Changing Tides

Tensaw DeltaThe day I drove out of Mobile in 2010 I would have told you that I was never coming back.

I was wrong, nothing new there. Now April and I are raising our family here and Thomas is at a nice school a mile down the road from our house and Lily will go there too in a couple of years.

We’re house hunting and my canoes have been replaced by bay boats and skiffs. Crazy how life changes. I was driving back from a grocery run to Rouses and I was struck by just what all has changed. How I have changed, how my circle of friends has changed.

Even the way I tie flies has changed.

There are some constants in life, April is still the love of my life, redfish are best when you can sight fish them, bass love streamers and there is no better way to spend an evening than with a six weight and dock lights.

So here is to changing waters, changing times and the great constants.

A Review of the Hardy UltraLite DD Large Arbor Reel

403.Hardy.Ultralite.Disc.Drag.Reels.P1000827_000It isn’t very often that we have a reel this good looking at the price that it is offered at. With a price tag of only about $225 such a smooth well appointed reel is hard to come by. It has the hallmark Hardy stamp and the oversized arbor of the reel allows the owner to take in dramatic amounts of line with each turn of the handle.

The reel’s sound calls back to bygone days of the stellar quality that made Hardy a world wide bench mark. It is amazingly light and easy to take apart for timely maintence. If you are the sort of person that feels that upkeep of a piece of equiptment is one of the joys of ownership this is a fine reel for you.

There are however points where I felt that this reel fell short for the environs found in the beautiful bay area. The bearings are not sealed. This would not at all be a reel for the hero pose where your salt water fish is under the water and you are still holding your casting set up. Having looked at the reel I don’t feel that this reel would be unable to offer years of dependable service if basic preventative maintence is employed.

No immersion, always rinse the reel, and above and beyond all else keep your reel oiled and well greased. These may seem like very basic ideas but after having taken apart many many reels, I know it is easy to forget to do these small things when you’re cleaning fish is over and family beckons. The rods are put into the garage and the next weekend the reel isn’t as smooth. I’m guessing you see the train of events, it can be a slippery slope.

But with basic and routine maintence this reel will years of handsome service. If you are a strict fresh water person, then this is a most excellent price point offering from Hardy.

Check out the reel online at:

And if you want to check this out in person stop on by the Fairhope Fly Shop and tell Spencer I sent you.

The Big FLIP

I never liked math in high school or college but I find that I really like fish-matic. If you’re scratching your head at this point wondering what I’m talking about thats just fine.

As a kid, we had a friend drop off a ton of old In-Fisherman videos. Al Linder was my hero. The big thing I learned was their FLP formula. This stood for Fish, Location and Presentation. This works really well in most any kind of conventional fishing. First you understand the species of fish that you are after, then the location he resides in and then from that you choose the correct presentation to try to take the fish on.

The change for me was to instead of choosing a presentation that would be either vertical or horizontal (Jig or Spinner), but to choose a particular prey item to emulate. I changed it instead to the FLIP.

The FLIP is the Fish, Location and Item of Prey. I look at it this way; first I want to understand the hunting methods of the fish we’re going after. Rather I’m fishing for redfish or bass or trout or tarpon, all of these fish follow a basic pattern of behavior that is unique to that species of fish.

Once I understand how this fish behaves and hunts I can move to the location I’ll be fishing. This will help me to understand where the fish will locate in occordance with structure, current and so on. Things like weather conditions and water clarity play into understanding my location.

The more I learn about the location I’m fishing the more I learn about the Items of Prey that the fish are feeding on. Rather I’m dealing with a marsh with white shrimp or a stream with a spinner fall, these events are uique to the water I’m fishing and fish react to these events.

All of this forms a pattern that I can follow and with this I learn more and more with each trip that I can build on. It isn’t a simple A+B=C like I had hoped it was as a kid. Instead I am leanring that it is a puzzle. These peices become easier and easier to put together with each trip. It helps me to avoid magic flys and “sure fire” tactics and use good on the water observation to make an educated decision.

Now this is a simplieifed version of all this and so many things come into play that can change how these peices go together.

No matter how long I’ve been fishing, some times I have to make a FLIP.


Review of TFO’s Mangrove Rod

There is a lot to like about the new Mangrove rod series. It has a deeper rod bend than many of the rods offered now and what that translates to is faster delivery of the fly. Many of the rods today are very fast and more often than not most people can’t get the most out of their rods. For fishing here in Mobile there are seldom any times where you will have to cast over 60ft.

That being said this rod does not lack the ability to deliver the fly to over the 100 foot mark. I found it very easy to cast all of the line off of the reel and cast into the backing but what I found most impressive was the rod’s up close work.

For fishing bass on BCL or red in the marsh, accuracy is king. In BCL I am casting to pockets of water in a sea of grass and in the marsh success when fishing reds is completely dependent of accuracy. I was able to easily load the rod and deliver my fly to targets that were close to me. I was able to do this weighted flies as well as air resistant bugs.

The reason for this is the rod is more forgiving. This allows the caster to slow down his stroke and allow the rod to do the work of delivering the fly. All that was needed was to be able to bend the rod and let it recover.

With the casting being a checked the next thing I looked at was the fit and finish of the rod. I very much liked the way that the hook keeper was made into the rod handle. The big reason I liked this feture wat that it makes storing flys safer while in transit, around kids and dogs and it reduces the number of factors to go wrong in a cast or for something to break.

I also found out that the rod had TiCr coating. I have owned the TiCr in a six weight and I can vouch for that coating making a big difference in the toughness. I abused that rod. But on the day I sold it, it looked great and I know that it was as solid as the day I bought it.

Check out the TFO Mangrove for yourself at your local fly shop. If you’re in the bay area check out the Church Mouse, they are the only ones that carry it and Spencer is fun to shop with.

Tying with Friends

Nothing ever seems to work out as we plan and true to form, on the day I’m supposed to tie with Hank Earnest and Tom Dempsey, nothing works. It was the day of April and I’s Anniversary and originally we had planned on my son staying with me while April and her mother went Easter shopping. Well Her Mother’s car’s starter goes out, so they decide that instead they would just wait for a different day to do the shopping while a local shade tree mechanic gets the car back running.

So at this point April and I decide that we would instead run April’s mother to Wal-Mart and let Thomas stay with his grandmother for the night. We figured that this way we could take turns with Lily and get to both tie some flies and after all of that was done we could enjoy a quite night together and enjoy our anniversary.

After we get done taking her mother to Wal-Mart and are dropping her and Thomas off. I get a call. Hank is at the house and we are not there. We had expected Hank at around 3:30-4:00pm. It was now 3:15. Well needless to say we put the Olds in the road.

We pull up and Hank hops out of his truck and April grabs Lily and tells me to stall! I knew what she meant, it was time for the flight of the bumble bee. So I walked over and met Hank. I started out by apologizing for being late or early, either way for his waiting.

We pull out his portable fly tying station and his box of tricks. I told him that I was very impressed, and guys this thing was sweet. He told he made it himself from a picture. He did great! Next he pulls out a tool box filled with fly tying materials, I gotta say I was jealous now. That thing was packed full of more goodies than I had in all of my tying materials at the house. I could only wonder what he had at his home!

We waited outside while April finished working on the house and while we waited Tom Dempsey calls and lets me know he’s on the way. Tom is a casting instructor, surgeon and state record holder. That being said, he’s an all around great guy and a lot of fun to hang out with. He’s a character to say the least and he has a great story for fishing for nearly everything that swims.

The day before Tom and I had done some casting to get ready for my CCI test. He picked apart my casting and made me realize what all I needed to do to get into fighting form as it were. I was grateful to get the road map that Tom provided. I know I have a road ahead of me but with teachers like Tom, I know that I have as much a shot at this as anyone else.

As we walk in, it was apparent that April is not only a great mother but also a miracle worker. No one would ever know our home was anything but perfect. So Hank and I carried his gear to the kitchen table and set up shop. We started with a Pompano fly and after we got our hooks in the vise, Tom walked in.

He sat down and pulled out his fly box. While Hank and I tied, Hank started us out on our fish stories. He did this with a bang by explaining how he had come up with the Pompano fly we would be tying. He patiently explained to me how he made his fly and why he made it the way he did.

I think fly tying with others is one of the most personal things we do in our sport. Each fly has a story and very often the way we make our flies was designed after a moment we had on the water. With each fly we tied and fly pulled out of the boxes another adventure was recounted.

Without doubt it was a great afternoon with some very cool guys and I know I learned a ton about fishing in our area and for different species in laces I can now only hope to visit. From stories of brown trout and pike to steelhead and bonefish. I learned about using new materials and was introduced to new hook styles.

There are more chairs at the table, so don’t let the next hang-out pass you by. The company is too cool not to enjoy.

Hank Earnest is the former Leader of HOSS Fly (Historic Ocean Springs Fly Fishing Club). Hank is an Alabama native and Auburn Graduate who’s life eventually led him to Arizona and Montana. All of this travel has only manged to help him feed his addiction. You can meet him and  other great guys at HOSS Fly meetings.



Tom is a Certified Casting Instructor with the Federation of Fly-Fishers and an orthopedic surgeon. He has been an avid fly-fisher for the past 15 years ever since he was introduced to the sport in Alaska.

He has partnered with two other casting instructors to for the Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School.

Eye on the Prize

We gotta keep it real! Understand that not every saltwater pattern needs eyes to be successful! But my people, in truth, who cares? They look so cool! Knowing this and keeping them in our hearts we decided to step up our game. We needed a better set of eyes. We became, in essence, the lens crafters of crab and shrimp eyes.

What we realized was that the eyes of crab and shrimp are not just one color but instead a myriad of colors. So the next time you have a redfish, permit or bonefish staring your fly down, make sure that they’re staring him right back!

Because when you are a redfish and you finally lock eyes with the crab of your dreams, you want to know that you have it’s attention. And how can you manage to do that without catching their eye, or eyes?

You can’t so please, don’t rob your neighborhood redfish of the joy of seeing the fear in eyes of your fly when you strip it by his nose and when he comes charging out after it like a giant berserked madfish!

In other fishy news, we have introduced a few new patterns to our ebay store. Things like the Palmer’s Minnow, the pattern that shall not be named, the general principle caddis, and of course our redfish toad.

So all in all we feel like we have had a pretty productive week and it’s only Tuesday! So with all of this done already, there is no telling what we can accomplish! Maybe April and I can even manage to enjoy a day as adults. Ok so probably not but we can dream…

Understanding Your Fly-Rod

There are a lot of buzz words going around like high modulus, carbon matrix, boron, and so on. But what is is that makes a good fly-rod? More than anything else, its having the right tool for the job.

The biggest thing I see is people buying rods that are too fast for the job at hand or for their own casting skill. Now we all need to take the time to honestly evaluate our casting style and ability, Let me be honest with you guys, I will likely never get the performance out of a Scott S4S to validate buying the rod. And honestly I don’t think that I would enjoy casting it.

More often than not when we end up buying a rod that’s too fast for us we end up over-lining it to make up for our lack of feel or the lack of distance that we can achieve with the rod. I mean how often are we casting 60 feet to a fish? Not too often and at that distance setting the hook can be very hard.

But by that same token if I need to take a crazy charlie into the wind at a bone fish 70 ft. away, a full flex trout rod won’t cut it. Add a stiff wind and that deal is min finito.

I think the first thing is to understand is what the weights of fly rods are really made for. Weights 1-6 are for presentation. This would be for taking light flys and presenting them to spooky fish. If you are insane and are fishing spooky fish in the flats you might fish a 6 wt.. If you are working drys in a spring creek you are likely to go for a 4wt. with a long tippet.

Weights 8-10 are made for transportation.These are the rods that you pick up when you want to deliver that fly a good distance. These are commonly used for bass or inshore fishing. The idea is that you have rod that can handle a fly line that is casting a large and air resistant fly like a bass bug or tarpon toad.

After a 10 weight, all the other rods are made as a crane. They aren’t much as far as casters, but they are great for fighting fish like tuna or sail fish.

Now the 7 wt. is sort of a niche rod. To me it is the river bass rod and to other people it is a streamer rod for trout. It is one of those rods that refuses to be holed up as one sort or the other. I think they are very fun to fish with.

So when you are looking at the action of a rod you can basically divide them into 4 categories, full flex, mid flex. tip flex and does it flex. Or slow, moderate, fast and super fast. Each one has a place with the full flex and super fast being limited in their most effective range of use.

Full flex rods are a most often used as creek rod for brookies or bream. These rods are made form materials like bamboo or fiber glass and are done in weights 0-5 most of the time. They are very rarely used in casting situations over say 20-40 feet.

And what makes these rods so good for this application is the tip bounce. In other words when you lay out a fly line the rod acts like a shock absorber. What this does is to keep you line from crashing onto the water and spooking fish. All you need to do is add a double taper fly line and for many people you have the perfect traditional trout rod.

The moderate fly rod are for most people the perfect rod. It has the butt section to load the rod deeply and deliver a weighted fly with a faster action. What this translates to is a rod that loads fairly deep and recovers quickly. If you are getting into fly casting, this is likely the one you might want to go with first.

Now depending on your personality and casting ability you might enjoy a fast action rod. I think though that a lot of people get into these rods by mistake. Most folks don’t need it and can’t honestly use the rod well. The dead give away for these folks is when they over line the rod. By doing this they slow down the rod so that they can handle it and have basically made it into a moderate action.

But if you put in the time and actually do that unknown thing, I understand that it is called casting practice, you can take your casting to a new level. That is really what that action of rod is made for, and to get that out of you have to put in the time. Yes you can cast farther, yes the rod is often lighter but it will also show the whole world any flaws in your casting. The same is true of super fast rods but to the nth degree.

So when you’re buying a new rod, stop and take the time to determine the style of fishing that you’ll be doing, the size fly, the distance you are planning on casting and finally the action of rod that you enjoy casting the most. Once you do this then you can really begin to enjoy a great fly-rod.


Forum Ettiquiette

It’s a crazy idea that seems to losing momentum. I realize that very often we use handles, or screen names. Sometimes we do it to hide who we are or to show a part of ourselves. There are a multitude of reasons.

But to be honest what makes me upset about some forums is that very often people use these forums as a way to act poorly. I mean that’s cool. Never mind, it isn’t. It honestly shows that you are either a jerk or a coward. Either or. The decorum of a forum should be that of a public meeting.

Forums like Itinerant Angler that demand that you use your name as your handle have the right idea. Man up, if you wouldn’t say something to someones face, don’t say it.

Rant over, I enjoy being a part of the forums that I’m a member of. The best part of a forum is the exchange of ideas. The telling of stories, and showing new markets for goods and services. Keep it real and stay lost.

The Holidays

Nothing comes close to seeing how excited children are on Christmas morning. That really is the gift that we as parents receive. Nothing we can give each other comes close.

Along that line of thought is really what brings me to my point. We as a state gave a gift to our children and our grandchildren. We did this with the power of a vote. Alabama Forever Wild is a testament to the legacy of our state. But day in day out there are organizations through out the state that work each day to make sure that our state has the resources it needs to move forward with clean water and supporting our estuaries.

If you have a tap, you owe them your thanks and support. If you are in Birmingham, one of the main groups fighting for you is the Black Warrior River Keepers and you can see all there is for them here:

Another group you should know about is the Cahaba River Society, I have been lucky enough to get work with them in past years and I can say that it has been a privilege. There are few rivers like the Cahaba in the world and none like it in the state. I have had the joy of being a part of that river. for most of my life. I am happy knowing that these are the people that are taking a stand and protecting the head waters of a river that is a resource for all the state and a play ground for the people of Birmingham. Check them out at

The best ways to keep all of this handy is to on facebook and both of these groups have facebook pages. So there is no reason not to keep in touch with these groups.

If you are in the Mobile region them you might need to get with the people of the Mobile Bay Keepers or the Dog River Clear Water Revival. Really no matter where you are there is group in our state that is taking steps to make what we have better.

For a great list of the groups we have in our state check out:

And if there isn’t one in your area then it’s up to you to be the change you want to see in the world. It is up to all of us to be proactive.

So while we’re all letting our gear collect dust this winter, you might want to get to know your local rivers more, maybe from the people that keep what we have safe and clean.

See ya on the water

Getting Winterized

Well the fall temps have everything dropping. Fish are settling in deeper water and as a result you may be questioning your love of top water flies for river bass. The truth is, you may only need to go bigger and slower.
I realize that when most guys in the South are fishing river bass they don’t have dead drifts in mind. But this can be the secrete for success. If you are fishing soap stone walls then areas where the river has an eddie in the sun may have fish up shallow just waiting for some poor critter to float by.

But if that doesn’t work another good way to go is with streamers worked as slow as possible. And go big or go home.

But the biggest trick is that this is the time when aquatic insects like stone fly nymphs hellgramites are moving now more than the rest of the year. The reason for this is quite simple really, colder water has more oxygen.

Bass respond to this as they take the place of crawfish int the fishs’ diet during the winter. The next fly we go with will be a simple but extremely affective imitation of these tiny creatures to temp our local vicious fishes.

See ya on the water,

April and Peter


No Directions Needed