When its finally time…

Some Trips just take on a mind of their own, this past trip to the treasure coast did just that. I left my farm in Tennessee last Sunday, heading to Orlando for a work conference. Orlando was, as always, a great venue. The weather was outstanding, the cuisine even better, and the nighttime bass fishing was right on point. As I stated earlier after 4-days of Orlando I was already tasting the saltwater spray from a fast moving skiff. Then it was off for Stuart and the treasure coast.

Thursday night was absolutely epic! I landed 25 Snook with several being over the slot, all were released and the slot is only a reference point, and a hand full of moonfish. When midnight rolled around I had had enough. Enough is a funny measurement because its totally situational. Pretty Sure my guide, James Cronk, of 772 Fly and Light tackle was as tired as I was,

Friday rolled around with high winds and bluebird skies and almost crushed my hopes of a second banner night. After working all Morning I spent my lunch hour with the crew of Whites Tackle in Stuart. We decided to wait until 8PM to go fishing because of the wind forecast. I grabbed dinner at Chucks Seafood and we headed out. The wind had died and it was flat water all the way to Jensen beach. We managed 6 snook up that way and started fishing our way back toward the ramp. All in we caught 13 snook and decided to call it a night at 11PM.

Moring rolled around a bit to early on Saturday. I was making plans to run to Vero Beach and see what I could catch. Then I stopped at the coffee pot where a friendly Labrador was greeting the guests. I gave the dog some lovins and wondered what my dogs were doing. Next thing I knew I was packed and headed back north to see my dogs. Sometimes no matter how good a trip has become, no matter how many fish we catch, its just time to go home.

Stuart Florida will be there in April when I arrive. I will run through my routine of Popeyes Chicken, Whites Tackle, the Hampton Inn North, and a shrimp platter at Lola’s seafood eatery, Then I will yet again chase the dream of a 40-inch snook on the fly,

For now Adios my friends,

Windy nights on the Saint Lucie

After 4-days at a conference, where I had to wear a sports coat and say nice things, the drive from Orlando to Stuart was the longest 3-hours of my life. Stuart Florida is one of the worlds more special places. Not only are the people amazing, especially the crew at Whites Tackle, the pace of life is a bit slower than in my home of Nashville, Tn.

I found this place by accident a year ago. We were headed to the Everglades and due to a scheduling mishap at the last minute, by last minute I mean 12 hours before my plane left, we somehow ended up in Stuart. In short I fell in love with this place and have been back almost monthly since last winter. I have come enough to develop a routine. I land in Fort Lauderdale at 10AM and get my rental car, Drive to Stuart and eat lunch at the same Popeyes chicken every time, Leave there and go straight to Whites Tackle, then check in at the Hampton Inn. The first nights dinner is always at Lola’s seafood Eatery. After than we fish until we have had enough. As a Gen X creature of habit I have used the same guide since my first trip. Captain James Cronk runs 772 Fly and Light tackle charters and has been both my go to guide and the guide that On the fly magazine has come to depend on. I cant say enough good about James Cronk. He is one fishy dude and that is all that matters to me! Plus he is not a member of the flat brimmed hat mafia nor does he say dumb shit like “Bruh Snook are cool but Permit are my passion”!

Last night “Enough” came about 11pm. We boated 25-Snook and a handful of Moonfish, I broke off more than I cared to on dock and bridge pilings. Snook, especially big Snook, like structure so losing fish just means your fishing in the right spots. By the time 11pm rolled around I was worn out from throwing a 9-weight fly rod all evening. I will be reviewing the Temple Fork Outfitters 9-weight mangrove coast in the near future but, if you don’t have one I would highly recommend you make this your next saltwater rod!

We are heading back out this afternoon but, the wind warnings tonight may land me in a bar drinking some Frigate Reserve Rum and enjoying a good cigar. Afterall the Snook may the the treasure of the treasure coast but its the journey, the people, and the ambiance that matters…

FIshpond Thunderhead pack review.

In a world where sustainability has been diluted to a catch phrase on a corporate slide, there are still companies who live by the term. One of them is Fishpond USA. As a manufacturer of premium fishing gear they truly understand that sustainability and conservation go hand in hand. Hence the line of Thunderhead submersible packs and travel bags. Their policy can be found here. The Thunderhead line of gear are all made of recycled one time use water bottles, you know the ones we pick up on almost everybody of water we fish.

This review is on the Thunderhead Submersible backpack. When I ordered it I had concerns about comfort and durability in a pack made of old water bottles. Soon after I received my pack those were put to rest almost instantly. The pack is nearly bombproof and very “Modular” In nature. The self healing zipper is probably the best change for 2022. It actually works very well. The removable lumbar support is nice to have for me as I seldom hike with a pack, However my pack goes in the boat with me every time so I simply remove it. I tested my pack on several trips to the Stuart Florida inlet. We got rained on, sprayed daily with saltwater, and even dropped it in the water for a few hours while we fished, Bottom line was everything stayed dry and the pack was simple to clean afterwards. Here is a listing of the features, of what has become by go to bag.

  • Lariat gear loops are included for one side of the pack. (Fly Rod tube carriers)
  • Foam shoulder straps
  • Removable lumbar support
  • Multiple attachment points for accessories.
  • Removable interior organization pocket

Give the Fishpond Thunderhead pack a try! I am sure you won’t be disappointed. 

Outdoor Edge Razorguide Pak

Given that Christmas is a month away I wanted to do a review on the Outdoor Edge Razorguide pak. I think most outdoors people have more than a single knife. However, we all have a favorite knife. When it comes to game preparation and processing, this is where “all the other knives” come into our possession. As I have gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I have become more cognizant about game care in the field. The ability to efficiently bone out a carcass and cape a trophy out are paramount.

De boning, and sawing of bones, have always been a pain when doing these tasks in the field. The main reason is always because I never have the exact knife i needed in my possession. The Razorguide pak solves that issue. Having a Long & Flexible knife blade is key for effectively boning out game. A fillet knife is perfect and the Razorbone knife is a ideal substitute. Given that bones will dull a blade extremely quick the replaceable blades are as handy as the proverbial shirt pocket.

The Bone saw is a great addition and the perfect size weight.

The Razorcape caping knife fits the hand very well, and facilitates good control when caping out big game trophies. Once again the replaceable blade insure you’re not wasting time sharpening a blade in the field.

The waxed cotton carrying case holds all three tools and replaceable blades together in a very compact case. Lastly the orange handles make these easy to find when you drop them in the field.

MSRP is 99.00 which make this a prefect Christmas gift for the outdoors person in the family.

The Bobwhites of the Bluegrass state

When one thinks of western Kentucky it conjures up thoughts of basketball, bourbon, and horses. Even though all those things accurately represent Kentucky there is one thing missing, and that is bobwhite quail. Last season I discovered a little piece of quail hunting paradise called Winghaven lodge. It’s a place where the three important B’s, Bourbon, Bob Whites, and Birddogs, all combine. This combination equals a first-class bird hunting experience. Russel and Michele Edwards have transformed their slice of the bluegrass state to a Bobwhite paradise, and upland hunter’s dream.

Now there are many quail hunting operations in western Kentucky, but Winghaven is a quail hunting experience. Everything from the lodging to the food is carefully thought out and planned well in advance of the first hunters arriving. After all bird hunting should be more than just a hunt. It should be a experience filled with memories of more than just dead birds.  Russel and Michele Edwards ensure that you leave with both birds and memories. Their dreams become the client’s reality from the moment you arrive to the day you depart. Its amazing that these two, with minimal help, run such a top shelf operation.

The lodge is a beautiful place surrounded by the beauty of the western Kentucky landscape. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the check in experience is smooth as a glass of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. However, lets face it a room is just a place to sleep so I tossed my bags down and took a tour of the lodge. The large dining room can accommodate anything from hunting partners to a corporate business group. The large fireplace and copious amount of taxidermy make the dining area a warm and inviting place to gather after a day of chasing birds in the surrounding rolling hills of Kentucky. The pro shop is well stocked and very reasonable and affords a perfect Segway into the main lodge. The main lodge emanates the outdoor life on every aspect. More taxidermy than most big outdoor stores, a full bar, leather couches and chairs, fireplace for those cold Kentucky evenings, a corner set aside for live music, and a big screen television. While I was there the TV was playing “heist” which was very appropriate, and educational, considering we were setting in the heart of bourbon country.

To try to describe the food would be doing nothing short of an injustice to the staff, but I will give it a shot. Breakfasts are what a traveling bird hunter should expect out of a top tier upland operation. They were hearty, large portions, and had a southern flair that brought everything together. Lunches were what I would describe as a hunter “comfort foods”. They were hearty enough that eating everything on your plate was a challenge, yet not so over filling that they would impede a great afternoon afield. Dinners were of the quality of a high-end restaurant in both quality and quantity. All of this was accomplished for two main reasons. First was the amazing and spacious lodge kitchen. Second was the hard work of Michele & Russell Edwards, more Michele than Russel in the kitchen. She handles the food prep almost single handedly while Russel is seeing to the needs of the hunters, and at times their canine partners.

Once settled and my gear unpacked for the hunt we headed out of a look at the main attraction, bobwhite hunting in the rolling hills of Kentucky. It was instantly obvious that Russell Edwards put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the quail habitat on the property. The native grasses were an ocean of premium habitat as far as we could see. Our guide for the day was a young lady, whom I can’t say enough about, named Brittney Downing. I must take a moment to discuss women in the outdoors while reminiscing about our hunt. Everyone in the outdoor industry says, “we need to recruit more women into the outdoor pursuits”. I tend to disagree and think we, as an industry, need to focus on recruiting the right women into the outdoor industry. Brittney is a glowing example of that kind of woman. She was a consummate professional and not only was she a perfect representative for Winghaven lodge but for women in the outdoors as well.

When the dog box was opened, I realized I was hunting with a Brittney and her troop of female dogs. We hunted with Lilly a GSP, Lucy another GSP, and Daisy a yellow lab. The irony of myself and Russell being the only two males was not lost on the group. That day turned into one of the most memorable days afield in a ling time. The dog work was exquisite to say the least and words will never do justice to the guide work I witnessed that day. Brittney was the best dog handler I have seen in years. No yelling at the dogs, no need for the shock functions in their collars, a simple and occasional beep of the collar kept everything copasetic. We had more shot opportunities that day than I have had in Kentucky in more years than I can count. It was also nice to hunt with Russell and his gorgeous side by side .410. Being an aficionado of sub gauges, myself made the day even better. We put the .28 gauge and his .410 through the paces for sure. In the sub gauge world, you hope to get as many as you missed and today was that day. We took home enough quail, enough that we had a great day wing shooting, and left enough to give the next group a great hunt as well. That day will always be remembered as the day I hunted with the ladies. Brittney, Lilly, Lucy, and Daisy were a treat to hunt with and I would hunt with these four anywhere in the country.

At the risk of taking away from the fabulous quail hunting I need to point out two other amenities that beg to be discussed. First if the fishing lake that it literally right outside the lodge. Its manicured shorelines and clear water begged me to cast a fly rod into its depths. However, is was only 20ish degrees in the mornings to fishing had to take a back seat to morning coffee and a fireplace. Second was the bar and bourbon selection. I love bourbon, and I mean good bourbon, not the crafty hipster type bourbon that seems to gain more and more of a following these days. Russell’s bourbon collection was hailed as “the best bourbon collection west of Louisville Kentucky” by Bourbon review magazine. That’s a big statement in itself!

We ended our trip with enough birds and a glass of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. I can’t think of a more fitting end to a quail hunting trip than that.

If you want to partake in some of the finest bird hunting in Kentucky, you can reach Russell and Michele through their website at www.winghavenlodge.com  or by calling 270-836-7998. Tell them On the Fly Magazine sent you.