"We All Live Downstream" Isn't Just a Catchphrase

We All Live Downstream" is a phrase that we at Bass Pro take very seriously as evidenced by the conservation efforts the company has been part of for a very long, long time.  Our founder realized that we need to take care of our habitats if we expect to have any fish or game to pursue in our future or our children's future.  As the slogan says, "We all live downstream," means that what we do in our neighborhoods can and does have a dramatic affect on the environment well away from the small space we live in.  Rain runoff carries fertilizers, pesticides, and other contaminants from cities like Orlando to water as far away as Jacksonville via the St. Johns River, or to the Lake Okeechobee and then the Everglades, St. Lucie River, or Caloosahatchee River, via the Kissimmee River Basin.  We're in a unique geographic location that can and does have an impact on environments vast distances from our homes. 
 
Florida is having a great deal of trouble right now and there are a lot of people trying to bring attention to the problems, and force the powers that be to come up with timely and effective solutions.  Whether its the Everglades, Charlotte Harbor, St. Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee, or the Indian River Lagoon, we've got problems related to environmental and man-made issues that have been causing fish kills, algae blooms, and potentially dangerous conditions for people that spend time in the regions water ways.  Here are a few local groups trying to bring attention to the issues.
Save Our Lagoon     No Fill No Kill     Captains for Clean Water 
CCa Florida     Bonefish Tarpon Trust     Take Back Our Water

I encourage everyone to research these organizations and try to do your part.  I know it can be hard when life gets in the way of attending meetings and waterway cleanups but it really will make a difference in Tallahassee and Washington when they see the level of community involvement and concern.  Do it for the future generations if not for yourselves.  Demand that the state and federal governments follow through with their promises and respect the will of the voters (especially with regards to 2014 Amendment 1 and the purchase of conservation land).  Changes won't happen overnight but messing things up didn't happen in the blink of an eye either.

 
Brian "Beastman" Eastman
White River Fly Shop
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Hotdogs, Hamburgers, and Hatch Charts

Hatch ChartMy wife and I are getting ready to take a trip north for a little camping and trout fishing, and a big part of the preparation is picking a location, pouring over maps, and gathering all the equipment.  Not the least of which is all the flies I expect to be needing.  But which ones should I be tying (or buying in some cases)?

We get this question all the time while standing behind the counter and unfortunately for us and the customer, there's no real simple answer?  "What are you fishing for?"  "Where are you going?"  "What time of year?"  We go through a whole list of questions and in the end might not even have the right answer because there are too many variables to consider.  Why is it so complicated in some cases?

The best way I've been able to explain it to anyone is like this.  Imagine you lived inside one square block for your entire life and over that time the only food you saw and consumed were hotdogs in January, hamburgers in February, hotdogs in March, hamburgers in April, and so on.  Would you know and trust that a pizza was edible if one showed up on some random day in September?  Of course not!  It might look interesting but by this time you've developed an instinct that hotdogs and hamburgers are food.  Therefore you might not be willing to trust your life to testing something different.

Well, fish in a small section of river see food in the same manner albeit on a slightly more complicated scale.  They've learned that the bugs inhabiting their world are food, and that those bugs transition through different life stages (nymph, emerger, dun, spinner, spent spinner) at specific times of the year or under certain conditions.  They instinctively know that an olive-colored adult Caddis shouldn't be on the water's surface at the same time as a Sulphur Spinner.  So guess what.  You better get the fly right, or at least in the same ball park if you expect to catch a trout sitting behind that rock in the middle of the Nantahala River.  Add in some small fish, terrestrials, other miscellaneous edible morsels and you've created a pretty complex menu.

Hatch charts like the one pictured are in effect a trout's menu for the year, identifying the bug species and color along with the corresponding fly pattern and size to remove some of the guesswork.  Various websites and books publish these charts to help us pack our boxes and stock our fly tying tables with things that might actually work rather than having to go through years of trial and error experimentation.  They can be an effective "guide" to what fish might be eating at a particular time of year and are indispensable when planning a trip into trout waters.  Saltwater anglers can create similar things but we're only dealing with fish and crustaceans for the most part.  You also have to consider that any fish smaller than the one looking for a meal could be considered food.  Hatch charts can go a long way towards ensuring a successful outing to an area you aren't familiar with.

So, the next time you're heading into a new region, consult with a local fly shop and browse through a few hatch charts before you spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours stocking your fly boxes.  That way you'll be well stocked with whatever's on the menu, whether it's hotdogs, hamburgers, or maybe even pizza.. 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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2016 Fly Fishing Film Tour

2016 Fly Fishing Film TourI can still remember the first film tour I attended and to this day, the screaming runs, the acrobatic leaps, and the near misses are a big reason why my fly angling bucket list continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  The brutish power of the Giant Trevally, the bone crushing strike of a Golden Dorado, and the blistering runs of the challenging Milkfish will be some of the highlights this year and I thought it would be a good idea to let folks know what's coming to the big screen here in town.  Here are the details and I hope to see you there.

2016 Fly Fishing Film Tour - Orlando, FL

Thu · May 12, 2016

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

Orlando Science Center

No tickets sold online for this event.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Bonefish and Tarpon Trust.

 Tickets ($12) are available locally in advance at Hell's Bay Boatworks (321)383-8223, and Orlando Outfitters (407)896-8220-.  They are also available at the door on the night of the event for $15. Come early and join us for a pre-event social gathering. Film starts promptly at 7.00 pm. 

 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Sometimes They Get Away & Sometimes They Don't

Large PeacockA recent trip to south Florida re-emphasized the fact that fishing is fishing and catching is another thing entirely, and to actually land the fish we seek, a lot of stars have to align just perfectly.  We may get a world class specimen if we throw in a bit of skill and a healthy dose of luck but more often than not though, we catch a few and we lose a few.

My wife and I were walking around an urban waterway down south and had just crossed a bridge connecting one lake section to another when I spotted a very nice peacock seeking shelter in the shade of the structure.  I gave her the option to throw at it first since she'd never landed a truly gigantic Florida peacock and this one definitely qualified, but she deferred to me and I stepped up to the plate.  That fish tucked back under the bridge so far that it required a leap of faith to put a fly halfway through the span without actually being able to see the target.  I smacked the structure a few times, got halfhearted attacks, and a high number of nothing at all for about 15 minutes, when finally the water exploded as the monster inhaled what now appeared to be a very small fly and light leader.   He crushed that fly like it had offended him in some deep and personal way before heading for the lake's deep corners, but not before leaping clear of the water to give us a look at what was actually on the end of the line.  I stepped back from the water in shock and began shaking with excitement while Theresa exclaimed from a few feet away, "Oh my God, it's gigantic!"  I'd already figured that out and was doing my best to keep up with it as the fish ran and pulled harder than just about anything I'd ever fought before.  Once I felt things were under control, I decided we were going to need a picture, so I started trying to get the camera out of my pocket and from around my neck.  Now we all think multitasking is something we're good at but I can tell you from experience that fighting a fish while contorting and struggling with a camera strap will result in only one thing.  "Ping !"  the line separated and sprung back onto shore as my prize escaped to the watery depths with my fly tucked firmly in his mouth.  I screwed up and counted my fish before they were caught.  It was my fault and no matter how much it hurt, I had to move on.

Peacock ReleaseA day later while fishing a different pond, I had the chance to redeem myself and actually prove that I can land a fish or two, when I worked a large rock submerged in deep water along the shoreline.  I knew there had to be a giant down there because Scott had lost one in the same spot, so I tied on the largest, heaviest, most obnoxious fly I've ever tied.  A few casts later, the line pulled tight as if I'd snagged onto the rock, but that "rock" pulled back when I halfheartedly set the hook into what I thought was an inanimate object.  I didn't see the fish for quite a while as we ran back and forth along the edge trying to win our version of tug-of-war, and my first thought when it finally did come up into view, was "Leave the camera ALONE!"  It was nearly as large as the one I lost yesterday so I didn't want to do anything wrong that might cause another failure of epic proportions, including a precarious run out to the edge of the deep water drop off to prevent him (or her) from rubbing the leader through on the sharp rock ledge.  The giant  eventually came to hand and I was able to dig the camera out for a few quick shots before releasing it back to it's home alongside a giant rock.  Thankfully I'd landed a monster, on a fly tied specifically for the task, while erasing errors made on previous trips.

What's the moral of the story?  Keep casting.  Never stop trying.  Tie on something unusual.  Big flies catch big fish!  Leave the camera alone until the fish is actually landed.  Fish smart and you'll land the fish instead of lamenting mistakes you made along the way.  Finally, sometimes they get away....And sometimes they don't!

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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A Whole Different Kettle Of Fish

Brian"s HybridFishing in Florida can be quite a challenge regardless of how many fish we say inhabit the waters surrounding the state.  Everyone knows they don't have to eat on anyone's schedule other than their own so catching them may not be as simple as finding them.

One challenge I never quite took into account when moving down here was identifying the shear variety of fish in both fresh and saltwater.  There are dozens of species to catch with regularity and hundreds of others you just might luck into at one point or another, and just about every one of them has teeth or stickers that will bite, jab, or otherwise harm you if you don't know how to handle it.  But besides knowing which ones can do you harm, identifying which ones to keep for food purposes can be equally as difficult.

I erroneously identified the fish to the right as a Striped Bass whereas more properly it is a Hybrid Striper or Sunshine Bass (man-engineered Striper/White Bass cross).  A good friend of mine and fish authority corrected my error and gave me a few other tips on how to better identify the difference.  Thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission knows that it would be a common mistake and therefore sets the size and bag limits accordingly.  And that's the whole point of this article.  We need to know what kind of fish we're catching so that we know and can apply the fishing regulations accordingly.  Not doing so can adversely affect the fish population and possibly your pocket when you get caught.

I once caught a legal size Spanish Mackerel while fishing the beach in Marco Island, which I offered to a couple fishermen I'd seen rigging for sharks on the evening tide.  They graciously accepted the fish but were puzzled by its appearance.  "We caught a Spanish yesterday and used it for bait, but it didn't look like this.  Ours was kind of silvery, had lots of spots, a yellow mouth and a couple nasty fangs on the top and bottom jaw."  These gentlemen had caught, mistakenly identified, and then used for bait, a Spotted Seatrout which has a different size and possession limit than the Spanish I gave them.  We talked about their mistake and I suggested that they take a look at the book on Florida Saltwater Fish Species before using anything else for bait.

But it isn't just the saltwater fish we need to worry about.  The fresh are just as difficult with the original native species and then all the exotics that have invaded the waters over the years.  It can be a real trick if you don't do a little studying before hitting the water.  There are more than a half dozen fish grouped into the "Panfish" family alone, and numerous subspecies of bass to worry about depending on your location. 

All fishermen need to learn their species before hitting the water in order to avoid hefty fines as well as potential injury.  Pinfish earned their name for a reason and knowing the difference between a bluefish and mullet can save a bunch of stitches.  Being able to identify a mutton snapper and a red snapper will help to avoid large hits to your pocket.  Easiest rule of thumb for me has been "If you can't positively identify it, leave it alone and definitely don't keep it."

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Cleaning Up After Range Time

                               Gun Takedown

Spending time at the range is part a big part of our family weekend plans, so guess what needs to be done once all the shooting is over and the last piece of brass has hit the floor.  Cleaning up all those weapons generally falls on my shoulders and even though my wife will take care of her own, I get the rest.  An AR, two pistols, and one revolver can take a bit of time and a good amount of cleaning materials but it has to be done if we want the guns to perform every time we pull the trigger. 

Being a little obsessive compulsive can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to cleaning guns but everyone reaches a point during the job when they have to say enough is enough.  My father kept his hunting guns spotless when they were put away in the cabinet and I've tried to live up to his expectations after all these years.  Even today, all of our guns get a thorough cleaning ever time they hit the range or the field and get a complete wipe down after being handled.

Watch any military film that includes scenes from Marine Corps or Army boot camp and you'll surely see drill instructors reinforcing (in not so friendly terms) the need for keeping the recruit's weapon spotless, and it's not just idle talk intended to degrade a young person's family lineage.  It could ultimately be a matter of life and death for that young soldier or Marine during a time of intense battle because dirty weapons are more prone to failure than those that have been faithfully maintained. It's no less important for those of us that carry on a daily basis for personal protection or folks that have firearms for home protection.  Here are a couple more reasons for keeping your favorite firearm clean:

  • Clean and properly lubricated weapons function efficiently and as designed.  Conversely, dirty and/or dry working mechanisms slow down and work harder because of added friction.  Firearm springs and other mechanical parts are designed to work within a certain set of tolerances, sometimes with very little room for error, so excessive dirt or grime may cause malfunctions like failures to extract, eject, go into battery, or even worse.  
  • Well cleaned and preserved weapons endure harsh environmental conditions better.  Extreme cold, heat, or humidity can cause dirty mechanisms to become gummy and sticky which could potentially cause them to lock up.
  • Clean and properly lubricated weapons maintain their appearance better and hold more resale value.  Human finger prints and perspiration can cause unprotected steel to rust with exceptional speed, marring the visual appearance and decreasing the guns value.
  • It's easier to spot broken or damaged parts when the gun and its mechanisms are clean and clear of carbon, lead, brass, or copper deposits.

​So, as you can see, there are multiple reasons why you should include a cleaning kit, solvent, lubricants, and rags to your range bag or bugout bag along with your favorite firearm.  Every gun manufacturer has it's own "Best Practices" and you should follow them to the greatest extent possible but you'll soon find out that they're all about the same.  A clean gun will function properly for many years to come and you shouldn't have to worry about preventable malfunctions.

Get out there and shoot as much as possible and enjoy yourself.  Just be sure to take care of your investment once you get home, and remember that a clean gun is a gun that will perform when you need it whether in a defensive situation or I the field.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando 

 

 

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How Far Is Far Enough

One of the most common concerns of new and slightly seasoned fly fishers is their inability to cast a line "far enough" to catch fish or they just don't feel they cast well enough to keep from embarrassing themselves while on the water with buddies.  We act as cheerleaders and coaches letting them know that distance is truly relative and it's not really about how far you throw but how well you can hit your target and what you do with the fly once it gets there.  Most folks nod in understanding while we're in the shop but then stare at us like we're Martians when we drop a 90 or 100 foot cast out on the grass.  "But you just said I don't need to cast that far," is the typical response when they see someone bomb out a cast like that.  We've got some explaining to do right about then.

Let's start by saying potential casting distance is influenced by a number of factors including:

  • Angler ability.
  • Rod design.
  • Line type, design, age.
  • Environmental conditions.
  • Fly type, design, size

But in the end we just want to know how far is far enough.  Well, as a general rule I think most successful open-water (as opposed to stream and brook) fly anglers will agree that they hook most of their fish between 50 and 65 feet away, which means that just about anybody capable of casting a minimum of 35 feet can catch fish and everything beyond that distance will just increase their chances.  Why a minimum of 35?  That's because most modern fly rods, take a 9' 8 weight for example, are designed to load and unload efficiently with the first thirty to thirty five feet of a matched weight fly line outside the rod tip.  The lines weight that makes the cast possible is distributed across the first 30 or so feet making casts of less than 30 feet a bit difficult (because the weight isn't enough to effectively load the rod), while casts from 35 to 65 or so feet  become a piece of cake.  Short and special purpose fly rods load differently and it's up to the angler to figure out what type of line will work best it's effective range is.

When blind casting to cover a lot of water I'll cast to 65 or 70 feet, strip in to the 35 or 40 foot mark, pickup and cast again, that way I'm using the weighted portion of the line to my greatest advantage and not wasting time.  If casting to a fish, I think we'd all agree that getting as close as possible without spooking it is the key, then the casting distance can be minimized and accuracy increased.  Most fish on the flats will strike a fly within the first few seconds of sensing its presence so it really isn't necessary to strip the fly across 25 feet of unproductive water just to have the fish inhale it when it's within two or three feet.  So getting within 45 or 50 feet of the target puts it smack-dab in the middle of our effective range.  Practice to the point where you can reliably pickup the line's head and within one or two false casting cycles, return the fly to the strike zone at your maximum effective distance.  PERFECT!!! 

So why do fly guys talk about casting 90, 100, 110 feet?  Because it feels good to be able to lay out a giant cast that lays out perfectly straight and on target.  And also because practicing casts beyond traditional fishing distances will ensure that making a money shot to 65 or 70 feet will be a piece of cake.  It looks great in a photograph or a movie but it isn't practical or necessary to cast further in the vast majority of real-life fly fishing situations.  Trout anglers may never need to reach very far at all but you can bet your last dollar that they need to be accurate, have great line control, and be able to perform a wide range of casting styles in order to put the fly on the water and not in the trees.

I guess the lesson to be learned at this point is that distance is relative.  Practice to reach distances slightly beyond your normal fishing range, and fish at ranges where you can maintain good accuracy and control.  If that's 40 feet...So be it.  Keep practicing and eventually it will increase to 50, 60, or even 70 feet.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

  

 

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Optics For Your MSR

MSR with SPARC III knew I'd need to get some type of optic for my new AR-15 MSR right after shooting it for the first time.  It wasn't that the rifle wasn't accurate enough without putting something on it, but rather I wasn't accurate enough.  I couldn't see the target or the sights in fine enough detail to allow any kind of precision shooting that I'd become used to with bolt-action rifles and Leupold scopes.  But what optic should I put on it?  Reticle scope, reflex, prism, or telescopic red dot?  Did I want something military grade or would I have to settle for something a little less expensive?  It's would be a tough choice for anyone, especially for a guy who has a hard time choosing.

I was looking for a sight that could do double duty as a hunting optic as well as home defense, but those are normally two entirely different pieces of equipment with unique performance characteristics.  Hunting sights might be adjustable for up close or long-range work, while home defense sights are normally fixed power because the ranges are limited.  Hunting weapons require repeatable sub-MOA precision from steady rests (for the most part) but defensive weapons require fast target acquisition from sometimes unusual positions.  So what sight will do both those jobs?

I ultimately chose the SPARC II by Vortex and I couldn't be happier with the results.  Mounting and sighting in (bore sighting, then zeroing at the range) was very quick and took way fewer shots than I expected.  And now, after having put about 500 rounds downrange while looking through the sight, I believe it's ready for just about anything I throw at it including defending the house or a impromptu hunting trip.  Unlimited eye relief allows the sight to be mounted anywhere on the upper's picatinny rail, and zero parallax error provides reliable sighting even when the shooter isn't sighting directly down the center of the scope.  The 2MOA red dot is small enough to allow precision work at reasonable distances but is still large enough to pickup quickly when speed matters.  The dot's intensity is adjustable over a wide range of settings to ensure good visibility in low light or on the brightest days.  Numerous mounting options allow for co-witnessing iron sights or low-profile mounting in a more traditional hunting configuration.  All caps have retention cables and flip-up covers are included.  What more could you ask for?

I don't expect to be picking off prairie dogs at 300 yards but using the rifle for wild hogs here in Florida is a distinct possibility.  Hitting my target shouldn't be too much of an issue as long as I don't have too much coffee in the morning.  The SPARC II has proven to be a nice piece of equipment that should give me years of shooting enjoyment as well as come through in clutch situations.  Check them out if you're looking for an affordable high quality scope with great features and an impeccable warranty program.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

     

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Niagara in Winter

Winter NiagaraNiagara Falls is one of the great wonders of the natural world which thankfully you don't need to spend a fortune to experience, but who in their right mind would go there in the dead of winter when the outside air temperature (without wind chill) is hovering below ten degrees?  Well as Doc Holiday (played by Val Kilmer in "Tombstone") would say, "I'm your huckleberry."

No one ever said common sense ruled when on family vacations, which is why we just had to make the drive to see the falls when most other tourists are keeping warm and toasty in the casinos.  But let me tell you that it was worth the price to get some beautiful pictures and to share the day with family.  The falls are spectacular regardless of the season, and maybe even a little more so in the winter because of the freezing mist that covers every surface in a glistening layer of ice that defies the suns warming rays.  The power of water and ice is obvious when you see the millions of gallons pouring over the fall's rim and then the growing layers of ice formed by the mist settling everywhere.  It's likely that the state park would be closed for the winter if not for the generous use of rock salt to keep the sidewalks and observation deck clear.

Niagara Falls itself is actually three different falls (Horseshoe, American, Bridal Veil) that form a natural stairway between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, with the United States on one side and Canada on the other.  You can view the falls from either country if you remember to bring along your passport, which we unfortunately did not.  It had never really occurred to me until this last visit that all the water in the Great Lakes eventually reaches the ocean at Quebec City, resembling a large river rather than a series of independent lakes.  All the water contained in the lakes west of Niagara (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) eventually passes over the falls on its journey east into Lake Ontario and ultimately to the North Atlantic.  That single fact alone is mind boggling to a simple person like me.

Here are a couple more interesting facts from the Niagara Falls State Park's website :

  • 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second. This accounts for 75,750 gallons of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls.
  • Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the U.S.A., established in 1885 as the Niagara Reservation, the first of several such reservations that eventually became the cornerstones to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
  • The Niagara River Gorge is home to 14 species of rare plants, some threatened and endangered. 
  • In 1901, 140 of the 170 trees native to western New York were found growing on Goat Island.
  • Niagara Falls are capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the United States and Canada.

Frozen ViewerNiagara Falls is a great place to visit no matter what the season with a whole lot more to see and do than I can possible mention in a short blog.  Thousands of honeymooning newlyweds have visited the region to celebrate their union, while millions of visitors from around the world gaze in wonderment at one of God's greatest creations.  I'm glad that my children have finally been able to visit the falls and I hope to be able to visit again sometime in the future.  Maybe when my grandchildren are old enough to enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful natural formation.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando  

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It's Never Too Late

Toboggan RunLife has so many things to experience that it would be totally impossible to get to all of them but there are a huge number that are so simple and easily accessible folks over look them until later in life.  My twenty something year old daughters finally got to try something that they missed out on when we lived in the great frozen north of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Tobogganing is one of those things that people in the north take for granted and their neighbors to the south think they're crazy for wanting to go outside to freeze their backsides off just to get a face-full of snow.  But there's no way to fully explain the exhilaration of racing down a hillside in the dark with little or no control, all while getting blasted in the face with fresh white powder that steals your breath away, leaving you gasping and laughing uproariously at the bottom of the run.  It's hard to believe that sharing a frozen moment of hilarity can strengthen bonds between family members and create memories sure to last a lifetime.

We recently crossed this off the list on a frozen evening following a day of steady snowfall while on family vacation, which is a story to itself with six adults and an infant making the journey. Everyone loaded into the vehicles and drove a few miles to a local park with a pretty good hill covered with newly deposited powder.  Tayler and Brittany were the first to make the run and you would have thought something was horribly wrong due to the screams of terror coming from the billowing white comet plummeting down the hill.  But the joyous laughter coming from the bottom reassured everyone that both girls had survived and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  One, 30 second run down a dark and snow-covered hill was worth the price of flights, rental cars, hotels, food, and everything else.

It's such a simple thing and it's hard to believe it took this many years to enjoy.  The screams, laughter, and smiles will live forever in our memories reminding us that it isn't all about the things we amass during our lives, but rather about the things we do during our lives.  My girls won't forget that night and neither will I and their mother.

Step out of the box and make some memories.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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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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