Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sight Casting to Redfish

Fishing fixes have been in scant supply lately, but I did experience a nice flashback the other day. Business brought me to Tampa a few Octobers ago. It was for a conference on coastal habitat restoration and I was excited to go, but I was even more stoked to sample the local fishing down there. Never having visited the west coast of Florida before, I did some research and booked a highly touted guide, Capt. Nick Angelo of Shallow Water Fly Fishing

Nick knows Tampa Bay like the back of his hand and will dial-in on different species depending on the time of year. I learned that October on Tampa Bay is a transition time, but it can be very good for sight casting to redfish and snook, and that's what we set out to do. Nick pulled his skiff right up to a dock within walking distance of my hotel and after a few minutes, the Tampa skyline was our backdrop as we plied mangrove shorelines and sandy flats.

I was all about sight fishing since getting a good taste of it between bonefish in Hawaii, stripers in Cape Cod, and carp and trout locally. This was my inaugural trip with my first pair of Costa sunglasses--the difference between a cheap pair and quality pair of polarized shades is like night and day, and if there is one thing you don't skimp out out on with this type of fishing, it's sunglasses! I put them to the test right off the bat. Nick set me up with one of his rods and a fly of his own creation and hopped on the poling platform. Just as he began explaining what to be on the lookout for, I pointed to a shadowy figure grubbing on bottom. He was pumped that I spotted the first redfish and I was pumped that I spotted one period. Nick coached me on where to drop the fly and I led the fish just a hair and it ate after a few short strips. It put up a great fight on the long rod in shallow water, but we barely had time to bask in our glory.

As soon as I released the fish, Nick sees an unmistakable blitz about 50 yards off the bow of the boat that was closing in fast. He knew straight away that it was a school of crevalle jack heading right for us. I was a little caught off guard yet managed an ugly cast into the fray next about a rod's length from the skiff. I'm guessing these fish would have attacked just about anything put in front of them at that point and within seconds I was tight to a bulldog that dumped line off my spool at a crazy rate of speed. With no disrespect to the beautiful redfish I had just spotted, caught and released, this jack fought a hell of a lot harder. I was having a blast, but my guide was screaming at me to horse the fish in so we can get another crack at the school that was quickly getting away.

After a few wild minutes, I eventually boated the fish but we never got that second crack at the blitz. It was long gone. We did find more reds, nothing huge, but still fun as hell to sight fish for. I also landed my first ever sea trout, which was cool, and spooked a few big snook before I could get a respectable cast off. I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and diversity of the Tampa Bay fishery, which was very close to the bustling downtown area. I was equally impressed with the local knowledge of my guide and would recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone traveling there. It was an awesome day on the water that is still providing me great memories through fishing dry spells three years later!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We Took To The Woods

Editor's note: This enjoyable post comes from my good friend Aaron Swanson. He and our buddy Tommy recently made a memorable trip to Maine to catch big native brook trout. 

Fishing in Connecticut during the month of May presents the versatile angler with a problem: too many opportunities. Of course, this is a good problem to have – variety as they say, is the spice of life.

Inland streams are flush with hungry salmonoids; many looking up to slurp the first large rusty colored mayflies hatching in the rapidly warming water. Coastal rivers and tidal zones are infused with the first anadromous visitors – some joining their counterparts who stayed the long grey winter.  Post-spawn pike, pre-spawn bass; both brown and green and pre-spawn carp all present varied and exciting prospects – and this abbreviated list would surely have some grumbling for species omitted.  When presented with the virtual piscatorial mayhem at hand in the Constitution State a friend and I made the easiest choice possible:  get away from it all. 

An invite to stay and fish in western Maine is one that – if possible – you don’t turn down. There, in those woods, resides a special population of brook trout, native char that grow large in the cool clean waters far from parking lots and suburban developments. This invitation was extended to us; just as warming temperatures drove the intensity of the local fishing scene to a level nearing combustion. 

The stampede of anglers falling over each other to get their piece of the local action, the prospect of finding ourselves as far away from people and civilization as we could get sounded just about right. As we set out on our six-hour ride, the 91 degree reading on the truck’s thermometer, the crowded roadways packed with Friday afternoon traffic and the sizzling pavement only helped to reaffirm our decision and destination.

The rivers we fished in western Maine (and the large lakes that feed them) harbor the last of an incredible strain of brook trout.  These fish were recognized by turn of the century sportsman to be worth saving. Thanks to foresight and conservation, there are still a handful of waters where trophy quality brook trout can be found stateside. Combining tips and assistance from one of the area’s top guides with fortuitous timing and find them we did.

But the fish aren’t the only reason to visit this special area. The sensory experience of living history helps to transport you away from the everyday grind of reality experienced back home. The complete lack of cell service instantly facilitates a decreased use of electronic devices and we found ourselves refreshingly unplugged. When we got down the logging roads to Forest Lodge we were reminded of the way folks used to live. This opens the eyes to how good and in some ways, bad we have it. 

Sitting on the Aldro’s back porch after one of the best days of fishing of our lives while guests use the wood-fired hot-tub and the river plays the only soundtrack that fits the scene at hand – this provides a kind of therapy found nowhere else.

We were invited to dinner, to sit in a rustic country kitchen where people have sat for more than a century. We enjoyed a fine meal around the table with a dozen friends, none of whom we had ever met.  That is to fully experience a place where history was chronicled and written and that is a feeling that will take you a million miles away – even if you do have to do the dishes as compensation for your meal…


Special thanks go to Dan Thrall of Rx Outdoors for hosting, sharing his immense knowledge of the local area and being an all-around good guy! Thanks to Rufus too...

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Carp Camp

One of the cool things about fishing for carp is that it be as simple as using beat-up rods and canned corn or it can be as serious as using thousand-dollar set ups and homemade boilies. A few friends that sit on the latter part of that spectrum recently wrapped up a week-long camping and carping trip on private land along the Connecticut River. They may not readily admit it, but these guys are among the best carp anglers in the region. I was fortunate enough to drop in on their carp camp for a day.

The last time I fished with this crew was in the fall of 2013 and it was an absolute blast. The amount of carp knowledge that fell on my lap in that session was out of control. This time didn't disappoint either. While the windy conditions were a pain to deal with, lot of laughs were had and there was a steady pick of smallish carp up to 21-pounds throughout an incoming tide. However, just about every other day that week provided much better action and size with eight fish over 30-pounds gracing their nets.

Throughout the week they had special guests visit from all over and there was enough camera equipment on hand that it looked like a GoPro commercial. This crew takes pride in their fishing and camping and do a hell of a job documenting and sharing their passion. Here is one of their videos from the same spot last fall. I can't wait to see what they have in store for the video project this time around. 



Thursday, May 21, 2015


My friend Todd and I recently took advantage of a break in our work schedules and fished together for the first time in a long time. It's always a treat getting stream-side during the week since most of my trout fishing is regulated to the crowded weekends. The plan was to revisit a stretch of river that we had fished a few February's ago. It was great to be back on this portion of river again in mid May when there was much more life apparent in the water and woods around us. We dropped one vehicle upstream and drove down river a mile so with the other and waded our way back.

It was a gorgeous spring day weather wise and the fishing was pretty damn good too. We found more than enough freshly stocked trout to keep us busy at each stop along our route and there were a few higher quality trout mixed in. The highlight of our day was an awesome brown trout that fought like mad and was the most beautiful fish I had seen in some time. If I had to guess, I'd say that one was born in the river. It was a hell of a way to cap off a fine day on the water. We'll have to revisit this stretch more often.