Thursday, March 19, 2020

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Morning Coffee- Because what else do I have to do?

Whew! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- let's have some coffee, shall we?

I'm home this morning on this fine spring day, so why NOT have some coffee? I am indeed having a cup of coffee, but truth be told ~gulp~ I have quit drinking coffee every day. It has been affecting me adversely in multiple ways more as time has gone on (no, I'm not getting old- don't even go there), so when I came down with a flu-like illness in early February (the flu) I took the opportunity to quit and only drink it occasionally. Coffee- I love you, I just hate how you make me feel.

For those of you sick of news about the pandemic- skip the next two paragraphs, though I promise they are not overly morbid. I don't want to impose any more talk of that on you than you can stand. I just didn't feel I could glibly not mention it.

The elephant in the room of course is COVID-19. Perhaps you clicked here to read something not coronavirus, but I don't think there's any escaping it for any of us. I'm a bit of a news nerd sometimes, and when I caught reports of this in December that some novel virus was creating a health crisis in Wuhan China, I perked up and paid attention, especially when they first reported it was spread by people with no symptoms, as opposed to almost every other serious infectious disease the world has faced until now. AIDS may be an exception. I've been following this data collection and world map from Johns Hopkins tracking the disease since January, when it was only a couple thousand cases in China and a sprinkling of cases in neighboring Asian states.

You all know where we are now, and I'm no epidemiologist. I can only encourage you to listen to health authorities whether the CDC, your state, your county, or your family doctor. Take care of your family, and especially check on the older people in your life. Give them a phone call, give an encouraging word, offer to get them groceries and leave them on their front step if you are healthy enough to do so. This is not a 2008 financial crisis moment, nor even a 9/11 moment- this is a Japan-attacked-Pearl-Harbor-going-into-World-War-II moment. It will affect us all, and like World War II we will all need to step up and make sacrifices for the good of the world and our country. Like that war we are also going to go through hardship not seen in a generation, not since that last terrible Great War. We are also going to lose a lot of people. We are going to need each other. To all the naysayers out there- I pray to God you are right. The realist in me knows better.

~Fishing Content Below!~

Captain of his ship- Dave Grossman dispensing wisdom

This is a fly fishing blog (or used to be), and I'm happy to report that I finally got out to fish last Wednesday with the illustrious Dave Grossman of Southern Culture on the Fly. We had this trip planned before things got really serious out there, and it felt like a last hurrah of sorts. We fished the South Holston, and Dave really knows his water and put us on a bunch of fish despite my amateurish efforts at Eastern  tailwater fishing. I may write an actual post about it. One thing I learned is I need to be less stubborn. I hate showing up and not knowing my shit or having the right stuff, but I checked those boxes hard. Dave finally lost it (in a good way,) insisted I re-tie his way with his flies, and I caught fish on a steady basis for the rest of the day. We had a great time, laughed all day, got some sun, took in amazing, almost Western views, and even tied on some dry flies and I caught my first topwater fish of the year. It's so satisfying to make a good cast and mend, get a good drift, and watch that fly disappear. I could cut my hook points off and just watch that all day.

my kingdom for a fish- a South Holston brown falls for the Squirmy

I'm going to get to work on some content for you here. I have a backlog of unfinished posts, and it seems like there's never a shortage of things to say about fly fishing. In the current crisis, talk of fly fishing can seem glib, whistling past the graveyard so to speak (sorry for that metaphor). But there is no shortage of information and bad news out there; we all will need a break, something to take our minds off of trouble, if even for a few minutes.

I have been working on a series for Gink and Gasoline on small stream fishing, so if you want more to read the link above takes you to posts I've written there. Be sure and click around on their other excellent content too. Cameron Mortenson at The Fiberglass Manifesto continues to crank out great daily content and he has put together a top-notch reading list so check that out.

I love you all and I want you be well. I can't tell you how much your support and readership have meant to me over the years. All of my best friends and fishing buddies I have now I've met as a result of this blog, and I can't be more thankful. I also know I can be crusty and unpolished at times, so thanks for putting up with me too. Somehow we'll all emerge from this, and we will need the peace and meditation that fly fishing provides more than ever. Get out there if you can; if you can't, then tie some flies and get caught up on your reading. I'll try to help you with that.

Well, my coffee is gone and I've got writing to do.

Let's get after it.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Morning Coffee- Nothing Special Edition

Eeeerrrgggghhhhhpppphhhhtttt! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- It's Monday morning, so let's have some coffee.

It's been so long since I've done one of these I've almost forgotten how, but it's a rainy day and I'm off work so why not.

one of many great fish in Michigan this summer

I have not been fishing since July, which helps explain my dearth of content. I had a wonderful week of fantastic dry fly fishing in Northern Michigan then, which has sustained me up until now. I also got out around the same general time period on the Chattahoochee River with Louis Cahill of Gink and Gasoline, and Dan Frasier, the famous carp master. I caught my first, if diminutive, striped bass on a fly that day, and we saw a couple monsters swimming around. We also watched a coyote catch a duck on shore.

I'm still writing a series on small stream fishing for Gink and Gasoline. You can find the links here, here , here, here, and here. I also have a short fiction piece in the latest Southern Culture on the Fly you can find here. It's about fly fishing gangsters, so I hope you enjoy it. But enough pimping my wares.

Since then my girlfriend and I got three horses- foals- in September, so that has been interesting and exciting. They are draft-cross horses, which means at six months old they're already the size of small quarter horses. I'm no horse person, so the learning curve is steep.

our three monsters a few weeks after arrival

Bow hunting has always been my first love. I shot my first deer with a bow at age 14. I got into fly fishing as an antidote to my obsession with bow hunting to be honest. After a break of eight years I finally made the effort this fall to get back into it- got my bow tuned up, got my shot tuned up, and got a new seat for my tree stand. I had the inestimable privilege to hunt with Alex Cerveniak of the Deer Trout blog in November, and I took two deer home with me. We saw nice bucks every day. It was one of the best hunting trips I've ever been on. The hospitality was fantastic too. Today I'm cooking up some osso bucco from venison shoulder I have. Technically it's supposed to be shanks, but it works for the various shoulder bits too. I can assure you it is delicious. I'm really thankful to have the meat and enjoying some great meals. I also got a sous-vide cooker for Christmas, which has been a game-changer for cooking game. Cooks it perfectly without drying it out.

like falling off a bicycle

To bring all this back to the present time and place- it's winter, and my work is a little slow, so this is my time to get back out and fish here in the South. Hopefully I'll get out this week and be able to report back here. It would be nice to restart this blog. Josh Mills of the Chucking Line and Chasing Tail blog is doing a #dozenfordownunder charity event to support relief efforts in Australia due to the wildfires, so please support that if you can. I'll be tying up a dozen myself, so you can look for that (and bid) on my Instagram account @fontrisn.

I don't know much else besides that. Right now I'm just watching the winter rain pour down and cleaning house. I'll get to tying some flies later in the day. I hope you all are doing well. Or should I say "y'all"?

My coffee is done and there's work to do- let's get after it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

All the Gold in the World

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36

It is much to my chagrin to see that the Pebble Mine is back from the dead. The Trump administration seems bent on fast-tracking the permitting process. After all the public input, the social media campaigns, and the efforts of the prior administration to put an end to it, the specter of a massive gold and copper mine in the headwaters of the greatest salmon fishery on earth again rears its ugly head.

Regardless of your political bent I think it's safe to say that the Pebble Mine won't benefit you. That gold and copper won't end up in your vault. It will provide a few jobs for a few decades, but nothing in comparison to the vast profits it will provide for its owners and investors. Meanwhile the $1.5 billion salmon fishery benefits commercial and recreational fishing industries, natives and residents on an annual, sustainable basis. Without the Pebble Mine it can continue to provide food and jobs and a way of life to people in perpetuity and long after Pebble has shuttered its doors and left a lake of waste waiting for the chance to escape and wreak havoc.

The mine will also provide decades, if not centuries, of risk to the Bristol Bay region. Acid mine waste is not pretty, and its devastation on the region would be terrible, and incredibly difficult or impossible to clean up and restore. They plan to contain the acid mine runoff in huge reservoirs in a seismically active region. Sure, they say they have it all engineered, but mining has a terrible track record of accidents and low compliance with regulation, and once you let that genie out of the bottle it's awfully hard to stuff it back in. Those dams only have to fail once. Pebble Mine is not progress. It is not even civilization. It is just ugly destruction in one of the most beautiful places on earth to enrich a greedy few.

But there's an even better reason to stop the Pebble Mine. The world is not vast anymore. Its abundance is not boundless. Its wonders are tarnished. Everywhere the natural world is hemmed in by agriculture, fences, cattle, dams, roads, development, pollution, garbage, defacement, climate change, and a myriad other cuts inflicted by man. The few natural spectacles left on earth only exist because they have been preserved by us, as if stuck in amber and displayed on a shelf. There are no unmanaged wild ecosystems that exist on their own apart from man. All of the ocean is over-fished, except for a few carefully managed systems like Bristol Bay. The time for trade-offs is over- there is no wildness left to barter over, an oil well for a coral reef here, this salmon run for that mine there, these orangutans for another palm oil plantation. We are down to the last examples of everything- the last rhino, the last intact salmon run, the last migrating antelope herds in Asia, the last intact rain forest. These are the last conservation hills left to die on, there are no others. When those are wiped out there is nothing, and nothing will bring them back.

Recent headlines announced that now over a million species are in peril of extinction in the next few decades from human activity. Ninety-seven percent of animal biomass on land consists of humans and their livestock. Are we shooting for 100%?

In the past we made those choices. We dammed the Columbia (and every other western US river worth damming) because there were salmon in British Columbia and Alaska. Salmon runs on the West Coast are just a memory, a dim shadow of their former selves. Now salmon and steelhead in British Columbia are under increasing pressure. Chinook salmon in the Yukon system are in trouble and no one knows why.

There are a scant handful of natural spectacles left on earth- parts of the Amazon rainforest, which must remain vast to be a spectacle, and the Brazilians and others are steadily chipping away at it. The animal spectacles of Africa- the charismatic megafauna are there but dwindling; the great migrations of wildebeest and plains game for now seem to be intact. The Great Barrier Reef is there but suffering greatly due to bleaching events caused by high temperatures. There are still some large caribou herds in the north, but the vast Labrador and Quebec herds have crashed due to natural cycles. Yellowstone is wonderful, but is a highly managed system hemmed in on all sides by agriculture, and a local populace uneasy with bears and wolves in their backyards.

So Bristol Bay and its salmon runs is one of the last natural spectacles left on earth. Its fisheries are heavily managed to maintain that abundance, but it's one of the last places you can go and witness an entire ecosystem, complete with mass migrations, and dependent megafauna like bears, seals, salmon sharks and orcas, due to the fact that it is not under threat from development like the Pebble Mine. We shot all the passenger pigeons; we killed the bison and turned their prairie into cornfields, or fenced it off for cattle. We dammed the Columbia and Snake rivers and throttled their salmon and steelhead runs for cheap energy and water for agriculture. Florida fisheries are being choked and whittled away for Big Sugar. We don't need to do the same to Bristol Bay. We are in danger of having all the gold in the world, and nothing to spend it on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Micropterus Rising

I am a devotee of native species. In Michigan I'll take native brook trout over imported steelhead. The native smallmouth and largemouth bass are more captivating for that matter. I love steelhead, but their presence in the Great Lakes feels artificial and managed. I feel like I'm buying a fake Gucci bag on Canal Street. Steelhead Alley feels like you're surrounded by guys trying to sell you $20 Rolexes. Don't get me wrong, I love fishing for steelhead. Back in the day I also enjoyed haggling over fake Rolexes in Manhattan.

Here in the South it's all about Centrachids- the sunfishes including bass, brim, bluegills, sunfish, shellcrackers, crappie, warmouth, red-spots, orange-spots, redear, pumpkinseeds, and more.

The basses are most fascinating. There are local native basses here not heard of much outside of the region. Up north it's simple. Not simple, but of the larger basses there are largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are also rock bass, warmouth, and the sunfishes (also not as diverse as the south).

In the South you have sunfishes not found up north, but its the variety of bass that stand out. Largemouth and smallmouth are here in various places and numbers, but then there are all the local, more obscure species that are basically localized to specific river drainages and sub-regions of the south, and so you have shoal bass, redeye bass, Chattahoochee bass, Choctaw bass, spotted bass, Guadalupe bass (proud Texan), Suwannee bass, and Bartram's bass. Some are closely related to largemouth, some to smallmouth. They can hybridize, and I think some can hybridize with both as well as with each other. This is problematic, because the bucket brigades have been active here, moving these species around, and they have changed entire regimes in various watersheds. Where spotted bass have been introduced they tend to take over and either out-compete, or hybridize out the local fish. (There's a problem with locals moving flathead catfish around too, with bad results for fish species not adapted to these aggressive predators.)

To my knowledge, so far out of the local species I have caught redeye bass, shoal bass, Bartram's bass,  and spotted bass. Some of the identifications have come from locals commenting on my social media pics. The Bartram's bass is native only to the Broad River system, and maybe one or two other streams in South Carolina. I think Cameron Mortenson caught some on a guided trip there. From my reading, the Bartram's, which most resembles a smallmouth to my eye, is believed to be a unique species, but it has yet to be properly described scientifically.

Bartram's? Broad River bass

These species of bass and some sunfishes fill the ecological niches that trout fill in colder streams. If you go to the Chattooga River in midsummer you can fish crystal clear riffles with small poppers and terrestrials, and catch redeye and shoal bass all day long. It is very reminiscent of fishing brook trout on hoppers up north, from the clarity of the water to the behavior of the fish, and the flies you use. It is an absolute blast, but for me the satisfaction comes in catching wild, native fish not found outside the region. It's the difference between seeing a lion pacing in a zoo, and seeing a lion on the African savanna lying under an acacia tree, supine and panting, with blood drying on its snout, it's yellow eyes sizing you up through the shimmer of the heat.

Fishing the Chattooga for bass is perhaps my favorite. It's a big system so I'm not giving up a secret spot here. It's the kind of place you can go and catch bass all day on topwater flies, stalking them like brook trout, catching fish until you're tired of it, or until the sun and heat beat you down into surrender. Most of the fish will be brook trout sized, but they can run three or four pounds. It's great fun on four weight glass.

I certainly still enjoy chasing trout in the mountains, especially the native brook trout, but the bass epitomize fishing in the South. I thought bass fishing here to be fishing warm, green, weedy ponds and lakes, or zipping around massive reservoirs in a metallic flake bass boat. Instead it is far more varied, interesting, and accessible than I could have imagined.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday Morning Coffee- SCOF Edition. Gink Too

Uuuuurrrrppphhhhhtttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- let's have some coffee!

It's been awhile so I thought I'd, you know, share some coffee with you. Ahem.

It's springtime everywhere now, so if you're not out fishing you're probably in traction.  Here in Georgia the daily temps are in the 80's. In another month I'll just wish that was the case. This week some of my buddies are doing a combined turkey/trout/mushroom camp in Michigan. I was there last spring but need to save my time for a hunting trip in fall, so pour one out for me guys and hopefully I'll join you next spring.

our Abbey Road
There's a lot of great fishing to do here in Georgia as well this time of year. The bass and panfish are looking up, and there are some hatches on the trout streams. I've spent most of my spring redoing the landscaping at home, and now it seems to want to storm on the weekends again. I did get out with my friend Jeremy a couple weeks ago for some farm pond bass and panfish and had a lot of fun. (you can find Jeremy on Instagram as @lostinwydaho). It was great fun and I'm hoping to fish with him again soon.

farm pond shellcracker. hope i got the name right

I've been doing quite a bit of writing lately, but my betrayal of this site continues. I wrote a brief piece for Gink and Gasoline about small stream fishing. It was such a disservice to the subject that we decided to turn it into a series. I've written about 10,000 words so far and have hardly scratched the surface, so those should be up on Gink every week or two.

As the title above indicates, a new issue of Southern Culture on the Fly comes out today (ish) and I have another piece in it. It's more tongue-in-cheek musings, in particular on the miserable weather we had this winter. It rained almost every weekend from November on, and I believe the winter rains set records in the Tennessee River valley which includes some of the waters I fish. Anyhow, it's a fun piece I wrote for SCOF so be sure and check it out. Watch for it in your social media.

some streamer research for the SCOF piece

I've gotten back into oil painting in the last year. I don't know that I'm the next DeYoung or Schlaff, but I really enjoy it. It's a non-verbal way for me to express creativity without the agony of writing. Right now I'm just painting brown trout in profile while I try to learn proportion and how to blend colors. Brown trout are pretty forgiving. Just when you think you've mangled it you'll see a picture of some grotty brown who looks just like your painting. You can do a really bad job on the proportions and anatomy, paint some spots on it and voila!, it looks great. So for now I'm enjoying that as another creative outlet. These two have already found homes with friends of mine.

how do you rotate these things?

That's all I have for now. Keep tuning in to Gink and Gasoline for the small stream series, and Dave Grossman says he wants a piece for every issue of SCOF, so keep an eye out for those. My apologies to Dave for the rough condition I sent the last one in. Editing- it's like plastic surgery for writing.

My coffee is gone and it's time to go to work- Let's get after it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Morning Coffee- SCOF Edition November 12, 2018

Errrrgggghhhhppphhhtttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- it's Monday, so let's have some coffee.

Yeah, I know a lot of Mondays have come and gone without a peep from me and you're wondering "Why now?" I ask "Why not?". So pull up a chair, look over your shoulder to make sure the boss isn't headed your way, and let's take a coffee break and get caught up.

All personal blogs seem to follow a similar arc- early days and small beginnings, the building of fame and following, and a tapering off period, which this blog appears to be in. Only the hardiest blogs survive and thrive, like Gink and Gasoline, and The Fiberglass Manifesto. Part of my problem has to do with my moving from Michigan to Georgia. This blog was very  much centered in my love of Michigan fishing, and it is tough to make a transition from one to the other. I also felt like I needed to take a break for a couple years and figure out where I'm at in life. It can be wearying to be a "public" figure in the age of social media. Maybe I'm not cut out for this. I know, cry me a river.

But the truth is, I love blogging and writing, and I'm slowly getting to know the fishing in my new Southern home. Some of it is different. Some of it is spectacular. Some of it really obscure.

I've been doing the obscure kind of fishing lately, hitting small local streams in search of brook trout. It involves the same backwoods bushwhacking I did in Michigan with a certain verticality mixed in. These mountain streams are tough. Instead of tag alders there's mountain laurel and rhododendron. Instead of beaver dams, there are waterfalls. But there are also brook trout. Definitely brook trout.

I didn't trout fish all summer because of the heat- I almost can't bear the thought of it when it's over ninety degrees out. Sometimes it is markedly cooler in the mountains, sometimes it is not. A couple months back I got a call from Dave Grossman asking if I would write something for Southern Culture On the Fly (SCOF for short) on the pursuit of brook trout. So, at great personal sacrifice I have pursued these noble fish whilst storming my brains out to think of what to write. It has been a labor of love with a smattering of fish to show for it, but I think you'll enjoy the result. The winter issue is due to drop today and so I hope you'll check it out.

Here there be brook trout

I'm leaving on a cruise this Sunday. If you scroll down just a little you'll find my write-up on my first bonefish experience from this time last year. This year I'm going back to Xcalak, Mexico for a rematch, and fishing Roatan, Honduras as well. I'll try to do some posts on that when I get back. I've written here and here on Gink and Gasoline about my experience at their bonefish school at Bair's Lodge, Andros Island. I've gotten through several personal hurdles over the last couple of years and plan to do more fishing and hunting in the future and I'm hoping to share some of that with you.

So please check out my latest article on SCOF if you will, and check out the other fine writing therein, as SCOF continues to be one of my favorite online magazines for its laid-back self-deprecation.

I don't know about you, but I'm out of coffee, so have a great week and spend some time outside if you get the chance.

Let's get after it.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

My First Bonefish- Some Premature Observations

Authors note: I wrote this a few weeks after returning from a cruise to Mexico in November, 2017. I didn't post it in a timely fashion, but still wanted to share it, so here it is.

Authors note 2: It seems I broke the photo card from this trip. Didn't know it was possible. Two months after this trip I went on a week-long trip with Louis Cahill in which the bonefish fully lived up to the hype.

The first flat was empty, and seemed so devoid of life that it caused me to question our guide. Alberto identifies as Mayan. He has been guiding since 1986, so I keep my own counsel and remind myself not to be impatient. This is a half day trip, my first for bonefish, so it is hard not to count the minutes. Alberto motors through the cut that separates Belize and Mexico, into the shallow expanse  that is Chetumal Bay. He kills the motor at the first mangrove shoreline, and immediately we spot forked tails dancing above the surface.

I have been on a cruise ship for five days now, and as enjoyable and relaxing as it has been, I really needed this adventure. I ran the track on the upper deck the first morning (four laps= 1 mile) and we snorkeled in Cozumel and then the barrier reef at Belize on consecutive days, so I've gotten some exercise. But being here, on the front of a panga, scanning the shallow water for shadows and tails is where I need to be.

Our final stop of this cruise is in Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The cruise lines have built a port there in an attempt to wring yet more money out of its credulous passengers. You hope that some of the locals are benefiting from all this, but once you leave the tchochke farm that is the cruise port, you find yourself surrounded by a grittier reality that makes you think all the profits from the tiki bars and shops selling rubber dog shit are just a front for said cruise lines. But I'm being cynical.

It's an hour taxi ride, mostly through mangrove swamp and jungle. Our driver has to swerve to avoid the chachalacas strutting in the road. We also see a fox and a wild pig. When you run out of good road you have reached Xcalak, a tiny village on the Mexican frontier with Belize. Here there be bonefish, and Costa de Cocos, the beach resort we have booked our fishing through.

I brought a rod with me on the ship, but then I read that they provide gear. I didn't trust my reel, and so my gear stayed on the ship. There are two TFO rods on the panga, and luckily one is rigged for a lefty. Some notes about the rod- it's heavier than my TiCRX, and the plastic is still on the cork. I'll get back to that later.

We beach the boat next to mangroves, but those first tails disappear. I make the mistake of casting to swirls that turn out to be needlefish, and learn to wait on Alberto. We cross a small creek dumping cold water into the flat, and I wait for Alberto to move the boat. I can see tails dancing further and further down the shore. But as we resume our slow progress up the shore chasing tails, small groups of grey shadows dance over the sand in our direction, and Alberto says what I want to hear, "one o'clock, fifty feet. Cast!".

And I blow the first two shots. Too short. Too close. But the third time is the charm, despite my conking the lead two fish on the head and nearly blowing the school out again. Three twitches of the fly and a bonefish turns sideways. I soft-pedal the hook-set, and I'm attached to a bonefish in spite of myself. It cuts a zippy half-circle before heading straight away from me, but it stops its run before it gets to my backing. He quickly comes to hand, a beautiful silvery fish. I would say bonefish are long on speed and short on endurance. And there it is- my first bonefish. It ate a Crazy Charlie I tied myself before the trip. Tip: don't come here without all the flies you'll need.

After that I blow a perfect shot at about forty fish headed our way because I don't see the lead fish over a dark patch of bottom. Right after that a small pod turns back. It's a forty foot cast, and two strips later I'm hooked up. Another bonefish, another merry fight that ends quickly.

When we reach the end of the mangrove point we are following we turn back. The tide had turned almost from the moment we first stopped the boat, and the fish seem to be slipping into deeper water, no more tails dancing above sand. They are still within casting distance, but we have to look harder for silver flashes over the darker grass.

The next fish I am proud of, because I saw it before Alberto and surprised him with the cast.

"No!" he said, then "yes, yes, yes" and "three feesh!" right as I hook up. I watched those three fish peel out of the school and up over the sand. This one almost made it to the backing but stopped short. We pause to land and release the fish, and savor such a beautiful moment. We are barefoot, standing calf deep on soft white sand. It is about 78 degrees, with a steady, pleasant breeze. There is no one else around, and all we hear is the lap of waves and the occasional splash of fish. It is perhaps the most pleasant moment of the entire year.
Hooked up on a good bonefish with Alberto giving encouragement
Back on the panga we eat the sandwiches from the cooler and sip on water. Alberto wants to pole into the wind. At one point I see two tails and Alberto shouts "permit!" but we are on top of them and they are gone before I can cast. A few casts later, a bonefish takes and comes off before I realize it has eaten.

After the sandwich I reapplied sunscreen, and now, with greasy hands, the plastic on that rod cork has become a liability. Alberto keeps shouting "two o'clock, seexty feet!", but my hand is slipping so bad on that damn plastic that I cant get any juice into my cast. I don't know why I didn't just cut the plastic off. Who leaves that on anyway? But it is getting late and with just minutes left before we need to make the run back to the resort, our taxi, and the ship, Alberto has a change of plans. He wants Marsha to catch a fish, and so we go to a channel and troll Clouser minnows for some smash-n-grab jacks.

This all feels very familiar, as if I have been here before. If you have ever stalked flats in the Great Lakes for carp, then you know this game. Perhaps the Golden Bone moniker is not so inapt. The sand, the waves and wind, spooky fish over shallow water, the need to accurately present small flies often at great distances- no matter where you are doing this it is all the same.

The bonefish didn't quite live up to the hype that day- they were fast and fought hard, but not a single one touched my backing. Perhaps it was the cool weather, or maybe the small sample size. My first two years of fishing carp, not a single one touched the backing. In the several years after that it seemed like every fish went so far into the backing as to make me seriously sweat my knots.

I'm not complaining- the bonefish fought hard, and are one of the most elusive fish for the fly angler. If all you have ever caught are trout, you will find them extremely challenging. Being from the Great Lakes region, I have caught a lot of big, fast fish, including salmon and carp to thirty pounds, and double digit steelhead. All of them run fast and make you chase them. If you catch enough of them you learn how to fight big fish, how to set your drag, when to let a fish run and when to put the cork to them.

What I'm slowly getting at here, is if you have access to carp flats such as they have in the Great Lakes, don't ever think it's a second rate training ground for the salt. It's not. The differences are cosmetic- fresh versus salt, which bushes happen to be lining the shore, the bird species flying overhead. The wind, the water,the casting, the behavior of the fish, the speed and intensity of the fight are the same. The major difference is that it is more difficult to get carp to eat than bonefish.
carp fishing is a great way to bone up for bonefish