypassed for the past 5 years so should probably take out of the box in favor of something I might actually fish.

I like tying. I like creating. I like sitting there in my garage and watching a fly take shape with a few wraps of thread and bits of fur. It is “crafting for dudes.” For those of you who still aren’t in to tying, I recommend it. It brings you just one step further into the game. Catching a fish on a fly you tied is pretty awesome.

Here is what I’ve been tying up.

All of these are new ties for Mexico and the box in general.

Some different patterns.

Trying to bring some order to what I’m tying.


Jul 17

The very worst thing you could do

What is the very worst thing anyone you know has ever done?

You really never know what people do when they go home and shut the door. I mean, you might think you know, but you don’t. You never really do. I have a way of assuming people just go about their lives in more-or-less normal ways, peacefully, without much going on. However, behind closed doors many people are dealing with all sorts of demons and issues from addiction to mental health problems to domestic abuse and you likely have no idea… well, unless you are dealing with those things and then I’ll tell you, the folks on the outside don’t know. They can’t help if they don’t know.

John was a fishing buddy of mine (on the back of the boat in the picture above). We met at a conference a couple years ago and when he told me about spending time as a kid at the fishing lodge his dad owned in Alaska, we kind of hit it off. We were very different people. He was a gun-loving Las Vegas Republican who voted for Trump. I’m a gun-liking-but-still-believe-in-gun-control Liberal Democrat from the SF Bay Area. Still, fishing has a way of letting people with very different views of the world share the view from a skiff (I’m looking at you Aaron). So it was with John and I.

We had some dinners together and we shared fishing stories, talking about medicine (he was a pathologist, I’m in medical testing sales) and our families. John had a new, albeit unintentional, son and he was trying to make it work with the mother, although it was not sounding like a great situation. He seemed resigned to the relationship not panning out. Still, he loved his little boy.

He went to Hawaii for his 40th and he caught his first bonefish, texting me pics, excited about a new species. I texted him pics after I finally broke my O’io curse. That was just about two weeks ago.

So it was jarring today to get a message from a mutual friend, asking if I had talked to John recently. They had heard something horrible, but didn’t know if it was true. I followed up. No answer on the cell phone and so I called another mutual friend who confirmed the absolutely shittiest news I could have imagined.

John, at some point in the past couple days, snapped. I’m guessing something about the end of the relationship with his girlfriend and custody of his son, but that’s just because I can’t imagine anything else provoking this kind of response. It looks very much like my fishing buddy John took one of his many, many guns and shot his dog, his girlfriend and his son, John Jr., before killing himself. He killed every living thing, everything that meant anything to him, in his home.

I’m kind of spinning. I don’t know what to make of it all. I’m sad for John and furious at John and none of it matters very much at all. What’s done is done and a line from a poem written by a Vietnam vet comes to mind… “there is nothing as dead as a dead child.” Children, the embodiment of the future, of hope, of dreams, of love and laughter and joy… when a child is dead, it seems so many other things die alongside them.

I can’t wrap my head around it.

I try and rewind conversations we had to see if there was a clue, but even if there was, would I have seen it? Because, who expects someone they know to do the very worst thing they can imagine anyone doing? I wouldn’t have talked to him at all if I knew he had that inside him, but I also wish I could have been more of a friend and done something to prevent it. We don’t get to wind back the clock, though. It is done and the child and the mom and the dog and my fishing buddy John are gone and we are left to grieve and wonder at the thing and regret its doing and be angry and sad and puzzled and then angry again.

My fishing buddy John, my friend John, did the very worst thing anyone I know has ever done.


National Domestic Abuse Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255


Jul 17


I love hats, but I’m particular about which hats I sport. They need to mean something to me. I need to feel a connection to them. Not only that, but I am so white as to be almost transparent and I need something to keep me from frying. I’ve had two friends in the last year be diagnosed with melanoma and I’ve had some pre-cancerous “things” removed. My wife keeps threatening me that if I get more bad sunburns she won’t LET ME FISH anymore. That’s a conversation I’d rather not have. So, hats, in part, are a pretty critical part of the sun-avoidance strategy.

Here are some thoughts about what you should wear on the flats. Andros South. Gink & Gasoline. Orvis.

I tried doing a wide brimmed hat, but it doesn’t take too many windy days to abandon that whole idea.

My floppy hat (and my now 10 year old in the backpack).

I had a green Patagonia trout hat that I loved until someone stole it from my car.

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

I tried a broad brim straw hat, which, I have to say, may be my favorite type of fishing hat. Cool and tons of shade, but not great to travel with, not great in a strong wind or while you are running in a skiff.

the broad brimmed straw hat.

I had a Skinny Water Culture hat, but it didn’t fit on my right. I wanted it to work, because I dig on what the are/do, but it was just a tad tight on me.

SWC Perm

By the time I fished Andros in 2011 I had a Andros South hat (given to me by the guys who went to Andros in 2010). I wore that for a couple years and watched it fade from bright orange to almost a light pink.

South Andros Bonefish. Photo by Andrew Bennett

I was still wearing that hat in 2012 for my honeymoon.

A fish from in front of El Pescador and that Andros South hat.

In Cuba I got a Yellow Dog hat, a trucker cap, that I put through the paces.

Well worn and sweat stained.

In 2012 I moved to my BTT hat. The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is a fantastic organization and I have roots in the nonprofit sector so I felt an affinity for what they were all about.


I wore that hat a lot. Like… a lot, a lot.

That is me… happy.

Heading out in Abaco

But that hat has seen better days.

You’ve had a good run.

So, I looked for another hat.

I got a Patagonia trout hat.

My Maui Bar Jack

But, I don’t fish trout that much these days.

So, I got a tarpon hat from Costa.

My last trip to Hawaii proved to me that I shouldn’t wear trucker caps. I need more sun protection, as a member of the “nearly balds.” I got a decent sunburn just where the full coverage stopped. I often wouldn’t have the buff up all the way on top and that fried my cranium.

So… I needed a new hat.

The new lid

Welcome to the family Patagonia tarpon hat. I look forward to many years and many fish to come. Full sun protection and it fits well. The color makes me think of the tropics.

Why a tarpon hat? Well, easier to find than a bonefish hat and I do have a significant side crush on poons.


Jul 17

Another fishing video… this time Mexico

This is three years old, but damn, it is really well done. This is fishing out of a place called Pesca Mahahual. I’ll be heading to Mahahual (although just the regular Mahahual, not Pesca Mahahual) here in a couple weeks, also with my dad. We are hoping to get into some tarpon (maybe getting my dad his first ever after a rather miserable failure a couple years back in the Keys).

Sooooo looking forward to it.

Jul 17

Bonefish Revolution (Cuba vid)

This looks pretty nice. Well done. Cuba remains one of my favorite trips ever.


Jul 17

Micro Film Competition – BTT + Nautilus


One minutes. That’s all you need to put together for the Micro Film Competition with BTT and Nautilus. Here are the details:

Nautilus Reels Micro-Film Contest

For Immediate Release

July 7, 2017 

Mark Rehbein
Director of Development, BTT

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is pleased to partner with Nautilus Reels to host the Nautilus Reels Micro-Film Contest, open to professional and amateur filmmakers. We encourage anglers of all ages and experience levels to submit their best micro-films telling stories from the world of fishing and conservation. The top videos, selected by BTT and Nautilus staff, will be played and voted on during the Nautilus Reels Art + Micro-Film Festival on Friday, November 10th at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s 6th International Science Symposium in Weston, Florida.

Each winner will receive a *Nautilus reel* along with other prizes.


1) Two Divisions: Amateur and Pro (anyone who has submitted videos to one of the film tours, is sponsored, or anyone defined as such by staff). 

2) Suggested Themes:

A. Conservation: What does BTT mean to you?
B. “I’d rather be bonefishing”: Open to all species and habitats – what do you fish for when you can’t stalk bonefish on the flats?
C. The Rookie: Fishing with the next generation.

3) Videos must be no longer than one minute. Each contestant can submit only one video.

4) To be eligible, the contestant *MUST* post his or her video to Instagram, tag Nautilus Reels and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and use the hashtag: #BTTSymposium

The filmmaker whose micro-film receives the most likes on Instagram between July 7, 2017 and November 10, 2017 will win a limited edition BTT Simms Headwaters Tackle Bag.

Submit your video to BTT Director of Development Mark Rehbein: mark@bonefishtarpontrust.org

Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).

Jun 17

My Hawaiian Bonefish Skunk is Dead

It is a family vacation we are on, but, of course, there is a little fishing in the mix.

We are on Oahu and I managed to convince my wife to part with me one day so I could try and break my Hawaiian bonefish hex. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve seen bonefish, but caught none, until yesterday.

I saw my first bonefish ever in Hawaii about 9 years ago. I didn’t catch any.

I spent four days on that same beach a few years later and I got 4 casts in the whole time. I didn’t catch those bonefish.

I went with a guide in Maui last year. There are bones there, but I didn’t catch any.

I had always heard the fish are big, but there are few of them and it isn’t unusual to get blanked. All that was in line with my past experiences.

This year on our family vacation I went out with Kenny from Hawaii on the Fly. He has a modern flats skiff, is from Florida originally and has been guiding out here for several years. He found, almost immediately, one of these elusive Hawaiian bones, known as o’io locally. He then found another, and another and another and… hey, wait a second… these things are all over the place!

He warned me these fish are particular. You have to lead them by 9 feet. Not 6 feet. Not 3 feet. And dear god not on their heads. I can tell you this is almost entirely true. They knew the difference between 9 and 6 feet and were out of there if a cast was anywhere near them. I made a LOT of casts too near the fish. Kenny can tell you.

I caught my first o’io and my second. I ended up hooking 7 and had maybe 40 legit shots out of the 200+ bonefish I saw on the day.

I had no idea you could see so many bones in Hawaii in a day.

While you can find them, you are not likely to catch them. Fly selection was very different from what I’d normally cast. In fact, I doubt a single fly out of my 200+ would have been appropriate. They just act differently. Presentations that would have gotten eats in Abaco or Andros freaked these fish out.

They make me think of the bonefish I saw at Crab’n Bay in Grand Bahama. An easily driven to and waded flat, the flat is full of bones, but they are epic in their toughness and that has everything to do with the same bonefish usually returning to feed on the same flats. These fish are trained. They are weary. They are wise to us all… unless you break out some top level angling.

It was windy, really windy (Hawaii is kind of known for that), but the shots were fairly close (some at redfish distances). The wind ended up being way less of an issue than I thought it would be.

Bonus was seeing about a 40 pound GT and a not-small milkfish, two fish I had not seen before (no casts made at either).

It was a great day on the water. Kenny was easy to spend time with. He’s not a yeller. He’s easy with conversation. He worked hard and he put me on fish after fish after fish (and didn’t complain when I broke off four of his flies on fish).

I have a whole new appreciation for Hawaiian bonefish. Thanks Kenny.

To book go to Hawaii on the Fly. (No promotional exchange for this post, I paid full fair, and would again.)

Jun 17

Kids, trying to get to the Bahamas

This story came out a while back. Two kids from Florida went fishing. They tried to make it to the Bahamas. They went missing and months later their boat was found near Bermuda. Their life jackets were in the boat. A phone was even in the boat. The kids were not. They’ve been missing for a long time, too long to still be alive.

Their trip was ill-planned. It was a horrible idea. They paid the price for that under-estimation of the risks. With all of that being true, I still stand a little bit in awe of their spirit of adventure.

As a kid, growing up in a mountain town in a river canyon I had some adventures. I went off trails and played around in the forests, but all those adventured happened within a mile or two of my house. It never occurred to me to think bigger. There are a dozen places I could see from town that I always wondered “what is is like up there?” and I never, ever actually tried to get to any of them.

Maybe, if I had, I would have been attacked by a black bear or a mountain lion or I could have fallen off a cliff, broken a leg far from trails and roads and met the same fate as those two kids. There is a risk/reward calculation here that maybe kept me from seeking out those places, but there is also the “nothing risked, nothing gained” math.

I admire the spirit of those kids, even if the decisions, in the end, were deeply flawed, even fatally so.