Putting It All Together

bigred

Earlier this year I fished for redfish in Louisiana's Biloxi Marsh with a guide known for poling a skiff within casting distance of bull reds whose size can only be described as in the freak-of-nature class. These were 25- and 30-pound fish. They looked like manatees dipped in coppper. From put-in till the moment of double-haul truth, Rocky Thickstun preached the gospel of the 3-foot box. If I heard it once, I heard it a 100 times: Put that fly in the 3-foot box. It's gotta be in a 3-foot box, right in front of the fish, or he ain't gonna eat it. Inside the box, you're golden. Outside, you've blown it. When that happens, Rocky grits his teeth and says it's OK, he can find another one, but you know it's really not OK. The 3-foot box, the 3-foot box, the 3-foot box.

Catching one of these marsh pigs meant getting it all right—the distance, for sure, but also the current, the presentation, the angle of the cast, the speed of the fish, the depth of the water. It wasn’t easy, but when it all came together the marsh blew up with flyline zinging through the water and one ticked-off big red. You could have heard Rocky and I howling all the way from Bourbon Street.

Putting it all together is what this blog is about. How to do more stuff and how to do all of it better. How to sharpen knives and make your own fishing equipment and paddle a canoe solo and fashion shooting rests out of sticks and PVC pipe. Useful stuff. Stuff that’ll make you a better hunter and angler.

Fact is, no one is born with the ability to punch three holes in a dime-sized target or drop a tube jig a quarter-inch from a dock piling. Each week we’ll post a spanking-new skills video. I’ll write about time-honored ways to hunt, fish, camp, and survive, and new ideas on how to do, well, most everything. Once a month we’ll post a skill from one of the wildly successful Total Outdoorsman books. The brand-new Total Outdoorsman Skills & Tools Manual is, at this very moment, on shipping pallets headed to bookstores. And the original Total Outdoorsman Manual has wound up on nearly 200,000 hunt club coffee tables, fish camp front decks, and let’s be honest, the backs of countless toilets from the Rockies to the Adirondacks.

In Louisiana, I finally got it right when I quit guessing about the length of line I had stacked at my feet and ran a quick calculation. I was using a 9-foot leader, so I pulled a rod's length of flyline from the reel, measured from the tip guide to the butt. Together, that was 18 feet of range. I stripped off another rod's length of flyline and stacked it at my feet. There. Exactly 27 feet of line, cocked and ready. With a single roll cast and a backcast I could send it aloft, and had a precise starting point when Rocky called for a 40-foot shot at 10 o'clock, now, right now!
And put it in the 3-foot box.

Of course, my right might be different from yours. There’s more than one way to skin a squirrel, so let’s hear it. If the Internet is the 21st century campfire — the place where we gather to swap stories and share knowledge and hand down those hard-won nuggets of how-to-do-it-better — then let’s hear it. I smell smoke. Pull up a log and take a seat.