What I Learned While Fishing In The Keys

 

  1. You can’t slather on enough sunscreen to keep from burning at least some – I tried. I applied. Then I reapplied. Then I put on some more. I still burned. So I found a new appreciation for technical fishing clothes and yes, though it pains me to say it, even the Buff.
  2. Fish don’t like the smell of sunscreen
  3. Just because I can hit a child with a fly while he’s running full-bore across a field at 80 ft and with a 20 knot wind blowing doesn’t mean that I can successfully cast to a feeding permit 30 ft away when the breeze is barely rippling the water - Buck fever is a horrible affliction.
  4. I may be too easily distracted – “Oh look a baby lobster.” “That’s a neat looking sponge.” “What is that, Stag-horn coral?” “What a cool looking bird!” “Fuck! I can’t believe I poled right over that fish! I shouldn’t have been looking at that goddamn lobster/sponge/coral/bird!” And yes I do talk to myself like that when I’m  alone.
  5. Being ready for the proper fish is hard – I learned long ago that having more than one fly rod rigged and ready to go in my kayak is a recipe for tangles, unending frustration and sometimes broken rods. On this last trip I learned that I’ll see permit and redfish if I have my shark rig ready to go and I’ll see nothing but sharks and ‘cuda if I have my other rod ready to go.
  6. Bonefish don’t exist – They are a fiction created by “big fly fishing” to sell rods and flies so fat cats in the industry can continue to rake in the millions. All photos you may have seen are CGI. If you claim to have seen or caught a bonefish personally you are obviously in the pocket of the “Man”.
  7. A shark the length of my kayak can swim in 2 ft of water without making the slightest bit of disturbance on the surface – What the hell is that about!?!?
  8. And the only possible way to truly become proficient fly fishing in the Keys is to spend a lot of time fishing there – So I’m going to have to start going down there at least once or twice a year. I’m sure my wife won’t mind…

Seven Days

Due to the incredible destructive force that my children posses I’m forced to write this on an iPad, which I’m not real good typing on, so I’m going to keep this short.

One week from today I’ll be in the Keys. I will have six days to do nothing but fish. No wife, no kids, just me, my kayak and some fly fishing gear.

Hopefully I’ll come back to tell stories (with pictures) of big salty fish, lessons I learned and at least one “this is not the way to do it” tale. If not I should at least come back a bit more tan and much more relaxed.

So y’all wish me luck and be expecting the first reports in a couple of weeks!

Tropical Distractions

In less than a week I’m floating the Saluda River in Columbia, SC with a good buddy of mine to target some tailwater trout.

Supposedly these particular trout are big fans of streamers and big flashy nymphs, which I currently have very few to none of. So I’ve been trying to tie some up.

I have a problem though.

I’ll be leaving for the Keys in a little more than a month and have literally been dreaming about bonefish, tarpon and permit most nights for the last couple of weeks. So every time I sit in front of my vice (see I spelled “vise” wrong on purpose as a form of subtle word play or a “pun” if you will) to tie up some streamers or nymphs I end up tying Gotchas or Merkins or some other form of flats fly.

These most likely won’t work on the 12″ stocked rainbows I’ll be fishing for in less than a week…

Hmmm? I’m guessing this is what people refer to as a “first world problem”.

A Few Tips For the Paranoid Fly Tyer

I’ve tied literally thousands of flies at this point in my life. Sometimes people and fly shops even want to buy some of them from me, which means that I have found myself having to tie multiple dozens of the same pattern all of which should look pretty much exactly alike. With variations in materials and other more cryptic variables sometimes making two identical flies seem daunting, much less a dozen of them.

If you’re nitpicky and self-critical like me (for your sake I hope you’re not) this can drive you a little crazy when tying a large order of flies. I have learned a few things over the years to help me maintain my sanity though:

  1. Wait at least a few hours to do the final inspection – If you just finished tying a dozen flies for somebody don’t immediately jump into comparing them to one another. Every little tiny, itty-bitty difference will seem glaringly obvious to you and you’ll wonder if you should retie that one with the wing that seems a fraction of a millimeter shorter or just get rid of that one there with the eye that looks like it might be a little lower than the other eye. Step away from your flies and comeback later. If you’re at least a reasonably competent tyer you’ll find that you won’t be able to tell much of a difference from one fly to the next.
  2. Don’t compare your flies to flies in bins at big box stores like Bass Pro or Cabela’s – These flies come from big companies like Umpqua that have fly “factories” in Asia where people get paid good money (by their standards) to spend eight hours a day, five days a week, tying the exact same fly over and over and over again. Remember, unless you’re willing to spend this kind of time doing the same thing you’re flies will never be as perfectly uniform as theirs.
  3. And remember that as a tyer of flies you will always be more critical of the flies you see – This isn’t to say people who don’t tie don’t know what a well tied fly looks like, but as a fly tyer, you’re more likely to notice the finer details, good and bad. To most people, as long as the fly does what it’s supposed to do and doesn’t fall apart after the first three or four fish (sharks, muskie and other big toothy fish not included) they’re going to be pretty happy with it.

Hopefully these tips will help put you at ease if you’re anything like me.

The Fly Fishing Show Part 2 – Show-Harder

I just got back from The Fly Fishing Show in Winston-Salem, NC.

I saw a lot of cool things, talked to more than a few interesting people, spent more money than I should have and only got a little bit panicky due to the crowd (more than five people within ten feet of me at any given time and I start to get… twitchy). But what really excited me was the plethora of fly tying materials to pilfer through. There was all kinds of shiny stuff, stretchy stuff, sticky stuff and of course fuzzy stuff, which was where I really lucked out.

After walking into the show and browsing through the first little section I turned the corner and saw the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since meeting my wife; a full, thick, polar bear white, arctic fox tail.

If you didn’t know this already, I have kind of a thing for arctic fox fur. It’s got to be one of, if not my very favorite material to tie with. I love the way it flows through the water, how easy it is to tie with, how… Well I guess that’s really it, but what else do need from a good material.

Anyway, I grabbed this tail as fast as I could, possibly knocking down an old man in the process, and pushed my way to the counter to pay. Now I’m the proud owner of this tail and will be spending the next few days cutting it into manageable pieces and researching the safest way to dye fox fur. (If anyone reading this has any experience with dying furs please feel free to share any tips you have.)

Oh, and Lefty didn’t embarrass me this time.

So, over all, I have to say the show was a success.

The Fly Fishing Show

I’m getting up early tomorrow morning and heading two hours northeast to Winston-Salem, NC, all by myself without a wife or any kids, to attend the The Fly Fishing Show.

This should be more fun than the last fly fishing show I went to where I had to deal with a bored wife, a couple of unruly children and where Lefty himself saw me carrying my son in a sling and said to a crowd of strangers, “Huh! In my day women carried babies.”

Grumpy old fuck…

Anyway, if you’re reading this and will be there look for me. I’ll be the bearded guy with a beer-gut in his mid thirties wearing a baseball cap and a fishing shirt, or possibly a hoody with something fly fishing related on the back.