Combine a world-class flats guide, Dustin Huff, with a world-class flats fish, the permit, and an opportunity for chaotic adventure is high. Our early November fishing day began in Marathon located in the Florida Keys. My fishing journal note for the day is reflective of the excellent Keys fishery in 1996 when these events occurred:

Full of facts and fiction!

Rich (Mealey) and I fished with Dustin out of Marathon. We had some excellent permit shots in the morning. I beaned a very nice fish. Gone. I made a great cast to a bonefish near Seven Mile Bridge and he was eaten by a shark. Next, we went Gulf side and I saw a single big bonefish. Dustin spun the boat and the fish tailed. I cast and drug the shrimp back. Hooked up and fought the fish hard. It was a 10- or 11-pound fish, had it to the boat, but the hook pulled out.

Seven Mile Bridge

Those mishaps left Dustin undaunted as he ran the skiff towards what we affectionately referred to as Thousand Permit Bank, where on certain tides, rushing current collides with a skinny coral shelf 100 yards in length. As rising water strikes the bank, crabs and shrimp are swept over the edge with the foaming swishing white capped waves into the deeper down-current basin adjacent to the coral bench.

here comes the bait!

Permit feast on the bait as nature’s force creates an irresistible feeding opportunity for the fish gathered in the rippled water resulting from the force of tide meeting a coral impediment.

Waiting for the dinner bell

Dustin shutdown the outboard and poled us into position. Once the skiff paralleled the bank, Dustin instructed, “Both of you cast”. Rich and I were using spinning rods with 3500 class reels. We baited the rig with dollar sized blue crabs which permit love to eat. We cast to unseen fish trying to get our crabs as close to the edge of the bank as possible. Bing, bing. We both hooked up and the ever-smart permit tore off in opposite directions with drag burning runs. Dustin worked his skiff magic giving each of us instructions on who should back off the drag, put pressure on the fish, and a myriad of additional fish catching tips. Before long, the twin 18-pound permit were boated. Elated, we shared high fives.

Happy Rich Mealey with Dustin

A double on permit is rare and set a positive stage for our next shot. Little did we know that we were about to meet the “schizophrenic” permit.

Dustin’s father, IGFA Hall of Fame fishing guide Steve Huff, refers to permit as “dishonest fish”. His description is not out a lack of respect for the fish, but an apt assessment of how difficult permit can be to catch.

Steve Huff can guide help me catch even a dishonest fish!

Typically, if you have a shot a permit and do not make a great cast, it is over. They spook, scream off, or simply vanish by turning sideways or melting from sight as if they have become one with the sea. Even when the guide and angler do everything right, a permit will often swim right to the bait or fly, take a long look, and swim off as if giving the cold shoulder to an optimistic teenage boy. But on this fishing day in Marathon, we were about to meet a permit with a different attitude.

As the celebration of the permit double calmed, Dustin made a short run to the edge of a basin abutting a flat which was eagerly accepting the incoming tide. It was my turn on the bow. We scanned the edge of the basin towards the flooding partially exposed shallows, hoping to spot a hungry fish edging its way onto the flat.

Flroida Keys
Come On Up Fish

Suddenly, Dustin said, “Rowe, single permit, 100 feet, 11 o’clock!“ “I got him,” I replied as the fish came into view. As often happens, Dustin was poling hard into a 20 mile wind with the sun at our backs to get me within casting range. The permit was swimming directly away from the skiff at a tantalizing pace, clearly aware of our presence. “Long cast, Rowe, get it beyond him and to his left,“ Dustin coached. As a former high school baseball coach, I compare making a long cast into the wind beyond a permit swimming away to a nine hole hitter having to get a base hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the last inning with two outs, two strikes and the game tied. The likelihood of success is low. And, naturally, in keeping with the American work ethic, what did I do? Try hard! Trying hard with a rod and reel creates tense muscles and robs the rod of its ability to deliver a bait or fly to the proper spot.

The cast was short, but not short enough as the splash of crab on surface caused the fish to spook. But, instead of tearing off the flat into the protection of the deep adjacent basin, this fish vectored towards the interior of the flat and streaked away looking like a vibrating turkey platter in the water. We were shocked to see the permit settle down after a 100-foot swim-sprint and begin to feed. “Rowe, this fish must really want to be caught. Let me get you a little closer this time.” Same process, same result. Strike two. Again, the permit screamed off further into the heart of the flat and settled down to feed.

There he goes again!

In case you are curious, making your guide pole into a 20 mile per hour wind over long distances, three times in a row, after a single fish, is not a nice thing for an angler to do. Nonetheless, Dustin poled on. As the distance shortened between the bow of the boat and the feeding permit, Dustin whispered, “Please, Rowe, make this happen.” When I thought I could handle the distance, I slowly raised the crab out of the clear water, loaded the rod into a good bend and made a mighty heave. The crab splashed down beyond the permit. Sensing a meal, it raced to the bait. The body of the hungry fish quivered as his tail tipped up inhaling the crab.

I sharply raised the rod tip and suddenly there was a metallic clank on the deck of the skiff followed by a slight splash in the water. “What the hell, Rowe! What happened,” “I don’t know,” I replied, as I looked towards my right hand and discovered that my spinning reel no longer had a bail.

The no bail reel!

Apparently, as I set the hook, the bail gave way, broke off, hit the deck, and fell in the water. Panic flooded my gut because the schizophrenic, now hooked permit, had noticed. He was tearing off in a life and death sprint for an unknown sanctuary.

As spin anglers know, if your reel has no bail, you have no way to reel line back on the spool. The permit was swimming free. “My bail broke off,“ I shouted, reporting the results of my equipment inspection. “What the f…..!!! Hand drag him, Rowe, while I figure something out.” I placed my index finger on the spool and lightly trapped the monofilament against the warming metal as the line burned off and the fish quickly disappeared. To this point, my fishing partner, Rich Mealey had been a silent observer of the chaos. His wise and quiet discretion wavered, as he commented with an impish grin in his voice, “Your old man would figure out a way to catch this fish!” No reply, as Dustin was deep in thought. Suddenly, he shouted over the still howling wind, “Rowe, do you have a spare reel in your equipment bag?” “Yep!”.

Dustin leapt down from the poling platform, opened the storage compartment lid, and grabbed the spare reel from my boat bag. He handed the reel to Ritchie as he staked off the boat. “Let him swim free, Rowe, no pressure!” Dustin ran up the narrow gunwale onto the bow as he removed his pliers from his belt. “Where is the fish?” “No, idea”. Dustin touched the line outside the rod tip and pulled back slightly. No tension. My eyes opened wide as he held the line in one hand using the other to cut the line, separating the rod and what was left of my reel from the running line. “Here, hold the line!” I grabbed the running line with both hands and cast my gaze towards the junction of line and water seeking confirmation of an unseen and uncertain connection to the fish. Dustin grabbed my rod, removed the broken reel, and quickly replaced it with the spare. He opened the bail, strung the rod, and handed the rod to Richie. “What now?”, I asked. “Blood knot,” he replied his hands flying as he joined the two lines.  “Reel slowly, let’s see if we still have a fish.”, he instructed during the retreat towards the poling platform.

Dustin spun the boat so the line penetrating the water was positioned at 12 o’clock. He pushed us forward slowly as I cautiously reeled. Something did not feel right. I glanced toward the reel and saw that the spool of the replacement reel was full of fresh monofilament line and did not have enough capacity to store all the line I needed to gain to connect with the fish. I reported the calamitous discovery and Dustin calmly advised me to keep my index finger near the edge of the spool to guide the retrieved line to prevent it from spilling over the edge of the now full spool. As the skiff slid forward, we discovered that the free-swimming permit had traveled in a large half-moon arc which ended at the edge of a pile of mangrove brush which had been blown into the middle of the basin by a recent hurricane. “Dustin, the line is under the mangroves at 1 o’clock,” “You gotta be kidding me,” he shouted in exasperation.

The Key West Mangrove Islands

Fortunately, we had experience dealing with hooked permit immediately swimming for the nearest obstacle to rub the line against anything sharp enough to part the line and free the fish. Cautiously, Dustin pushed us forward. Leaning forward over the edge of the bow, I extended the rod towards the surface to shorten the distance between the rod tip and the invisible underwater obstruction. Job one was to determine whether the fish swam between limbs, over limbs, or under limbs as it encountered the web of underwater mangroves. Mono is nearly impossible to see underwater. On this day, I guessed. I slowly lifted the rod tip and sensing no tension, slid the rod to the right and up. The line popped free. After conquering two more mangrove limbs, the line angle moved to the right towards the edge of the flat. “We’re free”, I happily reported.

Unfortunately, the distress signals which are released by either chemicals or vibrations from disturbed water when a fish is hooked had led to our next challenge. “Lemon shark! I have got to start the motor,” exclaimed Dustin. Once again, he vaulted off the poling platform to the deck and in an instant, the engine was roaring. “Brace yourself, Rowe, keep the fish under control”, Dustin instructed as he raced the boat directly at the hungry lemon shark. Just as it appeared the skiff was going to strike the lemon shark, the predator veered sharply away from the permit and the boat. “Where is the fish now,” Dustin sighed.

I saw the fish finning slowly away just 30 feet to the port side of the skiff. Dustin shut down the motor, got out the push pole and in three gentle pushes, the fish was at the side of the skiff. Dustin slowly reached into the water and tailed the exhausted permit.

Permit Release

We were quiet as Dustin unhooked the fish and held him firmly in the current, waiting for a telltale surge to prove the schizophrenic permit was ready to swim to freedom. As we watched the fish slowly swim away, Dustin reached his dripping hand for mine and as we shared a quiet moment of the pure joy. “Rowe, that was a miracle.”

Live to fight another day

When a kid offers a hand- take it!

The wooden rocker legs creaked softly as I gently flexed my knees. Alone on the front porch of our rented fabulous mountainside vacation home, I happily reflected on our busy week. Three generations of our family gathered in the Smoky Mountains outside Asheville North Carolina. All were there…Mimi, as my wife Lauri is called by her grandchildren, and Oompah, as I am called, our five children, their spouses, and eight grandchildren. Ginny happily carried then unborn Jack along for the fun.

We enjoyed a full week of experiences ranging from family photos, mountain hikes, creeking in the cold North Carolina streams, evening trips to craft breweries, drum circle in downtown Ashville, games on the back porch and late night chats. The week was capped off with a Hallmark-like celebration of Christmas in July and s’mores over an open fire on our last evening. Throw in good food together with a few well-timed adult beverages and the foundation for cherished experiences was rock solid.

Drum Circle on Friday Night
Gamed on the back porch!
S’mores on get away evening

As I rocked, pleasant thoughts drifted slowly across my mind like the puffs of white North Carolina clouds which appeared to bounce off the tops of the tall mountain pines surrounding the porch. Eyes blinked shut as I drifted towards a nap. Screech… the gentle sound of the front door opening. Nolan, who was four years old at the time, slowly poked his head around the edge of the door as if in the midst of a game of hide and seek. He seemed to be checking on who might be hiding on the front porch? “Oompah, what you doing out here?” “Enjoying this rocker,” I replied. Nolan walked over and reached out his hand for mine and asked, “Can we go back to the pond and try to catch tadpoles again.” I took one long deep energizing breath and took his tiny hand, “Sure.”

The pond was down the pine straw lined hill a piece. We walked hand-in-hand down the steep three twist driveway to the roadway lined by lush magnolias thriving majestically in the red clay of the South. The road led to the pond where earlier in the day, the family enjoyed a bluegill fishing bonanza. All of us caught a mess of bluegills in a dream pond for kids. A long fishing dock extended from the South shore providing a safe space for parents to help their kids use the tried and true method of cane poles to which we tied 8 feet of monofilament line with a split shot crimped on the line below a small bobber designed to float over a thin wire cricket hook baited with a juicy wax worm.

Sean gets after ’em!
You want me to kiss that?

Bites on every attempt generated familiar fishing chatter. “I got one”.. ”If the bobber goes under, pull up”.. “If the bobber slides one way, pull the other”.. “Look mommy, a fish”.. “You got a bite”.. “We been cleaned, peeled like a grape”.. “Want to give the fish a kiss?”.. For me, these are words of fun, excitement and effective indoctrination. Cane poles, bobbers, and bluegills create anglers from children. There is no better way to assure generations of fishing buddies. The bluegill fishing was also an excellent test of attention span, interest level, and the tolerance of both children and adults to a warm, then hot, rising midsummer North Carolina sun which caused the shade cast by the pine trees outlining the pond to shorten as the air temperature rose. Izzy and Hudson soon walked to a small swimming beach and tried to catch quarter sized tadpoles with the Dollar Tree pink net which Mimi had wisely purchased in Columbus and remembered to pack and bring to North Carolina. No Luck. Izzy and Hudson were no match for the speed of a soon to be frog. Walker, Andy and Megan took a few turns on the small playset at the edge of the beach as Ginny and Sean explored the shady areas on the north side of the pond protected by a beautiful group of overhanging willow trees.

Nolan, looking quite dapper in his fishing vest, was suddenly my last fishing companion.

Nolan dressed to get it done and he did!

Everyone else had wisely retreated to the shade and air-conditioning of our vacation oasis.

The fishing lagged as the angle of the sun’s’ angle sharpened. Suddenly, Nolan spied the pink net at the end of the dock. Let’s catch some tadpoles, Oompah!” We slowly skirted the edge of the pond, tiptoeing as we approached the gently sloping beach. Very sneaky. The white sand bottom sharply contrasted with the black tadpoles whose slowly moving short black tails poised them to race from neutral to escape swim speed as soon as we poked the pink net in their direction. There was no catching a tadpole. Not Nolan, not Oompah. Hoping for a more successful next adventure, I said, “Nolan, let’s check out the other side of the pond.” As we left the beach, I steered us towards a trio of willow trees.

“Oompah, what’s that,” Nolan asked, as he pointed to a streak of motionless orange in the clear water under the willow branches. “That is a Koi,” I replied.


“Why is he hiding under that tree?” I explained that fish do not have eyelids and often hide in any available shade to keep the sharp biting rays of the sun out of their eyes. Nolan looked at me skeptically as he checked out his own eyelids with a gentle touch. We got closer. With each step we took, the orange carp sank a smidgen, like a submarine slowly diving to the bottom of an ocean. Eventually, the fish vanished. “Oompah, where did he go?” “Somewhere he feels safe,” I replied.

Having explored the pond fully, we returned to the dock. I picked up the fishing gear. Nolan carried the pink tadpole chaser. We were quiet as we enjoyed the more difficult climb up the hill in the shade of the tall pines which moved slowly well overhead in the late morning breeze. As we approached the house, we heard the sounds of a brewing ruckus of grandchildren playing in what they adopted as their hideaway. NO ADULTS ALLOWED! Nolan streaked inside joining the fray. We both returned to other activities as the last day of our trip slid by shrouded in the melancholy of endings.

I next saw Nolan when his late afternoon porch visit jolted me out of my reverie. As I rose from the rocking chair, I took Nolan’s extended hand. He grabbed the pink net and we left the porch to retrace our morning path to the pond. It was quiet. The downhill stroll was easy, pleasant and peaceful. As nature dictates daily, the earth had been moving and now the sun streamed through the pine trees which cast their shadows on the evening side of the pond next to the road where we walked. As anglers always do, I redirected my attention to the water as we approached our morning fishing hole. The mountain slope covered with pine straw was steep from the berm of the road to the pond’s edge. “Nolan, look”, I whispered as I slowed, knelt and pointed over his right shoulder to a motionless orange streak in the shade next to shore. Nolan looked, “What, where?” “There”. We were still hand in hand. The orange Koi had switched sides of the pond during the day and floated motionless at the very top of the pond. As Nolan slowly raised his tiny hand using my pointing arm and hand as a guide, a huge bullfrog cut loose a ferocious frightened croak, leaped from shore, and landed directly on top of the Koi.

Watch out below!

The pond surface, frog and Koi simply exploded in a tremendous splash and instantly vanished. “Oompah, what was that?” “That was a big old bullfrog attacking our fish!” He seemed satisfied with the answer and not terribly impressed. “Can we go catch some tadpoles now?” “Sure,” I replied. As we walked on, I was struck by the notion that I had just witnessed an event in nature for the first and probably last time. I smiled as I reflected on how important it is to take the hand of a child every time it is offered. You never know where you will be led.

Take That Family Vacation!!!

The rocking chair creaked quietly as my knees gently moved back and forth. I was alone on the elevated front porch of our home away from home gazing at the wooded mountainside. The peacefulness of the rocking chair was the perfect backdrop for my fond reflections on our family vacation week in Asheville, North Carolina. Most of the family was staying in a huge three level home built into the side of a mountain in the shade of a canopy of tall skinny pines and huge leafed magnolia trees. Hints of the red earth of North Carolina peeked through the ground covering of pine needles which were slick as snow when walking down the surrounding slopes. A weary smile rested easily on my face. The week’s activity level had been robust.

Oompah and Mimi, our five children and their spouses along with the seven grandchildren were all together – as my preacher Daddy used to say, attendance was brisk.

Look what we did Mimi!!!!

We shared hiking and believe it or not no child or adult was lost.

We enjoyed showing off the grandchildren in matching tee shirts.

We tested the local breweries with outings to the Sierra Nevada Brewery and New Belgium Brewery for dinners.

Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Mills River, N.C., aglow in early morning light. The company was attracted to the Asheville area because it offers access to good water for brewing and the outdoors for employee recreation.
New Belgium Brewery Overlooking The French Broad River

Our grandchildren demonstrated their personalities while “creeking” ,,,Hudson the adventurer, Ezra, the cautious, and Izzy saving every shiny rock reflecting a flash of the brilliant sun as the fast running ice cold water distorted the image of gold.

Thank goodness this was not the creek!

Maybe Creeking Here Next Time?

Everyone enjoyed holding the youngest, including Uncle Seth!

Mimi imported games from Columbus to keep the grandchildren entertained.

Hudson, Izzy, Nolan and Walker gaming and snacking!

When a break in the action occurred the kids created their own private hideaway alcove which the rest of us avoided entering at all costs. NO ADULTS ALLOWED!.

When it rained Elliot took Mimi and Oompah to the sand pit at the downtown museum knowing full well where to spend his time to be out of the chaos!

We participated in the Friday evening drum circle in downtown Asheville.

Ainsley, Ezra and Nolan preparing to bang those drums!

The girls trusted the men with the kids while Ginny enjoyed an intimate baby shower at the Chocolate Shop!

Girls Afternoon Out For Ginny’s Baby Shower! WHERE ARE YOUR CHILDREN?

The pond on the property provided a ton of bluegills and a couple pictures. I wish there were more photo moments but the adults were doing their best to keep the kids from falling off the most perfect fishing dock. Kids, I can edit this post and I beg for more pictures of the grand-kids, Sean, and Ginny holding fish!

Nolan dressed to get it done and he did!

I tried to introduce Ellliot to the family tradition of giving your caught fish a little smooch on the fish lips but he was having none of it!

You Want Me To Kiss That Fish? Are You Crazy, Oompah?

We even found time to present Seth with the Rowe Family Toilet Bowl for his victory in the Rowe March Madness Bracket Challenge. Trophy designed by Mimi!

Cherish It Seth! This year it is March Sadness…

There was so much more activity but best of all there was abundant love and laughter. Nothing rewards parents like the sound of their adult children talking late into the night laughing about life and stories of the past about which Lauri and I remain blissfully unaware. All the while their precious children have fallen into an exhausted sleep after a day of trying to figure out the complicated business of being part of the social structure of seven cousins ranging from 1-9 years of age.

Of course, the last night’s camp fire caused inevitable consternation as parents worried about keeping the children who were roasting marshmallows safe. But what a way to end the week. An open campfire in the mountains of North Carolina. The wood smoke smell which drifted down the hill side reminded us of family camping when our children were little. The smores were wolfed down. The graham crackers and chocolate disappeared as the grand-kids began to chase fireflies in the waning light of a wonderful week.

Bonfire Saturday Night With Smores

Before the campfire was so skillfully lit with flammable liquids, my rocking chair slowed and my reflections deflected to thanks. Thanks to the entire family for their sacrifices in planning and organizing. I could start listing who did what but you all know the old memory is not what it used to be. The truth is we are a great family because we each bring unique gifts which we offer to one another in a spirit of love. That powerful unshakable combination made this a family vacation to remember!

Caye Rosario

Fishing trips foster first-day jitters. Questions flirt through the angler’s mind. Did I practice my fly casting enough? Will practice translate into quality casts while standing on the bow of the boat with catch-able fish in range? Will the guide calling “bonefish 40 feet” have the same foot size as me?

Tony Peveler and I were among 14 anglers from Ohio gathered at the Blue Bonefish in Ambergris Caye, Belize, for six days of flyfishing for bonefish, permit, and tarpon. As we stood on the dock looking into a bright yellow rising sun as it sparked flame points on gentle waves, we strained to hear the outboard motors powering the Panga, the boat of choice in Belize, towards the dock to pick up anglers for the first day of fishing. I wondered, when will our guide arrive, first… last… what will he be like? Patience was thin.


Our trip host from Mad River Outfitters, Jerry Darkes, had selected David as our first day guide. I had traveled to Belize to catch a permit on fly. Not an easy feat. My good friend and neighbor Tony Peveler was on his first flats adventure.

Jim, the owner of the Blue Bonefish, stood on the dock to manage distribution of prepared lunches and drinks to the guides as they arrived dockside. “Here comes David”, Jim indicated. Two young Belizeans were in the boat. David brought Richard, also known as “Spice”, who was an apprentice working through the Belizean guide program. We learned later that Spice was afraid of the written portion of the examination which was required to complete the program and obtain a guide’s license. Nonetheless, over the next two days Spice showed off three essential elements of great guiding; enthusiasm, great vision, and solid local knowledge of the flats and fish.

Introductions were made, permission to come aboard the Panga granted, and our gear consisting of eight and nine weight fly rods with reels loaded with matching lines was stowed. In a few words, we became clear on two parts of the plan. First, despite our intent to ask our guides what they thought would work best, they insisted we tell them what we wanted to catch. Leaving the first type of fish to be sought on any given fishing day up to the anglers is the Belizean custom. “I would like to catch a permit”, I said. Simple enough. We would be fishing for permit. While still at the dock, a second part of the day’s plan was discussed. David and Spice would be smoking but not as Marlboro men. The legal marijuana of Belize was the smoke of choice. “Would it be okay if we smoked”, they asked. Knowing that a disagreement with the guide while still at the dock is not a great way to kick off a fishing day, we voiced no objection. As it turned out, if they smoked a joint, we would not have known it by their performance. They were great fun.

Once the Panaga was on plane, we streaked towards Rosario Caye, a run of thirty minutes over water where every second we thought silently, why don’t we stop and fish here? The water was crystal clear and the lush turtle grass covered flats screamed FISH LIVE HERE!

Site Of The Big Wader

A faint green edge appeared on the horizon as the outline of a mangrove island took shape. My eyes attempted to transform the three faint shapes in the foreground of Rosario’s into something, anything, other than fishing boats in “our spot”. No transformation. Two pangas with a guide and pair of anglers were poling the South side of the Island. As David came off plane he whispered, “Mario”, pointing to the Panga nearest the shoreline. Mario had two of the Blue Bonefish Ohio anglers, JD and his wife Shonda who we had met at dinner the evening before. They were fishing with spinning gear and live bait. Tony and I sensed our guides disappointment as they quietly discussed a revision to their fishing plan.

Sensing motion movement near the mangroves, we looked shore ward just in time to see JD and Shonda surrender the bow of the Panga to their guide. On his way forward Mario grabbed a spinning rod from Shonda’s hand and while stepping forward made a mighty heave with a live shrimp on a bait hook. The cast splashed down 10 feet in front of the visible wake of a school of permit swimming quickly down the edge of the mangroves lining the island edge.

Fleeing Over Sand

A quick lift of the rod tip…fish on. Mario calmly handed the rod to Shonda. She was screaming with excitement and the permit did what all hooked permit do…. streaked across the shallow flat… bulldogged…looked for a crab pot or any other obstacle to rub the offending line against….ran towards the Panga and then away from the Panga. We could see the hooked fish slip momentarily on its side at the surface creating a flash of chromium reflected sunlight. Surrender, no. The fierce fighter righted itself and tore off again. Shonda’s shoulders slumped marking her anxiety.

As the battle wore on, David slowly poled our Panga towards the end of Rosarios heading to the far side of the caye away from the commotion of the fish fight. Only later that night did we learn over adult beverages that Shonda had landed a permit of 20 pounds…her first.

Tony and I redirected our attention to our task. Hunt for signs of permit. The windy day started to settle as the incoming tide slowed. The surface became slick calm creating the illusion of connected water and sky.

Mud Key Channel

Suddenly, David whispered, “tails”.

Finned Out Permit

Fifty yards distant a slowly weaving school of permit laid on the surface finned out. Tails and dorsal fins looked like birthday candles on a cake of still water. The guide slowly poled us closer in around 4 feet of water. The permit were motionless, perhaps sleeping, more likely staging to await the moving water of the next tide. “Tony, we need to wade, mon! Only way to have a shot! Wanna go?” “Hell yes” whispered Tony.

Stay Sharp

Gently, Tony and David slipped over the side of the Panga as Spice took the pole and gently stuck it in the sandy sea bottom holding the boat motionless. We watched an advanced permit lesson unfold as Tony approached his first cast at permit in his initial encounter with these dishonest fish. Dishonest? Yes, because even when the angler does everything right… see the fish… make a good cast… see the fly in the water.. make the fly look like a crab or shrimp…entice the fish to rush up and inspect the fly… all of it. More often than not, the permit will gleefully spurn the angler and slowly swim away. And as the finicky fish flees. it feels like the first time you had the courage to ask.a teenage girl for a date and she said firmly, no, which you heard as “why would a pimply faced boy like you think a girl like me would be seen with you in public”.

David, no more than 5’8″ tall, was standing chest deep in 4 feet of water as he held Tony’s trailing fly line out of the water over his head. Side by side, they inched closer to the school of fish lying motionless at the surface. The submerged broad bodies of the permit looked like brown streaks in the water adorned by above surface fins which sparkled with reflected sun. A cast… the fly splashed down short. The permit tails sunk imperceptibly. Tony gathered himself… a second cast…too long and the tails dipped lower by an inch. Tony’s body language of tensed shoulders and more rapid muscle movement predicted the results of the third cast as fly line slapped the water and the fly landed with a larger splash as it landed in the middle of the school. Fly casts betray a person with a try harder work ethic such as Tony. Bigger effort begets busted loops and collapsed fly line. The permit tails were like watching a sunset as a setting sun descends with no apparent movement.

Setting Slowly

The permit fins and tails disappeared like a wisp of smoke in a brisk sea breeze. The school of twenty fish simply vanished.


The learning curve was sharp for Tony as he waded with water up to his chest and the lesson harsh…tailing permit in slick calm water cannot be caught. This was classic permit fishing where the story rarely ends with a caught fish but always leaves a searing memory that wakes the angler up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Drinks anyone?

Sometimes A Small Fly Catches A Belizean Beer

Great Gift Lauri!

Celebrate 70 At The Blue Bonefish, San Pedro, Ambegris Caye, Belize

On my 69th birthday, Lauri and I shared a romantic dinner in Columbus. While we sipped a glass of wine, Lauri slid a small package across the table. Inside was a crab fly intended to entice a permit, one of the most challenging fish to catch on a fly. Along with the fly came a trip to Belize for my 70th birthday. Lauri is the best gift giver I know and her insight that a full year of preparation,reading, and anticipating the trip would stretch the trip from the scheduled 8 days to a full year of enjoyment was true.

Welcome To The Blue Bonefish

My good friend and fishing buddy, Tony Peveler, happened to be preparing to celebrate his 50th birthday and all of a sudden two milestone birthdays were to be celebrated on the flats of Belize. Adventures? Stay tuned.

Stay Sharp

Everglades Fishing Hot!

Yesterday we promised answers to the question of what adventures the Everglades would produce on day one of our fishing trip. Short version: two grand slams consisting of a tarpon, redfish, and snook in the same fishing day. Variety being the spice of life we also caught or hooked the following: a lemon shark spooled Tony Mollica who we affectionately call Tony Backseat to describe where he sits in the truck as we head to the swamp; Tony Frontseat aka Tony Peveler caught the biggest fish of the day with a keeper snook of 32 inches which had a huge hump on its back because it was a stud. I caught a second keeper snook of 31 inches. Variety being the spice of life we caught a cichlid, snook, redfish, tarpon, black drum, ladyfish, sea trout, mangrove snapper, and a jack.

Second report will come tomorrow night. Tight lines! Snook for dinner and there could be an occasional adult beverage!

Thanks to our guides Chad Huff who is pictured with Tony Frontseat and Andrew Bostick who is shown with this huge Black Drum.

We miss our fishing buddy Chuck Sheley who was not able to be with us this year.

Here Is Chuck with a snook last year and on the ride in to Chokoloskee!

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Everglades 2018

The Everglades remain a slice of wilderness containing a maze of mangrove mysteries and subtle treasures. The twisting rivers, bays and cuts of tannin stained water draw the angler away from civilization and towards abundant opportunities to build memories seared into the brain by exposure to the intensity of unique experience.

Saltwater crocodiles, alligators, ghost orchids presented in the silence of the backcountry. Roseate spoonbills, egrets, eagles, pink flamingos…not every trip but just often enough to take your breath away.

Creek Redfish (00050048@xC4F0B)

Tony Peveler, Glenn Johnson, Tony Moillica and I head out tomorrow for three days of fishing in the Everglades. Will someone catch a grand slam… a snook, redfish, tarpon, and sea trout on the same day? Will someone hook a gator?  Will there be tarpon rolling in a remote channel? Can we catch a keeper snook? Will someone hook a tarpon and watch helplessly as the silver king launches itself into the top of a mangrove tree? Will someone fall in to the dark mysterious water? Will one of us stick a plug into the hand of another? Will the wind howl or will the backcountry be a peaceful slick calm piece of magic water?  Will the manatees gentle expose themselves? Will the dolphins paly along side the skiff as we streak across the bottom of Florida towards Lostmans River. The unanswered anticipated adventures represent the best of fishing.

Keeper Snook (00049667@xC4F0B)

Keeper Snook

Answers come tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Adventures and Misadventures Bonefishing in the Grand Bahamasn

Tom Blake Catches First Bonefish

Traveling out of the United States always poses challenges, especially when part of the trip includes leaving a safe and secure cruise ship for the purpose of meeting a bonefish guide for a day on the flats of Grand Bahamas Island.

Tom Blake and his wife Davi and my wife Lauri and I embarked on a four-day cruise leaving from Miami which was scheduled to return in time for us to attend the National Championship football game to see our beloved Buckeyes capture the natural championship. When the Buckeyes were crushed by Clemson, we should have sensed that our fishing trip would also encounter a few challenges.

Ready To Look For The Cab

The Norwegian Sky

The girls scheduled the trip. I made arrangements for the bonefishing. As usual, the logistics made by the wives went more smoothly than mine.

Talk About Smooth

Talk About Smooth!

I received a bonefish guide recommendation  from Andrew Bostick who provides our fishing group with terrific guiding in the Everglades during an annual November fishing trip for snook and redfish. He suggested that I contact the Pinder family who have been  bonefish guides in the Bahamas for generations. Several members of the Pinder family  were featured as guides for Tom Brokaw, Lefty Kreh and Huey Lewis (among others) on the TV production Buccaneers and Bones which has aired  for the last several years on the Outdoor Channel.

Our January 3 date in port at Freeport, Grand Bahamas, was open on their calendar and the booking was made. Jeffrey Pinder  arranged for a cab to pick us up  at  point of  disembarkation.

Part of the fun of any fishing trip is the preparation consisting of packing rods, reels,  and related tackle.  Although the Pinders would have been happy to rent us tackle, I love using my own gear and providing the equipment for any friend who I can talk into fishing with me. Every glance at each rod and reel floods my mind with memories of fish caught and fish lost.

Unfortunately, the  dockside terminal security guard was not impressed  by my need  to personally carry my fishing rods to my cabin during the process of clearing security as we boarded the ship. Our communication was marginal  at best.  When I explained that the contents  of my rod tubes  contained fishing rods and yanked the rods out of the tubes for a demonstration, she promptly  wrote  “fishing  wings” on the inventory tag .


Fishing Wings

In broken English, she informed me that my rods would be confiscated and later delivered to Guest Services on the ship. My confidence level that the rods would actually make that journey was quite low.  As I walked up the gangplank, I  cast several  worried glances toward my rod tubes which had been wrapped together with masking tape.


Wrapped Rods

Once on board, I immediately asked  any crewmember who would listen about when my rods would be available. After hearing several different stories ranging from 5 PM that day to the last day of the cruise, a very helpful member of the crew staff told me to come back at 5 PM and discuss the matter further with Guest Services. I reappeared at 4:59 PM.

Corina was at the desk and informed me that indeed my rods had been delivered by  Terminal Security  to Ship Security . She had personally placed the rods under the Christmas tree in the back office. When I offered my opinion that  carrying the rods back to my state room would not be a burden, she  laughed. Corina told me that the rods would be available  after 6:30 AM the next morning so we could use the equipment on our trip .


Miami Skyline At Sailaway

I suggested that I would sleep better if she was on duty at 6:30 AM  the next morning.  She handed me her business card but would not promise  to be at work  at that ungodly hour.  Upon my arrival at exactly 6:30 a.m. the next morning, the Guest Services representative  on duty patiently listened to my tale of woe and disappeared in back for what seemed like many minutes. When he reappeared  with the rods, I was elated.

Tom and I met for breakfast at 7:15 as the ship  was to be cleared for disembarkation at around 8 AM.  As we headed to the bottom of the ship to exit, Tom realized he had left his sunglasses in the room.”No problem”, I said. “I’ll wait for you near the gangplank” Many minutes went by. Many more minutes went by. Finally, Tom approached the small hallway with a worried look on his face.


Tom Bake Approaches The Gangplank

While accessing his room safe to get money for the fishing day, he inadvertently changed the combination to the safe and was no longer able to open it. After numerous failed efforts to reset the combination, he left the job of fixing that problem to his wife, Davi. She was up to the task.

From that point, the trip smoothed out. Within minutes of exiting the ship, our cabbie, Terrel  Lightourne appeared curbside. A delightful man dressed in a business shirt and tie,  Terrel had the cab parked behind our guide after a short 10 minute ride. The father of five  who is a lifelong resident of Grand Bahamas drives 45 miles from his residence on a daily basis to provide transportation services to the tourists visiting his island home.


Terrel Lightbourne

Tom and I jumped out of the cab and approached Jeffrey Pinder with hands extended. Unfortunately, Jeffrey was really named David and after a brief embarrassed moment, handshakes were exchanged, rods were rigged, and the 15-year-old bonefish skiff was loaded with our gear and we were headed to the flats.


David Pinder Readies The Skiff

On the run out,  I asked  David if he is ever finished with the famous fly fisherman Lefty Kreh who appeared  on  several of the Buccaneers and Bones  episodes. Upon learning that he knew Lefty well, David and I decided that if Tom could accomplish the difficult task of catching a bonefish on his very first trip, he would deserve to share the revered fishing nickname of “Lefty”.

Tom graciously agreed to fish with me on this saltwater flats trip even though he is less than a fan of sharks which are often found prowling bonefish flats .His “reward” for bravery  was to stand on the bow  of the skiff first. Within 5 min.,Tom who had never cast to a bonefish or any other saltwater fish was attempting to catch the most challenging of all bonefish –  a large tailing fish which popped up just inches from the shoreline on the outgoing tide.

Bonefish in Mangrove Shoots

Tailing Bonefish

That chance did not work out well but Tom had two more decent shots at tailing fish. No takers even though he cast the  shrimp baited hook in good spots.David Pinder was full of encouragement and even as the spooked bonefish raced off the flat,  our guide assured us that here were more bonefish around and Tom would catch one.

After I took a turn on the bow with no luck,  Tom returned for an additional shot. Suddenly, David spotted three bonefish swimming slowly  down the mangrove shoreline. When the fish were in casting range,  David shouted ” Go”. Tom cast about 8 feet short of the fish David had spotted. Instantly,  a good  bonefish swirled with a huge boil on Tom’s shrimp and  the fish streaked off took off on a long first run with the drag on the spinning real screaming. Tom had obviously seen a different fish than David but the result was Tom’s first bonefish coming to the skiff after  a long and exciting battle. Tom was heard to  shout  a few excited profanities as he laughed with delight during his fight with the determined 6 pound bonefish!

For someone like me who loves bone fishing and knows how challenging catching this terrific fish can be, the thrill of being with someone who catches their very first bonefish   will be a lifetime memory. Tom’s smile tells it all.


Tom Blake and his first bonefish

Welcome to the ranks of bonefishing, Lefty Blake!!!


Ezra’s First Fish

With the blessings of grand parenting come a few stark realities, not the least of which is that our grandchildren listen to what we say and remember our promises. I was itching to help Ezra catch his first fish about two years ago while visiting Seth, Julie, Ezra, and Ainsley in Asheville, North Carolina. I had packed a tackle box and the family cane pole in the car before hitting the road.

Seth Rowe ySeth With The Family Canepole

An internet search revealed some likely fishing spots where an eager bluegill could be caught. When I explained my plan to Ezra, who was 4 years old at the time, he did not share my excitement. Resorting immediately to bribes, I casually mentioned that family tradition required an ice cream stop after a grandchild caught his first fish. Reluctantly, Ezra allowed that he would be willing to join the adventure. Unfortunately, I had not brought any wax worms with me and the neighborhood bait shop had no bait. Bad omen.

Undaunted, Seth, Ezra, and I grabbed a shovel and dug up a few worms from under a tree next to their home. I worried as I inspected our meager take of four small night crawlers knowing I was ignoring my Grandfather’s admonition of sixty years ago: “A real fisherman never runs out of bait!” I should not have been concerned.

Our fishing day was gorgeous. The lake was stunning in its beauty and shocking in its lack of fish. Seeing Seth and Ezra gazing intently into the water trying to catch a glimpse of a fish caused me to reflect on how many bodies of water I have stared at hoping for just a hint of a reason to fish that water.

Seth and Ezra looking for fish Seth and Ezra looking for fish

Of course, I was disappointed when we were skunked. But being with family on a beautiful day in a beautiful spot put the lack of action into perspective.

Oompah and Ezra Quality Time Oompah and Ezra Quality Time

As for Ezra, his spirits were not dampened by the lack of fish. He has such a unique and refreshing way of encountering the world. I remember a day when as a three year old he spontaneously belted out the first verse of “Be Thou My Vision”. Lauri and I were thrilled to listen to this little guy singing as if inspired by our Creator to share this great hymn with the whole world. During every subsequent trip to Asheville, I have begged Ezra for an encore to no avail.

About a year later, Ezra and his parents were in Worthington. I was eager to give Ezra another shot at his first fish. I reminded Ezra of the sweet reward that awaited once he successfully caught his first fish. His interest soared.

Seth, Ezra, his cousin Izzy, Uncle Nate, and I drove to Sharon Woods park where there is a very reliable fish holding bush submerged close to shore. The cane pole was back in action and I had plenty of bait. Seth baited up and I turned on the camera as the bait settled in the water under the bobber. It did not take long.

So grandparents remember, if you promise ice cream be prepared to deliver!

A Year Later With Aunt Ginny A Year Later With Aunt Ginny

How To Weather Tough Times

Worms and Coffee

This has been a tough week for all of us. And yet life races ahead. For me, our world is a better place when each of us love, embrace a positive passion, and enjoy the simple pleasures our world offers.


My Bride, My Bait, My Brew

My Bride, My Bait, My Brew

I beg you to grab someone you love, do something that fires you up, and keep life simple.

Is This Heaven!

Is This Heaven!