Chris Hunt's blog

Going commando on the flats

When wading the flats for bonefish or permit, sometimes less is more
Photo: Chad Shmukler

I’ve always had bad feet. High arches. Hammer toes. Stone bruises. As a high-school basketball player, I had horrible ingrown toenails that hurt more than any sprained ankle or buckled knee. As an angler, my feet have always given me problems. Finding footwear to alleviate the issues with calluses, recurring heel and ball-of-the-feet pain and even a bout with plantar fasciitis has been a never-ending quest that continues to end in futility. I have crappy feet. Period.

The growing horde of new outdoor goers has longtime public lands users worried

Visitors continue to descend on national parks, forests, wildlife preserves and more in record numbers, often with negative results
A park ranger directs traffic at Yellowstone National Park's north entrance (photo: Jacob Frank / NPS).

If you need more evidence that Americans are escaping to the outdoors in droves, here it is: Over Memorial Day weekend, visitation numbers at Yellowstone National Park were up 50 percent from the same weekend in 2019. The only reason the National Park Service didn’t use 2020 data is because, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a limited number of the park’s entrances were open to visitors last year.

The ditch

For children, searching out ditches, bogs, mudholes and ponds is a biological necessity
Photo: Thomas Hoto / cc2.0

It’s understood by parents everywhere that little kids will seek out the lowest, wettest and muddiest spot and spend their day trying to become part of it. It’s in our DNA — to search out these ditches, bogs, mudholes and ponds is a biological necessity.

El viento del Norte

On the Baja, when the wind blows from the north, fishing is a non-starter
Photo: Zach Dischner / cc2.0

It's a theme with me, unfortunately. If the weather can suck, it will.

I’d been looking forward to an early spring trip south to the Baja. It was a bit early for the big, close-to-shore schools of roosters and jacks, so, more than anything, the idea was to just get out of the last thrust of a Rocky Mountain winter and into some sunshine. The fishing would be a nice, added bonus — no pressure. Just chill.

But it never works out that way. As an angler, the fishing is never just a bonus.

Imprinted

The ocean calls to me. Now and then, it needs an answer.
Photo: Captain Tom / cc2.0

“In your belly you hold the treasures few have ever seen.”
— Jimmy Buffett, ‘A Pirate Looks at 40’

When your foot presses into firm, wet sand, it leaves a brief, but detailed imprint on the earth. And though, with the next wave that washes over the beach, that footprint is gone, there’s no shame in knowing you left your mark on this place, at this moment in time. And a fleeting moment it is.

Angry birds

Karma on the flats of Long Island
Photo: Chris Hunt

It happened in a split second, and I'm sure it was karma jumping in to kick my ass.

For four straight days while wading the flats off of Deadman's Cay, we'd been hounded by nesting black-headed gulls — it's understandable that the screaming, squawking, black-headed birds would be threatened by us as we walked quietly among their nesting islands in search of bonefish, and I think it's understandable that, after a time, the birds began to drive us nuts.

On the move

During what might be the best trout fishing of the year, I'm moving
Photo: Mike cc/2.0

Years ago, when my wife and I were young, we moved just about every year. As a young journalist, in order to move up, you had to move on. Also, as a young journalist, I apparently took a vow of poverty — I don’t remember the exact time I made that papist promise, but it was probably some time right out of school when I agreed to edit a little weekly newspaper in Crested Butte, Colo., for wages I likely could have matched had I taken the unenviable job of “fry guy” at the only McDonald’s in Gunnison County.

Old Sly

This particular character topped Dr. Johnson's shit list for as long as I knew him
Photo: Eric Killby / cc2.0

Old Sly was a son of a bitch. That’s what Dan’s father said, anyway. Dr. Johnson had a way with words around us kids — he was the only grownup in our uptight little East Texas neighborhood who’d dare curse in our presence. He wasn’t a doctor. He was a dentist, and after a glass of Glenlivet, he’d proffer up nuggets of wisdom that, as the son of an oil-field traffic manager and a “damn Yankee,” I couldn’t get enough of.

The end of dispersed camping?

An increasing number of campers are trashing dispersed camping sites around the country
Dispersed camping in the Cocoino National Forest (photo: USFS).

I love to camp. I love to camp almost as much as I love to fish. Being outside, far from city lights and city traffic, is soul-building. Dropping the jacks on my little camper overlooking a stretch of fishy water and spending a week away from computer screens, cell phone signals and the damn lawn mower is how I recharge.

Sandblasted

When you've traveled to fish, you endure
Patterns in the sand on South Padre Island in Texas (photo: John W. Schulze / cc2.0)

As we strung up the rods beneath the shelter of the rental car's hatchback, I could feel the reluctance on Todd's part. It was palpable.

We left a perfectly good hotel room stocked with rum and beer and the balcony view of the pool for this? They even had a never-ending supply of bacon on the breakfast buffet.”

This, as it turned out, was wind. Well, wind might not be entirely accurate. Not exactly, anyway.

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