Saturday, April 25, 2015


I love my little 15.

I say that because I have to.  I mean I do love it... though I was going to trade up to a 25 except the weight made me nervous that I'd sink my boat.  The Battle Skiff has a short transom and the current breed of 4 strokes weigh A LOT.

My hull is rated for a 30 hp tiller but the Coast Guard required weight limit sticker (that they stuck to the inside of the transom and then fired 4 rivets through to make it either, A. look official, or B. conform to some insane law that requires a boat's weight limits to be permanently affixed to the hull and if it's a sticker please rivet the corners anyway....uh, what?), says that I probably shouldn't hang a 4 stroke 25 on the boat.  Point being that a new 25 hp is 155- 190 lbs and I am already dancing the freeboard waltz.

What I am getting at is that "Can" and "May" mean totally different things.  Basically, I "may" put a 30 hp motor on my boat but I "cannot".
So then what?

In order to run in skinny water I made a transom riser.  I could have just bought a jack plate except for two reasons.
1. In an effort to keep this thing as light as possible,  I don't have a battery to run the hydraulics of the jackplate on my boat
2. Just about every Jackplate has an "offset" that places the motor further away from the transom in order to give the prop better water to grip.  The offset means that the boat would be too long and thus, I can't close my garage door.... ergo, my boat might be get stolen...sheeesh.

I was going to have this "Riser" built, but finally decide to just do it myself.  The finished riser is two plates of 1/4" 6061 T6 Aluminum plate sandwiching some UHMW.  With a little work I found a local supplier for plate aluminum.  Another stop at my friendly neighborhood plastic shop and the hardware store for some stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers and away I went.

I originally shot for a 3" rise, thinking that it would be too much but knowing it would be relatively easy to cut more off than to sell myself short on the front side.   The 3" rise turned out to be a little too much.  I was grabbing air at Wide Open Throttle (WOT).  Before I chopped it down,  I added an SE Sport 200 Hydrofoil.  A Whale Tail is what the dissenters call it.  I chose not to bolt through the Anti-Ventilation plate and buy the "Sport Clip" which allows you to affix the foil without drilling through the motor...

My results are thus...
With the hydrofoil the the hole-shot (time to get the boat on plane) was reduced but so was top end speed.  Plus the deal breaker was that the bolt-on sport clip pushed a pile of water and I wasn't cool with that.  I unbolted it and and decided to knock an inch off.

Meanwhile, $12.95 from Amazon got me a cheap tachometer that told me if I was running in the optimal RPM range.  From everything I could read on the matter the goal is to balance, hole shot, with top end speed and make sure that you are running your RPMs in the upper end of the suggested zone.  My motor called for 5000-6000 RPMs at WOT. 

With the whale tail removed and the riser chopped down 3/4" to put the motor  2 1/4" higher than stock, I was hitting 5600 RPM's and a top speed of 25 MPH.

The only thing left to consider was the prop.  Every forum I read online kept suggesting that a dialed in prop was critical, and they all suggested the same guy to get the job done.  I assembled my data and shot an email off to Ken at  The next morning my inbox held the detailed answer from Ken, who not only responded promptly and thoroughly, but did it even though he didn't actually sell the prop that I needed.

Following his advice I ordered a 9 1/4 x 10 cupped prop and waited.

When the box arrived, I swapped out the prop, trailered to the river, dropped the boat in, fired up the 15 and found improved hole shot, top end still at 25 mph and a  RPMs at 5820.

When I got home I took out my drill, fired two new holes on the transom and bolted the 15 in place.

Dialed in.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


It was one of those days. 

I even Googled it to make sure. 

High 60's low 70's, just a puff of breeze.  I knew the water was clear and I knew I had to go. 

So I did.

The dog kept looking at me.  I have a weakness.  I can't idly stand by when I know I can make somebody's life a little better.  The dog looked at me and I thought..."You can stay at home and sit by the window and watch the day go by or you can join me and sit in a boat and watch the day go by".

Obviously a boat is waaaay better than a window.

So, he jumped in the truck and we drove down the road.

I launched the Battle Skiff and we headed south instead of north.
I stood on his leash so he wouldn't jump over the gunwale at every goose or mallard that we passed.

When we got to the channel just west of the flat, I powered down, kicked the motor up and started poling.

We got into position near a dip in the flat that I know carp like to inhabit.  I dropped both rocks and waited only a short time before the first fish arrived.  I pitched and waited. Pitched and retrieved.  No dice.

This was not my eater. 

I stood on the poling platform with my 6 wt in the "ready position"...waiting.

A fish swam up from behind and when I turned my head to scan the water behind me it left a telltale puff and was gone.

I pulled the rocks and let the slight breeze push us around while I stood on the platform.  Watching.

The dog walked fore and aft, leaning starboard and port.  It was like a poling platform training day for me, constantly shifting my weight to allow the dog to do what dogs do.

The breeze puffed from the west and then the north and then from I don't know where.  We almost drifted in a "Z".  Not enough "oooomph" to make us go anywhere specific.  We settled into a holding pattern and I spotted a cruising fish.  I pitched but the weight of the dumbell eyes kicked the cast too far left, I re-pitched too late.

The dog liked to study the bubbles and mud from the fish that got too close to the boat before bolting.

One fish, a nice heavy golden specimen, was finning right toward me.  I led him by 2 feet and the fly sank perfectly.  When the fish was close, I started to nudge it back, the carp tracked it for 4 feet, inhaled and when I felt the tension I strip set.

The weight of the hook pricking the mouth of the fish was affirming, but it didn't stick.

 Damn it.

You can say they are ugly, you can say they are invasive, you can say they are trash fish.

You can't say they are easy to hook with a fly.

Not around here anyway.

Thor...boat dog


Dog: "They are jumping right over here!"

"...and over here"

sliding by


Those eyes say..."you really, really suck at this."

Canadian SeaGull launches off.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Spring Break when you are 43 means something totally different than spring break when you are 20. 

My daughters, 7 and 11 were off from school this week and the family boarded a Frontier flight (we flew free on vouchers issued from the Mexico debacle from November), and this time I brought my rod tube on board, without apology, and pulled it off with no questions asked.  As we have for a number of years, we flew into Fort Myers and drove down to Marco Island.

It appears 20 year olds on spring break don't go to Marco Island, which is why I go to Marco Island.

I didn't bring my work lap-top and when my work cell phone battery died on day 2 I didn't bother to plug it back in.  It was tennis with my wife, ice cream with the kids and sunset cocktails with the in-laws.

And a day of Tarpon fishing.

I spent a morning wading the Tigertail Beach lagoon but the recent cold front left it void of fish.  I fished the jetty on the south side and despite seeing 3 pompano caught, I was blanked.  I stopped by a local boat shop and inquired about fly guides.  The guy at the counter said, "yeah call OC...Captain Drew".  He gave me Capt. Drew's number and when I got back to the condo I gave him a call.  He said he had a family fishing trip booked for Wednesday that he "might" be able to get another guide to take it.  He said he'd give me a call back.

The call came about an hour later, he was "in".

The plan was to meet at a gas station on Marco on Wednesday morning.  I was without wheels and he agreed to shuttle me to the launch in Goodland FL, about 15 minutes south and the entrance to the 10,000 Islands.

At the prescribed time on Wednesday morning, Captain Drew pulled in for gas and I jumped into his Tacoma (boat in tow).

I'd put him at 27 or 28 years old.  Young and eager.  I like that.

He said he knew a spot where the tarpon were laid up and we'd likely get some shots.

We pulled off the dock, idled through the manatee zone, and jumped up on plane.
I'm sure if I spent as much time in the 10, 000 Islands as he did, the labyrinth of creeks and mangroves would seem less labyrinthy...but if would have told me to steer the boat home (without electronics) I would have been in tough shape.

He cornered the skiff into a mangrove bay that looked just like every other bay we had seen, cut the motor and jumped up on the poling platform.  I took the casting deck with his 11 wt (I only brought 8's) and fired off a few test cats to get a feel for the rod, line and fly.

It was 7:40 AM.

At about 8:15 AM he spotted his second laid up tarpon, I pitched and the fish ate...I strip set and the fly popped out.  To give you some perspective, these weren't babies.  Averaging 100-150 lbs these giants seem like more of a threat than a quarry.  They pull into this channel and settle into the bay to rest on their migration north.  A number of them exploded on the surface as the day progressed, a few charged hard for no apparent reason, leaving a thick wake in the shallow water.  Others simply floated up to the surface, took a breath and sunk back down.  The water was tinged with green making visibility tough but it was better than it had been for months, or so said Capt Drew.

We spent the day poling and looking, peering and hoping.  I can't remember how many fish we saw, threw flies at or simply lost sight of.  It occurred to me at one point that 100 pound fish shouldn't be that hard to find or that difficult to see once we located them.   It was steady a steady and baffling hunt.  Unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.

The early grab would be the last eat that I had from a Tarpon that day but the hunting action was constant and when things would slow down for 10 or 15 minutes a giant silver king would blow up 300 yards away and keep us on our toes.

By late afternoon we made our way deep into a corner of the bay when the finger mullet started freaking out.  I took a long shot at a cruising shark that followed but didn't eat because I failed to keep the fly in it's zone of vision.  I was watching the mullet explode around me when I small school blew up a 10 yards off the bow.  I false cast and pitched into the settling water, stripped three times and then watched a hole open up under my fly.  The jack turned and I set.

The backing screamed off the reel and I felt like giggling.  I've always liked jacks.  I have only ever caught some 10" fish off the beach but I deeply admire their hunger and strength.  This one was a little over 10 inches.

In the course of the battle the jack put the 11 wt into a deep arc, made me tighten the drag and kept lining a laid up tarpon 80 yards out.  A saltwater gong-show.

I know that Capt. Drew was hoping I'd land the jack and get a shot at the tarpon but I was having too much fun to worry about a 100 lb tarpon.  When we finally got it on the Boga-grip it weighed in at 16 lbs.

I love jacks.

I had been standing on the deck for 8 hours when I asked Capt. Drew what the plan was.  He replied, "What time do you have to be back?", I said, "Dinner in Goodland with the family at 5:30".

He said, "With the tide down I know where we might be able to see some snook or redfish..."


Before it was over I had shots at Trapon, Jacks, Snook, Redfish and Black Drum.  Capt. Drew fished me for close to 10 hours and I had a great time.  I've been to Andros where the guides started looking at their watches at 4:15.  Not the case here.  I think he would have fished me until dark.
I like fishing with guides whose love of fishing supersedes the time clock or the 8 hour window printed on their brochures...such is the case with Capt. Drew.

We got back to the dock at 5:45.

If you are ever down in Naples or Marco Island and would like to fish the 10,000 islands I can highly recommend Capt Drew and his company Mangrove Maniacs.

shallow draft boats


Grackle (?) attacks Osprey

Mullet...the other white meat

natural chum...

walk the straight and narrow

Bike to the beach

Beach Still Life


Tarpon Water

Jacks are awesome

Capt. Drew on the release.