Category : Fresh Mud

Mega Cruise Liners = Silver Lining?


Capt. Will Benson and his crew at World Angling have a new video out called Silver Lining.  The film looks at tarpon fishing and what’s at stake as the cruise ship industry looks to dredge Key West harbor to allow bigger ships to port.  The impact this would have could be devastating to the tarpon fishery around Key West.


Being from Grand Cayman, I know a thing or two about cruise ships and the positive and negative impact they can have on an island and culture. Before them we didn’t have a Hard Rock Cafe ®, or Margaritaville ®. We also had stunning coral reefs teeming with amazing marine life literally a stones throw from shore—life that relied on clean, silt-free water to keep the coral healthy. Those pre-franchised, live-coral days are so far gone their memory appears distorted to me now, like a f***ed up Instagramy thing—blurry and faded. Unreal.

Sure, there’s been a few bucks made, but the cruise lines conglomerates are pushing for us to build a huge pier—at great expense to our people and detriment to what’s left of the struggling ecosystem in the harbour—just so their passengers can simply walk off the ship when they choose.

Right now there’s a pretty neat system in place that creates jobs for local captains, and keeps the natural currents and tides in the harbour unchanged by a massive concrete dock. When ships are in port a fleet of tenders ferry the passengers to and from the ships. Cost is nominal at a buck or two. And if every tourist had to pay $10 to keep our environment healthy (which is what they want to see) I’d still think they were getting the bargain of a lifetime!

I could go on, but I think that’s enough, really.

Worst Trout Set EVER! (Why fly rods don’t hook real fish.)

I hate posting this sort of thing but it’s one of those “it’s soooo bad, it’s good” situations! I mean, seriously. WTF, OMG, LOL and pretty much every-dang-thing-else. This guy’s (?) cast is pretty sweet but A) the amount of slack after each cast—wow, and B) the trout set is spectacular. I’ve seen less aggressive sets from Bill Dance on a 2 pound bass.†



I could end here. I really want to, but it would be nothing more than another spectacle, mere calorie-free amusement. So, I figured I’d just ask a couple questions that might shed a little light on the subject:

  1. How many pounds of pressure does it take to bury a hook in a tarpon’s mouth.
  2. How many pounds of pressure does the average 8 or 9-weight fly rod tip deliver in your average “trout set”.

Well? Ok, I don’t know either (and I’m too lazy to get out the ol’ Boga Grip* and actually do some tests), but from experience I will say it’s not enough to actually hook a tarpon… or a bonefish, or redfish, or striper, or bonita, or snook, or permit, or mutton snapper or (God help you) a bony-mouthed barracuda. And that’s only the Atlantic sportfish that readily cross my mind. You’re dang sure never hooking a Pacific trigger or parrot-beaked humpy with a trout set.

I sound pretty sure, don’t I? Pretty dang arrogant and bombastic. True, but that’s only because in near twelve years of guiding I have seen like one, maybe two bones hooked with a trout set (and zero tarpon). Of those that were hooked, a full 100% popped the leader within naught point five seconds.


The only bone I’ve actually seen trout-set successfully was landed was by one Big Charlie Neymour, who is a fly fishing Jedi and can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants. It is also the only fish I’ve ever seen him cast at, much less catch, so while far be it from me to suggest he could have gotten lucky that one time, but of the hundreds of bones I’ve witnessed the hooking and landing of that was the only one where a trout set worked. Just sayin’.


Ok, so here’s part of what I think is actually preventing a trout set from working: the tip of a fly rod is simply too flimsy to deliver enough force to drive a stout, salt-water hook into a fish’s mouth.

Of course, in fresh water—which in my feeble, unimaginative mind equates to trout fishing—you want a delicate hook-set because of all the X’s in your tippet, since, you know, trout are leader shy. Ok, maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but what I am sure about is the size of most freshy hooks is much smaller than salty hooks. For example, the smallest bonefish hook I’ve ever used—usually to my regret—is a #8 while the first ever stream fly I used was a #12. ‡

About the only time a saltwater fly fishing guide uses the word “twelve” it’s either to refer to the weight of his fly rod or the number of beers in the pack you’ll buy for him as a tip.

Where was I? Right. Hook size. Freshwater hooks are freekin’ tiny, so the tip of a 5-weight can actually set the hook there. No problem.

The second issue is Slack. In saltwater you want none of it, but if you’re drifting a fly or bumping a black Woolly Bugger downstream for Smallies then you’ll have lots of it. A trout set is the only reasonable way to remove all that slack and come tight before the fish spits your fly.

Unless you’re doing something seriously wrong, you won’t have any slack at all in the salt. So, a simple long, smooth strip should get that hook in there nicely.

The final reason, the real reason trout sets don’t work and strips sets do, is actually a trade secret. I’d write it down but then serious looking men in black suits would pull up outside the address provide by my ISP and unpleasant things would happen. I am bound by protocol, morality (and fear) from going any further. But, the good news is you can rest assured that there is a secret, and it’s safe with me.

The better news? You don’t need to know the secret. In the immortal words of W. L. S. Churchill, Keep Calm and Don’t Trout Set. You can trust him on this.


† “That there’s a beaoootiful 4 pound bigmouth… call it 4 and a ha’f… heck 5.”
* Which has been lying idle in a drawer for the last 6 years except for the occasional knot or hook test.
‡ And even then they’re usually “2x Strong”, heavy-wire models.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission vote Tarpon catch-and-release species

Save the TarponThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted Wednesday to move forward with plans to put an end to “gaff and drag,” PTTS-style fishing by making tarpon a catch-and-release only species. All seven FWC commissioners endorsed the measure.

The commission’s vote paves the way for new regulations governing tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass and throughout the state to take effect in June. The Professional Tarpon Tournament Series opposes the FWC’s plan… (read more here)

The (Fly Fishing) Revolution Has Not Been Televised*

Product of a real revolution: Cuban refugee craft.


October 21, 2012

Ok, so here’s the deal with the revolution. First, there’s not one… revolution, I mean. Two, you can’t claim to be revolutionary because you do something as silly as fly fishing, with equipment the making of which (be honest) you haven’t the foggiest idea about (regardless of how many YouTube® videos you’ve watched). So stop calling yourself Sustainable. Or Green. Or Eco-anything. Or Revolutionary. Yes, corporate fly fishing sucks, but unless you fashion your own fly rods out of spinning rod blanks, sand down 80-lb mono to make your own shooting head fly lines, and forge your own hooks out of paperclip wire, you’re pretty much corporate. Sorry, just reality.

And another thing, you can’t claim to be a dirt-bag, hippy, [insert species here] bum if you own 10-grand of fly gear, a gas-drinkin’ SUV to pull yer 30-grand flats skiff and upload videos showing how much of a badass you are from your new Macbook Pro.

If there was a revolution, which (as I’ve mentioned) there isn’t, it would have been staged by those Bahamian guides who still fish those old school Bass Pro specials or the cheapest Redingtons they made… and can dump the entire line with ’em too. It would have been soldiered by the nameless, by the un-endorsed, by the silent workhorses of the angling world.

The revolution would have been perpetrated by those folks who just wanted to go fishing, because they loved it—as a pursuit, as a rest from labor, as a quietly raised middle finger to the consumptive day-in-day-out existence of their weekly work day . They probably released their fish out of respect, maybe out of a little bit of love, and mostly because the streams they fished were filled with toxins from the last century of industrial enterprise, and effluent from the last big rain.

They wouldn’t have let anyone take pics of them with their flyrods on their shoulders, or called themselves extreme, or espoused (in any way) the ethos of a bum. They probably would have slowly upgraded their tackle as they inched their way up the corporate ladder and only after the children were out of college, maybe pulling a fast one on the wife by asking for a Harley (which they knew she’d veto) and then “settling” for some new fly fishing tackle—probably a Sage rod and Abel reel. They’d have joined Trout Unlimited and been a regular at the local flyshop (before it went bust thanks to Amazon).

So, maybe there was a revolution after all, but we just can’t recognize it anymore. Maybe that’s what happens to revolutions after a while: they become un-tell-apart-able from the corporations they were rebelling against. The very process of seeping into the mainstream consciousness mollifies the revolt, and now here I am, rebelling against the revolution: a rebel without a clue. Isn’t that,  after all, the American way?

* Or  YouTubed, or Vimeod or FFFTed or whatever.

The Strange Truth About Paradise

7-Mile Beach: A Real Guide's Day Off

Reflections on Life in the Tropics

The strange truth about paradise is that it eventually gets to be boring and, quite frankly, depressing. Well, maybe not so much “depressing” as “melancholy”. It’s the seasons that do it… or rather, the lack of any discernible seasons.

To the locals the changes are obvious, and we look forward to the cooling “Christmas Breezes” as much as any Mid-westerner looks forward to the first crisp days of autumn and the changing leaves. But in the tropics the seasons are more subtle and to those who were not born here it seems the land of endless summer. The weight of time is increased by this lack of noticeable change. Now, the really strange part is that it was this same consistency that attracted them here in the first place (not that they would phrase it exactly like that).

They said to themselves, “To hell with winter; I hear down in the Keys you never have to buy antifreeze for your car or and the only ice you see is floating in rum.” People say stuff like that, and it’s true enough, but then the truth slowly dawns on them—that remembering how bad winter was makes spring seem even better. Then they say, “To hell with paradise.” and blow town. We’re sorry to see them go. I mean, it’s actually kind of amusing to hear someone constantly complain about the heat—“This place is like hell with palm trees,” they say, when they’re from a land that seems to us like the arctic circle.

That’s the danger in island life: you expect it to be not only better, but perfect. Why shouldn’t it be? You’ve got the sun, the beach, and don’t forget the all-important piña-colada. However, the ironic reality is that those who come expecting perfection (not just a nice vacation) are often disappointed, while those who know it will probably be hot, humid, and primitive (not to mention larcenously expensive as far as frozen drinks are concerned) are often pleasantly surprised by how relaxed life can be here.

I think that the locals’ perspective is best summed up by Herman Wouk (who’s book Don’t Stop the Carnival I highly recommend).

[For the local there is] a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him. It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existence is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for a while and then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun.

Well, I don’t care what the ex-pats say: still sounds like paradise to me.

Nassau Grouper’s Last Stand

Footage and discussion from Little Cayman and one of the last (fairly) healthy nassau grouper spawning aggregations in the Caribbean.

There’s really good evidence to suggest that when those grouper are spawning out there, the baby grouper that are produced end up back on the Cayman reefs.

After they sold what they could here then they took their catch to Grand Cayman and sold what they could there. The market was glutted and lots of fish went to waste… spoiled.

Grouper are an apex predator on coral reefs… the more of them you have, ultimately the healthier your coral reefs will be.

Flats of a Different Colour

The Padre baptizes an Indiana carp.

It’s hot, really hot, and even hotter than that because the dark green “deck” of our plastic boat has absorbed the heat of the midday sun and is slowly baking us from underneath.

We could be wading a cool river (though they’re mostly dry this year). We could be tossing rubber spiders against the banks for panfish or smallmouth—whose stripes, coincidentally, are nearly the exact color of this plastic tub we’re on. We could be feeling the current tugging us gently downstream as we watch them jump and glitter in the glare. Instead we’re slowly dehydrating as we scan for dark fish-shapes cruising the muddy shallows or slices of bronze tails breaking the surface. The water level is now at least four feet below normal, with much of the shallow flats on the north end of the lake completely dry, and the water, somehow, is muddier than usual. I say lake but my fishing partner—a stickler for accuracy (as much for everyday nomenclature as he is for everyone else’ casting)—well, he says it’s a pond.

“Look, this is artificial, man-made, therefore it’s a pond—you know from the word ‘pound’, as in ‘impoundment’”.

Riiiight. Whatever. Who cares that with so little water it does look more like a glorified mud-puddle—did I mention it’s been a dry summer—the place is thick with fish. They’re everywhere. Nine o’clock, two o’clock, even directly behind us at six o’clock. There are even those we don’t notice until we drift over them, the mud clouds like smoke signals silently announcing their departure.  Simply put, we are surrounded by carp. After wanting to fish these creatures for years we have finally “figured” them out… mostly, sort of, a little.

There are those who say carp are easy, but my friends and I who fish them here, in central Indiana, find them to be rather challenging, and by challenging I mean infuriating. Either they’re blind—although any creature would be hard put to see anything in the muck they paddle through—or they’re so picky as to border on being neurotic. (Perhaps they’re religious fish and regularly fast?)

Based on their size they must eat something, and lots of it. It is actually difficult to find small carp. I’ve seen plenty of six-inch smallmouth, but never a six-inch carp. Add 20 inches to that and you’d be in the ballpark of the fish that surround us. They make the pan fish and bass look like bugs that you swat off your hook.

That’s one of the most appealing things about carp: they’re big. A twelve-pound carp is common, a five-pounder barely worth reporting (except you will anyway since they’re so frustratingly hard to feed and you probably spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to get that bite, never once thinking, what the heck, it’s only a five-pounder.)

You also get a lot of shots and no one is ever fishing for them. Lots of shots is good, because their aforementioned infuriating apathy to flies means you need all those to get a bite. In a perverse way this is also one of the addicting things about carp fishing, but you still need to know that they could bite. For that to happen you need to catch one now and then, or at least watch your buddy do so. In the end it’s sight fishing on a hot summer day to fish that more than likely will not take your offering for whatever reason. I know I could be catching fish somewhere else; I know this is pretty much a ridiculous waste of time, but for those exact reasons, strangely enough, carp will continue to have this and my future summers.

Fly Fishing Padre
Indiana, USA
Summer 2012

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