Friday, March 31, 2006
Power Pro Line
Innovative Textiles Company
Eight-Pound Test Microbraid Line
I have now entered my fourth year of active comparison- flats fishing with PowerPro and monofilament lines. The test fields were on the flats of Florida, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Roatan, Honduras. I've concluded that there are two flats fishing situations where PowerPro has become an absolute mandate, rather than an option.
The first application is flats and shallow water fishing "tight to cover", which involves casting to snook right up against the mangroves. I have already covered the benefits of PowerPro over monofilament as regards a smaller diameter than the latter for the same pound-test, resulting in more line on the reel and better casting potential. PowerPro's non-stretch status gives an angler a vastly enhanced ability to wrestle snook out of structure. Monofilament is simply too stretchy and springy in these applications. Although I have used eight-pound PowerPro in the field testing, I would suggest beginners starting with thirty-pound PowerPro, which has same diameter as eight-pound monofilament. Once the snook or redfish is hooked against the mangroves, use the "short-stroke" fighting style to get them out of the structure.
All it took was one trip to the rock and coral flats of Roatan to convince me PowerPro was the absolute line choice. I hooked numerous permit and ocean tally on these flats and caught very few of them on monofilament, which simply "gave out" and parted if it touched any part of the bottom or reef. PowerPro's makeup gives it an enormously enhanced abrasion resistance over mono. When I spooled up with PowerPro, I was able to land many more permit and ocean tally. In many cases, if the PowerPro wrapped on coral, the line held up until my guide was able to walk over or dive down to lift it off the rocks. This is something that simply would not be possible with mono.
Light tackle flats fishing has been given an enormously enhanced ability with the creation and usage of PowerPro microbraid line. For more discussion by me of PowerPro, go to www.southfloridasportfishing.com/, tips and tales, articles, " The Microbraid Revolution."
This morning was a classic spring thoroughbred, featuring partly sunny skies and easterly winds of 15 to 20 mph. The ocean flats have taken 3 days of this with a resultant drop in water temperature and a tilt in the tint towards tea, which created poor visibility. I scrammed the shallows for the channels and dropoffs, and was nicely paid off with a big morning's helping of large ladyfish to 4 pounds. I'll say it again, and then, some more, that if ladyfish grew to the size of the silver king, we'd have to invent new casting tackle to cope with Leviathan Ladies as well as watch the now- Tepid Tarpon become the wallflower of the Saltwater Dance.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Bass Pro Shops
Offshore Angler Ocean Master OM
4000 (Bait) Casting Reel
I have been field testing this product for an entire year. All the technical features as to comfort, backlash control ability, drag, levelwind, handle/cranking ability, line capacity, reliability, and reel finish have performed beyond my expectations. I have put this reel through the moves primarily on tarpon from 50 pounds to over 100 pounds in the ocean Cuts of Miami, Florida. I have also been using this reel to fish some of my secret Florida inshore wrecks where I need a strong reel to "dredge" large mangrove snapper and gag grouper off the wreck and into my skiff. I'll also be testing this reel off British Columbia for chinooks and halibut this summer, and I'm sure its excellent performance will continue. Anglers that love to cast a revolving spool reel under their "educated thumb" will be very pleased with the OM 4000.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
High off my pre-frontal strategies of yesterday that yielded two nice released bonefish, I thought I'd try some backbay lakes for tarpon today when the front had passed. Though the wind direction and velocity were what I'd expected, the air temperatures were so low and in contrast to the preceding weeks, my wet hands were aching from the chill factor. This reduced my angling ardor and perserverance considerably-especially when no tarpon rolled in the first half hour- not even a burp bubble! Almost relieved, I wrapped it up and took pleasure in conjuring up a soon-to-made-and consumed breakfast feast of marinated Argentine skirt steak, farm fresh eggs, toasted Italian bread, topped off with plenty of full-bodied, deep-roasted Colombian coffee. No tarpon? Make a good breakfast- far more than lemonades from lemons, but more dealing best with the cards dealt.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Gamakatsu Siwash Hook
Serial Number 53011
Although this hook is marketed as a lure replacement item, it's really useful in many other applications as well. In fact, it is my go-to hook when near-perfect hookups are a mandate, such as tarpon, rubbery-lipped permit, and bonefish on ultralight line. I prefer the "model perfect" bend, and the sharpness of the point for hook-setting efficiency exceeds expectations. I cannot recall other than being throughly pleased with this item's truly outstanding characteristics and performance in saltwater angling on the flats, inshore and offshore.
Dandinette Prime Bucktail/ Bucktail Jig
Sizes 1/4 oz., 3/8 oz., 1/2 oz.
I have been field testing this particular lure for the last two years, primarily in South Florida and Bahamian flats, inshore, and shallow ocean applications. I've always been convinced that the bucktail is the most universal lure for marine applications, but this particular product sold me on the concept. Here is a brief list of species I've taken on this marvelous bucktail:
My favorite way to fish this lure is of course determined by the above species and their feeding mood and activity level in any given feeding situation. Generally in winter and early spring on open bays, I'll fish the deeper channels to access warmer thermoclines. I'll fish my SPRO bucktail in a bottom bouncing, swing-with-the-current retrieve. In very cold water situations, I use a piece of live shrimp tail section that I carefully thread up the hook WITH THE TAIL LAST. SPRO company has this lure available in many different colors, but I limited my field testing to the white model because of the preponderance of white/silver forage such as pilchards and sardines.
The field test results of the SPRO Prime Bucktail reveals that it is a premier bucktail lure. The large eye, realistic head, hookeye placement, lure dressing, and razor sharp Gamakatsu hook make it a must-have item in every saltwater angler's tackle box.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Another feature series of flatsfishingonline.com are products sent by manufacturers of fishing tackle for inshore-use field testing. Since last fall, I have been field testing Bass Pro Shop's Offshore Angler Gold Cup Spinning Reels. Specifically, the models used were:
1. 4- Model 508 Spinners and 12-pound test for tarpon. 26 tarpon to over 100 pounds were caught and released on these reels. No malfunctions were noted, nor was there any pitting on the finish. The anti-reverse stayed constant and the line roller was operative and smooth. No bail problems were noted. My impression is that this model performed quite well with excellent value.
2. In addition, I have recently received three of the smallest Gold Cup Spinners, Model 408. They are a new addition to the product line and are designed for smaller flats fish like bones, redfish, and snook. I took advantage of Florida's early Spring season, and caught numerous jacks to 15 pounds, as well as 3 bonefish to 9 pounds on these smaller spinners. They performed quite well "out of the box." They performed in the same reliable way the 508's did.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Do not ever make the mistake of thinking the Bahamas bones are the little silver Bananas that Keys anglers chuckle at- that's a bit more the case in the Yucatan Peninsula off the Quintana Roo State coast. Green Turtle Cay off Abaco and Mayaguana offer daily shots at trophy bonefish that are common to these areas. I personally cast to a school of about a 100 fish off Manjack Cay where all the fish looked over ten pounds- the fish I plucked from that school and released was easily ten pounds.
The skiffs may be slicker in the Keys, but the Bahamas have their own unique magic. I'll always be on the prowl to collect the magic of each new island- its features, fishing, and unique character. Next stop, Deadmans Cay, Long Island!
The flats fishing community in South Florida is abuzz with the possible recovery and discovery of a bonefish caught and tagged near Bear Cut, Biscayne Bay and recaught off Andros Island in the Bahamas. Although the consensus amongst the relevant researchers is that although this catch must be checked for validity, to attain reliability, trans-Atlantic bonefish crossings must be representative behavior. So, the current buzz is that at this time, no inferences can be drawn. Indeed, this is the case for scientists- yet, writers with a bit of pluck, imagination, and a window of free time ("honey, I took the garbage out... now I'll finish the dishes") can have a go at it.
Flats experts generally agree with marine biologists that bonefish have what the latter call "site fidelity", which in hip-hop means they like to "hang"- as in what club they"hang at"- in the same general place. Yet, to continue the use of that lofty term, is "site infidelity" attained when a fish straggles from its habitually- expectable habitat? What shall we think? Is a new trend established or is it a watchable-but- passing anomaly that flashes and then flickers out like a shooting star in the summer's night sky?
If everything tests out, is there sense to be made of this? And, moreso, why did the bonefish do it? The Gulf Stream is a big place, full of predators that love the Gray Ghost. Was the fish feeling at times like that poor chap in Homer's incredible painting? General flats wisdom only bestows transoceanic migration to tarpon and maybe a few bunches of Gulf bull redfish. The shallows of Biscayne Bay are relatively safe for bonefish as regards predation from larger fish, a status not necessarily afforded on Bahamian flats, which have many more sharks. Maybe the prospect of predating upon conch fritters and lots of cold Kalik exceeded the fear of being predated upon, so our little silver fishy had a go at it!
The truth is that very little is currently known about bonefish movements, but the speculation is that far flung migration is not a part of a bonefish's life.
Compare that to the electrified expectations of Homosassans for the giant tarpon that arrive every May.
So for the time being, brave bonefish, thanks for the Buzz!
Friday, March 17, 2006
Folks that have grown up fly fishing the streams and rivers of the American West by definition associate the catching of, say, trout, with an exquisite environmental experience- as they come to the saltwater flats to take up bonefishing, it's not surprising that they'd look to more pristine habitats like the Yucatan versus Miami's Biscayne Bay. The more research writers do into the choices of traveling anglers, the more it is clear that said choices are complex, understandable, never right or wrong, and thoroughly subjective.
On my behalf, I caught 6 bonefish this morning, and the sight of passing boats or a distant high-rise was not allowed by me to "hijack" the joy of this experence. And yet, as always, to each, his own!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Sunday, March 12, 2006
The angling life is a good one, particularly one that opens new vistas, frontiers, habitats, and brand spanking new action. I've always wanted to pursue stripers in the shallows of New England- looks like 2006 might be that time. Like all good traveling angler-writers, I did my research and have a trip planned with one of the top light tackle guides in Maine, Captain John Ford. (www.mainesaltwaterfishing.com/). With the usual prayers to the Weather Gods of Fall,
and hoping everything comes together, I'll be writing about my experience with him along the stunning coastline and bays of Maine.
Friday, March 10, 2006
It's been another day to celebrate living. Though I was bouncing around the high pressure ridge in Biscayne Bay, I found the ideal slot that featured a contour off a flat coupled with a warm thermocline- how quickly and how many times can you say, "fish on every cast?" Morning tally- oh, yes, I do count! - 2 bonefish to 6 lbs, 4 yellow jacks, 3 blue runners, one 14 lb. jack crevalle, and 56 other jack crevalles: a great morning to look back on.
And yet, the pleasure is mounting for my trip to fish with Captain Sam Knowles in Deadmans Cay, Long island , Bahamas. This lodge (www.deadmansbones.com/) is smack in the middle of some of the least pressured, most wadeable flats in the Bahamas. The salinas there reminds me a bit of Bonaire, but with infinitely more flats and bonefish. I'm really looking forward to getting to this destination.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
It started simply enough....that last Margarita almost loosened lips that better judgment and a need for grocery money had kept in check. The thoughts that just about saw thelight of day went like this: “ if you only want to throw flies at those tarpon, just don’t waste my time.”
As soon as he walked into the bar and met my gaze, I felt a sick wave pass over me: what the gaze revealed was a sartorial sea-goer resplendent in the latest marine fashion--breath-able cottons in the pinks and oranges of a Florida Bay sunset, gold shark tooth necklace,and multicolored topsiders. It was my first customer of the tarpon season, coming to fetchme, clearly fourteen hours too early.He recognized me somehow and swam my way. He wanted to know, had to know, how I’d done on my own today. He’d heard, the word was out: Silver Kings had been spotted rolling their gunmetal bodies over the green grassflat pastures in hot, still Biscayne Bay.And, yes, the Pink Hotel that referred him to me also told him what I looked like, andwhere I could be found. “ So, how did you do?’ he said. I forced a smile and the corners of my mouth tugged at the burn of summer’s growing sun. “ Relax”, I said, “ and order a drink. Then, we’ll talk a bit.” He waved for help with a gesture no doubt redolent with money, fancy cars, compliant family members, yet mildly tinged with a teaspoon of decency that showed requisite attendance at a House of Worship.
He was The Consummate Man. No one answered his wave and his smile waned. He got up and walked to the bar and he asked.Alone again, I dove deep into the wave of quiet and it enveloped me. My father came tome, first cloudy, then more solid in form. He was sitting next to me on the dock, facing the salmon and yellow Gulf sunset. “ Remember,” he said, “ angling has nothing to do with trying or with effort. It’s like dancing. Either you’re born with it or you’re not. And that’s the truth of it.” I soared on those words, dreaming rising air columns upward on the warm, comforting mist of his now-remembered wisdom.
“So, how’s the fishing?’ I looked up at him and blinked. He was back again, friendly face,friendly body, and friendly hand newly adorned with a bottle of imported carbonated water. I guess too many sunblasted days and a salty devil that bit my ass and wouldn’t let go made me stiffen at his soft drink. Sadly, this fellow had inadvertently wandered into the razor’s edge of my feelings, a garden turned into a minefield seeded with the painpatches of a love gone dead.Now waiting for a response--could he read me?--he went on about how he got to me. It wasn’t the hotel, really. It was his partner, his colleague, who told him about me. He became uneasy, sensing my sourness, and he wanted it sweeter. He went on, determinedto have it All Right; for him it was probably always All Right. His colleague - a cardiologist - had fished with me last year and said that I put him on more tarpon than he’d ever seen. With a polished but deliberate gulp of his water, he said he was happy to be fishing since he’d been so busy lately and under so much strain. His tempo jogged alongside his declaration of professional distress. He pulled closer and continued:Medicare had made it tough on his income this year. Uncle Sam was watching the checks more closely! He went on and on. My half-hearted courtesy grunts dwindled in my bored stupor, and he and his words went into a figure fadeout.
Later that night in my room, looking down at Club Deuce, sleep came slowly and full of disturbing images: the throbbing pain of a corpus mortis relationship. She was tidal in her ways with me- her promises would flood in fully, but I’d been left high and dry by the vehement speed of her ebbing departures. More heartache, and then, descent. The sunsparkles of today’s bay ripples appeared and turned into countless reflective replicas of her blue eyes. The eyes blinked in innocence and changed into a billion fly’s eyes images of the tarpon I’d jumped today. All the fish jumped and landed back in the water,splashing bayspray droplets on my chest, and I awoke. I glanced down at my sternum and the dream’s last drop gave me a mischievous wink and disappeared into Wonderland. I swooned. When would it be over? She was in me like a drug.
The clock said two o’ clock. I needed more sleep and more energy to pole my client around this coming morning. I searched for a soothing image to calm me. Finally, after so many passing pictures, the quiet peace of poling across grassflats so green and pure soothed me. The quiet whoosh of the pushpole as it entered the water for another push towards rolling tarpon quieted me and sent me dreamward and downward to find myself in my first trip to Florida on the clackety-clack Southbound train from Gotham.The train moved and I mused through the window, barely tall enough to see the moving ground, but fully able to see the sky as it changed from the gray rushing smokechugs ofthe North to the periwinkle blue of the South. A shifty-eyed teenager caught my young eyes as I sat close to my parents eating their railroad pancakes.His puzzling smile made me feel strange, but I still floated on the comforting knowledge that the Rug-A-Chug was taking me South with Mom and Dad. The teenager started singing softly across from me. My pancakes stayed untouched as I watched him rock back and forth with his song. His words grew louder and louder, but my parents went on eating, apparently not a part of this event. He sung on, closed his eyes, and raised his voice even more. It got so loud it exploded my glass of milk, but in the slowest motion, so that I had plenty of time to cover my eyes, but nothing ever touched me. I opened my eyes and saw the milk and glass shards hanging dead still in the air like a frozen skyrocket burst. In a moment the silver and white faded. In the black of my head cavern, the song went on, but sung by a much older voice. I slowly opened my eyes and gazed up at the dawn-lit roof of my flat. Outside and down at the Deuce, the song continued through the mouth of an old drunk. The lazy lyrics of his comfort song shrouded him in shadows away from the rising sun, as he checked into the vampire cave of his alley, to sleep and wait until the next night.
I roused myself slowly: the uplifting reassurance of knowing I’d slept a bit more was having a tug of war with the enervating sorrow of love lost. Reassurance won and bore me through my morning’s preparations. That done, I grabbed my tackle and headed downstairs and almost tripped on the broken floorboard I told the landlord to fix a million times, if once. As I headed through the front door, I saw a Nordic-looking girl laugh as the wind blew off her workout cap. I’d felt right in my hunch not to take any fly tackle, since the wind would have made casting a fly difficult if not impossible.
A cavalcade of South Beach smells greeted me on my walk down Collins Avenue-- pot, piss, baking bread, chic perfume, car exhaust, workout sweat, and the deep, sweet good morning bouquet of cafe con leche now being poured into my special cup at the Porto Serotica by Rosa, my waitress especial.My pulse began a mild jog with the first swallow, then leaped a small hill as a customer’s demand spun Rosa’s rolling curves en silhouette. She flashed me a smile with her lustrous brown eyes. I stirred inside, but the dream fragments of a thousand blue-eyed bay ripples broke through and I shuddered: shake it off ! I drank the balance shot-style, winced, and walked down the block to my car.
The drive to the Miami Beach Marina passed through alternate waves of sadness and hope. I recalled our last encounter. She was leaving--she’d had enough of my unavailability, she called it. Between my fishing, writing, drinking, and dancing the night away, there was too little room for her, she said. I had thought this was just another “ false cast”, but it was the real thing. I took it hard, very hard, yet I was faced with the unavoidable awareness of how powerless I was over her or anyone else.One sure sign that it was far from over was that living felt like an effort--the dawn of day brought dread over tasks seemingly too overwhelming to handle, instead of the euphoric rush of pending projects.
He was there, waiting for me at the juncture of the seawall and the dock that my skiff
was tied off on. I walked up to him, gave a fast smile, and glanced down at the three flyrods he was holding. And out the words came, “ if you only want to throw flies at those tarpon, just don’t waste my time.”As he looked down at his three rods, I gazed past him at two drunk-looking jet skiers turning figure eights around the pilings of the bridge. Overhead, a black stretch limo headed towards the mainland, another night’s pleasure over. The foreground of my focus shifted back to him as he angrily protested, “ what’dya mean, I don’t understand, my partner said fly tackle was no problem, I mean it’s not that windy.” I raised my hand to stop him. “ Let’s not get into all the reasons why; it just won’t work, so let’s just forget it.”He sat and sulked, somber and possibly sullied at this prospective breach of purism. The wind began to blow harder, bumping my skiff against the dock fender: probably twenty-five miles an hour out of the northwest, pushed by the arrival of a late season front. He glanced at the water and back at me. “ It’s pretty rough,” he said. “ Right,” I said. “ All we can do now is run out of Government Cut and head south to the lee side of Key Biscayne. There’s been some schools of tarpon traveling off the beach...or, we can just forget it.”
I could almost read his thoughts as he deliberated skyward: robbed of the Pristine Experience, he might have to gaze at a hotel, another boat, or even, God Forbid, a bather! After a bit, he seemed to shift and soften, “ Okay, Captain, let’s give it a shot.” And give it a shot we did. After a sloppy ride, no sooner did I cut the engine, and start poling that we found a big school of tarpon traveling and rolling northward one hundred yards off the beach. He made a good cast with a live shrimp on twelve pound spinning tackle, and after a marvelous fight punctuated with long runs, jumps, and car-sized splashes, we released a silver beauty over one hundred pounds. He repeated this twice more, and ended the day drenched with sweat, salt water, sunlight, and smiles. Back at the dock, he evidently set aside his Medicare poverty, and bought us each a good bottle of ice-cold beer. He extolled the pleasures of the day and how surprised he was that a day starting with disappointment could end so very well. I offered, “ sometimes a loss sets the stage for something new and beautiful.” Now, I would have to learn this lesson too.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
It's been a fabulous Sunday. The winds went north with the passage of a front and building in of high pressure off South Florida. Five tarpon hooked and four of them landed- two fish went 35 pounds and the balance were close to 60 pounds- not just a time to celebrate the very recent past(dawn), but the future as well.
I did not know what a tyee salmon was-flats angler that I am- but thanks to Brian and Chris Hillier, the owners and operators of Naden Lodge
(www.nadenlodge.com/), I got the designation down quite fast. I'll look forward to spending time this summer at this marvelous destination, right smack dab off the coast of British Columbia in the Queen Charlotte Islands. I'll look forward to a tyee salmon( see their website), big halibut, great food, warm fellowship, beautiful lodgings, in the midst of some of the world's greatest beauty.
Saturday, March 04, 2006