THAT post.

I hate those posts – you know the ones – every amateur blogger has one – that beg forgiveness for, and provide excuses for prolonged absence and lack of content. I’m not going to do that, I tell myself. Then I sit down, and it just happens, and here it is. Ups, downs, twists, turns, that’s life. We lose track, we come back. Also, I haven’t fished at all in the last 6 months until this weekend. Cold, hard, miserable, truth. The 4 people that read this blog (5 if you include my Dad) have not asked me why I haven’t been providing cutting edge, hard hitting content from the fly fishing world. I suppose it isn’t missed, but that was never why I started doing this. I don’t believe anyone who writes online in any format that they don’t care if ANYONE ever reads it, but I know there are plenty like me who aren’t spending any time trying to make the subscription list grow. I love being read, but I much prefer writing it. I like having a journal-slash-scrapbook of the time I spend fishing, because I love fishing. It’s the bestest. This blog is a book of good memories for me. But I think I’m going to stop. I might have already. I mean, did you see the date on my last post? Yeah. It’s been a while. While I hate these kind of posts, I equally am unnerved at those blogs you find that just stop after a post in 2008, as if in the middle of a thought, appearing in full swing, like a half finished sentence or an old house that still bears the effects of it’s previous tenants. It’s creepy. So, I’ve been thinking about another website. I own a web design and marketing business now, so I can probably build a much better place to go internet fishing. I’d like some help – some additional anglers from California and Florida who can provide some more thoughts, posts, time. Maybe a cool name, a slick logo and a beer huggie with our name on it. But it’s just a thought. I own and maintain two small businesses, work a third job in summer, and look how this website ended up. But the thought is still there. Like a splinter in my thumb. I write to you from the corner deck of a Boca Grande Club beach house, with a cool glass of water, sunglasses, a laptop and palm trees swaying in a significant breeze that is keeping me from walking the beach with an 8wt. It’s my second year at this charity tournament, and the second time I’m coming home with a trophy. I’m sunburned, my arm is tired from casting, I’ve been taking hero pics with fish (and releasing them) and my feet are a little swollen from standing on a casting deck for two days. I’m tired as hell, too. But given my surroundings, I have nothing to complain about. Just beyond those swaying palms is about 60 yards of beach scrub and foliage, and beyond that, the Gulf glistens in the afternoon sun. I’m sitting here thinking about the fishing, how I’d tell the story, and where I want to tell it. Lot’s to do, lot’s to think about, but quiet and still, just for now. I guess I still have stories. I’m still making them up as I go along.   DSC_3241

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Another One Bites the Dust.

 

To all our loyal fans: The editors of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters are charting a new course and on January 15th, this Facebook page will be closed. 

We invite you to “like” our new home at Salt Water Sportsman, where we’ll continue to share our top tips for stalking your favorite species, the best gear and the hottest salt water fly fishing locations available anywhere.

 

I had high hopes for this publication. Great photography, a very informative and interesting article on striped bass fishing, a great article on playing tides, and I was only two issues in. 
I found this magazine on a shelf at a local grocery store, which was a surprise, because fly fishing magazines of any type are endangered species in my piece of the shore. I purchased one issue, then two, then subscribed. I had yet to see my next issue in the mail when this message came across my Facebook feed today. The title change foreshadows the future – I can almost smell the gaffed 700lb Tuna and other deep sea charter stories already. 

There are still some great publications. The inimitable Drake continues to lead the pack, and regional publications follow. Print is in trouble as it is, niche print more so. It’s hard to tell what the future holds for writers, photographers, publishers and employees of all those folks in the world of fly fishing. The only thing I know for sure is that the field is getting narrower. Perhaps this means that the writing at the few remaining publications will benefit, as the best work is filtered through the few remaining vehicles. One can only hope the remaining publications are able to hang on. 

On some days, our game seems to be getting bigger. Entry level, cheaper rods and equipment, more books being written, increased online media, blogs, etc. And yet, on other days, small manufacturers are eaten up by the big dogs, another fly shop closes, another magazine bites the dust.

In the state of Delaware there is exactly one fly shop, and about 20 miles from their front door, a big-box Cabelas is set to open in the spring. It’s getting hard to tell what’s good and what’s bad for the sport. One less publication in promotion of fly fishing, however, can never be a good thing. One less fly shop would be equally as damaging. Mine would then be a state without a “real” fly shop. As someone who would love to work in the fly fishing industry, I’m given every indication that I’d be crazy to attempt to fill that void, despite being surrounded by bays, marshes, rivers, lakes, ponds and ocean. There are no customers here, and I can’t afford to make them. For that you need fly fishing magazines, media, fly shops, …..and the cycle continues. 

 

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Sitting, Waiting, Wishing…..

The striped bass that, by all optimistic accounts, should be storming our beaches in pods of thousands any time soon, have yet to materialize. It’s Thanksgiving week – and this is usually when the striper run hits it’s peak. It is, however, hard to tell if it has even begun.  Certainly, there are some large fish being caught off-shore, and trolling off the beaches is producing hits, but when we talk striped bass runs, we’re looking for fish in casting distance from the beach, choking the inlets and beaching bait on the point. None of that is happening.

Delaware resident fisherman, if they wish to retain sanity and are honest with themselves, will tell you that we are the first bastard state of a striped bass run. The stepchild. The geographic nature of our state in relation to it’s northern counterparts allow for the migrating herds to pass far off-shore, where charter boats and gas guzzlers will do well, but the rest of us will just be cold. South of Jersey, the Delaware Bay sees good action, but the rest is a gamble. There have been historic runs here in the not too distant past. A spring run comes to mind – the inlet crammed with boats – you could walk across it by jumping from deck to deck. They were elbow to elbow along the rail, and everyone had a bent rod. Incredible. Rare. Like a total eclipse or Halley’s Comet.

I take all the data in stride. “Every fish caught on a fly in saltwater is hard earned”. A Florida guide told me that recently. He’s right, no matter where you are. Yet, he has a longer season, tons more fish, clear water, and better weather. Still, it’s hard.

I took to looking for schoolie striper this year. Using my kayak to sneak around the back bays at various stages of the tide, trying to find the magic number. Beaching the boat on sandbars in casting into channels, of hovering at the mouth of the grass marsh on an outgoing tide, looking for feeders. Not so much as a peep. I fished the beach yesterday – mostly driving looking for birds or bait. Calm water, cold air, not a breath of wind, not a glimpse of fish. The ocean feels so big when you blind cast, stripping freezing saltwater back into your hands.

I keep waiting on better reports, but the best reports come from being on the water. So, I force myself into my waders and bundle up. Load up the kayak or cruise to the beach. The idea of a whole fall without a striped bass is gnawing at me. Sure, there are other factors at play. But I’m not looking of brute size or a state record. A fish will do. A hard earned fish.

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Sure Thing.

To my knowledge, there are not many industries left who supply goods they stand behind to the point that, if it breaks, they will fix it, or replace it without so much as a “…what happened?” I recently had a laptop, not a year old, completely fail. The hard drive went bad. It fell a couple of months out of warranty and the manufacturer, a major computer supplier in the world, and the one that rhymes with Smell, did absolutely nothing about it. Did not care, for one second, that their product had failed after 14 months.

Three weeks ago, I was casting my TFO 8wt, and something felt….off. At first I thought maybe I’d been slacking on keeping the line clean and slick, (I had), but then I heard an unusual noise. Upon inspection, a guide in the tip section of the 4-piece had worked loose, and was causing friction. When I got home, I fired off an email to TFO asking for warranty information. I received a friendly email back that said, in short – send it over, we’ll take care of it.

Yesterday it arrived back here – sealed in plastic, clean, and good to go with guides in place. I’m not sure if they replaced the tip section, or re-set the guide – whoever did the work was careful to make it impossible to tell.

After 15 years of buying Smell computers, I write this, my first blog post on my new Hewlett Packard laptop. The same laptop with which I browse for my next TFO rod…..

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Summer Reading

Fenwick Island Beach runs true – from the Maryland state line until it crashes into the hulking high rise condominiums that mark South Bethany. Bordering part dusty beach town, part preserved state park, it’s a pristine stretch of shoreline that varies little in the way of indentations, points, out-croppings or distinguishable changes in terrain. Camera 360

The relatively featureless nature of the shoreline presents a challenge. It is not entirely clear where one should fish. The only thing to be sure of is that this is not the place to stand still and fish. Either by 4×4 or on foot, I keep moving here – looking for schools of fish, working birds, signs of life. There are few obvious answers.  The truck allows me to creep the shoreline looking for rips and eddies. Anything that indicates structure. I learned, when I began marking good rips with a GPS, that they can move from day to day. I knew the ever-changing nature of the beach, but had apparently underestimated it’s speed.

Camera 360

On the more popular beaches, north of here, you could find a rocky outcropping, an old wooden jetty or an outfall pipe – structure that screams to be fished. The rips are more pronounced, and the nature of the receding waves reveal the secrets of what lies beneath the surf. On these less-structured beaches, a slight diversion in a returning wave tells me much about what’s down there. Where the water goes, so does the food. That water recedes to a single point – the low lying area, or the hole in the sand bar or shore. The crabs, shrimp and baitfish all get flushed in there like sesame seeds up a straw. This can be seen from far away on other beaches, but here, you usually have to be on-top of it to see the diversion; the wave that rolls in straight and rolls out to one side or the other. The taddle-tale.

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On an incoming tide, preferably the flood stage, that little rip becomes a potential feeding chute for hungry predators. Where the wave breaks – right on the beach – that’s where the ledge drops of from ankle-deep to knees-wet – the first three feet of trough littered with pebbles and shells. It creates a perfect high tide channel for traveling flounder and feeding trout,  croaker, blues or bass. Between my food chute, and my flat-fish superhighway, I’ve established only one thing. There is an outside possibility I’ll find a fish here.

Summer is rough fishing. Things slow down, and there is no comparison between the dog days and the spring or fall. Catching fish is hard work when the temperatures are up. Ignoring those realities, I cast into the subtle rips. I use different retrieves from different angles. Stripping fast, down and across. Reverse current. The occasional dead drift to mimic bait being washed into the chute. Most times, you come up empty. You move on, down the beach, reading carefully, looking for the next scenario to navigate. You cast less than you watch.

Summer is over here, and we are awaiting striped bass and bluefish runs into October, when the surf fishing becomes a little better, but remains a staunch challenge for a fly angler. We look forward to hooking up with a fish that will erase all the fruitless casts of summer. Yeah, summer can be tough. But sometimes, the right cast, at the right time, on the right featureless shoreline gets the job done, and in the hot months, not matter how big or small the catch, it feels like shooting the whiskers off a cat at 150 yards.

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Low & Clear

Late to the party.

I know plenty of people have seen and reviewed this film. None the less, I wanted to add my 2 cents just because I want to join the chorus of voices who insist this film is a must see.
Fly fishing is the backdrop for this film about a long distance friendship. Alex “Xenie” Hall and JT Van Zandt got to know each other when the latter worked in a Colorado fly shop. Xenie was already something of a local legend, having caught and photographed more big trout than most anglers dream of. The two unlikely friends bonded over the love of trout streams.
Their friendship is sometimes tried by their opposing fishing styles, which match their opposing lifestyles. JT ends up moving back to Texas to pursue boat building, and family life. Xenie stayed behind and continued to spend his life fishing.

The two friends drift apart as time passes, and visits become less frequent. This is where the film picks up the story – with JT, who lives life in the Texas swamps chasing redfish, traveling to steelhead water in B.C to fish with Xenie.

The film meshes stunningly beautiful photography with an engaging soundtrack (As a longtime fan of JT’s late father, Townes Van Zandt, I loved the inclusion of his music, sometimes performed by JT) and simply turns the cameras on the friends. The banter is hysterical, and sometimes touching – the two old friends seem to pick up where they left off, offering a kind word or fishing advice one second, and trading verbal jabs the next. The scenery is breathtaking, the fish are big, and the duality of the kind of day two guys can have on the same water is laid bare for all to see.

More than a fishing film, Low & Clear is a mediation on relationships – To society, to rivers, to fishing, and to friends. But don’t take that to mean it’s a serious, brooding affair. There’s plenty of action to keep the fly fisherman intrigued, but you don’t need to be a fly angler to be touched by this film. Ultimately, fly fishing is the backdrop for bigger things.

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Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Striped Bass Fly Line

A special line for a special season – I chose this one after some research. It came down to this line or Rio’s striped bass line.

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As the name suggest, it’s a species-specific line that performs in all kinds of saltwater situations. Slow sinking, with a clear line tip for stealth and a green running line for visibility, the lone shoots well, has a very slick finish to it, and is easier to cast than most sinking lines I’ve thrown. The slow sink puts the fly in the strike zone and cuts through swell and white water in surf conditions – a major bonus for beach fisherman. Paired with an 8 to 10wt rod, it’s perfect for the impending striped bass migration, and the endless fishing that will go with it. Outside of the blitz, the line will be perfectly appropriate for flounder, bluefish and croaker fishing flats and shorelines alike.
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