The chapter entitled “The Toilet Paper King’s Mighty Sword,” is probably the one I receive the most comments about. It is the longest chapter of the book. In this chapter, Parker finds himself locked to the largest fish of his career, an estimated 800-pound swordfish. As he fights the fish, the seas pick up. The drama builds. Parker’s hands turn to claws after cranking on the reel handle for four hours, five hours… Another angler on the boat named Marvin adds some comic relief to the situation, but nothing will deter Parker’s determination.

New Zealand is a special place in the annals of angling history. Zane Grey, the famous writer and one of the first men to embark on long fishing expeditions to the far corners of the world, spent time in these waters. Grey also caught giant swordfish, and sharks and other creatures. The far north area and Bay of Islands in particular is a place every traveling angler should put on his or her wish list. You may find yourself far offshore, drifting a squid bait at night. If you do, hold on for the fight of your life.

I’d like to thank an old friend, Sam Mossman from New Zealand Fishing News for reaching out and publishing our latest book review. It’s very cool to have a few readers on the other side of the planet.

Here is Sam’s review…

Thank You, Alaska

June 26, 2018


I caught the first halibut of the trip on a jig bounced on the bottom. If you think grouper bite hard, try hanging on to a fat ‘but!

The man, the legend… Andy Mezirow. Even when the fish are not biting, Andy’s stories will keep you entertained.

Travis Mauer (left) and Capt. Jeff Seward with our biggest halibut of the trip, caught in the final quarter of fishing on the last day.

My happy place.

Trolling for salmon requires a lot of gear and a lot of knowledge. That’s part of the reason why Andy loves it so much.

My biggest fish weighed 74 pounds.

Andy and his wife Nicky now offer lodging is this updated three-bedroom house on the edge of a salmon stream.

Weather can change in a millisecond on the Gulf of Alaska.

Probably my favorite photo from the trip. I can picture this as a two-page spread in a fishing magazine.

Jeff and Travis with another nice fish.

It was a bit early for the kings, but we did manage to find one.

I love mountains. I love ocean. Therefore, I love Alaska.

Alaska is one of those special places that makes you want to be outside, all the time, well in the summer months at least. I have not explored much of the great state, but thanks to a friendship with Andy Mezirow, I have now been to Seward three times. This quaint seaside town offers easy access to the Gulf of Alaska and the incredibly fertile waters surrounding Montague Island.

Andy began fishing around Montague a couple of decades ago and he was one of the first to explore the many pockets and rockpiles all around the island. He and the team at Crackerjack Sportfishing pioneered the idea of overnight fishing trips to fill the fish hold with halibut and oftentimes king salmon. The fishing has changed drastically over the last few years. Fishery managers keep close tabs on the catches and you can now only keep four halibut each year. The salmon fishery is also very regulated, and thankfully so.

We arrived a bit early for salmon, but we got to spend one day on Andy’s new boat, the Gray Light. Andy legendary California custom boat builder, Don Radon, build the 32-foot vessel to meet Andy’s exacting standards. This is a very dialed in charter boat with no expense spared. From the electronics to the tackle to the cabin appointments, I have to say she is one bad-ass vessel. She feels and rides like a much larger boat. And, she’s set up exactly how Andy wants her to catch king salmon, which are kind of like the blue marlin of salmon.

We also spent two days fishing with Jeff Seward, who was Andy’s mate. Jeff lived through 14 years of deckhand duties and practical jokes courtesy of Andy. Jeff still doesn’t leave an open water bottle on the boat for fear of what may have been placed inside it, in all good fun, of course. Jeff is a very accomplished skipper in his own regard and I really appreciate how dedicated he is to the sport and conservation. These men understand the effects of over fishing all too well, and they do their part to educate anglers and conserve the fish stocks.

The trip was arranged by Travis Mauer, a past client of Andy’s whom I met and fished with last November in Australia. Travis is one of the hardest working guys I know. He punches in everyday, for more hours than most of us. And the reason he does it? So he can save up and go on several cool fishing trips a year. I really commend Travis for his love of fishing. He says that he always needs a trip on the horizon to look forward to. It’s what keeps him going.

Our trip to Seward this past June was a bit different than the last ones. I was there to fish, relax and send home some meat for my family. It was very needed and once again, Alaska did not disappoint. If you ever want to try fishing for halibut or salmon, head to Seward and give Andy and the Crackerjack crew a call. They’ll take good care of you.

I’ll turn 43 years old this week. That’s kind of a weird pill to swallow. My spirit doesn’t feel 43, but there are plenty of days where my body does.

My hair has taken a step past salt and pepper, leaning heavily on salt. In fact, I’m salty all over… chest, arm hair and even elsewhere. That part doesn’t really bother me. I mean I know I can dye it, but that seems wholeheartedly silly. I’ve never been that vain, or have I?

The part that bothers me most of all is that I hardly get checked out anymore, and on the rare occasion that I do get checked out, it’s usually by an elderly woman, or a gay guy. And I’ll take that. I’ll take it straight to the fuckin’ bank. I have no qualms with it. I say thank you. It feels good to be noticed for just being you. It feels nice when your mind’s eye picks up someone’s glare from across a store or at the gym. I remember that feeling. A stranger’s smile. That feels nice. I get it mostly when I’m out with my boys. They’re much cuter than me.

I never was one of the beautiful people, I don’t think, but I would say I was always cute. In my twenties I had long curly hair and mop chops. The granola chicks dug me, and I dug them. To this day I still feel more me with longer hair, but it’s thin as shit up top and that fade-away pony tail look just doesn’t work for me. I keep it much cleaner and get a hair cut every six weeks or so. Nothing too drastic. I don’t use gel or product. I’m just me, for the most part. But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m supposed to add some steps to my beauty routine. Maybe shaving once a week isn’t cutting it anymore. Maybe I need to stop wearing board shorts and flip flops everyday. Maybe I say I don’t really give two shits what people think, but maybe I give at least one shit.

Then there is the strange feeling of nervousness that comes over me like a panic attack when I do get checked out. It happens so rarely and all, and hardly ever by someone from the beautiful crowd. Several weeks ago I came home from the gym desperate to tell my wife about an encounter I had had to see if she thought I was being checked out. I was on the elliptical machine. It was the middle of the day. I was on my lunch break, spending half of it on this dreaded machine that slows down time like a black hole. I was in the middle of the row of cardio torture devices. There were at least four empty machines on either side of me. This is why I go to the gym on my lunch hour. It’s quiet. No grunting douchebags staring at themselves as they curl big chunks of metal.

One of the beautifuls walked down the aisle heading right toward me. I watched her ascend the stairs. Yoga pants, sports bra, long brown hair in a pony tail, toned flesh with lipstick on her lips. When she caught my stare, I immediately turned away, back to the TVs mounted to the ceiling. But she kept inching toward me. She walked right past the empty machines and mounted the stead directly next to me. She set her water bottle in the holder, put on her headphones and began her workout. Right there. Not a foot away from me.

I was puzzled. Was she checking me out? Did she want me to speak to her? Was she just positioning herself under the TV that was playing the house hunters show she wanted to watch, or was she purposely planning to workout next to me? Was it my sleeveless workout shirt that drew her in like a siren’s song? No. No, it was not. I knew it was not. But why was she working out next to me when there were so many other empty machines. Did she want me to stare at her to make herself feel better? But she’s one of the beautifuls. Surely my stare wouldn’t improve her standing amongst the elite people who walk the Earth with the gaze of thousands upon their backside.

My pace picked up. Now I was trying to show off. She seemed oblivious. I was so distracted with all of these thoughts that I ended my workout early. Then I ran home to tell my wife.

“Yeah babe, she was definitely checking you out,” my wife said after I rattled on, quickly recounting the entire interaction in the cardio zone.

“I’m crazy, I know. But maybe she was checking me out, right?”

“I’m sure she was,” my wife said, “why wouldn’t she. You’re adorable.”

And that’s when I realized that I may not be one of the beautifuls, but I sure married up. And that feels good. Everyday. So bring on 43, and before too long 50. It’s all good. I’ve got my partner. My family. My work. Grey thinning hair can be shaved off, but love and self worth lives in the heart.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting in on the Florida Fishing Radio show. I’d never done an hour-long interview like this and I really have to thank the hosts, Steve Chapman, Capt. Mike Ortego and Boodreaux. The show is recorded every Saturday here in Orlando, and they broadcast it throughout the state. The guys like fishing of all kinds, from crappie to mahimahi, and they also like to be silly. We had some laughs and the time flew by. Check out the video below to see the full interview. I show up around the 60-minute mark.

 

Fly-fishing is kind of like golf. You alone hold the tools in your hands and you alone are responsible for a good shot, or a bad one.

Sure, you can blame the wind, the light, Mother Nature or the equipment if you make a bad cast or send a ball into the rough. But that’s your ego looking for an excuse to take the blame. The truth of the matter is it’s up to you to make a good placement with the fly, and like golf, you’re going to slice it once in a while.

You may be wading a flat or casting from the bow of a skiff with a veteran guide coaching you along, but it is just you holding that rod. I think that’s what makes fly-fishing, and golf for that matter, so rewarding. When you get a great shot and it all comes together, it feels fucking outstanding. Not just because of the tug of the fish, but the build up. The false casts, the repositioning, the changing of flies and tippet, the break offs, so many goddamn break offs! All of that torture will eventually lead to success. But you have to stick with it. You have to listen. You have to park your ego and take joy in the journey. If you don’t, you’ll end up throwing your clubs, or your fly rod, in the drink.

I’ve heard a lot of frustrated fishermen say they’re going to take up golf after losing a trophy fish. I usually respond to such nonsense by saying, “Golf is even harder!” But at least both sports make room for a cooler full of beer.

A CUBAN GUIDE AND A HAPPY GRINGO

I caught my first bonefish on fly in Cuba. It was not exactly easy, but I had the best coach in the world. I had been invited on a media trip to fish the Jardines de le Reina, the Gardens of the Queen, a vast protected archipelago of mangrove keys that stretches nearly 850 miles. It took me two days to get there, and I embarked from Orlando, Florida, less than 600 miles away. It was 2012, before Obama weakened travel restrictions to Cuba. We had to fly to Cancun, Mexico, where I met up with the group of journalists I’d be traveling with, a ragtag flock of fly guys who wrote for the best fly-fishing mags in the world. These guys were expert casters. Some of them were former guides, most were world travelers and all of them were great story tellers. I felt a bit out of place. I am only a part-time fly guy. I mostly fish with spinning rods when I head to the flats. I was the token bait dunker, but I was among the best group of fly-fishers in the world to learn from.

From Cancun we flew to Havana where we would spend the night in a very nice hotel located in the center of the city next to the central park. My head never hit the pillow. We took a classic Chevy convertible on a tour of the city, ate at a beautiful open-air restaurant in front of a once-grand cathedral that dated back to the 1600s, and we ended up at Cafe de Musica, a music filled nightclub, drinking till five in the morning and admiring the moves of the well-dressed Cubans on the dance floor. A quick shower at the hotel and then we boarded a bus for a six-hour drive across the island nation. We all slept through most of the bus ride. Then we hopped on a boat to take us to the Jardines, another six-hour ride but this time across glistening blue waters. By the time we arrived to our floating camp, there was only one thing I wanted to do… go fishing!

The guides met us on the deck of Tortuga, our mothership / hotel / cafeteria / bar. All of the guides were dressed in yellow ‘Avalon‘ fishing shirts, the company that runs this operation. They were friendly and most spoke very good English. A few spoke marginal English, but wore eager smiles. They helped us get our fishing gear ready. I had brought two travel spinning rods, a 9-weight fly rod and a 12-weight fly rod. They were more interested in my fly-fishing gear. Fly guys make up the majority of their clientele. The anglers paired up and headed out with a guide. I went fishing with Bjorn, a blogger and bonefish junkie. He runs Bonefishonthebrain.com. He was jacked up like a kid who had just drank his first Coke after eating three Oreos. We didn’t go far from the Tortuga, as it was already late in the afternoon. I was a bit slow to bust out my fly gear and opted for a spinning rod. It was strange, I felt a bit inadequate fishing next to Bjorn as he made long beautiful casts, presenting his hand-tied flies perfectly with not even a splash. The loop in his fly line unfolded majestically, like a banana. I flipped the bail on my reel and zipped bucktails and lead-head jigs with soft-plastic shad bodies across the mangrove flat. It didn’t take long for us to catch fish. Bjorn landed a mangrove snapper on his second cast. I caught some too. He also caught a nice jack and a baby barracuda. I jumped a juvenile tarpon that turned my bucktail into a corkscrew before jetting off to the great unknown.

I asked Bjorn for some casting tips and he happily obliged. It was nice to know that he didn’t think less of me as a bait dunker. And he had me casting a good 10 feet farther with just a couple of tips. One thing about fishing, and anything in general, is it’s okay to park your ego aside and ask for help. In fact, people respond to it. It’s a lot easier to learn this way, rather than trying to figure out everything on your own.

The sun began to fall and we headed back to Tortuga for dinner, drinks and some much-needed sleep. 

We motored out early the next morning, and I told the guide, named Michael, that I really wanted to catch a bonefish on fly. He patted me on the shoulder and assured me that he would make it happen. “But first, tarpon!” he said. We ran to the “boca” or mouth of the mangrove creeks to catch a tide and cast for tarpon. We staked out and made blind casts for 30 minutes or so until we saw the brown submarines closing in. Big fish. My knees began to knock. We took turns on the bow, casting. I made a decent enough cast and a 3-foot-long beast turned on it. To set the hook on a tarpon requires a solid tug on the line. These fish have bony mouths. I was hooked up for about 15 seconds. It was the craziest 15 seconds of my life. The fish went airborne, took an immediate left turn and the fly line zipped out of my hands like hot rope. Ka-pow. The fish was gone. The line had wrapped around the butt of the rod. Game over.

Then I got to watch one of the seasoned guides from Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures catch one of these beasts so perfectly and with such ease that I nearly bowed at his feet. But he was cool about it. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “You have to pull the opposite way the fish is going, and a little luck never hurts.”

That afternoon Michael beached the boat on a sandy flat and had me hop out with the 9-weight. He put a couple of flies in his shirt pocket and walked with me. “We go find your bonefish,” he said. Poling up onto a fish is exciting. Wading up to one is gratifying. We stopped about 300 yards from the boat and he asked to see me cast. He pointed to rocks and things to see if I could get close to the targets. I was off about two feet off on average. He stood behind me and held my right arm in his hand, pulling it back and forward saying “stop” at about the eleven o’clock and two o’clock positions. Before too long, my casts were looking more like Bjorn’s. We started to walk again, but he let me get ahead about 20 feet ahead of him. I was stuck in my own head, thinking about my cast. Wondering if I had the best fly tied on. Was the tippet okay? Then Michael whistled. I stopped dead and turned back. He pointed out to my left. I looked and saw the fish tailing, head down in the mud. I began my cast… eleven o’clock, two o’clock… back and forth a few times to build momentum and get more line out. Then I let the fly land. “Strip, strip!” Michael said. The fly went by the head of the fish and it bolted after the little shrimp pattern. I didn’t have to set the hook on this one. The fish took off like a happy dog, flying across the flat. The slack line ran through my fingertips and came tight on the reel. I wish I could’ve seen my face. So proud. So happy.

I landed the bonefish. It was beautiful. Built for speed. Silver lightening. I’ll never forget that fish.

 

For a limited time you can purchase the Kindle version of ‘Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel’ for only $2.99 through Amazon.

If you don’t have a Kindle, have no fear… Download the Kindle App at the Apple Store or Google Play for Android.

Check out what people are saying about the book: 

 

“I spend a lot of time on the water and found it to be both authentic and hilarious. Always been a fan of the short-story format and it really keeps you reading to see what craziness will happen with the next. Well-written with plenty of colorful details that really capture the far-flung fishing adventures and Parker’s wild ride.”
“My husband bought this book and read through it quickly and said I would like it even though fishing is not really my thing. I teared up by the end of chapter two and I was hooked! Really enjoyed the main character and loved reading about his adventures and misadventures. Highly recommend this read! Would make a great gift too.”

“Wow, where do these kids get all of their energy?”

They suck it out of us.

Today was Maxon and Daddy day. A day I look forward to every time it comes around. On the agenda today was fishing and tacos for lunch. Other than that, I didn’t have any plans.

The best thing about fishing with Max is you get to sleep in. Saturday mornings are all about cartoons and lounging in undies till at least 9 a.m. That part of the mission is easy. I brewed a big pot of coffee, let Max turn on Netflix and then went about digging our little boat out from underneath the mountain of coolers, tricycles, soccer goals, garden tools, rods, buckets and pool noodles that it had been hibernating under for much too long.

My younger son, Cooper, was all set with a Mommy day on the calendar. They had plans to hit the Orlando art museum and Science Center.

Max and I launched the boat and brought the trailer back to the house and walked hand-in-hand back to the lake lot in our neighborhood. He had me laughing, asking me to be Doug, the dog from the movie Up and he’d be Kevin, the rare bird.

The outboard started on the fourth pull. Amen. We trolled around for some bass but the wind was picking up and my little Gheenoe does not like chop. Max doesn’t either. We headed for shelter on the canal that connects Little Lake Conway with Lake Conway.

We settled on a quiet strip of water in front of an old friend’s house, Steve Upp. I know Steve feeds the fish off his back yard. We busted out some bread and oatmeal to ‘chum’ up some bream. It didn’t take long and Steve was there to witness Max catch a couple decent ones. He even hooked us up with four more slices of bread and got some photos of me and Max. Thanks Steve Upp!

We had brought a PB&J, a couple juice boxes, water and a strawberry flavored yogurt. Max devoured it all by 11 a.m.

We caught three nice shell crackers and a big pickerel before he asked me to head back to the dock. My one rule is I always take him home when he asks. But usually I’m the one wanting to go in to be honest.

Next stop, lunch. Max wanted tacos and I wanted a beer so we went to La Fiesta. He ordered chicken tenders and fries. What? Ok. I ordered a Dos Equis and a lunch combo. He loved his. I had a hair in my salsa. But I worked around it.

“What are we doing next Dad?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve only done two things. We need to do six things for Daddy and Max Day”

I found a festival downtown by Lake Eola. And it was free! Tents of all sorts lined the lake, a stage was set up for a concert, a bounce house on the horizon and his favorite playground in sight. Thank you, Orlando!

Four more activities and 9,000 steps later, I’m winded. Beat. One more game of tag you’re it might body slam me right on the lawn. He’s happy as ever. Laughing. Smiling. The green face paint from his Mindcraft forehead rolling down his cheeks on beads of sweat. We listened to some country music. Drank a cranberry juice a girl in a Tito’s Vodka tent gave us.

“We got to go home kid,” I say.

“Why? We’ve only done like three things…”

#lovethiskid