Minimalism personified, Andy Coleman is a shallow water angler with a penchant for stand up paddleboards, especially those crafted nearby at the YOLO shop. A true devotee to the less is more philosophical camp, Andy manages impressive catches while keeping a mindful eye to the necessities. Andy can often be seen walking atop the Florida saltwater, searching for reds, and enjoying the meditation-inducing views.
What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?
I have fished kayaks from the old days of Lazer fiberglass kayaks. This was in the late 70′s. I have always been attracted to simplicity and spareness in fishing. Kayaks evolved and I truly enjoyed them. My last craft before paddle boards was a double ended wooden Adirondack canoe . It weighed in at 24 lbs. I have noticed a strong correlation with lightness and simplicity with the number of times I get on the water. The more I get on the water the better my serenity is. Also, the more I fish, the more I learn. So, when Jeff Archer showed me the original YOLOs, I had to have one. Kayaks have the advantage of handling rough water, and paddling against the wind, but I am a YOLO man. I sight fish extremely shallow water for redfish, and the stealth and standing position sight advantage are invaluable in first seeing, and then presenting to, the fish.
Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a paddleboard?
The first fish I caught from a paddle board was a 26 inch redfish. He was hooked and so was I.
In what kayak anglers generally term “the sleigh ride,” large fish can cause a great deal of movement for all involved in a successful hook up. This phenomenon is exaggerated when the fishing vessel is a 19 pound paddle board. Tell us a bit about some of your more memorable sleigh rides.
I was fishing at night, by the 331 causeway in Walton County, Florida. I was fishing for large speckled trout. Earlier in the week I had landed a 27 3/4 inch trout. I said to myself , “When I catch a 28 or above I will have a mount made (I have since evolved and will no longer kill large trout). During the week I caught two more trout that were exactly 27 3/4. Therefore, I was man possessed. I was fishing with a 7 ft medium light rod with a Shimano 100 DC reel, 10 lb power pro braid and a 20 lb fluorocarbon leader; I was on the original 12′ YOLO. Using a Long A Bomber lure. On a long cast, I hooked something very large, very powerful, and dead set on not being landed that night. Of course, I was sure that I had hooked the largest trout on record. During the next 20 minutes and three spoolings, I figured I was attached to a large Striper. The fish pulled me several hundred yard, in awfully abrupt patterns. The fish would have broken me off (each time that he spooled me), but the YOLO didn’t supply enough resistance. The fish finally abraded the line on the rocks as Stripers are wont to do. I think it was the best thing for both of us. I still regard it as a spiritual experience.
What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?
Black coffee, a large omelet, and bluegrass music are essential in my preparation.
With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?
Clean water. Please get behind storm water run off projects whatever your location. Litter – we as responsible sportsman need to pick it up whenever possible. I am not a purist; I can’t say that I never take a fish. But don’t take the big breeder speckled trout. They are just too valuable to the fishery. Never take more than one meal, and there will be plenty.
Having fished from stand up boards for over five years, you can be regarded as a pioneer, of sorts. Though this means of angling is taking place within a small yet devoted population, growth is on the rise. With regard to the development of both the cultural and industrial sides of the sport, what changes have you been witness to?
I first spotted paddle boards, when Tom Losey and Jeff Archer came up with this YOLO thing. At first I just wanted to stay on the board. It looked like walking on the water. (it is) The first hunter gatherer type activity I saw on YOLOs was Jeff’s son using a board to gather crab traps. I conned Jeff out of a board. I loved paddling. I loved the quiet. I thought this was like moving meditation. I was fishing from shallow water skiffs (Hell’s Bay);about 40 to 50 feet was the spooking distance. On my YOLO, I noticed redfish would sometimes swim under my board. I thought this could be a fishing machine. All worries, about casting and fighting a fish off a board, quickly evaporated. You just do it . You get instant feed back.
Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?
The most amazingly beautiful river trip I have ever made was down the Telogia river to its merger with the Ocholocknee, from Hosford to Carabelle in Northwest’s Florida’s Tate’s Hell section. The water was exceedingly low and crystal clear with a limestone bottom. Behind every ancient stump there was a Redbreast in wait. When I cast a fly, I could see the redbreast become almost neon-like when the fish locked on to the fly. The strike was never in question. I have caught more fish and better fish, but never more beautiful fish. I would like to relive this trip on YOLO.
What’s in your milk crate?
What is in my milk crate. It depends on the targeted fish and time of day. For night fishing, I really go extremely minimalist. Knife, Pliers, maybe 2 lures, fluorocarbon leader material, iPhone in a pelican case (camera and safety issues – the more I have the more problems that can rear their ugly head). In the daytime, I carry more lures and a bigger fly selection. More refreshments. In board fishing, I believe less to be more. I am much more concentrated on where I am fishing now ( as opposed to wondering what is happening on the other side of the bay). I am much more in the here. I am blessed to fish over good water. I sight fish, mostly. I know that the fish are here. I need to finesse the bite. The point being, yeah I could have more equipment in a boat, yeah there may be more fish 10 miles away, but I am here now. Fish now. Fish here.
Tell us about your best day on the water.
My “best day on the water” was Thanksgiving, when I was eleven years old. I was fishing with my father in a tributary to the Cooper River in South Carolina. It was bitterly cold; we caught large schooling Stripers until all our reels were destroyed. I was exhausted, my daddy built a fire to warm us up. This may not be the answer for this interview, but that was my best day on the water, and I am sticking to it.
What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?
The YOLO fishing lifestyle. Fish hard, live slow, eat healthy, honor the fish.
Wind has long been the bane of small fishing vessels. Add a human sail, and the problem is magnified. Rough water can be juxtaposed with balance, and the need to transport fishing gear can meet a similar fate when coupled with the limited real estate of a surfboard. Tell us about how it is that you’ve solved these issues on your path to creating years of successful angling experiences.
Head wind is the bane of paddleboards. The human sail does add to this. The human can reduce his effective sail area by kneeling, or sitting. Coolers, leaning platforms etc all add sail area, therefore don’t use them in windy conditions. Less is more. Simple is good.
What does the future hold for you?
What does the future hold for me? I want to do more fly fishing, and spin fish the same amount. I want to expand fly fishing to more species. I want to use the next boards as they are developed, (maybe have some input). I would like to pass on my love of the sport.