A cool wind ruffled the waters of the Manatee River and clouds scudded overhead as we left the relative calm of Warner’s Bayou and the 59th Street boat ramp. These were less than ideal conditions for a fly caster but that didn’t dampen the spirits of 18-year-old Hunter Brasington.
Besides being passionate about fly fishing he is also an avid fly tier and has experienced the excitement of catching a fish on one of his own creations. A senior in high school in Gainesville, he vacations on the Island with his family several months a year. When he’s at home in Gainesville, he fishes for redfish around Cedar Key in his Hell’s Bay Guide flats boat that he’s had since he was a freshman in high school.
Today we were fishing from Traves Beavertail flats boat. Besides the opportunity to get Brasington on the water, the trip was a chance for me to meet him and learn about an internship he was pursuing with Traves. Brasington’s senior project for his business major requires him to work in a trade for 40 hours. The idea is to experience a career interest. AMI Outfitters is a perfect location for him because he wants to work in and maybe eventually own a fly shop. Besides the 40 hours, he also is required to create a blog around his interest and give a presentation.
I was immediately struck with the enthusiasm he showed for whatever the day might bring and pleasantly surprised when I queried him and he related to me his passion for fly fishing. Like so many anglers, he had started out fishing with bait and artificial lures and had carefully explored the haunts of the snook, redfish, tarpon and trout that ply local waters. He also had made the switch to fly fishing relishing the challenge after becoming bored chasing tarpon with live crabs on conventional tackle.
What really impressed me was the fact that he had made the switch far earlier in his fishing career than most anglers. As it turns out, that’s becoming more common as younger anglers become interested in fly fishing, a big change from just a few years ago. His dad isn’t a fly fisherman but is an avid angler. It was a trip to the Everglades with a guide that really caused him to make the switch to fly fishing.
“I was pretty bad when I started out,” he said “but by the end of the day I was doing a lot better. After that trip I didn’t touch a spinning rod for two years. When I’ve been out a couple of times and haven’t caught anything I go to the Internet and watch a fishing video. That keeps me interested.”
The weather eventually improved, and we were able to do some sight fishing in Terra Ceia Bay. During the day, we took turns on the bow, and although we didn’t have much luck in the catching department, everyone enjoyed the opportunity to get some shots at snook and redfish. That’s the beauty of fly fishing, that you can have a great day on the water even though you don’t actually bring a fish to the boat. It was a pleasure getting to know Hunter and encouraging to see that someone so young is committed to fly fishing and protecting the resource. I’m sure if he stays on the same track, he’ll have a bright fly fishing future. He couldn’t have better mentor than Traves.