Zombie Nation 2013

Zombie Nation MagazineOnce again, Guns and Ammo has brought to the news stands one of the most important publications of its kind in the world.  We all know what's coming and I for one want to be the first to get my hands on the state of the art weapons, ammunition, prepping information.  The first issue of Zombie Nation gave us just enough to wet our whistles so to speak and this issue takes it even further.

The second issue of Zombie Nation hit the street about a week ago and I snatched up two of the ten copies on the rack before anyone else could get the drop on them because I don't want to be the only one left standing around while my neighbors are bugging out.

There are a couple things that caught my attention with the first one being a gorgeous Modern Sporting Rifle from Spike's Tactical in Apopka.  Their SL 15 Zombie looks like it would lay down some precision lead while defending your homefront from the biters.  Magpul equipment and a plethora of Spike's custom touches, make this zombie slayer a welcome addition to the gun safe.  "Don't Forget To Double Tap" is milled into the upper unit rail system as a constant reminder of the need to put walkers down for the count.  Spike's custom ST-T2 heavy buffer is machined from solid billet then filled with High Density Tungsten Powder (HDTP) to tame recoil for repeated accuracy.  The features keep stacking up so my advice would be to get your hands on one before Z-Day arrives.

My second favorite new toy (if I could afford it) is the Standard Issue 1911A1 .45 cal rail gun from Iver Johnson.  This zombie-themed pistol is so beautifully appointed with you guessed it, "ZOMBIES" that you may not want to carry it.  Stunning is the only word I can find to describe the graphics on the slide and the zombie-green grips.  A fully adjustable rear sight and a pickatinny rail-equiped frame ensure that you can mount a light, lazer, or keep it naked while still putting rounds where they count.  Get yours before I get mine.....  Or should I say before my wife gets hers?

There's way more to this mag than just things that go boom, including knives, blunt instruments, comm gear, rations, and even navigation equipment so you can find the only safe haven for miles.  I especially appreciate the effort the writers went through to bring us some of the most up-to-date tactics with a zombie twist.  These practices might be necessary in the event of any national or local emergency including; hurricanes, floods, fires, mass power outages, or even a Sharknado......  Well maybe not Sharknado, that would just be silly.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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When Fishing Buddies Grow Up

Brittany and BaitI was standing at the fly shop counter thinking about the state of the world and how to reinvent the Clouser Minnow, when I realized that 19 years ago at nearly that exact moment I was welcoming my youngest daughter to the family and a new chapter in our history was beginning.  Little could I have known how much of a pain…  I mean blessing she was to become.  She grew to become my little fishing buddy who over the years braved many mosquito bites and alligator encounters to spend a little time on the water with her pops.

Our excursions along the Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge were never about how big the fish or how many we caught, but rather the simpler things were much more significant.  Purchasing and then playing with the bait was just as important to her as it would have been to any young boy, and we even felt a little bad when the time came to hook up a shrimp and sacrifice it for the greater good.  Bird watching, looking for otters, running from alligators, and investigating all manner of critters was all part of the game.  Catching fiddler crabs though challenging could turn painful as did a few early casting lessons.

My favorite times though were the quiet ones between fishing spots or on the ride home.  We’d break down and have hotdogs at 7-Eleven with onions, pickles (LOTS of pickles), mustard, and maybe some jalapenos.  We shared a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips even though neither of us really wanted to split them fairly.  Upon arriving home, we’d settle in to an afternoon matinee of “The Goofy Movie” which to this day I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in its entirety since we would both drift off dreaming of the ones that got away.

Nineteen years and a lot of water has passed and at this point I sort of regret that there weren’t more little fishing excursions for the two of us and the rest of the family.  Life got in the way and work, sleeping in, or just hanging out with friends became more central to daily life than being on the water together.  Regardless of the reason, we made the most of our time, but we all know it’s never enough.

Maybe someday we’ll welcome a new fishing buddy into the world, then she and I both can teach about the joys of playing with shrimp, catching fiddler crabs, adding condiments to hotdogs, and falling asleep to a good movie.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Beginner's Luck?

Theresa and OscarHave you ever spent hours or even days researching something then failing to see success after numerous attempts, only to have someone step right in and do that very thing without really knowing how?  Well my wife just did it to me a couple days ago while fishing the Tamiami Trail and yes, we’re still married!

I don’t quite understand it and I’m willing to bet that it drives others crazy as well.  Within mere moments of stepping from the truck she yells, “Oh this is a pretty one!  It’s a pretty reddish color and it has this funny red spot on its tail….What is it?”  OMG!  I’m pretty sure the Swamp Cabbage Man fled to another county in horror upon hearing my screams of frustration… I mean JOY!  It’s a humongous Oscar and I’ve been trying to catch one ever since I got one for my fish tank and knew they grew wild in Florida.

She hooked into and landed this fish at the very first place we stopped, on one of the first ten or so casts into a roadside pool.  It wasn’t enough that I’ve been trying to catch one for two years with no success, but to add insult to injury, she turns around and lands a beautiful Peacock Bass on the first cast into another roadside pool further down the trail.  How is that possible?  Both fish even grabbed the same Crappie Jig and white grub tail.

Theresa's PeacockThe funny thing about the whole story is the fact that she wouldn’t have been caught dead with a rod in her hand before we got married and since that wonderful day has proven that she normally exudes some sort of fish repellant most of the time.  How is it possible that she is now out fishing me?  Is it beginner’s luck or just having a good mentor?  I like to think I’ve got something to do with it.  After all, I chose the lure, and the location so doesn’t that mean I caught half the fish?  I guess not.  She has come a long way as a fisherman over the past 21 years.  Now I just need to teach her how to tie her own knots.

Or mine might have to start “failing” by “accident.”

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Feeding The Silver King

Feeding TarponI don’t normally go in for doing touristy things when I go on vacation but this year I had to do something just for the fun of it.  My wife and I just returned from a week long vacation in south Florida in search of fishing adventures of both the fresh and saltwater variety and while there, I insisted on visiting Robbie’s of Islamorada so that I could spend some time communing with one of my favorite fish on the planet.

Tarpon have held a special place in my heart ever since I saw an early episode of the Walkers Cay on ESPN.  They are powerful fighters that jump to stunning heights and then pull like a freight train when the battle goes below the surface.  Their mirror-like scales reflect the water around them defying any artist to accurately duplicate their true beauty.  And at the same time, they can be mysteriously picky, refusing to eat even the best presented bait, lure, or fly.

At Robbie’s though, you get the opportunity to view them up close and personal and maybe even get one to eat your hand…..Ooops, I mean eat FROM your hand.  Just purchase a bucket of “food” and go out on the docks where the tarpon and a few thieving jacks are eagerly awaiting a free handout.  These fish are free swimming and able to leave the area at any time but obviously some choose to become residents, living off the generosity of visiting tourists.  A few bucks is all it takes to get a giggle of delight from a fishophile like myself.  It’s kind of like giving a youngster a fistful of doggie treats and letting him loose in a kennel full of lab puppies.  Except these “puppies” are approaching a hundred pounds or more.

Do yourself a favor the next time you’re down visiting The World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada, and drive just a bit further to Mile Marker 77.5 where you will find Robbie’s.  Dig through the couch cushions for some spare change before you hit the road then use it to buy a few buckets of fish food.  It’s cheap entertainment and might even spark a passion for a truly magnificent fish…..The Silver King.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Saying Goodbye to Rascal

RascalSome very close friends had to say goodbye to a much loved and special member of the family a few weeks ago and I thought I owed it to him to write a little tribute to someone that meant so much to so many.

I’m talking about their goofy and lovable yellow lab, Rascal who had been with them for many, many wonderful years.

Rascal was one of those dogs that would put a smile on your face without having to do much more than come running when he saw you, his tail wagging a mile a minute and threatening to steer him off course due to its exuberance.  He wasn’t a good hunter, a long jumping water dog (although he loved visiting my pool when the mood hit him), he wasn’t a service dog helping the disabled, and he wasn’t a particularly talented performer.  But he was the perfect dog.  “He was every man’s dog.”  He chased a ball any time you asked, and he dug holes in the yard better than any high-priced excavator.  He was a warm pillow on a cold evening, the perfect vacuum cleaner when errant food hit the floor, but best of all, he was a wonderful friend to three children as they grew from toddlers to young adults.  He didn’t mind having his ears pulled or his belly tickled.  Rascal made for a handy scapegoat when cookies “just happened” to disappear from the pantry.  He had infinite patience and never got tired of listening.  He even listened to me a few times when things were tough.  There was no judgment in those big brown eyes and things always seemed better after a few minutes in his company.

Rascal got old like we all do and life got tougher with each passing year, until the point when difficult decisions had to be made.  I’ve made the same decision a couple of times and it’s never easy to say goodbye to a member of the family who gave so much without meaning to.  Compassion has to prevail and we have to let go.  Rascal was allowed to move on with dignity after spending his last night and following morning surrounded by the ones that cared for and loved him so much.

I truly believe that all dogs go to heaven so we’ll get the chance to play together again buddy, but until that day, just enjoy doing what dogs do…Chasing balls, sniffing all those interesting smells, digging innumerable holes, and taking naps in the afternoon sun.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Concealed Carry Holster Options

Concealed Carry HolstersCarrying a concealed weapon is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be entered into lightly, and doing so brings up a whole host of issues that most folks never even begin to consider.  I surely thought it was going to be easier to carry comfortably and without bringing attention to myself than it really is.  All the books and advice helps but in the long run, you just have to find your own way.

Choosing the gun is the fairly simple part and it only took a couple tries to come up with a suitable solution.  The “Concealed Carry” part is tricky and my ever growing collection of holsters is proof positive that it’s going to take time.

There are countless carry options including but not limited to; inside the waistband (IWB), outside the waist band (OWB), shoulder, packs/pouches, ankle, pocket, shirts, bands, and others.  Even selecting a single type of holster doesn’t solve everything because they come in various configurations.  Just look at the outside the waistband variety where you have pancake, single loop, snap on, paddle, and clip-on to name a few.  Leather, Kydex, and cordura and the three main types of materials, with each having its own distinct advantages, be it comfort, water resistance, durability, etc…

Kirkpatrick Leather Company HolsterGalco, DeSantis, Uncle Mikes, Safariland, and Bianchi are some of the better known holster/belt manufacturers but there are many smaller outfits that produce some very nice equipment albeit with smaller quantities in stock and possibly longer delivery times.  Either way the discriminating consumer has more options now than ever before.  Many of the manufacturers have extensive websites that make finding a holster to fit your weapon a piece of cake.  Most of them are set up with predetermined selection menus that gradually lead you to the right holster for your needs based on weapon manufacturer, type, size, carry type (IWB, OWB), style, and material.  Each selection leads you further and further along the selection process. 

I’ve collected one heck of a holster collection in a pretty short time and I don’t think I’ll be looking for anything new very soon.  With two inside the waistband, and two outside, I feel confident that my weapon is accessible, secure, and concealed.  I just reach for the appropriate holster depending on the clothing I plan on wearing.  My current favorite is an OWB concealment holster by Kirkpatrick Leather Company.  It fits my M&P Shield like a glove, was reasonably priced, and is comfortable to wear.

Whatever your choice might be, do your research and explore some options.  Keep your comfort and clothing habits in mind before selecting a holster and you’ll be assured of getting the right one for your needs.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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I'll Have One Of Everything

Midas CichlidFly fishing has obviously become a disease for some of us, myself included. Unfortunately for those uninfected, they’ll never understand what it is that makes us keep going back again, and again, and again.

I’ve been on a quest to catch as many species as possible on the fly rod ever since I first threw one, 17 or so years ago.  And I know many other guys that feel the same way.  It isn’t enough to say we caught some of the premier species available, but rather we want to land as many different species as possible, even those that most people would call trash fish or undesirables.  Gar, bowfin, Grass Carp, Tilapia may be less than what we would call sportsman’s dreams, but they each present their own challenge. 

Compare it to Chuck Adams a world renowned bow hunter.  “On January 4, 1990, Chuck became the first archer in history to harvest all 27 varieties of North American big game--a feat called the Super Slam.”  Although it’s unlikely I’ll ever be famous for catching a bunch of fish, it’s nice to consider the accomplishment and the effort it takes in the same light.  Maybe if I could catch a world class specimen of each then it would make the achievement more noteworthy, and although catching one on conventional tackle is nice, they don’t count for me until they fall to the fly.

I took up the fly rod because I desired to catch fish using a technique I thought was a little more old fashioned and intricate than conventional tackle fishing.  Creating and throwing a fly for a target species requires some research and dedication to the craft as well as the fish you’re pursuing.  I love that part of the journey and will spend hours searching the internet, pouring over maps, and toiling at the tying bench, lining up places to go and things to throw.

A Midas Cichlid was the most recent fish to be checked off the list and although I was a bit surprised at the number of them inhabiting the canal systems of south Florida, catching one wasn’t like shooting fish in a barrel.  It took some time but the result was worth it.  Another beautiful fish came to hand, to be followed by a few more, proving it wasn’t totally by accident.  I can check off another one. Good friend and coworker Scott also landed his first Midas as well as a beautiful Spotted Tilapia that took some time to identify.  He was ecstatic when he learned that another species had been landed.

There are many more yet to be caught and I have no desire to stop searching for worthy quarry.  Oscars, and snakeheads are high on the list but once again, we’ll have to travel south to find them.  Let’s hope the search doesn’t take another 17 years.  Maybe you too can create a list of your own and start checking them off one at a time.  Keep records, take pictures, and enjoy the journey….  It’s worth it.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Invasive Species

IguanaOne of the wonderful things about living in Florida is the variety of critters running all over the place, whether on land, in the water, on in the skies.  It would take quite a while for anyone to view each and every type of fauna we have to offer.  Our flora is quite spectacular as well, with some species of plant or another always in bloom, causing the color of our landscape to constantly change with the seasons

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint) we have a lot of species that were never intended to be here and it looks like they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.  These non-native, and in some cases, invasive species have set up camp in the subtropical environment similar to their homeland or have learned to adapt to the environment and the presence of humans.  Sadly, it has been to the detriment of the native animals since many original Florida inhabitants have been negatively affected by seemingly innocent critters, plants, and fish visitors.  Kind of like a houseguest that won’t leave.

Brazilian PeppertreeSouth Florida is the epicenter for invasives, just turn on the television and you’ll get a look at a few of them.  Iguanas, Tegu, Burmese Pythons, Northern Snakeheads, Myan Cichlid, Spotted Tilapia, Lionfish, Wild Hogs, Nutria, Brazilian Peppertree, Kudzu and many, many more have staked a claim somewhere in the Sunshine State.  And although it's illegal to release non-native species into the wild, it happens every day here and across the country.  Whether it’s a gardener innocently planting a ground-covering vine, or someone disposing of a too-large to care for family pet, it happens and it can snowball from there if not kept in check.

Regardless of whether it’s accidental or on purpose, there are a lot of relatively innocent invaders out there, side by side with some not so innocent (if not truly destructive) ones.  We all need to do our part to control them and thus protect our native species and their place in the circle of life.

For more information on what to watch for, visit:

Florida Invasive Species Partnership

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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We're Having Bugs For Dinner?

Crawfish FeastIf anyone had told me twenty two years ago that I would truly enjoy eating bugs, I’d have called them fools and reminded them that I grew up on meatloaf, chicken wings, and spaghetti.  We ate a lot of wild game like venison, squirrel, grouse, dove, and the like, but mud bugs?  Not on your life.

Well, things change and moving south 17 years ago caused me to broaden my culinary horizons.  It doesn’t hurt that the sister I never knew I had (inside joke amongst the family) is originally from Louisiana.  Those Rajin Cajuns really know how to eat.  Now Crawfish are on the menu each time we have a family event like milestone birthdays, anniversaries, or as it was this past weekend, high school graduations.

Crawfish might not look terribly appetizing, and it takes a little touch of cruelty to put them into the boiling water right after using one as a living earring, but they sure are tasty when you learn to peal and devour efficiently.  Besides eating them right out of the pot with corn on the cob, potatoes, andouille sausage, and loads of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, my favorite is Crawfish Etouffee (once again with lots of creole seasoning). Absolute heaven on a plate!!!  Sometimes I wonder about the first brave person to grab one of these things out from the swamp, look at it and say, “I wonder if these here creepy crawlys is edible.”  It was probably some sort of childhood dare gone wrong.  Either way, I’m glad someone took that first chance.

Etouffee Although I’m no expert on preparing or eating crawfish (I still can’t pinch the tail and suck the head properly) I know good food when I taste it.  Just spicy enough to make your nose run and your lips to tingle is the optimal seasoning level in my humble opinion, but some folks may want to back it off a touch.  They do need to be cooked well and served hot to get the most out of their unique taste and texture.  They're kind of a cross between lobster tails and shrimp.  Either way.....MMMMmmmmm!

So next time you have a family event and are looking for something different, pick up some crawfish, set up a table, and feast till you can’t stand up, but don’t forget to invite me!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!
 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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History, Food, and Shopping in Annapolis, Maryland

United States Naval Academy GoatAnnapolis, Maryland is home to one of America’s prized and most treasured institutions of higher learning and I just had a chance to visit it after many, many years away.  I can’t claim to have attended college at the United States Naval Academy, but I have three generations of sailors and Marines in my family that did, and the colors Navy blue and gold run deep in our veins.  One visit to the grounds is sure to stir any patriotic feelings a visitor might have and my wife and I were no different.

We trod the same path that midshipmen from ages past had walked and it was impossible not to imagine what it must have been like as a student in the academy during times of national emergency and war.  Those young men and now women must have been wondering what they got themselves into, and standing in the chapel I thought I could hear the uncountable ghosts praying for their safety and that of their shipmates.

Established in 1845, the Naval academy has produced many great leaders including one president, numerous members of congress and distinguished members of the military, 73 Medal of Honor Awardees, and 52 astronauts.  The sense of tradition, academic excellence, and honor is overpowering when you look up at the buildings and tour the grounds.  I wish we had had enough time to properly visit the buildings that were open to the public.  Everyone should take the time to visit the Naval Academy and learn a little about honor, patriotism, and loyalty.

The city of Annapolis is the state capitol of Maryland and a port town that looks like it should have great sailing ships in the harbor rather than boats with internal combustion engines.  The town has embraced its nautical history while still being able to stay with the times.  Trendy shops abound along the main street and the food is out ofCream of Crab at Chick and Ruths Delly this world.  Chick and Ruths Delly has a cream of crab soup that’s to die for right next to a pastrami sandwich that would rival any in New York City.  Gourmet spices, vinegar, oils, teas, and almost anything your heart can’t handle will be found within walking distance of the waterfront.  Just park the car and take a walk.

I hope everyone has found a new place to add to their list of future destinations whether it’s food, drink, shopping, or a sense of history you are looking for.  Stop by Annapolis, Maryland and you won’t be disappointed.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Seasickess Prevention

Seasickness PreventionSummer is coming and with it comes more picnics, family vacations, and hopefully time on the water chasing fish or just cruising around.  Unfortunately for some though, time on the water can be quite uncomfortable especially if the conditions aren’t quite favorable, and depending on the size of the watershed and the weather, “uncomfortable” can be quite “miserable.”  Just ask some friends I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with on the Chesapeake Bay chasing stripers.  It was pretty nasty to say the least and judging from the sounds coming from the cabin, I was glad I was out in the fresh air minding the rods.

Seasickness can strike anyone from the greenhorn land lubber through the most seasoned scourge of the high seas, but there are a few things you can do to lessen the chances of being a victim.

  • Get a good night’s rest.  Being well rested will improve your mood and level of alertness, making it a bit easier to deal with rocky conditions onboard.  Your body uses a lot of energy coping with the constant rocking motion, so it stands to reason that hitting the hay on time will help you enjoy the next day of fishing.
  • Watch what you eat.  Everyone knows they have certain foods that will trigger an upset stomach on dry land so do yourself a favor and avoid those foods before stepping aboard.  Overly greasy and heavy foods that sit like a brick in your stomach won’t do you any favors later in the day when you get sick.  Eat light and eat right.  Crackers and other relatively neutral foods are good when you start feeling queasy.
  • Don’t go to sea with a hangover.  Enough said!
  • Stay up on deck and in the fresh air.  Going down below and hiding your head under the covers is what you really want to do but staying engaged and in the fresh air is what’s best.  Avoid breathing in diesel exhaust if possible.  Concentrate on the horizon or another stationary object to take your mind off the rocking motion.  Find something to do that will keep you busy and productive.
  • Seasickness is essentially a type of motion sickness, so folks that are predisposed to car sickness, air sickness, vertigo, and any other nausea brought on by rocking motions should plan ahead and purchase some kind of preventive aide.

There are a bunch of commercially available products that will help prevent seasickness, many of which I was able to pick up in the marine and fishing departments at the store, while there are some others available at local pharmacies.  Patches, pills (Motion Eaze, Bonine), inhalers (Quease Ease), wrist bands (Queaz-Away), all have their loyal fans but it only works if you have them on hand and use them even if you feel perfect.  Don’t try to prove how much of an expert seaman you are.  Seasickness can strike anyone at any time regardless of experience level.

Plan ahead and all your crewmembers will have a wonderful time enjoying every minute on the water free of seasickness.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Boating Safety Tips

Idle Speed - No WakeSpring is here and that means summer isn’t all that far away….And that leads to more boats on the water with drivers that have very little experience and possibly little understanding about the "rules of the road" so to speak.

My recent trip to Crystal River reminded me that some people just don’t pay attention or just don’t care about the navigational signs, what they mean, or why they’re there in the first place.  Regardless of the reason, I’ll give them a pass once, but repeated bad behavior deserves a stern talk with the friendly FWC officers, and potentially a ticket.  Let’s look at a few of the more common signs around Florida.

Idle Speed-No Wake:  By definition this means that any vessel must operate at the minimum speed that allows the vessel to maintain headway and steerageway.  That’s pretty slow in most cases but the actual speed is somewhat dependent on the size of the vessel.  These speed limits are in place many times to protect manatees that frequent the region.  I know from personal experience that it can be frustrating when all you want to do is get from point A to B without wasting a lot of time, but you have to abide by the signs or be prepared to pay a hefty fine, or possibly run into a lounging manatee.  Neither of which is pleasant and are ultmately avoidable if we would just take our time and relax a bit.

Slow Speed-Minimum Wake:  Any vessel operating in this type of zone must operate fully off plane and completely settled in the water.  These limits are in place where an increased speed might create a hazard for others people or property.  Congested waterways, canals, park areas, narrow channels, marinas, and the like are places where this sign might be present.

Resume Safe Normal Operation:  This means exactly what it implies but one of the issues that most people fail to consider is the safety of the people on the water around them.  Everyone is responsible for their own wake and if your speed and resultant wake cause someone to capsize, or your wake damages someone else’s property, you are directly responsible and liable.  It isn’t enough to only think about YOUR safety, you must consider others around you.

“In order to operate a motorboat of ten (10) horsepower or greater, Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC.”  These courses are run all over the state by various organizations including the USCG AUX (United States Coast Guard Auxiliary), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Now is the time to get out on the water and enjoy yourselves.  Ok, maybe I’m a little early for you folks up north who are still trying to dig your way out of winter, but down here it’s always boating season.  Let’s have fun and be safe out there.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

1 Comments »

Crystal River: A Mixed Bag Where Fresh And Salt Meet.

Crystal RiverPart of the joy of living in the fishing paradise that Florida has to offer is the wealth of locations and the variety of species that can be found within a short to moderate drive of home.  I was recently introduced to another of those gems, and wanted to share some thoughts on what is sure to become another of my favorite haunts.

Crystal River is on the Gulf coast of Florida 30 to 45 minutes north of Tampa but you might forget the nearby metropolis and imagine you’re in a sleepy seaside fishing village while driving though town or paddling through the myriad of islands and sloughs.  Actually, you aren’t imagining things.  Life on the waterfront revolves around fishing; both fresh and salt, tourism, and manatees.  And just like the manatees themselves, folks on the water move about in an unhurried and peaceful manner.  “Idle Speed/No Wake” signs aren’t just a guidepost on the water; they’re a way of life.

Kayaking at a leisurely pace is one of the best ways to explore the canals and it puts the angler right at the optimal level for probing the multitude of docks and piers where snook, redfish, bass, and bream seek shelter from human, aquatic, and avian predators.  You never quite know what’s going to hit a well presented lure or fly, making tackle setups a bit of a challenge, which I quickly found out when a larger-than-anticipated snook made short work of a 12 pound fluorocarbon leader.  You’re just as likely to hook into a largemouth as a snook or baby tarpon at the right time of year.  Snapper and bream share the same hiding places so you have to wonder whether to throw small minnows, crickets, or shrimp.  My favorite way to fish docks though is to toss unweighted jerk baits (D.O.A. C.A.L. Jerkbait) way up into the cover and wait for something to whack it on retrieve.  Casting a fly into the same area is sometimes rewarded with a strike but the challenge level goes up quite a bit with fly tackle.  The biggest secret to success is not being afraid to lose a few lures or flies.  “Be” the lure and don’t be afraid of the structure.

The open flats further west are prime spots for a few of the most sought after species including those you might not think of as flats inhabitants.  Redfish, black drum, seatrout, and sheepshead are what everyone comes to expect, but grouper are normal catches for those that know where to look.  Rock piles provide perfect cover for these structure-loving ocean inhabitants, just go slow until you know the area well because more than one lower unit has been replaced by careless or unobservant anglers.

Mangrove Snapper on FlyScalloping is another of the highlights you can enjoy without spending a fortune on high-tech equipment, and it’s a great way to introduce children to the outdoors.  Slap on a mask, snorkel, and some fins then hit the water.  Kids will have a blast chasing bay scallops around in the shallows.  Cleaning them for the table can become just as much a family affair as the initial catching since there’s a bit of work to do before enjoying the fruits of your labors.

So you see, there’s a lot to enjoy in Crystal River and the surrounding waters, be they fresh or salt.  You’ll get some great pictures, have wonderful experiences, and maybe gather a little seafood for the table.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Puttin Meat in the Freezer

Swamp Buggy, Tracy, and II recently got the opportunity to go on a wild boar hunt in south central Florida close to Lake Okeechobee.  After a bit of shooting, and a little frustration over my inability to hit the broad side of an enormous brown hog, we had three wild pigs skinned, quartered, and we were on the way home!  It wasn’t exactly hunting in the traditional sense that I remember from my youth in Pennsylvania, which generally entailed freezing my butt off while sitting on a cold rock beneath a glacial rain in December.  What fun we used to have!  Regardless of my shooting issues, I enjoyed not having to wear five layers of clothing.

Outwest Farms offers many options for taking your game including spot and stalk; tree stands, using dogs, etc.  Riding the swamp buggy and shooting from an elevated position was a new and enjoyable experience for me.  It gives you great mobility and a high vantage point from which to travel in comfort and harvest your animal.  We got great looks at pigs of every conceivable size and color which enabled us to choose the one we wanted to take.  There were more than enough to choose from on the section of property we hunted, and since this was a “meat run” we weren’t overly selective.  Needless to say, we have quite a bit of pork in the freezer now.  We just have to figure out a tasty way to cook it.

Hunting is a way of life for many people regardless of their reason for participating.  It might be the shooting aspect, the camaraderie, being in the outdoors, liking to eat wild game, or wanting to harvest a trophy…  Whatever the reason, eating what we take is (or should be) part of the equation.Successful Hunters

Feral swine have turned into an unfortunate success story for the state of Florida and U.S. in general.  I'm sure many folks have seen the TV shows documenting the establishment of breeding populations of wild pigs across the country.  Just drive down the road just about anywhere in the state and you'll see the detrimental affects they can have on the landscape.  What you can't see though is the negative influence they have on the native plant and animal life.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers wild hogs to be livestock on private property (to be manged by the landowner) but they are a game animal on public property, subject to seasons and limits just like deer and other wild game.  Although it's unlikely that we could ever rid the area of these invasive pests, we can work to control their spread by hunting and trapping. 

Folks that are looking for something different to do on their family vacation should consider a hog hunt in Florida.  The prices are competitive, equipment might be provided, the weather is perfect, and you may actually put some meat in the freezer.  Your outfitter might even offer hunts for other types of animals including alligators, turkey, and any number of exotics.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Ceviche... Another Way To Enjoy Seafood!

Not all that many years ago I wasn't the biggest fan of seafood and it's hard for me to believe that I went though such a drastic change over such a short period of time.  Squid was the farthest thing from my idea of good food and even shrimp weren't too high on the list of palatable vittles.  Thanks to my wife and moving to Florida, I have come to love all sorts of unusual types of dishes provided from the sea's bounty

Ceviche de la CasaCeviche is a wonderful fish/seafood dish that was given to me for the first time by a coworker approximately ten years ago and I can tell you that I would have been a much greater fan of scallops and squid if I'd been introduced to it a lot earlier.  My favorite aspect of this particular way to prepare fish is that it's not cooked in the traditional sense, but rather through the use of lemon and lime juices and some other spices, that ultimately "cook" the seafood while making it firm and tasty.  The liberal use of fresh vegetables makes it a healthy choice as well, sort of a fresh seafood salad.  Peppers, onions, and lettuce are but a few of the ingrediants creating this unique combination.     

The origins of ceviche can be traced back almost 2000 years ago but the ultimate source cannot be firmly established since many cultures including the Polynesians, and the Spanish have their own versions.  Either way, ceviche established its place as an integral part of daily menus in Central and South America. Peru, Equador, and Chili have the greatest variety of ceviche dishes but many other countries have their own versions including the United States, Mexico, Panama, and others.  I've got to try some other recipies....

Locally, we're lucky to have a restruant on Church Street in downtown Orlando that specializes in these types of dishes.  The Ceviche, Tapas Bar and Restruant has an extensive menu that's sure to tempt your taste buds and expand your pallate without stretching your waistline or your budget.  Portions are just enough to make you want to explore more selections and maybe be a little adventurous.  Everything is prepared and presented in a first -class fashion and the tastes are out of this world, even those you wouldn't normally think to combine.  The rest of the menu is equally as adventurous and satisfying so be sure to visit them with a raging appetite.

So, if you or someone you know is just starting to discover seafood and the wonderful variety of tastes the sea has to offer, you owe it to yourself to give ceviche a try.  I'm sure it will become a favorite.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management AreaThis month my tip is to get out there and explore some new fishing hole even if it isn’t a real secret to anyone else.  I discovered a new fishing spot a few years ago that has proven to be a wonderful place to cast a line, go for a walk, hunt, or just sit along the river bank and read a book. 

Tosohatchee Wildlife management Area is located in east Orange County between Rt 50 and SR 520 along the west bank of the St. Johns River and is well within reach of anyone in central Florida.  You don’t even need a boat to enjoy some of the best fishing our area has to offer although it is helpful to either have a canoe or a kayak.  Just being on the other side of the river can mean the difference between success and failure.  I’ve seen it firsthand. 

I've really come to enjoy throwing a fly or jig along a shore line without knowing what’s going to bite since the list of species is quite impressive and the variety of water types provides something for everyone.  There's access to the St. Johns River, or roadside canals with bluegill and warmouth, and land-locked ponds containing enough variety of cover to keep any fish happy.  Cattails, lily pads, and cypress trees surround the ponds, ensuring that every fish can find a hiding spot.  Every nook and cranny deserves an exploratory cast.  You just have to take the time to be thorough and patient.

 

 

Redbellied SunfishBirders will have a field day if they venture to Tosohatchee since the varied terrain and habitat provide for a huge assortment of species.  Black vultures, bald eagles, osprey, turkey, ducks of every imaginable species, woodpeckers, herons, ibis, and egrets only provide a glimpse of the huge number of feathered friends available for viewing.  The vultures can be a bit spooky as they stand watch above the access roads waiting for something to become dinner.  They roost on every power line and cypress tree along the route.

Wildlife of all manner abound in each and every section of the property.  Scrub forests, plains, swamp, and river bottom attract large and small creatures alike.  Everything from squirrels, to American alligators roam through the trees and the waterways.  You never know what you're going to see next.

Grab your favorite pair of binoculars, fishing rod, or walking staff and take a trip into old Florida. 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

 

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Expanding Your Fly Tying Horizons

Big and SmallRecently I rediscovered the joy of fly fishing for bluegill, sunfish, and warmouth; or what we would call “bream” here in Florida.  As a result, I’ve had to learn how to tie some of the smaller flies in my collection.  Being a hard-headed individual prevented me from just buying a handful of flies for the limited times I might need them, so I justified the material expenses by telling myself that someday I might just be able to get up north where having a Prince Nymph might come in handy for trout.  I think most of us have figured out that many flies tied for a particular species work pretty darn well for other fish as well.

Learning to tie smaller flies has proven to be quite a challenge since most everything else I’ve tied is in sizes 2 though 3/0.  Figuring out proportions and how much material to add during each step is quite tricky when most of your flies include feather bundles as large as half chickens.  I’ve always wondered why most of my flies end up being the same size….BIG!  Tying even medium sized nymphs means adding material in small amounts and using limited thread wraps.

Another thing that this tying experience has taught me is that it isn’t always necessary to follow the recipes to the letter.  I’m sure many fly tiers have loads of material they rarely use because their favorite flies don’t call for it, but what do you do with all that fur, feathers, and the like?  Try mixing things up a little bit.  Make a substitution here and there to see what the result is.  You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a “new” way to tie an old favorite.  Just keep in mind how the different material is going to react in the water, meaning will it sink slower, faster, float higher, will the color be lost at depth or will it be too gaudy.

I’m quite satisfied with the results of my newest foray into fly tying, especially since most of what I’ve tied actually turned out to look something like my initial vision.  Pick up some new material or use some of the stuff you have collecting dust on your tying bench, then try making some flies that will test your abilities and maybe make you a more well rounded fly tyer.  Try something different then throw it at some fish.  You might have just created the next “must have” fly.

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Portable Gun Storage

Gun SafeCarrying a handgun for personal protection on a regular basis requires a bit of a lifestyle change, especially for those of us who didn’t carry as part of our jobs, or folks that do a lot of traveling across state lines.  Besides the actual carrying of a gun on your person, you have to consider where to keep the firearm in your vehicle when you are forced to disarm because a location you are visiting does not permit concealed carry.

My wife and I are encountering this problem here in Florida when we go to sporting events, and she has the dual problem of traveling to Texas and then carrying throughout the week.  There’s only one viable solution to this issue, and that’s purchasing and using a portable gun safe.

We just bought our second one for her to use on the road or while she’s in town and we both need to lock up our firearms prior to entering certain establishments.  These safes are very sturdy and have a cable which will allow it to be semi-permanently attached to the car’s frame, making it much more difficult for a common thief to remove.  The gun is secured and impossible to access without a moderate amount of effort or the proper key.  Some models have combination locks or even biometric locks to fit your needs.

Gun Safe 2The idea is to properly secure the gun so it cannot be taken and potentially fall into the wrong hands as sometimes occurs as a result of vehicles being broken into.  Losing a pair of sunglasses or GPS is one thing, but losing a dangerous weapon is something else entirely.  You’ll rest easier once you employ a portable safe for valuables and personal protection equipment you leave in the vehicle from time to time.

 

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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2013 Daytona 500

2013 Daytona 500 LogoJust another week or so and the first race of the 2013 NASCAR season will be underway and I'll be sitting in front of the big screen with the surround sound pumping so loud the neighbors will think the track has been relocated to their neighborhood.  Since it doesn’t look like I’ll be there in person, I may as well bring the experience home as much as possible.  Does anyone know where I can find burnt-rubber scented incense?

Residents of central Florida are lucky enough to be within a stone’s throw of one of the premier tracks on the circuit and we get two chances a year to experience high-bank, superspeedway racing as it was meant to be.  Earsplitting noise (both from the cars and the crowds), the overwhelming smell of exhaust blended with rubber, funnel cakes, hamburgers ( and don’t forget the turkey legs), and vivid colors screaming past in a three second kaleidoscopic blur; all create a sensory overload everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  Nothing can compare and watching it on TV can’t even begin to give a true sense of things.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience half a dozen races as either a fan in the stands or as a vendor dispensing hamburgers and hotdogs to the hungry masses, and regardless of how I got there, watching the race in person has been some of the best experiences of my life.  I really didn't follow NASCAR until after that first visit to the race all those years ago but after that trip to the track, I realized it isn't just for gearheads and wannabe drivers.  It's about the drama, the speed, the pageantry of the event itself.  There's nothing like being there for the invocation, the National Anthem, the flyover, and the command to start engines.  The next few hours will be like no other experince you've ever had if you're lucky enough to make it to a race.

I sure hope some of you folks get over to Daytona for the race where you can cheer on your favorite driver or just take in the experience.  Either way, I'm sure you'll have the time of your life. 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

 

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Where Do You Fly Fish In Florida?

LargemouthI would venture to guess that one of the most common questions we get in the fly shop (besides “Do you know where the bathroom is?”) is “Where do you fly fish in Florida?”  Both are fairly easy questions to answer but sometimes it’s hard not to act a little surprised at the second one.  My standard answer to the fishing question may seem overly simplistic to some but there really is a very straight forward answer.  “Everywhere you find water.”

I’ve found after living in this state for close to 17 years that almost every body of water, whether fresh or salt, has some kind of fish in it worth pursuing.  Every drainage ditch, retention pond, canal, lake, spring, bay, and bayou is fishable in some way or form.  It’s almost harder to figure out where to go because of the variety and huge number of choices, than it is to figure out what to chase.  You really can’t go wrong regardless of your choice.

But how do you get to know about what's available?  I'd start out with a book that was one of the best gifts I've ever received.  “Fishing Florida” has more information in it that any one person will ever learn on their own with a lifetime of fishing experiences.  There are maps with references to what fish are available, boat ramps, state parks, etc…  Just about everything a budding angler might need to find his/her way to productive fishing.  I highly suggest it and yes we sell it if you can't find a copy.

Fishing FloridaOnce you get a feel for what’s available and what type of patterns the fish follow from year to year, it will become a fairly simple matter to transfer that knowledge from one spot to the next.  I’m sure you’ll find, like I have, that every pond that holds water for more than a few months out of the year has the potential to produce some serious fish.  Even that roadside canal you pass on the way to work might hold the key to a peaceful afternoon spent catching fish.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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