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Fresh Meat - Everything Eats a Shrimp

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A couple of weeks back, my good buddy Captain Brian Boehm of Quiet Waters Fishing invited me out for a Docklight Session on Longboat Key.  He said that he'd noticed big snook keyed in on super tiny shrimp as they swirled around the lights during his last few charters.

I had a box full of the same white baitfish patterns that I always take when hitting lights, but sat down and tied exactly 1 tiny, brown shrimp fly on my way out the door.  It ended up being the only fly I used, that night.  

Much closer to a bonefish fly than anything I'd ever think was intended for slot snook, this little fly produced double digit fish during our outing and completely changed my thinking about what counts as a "dock light fly."

They're quick to tie, easy to fish, and will ALWAYS be in my fly box from now on.  

Crank out a few and see for yourself.

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First, pick a small, strong hook with a long enough shank to make a shrimp-y profile.  Here, I'm using a Gamakatsu SL113H #6.  Lay down a base of your favorite thread - I like Ultra 210 or 280 Denier in Tan for this fly. The ubiquitous Danville Flat Wax 210 is also terrific.

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We want the fly to get down into the strike zone, but we don't want it to sink past the fish you're targeting.  Small or Medium Bead Chain works perfectly.  Tie them in, then wind your thread back to the bend of the hook.

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Add 5 turns of Small or Micro Crystal Chenille to the bend of the hook for a hot spot of foul-free flash. 

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Tie in a strand of Flashabou or Crystal Flash - use whatever color you like.  Here, I'm using Black to mimic antennae more than for its ability to catch light.  Doubled over and tied in at its midpoint, it becomes 4 separate wiggly face bits after trimming.  Keep it long - you can always adjust when you're giving the fly its final trim.

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Crustacean eyes.  Fish may not care, but I do.  

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Add a pinch of Arctic Fox Tail right on top of the eyes.  Arctic Fox Fur also works, but the tail is a bit stiffer and looks just as lively in the water.

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Legs.  I really love barred legs on crustacean patterns - they look so realistic.  Thinner legs are more active in the water, so try to find the thinnest ones you can for small patterns like this.

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Almost done, now.  Tie in some 0.5" EP Tarantula or Wooly Critter brush and palmer it tightly back to just in front of the eyes.  I use a toothbrush to tease out the fibers on every revolution.  This trains everything back and keeps you from tying over the material of your last revolution.  Tie the brush in very tightly prior to trimming the tag end.  Trimming prior to securing nearly always allows the material to spin a but and makes the profile look a little sloppy.

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Build a head, tie in a weed guard if you like, then finish with your favorite fly finisher.  I like LOON UV Flow.  You can tidy up the profile to create a bit of a taper.

I know there aren't usually weeds floating over dock lights, but having the guard on there will help you skitter the fly across the dock boards on errant casts and avoid sinking the barb into dock ropes.  Getting your fly caught on the dock nearly always means that light is finished, so preventative measures pay dividends.

Basic, easy, and fishy.  Give it a try on your next outing. Tight Lines, y'all.

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Heritage Days Fly Tying Event

The 38th Annual Manatee County Heritage Days runs through the end of the month, giving residents and visitors, alike, the opportunity to learn about our county's history and culture.

As a part of the celebration, and together with our good friend, Garrett Harp, of the River Savage Fly Co, we'll be hosting a Fly Tying Workshop on Saturday, May 19th at the Carnegie Library Basement, 515 10th Ave. West, Palmetto, 1 p.m. Palmetto Historical Park & Manatee County Agricultural Museum.

Vises will be provided, but feel free to BYOV if you'd prefer.  Materials fee is $5 per person, and anything you tie is yours to take home. Reservations required by the Museum.

For more information or to make a reservation: palmettohistoricalpark@manateeclerk.com or 941-723-4991.

Hope to see you there!

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Fresh Meat - Duppy Canal Shrimp Recipe

Shrimpy enough for Summertime Snook and Minnow-y enough for Winter Reds, the Canal Shrimp is always in my fly box.  It's a quick tie, casts easily, and lands softly enough not to spook whatever it is you're targeting - and whatever it is you're targeting, they'll eat it up. 

As always, colorway and weight are variables that must be adjusted for the environ in which you'll be chuckin' these thangs, so I'll forgo absolutes and specifics as we work through the recipe. This particular colorway is one of 24 Identical flies for the 2017 CCA Redfish Tournament Fly Angler Division selection, so keep an eye out for it on the Trophy Stand. 

Start with your favorite Redfish hook - mine is the Gamakatsu SL12S No.2, pictured above.  Run a base of whichever thread you like.  Here, I'm using UTC Ultra 280 Denier in Tan.  Tie in whichever eyes are appropriate for the area you'll be fishing, and lock them with a little Zap Gel.

We'll be tying in a Craft Fur tail, so 4 or 5 turns of Medium Cactus Chenille helps prevent fouling whilst also providing a little no-foul flash hot-spot.

Tie in some Craft Fur, snarfle it if you like, and lock it down with some strong wraps.  Toothy Trout and obnoxious Ladyfish can decimate a tail in no time, so make sure you really secure the material.  We'll be palmering material over the entire hook shank, so thread build up is not really a concern.

Palmer a few turns of Krystal Hackle over the thread bump we created whilst securing our tail.  You can use an actual, honest-to-goodness Hackle Feather for this step, of course.  Krystal Hackle does last a bit longer, in my opinion.  It also smells better - much, much better, depending on how much skin was left on the saddle hackle mouldering in that plastic bag in your material box.

Tie in whichever legs you like - Silly, Crazy, Grizzly, whatever.  I really love Chicone's Barred Micro Crusher legs. The small diameter makes for extra lively movement and the barring makes them look super fishy.

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Almost done, now.  For the collar, palmer in whichever brush you like alllll the way up to the eyes.  Here, I'm using EP Senyos Chromatic 1.5", but Tarantula, Foxy, Minnow Head, Shrimp, etc work just as well. 

Build up a head (this is where the 280 Denier thread really saves you some time), Whip, Tip, and slap on a layer of whichever Fly Finish you like.  Here, I'm using Loon FLOW UV Fly Finish, which is my very favorite.

BOOM.  Done.  Post it on Instagram, hashtag Paris Kardashian hashtag Justin Timbieber hashtag Oprah Zuckerweezy or whatever and then maybe - just maybe - throw it at some slimy old fish.

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A Brief Respite

WELL, as you might've noticed, I blogged SO MUCH in 2015 (once) that I elected to take a break for the entirety of 2016.  I'm feeling rested - thank you for asking.

In all seriousness, time spent wrangling our toddler and spinning up bugs for orders severely limited time spent engaging in blog-able pursuits, and so this field laid fallow for an unforgivably long time.  My bad, y'all.  

This year will be better, I promise.  Vids, tutorials, fish stories, and plenty of other cool stuff is in process, so keep your eyes peeled.

Ta!

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An Obsession

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An Obsession

I will never forget it.  The sudden, impossible tightening of the line.  The way the rod - once gangly and pointlessly long - was now alive in my hands.  The screech of the drag on a reel I didn't fully understand - and then quiet.  Everything stopped.  The little tarpon cut a silent arc through the air over that mangrove canal.  In that moment, everything changed.

I've been fishing as long as I can remember, but never seriously.  Cane poles in farm ponds.  Trips to Canada with my Dad.  I enjoyed the activity but never thought of it as a part of my identity.  I don't even remember what got me interested in fly rods.  I had lived in the Cayman Islands, previously, directly across the road from a bonefish flat and it had never once occurred to me to give it a try.  But living in Kansas City, in the dead of winter, I ordered an 8 wt. rod with tropical floating line.

I don't remember the "why", but I practiced casting in the grassy field at the park by our house, and became accustomed to thinking of fly fishing as a steady, relaxing pursuit.  Then that little tarpon burnt itself into my brain.

I don't think I slept a single moment of the night that I caught that first fish on a fly rod. Digging through forums, looking at maps, not even understanding half of the vocabulary being used… I'll learn later, but for now, I need MORE.   

I spent the rest of our trip wandering through the maze of mosquito control canals, casting at every splash or swirl, tangling my back-casts in the mangroves and jumping countless baby tarpon.  I was hooked, if you'll forgive the awful pun.

I bought a vise the week we got home, and completely immersed myself in saltwater fly fishing culture.  What started as a way to stave off the winter doldrums has become an absolute obsession.

The activity of fly fishing is, itself, wonderful and all that, but it also doesn't hurt that such incredible species are found in such beautiful places on the globe.  Baby Tarpon in my beloved Cayman Islands.  Fire-log-sized snook in yacht marinas in St. Maarten.  Scampering between nude sunbathers to throw little crab flies at trigger fish in St. Barth.  Every bit of it deepening the obsession.

AND, the product of this obsession - Duppy Fly Co.  The world is vibrant and colorful and so, too, should you be.  We make clothing that we want to wear.  We tie flies that we want to fish.  We obsess over our products the same was that we obsess over the sport we love so very much.

The most beautiful thing in the world , of course, is the world, itself.  The fish are a bonus.

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