I've been extremely fortunate to have fished many of the world's great bodies of water with some of the finest captains on the planet. But, time and again, I come back to a simple truism: There's nothing like fishing close to home with good friends. And there's no better way than doing so in a simple, back-to-basics fashion.
I was just chatting about this with Nick Honachefsky of our sister pub, Salt Water Sportsman - Nick told me he's headed to his Northeast roots for the holidays. Already on the agenda: four trips to chase bass and such in the chilly waters up there - all with old chums.
I chuckled, as I'd just returned from an annual pilgrimage with some old-time Florida pals as well. At least once a year, for the last 15 years or so, we organize an outing, generally involving canoes and kayaks and the most remote areas as we can easily access. The trick is to keep it simple.
That usually means just a single rod and reel and a handful of lures. It means a tent, a sleeping bag and minimal provisions. It means no clunky grills - instead, we cook over beds of red-hot coals.
I met a good friend in town, and we loaded his old Mohawk canoe into the back of my truck. We waved goodbye to his wife and kids, took a few pics and then headed southward to meet up with the rest of our crew to paddle out to a small island we'd found in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Sure enough, just like last year's trip to Florida's Santa Fe River, it rained like the dickens day and night! Not a prob - we created a virtual "Tarp City" that kept us, our gear and fire dry. Of course, we later renamed our creation "Shanty Town" after realizing some of the tarps leaked like crazy! Still, it was a satisfying feeling building a city, if you've never done so!
The fishing was good. We caught some nice seatrout and jacks on topwaters and a bunch of hard-pulling ladyfish on jigs. But that didn't really matter too much. Instead, what I'll remember most were the constant moments of laughter with my buds.
Such as the time one the guys burned his hand on a hot log trying to adjust the campfire at Shanty Town. Furiously blowing on his hand, he plunged it into a nearby cooler, conveniently forgetting that several blue crabs were waiting there patiently for dinner, one of which was only too happy to latch on to his finger - amazingly, right on the burn spot. The holler he let out was priceless, like something out of "Home Alone." We all laughed to tears at him….errr, with him! And so became yet another story we'll howl about on next year's trip (which is already in the planning stages).
With New Year's right around the corner, I hope some of you make it a priority to fish more with close friends and family in 2012. There's no better way to spend time on the water - and it doesn't even matter if the fishing's good!
Keep the fire dry this winter,
Senior editor, Sport Fishing magazine