Salty Casting

Perfect fly fishing weather, Cayman. It's not always like this. April 12, 2007

Smile, breath, and go slowly.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

It was early, too early to be wading thigh-deep in cold water. I could clearly see the tails of bonefish on the shallow flat rising in front of me, but with the wind in my face I had better odds of being beaned by a coconut than actually getting one of them to see my fly. Still, I’d come here to try. My first few casts were tentative, feeling out the situation. Not good: the line piled up about halfway to the fish, which fed on oblivious of my presence. I tried harder, keeping my cast low and really muscling it into the rising morning breeze. Suddenly a small gust caught my cast and in an instant I was draped in fly line.

I raged at the wind, pulling lengths of line off my clothing, and false-cast hard against the breeze. Bad to worse. The bonefish continued to feed on into the tide, easing farther away with each futile false-cast. My leader looked liked I’d used it for knot tying practice and my fly was fouled in a loop of monofilament which had wrapped around one eye, dragging the fly sideways through the water. Humiliated, I retreated to shore and left the flat in peace.

The cast is the heart and soul of fly fishing. It’s what separates us from those who are merely fishing. It is the source of our joy, and considerable frustration. Many years have passed since my early morning jaunts to the local bonefish flats, but I can clearly remember the sense of futility when anything but a downwind cast was called for. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried Mother Nature got the better of me.

Of course, I now realize that it was exactly my own effort that defeated me. Casting is about finesse and control, not strength, and certainly not anger.

There is probably a lesson here somewhere, but I’ll work it out after I finish practicing my cast.

Rising Sea Level Floods Everglades

Rising sea levels are transforming the Florida Everglades, a new study shows. Plant communities that thrive in salt water are expanding along the coast, leaving less room for plants that depend on fresh water.

In the news today.

Flyting: Old and New; Something Purple, Something Blue.*

All in a row. Andros bonefish flies.


When I began fly fishing, tying my own flies was an obsession. It was the one thing I felt I could do with reasonable success. (Success defined here as wrapping materials onto a hook so they resembled something a fish might eat and didn’t disintegrate the first time I cast it.) Whether these creations caught bonefish was not part of the criteria. At that point catching bonefish was merely a dream, in the same class as the schoolboy daydreams of owning a small island with a secret location, building a lair inside its hollow volcano and carrying out “missions” of international espionage. In other words, unrealistic, but an addicting pastime. Nevertheless, I felt that finding the right fly, the correct fly, was the secret to one day unlocking the mouths of these fish.†

It’s romantic to imagine the sunburned guide, lime-infused beverage sweating on the table, reggae in the background, casually yet carefully tying flies in a cluttered tackle room as he plans the next day’s fishing. Reality is less glamorous; tying flies becomes a chore. I had to keep my hapless clients supplied.

In those early days we hooked fewer fish than now, but we still managed to lose an inordinate number of flies. Stray mangroves, jagged limestone shorelines and driftwood grabbed unguarded back-casts. Poorly tied knots returned as pigtails. Wind-knots parted unceremoniously mid-cast. And, the occasional fly was broken off in the mouth of an actual bonefish. It was a war of attrition and the ranks in my fly boxes bore the brunt. I began tying in bulk, using production-line strategies to shorten time spent on each fly. Finally, fatigued, I surrendered entirely and had flies produced wholesale to my specs. At eight bucks a dozen they allowed me to go years without tying a fly in anger.

Now I’m less of a full-time guide and perhaps that is why tying has once more becoming a simple joy. I like filling up those little plastic craft-box compartments with identical flies, ready to be loaded into the tiers of a pocket-sized fly box, like serried shells on a bandoleer.

I’ve also become more experimental with the colors and patterns I tie. I still think I could be given three patterns (in various sizes and weights) and fish 90 percent of the world’s bonefish successfully. But, variety, or more accurately unpredictability is at the core of this little game we play. I mean, fishing is a game of self-imposed rules and fly fishing is study in extremely stringent, not to say ridiculous rules. These are the only constant. Everything else is a crap shoot: weather, tides, seasons, migrations, hatches, and so forth.

Why not let the fly itself be a part of that complex equation? Since I don’t actually know I’m fishing the best fly at a given moment, I like to have the option of trying something different. So I carry way more flies than I need. As a result about twice a year dig through the boxes and remove an embarrassing number of unproductive (and possibly un-fished) patterns. I can’t say I remove many flies, as most have transformed into unrecognizable tangles of salty fur and flash, each leaving a dark rust spot on the once-clean Styrofoam lining. And yet after I salvage the usable bits—lead dumbells and hand-burned mono eyes—I sit at the vise and concoct something new, something never before seen in the history of the universe.  Maybe it will be purple, pink and brown, or something yellow and blue. And maybe one day I’ll go down to the water and toss that thing at a tailing bonefish and that fish will eat that thing.

I dig the thought of that.



* Post originally inspired by the ramblings over on BonefishOnTheBrain.
† I still think like this some days, when the fish are being particularly stubborn. In truth, when fish won’t they probably won’t bite anything we throw at them. But, changing flies at least gives you something to do.

Inspiration for the day: Repurposed Bukowski

Dewar’s uses Bukowski’s So You Want to Be a Writer? in an ad. Atlhough it’s clearly shameless capitalism (the cheapness of which is preached against all through the poem), I don’t think we can seriously fault their appropriation in this case, especially being familiar with Bukowski’s personal history with adult beverages. If nothing else the video below will expose more people to a great piece of writing. Full poem enclosed below. Enjoy.



So You Want to Be a Writer?
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

The Bones of Summer (Pt. II)

Still casting at dusk: Old Prospect, Grand Cayman.

July 24, 2001

So pass the days. I hope I shall always remember summers here like this. The flats, though small, seem to stretch for an eternity, and I am always there with the sun at my back, searching. For what, I cannot say, but at the very least I have found memories. To really know such places requires time, and memory is built slowly, in layers. It is accreted, like the new sand of a high tide or the detritus of a storm. There is meaning there somewhere.

Stories, too, are found… or made. It was not a month ago now that I was stalking the mangrove fringe at dusk. The sun had set and I came there to see if the snook I knew lived there fed easier at night. Apparently they did, for a few minutes before full dark I heard a flounce under the mangroves. Their foliage is impenetrable, but I recalled a space between the main growth and a small outcropping that had held snook during the day. Getting a fly in there would not be easy, especially in the dark with the mangroves looking like a solid black wall against the charcoal sky. Still, my second cast somehow made it in and two short strips later I set up on what could only be a snook or a mangrove root… but mangrove roots don’t jump.

I proceeded, with building glee, to hand-line this snook out of the tangle of roots, through the small forest of young shoots, not giving an inch until the fish was onto the generally open water of the flat where it promptly snapped my ten-pound tippet. I stood cursing at the empty flat.

The stars spun overhead, dancing their celestial solea as a satellite glided across the night, its electronic eye mercifully occupied with greater matters.

Beneath heaven a small creature danced on the edge of a rock in the Caribbean. There, on a ragged corner of nowhere, I had stalked the crafty snook—a creature of the wild, lonely places—and touched it but briefly. I had seen its jumps, its outline distinct against the pewter water, but had lost him to my own shortcomings. Why? I gazed up at heaven with my question, but only received the usual answer. Heaven was as quiet as a conch.

The stars danced on.


Read: The Bones of Summer (Part 1) Here

The Bones of Summer (Pt. I)

Bonefishing at dusk: Cayman

July 24, 2001

The days are long now, and the evenings still. Deep summer brings the time of the south winds, and on days around the young moon the water flows well. Fish can then be found cruising the ankle deep water near shore and I go to hunt them in the fading light.

Dusk is peaceful on the flats: conducive to stillness and reflection—in the water, mind and soul. Mornings are fine, but then things are gearing up for the day’s work. The breeze grows and sounds of a new day begin. Evenings are just the opposite. The breeze dies and the seas lie down. Boats can easily be heard wending their way home far across the sound. The night birds take flight and the luff of their wings is distinct as they ride the damp air over the mangroves. On the far edge of the flat mullet make telltale jumps and glitter dully in the fading light. Much nearer the tail and dorsal of a bonefish ghost through water barely feet from the pale shore. At whiles it arcs its back to nose through the soft sand, hunting crabs maybe.

I begin the now familiar motions of presenting my fly. Three false casts and I lead the fish by a meter or more. Slowly it approaches the fly’s resting place. I strip the line every so slightly and my quarry’s pace quickens. There! It tails on my offering, the dorsal taught as a sail and the tail quivering. I strike, but too soon and all I feel is a momentary weight as the fly pulls free. Instantly the water explodes as it is pushed aside by a bonefish heading north. My offering sits forsaken, rocking gently in its wake.

As I retrieve my line, it completely fails to occur to me how lovely the evening is. I can’t see how the sea to the westward glimmers like old gold and the reflected clouds ripple and crease as the V-shaped wake of the fleeing bonefish spreads across the glassy flat. Or, rather, I only notice those things after reminding myself that beauty and stillness are why I’m out here in the first place. Catching fish is only an excuse. Right?


Read: The Bones of Summer Part 2 Here

Hola Senior Palometa

Jamie Howard (of Howard Films?) posted this delectable permit treat compiled from footage shot during the Palometa Club Permit tournament in May of 3013. Wish I’d been there for that. There’s just something about permit that gets under your skin and stays there.

1 2 3 4 5 6 36

© 2009-2018 Davin Ebanks All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright