Balance. We all seek it in our lives and some actually achieve it – at least from time-to- time. The owners and staff of Honey Lake Plantation have not only found that balance, but have made it into an art-form. Balance between luxury and value, between adventure and comfort, and even balance between peaceful relaxation and adrenalin rush.
I had heard about Honey Lake Plantation for a while, but recently had an opportunity to spend three days with my old friend Jon Cave, catching up and catching bass in some of the most pleasant surroundings a guy could ask for.
To be honest, I am always a bit nervous when I hear the phrase “World-class customer service”, it conjures the image of someone following me around with a whisk-broom, or putting a mint on my pillow every time I take a nap. That is not HLP. It really felt more like a welcomed stay with friends, who wanted to be there as much as I did. “What you want, when you want it”, best describes the service to me.
The grounds of the 5000-plus acre plantation are graceful and elegant for sure, and it really does feel like stepping back in time – with one exception- no creaky floors or museum smells. I was stunned to find that all of the buildings on the plantation, save one, were built within past five years. HPL is the brainchild of sportsman Bob Williamson, who purchased the land for personal use, but as he puts it “One thing lead to another, and here we are.” The main building, lodge rooms, cabins (48 rooms in total) and even a chapel were designed by Williamson himself, with every detail honoring the architecture and southern charm of the plantation era.
The Whispering Pines restaurant is in lock-step with the rest of the operation providing traditional regional favorites like fried green tomatoes, wild boar bacon, quail and venison specialties. They even make their own honey and serve their creations on sporting themed dinner-ware designed by HLP Sporting Director William Lamb. Chef Greg Folden, founder of the Tallahassee Area Chef’s Association, was lured to the property after serving as the executive chef at the Tallahassee Civic Center for 22 years. Chef Folden has quickly helped HLP earn the reputation as the southeast’s wedding destination, as well as making Whispering Pines a favorite with locals.
Once you are well-fed and rested, there is plenty to do on the plantation. Seated in the heart of the Red Hills Region, known for the largest concentration of wild quail anywhere, HPL offers guests the finest quail hunting experience available. This is not the type of place that plants birds for you, it is authentic wild bird shooting. With the kennel of 37 bird dogs from top breeders, your hunt may take place on foot or horseback. A world-class 22 station trap-shooting course will test the expert marksman and will serve to build the skills of those new to the sport.
The Honey Lake Plantation accommodations were excellent and the food outstanding, but let’s face it, Jon and I came to fish. And fish we did. HLP is perfect for fly fishermen, offering nearly 2 miles of pristine shoreline for fishing on foot in three different lakes. Or, you may choose sneak out a kayak and spend the evening on the 80-acre Honey Lake, a classic cypress lake, peppered with lily pads and rocky shoreline. You can fish on your own or choose to fish with one of the skilled guides on staff at the plantation. While each lake had a different personality, they all had one thing in common – quality fishing. Much like the bird hunting, this is real fishing. It is not a hatchery and fishing for tiger bass and big largemouths will test your wits – and your tackle.
Are all of the fish big? No. But plenty of them are. In fact, we caught seven bass in the three-to-six pound range and many more 14-16” fish. Of course, as the story often goes, the big one got away, in fact, two behemoths proved that the lily pads are there for more than just decoration. The bluegills are hearty and aggressive, and for a former Midwesterner like me, that is as good as gold. Popping bugs in a variety of sizes on a six or seven weight rod with a floating line is just right for the HLP waters, although a few of the largest fish fell prey to a subsurface buck tail fly called the “Straw Boss” tied in all white. Angling opportunities of this quality don’t just happen. Williamson, wanting to develop a true trophy fishery, enlisted the expertise of scientist Barry Smith to monitor the lakes and introduce new species – such as the tiger bass – to achieve a perfect and sustainable balance.
Honey Lake Plantation is sort of place that you can bring all of your gear or nothing at all. Bring your expectations and know that they will be met. And if it’s a little balance you are looking for, Honey Lake Plantation is the place to start.
Honey Lake Plantation is located just 30 minutes east of Tallahassee, Florida. Phone (850)948-9111 for more information, or on the web at honeylakeplantation.com.
You can read Joe Mahler’s magazine article on The Straw Boss on Joe’s website here.
This photo displays the Peacock colored Straw Bosses. Joe mentioned the white color used at Honey Lake. His good friend Drew Chicone features a full step-by-step of the white Straw Bosses in his latest book Snook Flies.