September/October 2018 C e l e b r a t i n g S i x Ye a r s
F LY F I S H I N G M A G A Z I N E
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September/October 2018 $9.99 US / $10.99 CDN
DEDICATED TO SALTWATER FLY FISHING AND OUTDOOR LIVING
experience counts for everything We fondly refer to these guys as the A-team! T&T advisor Keith Rose-Innes and ambassadors Devan van der Merwe and Alec Gerbec collectively make up one of the most experienced and knowledgable teams in fly fishing anywhere. Hardcore professionals like these guys are testing our products to the limit every day and push us in our pursuit to build truly great rods. Their knowledge, expertise, and understanding are passed to our craftsmen, who strive for perfection and uncompromising performance in every rod we make. To us, Keith, Devan, Alec and their team of guides in the Seychelles are our unsung heroes. We salute you.
we’ve got you covered… introducing the new t&t sextant and exocett ss. remarkably light. extraordinarily strong.
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T H E R O D YO U W I L L E V E N T UA L LY OW N
www.thomasandthomas.com HANDMADE IN AMERICA
Sometimes getting a big tarpon to eat can be a feat in itself, but getting the opportunity to grab one of these magnificent creatures is something an angler will never forget. Photo by Zane Taylor
Getting up early and searching for tails at first light is almost always worth the effort. Photo by David McCleaf
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Nine-year-old Kalani with his first bonefish on fly from Oahu, Hawaii. Photo by Dave Winters
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Chasing giant trevally on topwater is not for the faint of heart, but the hard work is worth it when it all comes together. Photo by Daniel Goez
Perfect conditions call for the perfect redfish to come out and play. Photo by Lisa Lohman
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Getting ready to release a big GT to fight another day. This great shot was a finalist in the #keepemwet photo contest. Photo by Robert Dotson
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Glass minnows cautiously avoid the ever-hungry bonefish. Photo by Brian O'Keefe
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Editor-in-Chief Joseph Ballarini Creative Director Shawn Abernathy Consulting Editor Alex Lovett-Woodsum Managing Editors Rock Dawson, Arthur Lux Food Editor Kelli Prescott Publishing Consultant Samir Husni, Ph.D.
Senior Contributors Bob Branham Pat Ford Mark Hatter Frank Paul King Ruben Martin Peter McLeod Jonathan Olch George Roberts Greg Thomas
ABOUT Tail Fly Fishing Magazine provides a voice for saltwater fly fishing culture in a bimonthly print publication. We focus on delivering the best photography, destination travel, reputable commentary and technical features from the saltwater fly fishing lifestyle. Tail began as a digital publication that debuted in September 2012 and has been in print since September 2016. In many places, fly fishing has become important to both people and the environment. As a method of fishing imbued with values of stewardship and conservation, it connects people with the marine world in significant and positive ways. Tail Fly Fishing Magazine supports creative expressions that heighten our appreciation of fly fishing and encourage us to look at it in new ways. The magazine strives to provide content that reflects our mutual fascination with all aspects of saltwater fly fishing. We are grateful for your support and we welcome photographic and written contributions. Tail Fly Fishing Magazine is published six times annually. Subscriptions are available for $48 per year. Prices vary for international subscriptions. Please contact us with any advertising, subscription, or submission questions. 2300 Alton Road Miami Beach, FL 33140 WWW.TAILFLYFISHING.COM 305-763-8285
Shawn Abernathy Joseph Ballarini Pete Barrett Stewart Collingswood Rock Dawson Daniel Goez Matthew Grove Alex Lovett-Woodsum Jesse Males Alycia Page Kelli Prescott George Roberts Chandler White
Photography Shawn Abernathy Pete Barrett Joe Brennan Stewart Collingswood Ian Fawthrop Angela Fernandez Mark Hatter Lisa Lohman David McCleaf Brian O'Keefe Kelli Prescott Bob Stearns Chandler White Dave Winters
To the thousands of anglers who put their trust in our reels, and our reels in their hands [ day after day and year after year ], WE THANK YOU!
I N LOV I N G M E M O RY O F J O HN C . MEL FI
Gear Guide: IFTD/ICAST New Products
Inside the Box by Joseph Ballarini
Ten-Dollar Fly Rods and Mono Fly Lines: How Chico Fernández Helped Change Saltwater Fly Fishing by Alex Lovett-Woodsum
Turks and Caicos: Ride a Magic Carpet by Mark Hatter
How Two Fishing Guides Helped Spearhead Florida’s Fight for Clean Water | The Captains Behind Captains for Clean Water by Alycia Page
Tapped: Beer Reviews
Pollock on the Fly in Northwest Scotland by Stewart Collingswood
Amazing Autumn by Pete Barrett
Fly Tying: Candy Corn Crawler by Jesse Males
On the Plate: Bowls by Kelli Prescott
Stripers on Top by George Roberts
Disconnect by Chandler White
An Angler Opines by Rock Dawson
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No rod has ever silenced all the variables. No engineer has ever found a way to transfer back cast energy directly into forward accuracy. No angler has ever erased all the doubt from his or her mind. FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING.
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ALASKA Mossy’s Fly Shop 750 W Diamond Blvd Suite 114 Anchorage AK 99515 COLORADO Front Range Anglers 2344 Pearl Street Boulder CO 80302
G E T TA I L AT T H E S E R E TA I L E R S
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The Compleat Angler 541 Boston Post Road Darien CT 06820 FLORIDA Apalach Outfitters 32 Ave D Apalachicola FL 32320 Black Fly Outfitters 11702 Beach Blvd #109 Jacksonville FL 32246
The Fish Hawk 764 Miami Cir NE #126 Atlanta GA 30305 IDAHO
Bayou City Angler 3641 Westheimer Rd Suite A Houston TX 77027
Jimmy’s All Season Angler 275 A Street Idaho Falls ID 83402
Gordy & Sons 22 Waugh Drive Houston TX 77007
Sportsman Finest 12434 Bee Cave Road Austin TX 78738
Old Towne Fly Shop & Outfitters 4009 Pontchartrain Drive Slidell LA 70458 MARYLAND
Swan Point Landing 1723 Cherry Street Suite 4 Rockport TX 78382
Alltackle 2062 Somerville Rd Annapolis, MD 21401
Tailwaters Fly Fishing 1933 E. Levee St Dallas TX 75207
Beaver Creek Fly Shop 9720 Country Store Lane Hagerstown MD 21740
Bill Jacksons’s Shop for Adventure 9501 US 19 N Pinellas Park FL 33782
The Bear's Den 34 Robert W Boyden Rd Taunton MA 02780
Forgotten Coast Fly Company 123 Commerce Street Apalachicola FL 32320
Florida Keys Outfitters 81219 Overseas Highway Islamorada FL 33036
Frontier Anglers 680 N. Montana St Dillion MT 59725
Fishwest 47 West 10600 South Sandy UT 84070 TENNESSEE Fly South Fly Shop 115 19th Ave South Nashville TN 37203 WASHINGTON
Emerald Water Anglers 4502 42nd Ave SW Seattle WA 98116
Flounder Creek Outfitters 515 Garden Street Titusville FL 32796
Madison River Fly Fishing Outfitters 20910 Torrence Chapel Rd D5 Cornelius NC 28031
The Avid Angler 17171 Bothell Way NE Seattle WA 98155
Harry Goode’s Outdoor Sports 1231 E New Haven Ave Melbourne FL 32901
Urban Angler 381 Fifth Ave, 2nd Floor New York NY 10016
County Pleasures 100, 10816 Macleod Tr. S. Calgary AB T2J 5N8 Canada
Ole Florida Fly Shop 6353 N Federal Hwy Boca Raton FL 33487
Orlando Outfitters 2814 Corrine Dr Orlando FL 32803
The Saltwater Edge 1037 Aquioneck Ave Middletown RI 02842
The Angling Company 333 Simonton St Key West FL 33040
West Wall Outfitters 787 Tamiami Port Charlotte FL 33953
Bay Street Outfitters 825 Bay Street Beaufort SC 29902
Charleston Angler 654 Saint Andrews Blvd Charleston SC 29407
Blue Ridge Fly Fishing 490 E Main Street Blue Ridge GA 30513
Charleston Angler 1113 Market Center Blvd Mt Pleasant SC 29464
Cohutta Fishing Company 39 S Public Square Cartersville GA 30120
Fish Tales Fly Shop Ltd. #626, 12100 Macleod Trail SE Calgary AB T2J 7G9 Canada Outdoor Pros 22 Sagona Avenue Mount Pearl, NL A1N R42 Cananada Bass Pro Shops over 80 locations in the USA Dick's Sporting Goods over 86 locations in the USA Field & Stream Stores over 25 locations in the USA
Shot by: Jarrod Black - Pictured: Tim Rajeff
When things heat up, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s critical to fish the line designed for the job. Airflo uses a patented Polyurethane material and silent running ridges designed to optimize fishing in all tropical environments. TAIL FLY M AGA ZI NE 1 7 Go to airflousa.com to find the line that helps coolFISHI youNGoff.
EDITOR'S NOTE Time Flies Every milestone truly is a reminder of how quickly time marches on. Six years ago this month we rolled out the very first issue of Tail Fly Fishing Magazine as a digital publication focused on saltwater fly fishing and conservation. It was modest, created out of a passion for the sport and for the planet. I often find myself utterly frustrated with the visible pollution in my home waters of Biscayne Bay. My kayak used to look like a trash barge similar to the ones in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica, loaded with debris that I found in the water or stuck in the mangroves, which usually filled a few big trash containers back at the launch. Since those early days, I’ve progressed (read: aged), and now I spend more time on a skiff and fewer days on the kayak, but I still pick up the trash when I see it and do my best to keep my waters clean. Awareness about environmental issues has increased among the general public, but over the last six years, very little has changed from a policy perspective despite a massive effort by many individuals, companies, and organizations.
In an attempt to push efforts forward, we have aligned ourselves with stout defenders of the environment: people like Sandy Moret and the Now or Neverglades team, Bullsugar.org, Captains for Clean Water, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and several others. We assist their efforts by providing media support and an outlet to amplify their voices and reach our growing audience in print and our social media channels. As more and more people join together, our voice has gotten stronger and louder. After six years of making our publication, I believe that our shared vision may actually come to fruition because of the relentless work of the various organizations and the sum of all of our efforts. I’m humbled and honored to be the Editor-in-Chief of such a unique publication, and I’m touched by the support of our readers and the various organizations and manufacturers that believe in us. Special thanks to the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Orvis, Thomas & Thomas, Echo, and Chittum Skiffs, who have been supportive of the publication and the environmental causes we champion for many years. With everyone’s support, we hope we can continue to grow over the next six years, providing highquality content about saltwater fly fishing and a voice for the issues most critical to our waters and fisheries.
Joseph Ballarini Editor-in-Chief
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Introducing a new edition of Tarpon Head Bookends. Each sculpture is 16”x 9”x 6” and will initially sell for $2850 or $4500 a pair. A new smaller Desktop version will initially sell for $975.
Fair Flies Dubbing Brushes Every fly tier knows that dubbing brushes can produce some outstanding saltwater patterns, and Fair Flies makes some great brushes. The thing about Fair Flies that stuck out most to us, other than the quality of their brushes, is the core of their business. Fair Flies works with women who were formerly abducted and forced into the red light district in Nepal. They have taught these women how to make brushes, and then pay them a daily rate that is significantly higher than than the national average to help them get back on their feet. This is one company that is not only making a fantastic product but is also making a difference in people's lives, and we should all get behind that.
Fishpond Castaway Roll Top Gear Bag
Wingo Outdoors D Ring Belt
These belts really caught our eye at ICAST this year. They have so many great fish patterns that it makes it hard to pick just one. Not only are the belts amazing and built to last, but the belts are made in the USA. They also make everything from dog leashes to keychains in their colorful and unique prints.
Orvis Clearwater Rods Orvis took an already solid entrylevel rod and made it even better, giving it a serious overhaul. The new rod lineup features a fast-action rod for saltwater weights up to 12, solid Orvis craftsmanship, and a handsome facelift. These rods are a great valuecast, and will be almost impossible to beat at this price point.
IFTD/ICAST 2018 EDITION
Fishpond’s latest is a boat bag that folds down flat and travels well. One piece of gear that we always miss when traveling is a boat box to help keep terminal tackle and other necessities organized. It takes the pain out of reaching into a backpack and playing the ‘what will I pull out now’ game. The Fishpond Castaway Roll Top Gear Bag is a must for traveling anglers who want to stay organized and save precious fishing time on the skiff.
We spent some time walking around ICAST/ IFTD 2018 checking out the new products coming up this year. With so many to choose from, it was hard to narrow it down to just this list, but these products really caught our eye.
Siegler MF Fly Reel The Siegler MF fly reel definitely is in a league of its own when it comes to drag adjustment. It has a traditional drag knob, but the separate drag lever acts as a clutch to engage the drag and allows you to disengage the drag by sliding back, allowing you to strip off line with ease, then push it forward to fully engage the drag. The reel it is also extremely wellbuilt and ready to take on big fish.
Tacky Flydrophobic SD Fly Box Tacky makes some of the best bombproof fly boxes out there, and now they have really elevated their game with a waterproof fly box. This box is perfect for when you're fishing the flats and need to hop off and chase some tails on foot.
Marshwear Clothing Marshwear Clothing continues to produce great clothing for the saltwater angler, for both on and off the water. They had So many new t-shirt deisgns it was hard to pick a favorite. We are looking forward to the new line of coming out in late 2018.
Simms Challenger Insulated Series Set When fishing on the rough East Coast in the late fall and early spring, having the right clothing critical to staying comfortable and being able to chase blitzes all day long, even in nasty conditions. The Simms Bib collection is key to staying out there for the following outgoing tide.
Thomas & Thomas Zone Fly Rod Making the decision to upgrade to a mid-priced fly rod just got a whole lot easier. The Thomas & Thomas Zone fly rod comes in saltwater weights up to 10. It bears all the signature trademarks of a classic T&T rod and the price wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t alarm an angler looking to upgrade from an entry-level rod to a serious casting and fish-fighting machine.
INSIDE T HE BOX
Imagine the tension in your body as you fight to stay perfectly still despite the tide pushing against your ankles in one direction and the wind pushing the other direction on your back. A school of 30 five to six pound bonefish do headstands right beside you. Preparing for Turks and Caicos is similar to preparing for the Bahamas, but there are very few deep water fishing opportunities. Your fly selection should include a combination of light, medium, and some darker flies, though the latter tend to be less important. Lightweight flies that result in quiet presentations are key when fishing for footballs in skinny water. We had the most success with Veverka's Mantis Shrimp in sizes 2, 4 and 6, and Enrico's Spawning Shrimp with bead-chain eyes in size 6.
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photo by Bob Stearns
Ten-Dollar Fly Rods and Mono Fly Lines: How Chico Fernรกndez Helped Change Saltwater Fly Fishing by Alex Lovett-Woodsum
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hico Fernández is a well-known name in the fly fishing world, and with good reason. He was born to a family of fishermen and has been fishing since he was a six-year old in Cuba, and has since fished most of the Lower-48 states, Alaska, throughout Central and South America,The Bahamas, Canada and beyond. He has broken several world records, including catching a 42-pound 5-ounce redfish on 12-pound tippet in 1980, at the time the largest redfish ever taken on a fly rod. A year later he became the third person to land a white marlin on fly. He has written over 700 articles and numerous books, including Fly Fishing for Redfish and Fly Fishing for Bonefish. He has appeared on many TV shows and in films. He was on the forefront of many innovations in saltwater fly fishing, and he has consulted for numerous fly fishing tackle, outdoor clothing and boat companies over the years. He is also a lifetime member of the IFFF, editorial board member of MidCurrent, a founding member of BTT and lifetime member and representative of the IGFA. He was recently inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame. Today, Chico consults for Hell’s Bay Boatworks and Costa Sunglasses, teaches fly casting and writes, still living and fishing out of Miami, Florida. In addition to fly fishing, he has a great love for Cuban cuisine and jazz. His youth—first in Cuba and then in Miami—laid the foundation for the passion that would eventually become his career, a passion that has left an indelible impact on fly fishing as we know it. “I remember when I was six—before we had much money—going fishing in my uncle’s rowboat. We went as far as we could row, and fished with handlines. There was nothing else. We would troll with the handlines, and I remember Dad hooking kingfish and the line slipping violently through his hands while the yo-yo that held the line was ricocheting
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all over the floor of the wooden boat rata-tat-tat-tat. But Dad didn’t like to use gloves. Cubans have a saying that translates to ‘a cat with gloves can’t get any mice.’ So Cubans got burned when they hooked big fish in those days.” Chico smiles, pauses, and leans forward in his desk chair, backlit by the sunlight pouring in from the backyard through the sliding glass doors in his living room. His yard is a true South Florida masterpiece: lush, tropical trees and plants, butterflies and birds flitting around, a stone bench for quiet moments. It is the result of decades of loving curation by his longtime wife Marilyn, who passed away a few years ago. He shows me an old photograph of them sitting in the backyard together, smiling, and recent photos from his fishing trips with their only child, Stephen, who now has kids of his own and remains one of Chico’s favorite fishing partners and dearest friends, along with Chico’s brother Mauro. The sunken living room where we sit has since become his office; two tidy IKEA desks are framed by bookshelves filled with numerous books—several of which he wrote, dozens of immaculate and carefully-displayed fly reels, fishing and jazz memorabilia, and fly rods hanging above the sliding glass door. A push pole balances against one of the shelves and runs the length of the living room wall, which is adorned with framed photos of a young Chico hoisting up sailfish and tarpon and other large specimens, many caught before commerciallyavailable fly tackle was designed to handle them. They lived in Miami Beach, and it was there that Chico first learned about spinning rods, fishing with bait and eventually lures, igniting a new love that he would carry back with him to Cuba soon after.
Cubans have a saying that translates to ‘a cat with gloves can’t get any mice.’ So Cubans got burned when they hooked big fish in those days.
As a young boy born in late 30s Cuba, Chico’s family started off fairly modestly. Eventually, his dad started to make money in real estate and got contacts with the government, and in a relatively short time, did quite well for himself. Suddenly the family found themselves surrounded by maids, a cook, and a chauffeur. With more money came a real boat—19 feet, narrow, deep-V with a reliable little diesel inboard engine in the middle—bought from the United States. That boat was followed by more and bigger boats. Soon after, Chico’s father had problems with the Cuban government and in 1951, the family was exiled, and they uprooted and moved to the United States. They lived in Miami Beach, and it was there that Chico first learned about spinning rods, fishing with bait and eventually lures, igniting a new love that he would carry back with him to Cuba soon after. His extended family decided to set out and see America, and fourteen of them piled into three cars in Miami and took off driving across the country: through New Orleans, all the way to California, back through Yellowstone and eventually to Glacier National Park. He laughs recalling his mother turning to his father to say, “Che, don’t you think we are going to be cold? We’re almost in Canada.” He responded, “No, it can’t be that cold, it’s October,” knowing only Cuba and Miami at that time of year. It turned out to be freezing that night, and while the rest of the family thought it was romantic huddling in a log cabin around a wood stove, his father was not amused.
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photo by Angela Fernandez
photo by Angela Fernandez photo by Bob Stearns
photo by Che Fernรกndez
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photo by Angela Fernandez
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Chico’s introduction to fly fishing was serendipitous. His father decided to buy a 52’ Chris Craft Commander yacht and couldn’t find a Cuban to captain it, so he hired a guy from Miami named Don Roban. Don brought with him his fishing equipment, including his favorite rod: an Orvis Battenkill nine-and-a-half foot fly rod, which Chico still has in his bedroom in Miami to this day. Loaded with a modern fly line, he says he can cast it nearly 100 feet. As he first watched Don cast that fly rod in 1956, something came over him and he was instantly enamored with fly fishing. His dad joked that at least that was a little bit closer to handlining.
photo by Norman Duncan
Not long after they got back to Miami, things with the Cuban government improved and they were able to return to Cuba in 1952. They bought a big house in Havana and also had a house on Jibacoa beach an hour and a half outside the city (his dad actually bought the whole beach and the over fifty houses on it, only selling the houses to friends of his). He and his father spent time fishing there together: Chico using spinning rods and his father still insisting on fishing with hand lines, saying that he lost the feel of the strike with a rod.
After learning to fly cast, Chico began fishing with that rod, catching snook, tarpon, and jacks. Though a few Americans like Joe Brooks and Ted Williams had already traveled to Cuba to fly fish around the Isle of Youth, to the best of his knowledge, Chico was the first Cuban fly fisherman. He learned to cast well enough considering no one had really taught him, but had a very rudimentary knowledge of the sport, tying 8 to 10-foot leaders entirely of straight 8-pound test, learning later that you needed a heavy butt section to properly turn a fly over, and bite tippet to prevent snook and tarpon from cutting you off. He fished that crude setup for several years, exploring Cuba’s fisheries until 1959, when Batista was overthrown and Castro came into power. His father felt they had to leave right away and left by plane with Chico’s brother, and shortly after he and his mother took the ferry from Havana to Key West with Chico’s Mercedes 190SL two-seater, all his fishing tackle, and his mother’s most precious jewelry. They had to leave almost everything they owned behind, and that abrupt departure nearly 60 years ago was the last time anyone in his immediate family saw Cuba.
“You can imagine how far you can get when a chaperone is sitting between you and your date at the movies,” he tells me with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye. “I didn’t miss Cuba then: I was too young, thinking only of girls and fly fishing. Missing it came much later.”
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photo by Norman Duncan
The transition back to Miami was bittersweet. His family had been uprooted and had far less money than they had in Cuba, but Chico suddenly found himself among fellow diehard fly anglers. And unlike in Cuba, there were no chaperones on dates, so “he was home.”
One of the first people he met at The Tackle Box—one of the few tackle shops in the then-small city of Miami—was Bill Curtis. Within a few minutes of meeting, Bill told him that he could go right then to the Tamiami Trail and catch snook, but his car was broken down so he couldn’t get there. Chico said that he had his Mercedes outside, and they grabbed their fly rods and rode down to the Tamiami Trail with Chico driving well over 100 miles per hour in that two-seater. They stopped at one of the bridges, and Bill angrily told Chico to never, ever drive at that speed again, but his ire quickly subsided when they saw snook popping everywhere. They caught huge numbers of them that day and left happy. Chico did at times miss the lifestyle he had become accustomed to. Though he initially had his Mercedes 190SL to cruise around in, eventually his family couldn’t afford the expensive repair bills and had to sell his beloved car. His dad hustled, trying to make money as a Spanish-speaker in a city that at the time had a very small Latin community. He never really learned to speak English, but eventually owned a small banana chip factory and was able to make a decent living. His mother learned English quite well by listening to Nat King Cole and other jazz musicians. Jazz remains Chico’s other great passion today, the love for it fostered as a young man. But at that time he felt lost. He wanted to buy a Ferrari but had to settle for a white Chevy II station wagon, stripped, with no air conditioning. “It was not a great car to pick up girls. It was up to me and my personality to pick up the girls,” he laughed. Chico met Flip Pallot, Norman Duncan, and Little John (John Emery) at The Tackle Box not long after he met Bill Curtis, and they began fly fishing together. They had to figure everything out on their own, and they didn’t have a boat. They fished from shore, waiting for the right tides before driving to the Keys to wade for bonefish. They bought inflatable rafts designed for swimming pools and went out in the Miami River at night, hooking big tarpon that were often chased by sharks right next to the rafts
they were precariously balanced on in the dark. Eventually, they started renting 16-foot Challenger boats down on Summerland Key so they could fly fish and deep jig. They would go to Cosgrove Light in Key West—known for its plentiful, large bull sharks—in rough weather in a boat that had no flotation. They landed sailfish, big sharks, kingfish, cobia, and other big fish while getting tossed around in those small, heavy boats. Chico recently asked Flip what he thought would have happened if they had capsized out there and Flip responded that they would have sunk to the bottom as fast as a butterfly jig.
One of the first people he met at The Tackle Box—one of the few tackle shops in the then-small city of Miami—was Bill Curtis. Within a few minutes of meeting, Bill told him that he could go right then to the Tamiami Trail and catch snook, but his car was broken down.
Eventually, Norman bought a used 17 runabout and cut the typically high freeboard down by about a foot so the wind would not catch it as much when poling, and then had a front and back deck installed. This became their flats skiff, reef skiff and often, blue water skiff. They balanced precariously on top of the engine to pole it across the flats. They eventually put outdoor carpet on the engine to make it more comfortable to stand on, and in that boat they caught kingfish, big tarpon, bonefish and everything in between, and took it everywhere from miles offshore to deep in the Everglades. If their motor broke down in the backcountry, they would have to pole for miles to get back to the marina, arriving at midnight or later. Of course, there were no cell phones at the time, and by the time he arrived home, Chico’s mother was crying and his father was ready to kill him. It happened more than once. They taught themselves everything since the old-timers didn’t want to share their secrets. They built all of their own fly rods, buying blanks from Lee Cuddy’s for six or seven dollars and guides, a reel seat and cork for a few dollars more, building an entire rod for as little as 10 dollars. They always seemed to be building a rod or two, at times building and fishing rods in the same day. “Doing all of that, you learn things from the core. Building tackle like fly rods and flies from scratch, you get to understand the very essence of that tackle, and ultimately, are a better angler for it. When you’ve lived it, it makes a world of difference.”
Chico met Flip Pallot, Norman Duncan and Little John (John Emery) at The Tackle Box not long after he met Bill Curtis, and they began fly fishing together.
Bill Curtis invented the poling platform in the 70s, which was installed on the Hewes Bonefisher, the first boat to make flats fishing truly accessible to anyone who could afford to buy one. After the Bonefisher was invented, everything changed. Chico remarks that not only were there many more people out on the water to contend with, but many of these people who suddenly had access to the flats invariably had no respect for the environment. But years before that happened, Chico and his friends grappled with a very different problem: they had found big tarpon in the Florida Keys at night around the bridges, fish that ranged from 60 up to 140 pounds. They had no problem hooking them from the bridges on 12-pound tippet, but the
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photo by Norman Duncan
photo by Capt. Rob Munoz
photo by Capt. Rob Munoz
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fish would jump around, go under the bridge, cut them off and take the whole fly line with them. They couldn't afford to lose the fly lines: each one cost eight dollars, more than the cost of a date. “We were not about to lose that money. But we also weren’t about to stop fishing for tarpon.” Between them they came up with the idea of taking 200-pound mono, stretching it out, and using sandpaper to sand the shape of a weight-forward fly line. It took forever, but they had the time and determination. They could make the mono lines for 50 cents apiece, so they didn’t care about losing them. They had to carefully carry them to the bridges outside of the reel in giant loops so they wouldn’t coil, and each time they lost one they would just tie another one to the backing and cast it out there. They realized much later that for what they were doing, they didn’t really need to put the shape in the lines, as it was the weight of the mono that helped them cast the big flies. But since they never figured that out at the time, they sanded, and sanded, and sanded. Norman remarked that they had no fingerprints after that and could have gone into a much more profitable business. They couldn’t really afford expensive reels—though Chico still has a beautiful Seamaster his dad bought for him in 1953—and mostly fished inexpensive ones like the Pflueger Medalist. Those didn’t have the needed drag, so they had a machinist help them improve the drags and often added a counter-balance to the other side of the reel so the reels would not vibrate too much when a big fish ran. Besides using regular feathers and bucktails, they tied flies from feather dusters and Christmas tinsel, and often used heavier hooks to get flies to sink, which they later realized made it harder to set the hook. There was trial and error in everything they did back then. “Learning that way,” Chico remarks, “I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Nothing.” While he spent all his free time fishing, Chico worked hard during the week
in the business world, eventually opening an accounting partnership with his brother Mauro. By then he was married to Marilyn, who was from a one-stoplight town in rural Pennsylvania. Not only did they come from completely different cultures, but unlike him, she had had to work from a very young age. You can imagine her reaction when Chico came home one day and announced that he had quit the partnership, which was doing quite well, without another job lined up, because he needed to “find himself.” Both she and his father had some choice words about that, but he knew that he didn’t want to have a traditional 8 to 5 job for any amount of money. Only his brother Mauro was understanding about the decision. He started hustling: tying flies, teaching fly casting, and writing a column in Pleasure Boating, which paid $15. By then he had a name in the fly fishing world and could charge a premium for his flies, but still found he couldn’t make the money he wanted with piecework. In the late 70s, he started testing lines for Scientific Anglers and getting paid for it. He was the first person to get a free boat from a manufacturer, and later a different company gave him a boat and paid him to use it. His career in the fly fishing industry continued to progress after that. Chico laments the fact that everything in fly fishing is so easy today. “A good fly shop will hand you an outfit: rod, reel, backing, fly line, leader, tippet and all you have to do is take it to the dock and hand it to the guide and he ties a fly on for you. I understand that as a beginner you are eager to catch fish, but when you start out in this manner, you know little of the tackle you have in your hands. To become a better angler, you should strive to be more self-reliant because believe me, you’ll catch more fish and enjoy the sport much more.” As young kids in Havana, Chico and his friends would entertain themselves with kite fights (a tradition that persists there today, nearly 70 years later), painstakingly building their own six-sided kites out of balsa wood and a long tail made of string and ribbons, carefully tying in Gillette razor blades every three or four feet, using toothpicks to hold the blades perpendicular to the string. They would fight them from the rooftops, trying to cut the string of their opponent’s kite. If you lost your kite fighting on a windy day, it could soar several blocks, over the malecon and into the ocean, never to be seen again. Then you would have to start over, assiduously building a better kite from scratch so you could hopefully win the next one. Though he left his birthplace many years ago, his childhood roots in Cuba certainly contributed to making Chico an innovative figure in fly fishing, and helped foster his deep appreciation for every minute detail that encompasses the sport. Chico Fernández’s books Fly Fishing for Bonefish and Fly Fishing for Redfish are available in many fly shops and on Amazon. For casting lessons, he can be reached at email@example.com.
Bio: Alex LovettWoodsum lives in Coral Gables, Florida, where she runs a consulting business for small businesses and non-profits. She has been the Consulting Editor for Tail since its print debut, and also helps run its social media and online marketing. She also works on numerous conservation causes including Now or Neverglades. When she’s not working, Alex spends most of her waking hours fly fishing her home waters around Biscayne and the Florida Keys, as well as hosting trips and traveling to fish as much as she can. You can reach her on Instagram @alexwoodsum.
T & C
Ride a Magic Carpet to South Caicos Island: the land of big flats and even bigger bonefish
by Mark B. Hatter
eventeen years ago my fishing buddy Twig Tolle, grabbed my arm at a local fly fishing expo and said, “Hey, you gotta check this out! There is a dude at a booth over there selling bonefish trips out of an airboat!” Of course, this whacky concept needed immediate exploration, so we headed to the booth. There, an affable guy with the smiling eyes of Cris Collinsworth, sporting baggy shorts and a cotton fishing shirt emblazoned with Beyond the Blue Bonefish Charters, greeted us with a brochure. His handout showed smiling guests sitting in a 24-foot, six-seater airboat with an impressively large-block engine and counterrotating props. Bibo Jayne, a self-proclaimed “bonefish hippie,” introduced his wife, and business partner, Marian and himself then casually slid into his charter presentation. His schtick was easy, a take it or leave it style that made you feel comfortable should you want to walk away, had it not been for the video playing on a screen behind him. Jayne was clever to video his operation and play it in a loop at his booth which did all of the sales work while nearly eliminating the baloney claims typical of some nefarious bonefishing operations. Drawn to the video, I looked beyond Tolle and Jayne, now deeper in conversation, and watched in amazement as the airboat glided, like a magic carpet in millimeters of super-clear water covering sugar-white sand flats. More amazing was the next sequence where the pilot and Jayne’s charter partner, Ganger Lockhart (aka “G”), shuts off the engine and settles the boat while guests throw off ear protectors
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South Caicos has an endless supply of sand flats that see little to no fishing pressure.
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and clamber overboard to ankle-deep water while frantically stripping line from their reels. But most impressive was watching three of six guests hook up on bonefish only seconds after eaving the boat! Was this real or some BS mastery of video manipulation? Within a few short months, I discovered the truth with Tolle and two other buddies when we booked our trip to South Caicos and duplicated the 'zoom around, stop the boat and catch the fish' sequence screened at Jayne’s booth. It was an unreal experience and I remember being “covered up” with shoals of bonefish all day long. I wrote about the experience for a fly fishing magazine and later received a personal call from a sports luminary and fly fishing zealot on that feature. “I wanna know if what you wrote is true or bullshit?” the caller, Coach Bob Knight, questioned directly. I assured him it was true. Subsequently, he and other icons, like Yvon Chouinard, have been regulars to Jayne’s South Caicos (BTB) operations because it’s just that good. Last month for the fifth time, I found myself wading barefoot over hard white sand in ankle-deep water, on an expansive South Caicos flat still in the middle of nowhere. My buddy Charlie Madden and I had a little wager going with Bibo and G on our last day there: could team USA best Team SC in a little fishing competition on SC’s home field? The day before Charlie and I had lamented the forecast: east winds 20-25 knots. Winds had been agreeable for the days prior, and we had had good bonefishing on Jayne’s airboat which transported paddleboards in the back country. With the forecast winds, the paddle boards were out of the question. But Jayne was unperturbed. Chasing bonefish on paddleboards in South Caicos is an extremely effective way to cover lots of ground. Plus the height advantage from being on top of the water really helps when spotting fish.
“What you guys don’t know is that when the wind blows here, the fishing goes off on the outside flats.” Jayne’s confidence was palpable. With Lockhart purported to cast a full line into the wind and with eyes in the back of his head, Team USA had its challenge. Plus, Jayne had smoked us on big fish the day before landing a pair of bones, back to back, in the 8+ pound class. The wind blew as predicted, but surprisingly the score was not so close when we broke for lunch; team USA maintained a healthy lead from early on and prospects began to look grim for the SC boys…That would change later that day. “The best fishing is on an incoming tide, late afternoon with a stiff wind from the east. Conditions are perfect for later today!” Jayne’s assurance was exciting yet ominous like he had something up his sleeve to take the advantage in our friendly tournament.
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At four in the afternoon, Lockhart flew our magic carpet to the famous “South End” flat, a truly immense, hard-bottomed, white sand bar that stretches miles in all directions. South End has little, if any, elevation change save a few shallow channels running the length of the bar a few inches deeper than your ankles. The bar looks all the same to an outsider, but Jayne and Lockhart know every lump, every crease in the bottom and Team USA’s advantage seemed now at risk. When Lockhart settled the airboat, Jayne bailed and force-marched toward the horizon at nearly jogging speed. He obviously knew where he was going and what he expected to find. I bailed out with him but found it hard to keep up. The average South Caicos bonefish tends to be larger than the average Caribbean bonefish.
Then, Jayne was into fish. Lots of fish. From my vantage, I thought he’d found a school of dinks just to post numbers. It appeared he was catching, releasing, then circling back to a stationary school for another shot, but that was not the case. Jayne’s fish were not schoolies; they were 3-6 pound bones, fresh groups, pouring in from the southwest in every manner of singles to small schools of 10 or more fish. Jayne’s circling was to maneuver for the only casting option possible: downwind.
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Later, Madden would recall Jayne’s antics from his vantage a few hundred yards away. “He looked like Pac-Man, gobbling up bonefish as fast as he could turn and cast!” Indeed, Jayne was racking up numbers, but there were so many fish moving across a wide front that soon all of us were playing Pac-Man. And while Lockhart was also into fish behind us, he had to eventually go back and get the airboat to retrieve Jayne, Madden, and me, still hammering fish. “I looked up and saw three rods bowed up. All the time!” Lockhart laughed as he plucked us up more than a mile downwind. “I said, what’s the use, someone has to get the boat!” Incredibly, the niche South Caicos bonefish operation Jayne and Lockhart have established, which can only be accessed by an airboat, is still thriving after more than 19 years in business. Over the multiple trips I’ve made to South Caicos, the fishing there remains as some of my fondest memories. We are all a long way downstream from our initial fly fishing show introduction, and I have cherished the relationship I have developed with Team SC over the many years. Jayne remains a true bonefish hippie, now sporting a sun-
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bronzed ponytail, and Lockhart still jokes around with his infectious laugh. But on the flats, it still remains all business: just you against the wind, the tide, and scores of football bones in water only ankle deep. Just the way I first experienced it 17 years ago. Bio: Mark Hatter has been shooting images and writing for fly fishing publications for more than two decades. He says, “Before the advent of digital cameras, nailing action shots like jumping tarpon or billfish on film made my work. With film, you had to be a technical expert with your equipment. Film limited you in the number of shots you could take and it would be days or even weeks before you found out whether or not you got ‘the shot.’ Nowadays, the digital gear is so good, anyone can capture amazing action shots. You can literally “buy” yourself into potentially great shots with no experience. So, to stay relevant, I needed to step it up a notch by focusing on a unique niche mixing underwater and surface image capture. That said, I’m still always on the hunt for that ‘wow’ factor. You want your viewer to say first, "that is a great image!" Not, "that is a great fish.”
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How Two Fishing Guides Helped Spearhead Florida’s Fight for Clean Water The Captains Behind Captains for Clean Water by Alycia Page
It’s 6:00 AM on a muggy April morning in 2015. The humidity is the kind only felt on saltwater shorelines, covering exposed skin with a thin layer of sticky salt. A breeze picks up off the water, cooling the brow of a fishing guide as he backs his skiff down the Punta Rassa boat ramp near Sanibel Island. It’s the start of the annual tarpon migration along Florida’s Gulf Coast, and that’s big business for those who make their living finding fish. These are the meeting grounds for fishing guides Captain Daniel Andrews and Captain Chris Wittman. After launching their boats, they tie off at the docks, awaiting their clients, organizing tackle, and downing black coffee. Rods are triplechecked and final adjustments are made to the rigging. There’s a quiet hopefulness in the air on mornings like this. A fellow guide passes by and shouts words of encouragement. They’re a tight-knit crew, those fishing guides. Bound by the challenges of a career on the water, every move is calculated by factors that cannot be controlled: wind, tides, current, water temperature, moon phases, water quality, client skill level, and whatever mood the fish are in that day. Preparation is their saving grace, but that can only take a guide so far before instinct steps in and separates the mediocre from the legendary.
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fishing guide. Upon graduating high school, the water called and Andrews answered, walking away from a full scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University to fulfill his dream of being a fishing guide. For four years, Capt. Andrews lived a perfectly content life as a full-time guide in one of the most prominent fisheries in the world: Florida’s Gulf Coast. He enjoyed guiding his clients to catch tarpon, snook, and redfish from the aqua-blue waters of Sanibel Island to world-famous Boca Grande. And he was good at it. He’d noticed problems with the water before but didn’t have a full understanding of what was causing them. Andrews admits, “When we wake hours before dawn to prepare for charters, there is plenty of solitary time to wonder, ‘Will my clients return if we don’t catch fish? Even if we catch fish, will they come back to our area if our day was spent surrounded by murky, dark water? Will we still have jobs in twenty years?’”
his is the life they chose. A passion for chasing tarpon, snook, and redfish led them to become full-time guides, spending more hours on the water in a year than many people experience in a lifetime. This is what got them out of bed hours before dawn to prepare for the day’s charter. It’s why they worked tirelessly for the singular goal of giving their clients the experience of a lifetime that hopefully concludes with a dream fish on the end of the line. But as every good guide knows—you can’t make guarantees. That’s one of the things that makes the job exciting.
In January 2016, billions of gallons of nutrient and sedimentladen water were unnaturally discharged to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. In Fort Myers, the nasty brown water collided with the pristine waters of Sanibel, causing massive seagrass die-offs, the primary habitat and feeding grounds for many marine species. Andrews lost more than half of his booked clients due to the terrible water quality that lingered for months. The problem wasn’t a new one, but he realized that not enough was being done to fix the man-made disaster. His livelihood and the ability to provide for his family were being threatened, and he wasn’t the type to respond well to threats.
Back then, no matter how good or bad the day was, Captains Daniel Andrews and Chris Wittman would have laughed you off the docks if you told them that, one day, they’d sacrifice all of it. What led to this? First, we have to go back almost a hundred years. Water from Lake Okeechobee historically flowed south into the Everglades. In the 1920s, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with creating flood control mechanisms and canals to discharge overflow water to the east and west through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. The intent was to spare the agricultural land south of the lake, at the cost of starving the Everglades and Florida Bay and wreaking havoc on the coastal estuaries. For decades, South Florida has been dealing with water issues stemming from this—issues that are affecting people’s way of life and businesses and destroying valuable ecosystems. Andrews and Wittman had a front row seat to the destruction. Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Captain Daniel Andrews always knew he wanted to be a
Captain Chris Wittman is a fourth-generation Floridian, diehard outdoorsman, and fishing guide for nearly 20 years. With saltwater in his veins, Wittman has spent more of his life on the waters of Southwest Florida than on solid ground and has the tarpon-taming skills to back it up. Throughout his career, Capt. Wittman witnessed a constant decline in the health of local fisheries, but nothing could have prepared him for the 2016 Lake Okeechobee releases. Toxic algae blooms and aerial photos of the disaster were all over the news. Wittman was forced to cancel 80% of his trips and let down loyal clients that he’d fished for his entire 20-year career. “When we wake hours before dawn to prepare for charters, there is plenty of solitary time to wonder, ‘Will my clients return if we don’t catch fish? Even if we catch fish, will they come back to our area if our day was spent surrounded by murky, dark water? Will we still have jobs in twenty years?’”
He began asking questions, and it seemed that no apparent progress was being made to resolve the issue, or at least not in the expansive circle of outdoorsmen that he knew. His fellow guides were experiencing the same painstaking realities. For a fishing guide, being forced to cancel charters is a detriment to their livelihood. Wittman dug deep into the root cause and discovered that the problem was man-made and the solution was known, but there was no political will to fix it. When political shortcomings steal food from a working man’s table, it’s a big, salty pill to swallow. Then a light bulb went off. Wittman realized that anglers were absent in this decades-old fight. The only question that
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remained was, “What are we going to do about it?” Wittman and Andrews had known each other for years. One day, while airing their frustrations, they decided that doing nothing was not an option. They did what guides do best and they started talking to people: other guides, their families, strangers on the street. They quickly realized that most people were unaware of what was happening in their own backyard. They began sharing their stories and calling attention to what was happening in their community. They met with the Fort Myers mayor, protested on the Caloosahatchee River bridge, and held public meetings where they spoke to large groups of local residents. What happened next was an unexpected snowball effect. Business owners, homeowners, and outdoorsmen began stepping forward to tell their own stories. They agreed that something needed to be done, and they were ready to help with boots on the ground. All they needed was someone to organize and lead the charge. In February 2016, Wittman and Andrews made what might have been the most difficult decision of their lives: abandon their guiding careers and lead the fight for clean water. They didn’t know anything about politics, public policy, or running a non-profit, but one thing became abundantly clear: to save Florida’s estuaries, they needed the political will and the support of the fishing industry. “We didn’t set out to stop being guides or form an organization,” says Wittman, “We recognized there were issues, and eventually, we saw the need to step away from the industry in order to save it and ultimately our own careers.” Andrews felt the same pull of responsibility, “As fishermen, we’ve stood by and witnessed the destruction of our fisheries for too long. If we want this to change, we have to be the ones to make it happen.” Over the next several months, they traveled across Florida hosting grassroots events sponsored by their newly-founded
Rob Fordyce, professional fishing guide and host of the TV show, The Seahunter, said, “For years, fishermen have complained about and witnessed the demise of water quality in the Everglades ecosystem. Chris and Daniel had the guts to put their careers on hold, unite the concerned anglers of the world, and face the fight of modern day politics like never before. They have given us hope and a chance to save this amazing place with them at the helm, leading the way.”
non-profit, Captains for Clean Water. The events were intended to educate the public about the billions of gallons of dirty water that were being pumped into local waterways. They held fundraisers at craft breweries, sold Captainsbranded shirts and hats, and welcomed everyone to join the organization as members, captain or not. Eventually, they sought out those with the power to enact change and began making frequent trips to the State Capitol in Tallahassee to present their case to state legislators. On April 11, 2017, they mobilized the fishing industry to the Capitol to demand action in an effort they called NowOrNeverglades Sportfishing Day. As they parked their trucks and headed toward the Capitol building, Chris looked at Daniel and said, “You know there’s a serious problem when we’re wearing suits in Tallahassee.” Hundreds of anglers, guides, industry leaders, and citizens took to the halls to meet with over fifty senators and representatives. The event created a momentum so strong that its effects were acknowledged by a congressman in Washington D.C. months later. House Representative Heather Fitzenhagen said of the founders, “Captains Andrews and Wittman have quickly mastered the political labyrinth, becoming two of the most knowledgeable and effective advocates for clean water policy. From Florida to Washington, they have waged a campaign to both educate and motivate political leaders, driving home the necessity and benefits of clean water.” Through tenacity, resourcefulness, and creativity, Captains for Clean Water took the state of Florida and the outdoor industry by storm. They used social media as a lifeline to their supporters, funneling updates and urgent calls-to-action when they needed power in numbers. Their following grew and their brand began showing up on more than just hats. It didn’t take long for some of the biggest companies and personalities in the industry to take notice. Their consumers in the “Fishing Capital of the World” were engaged in a fight to save the state’s most valuable resource on which their business relies: clean water. Rob Fordyce, professional fishing guide and host of the TV show, The Seahunter, said, “For years, fishermen have complained about and witnessed the demise of water quality in the Everglades ecosystem. Chris and Daniel had the guts to put their careers on hold, unite the concerned anglers of the world, and face the fight of modern day politics like never before. They have given us hope and a chance to save this amazing place with them at the helm, leading the way.” While other environmental organizations were engaged in the same battle, it was the first time in the history of Everglades restoration that the outdoor community had firmly positioned
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themselves on the front lines. If they had a battle cry, it would be sounded by legendary fly fishing guide Flip Pallot, who said, “Daniel and Chris have created the very first ripples of a mighty wave that will carry those of us concerned with the watery arteries of our state to the forefront of what is bound to be a mighty battle! Let us be quick to recognize their personal and family sacrifices and be willing to match what they have so selflessly done on our behalf. They were among the first to recognize that if things are to remain as they were...then things will have to change...STAND UP!” While still in its relative infancy, Captains for Clean Water has accomplished more headway in the political landscape in just three years than anyone could have dreamed. What started as just a voice has grown to be a hard-earned and well-respected seat at the table. The organization is invited to meetings with powerful government individuals, and they’re listening to what the Captains have to say. The collective efforts of their supporters—brands, anglers, scientists, businesses, families, environmental organizations—have contributed to strides in the fight for clean water. Their most notable efforts include the passing of Senate Bill 10, consistent pressure to expedite the EAA Reservoir Project, and lobbying policymakers in D.C. to acquire funding for the state’s $800 million portion of the EAA Reservoir Project. “Our livelihoods cannot wait as politicians continue to argue about political solutions to a situation that needs science-based solutions,” Andrews explains, “We need to accelerate and expand projects today that will alleviate discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, while also providing Florida Bay and the Biscayne Aquifer with desperately needed freshwater.” Everglades restoration is the largest ecosystem restoration project in the history of the world. While some progress has been made legislatively, the Captains acknowledge that there is still a long road
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"Our livelihoods cannot wait as politicians continue to argue about political solutions to a situation that needs science-based solutions.”
ahead and have committed to seeing Everglades restoration projects through to the end to ensure the resources that shaped their way of life will remain for future generations. As conditions continue to worsen in the Everglades, estuaries across the country face similar plights. The Captains believe that their unique approach and the principles they’ve learned can be applied to virtually any environmental restoration initiative which means there will always be more work to be done. If you were to return to the docks of Punta Rassa and ask a couple of calloused fishing guides where they see themselves in three years, you can bet that their answer would not have been, “At the forefront of a battle to save America’s Everglades.” Join Captains for Clean Water in the fight to save Florida’s estuaries and learn more about the issues at www. captainsforcleanwater.org. Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots 501(c)3 organization founded by two fishing guides who were frustrated with the devastation of Florida’s estuaries, caused by decades of ongoing water mismanagement in the state of Florida. Their unique approach focuses on building a culture that promotes clean water and healthy estuaries. Through education and advocacy, Captains for Clean Water fights for science-based solutions of Florida’s water management issues. Bio: Alycia Page is a freelance writer, avid sportsman, and Southwest Florida native where her roots were planted four generations ago. She is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and a writer for the Punta Gorda Englewood Beach Visitor Bureau, Captains for Clean Water, and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s brand— TakeMeFishing.org. Page is passionate about spreading the joys of fishing in her local community and inspiring people to disconnect and spend time in the outdoors. At this very moment, she is likely targeting redfish in Charlotte Harbor or Boca Grande. Read her personal work on her blog, TIDE + TALE, or on Instagram at @tideandtale
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Tens of thousands have signed. Add your name today and stand up for the future of Floridaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s water.
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SCOT LAND Pollock on the Fly in Northwest Scotland
by Stewart Collingswood
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’ve been fishing in Scotland for most of my life and guiding anglers there for the last 15 years, traveling the length and breadth of the country seeking out new, exciting venues. One October several years ago, after a day of hiking the rugged coastline in northern Scotland, exploring potential fishing spots, a companion and I stumbled upon a proverbial goldmine.
The pollock is one of the hardest-fighting saltwater fish in the UK. When you first hook one, it plunges back towards the safety of the kelp. This sudden force catches many by surprise, and unless you hold on for grim death, the fish will drag you into the seaweed and will often break you off. We call this being kelped. Tackle for pollock varies greatly with the conditions. Success at this secret shore fishing mark was a case of trial and error. The first visit delivered many harsh lessons, as we lost a number of good fish due to our tackle being too light. After several outings with various rods, we finally settled on a 15-foot Mackenzie DTX salmon rod. Overkill, you might think, but the rocky shore here drops off suddenly, so the longer the rod, the more chance you have of bringing the fish over the jagged edge without snagging. We rigged a large-arbor reel with a Rio Scandi Short VersiTip. The compact head allowed us to reach great distances with a simple Spey cast. Six feet of 30-pound shock leader prevented the fish from cutting us off on the rocks.
Twilight was looming, and in the 90 minutes of fading light, he and I landed and released 45 pollock on the fly. The average fish was about five pounds in weight, with four fish being close to nine pounds. We lost a number of fish that could not be controlled and broke us off in the kelp. The whole experience was simply breathtaking! There was no evidence that this spot had ever been fished. It was located in one of the least obvious places you would suspect. It was difficult to get to; the journey involved scrambling down rock faces, and it was a good hour’s walk from any known track. A smaller relative of the Atlantic cod, pollock are the ultimate predators. They lurk in kelp beds over rocky bottom, waiting for anything brave enough to swim by. Their huge eyes spot every opportunity for an ambush, and their cavernous mouths hinge open wide to engulf prey.
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Twilight was looming, and in the 90 minutes of fading light, he and I landed and released 45 pollock on the fly.
Oddly, the simplest flies work best for pollock. A black or orange Clouser Minnow dressed on a size-2 hook is hugely effective. Taking the barb off the hook allows you to release the fish with minimal contact. It’s worth noting that when you land one of these fish, you should lift it onto a soft bed of seaweed to unhook it. It always makes me flinch when I watch videos of fish being dragged over rocks. The best way to release pollock is to torpedo them head-first back into the sea; this jolts them back to life and gives them the kickstart they need to dive back to deeper water. Often there are seals waiting to gobble up a recovering pollock, so it pays to help them avoid being scoffed while they recover. Back to our magical discovery.
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After a long discussion, I decided to take this guest to the Pollock Goldmine, on agreement of a few simple conditions: first, the guest had to prove he lived in the US. Second, he was to leave his phone in the car and take no photos. Finally, if asked in the pub that night, “How was the fishing?” the answer was to be, “It was dreadful!”
Since that October night, I’ve fished this spot a number of times, and it never fails to deliver a fish on the first cast. This marks my arrival with the reassurance that everything is as it was before and my secret safe. One summer an American client contacted me, asking for a fishing adventure in the north of Scotland. After a long discussion, I decided to take this guest to the Pollock Goldmine on agreement of a few simple conditions: first, the guest had to prove he lived in the US. Second, he was to leave his phone in the car and take no photos. Finally, if asked in the pub that night, “How was the fishing?” the answer was to be, “It was dreadful!” This might seem heavy-handed, but if one of the locals were to work out this spot, a van would be there the next day with an army of fishmongers ready to fill their freezers. The client agreed to these conditions, and one evening the following autumn, we set off to hike to the mark. The sheer beauty and changing light on these imperious landscapes is something to behold. This is one of the most beautiful fishing venues in the whole of Scotland. The water is as clear as gin. The American said it took his breath away—even more than the hike to the shore.
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On arrival, I instructed the client that when he hooked a fish, to hold on for grim death, and at first opportunity, reel in line as if his life depended on it. “Do not try to play the fish,” I cautioned him. “It will make a mockery of you.” And it did. On the first cast, the fly was attacked by a big pollock. The fish lunged, caught my American guest by surprise, and it was gone—stuck on the ocean bed in a forest of seaweed. Kelped! My guest was shaken, but not stirred. He reprogrammed his thinking, and with gritted teeth, hooked up on the third cast—a beautiful fish of around six pounds. He glided it gently onto a soft kelp bed on the shore. I took a quick photo, let the client have a look at his catch, and then released the fish unharmed. He had the day of his life, as he put it, “world-class fishing and truly unforgettable!” A memorable day in a secret spot with stunning scenery and many fish caught and released. That night in the pub, sitting by a log fire in the Scottish Highlands, sipping a malt whisky, we reflected (in secret) on what had been truly an amazing day. Fly fishing for pollock in the north of Scotland is truly a trip for adventurers.
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Bio: In 2004, Stewart Collingswood founded Alba Game Fishing, an Orvisendorsed guiding service that provides luxury angling adventures throughout Scotland for salmon, trout, grayling, pike, as well as saltwater species. You can visit Stewart's website at: albagamefishing.com.
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is a membership-based organization, and our members are our lifeblood. Since our founding in 1998, we have grown to include concerned anglers from over 20 countries, researchers from throughout the world, and guides committed to working with BTT in order to educate anglers and gather data while on the water. The generous support of our members is critical to our mission: Conserve and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through research, stewardship, education and advocacy. We have celebrated many accomplishments, but there is still much more work to do. Please help us in our mission by joining and urging your friends, guides, lodges, and fishing clubs to join. Please go to www.btt.org and click â&#x20AC;&#x153;Join BTTâ&#x20AC;? to become a member today. TAIL FLY FISHI NG M AGA ZI NE 6 5
by Pete Barrett
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Autumn is a short step away from summer and one step closer to winter: a brief but unique time of the year that holds special promise, excitement, challenge, and some astonishing fishing opportunities for salty fly-rodders. The autumn window opens around Labor Day, highlighted by a welcome drop in humidity and a perceptible cooling of daybreak temperatures. The hint of summer is still there, so the fishing is comfortable, unlike late fall, when chilly mornings in the surf at Montauk leave fingers numb from gripping the fly rod and stripping line. Down along Jupiterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s beaches, the cooling temperatures bring shivers to the pre-dawn magic hour. Whether you fish Rhode Island, Cape Hatteras, or West Palm Beach, autumn will hold court until sometime in early to mid-October, when fall barges in late in the month with rude, blustery winds. The fish get charged up in autumn as masses of baby bunker, silversides, herring, and mullet drop out of the shallow coastal bays and rivers and begin to migrate in waves along the beaches. The ocean-going bait will often stop off with side trips inside coastal inlets to rest before continuing their journey. Striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish along with tarpon, jacks, and snook down south all follow the bait buffet, which draws them from their summer haunts in the shallow bays, sounds, and rivers.
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Fly-rodders are often amazed at the intensity of the fishing one day, and then supremely disappointed the next as the bait and gamefish flee from one area and move on to the next. Sometimes the bait and gamefish hold for several days until a weather change gives them a nudge to get back on the migration schedule. A few gamefish will hold over for a week or so in one location as they seem to wait for the next wave of bait. Some of the best autumn places to fly fish are just inside inlets like the entrance to the Manasquan River in New Jersey, or Sebastian Inlet in Florida, but there’s a mental game to be played out every morning. Some days the bites come rat-ta-tat-tat like a machine gun, one fish after another striking the fly, while the next may be nothing more than casting practice. There’s no substitute for perseverance; those who fish the good spots every day will be rewarded with plenty of fish, while those who wait for the next fishing report will only score if they luck into a school. Each day is full of promise, yet tempered with nice surprises and occasional disappointments. Some fly anglers get the heebie-jeebies and move around a lot in autumn, searching the beaches and inlet jetties for signs of bird play or tell-tale flashes of splashing water as gamefish chase bait to the surface. Driving quickly from spot to spot, these anglers often miss the action, relying on a buddy’s cell-phone call to alert them to a blitz that more than likely will vanish before they get their truck into gear. Being anchored to one beach or wading spot with no sign of life can be a fool’s errand, but working a spot thoroughly often pays off with more bites in autumn than running and gunning from one beach spot to another. If there are signs of bait, it’s probably a good idea to work that spot hard before deciding to move. The boat fly angler has many more options, and after thoroughly working one spot, can quickly move to another, jumping one by one from one area to another until finding the right combination of bait, temperature, water clarity, and eager-to-bite gamefish. It’s a fishy game of hop scotch, played out
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by carefully working tides and times at each location before moving to the next.
Sometimes the bait and gamefish hold for several days until a weather change gives them a nudge to get back on the migration schedule. A few gamefish will hold over for a week or so in one location as they seem to wait for the next wave of bait.
Until he passed away back in 2009, Jack Gartside was an icon at Northeast winter fly fishing shows, and he loved to talk of his autumn adventures. A quiet guy, he sat at his tying table working his magic with thread, feathers, and hair, and cheerfully shared his experiences with anyone who paused to strike up a conversation. Although he primarily fished Massachusetts for striped bass, especially the rich waters around Boston, many fly guys from other coastal regions eagerly took notes while he talked about his fishing adventures in the autumn season, and they applied Jack’s techniques to their local waters. Jack was always generous with advice and had a wry sense of humor that would put a smile on your face. But his funny quips had serious purpose. You had to pay attention. Jack liked to catch fish on the surface for the visual appeal and excitement of the topwater strikes, even if it meant catching fewer fish. He once said, “The best time to find fish feeding on the surface seems to be from three hours into the falling tide until dead low; and then the first three hours into the rising tide.” Jack believed that the current was strongest at these times, and this helped to concentrate the swirling pods of bait, which in turn lit up the appetites of striped bass. “If this period occurs in the early morning or late afternoon, so much the better,” he said, and that’s why so many of the best striped bass fly fishermen fish at these times. A big box of flies is not needed for autumn. If you’re like Jack, you know a few surface flies will fool plenty of fish. For quiet waters inside inlets, around marshes and salty creeks, bridges, and shallow sand bars, the Gartside Gurgler is a top contender. But these aren’t the small Gurglers of summer. Step up to a 1/0 or 2/0 long-shank hook and tie them with either bucktail for the tail or with long flat-wing-style saddles for a long profile. The long saddles swing and weave behind the foam body with an enticing slow-motion dance that can really drive striped bass nuts. For the quiet backwaters of autumn, an oversized, bright chartreuse Gurgler is a favorite that gets the attention of northeast striped bass and southeast Florida snook. It’s a great pattern for early morning and at dusk when its gurgling action pulls striped bass out of the marshes.
Being anchored to one beach or wading spot with no sign of life can be a fool’s errand, but persistence and working a spot thoroughly often pays off with more bites in autumn than running and gunning from one beach spot to another.
A great surface popper is Bob Popovics' Banger. Snappy twitches with the line hand make it pop, while slow pulls make it slurp and slide. Most fly guys with a “feel” for creating a lifelike presentation use a combo of both retrieves to fool eager bass. A little trick is to cut the face of the popper on a shallow slant so it spits more water. The slant-cut foam body can also be rotated so the angle faces downward, creating a sort of swimming lip. With short twitches of the line, the lip dives the Banger down an inch or so, creating a struggling action that bass can’t ignore.
Surface strikes are very cool, and at dawn and dusk, small striped bass will often feed so aggressively you can rack up a good score of a dozen or so fish in an hour. But if you want bigger fish, get the fly down below the surface. The big girls won’t usually expend too much effort to chase baitfish on top, nor will they compete with the quick-moving younger bass, so a deeper presentation is needed to get a response. In shallow water, an intermediate line and Clouser Minnows are favorites for September striped bass, but in deeper water, I often use an intermediate line with a 350-grain sinking head and a bright-colored floating running line, like the Sci Anglers Mastery Express I’ve been using for quite a few years. The bright orange floating section allows me to visually follow the line direction, and I can even detect strikes as the running line twitches when a bass takes the fly. An extra plus for the Clousers is the jigging action on the retrieve. The up-and-down motion of the Clouser creates a more active presentation than a simple suspending fly, and the jigging action is enhanced if the Clouser is tied on a jig-style hook like the Owner 5317 Wide Bend hook. Other good flies for a jigging action are patterns tied with a weighted head, like the ubiquitous Popovics' Jiggy, which is a perennial favorite. Fly patterns with jigging actions are often ideal choices for shallow-water weakfish or sea trout, and just as in spring, some decent-size tiderunners will show up in autumn. Live baitfish don’t always aggressively hop around, and if you watch them carefully from a dock or bulkhead, they swim with a relaxed motion, at times appearing nearly motionless in the water unless attacked. That’s why some fly-rodders prefer the suspending presentation of a fly pattern that can pulsate with a snake-like action. The Bucktail Deceiver looks so amazingly lifelike with with its swimming action, you'd swear it is a real bait fish. Another good choice is the Tabory Snake Fly with a bulky deer-hair head that also pushes water. Both patterns can be tied small to imitate a silver-dollar peanut bunker, large like a 12-inch herring, or in between to perfectly replicate a 6-inch mullet or a pilchard. In shallow surf, they’re a perfect choice with an intermediate line, but can also be fished very deep on full-sink or sink-tip lines. In back bays or surf, other good patterns include Polar Fiber Minnows tied high-tie style, any roundish-silhouette baitfish tied in bright and dark colors with Enrico Puglisi’s EP Fibers, and several lengths and colors of Surf Candies. There are infinite variations of these basic patterns that can be tied to imitate every baitfish that swims the coast. North or South, surface action or deep, along the beaches or in the back bays, autumn delivers superb fly fishing options all along the East Coast.
Bio: Pete Barrett has fished from New England to the Bahamas, offshore and inshore, fly and light tackle, and skippered the charter boat “Linda B.” He now spends most of his time in Florida’s surf, back-bay and local ponds. His saltwater fly fishing experiences began in the “fiberglass” era catching his first flycaught striped bass in Chesapeake Bay. Pete has written over 1000 fishing articles in regional and national publications and authored several books. He’s a Florida representative for the International Game Fish Association, won several gamefish tagging awards, and is an active member of the Atlantic Salt Water Flyrodders and the West Palm Beach Fishing Club.
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CANDY CORN CRAWLER by Jesse Males
I developed the Candy Corn Crawler primarily as a redfish pattern for Floridaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s central coasts. Obviously, its application doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop there. If tied smaller, it can certainly entice some bonefish and even permit. Mixing up the colors on this fly can produce some very effective variants as well. I often tie it in Chartreuse/Olive as well as Purple/ Yellow. This was the fly we fished the most during a recent trip to Louisiana last November. Now that you have the down low on this pattern, be sure to whip a few up and test them out in your local waters.
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Nobody Does It Better
firstname.lastname@example.org TAIL FLY FISHI NG M AGA ZI NE 71
Gamakatsu SC 15 #1/0 Tan Thread Double Pupil Eyes Orangutan-Colored Pseudo Hair Sand-Colored Pseudo Hair 1.5” Sand-Colored Foxy Brush Orange/Black Rubber Legs Rust-Colored 1.5” Foxy Brush Tan .5” Wooly Critter Brush 30 lb mono (Weed Guard) Loon UV Thick
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6 Step 1: Stick an SC15 in the vise and lay down a solid thread base from the eye of the hook all the way past the hook bend. Step 2: Use figure eight wraps and underbelly wraps to secure the Double Pupil Eyes to the hook shank.
Step 3: Tie in a pinch of Orangutan-Colored Pseudo Hair to the back end of the hook just past the bend. Step 4: Tie in a pinch of Sand-Colored Pseudo Hair directly on top of the first layer and secure it. Step 5: Tie in 1.5â&#x20AC;? Sand-Colored Foxy Brush right after the Pseudo Hair. Step 6: Palmer the Foxy Brush around the hooks shank three times, moving towards the eye of the hook, and then tie it off. Step 7: Cut the Foxy Brush and put a few thread wraps over the remaining tab.
Step 8: Select two Orange/Black Legs from the patch.
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Step 9: Wrap the legs around the thread of the hook before tying them in. Step 10: Tie the legs in right after the Foxy Brush. Step 11: Trim the legs to desired length. I like them to be just a tad bit shorter than the length of the Pseudo Hair. Step 12: Tie in Rust-Colored 1.5” Foxy Brush. Step 13: Palmer the Rust-Colored Foxy Brush three times while moving towards the eye of the hook, and then tie it off.
Step 14: Tie in the Tan .5” Wooly Critter Brush right in front of the Foxy Brush. Step 15: Palmer the Wooly Critter Brush forward and secure it up in front of the dumbell eyes. Step 16: Trim off the Wooly Critter Brush and cover up the remaining tab. Step 17: Select a short piece of 30 mono for the weed guard and crimp one end of it to help minimize bulk after it is tied in. Step 18: Tie the weed guard in just in front of the dumbbell eyes. Step 19: Whip finish the fly and cut the thread.
Step 20: Finish the fly by using Loon UV Thick to secure the thread wraps for a long-lasting fly. BIO: As a fly fisherman growing up on Florida’s Nature Coast, I had plenty of access to shallow flats to chase redfish, trout, snook, and tarpon, as well as awesome river systems to fish for largemouth bass and bluegill. The more I fly fished, the more I saw the need to share my trips and info with other fly anglers. That led me to develop my main website www.backwaterflyfishing.com. This site serves as a blog as well as a hub for fly tying information and HD fly tying videos. I also run an online fly shop, www.backwaterflies.com, where fly anglers can purchase my favorite fly patterns, including the Candy Corn Crawler.
Two and a half years ago, I began an incredible journey by moving down to Costa Rica. Since then I have explored most of the country (aside from some very remote areas) and landed some amazing fish along the way. I currently run a guiding business here in Costa Rica with my good friends Micah Baly and Mark Evans. You can find info on all our guided trips at www.506outdoors.com. As for social media, be sure to catch up with me by following me on Facebook and Instagram at @backwaterflyfishing.
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The uncompromising, award-winning saltwater rods from Scott.
Scott Fly Rod Company
2 3 5 5 A i r P a r k W a y, M o n t r o s e , C o l o r a d o 8 1 4 0 1
These recipes make perfect healthy dinners and give you energy that lasts. I could eat these bowl dinners almost every night. Mix and match fresh and grilled vegetables with protein cooked to perfection for an easy meal packed with flavor.
BOWLS by Kelli Prescott
Use a base of half spring mix and whole grain thin spaghetti or brown rice. Cook grains as directed and cool. Combine half spring mix with either rice or noodles. Add a drizzle of olive oil and dressing of choice, toss to coat.
For proteins I like to use flat iron steak and shrimp, but you can use anything else you'd like. Season to your liking, cook to perfection, and slice for topping. Slice fresh vegetables and herbs - cilantro, avocado, radish, cucumber. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. Other vegetables should be cleaned, blanched, and grilled. I like whole scallions, asparagus, baby carrots, corn, and poblano peppers. Blanch for 2-4 minutes in boiling salted water, then transfer to a hot grill pan. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. Cook a few minutes per side. Add any combination of vegetables and a protein to your bowl. Finish with toasted pepitas or cashews and a bit more dressing and enjoy.
SPICY PEANUT NOODLE BOWL WITH STEAk
INGREDIENts Flat Iron Steak Whole Grain Noodles and Spring Mix Peanut Dressing Red Bell Pepper Grilled Asparagus Charred Poblano Charred Green Onions Avocado Cilantro Cucumber Pepitas
Peanut Ginger DressinG 1/4 cup peanut butter 1/3 cup sesame oil 2 tbsp sriracha 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tsp cracked pepper Whisk ingredients together until combined. TAIL FLY FISHI NG M AGA ZI NE 79
Creamy Poblano Grilled Shrimp + Rice Bowl
INGREDIENts Grilled Shrimp Brown Rice + Spring Mix Charred Poblano Dressing Charred Poblano Grilled Corn Radish Pickled Red Onion Charred Poblano + Cilantro Lime Dressing Cashews 1/2 cup good mayo 1/4 cup olive oil juice of 2 limes 1 cup cilantro 1 small charred poblano 1 tsp green pepper hot sauce 1 tsp cracked pepper 1 tsp salt
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Pickled Red Onion 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 cup water 1/4 cup honey 2 bay leaves 2 tsp coriander seeds 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cracked pepper 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
Combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer. Pack thinly sliced red onions into mason jars. Top with hot pickling liquid and seal. Use in as little as 20 minutes, good refrigerated up to a month.
STRIPERS ON TOp
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by George Roberts photos by Joe Brennan and Ian Fawthrop
In general, you’ll catch most of your striped bass throughout the year—and most of your larger fish—using streamers fished subsurface. However, taking bass on topwater flies is arguably the most exciting way to catch them. Nothing compares to the explosion of water that accompanies a surface strike. It’s the saltwater equivalent of dry-fly fishing— but with the volume cranked.
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Visual excitement aside, there are other good reasons why you should add surface flies—popping bugs, sliders, and hairheads—to your bag of tricks. First, nothing gets a striper’s attention like a wounded baitfish, and there’s no better way to transmit distress signals than with a popping bug. While a streamer must pass through the fish’s field of vision to trigger a strike, poppers can summon fish from a distance. A striped bass’s lateral line is ever alert to low-frequency waves such as those generated by baitfish in trouble; it gives the fish a sensory “radar” that extends out to around 50 feet. Therefore, the surface commotion generated by a popper or hair-head attracts fish that you may have missed with a more subtle subsurface offering. In short, when fishing for striped bass, don’t hesitate to ring the dinner bell! Topwater Fly Designs Surface striper flies fall into two broad categories: popping bugs/sliders and hair-headed streamers. Popping bugs and sliders typically are made of one of three types of material: cork, balsa wood, or most commonly foam (such as the closedcell foam from which lobster-pot buoys are made). Most striped-bass poppers range from about 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch in diameter, and from 1 inch to an 1 1/2 inches in length, minus the tail. Poppers much larger than this become difficult to cast. The tails of most popping bugs are made of either bucktail, saddle hackles, or a combination of hackles and marabou.
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Saddle hackles allow for a longer tail, but the commotion produced by a popping bug creates the illusion of a prey item much larger than the popper’s actual size. The bodies of sliders tend to be slimmer than those of popping bugs, and the face is often cut to a V. Sliders are meant to move across the surface quietly, creating a wake that the bass still feels. Sliders are particularly good in calm water and, unlike poppers, they can be deadly after dark—especially when bass are picking off small baitfish on the surface. Despite the slider’s subtlety, bass will hit them just as hard as they’ll hit a popping bug. Under the right circumstances, fishing a slider can be like pulling your fly through a minefield. When fishing shallow over structure like rocks, seaweed, or grass, there’s a chance you could hang up on something other than a fish, and you’ll do well to use a fly that has some buoyancy. Streamers with heads made of spun or flared deer body hair work well in such situations. The late Bill Catherwood’s Giant Killer series of flies are the prototypical hair-heads, dressed in a colorful melange of saddle hackle, marabou, and clipped deer body hair that striped bass find irresistible. A full-size Giant Killer runs seven to nine inches long, and the construction technique doesn’t lend itself well to a fly half that size. So if you’re looking to throw the sardine rather than the full kipper, you’ll do well to go with a more basic pattern. One of my favorite hair-heads is Lou Tabory’s Snake Fly. It sports a wing of ostrich herl flanked with marabou that has a lot of inherent action in the water. It’s a deadly-effective pattern that’s relatively easy to tie and lends itself to a size-2 to 1/0 hook. The Outfit While a streamer must pass through the fish’s field of vision to trigger a strike, poppers can summon fish from a distance.
For striped bass, consider the size of the flies you’ll be casting before you consider the size of the fish you might encounter. Although I feel an 8-weight outfit is adequate to handle any striper I’m likely to hook, I often fish a 10-weight rod, simply because it makes casting the largest poppers and hair-heads much easier. I’ve read about anglers fishing popping bugs with intermediate lines, but I feel a full floating line gives a bug its best action. If you find casting popping bugs a challenge with a standard weight-forward taper (that is, a head in the vicinity of 40 feet), one of the shorter, more compact tapers being produced by manufacturers such as Airflo or Royal Wulff might help you better turn it over.
When choosing you outfit for striped bass, consider the size of the flies you’ll be casting before you consider the size of the fish you might encounter.
Striped bass aren’t particularly leader shy, so it’s unnecessary to use a long tapered leader with a popping bug. Six feet of level 15- or 20-pound test monofilament is ideal. Should you wish to build a tapered leader, keep it simple. A three-piece leader no longer than nine feet that tapers to 15- or 20-pound test is sufficient. If there’s a chance you might hook into a bluefish, consider adding eight or so inches of 60-pound mono or wire to the tippet as a bite guard.
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Where and When Popping bugs can be effective wherever bass are found—in tidal rivers, off beaches, in bays, near jetties—but they’re not for all occasions, and I limit their use to specific situations. During the day, I generally won’t use a popper in water less than six feet deep. Shallow-water stripers tend to be spooky, so your chances of catching these fish are better with a streamer. Exceptions to this occur in the spring and fall, when you’re likely to encounter schools of bass smashing bait tight to the shore. During this wild surface feeding a popper can be deadly, as its prominent silhouette and the commotion it causes enable fish to key in on it immediately. Poppers are also good for attracting fish from deep water. Over holes and drop-offs, where a streamer might go unnoticed, a noisy bug is sometimes just the thing to make the fish come up and take a look. Popping bugs are also good searching patterns. If you draw a strike with a popper but your next dozen casts go unnoticed, switch to a streamer. Conversely, I’ll tie on a popper as a change-of-pace fly when streamers aren’t producing. The most productive times to fish popping bugs, in my experience, are in the early morning and the late afternoon until nightfall. Although stripers will feed readily on the surface after the sun has set, for reasons I don’t understand, poppers just don’t seem to produce after dark. For proper night fishing I’ll tie on a slider.
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Don’t hesitate to drop a popping bug into any likely bassholding area—the mouth of an inlet or tidal pool (particularly on a falling tide), or in the middle of a rip. In rivers, I’ve had my best success by casting directly across the current. In particular, work the edges and eddies. If the setting doesn’t lend itself to a popping bug but you’d still like to play the topwater game, don’t hesitate to tie on a hairhead. One of my most memorable hookups came a number of years ago when I was fishing with my old friend, Captain Dave Tracy, who used to guide around Boston and Plymouth. It was a July 4th weekend. We had had some good fishing in the morning, and it was now coming on noon. We had bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was approaching 90 degrees. Dave had us drifting along a rocky shore in Plymouth that used to produce well on a coming tide. We were within yards of a crowded sunbathing beach, with fairly heavy boat traffic behind us. Dave was used to having to produce for clients, so he fished a Clouser Half-and-Half on a sinking line a large percentage of the time. He wanted me to fish one now. I could tell I was annoying him. I was standing on the bow, throwing a full-size Catherwood Herring (one I had dressed—not an original) 90 feet toward shore, then skating it back across the surface in foot-long strips over a field of submerged boulders. (I may have been trying to impress a girl who was with us—I can’t quite remember.) “You really have confidence in that big fly…?” Dave asked. I was about to tell him that I had more confidence in the fly than in the location when a bass appeared from the bottom— if it wasn’t 40 inches, it was close—and slammed the Herring. I was tight to the fish, but instead of running to deeper water it headed toward shore into the rocks. Seven seconds later, it was all over. I think Dave and I both learned something that day. Cast, Retrieve, and Hookset
I was about to tell him that I had more confidence in the fly than in the location, when a bass appeared from the bottom—if it wasn’t 40 inches, it was close—and slammed the Herring.
Some fly anglers believe you must form fairly open loops to cast popping bugs. This applies more to casting weighted flies, which take on their own momentum. (Bringing a weighted fly through a quick change of direction, as you do when you form tight loops, jars the cast.) Popping bugs are more windresistant than they are heavy, so forming a tight loop will carry the bug farther and more efficiently than will an open loop. When I first began pursuing striped bass with a fly rod, my only previous experience with popping bugs had been fishing them for largemouth bass. In fresh water, a popper can suggest anything from a large insect to a small bird or rodent. In the ocean, however, a popper imitates baitfish, period. The popand-wait retrieve so effective in fresh water is useless in the salt. To get a striped bass to smash a popping bug, you’ve got to keep the popper moving. TAIL FLY FISHI NG M AGA ZI NE 8 7
Start slowly at first, using short strips to move the bug three or four inches at a time, kicking up water every now and then. If that doesn’t draw any strikes, intersperse the retrieve with a few longer strips to suggest the erratic behavior of baitfish in trouble. Convey panic by stripping quickly, skittering the bug across the surface. At times, a choppy two-handed retrieve is effective. No matter which retrieve you use, the important thing is to keep the bug moving.
A Floating Sand Eel slider has produced well for me when bass have been slashing at naturals on the surface. I’ve also done well with it when there was no surface activity, usually in calm waters in the evening or at night. With sliders, and particularly after dark, I’ve found a continuous retrieve is most productive. Retrieve the fly hand-over-hand and brace yourself for an explosion—it takes nerve to fish a slider well.
Whether hitting out of curiosity, or attempting to stun prey with a slap of the tail, a striper doesn’t always take a surface fly into its mouth immediately. Raising the rod on such hits will not only result in a miss; it will pull the fly out of harm’s way. Instead of trying to set with the rod tip, keep the rod tip close to the water and pointed at your bug during the retrieve. Pay attention—the interest a striper shows in a popper is often subtle. If you see a swirl behind your bug, or if the bug’s wake seems unusually large— get ready. Chances are a fish is inspecting your fly. If you rouse a fish but draw no strike, cast back and work the same area again; a striper that’s shown interest seldom passes up a second chance. If the fish strikes, keep your rod down and continue to strip line. That way, if the fish doesn’t take, the bug will still be in position for the fish to take another swipe. I’ve seen bass slap at a bug as many as four times before they finally took it. Only when you feel the weight of the fish should you strike. One sharp strip is often enough to set the hook.
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Retrieve hair-heads with single strips of six to 12 inches, or use a continuous retrieve. In heavy current or rips, I like to let them swing as you would swing a streamer on a trout river, adding an occasional strip for interest. Although hair-headed flies do absorb water and may eventually sink, they’ll ride close enough to the surface that they’ll remain snag-free, and you’ll still see every take. (To watch a short instructional video on topwater fishing for striped bass, visit my website, masterthecast.com.)
If you rouse a fish but draw no strike, cast back and work the same area again; a striper that’s shown interest seldom passes up a second chance.
If catching striped bass on the surface turns out to be your cup of tea, you might consider taking the flies, gear, and techniques to other fisheries. Jack Crevalle love a popping bug, and Puerto Rican tarpon will absolutely crush a Catherwood Giant Killer. Lou Tabory’s Snake Fly is my favorite fly for false albacore, particularly around Harkers Island. Watching a 20-pound tuna launch itself out of the water to clobber your fly may just be enough to get you to put your sinking lines away for good. Bio: George Roberts produced the first video fly casting program devoted exclusively to salt water: Saltwater Fly Casting: 10 Steps to Distance and Power. He’s also the author of Master the Cast: Fly Casting in Seven Lessons (McGraw-Hill, 2002). For more information on fly casting and fly angling you can visit George’s website: masterthecast.com
DISCONNECT Why Do We Fish? by Chandler White
s it for the “grip and grin” to show our friends, the “likes,” the witty one-liners we caption our posts with, or is it to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of our modern day society and reconnect with the natural world? Today I found myself daydreaming about what the new moon flood tide would bring me after this long day at work. Here in Southeast Georgia, summer means grueling, hot, sticky days intermingled with pop up thunderstorms and cycles of flood tides all season long. Today felt different for me, though. As I hurried home to hook the boat up and rush to the ramp, I found myself longing for a different experience this trip. I didn't want to worry about having my phone always at the ready, like a cowboy trembling to grasp his six-shooter while stepping off for a duel. I wanted to leave all distractions behind and enter into another world. As I made the 10-minute run to a labyrinthine stretch of oyster-bar-covered banks and feeder creeks that flood a vast area of spartina grass, I felt a sense of calm, as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wasn’t worried about the lighting. I wasn't concerned about making sure noticeable land features didn't make the backdrop of my pictures, or whether I was going to do the drip pose or get the release shot. Hell, I wasn't even worried about tricking a tailing redfish to eat a shrimp pattern I had whipped up on the vise the night before. This evening I was simply a spectator. With my rods stowed away on the rod racks, I poled along through the grass, absorbing the smell of salt marsh and pluff mud. I tuned in to the periwinkles gently grazing the hull of my skiff as they clung for dear life to the thin blades. I observed mullet jumping out of the
predator-infested waters, like frogs trying to make it to the next lily pad. A stealthy egret stood patiently awaiting its next ambush as bait began to flood into the spartina. It was just another evening in the life of this ecosystem they call home. As I continued to pole, the spartina swayed to and fro in the light salty breeze, like “the wave” making its way around a stadium. At last, the setting sun illuminated the slapping tails of redfish as they worked vigorously to make every minute count, knowing the tide would soon retreat out of this virgin ground, forcing them to return to their normal feeding habits. Watching a tailing fish of any species is a spectacle, and on this particular evening I was filled with the same heart-pounding excitement as I sat on the poling platform watching and observing without a rod or phone in my hand. It also brought a new sense of calm that I wasn’t accustomed to. Next time you go out, I challenge you to disconnect. Sit in the stillness of the natural world, whether it be on the bank of your favorite trout stream, anchored up in the middle of a Wyoming river in a drift boat, or on the deck of a skiff in the marsh. Soak it in and appreciate it. You can worry about pictures and posts the next time. Chandler White lives in Brunswick, GA with his beautiful wife and his English Bulldog. He is expecting his first child in November. Simply put, fly fishing is his passion. If he could figure out how to turn it into a career, he would be set! When he's not doing chores around the house, you can find him out in the marsh hunting down redfish and whatever else he can get in to.
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As I sip my morning coffee and scroll through the dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s news, I find a story that catches my attention and deeply disturbs me: a mob of enraged villagers slaughtered nearly 300 crocodiles in New Guinea. Reading further, I discover that the mob was composed of funeral-goers exacting revenge on crocodiles for the death of a man killed by a crocodile and that the crocodiles they had massacred were from a reserve intended to help rebuild the depleted numbers of an endangered species. Evidently, police tried to stop the massacre but to no avail, and all they could do was watch. Exactly how or why the man died seems a little unclear, but it appears that the man entered the crocsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; pen without permission from the reserve and was attacked and killed.
AN ANGLER OPINES
SAD CHAIN OF EVENTS by Rock Dawson
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t is a sad chain of events, and unfortunately, one that plays out far too often: people strike out against something that they are afraid of and don’t understand with a bloodlust that is somehow supposed to ease the suffering. Every day, people kill sharks because sharks are “killers.” Many of the big cats in the world have been decimated in the name of “safety.” Bears, snakes, and reptiles often see the same fate. Why? What do we think we will achieve? What good can possibly come from wiping a species off the face of the earth? These animals are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing and exactly what we do day in and day out: eating, protecting what is theirs, and working to propagate their species. Does it interfere with us? Sometimes it does, but that’s just part of life, and usually a result of us infringing on their territory. For some reason, we feel a need to lash out at predators and have brought many of them to the brink of extinction. Every ecosystem on the face of the earth is supported by a food chain or a food web, and all of the species from top to bottom have a role to play in support of that system. The apex predators play a role in keeping the other populations healthy and thriving, and when humans interfere with this structure by eliminating top predators, we simply make a mess of the situation. We allow the weak and diseased members of the other animal populations to survive and allow for overpopulation that can, in turn, lead to starvation within the other species. Of course, I value human life above the lives of animals. I do believe that if an animal has taken an interest in pursuing
According to BiteBack, a UK-based shark and marine conservancy group, 73,000,000 sharks are killed every year. Many of these are harvested for their fins (shark fin soup), but millions more are killed because very few people actually care about them or because people fear them.
humans, it should be removed from the population. But an entire species? Should we wipe out sharks just for being sharks? Barracuda because they occasionally bite people? Sting rays because people get stung ? I think most people reading this would agree. According to Bite-Back, a UK-based shark and marine conservancy group, 73,000,000 sharks are killed every year. Many of these are harvested for their fins (shark fin soup), but millions more are killed because very few people actually care about them or because people fear them. Why? Because sharks are dangerous and because many millions of people are more interested in shark fin soup today than a healthy world tomorrow. Whether you believe that humans have a God-given dominion over the other animals on earth or that humans just got lucky really doesn’t matter. We have the ability to reason and a responsibility to care for the earth and the other inhabitants of the earth that support us. Emotion-driven, thoughtless destruction of any species is plain wrong, and we must help stop it before it’s too late for all of us. Most of the landmass on our planet has, unfortunately, already been tamed, and our oceans remain one of the last bastions of wilderness. As fishermen, we have a responsibility to help maintain this last frontier, not just for ourselves but also for those who come after. Protecting all of these species, even the seemingly dangerous ones, is a critical part of preserving our planet for the future.
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