Shad Season 2016

January, February, and March in central Florida means Shad for an ever increasing number of anglers that discover the wonderful fun than can be reached a short distance from their doorsteps.  But fish being fish will dash the hopes of even the best organized and practiced angler, therefore increasing the intense desire to return for another try year after year after year.

Shad fishing can be one of those things that will test your patience because you just have believe the fish are there and one will eventually find the fly.  I don't think I have ever blindly casted for a fish more than for shad, which requires a great deal of faith on my part considering that I'm a sight fisherman at heart.  Thankfully though, shad like to travel certain corridors and hold in particular locations so we can eliminate 90 percent of the water and concentrate on the remaining ten.  They tend to run in deeper channels and stack up in holes that can be up to 30 feet in depth, making the presentation tough at times but the rewards well worth it.  Steelheaders will appreciate the method of presenting quartering downstream, allowing the fly to sink and swing with the current until it's parallel to the shore, then working slowly upstream for a bit. "Swingers" from out west and the great lakes should love fishing for shad in the traditional manner.  Sometimes we do get lucky and have a phenomenal topwater bite but I can count those days on one hand if I'm to be realistic.  Enjoy it if it happens but don't plan on it.  You might want to check out "Wade Fly Fishing The Upper St. Johns River Basin(Florida) For American Shad" If you'd like to read about some of the locations and tactics before throwing caution to the wind and venturing forth.

Shad season is about more than chasing a fish some might call mythical because they've only seen them in photographs.  We look forward to seeing friends on the water, taking pictures of the wildlife, getting some exercise, and maybe catch a few fish in the process.  I love viewing all the different birds visiting the region during winter, including the American White Pelicans and the Caracara.  Both are indicators that shad season is here and it's time to hit the water. 

This season has only just begun and the conditions are near perfect right now so pack up and hit the river somewhere along "Shad Alley" (not too early since the bite may not really get going until late morning or early afternoon) with a few friends in boats, kayaks, or maybe even walking the shore.  Bring along some small bright flies along with your favorite five or six weight, or some shad darts and small Rat-L-Traps for the light action spinning rods. Throw them close to the deep drop offs, channels, creek mouths, or anyplace that looks fishy and you never know what you might hook into.  Crappie, sunshine bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, mudfish, and maybe even a shad or two might join the party.  It only takes a little of your time and a bit of effort to have a wonderful time.  Good luck.

 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

    

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Getting New Furniture

New FurnitureI'm sure many spouses are going to perk up when they see the title of this entry but unfortunately I'm not talking about a new dining room set, bedroom suite, or living room couch.  I'm talking about things you can change to make your favorite MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) a bit more personal and hopefully a bit more effective.  Furniture in this case is referring to stocks, grips, and rails or handguards that may make your rifle more comfortable to shoot, accept a wide range of accessory mounts, and potentially make it more accurate and effective.

Readers will know that I recently entered the MSR market with the purchase of a Ruger AR-556 rifle.  It's proven to be a sound platform with all the features you would expect from an entry level rifle.  It handles well, is plenty accurate, and has fired with every pull of the trigger, but I wanted to make some improvements to the way it fits into my shoulder, improve the cheek weld, and improve the grip a little.  Thankfully there are plenty of options out there with one company in particular, making enough options to keep me busy for quite a while as I poured over their website trying to decide which pieces I wanted.

Magpul Industries has pretty humble beginnings according to the website, "Magpul was founded in 1999 with the intent of developing a simple device to aid in the manipulation of rifle magazines while reloading under stress. The company’s name comes from this original product called the Magpul®. Over the last decade Magpul has continued to grow and develop using much the same mission and process with a focus on innovation, simplicity, and efficiency."   And you'll be doing the forehead slap for "Why didn't I think of that?" once you take a look at their product line.

I chose to go with the STR Carbine Stock for my AR along with the MIAD Gen 1.1 Grip, and I couldn't be happier.  The STR stock dropped right in place giving me a better meld with the stock when mounting the gun and it has handy compartments for spare batteries and a QD sling mount to make carrying more comfortable.  The MIAD grip swapped into position as well (No, I didn't lose the safety detent spring) and its variable configuration ensures that you can fit just about any hand size while the convenient storage compartment can carry a whole host of "Need to have" items.  These components should enhance the rifles feel as well as its performance quite well.

MIAD GripOf course there are a number of other manufacturers and products out there, and they all make quality products so you need to do a bit of research to find just the right one for your needs.  It's amazing how much a little change can so greatly improve a rifle.  Next on the list is a free-floating KeyMod rail system that will accept any number of attachments and accessories.  I've been searching to find the right deal on the website AR15.com but haven't come up with the right combination of price and value yet.  I'll let you know when I do.

For now I'll just have to be happy with the upgrades I've already made because I'm sure Mrs. Beastman is about to go shopping for some real furniture to replace the items we've had forever and a day.  My stuff is way cheaper though and it's a lot more effective at fighting off the coming zombie apocalypse.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando   

 

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Snipe Season 2015

     

Snipe season is here and there are a bunch of wingshooters just waiting to hear if the birds have arrived in our region, but just because the little winged rockets choose to stop in for a little rest and relaxation while on their way south, doesn't mean our hunters will be able to hit anything other than sky and marsh grass.  I'm here to tell you there isn't another upland game species capable of making a skilled shooter look like it's the first time he/she has touched a shotgun.  Snipe can humble even the best shooters and I'm not going to tell you my shots per bird ratio.  Let's just say my shell bag gets decidedly lighter even though the game bag takes a bit of time to fill.  Their flight after flushing is fast, erratic, and very close to the ground making them difficult to get a bead on let alone a load of pellets, hence the rationale behind carrying lots and lots of shells.  They also have a habit of flushing at exceedingly long distances after having been chased around the bog for a few weeks, and to make matters worse, they'll gather other birds into a small group as they scream across the grasslands well out of range.  The hunter is left to watch the spiraling flock in dismay as it searches for a safer place to set down.

SnipeHunter.com is a website dedicated solely to the pursuit of this wonderful little bird and there's even a section about what to do with your game once you get home.  We've tried a bunch of different ways and have been pleasantly surprised each and every time.  My favorite is wrapping the breast in a slice of bacon along with a slice of jalapeno or garlic for some extra flavor.  Done simply, the meat is a little strong, so adding something with a little zip make all the difference if serving it to folks that aren't used to wild game.  We tend to use them as appetizers rather than trying to make an entire meal of them, so not having a whole bunch isn't a real problem.  Just be on the lookout for a stray BB or two.Wilsons Snipe

I've written about snipe hunting in previous seasons  and just like other hunting or fishing endeavors, each year is a bit different than any other.  We started hunting  a little late compared to other years, mostly due to the high water levels and air temperatures we've been experiencing locally, but there are some serious cold fronts on their way and they should push a new flight of birds south.  The Audubon Field Guide has some interesting information about snipe that might help hunters and bird watchers alike if they seek to hit the field in pursuit of sport or in the spirit of discovery.  Snipe are a marvel of migration, have interesting mating habits, and astounding growth rates, making them a birder's dream if you get a chance to locate one sitting still, which isn't very often.

Grab your shotguns and a whole bunch of shells a few months before the season really takes off, then hit the trap or sporting clays fields because there's no replacement for practice when it comes to making the most of your time afield.  Try to put an emphasis on low-going away, and hard left-to-right and right-to-left crossing targets since those are most likely what you'll see in the field, but expect to miss your fair share no matter how many shells you expend on clay birds. 

So, search out some sniping grounds if you find yourself in need of some sport.  There's nothing to compare when it comes to a challenging target, but make sure you've got enough shells to last a while.  You're sure to miss a few.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Letter To Santa 2015

My Letter To Santa

Dear Santa,

This has been one heck of a year with many things happening in our family as I’m sure you know.  We’ve opened a new business, taken a few short vacations, planned and executed a wonderful wedding at the house, and enjoyed the addition of the newest member of the family, Aubrey Lynn.

The nine months leading up to her arrival was a tough period for me because I questioned whether or not I was ready to be a grandfather but all those doubts disappeared when I saw her and my daughter together for the first time .  I held it together while there were other people in the room but the emotions definitely got the best of me when we were able to enjoy a semi-private moment.  So perfect, so small, and such a blank slate just waiting to be loved, nurtured, and adored. She and I spent a good portion of a three day weekend together and at one point we had to find a spot under some shade trees alongside a quietly babbling brook in Disney’s Epcot where I could have a moment of solitary reflection with my new treasure in private.  I told everyone it was allergies.  I must be ready to be a grandfather after all.  I know you and the big guy upstairs consult on things from time to time and in this case, he gave me what I needed even though I didn’t know it yet.   Kind of like Nanny McPhee.

Aubrey has a family that loves her very much and a grandfather that can’t get enough of the innocent little smiles, the sly giggles, and his favorite….baby sneezes followed by looks of wonderment, joy, and relief.  There may be some screaming and crying involved (mostly on the part of the baby) but she’s blameless and devoid of bad thoughts or intentions.  There’s nothing but goodness in her heart and I hope to fill it to overflowing with joy and love.

So even though I’d like to ask for a bunch of new toys like a switch rod, new waders, and AR accessories, none of those things can compare to the gift I’ve already received this year.  Playing with her little toes, having her take my finger in her tiny hand, and looking into those beautiful blue eyes make all the problems of the day disappear for a little while.  I don’t know what you could come up with that would top the gift that’s resting peacefully in the nest room, so take a break this year and know for sure that I’ve gotten everything I need right here.

Thank you for my early Christmas present.

Brian

P.S.  Stop by the shop if you need help fulfilling any of the Christmas wishes you might have a hard time with.  We've got lots of stuff! 

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Consistancy Leads To Accuracy

Hunting season is upon us and a lot of outdoorsmen will be hitting the woods in search of their own personal trophy and/or meat to fill the freezer.  Most of these folks are returning to the woods for the umpteenth time but some may be venturing forth on their very first outing.  Regardless of whether they're adults looking for a new hobby or children following in their elder's footsteps, they want to experience the thrill of success because they desire to create a lasting memory and possibly provide some healthy alternatives to store-bought food.

Our family looked forward to the season with great anticipation but we spent a lot of time throughout the rest of the year honing our shooting skills so that when the time came, we knew exactly where that round was going once we pulled the trigger.  Hunting woodchucks through the summer months ensured that we'd be comfortable with shooting and range time guaranteed our weapons were as accurate as possible.  That left our own abilities and outside factors as the only variables conspiring to put the bullet someplace other than where it was intended.

Unfortunately, we see a fair number of people heading into the woods that have never even put a round down range prior to throwing on the blaze orange or camouflage.  My wife and I see this on a weekly basis at the local range when people step up to the line and proceed to expend ammunition with seemingly little knowledge or forethought as to where it will impact the paper.  Holes perforate every square inch of the target more effectively than if they had fired a couple rounds of buckshot.  I'll give some the benefit of the doubt when it comes to limited range time and experience, but others bring an arsenal of weapons and radiate an air of confidence and expertise, right up to the point when rounds are impacting the targets.

10 rounds .223 at 50 yards w/iron sightsGuaranteed accuracy is through practice, practice, and more practice whether it's with a personal defense weapon or with a hunting implement because consistency, repetition, and muscle memory are the only way you can be sure that the next bullet sent down the barrel is going where you intended.  The guns themselves are capable of a certain level of accuracy depending on their given purpose but that level of performance can only go down hill once you introduce the human element to the equation.   It's a proven fact that a handgun fired mechanically from a Ransom Rest can put bullet after bullet through the same hole, but have a person raise the gun, look through iron sights or even a scope, then pull the trigger?  Well all bets are off if the shooter hasn't practiced extensively and become proficient.

Consistency is absolutely key to shooting accurately regardless of the platform.  Mounting the gun, grip, trigger contact, sight picture, breathing, and trigger engagement need to be performed exactly the same way time after time after time if you expect to be even remotely accurate.  I recently told one person that I'd rather be able to predictably put five rounds in the same hole and make the necessary aiming corrections to hit the bulls eye, than to hit it dead center once and have the other four rounds spread willy-nilly around the target.  Calling the shot and putting it where you want every time is the goal and should be practiced before hitting the field or carrying a weapon for self defense.

Choosing and shooting the same ammunition (or at least knowing how different brands and loads perform in your gun) is also quite important.  It's all part of the accuracy equation because bullets of different weights or designs, and powder loads can drastically change the point of impact at a given range.  Just compare the ballistic difference between a Federal Vital ShoK .270 130 gr with a Trophy Bonded tip  and the same brand but loaded into the Power Shok 150 gr Round Nose.  Their energy levels are different, the points of impact at various ranges are different, and their terminal performance (damage to the intended target) is different.  Pick a specific ammunition and learn to shoot it to the best of your ability and the guns potential.  There's no wonder why most of the true long distance experts shooting at Camp Perry hand load their own ammunition while paying extremely close attention to the details.

6 rounds .270 at 100 yards w/Leupold ScopeI recently visited the Ocala National Forest Shooting Range with my trusty old Weatherby Vanguard .270 (topped with a Leupold scope) and my new Ruger AR-556 (w/stock iron sights) so that I could do a bit of shooting beyond the distances possible at our local indoor range and let me tell you that I need to practice at those distances a bit more.  The AR proved perfectly capable of satisfactory groups, being limited only by my aging eyes and open sights, while the .270 performed very well with factory ammunition when fired by someone other than myself.  I'm not sure what the problem was but I couldn't get it to group well.  Jeff on the other hand hit right where he wanted with very nice grouping. I'd rub in the fact that he had two fliers but his overall group with an unfamiliar gun was still better than mine.  The point of this whole discussion is that the guns are accurate but shooters aren't, so consistent and purposeful practice is necessary to get the most out of any gun prior to hitting the field or relying on it for personal protection.

Practicing to achieve consistency will ultimately lead to accuracy once you know what your gun is capable of and where it puts the rounds when you perform all the actions the same way every time.  So pay attention to all the little things, control them to the best of your ability and your groups will get smaller and you'll have more confidence when pulling the trigger.  I'll see you at the range.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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I'm All About The Pie! But Which One First?

Dutch Apple PieThanksgiving and the holiday season is right around the corner and I just can't wait to chow down on all the tasty treats sure to be in every house for the next month or so.  Our house will have its fair share but it might be a little lighter this year than in the past as we try to get our waist lines under control once again, but that didn't stop my mother in-law from asking what food item we wanted to see on the table because to us, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.  I heartily screamed "Pecan pie!.... Cherry Pie!......Apple Pie!.....Blueberry Pie!.....Peach Pie!!!!"  You get the idea?  I've got a thing for pie.

Thanksgiving morning would see us hitting the field for a half day of searching down rabbits, grouse, and pheasant in the woods and fields of Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up.  Grandpa joined us a couple times before his death (even though I don't remember him firing a shot throughout the day) choosing to spend his time tromping through the brush with his boys and then settling down to a hearty meal followed by an extended nap.  It wasn't about the hunting so much as about the experience.  We were immersed in the scents of goldenrod, hemlock, hickory, skunk cabbage, swamp muck, and dirty dogs by the time our hunt ended after which we'd return home tired and dirty (with or without fresh meat) to the smells of turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and of course PIE.  I could have devoured the apple pie and forgone the rest if it had been left up to me, but there are rules.

Those are the days I remember and dream about the most when I look back to the years before I met my wonderful wife and her daughter (now my oldest).  We've gone on to add another daughter and a granddaughter to our Florida family and it's about time we start our own thanksgiving traditions like I remember from the past.

My mother's Dutch apple pie was always right there at the top of the list so she made, alas created, along with a few others for Thanksgiving desert. It always had the right sweetnesss, tartness, and the perfect flakey crust and crunchy topping that served just as well for breakfast the next day as it did at the end of our Thanksgiving meal.  My father and I would almost fight for the last piece a day or so later but he always won out with "Who paid for it?"  That's al right because I pull the same trick here in my house.

      

There isn't much else on the menu I'm looking forward with quite as much anticipation.  Oh sure I like all the other trimmings but it must be the kid in me that just loves to eat the sweet stuff rather than the main meal.  I'd likely be a few sizes larger if it weren't for my wife rationing the pies and my father insisting that he get the last piece of the season.  Thanksgiving was over when we'd had our fill and the guns were cleaned up after the morning hunt completing the olfactory journey that included goldenrod, wet dogs, turkey, apple pie, and Hoppies No. 9.  It doesn't get any better than that!

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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My Favorite Time Of Year

Barn and MapleFall is my favorite time of year by far and I'm willing to bet there are a lot of people out there that share my feelings.  We look forward to the temperatures dropping a touch below what you'd find in a steel foundry, the colors seem to explode like nature's version of a fireworks display, and the animals become hyper active in their search for a mate or food for the coming winter.  When I was growing up, the crispness in the air let us know  things were changing and seemed to breath new life into kids who were tired of being beat down by the heat and humidity of a Erie summer.  Our evening bike rides were longer, the football games more competitive, and our search for stored away hunting equipment more frantic with each passing day.  The moment was upon us and we probably weren't quite as ready as we could have been.  Sitting in a high school classroom during the fall was inhumane torture once the colors started changing and hitting the fields and woods was more important than anything a teacher could possible tell us.

Fall hunting season started with archery and then quickly moved into squirrel, grouse, then rabbit and pheasant.  If I'd lived there at this time in my life the season would have also included steelhead and lake-run brown further complicating matters since I couldn't possibly decide whether I wanted to go hunting or fishing.  Some people think fall is a season when things are turning brown and dying but for the outdoorsman, it's a  time of excitement and exploration.  I could spend days afield or on the streams staring in wonderment at the colors, hearing the sounds, and taking in the sweet smells of the season.  It makes my heart ache when I think about what I'm missing by living so far south, but then again, I don't have to shovel snow in January.

Fall in Florida brings on the hunting season just like more northern regions but we don't get to enjoy temperature changes quite like they do, nor do we see the broad spectrum of color changes but things are happening at a fever pitch.  The annual mullet run is underway and the fish are feeding with abandon, the migratory birds are beginning to show up after leaving their summer homes, and the deer are going through the fall rut as they try to create the next generation of monster bucks.  Nature continues to move forward as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop into a range slightly below incinerator levels.  It can be a wonderful time of year no matter where in the country you might choose to call home.  You just need to take the time to get outdoors and enjoy it. Ruffed Grouse

Pull on some hiking boots, jeans, and a nice flannel shirt then hit the road with your camera, rod, or gun and I'm sure you'll fall in love with the fall season like so many of us have.  It's a wonderful time of the year that seems to pass all too quickly so don't miss it this year. because it'll be winter before you know it. 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

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I've Created A Monster

Ron's Monster BrownThere are few types of fishing I enjoy more than standing in a stream while swinging a hand-tied egg sucking leach to a aggressive and powerful steelhead, and I really enjoy sharing this experience with other fishermen and friends.  But....there's one guy I introduced to the sport of steelheading on my home waters who continues to explore them while catching all kinds of monster fish, including the beautiful lake-run brown shown in the picture.  To make it even better, he loves to send me pictures from streamside while he displays his superb catch and a Cheshire-Cat grin that seems more than a little spooky.

Ron and I started fishing together not all that long ago when he and I made a trip to Ohio to fish the Lake Erie tributaries for spring steelhead, and even though the catching was less than spectacular due to high temperatures and low water conditions, he discovered a new part of the fly fishing journey that needed further exploration.  I knew he had a terminal case when a gorgeous silver rocket blasted out from underneath a logjam running the length of the most beautiful blue pool either of us had ever seen.  Being a trout fisherman at heart, Ron fished this awesome looking spot like he would on any other trout stream but because there weren't any fish in evidence, I hadn't given it more than a passing glance.  He actually taught me a thing or two that trip even though the fight with that fish was over as quickly as it began.  He never got the line tight, nor the hook firmly in place, and he knew it.  Despite failing to land the fish or get a photo to commemorate the occasion, the look of absolute shock and momentary fear is what I'll remember for the rest of my days.

We've since made a trip to Michigan where I got lucky enough to land a few fish while Ron worked very hard but was unable to remain connected more than a few minutes.  He always had his chin up and was looking forward to the next curve, the next river, the next 1000 casts, whether they panned out or not.  He was out there to have a good time.  He's taken many other trips to the region with greater levels of success while never failing to send me a picture or two of him busting chrome while I'm stuck behind the counter, resigned to watching live webcam feeds of my home waters.  He's not rubbing it in, but rather sharing the experience while still in the moment.Ron in the woods

Ron truly deserves to be on the water as much as possible after working hard his whole life, raising a family, and volunteering his time with a variety charitable organizations and causes.  He's always been willing to lend a hand and has never asked for anything in return so taking a few days out of my schedule to spark a new passion in someone like him wasn't even a question.  I knew he'd respect and appreciate the opportunity and the fish for the rest of his life, but I surely didn't expect to get pictures on a regular basis.  I love seeing them but there is a touch of jealousy when I reply "GREAT FISH!  CONGRATULATIONS!"  Being there with him would have made it all that much better.

I'm glad to have been able to share my passion with a great fishing partner who I hope to spend a lot more time on the water with.  I only hope he's willing to share some of his secret spots when I get the chance to return home to water I grew up on.  He probably knows how to fish them better than I ever did at this point.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando 

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Getting Started With a Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR)

Ruger AR-556

Have you ever wanted to build a rifle but don’t have access to a fully outfitted machine shop, nor have the training or money to piece together a functional and SAFE firearm from scratch?  Many people are in the same boat and up until a few years ago, there weren’t a whole lot of options.  Now there are plenty of ways to go about setting up a rifle that will be fun to shoot and serve as a superb firearm for hunting, competition, and self-defense.

“Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR)” is a term used to describe any number of firearm platforms that can be purchased fully assembled or in pieces and then assembled kind of like an erector set.  Many of todays “Black guns” are included in this category because a good portion of their components can be swapped out or tweaked to the sportsman’s needs.  Quite a few of the top manufacturers including Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Mossberg, and Ruger offer fully built models for the folks that aren’t ready to start from scratch while smaller shops like Spikes Tactical, Daniels Defense, Wilson Combat, DPMS, Rock River Arms, and many others offer complete rifles as well as upper/lower assemblies and all the parts in between.  You can create your own just by searching out the components that will meet the budget and performance desires.

Magpul stockI’ve wanted to get into shooting an AR platform for quite a while but was always reluctant to jump in with both feet since it just seemed too darn complicated and way to expensive.  But I finally found a complete rifle that didn’t cost a fortune and which could be modified with off-the-shelf components from a variety of vendors to create a gun to meet my family’s needs perfectly.  The newly released Ruger AR-556 is an entry-level gun that had all the features we were looking for and it’s received pretty good reviews from many of the industry experts, making it a viable option for getting into the semi-auto game.  So yes, I picked one up.

Burris AR-332Putting 100 or so rounds through it on the first outing isn’t enough to really gauge things in the long term, but so far it looks to be a winning choice that will give years of service.  Swapping out a few parts will give it the personal touch and possibly improve upon an already sound piece of equipment.  Magpul offers a wide variety of grips, stocks, and accessories to fit just about any standard platform or individual taste.  Picking a sight option can be another whole can of worms that takes some time to dig though, so whether it's a red dot, illuminated reticle, or laser, you've got more than enough options to choose from.

Not too long ago the MSR was considered inferior when it came to accuracy and reliability, which is why bolt action rifles were more popular in the field, but as more people wanted to create their own “Frankengun,” and accuracy concerns dropped to the wayside, the market exploded.  Now it’s a buyer’s market with just about any imaginable caliber and configuration available as a complete firearm or as pieces the consumer can assemble at their leisure.  They just have to take the plunge.

I’m really looking forward to making some modifications when the budget allows, but for now we’ll just have to be happy shooting it just the way it came from the factory.  That shouldn’t be a problem considering how happy we are already.  Stay tuned for updates as they occur and don’t be afraid to get one of your own.  They’re a blast to shoot and can serve a variety of functions whether you’re looking to shoot paper, steel, critters, or protect your home.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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It's Time To Drop The Puck

Orlando Solar BearsIt's hockey time everyone and even though we live in Florida there's plenty of ice action to watch and my family is right there front and center when the puck drops here in Orlando.  Our two seats rarely go unused especially since they're just three rows up from the glass and we get to witness every bone-crushing hit, acrobatic save, and laser-fast slap shot first hand.  There's no way to adequately describe the emotion and energy that comes from the crowd when a good goal is scored or a member of the home team "Defends The Den."

My wife and I started going to hockey games way back in the days when Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and Kevin Stevens ruled center ice and Tom Barrasso protected the goal with a steel curtain.  They went on to win the first of two back-to-back Stanley Cups.  It was a great time to be from western Pennsylvania.  Our love of the sport took a bit of a break when we first moved south but once the Solar Bears came out of hibernation three seasons ago, we can't wait for the season to begin again.  Our girls think all the players are the hottest men on earth (even though their significant others are sitting right next to them in the stands).  I'm not so sure about the cute factor but I sure can appreciate the skill levels.

Florida may not traditionally be known as a hockey state but once you consider the huge number of people who've relocated from up north, it's pretty darn obvious how we can support multiple professional teams.  The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning play in the NHL while the Orlando Solar Bears and Florida Everblades play in the ECHL.  There's a whole lot of talent down here in the "Sunshine State" and a lot of fans that love watching them play.  We're a Penguins family at heart so don't come in wearing a Flyers jersey. 

Tarting them earlyHockey isn't just about the fights and violence contrary to what most people think.  It's about skill, teamwork, and a love of the game.  Most of these guys grew up playing pond hockey during the winter which meant that their parents worried about broken bones and numerous bumps, bruises, and countless dollars spent on replacing equipment.  Hockey families sacrifice quite a bit more than other sports.  Just ask any mother that had to drive her son to practice at the crack of dawn.

Orlando puts on a very family-friendly show by ensuring that the kids are up on the big screen, dancing, making faces, and generally showing off to  friends while the play on the ice is thrilling from end board to end board.  The price of admission is pretty reasonable given the quality of the play and the love of the game exhibited be every player.  It only takes a few games to figure out the basic rules since you only need to determine who the crowd is yelling at to grasp whether a penalty is in our favor or against us.  Look no further than a local hockey franchise if you're thirsting for an exciting evening.

Hockey gets in your blood once you've experienced the game up close and personal so don't wait another minute before checking out a local team.  The players may be on young side but they'll never be short on heart and desire.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Finding the Right Balance

Casting a fly rod is a pretty simple matter of physics once you get the hang of things and know what a well presented fly and line looks like in the air and on the water, but it can be a physical workout if you’re not used to the exercise or have equipment that isn’t moderately light or well-balanced in the hand.  We strive very hard to come up with outfits that “just feel right” the moment you pick it up and anglers definitely appreciate the extra effort once he/she is on the water swinging it back and forth a couple hundred times in a morning.  But what makes a well-balanced combination?

 I’m first going to compare throwing a fly rod to shooting a shotgun on the trap or skeet range and shooting geese, as opposed to a field gun for grouse and quail.  I know it may seem a bit strange to look at it this way but you’ll get the connection if you hang in there for a few paragraphs.  Shooting shotguns is all about acquiring the target, mounting the gun smoothly, starting and maintaining a smooth swing while pulling the trigger and passing through the target without pause.  Any hitch in that process will cause problems for sure.  So what does a gun’s balance have to do with that process and how is that compared to Browning Citori 725 Fielda fly rod?

Browning Citori 725 Pro Trap 

 

 

Trap shooters and goose hunters traditionally shoot long barrel shotguns (up to 32 inches) because maintaining a smooth swing through the target during the shot is more important than overall gun weight.  A longer barrel can make the gun feel a bit front heavy but that ensures that the gun remains in motion once the swing has started. Conversely, a true field gun will have somewhat shorter barrels (26 to 28 inches) and lighter stocks because the quickness (the amount of time needed to acquire the target and mount the gun) needs to be emphasized more than maintaining a lengthy swing on birds or targets flying a somewhat predictable path at a steady speed.  Flushing birds need to be acquired quickly and shot before getting out of range or ducking behind cover, thus requiring a light, fast-pointing shotgun.

Fly rod balance can be equally important to the angler but it’s more a matter of angler “feel” and how hard it is to control the rod’s path through the air once in motion.  Front heavy or butt heavy rods can cause fatigue, unnecessary torqueing or twisting, and a sluggish or listless sensation for the angler.  A perfectly balanced rod and reel combo feels light in the hand, accurate, responsive, and is generally a pleasure to throw all day.

Sage TCX 9" 6wt and Orvis Access

So how do you put together a properly balanced outfit?  Thankfully, the reel manufacturers think about this issue when they develop their products and a recent test session wherein I weighed a large number of our most popular reels in six and eight weight models, proved that they’re all pretty similar given the specific line weight they were designed for.  There was only a .5 to 1.0 ounce difference between fifteen different 5/6 weight models.  There was a much greater variation in fourteen 7/8 weight models with the lightest being 5.5 oz. and the heaviest being 10.0 oz.  Much of that difference can be attributed to drag design or the fact that the reel was intended to cover three different rod sizes (7/8/9) instead of the usual two (7/8).  I guess this means that balancing a number six rod is easier, given the similarities in reel weights, than a number eight.      

The rods themselves can vary greatly in physical weight but many times it’s a question of how the weight is distributed rather than the actual total.  Some rods are tip heavy and would require a heavier reel to balance out properly, while others are butt heavy and would benefit from a lighter reel to avoid feeling like you’ve got a brick hanging from the handle.  You just have to test fit a variety of reels to find the one that gives the proper balance for your needs.

Keep in mind also that the rod’s length will affect its balance as will the addition of backing and line.  Short rods have a center of gravity different than standard or long ones so there are instances we’d sell the customer a reel one size smaller than normal to keep the proper balance.  Of course we have to watch the amount of backing going on the reel at this point, but that’s not normally a problem given the rod’s intended purpose.  Short bass rods and ultralight outfits are the most obvious examples of combinations where we need to ensure a compatible match up.

The rod and reel combination pictured above is one of my personal favorites and it fits my hand so well that it seems like Sage called for my input before designing it .  The balance is exactly where I like it and because of that, I can cast all day, put the fly right where I want it, and easily become "one" with the rod.  There's nothing like having a piece of equipment that matches you perfectly so spend a little time building your next outfit.  Pay attention to the balance and how it's going to affect your fishing performance and how much you enjoy waving that stick around.  You'll be glad you did.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Venice Beach....The Sharks Teeth Capital of the World

Venice Beach Sharks TeethThere are certain times of the year when every parent is looking for something to keep the youngsters occupied for a few hours without having to spend a bucket load of money in the process.  My wife was in the same predicament a few weeks ago (because her 47 year old was becoming restless) and she came upon a solution that killed a some time and showed me a section of the Florida coast I'd never been to.  We went looking for shark's teeth!

Venice Beach on Florida's Gulf coast has the reputation of being "The Shark's Teeth Capital of the World," and no one seems to know exactly why this particular spot is the place to go, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to dig up a few keeper specimens for your collection.  We spent five dollars to rent what is essentially a sand flea rake, and about an hour later had a small bunch of teeth plucked from the sandy trough right next to where unsuspecting people walk on a daily basis.  I'm sure that most of them aren't in the mood to sift through basket loads of sand in search of such a small artifact, but you never know what size the next specimen might be or from what flavor of shark it might have come from.  Given that a single tiger shark may shed over 24,000 teeth in just ten years, you can just imagine the astonishing number of teeth possibly out there for discovery by anyone willing to take the time.  You just have to scoop a bunch of sand, repeatedly dip it in the water to sift out the smaller sand and shells, then dump it out where you can search trough the remaining chunks for the teeth.  Or you can walk the beach on a calm day during low tide and spot the teeth laying right there in the sand.  We didn't have a calm day during which we could enjoy that kind of luck, but it was kind of like treasure hunting on a small scale.

 Venice BeachThe beach access is excellent and there are restroom facilities, a restaurant, gift shop, and fishing pier to keep everyone busy when they aren't actually digging in the sand for goodies, and the surf is generally much calmer and cleaner than the day we visited so swimming is quite pleasant most of the time.  Just be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water because all that prospecting under the hot sun will take it's toll on all your little treasure hunters.  I was ready for a nap afterwards but there are just too many fish in the sea to sleep during fishing time.

Take a trip to Venice the next time you're looking for something to do and you might just create a lifelong memory your kids (and spouses) will appreciate for years to come.  My kids remember their first trip looking for shark's teeth, and we're definitely going to be taking our grandkids there once they're old enough to walk alongside grandpa and make sure he doesn't go too deep, drinks his water, and liberally applies sunscreen.  Collecting your own fossilized shark teeth is quite a bit easier than many people think.  Just head to Venice, Florida.....NOT Venice, Italy.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Spend a Few Days in Matlacha

Matlacha

Folks that aren't familiar with the area may not get the rhyme I was shooting for but just like many other names here in Florida, it's pronounced differently than it looks.  Mat-la-SHAY is the proper phonetic spelling for the name of a small community along the Gulf coast between Pine Island and Cape Coral/Fort Myers.  And if you didn't know you were passing through the community, you'd miss it.  But that's exactly what makes it the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without traveling a great distance.

Matlacha is a sleepy little town that sets its time by the tides with activity ebbing and flowing with the water flowing under the three bridges and around the mangrove shorelines.  The busiest time of the day is when the fishing activity peaks with the rising tide and the fishing poles outnumber the residents since everyone knows you need more rods than you have fingers.  Redfish, black drum, snook, sheepshead, shark, seatrout, and many others come across the rails when the timing is right but you can look forward to a whole bunch of catfish if it isn’t. A night bite is most popular since this is semitropical and the daytime sun can be a little bit oppressive.  Kayaking around the mangrove islands and dipping into the water occasionally is about the only way to get relief on a particularly hot day.

This is still a small town and you won’t find a McDonalds or a giant souvenir shop full of cheap trinkets that will be broken or lost days after purchase.  Small mom-n-pop shops dot the street for the mile or so through the downtown area, selling things you likely won’t find in many other places, and all of them with a local flair.  Eclectic artwork abounds right alongside the bars and eateries so there’s plenty of things to look at for the visitors that aren’t really into the fishing side of things (although I can’t understand why they wouldn’t be), and every time I turned to look around I spotted another mannequin on a rooftop, a painted lizard, a doll in a rocking chair, or some other eye-catching novelty. 

Matlacha JackSt. James City and Bokeelia are a pair of communities at opposite ends of Pine Island just to the west and they also prove that Florida isn’t only about the big cities or interstate highways.  If you take a day trip over to the actual Gulf shore, the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva provide beach access for the shell collector or someone that just wants to view a spectacular sun set.  Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a birdwatcher’s paradise that shouldn’t be missed either.

Matlacha’s just right for anyone looking to slow life down a little bit so they can enjoy the small things. Watching the pelicans dive, the otters play, or the dolphins herding mullet in the shallows for dinner is the natural pace of things around here, proving that Mother Nature has her own clock without regard for neon lights and reality TV.  Take a day trip or stay the night in one of the cabins or cottages right there along main street, and you’ll find yourself settling into the island rhythm, humming a little tune proclaiming “This is the Way, to Matlacha.”

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Backcountry Fly Fishing Association Presents "The Legend Series"

Steve Huff"The Legend Series" highlights some of the pioneers of the fishing world, and the Backcountry Fly Fishing Association along with Hell's Bay Boatworks is bringing a true industry trailblazer, and Florida Keys expert to Orlando to teach us a few things that will make our time on the water more productive and maybe a little more enjoyable.  Flip Pallot was set to be the original speaker for this event but will not be making an appearance due to unplanned circumstances.

Captain Steve Huff is one of those guys that seems to have seen and done it all when it comes to fishing and exploring the Florida Keys and the Everglades, which is saying a lot considering how many square miles of land and water we're talking about.  He's professionally guided for over 47 years (almost more years than I've been alive) and surely has forgotten more about saltwater angling than most of us will ever pick up by fishing only on weekends and holidays.  He along with Del Brown developed the Merkin Crab which is undoubtedly the quintessential permit fly that also produces well on species they hadn't even planned on, ultimately proving the versatility of the pattern and the ingenuity of the designers.  Steve has led numerous anglers to tournament wins in the Gold Cup, the Islamorada Invitational Bonefish Tournament, and the Islamorada Invitational Fly Bonefish Tournament, as well as many world record tarpon, bonefish, and permit including a 41 1/2 specimen on 8 lb tippet.

Captain Huff's inventiveness and constant search for perfection has proven invaluable time and again when the industry has asked for his expert guidance in developing more advanced flats skiffs, bow platforms, knots, and a myriad of other flats-fishing essentials.  He developed the Huffnagle Knot (I just got the connection) for joining light class tippet to a heavier bite or shock tippet, which is absolutely necessary when pursuing large tarpon such as the ones he chased in the Homosassa region on Florida's Gulf coast.  Steve's 186 pounder back in 1977 would have eclipsed the standing record by more than ten pounds but he never submitted for recognition because he felt that records should be left to anglers.  That's just the kind of guy he is.

Captain Steve Huff was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2010, for his many contributions to the sport, but you'd never see this gentleman, whom many would consider to be "The Guy," hold himself in higher regard than others that enjoy the sport.  Humility, commitment, and enthusiasm are evident every time he welcomes an angler onto his boat, and he's surely converted more than one conventional-tackle angler to the fly rods as a patient and adept instructor for the Florida Keys Fly Fishing School.

I'd highly recommend taking a little time out of your busy schedules to attend the presentation.   

No-motor Zone RedfishSpending the night of September 10th with the Backcountry Fly Fishing Association at "The Legend Series" sponsored by Hell's Bay Boatworks is your chance to hear the stories first hand while possibly learning a few things that'll make you a better angler.  Becoming involved in a club made up of a bunch of guys who share your love of fly fishing, fly tying, or just spending time on the water can't be a bad thing in itself.  The club helped me to develop as a fly angler, ultimately leading me to writing about and sharing my love of the sport.  I'm no John Gierach, or Norman Maclean when it comes to storytelling but we all share something in common with Flip and his friends, and that's passion.

Make plans to spend the evening with Steve and some new friends (and possibly some new fishing partners) on Thursday, September 10th.  It's sure to be a gathering you won't soon forget.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando 

 

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Choosing a Gun for Personal Protection

Springfield Armory EMPI grew up shooting guns and spending the entire fall hunting season with a firearm of some kind in my hand, so continuing to own them into my adulthood was never actually a question.  Even when kids came along and the household became busier and more crowded, we never considered getting rid of them, instead we made double sure that everything was properly secured and that accidents wouldn’t happen.  We also made a point of working with the girls so they knew the deadly consequences of mishandling weapons.  I didn’t expect them to become true enthusiast but I didn’t want them to be deathly afraid of something that’s incapable of harming anyone or anything without human manipulation.

So how does someone decide to purchase a gun for the first time?  Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to get a gun, whether it’s hunting, protection, target shooting, competition, or just starting a collection for the sake of collecting.  Whatever the reason, eventually they head off to the dealer to make their first purchase.  They walk right up to the counter with a pocket full of money and proudly proclaim to the salesperson “I want to buy a gun!”  Obviously at this point, the salesperson is going to ask “What kind of gun would you like?”  To which the answer (in a disturbing number of cases) is “I don’t know, I just want a gun!”  This person may end up with the right weapon for their needs or they may take home a .300 Win Mag Remington Model 700 with a 14x scope that just isn’t the right weapon for defending a two bedroom/one bath apartment….

If the gun is going to be used for personal defense, consider the following questions:

  • Home defense or in public personal defense?
  • Rifle (Auto-loading, pump, lever, bolt action)?
  • Shotgun (Auto-loading, pump, double/single barrel)?
  • Handgun (Auto-loading pistol, revolver)?
  • Concealability?
  • Reliability?
  • Recoil/controllability?
  • Accuracy at real world distances?
  • Stopping power?
  • Weight?
  • Durability?
  • Difficulty of operation?
  • Who’s the primary user?
  • Ergonomics?
  • State Laws/Limitations

You’ll notice that I didn’t include caliber as one of the primary criteria to be considered during the selection process.  That because you’ll decide on the caliber when other factors like recoil/controllability, stopping power, weight, and identifying the primary user are taken into account.  Take the .45 ACP for example.  It has a great deal of stopping power because of its bullet weight and velocity, but it produces substantial recoil in certain handguns which makes controllability and second shot accuracy difficult for some shooters.  While at the same time, a .22 Magnum has a smaller bullet delivering less energy on target, but because of its lower recoil and better controllability, it allows more rapid follow-on shots and potentially more rounds on target in a short period of time.  It’s all a tradeoff.

Smith & W Lady SmithMy wife also added “Is it pretty?” to the equation, hence the reason she ended up with a two-tone Kimber Aegis Ultra in 9mm.  It fits her perfectly and she’s quite happy with the gun while on the range and while carrying it for protection should she ever need it.  I’ve carried a .40 caliber S&W Shield ever since they first came out on the market and although it may not be pretty, it sure is functional, reliable, and concealable.  We just picked up a S&W Model 642 in .38 Special so I could see how much I liked a wheel gun, and so far it’s turned into a great purchase.  Now I just need to pick a holster for it.

There are a lot of different choices available to the consumer willing to spend a bit of time researching the market.  Evaluate each of the criteria and decide which one is most important to you then you’ll surely make the right choice.  Just be sure to spend money like your life depends on it….  Because it might.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

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Teaching Novices to Shoot

Time at the RangeMy wife and I have expended a whole bunch of ammunition over the past couple weeks, as we took some friends to the range for some bonding time and so they would get the chance to try their hand at shooting multiple types and calibers of handguns.  Everyone did quite well and we all made it out of the range alive, but it's hard to get over the feelings of apprehension I get when handing a fully loaded handgun to someone without a lot of experience.  I've been through the drill multiple times and learned a few valuable lessons that some folks might find beneficial if they're thinking of introducing a youngster or adult to the shooting sports.

  • Start your training session at home.  Teach the control features and operation of the firearm in a comfortable environment free of noise, distraction, and live ammunition.  Now is the time to make mistakes and discuss malfunctions, not when your dealing with a loaded weapon and shaky hands.  Snap caps are a great substitute for live ammunition during early training sessions.
  • Stress Safety and control over accuracy.  Hitting the target is great but it's much more important not to get hurt and learn proper technique.  Shooting tight groups at distance will come soon enough if the principles are sound and the training is good.
  • Start simple and small.  Your budding shooter will appreciate starting with a .22 or something loaded with standard target/training loads rather than high-power hunting rounds because the recoil will be quite a bit less and the gun won't jump around as much.  They're less likely to develop a case of the "flinches" with a lighter load.  Don't start someone off with a lightweight platform in a large caliber either since they're easy to carry on long hikes but do nothing to absorb the recoil.
  • One round & one round only.  Load the gun with a single round each time until the shooter is comfortable with its operation.  This is particularly important with semi-automatic firearms that don't require additional manipulation to load subsequent rounds after the initial shot.
  • Stay close.  The teacher or coach shouldn't be more than an arm's length away from the student while they're in the shooting position.  You need to be right on top of matters if something goes wrong and it's your job to prevent a loaded weapon from being pointed in any direction other than down range.
  • Shoot often.  Skill and proficiency increase with each session so it's important to build upon each trip to the range by celebrating the victories and learning from the mistakes.  Everyone has a bad day every once in a while, so less than perfect shot placement is to be expected.  The speed, and accuracy will improve.
  • Right/left eye dominant?  Figuring this out before hitting the range will eliminate a lot of frustration and sighting issues that deter from having a quality experience.  Right or left handed may also be an issue but it's more difficult to address since it's a matter of firearm design and shooter compatibility.  Unfortunately not everyone can afford to have both left and right handed versions of the same gun.
  • Make it fun!  Shoot reactive targets like tin cans, bowling pins, steel plates, clay pigeons, or splatter targets with awesome graphics that give instant feedback on shot placement . 

Twenty shots Head and Torso

Shooting has been part of my families heritage since long before I was walking the earth and I can thank my father for taking the time to teach us pretty darn well.  We started with BB guns, moved on to .22 rifles and 20 gauge shotguns, and ultimately into the big game calibers we used for deer and woodchuck hunting.  A lot of hours were spent at the range and in the field doing what we all loved to do.  He wasn't into the handgun side of things so I've had to do a lot of reading to become confident enough to teach others on a small scale basis but even I have my limits and would refer someone to the professionals if I thought they were going beyond my abilities.  Brantley Corp offers classes that cover a wide range of subjects (some of them right in our own conference room) and many of the local gun shops hold training classes on everything from gun cleaning to advanced techniques and tactics.  It just depends on how serious you are.

Teaching someone to shoot can be quite rewarding for both parties and I think it's a special part of passing along your passion to your own children.  My wife and girls know how much I love to send rounds downrange so there aren't any fights about spending too much money or time shooting as long as I take them along every once in a while. 

Properly teaching someone to handle firearms, even on a limited basis, will ensure that preventable accidents don't happen to someone you love, and maybe you'll discover a new shooting or hunting partner in the process.  I think I've created a few over the past month.  Good Luck and Be Safe.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando   

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning About America's History One Rest Stop At A Time

Tuskegee Airmen MonumentI never cease to be amazed by the little things we can learn while on the road if we just take the time to stop and check out the little roadside markers and obscure memorials dotting the country.  Our nation’s history, whether good or bad, is documented by simple signs and monuments that many of us don’t even realize are there since we’re blasting by at 75 or 80 miles an hour.

My wife and I happened upon one of these such markers when we exited Interstate 95 in Walterboro, South Carolina for a gas and coffee stop on our way home from vacation.  I noticed a sign pointing the way to the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial, and we decided to check it out since it wasn’t too far off the beaten path and we’d heard the stories and watched the movies related to the men of the 332nd Fighter Group.  You can’t help but respect men that lived through such intense diversity and we wondered what this little town had to do with a troubled history of racism and bigotry that was eventually overcome by men with a great deal of dedication, determination, and mental toughness.

As it turns out, the small Walterboro Army Airfield was a training site for fighter and bomber crews just before heading overseas to combat, and the Tuskegee airmen were a part of this war effort.  It was also the site of a camouflage school and a prisoner of war camp for German POW’s, which really surprised us considering that we thought POW’s would have stayed overseas rather than being brought in country.  Nor did I figure anyone needed a school to tell them how to look like a shrub or a bunch of weeds.  Obviously there must be more to it than just sticking a few twigs in your cap.

The 332nd and its tenant commands flew Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, Bell P-39 Aircobras, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, and the ultimate fighter aircraft (in my humble opinion), the North American P-51 Mustang. The men of the 477th Bombardment Group flying the North American B-35 Mitchell, shouldn’t be forgotten since they trained at the same facility and fought against the same racism as the men in the 332nd, but they never actually saw combat operations according to the sites I’ve visited. Regardless of whether they saw combat or not, flying these machines by oneself, or as part of a larger crew took skill and coordination these men proved they were undeniably capable of.

The historic markers tell a story of hardship and division that was ultimately overcome by men with mental toughness that I can only dream to possess.  They joined a military that didn’t think they were capable of performing the necessary skills, while fighting for, and next to men who believed they were second class citizens.  They ultimately amassed a fighting record unsurpassed by the Caucasian squadrons, earning the respect of the bomber pilots they protected and the foreign enemy they fought.  The HBO movie “The Tuskegee Airmen” is one of my favorites with a great cast and a well depicted version of true life events.  Watch it if you get a chance!

Like I said in the beginning of this post, you never know what you’ll learn when you stop and read one of those roadside markers.  They dot the landscape across the nation, serving to document our history and teach us about who we are and where we came from as a country.  Be sure to stop and read a few when you get a chance.  You might just be surprised at what you learn.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

  

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Do-it-Yourself Trout In The Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National ForestSometimes you just have find the fish on your own (with a lot of research of course) rather than hooking up with a friend that knows the area or by hiring a guide to show you the ropes.  I’ve found the most satisfying outings are those that I plan myself or with another buddy as we head out into unfamiliar areas.

My wife and I just finished a wonderfully successful trip to the mountains of North Carolina where we camped, hiked, and fished along a few of the rivers in the Pisgah National Forest.  We were stunned by the beauty of the region, the vastness of the landscape, and were pleasantly surprised at the seclusion and solitude we discovered even though it was during the 4th of July holiday period.  There’s a whole bunch of land up there with very little development and a huge number of mountain roads that stretch off into the wilderness.  You can quickly get off the concrete path and find yourself satisfyingly lost as you white knuckle your way along cliff-side roads full of switchbacks and heart wrenching drops and climbs.  All in search of the elusive fish and wildlife just waiting to be discovered.

Wilson Creek HookupI fished three different rivers/creeks including Linville River, Lost Cove Creek, and Wilson Creek; all three providing a different challenge, whether it was tight quarters, clear water, or spooky fish.  I learned something on each of them and thankfully landed a few nice fish even though the season wasn’t “quite right” according to the experts, but as I stated at the beginning, we were doing it on our own and our expectations were realistic, not fantastical.  Of course I’ll try them again but maybe during the spring or fall seasons when bug life is a bit more abundant and the fish are happier with the water temperatures.  Landing my first brook trout, brown, and rock bass ensured that another trip will be planned in the near future. One gorgeous brookie surprised me by actually eating on the first presentation, but I was so stunned by fact that something actually worked that I failed to respond with a good hook set, and the fish spit it out before I could really process what was going on.  I learned a valuable lesson at the hands (or fins) of a creature that survives purely on instinct rather than its limited intelligence.

Wilson Creek Brook TroutNorth Carolina’s mountain region isn’t what I expected in the least, considering that most of our travels through the state were along the eastern side, much closer to the ocean where the land is flatter and less dramatic.  Waterfalls, cliffs, mountain peaks, and breathtaking vistas appear around each corner and there’s a great tradition of enjoying the outdoors throughout the region.  Small hotels, family restaurants, and neighborhood markets, all promote sightseeing, skiing, fishing, hunting, rafting, and general exploration of the resources.  It’s a wonderful place to visit and I can understand why a lot of folks retire to the area.

I’m overjoyed that I was able to find some measure of success after quite a bit of research and wishful thinking.  Pouring over maps, the internet, and numerous books led to a wonderful vacation surrounded by magnificent vistas and some of the most beautiful fishing I’ve done in years.  Landing some gorgeous fish on the fly proved to be just one of many superb highlights.

 

Check out the Pisgah National Forest during your next family camping trip and you won’t be disappointed with the landscape, the fishing, or the solitude.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Old Barns, Barn Quilts, and Hex Symbols

Michigan BarnI’ve had a thing for old barns ever since I grew up in Pennsylvania's farm country and my recent vacation in North Carolina reminded me of how much I loved exploring them when I was younger.  I don’t know what it was that appealed to me so much but possibly it was their elegant simplicity, their history, or maybe it was the never-say-die attitude of the men and women that worked the fields, filling the structure with the fruits of their labor.  That feeling of wonderment hasn’t lessened with the passing of years.

As we were driving around the countryside, we noticed something strange about most of the structures we passed.  Almost every barn, shed, and chicken coop had these colorful and sometimes intricately patterned blocks painted on boards and mounted somewhere on their walls at a conspicuous height where everyone would be sure to see it.  They turned out to be Barn Quilts which are a fairly recent form of folk art with any number of meanings.  Whether it’s a tribute to a lost family member, to tell a story, or just to display a type of unique artwork, they caught our attention everywhere we went.  I would have liked to get some pictures but we were on the move and hadn’t realized exactly how distinctive they all were.  I regret not having stopped for a few moments.

Barn QuiltBarns in Pennsylvania and elsewhere sometimes have artwork that may seem similar to the untrained eye (which I was until looking into the difference), but those are actually Hex Signs whose origins are questionable to say the least.  As kids, we used to think they were meant to ward off the evil spirits but much of the research isn’t conclusive as to their intended meaning.  Needless to say, they lend a great amount of beauty to a basic stone and wood building meant to house cattle, horses, hay, and a collection of farm equipment.

Barns and similar old structures are a photographer’s dream with all the interesting textures, angles, and viewpoints to explore and document.  So much so that I’ve always wanted to make a book of nothing but barns, derelict country houses, and abandoned buildings.  They’re extremely picturesque in their ruggedness and weather beaten appearance.  Their artwork, whether it’s a quilt or a hex symbol give them character and a beauty that’s hard to miss if you just keep your eyes open and look for it.

Maybe a reader and I will run into each other along the Barn Quilt Trail somewhere in the Carolinas or in some remote corner of Pennsylvania Dutch country takingLancaster County Barn w/Hex signs pictures of Hex Signs and trying to figure out their true meaning.  Whatever the reason, they catch your eye and get your mind to thinking.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Hitting the Road to Adventure

Brook TroutThirsting for something new is something many anglers have to fight if they want to maintain any type of marital harmony, but every once in a while we need to give in and depart upon a quest for new and yet to be conquered pursuits.  For me, it’s been freshwater trout and smallmouth.  You’d think they would have been some of the first species I chased with a fly rod, however, seeing as how saltwater was the first environ I chose to enter, rainbows, browns, and brookies seemed too far away to hope for.

Soon though, I’ll be soaking my toes in a cool mountain stream as I ply the bubbling water for fish I’ve yet to encounter because after many years of crying and begging, our bags will be packed and rods rigged as my wonderful woman and I head north to the Pisgah National Forest in search of new and exciting adventure.  My packing started weeks ahead of our scheduled departure (as is normal with an obsessive compulsive), and I’ve now reached the point of stacking clothes and pre-staging the camping gear.  Sleep has been difficult and it will only get worse as the day draws closer and my dreams fill with glorious beauty and much needed seclusion.Brown Trout

Part of the fun has been the gathering of intelligence, albeit limited in my case according to certain fellow anglers and close friends.  I’ve burned up the Internet for hatch charts, stream flow data, campground locations, and everything else you can imagine the traveling angler might need before venturing forth, and I surely hope all the preparation proves fruitful considering how much of a pain in the neck I’ll be if I don’t get the chance to land at least one of the intended fish.  The timing isn’t quite right for a high degree of success but beggars can’t be choosers when the fishing time’s limited.  “Plan carefully and execute violently” is my motto.

Two four weights, a six weight, numerous lines, and boxes stuffed with Hare’s ears, Princes, Pheasant Tails, Stimulators, Caddis, Light Cahils, Hoppers, Ants, Adams, numerous types of streamers, and many other miscellaneous pieces of tackle are packed and ready to be deployed when the time arrives, but the calendar just doesn’t seem to move along quickly enough.  She’ll have to put up with another week of manic preparation before hitting the trail, but it will all be worth it when we’re standing alongside a deserted stream somewhere in North Carolina looking for that first fish to reveal itself.  God help us all if the first cast of the trip finds its way into a tree or some other type of obstacle.

Rainbow TroutExpanding our horizons and getting out of our comfort zones on occasion provides the spice of life, and fishing in general or searching for more and more species, gives us a good reason to keep testing our boundaries.  It doesn’t always have to be an exotic location that entices us to leave home since every new adventure helps us grow as anglers.  Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves at the same time.

I’ll hopefully have something good to report once we return, but the trip will surely be a success regardless of how many fish are actually landed. 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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