It is hard to remember a time when I actually fished with
my Dad that he wasn't smoking a pipe. Back in those days,
I don't recall people spraying themselves with insect repellent.
A pipe was the next best thing to carrying a smudge pot with you.
In the summer the weather got so hot and humid your body chemicals
emitted natural attractants to the bugs, at least mine did. I
remember many times wearing a hooded sweatshirt just to keep
covered enough to limit the amount of skin exposed to mosquitoes.
They were worse in the early morning and late afternoon, prime
My dad seemed kind of regal with that pipe in his mouth.
With each rising puff came the distinct aroma of sweet
Cavendish. Now here's a term that is used so broadly
with so many different nuances that Webster could spend
a whole page in the subcategories of definition. Briefly,
Cavendish is generally a mixture of different component
leaves such as burley, Virginia, and Maryland, that have
been flavored and pressed into cakes to age. Any tobacco
that has been treated in this manner can be called a Cavendish.
The term "Cavendish" also refers to the cut characteristic
of matured Virginias and burley plug. The pressed cakes in
which the leaves are aged are cut into bars and then the
bars are cross-cut into thick or thin slices called flakes.
I can recall reading the brands in the local tobacco shop
like Mac Baren, Peterson's Sherlock Holmes, Cavendish &
oore's of Calgary, Crouch, McConnell, Three Ten Pipe,
McClelland's Virginia #27, Highlander's Choice, Abenaki,
Milan, or David's Coventry. I'm sure there are a lot of
fly angler pipe smokers out there.
Next to catching fish, smelling that great aroma was the
best part of our fishing adventures. Smoking was, in
some cases, a matter of necessity versus pleasure, or so
I thought. It was like a rite of passage for the true
angler, even more so if you were a fly-fisherman. It seemed
like just yesterday that the little creek was filled with
various aromas from pipes all along its banks. I couldn't
wait for my turn on the Cavendish.
"Captain," came Paul's question, "Do you mind if I smoke
my pipe, it's light Cavendish?" Did I mind? Hell, no!
Absolutely light it up and send some puffs my way. What
a delight. No one had ever asked to smoke a pipe on my
boat before. This was different and welcome. I didn't
mind, just the smell of that tobacco was good enough for
me. And, he smoked for pleasure.
Paul was a somewhat unorthodox fly angler. His casting wasn't
my standard, but he could get the fly out there and that's
all that really matters. I took him to the north corner of
the basin where we blew up some redfish. The casts were on
the money, but the reds weren't taking anything. It can
really be frustrating when you sight fish and you see the
push or the fish and you get the fly to them and they just
swim by. Naturally, we did change-ups on the flies, trying
to find just the right color combination. Most times I have
one or two go-to flies and they work 99% of the time. Today
was different. The fish were on holiday.
We left the basin and motored up to an old backwater flat near
Strickland's Creek and the Tomoka River. Man I probably just
gave a hole away to some reader out there. Anyway in that
vicinity there is an old slew that meanders back a ways.
There, by the broken tree, we stopped and settled in the
water. I like to do that sometimes. I'll pull up to a
fishing hole and let the boat settle out and for everything
to calm down before we start fishing. I think it does make
a difference in your hook up rate. Paul sat down and offered
me a sandwich and we talked a while about our backgrounds,
which I found interesting. Turns out we went to the same
college and graduated in different programs but in the same
year. I went off to south east Asia and he had returned to
his family's business. Life presents such a small world
sometimes. I had never met Paul before, but we had come from
similar backgrounds and careers, and had a lot of common
After finishing his sandwich he lit the pipe. He smoked it
for about 10 minutes and then got ready for some fly-fishing
action. The creek we were in was a favorite tarpon spot.
Tarpon spawned in these waters and their offspring grew rapidly during
the late spring. From babies to 30-50 pounders, they present
the best there is in fly-fishing excitement. They are like
hooking into a runaway sidewinder missile.
All morning Paul worked my favorite "Puppy Drum" fly. This
works great on Redfish and Trout, when they cooperate. The
fly is tied on a #1 hook and is a variation on a saltwater
muddler. The design was inspired by JB Brazelton's Green
Mullet fly, Joe Brook's Muddler Minnow and Capt, Forrest
Faulkingham's Bunker. I've used Forrest's bunker and slab
flies for the monster tarpon around Chicken Island. The
morning was overcast and the darker fly seems to work better
in these conditions. The fly floats high from the eye up
and slightly submerged from the mid-eye down.
He did try some other flies too. Even one of Al Campbell's
Shrimpf flies initiated a bump but no taker. We were now
in tight quarters with a tree line on both sides of the creek.
You could see the tarpon rolling and tailing in front of us.
About fifteen feet ahead near a broken limb, I motioned
for Paul to cast.
"Just let the fly sink a little before you start the strip."
I said, "Keep the strip constant but not fast." Paul did
just as I instructed. Seconds later his line went tight
and the tarpon was on. The 8-weight fly rod was bent in
half and line wizzed off the reel. Down the creek the
baby made his run. Tail walking and jumping, clearing
the water. That fish tail walked for about 40 feet.
In seconds the fight was fast and furious. That baby
tarpon was on fire and did not like being hooked. He
just tore off down the creek, stopped and turned. Coming
back he made a couple of strong shakes and leaps and spit
the hook within six feet of the boat.
Paul just looked at me with maybe the same thought I had,
"too bad they don't make nets on 30 foot poles." He looked
like someone had just eaten his lunch.
Paul's look was one of "did I just have my first tarpon on
the line?" "Did the tarpon just jump the fly?" He had
this look of someone loosing his best friend. I really
felt bad for him. We were nearing the end of our charter
when I decided to work the entire back of the creek. We
saw countless other tarpon and Paul managed a couple of
near hookups. Tarpon are really funny sometimes. They'll
all come crashing on a fly and other times they will completely
ignore it. The best experience is seeing them close up, or
fighting them almost to the boat. It is wild action, even
if short lived.
We moved again, up river to a bend in the Tomoka River.
We fished this place for about an hour before returning
downstream and back to the ramp. What a great morning.
Sweet smelling Cavendish to cover the musty aroma from
the saltwater marsh and a new friendship, and the
unmistakable hook up of baby tarpon. Life doesn't get
Please don't teach your trash to swim. ~ Doug Sinclair
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.