New Year's Resolution: Get Outside, Get Fit and Catch More Fish


Over the summer, I attended the American Fly Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association trade show in New Orleans, and ran into Mark Castlow, founder of Vero Beach-based Dragonfly Boatworks.

Mark is a great success story. A product of Southeast Florida, he grew up surfing and fishing, never really paying much attention to the way public perception tends to artificially divide those activities into two cultures. Hey, Floridians like us grew up with the attitude that, "When there's surf, surf. When it's flat, fish or dive."

Mark learned to shape surfboards and build boats at a young age. He's been a surf shop owner, and one of the most influential of anglers in terms of developing and promoting shallow-water saltwater fishing and craft. When I saw him on the showroom floor next to a hand-made Stand-up Paddle Board, or SUP, a craft that blurs distinctions between board and boat, I realized he had a perfect synthesis of his design imagination there on display.

SUPs are all the rage. They make a small day of surf so much more fun, because you can catch so many waves on the things, and get up close and personal with the life around you, like turtles, birds, manatees and fish.

The SUP experience also offers great exercise. Every morning that I cross the causeway to check the surf or launch my boat, I see groups of women paddling together for morning exercise up and down the Indian River Lagoon, navigating between wading birds and manatees. What a way to start the day!

The first couple of times I tried it my core muscles whined and groaned for days, my shoulders felt the new angle of motion, and my cardiovascular system was better off for the excercise. Thing is, I was having so much fun I didn't realize the workout involved.

I'm really looking forward to fishing out of one. Mark and partner Jimbo Meador have figured out that you can get into really skinny water silently on these boards, while standing high enough to see tailing redfish, bonefish and other species that love waters that are too shallow for most skiffs to access.

They've rigged some of the boats specifically for fishing, and features include dry storage up front, a paddling platform for additional elevation (which helps you see fish) and a rod holder. With the fly angler in mind, Jimbo designed the craft with a recessed deck and small basket to keep fly line in the boat given windy conditions. They thought this one through.

If you're in the Treasure Coast area, drop in on Jimbo and Mark to check out the boats, boards and operation. Decades of thought and experience have gone into their boats and SUPs. But like I said, the sport is really catching on. A a lot of places now rent SUPs and offer lessons. Inquire wherever you're visiting in Florida.

Enjoy the glide.

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