Welcome to The Bonefish Flat

There's a stiff wind in your face as you squint in the sun trying to see what the guide sees. "Bonefish at 12 o'clock about 90 feet, do you see it, mon?" You don't and keep squinting, your hat pulled low to keep the sun out of your eyes. "Bonefish at 11 o'clock 70 feet out. Come on man, do you see it?" As the guide is calmly shifting the skiff into position, this time you spot the fish, "I got, it," you reply.

"OK, Mon, Bonefish 50 feet at 10 o'clock. Cast when you're ready."

Cast when you're ready. And with that you drop your fly, roll out a cast, false cast once, and then...

Welcome to the bonefish flat.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: A Look Back

For the past few years, my New Year's Resolution has been to get out on the water more.  It's harder and harder to do with the daily grind weighing down, but this year I did manage to get out there and wet a fly.  I did a lot more fishing in my local suburban ponds which has been a good outlet to get outside.  I even managed to get the kids out a few times so I'll try to keep that up in 2013.

To kick 2012 off, I had a chance to fish the bonefish flats of Long Island, Bahamas with a really great group of guys.  We had weather that was tough as snot, but I managed to have a great time, eat like a king, and meet some new lifelong friends.  If you missed the report, check it out here.

Me and a Long Island Bonefish.  
In the spring, I finally timed the shad run and had great success in the mighty Potomac.  I fished out of the historic Fletcher's Boat House on a few different occasions and really had a great time.

Poor man's Tarpon.  

In July, my dad and I continued our great tradition of taking a yearly trip by heading to Key West to fish with Captain Drew for tarpon.  I still get goose bumps thinking about that first tarpon I saw swimming at me at 12 o'clock.  She looked like a sunken log except moving fast and steady.  What an amazing trip.  If you missed this trip report, check it out here.  

Splash from dad jumping a Tarpon.

And my friend John took me out to location X where I landed this pig-of-a-largemouth.  

So there you have it.  2012 was a great year.  Looking forward to 2013.  Hope you and yours have a happy and safe New Year.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Weekly Roundup

There seems to be lots going on in the saltwater fly fishing world so I thought I would compile it for your reading pleasure.


My dad scored what might be the last fish of the year at Thanksgiving. A little Maryland Rockfish.

AWESOME interview with THE Captain of Hells Bay, Chris Peterson, by non other than Marshall Cutchin himself over at Skiff Republic.

Speaking of Hells Bay, even if you're like me and don't have one (....yet), you can still pimp your ride with a new sticker from our friends in Titusville.

In more new product news, my friend Cam over at The Fiberglass Manifesto has some super sweet new shirts for sale

The Drake is having a 15 percent off sale. Merry Drakemas!

The fearless leader of The Drake was interviewed by Forbes Magazine, because Tom rolls like that!

Howler Brothers is having a big sale too.

Bonefish Bjorn interviews Jim Klug about the fishing trip of a lifetime.

The 411#3 is playing with Camels and eating goats.

And last but not least, my boy Brent from Uprising is catching way to many fish and enjoying life a little too much in Idaho (something about escaping the hustle and bustle of the big city sounds pretty good about now).

There you have it. All the fly fishing news you need to keep yourself in the know.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Bonefish Flat's Favorite Things

Oprah does it. Bonefish on the Brain does it. So I'm going to do it too. Here's a list of some things that I have or have eyed for this Christmas season. Let me start by saying that the older I get, the less stuff I really want. Time seems to be the most valuable commodity to me these days. But be that as it may, you fly fishermen are a capitalistic bunch and are always looking for a new doo-hickey to catch more fish. And you know me, always trying to play to the masses.

So without further ado, we'll move to the list:

Clear Cure Goo Kit- I don't have this one but really want to use this stuff. It would be great on bonefish flies and for tying spoon flies (remember the year of the redfish? Exactly, I didn't catch one because I didn't have this stuff).

Hells Bay Whip Ray t-shirt- Retro style t-shirt from my friends at Hells Bay. Flip has this skiff, so how cool is that. Plus, I'm slightly obsessed with these boats. Ask my wife if you don't believe me.

Tosh's Wall Calendar- Tosh Brown takes some of the best fly fishing pictures out there.  I'm a huge fan of his work. If you don't know his name, you probably know his work. Be sure you order his calendar so you know what day it is.

Scott S4S 8WT- Does that special bonefisherman in your life need a new stick?  Why not treat him or her to a new S4S 8 weight.  I don't fish this rod, although I did use it this summer when I was Tarpon fishing with Capt. Drew.  But I do fish the S3S 9wt as my primary bonefishing rod and the next generation made some nice improvements.

Scott Cap- Can't afford a new stick?  Get a hat and rep the brand.

Tibor Everglades- Decide to get that new Scott Rod?  You can't use that old reel.  That would be like buying a new car and putting used tires on it.  What you need is a new Tibor with gold finish and pimp it out with a bonefish engraving.

Tim Borski Print- Tim Borski has some of the most unique paintings and artwork around.  He's one of my favorites.  The Angling Company in Key West Florida bought the rights to one of his Tarpon prints and it would look totally excellent hanging on your wall.

Marquesa: A Time and Place with Fish by Jeffrey Cardenas- This is my favorite fishing book every written.  It's been out of print for a while and its tough to come by an original copy but there is a new Kindle edition out and if you haven't read it, be sure to get it.

Hells Bay Marquesa- This is it.  The skiff to end all skiffs.  The Marquesa made the list last year and I really thought it might be in the garage on Christmas Morning.  But alas, it wasn't meant to be.  Maybe the family knew to wait because Hell's Bay just redesigned the Marquesa for 2012. This year, I've doubled down, worked hard, and been really, really good.

So there you have it.  A few gift ideas for this yule tide season.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


It's cold. Not much going on.  I did a little scouting this weekend for some kayak launch sites for the spring, but nothing too crazy.

And last night, it hit me.  Man I wish I was tarpon fishing.

Here's a little video I saw over on the Drake that will warm up your Monday.  Two things I love: Tarpon and Cuba.

Megalops "A Tarpon Experience in Cuba" - Trailer - AFVideos from AFVideos on Vimeo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What do you read?

It's Washington. It's election eve, and everyone is a little tense. I'm sure the rest of the country is feeling it too and we are all ready for the ads to stop.

What better way to take your mind off the election than a good magazine. I read three print publications regularly. The Drake, Garden & Gun, and Fly Fly Fishing in Salt Water. The Drake and FFSW are pretty standard for most of you, but Garden & Gun may not be. Really cool writing, good pics, and lots of BBQ.

What do you read?



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Skiff Republic

Hopefully you had a chance to see the interview up yesterday with Marshall Cutchin of Midcurrent and Skiff Republic.  If not check it out here

I haven't said much about Skiff Republic because I've been trying to get the interview ready and done with Marshall.  But let me tell you, Skiff Republic is one of the greatest new sites out there.  If you like to salt water fly fish, sooner or later you're going to gravitate to a love of boats.  And for stalking skinny water, that means skiffs. 

These little boats can come with big price tags or they can be very reasonably priced.  Whatever your poison, or if you're like me and don't have a skiff....yet....Skiff Republic is there to help scratch that itch.

Check out the new site here or freshly fried up under the conch fritters section of the site. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From the Flats to the Web: An Interview with Marshall Cutchin

One of the things I really enjoy about this blog is the opportunities I get to talk to some of the superstars of fly fishing.  I’ve interviewed photographer extraordinaire Brian O’Keefe and the mastermind behind The Drake Tom Bie.  My latest interview is no exception. 

Marshall Cutchin started out as a reluctant fishing guide in Key West who eventually became one of the key’s pioneers.   Seeking a change of pace, Marshall moved out west to Montana and then eventually to Colorado where he started Midcurrent.com, the biggest fly fishing Web site on the internet.  Today, he’s started a new project, Skiff Republic.

Marshall Cutchin

Below is my conversation with Marshall:

With Midcurrent, you've created the grand-daddy of fly fishing Web sites. You've got a new web site that I think is just brilliant and that is Skiff Republic. Can you tell me how Skiff Republic came to be and what's your vision for it?

Midcurrent is a gigantic beast that requires constant feeding and tending that requires 7 days a week and a 12 hour a day job.  I was toying with the idea of taking with what I’ve learned with Midcurrent and turning into something fun and Skiff Republic seemed a logical thing today because even after 15 years of being out of guiding I still at least once a week dream of driving my skiff around.  I love small boats and what they can do.  It takes years to understand.   Learning how to take a boat to a place in all kinds of weather and position and pole the boat by itself is a fascinating thing.  Skiff Republic is a new thing that I wanted to do for fun and see where it would go.  There still isn’t a place where newbies can go and learn about skiffs and what you should be looking for.  With boat design, you have continuity of what people have tried to do and materials have changed.  

Have we hit a wall in skiff development? Do you think they can get much skinnier, quieter, and better than what is out there now?

It’s in some ways parallel with what’s happening with fishing gear and rod and reel development.  There are a lot of people who have favorite boats and rods from 20 or 30 years ago who think they are better than what is coming out today.  In my own experience, I’ve had four different brands of skiffs.  My first was my favorite.  A lot of time skiff manufacturers will do something that doesn’t improve performance.  There’s no question that what happened with resins and fusion and vacuum bagging was a game changer in skiff design.  If only because it allowed manufacturers to come out with consistent designs, not everything was hand laid.  New materials could be introduced.  Whether the hulls or not they get skinnier depends on engine design. The shift from two-stroke to four-stroke added weight to the boats.  There are people thinking beyond what is out there and customizing their own skiffs. 

You have the Cadillac’s out there like Hells Bay and Maverick, I'll lump in Dolphin. What about these companies like Ankona and Skull Island who are building more price point skiffs that are getting good reviews? How do you foresee these boats changing the game, if at all?

I think it’s healthy for the market to have people passionate about building skiffs for the masses. There is no question you can build skiffs for less money just because of the evolution of technology and design.  The knowledge is not that hard to get anymore.  The guys building the boats in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were inventing as they go along.  Now you’ve got a culture that is pretty well educated.  The longer term question is can these new designs survive from a business prospective.  Initial runs are advertised as affordable but as demand goes up price goes up.  There aren’t a lot of skiffs sold each year.  Companies are trying to stay cash flow positive.  No one can blame them for staying cash flow positive.  If you had to build a boat like this yourself, you’d spend a heck of a lot more money trying to build one.

There’s room on both sides of the scale for up-and-comers and for companies like Maverick who have seen it all.   

Many people know you as the founder of Midcurrent, but actually you were one of the early fly fishing guides in the Florida Keys. How has the guide business changed over the years?

The biggest change happened while I was still guiding, at least if you’re talking about guiding in the Keys.  When I started guiding, expectations were pretty low.  There weren’t many guides around.  I was convinced to get my Captains license by someone who asked me to help take overflow from Tarpon season.  Five years later the demand grew dramatically.  You went from having half-a-dozen full time guides in the keys to upwards of 40 or 50 guides in the lower Keys.  The Keys in general went from 40 or 50 guides to over 300 guides in the Keys.  It became a cool thing to do and attracted a lot of kids, and I was a kid, I started guiding at 25.  I think probably the biggest change is that it’s harder for guides, unless they are veteran guides with a solid reputation, to make a good living as a guide.  It’s people’s imagination about being a guide as being pretty romantic that you’re out there fishing everyday and making $400-500 a day.  If you’re going to be a good guide you’re committing to going out there when no one else would be out on the water.  If you are going to commit to being a good guide, you are committing to your clients to be a part of their lives.  They are booking you a year in advance and in sometimes in perpetuity.  You're put in very close situations with your clients.  It’s not the fantasy world that a lot of people imagine.  But on the other hand I look back at the 11 years of my life as a guide and it was the best years of my life.

What was your first skiff and what's the biggest change in skiffs since that boat?

The first skiff I owned was one of the earliest Action Crafts.  It had sloped gunnels that were influenced by Stu Apte.  I was the third owner, I believe Stu owned it first, then a gentleman in Fort Myers, and then I owned it and ran it for a year and a half.  Then I bought an early Hewes Bonefisher.  This was the first year it came out without wood and with Kevlar.   Had a huge engine on it because I was 26 years old and I wanted to be the fastest on the water.  I went through that phase and realized I didn’t want a huge engine to be poling all day.  Then I moved to Maverick HP which later turned to Maverick HPX and HPV. 

When you were guiding, what was a typical day like?

Well, I don’t know that there were any typical days.  There were days that there was no amount of money worth going out in and there were days I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for doing what I was doing.  Very rarely was the weather consistent where you could settle into a pattern.  The times when you got comfortable and you convinced yourself that you had it figured out something would happen and everything would change.  The key skills that good guides need are flexibility.  When you’re fishing at your best you have no idea where you’re going to go.  You didn’t know where you are going to go until you got to your destination.  Then we had a chance to look at what the conditions looked like.   

For me I would get up at 5:00 or 5:30.  Get the boat fueled up, ice, meet the clients typically at 7.  After the first few years I wasn’t one of the guides who had to get out before sun up.  In a given day I was fishing a lot of different spots.  I’m kind of inpatient, I don’t like sitting in one spot too long.  I would fish minimum 6-8 spots a day fishing the spots.  Come home clean the boat and do it all over again.  If I had a day off, all I could think of was where the fish would be. 

How often do you get to Florida and do you still have a skiff?  Do you fish there with a guide now or go out on your own?

I get back once or twice a year and at the moment I don’t own a skiff although I’m on the verge of owning one again.  By the end of the year I’ll probably have one down in Key West again.  I usually go out with friends and prefer to pole rather than fish.  I really enjoy teaching others to fish.  It’s a lot of fun for me to take out old clients.  My son and daughter are getting to an age when they are starting to enjoy it.

I heard in a previous interview you did that Jose Wejebe was guiding at the same time as you.  With his tragic passing this year, do you have any good stories about Jose that you would like to share?

He had been guiding for 6-7 years by the time I got into it.  He was a veteran by the time I started.  He was one of the younger guys down there.  When I asked people who were the really good guides, his name was one of the two names that came out.  In my mind there were two classes of guides: the guys who would stake out and wait for fish and guys who understood that the real challenge was poling after fish.  Guys like Steve Huff, Jose, and Harry Spear realized the real excitement was poling boats and poling hard.  I got excited hearing about these guys poling after 20-25 fish, poling back around and getting into these fish again.  The other aspect is that everyone gets competitive down there.  You’re always trying to outmaneuver the other guides.  I learned quickly to be respectful of everybody else.  I do remember a funny story about Jose asking me about running over his fish in Archer Key Basin.  He went on and on and on about it.  He was a little crazed about it.  I told him I was fishing in Pine Island that day and he said “oh.”  But Jose was a really gifted guide.  He could fly fish with the best and was good at every kind of fishing. 

Tom McGuane is listed as a contributing Midcurrent editor. I think his writing is just brilliant and in terms of writing he's certainly someone I greatly admire.  Did I read somewhere that you used to guide him? Can you tell me a little about your relationship with him?

I met Tom in the 1980s and he was not a client but he did become a client.  We fished at least once a year.  I developed a lot of friendships in Montana and got to know Tom and we became pretty good friends.  When I decided to quit guiding I decided to go out to Montana.  I have a couple funny stories about Tom.  The first day we ever fished together we went west of Key West.  By 9:30 in the morning we had seen a few permit and he then caught one.  After we released the fish he said “What do we do now?”  I said, “What do you mean?”  "Well usually if we catch a permit that’s considered a day."  I said, "No no, we’re going to catch more." 

Another story was a day when we were fishing together and not much was going on.  Another guide came up to my boat and said "This day reminds me of a Tom McGuane day" and he preceded to quote for me a paragraph from one of Tom’s books.  Tom and I started giggling and he said “Why are you laughing?”  I said “Mike, meet Tom McGuane.”

Had McGuane, Jim Harrison, and Jimmy Buffet left Key West by the time you came on the scene or were they still part of the action?

All the guys had a love hate relationship with Key West but by the time I got there they had burned out of Key West.  Some of that had to do with the extracurricular activities. They went through a decade where they didn’t want much to do with it.  As they matured they came back to it with a different perspective.  Tom has an off and on relationship with Key West.  He really loved the fishing aspect of it as much as the lifestyle. If I called Tom up today and said lets go fishing in Key West he would say when. 

Which writers do you really admire?

I read a lot of non-fishing stuff.  One of the problems these days is I have to read fishing so much.  I read 10-15 hours of fishing writing every week, if not more.  When you’re forced to do that, you tend to reach outside for other writing.  Of the writers of the past 25 years if I had to pick:  McGuane certainly. Anything Jim Harrison writes about fishing and food.  Jim Harrison’s poetry is really underappreciated and it’s too bad he can’t write poetry full time because it’s phenomenal. Anything written by Russell Chatham I think is worth reading.  He wrote some wonderful stuff in the 70s and 80s. Guy De La Valdene is a fantastic writer.  He doesn’t write a lot of fishing stuff now but occasionally does.  Nick Lyons is a fantastic writer and editor.  He’s done really incredible things to get fishing writing published and out there.  There are a whole bunch of guys who have their own followings that deserve attention too that I can’t think of all their names: Ted Leeson, Carl Hiasson, Jim Babb, John Gierach.

Along those lines, which writers in the fishing genre are you following and/or who are the up and comers?

Writing as a business is almost nonexistent anymore.  By that I mean not that there aren’t people who are writing great stuff, and I’ll just use Scott Sadil is an example.  Here’s a guy who’s an incredibly talented writer but his chances of making writing a full time career are difficult.  You have people who are doing it in the form of a blog or in books once every two or three years.  If Scott continues to write about fly fishing he’s going to write some really great stuff.  Three or four blog writers I read intermittently.  Mostly because they are breaking the mold a little bit. Blogging went through an angry “I’m better than you phase” where people started beating up on others.  I don’t consider most of those writers very good.  Erin Block, Matt Smythe (Fishing Poet).  Miles Nolte at Grays Sporting Journal is talented.  The biggest challenge is how do you find the way to do it.  Magazines are going away because advertisers don’t want to pay.  The landscape has changed and changed the way we write and why we write. 

Are there skiff companies that you're really keeping your eye on?  What should we look for in the future?

I think they are all interesting.  An obvious example is Ankona and East Cape.  Two young companies with similar ideas:  Let’s produced some really great skiffs for not too much money.  The question is can they continue to evolve and be exciting or do they saturate the market and sell to mostly their own customers and wonder why they’re doing it because they’re not making much money.  Harry Spear and what he’s doing.  He has the ability to build the perfect skiff because he has the experience of guiding.  It will be interesting if he can pull it off.   He really understands fishing.

What's the future look like for Midcurrent and Skiff Republic?

Our audience keeps growing on Midcurrent.  I take that as a sign that we are doing something right and need to be thankful for what we have done.  We will keep going forward and trying new things while  staying aware of changing technology.  I'll give you a specific example. Three years our mobile audience was below 5 percent.  Now it’s about 30 percent and the growth has changed in the past year.  It doesn’t change the kind of thing we are doing but it suggests the kind of thing we need to be thinking about what people are doing 2-3 years for now.  The way our home page looks for example.  The trend toward video and imagery has changed from 6 years ago when a page was focused on text.  In the future it’s going to be heavily video. 

For Skiff Republic? Who knows, I’m trying to have fun with it.  I’m trying to have fun with both Midcurrent and Skiff Republic, but Midcurrent is much bigger.  My to-do list is huge right now with Midcurrent.  You try to have fun.  I realized a while ago I would be working when I’m 85 years old and that I better have fun doing it.    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Marquesa: New From Hell's Bay

If I could have one toy, just one new thing to play with, hands down it would be a Hells Bay Marquesa skiff. I love this skiff. Super versatile, can handle a chop, and yet still manages to get skinny enough for me to throw a fly at a tailing fish.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new chapter for my sought after prize. Hells Bay has totally redone perfection and is introducing the newly redone Marquesa at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. And why would Hells Bay remake their best selling skiff? According to Hell's Bay owner Chris Peterson, "A boat, especially a small one, needs to be rugged enough to cross that six mile wide Boca Grande Channel, a hellish ever-changing barrier which turns back a majority of anglers. The Marquesa is the magic key for not only reaching the Marquesas but providing a dry ride in rough water areas along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.”

The boat is targeted specifically to deliver its anglers and guides dry and happy to pursue species like bonefish and permit, Hell’s Bay Boatworks is unveiling the re-engineered and versatile 18’ 1” skiff in its convention center exhibit at the Ft. Lauderdale Intl’ Boat Show, Oct. 25 – 29.

“Some of the finest Keys guides helped in the redesign phase. We revamped the hull by taking off the sponsons and configured the running pad for more lift and a buttery smooth ride. We moved the transom and engine back and added two inches around the deck’s lip to keep the spray underneath and the boat dryer. Its 79” beam has lots of storage and a large livewell," added Peterson.

"At 695 lbs (dry) it not only floats shallow with a seven inch draft and a 90 - 115 hp engine, it’s super quiet and more maneuverable when poling or anchored up,” Peterson added. “They’ve become very popular as multipurpose fishing tenders for 60+ ft. sport yacht owners.”

​Hell’s Bay offers eight custom shallow-water performance skiffs and at the show will also showcase its smallest the Biscayne at 16’ 4” and its largest the Neptune at 18’ 8”.

With Christmas just around the corner, you can expect a new Hell's Bay Marquesa at the top of my list. Hope the wife reads this post.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Southern Culture On the Fly is out today.  It's hands down the best fly fishing e-zine on the Web.  This issue has it all...carp, redfish, and killer pics from Steve Seinberg and Louis Cahill.  Two really, really great photographers.  Check out the picture on page 56, the title page for "How the Other Half Fishes." They posted it online (on Facebook a while back I think) and I made it my iPad cover photo.  It might be my favorite fishing pic ever.

Southern Culture on the Fly...Get you some.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1,000 Mile Campaign

I had an opportunity today to listen in on a new joint project happening now to help improve some really great fishing streams.  Orvis and Trout Unlimited have partnered up to form the 1,000 Mile Campaign.  According to an Orvis/TU press release,

The two entities hope to open up 1,000 miles of new coldwater habitat to trout and salmon all over America. Many streams with spawning and rearing potential—and fishing potential—are now blocked by faulty culverts and other man-made barriers. The campaign’s goals include not only increasing overall trout habitat from coast to coast, but improving fishing opportunity resulting from stream improvements. 

“Culverts are significant impediments to fish passage and survival – just as significant as a major dam – but the solution is dramatically simpler, costs less, and the overall benefits to many watersheds is profound,” said Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman of Orvis. “By removing these impediments, we not only add vital habitat for fish, but we also open many miles of fishable waters for anglers. We’re proud to partner with TU in this effort to engage the fly-fishing community in support of this often overlooked opportunity to dramatically improve fish habitat across the country.”

This is really a cool project.  Usually when you hear about things coming down on a river, you hear about dams.  The truth is that dams are really expensive to remove and take a long time.  Culverts can be removed for relatively little money and quickly.

I was excited to see a stream in Virginia on the list for culvert removal.

I have to say that Orvis has really stepped up on conservation issues and has done a lot to make sure that our sport grows and we have a place to fish.  TU is doing a ton on the grassroots level to make sure that my kids have a place to go fishing.  Seeing these two groups team up is really cool to see.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Flip and Oliver

It's been a little quiet on the Flat lately for one simple reason...the Man has been keeping me busy at work.  But not to worry, I have some new stuff on the way and a new interview in the works that I'm really excited about.

In the meantime, two guys who refuse to bow to the Man are Flip Pallot and Oliver White.  If you visit here at all, you know that I'm a huge fan of Flip.  Turns out Oliver is, too.  The two are pairing together to try to recreate some of the Walker's Cay magic in a new show called either Outdoor Rendezvous or the Torch.  There are two different trailers and one is a private link, but you access it here.

I really don't know much other than what you see here.  But it looks off the hook cool.  Man, I should have been Oliver!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A New Toy

You're probably thinking that with a title like "A New Toy" I'm going to unveil a new bonefish rod, or perhaps a Hell's Bay skiff.  Nope not today.

I did buy an old smoker and tried my hand at smoking a rack of ribs a few weeks back.  Meant to post this before but I got busy.  I've got a lot to learn, but the slow cooking process is definitely a lot fun.  Heres the process.

Little red.  

Four hours on.

On the table.

Must have deviled eggs with ribs and Q. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Perfect Day

Sunday was a great day.  Church with the family.  A family bike ride around the neighborhood.  Fly fishing with my friend John in kayaks on a pond for bass (thanks John).  Catching a big bass.  My son asked me to take him fishing (of course we went). And the Redskins, although they lost, scored more than 20 points and played a respectable game.  That's a great day.

Awww, son.  That's a big bass. 

The old popper trick. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Key West Tarpon Fishing: 2012

July 11,2012

Pop and I headed out early from Dulles Airport and hit Miami by 8:00 AM. By lunchtime we were southbound on Route 1 in the Florida Keys. Our first stop was in Islamorada at the World Wide Sportsmen for a look around and a glance at Hemingway's ship, the Pilar (The actual Pilar is in Cuba. This ship was made at the same boat builder in Brooklyn. She was owned by a wealthy keys resident before Johnny Morris had her refurbished in Missouri and placed on permanent display).

Papa's boat.
There is definitely lots of salty gear at this shop and the best part might be the fact that resident tarpon roam the waters of the marina out back. This is a great way to get acquainted with your quarry.

Next stop was a quick trip in the Florida Keys Outfitters, owned by the legendary Sandy Moret, for a few t-shirts for the kids (I might have bought one too).

Finally, the last stop before Key West was a trip in to Robbie's to feed the tarpon. Robbie has a good thing going here. For $3, you get to go on his dock with a bucket of bait and feed a bunch of raving mad tarpon who have figured out its easier to get a meal here than out on the flats with us fly fisherman.  This would be a great place to take the kids and it's a great place to get a few tarpon shots (with the camera, not the fly rod).

Pop at Robbies.

Tarpon at Robbies chowing down.

After arriving in Key West around 3:00, Pop and I quickly unpacked and headed down to Duval Street for drinks and to see the sights. Sloppy Joes, Captain Tonys, and Ricks are all doing quite well. Dinner at the Conch Republic was a fish sandwich and conch fritters (you're going to notice a theme here).

Duval Street

July 12,2012 First day of tarpon season...for me

Pop and I met Capt. Drew Delashmit at 6:15 on Big Coppit Key. It had been quite a while since I had fished with Drew so it was nice to catch up and exchange pleasantries before heading out in Drew's Dolphin Skiff. First stop was the backcountry to look for rolling tarpon. It didn't take long. Drew quickly poled into position as I took the bow.

As a sidenote, I had given up on the notion of calm, slick water on a saltwater flat. I thought that the calm, slick water you see in your favorite rod or reel category just didn't exist. Too many of my adventures have found the wind blowing 15-20 on the flats. This used to bother me, but I had just come to grips with the fact that those pretty pictures you see in the magazines are just a ruse.

This trip would prove me wrong beginning with our first morning. The first flat Drew poled onto was perfectly slick. The reflection of the sky onto the water was just amazingly beautiful. It could have been a Scott Fly Rod picture. And the tarpon were rolling. The problem was that the rolls were sporadic and didn't give us much of a pattern. I had a few shots and I even had a hookup but the hook quickly came out of the tarpons mouth and she was gone.

Drew poling us on the flat. Perfectly slick. Just like the catalogs.

Clouds started gathering and we reeled in and headed west from Big Coppit. This time we were fishing the flats near Key West. The sun was still low so we were looking for rolling tarpon. The rolls were all over the place but none near the skiff. "These fish are just messing with us Drew," I said. Drew laughed and we continued our hunt for a little while longer.

Next we headed west of Key West toward the Marquesas. We found a point before you get to the Boca Grande channel where we could sight fish. The wind had picked up a little at this time but was still manageable. Drew started to pole and here come the tarpon.

My first sight of a big tarpon swimming toward the boat litterally made my heart feel like it would explode. These fish are huge and there is nothing to really prepare you for that first tarpon swimming your way.

The tarpon started coming in toward the boat from various directions and I had some shots, some refusals and some fish who either didn't see the fly or just didn't care. After a few of these types of encounters, I learned a very valuable tarpon lesson. Distance casting isn't so much a factor, but accuracy has to be dead on. The fly litterally has to be on a dinner plate right in line with the direction of the fish. I found these fish to not be particularly forgiving if the cast was off the mark. This will be an important thing I work on for the next trip.

We played this game for a while. Then, I had a poon turn and charge the fly. What a sight. As I stripped the fly right into the tarpons field of vision, she turned, sped up, and charged the fly while opening that great bucket mouth and sucking it down. I came tight, held on, and immediately went to check my fly line to ensure it was ready to go. And then....pop. The fly simply came out of the fishes mouth. I couldn't believe it. I put my head down, turned around, and said "O.K., Drew, what did I do wrong." "Nothing really. Try to hit him a little more when he takes the fly, but that will just happen."

Talk about a high and a low. I was worried about clearing my line and preparing for battle royale and instead I got a pop.

Dinner at El Meson de Pepe's consisting of pork and conch fritters.

July 13, 2012

Today we fished out of Cudjoe Key and again the water was slick calm. We looked for the rollers and found quite a few but the patterns were sporadic and it was hard to get a shot off. We moved around a bit and found several rollers going back and forth a channel in the backcountry. Like a Jack Links beef jerky commercial, these fish seemed to just be messing with us.

Ready position scanning the flats.

About 150 yards behind the boat, we heard a serious commotion going on. There was a hammerhead shark in full attack mode trying to catch a tarpon. The fish had a massive dorsal fin that kicked up a serious rooster tale as it shot across the flat. As we fished a channel for rolling fish, the hammerhead was doing some serious fishing of his own up the flat. Meanwhile, in our cut, the tarpon seemed to keep rolling just out of a shot by fly rod. We played this game for a bit until we all got frustrated and Drew took us out to an ocean flat.

As soon as we headed out into the ocean, Drew turned the skiff west only to find a guide working our flat. Drew poled the skiff in the current to try for tarpon coming in and out of the channel. While we were fishing, a few mighty tarpon jumped in the channel. It was truly a sight to behold.

We had a few shots at fish, but it was tough. The fish were erratic and really didn't give us a pattern. Instead, they came from all directions and were hugging the bottom to middle third of the water column. This made it pretty tough to get off a good shot.

To finish out the day, we headed east to another ocean flat. The tarpon started to come toward us in sporadic patterns. I had a few shots and a few refusals...and then...

"Tarpon at 1'oclock, he's out about 80 feet." Drew swung the stern north and I had a 50 foot shot. I fired and the tarpon saw the fly and became interested, turned slightly, and opened that giant mouth to inhale the fly. I went to set the hook and the fly just came out of his mouth. Two tarpon, two days, two bizarre situations where the hookup just didn't happen. I uttered a few choice words, took a deep breath, and then looked at Drew. "OK Captain, what did I do wrong." "Nothing. Sometimes that just happens," he said. I was heartbroken.

A little time passed and we had another shot. This time the fish got excited, came to the fly, and refused. Drew quickly said "Let me see that fly." The tail of the fly, a little strip of bunny, had become furled around the hook.The tarpon figured this out quickly and said no thanks. Again, I was heartbroken and left without a fish.

July 14, 2012

Saturday was our last day out. I must confess that heading into this day, I didn't think we would catch anything. The weather had been good, we had seen fish, but things just didn't seem to be jiving. Drew thought the fish were erratic. My three hookups hadn't set. And to be honest my back was hurting from standing on that casting platform out on the ocean flat while the boat pitched and rolled. All this said, I was having a great time. The sight of a silver king coming at you is enough to literally bring you to your knees. These fish are big. I mean really big. And the things are smart too.

We headed out of Cudjoe Key early and started the day by fishing to some rollers. Again the patterns were erratic and we didn't get off many shots. We quickly switched over to sight fishing for the poons and Drew positioned the boat beside a mangrove cluster and started working toward the north. A fish rolled toward the mangrove, but she was aways off so Drew kept poling toward the mangroves.

Drew and I had some banter going back and forth when it happened. Out of nowhere a huge, bright flash of silver appeared and I quickly launched a shot off. Drew was onto it and began a quiet "strip, strip..." and the fish turned abruptly, opened his mouth, and inhaled the fly. Having lost three fish when the hook popped out of their mouths, I stuck this girl like a pig at the butcher shop with a solid strip strike and it was game on.

What followed next was a wonderfully violent explosion as the fly line screamed through the rod burning my line hand and screaming off the boat. The big girl jumped in a huge fountain of water and I threw the rod toward the fish. Next she dove deep and headed for the channel and it was battle royale. I let the fish run as much as she wanted and then I started to get "down and dirty" with her. When she got mad, I let her run. When she stood still, I pulled hard.

Down and dirty baby.

When the line had flown out I noticed two knots flying out with it. Drew kept cool,"Don't worry about the knots. Just keep reeling."

Capt. Drew tending to a knot in the line.

After a few minutes, she came up for a breath of fresh air and rolled in front of me.  "That's good," said Drew.  "She's getting tired."  I kept the fight up. I really wanted this fish. She stayed deep and and I continued pulling. A few minutes later, she rolled again.

I kept getting line in and the next thing you knew, the leader was inside the rod. I had caught a tarpon. Of course, then she decided she didn't want to stick around and took off again. This time diving deep. I continued pulling until 'pop.' And she was gone.

My tarpon rolling for air. Courtesy Capt. Drew Delashmit

I looked at Drew and Pop and high fived. I had caught a tarpon and temporarily shaken tarpon fever.

This is what I look like after I catch a tarpon.

I looked at Pop and told him to get up on the deck and it was his turn. He had patiently waited for me to get that fish for two days. Now he was finally up. Wouldn't you know that he saw one about five minutes after I caught mine, cast, and jumped a 100 pound poon. He threw the rod at her and then she took off in another beautifully violet burst of speed before the dreaded 'pop.'

Pop's Tarpon. I just missed the jump.

It was at this moment that I realized that my dad simply has fishing mojo. Some guys do, and some don't, but pop does. Certainly we all would like to think we do. He had patiently let me fish for two days while sitting back and taking it all in. Then he steps up and Andy Mill's his second shot and jumps a hundy' pounder. What a sight.

Drew mentioned that now might be a good time to go Bonefishing. Insert smile here. We headed north a bit deeper in the backcountry to a bonefish flat. Drew pulled out his crab box which in and of itself was a thing of beauty. Every variation of a crab pattern magnificently tied with Drew's personal touch. Did I mention that Drew ties all his own flies and leaders?

Drew and Pop working hard on the flats.
Ready position. Bonefish style.

Pop stayed up on the bow which allowed me a chance to take a few photos. Of course the wind picked up and the sky got cloudy so pics and seeing fish were tough.We fished this flat for the rest of the day looking for bones and permit. We didn't have any permit shots, but we did have a few shots at bones. One shot I had was a tough angle so I didn't execute. Another shot I had was pretty good and resulted in a nice, long follow by the fish and then a rejection. Oh well,that's how it goes.

We then reeled up and the adventure had come to an end.

The trip confirmed a few things for me. Tarponitis is a very real condition, and I'm doing my best to live with it by taking each day one day at a time. The Bonefish Flat is my outlet to keep me sane between trips. My dad has fishing mojo and given the chance earlier in life would have been a hell of a guide. And finally Capt. Drew Delashmit is the best guide I've ever fished with.

Pop, Drew, and Me.

Keys tarpon season 2013, look out.