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 

 

0 Comments »

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

 

 

0 Comments »

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   

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments »

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

 

  

0 Comments »

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

0 Comments »

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

0 Comments »

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

0 Comments »

Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island

Dealing with commuter traffic and the crush of humanity present in Central Florida makes quite a few of us anxious to get away from things every once in a while, and residents are always looking for a pristine beach, deserted flat, or secluded trails to explore without running into a bunch of other folks.  Those can sometimes be hard to come by without spending gobs of money to vacation in far-away places, but adventurous residents and visitors can find locations that fit the bill right next to some of the most populated cities in the state.

I’ve wanted to get over to the west coast to explore Honeymoon Island State Park for almost as long as I’ve been a resident of the state and thanks to my wife’s business travels, I finally made it for a few days exploration.  The weather and fish didn’t cooperate as well as I’d have liked, but the beauty and seclusion of this jewel of the state park system didn’t disappoint.

Birds of numerous species abound throughout the island, residing in relative privacy except during park hours when watchers and photographers crash the party.  Gopher tortoise, raccoon, and rattlesnake call the island home the along with many other species of winged and four-legged critters, but the ocean and the protected flats surrounding the island are what draw the majority of visitors, myself included.

Seatrout, snook, tarpon, jack, shark, and a whole host of other marine life including manatee and dolphin, roam the water in a ceaseless search for food, shelter, or even a mate.  Maybe that’s why the fishing was a bit sub-par even though the conditions started out favorable.  I couldn’t buy a bite even though I spent a good amount of time trying and a few fish were spotted along the beach. It seemed like anglers anchored offshore outnumbered the fish.

Hiking along the trails ensures that visitors will view a wealth of wildlife and get a pretty good workout at the same time, especially anyone who isn’t used to walking in loose sand.  It can sometimes feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.  You want something a little harder?  Try walking in the ever-shifting sand right at the surf line.  You’ll feel it in the morning!  Just be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings so you don’t miss any of the life moving around you.

Honeymoon Island is a great place to escape everything and experience seclusion and quiet the way it used to be.   It’s a lot closer than folks think and the island creatures will let you visit as many times as you like.  I’m sure to be back for the blue water, sandy beaches, mangrove shorelines, and the fish that have proven so far to be elusive.  Success isn’t impossible and no matter how you look at it, I’ll get to spend a day in a spectacular place.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

She Says Stubborn, I Say Persistent

Bridge SnookThis is an opinion that many other folks hold about my fishing style, not just my wife.  I’ve been called stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, inflexible, immovable and a few other unflattering synonyms that all boil down to being a dedicated and persistent angler.  I’ve often told my buddies that if I can spot a fish, I’ll spend the time to catch it, or drive it from the area; whichever comes first.  Occasionally, I’ve brought fish to hand that other folks walked past without seeing, or only gave a halfhearted attempt because the fish’s position would have meant a difficult presentation and/or a risk to precious tackle.

I happened upon one such group of fish a few days ago and they helped to reinforce how important it is to spend the time trying to figure out the fly, the presentation, the retrieve, and anything else that might lead to a successful hookup.

A small school of snook was nestled on the backside of a trio of bridge supports on one of Tampa Bay’s many bridges.  They seemed pretty happy hovering a few feet below the surface as the tide rushed over them, flicking their tails only enough to burst forward to grab an unsuspecting minnow that strayed too far from the bridge’s shelter.

Let’s start by saying that casting a fly rod between two cement columns six feet apart, while standing under a bridge that’s only about three feet over your head, and a sloped bank behind you, is one of the toughest circumstances I can imagine.  And it leads to quite a few moments of fear when the rod tip accidentally contacts cement.  Add to that, a right to left current, and a swirling eddy pulling line in the wrong direction, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.

I spent over three hours working this school of fish, going through numerous fly changes, line changes, leader rebuilds, and many frustrated moments mulling over how to get the fly around or through those darn supports and across the backward-flowing eddy without becoming snagged on the bridge or the bottom.  I walked away numerous times, only to come back to the same spot, thinking “just a few more casts and I’ll leave them alone.”  Obviously that’s not an option to someone as obsessive compulsive as myself.  I just had to give it a little longer since the fish weren’t going anywhere.  I was afraid the tide would stop flowing and their feeding activity would cease, leaving me little choice but to load up and leave.

Everything finally came together, when the cast went far enough, the fly sank deep enough, and one of the fish became hungry enough to investigate my offering on what felt like the 10,000th presentation of the day.  I thought I was snagged when the line just came tight, but the game was on when it pulled back strongly after I added some tension.  He tried everything to get around the pilings, under the rocks, and into the current, but I wasn’t about to be denied what I’d worked so hard to accomplish.  Besides, how was I supposed to go back to my wife and explain that I spent nearly four hours casting at fish without any tangible results?  Not today buddy!  NOT TODAY!

After a brief but energetic fight my quest finally ended as I gripped a beautiful fish in my shaking hand after which I reflected upon what it took to land that exquisite example of nature’s beauty and diversity.  Snook hold a dear place in many Floridian’s heart and many of us will go to unusual measures to land them, even when the conditions are tough.  They’re strong, selective, personable, and challenging enough to keep everyone coming back for more year after year.  It’s not hard to see why certain folks become “Snook Season Specialists, although I don't consider myself in that company since I just dabble when I'm lucky enough to find a few willing players.”

Persistence is a virtue that serves anglers well if they can learn when to turn it on and when say enough is enough.  Snook, steelhead, baby tarpon, tilapia, and many other fish we love to chase can test our patience, but the rewards are beyond compare, especially when we continuously conduct an internal battle against the urge to pack it in and leave the area in search of easier targets.

Stick to it and work out the problem because eventually your stubborn desire to succeed will pay off.  It did for me on this day.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

Fly Fishing Made Easy

Fly Fishing Made EasyAlthough I'm not sure anything truly worth while comes easy, it sure is nice when someone comes out with a publication or video that helps newcomers leap in with both feet without a fear of epic failure and ultimate defeat.  Fly Fisherman magazine has produced an exceptional magazine that has just enough information to get someone past some of the steep learning curve associated with picking up a fly rod and all the associated equipment.  They put it together in a beautiful package with plenty of graphics related to tackle, tactics, and destinations, sure to give everyone the fever.  Even the experienced anglers will find learn something or discover a far away location they'd like to visit some time down the road.  They may even figure out how to get the lady of the house interested in sharing more time on the water with them.

Speaking from personal experience, I know that the first few years spent on the water with a rod were not the prettiest to behold, and it took a long time to demystify the riddle of loop control, line selection, rigging, and fly presentation.  Before the internet came along (yes there was a time before the internet) starting a new hobby meant finding a willing mentor, a kindhearted retailer, and posessing stubborn desire to succeed.  Nowadays you don't have too look far to discover a wealth of information (some good, some bad) all designed to help you along the way.  The trick is finding a source with credibility and track history behind it.

Fly Fisherman Magazine has everything you need and the credentials to back up what they say so you can rest assured that they're telling it like it is and not just trying to rope in unsuspecting folks with money to burn.  They know what it's like to struggle and fight their way to landing a few fish.

I never thought too hard about pursuing milkfish but after browsing through this addition to our magazine racks, I'm ready to book a trip.  So if you know someone interested in a new lifestyle (it is a lifestyle, not just a hobby), or you're just looking to learn a few things, stop by and pick a copy up before they're all gone.  I can see  us adding one to every outfit we sell.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

Urban Critters

John Young TurkeyNot too long ago I had embarked upon a career that was quite fulfilling but unfortunately, didn’t bring in the money necessary to carry on living in the manner we were used to.  Critter control is a never ending job here in central Florida with all sorts of things getting into places we humans would prefer they didn’t.  Some of the animals were just going about their normal lives but unfortunately came into conflict with residents, while others took advantage of our hospitality and the excellent accommodations and food we unwittingly provided them.

I just happened to encounter a wild turkey as it attempted (successfully I’m happy to add) to cross a busy intersection a few miles from the store.  She reminded me of how man’s expansion into the wild areas of the country displaced many of the wild inhabitants, and how they've been forced to adapt to our presence or move to less populated and ultimately less dangerous locations.  Some of them are conservation success stories while others are examples of how unintentional or intentional meddling has caused situations we can’t get a handle on.

Florida is blessed with a whole host of animals, some cute and cuddly, while others not so much, who also call the land home.  Osceola turkey, Florida panther, black bear, bobcat, American alligator, river otter, white tailed deer, coyote, fox, raccoon, feral hog, rats, bats, squirrels, and many, many others live here among us in harmony for the most part.  Every once in a while though, they unwittingly come into conflict with the two-legged residents at which point something has to give.

The alligator for example was nearly extinct at one point in our history but conservation efforts have allowed the population to expand to the point where coming into contact with the giant reptile is commonplace.  The black bear in Florida has recovered so well that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is likely to open a limited hunting season for them very soon because their numbers have exceeded the carrying capacity of the wild areas surrounding the state’s populace.  Coyotes have expanded their range to include this state, and are increasingly becoming a problem for other wildlife along with the domestic pets throughout the region.  Feral cats are a totally avoidable situation if we would just spay and neuter our kitties before allowing them to roam the neighborhood unchecked.  I for one am not a fan of cats being outside to hunt indigenous wildlife but convincing people otherwise is like trying to empty the ocean a spoonful at a time.  These critters aren’t going anywhere so it’s up to us to figure out a way to get along with them in a way that’s beneficial to both of our futures.

Florida Black BearWe bring a lot of these problems on ourselves by providing food and shelter to some of them, encouraging them to set up shop in our homes and businesses, thus creating situations that necessitate their removal.  We need to try harder to make our trash cans bearprooof, sealing potential entrances to buildings, setting aside adequate wild areas and buffer zones for the animals to thrive in, removing derelict buildings before they become havens for vermin, and preventing the introduction of non-native/invasive animals into the ecosystem.  Every one of these measures is a small step toward protecting what existed before our arrival on these shores, but in combination, they’ll go a long ways toward success.

I love seeing the wildlife even if it’s ventured into a less than optimal region, but we need to do our best to protect what belongs so we can coexist in harmony rather than entering into a battle neither of us can win.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

What Makes a Leader?

Rio Bonefish LeaderWe could ask this question quite often as it relates to some of our past and present leaders of the country but right now those aren’t the ones I’m referring to.  I’m thinking about the leaders used in fly fishing set ups.  They're probably the most misunderstood and misused part of the complete outfit and a lot of people would probably increase their success if they just thought about modifying their leader practices and make a few adjustments.  So why are leaders so important to the whole system, and why should they be constructed in a particular manner?  Let’s take a look.

  • Leaders are designed to roll out and extend fully to place the fly a given distance (generally between 7.5 and 10 feet) from the end of the fly line.  A tapered leader gradually rolls forward, smoothly transmitting and dissipating the energy that has been sent down the fly line and ultimately to the fly.
  • Leaders are a stealthy connection between the line and the fly that hopefully allows us to make a reasonably “lifelike” presentation to the fish without them seeing the line itself.  Leader length and strength/diameter is adjusted up or down depending on how spooky the fish are and how delicate a presentation is necessary.
  • Leaders provide a safety link or “emergency breaking point” to allow the angler to break off the fly in the event that he/she has snagged an immovable object, hooked into an unlandable fish, or any other time the fly needs to be sacrificed rather than risk damaging or losing valuable fly line, backing, rods, or reels.
  • Leaders provide the sporting challenge for those anglers seeking to land large fish on light tackle.The class tippet section of the leader is the lightest link in system and its breaking strength is the standard by which records are rated and compared to each other.

Typical Leader Construction

There are simpler ways to do things but in the case of leader construction, trying to cut corners by using straight (a single strand of heavy or light) monofilament line is guaranteed to sacrifice one or more of the performance features of a leader.  Roll out is poor, stealth is nonexistent, sporting quality is limited, and you may even risk losing all your line or breaking a rod.  I inwardly cringe when I hear folks talk about using this type of system because I know they’re risking equipment or unnecessarily handicapping performance by taking a shortcut, all for the sake of cutting cost or the desire to avoid knots.

The leader is a much more important part of the system than most folks think.  Its construction is done in a very particular way to provide functionality, protection, and sport for a group of anglers that insist on doing things the hard way.  Take a look at this part of your setup and you'll likely make some adjustments that increase your potential for success and manage the risk of doing damage to the rest of your equipment.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando 

0 Comments »

Opening Day of Trout Season

Opening Day of Trout SeasonThe first day of trout season just opened up in a couple states neighboring Florida and  putting a note about it on the chalkboard outside the shop got me thinking about years gone past and what the opening day experience meant to me growing up.  Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and many others have a rich fishing tradition similar to my home state of Pennsylvania, and I'm sure a lot of folks in that region have similar memories to mine.

We used to pack up the van as soon as my father got home from work Friday night so we could hit the road in time to unpack at camp and have dinner at a local watering hole called “The Tannery” in West Hickory.  I’d have my usual (a large fish sandwich) and we’d all enjoy a casual dinner amongst the other anglers who were equally eager to get their lines in the water.  Getting to sleep was always tough with all the anticipation and high expectations of epic success we’d enjoy the next morning.  Visions of dancing trout and full stringers populated our thoughts as we’d finally drift off in troubled slumber.

The next morning dawned with an early breakfast and a frenzied gear inventory so we could get to our secret spots on one of many stocked streams throughout the region.  Brokenstraw, Spring, Tionesta, Hickory, and Pine Creeks all had fish and we just knew we’d hit the motherload if we could just get there before everyone else.  Of course, all the others had the same idea and we’d end up standing side by side one a likely hole just waiting for legal fishing time to approach.  Like a bowyer standing at full draw, everyone waited for the clocks to move past eight o’clock.

Ziiinnnngggg…All lines cast forth in unison when legal fishing time passed, followed immediately by the  frustrated exclamations uttered by 90% of the anglers because they all backlashed or overzealously cast right into the nearest patch of brush with their first cast of the season.  I know I was one of them although my language was likely a little less colorful than that of the adults.  It would take a little while to settle down and get in the groove after months of inactivity and lack of practice, not to mention the ever present threat of toppling over into the current after hitting a slick rock while stumbling around on numbed legs and feet.

Eventually things came together and someone would hook up, proving that the commission actually did stock the stream, which then would cause everyone to crowd a little closer to the productive hole.  I never fell for the hype, and sought out less pressured fish instead, relying on my budding skills to find fish of my own.  Eventually I would.  They might not have been the biggest or the most numerous, but I found them and they were all mine.  Although I’d never rank up there with true professionals or my father for that matter, I’d land a few to take home for dinner while at the same time, donating a bunch of tackle to the river and the surrounding foliage.

My parents allowed us to wander on our own once they thought we could handle ourselves in the water and were reasonably assured that we would conduct ourselves in a courteous and respectful manner, but supper time would eventually arrive and it was time to compare our day's catches.  Dad always did the best, considering he had the most disposable income and could buy the latest tackle, while my brother and I would fare reasonably well given our limited experience and available equipment.  Mom would come back with all her paraphilia intact likely proving that she participated only enough to be on the water with us rather than risk actually catching a fish.

All in all, the days were successful on a fish catching level, but more so on a slightly spiritual one as well.  We spent time together as a family, we experienced a gathering of kindred spirits on something akin to a state holiday, and we enjoyed the moments communing with a natural world (albeit enhanced by sanctioned stocking programs) that folks in cities never get to encounter.

I dearly miss the innocence of those years and the simple joy of standing alone with my thoughts and dreams in a gurgling creek on opening day.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

Why Buy A License?

FWC License PageI had to renew my fishing license not too long ago and while dropping the money seemed to be a pain in the pocketbook, I took it in stride considering what that money does for me, my fellow outdoorsmen, and other individuals who enjoy the wild areas, and the wildlife in general.

We hear people gripe and moan about having to pay for something they feel is a right that the state shouldn’t be charging them for, but I’m not sure they understand that although having the physical ability to fish and hunt may be a right granted by a greater power, managing and protecting the resource comes at a price and it’s our responsibility to help in that endeavor.  A few dollars each season is a small price to pay to secure all the things needed to guarantee there are fish swimming in the water and game roaming the lands for future generations to pursue and enjoy.

Our dollars go directly towards enforcement efforts, meaning we directly pay the salaries of commission personnel as well as for the equipment and facilities necessary for the efforts.  We pay for land acquisition so we may have a place to enjoy our pursuits.  We pay for stocking programs, water studies, and other conservation programs so that there will be ample stocks to allow everyone to catch something for the table.  Suffice to say that our hunting and fishing license money does a lot of good, even in places or programs that might not directly involve our outdoor pursuits.

This is one time when we can metaphorically waggle our fingers at the anti-fishing/hunting crowd that still observes, hikes, boats, and swims among the game and fish that we help protect with our hard earned money.  They are reaping the rewards of hunters and fishermen paying for the PRIVELEGE of obtaining their licenses.  Say nothing of the recovery efforts led by sportsman groups like Ducks UnlimitedPheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, Coastal Conservation Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others.  Although they aren't funded by license fees, but rather donations and the like, their efforts benefit people that don’t even realize they exist.  Many species of game animals may well be extinct if not for the efforts of those organizations and the money collected from fishing and hunting licenses.

So the next time you ponder whether or not you should get a license, think about the good you accomplish even if you don’t plan on hitting the water or the field in a given year.  You’re helping on a greater scale than you know when those dollars reach the state capital and ultimately the water or land where it’s needed.  The other folks appreciate it too.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

In Honor Of the Humble Bluegill

Tosohatchee BluegillEven though there are so many different fish and so many ways to catch them, few species hold a special place in more people’s hearts like the humble Bluegill.  And there are a lot of reasons they rank towards the top of the list when you ask random fishermen what they enjoy chasing most, and why.

I’d be willing to bet that if you ask 100 anglers of varying ages “What was the first fish you can remember going after when you started out?” you’ll get a very diverse list but the bluegill will rise to the top by a pretty solid margin.  They’re everywhere, they eat a variety of baits (natural, artificial, and fly), they fight like the dickins, and they taste pretty darn good when scaled and fried up just like mom did it.   Innumerable folks start out chasing bluegill as kids with a simple outfit complete with a Zebco rod and reel, a red and white bobber, single hook, and a coffee can of red wigglers.  I count myself as one of the lucky ones to have spent a good portion of my young life sitting along the bank of Howard Eaton Reservoir, or anchored in the lily pads in Presque Isle State Park.  Family fishing trips taught us patience and how to get along with our siblings in a small boat, as well has how to appreciate the beauty and peace of fishing.  Bluegill played a big part in our young lives for sure.

Nowadays, I don’t target them as much unless I happen upon a spawning congregation, but even then it’s just to do some experimentation and see how a new fly works, or to end a long dry spell between fish.  They’re always around and almost always willing to play along for a few minutes provided I can figure out what fly to throw at them.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and that’s why I keep trying.

There is a bit of a challenge to catching gills if they really aren’t in the mood, and a lot of people don’t figure it out for a while.  Bluegill aren’t chaser’s in the same sense that bass are, meaning they don’t pursue their prey very far and most people work artificial baits and flies too fast in the first place, missing a lot of catchable fish as a result.  Topwater flies should shake and shimmy to imitate a distressed insect, while subsurface offerings can either slowly sink through the water column or be stripped along slowly and steadily.  Before making that first cast, try to imagine how far and fast a grass shrimp or damsel fly larva moves through the water.

Presque Isle FishingRed wigglers, crickets, wax worms, grubs, small minnows, bread balls, and many other natural baits (even hot dog chunks) will entice a strike when in the zone, so kiddies and their parents or grandparents aren’t left out in the cold.  Tossing bait and waiting for something to happen is how a lot of fishermen got started in the past and it still works today, especially when indoctrinating youngsters into the sport.  Just be sure to have something else for your budding angler to do between bites since it may take some time for things to heat up.

Bluegill unfairly get lumped in with all the other “Bream” down here in the south and maybe there should be a movement to correctly identify them out of respect.  They’re hungry, strong, available, tasty, and willing to eat a wide variety of offerings, so load up the tackle, the kids, and a can of red wigglers for a ton of fun while chasing the humble Bluegill.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando.

0 Comments »

Potluck Fishing in South Florida's Freshwater

Peacock BassI can’t even begin to tell everyone how lucky Floridians are when it comes to fishing opportunities, but I’m quite sure readers of my Blogs and newsletters are quite aware of how many chances we have to hit the water and the incredible variety we enjoy throughout the year.  South Florida holds a special place in our hearts, mine especially, and I sometimes wish I didn’t live 200 miles from some of the best fishing anywhere.

Scott and I just returned from another stupendous trip to the region, hitting more water than ever while fishing over a wide variety of habitats and cover types including clear and deep canals, residential lakes and retention ponds, tannin stained sloughs, and Scott even took a few casts into the saltwater side of a water control gate to land his first puffer on fly.

Mayan CichlidOur trip started at 2 AM Sunday morning as we departed my house in northeast Orlando, ultimately reaching our first stop, a Denny’s, somewhere close to Pembroke Pines to fuel up for the coming day and to outline a plan of attack.  Location number one was only a few miles away according to my phone’s map application, so we took our time getting there, and it proved to be a wonderful residential pond full of willing peacocks.  They were schooled up and smashing small baitfish, so we just had to lob a few Polar Fiber Minnows into the fray, and it didn’t take long to land a half dozen feisty fish and essentially destroy the first fly of the trip.  But you can only hit them so hard and we had plenty of ponds to explore.  One of my favorites, an unassuming section of canal along Flamingo Road proved to be productive for a very nice peacock, and a good bunch of mayan cichlids.

Three more stops including one of our best producing municipal parks yielded a very good number of cruising and bedding fish that were very willing to smack the living daylights out of a well presented fly, but we were careful not to over pressure the bedding pairs so as not to adversely affect their spawning activity.  Besides, sometimes it’s just too easy to pick what’s essentially “low hanging fruit.”  We finished off the day with our traditional “first-night pizza,” a much needed shower, a drink or two, all capped off by rapidly falling asleep while sitting up watching a movie.  Seven miles of walking, 11 hours of fishing, and essentially being awake for 40 hours sure can take it out of you.

Green SeverumMonday saw an early morning drive a bit further south to one of the best canal systems in the region.  This particular one sees a lot of pressure but the fishing can be very good at some point along its path if you can find it.  We covered a good portion of the canal reachable by foot and caught some decent sized fish, but the biggest peacocks I’ve ever seen refused to commit to the bite despite taking some pretty good shots at them.  We wondered if they were more in the mood to spawn than to chase food.  Overall, the fishing was a little off what we’ve seen in the past with fewer mayans and less peacocks on the structure than normal.  Runoff, temperature, sunlight, love, who knows what the reason for the less than spectacular fishing.

The highlight, or should I say low light, of this part of the adventure was an exceptionally lucky cast I threaded through the cover across a small pond alongside the canal.  There was an immediate flash as the line snapped satisfyingly tight to something much more immense than anything I expected.  I screamed “THIS IS A BIG FISH!!!” as I firmly set the hook and struggled to winch the monster out of the cover, through the lily pads, and across the pond, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to happen as it became embedded in the obstructions between us.  Recovery took a few minutes after breaking off the leader and re-rigging with trembling hands and a pounding heart.  Tarpon, snook, monster bass, peacock…  We’ll never know.

OscarThe final location of the day was right alongside a busy thoroughfare and although we always think it’s going to be over pressured and the fish more skittish, we caught another five or six beautiful peacocks and a spotted tilapia before the fading sunlight made sighting the fish and remaining in contact with the fly difficult.  It had been a long and successful day, totaling seven more miles of hiking and 10 hours of fishing.

MudfishWe visited a number of spots alongside the Tamiami canal during our last day of fishing, and were lucky enough to find a great variety of fish including oscar, spotted tilapia, mayan, stumpknocker, bluegill, largemouth bass, gar, and the rarest of the bunch, the green severum.  Scott was able to legitimately hook and land one by jumping in on a pair I’d worked long and hard to entice, but I returned the favor by absolutely slamming the Oscars and by landing a mudfish (bowfin) before him.  He did land one though in the eleventh hour and deserves congratulations on checking another one off the list of fly-caught species.  We just happened to pull over to the side of the road and discover a canal where we could sight fish to cruisers with limited obstructions and good water clarity.  All we had to do was accomplish a decent presentation and a good battle was sure to ensue.

I had the opportunity to re-learn a valuable lesson we should all take to heart when fishing in Florida, and that’s the fact that there are alligators everywhere (especially in the Everglades region) and they’re HIGHLY attracted to the disturbance caused by struggling fish.  I had two close encounters with our reptile friends approaching a little too close for comfort, but none of us was injured so I guess “No harm, no foul,” is the motto of the day.  I can claim to have landed a six footer on eight pound tippet and a size 10 topwater fly.

American AlligatorOverall, we enjoyed one of the best fishing trips of our lives without having traveled to a far off land and spend thousands of dollars trying to get there.  Although I didn't get to check any fish off the "To Catch List" there's no way the trip could have been any better since the weather was nearly perfect, the fish cooperative (for the most part), the flies effective, and company top notch.  He drives, I navigate, and we both catch more fish than should be realistically permitted.  This trip is becoming something of a tradition that I hope will continue for years to come.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

1 Comments »

Tilapia Fishing or Watching Paint Dry.... Your Choice

Scott's Blue Tilapia on FlyIf a title like that doesn't catch your attention then nothing will, but trying to fool a fish that for the most part is unwilling to take any type of bait can be a true test of will, sanity, and patience.  Each year during the spring we'll hit the local lakes and ponds looking to hook into one of the regions more successful invasive species, the Blue Tilapia.

Blue Tilapia have expanded their range to include just about every waterway imaginable across the state and their spawning beds make for a pretty conspicuous clue that they're in the area.  Tilapia spawn right after most of the bass and their beds can make the sandy shallows look like a moonscape.  Each bowl-shaped nest is about the size of a truck tire and during the peak of the season there will be a single, fiercely-aggressive, and meticulously-cleaning, tilapia parent.  Their aggressive nature and obsessive compulsive cleaning is what we use to our advantage when trying to catch one on fly.

Unfortunately though, this is a waiting game with very limited casting followed by extended periods of standing as still as a hunting heron, and then impossibly light strikes. The normal scenario includes finding an active bed with a fish on it, the fish spooks, you cast into the bed, the fish eventually returns, it stares at the fly for a while, it picks up the fly and tries to move it out of the bed, fight on.  I've actually stood over a single bed for upwards of 15 minutes waiting for the fish to return after fleeing the bed, only to have it spook again or come to rest in the bed without noticing my fly.  That can be more than a little irritating.

Five or six weight rods with fairly light leaders and smallish and lightly dressed flies are the tools of the trade when chasing tilapia because they aren't overly powerful nor are the flies so large as to require a heavyweight rod.  About the only trick to hooking up is using a fly that's large enough to get the fish's attention but dressed sparsely enough that the fish gets the hook in its mouth rather than a bunch of fluffy material.  A simple wooly bugger or something similar should work pretty well if you find cooperative fish.  Bowfishing is another popular method of taking tilapia during the spawn but there's no way to practice catch an release with an arrow so it's only a method to explore if you have a way to dispose of your catch

So why would anyone go through all this for a very low likelihood of success?  Because it's a fish, there's a ton of them around, they'll eventually bite, and are a lot of fun on a fly rod.  Scott and I are in an informal competition to catch the most fish species on fly so he just had to get one since I've already checked that one off the list.  Living in a place with as many fish as Florida means that we throw a fly at anything that swims no matter how tough or uncooperative it might be.  Being well-rounded and flexible allows us to extend our season through the entire year, with very little down time.  We might even come home with something for dinner on occasion.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

0 Comments »

The Road Less Traveled

Central Florida Google Map Shot

Ever since cars became available to the average consumer, we’ve all taken to the road as part of our everyday lives whether heading to the grocery store, the movies, or on a family vacation.  I can remember spending hours on the road with my family in Pennsylvania as we trekked to one place or another along the back roads and side streets my dad chose to follow rather than getting on the major highways.  He loved just driving along through the country side looking for critters and searching out the next best hunting spot that he would later ask permission to access.

Growing up,  I continued this tradition of just wandering the back roads, so much so that I’d rarely take a direct route to my destinations, choosing instead to “take the scenic route’ even if I was just going home from work just to keep from getting bored.  I know I’m not the only one that likes to wander around a bit while driving but my wife and kids never quite got the hang of enjoying the journey as much as the actual arrival at the final destination.  My wife never appreciated the skill required to spot a drumming grouse, a strutting turkey, and grazing woodchuck, or gallivanting whitetail fawns while tooling along at 50 miles an hour. 

I think we all reach a point in our lives when getting home, or to work, or even to granny’s house quickly is more important than anything we might experience while on the road.  So we start taking more interstate highways, and expressways in order to get where we’re going in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of headaches.  But what are we missing by always taking the quickest path?  We could be miss out on seeing the world’s biggest ball of twine, the oldest living tree, or even the artistry of a tree made of discarded mufflers.  You just never know what surprises await you in those little towns with a single stop light and an equal number of bars and churches.Florida Atlas & Gazeetteer

I recently had two occasions to travel across the state from the west coast and each time I used some of the less direct paths, rather than getting on the toll roads and hustling along at 70 miles an hour.  I discovered little out of the way towns and burgs I didn’t even know existed, beautiful rolling hills, swamps, creeks, and forests just begging to be explored on foot or by kayak.  I’ve always had a thing for “Old Florida” so finding these little gems reminded me of the road trips I planned on taking with my wife when the kids were old enough to take care of themselves.  Now we have the time to explore and enjoy ourselves without needing to travel too far from home.

So grab a Florida Gazzeteer and hit the road to discover something new that might be quite old.  You never know what you’ll find whether it’s a new place to eat, a hiking trail, a fishing hotspot, or just a favorite stretch of road to cruise along.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orland

0 Comments »

Watch Your Speed

Winter Florida LargemouthNo, I’m not talking about your speed on the roadways, although that’s a good idea to keep in mind unless you just want your insurance rates increased and your license suspended.  Winter time fishing can be some of the most productive of the year but the one thing I keep forgetting to keep in mind when I hit the ponds or the saltwater flats, is the speed of the retrieve and how fast to work the fly in general.  There isn’t another single time of the year when this is so important and we’re constantly getting questions about how quickly to work a fly through the strike zone for various species.  Unfortunately there isn’t any one single solution but rather a batch of questions the angler needs to ask while they’re out there casting away.

The first consideration is what am I trying to imitate and how quickly does it move through the water when relaxed and how much faster when frightened.  The dry fly fisherman is going to say that his bugs only move as fast as the current it’s riding while a barracuda fisherman will respond that a needle fish can truly haul the mail when a giant is tight on its tail.  There isn’t any single correct answer but instead it’s key to keep the prey in your mind and what frame of “mind” it’s in at the time.

Secondly, I take a look at the species being pursued and the type of feeding it generally does.  A large bass is primarily an ambush feeder that doesn’t chase anything further than a foot or two (similar to giant snook, and gator trout), while a smaller specimen of the same species may actively chase down its dinner from time to time.  Speedsters like mackerel, bonita, barracuda, ladyfish, and others, are relentless and amazingly fast; chasing down and devouring their meal like they may not get another.  Trout like brookies and cutthroat rarely chase anything, they rely on the current to bring dinner to the table, at which time they can dine at a leisurely and easy pace, sipping or grabbing their food as it passes.  The retrieval rates vary greatly depending on species and size as you can see.

Thirdly, am I appealing to the fish’s hunger, territorialism, or shear anger?  Bedding fish are not really in the mood to eat and therefore don’t often pursue things that aren’t passing relatively close to their location.  Objects that pass by closely, but too quickly don’t get chased either, so you need to slow it down, and sometimes stop the retrieve so the fly lies still in the bed, before eliciting a strike out of anger and the need to protect the brood.  Striking or highly predatory fish are often more willing to chase or follow prey, or your fly, over greater distances and at higher speeds.

Lastly, we need to consider that the same species will likely change its feeding habits due to a slowing or speeding up of its metabolism as a result of changing seasons and varying water temperatures.  Bass are a prime example of this and the reason I wrote about the topic in the first place.  Experiencing a slow and deliberate bite on the drop into a deep pond left me amazed and frustrated by my inability to slow down enough without losing total concentration on the task at hand.  I awoke from a daydream at one point, realizing I’d been struck only because the line was swimming away at right angles to where I had originally casted.  The bit was so subtle that I hadn’t even noticed it.  I invariably lost that fish because of an ineffective hook set.  My inability to slow down may also be the reason behind my lack of success with black drum on the flats as well.

There are a lot of things to consider before making that first cast of the day if you want to have some semblance of success, not the least of which is the speed (or lack thereof) in your retrieve.  Pace, pausing, long, short, jerky, call it whatever you want because there isn’t any single answer to the question.  Only more questions.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »

The Ultimate Guide to Fishing South Florida On Foot

Ultimate Guide to Fishing South Florida On FootDoing the research for any trip abroad is a very important part of any preparation in my household and the farther the trip, or the more unknown the species, the more resources I’ll look for.  Thank goodness we live in the information age when access to maps, species profiles, fishing reports, fly recipes, and hatch charts are nothing more than a finger click away.

Putting in the time before enjoying stellar success is a big part of growing as a fisherman and I really think that everyone should spend a few “less than successful days” on the water in order to truly appreciate what they have when all the parts start falling in place.  We can’t all jump right in as experts, and not every day is going to be worthy of a syndicated fishing show, or a spot on the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  Fishing our region can be a humbling experience for a guy that thought he knew what was going on in the fishing world.  And there’s just so much darn water!

Much of Florida was nothing but swamp back in the day but as civilization expanded and our desire to tame the wilderness meant that dry real-estate was at a premium, canals were built to control, drain, and route ground water and storm-water runoff out of the settlements, unknowingly creating some of the best fishing opportunities anywhere in the United States.  Retention ponds, lakes, ditches, canals, and other water control measures provided ideal habitat for many of the indigenous fish species of both fresh and saltwater varieties; and the introduction of non-native species (both accidental and on purpose) helped to make this region a superb fishing destination with nearly limitless possibilities.  Bass, tarpon, peacocks, snook, jacks, ladyfish, oscars, and many more inhabit every wet corner of the area and they'll all take a bait or fly of some type.  All those locations and all those fish can make for a very confusing fishery but now you know there are resources to make finding a place to go a little simpler.

Well Steve Kantner “The Land Captain” has written and published the quintessential authority on fishing South Florida… on foot no less.  He realized that a great number of fishermen, whether locals or visitors, don’t have ready access to watercraft of any type but would still like to experience and enjoy everything that Florida has to offer the adventurous individual.  “The Ultimate Guide To Fishing South Florida On Foot” has brought everything together an angler new to the area, or just getting started, might want to know before hitting the water, or the road as it were.  Since the guide is geared towards spots you can reach by foot, you really can just hit the road and explore with some sense of where you’re going in the first place.

Peacock EyeMr. Kantner has consolidated so much information and insight that it’s nearly impossible to explain how in depth and thorough this guide proves to be.  I’ve been fishing the area for about ten years and I’ve quickly learned a good number of things just in the moments of browsing through the pages between customers in the shop.  Species profiles, tackle requirements, techniques and tactics, along with maps (reproductions of those available on the FWC website along with others) and personal insight complete a package it would take years, if not lifetimes, to accumulate.  This book will open up South Florida to many people who just wouldn’t otherwise be willing to venture beyond their comfort zone of the water immediately surrounding the homestead.

Stop in and check out Steve Kantner’s new book, load up the car or bicycle, and be ready to start finding fish with regularity.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

0 Comments »