….and Novacane Runs Through it.

Dental surgery – it needs a silver lining.

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I go to a dentist about 2 hours from my house. He’s based in the town I grew up in, and where my parents live. He’s very good, and I like him, which is why I drive the two hours. Naturally,  I scheduled the appointment in such a way that I could fish the Brandywine while I was in town.

After an hour of fly shop chatter over at Marblehead, I waded into the cool river. I’d planned on wet wading in shorts, but the guys at the shop had told me it was running cool this year. Too cold after a couple of hours wet wading. Thankfully I’d prepared, and so the waders tucked into the back of my truck tightened against my legs as the water got deeper. The entire right side of my head was numb. I’d had an absurd adventure trying to eat a sandwich with the novacane still working it’s magic, and now I was standing in a river realizing how much I relied on my mouth for tying knots in small tippet. There I am, gumming away at the line with no feelings in my lips or tongue to indicate where to bite.

Only my third trip to the river, I’d yet to catch what anglers come here for – smallmouth. I’d caught a ton of panfish here, including one beautiful, vivid rock bass – caught them on streamers, but mostly on poppers – fishing the surface of the river, casting against the bank and letting the bug ride the rip or bounce off the tree branches, or stripping it back while bluegills and redears slapped and swiped at it.

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It was Wednesday, and I had the river to myself. When you round the bend south of the parking lot, you are standing in a canyon of old trees. There are a pile of boulders in the center of the river – this is where I caught the rock bass. Nothing in view is man made. You could be in Colorado, or Wyoming. But you’re 15 minutes from downtown Wilmington, where this very river will run besides a park, and in the shadow of buildings, bridges and old factories before meeting the Christina, and out to Delaware Bay, where I fish the flats.

Today, the Bluegill provided endless fun, and a little smallmouth ended the drought. Just a tiny fish, but I put the slider in the right place – just before that branch on the falling tree – just where it would ride the current around the obstruction. That would be a good place for a fish, I’d thought. And it turned out it was. I caught a few smallies in this spot, and a ton of brightly colored, hard fighting little gills. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t feel his face.

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Filed under Bluegill, Brandywine, Bug, Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Poppers, Smallmouth Bass

The Darkness.

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism, or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

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The ocean remains neglected. Unexplored, used as a planetary trashcan, underfunded and abused.  It’s not a surprise, not a news flash. Just a fact. And it only seems to alarm those of us who pay close attention. The killing of the ocean just does not grab the attention of the masses as much as, say, Kim Kardashian’s offspring.

I don’t want to turn this into a preachy, annoying plea from the cheap seats to save the world. I don’t want to condemn people that keep the fish they catch. There are abundant species that can be kept without harm. It should not be denied, however, that keeping a striped bass these days is contributing to a swelling, grotesque problem we are inflicting on ourselves, and the fish. And it’s not like we don’t know any better – we’ve been here before with striper. We’ve killed them to the brink, and we know our efforts can save them. We’ve proven it. Yet, we keep taking home as many as we can, and then complain about the lack of striper fishing. Almost the very definition of insanity.

Why is this on my mind? I just read that every bluefin tuna tested in the waters off California has shown to be contaminated with radiation that originated in Fukushima. Just to be clear – ALL OF THEM. Every. Single. One.

On the eastern seaboard of this great country, the Atlantic bluefin is endangered. We have killed most of them. We continue to kill them. Out west, the bluefin are all deeply contaminated – radioactive. Unfit for consumption, in my book. (Not in the book of those who fish for it, package it and sell it).

I know the few of you who read these pages don’t come here for this kind of topic. Thankfully, I have more pleasant things to discuss in the coming days – reviews of new rods, lines, kayaks, and trip reports. But it’s hard to discuss fish without discussing fish, if you know what I mean. Fishing is a wonderful thing – it’s a significant part of my life and brings a lot of light with it. The places I get to go, the things I see – all because I decided to at least try to be a decent fly fisherman. It helps me forget the darkness that is ever-present in the world. At least for a while.

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Dry Fly Vodka

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Marketing works.

Correction = Good marketing works. (The definition of good marketing varies by the hour).

I make some of my living in the marketing world, from design to placement to campaigns to selling advertising space, which is to say, I market marketing to potential marketers. Even with all that, I still find myself playing the sucker, staring at a wall of vodka in one of those warehouse liquor stores that prides itself on having that booze you can’t find at the 30-pack joint down the street. (Note to Dad – They have that rum you like!) and reaching past familiar favorites Camera 360to grab the bottle with the dry fly painted on the bottle. I fly fish. That must be my vodka. Suckeeeeer!

 

A corked bottle, a hand-numbered label, and a fly fishing theme. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.  Identification. So, there we go. Sold.

Before cracking the bottle, I learn that Dry Fly is made in Washington in small batches. According to the website, it’s creators were fly fishing, and marveling at the beauty of the Gallatin running over their feet. They decided to share this beauty with the world by making vodka. If that series of events makes any logical sense to you, you are smarter than me. But in the end, all the talk means nothing. Straight up, or in a tall glass cut by seltzer, Dry Fly is delicious, unique, and worth finding.  Even a sucker wins sometimes….

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Expanding Horizons

You can almost hear them shaking in their gills.

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She’s a 12 foot Jackson Cruise – built in Tennessee.

Over a year of research led me to this boat. By all accounts, bias and otherwise, she meets the criteria. She’s the color “Sky”, as Jackson have named it – and the boat reflects the the scheme with blues and whites like a summer sky. She looks good. She sounds good. I’ll be happier when she lives up to my expectations, and theirs. Either way, the range and potential of my fishing has just taken an astronomical leap. All in favor, say aye.

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Filed under Kayak, Paddling

Out of Range.

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You can’t always get what you want. The words of the old song rattle around between my ears when it comes time to go fly fishing in the surf. The seemingly ever-present winds, white caps and waves can make surf fishing with a fly rod quite the challenge – waves knocking back fly lines, wind sending a heavy lead-eyed Clouser into the back of my head, the current trying to take my footing. But turbulent water often brings good fishing, if you know where to look. Aggressive rip tides funnel bait to feeding fish, and the matter simply becomes putting my fly where they expect food to be. Oh yeah. Just that simple….

Calm water and windless days are scarce – rare enough to be relished. Easy casting, no need for a line basket, firm footed wading – and the view. The view! When the water is as clam as a lake with gentle waves lapping at the shore, with no wind to ripple the surface, you can see it all. Schools of bait, the white flashes of the underside of the wings of a large ray, feeding fish. But usually, the fishing goes as the ocean does. Flat and quiet.

When calm weather and good fishing combine, you’ve found yourself a trophy day. I can remember two such days, in goodness knows how many days of beach fishing. I found a hot flounder bite one day wading the salt flats near the Cape Henlopen ferry docks. On another, I found bluefish making a slalom run of the pier pilings in the same area. Arriving at the beach yesterday, I found clear, glassy water. Almost no breeze. And damn it, the place was Alive.

Standing on the tailgate of my truck, I could see huge schools of feeding bluefish. They were where they always are – just out of casting distance. Pods of dolphin patrolled the shorelines – some out at sea, some so close to shore you could make out the glisten in their eyes when they surfaced nearby. A ray swam by. Osprey worked the waters, and I watched as they carried away their prey, over the sand dunes and out of sight. Be it minnows in the shallows of a pond, birds working the ocean or an abundance of crabs, I always look at these signs of life as a good omen. Things are happening. I strung up an 8wt and charged into the surf.

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I waded in as far as I could – a steep drop-off limits ones ability to wet wade here – but the bluefish are always just out of reach. I know if I can get a fly into that feeding frenzy, I’m catching as many fish as I want until my arms get tired and I need a break. They would be close enough to cast a spoon with a conventional rod, but if I had one of those, they’d just go out a little further. Always just out of casting distance. I’ve been kicking around the idea of buying a Kayak for years. At least now I can pinpoint the moment I decided it was a necessity, and not a luxury. A financial decision made with the fishing end of my brain. And those are usually good decisions, regardless of cost.

I cast enough yesterday – sometimes blindly, other times to the tell-tale swirl of a feeding fish – to earn myself a salt-chapped casting hand, a sun burn and a jelly fish sting. It was uncomfortable, but not very painful. It wasn’t enough to send me home – I cleaned it up and got back in the game. This kind of jelly won’t kill ya.

When I did go home, it was because of dinner plans with old friends. It was hard to leave. With no fish to speak of, but a picture perfect evening with no wind still stretching towards twilight, I wanted to fish until dark. I was striking out on a perfect weather day. We ended up salvaging the situation with rum, good friends, a spectacular sunset and a low tide at a beach north of here, on the point. As the daylight receded below the dunes, and we finished of our grilled steak and chilled pasta salad, I sat on the tailgate of somebody else’s truck, content, watching the water and hoping the conditions would be the same tomorrow. I have the day off.
I have a drink, and watch as a school of bluefish plows through the gentle ocean. I think about going for the rod nested in the cab of my truck. But, I don’t bother. They are always out of casting distance…..

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Filed under Beach, Bluefish, Summer, Surf Fishing

FLA.

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Boca Grande, home of tournament Reds, Snook and Tarpon. A controversial battle ground for the snag factor in tournament tarpon fishing, home to millionaires and celebrities, golf carts and banyan trees.

Our guide was tireless for two days, putting us under mangroves, along sand bars and into the open ocean.. I caught a snook on my first cast of the morning, on a brand new Enrico Puglisi white bait fish imitation, and shortly after was casting my first twelve weight at rolling tarpon. It was like casting the push pole, but I got the hang of it. The tarpon never cared. On they rolled…..

We got a good look at some huge manatee, came alongside a 10 foot hammerhead shark, and witnessed the beauty of a colossal eagle ray cruising the shallows. We waded, and cast from the boat. We fished through rain storms and under baking sun. We didn’t catch many fish, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

It was late in the day when I caught the redfish that won my the top spot trophy for the fly division. While the fishing had been slow for every boat, ours hauled int he biggest red, and thus stood sunburned and slightly drunk beside the Gulf on a pool deck, surrounded by the revelers at the post tournament cocktail hour that included dinner, an auction, and and incredible sunset. I caught the Red on a small clouser that I retired when I returned home – pinning it to the corner of the frame that houses the award – a hand-drawn cruising red by a local artist. I’m proud of it…..

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Filed under Boca Grande, Flats, Florida, Guided Fishing, Ocean, On the road, Redfish, Skiff, Snook, Tarpon, Travel

South Florida Dispatch

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I was hoping to report the days fishing in this space, as it happened. A foolish idea in hindsight. When I have the time and space and the comfort of home, I look forward to recounting the last few days. The fishing has been, by all accounts, very slow. That, and a day full of less then optimal weather conditions did not, however, dampen the spirits of my fellow anglers and their respective guides. Tarpon have been sighted, dramatically so, but not caught. Red fish and snook have not been so lucky, but have been returned safely to the warm Florida waters. We are having a damn good time.

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Filed under Fishing, Florida, Places, Red Fish, Snook, Tarpon