Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Last Long Goodbye - Day One

If you put in the time, every once in a while you're entitled to a session that lives up to the potential you dare assign a particular fishing hole.  Every once in a while you can cast like a champion, think like a fish and read the water like a book.

By 11am on this particular Saturday, I stood, knee deep in the salt, drinking from a bottle of warm water as three bonefish meandered into casting range and closer, content to just watch.  The fishing was so good that morning that I was just laughing, and the fact that it turned off around noon for the rest of the day had no impact on my memories of it.

I landed 6 bones that morning, which was more than I'd landed over 4 previous days on the flats combined.  One of them, though, I will probably remember for quite some time.

Moments after releasing a fish, I spotted two more bones moving towards my position.  I made a good cast for the lead fish but before my fly landed, the trailing fish tailed and revealed its true size.  It was easily one of the largest bonefish I'd ever seen.

Regretting my presentation but knowing no recourse, I stripped and the lead fish ate.  The first run was just insane.

For the first time ever, I heard the warning knot tied 75ft from the spool in my backing tic through the guides.  The fish was blazing and I began to worry about losing everything.

Twice more, that knot ticked through the guides as we see-sawed back and forth.  The fish then turned at me and made a good run causing almost all of my line to lay slack on the water.  The Runner picked it up and I was relieved to still feel its weight.

I now had the fish in close enough to see it, but not close enough to realize just how big it was.  That moment came when I grabbed the leader and led the fish towards my now shaking knees.

I could not spread my hand wide enough to cover its shoulders.  I couldn't not hold the fish under the belly if I tried.  It reached from its fork at the butt of the rod to its nose just beyond the first set of wraps on my 6wt, putting it at just over 30 inches (77cm).  It was the biggest bonefish I'd ever personally seen.

In a state of slack-jawed awe, I let the brute recuperate for a moment before allowing it to kick free and swim off.

As for that moment, I was done for the day.  I spent most of the rest of it enjoying the view, watching the animals, and reflecting on the past three years here.

The only more poetic ending that I could imagine for my last solo fishing trip while living in these islands would have been a slammer permit.  I will happily settle, if that's the word, for the fish that I actually caught.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Last Long Goodbye - Night One

In keeping with the mellow nature that I hoped would color my last solo fishing trip to bonefish mecca, I was intent on walking with my thumb out instead of renting a car or riding a bike.

After two quick rides, I made it to the dirt turnoff at the end of which I would pitch my hammock.  Unpacking my backpack in the sand I soon realized that I was missing a vital piece of equipment, namely the hammock itself.  Fantastic, I thought to myself.

I learned the hard way that mosquitoes and sand flies can exact a serious toll on the unprepared, but the wind was whipping so I thought I'd be safe.  I excavated a depression in the sand and pulled my rainfly over two bent pine saplings, hitched its corners to some driftwood and stood back to admire my work.
Satisfied, I hoofed it back to the dock for some dusk tarpon.

I rigged up in the wind as the sun set and the stars began to shine.  While cutting the tag end off of my 60lb leader, the scissor tool on my Gerber Flik snapped off.  Awesome, I thought to myself.

A few minutes later, I was standing on the end of the dock with my 6" white tarpon toad sinking at my feet, scanning the water for a big silverside to come into range.  One appeared and it was a good shot, so I lifted the rod to make my first false cast.  As the toad shot directly upwards from perhaps 6ft beneath the surface, the owner of that particular dock decided to eat it.

THE BEAST erupted from under the dock and engulfed the toad at a million miles an hour.  I held fast to the line in a state of calm understanding as my 10wt Loop Evotec exploded two feet up from the cork.  How wonderful, I thought to myself.

As THE BEAST headshook in confusion, I set the hook into the tip of it's nose and the fight was on.  The broken tip of the rod slid down the line as the beast went deep.  It then blew up the water in a leap that had to clear 8 vertical feet and 12 horizontally.

In the past year, I witnessed THE BEAST in action, killing either unsuspecting mullet or smallish tarpon a few times, and have personally hooked him 3 times.  It's sort of sad that I lasted the longest on not much more than the cork of my 10wt before he wrapped me up on the dock and severed the leader.

After such a stellar night, I decided that I didn't want to risk dying a blood loss from biting insects while I huddled in my sand cave, so I walked to a semi-deserted hotel that I knew would be open serving dinner and asked for a room.

Defeated, I slept like the dead in the air conditioned room.  I did not dream, but if I were to dream of the coming morning session on the flats, it would have been a good one.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Last Long Goodbye

I moved to this country three years ago.  In three weeks, I'll be leaving it for good.  I've developed a special fondness for one of the islands here, an absolute gem.  It's an hour and half away by ferry but if you go alone you might as well be on the moon.  With bonefish.

Before we left, I knew that I needed to get there one last time by myself.  I needed to spend some time with it and the thoughts kicking around in my head.  I needed to string my hammock between the pines and listen to the wind whisper through the branches.  I needed to stand on the shore at midnight and stare into the bright night sky.  I needed to be knee deep in the clear waters as a silvery ghost or two headed my way.  I needed to feel the pulsing life of a fish fighting for its life, and in so doing, reboot my brain.  I needed, really, to say thanks to that place for being what it is.

So, I purchased a ticket for a long weekend in June and said the last words I was anticipating I would say to another person for three days when I kissed my girlfriend goodbye in the parking lot of work.
I had a backpack stuffed with food, water, a 6wt, a 10wt and my gear.  The tides looked good and the weather looked ideal.  I was very pleased with my prospects.

This island has been the sight of some incredible memories over the years.  My girlfriend took me there for my birthday in 2009, where together we landed my first bonefish ever.  In the summer of 2010, the three of us spent a few days there and stalked bonefish for the first time together.  Mark landed a permit,  (something I haven't been able to do in three years), broke a fly rod and soaked a DSLR camera while Adam casted for tarpon at night until he essentially collapsed from exhaustion.  We slept in the sand and the car.  The chaffing was unspeakable.

In the summer of 2011, we spent almost two weeks on the island.  Half sleeping on a sailboat and half in the sand.  We caught some incredible fish.  There are some images from that trip that will be forever burned into my memory.

Before, after and in between I made periodic solo trips with backpacking gear and a bicycle.  I guided a few friends to their first bonefish and saw some incredible sights on the water.
This island was the catalyst of every single emotion a fly fisherman could possibly feel.  It all happened there.

I spent the ferry ride running through a highlight reel of memories of my destination.  Soon, I'd be fishing there, alone with my thoughts for the last time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eagle Claw Switch Rod

I was fishing the Delaware a few weeks ago and as I floated downriver I could sense wondering eyes. Not on myself and my SUP Yak but on a yellow rod hanging off the back of the yak. Amongst the high end nano rods and classic bamboo rods that every other angler on the Upper Delaware sported, the yellow rod was an apparition. Many anglers have the Eagle Claw Fiberglass rods as backups or maybe even as their primary rods. At sixteen dollars, you can buy several dozen of them for the price of one high end rod today. Those that own them, love them. You can add me into that crowd.

Over the past few years as we ventured into using switch/spey rods on the Great Lakes tributaries, we fell in love with spey casting. As the steelhead season came to a close we routinely found ourselves using single hand spey tactics on our trout streams. More often than not we reached for the second handle that wasn't there. We yearned for it, to make things a little more easier. Adam decided to take matters into his own hands and began performing surgery on several cheap low end rods in his arsenal. This culminated this past winter with the creation of the Eagle Claw Switch Rod.

First One: May 2010
A Spinning Rod Grip and Some Electrical Tape

4wt. St. Croix

Warning: This post has been a long time in the making (people have been asking for it) and it isn't exactly an expert guide to building a rod. We don't build rods, nor do we have any general idea how to do so. This a product of the DIY mentality without any consultation of the internet, rod builders, or friends. If you are a rod builder, you can go ahead and laugh your way through this post.

Materials List:

Eagle Claw Fiberglass 8' 5 Weight
Spey/Switch Rod Grip
5 Minute Epoxy
Arrow Shaft
Sand Paper
Time: 30 minutes

Begin by using a hack saw to cut off the back end of the reel seat. In the picture below, I am actually sawing in the wrong spot since I am sawing through solid nickel. You should actually cut at the beginning of the rings. Once cut, you expose the blank in the reel seat.

In order to properly seat the switch/spey handle onto reel seat, you will have to sand down your cut as well as break apart some of the blank. It will depend entirely upon the handle you have bought.

We used an arrow shaft to connect the switch/spey handle to the reel seat and also add some extra weight to balance out the rod. Insert five minute epoxy into the grip and along the arrow shaft. We used a circular motion to evenly spread the epoxy out in the  handle. Make sure that the arrow dries in a vertical position.

Once dried, we repeated the same thing to insert the arrow shaft and grip into the fly rod blank. In this case, the arrow shaft was cut to a length where it only extended past the cork a few inches. Let it dry and the rod will be ready to use as soon as the epoxy dries.

First Attempt: Eagle Claw Switch

Overall, the process was incredibly simple. One major drawback with the Eagle Claw rods and other fiberglass rods are their increased weight and poor swing weight (tip heavy). The second handle and arrow shaft created a perfect balance with the fly rod. It allows you to more comfortably fish it as a single hand rod while allowing you to use skagit/scandi casts to launch double fly indicator rigs where ever you want. The 8' foot 5 weight model plays more like a 6-7 weight and I found the 6 wt. Rio Outbound Short to perform well on this rod. As for using a true double hand line on the rod, experiment if you have several heads in your arsenal. It will cast a scandi/skagit line. Will it be pretty? Hell no. Will it be fun? Hell yea. I played around with creating a short head using a combination of spey cheaters. I was looking for something around sixteen feet. It casted pretty well with a 10' Rio versileader and I was on a tiny freestone stream with thick cover on either bank. However, one major drawback with the short length is mending and tracking the swing.

So far, we've had a lot of fun with this rod. It has landed carp up to sixteen pounds and is a really fun indicator nymphing tool if you like really long drag free drifts. The cork will probably fall apart in your hands as you fish it and you can find better performance buying a 5 wt. switch but it wouldn't be an Eagle Claw would it? This is a cheap alternative with the emphasis on: FUN.

Enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Awake My Soul

Something had to be done. My waning interest in trout fishing the last two years made it difficult to get excited for an extended outing. Bonefish, carp, and steelhead have a way of putting trout on the backburner. I needed something special to reinvigorate my long lost love for trout.

I found what I was looking for on the fabled waters of the Upper Delaware. Oblivious to the pot of gold up north, I spent a large portion of my youth prowling small streams for wild trout. Meanwhile, a scenic river full of large wild browns, bows, and the prolific insect life of a western river flowed two hours north. I knew of what awaited me there, I just never got around to exploring it. This Spring, I was able to put a few weekends on the water up there and awaken my soul in the process.

During my last outing, I decided to float portions of the West Branch using my Diablo Paddlesports Chupacabra SUP Yak. It was Memorial Day weekend,  which isn't the best time, but I embarked nonetheless for my first ever float down a river. I quickly learned the dangers of anchoring and maneuvering in fast water and the proper etiquette with other floating anglers and waders. It was a great way to see and learn the river and I discovered a lot of what it has to offer.

One major draw that has awoken my inner trout, is the pure difficultly of the river. Having a multitude of bugs on the water at the same time and fishing over educated, pressured, and wild fish can be frustrating. I can't remember any other body of water where I was consistently schooled by pods of small trout. Its a perplexing riddle that is made even more difficult by the changing mood of the river and its hatches. Some days can be a melting pot of insect activity while others can leave you scratching your head and patiently awaiting for the river's many fish to rise.

My last outing was one of those days. Clear blue skies, intense heat, and not a whole lot of rising fish. It was sporadic to say the least. One moment stood out. I came out of series of islands into a beautiful section of pocket water. The deep pockets became a long section of fast water that had a good depth to it. By the time my anchor found something to grab onto, I had wasted a large portion of the run. A particular section caught my eye and I hopped out of the Yak and into the water to gain proper positioning. There was a seam of slow water about twenty yards long at the base of some bushes along the bank. It looked prime. I casted down and across, gave a good reach cast, and allowed my parachute adams a few feet of dead drift on the seam. A medium sized trout rose and sipped my fly. At least I thought it was a medium sized fish, but what I saw was merely its head to its dorsal fin. Things were about to go down.

After the initial head shakes and deep rolls along the bottom, the large trout (still don't know how big he is) careened into the current and my reel began to sing a song usually reserved for a carp. I was faced with the immediate decision to lose the fish, or travel back upstream to my anchored yak. With the deeper water downstream, I had to go get the yak. I was deep into my backing by the time I unanchored, hopped in, and began floating downstream. As I reeled in line, the fish turned and ran back upstream leaving a hundred feet of slack fly line on the water and strewn over my yak. I dropped the anchor and finally it caught. I had a lot of catching up to do. Miraculously, the fish was still on and when I came tight again, he took off. When I got him back a second time, I finally saw the size of the fish at the end of my line. Net worthy, I hopped out and landed him. The first trout to ever show me my backing was just the ticket to reinvigorate my inner trout bum.

Not many rivers on the east coast afford the opportunity of catching wild browns approaching two feet in length on dry flies. The kicker here, it happens on a regular basis. Combine that with the beautiful scenery and a town of people and anglers that gets it and you have quite the destination. Turns out, I can't wait to go back and explore the area further. I felt at home there, like it was a place I needed to be. I haven't felt that way about trout in a long time.

Thank you Upper Delaware.

Friday, June 1, 2012

April Showers Bring May Flowers


During the month of April my stubborn ass decided to fish my favorite spots over and over again. The fish had become wary to say the least, any tippet size greater than 4x was easily identified. Trying to haul fish out of the weeds using 4-5x gets old after awhile...It became clear that I needed a change of scenery. 

Where's your lips??? 

Nothing like getting screwed out of your own photo...

A miracle on 5x...


I started off the month of May by adding a new tool to my carping arsenal...Google Earth. I spent hours soaring around like a vulture in search of carrion...hunting for new carping grounds. Lets just say I found what I was looking for...

Got Weeds?

I added two new locations to my small list of carping spots. Both of these locations were fished heavily by other anglers and I feared the carp would be quite savvy. I soon found that this was not the case at all. I got multiple chances to present my fly to a single fish to the point where it disgusted me a little. It was clear that these fish hadn't been properly acquainted with the fly angler.

Sadly, I took advantage of these poor carp...I feel a bit bad about it too.

Towards the end of the month Mark and I fished our favorite carping grounds together and we were both rewarded with our first canal carp of the year... 

The Fly of the Month: My original "Carp Damsel" in hares ear (#10 TMC 2457). Responsible for the largest koi and common for the month...

Merritt, R. W., K. W. Cummins, and M. B. Berg (eds). 2008. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of      North America (4th ed.). Kendall/Hunt Publ. Co., Dubuque, IA 1158 pp.

A Bowl of Inspiration... 

A Captive Emergence... 


My first attempt at a Libellulidae nymph...

Bright white legs after a few rubber

15lb tippet...were not in Kansas anymore...

It's whats for Dinner

Articulated Damsel FTW

Battered and Bruised

Carping in the month of May is going to be VERY hard to beat...