Peacock Bass in South Florida

I had a scheduled trip South with a buddy for a previous day but as the day got closer, the weather forecast deteriorated quickly with 60% chance of thunderstorms and winds near 20. Not ideal for fly fishing, especially after traveling 4 hours to fish for a single day. So I waited.My wife agreed to a trip that weekend after , Independence Day weekend so I could maximize the extra day, so I set it up for an overnight (without a second thought about weather).

We took the drive down early Sunday morning and entered from the West so I could get a look at the Everglades area for Oscars and Mayans. The water was high and the fish were scarce. I frog hopped through all my favorite areas but the fishing was going to be difficult here so I moved on to the Miami area to hit the big-boys.We arrived at one of my favorite spots for Peacocks JUST as the winds picked up, the sky grew dark and the torrential downpour began. CRAP!! I pulled the local weather map up on my phone to see whether I was stupid for NOT checking the weather before we left. BLEAK! Going to be off and on for the rest of the day.

We waited patiently for a while to see if I was going to get a shot at the water. 20 minutes later, the sun came out but it appeared the next deluge wasn’t far behind. We hit the water.I didn’t see ANY bedding fish and knew everything was going to be deep. I threaded on a 3′ 9″/per second sink head and my biggest, nastiest Russ Hampton designed Chartreuse Bass Spider I had in my box and heaved it to the water. I had several half-hearted rises but wasn’t getting the kind of enthusiasm I was hoping for so I moved.
At my new location, I was working my fly up a rocky rise when it caught fast…then shot off toward deeper water. Now we’re talking! 5 more minutes and I had my first Peacock to hand. A nice fish but not the size I was prospecting for. I threw at this location for another 10 minutes, then moved again. I spotted a great break in the edge I was working and a deep hole that plunged below that break and put a loop out to sink my fly deep into the hole. First cast got s solid bump so I recast into the depths. The strike was like a car wreck! Instant and violent. Then the weight came to bear on the rod and I knew I had found what I came for.That peacock didn’t come to hand so easily but once landed, I was able to admire this great fish. I was able to take one more fish before the thunderstorms chased us back to the car and although disappointed that I was only able to get an hour of fishing in after taking the long ride, I was NOT disappointed in the prize.

7-4-2016

Made plans for my return trip before I even left from this one!

Do-it-Yourself Trout In The Pisgah National Forest

 

Pisgah National ForestSometimes you just have find the fish on your own (with a lot of research of course) rather than hooking up with a friend that knows the area or by hiring a guide to show you the ropes.  I’ve found the most satisfying outings are those that I plan myself or with another buddy as we head out into unfamiliar areas.

My wife and I just finished a wonderfully successful trip to the mountains of North Carolina where we camped, hiked, and fished along a few of the rivers in the Pisgah National Forest.  We were stunned by the beauty of the region, the vastness of the landscape, and were pleasantly surprised at the seclusion and solitude we discovered even though it was during the 4th of July holiday period.  There’s a whole bunch of land up there with very little development and a huge number of mountain roads that stretch off into the wilderness.  You can quickly get off the concrete path and find yourself satisfyingly lost as you white knuckle your way along cliff-side roads full of switchbacks and heart wrenching drops and climbs.  All in search of the elusive fish and wildlife just waiting to be discovered.

Wilson Creek HookupI fished three different rivers/creeks including Linville River, Lost Cove Creek, and Wilson Creek; all three providing a different challenge, whether it was tight quarters, clear water, or spooky fish.  I learned something on each of them and thankfully landed a few nice fish even though the season wasn’t “quite right” according to the experts, but as I stated at the beginning, we were doing it on our own and our expectations were realistic, not fantastical.  Of course I’ll try them again but maybe during the spring or fall seasons when bug life is a bit more abundant and the fish are happier with the water temperatures.  Landing my first brook trout, brown, and rock bass ensured that another trip will be planned in the near future. One gorgeous brookie surprised me by actually eating on the first presentation, but I was so stunned by fact that something actually worked that I failed to respond with a good hook set, and the fish spit it out before I could really process what was going on.  I learned a valuable lesson at the hands (or fins) of a creature that survives purely on instinct rather than its limited intelligence.

Wilson Creek Brook TroutNorth Carolina’s mountain region isn’t what I expected in the least, considering that most of our travels through the state were along the eastern side, much closer to the ocean where the land is flatter and less dramatic.  Waterfalls, cliffs, mountain peaks, and breathtaking vistas appear around each corner and there’s a great tradition of enjoying the outdoors throughout the region.  Small hotels, family restaurants, and neighborhood markets, all promote sightseeing, skiing, fishing, hunting, rafting, and general exploration of the resources.  It’s a wonderful place to visit and I can understand why a lot of folks retire to the area.

I’m overjoyed that I was able to find some measure of success after quite a bit of research and wishful thinking.  Pouring over maps, the internet, and numerous books led to a wonderful vacation surrounded by magnificent vistas and some of the most beautiful fishing I’ve done in years.  Landing some gorgeous fish on the fly proved to be just one of many superb highlights.

 

Check out the Pisgah National Forest during your next family camping trip and you won’t be disappointed with the landscape, the fishing, or the solitude.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was originally posted for the White River Fly Shop in Orlando

Hitting the Road to Adventure

 

Brook TroutThirsting for something new is something many anglers have to fight if they want to maintain any type of marital harmony, but every once in a while we need to give in and depart upon a quest for new and yet to be conquered pursuits.  For me, it’s been freshwater trout and smallmouth.  You’d think they would have been some of the first species I chased with a fly rod, however, seeing as how saltwater was the first environ I chose to enter, rainbows, browns, and brookies seemed too far away to hope for.

Soon though, I’ll be soaking my toes in a cool mountain stream as I ply the bubbling water for fish I’ve yet to encounter because after many years of crying and begging, our bags will be packed and rods rigged as my wonderful woman and I head north to the Pisgah National Forest in search of new and exciting adventure.  My packing started weeks ahead of our scheduled departure (as is normal with an obsessive compulsive), and I’ve now reached the point of stacking clothes and pre-staging the camping gear.  Sleep has been difficult and it will only get worse as the day draws closer and my dreams fill with glorious beauty and much needed seclusion.Brown Trout

Part of the fun has been the gathering of intelligence, albeit limited in my case according to certain fellow anglers and close friends.  I’ve burned up the Internet for hatch charts, stream flow data, campground locations, and everything else you can imagine the traveling angler might need before venturing forth, and I surely hope all the preparation proves fruitful considering how much of a pain in the neck I’ll be if I don’t get the chance to land at least one of the intended fish.  The timing isn’t quite right for a high degree of success but beggars can’t be choosers when the fishing time’s limited.  “Plan carefully and execute violently” is my motto.

Two four weights, a six weight, numerous lines, and boxes stuffed with Hare’s ears, Princes, Pheasant Tails, Stimulators, Caddis, Light Cahils, Hoppers, Ants, Adams, numerous types of streamers, and many other miscellaneous pieces of tackle are packed and ready to be deployed when the time arrives, but the calendar just doesn’t seem to move along quickly enough.  She’ll have to put up with another week of manic preparation before hitting the trail, but it will all be worth it when we’re standing alongside a deserted stream somewhere in North Carolina looking for that first fish to reveal itself.  God help us all if the first cast of the trip finds its way into a tree or some other type of obstacle.

Rainbow TroutExpanding our horizons and getting out of our comfort zones on occasion provides the spice of life, and fishing in general or searching for more and more species, gives us a good reason to keep testing our boundaries.  It doesn’t always have to be an exotic location that entices us to leave home since every new adventure helps us grow as anglers.  Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves at the same time.

I’ll hopefully have something good to report once we return, but the trip will surely be a success regardless of how many fish are actually landed.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was an original blog post for the White River Fly Shop in Orlando Florida.

She Says Stubborn, I Say Persistent

Bridge SnookThis is an opinion that many other folks hold about my fishing style, not just my wife.  I’ve been called stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, inflexible, immovable and a few other unflattering synonyms that all boil down to being a dedicated and persistent angler.  I’ve often told my buddies that if I can spot a fish, I’ll spend the time to catch it, or drive it from the area; whichever comes first.  Occasionally, I’ve brought fish to hand that other folks walked past without seeing, or only gave a halfhearted attempt because the fish’s position would have meant a difficult presentation and/or a risk to precious tackle.

I happened upon one such group of fish a few days ago and they helped to reinforce how important it is to spend the time trying to figure out the fly, the presentation, the retrieve, and anything else that might lead to a successful hookup.

A small school of snook was nestled on the backside of a trio of bridge supports on one of Tampa Bay’s many bridges.  They seemed pretty happy hovering a few feet below the surface as the tide rushed over them, flicking their tails only enough to burst forward to grab an unsuspecting minnow that strayed too far from the bridge’s shelter.

Let’s start by saying that casting a fly rod between two cement columns six feet apart, while standing under a bridge that’s only about three feet over your head, and a sloped bank behind you, is one of the toughest circumstances I can imagine.  And it leads to quite a few moments of fear when the rod tip accidentally contacts cement.  Add to that, a right to left current, and a swirling eddy pulling line in the wrong direction, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.

I spent over three hours working this school of fish, going through numerous fly changes, line changes, leader rebuilds, and many frustrated moments mulling over how to get the fly around or through those darn supports and across the backward-flowing eddy without becoming snagged on the bridge or the bottom.  I walked away numerous times, only to come back to the same spot, thinking “just a few more casts and I’ll leave them alone.”  Obviously that’s not an option to someone as obsessive compulsive as myself.  I just had to give it a little longer since the fish weren’t going anywhere.  I was afraid the tide would stop flowing and their feeding activity would cease, leaving me little choice but to load up and leave.

Everything finally came together, when the cast went far enough, the fly sank deep enough, and one of the fish became hungry enough to investigate my offering on what felt like the 10,000th presentation of the day.  I thought I was snagged when the line just came tight, but the game was on when it pulled back strongly after I added some tension.  He tried everything to get around the pilings, under the rocks, and into the current, but I wasn’t about to be denied what I’d worked so hard to accomplish.  Besides, how was I supposed to go back to my wife and explain that I spent nearly four hours casting at fish without any tangible results?  Not today buddy!  NOT TODAY!

After a brief but energetic fight my quest finally ended as I gripped a beautiful fish in my shaking hand after which I reflected upon what it took to land that exquisite example of nature’s beauty and diversity.  Snook hold a dear place in many Floridian’s heart and many of us will go to unusual measures to land them, even when the conditions are tough.  They’re strong, selective, personable, and challenging enough to keep everyone coming back for more year after year.  It’s not hard to see why certain folks become “Snook Season Specialists, although I don’t consider myself in that company since I just dabble when I’m lucky enough to find a few willing players.”

Persistence is a virtue that serves anglers well if they can learn when to turn it on and when say enough is enough.  Snook, steelhead, baby tarpon, tilapia, and many other fish we love to chase can test our patience, but the rewards are beyond compare, especially when we continuously conduct an internal battle against the urge to pack it in and leave the area in search of easier targets.

Stick to it and work out the problem because eventually your stubborn desire to succeed will pay off.  It did for me on this day.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was an original blog post for the White River Fly shop in Orlando Florida

What Makes a Leader?

Rio Bonefish LeaderWe could ask this question quite often as it relates to some of our past and present leaders of the country but right now those aren’t the ones I’m referring to.  I’m thinking about the leaders used in fly fishing set ups.  They’re probably the most misunderstood and misused part of the complete outfit and a lot of people would probably increase their success if they just thought about modifying their leader practices and make a few adjustments.  So why are leaders so important to the whole system, and why should they be constructed in a particular manner?  Let’s take a look.

  • Leaders are designed to roll out and extend fully to place the fly a given distance (generally between 7.5 and 10 feet) from the end of the fly line.  A tapered leader gradually rolls forward, smoothly transmitting and dissipating the energy that has been sent down the fly line and ultimately to the fly.
  • Leaders are a stealthy connection between the line and the fly that hopefully allows us to make a reasonably “lifelike” presentation to the fish without them seeing the line itself.  Leader length and strength/diameter is adjusted up or down depending on how spooky the fish are and how delicate a presentation is necessary.
  • Leaders provide a safety link or “emergency breaking point” to allow the angler to break off the fly in the event that he/she has snagged an immovable object, hooked into an unlandable fish, or any other time the fly needs to be sacrificed rather than risk damaging or losing valuable fly line, backing, rods, or reels.
  • Leaders provide the sporting challenge for those anglers seeking to land large fish on light tackle.The class tippet section of the leader is the lightest link in system and its breaking strength is the standard by which records are rated and compared to each other.

Typical Leader Construction

There are simpler ways to do things but in the case of leader construction, trying to cut corners by using straight (a single strand of heavy or light) monofilament line is guaranteed to sacrifice one or more of the performance features of a leader.  Roll out is poor, stealth is nonexistent, sporting quality is limited, and you may even risk losing all your line or breaking a rod.  I inwardly cringe when I hear folks talk about using this type of system because I know they’re risking equipment or unnecessarily handicapping performance by taking a shortcut, all for the sake of cutting cost or the desire to avoid knots.

The leader is a much more important part of the system than most folks think.  Its construction is done in a very particular way to provide functionality, protection, and sport for a group of anglers that insist on doing things the hard way.  Take a look at this part of your setup and you’ll likely make some adjustments that increase your potential for success and manage the risk of doing damage to the rest of your equipment.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was an original blog post for the White River Fly Shop in Orlando, Florida.

She Says Stubborn, I Say Persistent

 Bridge SnookThis is an opinion that many other folks hold about my fishing style, not just my wife.  I’ve been called stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, inflexible, immovable and a few other unflattering synonyms that all boil down to being a dedicated and persistent angler.  I’ve often told my buddies that if I can spot a fish, I’ll spend the time to catch it, or drive it from the area; whichever comes first.  Occasionally, I’ve brought fish to hand that other folks walked past without seeing, or only gave a halfhearted attempt because the fish’s position would have meant a difficult presentation and/or a risk to precious tackle.

I happened upon one such group of fish a few days ago and they helped to reinforce how important it is to spend the time trying to figure out the fly, the presentation, the retrieve, and anything else that might lead to a successful hookup.

A small school of snook was nestled on the backside of a trio of bridge supports on one of Tampa Bay’s many bridges.  They seemed pretty happy hovering a few feet below the surface as the tide rushed over them, flicking their tails only enough to burst forward to grab an unsuspecting minnow that strayed too far from the bridge’s shelter.

Let’s start by saying that casting a fly rod between two cement columns six feet apart, while standing under a bridge that’s only about three feet over your head, and a sloped bank behind you, is one of the toughest circumstances I can imagine.  And it leads to quite a few moments of fear when the rod tip accidentally contacts cement.  Add to that, a right to left current, and a swirling eddy pulling line in the wrong direction, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.

I spent over three hours working this school of fish, going through numerous fly changes, line changes, leader rebuilds, and many frustrated moments mulling over how to get the fly around or through those darn supports and across the backward-flowing eddy without becoming snagged on the bridge or the bottom.  I walked away numerous times, only to come back to the same spot, thinking “just a few more casts and I’ll leave them alone.”  Obviously that’s not an option to someone as obsessive compulsive as myself.  I just had to give it a little longer since the fish weren’t going anywhere.  I was afraid the tide would stop flowing and their feeding activity would cease, leaving me little choice but to load up and leave.

Everything finally came together, when the cast went far enough, the fly sank deep enough, and one of the fish became hungry enough to investigate my offering on what felt like the 10,000th presentation of the day.  I thought I was snagged when the line just came tight, but the game was on when it pulled back strongly after I added some tension.  He tried everything to get around the pilings, under the rocks, and into the current, but I wasn’t about to be denied what I’d worked so hard to accomplish.  Besides, how was I supposed to go back to my wife and explain that I spent nearly four hours casting at fish without any tangible results?  Not today buddy!  NOT TODAY!

After a brief but energetic fight my quest finally ended as I gripped a beautiful fish in my shaking hand after which I reflected upon what it took to land that exquisite example of nature’s beauty and diversity.  Snook hold a dear place in many Floridian’s heart and many of us will go to unusual measures to land them, even when the conditions are tough.  They’re strong, selective, personable, and challenging enough to keep everyone coming back for more year after year.  It’s not hard to see why certain folks become “Snook Season Specialists, although I don’t consider myself in that company since I just dabble when I’m lucky enough to find a few willing players.”

Persistence is a virtue that serves anglers well if they can learn when to turn it on and when say enough is enough.  Snook, steelhead, baby tarpon, tilapia, and many other fish we love to chase can test our patience, but the rewards are beyond compare, especially when we continuously conduct an internal battle against the urge to pack it in and leave the area in search of easier targets.

Stick to it and work out the problem because eventually your stubborn desire to succeed will pay off.  It did for me on this day.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was an original blog post for the White River Fly Shop in Orlando, Florida.

Do-it-Yourself Trout In The Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest

Sometimes you just have find the fish on your own (with a lot of research of course) rather than hooking up with a friend that knows the area or by hiring a guide to show you the ropes.  I’ve found the most satisfying outings are those that I plan myself or with another buddy as we head out into unfamiliar areas.

My wife and I just finished a wonderfully successful trip to the mountains of North Carolina where we camped, hiked, and fished along a few of the rivers in the Pisgah National Forest.  We were stunned by the beauty of the region, the vastness of the landscape, and were pleasantly surprised at the seclusion and solitude we discovered even though it was during the 4th of July holiday period.  There’s a whole bunch of land up there with very little development and a huge number of mountain roads that stretch off into the wilderness.  You can quickly get off the concrete path and find yourself satisfyingly lost as you white knuckle your way along cliff-side roads full of switchbacks and heart wrenching drops and climbs.  All in search of the elusive fish and wildlife just waiting to be discovered.Wilson Creek HookupI fished three different rivers/creeks including Linville River, Lost Cove Creek, and Wilson Creek; all three providing a different challenge, whether it was tight quarters, clear water, or spooky fish.  I learned something on each of them and thankfully landed a few nice fish even though the season wasn’t “quite right” according to the experts, but as I stated at the beginning, we were doing it on our own and our expectations were realistic, not fantastical.  Of course I’ll try them again but maybe during the spring or fall seasons when bug life is a bit more abundant and the fish are happier with the water temperatures.  Landing my first brook trout, brown, and rock bass ensured that another trip will be planned in the near future. One gorgeous brookie surprised me by actually eating on the first presentation, but I was so stunned by fact that something actually worked that I failed to respond with a good hook set, and the fish spit it out before I could really process what was going on.  I learned a valuable lesson at the hands (or fins) of a creature that survives purely on instinct rather than its limited intelligence.

Wilson Creek Brook TroutNorth Carolina’s mountain region isn’t what I expected in the least, considering that most of our travels through the state were along the eastern side, much closer to the ocean where the land is flatter and less dramatic.  Waterfalls, cliffs, mountain peaks, and breathtaking vistas appear around each corner and there’s a great tradition of enjoying the outdoors throughout the region.  Small hotels, family restaurants, and neighborhood markets, all promote sightseeing, skiing, fishing, hunting, rafting, and general exploration of the resources.  It’s a wonderful place to visit and I can understand why a lot of folks retire to the area.

I’m overjoyed that I was able to find some measure of success after quite a bit of research and wishful thinking.  Pouring over maps, the internet, and numerous books led to a wonderful vacation surrounded by magnificent vistas and some of the most beautiful fishing I’ve done in years.  Landing some gorgeous fish on the fly proved to be just one of many superb highlights.

Check out the Pisgah National Forest during your next family camping trip and you won’t be disappointed with the landscape, the fishing, or the solitude.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

This was an original blog post for the White River Fly Shop in Orlando, Florida.

Where the fish are meaner!