The Red Tide Remains

The Red Tide Remains

Well here we are at May’s doorstep and the red tide remains on the Gulf Coast. Not good. Not good at all. Crazy. In most years, red tide on the Gulf side of Florida occurs in late summer and lingers into fall. That’s far from true this time around.

Red tide blooms are caused by the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. Along the Southwest Florida coast, this year red tide began in late February and is proving to be exceptionally long lasting. Significant fish kills are still reported on the Lee County coast from Fort Myers beach and Sanibel, southward to Marco Island. Typically the dead include mullet, black drum, and redfish.  But red tide has the power to kill manatees, dolphin and sea turtles as well. Naturally it has a negative impacted on beach goers and tourist too. Besides the stink of rotting fish, exposure to red tide in the air causes respiratory problems in many people.

It appears increasing that coastal eutrophication is playing a role. Yeah we’re loving Florida to death folks. As the population grows, nutrient runoff from the land grows too. Fertilizers, sewage and alike. These things produce enriched nearshore water that likely assists red tide’s ability to expand. Something needs to be done, and soon.


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Edward Abbey – A Man Who Loved the Earth

Edward Abbey – A Man Who Loved the Earth

Almost thirty years ago, on a March morning in Tucson Arizona, four men placed a corpse into a blue sleeping bag, and loaded it into a Chevy pickup. With the precious cargo secured, they rode off into the remotest deserts of the American Southwest. Terra Incognito. Their mission you ask? To bury their dear friend Ed Abbey, as he had wished – in secret and alone.

Photo credit: Kirk McKay LA Times

Ed Abbey was untameable. Throughout his life he stood defiant in the face of authority, while raising a middle finger to the modern world. At times amicable even shy, at times difficult and daunting, his life was a aswirl in contradiction. Love him or hate him, there is no denying Abbey was a brilliant writer, and a sharp witted, hard drinking, devoted environmentalist who hated seeing the beauty of the American West exploited and torn apart by commercial interests. So strong was his belief in the sanctity of the land, that for those who love wilderness Ed lives on as a legend. His book The Monkey Wrench Gang became the bible for an entire new breed of environmental activists. And would by most people’s account spawn the organization Earth First.

I learned of Abbey from his book Desert Solitaire – A Season in the Wilderness. Written while he was a park ranger at Arches National Monument, it now ranks as an American classic. On each page his voice rings strong, and clear, with an aesthetic sensitivity to the earth that borders on the mystical. Allow me to give you a quote.

“Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, on canyon walls and though the windows in the sandstone fins. We greet each other, sun and I across the black void of ninety-three million miles.”

Printed originally in 1968, the book’s cultural value remains relevant even today. In January of 2018, the New York Time ran a piece entitled. “President Trump, Please Read Desert Solitaire”  (You may encounter a few annoying pop-ups) The article is an excellent example of why Abbey’s words, and Abbey’s vision still hold meaning, a half-century later.

Over the years I have read and enjoyed nearly all Abbey rode. If you would like a good cross-section of his work, you will find it in The Serpents of Paradise published by Henry Holt. More recently I took pleasure in Finding Abbey, by Sean Prentiss, published by the University of New Mexico Press. It is the author’s personal search across America for both Abbey’s spirit and his grave. A good read.

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Fly Rods Ferrules – Things to Know.

Fly Rods Ferrules – Things to Know:  Nowadays two types of fly rod ferrules dominate the modern marketplace – the “tip-over-butt” ferrule,  and the “spigot” ferrule, sometimes referred to as the “internal-spigot” ferrule.  (The metal ferrules used for bamboo fly rods are not part of this discussion.)

Some History: Both the “tip-over-butt” ferrule and the “spigot “ferrule were born in California over 50 years ago. Credit for the “tip-over-butt” design goes to Jim Green, who developed it in the early 1960’s while working for FenwickFenwick then patented it as the Feralite Ferrule in 1962. Their patent ran nearly 20 years. After that, the “tip-over-butt” design became a free-for-all. The origin  of the “spigot” ferrules, however, is far less clear. The only mention of their source comes to us from the late Tom Morgan, one time owner of the Winston Rod Company. In an interview Tom says the best he could discover the “spigot” ferrule was created by John Tarantino (A World Champion Fly Caster) in collaboration with  the JK Fisher rod company. We’ll have to leave it at that.

Given that both ferrules have survived this long you can be assured of two thing – When assembled correctly (more on that later) both work well, and neither one is so vastly superior it has run the other guy out of town.

“Tip-over-Butt” This style of ferrule is perhaps the most common. And it does require a bit less care and maintenance. As things wear the tip section creeps down over the butt making this ferrule somewhat self-adjusting. In its earliest days, this style ferrule tended to stiffen a rod. (sometimes to the manufactures liking) This was especially true if the manufacture added a reinforced sleeve on the female side of the ferrule, something rarely seen today. Advances in rod building methods have  eliminated any need to strengthen this style ferrule with added bulk. And the rods are not necessarily stiffer than a “spigot” ferrule rod.

Tip-over-Butt Ferrule

Tip-over-Butt Assembled

Tip-over-Butt with Reinforced Female Sleeve

“Spigot Ferrule” This ferrule is a bit more of a mystery to anglers, especially those who have never used one. Two rod sections are joined with dowel (spigot) securely glued into the lower rod section. Typically the spigot is made of fiberglass. When properly assembled the two rod sections do not meet, but are separated by upwards of 1/2″. Advocates of this ferrule say it offers you a smoother rod action. In other words regardless of the number of sections, the action tends to flow seamlessly along the blank offering the feel of a one-piece rod blank.

Spigot Ferrule

Spigot Ferrule Assembled

As a spigot ferrule wears the gap between sections is reduced. When the gap reaches 1/8″ you may want to sent it back to the manufacturer to be tightened. (modern spigot ferrules wear very slowly and should be fine for ten or more years. By the way, tightening the ferrule is a simple job for any competent rod builder.) As an alternate, a very light coat of wax can be applied to the spigot. It increases the spigot diameter and thereby increase the gap. (In my vest, I used to carry a small piece of a candle wrapped in aluminum foil. It worked fine if a problem arose in the field.)

Correctly Assembling these Ferrules: A surprising number of anglers fail to properly assemble a ferrule. You do not simple line up the guides on both sections and push the ferrule together. While this may work for awhile, sooner or later the two section will loosen during casting. This can cause the sections to fly apart or in a worse case scenario crack the blank.

The correct way is to align the two rod sections so the guides on one section are a quarter turn from lined up with the other section  (90 degrees out)) Push the ferrule together and then slowly and gently twist the rod until the guides properly line up. (Never attempt this with a metal ferrule!)

Number of Ferrules on a Rod: Once upon a time fly rods were pretty much all two-piece, with the exception being a few three-piece rods. Typically these three-piece rods were either cane rods or some high-end fiberglass rods. For example most of my Winston “glass” rods are three-piece. But times have changed. Now we have many four-piece rods. They are very convenient, although the upper most ferrule has a fairly thin diameter and may require more care.

Truth is I prefer the older three-piece design for two reasons. First there was never a ferrule in the dead center of the rod blank. So in my opinion the rod flexed better. Second, the upper ferrule was beefier and less prone to damage or wear. The only downside to the three-piece rod was this – while it fit overhead in most commercial jets, it could be too long for some small single engine bush planes.

Fixing a Stuck Ferrule: Now for a word of warning. If a rod is left assembled for a prolonged period time, the ferrule may get stuck and refuse to let go. In my experience a “tip-over-butt” is more prone then a “spigot”. Do not use brute force to separate the sections.  Here is a better solution.

Hope I’ve answered any questions you had about the modern fly rod ferrule

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Shakespeare Wondereel 1898 EC – A Vintage Saltwater Fly Reel

Shakespeare Wondereel 1898 EC – A Vintage Saltwater Fly Reel    As saltwater fly-fishing bust on the scene in the mid 1970’s, anglers scrambled to find suitable saltwater fly reels. While there were a few high end reels available, mainly from Florida, most folks needed something more affordable. Often that meant using the venerable Medalist 1498. I know I did.

Gradually manufacturers rose to the task and more reels appeared to fill the demand. Today we’ll take a look at a less well-know fly reel from that era – the anti-reverse Shakespeare Heavy Duty 1898 Model EC.

I got this reel at Stars department store (Nu Star) in Torrington, Connecticut. In the 1980’s, Stars was a local landmark offering super deals on a wide variety of household paraphernalia, and had a fine fishing department too. ( Stars closed their doors in 1997) So I often swung by on my way upstate to fish the Housatonic River in Cornwall.

The 1898 weight almost a pound

Well there it was in the show case. Now I’ve never been a fan of anti-reverse fly reels, mind you. Still the price tag was enticing. New in the box with a vinyl case, I remember the cost being around $70. Okay, you know what happened next; I asked to see it. The salesman removed the reel from the display case, so I could fondle it. It proved to be a very well-make, sturdy, anti-reverse saltwater fly reel. Based on the quality, the price was a steal. Why so cheap? At that time the big boy Shakespeare 1898 was competing unfavorably with the lighter and more popular Medalist Supreme anti-reverse fly reels (577 & 578). Hence the 1898 was a poor seller and eventually discontinued. ( Interestingly Shakespeare also owned the Pflueger Medalist company as well, having purchased it in 1966)

Back Plate

The Shakespeare Heavy Duty 1898 was a truly indestructible tank. With 250 yards of backing aboard the 1898 tips the scale at nearly a pound! Wow! What a beast. But when you opened the reel up you saw why. It is built to last a lifetime or two. The gears, the pawls, the spindle and the rest of the inner workings were massive. No kidding. (I once rebuilt a Medalist Supreme anti-reverse 578 for a friend, who returned from a bonefishing trip and left the reel wet in its case for over a year. What a mess. Yes, the Supreme was a far lighter reel,  but construction-wise it was a toy compared to the 1898).

The Wondereel 1898 is a “spool-in-cage” design, with a diameter just a hair under 4″. It easily accepts a 10wt line. The line guard is reversible. (Not sure the reel is? Mine is right hand wind.) On the back plate there is a “free spool” lever. This allows you to freely pull off fly line without loosening the drag.  And you’ll find a spool release button was well. As you expect on an anti-reverse reel, the drag knob is front and center. It applies tension to  a powerful six-disc drag system. a popular configuration in those years for plug casting and spinning gear.

Many moons ago, I used this reel for striped bass and bluefish along the New England coast.  It saw only occasional use because I preferred direct-drive over anti-reverse. Still the Shakespeare 1898 EC ran trouble free many a tide, never offering up a problem. I trusted it. So if you’re looking for an inexpensive, second hand, anti-reverse saltwater fly reel, the Shakespeare 1898 is worth considering. Granted its a big chunk of metal, but it  was then, and is now, an attractive and reliable reel.

The reel is very beefy inside




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The Challenge our Fisheries Face: Is Growth the same as Progress?

The Challenge our Fisheries Face: Is Growth the same as Progress?   Here in Charlotte Harbor our fisheries have been slipping for several years and are presently, for the most part, in crisis mode. Stricter fisheries management is one way to improve the number of healthy fish that swim in our waters. No question. Its been proven time and again. But there is one critical issue marine fisheries face across our nation that size, season, and creel limits can not hope to heal – declining water quality.

With over 350 folks per square mile, Florida is already the 8th most densely populated state in the nation. Along with that, it is estimated that a 1000 people a day are moving

Florida Population Growth

into the Sunshine state. Clearly that’s a lot of growth. And that growth is placing increased demands on both our infrastructure and our natural resources.

Some people argue that growth and progress are synonymous. But is that true? Hardly. Progress happens when a civilization creates better living conditions for its citizens – cleaner air, cleaner water, less stress, more open space, and a healthy environment free of toxins where people can live long productive lives. Uncontrolled growth, on the other hand, often kills progress in its tracks – producing dirtier water, dirtier air,  more traffic, more noise,  more stress, more toxins, and a decline in our natural resource.

Consequently the largest challenge our nation’s marine fisheries face is excessive coastal growth and the resulting contamination of our nearshore waters. This is especially true in estuaries such as Charlotte Harbor. For it is in estuaries that 75 percent of all marine fish are born. And where over 90 percent of all marine fish will spend some time during their lives. Estuaries are that important. Without them our fisheries are not sustainable.

If we hope to be successful in solving water quality problems, marine fisheries biologist must enter a new and complex political arena. They must begin to talk with and educate land based organizations such as coastal town zoning boards, developers, land use regulatory bodies, water use regulatory bodies, agriculture concerns, marinas, highway engineers, sewage plant operators, to name a few. Obviously this means convincing a great many people that growth isn’t always progress. To see the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s  attempt click here.

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