AFFTA President’s Statement to the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee

AFFTA-LogoStatement of Benjamin H. Bulis, President and CEO of American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing entitled, “An Examination of Proposed Environmental Regulation’s Impacts on America’s Small Businesses”, May 19, 2015.

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Ben Bulis, AFFTA President

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony in support of the Clean Water Act at the hearing today. I had the good fortune to be born and raised in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. I have fished around the U.S. and the world, but the rivers and streams of New Hampshire will always stay close to my heart. Now I have the great fortune to live and work in Bozeman, Montana, and the fishing is not too bad there either, as you may have heard!

AFFTA represents the business of fly fishing which includes manufacturers, retailers, outfitters and guides across the nation, who all share the same bottom line: furthering the sport and industry of fly fishing. This cannot be accomplished without clean water and vibrant fisheries habitat. The formula that drives AFFTA is very simple: Access to healthy habitat creates recreational opportunity that drives economic activity and jobs.

Our industry provides the waders, rods, guides and boats that 47 million sportsmen and women utilize every time they step foot in their favorite piece of water. Their quality of experience, and thus our return sales to enhance those days, is dependent on access to clean water.

I am here to express our support for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to restore protections for our nation’s headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Simply put, the draft clean water rule is well crafted and appropriate, it should be allowed to move through the federal rulemaking process with support of Congress.

Here’s why. The small waters to which this important draft rule applies are the lifeblood for many of our country’s prized fisheries. The health of these headwaters sets the tone and benefits for all waters downstream, supporting and creating even the backbone of our nation’s marine resources. They flow into rivers, streams and lakes that provide the foundation of our industry, thus eventually concluding the voyage in our oceans–ourindustry’s viability depends on intact watersheds, cold, clean rivers and streams and healthy, fishable habitat.

Given that fishing in America supports approximately 828,000 jobs, results in nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales and has an economic impact of about $115 billion every year (Sportfishing in America an Economic Force for ConservationAmerican Sportfishing Association, 2013), it stands to reason that the health of our nation’s waters is vital to the continued success of our industry, and to the health of America’s economy. We urge you to allow the rulemaking process to continue unimpeded, carefully review the final rule when it comes out, and then determine what, if any, legislative action is warranted. We owe it to the more than one million Americans who took the time to comment on the proposal to allow the process to reach a conclusion. More than 80% of those who commented on the proposal were in favor of it. Such strong support for clean water and healthy watersheds is what our members experience every day as we interact with our customers across the Nation.

If we fail to protect our headwater streams and wetlands, we may destroy the $200 billion annual economy of the hunting and fishing industry, as well as put 1.5 million people out of work. Of those 1.5 million jobs…many are located in rural areas with limited economic opportunities and few other employment options. Some of the best trout water in the lower 48 is located here in Montana, where our entire state population just recently broached a million residents. Because of access and quality of those trout waters…world-wide fly fishing companies such as Simms, RL Winston, Montana Fly Company and Bozeman Reel Company have decided to set up shop in our relatively rural location…and employ hundreds of people in the process. If those jobs are compromised due to a lack of clean water, what options do those employees have in our rural economies across the nation?

AFFTA members from the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Coast of Louisiana, the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, the Florida Key, the Front Range of Colorado and the remote outfitters in Alaska are all funding their local economies by clean water and healthy fisheries. From the flies to the rods to the rain jackets for the guides rowing clients down the river…none would be possible without clean water.

In recent years, participation in fly fishing has grown. We are seeing robust interest in our sport and it is translating to our sales, to the numbers of employees we hire right here in America, and to the health of brick-and-mortar retailers all over the country. The fly fishing industry is the epitome of small business, the sustainable domestic industry is dependent on clean fishable water.

But, in addition to being acutely interested in the health of our watersheds, we are also concerned that blocking this rulemaking process could turn back the clock on the progress our nation has made since the Clean Water Act was put into place more than 40 years ago. Today, rivers that were once polluted are home to remarkable runs of steelhead, salmon and brown trout. Streams that were once uninhabitable for native brook trout are now home to robust populations of these prized fish. What’s more, our country’s drinking water is healthier and safer.

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Ben Bulis, AFFTA President, with ranking committee Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire.

Please consider the present state of our watersheds before interfering in a proven process that has generated more than 800,000 comments from the public in support of this rule. While we understand that politics these days can be tumultuous and rancorous, we strongly encourage you not to play politics with clean water.

Again, on behalf of AFFTA, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today and I’d like to also thank this committee and staff for their continued service to our Nation.

Sincerely,

Benjamin H. Bulis

 

A History of Wild Fisheries

“With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

Mr.  E. M. Robinson 11/13/1889

 

Wild, naturally reproducing fish; feisty rainbows, solitary browns and colorful brook trout are a treat to catch, but they are not native Salmonid fish to the Rocky Mountains. The regional sub species of cutthroat trout and the mountain whitefish are the natives and were isolated by the repeated glacial periods in the late Plicone or early Pleistone epochs. The rest were stocked or their ancestors were stocked, they then reproduced and created wild fisheries. Why and how did this occur?

P1110618Neosho, the oldest operating Federal Fish Hatchery resides in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri. Established in 1888, it still raises rainbow trout and endangered species such as, Ozark Cavefish, Pallid Sturgeon and freshwater Drumfish to disperse native Fat Bucket Mussel eggs. This is an unfair description of this hatchery’s superior mitigation and restoration work, but since I grew up in Colorado…

The same year, the US Fish Commissioner Colonel MacDonald was looking for a Rocky Mountain location to replenish the dwindling cold water fisheries used as a food source for the people evolved in the Colorado mining boom.  A year later, in 1889, by the executive order of US President Benjamin Harrison and $15,000 appropriated by Congress, 30 stone masons built the Leadville, Colorado, Federal Fish Hatchery with native red sandstone. Newspaper articles of the early days reported it as “the most magnificent building in western Colorado.”

October 12, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. What Spangler Saw. The Editor of the Philadelphia Star Pays a Visit to Leadville and Evergreen Lakes “A very general impression prevails that the streams of Colorado literally teem with game fish. Some of them do, and all of them once did; but the immense extent of mining operations in nearly every part of the state, the consequent pollution of many of the streams, the erection of saw mills, and the fact that there are not only great numbers of keen and expert native anglers out there, but that thousands of anglers from other states…. have all served to very materially lessen the number of fish. Colonel MacDonald, fully appreciating the situation, wisely concluded to establish a hatchery at this point, steps for the immediate erection of which have been taken.” The eastern editor continued later in his article, “It will perhaps be news to some readers to learn that Colorado has but one kind of valuable edible game fish-the trout. The mountain streams of the state, and practically there are no other, are admirably adapted to that fish, but no other American variety. The native trout can grow to a very large size, not unfrequently (sic) reaching six or seven pounds, but it has been found advisable to introduce our eastern mountain variety (Brook Trout). This has been done with great success. The newcomers thrive splendidly, seemingly better than in their native waters. A visit to Dr. Law’s fine fish ponds, which adjoin Evergreen lakes, completed our visit. The doctor is not only an enthusiastic and successful fish culturist, but enjoys the distinction of being the pioneer in the business in Colorado. His ponds were in perfect order and swarming with trout, evidence of which was given me, when a primitive rod and line was put in my hand, and in twenty minutes I had succeeded in landing sixteen very nice ones…”

L1150335_RainbowDr. John Law of Leadville was instrumental in convincing the Federal Government to establish a hatchery and donated eggs.  He established his hatchery three years earlier. The raising of brook trout at the new hatchery began even before the completion of the main building. Eggs collected from trout from several of Dr Law’s high Colorado ponds were incubated in a temporary building.

November 13, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. The Spawning Season. “We have already secured 64,000 eggs,” remarked Mr. E. M. Robinson, of the government fish hatchery, yesterday afternoon, to this reporter.

“What species of trout are you securing the spawn from?”

“The pure eastern brook trout. When Commissioner McDonald made the agreement with Dr. Law, we selected a great many trout from the doctor’s different lakes and put them in a pond near his hatching house. It is those fish we are working upon now.”

“How many spawn do you expect to get this season?”

“Fully a million.”

“How many can you accommodate at the hatchery at present?”

“One million six hundred thousand, and if we were to use Dr. Law’s place, we could accommodate two million.”

“How will this station compare with others?”

“Our prospects are brighter for doing better work than any station on this continent, and at present we are doing more than any other. We have got a lovely place at Evergreen and everyone of us are in love with it. It may seem strange, but the temperature of the water has not varied since I have been there half a degree.”

“How long have you been in the fish culture business?”


“Since 1870 and I have been with the government since 1885, and visited a large number of stations. We all expected to suffer from cold here, but none of us so far have experienced any disadvantages from the weather. The New England coast is the place to suffer from cold.”

P1020627_Colo River CuttHe also added, “With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

In July 1889, Professor David Starr Jordan and G. R. Fisher visited Twin Lakes, (Leadville) and published their discoveries in the 1891 Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. They found both the greenback cutthroat and what they proclaimed to be a new species the “yellowfin cutthroat”. In his report Jordan took credit for the name and described the fish as follows: Color, silvery olive; a broad lemon yellow shade along the sides, lower fins bright golden yellow in life, no red anywhere except the deep red dash on each side of the throat.

P1020657_Snake River CuttThe subspecies was scientifically named macdonaldi after the US Fish Commissioner, Marshall MacDonald. In 1903, rainbow trout were stocked in Twin Lakes.  They interbred with the greenbacks creating “cutbows” and the yellow fin cutthroat became extinct.

Colonel R. E. Goodell of the U.S. Fish Commission was quoted saying on May 2, 1894, in the Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 4, “It might be possible and has occurred, that an early male mountain trout (native cutthroat) fertilized the eggs of a late California (rainbow) trout, but the fish are apt to be barren. It is to this fact that the perpetuation of the various species of fish is undoubtedly due…”

In 1891 the Leadville hatchery began the first distribution of fingerling fish to lakes and streams in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  The journey was at times perilous. Trout were delivered in milk cans on wagons drawn by horse or mule teams. During the early 20th century, many fish traveled 1st class. Railroad cars especially designed for the health and well-being of the fish and their human handlers were travelling all over the United States. Today tanker trucks and even helicopters stock the fish.

P1130729_BrownThe first von Behr brown trout were imported from Germany to the U.S. in 1883. The earliest documented brown trout in Colorado came via England in 1885, shipped as eggs to a Denver hatchery. In 1890, U.S. Senator Henry M. Teller received a gift of brown trout eggs from Loch Leven, Scotland and donated them to the state. During this same time, von Behr brown trout were being raised at the Leadville hatcheries. More than a century later, the reclusive brown trout trying to take an angler deep are a mixture of those strains from Germany, Scotland, and England. Fortunately, the brown trout carried the European immunity to whirling disease through generations and were the mainstay for Rocky Mountain wild fisheries at the turn of the 21st Century when the rainbow fishery populations crashed.

Early visitors to the Leadville hatchery were encouraged to learn about “fish farming,” have a picnic and hike the many trails at the new Federal facility. The same is true today. Sitting on over 3000 acres of sub alpine forest at 10,000 foot elevation, it juts into the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, with impressive views of the highest peaks in Colorado. The beautiful red, native sandstone building is still in operation.  Ed Stege of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Leadville said, “Our current program consists of maintaining the captive greenback cutthroat broodstock, maintaining a Colorado River cutthroat broodstock (lineage green), and production rainbow trout (for stocking).” His co-worker Chris Kennedy reports during the past 126 years the hatchery has raised Snake River cutthroat, greenback cutthroat trout, yellowfin cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, steelhead, golden trout, chinook salmon, grayling and lake trout.

P1020548_cutbowInitially trout were raised for food and recreation because mining, agriculture, roads and human activity degraded the habitat to the point native trout were unable to reproduce. Introduced brook trout did too well and now overpopulate every nook and cranny of the Rocky Mountains and are stopped only by water fall natural barriers. Rainbows interbred with the cutthroats, diluted the genetics of some and caused the extinction of others. Brown trout saved fly fishing for more than a decade.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, volunteers from local Trout Unlimited Chapters and concerned citizens are attempting to improve habitat and introduce pure sub species of native cutthroats to their historic ranges. Currently they inhabit a fraction of their original territory. In 2007 researchers discovered 750 pure strain native greenback cutthroats, the Colorado State Fish, in Bear Creek near Colorado Springs and are believed to be only ones left in the world. The captive broodstock reside in Leadville. Please volunteer locally to help this mitigation of all cutthroats succeed and be a gift to future generations of anglers.

P1080176_BrookRemember the overpopulated brook trout was introduced as a food source and directly competes with native cutthroats for habitat. So I suggest, catch and release the cutthroats and catch and eat the delicious brookies. And of course, enjoy our wild fisheries. Fishing is fun.

 

After Tax Day and the Green River

Previously in this spot, I’ve written about where I have fished. This time, it’s where I’m going. Every year, the weekend after the deadline for filing with the IRS, April 15th, I go to Little Hole on the Green River with the usual suspects, whom are mostly members of the Yampa Valley Fishers, our local Trout Unlimited Club. Good or bad (tax return or weather) we make the annual pilgrimage and camp at Dripping Springs. I’ll report that after 10 years in a row, if the weather is miserable, the fishing is typically terrific. If it is sunny and beautiful the highlight of the day may be your lunch, but the scenery is consistently awesome.

In eastern Utah, the Green River tail water below Flaming Gorge Reservoir flows gin clear and the Blue Winged Olive baetis hatch has been and will be again of Biblical proportions.P1050014_cropped
In the slower water, just below riffles, armadas of duns emerge and float as their wings dry in the cool air. Trout noses gently break the surface and sip the unfortunate. The hatch occurs during “gentlemen’s hours” generally between 10 to 2 o’clock. Depending on the weather, if on the first morning of angling the emergence starts at 10:30, you can plan on it starting at exactly the same time the rest of your stay. It can be frustrating with so many naturals on the surface and consequently so much competition with your fly in the drift.

P1040984_8xWith size 20 or smaller BWO imitations, it is also difficult tell if the trout sips your fly or the real one right next to it. Patience is a virtue and is rewarded. I like to increase my odds having a larger visible dry fly, like a parachute Adams or even a Royal Wulff and an emerger tied as 2 or 3 inch dropper. Trout feel safer in the sub surface and there appears to be a great deal of action there. The first time I saw a dandelion midge, I thought it was just a fly tiers gimmick. It’s really two flies on one hook; an emerger with a long post and a light blue dun colored parachute hackle on the very top. It creates visibility on the surface and a tempting morsel in the subsurface.

With nicer weather and fewer risers, try a size 20 or smaller parachute black gnat. The river’s clarity makes sight fishing with polarized sunglasses effortless. Pick a fish, cast directly up river several feet above it and then gently dead drift your dry fly over the trout’s head. It will work or it won’t. In either case, after a perfect drift pick another fish.

P1060646My buddy and fellow TU club member, Larry Freet fishes primarily with the Czech or European nymphing style. With a 10’ rod, two tiny midge emergers, usually one dark, the other light colored and the weight to get them down deep quickly, he typically lands the most and largest trout.

P1010429Using little line with short flips upstream, a long reach and a Zen like lift of the rod at the end of the drift, he is quite successful, especially near large rocks and cliffs. Many fly fishers angle deep with size 10 to 14 light colored stonefly nymphs and an indicator. The countless possibilities are yours to discover. I suggest joining a club. Then go fishing and camping with them. The tales around the campfire, the camaraderie and the brilliant stars in the sky will bring you back year after year.

Bonefishing 101: The Packing List Part 3

IMG_01085 days to go until the Fishwest hosted trip arrives at the “international” airport of Congotown on the island of South Andros in the Bahamas.  My packing list is nearing completion as that date draws closer and closer with each passing day. Between Part 1 and Part 2 of my packing list, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need in order to pack for a trip for a tropical saltwater fly fishing trip.

Next up is what I would categorize as dressing for success on the flats. Two things need to be remembered when dressing to go out. Your clothes need to be lightweight and moisture wicking “quick dry” if possible. Sun protection is also something that anglers should be mindful of when choosing apparel for a day of flats fishing. I will always opt for clothing that provides maximum coverage from the sun. I figure the more skin that is covered by clothes the better. The chances of getting a nasty sunburn diminish greatly, however with that being said don’t forget the aloe.

FWFSLFXGC_lgFirst up is the choice of shirt. Like I said before lightweight and quick drying is the name of the game, and you will stay cooler in those hot temperatures as well. I prefer shirts with a more muted color that is similar to the colors of the surroundings, light greys and tans are the best. Some anglers and guides will tell you to stay away from brighter colors, they say that it distracts and spooks the fish at times. I don’t know if this is true or not, however I sure don’t want to find out the hard way. It doesn’t matter if you opt for the more classic “traditional” look of a shirt like the Simms Ebbtide or the T shirt look of the Simms Solarflex, whatever you choose just make sure that they are long sleeved. The sun in those tropical saltwater latitudes has a tendency to burn very bright.  If you do choose to opt for a short sleeve shirt, you can always consider using the Simms Sunsleeves for additional protection.

Jc’s Choice: Howler Brothers Gaucho or Simms Solarflex Long Sleeve

SIF43ZOSPCK_lg_535x535Next up is the choice of pants. I remember the days of getting up on Saturdays and watching the Walkers Cay Chronicles with my dad, and seeing Flip Pallot on the front of a flats boat wearing jeans. I would steer clear from jeans while on the flats but I hear they are a popular choice of some guides. Instead I would opt for some  pants that are lightweight and breathable. I would opt for pants for two reasons. I know I by this point I sound like a broken record but protection from the sun is key. I would hate to have red calves at the end of the day because I opted to wear shorts one day. The second is that when fishing for bonefish you may find yourself wading through the some mangroves from time to time and your pants will provide you with some protection. Last thing… Please don’t forget to bring a belt.  Nobody wants to see your underwear when you are on the casting deck.

JC’s Choice: Simms Superlight Zip Off Pants

A hat is a must when fly fishing at any time in my humble opinion, especially on the flats. A cap keeps the sun off your face, and more importantly, out of your eyes. I prefer a trucker style hat with lightweight mesh. I would always opt for a hat with a dark under brim to help reduce the glare off the water.  Whichever hat you choose make sure to keep a strong hold on it while you are buzzing from flat to flat. The guides will laugh if you have to backtrack to pick up your wet and salty hat.

Jc’s Choice: Fishwest Trucker Cap or Patagonia Trucker Cap

SM49TSTMBPI_lg_535x535Polarized eyewear is an absolute must when stalking fish on the flats. When fishing the flats if you cannot see the fish chances are you are not going to be able to catch the fish. I really enjoy lenses with a copper or amber base lens tint; these lenses give the best color and contrast over a variety of light conditions and are great if you are opting to have one set of glasses for out on the flats. For extremely cloudy days you may want to consider having a set of glasses with yellow lenses, they work great on grey days.

JC’s Choice: Smith Touchstone (Black / Ignitor Lenses)

On those days that you are lucky enough to go wade for bonefish make sure that you have a solid set of Wading boots with you.  Strap sandals will not cut it in all situations. Besides If it were me I would hate to cut my foot on a limestone bottom or something like that, so rubber soled boots are important when stalking fish on foot.  Since I have a few balance issues I like to have a boot with a lot of support so I can stay upright. With that being said having a nice pair of wet wading socks will help to keep all the dirt and sand off your feet, and will leave your feet nice and happy after trudging around the flats for the afternoon.

JC’s Choice: Simms Flats Sneakers & Neoprene Wading Socks

For those times you are on the bow of the boat and want to keep your toes covered without footwear, I would suggest keeping a pair of socks on. They don’t impede performance on the bow and they protect you from the sun.  Runners toe socks are my choice to keep my feet happy on the boat. With those toe socks I can still feel the line under my feet when I inevitably step on it and they also help to reduce noise.

1912541_10153795284815142_635493957_nStay tuned for my last installment of this article. I am confident this list will help you get prepared for your next tropical saltwater destination. Feel free to contact us with any questions! We always welcome your tips and advice as well.

 

 

Bonefishing 101: The Packing List Part 2

009With ten days to go until my next Bahamian saltwater adventure, I find myself still compiling all my gear to head down for another wonderful trip. In this post I want to go over some more of the packing essentials for a Bonefishing adventure. In part 1 of my packing list, I went over arguably the three most important parts of a bonefishing setup. In this article we will continue down the list of items I think belong in any angler’s travel gear.

RI31BNFL_lg_535x535RI32SWFT_lg_535x535Next up on my list is leaders and tippet. In the wind you need a leader that is tapered correctly and stiff enough to turn over big flies easily. For the sake of simplicity and ease of prep grabbing a few of the Rio Bonefish Leaders is a must. These leaders are tapered to cope with wind and heavy flies with ease. I would recommend having enough leader and corresponding tippet for the worst case scenario. I like having a few 3 packs of each of the 10ft leaders in 8lb 10lb and 12lb. I like to fish these leaders with fluorocarbon tippet for more abrasion resistance. Those mangrove roots and sand mounds can be bad news for a leader setup.

UM14VEMS_lgFlies are the biggest variable in this whole equation in my personal opinion. Three factors to keep in mind when selecting the right flies to take on your next adventure are size, weight, and color. Size and weight of flies is extremely important when selecting flies for bonefish because of the variances in water depth. Fishing a big fly in skinny (shallow) water will cause the fly to land with a big splash and therefore no fish will be within 50 feet of that fly.  When fishing less weighted flies in deeper water the flies will take longer to sink and get in the “zone” and in a game where timing is everything, a slow sinking fly may be the reason for a blown shot.

The colors of the flies that you take along with you need to match the different bottoms of each flat. This is due to the fact that the shrimp and other food that the bonefish eat tend to take on the color of their surroundings.  This isn’t an exact science but flies need to match the flat pretty closely.

With that being said there are two flies that I would never be without on a Bahamian bonefishing flat.  The Pearl Gotcha and the Ververka’s Mantis shrimp are probably responsible for more than 80% of the bonefish I have hooked into. As far as sizing goes I was told that the bigger bones enjoy the larger meal, so most of the time i fish a size 2 or 4. However it is always nice to have a good selection of flies in the 2-8 size range in various colors. If you are just starting out and you want to get a good base of flies going, don’t hesitate to look any farther than the fly selections put out by Umpqua.  Flies don’t always have to be stored in a fancy box either, there have been times for me that flies have come out of an Altoids tin, however a box like the Umpqua Flats Box was a nice upgrade.

SIF80DCZPCH_lg_535x535Having a place to store your gear is a must when preparing for a day of bonefish.  I would recommend a pack like the Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack (Available Soon) . This nice waterproof pack can serve two purposes when out on the flats for a day. It can serve as a nice small boat bag to keep all your gear in or if you find yourself out wading for a period of time it doubles as a nice pack for that as well.

Items For Your Pack or on you:

  • A Buff – This tube of fabric is a lifesaver for your face and neck. They are a good idea when out in the sun.
  • A Camera – If you meet a large bonefish you may want to snap a shot or two. However please remember keep em wet if you can.
  • Tippet- Who knows this may get overlooked. Say a fish wraps you around a mangrove shoot or you need to lengthen your leader for picky fish, tippet is a good thing to have.
  • Pliers –Another no brainer right? Removing hooks safely and easily is best for both you and the fish in question. Make sure that you get some pliers with scissor blades. My grandpa the dentist would be disappointed to hear of people using their teeth to cut tippets.
  • Sunscreen – The sun in these tropical locations tends to cook things. Keep yourself covered in this stuff.

Please stay tuned for part three of this article. I have plenty of more to talk about. With the first two parts we are almost ready to head out to the flats.

Bonefishing 101: The Packing List pt 1

I find myself here with two weeks to go before the next Fishwest hosted trip to the Andros South Lodge and after a few years I think I finally have figured out how to pack accordingly. Since Bonefish are generally (and unfairly) categorized as one of the easiest fish to catch on the flats they have been they are becoming more and more popular to chase with a fly rod. These fish are a great way to introduce someone to saltwater fly fishing or for the experienced saltwater angler. From time to time we get anglers coming into the shop asking for our insight on how to pack how to pack when going to a bonefish destination. So here is a quick rundown “survival” guide on how to pack for your next trip:

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First and foremost you need a fast action 8 weight fly rod. A rod with a crisp fast action makes all the difference when sight casting to bonefish on the flats. Paired with the right fly line these rods load up easier giving the angler the ability to deliver flies both quickly and accurately which hopefully leads to more hookups.

JC’s choice: The Winston B3-SX or Sage One 890-4

Next up is a stout saltwater safe fly reel. Having a reel with a really good drag is a must when chasing bonefish. Backing capacity definitely comes into play as well with these fish. I would say that anglers should look for a reel with a minimum backing capacity of 200yds. I generally use 20lb backing with bonefish, however an argument can be made for Gel Spun backing or even the new Hatch Outdoors Braided backing. These Bahamian flats residents have a tendency to run all over the place when hooked and you need a reel that can slow them down and bring them to hand as quickly as possible. Reels with disc drags that are completely sealed are my preference due to having less maintenance after a tough day of fishing.

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JC’s Choice: The Hatch 7 Plus Mid Arbor Fly Reel or Orvis Mirage IV

Dialing in your fly line is a must when sight fishing on the flats. I would actually argue that the right fly line is the most important part of any fly rod setup out there. A line that will load up a rod quickly and more importantly pickup for second casts easily is paramount. These lines need to be able to perform accurately at medium and long distances.  Having a line with an aggressive front belly allows anglers to make shots in close with better success.

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JC’s Choice: The Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Saltwater Taper

Stay tuned for part two of my survival guide on how to pack for your saltwater destination trip. Please feel free to contact us at 877.773.5437 with any questions that you may have.

 

 

F3T Preview: Breaking Through: The Story of Larry Fivecoats

With each passing day, the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour is drawing closer. For those who haven’t heard, the Salt Lake City stop of the tour is on February 19th @ The Depot . Tickets are still available at Fishwest for $13 but are going quickly. I will guarantee that the show will sell out so if you are wanting to go please don’t wait to get your tickets.  Today we are bringing you another sneak peek of the films presented at this years show.

I have to say this story was very touching for me. My introduction to fly fishing was based on a little bit of hardship so I completely understand the therapeutic nature of this wonderful life long endeavor. Fly fishing does have the power to heal both physically and emotionally.  It is amazing to know that there are organizations like Project Healing Waters are out there to give back to those who serve by providing rehab through the sport of fly fishing.  For those who haven’t heard of this wonderful organization I would urge you to check them out and get involved.

Artist on the Fly Andrea Larko Interview: Part 2

Simms Artist Series is now featuring the work of Andrea Larko. We recently caught up with Andrea talked about art and fishing. When she isn’t working she can often be found on the river, or tying flies. For those who missed Part 1 of our interview check it out here.

What type of flies do you like to fish out in your area?

Come the spring I like to fish a lot of dries, and I fish some wets and do some Nymphing. But I’m not the best at Nymphing. I don’t know if I just haven’t figured it out or what, because I’m mainly self taught so (laughs).

hat fish

Check out Simms Women’s Series Trucker here.

I gotcha, I just started in the last year or so.

Really, I think the first year and a half I only caught one or two fish. I just didn’t quite have it figured out. But once it clicks and you get the flow of it, you figure it out really quickly. But I’m not the best caster in the world by any stretch of the mean. I think I get a pretty good dead drift going on. I’ve figured out how to present the fly to the fish so they want to eat it. I fish a lot of the same streams all the time throughout the spring, summer and fall. Mainly through the fall and the winter I go brown trout fishing and King salmon fishing in New York. This is the first year I’m trying to go Steelhead fishing so I tied up a bunch of Decoteau’s and Senyo’s flies that I saw on Steelhead Alley Outfitters, but I haven’t had a chance to fish those yet. I can’t wait to put them in the water.

trout

Check out Simms Larko Trout Tee.

Where are you going to fish for Steelhead?

I went a few days ago up to the Cattaraugus to go with my dad and sister but we couldn’t find any stream gages before we went up there, and when we got there it was totally blown out. There were four people in the water and they weren’t fishing they were getting their gear and getting ready to leave. So we drove three hours for nothing, but we ended up going antiquing and it was fun anyway.  I want to try and go to Lake Erie this winter and see how that goes. I also want to go to Steelhead Alley, 18 Mile, and 20 Mile and see what all the big fuss is about. I see pictures all the time online of all the beautiful fish they pull out of there and I would love to catch one. I think that would be a lot of fun.

What are your favorite spots to fish that you don’t mind talking about?

There are probably three or four streams that are within five miles of my house that I like to fish. A lot of them have wild trout in them. So I fish there when the weather’s nice four or five days a week even if I can only get out for a half an hour.  But other than that I like to go to the yellow creek trout club. I mean they stock fish,  but the trout there are huge and they have such a variety and there are never the crowds that are often at the other places close to where I live. I go fishing there a lot and it’s a lot of fun. I caught my first tiger trout there this year so that was cool.

salmon

 

What is your most memorable catch?

I went Salmon fishing three or four years ago and everyone was fishing on the side of the stream, no bank fishing everyone was just standing in two lanes down the middle and fishing the banks right around the edges where the deep water was. I turned around to walk to the other side and I look in front of me and there are three absolutely huge brown trout sitting in probably 8 inches of water. I was saying to myself “oh my gosh I hope nobody sees this”… I put a couple of casts out, and on the third cast I got it out to the one in the front in his mouth and I caught him. That was definitely the biggest brown trout I’ve ever caught. It was just beautiful. I was so excited. I would have to say that was my best catch. I was elated and couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until my first or second year fly fishing that I actually had a drift that went where I wanted it to go. I figured out the flow of the water, how much weight I needed. I mean, that took me a long time to figure out. I was really excited. It was definitely my best catch.

brown trout

What would be your favorite fly fishing destination to visit?

I really want to visit Alaska.

The fishing there is supposed to be like nowhere else in the world.

That’s what I hear because I have friends from all over the world on my Facebook page. Most of my Facebook feed isn’t even in English anymore. I see all these photographs of people from all over- in  Alaska, British Columbia, and down in Brazil. It just makes me think of all the places I want to go. It makes me want to work harder because I know I’ll get there; it will just take time. It gives me more reasons to work as much as I can every day. From when I wake up until the time I go to bed I’m doing something with my business. Either sending stuff out, marketing, posting  to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Etsy, taking photographs, doing research on new pieces, [and drafting] contracts. The drawing portion of what I do is really only 10% of what I do between taxes, buying inventory. I wish I could just draw and hire someone for everything else.
Check out more of her work on her Etsy at  andrealarko.etsy.com on instagram @andrealarko , her website andrealarko.com or on Facebook  facebook.com/artbyandrealarko

 

Artist on the Fly: The Fishwest Andrea Larko Interview: Part 1

AndreaLarkoAndrea Larko is an artist hailing from Pennsylvania where she creates vibrant works of art, rich in eye catching geometric patterns. After graduating with a B.F.A. in Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology she went on to work in advertising. She started her Etsy Store (The Art Of Angling) about two years ago and currently she is pursuing art full-time, and getting out onto the river whenever possible. Her work is featured in Simms Artist Series Line for Spring 2015. We had the chance to catch up with her recently to discuss her success.

You’ve been very successful. Did you ever imagine that you would be where you’re at now years ago when you were working in advertising?

Oh, definitely not. I actually just quit my job working in advertising in October. So it’s only been a few months now. I never thought that I would be quitting my job… But it just got to the point where I couldn’t keep up and I had to make a decision. I figured I may as well go and see how it all plays out. I started this really about two years ago. It all happened pretty quickly.

How did you get involved with Simms? Did they approach you about it?

il_570xN.625178793_ybuwActually, someone on Instagram(check out her artwork on instagram @andrealarko) found me and asked if they could pass my work along to Simms. I said ‘why not’. But I didn’t think I would hear anything back from them. Then a few days later, I did and they wanted to get started right away. I couldn’t believe it. It all just happened so fast. I was definitely in a bit of shock for a few days. Because Simms is top of the line, my boots and my waders are all Simms gear. So I was really excited. Especially after seeing what they do for artists, like [Derek] Deyoung. I’ve been following his career since I started fly fishing. I admired going into fly shops and seeing work like that, instead of just a logo on a shirt it was really great artwork.

Check out her work with The Simms Women’s Line Here

Now, Zentangle is the main style you do. I like how you’ve referred to it as doodling.

Well I call it doodling, I didn’t know that there actually was a name for it until someone told me and I looked it up on Google.  I just thought I was messing around. Apparently it’s a big style now a lot of people are doing it. Even when I just stop in art stores I’ll see little books on the art of Zentangle and they tell people how to do it. It’s more of meditation; a lot of people do it to relax. I think it’s really relaxing too. I couldn’t be happier to have a job that’s relaxing when you do it, you know.

brown troutAside from commissions do you start with an idea of what you want to create before you start a piece?

I definitely do. Most of my commissions for the holidays were postponed until after the holidays so I had some extra time to do a few pieces that I wanted to do. When someone tells me that they want a certain type of fish in particular I’ll start looking online for reference photos. Then I’ll put together a bunch of photos and do the style or the design outline of what they are looking for and what will look best for them. Or if I’m doing it for a tattoo then I’m going to have to take their measurements and see if it’s going to fit where they want it. I also make sure that it goes with the way the muscle goes so it doesn’t look completely ridiculous.

You do a lot of commissions for tattoos?

At least half to ¾ of my commissions are for tattoos.

It was interesting to look through your portfolio because there is such variety.

When I graduated from college I tried to be an artist for a while without having a full time job and I did gallery shows. I painted murals in kid’s rooms. I just had fun with it and I didn’t have a specific style.  But it got to the point where I was sitting alone in the studio a lot and it got a little monotonous after a while, which is why I never tried to quit my day job. This has taken me to so many shows and I’ve met so many different people that I don’t think I’ll get tired of it, so as long as the work keeps coming this is what I plan on doing.

Is there anything that you’re working on now that you are excited about?

LoopI’m actually looking to work with a few other fly fishing companies as well.  But nothing is set in stone yet so I’d rather surprise you.  I’m also doing a shirt design right now for Loop Tackle over in Sweden of an Atlantic salmon. I just started that one last night. I haven’t even taken pictures yet, but it’s turning out pretty cool. I sit down right before I go to bed and start looking at pictures. And I say “I’m just going to sketch out the outline”. And I find myself getting into the zone and then I’m up until 7 o’ clock in the morning again. I look at the clock and the sun’s coming up I should probably go to bed. It’s just that in the middle of the night no one contacts me, and I have time to focus and don’t have any distractions except maybe if the dog needs to go out,  it’s easy to put my head down and start working on it and next thing I know hours have passed.

Have you always been a night owl?

Always, I tried to change my sleep schedule for my day job and it was rough. So I’d get only two or three hours of sleep and I’d go to work and I’d come home and sleep for three to four hours. There’s something about doing art in the night. There are less distractions, it’s hard for me to do it during the day when I think of all the places that are open that I have to go to, all the errands that I have to run. There’s just too much on my mind during the day to work. At night it’s a lot more relaxing it’s easier for me to work on something from start to finish and get a flow going.  I really don’t like stopping in the middle of something once I’ve started on it.

What other artists have influenced your work?

I’m very inspired by the Art Nouveau period especially [Alphonse] Mucha. But I don’t see that come across in my work as much. I like a lot of street artists and graffiti artists and things that are a bit more freeform, organic and whimsical. I think some of it comes through, especially the bright colors but that might also be because I’m color blind. I can’t see pastels as well; they are all kind of grey to me. So I tend to use a lot of vibrant colors in my work.

That’s interesting. You’re color blind? To what degree is it?

Actually I didn’t even know until college. I guess women can’t be red/green color blind it’s more pastel colors. One time I went shopping and I went to buy a shirt that I thought was grey. I didn’t realize at the time that the majority of the clothes I had that were “grey” were actually periwinkles. If it’s not next to another color when I’m mixing it or it doesn’t have a label on it I can’t tell. I have trouble doing anything in pastel colors especially if someone wants something really light.  Then it’s difficult for me. To be continued….

Editors Note: Stay tuned to see what Andrea has to say about fly fishing in part 2 of our Interview.

Check out Andrea Larko’s work with Simms Fishing Proudcts as part of the Simms Artist Series.

Hola, Señor Bass

I live in the Canadian province of Manitoba, a land blessed with hundreds of thousands of lakes.  However, in the whole province, there is only one lake with a reasonably catchable population of largemouth bass.  It’s certainly not a huge population and – judging by my catches – it’s a selective one.   I actually think the bass in that lake are not far removed from steelhead or musky – fish of a thousand casts each.   Being only forty minutes from my house, I paid the lake six visits last summer and caught a total of two bass.

Enter Lake El Salto, a bass factory (Dare I say a big bass factory?) just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico.  High numbers of bass and higher daily temperatures lured myself and my partner Deb there over the Christmas holidays.

Below is a brief look at the trip…

IMG_0091THE LAKE.  El Salto is a reservoir about 2 hours from Mazatlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  It was created in the 80’s and stocked with Florida strain largemouth.  Hordes of tilapia help keep the bass fat and happy.  With scattered mats of floating hyacinth against a backdrop of forested peaks, El Salto is also a gem to look at.  Adding to its visual appeal are an amazing number of herons, egrets, and coots.

THE LODGING. We stayed at the Angler’s Inn, right on the lakeshore.  A lodge van picked us up at the Mazatlan airport and dropped us off at a Mazatlan resort three days later.  The room was very comfortable and the food was outstanding. To make sure we made it through to supper, as soon as we got in from evening fishing, an appetizer and a drink were pressed into our hands.  All drinks and food were included.  Filet mignon and barbecued ribs are examples of items on the dinner menu.

IMG_0157
THE FISHING.  The fishing day was split.  The boat left shortly before sunrise at 6 AM and returned to the lodge for lunch around 11 AM.   A hearty meal and the accompanying margaritas induced a short siesta, then it was back on the water from 2 PM until dusk at 6 PM.

Dawn and dusk saw me working poppers around very bassy-looking cover.  When the sun was higher, I threw a Gummy Minnow to the same types of spots.  Weedguards were helpful in retrieving less than perfect casts.  Occasionally, I used a fast-sinking line to probe deeper water.

THE BOAT AND GUIDE.   The boat was a fast and stable Bass Tracker with fore and aft seats for fishing.  The lodge supplied a stripping tub; with the forward seat removed and the stripping tub in its place, the bow casting deck became very fly fisher friendly.  There were two comfortable seats amidships for high speed runs between spots.

IMG_0077Juan, our guide, had been working at the lake for twelve years.  El Salto has many arms, coves, and islands; he ranged all over the lake and showed us a lot of good-looking water.  Jaun was also an expert at using the electric trolling motor to keep the boat in perfect casting position.

Although Jaun generally guided folks with conventional gear, he was certainly comfortable with a long rod on board.  He was adept at recommending flies, lines, and leaders.  And he also understood the need for backcast room.

THE WEATHER.  Keep in mind this was the end of December…. At dawn, the temperature would be in the 50’s or 60’s, which made for some chilly boat rides even while wearing a fleece and a shell.  During the day, it would climb into the 70’s or 80’s and even a lightweight shirt felt downright hot.  Nevertheless, having just escaped a Canadian winter, it was a good kind of heat.   At dusk, as the fishing day ended, the temperature would get comfortably cool once more.  There was never even a hint of rain.

IMG_0139THE CATCH.   I fished three morning sessions and two afternoon sessions and caught about 15 bass.  They ranged in size from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds.  I used fly tackle exclusively and also caught a portly tilapia on a popper.  Deb fished only two afternoons and used spinning tackle; her numbers were about the same as mine but her fish were larger, boating a couple of three or four pounders.

Overall, the fishing was spotty at best but good enough to keep us anticipating the next cast.  Most other boats at the lodge had similar results, although a couple parties had sessions where they caught tons of fish, including a 6 and 7 pounder.  I think the weather was actually too good and the clear blue skies put the bass in a negative mood.  As well, high lake levels gave them more water to melt into.

IMG_0085MISCELLANEOUS. The rainy season is from July to October and Lake El Salto fills up.  During the remainder of the year, the lake is drawn down.  The boats can often be docked a half mile from the lodge when the lake is low.  Juan said that low lake levels concentrate the fish and improve fishing.  He considered May and June to be his favorite months and said the bass spawned in March.

Optimistically, I took a lot of BIG flies and brought along a 9 weight rod. Given the size of the fish caught and flies used, anything from a 6 to an 8 would not be out of place.  I used a Sage Largemouth for top water work and it excelled at this.

IMG_0135OTHER ACTIVITIES.  Although Lake El Salto is just about the fishing, nearby Mazatlan has great resorts, a picturesque old town, and all kinds of non-angling activities.

WOULD I GO BACK?   Yes!!!  I definitely think it deserves another shot.  Or perhaps Lake Picachos – a nearby lake that Angler’s Inn recently built a lodge on.

 

Cold Feet, Forsaken Fish and the Morning After…