Robby Taggart shows off what we consider a monster trout caught on, get this, a 4 weight fly rod! Robby says it took 30 minutes to land this big guy. Shows that when patience meets talent the impossible becomes the possible.
Not too long ago I met a “true” fisherman. Someone I quickly grew to admire and respect.
I get up early in the morning. I like the quiet and seeing the sun rise as birds and ground animals begin their day. I usually make a pot of coffee, check my email, and get the paper in from the mail box. I’m alone. Dixie and our 5 golden retrievers are still asleep. Quiet, peaceful, unrushed. Enjoyable.
I stepped onto the porch one morning only to see a tall fellow wading in the bay not far from the edge of the water. It was in front of the house we were renting on St. George Island, Florida. It was October and the weather was perfect. For the last 3 weeks the bay had been our singular domain save the neighbors who occasionally would offer a wave from their dock which paralleled ours. Now, for the first time, we saw someone else trying to catch “our” fish. “Probably a fly fisherman with visions of Belize dealing with the realities of the Florida panhandle”, I thought.
I sat on the porch watching this fellow off and on as I perused the local newspaper and the Wall Street Journal. By my second cup of coffee Dixie had joined me. She too saw this fellow in the bay and remarked that was a “first” and wondered aloud what he was fishing for and why. Speculation continued as we ate a breakfast and finished the last of the coffee.
Each morning we decide what tackle we will be using (testing) that day and whether we will fish surf, dock, or from our boat. Today there was a fair morning breeze that we knew would come up as the day progressed. The weather service suggested a period of unsettled weather was expected by mid afternoon, so the boat was not a good option. Surf or dock?
The tide was running soon and it would be easier to set up on the dock. It would give us at least 2 hours of “prime tide” fishing as well as provide convenient access to the kitchen and “facilities” should we need them. Although the fishing was better on the eastern tip of the island, getting there involved at least an hour on both paved and coral road, often at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour or less. If we elected surf we would lose at least half of the prime fishing tide by the time we set up. Dock was the choice.
I gathered up all of the gear and headed toward the walkway that preceded the dock gangway. Our rental house dock is about 500 ft long and ended in some prime fishing territory in the bay. Schools of reds, speckled trout, mullet, porpoise, and even some wandering sharks are usually seen multiple times in one tide. The trick was having the right setup for whatever species appeared at that time. So far we had been about one click off matching our gear to the fish du jour. When reds appeared we would be set up for specks. If specks came by we had red tackle in the water. Perhaps today we would match up.
Our “visitor” was till prowling the shallow waters of the bay. He was now quite a bit closer and I soon realized that he was not fly fishing, but cast netting. Was he after bait or something more “tasty”? Bait seemed a bit of a stretch since baitfish were everywhere and certainly didn’t require wading almost a mile from where we had first spotted him. No, he wasn’t after bait fish. Had to be something else.
Dixie and I are different in many ways. One is how “approachable” we are. I tend to be polite but somewhat reserved when meeting someone new. Dixie, on the other hand, is on them like stink on a dog. She’s all smiles and finds any stranger her new best friend – immediately. I love this about my wife and wouldn’t want here to change it in any way. I think we complement each other and create a nice combo. She’s chatty Cathy and I’ve got her back. This has worked well for almost 44 years.
By the time Dixie came out to the dock our wading stranger was ducking as he passed under our dock walkway. Soon I saw Dixie strike up a conversation with this fellow. He was smiling and seemed at ease telling her just what he was doing and why. Walking toward the two I could see he was dressed in jeans, a short sleeve t-shirt, baseball cap and running shoes. His left hand wore a glove, his right was bare. He had a kind and handsome face and hands that obviously knew many stories of manual labor. He was over 6 feet tall with bright blue eyes that contrasted perfectly against his salt-and-pepper hair and full beard. Tied to his waist was a fish bag, currently devoid of any inhabitants.
As I approached both Dixie said, “Tom, this is Wally Watkins.”
We soon discovered that Wally was cast netting for mullet which, if successful, he could sell to local fish markets for about $1.00 a pound. The price the fish market then sold mullet to us for was usually about $2.00 a pound. Wally wasn’t permitted to sell directly to us. He told us that on some days he could net well over 100 pounds, but on others he may not put much of anything in his bag. Wally said there were two types of mullet, silver and black and there were size limits although many were not aware of them or didn’t observe them. Wally was and did.
As we stood on the dock talking to Wally standing in the bay we soon learned that for about 17 years he had been a construction supervisor, eventually having over 70 men reporting to him. That is, until the financial crisis hit two years ago. The company he worked for went down and he was left without a job. Rather than join the ranks of the unemployed, he went back to what he had done 17 years prior, cast netting for mullet and working for one or two of the local fish markets off and on shucking oysters. Just recently he had surprised a sting ray and bore the results of the ray’s defense. I asked how he could avoid this again and he simply said, “Pay more attention.”
The more we talked to Wally the more we came to respect him, not only as a dedicated fisherman, but as a person who took responsibility seriously. We learned he had 5 children and his wife worked on the island as a housekeeper for a home rental agency. He felt it was his obligation and duty to be a provider for his family. He wasn’t willing to take any handouts and knew that if he had to work from dawn to dusk he would find a way to provide for his family. Shortly after losing his job Wally had sold his boat, so wading was the only way he had to fish mullet.
His proficiency with a cast net was obvious. He attributed this to the fact that his grandmother in Port St. Joe, Florida had handmade cast nets for many years and he was her chief demonstrator. If anyone ever came by a talent naturally, we figured Wally was the one who would qualify with a cast net! He was not only accurate, but could open the net up to an almost perfect 360 degree circle. And he was using a 12 ft net with lots of chain weight!
Originally from Port St. Joe Wally had ended up in Apalachicola, Florida. Dixie asked him if he someday wanted to live on the bay, similar to the house we were renting. “No mam,” he said, “I want to get as far away from the water as I can. My dream is to have a house in the words. No one wants to live right where they work.”
Hmm, I had never thought about it that way, but it made perfect sense. One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow.
In just a short time we began to really like this guy. He was typically “southern” polite with a ready smile and twinkle in his eye. It was obvious he didn’t see himself as a victim, but rather as someone who just had a few more challenges than he had about 18 months ago. Something that only required a simple shrug and then moving on. We offered him a sandwich and bottled water, but he said “no thank you” while acknowledging our attempt at kindness.
For most of the day we fished at the end of the dock and watched Wally throw his cast net time after time. I don’t know about Dixie, but I said a little prayer each cast I saw him make. I figured if anyone deserved a full net it was Wally. The wind had picked up and I knew this would make sighting mullet a lot more difficult. Smooth, calm water is the best according to our new friend.
In October the sun goes down around 5:30 PM on Apalachicola Bay. It’s an “event” for us and usually calls for a beer, raw oysters, and some reflection. This day was no different other than we saw Wally’s silhouette between us and the western horizon, still fishing in the bay.
Now I’m a pretty dedicated fisherman, although I have to admit than as the years have passed my “one more cast” mentality has been tempered by aching muscles and the prospect of a beer or two waiting on the porch. I suppose Wally didn’t have that option. If he did he was doing a great job of ignoring it. As we headed to the house we could still see Wally throwing now and again. It was almost dark and I wondered how he would spot and buried sting rays.
For the next few days the wind blew and Wally was nowhere to be seen. I suppose it was futile casting a net when you couldn’t see where the fish were. I hoped that we would see him again, but it never happened. We asked a local seafood seller if he knew him and he smiled and said that in fact he did. “A good man”, he said. But Wally never reappeared.
I’ve thought about Wally often since October. I hope he is OK and able to provide for his family. He’s been in my prayers more often than not. For some reason I really connected with him. I’m not sure I know why. Perhaps it was his obvious pride. Maybe it was his “never say die” approach to his situation or simply the fact that he wasn’t a victim by his definition. I’m just not sure.
We have tried to locate Wally over the past 3 months to see how he’s doing. I still want to see if I can help, but I haven’t found a way to contact him. Maybe that’s for the best. He’s a proud guy and I have no doubt he will be OK. Perhaps we’ll see him again this October. I guess I should hope we don’t. That could mean he’s found a job where he can count on a regular paycheck. And his children will have more time with their Dad. Life’s like that, you know. Sometimes it’s best to not get what you hope for.
This newsletter we have added a new feature we call “Featured Products”. Details are below. We also have some a great new line to tell you about called Eco Pro along with details of our “American Legacy Exclusive” G. Loomis Catalog. We’ve got some awesome new fishing pictures along with some other “goodies” we hope you’ll enjoy. Until next time….
Our “EXCLUSIVE” 2011 G. Loomis Catalog Is Now Available……………..
G. Loomis stopped printing catalogs the end of 2009. We protested but our concerns fell on deaf ears. Yes, we understand catalogs are expensive, but it’s simply impossible to replace a printed catalog with a web site. I mean, after all, it’s just too difficult to take a computer into the bathroom!
Anyway, after about a year of planning and lots of work we are now able to offer you, our friends and customers, a beautiful full color G. Loomis catalog exclusively ours. It’s good looking and well illustrated and we’re sure something you will enjoy. And it’s “portable” enough to go anywhere in the house if you know what we mean!
We have about 5,000 copies, so your name is certainly on one. Since mailing addresses change often we figured the best way to get this in your hands is to ask you to email us your COMPLETE name, address, and email to [email protected] All you need to do is say “G. Loomis catalog” and we’ll make sure we send you one out immediately. Be sure to include your complete name, your mailing address, city, state, and country (if not USA) along with your postal code AND your email address.
Editorial comment: Personally I do not agree that everything is computerized these days and there is no longer a need for printed catalogs, etc.. If that was a valid argument then Bass Pro and Cabelas wouldn’t spend millions of dollars printing 5 to 10 catalogs every year. Nope, they’d just put everything on their web site and that would be that. Old guys like me would be out of luck and the bathroom magazine stack would be substantially smaller. Fly-in camps would be less cluttered and the back seats of our trucks and cars tidier. My take is catalogs definitely still have a place on our nightstand or in our “porcelain library”. I may be wrong here, but as Dixie says, “Tom may not always be right, but he’s never in doubt”.
I received an IPod for Christmas from my kids. The “Owner’s Manual” was a little pamphlet the size of a business card. I was instructed to go to the web for how to set this beast up. After about an hour I was ready to send the IPod back to “Appleland”. Thank goodness Dixie interceded and got it set up. But she has an IPad. Long story short, I think print still has a place in our lives. But, that just this old fart’s opinion.
Email us you name, address, and email and we’ll mail you catalog out today. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!
Eco Pro Tungsten Weights are Here – Every One of Them………….
Yep, it looks like lead fishing weights will be a thing of the past. And that’s probably not a bad thing since lead is not the most desirable metal as far as our environment is concerned. Just recently a bill to ban lead weights was barely defeated in the US Congress. It’s only a matter of time before it passes. Tungsten is now the weight of preference, although more money than the old lead stuff. But, tungsten has some GREAT ADVANTAGES that any serious fisherman simply can’t ignore.
Tungsten is a denser material so sensitivity is far, far better. You can feel things that would never be possible with lead. It’s smaller size-for-size vs. lead since it’s a far denser material. This means longer casts when throwing the same sized weights vs. lead. It also means less hand-ups since you are using a smaller profile weight.
So, why Eco Pro instead of some other brand? Well, here’s the reason we chose Eco Pro: It’s harder than lead and with Eco Pro’s exclusive “Seal Coat” finish resists scratches and chips far better than comparable tungsten weights. These weights are totally fray-free and do not need any sort of insert. The assortment of 10 colors (4 custom colors) is terrific and available in many configurations. Weights are available from 1/16 oz. all the way up to a “make your arm limp” 2 oz. flipping weight! Dean Rojas’ is the resident pro staff member and has been intimately involved in designing every weight offered. Finally, Eco Pro Tungsten weights are priced very competitively against what we believe to be lesser products.
Best news is we stock EVERY Eco Pro weight made in EVERY color available. No more looking in several places trying to find what you need. We’ve got them all and can ship immediately upon receipt of your order.
Yes, I resisted tungsten weight early on, but changed my mind after using them this season. They definitely offer some huge advantages far beyond the environmental consideration. If you’re serious about fishing then you’re really missing out if you don’t have some of these babies in your tackle box!
For 2011 we’ve added a new feature to our newsletters. Every issue we will be disecting some products giving you some “inside” details on just what makes them special Here’s our first group with Probably more information that you would normally find.
Open Water Tackle Roller System OW3703D-RA – Here’s a great tackle bag, very similar to my favorite G. Loomis Escape Rigid Frame Tackle Bag that we sold out of about a year ago. It’s about the same size at 17″ high X 15″ wide X 9 ½” deep. This Open Water OW3703D-RA bag has a telescopic retractable handle and “double-wide” casters (rollers) that work well on sand or soft dirt, etc. On each side are two removable rod holder tubes that are straddled by large gear pouches. Remove the rod holder tubes and there’s lots more room in each pouch. The back has a slim but wide zippered pocket that we can see being used for charts, worm binders, etc. The top compartment (with a luggage tag compartment on the outside top flap) has two Velcro dividers than can adjust making three distinct compartments that I really like. Also on this flap is a slim waterproof compartment for any charts, licenses, etc. It would also hold smaller objects quite well. Pull open the front flap (Velcro at the top and zippers on each side) to expose 3 – 370 utility boxes – each 13 ¾” L X 8 ¾ W X 2″ H and one 3701 (13 ¾” L X 8 ¾” W X 3″ H). These are Open Water’s own design and far, far better than any we have seen. Very durable with removable dividers. The whole bag is very heavy 900 denier material. All zippers are corrosion-resistant and heavy duty grade. The bag also include a soft rubber carry handle, great shoulder strap, and lots of oversized buckles where appropriate. Our take: This baby weighs about 10 lbs, but is so well built we think it’s one of the stars of the Open Water line. The price is $149.99 for this great Open Water Roller Tackle Bag.
G. Loomis StreamDance FR1206-4 GLX 10 ft, 6 wt Fly Rod – This is one of our favorite rods for trout as well as bass. The taper is fast and the power rated as medium stiff. With 4 pc construction it travels well, especially in the custom G. Loomis hard case that’s included. Even though it’s a 6 wt it can easily accommodate a 7 wt line. The extra length (10 ft instead of 9 ft) means nice long casts that allow you to sneak up on even the wariest fish. Not for short casts necessitated by low hanging trees, this rod is more like an Olympic mid to long distance runner. The GLX blank means this beautiful rod is ever so light and unbelievably nimble. As with all G. Loomis StreamDance rods the FR1206-4 has some absolutely wonderful components. We especially like the small fighting butt and the so-well-made REC reel seat. The first two guides up are Recoil titanium and the rest REC premium single foot. Frankly, this is one beautiful fly rod and truly a work of art. This rod handles a variety of species with ease and has become our favorite for bass, larger rainbows, and even some smaller saltwater species. If your fly fishing proficiency is intermediate or above or you are looking for longer casts and not burdened by close brush consider this rod. Price is $680.00 with free USA shipping.
Shimano Core 50Mg7 Casting Reel – About 6 months ago we got our hands on this little guy and it blew our mind! I am absolutely positive that it doesn’t weigh as much as my wristwatch! It’s that light. But that’s the only place this reel is light. My goodness, where do we start? Mechanically this is one heck of a reel with oversized forged gears, a fantastic drag, great handle and grips, index (clicker) drag star wheel, 9 bearings (how do they got so many in such a small reel?), and much more. This is a reel that’s perfect for braid and will hold 200 yards of 15 lb test Power Pro or about 100 yards of 50 lb Sunline FX2 braid. As soon as the G. Loomis NRX rods arrived you can bet the Core 50’s were on several. And folks, all I can say is “wow” when it come to a combo of this reel saddled on one of the new G. Loomis NRX casting rods. Spool on some braided line and you will absolutely be amazed at the “other-worldly” sensitivity. It’s like nothing you have ever experienced! Finally, if there’s ever been a reel beauty contest we’d bet on the Core 50 hands down. It’s just that good looking! With a 7.0:1 retrieve ratio this reel hauls. Better yet, these are available in right hand (Core 50Mg7) and left hand (Core 51Mg7) retrieve. Reel includes lube, parts, papers, and a cute little soft cloth bag for storage. Made in Japan. We think that at $369.99 this reel offers great bang-for-the-buck!
Cablz Eyewear Retention – Geez, I used to call these glasses straps! Now they’re “eyewear retention devices.” Yep, I’m getting old…Anyway, these are a really neat little product that we latched on to about 2 years ago. Unlike fabric straps or wide neoprene straps, these won’t start stinking after a few days of hot weather. Now I don’t like sunglasses straps. They’re uncomfortable and make the back of my neck itch. They also start smelling gamey after a few good sweats. My wife says they can start to look disgusting. Not Cablz. These are all itsy bitsy cables with little elongated cupped ends to slip over the end of your glasses ear pieces. I like these. I forget I have them on. Best, now that I use Cablz I no longer systematically make expensive sunglasses offerings to the water God. You know, I was thinking about this the other day and I figure that if you took all of the sunglasses, cell phones, dip nets, and a other items that I have dropped overboard in the last 50 years and added up their cost I could probably buy a fairly nice bass boat! Anyway, these are a great item and for $13 bucks a no brainer.
Sunline FX2 Braided Line – Man, I just can’t say enough about this stuff! I don’t care if Dean Rojas or Santa Claus says it’s good, I think it’s fantastic. Bottom line is this is the best damn braided line ever made! First, it’s round, which is something no other braid is. Second, it’s limp as a noodle. It doesn’t drag half the lake back to you and your reel since it doesn’t retain water. It’s smaller in diameter, more abrasion resistant, casts further, is super sensitive, and…..Look, you need some of this. I mean, how much money do you have in your rods and reels? And then you do line on the cheap? No! We can guarantee you that once you put some of this Sunline FX2 Braid on your reel you’ll be as convinced as we are. Only comes in 50, 60, and 80 lb test and on either a 125 yd or 300 yd spools (90 yd and 230 yd for 80 lb test) and in ONE color – dark green. Price is $14.99 to $41.99 Try it and experience nirvana!
Koppers Live Target BIG Perch Lures – Personally I like BIG lures. You know, those babies that are 6″ or longer. Live Target makes some awesome Yellow Perch baits that are 6 ¼” long that just rock. There are 3 varieties of finish – natural/matte, metallic/gloss, and florescent/matte. These three colors come in shallow dive (1 – 2 ft) , medium dive (8 – 10 ft), and deep dive (13 – 15 ft) models. I like to fish these over weed beds or along rocky points for monster walleye or big northerns. And they do produce! Retrieving with my rod tip up with a slow retrieve drives fish crazy. Trolling these over deep water for suspended fish is another option I like to use as well. As with all Live Target lures these Big Yellow Perch Lures just look about as real; as you will ever get and sure fool some fish. I haven’t tried these on musky, but am convinced they should tear them up! All have the premium Diiachi super sharp hooks and run perfectly true. At $19.95 each these marvelous lures are a real “must have” for any dedicated walleye, northern, musky, or pike fisherman. We assure you they will not disappoint and you’ll get a free t-shirt if you buy 4 or more!