Category Archives: Fly casting

Florida Fishing Expo Set for Early February

The 2018 Florida Fly Fishing Expo in Crystal River on February 9-10 has scheduled legendary Florida Keys guide Steve Huff to show and tell some of his secrets for catching giant permit, tarpon, snook and other trophy gamefish on a fly rod.

Huff, who has been described as “the top fly fishing guide on the planet,” tops a schedule of more than 20 expert-led seminars and new fly fishing product displays at Plantation on Crystal River on Florida’s west coast. Admission to the two-day expo is $25 but free for those 12 and younger when accompanied by an adult. 

Huff is a top guide in the Florida Keys.

The Florida Fly Fishing Expo is put on annually by the Florida Council of Fly Fishers International. President Tom Gadacz said, “We are so pleased to have Steve Huff coming to the Expo. This guy has a bank-vault of knowledge about catching big fish on the fly and he’ll share some hard-earned insights.”

After earning a marine biology degree at the University of Miami in 1968 Huff started guiding in the Florida Keys. He pioneered fly fishing for tarpon, permit and snook in the Keys and also led clients to IGFA record tarpon near Crystal River and Homosassa. Sandy Moret, his good friend and a fellow fly fisher, once described Huff as “without question, the top fly fishing guide on the planet.” 

On Friday, Feb. 9, Huff will present a tutorial about how to locate and catch permit on the fly. On Saturday he will discuss the importance of and how to make quick fly casts in all directions. As the featured speaker at theExpo’s closing banquet on Saturday Huff will share insights he has learned from 50-years of guiding fly fishers to saltwater trophy gamefish.

More than 20 other sessions about how-to fly fish, fly cast and tie flies are scheduled indoors and outdoors at the spacious, waterfront resort of Plantation on Crystal River. They include:

Fly Fishing for snook at night by Capt. Rick Grassett

Paddleboard fly-fishing by David Olson.

Fly casting tutorial for women by Mona Brewer, youth fly casting by David Lambert, emergency casting clinic by Pat Damico, and casting games led by John Hand and Jim Patchet.

Beginner and intermediate fly casting demonstrations by Capt. Pete Greenan.

Fly fishing for warm water fishes in North Florida by Tom Logan

Wading the flats by Leigh West.

History of women in fly fishing by Jen Ripple.

DIY bonefishing in the Keys and Bahamas by Capt. Bryon Chamberlin.

Fishing Mosquito Lagoon secrets by Capt. Frank Catino.

Fly fishing for baby tarpon in the Indian River Lagoon by Capt. Eric Davis.

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A Bow to the Florida Largemouth Bass

I have never caught a largemouth bass. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve caught a few yearling-sized largemouth, but nothing worth bragging about. Hell, these fish weren’t even big enough to warrant lying about to my buddies over a beer.

Not that I’m a bad fisherman. I’ve caught a tarpon, three or species of freshwater trout, bluegill, seatrout, redfish, jacks, snook and even a peacock bass or two. All on fly.

The closest I came to catching a respectable largemouth was 40-something years ago when I was youngster summering in the mountains of Western North Carolina. On friend’s farm pond, I landed a nice, fat largemouth, probably in the neighborhood of 4 pounds. Using a small spinning reel, a bobber and a mealworm, I pulled the big green fish up to the edge of the sand and heaved him over toward the grassy bank. As far as smooth landings go, it was not pretty. Turns out, the bass got the last laugh.

I had also caught two bluegill. I had them on a stringer, which was loosely staked to the muddy bank. I unhooked my quarry, put him on the stringer and mashed the stake of the stringer into the sand.

I thought the fight was over, but it wasn’t. Moments later, the big bass pulled the stringer — stake and all — out of the soft ground and swam off with two bluegill.

Technically you could say I caught that bass, because I unhooked him and had the fish under my control, but since the fish left under its own power on its own terms — and not mine and evaded the frying pan — I consider it a draw. That’s the last decent bass I’ve caught and I’ve spent brief stretches of each fishing season trying to attain some measure of poetic justice, but I’ve never caught a largemouth that bent the rod quite like that fish.

Given that bit of unfinished business, I’ve decided to spend part of this summer trying to catch a bigger-than-average largemouth. My quest is largely personal, but there are some darned good reasons to spar with the largemouth.

You can find them in just every piece of freshwater in Florida. And if you don’t catch a largemouth, you’ll catch some sort of species of bass. Florida, after all, is home to seven different species of native bass — the spotted bass, shoal bass, striped bass, sunshine bass, Suwanee bass, white bass and the venerable largemouth. For see the link below.

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Filed under Conservation, Education, Fly casting, Fly fishing

The Thomas & Thomas Exocett Delivers

My story on the Thomas & Thomas Exocett for the Blackfly Outfitter in Jacksonville.

Thomas & Thomas’ motto is “the rod you will eventually own.” Their belief is by the time you try other fly rods, you, the customer, will want the Thomas & Thomas brand.

T&T’s quality consistently shines brighter than the competition. After all, the Massachusetts-based company has been making fine fly rods since the late 1960s. They do so one rod at a time, with painstaking attention to handcrafted detail, from the butt section to the tip.

So it is with the Exocett saltwater series. If you want a rod that’s sensitive enough to cast well for all skill levels, but strong enough to handle everything from tarpon to tiger fish, the Exocett is for you. Trouble turning over those bushy tarpon patterns?
The Exocett can help you punch through that afternoon wind — without wear and tear on your shoulder. Furthermore, the Exocett has proven its durability world-wide, slaying giant trevally and monster tuna in the Seychelles.

The Exocett is known for its performance, but it has a sleek, sexy design as well. The 9-foot, four-piece setup features a matte blue, low-friction finish.

For more info, check out

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A Little Time Off the Water

Winter is here in Florida, which means more wind and less time for fly fishing. All you can do is fish between the fronts. The best-case scenario is one day a week to set up a trip. Needless to say, work, family responsibilities and short winter days yield a lot of time indoors.

A few restless anglers in Northeast Florida got a welcome break from cabin fever recently when Bruce Chard spoke at the First Coast Fly Fishers banquet at the Jacksonville Marriott.  A noted guide from Key West, Chard was gracious with his time and put on a first-class presentation where he spotlighted the top places in the world for shallow-water fly fishing. It was worth the hour drive from St. Augustine.

Chard is also a fantastic caster. Fittingly, he gave a morning casting seminar. I didn’t have time to go, but the man can flat out toss a razor-sharp loop. Here’s a clip of his technique.


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Common Sense Matters

Can't beat a Yeti cooler for quality.

Can’t beat a Yeti cooler for quality.

One of the beauties of fly-fishing is its trial-and-error learning curve. You try. You err. You try again.

Upright and secure for once in the backcountry.

Upright and secure for once in the backcountry.

I’ve thrown a fly for more than 20 years and I’m still learning.  Last summer,  I lost a rod, reel and IPhone on a relatively new paddleboard after getting blasted from a wake. I was fishing for tarpon on the ICW behind a parked yacht and a couple morning boaters caught me by surprise. Their wake tossed me and a fair amount of tackle overboard. Initially, I was upset and embarrassed but chalked it up to a live-and-learn moment and moved on.

Nearly a month or so later, I realized the incident could have been avoided. A bit of background on what happened: I tumbled because of two reasons: One, the boat caught me by surprise. I wasn’t aware. Two, I was sitting on my Yeti cooler. I thought I was stable. I was not. The cooler wasn’t strapped down. I assumed (wrongly) that I was stable enough. I was not.

I bought the strap kit from BOTE. Good decision. I can now lash the cooler to the board and, believe me, it’s not going anywhere. Also included in the setup is a paddle clip, which makes sight fishing easier because I now have a place to store my paddle, which keeps the deck cleaner.

I could have bought the paddle-and-clip kit initially, but, with the price of the board and paddle, I thought I could do without. Unless you’re fishing in boatless water, securing the cooler is a must.

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Filed under Education, Fly casting, Fly fishing

The Roll Cast, a Neglected Tool

I need work on this. It’s amazing how we all want more distance, but sometimes a simple cast escapes us when we most need it, because we don’t work on it. This vid goes over the basics well.

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Time for a Paddle board

My story in Hatch Magazine.

I admit it. I’m a sucker for fool’s gold. If there’s a gadget, I’ve got it, which is why my garage is always full of stuff. For me, more has been better. I’ve gone through more fly rods, canoes and kayaks than the average angler. I swore I would stop hoarding after I got a kayak, a Native Ultimate, but I didn’t. I recently added a paddle board to the fleet. For years, I had resisted buying one, because I figured I was too stiff to stay upright, even against the weakest of tides. While casting a fly rod? Not unless I took Pilates.

But one day, a neighbor, a non angler, suggested I paddle board. So I tried it. I didn’t even carry a rod. I figured the less that could go overboard the better. Remarkably, I stayed dry — and I was hooked. The skeptic became a believer. Less than a week later, I bought my first paddle board. I use it as much as possible.

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Filed under Education, Entertainment, Fly casting

More Fly Casting

Below is a video of Ron Doerr, a guide from Jupiter.  Notice how he keeps everything LEVEL. The entire stroke stays on the same plane. This is VERY difficult to do.  When my stroke gets long, I tend not to stay on plane.  Ron, like Lefty Kreh, recommends pretending as if your casting elbow is on a shelf, so that the butt of the rod — and the tip — stay on a straight path.

Also, notice how Ron keeps his hauling hand in line with his rod hand to maintain constant tension during the haul. I tend to pull downward as opposed to outward, which means less tension and a shorter haul. Needless to say, there’s always something to work on in fly casting. Everything is a work in progress. Enjoy.

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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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A Man for All Seasons


Brown relaxes on his porch at his Bryson, City, N.C. home

Finally back in the swing of things after a week in Western N.C., where I interviewed master fly caster Mac Brown, who can handle a fly rod, play a mean banjo, crunch a few numbers, hike the AT, fix a timing belt, build his own house and race mountain bikes. …. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

After interviewing athletes and coaches much of the past 25 years, where cliches are the primary mode of communication, it’s invigorating to write about someone with an array of interests. Interviews often bore me. This one didn’t.

The truly great casters, Brown said, are often the most creative. He equates elite casting to playing music or painting a picture. The best casters are artistic.

“There’s something about them, I can usually tell in about five minutes, that makes the creativity flow out of them,” Brown said. “Jason (Borger) is like that. Jason is one of the most c reative people you could hang out with. Super creative. He’s not a musician per se, but he’s an incredible artist.”

Stay tuned for more. The full story will be in Trout Magazine.


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