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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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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.

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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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Gear Review – The Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack – A Year Later.

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Analysis tells me that one of most popular posts to appear on this blog was my review of my Orvis sling pack. It originally appeared a year ago, and since then, it is viewed every day by people who Google the sling pack and seek reviews. As such, I thought it might be helpful to write a follow up.

Since that initial post, I’ve taken that pack on almost every fishing excursion I’ve been on, whether it was ten minutes from home, or several hundred miles away by airline. The Safe Passage has spent countless hours on my back while I waded saltwater flats, cast to the breakers on beaches, crept around trout streams, hunted snook in the mangroves of Florida, and all manners of fishing in between.

So, how is it holding up?

To look at the bag, you wouldn’t know the miles I’ve put on it. Despite it’s exposure to a saltwater environment and being dragged through bushes and trees on the way to rivers and streams, all the exterior components remain intact. No snags, rips, or tears. No discoloration from all the sun, and everything attached externally, including forceps and nippers and D-rings remain as solid and functional as the day I started using them. The nippers are not as razor sharp as they once were, but they’ve chewed a lot of leader.

As time has passed I’ve developed preferences on where things are kept and what to attach to the bag when wading for long periods. I can comfortably carry a water bottle and my landing net on the outside of the bag, and keep the interior free for fly boxes, tippet and other necessities. The locations of the D-rings were clearly well thought out when they developed this bag, as nothing ever gets in the way. I’ve worn it over just a T-shirt, and on top of a heavy layers of coats, sweatshirts and thermals, and with a little adjusting of the strap, you can easily make it comfortable regardless of your clothing.

The on-water performance has been impressive – never hindrance, always accessible and easy to manage. You can be waist deep in saltwater on an incoming tide and still comfortably reach all of your necessary gear by just sliding the bag to your front side. In fact, waist deep water is where this bag has a big advantage over waist packs and vests. The pack rides high up on your back, so I’ve waded very deep without fear of it getting soaked. That said, I’ve also stood in hours of rain and had the items inside remain dry.

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I keep the fly box I’m currently working out of in the small front pocket, making it easy to look around in, and also because this is where the foam pad resides. I use this pad, as intended, to store flies on after I use them, instead of placing them into a fly box while wet. This is the only part of the bag showing any wear, as the repeated poking with hooks has left a couple of noticeable spots in the foam – but this is to be expected, the foam is replaceable, and frankly, the wear is so minimal I could go for years without the need to replace it.

Currently, my bag holds two pairs of forceps, my trimmers, a leather leader sheath, six pre-packaged leaders, four rolls of various tippet, A pack of sanitary hand wipes, fishing licenses, hook sharpening stone, a flashlight, two large fly boxes and two smaller boxes for small nymphs and streamers, and there is still plenty of useable space. on many trips, I can also fit my rain jacket, my camera gear and a snack.

A year later, I come away only more impressed with this product as I’ve had time to consider what I’ve put it through and where it’s been. I’ve never been a bother to wear, but on a few occasions, I’ve been hassled by not wearing it. The convenience of having your nippers over your shoulder and your forceps on your chest when the need arises can spoil you, and when you find yourself without, you’ll miss it.

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Hat Tip to TU.

When the good people at Trout Unlimited are not playing a significant role in improving the lives of fish and fisherman, they can occasionally be found chatting with members and followers on their Facebook page. 

Just before Christmas, the status of that Facebook page asked readers to submit the last fly they used to catch a trout. The question immediately reminded me of something I’d otherwise forgotten – that when I sent my money to TU for my membership this past summer, they had been running a promotion where my membership fee would earn me a collection of TU swag, including stickers, a hat, and a collection of various and popular trout flies. I was on the TU page to join anyway, not necessarily expecting more than a newsletter in return, but was happy to learn I’d receive a bunch of goodies.

Time passed, and the TU package arrived at my house. Everything promised was included, except the flies. A note inside, I recall, said the flies were in a back-ordered status, and would follow shortly. I stuck a sticker on my stripping basket and promptly forgot about the whole deal .

And then, that question was asked on Facebook, and I remembered I’d never received my flies. I made a smart ass comment- completely in jest, mind you – that I certainly hadn’t used a TU fly because I had not received them yet. I even left one of those winky face things that is now the universal symbol for – “Hey. Just kidding”.

Not fifteen minutes went by before I received an email on my Facebook account from a Brennan Sang – a community manager for TU. He was concerned that I hadn’t received flies and wanted to know how he could help. I sheepishly explained that I was just kidding – I was feeling like a whiner – and that I’d forgotten about the flies, but explained what had happened. He said he wanted to look into it – and just a few short days later, a small collection of trout flies arrived in the mail.

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In an era of customer service that ranges from passable to dismal across a myriad of industries, the fly fishing world is pretty lucky. Some of the major rod builders have excellent customer service, as anyone with an expensive broken rod will attest. What TU did for me was a small thing, but the attention to detail and the commitment to make things right even after I’d expressed my relaxed attitude about the whole deal, deserves to be commended. They don’t just want to do great work, they want to do it right. We’re lucky to have them.

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