Captain Joe Tunstall

Joe Tunstall

Capt. Joe is an excellent resource for shallow water fishing around Beaufort and Morehead City N.C. His bio is below.

Captain Joe has been fishing the waters of coastal North Carolina his entire life, a Crystal Coast native with over 30 years experience he has traveled the Eastern seaboard as a professional waterman and USCG licensed master working in commercial and recreational fishing most of his life. His knowledge for the species he pursues is never quenched. Always striving for the higher mark and increasing his skill set, in search of the wildest and most alive moments that can be sought after.

Whether it be light tackle or fly, near coastal or in the marsh, from the boat or wade fishing the beach or pristine grass flats, he’ll put you on the fish and an experience of a lifetime. The sizzling heat of your fly reel being peeled to the backing by a Fall False Albacore near Cape Lookout. Perhaps a freight train run of Trophy Redfish in the Pamlico Sound. With two boats to meet your needs, a 23′ C-Hawk and a 16′ Hewes Flats Skiff, from the backwaters and bays to the Cape Lookout Shoals and near shore reefs. Whatever your choice of quarry, Capt. Joe will hook you up.

Captain Joe’s family has been in the tidewater region since the beginning of the Virginia Colony, his great Grandfather was a registered guide on the Pamlico River guiding thrill seeking anglers to their challenge of the world class Red Drum fishery in the early 1900’s . Captain Joe carries on his family heritage and a lifetime of vast local knowledge steeped in his knowledge of coastal folk lore and incorporates that into your customized fishing experience you’ll want again and again for years to come. 

Are Sissy Bars for Sissies?

Boat with Sissy BarsI have sissy bars on my boat and I never considered myself a “sissy.”  The word as a noun is defined as a “coward, a weakling, a cry baby” and Lord forbid “effeminate”.  Well let’s see how this term has settled on us  flat boat owners who have chosen to pimp our rides with these constructed devices.  Do they make us look weak?  I don’t think so.  How about “cowardly?” Cowardly against what? Effeminate, really?  Crybaby?  Well maybe we have something here but not what you were expecting.

As an orthopedic surgeon and fly fisherman I have witnessed first-hand “crybabies” or maybe “crying like a baby” from the mouths of the unfortunate angler who just lost his balance and fell from the poling platform onto the razor-sharp outboard propeller blades.  Make sure you visit the photos accompanying this article.

When I first started tarpon fishing, I marveled at the way my guide could stand on a poling platform with all his agility and balance even though the rolling waves bounced him up and down.  How did he do that?  I still don’t know.

Then my soon to become a best friend and fishing partner showed up at my office with ruptured Achilles tendons on each side, no insurance, and told me the story of him losing his balance on the polling platform and taking a nose-dive into the cockpit of his Hell’s Bay skiff.  Surgery for my friend resulted in a bartering process where he presented me a brand-new Abel reel on his first post-op visit, the beginning of a great relationship.

I then got another patient who fell on the prop blades from the poling platform.  You can dull a good prop blade with a muscular thigh, nasty wounds and they get infected.

My first introduction to sissy bars was a trip to Montok, NY for striper fishing.  You absolutely had to have a sissy bar to stand up on the front of the Jones’ brothers’ boat with one arm and hand with a death grip around a sissy bar and the other trying to cast in 2-4’ swells.  Everyone in NY has sissy bars and cages.  After that I never looked back.  So, when I got my Maverick Mirage II the first addition was a cage aka sissy bar for me up top with the pole and one for the guy on the front with the fishing rod.  Over the years I have seen a number of grotesque injuries from the poling platform to the prop blades.  Why don’t anglers get smart?  I guess it’s a macho thing like having drive on posts on your trailer.  It’s a no-brainer.

Anyhow, I have tweaked my sissy bars many times over the years.  So now the one up top fits my butt cheek perfectly so I can pole with one leg in the cage and one leg out and sit back on the sissy bar which now has a pad on it.  Much more comfortable and much safer.

The opening in the front of my cage on the poling platform is just large enough to allow me up and down access to the deck and to the platform but small enough so that I am not going to fall out of it.

I’ve had my share of close calls on the water and before I put sissy bars on my boat there was always a little bit of apprehension when I took a wave or an unexpected bump.  I now have cages on both my flat boats so if you want to call me a “sissy” have at it.  But I’m a safe “sissy.”

Thomas R. Dempsey
Certified Casting Instructor and founder of Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School, Mobile, Alabama

Congratulations Dr. Dino Frangos!

Dino FrangosDr. Dino Frangos has satisfied the requirements to become a Level 1 Examiner for FFI for testing and casting certification.  Dino just finished a testing in Denver for CCI candidates and is now in a position to move to a Level II Examiner.  Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School wants to congratulate Dr. Frangos on his achievement, his contribution to the FFI.

Pantomime Your Way to a Good Fly Cast

One key to a proficient and effective sports motion is repetition through pantomime. Whether shooting a basketball free-throw or casting a fly line the participant improves his or her skills by repeating the same motions over and over. Of course, these motions must also include good technique.

An effective way to improve a fly cast is to simplify and uncomplicate the casting motion. Break the movement down to its most basic form.  This begins the process of “muscle memory”.

The term muscle memory is actually a misnomer. In fact, muscle does not retain memory. One scientific studied failed to show any difference in biopsies from “trained” and “untrained” muscle. Actually, we are building neural pathways in the brain that function instinctively. One author describes these functions as a “mental shortcut”.

When teaching the fly cast, I begin with the basic fundamentals without the fly rod in hand. At the Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School our instruction starts with a paint brush dipped in water. Using the wet paintbrush we mimic or pantomime the fly rod movement, and the principles of the fly cast including smooth acceleration, moving the brush back and forward in a straight line, and an effective stop at the end of this back/forward motion. Water droplets flying off the end of the moving brush give a good visualization of the paintbrush path. This will set the stage for a similar motion with a fly rod.

Once the paintbrush casting motion is mastered, we progress to a tubular swimming “noodle”. From there the final stage will be pantomiming the casting motion using a fly rod without line.

Even now as an experienced fly caster I may visualize and pantomime a new or modified casting motion using only my arm and hand. Often, I will use a mirror to aid my learning.

Pantomime is an overlooked but very effective method of teaching and self-improvement.

Doc Frangos
FFI Master Certified Fly-Casting Instructor

Seek Qualified Fly Casting Instruction

The fastest and most efficient way to learn a new sport such as fly casting is with the guidance of an experienced instructor. Ideally this experience includes understanding the various modalities of teaching and recognizing what methods work best for the student. For example, one student learns best through visualization, while another is an auditory learner. Other methods might include an instructor using a hands-on approach holding the fly rod with the student and mimicking a cast, or teaching through pantomime.

No doubt there are fly casters who improve through self-discovery but most only succeed in reinforcing bad techniques. In my experience the intermediate caster is often the most difficult to teach because the bad habits are ingrained with “muscle memory”. I prefer a beginner anytime.

While fly fishing guides do a commendable job putting anglers on fish, most lack a basic teachable knowledge of casting fundamentals. An ability to cast and guide does not always translate into an ability to teach. I tend to look at fly fishing guides and fly casting instructors as two different professions. Not competitors but experts that should complement each other with the shared goal of setting the stage for a more enjoyable fly fishing experience with their clients.

Personally I hope more fly fishing guides and others in the fly fishing industry become more interested in teaching the proper fundamentals and essentials of fly casting. Positive signs in this direction are becoming more common. I am aware of some fly shops in my area of Idaho and Montana requiring FFI (Fly Fishers International) casting certification for their guides.

I would encourage fly casters of all levels to seek out qualified instruction to improve their casting. The Fly Fishers International website provides a list of qualified instructors throughout the USA and worldwide who have undergone extensive training in teaching fly casting techniques.

Doc Frangos
FFI Master Certified Casting Instructor

The Value of a Casting Partner

Nothing works better in your casting than having two sets of eyes that are watching your casting.  Having a casting partner for the last 9 years has been invaluable.  Working out problems and continue to improve my casting.  It is impossible to view your casting from all angles and with a casting partner you are able to evaluate all aspects of your cast.   Whereas when you are casting by yourself you are generally only looking at one parameter such as tracking, loop formation, translation, rod stoppage.  With a partner you have the luxury of someone that can walk from side to side and back to front and can critique you on the spot instead of trying to remember individually what you did wrong and what you did right.  Combine this with videoing a casting partner is a huge asset while the video is recording.  Your partner can help direct the casting session while it’s being videoed.

In addition to the physical aspects of having someone observe your casting and comment on it, your casting partner also serves as someone that you can have extended dialogues about fly fishing all elements.  It’s nice to be able to bounce questions off someone on a regular basis and discuss and dissect fly fishing.

Your casting partner does not need to be a certified instructor, just someone who is willing to work with you on a regular basis and someone who can be honest about your casting.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in improving their casting to hook up with someone on a regular basis.