Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My New Beavertail BT3 Is Here

I just picked her up today.  An amazing piece of work from the gang up in Palmetto, FL.

I can't say enough about Aeon Marine and especially its owners Will and Elizabeth Leslie.  Building this Beavertail with them was a blast and I wish I could order another one just because they made the process so effortless and enjoyable. 

I've still got a few hours of engine break in time but the boat is ready to fish and I'll post a full performance report by this weekend.  If you're in the market for a new flats boat call me at 239-565-2960 and I'll give you free test ride.  Both Beavertail models, the Vengeance and the BT3, are in the same class as any Maverick or Hell's Bay skiff and they have a price tag that will stun you when compared to those companies.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Great Interview With Capt. Jeffrey Cardenas

If you know the Key West fishing scene you've heard of Capt. Jeffrey Cardenas.  He's a veteran guide, author, photographer, and the original of the Salwater Angler fly shop.  Here's a great Q&A with him on the website Fishipedia.com. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My New Logo Is Awesome

My insanely talented brother Randy came up with this design a few weeks ago.  I plan on having a pile of t-shirts printed with image above on the front and the one below on the back:
I love the Old Florida feel of the graphics which look like they could have been hand painted on a fish camp sign from the 1960's. 

"But, Capt. Gregg," I hear you saying, "I can't wait until my charter with you next tarpon season to wear one of these fantastically awesome t-shirts and I feel like less of a man without one.  What can I do?"

Don't worry, my friend.  Just click here and you can purchase several of these shirts immediately.  They'll arrive in time for Christmas which means that your kids will still believe in Santa and your wife will let you hold the TV remote for an entire year. 

On a less serious note, if you need any kind of logo designed for your own business, or just want to witness some comic genius, spend some time on my brother's blog here. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Matlacha Fishing Report: Big Reds In The Mangroves And On The Flats

Tyler Davis from Alva, FL landed this excellent pair of redfish with me yesterday in Matlacha Pass.  He was casting a Badonk-a-Donk topwater lure the entire morning and drew a lot of strikes from some really big fish, although most managed to avoid the hooks.  The bite was strong during the entire incoming tide but shut down as soon as it switched around 11:30AM. 

With trout and snook out of season, redfish are almost all I'm targeting right now.  Fortunately, we've got great tides this week and equally great weather so finding them is no problem.  Casting topwaters isn't always the most effective way to hook them but it's easily the most entertaining.  The Zara Spook is always my first choice and the Badonk-a-Donk is a close second.  Go buy several today.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BT3 In The Rigging Shop

My new Beavertail now has its engine, trim tabs and Power Pole.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From Zero To Hero

Guys like Rick Waller are the reason I still guide after 15 years. He came down from Indiana and booked me for a couple of charters last month to go sight fishing on the flats for the first time while looking for a second home here in Florida.  Potential snowbirds are my favorite kind of charter.   One great trip and I could turn Rick into a guide’s most prized and valuable possession, a repeat customer.  Unfortunately, I managed to skunk him on both days.

When I say skunked I don't just mean we didn't catch any fish. I'm talking about not getting one bite, bump, look, or swirl from a single fish on our first day, despite the fact that we spent the entire morning watching over 100 redfish scoot across a beautiful, rising tide flat just south of Matlacha.  It was one of those mornings where nothing short of dynamite would have worked to get one in the boat for me, and the FWC frowns on that. 

The next day was a post-cold front morning with temps in the 50's and a strong northeast wind that dumped all the water off the flats. The reds were long gone but I snuck into a perfectly sheltered cove and found dozens of big snook warming themselves in the rising sunlight. They also wanted nothing to do with us despite the fact that Rick threw everything in my tackle box at them. We did get a few pinfish to snip the tails off some Gulps but I still hit the dock reeking of skunk for a second day in a row.

What can I say?  It happens.  

In my defense, the plan was only to use artificial lures while sight casting to snook and reds on the flats, which can be a big handicap on very low tides. I skipped bringing any live bait even though it’s a guaranteed way to catch something around here.  I also didn’t want to go after sea trout since they’re out of season until next year, even though they’re an easier target.  So we had a bit of an excuse for getting skunked, and while two days in a row is tough on the ego, it’s far from the worst dry spell I’ve experienced.

That honor goes to my buddy Eric from Idaho.  For the past six years he’s fished with me both here and in Puerto Rico with one goal in mind.  He wants to land a tarpon, just one stinking tarpon, on a fly rod, and every year it’s the same story.  Eric hooks the tarpon and the tarpon comes unhooked.  There’s always a variation on how long the fish stays hooked and how it eventually gets away but the skunk is still there in the end. 

Eric won’t quit, even though I’ve gone as far as suggesting he tries fishing with a friend of mine in Key West next year (where I’m sure he’ll finally land his tarpon.)  But he’s a repeat customer, and best of all, he’s a great guy to fish with on a small flats boat.  The ten days I spend on the water each year with an angler like Eric are worth much more to me than the check he writes at the end of the trip, and I saw the same potential in Rick.  That’s why I made sure I had a few free hours on a third morning and told Rick he had to go fishing with me one more time.  I was not going to let him get skunked on my watch.

When I idled over to pick him up at Matlacha Park in a thick fog at 8:30AM, I was a bit worried about how the day would unfold. The clouds were lifting but the tide was also dumping the water off the flats once again.  Of course I brought a livewell full of shrimp this time but it turned out I wouldn’t need them.  The fish found me instead.

I saw a massive school of jacks erupting under the surface all around the park's fishing pier as I cruised past it on the way to the boat ramp. I put a rod with a Zara Spook in Rick's hand before he even stepped on the boat and we whipped back around to get on top of the jacks.

The frenzy was still happening and Rick's second cast was blasted by a perfect five-pounder. Just like that, the skunk was off the boat after less than two minutes. Rick was thrilled and I was beyond relieved. We chased that school of fish for the next half hour, having a blast each time the jacks boiled up in front of us and Rick never said a work about not catching anything on our two previous days. He only talked about coming back for tarpon season. That's my kind of angler.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Coastal Marine Propeller Supply, Cape Coral

The new 4 blade Power Tech prop for my Yamaha 70.  I picked this one up locally at Coastal Marine Supply on Del Prado.  Great shop that has any prop you'll need.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beavertail BT3 Hull Photos

My hull came out of the mold yesterday and the cap is finished, too.  The entire boat will be assembled later today and then it goes to the rigging shop for its new Yamaha 70.  The trailer is a Magic Tilt that I purchased from my friends at Cape Regal Yachts right here in Cape Coral.  They're a dealer for Magic Tilt and can get you a trailer for anything from a Gheenoe to triple engine Fountain. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Matlacha Fishing Report: Low Tide In The Pass Yields Few Fish

A quick moving cold front passed through late Thursday night and brought some strong winds from the northeast.  Combined with the big full moon tides, the water was blown right off the flats in most of Matlacha Pass.  That made fishing the shorelines almost impossible and the only thing I saw moving under the mangroves these past few days were raccoons.  We still managed to spot a few nice fish south of the bridge, including some very big snook that wanted nothing to do with the lures or flies we threw at them.  Richard Henry from Atlanta landed this beautiful 19 inch trout on a white Seaducer fly just north of the powerlines and that was my best catch of the weekend.  It always amazes me that the best trout fishing of the year happens right after their season is closed.  On the bright side, temps are already back to normal and the winds are dropping, too.  Best of all my new Beavertail will be here by the end of the week and I can actually get into the shallow water once again.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Island Coast Trading Company: Matlacha and Cape Coral's New Yamaha Dealer

Putting my new Beavertail BT3 flats skiff together is acutally a lot more involved than simply writing a check to Aeon Marine and then waiting a few weeks for the boat to be finished.  You can easily do that, but since we were building this hull around Yamaha's newest 70hp, four-stroke outboard, I was more than happy to purchase the engine itself from a new dealership right here on Matlacha. 

Island Coast Trading Company is owned by Capt. Claude Whatley and is basically a small West Marine store.  He stocks everything you'll need for fishing and boating as well as being a Yamaha dealer.  Claude got me an excellent price on my 2012 outboard and had it delivered to Beavertail's shop right on schedule yesterday afternoon.  He can order any one of Yamaha's outboards, from a 5hp for a dinghy to the newest 300hp V-8, and he's located right on Pine Island road just before the Matlacha drawbridge. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My New Beavertail BT3 Under Construction

I stopped by the Aeon Marine shop in Palmetto yesterday to check out my BT3's hull coming out of the mold and to finalize the layout of the cockpit.  I'll have some more photos of the build process over the next week.  This is going to be a really great skiff with a lot of new features for a Beavertail. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bearcats And Blue Angels

This has nothing to do with fishing but I'm a huge fan of U.S. Naval aviation. Watch this in the full screen mode, it's 9 minutes of pure awesome.

Selling My Boat

There's an old saying that the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day they get their new boat and the day they sell it.  This old joke implies that boat ownership is a total pain in the butt and once you get one you won't be able to get rid of it fast enough.  I couldn't disagree with that more.

Last month I sold my five year old Beavertail B2 flats skiff and I was a very sad guy watching it drive away to its new home in Islamorada.  Owning a boat is an unpleasant pain only if you make a bad decision about what you purchase, and my 2006 B2 was definitely a good decision.

The boat itself did everything I asked of it as a guide both here on Pine Island and down in Puerto Rico where I originally had it delivered.  It was the perfect fly fishing platform and nothing on the market at the time could float as shallow and still run as comfortably in open water.

Its two-stroke Yamaha 50 gave me close to 900 hours of flawless performance.  It was the only engine I've ever owned that never caused me to lose a day's charter because of a maintenance issue.  The way it sipped gas saved me a lot of money at the pump, too.  My customers also loved the boat and the company was always fantastic to deal with, which made ordering a new skiff from Beavertail a no-brainer.

My B2 took three months to sell after I first posted it online.  The buyer gave me my full asking price which was 80% of what I originally paid for it.  He got a very good deal and will be just as thrilled with the boat as I was.

The main reason I got such a good price for the boat despite the high hours on the outboard was that everything worked.  I made sure that each piece of equipment, from the trolling motor to the trailer lights, was fully functional before I put it up for sale.  I replaced the Sea Dek on the cockpit floor, had a new cusion made for the Yeti cooler, installed a new livewell pump, and put new bearings in the trailer wheels as well as a few other things. 

All those minor repairs and upgrades cost me close to $1,000 but its new owners wouldn't need to fix anything in order to go fishing.  That alone is a huge factor when it comes to convincing someone to buy a used boat.  As a seller you'll be able to stay firm with your price and it's good for the buyer, too.

So selling my boat was a good experience but far from a happy day for me.  Even more depressing was the fact that I'll have to wait another four weeks until my new BT3 is ready at the Beavertail shop just before Thanksgiving.  In the meantime I'll be fishing from "The Barge," my dad's very fast but very heavy Action Craft.  At least I'll get a great upper body workout poling that thing around the flats for a while.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Matlacha Fishing Report: Cold Front Redfishing

I had a really great trip yesterday with three local anglers that didn't start out that way.  A cold front was forecast to come through the area around 1 PM but got here about three hours early.  The clouds, wind, and rain hit us just an hour after we started fishing and I decided to call it quits and run back to the dock after boating just a single undersize redfish.

Since my anglers live here and are regulars it was no big deal and we could redo the trip next week.  Just as I came off plane near Matlacha we saw a big school of jacks blow up on some glass minnows at the mouth of a canal.  Despite the wind and cold, it was an irresistible sight and a quick toss of a Zara Spook got an instant hook-up.  While Jerry fought the five pound jack the worst of the weather seemed to pass over us and the rain ended.  We decided to stay out and find some spots near Matlacha that would at least keep us out of the wind.  That turned out to be a great choice since the guy's goal was to each bring home a keeper red and we had three in the boat less than an hour later.

The tide was flooding a we pulled several fish out from under the mangroves on live shrimp.  And the reds literally were burried under the bushes.  If the bait landed only two inches from the treeline it wouldn't get touched.  If it went under the branches a redfish would hit immediately.  We didn't try any aritficials and the few pinfish we tossed were ignored so shrimp are the way to go right now.  There will be some great low tides starting on Tuesday morning so sightcasting for tailing reds will be the goal for my charters next week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stu Apte Teams Up With Beavertail Skiffs

If you stopped by the Aeon Marine/Beavertail Skiffs display at last week's Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show you had a chance to see the latest Vengeance to hit the water as well as meet Capt. Stu Apte.  For those of you not familiar with him, Stu Apte is the very definition of a living legend.  In addition to being a pioneer guide in the Florida Keys starting in the late 50's, Stu is an IGFA Hall of Fame member and holder of several world records.  He has invented knots and flies, designed rods and reels, and when he wasn't guiding he held down a second job with a little outfit called Pan AM where he flew 747s around the globe.  Before that he was a fighter pilot and spent hundreds of hours flying the Navy's first generation of insanely dangerous supersonic jets onto small aircraft carriers built during WW2.

Flats boats have gone through a tremendous evolution from the heavy wood hulls of the 1950s to the composite wonders produced today, and we can thank Stu Apte for some of that, too.  Stu has consulted with several notable builders over the years, including Action Craft and Scout Boats, where he steered the design of quite a few innovative skiffs.  Stu's latest partnership with Beavertail is more than just good marketing on the part of Aeon Marine and will definitely improve their line of already impressive boats.  I'm really looking forward to seeing his input on Beavertail's upcoming El Diablo skiff scheduled to hit the water next year. 

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of all things Beavertail and Stu Apte has long been one of my heroes.  He's also a genuinely nice guy and I could listen to him talk for hours.  If you want a great read pick up his autobiography "Of Winds And Tides" and you'll learn a ton of things you didn't know about everything from fly fishing to jet fighters.