Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Little Tunny Have Arrived

My friend Al White who is a captain/fishing guide in Florida near where I live invited me to go fishing the other day and how could I dare say no?  I've been anxious to get out for ages and now that my hand is mostly healed (well, almost), I wanted to go so that's just what we did.

We launched the boat out of Charlotte Harbor near Boca Grande and set out in search of big balls of bait being crashed by hungry fish.  The first pod was full of mackerel crashing bait near the surface.  Every time a fish would come thrashing through, the bait would jump clear out of the water trying to get away from the jaws about to encompass them.  It was a sight to behold...I've seen this in Baja when we were fishing the Sea of Cortez and it's always an exciting sight to see.

We were soon into fish and both of us hooked and released several mack's until I had a fish on that was for certain, no mackerel!  It peeled off line like a marlin and I knew instantly I was hooked into a false albacore, affectionately referred to as little tunny.  They are a member of the tuna family and are solid muscle and built like torpedo's hence they are super strong and will give you a real run for your money.  Super fun on a fly rod!  My first little tunny of the day, I had Capt. Al hold it so I could get a proper photo using my good 35mm SLR which I didn't want his fishy, salty hands on...so, he is holding my fish.  I guess that's just the way it is when you are the photographer and either can't trust anyone to take a decent photo or don't want anyone touching your expensive camera so C'est la vie.

I shot a short video of the albies crashing bait and this was what we were surrounded by all morning!  What a hoot!

The flies we were using were immitating what are called Cuban anchovies and they are only an inch and a half long.  It's amazing out of that huge ball of bait that a fish could spot our fly and eat it but that's just what they did.  One of the fish we caught regurgitated a bunch of bait fish so I was able to get a photo of the bait next to our fly showing the similarities.

I was using an 8 weight rod with an intermediate sinking tip fly line but I should have been using a 9 or 10 weight for these fish as I was very under equipped for the strength of the false albacore.  I use an 11 weight when fishing them in Loreto.  Next time I'll bring a heavier rod!
All in all a very fun day and we both landed lots of fish.  We were back off the water by around 1:30 or 2:00 pm and back at the house having a cold beer.  Great day on the water.  I'm already ready for another trip.  Maybe this Friday?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Road Tripping for Mushrooms

Maggie the Wonder Dog and I needed a break from the Florida heat and humidity and feeling very mushroom deprived, we decided to head out on a road trip up north where Autumn is in full swing and the mushrooms are popping all over.  This year is producing a bumper crop of mushrooms thanks to Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee.  Pennsylvania and the Northeast are in the zone for some of the best mushrooming to be seen in decades.

We were heading to Southcentral Pennsylvania and our route took us through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia before reaching our destination.  While stopped for a "potty" break for Maggie, we took a stroll through the woods at the Virginia welcome center and found a bunch of gorgeous Amanitas. Since most of my mushroom hunting and species knowledge is based on mushrooms west of the Mississippi, I am new to eastern species so bear with me while I mutter my way through this.
Driving through the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, we crossed over The New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single span arch bridge in the US.  We stopped so I could take a photo of it since you can't see anything when you are actually ON the bridge.  It's quite a beauty!

The first day in Pennsylvania was rainy all day.  That makes for wet mushrooms, wet people, wet dogs and wet camera equipment, so suffice to say, I did not take too many photos that day.  I did manage a few with my iPhone though!  The weather did improve as the week progressed so I did manage to get some photos of the vast variety of mushroom species out there in the woods.  I am not accustomed to walking in deciduous, hardwood forests and these mushrooms are foreign to me by comparison to west coast mushrooms, Pacific Northwest mushrooms and those I found in SW Montana so the variety available to me was astounding!

Here are some photos to give you an idea of what a mushroom fairyland I was visiting:

The last day I really wanted to go searching for paw paws and had heard there was to be a paw paw festival in Paw Paw, West Virginia, so my friend and I took off for a day trip to Paw Paw to the festival.  Unfortunately, when we got there, we were told the festival does not take place anymore and hasn't for a few years (don't believe what you read online!!!) so we were out of luck.  So, not to be a total loss, we drove around town, marvelling at all the paw paw trees (Asimina triloba) and found some paw paws growing on a tree outside the front door of the post office.  We picked all we could reach and ate some right away!  Mmmm tasty!