Fishing Jacksonville Flood Tides

Scott Fishing Flood TideLike I’ve said in the past, Florida has more than its fair share of interesting fishing opportunities if you’re willing to drive a little ways from home.  My home base of Orlando allows me the luxury of reaching some superb fishing within just a few minutes, or if I want to make a trip of it a few hours.  Unfortunately though, there isn’t enough time to get everywhere and sample all the opportunities.  Now that my wife and I are empty-nesters, we have a little bit more freedom, and making these little jaunts is much easier than when we had to worry about getting the kids fed and to school on time.

Fishing Jacksonville on the flood tides is something I had only gotten the chance to do one other time, so when we noticed that the fall tides were going to be nearly six feet, my fishing partner and I just had to hit the road.  Redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and flounder were calling our names and we had multiple boxes of flies waiting to be thrown.  Unfortunately for us, the first “Noreaster” was blowing in and gale force winds were being called for in the open water, with rough conditions on the intercoastal.  None of that mattered though when we pulled up to the waterfront and spied mullet being blasted along the spartina grass edges.

Predators move up into the small creeks as the tide rises and then they’ll venture onto what was dry land only moments ago when the tide reaches its highest point.  They root around looking for small baitfish, shrimp, crabs, and snails that abound in the grass.  At times their bodies will be more out of the water than in.  After having read all this you’d almost think catching fish under these conditions would be a pretty simple matter?  Well think again! 

Redfish BittersBait was clinging to nearly every stalk of grass and there was an almost constant ticking of shells off the sides of our kayaks leading us to believe that fish should be feeding somewhere around us.  And they were!  Just not on the carefully prepared fly meals we had prepared.  Spoon flies and small crab/shrimp/snail imitations are necessary and we had a great selection of them available, but the extreme wind made casting a fly rod all but impossible.  The real trick of this fishery is to get the fly to the fish without hanging up in the grass, smacking it on the head, or landing too far away.  None of which I was able to accomplish on this most recent trip.

One of the best things about this particular location is the accessibility and relative protection of the surrounding landscape including the grass banks and creeks.  You can fish it from canoe, kayak, stand-up-paddleboard, or larger craft if your heart desires.  The water conditions can be exceptional even though the wind is howling above your head and ten-foot seas are of little consequence when moving across water that’s only one to two feet deep.  The Jax Kayak Fishing.com website has a pretty extensive list of launch sites throughout the area if you can’t find them on your own.  Check them out

The opportunity to experience the dramatic transformation of these tidal grass flats was the reason we made the drive even though the conditions and fish conspired against our prospects of having success.  Although we didn’t hook up this time, the tide will rise again tomorrow and it will be another chance to cash in on a very unique type of fly fishing.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Discover The Snakes of Florida

Milk SnakeI’ve always had a fascination for snakes even though many if not all of my friends and family didn’t share that enthusiasm.  My father for example was deathly afraid of them and had nightmares all through his adult life.  Thankfully I wasn’t afflicted with that particular phobia.  Now bugs on the other hand….  STAY AWAY!

Moving to Florida opened up a whole new world of serpents to me and although I don’t go wandering around in search of new legless friends to harass, I enjoy seeing them in the wild, provided we all mind our manners.  There are numerous species throughout central Florida that are not terribly friendly, if not outright dangerous, when cornered or threatened so it’s always best to exercise discretion when in their company.

The Eastern Diamondback has always held a special fascination for me because of its beauty, size, and potential lethality.  But that one species had eluded me despite spending many, many hours stomping through the brush, in the woods, and on the water.  I’ve seen Water Moccasins, Eastern Coral Snakes, Rat Snakes, Black Racers, Southern Water Snakes, Garter Snakes, Brown Snakes, Ring Necked Snakes, Corn Snakes, Hog Nosed Snakes, Milk Snakes, and even the elusive Eastern Indigo.  But the Diamondback continued to be kept from me.  I’m sure my wife is more than happy to remain ignorant to the number of them I’ve probably walked past without knowing it.

Eastern Diamondback RattlesnakeI’ve finally seen my snake.  Little did I know that I would have my encounter while in the kayak fishing for redfish and black drum in the spartina grass flats near Jacksonville.  Anyone that believes that rattlesnakes can’t swim needs a lesson in hydrodynamics because that boy was motoring across the flats like he was on a mission.  Until I got in his way that is.  He didn’t seem to mind taking a break while I snapped away, and believe me when I tell you that I would have repelled boarders with extreme prejudice had the snake attempted to hitch a ride.  My intrusion lasted just long enough to take some photos and then with a wave farewell, he continued on his way towards the near shoreline.

Snakes are truly beautiful creatures that serve a very important role within the wild kingdom and I hate to hear of anyone killing them unnecessarily.  I understand that things happen when everyone doesn’t mind their P’s &Q’s but as long as we respect each other’s space, there’s no reason we all can’t get along.  They aren’t evil, or slimy, but rather they are superb examples of evolutionary success.  Visit the Reptile World Serpentarium if you’d like to conquer your fears before finding them in the wild.  I hope you all learn to appreciate them as much as I do.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Exploring Florida's Trails

Trailhead EntranceDecreasing fall temperatures bring about a sense of restlessness within me and an ever increasing desire to hit the woods in search of game for the table or to just enjoy a bit of exercise without dying of heat stroke.  I know you folks up north think 80 degrees is still pretty hot, but for Florida residents, a 10 to 15 degree drop in temperature almost feels like a cold spell.

My wife and I are always looking for new and interesting places to take walks together and autumn reminds us both of some of our first days afield together in Pennsylvania.  We pursued deer, squirrels, and doves while hunting but down here, we’ve tried to find wild areas within a short drive that just let us spend quiet time together where the noise of traffic and city life in general don’t intrude upon our solitude.

Thankfully, Florida has a wealth of improved and unimproved hiking trails maintained by The Florida Trail Association, the Forest Service, and the surrounding counties.  I didn’t even know the association existed until I questioned the funny looking little sign on a post that marked the trailhead of our local Little Big Econ Trail.  Three hours later we were thankful that someone had the vision to give us a place to escape the pressures of everyday life.  During a five mile roundtrip we experienced what our area must have been like when pioneers first tried to bust through the impenetrable brush as they explored Florida’s interior.  It sure is a good thing someone cleared the paths we had just walked.

We had a wonderful afternoon along the banks of the Econlockhatchee River and through the Little Big Econ State Forrest, where after just a few minutes , we could have realistically forgotten we were only minutes from the bustling downtown of Orlando, and the congested thoroughfares of I-4 and I-95.  It all disappeared within moments, swallowed up by the wild Magnolia, cypress, oak, and palm trees.  The only witnesses to our passage were the squirrels, spiders (BIG SPIDERS), mockingbirds, cardinals, and a wealth of other critters that remained hidden from our view.  Everyone and everything else, ceased to exist for a few hours Sunday afternoon.  We passed numerous other hikers enjoying an early evening trek, but it was like we had never met once we rounded a few bends in the path.

The Florida Trail system includes over 1,000 miles of trail beginning in the Everglades and ending up in the panhandle area so you Econlockhatchee Rivercan be assured that every type of landscape and would be encountered if you were of a mind to walk the entire length.  Swamp, scrub, prairie, forest, and beach are all represented at some point along the trail’s length.  Wildlife viewing possibilities are limited only by your eyesight and your ability to move with stealth.  It was even a little more exciting to know the critters were there without actually being able to see more than a few feet into the brush.  Our imaginations ran wild every time a nut fell from above and rattled through the detritus on the forest floor.

So I guess what I’m trying to share with everyone is the wealth of quality outdoor experiences available to us right outside our door.  We don’t need to travel far for some exercise and the chance to get back to nature.  Just don’t forget your good shoes, a quality hiking staff, and some water.  You never know just how far you’ll wander through the woods.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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The Mullet Are Running! The Mullet Are Running!

 

Mullet in Waves

The stars are going to align one of these years and I’m going to get the chance to fish the fall mullet run during a peak in the activity.  Then I’ll be able to experience those things I keep talking about with people wanting to find Florida fishing at its best.  So far this year I've enjoyed beautiful days on the beach with little success other than a bit of a sun tan and a bit of quality time with my loving wife.

Fingerling mullet congregate at the inlets then exit the intercoastal waterway as they begin their migration south along the Florida coast, headed to locations that provide a warmer climate than our waters once winter settles in.  Their numbers are mind boggling in immensity and every predator along the coast will rush into the near-shore waters in search of an easy meal.  Sharks, tarpon, snook, redfish, ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish, jacks, and just about anything else you can imagine will form a gauntlet of destruction and mayhem in the shallow coastal water, so swimming through mullet schools in the fall might not be the best idea given what lurks below.  But dragging a mullet shaped bait or fly is a ticket to fun when your timing is right.

The mullet concentrations are highest close to the inlets where the ocean schools meet up with those coming out of the Indian River Lagoon System.  So Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Matanzas, Ponce, Sebastian, Ft. Pierce, St. Lucie, and all points south will have ever increasing numbers of fish running along the coast.  Your task is to find them and their predators.  Hopscotch along the coast by checking out the sea conditions at each beach access point and county or city park.  Don’t spend too much time in any one location if you don’t see any activity either below or above the surface.  Bird activity is a surefire indicator of good things to come.

Theresa CastingLive bait, artificial lures, and flies can all be productive as long as they imitate a…..Wait for it…..MULLET.  Not much else will work this time of year so don’t bother carrying a whole bunch of shrimp and crab imitations.  The big boys are looking for a bite-size meal not some little appetizer.  Rapala, MirrOlure, Yo Zuri, Bomber, and others have created very lifelike imitations but even a simple bucktail jig can produce.  Flies would be my choice but the conditions have to be right for a fly rod to be an effective tool.  Medium to heavy action spinning tackle, and eight through 12 weight fly rods all have their place depending on the intended quarry.  Be prepared for anything.

Regardless of your tackle choice, the month of October can be some of the best angling of the year if you have the time to hit the east coast.  Keep heading south till you find favorable conditions and signs of activity.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have success the first day.  Keep at it and try again next year about the same time.  Things will come together for you someday just like they will for me and my wife……  Hopefully!

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Discover Your "Secret" Fishing Hole

Fishing the Ditch“Where can you fly fish in Florida?  There aren’t any rivers like out west.”   While I have to agree that there aren’t any rivers like people envision when they think of fly fishing, we’re lucky enough to have more than our fair share of waterways that can be productive for anglers of any type.  I normally answer “Every body of water you see whether it’s the ocean, a pond, lake, creek, canal, or roadside ditch is likely to have fish in it and therefore you should stop and take a look at the very least.”  If it’s water, I’ll fish it.

Ditches and canals throughout the region can be some of the most productive bodies of water and for some of us they become highly protected “secret spots” that are divulged only to our closest fishing partners.  Even then we might be a bit vague when giving directions.  “You might want to try fishing the canals around Stuart,” is about as precise as fishing directions are likely to be.  Surely we won’t give specifics to anyone that might spill the beans on a hot spot to all their friends on the social media networks…..  These fish are sensitive to fishing pressure because they’re somewhat locked into a small location and they can make for easy pickings if the conditions permit.

Discovering these honey holes on your own is part of the journey and most people feel you should have to put in some hard time before being able to reap the rewards, so don’t expect things to come easy.  Mosquito bites, chigger bites, fire ant bites, horse fly bites, and no-see-um bites are part of the pain that makes the end result worthwhile.  “No pain…No Gain” as the saying goes.  All you really need though is an adventurous spirit, a small amount of tackle, a mode of transport, and some liquid refreshment to replenish lost fluids.  Oh yeah, you might want to invest in a good insect repellant like Ultrathon.

Scott w/Baby TarponFish species can be quite varied depending on your location within the state.  Tarpon, snook, ladyfish, largemouth, peacocks, bluegill, mayan cichlids, tilapia, oscars, snakeheads, carp, and gar could all be found in one place if you’re lucky enough to find the right ditch or canal down south, Further north and away from the coast your species list will shrink but the angling possibilities remain exceptional.  Keep in mind that any tarpon you encounter are going to be smaller juveniles up to 30 or 40 pounds and should be handled with care since they’re just babies who will ultimately grow into giants if given a fighting chance.

So, load up the car with a couple of your favorite rods and a bit of tackle if you’re tired of fishing the same old locations and are looking for a change of pace.  Hit the road in search of adventure and aggressive fish.  You might just discover your next “Secret Spot.”

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Rod Building.... Easier Than You Think

Rod BuildingBeing a somewhat creative person (but with limited mechanical abilities) I like to build things but have always worried that I wouldn’t be capable of completing the project with a level of quality up to my standards.  I just have a hard time convincing my hands to create what my mind comes up with.  And it’s a wonder I’ve been able to at all considering that I’m highly critical of the final product and am quite likely to cut everything apart if it isn’t “just right.”

I’ve always wanted to try a hand at rod building but always thought it was akin to rocket science and way beyond my abilities, but guess what….  It isn’t.  Spend a few minutes on-line, read a book or two, or take a class and you can build rods to your specifications rather than being at the mercy of the rod companies themselves.  You’ll also be expressing your creative side by producing something unique that will be used on the water during each of your adventures.

I happen to live within walking distance of a company that supplies rod building equipment worldwide and I’m sure at this point my wife is wishing that wasn’t the case.  Mud Hole stocks a mind-bending assortment of kits, blanks, guides, thread, and any other piece of a fishing rod you can think of whether it’s a spinning, casting, trolling, fly, or even ice fishing rod.  Their on-line catalog is massive and their print literature is just a lot of fun to browse through while dreaming.  There are more options than I could imagine.

Mud Hole even has their own line of blanks and associated rod-building kits for those of us that are just getting started in the hobby.  Their MHX line has a great feel and value without breaking the bank. But you can also get your hands on many of the more popular manufacturer’s blanks if you want to use one of them to create your own custom masterpieces.  I’m not quite to the point of mixing and matching components so the kits work out quite well, but eventually I’ll be there.

Rod building isn’t that difficult if you just follow some pretty simple directions and start with the right equipment, just like tying flies.  The basic steps are the same. You just customize the components and the decorations to make something distinctive with your own flair.  Some guys go all out on their cork grips while others like to dress up the wrapping, and even others like to do marbling with paint to give their rods some bling.  Regardless of what you choose to do, it’s your creation and that’s what makes rod building special and personal. 

Rod building is a unique hobby that many folks get into as a way to save money, make money, or just make productive use of their idle time.  No matter what the reason for taking it up, you’ll be sure to move on to a second rod soon after completing the first.  I just finshed my second and am already scrounging through the catalog for my next kit.  I have a few more holes to fill in my rod rack before someone says "enough is enough."

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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The Edison & Ford Winter Estates.......The Winter Retreats of Briliance

Edison & Ford Winter EstatesEver since our kids moved out of the house, my wife and I have been trying to get out of town every once in a while either to do some fishing, visit family, visit some kind of national landmark, or just to spend a few days in a hotel away from home.  Our most recent vacation destination left us re-energized but also feeling a little inadequate as productive members of society.

We headed south along Interstate 75 out of Tampa, setting our sights on Ft. Myers and the winter estates of inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist Henry Ford.  I hadn’t realized they had spent so much time in south Florida but it was an adventure back in time that I’m glad I was talked into.

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are in downtown Ft. Myers along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River on a road lined with Royal Palms that Edison loved so much.  Unusual and spectacular plants of all kinds dominate the landscape from the moment you park the car and continuing on as you work your way through the estate to the waterfront.  Banyan trees, innumerable palm, and mango trees provide shade, while bamboo of every possible variety proves that Edison was as much a botanist as he was an inventor.  I didn’t realize that he worked with so many different plants trying to produce filaments for his light bulbs and a domestic source of rubber for automobile tires.  Edison, Ford, and their good friend Harvey Firestone worked together for years and partied together with their families at the estate.  Can you imagine being in the company of such men?

Banyan TreeThe estate buildings themselves are beautifully preserved just as they would have been back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The wraparound porches, open floor plans, and natural lighting allowed for entertaining, comfortable living, and creative thinking.  My favorite building was Edison’s office in the Moonlight Garden, which I’m quite sure was the first “Man Room” ever.  Just perfect for reading, inventing, or just taking a recuperative nap as Edison was quite fond of doing any time he felt like it.

The museum contains artifacts that leave most people stunned (myself included) by the genius that had lived on those grounds and wondering how anyone could have that much brain power.  Multiple vintage automobiles are on display on the grounds along with many other inventions and memorabilia that document the lives and exploits of two great men and the friends they associated with.  One room in particular documented the camping trips that Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and naturalist John Burroughs embarked upon.  Of course these men didn’t “rough it” in the traditional sense, their butlers, cooks, and other helpers traveled with them across the untamed land of America.  What escapades those must have been.  Can you imagine sitting around the camp fire in the cool air of twilight as these adventurers told stories of past voyages?

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are a great place to visit if you’re looking for something different and beautiful.  Just be prepared to feel dumber than a box of hammers compared to the men that walked the grounds before you.  I sure did!

Brian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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Practice Casting Indoors?

Temple Forlk Buug Launcher Office RodCasting a fly rod reasonably well is one of the most satisfying skills I think I’ve developed over the past 40 some odd years but I’ll tell you that it didn’t come easily or without a lot of practice time on the grass and on water.  I went through a whole bunch of leaders and a few trashed fly lines before I casted half as well as I thought necessary and I sure wish there had been a better way.

Now there is.  A few of the rod manufacturers have developed a practice rod meant to duplicate the feel of a properly loaded rod so budding anglers can shorten the learning curve a bit, thus enjoying their time on the water more.  We’ve started carrying the Temple Fork Outfitters Bug Launcher Practice Rod and I can tell you from first-hand experience that casting this little gem is a heck of a lot of fun and it sure helps clean up any casting faults after just a few minutes.  Because of its size and bright color the loop formation can telegraph little changes in your casting stroke much quicker than working with a full rod and line.  You’ll immediately learn to recognize what stroke works and which one doesn’t.

Spending just a few minutes each day would greatly help someone that’s just getting started or someone like myself who’s just looking to improve on his skills.  The nice thing about the package is the ability to cast indoors without needing to have a gymnasium sized casting area.  All you need is a hallway, garage, office, or reasonable clear living room to practice in.  You can vary the amount of line beyond the rod tip to change the amount of rod loading you’ll experience, although I found working with most of the line outside the rod tip gives the best representation of what the real thing feels like.  There’s a memory stick with videos of the casting basics and some practice sessions included with the rod and its line, so you don’t have to figure out the fundamentals for yourself.

The entire package is worth its weight in gold if you’re trying to develop your sense of feel or timing as it relates to casting a fly rod.  But if playing a game while honing skills is your ultimate goal, this is the rod for you.

Beastman w/Ohio SteelBrian "Beastman" Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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What's In a Fishing Hat?

Paul's HatAsk my wife that question on any given day and she’ll reply that if it’s sitting on top of my head there isn’t much going on inside other than crickets, cobwebs, and random thoughts about pizza, shiny things, and squirrels.  But what I’m actually talking about is what makes a good fishing hat.

We get asked where the fishing hats are all the time and I have a hard time not sounding like Bubba in “Forrest Gump” when I answer.  “Well that all depends ya see cuz, we got yer ball caps, trucker caps, floppy hats, straw hats, sun hats, cowboy hats, knit hats, gardening hats, winter hats, hunting hats, skipper’s caps, visors, NASCAR hats, felt crushable hats, boonie hats, etc…”  You get the picture?  Just about any hat we sell could be used as a fishing hat if the time is right.

Some folks I know make sure whatever chapeau they wear fishing doesn’t have a fish on it, thinking that would ensure a less than successful day, while others insist on wearing a hat with the logo of their favorite rod maker, boat manufacturer, or sporting team.  A few people even get upset that it’s getting harder and harder to find a good hat that doesn’t have any logos on it whatsoever.  They figure they’re not being paid to be a walking billboard so why advertise for someone else.  Even others taunt the mosquitoes by wearing a hat with “Bite Me” written on the band, but for Paul, his favorite fishing hat also serves as a convenient tackle storage system, adorned with a few choice lures he hopes will be productive on wading trips.

I don’t think you can actually look at a hat on the shelf and decide that it’s going to earn a coveted position on top of your head.  Function isn’t enough.  How well it does it's job is irrelevant if it just doesn't feel right!  It needs to feel like it’s an integral part of the fishing uniform, kind of like your lucky shirt.  It takes time for a new sombrero to prove itself as head protector and luck bringer.  A friend of mine will give each new hat one fishing trip to prove that it isn’t jinxed.  And if she doesn’t catch a fish on that first trip?  Well, let’s just say there are no second chances when it comes to finding a good hat in her household. 

My choice in hats has always leaned towards baseball caps with slightly larger brims to keep the sun out of my eyes and a dark under brim to cut down reflection, but recently I’ve been trying out a dove hunter’s hat because it’s lightweight and has a brim all the way around.  Keeping the sun off my ears and the back of my neck is important (….according to the dermatologist, and my wife).  The jury’s still out as to whether it’s going to be the hat of choice for the rest of the season.  It may yet earn a permanent place in my ever growing hat collection that currently sits at 69 ball caps, hunting hats, NASCAR hats…etc.  You get the picture?

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

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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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