All posts by Daryl

Camping: What to Take

By: Jay Brewington

Okay…I admit it.  I am lazy.  I think in most cases you could exchange the word lazy for minimalist.  I have less to carry, less to clean up, and less to go wrong.  When others are still setting up their gear, I am in my chair.  When they are packing up, I am heading home.

Is this the right way to camp?  No.  It isn’t the wrong way to camp either.  This article will give you an idea of what the lowest end of the spectrum is like.  As you add more items to this list remember the following points:

  1. It’s your dog, you walk it.  You are responsible for the items you take.
  2. Leave no trace.  Take everything out that you bring in.
  3. Never (and I mean NEVER) sacrifice safety.

The new hi-tech camping gear allows the lazy person (err minimalist) to carry more items and still keep the weight down.  There has also been a drastic improvement in freeze dried meals.  You can actually lower your weight and volume usage if you are willing to throw some money at the situation.  I don’t think this is really necessary for an overnight (or even two night) trip.

So what do you need?  This is what I now take when I go for an overnight trip now:

Stuff you always carry anyway

One if the nice things combining camping with fishing is that many of the things you need for the camping experience are already in your inventory.  With that in mind, I am leaving out a complete discussion of equipment that I think fisherman would already carry.  I’ve compiled a quick listing of these items:

  • FRS Radio
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Head Lamp
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Multi-Tool
  • Fishing Pliers
  • GPS/Compass

Equipment

First Aid Kit:  Don’t leave home with out it; whether it’s for a day or a week on the water.  They weigh around a pound.  Hopefully you will never use it.

Tent:  I use a Hennessey Hammock tent.  This tent weighs in at 2 pound 10 ounces.  With no rods or sticks, it stores compactly in the nose of my kayak.  The drawback to this tent is the need for trees.  Ground tents designed for backpacker work well, also.  They weigh just a little more.

Sleeping Gear:  I chose a fleece sleeping bag.  This weighs about 1 pound 8 ounces.  Since I am not camping in extreme conditions, I don’t see the need for a sleeping bag.  This bag is only rated to 50 degrees and works for me down to about 45.  If you are going to be camping in the winter months, you might want to invest in a bag with a better rating.

Camp Chair:  Definitely take one of the collapsing camp chairs.  They are light and sturdy.  Nothing is worse than not having some place sit when you are at the campsite.  The ones with arm rests weigh about 8 pounds.  The biggest drawback to them is they are bulky and can be tricky to pack.

Cooking Equipment:  I use a propane burner system.  There are definitely lighter systems on the market.  I like the convenience and reliability.  The Coleman 1 burner propane stove I use weighs two pounds.  The fuel cell is heavy, but compact.  I was also able to add a two mantle lantern (3.5 pounds) that uses the same fuel.  Total weight of the system is about 8 pounds. I added a small cook set that weighs in at less than pound.

Many die-hard minimalists prefer an alcohol stove.  They are much lighter and virtually trouble free.  You can even make your own. (Article to come later).  The most basic example of this is the Trangia Stove.  You can buy a stove and cookset for under $30.

Soft-side Cooler:  Once again, technology has come to the rescue.  The new coolers function well in the fall, winter, and spring.  8 pounds of ice will keep overnight and into the next day.  The advantage of the soft sided cooler is that it collapses out of the way on the return trip.

Provisions

You gotta eat. A clean shirt might be nice. Provisions include all of those supplies you need to replenish after a trip.  Again, depending upon how much effort you want to put into it, the amount you take can vary greatly.  The length of the stay will also increase the weight in this area.

Water:  You need a gallon for each day out.  Since most of the camping in our area is done in a saltwater environment, water purifiers are out.  I do not know of any products that purify saltwater. For an overnight trip I’ll take one gallon.  If you are lucky, someone with a canoe will be camping with you.  In that case they can carry a 5 gallon jug at the front of their boat and use it for ballast.

Food:  This is where I really pare down.  For a one night trip, I stop at one of the local sandwich shops and get a sub for dinner.  For breakfast, I carry one the many brands of breakfast bars on the market.  A couple of bags of chips for the campfire bull session and you’re good to go.  Instead of ground coffee, I carry instant.  I can get all of my food and beverages into the soft sided cooler.

Oh…one other item.  “She who must have her way” usually provides me with some kind of fresh baked chocolate cookie to share.  Just because we are camping doesn’t mean we have to be uncivilized.

Many of the campers I go out with disagree with me on this point.  They like to prepare more elaborate meals.  I have to admit that the smell of bacon frying in the morning is a wonderful thing.  Fresh caught fish cooked over an open fire tastes great!  If you don’t mind the clean-up, you can add a few items to your larder and still have a trip with minimal weight and effort.

Clothing:  I carry two shirts, a second pair of wading pants for the next day, and a pair of sandals.  This is one place you need to watch the weather.  Rain Jackets (or suits), sweatshirts, or other inclement weather gear might be needed.  Many campers carry them all the time; just in case.  Clothing does not take up much space and or weight.  It is better to have that rain jacket than to be wet.  Clean, dry clothes will increase your comfort level immensely.

My Luxury Items:

What is the stuff that really makes you comfortable?  Is it a favorite pillow?  Maybe you want to take a book to read.  Luxury items are those things you could live without, but they are just nice to have.  Even the minimalist carries luxury items.

Ice:  This is my #1 luxury item.  It is unfortunate too.  It is bulky, doesn’t last, and adds a lot of weight.  But it is soooo nice to have cool drink after a day on the water.  The ice and food go into the soft sided cooler.

Beverages:  Yeah, you can drink water all of the time.  But what fun would that be?  Whether we are talking about alcoholic or non-alcoholic refreshment, it just makes sitting around the campsite more enjoyable.  If you do take adult beverages, please drink responsibly.  One thing I have heard but never tried.  Some canned beers do freeze well.

Bug Lamp:  If you camp in the summer, you need something to provide protection from the mosquitoes and no-see-ums that are in our environment.  Even in the fall and spring, the biters can come out and get you.  The new OFF plastic lamps are lightweight and seem to do a pretty good job of warding off the pests.  I have yet to field test it.  But they work well in the backyard.  I took it on one trip to test it out and it was so windy, I couldn’t find out.

Personal items checklist

Here are some key items to bring along on any trip lasting more than a day:

  • Medications Including prescriptions, pain killers and antihistamines Bring along a plastic storage container to keep them dry
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Mirror
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Comb or brush
  • Contact lens supplies

If you are interested in really low weight, low volume camping; check out this site: http://www.hikinghq.net/

These guys are hardcore ultra-lightweight backpackers.  It is an excellent site full of great information.  Plus, they have an attitude and ethic similar to the paddle anglers around Tampa.


Kayaking, Camping, & Fishing

By: Jay Brewington

Ever since I got my first kayak, I have been discovering new ways for its use to enhance my outdoor experience.  For example, I found out that some people actually paddle without fishing.  You can actually just go out and enjoy the world around you without fishing.  I have tried this strange hobby and it is really fun.  However, the best of my new found pleasures is extending my fishing time by camping.

Now keep in mind the kind of camping I am talking about here is not some grueling 10 day paddle through the Everglades (although that would be a blast). Rather, this for a person who is going to a single destination and spending one or two nights. Many of the concepts discussed here would not be applicable to someone wanting to do an extended trip. This is simply a way to get out and enjoy our marvelous state for just a little bit longer.

You can enjoy the camping experience in of two ways.  The first and easiest way is to experience one of our fabulous state or national parks.  It would be practically impossible in a short article to list all of the parks that are also great paddling/fishing destinations.  This method of camping also allows you to carry a few more of the amenities that make for the “good life.”  On the down side, the park systems will restrict what you can or cannot do.  Many parks do not allow open fires, for example.  What good is camping without a fire?

I prefer more primitive camping.  I want to load up the boat and get away from it all.  Also a primitive camping trip allows for more of a challenge.  The challenges are not all that insurmountable.  I just find that the extra effort makes for a more rewarding experience.  The biggest drawback to this style of camping is finding locations.  Destinations for the primitive camping experience are becoming harder to find.  In addition, there is a growing popularity for this style of camping which creates competition for the limited space.

For me, there aren’t many things better than paddling out in the afternoon to an island for an extended fishing session.  You can set up your campsite, relax for a while, and then do a little late day fishing.  After that you can spend an enjoyable evening at the campsite.  Or, if you prefer, you can even do a little night fishing.  If you camp on one of the barrier islands you can spend the evening working the beaches.  When you get up the next morning, you are already at your fishing destination ready for a morning of angling.

Another advantage of a 1 or 2 day trip, is the relationships you will form with your camping friends.  While camping solo is rewarding and enjoyable in its own right, nothing beats the community that forms at a campsite.  You can learn much about yourself and other people.  Friendships are made and/or reinforced.

I love to watch how different people act and react while camping.  Some are always busy:  fiddling with equipment, cooking, or tending a fire.  Many of us just like to kick back and relax.  There are the readers.  They always bring a book to enjoy.  The possibilities for enjoying the camping experience are unlimited.  They way people enjoy it is a reflection of their personalities.

A camping/fishing trip is not always about the fishing.  This is the nature of the beast.  The weather may turn inclement.  To me this is a bonus.  Even if the fishing is bad, you might still have a great camping trip.  In fact, I usually end up fishing less when camping than I normally do.

Before I had started on this new adventure, I had not camped in over 20 years.  It is amazing how much the equipment has improved in that time.  Gear is lighter, more durable, and easier to use.  As an added bonus, you can get quality products at a reasonable price.  To be sure, you can still spend the big dollars and buy high end items.

One of the advantages of camping in Florida is our weather.  Unless you choose to go camping in January just as a cold front comes through, you will not need gear for extreme weather conditions.  A three season tent will do just fine.  You do not need a zero degree sleeping bag or any other costly equipment.

Kayaks can store an amazing amount of equipment.  Canoes will hold even more.  Either craft will easily store what the paddle camper needs for a one or two night stay “in the wild.”  At this point comes the first question you need to ask yourself.  How much equipment do I need to take?

I tend to take the minimum amount of equipment to maintain my safety and comfort.  At the other end of the range are those campers who carry the maximum amount of equipment.  They load every nook and cranny of their boat with camping equipment, provisions, and luxury items.  I have even seen them tow a second boat just to carry more gear.

Those who carry the minimum amount have less weight to carry around.  They also have less to clean up and carry back.  Those who go the other route have more creature comforts to make their trip enjoyable.  But they have to deal with the weight and maintenance issues involved with more gear.  I suspect that if you start camping, you’ll fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

Wherever you fall in deciding how much gear you wish to carry, you must remember you have a finite amount of space.  With that in mind, when you start building your camping inventory you must ask yourself the following question, “If I take this, will the weight and space used add to my safety or comfort?”

Look at it this way:  Paddle your kayak with absolutely nothing in it.  Now add your fishing gear.  Paddle it now.  You will notice some minor changes in the way the kayak handles.  Not much.  Most of us don’t carry more than 20 pounds or so of fishing gear (and that would include your anchor).  For those of us on the portly side, that’s less than a 10 percent increase.  Now add 40 pounds of camping gear and paddle the boat again. You’ll start seeing a definite change (for the worse) in the handling characteristics of a boat.

Another factor in that might help you decide in what and how much to take is the impact that you will have on the environment.  Remember, what ever you take into the campsite you SHOULD take out.  Most of us are sensitive to these issues.  The prevailing philosophy is “to leave no trace.”  The more you take, the harder it is to follow this rule.

Part II — What Does A Minimalist Take?

Winter Time Fishing

By: John Callaghan

This time of year your knowledge of your fishing area is going to pay off greatly, predators are less likely to be roaming the flat looking for food, instead they will be holding in comfort zones (as I like to call them) and only moving when necessity demands it, or as more comfortable zone becomes available.

Blind casting can be a fruitless task this time of year, as great areas of a flat will be devoid of fish.

For instance, the deeper pot holes on a flat, channel edges, drop offs will likely be where the fish spend their time waiting for the flat to warm up with the winter sun.

Look for “heat sinks” too, exposed oyster bars, mud flats, dark bottom, sea walls, all of these will absorb heat form the sun during the day and radiate that heat into the water around them. It may only be an increase in a degree or two, but that can make all the difference. Also in winter a slower incoming tide may be better than a quick flooding tide, as the water has more time to absorb the heat energy.

A great tip I received from Capt. Ray Markham is to look for the dying sea grasses.  His theory is as the grass decomposes it generates heat and warms the water around it. It’s easy to identify the dark brown grass, often it will be slowly moving with the current similar to tumbleweed. I took Ray’s advice and have caught some nice redfish sitting down in the rotting grass.

In wintertime the fish are still here they are just a little harder to find, but when you do find them the pay off can be big, as those comfort zones can be crowded with fish.

Another good rule of thumb for this time of year is “Go North young man.” By this I mean work the northerly areas of the place you are fishing, the reasons are two fold. Firstly the Northern shore is exposed to more hours of sun light during the day, so will probably be warmer. Secondly the Shoreline should offer some shelter from the colder North winds so the water will not be cooled as quickly, as well as benefiting from any southerly (warmer) breezes.

Of course this not a 100% fail proof plan but its something to bear in mind as you search for fish.

If you study the area you’re fishing, and try to assimilate all theses factors you should be able to identify a “Comfort Zone”.

Another great tool for this time of year is a good submersible thermometer, drop it over the side as you paddle or fish and check the water temps, finding that spot that’s just a little warmer will help steer you toward the fish, or at least to likely fish holding areas.

Be patient this time of year and slow down, if you find a “heat sink” make a note and be there when the tides starts to flood it, hopefully you should be set up and ready to ambush any fish coming into the area.

When it comes to lures for this time of year, a slight change in tactics is required from the summer time.

I still like to throw a Top water lure this time of year, usually a Top Dog or She Dog, I think the bigger bait is more likely to tempt a predator into expending there energy for a good sized meal.

The retrieve, is nothing like the “walking the dog”, quick twitch twitch finger mullet imitating pattern though.  It takes a little self-restraint but i like to slow it down drastically. After casting, let the lure sit a while, maybe as much as 10 seconds, then just a make a twitch and sit again for a few seconds. Often i will just rattle the rod tip to make the lure shiver, sending out small ripples without moving forward. Then move it again with just a slow twitch maybe one twitch a second at most, for a short distance and let it sit. It’s a hard habit to break of not reeling and twitching at speed, but if you can master the patience needed, it will work.

The slower presentation that is required to tempt a predator into eating in winter is a sure signal to break out the DOA Shrimp. I prefer to use the ½ oz model in winter, going back to the big bait, bigger temptation theory. Water is generally clearer this time of year due to the lack of algae blooms and other factors, so I will stick to a Night Glow pattern or something with some Chartreuse in it. Work it with a slow retrieve with the occasional sharp pull to hop the shrimp off bottom, then wait and let it settle back on the bottom before retrieving again.

The slow speed needed can be hard for people to learn, a tip I always pass onto first timers, is to forget about trying to reel that slowly. Instead just drag the bait along bottom by slowly moving the rod tip about a foot at a time parallel to the water, not upwards which would lift the bait. Then move the rod tip back toward the bait and slowly take in the slack. Many times the hit will come just as you take up all the slack, as the predator sees its lunch begin to move away. Recognizing the take can be a little harder to, as quite often the fish will eat the bait and not move away, so all you will feel is an increase in resistance on the line. Set that hook as soon as you feel it; lessening the time for the fish to eject the bait. If you pull free without setting the hook, then just let the bait be, sit and wait for it to settle again. You may tempt your quarry into taking a second bite.

Jigs are another good bait for this time of year. As the grasses die off there is less to snags or foul your bait. In Wintertime I prefer curly tail baits to the paddle tails. The Curly tail can be retrieved much slower and still have an enticing action. Once again be prepared to let that bait hit bottom and swim it slowly along, with the occasional jerk and pause, but remember to let it fall before continuing to reel. I favor a pearl, green or chartreuse this time of year to match the clearer water conditions.

This time of year fish are moving less and moving slower, and that is how you need to approach your fishing.

This is one of my favorite times to fish, less people on the water and usually fewer areas need to be covered, to locate the fish.

Once you do find a “Comfort Zone’ take note, it may well be used all winter long.

Paddle-Fishing.com Tournament Series

The Paddle-Fishing.com Tournament Series (PFTS) is the longest running paddle fishing series in the State of Florida.   The PFTS was born in the Tampa Bay area 7 years ago by two guys that wanted to start a catch/photo/release paddle fishing tournament series that were low cost, very competitive and most of all FUN.   The home for they chose for this series was Paddle-Fishing.com

The original series were termed One Lure Challenges (OLC).  Erick Bell, formerly with Folsom Products, started the OLC’s as tournaments with limited boundaries where the anglers could only use the lure chosen by the tournament director.  It created a very level playing field.

After four successful years of running the OLC an employment opportunity took Erick to North Carolina.   In his absence, Todd Llewellyn started the PFTS to continue the series with the same premise of a low cost, limited boundaries tournament series that created a level playing field for all the participants to have a good time.  This next season, 2010 – 2011, will be our fourth year running for the PFTS.

Over the past three years we have had a running average of 55 anglers per event.  Over the past three seasons, over 150 different anglers have competed in at least one event. Our events are all low cost, $10, and limit the anglers to the lures they can use and the boundaries they can launch from.   The top three anglers for each event split 100% of the tournament entry fees  with 50% going to first place, 30% to second and 20% to third.  The tournament director keeps none of the cash paid in.  Other donated prizes from sponsors and friends of the PFTS are awarded, as we have them, to largest fish, most spots, etc.

In the 2010 – 2011 series, we will have a series long contest that tracks the total inches of one of each of the slam fish (sea trout, redfish & snook) for each event per angler. The angler with the largest total inches at the end will be named the PFTS Angler of the Year. We will have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize in the PFTS Angler of the Year competition.

PFTS #1 – Dynamic Duo – Sept 11, 2010 Results

The first event in the PFTS was held September 11, 2010 along the south shore of Tampa Bay. The rules for this event were simple – each angler was allowed to bring two fishing rods each rigged with one lure of their choice. That’s it.

We had a beautiful but warm day and 48 anglers showed up to compete. The Pic n’ Sip was held at The Docks Restaurant in Apollo Beach and, as usual, they were gracious hosts.

Read More …….

Seven Habits of How to be an Effective Fisherman

Seven Habits of How to be an Effective Fisherman

By Jay Brewington

Are you an effective fisherman? What does make the difference between fishing and catching? Over the years, I have had the good fortune to fish with some excellent anglers. Some of them were professionals. Most of them were just enthusiasts like the rest of us.

All of them have had the following habits in common.

  1. Every trip should be a learning experience. Even if it is just determining why you had a good or bad day on the water, take something away from the trip. In addition, you might learn how to use a new lure or a different technique for something already in your tackle box.
  2. Fish with tackle that is as light as reasonably possible. The largest jig head I have ever seen any good flats angler use is a ¼ ounce. Most of them use 1/8 or 1/16 ounce heads. Light lures and lines allow for a more natural presentation of your lure.
  3. Learn how to use a select number lures well. The successful fishermen I have watched are not lure junkies. Their arsenal includes one or two lures that cover each area of the water column. They might change colors, but they don’t change lures. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new lures. Just figure out how you want to work it into your repertoire.
  4. Learn one or two fishing venues like the back of your hand. You should know the location every pothole, oyster bar, and the outlet for those areas. Learn exactly which conditions create the best chance for success for those areas. Many expert fishermen are only experts on their home waters.
  5. Keep a log of your fishing trips. You might write it down in a diary or set up some fancy database on the computer but keep a record of your successes and failures. Make a note of tide, weather, and moon phase. Record what you caught and how you caught them. If you caught fish in a certain area on a high tide around the full moon of July, chances are that might be a good place to go next year at the same time.
  6. Watch what is going on around you. Look for diving birds. See if you can find pods of baitfish. If you are looking for redfish, see if you can find mudding mullet. The environment can provide you with a wealth of information.
  7. Listen to and watch others. If you are lucky enough to go on a fishing trip with someone you think is a good angler, pick his or her brain. Don’t spend a lot of time telling someone why what you do is best. Learn their techniques for a successful day on the water.