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PETER MATTHIESSEN, 1927-2014

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/books/peter-matthiessen-author-and-naturalist-is-dead-at-86.html?hp&_r=0peter_m_2

     We lost a giant yesterday. Peter loved the Madison and he loved to fish, but mostly he liked to hang with fishing guide types and listen to the wind. Read about his incredible, interesting and adventurous life and you will be left amazed, as I was, to know him...he did so much...he left a lot of tracks. RIP.

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MADISON RIVER FOUNDATION NEW LEADERSHIP

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  hans_figi

 

   Had a productive meeting with Hans Figi, newly appointed Exec. Dir. of the Madison River Foundation. He is reaching out to folks in the Madison Valley to get their input, needs and concerns regarding the river and the Foundation. This is a good thing. Best of luck, Hans!

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TARPON FLIES

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   I found this excellent history of tarpon flies written by Pat Ford. Some good stuff in here...

 

 

http://flytyer.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1706&Itemid=0

tarpon_mouse_2_001

                                         My yellow mouse home-tie tarpon fly

 

hook - Mustad 9175 short shank or Owner Aki 5170 or 5370...3/0, 2/0, 1/0...Gamakatsu SC17 and SL12S are also excellent tarpon fly  hooks.

butt - yellow maribou

tail - stubby yellow saddle, splayed or married (fat base, fast taper hackle..don't use the long, thin stuff), add a bit of pearl Krystal Flash

head - spun, clipped Mule Deer hair

eyes - bead chain, hollow

  This fly is designed to be fished shallow, just under the surface...great for laid up fish in the backcountry. Tarpon eyes look up...they will see it!

   Have also caught permit and snook on this fly.

   The main thing is...how does the fly look wet?...how it acts in the water is all that matters, not how it looks in your fly box or vise.

 

tarpon_flys_ducks_005 

    As tarpon get harder to fool these days, the trend is to smaller hooks, skinny flies and lighter shock tippets.

 

 

 

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DAM THE TORPEDOS

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american-flag-1http://www.flatheadnewsgroup.com/hungryhorsenews/article_9e753af0-82b8-11e3-9fd2-0019bb2963f4.html

 

DSCN4628       Dam dug in by Odell Ck. Ranch to stop flow of tributary to Madison River.

 

  Property rights, landowner rights, water rights...all hot-button issues in Montana...always have been. I believe the landowner has solid rights, legal rights, historical rights.

   But what about this? I have a stream going through my property that feeds into another stream that leads to the water rights of others down stream. Rights that are deeded...rights that are needed..for irrigation, for crops, for feed, for electrical power, for recreation...and I decide I am going to dam off the water...I am going to stop the flow...I am going to cut off everybody downstream...cut off their water...cut off their irrigation...cut off their legally deeded water rights. Can I just arbitrarily cut off the water because I own the land it flows through? Can I just go out into the middle of the Madison River and build a dam because I own the property on both sides of the river? Can I dam up the West Fork? How about Jack Creek? O'Dell Creek?

   In Montana, water rights are sacred. I have the Ennis-Shriver Ditch running through my back yard. I have a deeded amount of miner's inches I am legally allowed to use. So do many other folks along the ditch including ranchers and home owners. Can I just decide to dam up the ditch to make a duck pond or a swimming hole for the kids? What if somebody upstream from me dams up the ditch? When beavers do it we blow them up!

   Every year the flows in the Madison are a worry. We have had some scary low water years...the river needs all the water it can get from snowmelt, tribuaries and spring fed sources. Arbitrarily damming up and cutting off the free flow of water to the Madison River has little to do with property rights and everything to with an assault against nature.DSCN4633

 This used to be a free-flowing tributary from O'Dell Creek into the Madison River before the Granger Ranch dammed it up and cut off the flow.  

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THIRTY YEARS ON THE POLE

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                THIRTY YEARS ON THE POLEkeys_map

...my personal notes and photos from guiding and fishing in the Florida Keys for close to three decades...by Capt. Randy Brown

 

    It all started in the early 80s on the Madison River...my pal Glenn Law came up to me one day standing in front of Ed's Tackle Shop on Main St., Ennis, Montana.Glenn_Law_1

 

"Hey RB, I've got a good deal." (This normally means you row and I'll fish but not this time.)

 

"I've buddied up to this guy Stu Apte...he's got some guests from New Zealand in town. We show them a good time on the river and he will take us tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys."

 

"Stu who? What's a tarpon?"Stu__RB

                          Me and Stu Apte...Florida Bay...1987 (John Field photo)

 

Well...I found out...and then some.

 

 

 

 

 

keysflat_calm

 

   When you take off from Duck Key and head straight North across Florida Bay and you're lucky enough to have it slick calm and glassy, which doesn't happen very often, the air and the water all become one thing. The horizon just blurs into a solid mass of bluish, grayish haze. keys_flat_calm1

   When you look behind and the mainland vanishes you are in the middle of nothing. The open water is zipping by at 4800 RPMS and you strain your eyeballs to find your way...the lobster and stone crab trap buoys go whizzing by...the ballyhoos and finger mullet are cartwheeling through the air...you pick up the twin Yacht Channel markers in the glaze and bear left, find Sprigger green #5 then the Everglades Park marker then Schooner red #6 and green #7 and there it is...what you're looking for...a blurry hump on the horizon...Sandy Key.

    In the Western, outer part of Florida Bay, Sandy Key was my rock...I could navigate the rest of the spots using Sandy Key...I had to...I never used a compass.(I had one but it broke and I got rid of it)keys_sandy_key                    Sandy Key/Carl Ross Key...Everglades Nat'l. Park, Florida Bay

 

   Many of the great shallow water tarpon spots in the world are here...Sandy Key Basin, First National Bank, Oxfoot, The Trench, Man Of War, Rabbit Key Basin, Nine Mile Bank, Arsenicker Basin, Buchanan Bank and many others.

 

 

 That is where I started...and thirty years later this is where I ended...

Long_Key_Bridge_at_sunrise

 

   ...standing on the Long Key Bridge watching my fishing pliers somersaulting through the air, disappearing into the rolling current and sea foam... rushing through the pilings out into Florida Bay. Only the laughing gulls saw me.laughing_gull_2

 tarpon_agape

 

 

 

 

keys_coles_1

 

   In between, I fished everywhere from Miami to the Marquesas...150 miles of grass, marl, mangroves and adventure...but it gets better, or worse...I kept a log book and I kept some photos...and now I'll tell you about it...

 

 

                 

 

                     THE SILVER KING...EL SABALO

tarpon_kathy_guard

 me and the late Kathy Guard with a nice tarpon she caught with fly rod off Long Key in 1988...one of my best memories as a fishing guide.

 

 

 

 

tarpon_rb_grab_3

         Man Of War                         Loggerhead Basin                Upper Harbor Key             

 

                                                 

                                   NINE MILE MONSTER

tarpon_nick_noyes_2tarpon_9_mi_154tarpon_nick_noyes

 This fish was laid up near the first point of NineMile Bank. I believe this to be the largest tarpon on fly I ever boated.                                                                                                        tarpon_mouse_2_001

  

    The 1980s was a great time to be tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys. I got to run around Florida Bay and find fish milling, finning, lollygagging, sleeping, laid up "doggo". If you could find them they would bite your fly and then some.

                                                                                              my yellow mouse tarpon fly

 

 

 

tarpon_chappell_4

I spent a lot of time at Channel Key Banks...a great spot for early season tarpon...strong current, big fish. This fish was caught late 1980s...I was still fishing out of my 1985 Hewes Bonefisher..."Strait Shooter".rb_big_tarpon

tarpon_on_the_fly

tarpon_release

                                     Release at Long Key Beach

 

 

                   

 

tarpon_washburn_1

                                              Roy Washburn in action...Florida Bay

tarpon_washburn

                                        Jumbo caught at Man Of War Basinkeys_park_permit

 

                                          My Everglades Nat'l. Park Permit...1987

 

 

 

 

keys_waiting_2

                                          waiting...and hoping...

  

   In May, many of the top Keys guides were up in Homosassa chasing the "big one", so the pressure was not that bad. You could always find a place to fish as long as it wasn't the "Pocket" at Buchanan Bank...that place was always 10 or 12 boats deep even back then. But I never went there...I had plenty of other good spots...and in the 1980s in the Florida Keys, the number one best spot was...The Marquesas.Marquesas1

 keys_marquesas_sunset_2

                                      Marquesas sunset

 

 

 

keys_marquesas_3  tarpon_marquesas_2keys_marquesas_sunset  

                                                         

   

    I probably spent 100 days in the Marquesas in the 1980s and 1990s and it was usually worth the 50 mile drive down from Marathon to Garrison Bight and the 22 mile run across from Key West to the promised land. Tarpon were rolling near the stop sign on the West side, laid up on the inside, swimming and daisy-chaining on the outside. The largest daisy chain of tarpon I ever saw was at the Marquesas...over 200 fish. tarpon_marquesas

   One of the great pleasures I had fishing the Keys was the chance to run to the Marquesas. My favorite time was anytime the wind was down...the tarpon were almost always there. We used to time our run over and then back with the slack tide...crossing Boca Grande Channel when the current was running could rattle your dentures! keys_hewes_bThe fastest I ever made the run from Garrison Bight to the Southeast side was 55 minutes, balls out, flat calm, 5000rpm!keys_marquesas_launch

Double Hewes Bonefishers on the 60' Hatteras for our Marquesas trip...Southwest  beach outside of Mooney Harbor...looks like a James Bond movie ready to launch!

   

   I was lucky enough to get booked for a five-day overnight trip to the Marquesas in 1988...tied up my Hewes to a 60 foot Hatteras and woke up every morning with tarpon rolling right outside my window. Just putt-putt over there and have at 'em! I had many days I only saw one or two guide boats.geo._anderson_marquesas

 I took this photo of George Anderson right after he busted a new Winston 12 weight on a big tarpon in the Marquesas. We were fishing the Northwest corner near the old Stop Sign.

 

 

tarpon_misc_4

tarpon_becker

                                                 Becker is hooked up!

tarpon_Dahlberg_3

 

tarpon__McCaskill_2tarpon_pinky

      Nice fish taken at Man Of War Basin, Everglades Park and released alive.

 

                                           tarpon_keith_a

                                  Big One from Florida Bay...released.

 

 

 

 

 

tarpon_Shipmantarpon_chappell_3

            Solid fiberglass JK Fisher two piece tarpon fly rod..."The Anesthetizer" in full parabolic mode from the bow of my skiff inflicting extreme stress and discomfort upon a large tarpon. I took this photo in Coupon Bight, circa early 1990s.

 

 

 

tarpon_rb_grab

    tarpon_heger

                                       Rudi Heger 

tarpon_bellyboat_2

   tarpon_bellyboat_1

      Rudi Heger tarpon fishing from belly boat off my skiff, Bayside Long Key. Rudi is the owner of Traun River Products...a fly fishing retailer outside of Munich, Germany. One morning Rudi hooked a tarpon of some 80 lbs. from the belly boat and the fish took off for the Bay towing Rudi behind like a water skiier. Luckily, the fish jumped off or Rudi would still be out there!

tarpon_heger_1   

   My other favorite place to fish in my early days in the Keys was Florida Bay. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nine Mile Bank was almost a sure thing. There was almost always tarpon laying up between the First and Second Point near the "elbow"...you could bank on it, especially early in the year. I caught many many tarpon in January, Febuary and March back there before the ocean migration got started. tarpon_chappell_2

   lem_beardsley_1993

tarpon_RKB

   Rabbit Key Basin, Man O War Basin, Sandy Key Basin, First National, Oxfoot and Schooner and Channel Key Banks were right up there with it. Later on in the Spring, the long, crooked Nine Mile Bank had a bayside migration of it own.keys_moonlighter

                              In my old Hewes using a Moonlighter push pole 

 

 

   In March and April, Coupon Bight and Loggerhead Basin were a couple of my favorites, often times holding very large tarpon laid up like logs. A lot of people said the tarpon in Coupon would not eat but I had pretty good luck in there in the 1980s and 1990s....you had to be lucky and good and catch one in the right mood! Several fly rod world record tarpon came out of Coupon in the 1970s, 1980s before Homosassa took over.

   One day in the Bight, Bob Guard threw at a laid up fish with me on the pole. At first I thought it was two fish but as I got closer I realized it was the largest tarpon I had ever seen. Bob made a perfect cast a couple of feet in front of its face, let it settle, stripped it out, and the fish never moved. He made another perfect cast and the monster just slowly turned its head and swam away. That fish was over 200 pounds.tarpon_coupon_bight

 tarpon_Chappell

  The fly reel is a rare John Emery model designed for large tarpon by the famous Keys guide

 

 

 

 

tarpon_Schell_1

                                  

                         keys_wooden_bridge                              OUT BACK

    When you leave the lagoon at the Old Wooden Bridge Fishing Camp at Big Pine Key, you putt-putt under the No Name Bridge, jump up and head North. If it's blowing from the East you catch the lee at Porpoise Key and left of the bank at Mayo Key, staying up real shallow so as not to spook the tarpon in the basin...find the homemade stakes leading to Bogie Channel...cut hard left through Apte Gap to get to the ocean or stay to the right and snake your way through the stakes, past Annette and Cutoe Keys, coming out at Howe Key Basin and you make a decision...left through the pass between Big Torch and South Water Keys to the Content Keys, or right to Upper Harbor Key or maybe Spanish Banks. lower_keys_white_heron

   Or just head straight Northeast from Wooden Bridge to find... Little Pine Key, Johnsons, Horseshoe, Sandfly, West Bahia Honda, East Bahia Honda, Jack Bank, The Fish Box,  or all the way over to Sideboard Bank.keys_flat_calm_glass_1

    

   Down lower there was Knockemdown, Monster Point, Tarpon Belly, Raccoon and a few other little "hidey holes"...and there were always the baby tarpon spots I could duck into when needed.tarpon_jack_bank

                                   yay Fritz!

 tarpon_Dino_C.2

   We caught this one at Hommel's Corner on a very windy day...outside Loggerhead Basin near Bow Channel

 tarpon_monster_pt_3

 

   tarpon_lip5

   taron_misc_5

   tarpon_brian_king                                      Brian King with a nice one.

 

 

   tarpn_McCausland_1

     Sam McCausland fights a big tarpon in Loggerhead Basin...photo by Harry Spear

 

tarpon_schell_2

                                               Me and Tom Schell rasslin' another one.

tarpon_baxter

      Andy caught this one off West Point between Loggerhead Key and Bow Channel

 

   tarpon_misc_6

                                                Horseshoe Key 

 

 

tarpon_benson

Me and Bob Benson with a tarpon caught at Southeast Point...sometimes called the Bongo Holes!

 

 

  

   Just before the major ocean run started I liked to sneak up to Key Largo in April. The big schools of tarpon that have been laid up all winter in Government Cut, Miami and Biscayne Bay start to leave the deep water and migrate South. They leave via Caesars or Broad C. or Angelfish and work their way down the coast. Huge schools and strings of one hundred fish plus are common.Pennekamp    I would launch the skiff at John Pennekamp State Park and work North toward Carysfort and Dynamite Docks. About the only guides I would see would be Steve Huff or John Kipp... maybe Harry Spear or Dale Perez. I loved Key Largo.

 

 

                               Miracles Do Happen

tarpon_willy

 willy_4

   Willys_tarpon

   The tarpon pictured above was caught on my yellow mouse fly by Max Wieland on June 13, 1995. Max travelled all the way from Germany to fulfill his dream of catching a tarpon on a fly. After days of failure and crummy weather, we set off on his last day in the USA before he had to take the long flight home. The morning was dark and dreary and clouded out. I told Max our chances were slim. He wanted to try one last time. We set out from Duck Key but didn't go far...we couldn't...it was white caps and spray, so I shut down and staked up behind a bank on the Bayside of Conch Key. Max stood up in the bow and could barely keep his balance...it was gusting 25 knots from the South. It started to spit rain. My skiff was pitching and rolling. I was just about to scrub the trip, when off to the port side a large tarpon rolled in the chop. I pulled the pole and pushed over to the left. I said "Max, just make a cast over there, you never know".  He threw over into the gloom and made one strip. A huge tarpon rolled up and inhaled the yellow fly and Max came tight. Over the next several minutes I was sure this big fish would come off...but I was wrong...the fly stayed stuck and Max fought him close. I reached and grabbed the fish with my glove hand while Max shot photos...he was ecstatic...the fish was well over 100 pounds.

   Max says "that's it, we're done, let's go celebrate"...we spent the rest of the morning at Hawk's Cay drinking chardonnay and yukking it up..out of the wind...out of the rain...and believing in miracles. 

 

 

   When the ocean run got going full bore I spent most of my time between Long Key, Duck Key and Grassy Key.

tarpon_Long_Key_Point    One of my favorite tarpon photos...shot off Long Key Point while fishing

     with Steve Cook and Gene Tennyson. You can barely see the Channel Five  

       Bridge in the background...May 29, 1990.                                                

 

 

 tarpon_feskanin

 keys_frankie_wolfson

 Frankie Wolfson on the bow of my old Hewes, Archer Key Basin near Key West, circa 1990.

 

 

tarpon_long_key_1

   My man Keith...on March 19 & 20, 1994 he hooked nineteen tarpon on plug and 

     fly gear at Nine Mile Bank...we had some fun! 

  

   Just about every day at a certain time in the tide I could expect enough tarpon to come by to offer some good shots with the fly rod...at times there would be hundreds of fish. If that country dried up I would trailer down to the public ramp on Little Torch or further down to Sugarloaf and sample the oceanside flats there, or travel even further to Key West and fish the tarpon grounds to the West...Seven Channels, Archer Key Basin, Woman and Ballast Keys, Boca Grande...Pearl Basin, Calda and the Tower Flats, where I could usually find Jose Wejebe.Jose_2

         The late Capt. Jose Wejebe...the "Spanish Fly"...a great fisherman and a friend...he loved the Tower Flats...RIP.

 

   And as the big moon in May got closer, everybody would talk worms...palolo worms...relaunching skiffs later in the day to sit on the worm runs from Broad Ck. to the Marquesas...with most of the attention focused on Bahia Honda.

Bahia_Honda_Bridge

   The Old Bahia Honda Bridge...thousands of tarpon congregate here in the Springtime...rolling and feeding and waiting for worms.

 

tarpon_flys_2011_002

                                    My favorite home-tie worm patterns.

tarpon_red_mouse

                       Large tarpon with a worm fly stuck in his upper lip!

tarpon_flys_ducks_004

                    My tarpon fly box with worm flys and other "getters".

tarpon_flys_ducks_005

   tarpon_rb_boat

   I was lucky enough to hit the worm hatch at Bahia Honda, Tom's Harbor, Sugarloaf Ck and Long Key a few times. One night I sat at the Bahia Honda worm bar by myself and hooked seven tarpon on a fly. I will never forget that night because I saw something I never saw before...a boat right next to me had a triple header hook-up on tarpon...three anglers...three fish on at once...chaos!

 

                     

                 Baby Tarpon...Big Fun

tarpon_Jack__Alison

 tarpon_jack__allison

 

tarpon_Goldman_brothers                                                                              The Goldman brothers

 

 tarpon_faro_blanco

   This is the only tarpon I ever had mounted...it was caught on a fly at Horseshoe Key by my angler and was bleeding. I took it to George Cornish at Summerland Key and he made a mount. It was the first and last tarpon I ever killed. We should all do whatever we can to preserve these great fish.

 

 

tarpon_ron_herbert

tarpon._babies_123

   tarpon_catino_reel

 The early saltwater fly reels built by Frank Catino were from solid bar stock and fun to fish! I still own a matched, numbered set of Catino bonefish and tarpon fly reels.

       From my daily log I added up the tarpon catch numbers over the years...total tarpon hooked: 1532...total landed: 438. The best years were 1994,95,96 where we hooked 154, 127,117 respectively. The totals include tarpon of all sizes and age classes...from 5 pound babies to 150 pound jumbos.

                                   

                          SICKLETAILS

permit_marquesas_40

A titch under 40lbs...caught by Keith Aragi...southeast side of the Marquesas...March 30, 1993...guided by Randy Brown...released alive.

 

Geo._Kelly_permit_3

This great fish was featured in an article in the March, 1992 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.

 

Spear_crab_1_001

                                   Spear epoxy crab fly

   permit_3

 

   permit_neil_bolton  permit_at_big_torch

 permit_3_in_i_hour

   My good client Keith Aragi from Connecticut caught these three permit in less than one hour off E. Content Key. They just kept coming in waves! All were released.

 

permit_woody

          Lenny Berg and Woody Sexton...two great characters I knew well!

 

   permit_Jack_S._double

permit_john__jack_2

                             John and Jack Siragusa

 

   permit_key_west_fly

 

permit_misc

permit_new_years

                         Happy New Year, 1995...caught at Horseshoe Key...released. 

permit_meyer

     Barry Meyer caught this whopper out in front of Marathon...it was 45 lbs...

      a potential World Record released alive.

 

permit_RB_Bus_B

     Bus Bergmann and me with a nice fly-caught permit...Grassy Key, oceanside. 

 

 

 

permit_Monkey_Bank

Both of these anglers threw crabs at two permit at the same time...both reels went off...I thought we had a double...except one permit ate both crabs. Incredibly, both hooks stayed in and both these guys fought and landed the same fish...I videoed this rodeo and tape exists somewhere.  We were fishing off Monkey Bank, Lower Keys, March, 1991.permit_rb_5

 

permit_Tommypermit_sztoric

                               Bob Sztoric...caught off Upper Harbor Key

permit._large

                     We caught this one on the light bottom off Big Torch Key

 

permit_muds_4permit_muds

permit_muds2

                                    Permit fishing at Mud Keys...1989.

 permit_rb_6

permit_kelly_KW

                Caught at Last Chance Flat near Cottrell Key, 1987.perrmit_alde

 

                                          Alde Feskanin...caught out in front of Marathon.

 

 

 

 

permit_nunez_ponzoa

                                           Jose Nunez Jr., Capt. Albert Ponzoa

 

 

 

PermitTommy_3permitTommy_2

                                                Fly caught permit...21 lbs...early 1990s.

 

permit_keith_4

  

  

 permit_rb_4

          I'm sure I caught this one but I don't remember how big, how many, what, where or when!

Jays_permit_001

                          Jay Weinberg from Philly...one of the good guys!

permit_release_rb

                                 The last permit I released in the Keys...May, 2012

 

 

                                 Del Brown, 1918-2003

   I was living in Marathon and just starting my guide career when the word spread around town...Del Brown had just caught the largest permit ever on a fly rod. Down at Hall's Bait & Tackle the Keynoter newspaper photographer was on the scene...

 

Del_Brown_record_permit_86

   It was a remarkable catch on a fly rod, but it was no accident. Del Brown went on to catch hundreds more and left this earth with 513 total. Steve Huff told me he was sure this one was a record fish and they fought it for a long time, ending up out in the deep water. They finally got it close and Steve was ready to hit it with the kill gaff when a tarpon rolled right next to the permit and spooked it. Luckily, it stayed hooked and the rest is history.

permit_del_brown_record

 

permit_DelBrown500

     I was lucky to know Del and he was quite a guy...always enthusiastic and ready to talk permit fishing. Of all the fishing records people keep, I'm betting no one will top 513 permit on a fly rod!  RIP.

Del_Brown_and_RB_2

 

 

 

                                             

                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       THE GRAY GHOSTbonefish_black__white_edit

 

Bob_Hewes_rb

Me and Bob Hewes. He invented the flats skiff and probably advanced flats fishing more than anyone. His Hewes Bonefisher became world famous.

He lived right down the street from the Wooden Bridge Fishing Camp on Big Pine. I chatted with him often. He knew boats! He liked my boat!

keys_Hewes_ad_from_1980s

 Old brochure for the "New Hewes Bonefisher II"...that's "The One Eyed Indian", Capt. Bill Curtis from Miami on the pole. He pretty much invented chumming for bonefish in Biscayne Bay.

 

bonefish_McCaskill

Bonefish_on_the_flybonefish_rb_ramrod

bonefish_RB_6

Long Key was one of my favorite bonefish spots...both outside on the beach and inside in the Bight...I caught my first tailing bonefish on fly wade fishing Long Key Beach...the two or three best days I ever had bonefishing were at Long Key...seven for ten on Feb.26, 1989 and eight for ten on March 17, 1996.  At times when the tide was right, Long Key Bight would get rammed with fish, schools and pods, mudders, swimmers and tailers. It truly was a great spot.       That's an old SA System Two reel and a Sage 890 RPL rod.bonefish_trophy_1

                                                             bonefish_jerry_brownbonefish_keith_1

 bonefish_bartz

       Mary Bartz...a fine lady and angler...Mary held many women's saltwater IGFA and IWFA records on 2lb. and 4lb. test line. I loved trying to tie those Bimini Twists with 2lb. for her when the wind was blowing 20K...cat's in the cradle! 

    We caught this one in Largo Sound. I believe it was 4 pound test. She always paid her guide fee in $100 bills! This was sometime in the late 1980s while Mary and her husband Ted were both working at Hall's Bait & Tackle in Marathon.keys_halls

 The old Hall's Bait & Tackle Shop in Marathon, Florida Keys...long since out of business, it was THE place to buy bait, tackle and flies in the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

    My Hewes Redfisher,  "Strait Shooter"...brand new in 1995 at my place in Grassy Key...it didn't stay new very long!keys_hewes_redfisher

bonefish_rubber_worm

 

 

     Here's a weird one...a bonefish on a rubber worm...this was at Little Pine Key throwing at baby tarpon...and I caught another one with a purple worm around Marathon casting for barracudas. Who knew?

 

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                   Casting to a tailing bonefish and then catching it!  Nine Mile Bank.

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                                                   Nine Mile Bank

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                bonefish_mindy_2               after catching this big fish Mindy decided to take a dip...

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                                  Some days I love my job...this was one of them.

 

 

 

 

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                                             Caught at Long Key Beach...1990s.

 

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    In the 1980s and 1990s, there were two places in the Keys you could hope to find Bahamas

type bonefish numbers...Key Largo and Nine Mile Bank.

   Up at Largo, fishing the coastline from Elliott Key down to the Airport Flat, hundreds of bonefish could be found on the right tide and right weather, with schools of over 100 fish quite common. They would swim down the coast and then back up...in waves...black bullets pushing a wake that could be seen hundreds of yards away. Bonanzas could be had with catches of over a dozen bonefish in a day a real possibility.bonefish_double_header

    Nine Mile Bank, especially in the 1980s before the algae blooms killed acres of seagrass in the Bay, also hosted big schools of bonefish with not only numbers but size to go with it. Bonefish over 10 pounds were quite common back there, and large mudding schools of 30, 40 fish or more were on the prowl.  One could also expect to land a real trophy size fish of 10, 12, 14 pounds or larger.

   The Keys still holds bonefish of large size today, but sadly the numbers are down. I feel lucky to have bonefished during the heyday, when both size and numbers were available for both the angler and guide.

 

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      This fish was caught at the Jo Jo's flat, oceanside Grassy Key in the late 1980s. In those days, if you knew the tides, catching tailers at Jo Jo's at sundown and past sunset was almost a sure thing. I spent a lot of time there fishing myself and with clients...both wading and poling my skiff. It was quite common to see 50, 60 bonefish tailing at sundown on this flat, and many of them were whoppers!

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                                Wading the Jo Jo's flat for bonefish.

 

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      My bonefish flys...I mainly used two patterns...a standard Gotcha with Kraft Fur and chrome eyes for deep water swimmers and mudders...and the yellow fly with bead chain eyes for tailers and shallow water fish...size 4 and 6.

 

 

 

            Bonefish tally from my time in the Keys:

      872 hooked, 567 landed. My best bonefish year was 1989...the numbers slowly declined from then until now. In recent years, redfish have moved into bonefish spots. The High School Flat, a well-known bonefish spot out in front of Marathon, has now become a redfish flat and redfish have moved into several other flats in the Lower Keys where you never used to see them. Not sure if this is a water quality or water temperature issue.

 

 

            Tom Rosenthal fighting a redfish near Sandy Key, Everglades Nat'l. Pk.rosy_redfish_1

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             George "Bugsy" Wojtusiak and Stan Zawacki near Sandy Key

 

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 Dave from the Madison River Fishing Co. with a backcountry double: redfish and black drum on the fly...guided by Capt. Randy Brown

 

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                                     THE GRAND SLAM

 

   There are Grand Slams of many types...North American Sheep...baseball has a Grand Slam home run...contract bridge has a Grand Slam...there is a billfish Grand Slam...tennis has a Grand Slam...golf has a Grand Slam. But on the flats, the Grand Slam means catching a bonefish, tarpon and permit by the same angler in one day. I have had a few...

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Keith Aragi from Brookfield Ct. had four Flats Grand Slams while fishing with me through the years. The last one could have easily been a Double Slam. We caught two bonefish and two tarpon during the day in the backsountry, then headed for the ocean flat at Sunshine Key late in the day to catch the falling tide. Poling down sun to the East, I looked across the white sand and had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Across the white bottom here comes a big stingray with not one, not two, but THREE nice permit following the ray. Keith makes a good cast and we hook up one of the fish, landing it in good time to complete the slam. Now here comes another permit and we hook up again for the Double Slam and the fish breaks off right next to the boat as I am reaching with the net. Quite the amazing feat for the fine angler!

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Jack Siragusa...Flats Grand Slam...Nov. 29, 2008...permit at Spanish Banks...bonefish and tarpon at Cutoe Key...photos and casting advice courtesy of Nick Stanczyk. Fear the "U"!

        

           The Smitty and Alex Grand Slamkeys_smitty__alex

This is a special award...two guys party hardy in Key West the night before and go after the Grand Slam which they might have gotten if Smitty hadn't fallen out of the boat and Alex hadn't died laughing so hard he could barely cast. Bonefish, tarpon and a permit in their dreams. Had a lot of fun with these guys!

 

 

 

                        AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON...

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    I kept log books...lots of them...over 30 years worth...I would write down the days highlights (and lowlights)...note the tides and the flats where I found fish. I would transfer the daily notes into a big, thick, ugly-ass three ring binder. I would make zerox copies of charts and put them in the binder. I would copy the NOAA tide charts and mark where I should go for a particular day....then the morning of the trip I would write down the tides and list the four or five stops I planned to make on the back of an old business card and keep it in my pocket. This card would be my bible for the day...I would check it constantly for the tides and where I should be headed. This kept me focused and kept me from wandering or prospecting. I learned to NEVER go prospecting with paying clients in the boat...it's poison. I never headed out without a plan for the day.

   The tides were always my number one key to the day...TIDES NEVER LIE (well, almost never).

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     The monthly NOAA tide charts and my notes...upper left is the card I carried on every trip with the tides for the day and my scheduled stops...I always had a plan...it  didn't always work but at least I had it!keys_chart_1                 I would zerox sections of charts so I could mark the spots I found fish.

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    keys_rb_millers                     Millers Bait and Tackle in Marathon where I worked in the early 80s.

 

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   Capt. Harry Snow Jr. at his dock at Sugarloaf. He probably knew more about bonefish in the Lower Keys than any man who ever lived. He told me he started bonefishing with his father in the 1940s using a casting reel with linen line, a pyramid sinker and a hunk of hermit crab for bait. He said he played softball as a kid in the middle of the Overseas Hwy. in Marathon. They would have to stop about once an hour to let a car go by. One day in March of 1989 I bumped into Harry at the end of the day and asked how he did:

  "It was good today...we caught thirteen".

  He never used crab for permit, just shrimp...if he couldn't get shrimp he would use a pink Millie jig tipped with half of an orange plastic worm. He caught plenty of permit that way.

   He always used wire for his tarpon fly "tippets".

   Once he told me how to find one of his secret bonefish chum spots:

   "Just pole over there to the mangrove point and look for the coke bottles." He had them piled there from 40 years of fishing that spot.

   I learned so much from that man. I will never forget him.

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   If you grew up in Ohio like I did, you knew all about John "Hondo" Havlicek...star player for Ohio State and the Bostic Celtics, number 17..."Havlicek stole the ball!!!"  We spent a great day on the water...he had many stories about Bobby Knight most of which I can't repeat! John was a great guy and fun to fish with and he was nice enough to sign this for me!

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   In the 1980s it was fairly common to find mutton snappers on the flats...either tailing, following sting rays or nurse sharks. The flats to the West of Key West were prime and the Marquesas was the best. We caught this one off E. Content Key.

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     This  Great White Shark weighed 1100 pounds. It was caught by Capt. Bob Taute off the Islamorada Humps on a whole amberjack. They put the huge fish in the back of a refrigerated truck and paraded it around Marathon, stopping at the bait shops and drawing a crowd. It was the third Great White caught in the Keys while I was living there.

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 I ran up on these beached sperm whales off Snipe Pt. in the Lower Keys backcountry, Spring of 1988. No one really knows why whales and dolphins do mass beachings, although there are many theories. These were large whales, around 50' in length.keys_jewfish

   This jewfish weighed 319 pounds. I took this photo at Bonefish Harbor Marina on Grassy Key in the early 1990s when it was legal to keep jewfish. It was caught on 

 half of a large barracuda in Florida Bay.

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   Me and Capt. Nat Ragland, "The Senator", one of the top guides in the Keys. Nat got his start working on the "Flipper" TV show in Miami...I never could quite figure out exactly what he did with Flipper, but anyway...not only was Nat a talented flats guide he was a wizard at rigging a flats boat...a master electrician, he could wire anything and was an artist with the Dremel Tool. He invented the Puff permit fly and had so many stories about Billy Pate, Homosassa and the wild parties at Sugarloaf Lodge...he was one funny, talented dude. One time we ran a trip together and pulled into Little Palm Island for lunch with large party of anglers. That's about all I can remember!

   Nat was the greatest!

 

 

 

 

 

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                                          On point in my Hewes...waiting for tarpon

 

 

                                   ADIOS 

   In January of 2013, I sold the boat, sold the house, loaded up the U-Haul, left the Keys, and moved back to Montana full time. Now it's all rainbows and brown trout...dry flys and streamers.  

   So many stories, flashbacks, glints and glimmers of sunlit flats and shadows...then light. A tail, a swirl, a boil, a bite...what a great time I had.

 

 

    KEEP IT SIMPLE...CHART YOUR COURSE...WALK THE EARTH 

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