Lake Okeechobee is an Enormous Problem

Lake Okeechobee is an Enormous Problem:

Lake Okeechobee is enormous. Covering over 720 square miles, it’s no wonder Okeechobee is called Florida’s inland sea. My god there is over a trillion gallons of water there. But Okeechobee is also an enormous problem.

The water’s of the lake are held back by earthen dam know as the Herbert Hoover dike. While the lake is a shallow body of water of about 9 feet, each year the rains of spring and summer push the lake higher, reaching 15, 16 feet or more. At present due to the record rain falls of May 2018, the lake is 17 feet, something not seen in 50 years. And we are in hurricane season too, a time when torrential rain events can happen at any time.

Given the poor condition of the dike ( It will take another 5 years to repair it) the Army Corp of Engineers has to be proactive release lake water in an effort to avoid a dike break that would threaten thousands of lives in the surrounding towns as well as the sugar cane industry nearby.

Some of the release goes eastward into the St. Lucie Estuary and some flows southward toward the Everglades, but most goes westward down the Caloosahatchee Rivers, exiting out onto Florida’s fabulously Treasure Coast. ( There it turns the the beautiful crystal water of the Gulf of Mexico around Sanibel and Captiva into a disgusting brown soup. Worse yet the lake water is loaded with pollutants, most notably agricultural runoff from local farming and the sugar industry. And along with these pollutants the lake releases its  enormous algae blooms, at present estimated to cover 102 square miles! All of it arriving on the coast poisoning the ecosystem, killing marine live and tourism. What a disaster!

The time is long over due for the state of Florida government to truly face the problem. Yes as we speak some political efforts are being made both in Tallahassee and Washington DC, but only after a huge outcry from the population. And it is also high time for the Florida legislature to realize that the sugar industry has become too powerful in Tallahassee. The industries pervasive lobbying efforts coupled with their generous offers of campaign cash has corrupted the system from the governor’s office on down. In turn the industry has prevented any serious Okeechobee water release reform that might effect their business. These companies are U.S. Sugar, the Sugar Growers of Florida Cooperative, and the Fanjul Corporation, collective referred to as “Big Sugar”, and behind closed doors as “the sugar racket”.

Post Script: Unfortunately more bad news. Red tide continues along our coast. Remember it arrived in late November and and should have been gone in a matter of weeks? But here we are six months later and the problem remains. Where the freak is this all headed? Is red tide poised to become a year-round phenomena?

Please check this out this link!!!!!  https://www.facebook.com/442147722805791/posts/634229996930895/

 

 

 

 

Posted in Environment | 2 Comments

Drinking a Pint on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Drinking a Pint on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way:

Yesterday I came across a picture I hadn’t seen in 8 long years. It was one of many I took on my last visit to Ireland. It is a simple shot showing the interior of a pub where I spent a restful moment. It brought back many pleasant memories.

Back then I was fortunate enough to stay with old friends who lived on the Ring of Beara. They rent a home perched on a cliff with an unobstructed view of Kenmare Bay. The Ring of Beara is one of the most remote regions in the country. In fact some will tell you it is last vestiges of “old” Ireland, a place that time itself has passed by.

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

During my three week stay I walked approximately 70 miles of the coast. In the mornings my friend would drive me in their Land Rover to a trail head. And then with backpack loaded with rain gear, camera, food and water I would strike off on my own. The areas I hiked each day are now part of what’s call Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. It is rugged and beautiful country indeed. Unequaled and unforgettable, many times it forced me to drop my pack and simply stare.

The Urhan Inn

Several days prior to this photograph, while riding around with my friends I noticed a long trail on a mountainside. With a little research I determined that the trail was actually the remnants of an old dirt road, that ended in Ahillies up by the famous copper mine. Based on that I made my plans.

Days later my friends dropped me off in Ahillies and I hiked up to the old copper mine and found the trail’s entrance. At first it was closed in on both sides with rock walls, but soon it opened. To my left the trail dropped away about 400 feet into a valley that ran westward to the sea. While to my right the mountain rose upwards another 300 feet or more. Given the narrowness of this old road and steep drop off to one side, it was hard to imagine than even a donkey cart could have made this journey, much less a car. In either event it would have been a hair raising ride.

After two hour’s of stunning views, I found a path, allowing me to descend the mountainside into a farmer’s field. From there I followed a path out to a small roadside pub, called the Urhan Inn. And there I drank a pint on the Wild Atlantic Way.

ps: if you wish to read more about my time on the emerald isle open the category “Ireland” and you’ll see additional posts.

Posted in Ireland | Leave a comment

June means Sand Eels

June means Sand Eels:

The first fly fishing article I ever sold was about sand eels. (here) The year was 1988. The magazine was Fly Fisherman. Seems like a long time ago my friend.

Why on earth did I pick that subject? I had been fishing the New England salt long enough at that point to know that sand eels were an extremely import forge base for striped bass, as well as many other marine critters. And I also realized that if you understood how sand eels conducted their lives your angling success would rise accordingly.

YOY June Sand eels

That article was not only my first, I believe it to be the first fly-fishing story ever written about the life cycle of a marine forage fish. Just as freshwater anglers benefit from their knowledge of mayflies and caddis, a salt angler benefit from knowing what their quarry eats. Hence you must be ready to “match” the marine.

School of June sand eels

One of the best ways to find sand eel, and therefore to find striped bass, is to locate sandy beaches that nesting terns call home. Terns love to feast on sand eels. Small oily and abundant and often in shallow water, sand eels are the perfect food for terns seeking to raise their young. In fact terns travel thousands of miles from their tropical winter grounds each spring to greet the sand eels.

Typically the best bass fishing usually occurs at dusk and false dawn, the hour before sunrise. Night fishing can be productive too, especially on a dropping tide that arrives in the wee hours. In all cases, a slow retrieves is the right deal. In areas of current, the rips on the Cape Cod come mind,  a sinking fly and even a sink tip line may be required but along most beaches a floating or intermediate fly line an unweighted fly is fine.

PS Many years later I did a second story on sand eels. Perhaps I’ll get around to posting that one too.

Posted in Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Wild Things | Leave a comment

“Fast” Action Fly Rods are Dead

“Fast” Action Fly Rods are Dead:

Yeah that’s right “fast” action fly rods are kaput, gone the way of the Great Auk. I know, they were the holy grail for over a quarter century, but finally we’re waking up to the fact that “fast” action rods have little practical use. Good ridden.

Sound like heresy? Okay, I’m pulling your leg, but only a little. Honestly I feel our love affair with “fast” action rods may be coming to an end. At least I hope so. Why on earth does every rod have to be a damn “cannon”?  Nuts. Yes there are a few fisheries where they work well, but in most situation super “fast” rods are counterproductive and even downright uncomfortable (This is why I preferred Sage’s RPL+ over the revered RPLX).

The romance began in 1974 with the appearance of graphite.  It was much stiffer that fiberglass or bamboo. Hence less material was required to build a blank and therefore fly rods got lighter. Nice. I appreciate that part. But rod weight wasn’t the big selling point. The marketing message, the real sexy appeal, was “tighter loops” and “higher line speed”. Cast a graphite rod correctly and one could boom a cast out of town. We got hooked. To see it first hand all you had to do was stand by the casting pond at fly-fishing show. Everybody was making “hero” casts. And they same was true in the parking lots outside fly shops. We were in love with high modulus “fast” action fly rods. And every couple of years a new stiffer graphite hit the shelves. We went from IM6 to IM7 to IM8 to IMX and beyond. The modulus crusade was in full swing.

Nowadays fly rod manufacturers don’t talk about modulus anymore. Mums the word. Instead they tout mysterious terms such as Konnetic Technolgy, Nano- Silica, NRX. Overall this indicates an industry movement away from a strict emphasis on extremely stiff rods. Hell, one top makers is even talking about rods with “feel”. Whoa. That’s not to say fly rod catalogues aren’t filled with “fast” action rods. They are. Why? Manufacturers realize that a good portion of the buying public still remains addicted to speed and power over finesse. But there are cracks in the wall. The release of the new Scott G series is one. The G series clearly caters to a more sophisticated angler. The small but growing interest in “glass” rods is another example. Slowly we’re climbing out of the high modulus hole.

 

Posted in Fly Fishing in Freshwater, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Fly Rods | Leave a comment

How Fly Fishing Changed in my Lifetime: Part Three

How Fly Fishing Changed in my Lifetime: Part Three

Alright, I’ve decided to take this discussion one more post down the road. Here goes.

Part Three: Our fascination with “matching-the-hatch” had a profound effect on our sport, but overall the saltwater revolution had an even larger impact. Why? It freed us from our narrow dependence on trout in streams, a dependence that had gone on for hundreds of years and had essentially defined our sport.  Amazingly that chain has been broken. Nowadays any fish that would take a fly is fair game. Milkfish in the Seychelles any one? And that desire for diversity bled over into freshwater as well. Today’s freshwater fly anglers hunts more species then ever before, including carp, a species that was scorned not so long ago.

Saltwater fly-fishing had a significant influence on tackle too. For one thing it fostered our present love affair with high modulus, stiff, fast action rods. (Fenwick’s 1974 HMG was the first graphite rod). And because saltwater fish were a plane ride away for most anglers, it assisted in the birth of the travel rod as well. Look around you. The marketplace is flooded with 4-piece rods when 25 years ago they were a specialty object.

Perhaps salt water’s single biggest influence on gear is in fly reel design. When I started in fly-fishing there were only a handful reel manufacturers. And they pretty much all made simple die-cast, spool-in-frame reels. Many had click/pawl type drags (Hardy, Orvis, Young) and a few offered rim control. That was pretty much it. Right now that’s all ancient history. Open any fly tackle catalogue today you will discover that the number of reel manufacturers has exploded. Die-cast construction has been replaced with reels carved from a single block of aerospace grade aluminum. Click/pawl drags have been swapped out for powerful sealed disc drags. Rim control is wide-spread. And large arbor fly reels are the rage. So complete is this tackle transformation that even freshwater anglers feel compelled to use these high-tech fly reels on trout – where they serve no real purpose.

Okay, I’m ready to wind down this discussion of change, but before I do allow me to point out something presently afoot. The changes of the 70’s & 80’s were brought about internally. They arrived from inside our sport. Today, however, fly-fishing faces a major change that has been caused externally. I’m referring to the internet. Yes, the internet has a very positive side in our lives, especially in the sharing of information. (This is post is an example.) Yet it is also causing upheaval.  Most notably, the neighborhood brick-and-mortar fly shop is on the road to extinction. Sad that. Frankly I hate to see them go. Don’t you? And the internet is also at least partly to blame for the waning of fly-fishing print magazines. No question there are fading too. (online fly magazines aren’t the same.) By 2012 both saltwater fly-fishing magazines had disappeared. And last spring Fly Rod & Reel bit the dust. Where this will all take us is impossible to fully know, but the internet is a juggernaut to be reckoned with, as is the smart phone.

 

 

Posted in Fly Fishing in Freshwater, Fly Fishing in Salt Water | Leave a comment