Friday, May 24, 2013

"It's Just a #$%@ing Jack"

Almost exactly three years ago I was standing at a wedding cocktail reception in the middle of a field in Saddlestring, Wyoming.  Despite the locale and the reason for celebration, my head was thousand miles away as I chatted permit with one of the most accomplished anglers you're likely to come across in the U.S., if not the world.   

The first permit this fisherman ever landed had come in Mexico.  He booked his flight without a return ticket and rented a shack on the beach, claiming to anyone that would listen that he wouldn't leave until he landed his first one.  He meant it.  Weeks had gone by and all he had to show for it were cracked and calloused hands, awful tan lines, and higher blood pressure.   Around that point, he came across another fisherman who gave him a few pointers, and put his mission into context. A few days later he came across the same angler, who showed him a few pictures of monster permit he'd caught since their first meeting.  The background was familiar though - it was right in front of the shack he had rented.  His eyes returned to Wyoming - he stared at me and said, "remember, it's just a fucking jack."  

Fast forward to March 2012, and I'm standing on the bow of a panga on my last day of a "tarpon trip." Instead of rolling 'poon in front of the boat, a black sickle-shaped fin snakes through the water.  I cast a few feet in front, wait for the crab to sink to the bottom of the foot-and-a-half deep flat, and began a slow continuous strip.  The fin changes direction ninety degrees and the fish is hot on my fly.  I speed up my strips - faster - still continuous.  

Forty feet later he's still on it, but I'm running out of line.  The permit is still noncommittal, but still hot on the chase.  I feel the perfection loop pop in through my tip-top - and then it happens.  The permit surges forward, opens it's mouth, flares it's gills, and my crab is gone in an instant.  The fish tears off to the right, ripping fly line as it goes.  I swing the rod over to my left, and apply pressure.  Ten seconds later the line separates with a sickening pop.  I check the rod to see where it broke, and it dawns on me that I busted the fish off.  Who the fuck does that with a permit.  The disbelief and disappointment was gut-wrenching, and it stayed with me for fourteen months.

Fast forward to today - adjacent flat, same fly, and the same damn rod.  Sickle-shaped fin knifing from right to left - sixty feet, fish is at two o'clock.  Lone permit cruising past at a pretty good clip.  The only words I can think of are "remember, it's just a fucking jack."

Two false casts, led him by about eight  feet, he stays on course - lucky, stripped the crab right past his face as he finned by.  Fish makes a ninety degree turn. He's on it.  Tips up - tail breaks the surface.  Steady strip set, and he's on.  Ten minutes later and I wrap my hand around the bony wrist of his tail.  

Twenty minutes later - long but slender shape is moving across the flat.  First cast, too close, and the fish rockets away spooked.  But wait - fifty feet behind is another one.   Another cast, and he's on it right away.

Pressure is on now with two-thirds of the Grand Slam complete.  First flat, first cast and my black and purple toad is inhaled, but the fish spits the bug and spooks faster than you could blink an eye.  Shit. That was my shot.

Next stop - a secret pothole nestled into the mangroves.  The guide polling barks - "fifty feet, twelve o-clock," but I don't see a damn thing.  Regardless, I cast what seems to be about fifty feet, and strip twice before my fly is inhaled in a violent boil.  I hammer the hook home with a strong strip, and bow as the tarpon erupts out of the water.   The fight is painstakingly long, and my heart jumps each time the tarpon does.  Finally leadered, finally lipped. 

The overlooked tarpon fishery has even more to offer, and for that, I am extremely thankful. First pumps, man hugs, and the air is electric.  This slam was a team effort.  

It's almost midnight and I'm still riding the adrenaline high, ears tuned in for a direction and a distance.  Outstanding guiding, willing fish, and a couple of lucky casts and I'm in fly fishing heaven.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dudewater Swag Is IN!

Here's the skinny: The swag is IN! In order to ensure that we're delivering the highest quality product to our reader, they've been in field testing for the last week or so...

The review on the koozies: They keep cold beers cold. An essential summer fishing accessory. 

The review on the lid: They've proven capable of generating some serious multi-species mojo. They also look HOT on the ladies...

So how do you get your mits on the sweetest headgear to hit the rivers since Lefty's neck flap? It's easy. mail a personal check for $25 to

Jim Lampros
5267 Spencer Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124

That $25 will get you a Dudewater hat, a Dudewater koozie, and FREE shipping. Include a note with your return shipping address, and specify your color of choice for both items (green or orange). Questions? Email me by clicking on my blogger profile.

To sweeten the deal, we're going to be holding a photo contest throughout the summer season. Details to follow, but your DW lid will be a prerequisite to entry, so pick one up today and start stockpiling those hero shots!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Love The One You're With

The long-awaited angler's reprieve that is the month of May is already sliding away at an alarming rate, and it seems like I haven't slept in weeks. Fishing on the road, fishing at home, fishing before work, fishing after work, fishing for work. What can I say? It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

I'll try to bring you up to speed but spare you some of the blow by blow. This is the time of the year when the ardent angler can suffer from a near-crippling case off ADD. As just about every citizen of the animal kingdom embarks on their annual courtship, the number of options can be downright overwhelming. Pike? Bass? Trout? Steelhead? Carp? Turkey? It's a win-win proposition if you ask me.

Last weekend I had the privilege of hosting friend and colleague @waderguy, chief architect of Orvis waders, boots, angler packs (and more) and certified carp maniac. He shared my indecisiveness when it came time to choose a target quarry, so we opted to pursue as many of them as possible between sun-up and sun-down. A final weigh-in I think we'd tallied 7 species to hand on the fly, including an Oncorhynchus specimen that put on one of the best aerial displays of the season.

As the day wore on though our mutual affinity for rough fish got the better of us, so we broke out the cruisers and cast to tailers until we could no longer see them. 

On Monday night Alex and I loaded up the truck and headed East in search of a trout fix. We arrived at our destination with just enough daylight in reserve to string up the toy rods and cast to some unsuspecting native trout.

We rose early the next day to the smell of dew on the pines and the gurgle of an Appalachian blue line, steeped in anticipation. After a scenic commute we met our host, Brian Minich of Whitetail Country Sports World and hunt-fish-guide, and set out to explore two of the Keystone State's better kept "secrets." Brian was a great host and our sample, per usual, was substantive enough to have us concocting a return trip. 20-inch browns and blanket caddis hatches will do that to a fella'.

Off the water with time to spare and in possession of a stellar lake run smallmouth report, we hustled back across the border to use what little daylight remained casting to chunky bronzebacks. 

One of those casts was intercepted by a spunky late-run steelhead, thereby producing this week's waderfunk moment. Let's just say that, ahem, no names please, was ill-prepared for such an altercation.

We were home for roughly 16 hours before the carp bug struck again. This one smoked a streamer with uncharacteristic vigor and flashed some dorsal for the hero shot. Sign me up for a summer full of that!

Finally, a few last minute plugs: I just locked in dates for a fall trip to the Northwoods in search of muskellunge on the fly! I'll be working with Kip Vieth of Wildwood Float Trips, and I'm recruiting five hardcore anglers interested in tangoing with the most badass fish that swims in freshwater. This is your BEST bet for taking a muskie on the fly and having a damn good time in the process. The trip includes 4 nights lodging, 3 days of guided fishing form a drift boat, and ALL meals. All you have to do is get to Minneapolis, and I'll take care of the rest. Fishing October 8, 9 and 10. If you're interested in throwing big flies for big fish and squashing a few cold ones with yours truly this fall, shoot me an email ASAP!

I'm also cooking up a similar arrangement with our friends at West Branch Angler on the Upper Delaware. Big, wild trout on dry flies, good company and good stories. Did I mention cold beers with your truly? July 7th through the 10th, tentatively. Again, let me know ASAP if you're interested!