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Classic river bend with huge logjam.

My eyes strained behind my polarized lenses, trying to identify exactly which one of the cruising shadows was the one I was looking for. I could've sworn I had seen… there! A shadow that was slightly darker and more cigar-shaped than the others rose to the surface and sipped a mulberry delicately. Hidden from the sun behind my Buff, my lips curled back in a determined smile. This just got interesting.

Hello Mr. Grasser. I would like to make your acquaintance.

A biiiiig grasser, cruising. (Ctenopharyngodon idella)


Over the years I have caught a great many species of fish, first on conventional tackle and then, as I progressed in my evolution as a fisherman, on fly tackle. As many species as I have put on the life-list though there has been one that had eluded me to this point – the grass carp. I had cast to many and seen some true monsters of the kind but had never even had one mouth a fly.

The real Mckoi.


So when I thought I saw one as I studied the deeper pool I had crept up to, it was a surge of excitement and I immediately picked up a berry and tossed it into the general area where the slightly-different-than-a-carp shadow had been. And another. Common carp appeared quickly, swirling on top of the water and for a moment it appeared like a koi pond frenzy without the rainbow of colors.





On a hunch, I tossed a berry behind the main frenzy, and that's when my heart started pitter-pattering at the sight of the confident rise from a grass carp. That's a catchable fish, I said to myself. I checked connector knots over and ran my fingers down my tippet looking for any nicks that could ruin my day. All set and ready for launch. The fish was difficult to get to; he was in a slot sheltered from the current by a submerged tree. Most of the branches had been ripped from the trunk, but there was still a pesky branch with twigs sticking out of the water between the fish and I. Using a curve cast (a technique more at home on a trout stream, but useful in many situations), I threw a big upstream bend in my line to allow for a natural drift. Berries by nature find it difficult to swim, so imparting any motion at all to the fly would let the fish know something was up. I leaned forward slightly, watching line, fly and the spot where the fish had been. Again, the dark shadow rose up. Again, it deliberately moved to the berry. The white interior of the fishes mouth showed as it started the gill flare that would mean sweet success for me.

And then, it totally, utterly, absolutely refused and turned away.

Dear reader I am not ashamed to say that I stood there in shock for a moment. I felt a little betrayed, even. I have received refusals from a variety of fish (and uh, female humans), but never one like this. I retrieved the fly, inspecting it carefully. Ah, I thought. This fly has caught several common carp, perhaps it doesn't float high enough in the water column. Fresh fly selected (debating the berry-ness of each one to find the most realistic) and carefully tied on, I made another cast. The fish rose again, drifting backwards in the current studying the fly, and then sank from sight. At this point I maaay have started to mumble questionable things about the fish's mother. This wasn't friggin' blue ribbon trout stream fishing, ya know. Just eat the damn thing.

I rested the spot for ten minutes and then tried again, changing my angle of attack to high upstream so I could more effectively get around the raking twigs eager to snag my line and ruin my drift. I made my cast, dropping the berry from high up with a loud plop that I hoped would trigger the fish to eat without staring at the fly too much. Immediately two commons rose, but ahead of them came the grass carp. The competition was too much for the persnickety fish and he inhaled the fly and turned away.

I hit him with a strip and that fish went NUTS. I am not kidding you when I say he backflipped up out of the water, landed perfectly in the middle of the raking twigs that I had so carefully avoided, and thrashed like he was having an epileptic fit. This was too much for my poor tippet and the 8lb test parted, leaving me staring incredulously, again. Only ripples remained to tell the tale.


That... was... AWESOME!


I say this; Salud to you Mr. Grasser, wherever you are. I hope my fly causes you no undue harm and that the girl grass carp dig it. We shall meet again someday soon to match wits once again...


Until then, stay classy.




Sunrise over the croplands.

Day Two. The sun is high, the birds gently sing, and the cicadas buzz. It was pretty much Day One. It was glorious. And I was back for more.

I seeee you...

I started moving along the rivercourse, searching for signs of active carp. In places they were moving through water so shallow that I could see their v-wake from over a hundred yards downstream.

I never get tired of the game - first, find the fish. Then, somehow, get close to the fish. Then, even less likely, fool the fish into thinking that the fly is actually worth eating. Don't miss the hookset, don't break it off, don't straighten the hook... And then, maybe, you'll have the opportunity to hold a living, gasping, wriggling representative from another world. A link to the element that we have explored the least of them all. I love this game. The previous day had ended when I had come upon a large logjam piled up in a hole that the river had carved deeply when the water raged. Carp became more and more numerous as I had moved along and I had ended up landing 8 or 9 and losing many more. You know those days when you know, you KNOW you're going to get into the fish well? Yeah. I love those days too.
Once, I heard a protracted commotion upstream out of sight. Coming around the corner I saw a carp that had miscalculated and had himself highcentered on lip of sandy muck. I chuckled to myself as the fish gave a great heave and finally slipped off the bar.
Later I arrived at that spot and studied the lattice of slide trails going across the shallow spine of the river. You could see the network of carp tracks heading from river right to river left; the banks had shin deep water hugging them whilst the middle of the river was leaning towards dry. The only way across was a gutsy charge across the skinny.
Carp being carp, they just wriggled through it.
And on to the next spot.
Sweet Release

Ah. The walk upstream. Treading softly past old bridge pilings and debris from flood years well within recent memory. Locals can remember a time when the roaring torrent crested just below the bridge I am now standing 40 feet underneath.These are reminders of the raw power that hides in the quiet burbling water tumbling downstream. Now though the slow, clear flow is confined to the deepest channels and holes.

Past the debris and well above the bridge I pause for a moment to remove my shoes. The soft rich silt layer of the riverbed oozes up between my toes in a delightful way, and the solid sandy layer just underneath provides traction. I like being barefoot in the water; for me, it's a more fulfilling connection to the environment that I am moving through. The heavy layer of organic sludge is what lends so much fertility to this watershed, and why the carp are so prevalent here.

I saw lots of fish in water this deep.

No sooner did I have my shoes off and safely stashed in a hollow log on the shore than I turned around to see a cruising pair of carp sweep down the current and turn off into a shadowy spot under a mulberry tree. Ah yes. Let the games begin.

Stepping into the sunlight I made my way across the softly squishing riverbed and angled to a point slightly behind and downstream of my quarry. I had learned the basics of how to stalk wary fish in low, clear water here on this very river, and it had served me well on everything from freshwater trout to bonefish. Now here I was back in the river, and I was immensely satisfied to apply all that I had learned since then. It was like showing an old teacher that you had taken their lessons to heart and gone on to make something of yourself. Staying low and wearing drab clothing, I was as stealthy as I could be. Once in position, I flicked a cast under the overhanging branches and let my 'berry' fall with a satisfying plop.

The pair of fish practically tripped over each other moving to the source of the sound; two rubbery mouths emerged from the water, groping for what they thought to be a delicious berry. A long second happened, me intent on the fish, the fish intent on the fly. One carp shouldered aside the other and found success, slurping the berry down. An instant later, a strip strike set home with a watery explosion as the stuck fish streaked upstream. A game of ring-around-the tree ensued where I found myself run-sloshing through the water trying to keep the fish from breaking me off on a submerged stump. Clamping down on the reel as the fish bee-lined from there to a logjam, I executed a maneuver known to my friends and I as 'stop 'em or pop 'em'. This is where you're trying to handle a large fish heading for cover or maybe you hook into something a little too large to handle on the gear you have in hand. In this situation, locking up the reel with your hand or by jamming it into your thigh in order to either turn the fish or break it off might be the only thing keeping you from losing an expensive flyline and maybe all of your backing too. I locked down and angled my rod hard to the left; the carp slewed sideways in a powerslide, never stopping his tail as he continued to angle into the tangled mess of branches. Time slowed down. Then, with an almost audible creak, the hook bent and popped out, reducing my electric connection to a disappointing slack.

I took a deep breath as my world expanded again, away from the tunnel vision I get when locked onto a piscine target. I could again hear the birdsong floating through the trees, and notice that the wind had picked up a bit. Stripping in, I confirmed that it was indeed a hook failure. Mental note - use stronger hooks.

And on to the next spot.

My star model posing for the camera


As I stood at the back of my vehicle rigging up my 6 weight, I had time to reflect on how lucky I was to get to go fishing that day. The sun was hot on my back, and I slid my buff up into position. It was near noon; carp fishermen need not get up with the dawn. Sightfishing requires high sun, and carp seem to be active throughout the day.

I looked up as a rusty, paint-peeling Dodge rattled by. Ah, small town America. I waved to the driver and the happy border collie in the bed as they passed. Stepping off the asphalt onto the steep, hardpacked trail to the river, I couldn't help but smile. I had sneaked a peek off the bridge and knew there were several golden-tan shadows clustered in the nearest deep pool. It was a moment's deliberation over the fly box  - you know, where your hand hovers and waits for your eyes and brain and gut to have the conversation to determine which fly will be first out. It was a short moment this time because there were really only two choices of fly. Mulberry that sinks slowly or mulberry that floats.

Tying on the 'dry' - hunk of black foam on hook, rounded with curved scissors into a berryish shape on a size 6 hook - I stepped out of the dappled shade of the trees and into the heat of the sandbar. The river, strangled by drought, flowed slowly by, clear in the shallow spots and a grey-green in the few remaining holes. The carp were not hard to see; from my vantage I could see 5 or 6 and I stood quietly a moment and looked for a good spot to begin my approach. Seeing a spot relatively clear of the scrubby collection of plants that springs up on sandbars, I eased over. Stripping out what I judged to be enough line, maybe 50 feet, I flicked a short cast onto the water just downstream from me and waited for the biggest carp of the bunch to separate from the group.


A chunk.

After a moment I saw my chance - I dropped the fly with a plop! a foot ahead of the fish. I tell ya, if those fish had ears all of them would've been perked up at that sound. My target fish moved immediately forward and without hesitation slurped down my faux berry. What a great moment - satisfaction for a fly well-tied and a good presentation, as well as the pure joy of a firm hookset shortly followed by the taut, live-wire feeling of being connected to a strong fish. I admit to grinning from ear to ear as I worked the fish against the current and turned his head to tire him out. I held him for a moment, quickly lifting for a photo and then releasing the fish back into the pool.

And on to the next spot.



Ah, the summers of youth. Long hot days, freedom to roam after my chores were through, and miles of river to explore. It might come as little surprise that as much of my time as possible was spent with a line in the water - back then it was spinning gear with nightcrawlers caught on rainy nights out in the backyard. Catfish were my target, and I got pretty good at finding them. Then we went through a period of little rain... the river got low and clear, and finding catfish was difficult. Carp on the other hand were easy to find; cavorting in the deeper pools, nosing like pigs through the silty bottom of the shallows.

Being the opportunist, I learned to hunt carp. I learned that they are a wary creature, and any approach had to be made with care. A weightless presentation was best - casting a hunk of worm on a smallish hook well in front of the fish and trying to get a natural drift. Good times. Soon thereafter I had summer work and then went away to college and didn't get to fish the river any more. But you never forget your first home river... and this past week I found myself standing on her banks again, but this time with fly rod in hand. Driving to my parents' place I had crossed over a couple bridges further downstream, and  found myself grinning like a fool when I saw how low and clear the river was.

Ohhh yeah baby. It's carp time.

First things first - what're they eating? I have my standard carp catcher patterns - my rojo bug, and a couple others - but it was mulberry season on the river. Mulberries? you might ask... what does That have to do with the price of tea in China. Well my friend, I wasn't kidding when I said carp rooted 'like pigs'. They're omnivorous and like to munch anything from veggies to protein depending on what's available. However they can also be frustratingly picky - if they're eating cottonwood fluff, you gotta come up with a convincing fluff fly.

Mulberry Overhang

If they're eating mulberries, throwing much else in front of them will elicit few eats. You get the idea. Mulberry trees like to grow along river-courses here in Kansas - hanging over the water, they provide both a shady spot for the fish to hang and at the right time of year literally drip a steady supply of floating berries into the water. Bingo. Berry pattern. Challenge accepted.

Finely tuned mulberry imitation.





A bit of black poofy yarn, palmered and picked out made an admirable-ish berry profile. The real thing is a deep purple color but I made-do with black. Dark colored hooks in size 6 rounded out the pattern - I cranked out half a dozen and got ready to hit the water.






One of the things that I enjoy most about fishing familiar water is that you get the added benefit of all the memories that the place holds for you. It's like reminiscing with an old friend - warm and reassuring because you know that even if you don't find them today, the fish Are there and you Have found them before. Humans are creatures of habit and I am no different - being there in my old haunt was a trip down memory lane and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Things have changed - a new bridge, some riprap that didn't used to be there - but the river is still the same. It doesn't know how to be anything but what it is, and it doesn't try.

Cruising Carp under Mulberry

A quick story through pictures of my first trip to try my luck below Denison Dam at Texoma.

No big ones, but I ended the day with 12 young striper, 1 nice white bass, and one brave greenie. Not too bad. Looking forward to going back and tangling with a bigger fish; perhaps night fishing is the ticket... hmmm...

I recently took a jaunt up the I-35 corridor with intent of visiting some family and friends. I let it be known that I was going to be passing near several of my friends and hoping to wet a line with some of them. My call was answered; fish were nearly assured.


First stop was a spot near Gruene, where I slowed down and spent some time with Courtney and Eric of Not So Creepy Critters. I had met them and their parents in Corpus, and let me tell you, they're a first-class family. The kids have done a tremendous job of building up a business of educating local schools and other public groups about so-called creepy critters - spiders, snakes, lizards and the like. Along the way I think they end up teaching a little something about tolerance too, which can only be for the good. Check them out, invite them to put on a presentation for your group!


After checking in with them, I headed out to an arm of Lake Austin, via canoe -







And then I toodled on up the highway to the DFW area, where I got invited out to try some of the spring crappie action fishing along the dam of Lake Dallas from a bass boat.

The first fish of the day.
My second fish. At this point, the other guy is waaaay ahead.

The fishing started to slow down and the water skiers moved in close and began to be obnoxious; we were about ready to wrap it up when Mike bumped a curlytailed grub right off a rock into this bucketmouth's face. A solid fish anywhere; nice catch Mike!


I recently had the great opportunity to fly across a whole lot of water to a small speck of rock in the middle of the pacific and though I only really had time to fish seriously for one day, I managed to connect! A big tip of the hat goes out to Clay over at Nervous Waters Fly Fishing for helping me out with a spot or two where I might run into a bonefish on a do it myself basis.

The habitat here is diverse - deep channels and flats, waist deep sandy pockets and mixed coral, all the way up to super skinny water that goes dry with a low tide and is nearly always subject to waves washing across it. I hit the water an hour before tide change, and saw a feeding pair almost right off the bat. Sneaking up on these fish while crunching across treacherous coral is no walk in the park. These guys got uneasy and cruised away to who knows where when I was trying to set up for the roughly 80' shot quartering into the wind. I had the hardest time seeing these fish if they weren't tailing - you old hands at the bonefish game are nodding and smiling right now, but for this redfish hunter they were grey ghosts indeed!

After the initial jolt of adrenaline from spotting my quarry, I was completely psyched up and eager to find some more. I slowed down my wading pace and went along as stealthily as I could. After another hundred yards or so I was rewarded with a large tail popping up at 40 feet, facing away - if you've never seen a bone tailing before it's like seeing a spike suddenly thrust from the water, their caudal fin is deeply forked and very pointed. I strained my eyes behind my polarized lenses but even in 5 inches of super clean water I just could Not see the fish. The best I had was a slightly darker green-blue smear attached to the tail. Seizing my chance, I quickly calculated the wind and laid a cast aimed at placing my fly a foot ahead and to the left of the fish. The loop straightened and dropped, and the tail went down... I waited, intense, and twitched the mantis shrimp imitation...

Twenty feet further on, the bone popped his tail up again to mock me. I quickly learned to appreciate how fast the fish were moving across the flat; I never had time to take more than two shots at any fish that I saw, and if I was further than a long cast from a fish that I saw tailing it was pretty much pointless to try and wade to the tail because they would be long gone by the time I got there over the coral.

The tide started to rise, prompting bigger fish to push up into the skinny areas and I started to see some very large. At least this Texas boy knows how find some tail! Walking slowly with the wind, into the tidal flow, I caught the flicker of a fin above the surface and snapped my attention to that spot. A bonefish was worming his way towards me into the wind with his back emerging up out of the water as I watched. I dropped to my knees, ignoring the coral biting into my kneecaps as I readied myself for the shot. He stopped and tailed on something at around 65 feet, and I almost cast to him but something stopped me; I decided to wait a bit more. My heart thudding in my chest, I held my leader as my fly swung loose in the breeze. I watched the fish's gleaming, shark-like profile get closer and closer.

At what I guessed as 45', the bone stopped with his head behind a knob of coral. I tossed the fly aside and rolled my line up off the water, back and then flicking out, landing the fly a foot to the fish's left, out of sight behind the outcrop. Sliding forward, the bone turned towards me slightly and I could see his head clearly, just under the surface. I made a 3 inch strip; the fish immediately turned on the movement. I made two tiny twitches; he simply swam over and ate it. Thankfully my hands knew what to do, because my brain was melting down. No way he just ate that! No WAY! As klaxons were screaming in my brain, my hands smoothly and swiftly executed a strip strike, lifting the rod quickly to keep tension and keep the leader above coral. In a giddy fog, I watched the fish as he cleared the remaining line and hit the reel. Lurching to my feet, I just held the rod as my reel arbor started to groan backwards, slowly growing in speed and pitch as the fish figured out he was hooked, and then the reel was screaming. I was grinning like a fool and watching him torpedo across the flat, slinging water and chunks of seaweed everywhere. I expected the fight to be over any second - any errant bit of coral could cut me off. To my surprise the fish tired out around 80 yards of backing into the run... or at least I thought he tired. Whipping around, he began swimming nearly directly back to me. My eyes were wide and my mouth started uttering all the proper profanity due the situation. Reeling furiously and backing up as quickly as possible, I was stumbling over coral and almost ended up on my back more than once.

I finally caught up to the fish and got tight again - no sooner had I a good connection than he burned off again, but this run was much shorter than the first and I began to dare to hope that I would land him. Gingerly controlling the bonefish, turning his head every time he tried to gain momentum, I worked him to my hand. I let out a little whoop of victory, and then yanked my head up to the unfamiliar sound of applause. Seems on Hawaii everyone either fishes or appreciates fishing as an art - my screaming drag and splashing around had attracted a small crowd of locals. Realizing I had to get rid of the fish before they figured out how good it was and got any closer, I snapped a couple hurried pics with my camera phone and gave him one more lingering look as I popped the hook from the corner of his mouth. Moving him once forward and back, I released his tail as he surged away from me. Turning back to the crowd, I waved and smiled. They were very disappointed that I released it and I explained to them that the fish had been small and that I would leave it for them to catch later. They brightened a bit at that idea, and wandered off without asking me what I had caught. Turning back to the flat, I closed my eyes for a moment and basked in the euphoria a bit more before going back on full alert and covering more water. That would be the only shot I had for the rest of the trip, but I didn't care much. I had already done what I came to do.


Every once in a while a fisherman finds himself invited along on an adventure of grand proportion with a bunch of complete strangers. Such was the situation a while back when I got a call from Brandon. When I heard Chris, Mike and Jen were all going to be there, I was excited for the chance to make new fly flinging friends and to show off my home waters a bit.

Everyone with their own favorite little water that they like to occasionally show to people knows that the guests always seem to arrive during crappy conditions. The fishing was So bad in fact that the ubiquitous 'shoulda been here yesterday' curse wasn't in effect this time; the fishing had been pretty terrible for a week or so already prior to the group flying in from their various places around the country. Brandon and I kept in touch and from time to time I would send him another depressing fishing report - I am pretty sure he dreaded my name on his caller ID after a while.

Long story short? We by-golly Did find fish for everyone, after some work. And frustration. And running from a squall. And more frustration.

Don't believe me? Well, the proof is in the pictures, and I didn't take a single one*... but I know a few people that did!

Hello, Texas - Eat More Brook Trout

The Cabin – Eat More Brook Trout

Beat the Drum – Eat More Brook Trout

Sandblasted ... - Eat More Brook Trout

We Have Your Redfish – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Redfish Palace – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Laguna Sunrise – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Bohemia, TX – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

On Being Ready – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Fishing with the Devil - Mike’s Gone Fishin’

On the board – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Laguna Sunset – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Texas Transition - Mike's Gone Fishin'

 Thank you guys for the Great times!

I was sitting on the very end of the Port Aransas south jetty in May, staring out over the windy, rolling chop as it was pushing in, when it occurred to me. “I want to catch a shark on a fly.” I said aloud to myself.

Why not? It's fairly common in Florida and other places around the world, but I only personally knew one or two guys here who had successfully targeted and caught them. One of these gentlemen was a man by the name of Clif, who happens to own the Texas state blacktip record on fly. He said that he had caught the 54.5” shark while out in a kayak past the breakers following schools of anchovies around. I figured if he could do it, so could I.

Now, I think most people that care to have, by now, seen or heard about the 12'6” tiger shark that was landed and released, (great job guys, by the way), over by Bob Hall Pier. Oh, we heard about it alright, saw pictures the day it happened. We watched the videos several times. Did this deter us from plunking ourselves into small plastic boats and paddling out past the breakers? Of course not. Hey, we never claimed to be smurt.

So the plan evolved and gained members, and we gathered the necessary safety gear and equipment to make our risk as low as possible. The group total came to 5, making for lots of eyes to make sure everyone was okay and lots of boats to distribute equipment around. All items in each kayak were safely leashed to the boat somehow; if you don't tie it down, you're asking to lose it. Just trust me. I've seen rods go swimming, and it ain't pretty.

After the seemingly inevitable rendezvous setbacks, (taco stops, forgotten tackle, you know the deal), we hit the beach. We decided to cruise the sand until we found a likely stopping point and strike out from there. After spotting big flocks of working birds in the middle distance, we stopped in line with them and loaded up our trusty vessels with a lot of very expensive gear that we hoped would still be attached to the boat when we got back to the sand. The surf was very slight and the flat conditions gave us the confidence that our little plan wasn't as insane as some of our doubters might've first thought.

Yakkin' to the birds

After zipping out to where the birds were, we found huge anchovie bait-balls being completely molested by swarms of Spanish mackerel. The 'smacks', as they're affectionately known, were everywhere; free-jumping with bait in their mouths, schooled up under our kayaks, crashing the anchovie schools. It was chaos, casting into the frothing schools and the fish biting everything that was moving – connector knots, fly line, and fish slashing at anything remotely shiny in the water, including bare hooks. Anchovies schooled under my boat trying to use it as cover, and the streaking electric green and silver blurs that were smacks would rocket up from below to slash at them. It was every cast, can't not get bit for a short but furious span of time. I quickly got bored with underwater action and decided to try and feed my topwater addiction. I had never caught a smack on top before, and I wanted to add that to the list of accomplishments. A quick re-rig of my 40lb bite tippet – I don't use wire for smacks, just use a hand-over-hand retrieve as fast as possible – and I was blooping a gurgler through the swarms of screaming 'chovies. While my hook-up rate went way down, the way the fish kept blasting that poor fly made it worth the misses.


I was tired of the smack attack by that point, and was ready to drop something big down below the fray and see if anything of more substance lurked below the swarming mackerel. To my 25lb mono leader I attached a braided wire bite tippet attached to a heavy baitfish pattern tied on a 4/0 hook that I had made up the night before specifically for the trip. I laid my 10wt between my knees as I chunked the fly off to the side of the 'yak to organize the cockpit before heading off to the next spot. I looked up just in time to see the rodtip start to flex as something grabbed my fly and sounded for the bottom. Snagging the cork of my handle as it headed over the side, I found myself fast to a strong opponent. After an intense, bulldogging battle under the boat, I raised the fish close enough to the boat that I could see it – shark! I called out excitedly to my buddy and he drifted closer to see the action. After bringing the scrappy 30” shark to boatside, I veerrrry carefully removed the hook and snapped a picture to commemorate the moment. High fives all around!

Charkin' on the Fly

That day and on subsequent trips we caught smacks, ladyfish, lots of atlantic sharpnose sharks (goal accomplished!), chicken dolphin (total surprise), kingfish, spadefish, some massive gafftop, small vermillion snappers and a small amberjack. Not bad eh? In short, it has proven to be a not-so-crazy way to go after some of the fish that're hard to reach from the beach. If you prepare correctly and use common sense, kayaking beyond the breakers (BTB) can lead to very rewarding fishing trips. If you have the gear, bluewater fly fishing can lead to some of the most intense encounters you will ever have while fishing.


Terrible pic, but kayak/fly rod mahi! First for me.