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.

Nov 10

Belize Day Four – Tarpon Hunting

The fourth day of the trip and the third day in Belize saw us heading out with a guide for the first time.  El Pescador had a stable of highly respected guides and this day we would head out with Katchu.  We met him on the dock at 7 and got on the panga, heading south to head through the passage in San Padro.  From there, we’d head north to the tarpon hunting grounds of Savannah Cay.  That is what we thought was happening anyway.

As we made it through the mangrove and shack lined cut to the bay side of Ambergris we surprisingly went south and in a few minutes the guide stopped the boat and, frantically, said “Where’s the permit rod?!”  We weren’t rigged for permit, we thought we were headed to fish tarpon.  Katchu was a big agitated, but we finally got rigged up, I was up first and I made my first cast to a school of marauding permit.  They didn’t eat.  We probably spent an hour chasing nervous water, but the fish were just not in range most of the time.  We called time on Permit and headed North for tarpon.

The Savannah Cay flat is 16 miles long, all water 3-6 feet deep.  The bottom is a mixture of white mud and turtle grass/aquatic plants.  When we got there we saw 4 other boats.  On a busy day, Katchu told us, there can be FORTY boats there.  I really can’t imagine that place with 40 boats… it wouldn’t be good/fun I have a feeling.

Shane... waiting.

We had cloud cover when we got there, but the skies to the west were mostly clear.  It was going to be a good weather day.  I was up on the bow first and I surprise myself by spotting the first two tarpon.  They were a bit too close to the boat.  Casts were made.  Fish were not eating.

Katchu spotted nervous water heading toward the boat.  A school of tarpon was headed for us.  I made the cast.  I stripped.  The fish ate.  I set the hook hard. I raised the rod to clear the line.  Ummm… turns out you don’t clear the line like you are fishing bonefish.  The fly popped out.  I was 0/1 and had botched the job on my first tarpon.

Shane was up next and the first fish to the boat would be coming soon.  It wasn’t a tarpon, however.  Nervous water, moving fast, relieved a school of jacks.  Shane cast in the middle of the school and all hell broke loose.  As he stripped his fly fast one fish left the school to chase the fly.  Water was sheeting it over it’s head as it chased down that fly.  It ate and it started its run.  A Jack is a bull dog.  It doesn’t jump, it doesn’t head shake.  It just picks a direction and goes there.  A few minutes later and Shane landed a Jack that ran about 15 pounds or so.

A nice jack, first fish of the day

I was up.  Tarpon fishing is long stretches of inactivity, punctuated by frantic moments.  I stood there for a while, maybe an hour, without a fish to cast to.  Then… nervous water, a school of tarpon coming towards us.  I made the cast, but my strip was too fast and the fish turned away.  Shane was up again.

Soon, we saw a single tarpon.  Shane made the cast and even I saw the fish turn, see the fly and just go up to it and open its massive mouth and eat the fly.  Shane did everything right and after a few good jumps the fish was in.

Fish On!

That's what we were after

A cool animal

I was back on deck.  We went to the north side of Savannah Cay, but the wind had churned up the water and it was too hard to see the fish.  We moved back to where we had started.  Most of the other boats had left at this point and there was just one other boat, also from El Pescador, left on the 16 mile long flat.

As I was on the deck, Katchu again spotted nervous water.  We weren’t sure if they were jacks or tarpon, but I was going to cast at them regardless. “As long as you can, get as much line as you can out and cast as far as you can!” Katchu barked.  I stripped line of and started pounding false casts out to get all that line out.  Just as I was about to lay down the cast I saw the fish.  They were Jacks and they weren’t 80 feet away, they were 20 feet away.  I tried to drop the cast short and it all didn’t go well.  I had way too much slack out and couldn’t get tight to the fly.  The fish moved on.  There were some tense words between Shane and Katchu about the difference between “As much line as you can” and 20 feet.  I think Katchu even said at one point “I can’t believe you fucked up that cast.”  Katchu just wanted it all to happend and he wanted it so bad that if you screw something up, he’s prone to tell you about it.

While we were still having our conversations about exactly how it all went wrong the school of jacks reappeared. I made the cast and the school went insane.  The school of fish balled up in a feeding frenzy.  I couldn’t see into the school, as the chaos had churned up the bottom.  I just kept stripping, felt weight and set the hook.  The jack just took off.  I stood up there on the deck watching the line just rip out. The run lasted maybe 60 solid seconds, taking about 200 yards of line out.  If ever there was a workout for a reel, this has to be it.  The Nautilus NV 10-11 did the job very, very well.  The Sage Xi3 10 weight we bent at the cork on this fish. Jacks are just amazingly strong and more fun than is reasonable.

And it is off to the races.

Nautilus... good job.

Damn nice fish.

The Jack probably went 25 pounds, making it my largest fish ever.

There were no more tarpon.  There were no more jacks.  We were done for the day.  Even though I didn’t get a tarpon, it still felt like a good day.  He had lots of fish to cast to.  I had hooked my first tarpon.  I had caught my largest fish ever.  It had been fun.  I had learned a lot.

The next day was going to be about production on our last full day in Belize.

Nov 10

This trip brought to you by…

The whole blogging thing is interesting, for sure.  I don’t have ads and don’t cash a Bonefish on the Brain paycheck.  This started as a hobby and largely remains that (just one I am kind of ridiculously dedicated to).  However, the distance the blog has come in the last year is pretty obvious to me when I think about all the folks who have helped put some shape to this upcoming trip to Belize.

Thanks to El Pescador for hosting me for this trip.  We are still paying for guides and I’m still paying for a couple of flights, but the lodging… that was huge.

Thanks to Sage for the loaner Xi3 Seven and Ten weights.  Good sticks for Belize, me thinks.  Lori-Ann’s go to is the 7 wt. Xi3, so I’ll be in good company.

Double my pleasure... a 7 and 10 Sage Xi3

Thanks to Orvis for the loaner 8 wt. Helios and the line for the 10 weight. Steve offered and I couldn’t turn down a chance to see exactly how good these new Orvis rods are.

Orvis... nice stick.

Thanks to Nautilus for the loaner NV Ten-Eleven.  This is actually something anyone can do…  you can test drive a Nautilus, just check out the website.

Mr. and Mrs. Tarpon... I'm ready to see you now.

Thanks to Skinny Water Culture for two replacement sun masks (I somehow lost three in the last 6 months), a microfiber shirt and a new hat.

Skin cancer is bad... SWC is good.

Thanks to Patagonia for a sling pack for alllllll those flies I’ll be sporting, plus a sun mask and hat.

Flies go here.

Thanks to Off the Hook Fly Shop, where I bought most of the materials used in the flies I’ll be throwing.

That’s a lot of help… and if you look at my FFSI, you’ll see that I think the help you get has a lot to do with reducing suckiness… so, I have that going for me.

As someone recently wrote to me, “This is the most exciting bonefishing trip I’m not going on.”  I hope to have some good stories to share and hope to be posting from Belize and El Pescador, assuming I have the strength left after milking each day for every ounce of fishing possible.

Nov 10

Nautilus NV Ten-Eleven… sweetness

I got the loaner from Nautilus in the mail… what a sweet package to open up.  The NV Ten-Eleven is intended for Tarpon, a species I have never even cast to.  I’ve seen one “in the wild” in a cenote south of Cancun, but I’ve never fished for one… although, if the California Academy of Sciences is game to let me try, I’m up for trying.

The Nautilus NV is just a beautiful piece of fishing hardware… it has a Cork/Carbon Fiber (CCF) drag and is capable of stopping a Super Carrier.

Nautilus NV 10-11

I hope to put this thing to the test on a nice Tarpon down in Belize… that would not suck.

I’ve ordered the Rio Tarpon line with the Camo Tip to go on this bad boy.  I can’t wait to get this bit of fly fishing awesomeness into action.

Aug 10

Interview with Kristen Mustad – Nautilus Reels

I have not fished a Nautilus Reel… yet… but on my next trip to some warm and beautiful bit of salty water, I just might borrow one of Kristen’s reels and give it a go.  I already have one of his reels on my phone.

You have a Norwegian background?

Norwegian born, in Oslo.

So, what’s your strategy for not getting skin cancer being a Norwegian in Miami?

I use Buffs.  I was hating them, thinking people looked like fools wearing them and then I wore one and it’s the most amazing product ever. No other product comes close to it.  There are a bunch of other guys that make similar products, but they don’t work as well.

You see fishing guides smoking through them, drinking through them, it’s pretty crazy.  I’ll tell you something, when you are out there on the flats, I always used to wear long sleeves, cotton, because the soak up a little sweat and they keep you cool, and even when I wear technical stuff, I wear a cotton shirt under it just to get a little cool on it because it gets really hot here in the summer when there’s no wind.  But when you wear a Buff you don’t get a hang-over, you get a hang-over from the sun just because you are dehydrated, just like when you drink.


Tell me a little bit about Nautilus Reels.  What makes you guys unique or special, what’s the value proposition?

Right now, it is the lightness of the reel.  We hit it big with the CCF line, which, today in my book is a heavy reel, but we still sell a pile of them.  That’s an 8.7 ounce 8 wt. reel and when it was first launched was one of the lighter big game reels out there. Now, we’ve got the NV line, which is just way lighter, it’s higher dollar, but not as high dollar as some of the reels out there.

Another advantage we have is we are young guys, we are always out there looking for the new stuff; components, materials, cutting tools, software – you name it. Also, it’s our attention to detail: it is not all about functionality: Looks matter a lot, so does ease of assembly and manufacturing time. It is all a balance that affects your costs, so every time we run a part, we make changes to it, every time. Most of them are not visible to the end user, it is all to get better efficiencies in the factory and in the end, to make a better product without impacting the guy who bought one last year and wants to buy a replacement spool.  It’s going to fit.

The new NV, the NV-G series are really large arbor. For the NV 11-12, an 8.5 ounce 12 weight reel, which is about half the weight of the next comparable 12 wt. reel (ours or anyone else’s), we make the G-9 spool.  It has a huge arbor. We used to call it the Über-Arbors. You can put an 8, 9 or 10 wt. line on it and you’ve got 8.2 ounce 8 wt. reel that picks up line like the devil. A 4.5” 8 wt. reel… it’s a lot of fun

You’ve got to be out there making new products. When we got into this, we looked around and folks were changing their products every 5, 6, 7 years and the changes were  cosmetic. We made it a point to bring in a new model every year. People change their cars every 3-4 years, yet keep an outdated reel for 15!  People are still fishing cork. Cork was invented generations ago.  The main reason we use it in our CCF reel ( it’s cork and carbon fiber, that’s what the CCF stands for) is for marketing purposes. Carbon fiber is way superior to cork, but the whole big game crowd was so into cork because it is “so forgiving, compressible, has memory…” so we said, OK, let’s include cork so the big game guys can see that and say, “Hey, it’s got cork, it’s gotta be OK.”

Kristen with a bone.

Joe said he uses the featherweight.

That’s our little trout reel, and we built it big.  The featherweight soon will have a stronger drag and we’ll put cork in there so people will be satisfied, but it is a 4.5 ounce little reel, but that’s what Joe uses all the time.  You don’t need more.

I saw your Traveler’s Program (where you lend reels to folks to bring on their next trip).  That sounds awesome.  Are people taking advantage of that?

They are, but I’ll tell you it’s frustrating.  They borrow the reel, and then they don’t send it back for three months and then they don’t send a picture.  You tell them, “Guys, can you send a picture of the fish?”  They say, “No, we didn’t catch any.”  Just tell me a story, tell me about the guy that fell over the case of beer. Tell me anything. You end up with no stories half the time.

That does suck.  I’d think there would be so many people that would jump at it.

It’s an awesome program and it is non-threatening to the dealer because there is only one of each (reel model/weight).  Each gets engraved with every destination.  I’ll tell you, the 10/11 traveler is gone.  The 8/9 traveler is gone. They just never returned them.  They get charged, but they just don’t return them sometimes.  We need to find a way to get this to work better.  It’s frustrating to the guys that want the reels and can’t get them.  It’s frustrating to us. We need to put a GPS tracker on those things to get them back.

How much do you fish for bones?  Biscayne Bay is right there.

I probably get a couple days a month.  When I bonefish, I fish in Key Biscayne. Most of my bonefishing I did in Los Roques.  I lived in Venezuela for four years.  I had some buddies that fished and had little planes and we’d go out there on weekends and fish for two or three days.  You go out there on your own and you’ll catch three fish on a weekend, and you go back when you have a little more money and you hire a guide and you catch 15 fish in a morning.

Do you have a most memorable bonefish?

I invented a patentable way to tie a fly that works well in certain applications.  I tie a lot with big rabbit strips.  I was fishing with some of the guys from Kauffmans down here and we were casting… the way you tie this fly, it’s tied on the weed guard, and what was happening was I was using too light a weedguard and the fish would suck in the rabbit and the hook would stay outside its mouth.  We had two different fish eat this fly four times and they’d pick it up, the angler would come tight and clear the line and then the fly would just come out.  It happened again and again.  The guy said “This fly sucks, can we change it?”  I picked up the fly, put the hook right through the rabbit strip and I said “Cast again.”  Sure enough, he stuck the fish on the first cast. That concept didn’t work, but it was a very memorable experience.

Another FL bonefish

What rod do you pair with your Nautilus reel?

I use whatever the newest Nautilus reel is.  Right now, I’m fishing the G9’s. That’s the one I like best.  For rods, I’ll use pretty much anything US Made.  I use a lot of different rods.  On my last trip, I used a Scott S4S in a 9 weight.

I saw you actually have a section on your website called “pipeline.”  Is there anything coming down the pipeline you are particularly excited about?

The Featherweight’s are changing to a spool that looks like the G spool.  The G spool, when it has line on it, the backing sits higher than it looks like it should sit, so it looks like it floats. It promotes backing drying faster, but they also look really good.

Do you  have any parting thoughts?

Here’s my message… take a buddy fishing.  That’s the best thing you can do.  Every day we lose kids and adults from this sport.  When I go out fishing, I don’t take the hard core guy, I take the guy that doesn’t get out, the guy who hasn’t done this before.  The guy finds a new hobby he loves, the guide gets a new client, everyone wins.  There are so many guys that just do offshore fishing, but the flats fishing, its full contact… you are there in 12 inches of water and there’s a 200 pound shark that comes up and noses the propeller.  You can’t beat that.  I take my kid out, he’s 9, I’ve been taking him out since he was 1 ½ and he’ll spend the whole day on a flats boat soaking a crab and he just loves it.  It doesn’t have to be fly fishing.  Just take someone out there.

Thanks Kristen!

Aug 10

I don’t think bonefish french kiss

Owner of Nautilus Reels, Kristen Mustad sent me a couple of pictures of a bonefish tongue.  This particular fish fell victim to the cold snap back in January and was given to one of the Nautilus employees by a bonefish researcher.

All I can say is… WOW.


That is a bonefish tongue


Side view.

Perfect for crushing that little crab against the bonefish’s crushing plate on the top of its mouth.

Now you know… and “knowing is half the battle.”

Aug 10

Need a reel? Borrow one!

Do you need a reel for your next bonefishing (or bill fishing) trip but don’t want to go drop $700 on a reel you haven’t played with at all?

Here’s an idea… borrow one… from the reel maker!

No, I haven’t been indulging in the 420 lifestyle, I am not currently drunk and have not been using potent glues in confined spaces.  I simply was looking around the website of Nautilus Reels.

Turns out Nautilus has a program they call “Travelers” that lets you borrow one of their reels, take it on your trip and return it.  Upon your returning the reel the location of your trip gets engraved on the reel for the next user to enjoy.

Seriously… that sounds pretty sweet and is something I plan on taking advantage of.

Here’s the thing though… return the reel.  A few of these reels have not been returned. It means you get charged for it, but it also means it is out of rotation.  Basically, you screw the next guy/gal who might want to use it.

This could be the reel for your next trip…

What a loaner!

You can borrow this reel.

Jul 10

Free Nautilus Reels Ringtones

My wife has a special ringtone, Oh, Mexico (we love Mexico) and while James Taylor is nice, I’ve really wanted the singing of a reel for other ringtones.  I even tried to make my own reel screaming ringtone, it didn’t work out, although we are still friends.

I was pointed to the website of Nautilus Reels (favorite reel of Joe Gonzalez) by company owner Kristen Mustad (yes, as in the hooks).

Low and behold, there they are… three to choose from.

Free Nautilus Reels Ringtones – Nautilus Reels.

Nice looking reel there.

Hear it sing.

For the iPhone you might need to know how to make any MP3 into a ringtone, and how to change file extensions.