Although my wife will mock me and guffaw when she reads this, when it comes to hunting and fishing equipment I am not a “gear hound.” Just ignore her scoffing. I really don’t buy a lot of new stuff, honest. Whether it is a fly rod, a shotgun or a pair of chest waders, I customarily make do. My fishing bud Bob Leeman, who is a bonafide gear hound, who owns more fly rods than Lefty Kreh’s heirs, can’t believe that I am still fishing with an L. L. Bean Double L 5-weight that is close to 40 years old. Or that I sport chest waders with patches, of all things!
This is not a lament. Diane is a retired schoolteacher with her own little pension stash. If she wants to splurge on a 20-gauge Berreta over and under or a state of-the-art Orvis fishing stick, that’s not a problem. And if you are one of those sportsmen who has to have cutting-edge fishing and hunting gear you’ll hear no begrudging from this end.
It’s just not my thing to keep up fashion-wise when it comes to outdoor gear. Truth be known — and I cringe at the term — a “minimalist” I may be. In fact, when it comes to Maine fishing, you’ll rarely ever see me holding anything but a fly rod. The simplicity and rhythm of it all holds me in its spell.
All bets are off, though, when it comes to fishing the Florida Keys.
There, in the land of swaying palm fronds and hot sun, most anglers catch, keep and bring home filets of dolphin and Spanish mackerel. No fly rods there. Big, beefy rods and reels loaded with heavy mono and stainless hooks and leaders do the work.
Late this winter while fishing out near the Gulf Stream on the legendary “hump” with Captain Lee Cliff, a Hermon man and capable boatsman who winters in the Keys, my minimalist outlook came face to face with cutting-edge fishing technology. From out of his gear locker, Cliff retrieved a new-fangled fishing tool that I had hitherto never even heard of, let alone used: (drum roll) the electric reel!
Captain Cliff’s electric reel is his ace in the hole. When the dolphins aren’t hitting on top and the action is slow, he goes deep. We are talking 400-foot depths where the big ones hang out. The electric reel and a ¼-pound cannonball allow you to get the bait on the bottom in seconds. Then, when a fish hits, you press the retrieve button and the electric reel zings in the fish in seconds up from 400 feet.
These reels aren’t cheap. Prices range from $300 on up to the Shimano Beast Master, which goes for $1,399 on Amazon. When it comes to ocean fishing, these reels turn the impractical into the possible. And they can make the difference when all else fails. We caught 10 pounds of white filets that day, thanks to Captain Cliff’s electric reel.