Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Film Tour is Back



The 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour is about to get cranked up. Its first stop is Missoula, Montana on Saturday. Currently, there are only two Florida stops — one in Miami (M arch 13) and another in Key West (March 15). I emailed a FFFT public-relations person, who told me that a few dates are expected to be added. So, more Florida venues could be on the agenda. Tampa or Jacksonville would be logical choices.

I’ve been the past two years. It’s worth the wait and a perfect way to stymie the boredom between tide cycles.

For info, check out:

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The Life and Times of Trapper Nelson


The entrance to Trapper Nelson’s camp.


HOBE SOUND — On a blustery winter Monday two dozen or so volunteers and staff from the Florida Oceanographic Society took a half-day trip on the Loxahatchee River to visit Trapper Nelson’s camp.

Nelson, known as the Wildman of the Loxahatchee, lived off the fruits of the meandering river for nearly 40 years by trapping, hunting and fishing. After several years of that rugged way of life, Nelson, known formally as Natulkiewicz, started a much-visited wildlife zoo that lured wealthy South Florida socialites to the cypress-lined banks of the Loxahatchee in the late 1930s. Among those who stopped by were boxer Gene Tunney and actor Gary Cooper.

A bit downstream from Trapper's place.

A bit downstream from Trapper’s place.

Although Nelson had limited formal education, he was a natural promoter, who draped his chiseled, 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame with Indigo snakes to create a Tarzan-like persona, entertaining guests with yarns about his time in the wilderness. In between stories, Nelson sold everything from tortoise shells to baby alligators.

For years Trapper Nelson’s Zoo and Jungle Garden thrived, so much so that he added guest cabins, a boathouse and a chickee hut that served as picnic area and a place of respite from Florida’s suffocating summer heat. Also on site were a hand-pumped water tower and a multi-bay garage for a U.S. Army Jeep.

Although Nelson embraced progress enough to make a pretty good living, Florida’s population growth in the 1960s led to more scrutiny of his compound. Health inspectors declared the operation unhygienic and shut down the business. Nelson, in turn, became more reclusive, presumably because of his distrust of the government. He died in 1968 due to a gun-shot to the stomach. Local authorities ruled it a suicide, but a few who knew Nelson have speculated otherwise.

Nevertheless, his legend lives on, decades later.


Below are a couple of other facts about Nelson, who. …


  • reluctantly served in the military during World War II, first in Texas, then at Camp Murphy, which was located close to his Loxahatchee River homestead.


  • was born in Trenton, N.J. and later spent time in Colorado and Mexico before making his way back East and settling in the Jupiter area.


  • was the son of polish immigrants.


  • was an avid card player and an occasional boxer.


  • was known for his voracious appetite and was said to have gobbled up an entire pie in one sitting.




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Casting Help

It’s winter, which means less fishing, more fly tying and a little work on my casting stroke.

I work on my casting a lot. In Tampa, I practiced in my front yard almost every day, sometimes twice a day. I got better, but I felt as if I had hit a wall.

My loops weren’t quite tight enough; my line speed wasn’t fast enough. Headwinds were killing me.

So I signed up for a lesson. This was a big step. Most anglers assume that casting can be mastered with a minimum of work in the yard. I knew that wasn’t the case. I was pretty good, but I wanted more.

So I made an appointment for a lesson. I called Ron Doerr, a guide I heard about through a fishing friend, Keaton Anderson.

The lesson was at Ron’s house in Jupiter. The classroom was his boat behind his house on the Loxahatchee River.

Ron grabbed my TFO 8-weight and unrolled the entire spool in only a few backcasts. I punched out 70, 80 feet. Big difference.

After an hour of instruction, I learned I had developed several flaws.

  • Thumb placement. I had my hand too low on the handle. I needed to be up higher where the cork curves. This yielded more leverage.
  • I pull the rod down on the forward stroke instead of extending toward the target. Ron told me to extend my thumb and knuckles toward the target and THEN lower the rod to the water.
  • Mine was bad. I tended to bend and straighten my knees during the cast, which led to a wavy stroke. I now try to stay more upright. Reducing body movement has helped me maintain a straight line rod path.
  • My hauls were too short, too jerky. I yanked the line on the haul(s). This creates slack. All I need is a smooth tug to feed the line.

I’m sure I have more flaws. But a good casting stroke is akin to a good golf swing. Both need maintenance. I’m sure I will be back for another lesson to assess my progress.

Here’s more info on Ron.

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What to Do About Lake O?

A story from the Palm Beach Post about controversy over pollution into in local rivers near Stuart.

Holding signs and calling for action from Gov. Rick Scott, 200 Martin and St. Lucie County residents and activists rallied Friday against the release of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun the release of water to the St. Lucie Estuary in what it says is a necessary move to lower the lake’s level and reduce the risk of a breach of its Great Depression-era dike system.

But area residents and environmental activists gathered at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam west of Stuart to decry the release as an unnecessary move that will pollute the estuary as it was two years ago. They made what is now a familiar call for the purchase of land south of the lake that could be used as a sort of natural cleansing system as water is diverted to the Everglades. And they made it clear who they want leading that purchase: Scott.

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The Long Walk Home

Throwback Thursday.
I’m a seventh-generation Floridian with a family tree that stretches back to Alachua County before the Civil War. Below is a picture of my grandfather, Lester C. Hodge, who owned a skating rink and dabbled in farming and real estate in Gainesville before his passing in the early 1970s.
His grandfather, Elijah Hodge, enlisted twice and fought in two Civil War battles — Olustee and Cold Harbor (both Confederate victories) and walked back home — barefoot — from Georgia to Newberry, where a long line of Hodges eventually settled. In our family, this is referred to as the Long Walk Home, hence the headline of my grandfather’s obituary in the Gainesville Sun.

My grandfather loved to fish. I’d like to think I got some of my love for the water from him.

GrandadHodge 001

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Carl Hiaasen Nails It

Editor’s Note: Miami Herald columnist hits his target.

I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: Move to Florida!”

Such was the sunny welcome put forth by Gov. Rick Scott at his second inaugural last week in Tallahassee.

Quit your jobs, pack up your families and get down here as fast as you can. Twenty million people aren’t enough — Florida needs more!

I was thinking the same thing the other day on I-95, when I glanced in the rearview and actually saw about eight feet of air between my bumper and the tanker truck behind me.

The first thing that sprung to mind was: Hey, another car could fit in there!

Not a regular-sized car, true, but maybe one of those adorable little Smart cars that you sometimes see on the streets of Manhattan or Chicago. It was a revelation.

Probably 99 out of 100 drivers in Florida would say our traffic already sucks, with a little imagination and no concern for the quality of life, there’s always room for more.

So you go, Gov. Scott! Keep on spreading the word.

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Fly-Fishing Time Machine: A Look Back


Together after a day of training on the Big Hole.

Together after a day of training on the Big Hole.

Circa 1996. June.
My classmates and I at the Western Rivers Guide School in Wyoming. For the non-fly fishermen, it was a two-week course in Wyoming/Idaho/Montana that essentially taught you to run a drift boat on the big water out West. I can’t remember all the names. I’m sure some of my FB Orvis contacts know them. Joe Bressler ran the school. Lori-Ann Murphy, I think, was involved in the school a few years before I was there. It was a great two weeks.

A follow up: I was able to run down some info on what some of the instructors/students are doing. Gary Beebe sells drift boats in Idaho. Kim Keeley owns the Victor Emporium. Mike Boehm guides in the Keys and Jack Nicklaus is one of his big clients. Mike Janssen still guides out West. Not sure about Dave Miller. Tom Rowland, of Saltwater Experience, talked me into going to the guide school. He graduated the year before I did and has done quite well for himself.


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Restoring the Everglades

Nice work in the Miami Herald earlier this week. It’s an issue worth following.

Everglades advocates and environmentalists from around the nation will gather in Key Largo this weekend to rehash progress on restoring one of the world’s largest wetlands.

This year’s conference, the 30th staged by the Everglades Coalition and hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association, will focus on restoration efforts to move fresh water south into the parched southern Glades and Florida Bay. The conference, starting Thursday evening at the Hilton Key Largo, mirrors renewed efforts by lawmakers in Washington Thursday to pass legislation to pay for the $1.9 billion suite of projects aimed at restoring the central Everglades.

“What we hope to do is jump start the process,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. Draper. Draper will moderate a panel on water quality, an issue that has complicated efforts to move polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.

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Get Ready for Buccaneers and Bones

A new season starts soon.

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Skiff of Kayak?

I’ve always thought about owning a boat, but always made excuses — too much money, too much maintenance,  too much aggravation. So I got a kayak and have fished out of my Native Ultimate ever since I started fly fishing the salt.

I never EVEN thought about a boat. Fishing solo, I figure why bother? If I had a boat, I’d still have to have someone to pole it because traditional sight fishing dictates you fish or pole, you don’t do both.

During the past month, I’ve fished out of a few boats, mainly out of necessity: My fishing partner had one and asked if I wanted to go. One trip was to Stuart,  the other to Flamingo, in the heart of the Everglades. Both were  Gheenoe-type setups. Small and durable, each floated shallow, but neither could handle chop. That’s fine if you’re not in open water, or if you’re so young that you don’t feel as if you’ve been shoved in a washing machine.  For the price, you can’t beat a Gheenoe or one of the knockoffs. They’re convenient and they float shallow, but they’re a young man’s boat. I, for one, appreciate space and comfort.

The need for these attributes became apparent when I fished with Karla George on her Maverick Mirage recently. I was scared to death as we approached a decent chop, but the Mirage cut through the foam flawlessly. I prepared for a bone-jarring ride, but settled in once we breezed through the waters near Sansprit Park. In all, we tried five, six spots of various depths. Two anglers can fish easily and the bow is completely uncluttered, which made line management very doable, even in the wind. Gheenoes  — and kayaks — are so small that your fly line always seems to snag something.

So, I ‘ve been converted. Kayaks have their place. You can’t beat them for cost, convenience and getting shallow. But, as  far as a casting platform and speed, they’re limited. In a kayak,  you can usually only fish one maybe, two spots. If the fish are there, you’re golden. If they’re not, you face the possibility of a fishless day.

A good skiff, on the other hand, offers a good casting platform, quality visibility and speed. You can not only cast to fish and see them, you can hunt them down. Money’s an issue, obviously, but a good skiff is worth it.

Karla lead the way in style in Stuart.

Karla leads the way in style in Stuart.

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