27
Nov 15

Stripe-ah

I’ve had a revelation in fish form.

Stripers, fly caught, in my home town.

See… a couple weekends ago we were doing a family photo shoot at a local park. It went well, as you can see from the nice photo below.

The Fam

The Fam

As we were leaving I saw a guy with a fly rod. I asked him what in the name of all that was holy and good he was fishing for. He said he was catching stripers right there. Like… right there. just a hundred feet or so away. He gave me the skinny and I thanked him.

I’ve been thinking of that nearly non-stop ever since and today, when my wife got home a little early, she said she thought I should go fishing.

I agreed.

And then this happened.

striper one 12311433_10154484612391808_320635074_o

Stripers. On the fly. Many of them. Without a boat. Minutes from home.

And in an instant, my fly fishing life just changed. I realized my son may have his first fly caught fish be a striper, not a trout. How wild is that?

As I was leaving that spot tonight I saw that same fisherman and I thanked him again for changing my whole perception of the Bay… for changing my life, in fact.

Pretty awesome.


29
Oct 15

Lost

I was thinking today, for no good reason, about how it is really hard to get lost around a river.

Rivers.

Rivers.

The river flows in one direction and is conveniently located at the bottom of the valley or canyon. Water that is above it will flow into it and it all just proceeds, predictably.

If the trail leaves the river and then vanishes and you find yourself in the woods with no compass, you simply need to listen for water or follow the contours of the land and it will point you, like a great big road sign, back to the river and home.

I was thinking how different that scenario is in a place like the Marls, where, unguided, I’m sure I would die. Every turn seems to strongly resemble the last turn, or the next, and what was flowing one direction once, will flow the other before long.

The vastness and unmappable nature of it would spell doom for me, directionally challenged with app open on my 6 mile commute to let me know traffic conditions.

You can’t just trace your steps by saying “OK, turn right at the mangrove,” because it is all mangroves. Mangroves and sand and water and more water and sand and mangroves.

There is a knowledge you develop if you know a place like that well, where you can tell the difference between the different mangroves, like a parent knows identical twins apart, but maybe not at first. To get that knowledge you have to put in the time, the hours, until it is all muscle memory and built in deep knowing.

I wish I had that. I wish I had some flat known like like. But the hours it would take to get to that point are already booked or spent or owed to someone for something, most of it for worthwhile pursuits and worthy people and so I find myself unable to mount much of a complaint… not a real one anyway.

I won’t get lost on a river. At least there is that.


29
Sep 15

Interview with Justin Lewis from BTT

As hard as it is to believe, I actually asked these questions of Justin Lewis from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust before all this Bahamas regulation stuff came up.

Justin works for BTT. He’s a Bahamian working in the Bahamas for BTT. Shows BTT’s commitment to protecting bonefish where bonefish live. I applaud that up and down and am only sorry I have but two hands to applaud with. See… BTT is awesome.

Justin Lewis in the Bahamas

Justin Lewis in the Bahamas

 

You are working with BTT out in the Bahamas. Can you give me an overview of what that work entails?

Working as the Bahamas Initiative Manager for the BTT, I travel around the Bahamas visiting lodges and working with local guides which has helped us identify bonefish home ranges, juvenile habitat, bonefish spawning sites, and bonefish spawning migration pathways. The Bahamas Initiative is a collaborative, multi-year program to conserve and protect the bonefish fishery and their habits in The Bahamas.

 

The work I do when I travel to the different islands ranges from giving presentations to guides, anglers and schools, to tagging, to snorkeling with thousands of bonefish in pre-spawning aggregations. The scientific information we collect is then applied to habitat conservation plans in conjunction with fishing guides, lodge owners, collaborating NGO’s, and the Bahamas Government.

 

Nice fish from Justin.

Nice fish from Justin.

What is one thing you wish anglers knew about conservation.

The one thing I wish anglers knew about conservation is how much they are capable and welcome of getting involved in conservation efforts. For the work we do at BTT, angler and guide participation is key to the success of many of our projects. For example, our tag-recapture study in the Bahamas involved a lot of angler and guide participation. From anglers and guides tagging bonefish and reporting recaptures we were able to figure out that bonefish have very small home ranges (<1km), and also travel long distances (>30km) for spawning purposes. By anglers participating in research like the tagging program, the information they help collect is vital to conservation efforts and planning for bonefish and their habitats. It is also a great way to give back to the resource we have such a passion for.

 

The BTT in collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has initiated a new genetics study looking at the connectivity of bonefish and tarpon populations in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Western Atlantic. We collect fin clips from bonefish and scales from tarpon that are used for genetic analysis, and can help us determine whether different populations are related to one another. If anglers or guides who target bonefish or tarpon in those areas are interested in participating in this study, they can request a fin clip or scale sample kit by contacting us at info@bonefishtarpontrust.org.

A baby poon, Bahamas style.

A baby poon, Bahamas style.

What’s one unexpected thing you’ve see out there on the flats?

On a flat in Eleuthera, I saw a very large porcupine fish. I’ve seen them countless times out on the reef, but never thought I’d ever see one on the flats.

What do you think is the biggest threat to Bahamian bonefish?

We have identified habitat loss and degradation to be the greatest threat to bonefish populations in the Bahamas. Lots of areas that are prime feeding and spawning habitat for bonefish are also sought after by developers for sand mining or hotel and marina developments. Removing or altering habitat could negatively affect a local bonefish population that depends on habitats like mangroves and seagrass beds for food and cover.

How good is the Bahamian rugby team? And please explain how to play rugby. (I admit I asked this question to be funny, but Justin just went ahead and answered it anyway)

We are a good team and have a lot of talent, but we still have things we need to improve on. We had a good international season this year, beating both Bermuda and Turks & Caicos.
Rugby is a continuous game whereby two teams carry, pass, kick and ground the ball in order to score. In rugby there are 15 people playing at a time per side. The key to playing rugby is that you always have to pass the ball backwards, and to be in support of the man with ball in order to receive a pass or ruck in order to secure the ball. The purpose of the ruck or maul is so that the game can continue without any stoppage in play. The line-out and scrum are two key distinguishing factors to the game of Rugby Union. A scrum occurs when there is an accidental infringement and a line-out occurs when the ball goes out of bounds. A try is scored when a player places the ball in the opposition’s in-goal area, and is worth 5 points followed by a conversion kick which is worth 2.

On an average day of bonefishing, average conditions, what fly are you pulling out for your first cast?

Well that all depends on the area I am fishing. My go-to fly for most situations is a simple crab pattern, most of the time a merkin or bastard crab that will match the bottom I am fishing. The two keys to choosing the right crab pattern is weight and color. Match the weight of the fly to the depth of water you are fishing, and as I already mentioned match the color of the crab fly to the bottom. Most of the time crabs will take on the color of the bottom they are on. Crabs have a very high caloric value which bonefish love, so to heighten your chances of getting one to look and hopefully eat, I’d recommend a crab fly.

If you were writing the laws in the Bahamas and could enact one law to help the fishery stay healthy, what law would you enact?

If there was one law I could enact, it would be the protection of key bonefish habitat from unsustainable development. From the research BTT and our collaborators have done over the years on bonefish, we have come to the conclusion that degradation, blockage, and removal of bonefish habitat is the greatest threat to the species.

 

One other law I would enact is total ban of gill nets. They are a non-selective and extremely destructive type of fishing, and if they get lost and float at sea or get stuck in mangroves, they can cause even more destruction by entangling any marine organism that gets near it.

Thanks Justin!


24
Sep 15

Thar be monsters!

This was posted up by Jean Baptiste Vidal over on Facebook. That is a truly large bonefish, a 14 pounder.

This fish was caught in New Caledonia, which has been one of those “big fish” locations people talk about. From what I hear it is a low numbers, big size place, as all big fish locations seem to be.

What a fish.

I mean... wow.

I mean… wow.

One hell of a fish there Jean! Congrats!


31
Dec 14

Wait… is it really New Year’s Eve?

How did that happen?

This year has been a blur and probably the least I’ve blogged since the thing started. There simply hasn’t been time with the new addition (who just turned ONE), the new job (which I’ve now been at a year) and everything else.

It has been a mixed year, in many ways. There have been some high highs and low lows.

One of the bones of 2014

One of the bones of 2014

The Fishing High Points

  • Long Island. I hosted a trip for Angling Destinations to Long Island. It was a great week and my only pure fishing week of the year. I had never been to Long Island before, so it was great to check that out, see a new fishery, get to know new guides and new anglers. I landed maybe my biggest bonefish to date at about 7.5 pounds and I experienced some things for the first time. It was a great week.
  • The Keys. A short trip with only one fishing day, but I got to go out with Capt. Derek Rust and Dan Dow and I stuck my first redfish (after many, many blown shots by yours truly).
  • Montana. Labor Day was an the in-laws on the Yaak River in Montana. My daughter had a 20 fish day on dries on a little creek, a magical experience.
  • The Pier. My daughter and I continued to dunk bait from our local pier and we had one day sans obligations that we fished there for 8 hours and caught too many sharks to count. A highlight for sure.
  • The Upper McCloud. My daughter and I went camping on the Upper McCloud again and she caught her first trout solo on a fly. A proud moment.
  • Fishing with my dad. When my mom passed away this year I went up to be with my dad and we did what came naturally and we fished. I don’t get to fish with my dad too often these days and it did seem to be cathartic. It was a special few days.

With all of that said, this was probably my lowest year in terms of fishing days. I had a fly rod in my hand maybe the fewest days since I picked up a fly rod in 1996.

It was a great year as I watched my boy grow from infant to toddler. It was a hard year with my mom passing away. It was a great year as I watched my wife excel at motherhood and in her career. It was a hard year as my daughter struggled to share time with her new brother and I went from week on/off to a weekend dad. It was a year full of ups and downs.

I’m looking forward to 2015. I’ll likely get fishing, somewhere. I’ll probably catch a bonefish, maybe a tarpon, certainly a trout and a shark. Beyond that, or where those activities will take place… I can’t say just yet. Time will fill in the blanks.

Happy 2015 to you and yours. I hope you it is a year full of personal bests.


24
Dec 14

Twas the day before Christmas

Because, bonefish.

Because, bonefish.

‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all through the bay
Not a creature was stirring, not even a ray.
The rods were all strung up and rigged up with care
In the hopes that a bonefish, soon would be there.

The crabs were all nestled all snug in their holes
And the flat was empty, devoid of other souls.
My girl in her flats shirt and I in my buff
Were searching for fish and finding it tough.

When out of a trough I caught just a faint notion
Of some movement, so subtle, just a little slight motion.
I peered and I gazed and I strained just to see
If it might be a bonefish, coming toward me.

The sun shone brightly way up in the sky
The clouds had moved on, it was perfect, I can’t lie.
The flat was all white, no rubble or grass,
Not a twig was around to snare my back cast.

Sixty feet from the bow I saw, without fail,
The flashing and waving of a bonefish tail.
Then another and another and before I could say,
I noticed at least sixty bones in the bay.

“Sixty feet at eleven” My guide, he did say
And he pivoted the boat, to give me the cast right away.
“Now lead the fish gently and let your fly drop
And don’t let your gotcha land with a plop.”

I let lose the fly I had been holding by hand
And so my casting and hauling began.
Back cast and forward, my line it did zip
And then shooting forward, the fly landed with barely a blip.

The guide pleaded to let the fly sit
And I did, not moving it even a bit.
The fish, they slowly approached toward my fly
And I knew that pandemonium soon would be nigh.

“Strip” said the guide and that’s what I did
And my fly darted from where it was hid
And I saw a bone notice and it started to chase
And my body got tense as I started to brace.

The bone tilted down and I knew that he ate,
He just couldn’t resist that gotcha on his plate.
I strip set without missing a beat
And I looked to make sure I had no line under my feet.

I felt the weight of the fish on the line
And I knew in an instant that this fish was mine.
The bone also had this figured out
But he wanted to put the issue in doubt.

Off it did race, pulling hard and swimming fast
It exploded the water and took off in a blast.
My reel was singing as the fish swam a mile
I stood there so happy, on my face was a smile.

After a first long run the bone made another,
My knuckle hit the handle and I cursed at its mother,
But soon it had used all the gas in its tank
And when I first saw it, the fishing gods I did thank.

He was chubby and plump, a right hefty old bone,
And I laughed when I saw him, as if I were alone;
So black was his eye and so deep there within.
The clearness of the water, it was like my friend, gin.

He slid to the side of the flats boat with ease
And the guide went to work as fast as you please,
Unhooking the bone and holding it with care
Of its beauty and grace I became quite aware.

The silver, so silver and the dark bands of green
And its lines were so sleek, its form was so clean.
There was a blue flash from the edge of its tail
There was a substance about it, against which other fish fail.

Then with a swish the mighty bone sped
Out of the hands of the guide and away the bone fled
And I watched it speed off until if faded away
And I knew at my core, it was a very good day.


06
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


30
Aug 14

The Girl Crushes It In Montana

I have fished from an early age. It runs in the family. I started fly fishing when I was 21 and I had my first truly magical day of fly fishing when I was 24. That day I fished the Lower McCloud with Fred Gordon and had 20+ fish for the first time.

Today, my daughter caught, on her own, 20 trout on a little creek near my in-law’s house in Montana. She is 7.5 years old.

The girl with one of many

The girl with one of many

I’m still shocked by it all. I wanted to find a little creek for her that would be easier to get around in than the main Yaak and we found exactly that. Most of the fish were cutties, one rainbow, one brookie. They all succumbed to the same hopper pattern, now battered and bruised. Battle tested.

She was over the moon and so was I. None of the fish were big, but they were her fish. They were caught on her casts, her drifts and her hook sets. She also unhooked a couple of her own fish today for the first time. Milestones galore.

I told her the problem with catching 20 fish is people won’t believe her. It is something that sounds like it could be made up.

This is a girl who caught her first fish by herself earlier in the summer and now, at the close of the summer, she knocks out TWENTY.

What can I say… I’m one proud dad right now.

A very good day

A very good day

 

— the comments appear to be broken right now. I’m trying to figure out what happened.


21
Jul 14

The girl gets a fish

It was a big day… for her, for me… her first fish… on her own. She made the cast, she set the hook, she got the fish in.

The girl, the sass, the trout.

The girl, the sass, the trout.

A gift from the Upper McCloud River, one of many it has given me.

I’m pretty stoked on how that all went down. It felt like a milestone, for both of us.


31
May 14

Super Cuda

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… it’s SUPER CUDA!