Category Archives: Misc

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Helping Restore America’s Waterways: Orvis/TU 1,000 Mile Campaign

As many of us know Orvis and Trout Unlimited have been working hard to restore waterways and wetlands across the country for years now. Whether it’s pushing for dam removal or new legislation protecting vital rivers and streams, restoring eroding river banks or oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay. Today they have a new campaign, to reconnect 1,000 miles of river and streams by removing or rebuilding poorly constructed culverts that inhibit spawning fish to continue their journey upstream to reproduce. To find out how to do your part check out the video and visit Orvis or Trout Unlimited for more information.

The Curtis Creek Manifesto2

One For The Library: The Curtis Creek Manifesto

The Curtis Creek ManifestoMy copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto is starting to look a little worn and tattered. Every time one of my friends or family is seriously interested in getting into fly fly fishing or need a bit of help after a rough day on the creek, I let them borrow my “well-loved” copy.

The Curtis Creek Manifesto, written by Sheridan Anderson, is arguably one of the greatest tools for the beginner fly fisher who is overwhelmed by the world of fly fishing. This fully illustrated guide takes a light-hearted and humorous approach to the main tenants of fly fishing. Don’t get me wrong. Even though funny and cartoonish, this book is packed with rock solid information, from tackle and fly selection to Sheridan’s famous “eleven commandments of fly fishing.”

One of the things that I like most about the Curtis Creek Manifesto is that it focuses more on what you as an angler should be doing, rather than gear that you should be buying. Anderson spends a good deal of time talking about stealth, casting, and other tactics that go a long way in improving the success of the angler.

By no means is The Curtis Creek Manifesto a definitive guide to every facet of fly fishing, but it is truly amazing that a 48 page book written in 1978 can so succinctly cover all of the basics of fly fishing. In my first year of fly fishing, I read and reread it’s pages over and over again, and each time I found some new bit of information that I could work on the next time I was fishing.
Whether new to the sport or a veteran fly fisherman, The Curtis Creek Manifesto deserves a spot in your fly fishing library.

Flies

Holiday Gift Guide 101: Choosing The Right Gift For A Fly Fisherman

Flies As the holidays approach here at Fishwest we tend to see a lot of folks coming in to shop for the pesky fly fisherman in the family. This situation can go one of two ways. On one hand we see people come in who have done the research and know exactly what they need: quick, easy, and painless. However, more often than not we see folks come in that are completely lost in terms of finding a gift for that special fisherman in their lives.  This is where we come in and save the day.  Follow these guidelines below and the results will be a holiday “home run” of sorts.

I would say that gift from a fly shop fit into three categories. Those three categories would be big ticket items, offseason utems, and the bare essentials. The bare essentials are easy to come by and these are items that a majority of anglers use. I am talking about things spools of tippet, leaders, and flies.  All these things are pretty small and would fit perfectly into a stocking or a small box. The nicest part about the essentials is that they are relatively inexpensive, which means a small budget can go a long way. Even though there is nothing exciting about these gifts I will guarantee you that they will be appreciated greatly.

Confluence FilmsNext on the list would be what I would deem offseason items. By my definition these are items to pass time while your favorite fishing areas are closed for the season or Mother Nature is keeping you away. A great example of this would be the Confluence Films collection. These videos are great for both showcasing the sport of fly fishing to new anglers while also stoking the fires of long time anglers alike. Another example of this is fly tying materials. Winter is the time when a majority of anglers pass the time by tying flies and replenishing their stock of flies for the upcoming adventures. The nice thing is that these materials are also quite inexpensive so a small budget goes along way. The latest and greatest fly tying materials like Clear Cure Goo or EP Fibers are sure to make an angler happy and pass the time till the next fishing outing with relative ease.

Hatch 4 PlusLastly we get to my favorite category in the Fishwest gift giving guide as deemed by me, the “big ticket” item. The Winston Rods and Hatch Reels those once and the big ticket item is a wonderful gift however they require a lot of research beforehand.  However doing this research is pretty easy.  Knowing where your angler likes to fish can go a long way in determining what type of gift to get them.  Also be sure to ask them how they like to fish their favorite waters.  Even make sure to ask the staff at the fly shop your angler frequents or even his or her fishing buddies. At that point you should have all the info to make an educated choice when it comes to picking the perfect big ticket item. I know I cannot speak for all fly fishermen but I would be ecstatic if there was a fly rod or reel under the tree for me this year.

There you have it! With this information you should be able to put a smile on the face of the fly fisherman in your life. When it comes time to pick out a gift be sure to ask the staff members here at Fishwest. We are more than happy to help. For me as a shop employee it is always extremely rewarding to help pick out a gift that you know someone will enjoy. Also if all else fails gift certificates are always an option that can be used both in shop and online.

Happy Holidays from the Fishwest staff!

Traveling Guidelines 101

Bahamas Customs - South Andros IslandI find myself reflecting on my first international fly fishing adventure. One of my biggest concerns going in was the safe transportation of my gear to my destination. My experiences traveling around the US and internationally playing hockey have taught me to expect the worst with any checked luggage. Countless times (if….and a big if at that) I had received my hockey gear upon arrival, only to find sticks broken, helmets cracked and even things completely gone. These same fears translated to the treatment of my precious saltwater gear while traveling to South Andros in the Bahamas.

Upon doing some research I found the TSA to be more than fair when it comes to the allowance of Fly Fishing Gear. The TSA states that Fly Rods are permitted as carry-on baggage.  Ultimately the airlines state that rods must be taken in a padded case or tube and must meet size requirements for checked items. In a nutshell all airlines allow the transportation of fly rods however I would not recommend trying to carry on a two piece rod. I have a feeling that wouldn’t end well. That is what four piece rods are for anyway. If you plan on carrying multiple rods I would suggest duct taping the tubes together or buying a multi rod case to avoid any confusion with gate agents regarding multiple personal items.

The biggest surprise in all of this was the TSA stance on what they consider “Tackle Equipment”. They suggest that Expensive reels or fragile tackle (aka flies) should be packed into your carry-on bag.

Congotown International AirportThe 2nd tip that was brought to my attention was to dress in something that you would find yourself fishing in. In the case of tropical flats fishing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and a pair of lightweight pants are not only comfortable and easy to travel in but if you get into a bind, and your luggage is lost, you have clothes designed to protect you from the elements.

Finally when traveling through the airport it was brought to my attention that when going through security you should print out a copy of these guidelines to take with you through these checkpoints because all TSA agents may not be 100% on all the rules and regulations.  For more information please be sure to visit the TSA Link Here   (Thanks for the tip Jake)

Overall these rules are probably still more like guidelines for TSA & Airport security personnel to determine so prepare to be flexible, especially when it comes to the transportation of flies in carry-on bags. If these people tell you that you may not bring those items on the plane that is probably the end of the discussion. I personally would not suggest arguing with TSA or security agents. One of two things will happen at that point.  Option one is you going back to your airline’s customer service desk and ask them to recall your checked bag. The second option is that you just leave your flies with the TSA and they go off into the TSA abyss. Either way both of these options will have a negative outcome.

Wherever your fly fishing adventures may take you please do not allow getting to your destination to be aAll Gear Arrived Safely....and worked well! hindrance on your trip.  Wherever your adventures take you please have a great time, travel safely, and most importantly… Enjoy the experience & Tight Lines!

Winter Blues

Winter Fly Fishing – Observations From This Year

Winter Blues

A recent trick to winter flyfishing depends simply upon the weather. For instance, last winter there was hardly any snow—so little, in fact, that I’ve never seen a winter that dry in the central Rockies in my lifetime. I’d call it a drought. This year’s winter started with parallel results, but finally it began to snow, albeit a couple months later than usual. But once it got going, it snowed every few days—through December & January. By the middle of January, it seemed like the foremost trick to winter flyfishing was simply finding some open, un-frozen water to fish. We did have a dry spell at the end of January through mid-February, but the idea still amounted to finding fishable water.

Does fly selection make a difference? Maybe…research in recent years points out that black, blue, and fluorescents are the most visible colors in deep water; many winter anglers will testify to the effectiveness of patterns in these colors. Biologists do not exactly understand what trout see, but what I find truly interesting is that trout not only see color—they can identify some colors that are beyond human visualization. In particular, trout can sense shades of red and ultra violet that we cannot, and in lower light conditions. I used to think that blue was a nonsensical fly color, since I have not seen blue insects on the streams I fish, other than adult dragonflies/damselflies. However, scientists report that the fish’s capability to distinguish minute pigmentation differences is greatest within the blues.

A lot of experts say that trout seek deep water and become less active in the winter, which may explain (at least in part) why highly visible flies are effective. However, Levi, a buddy of mine who has been ice fishing for years says trout can actually feed aggressively; you just have to hit it at the right time. He also says Pam cooking spray helps de-ice rod guides, and advises to prepare for extreme weather. Cold winter weather might seem like common sense, but as I said—he’s been doing it for years, and hypothermia is a very real danger.

Winter flyfishing can be a great way to discover secrets about your favorite trout stream, and offers a change of pace from the tying bench. Flies tied in outlandish, unnatural colors might be the ticket to get strikes, and may shift your thinking about the appearance of your favorite patterns. Who knows, maybe someday research will show that fishing blue flies will reduce cabin fever!

What it's all about!

Yucatan Baby Tarpon

Baby tarpon react to a hook like their oversized parents; they try to put as much air as possible between themselves and the water.  However, they are far more accommodating.  When fishing for adults, a great day is 5 fish jumped and 1 landed.  With babies, jumping 15 and landing 5 is definitely not out of the question.  And the babies aren’t exactly puny – 5 to 10 pounds is a common size.

I am by no means a seasoned tarpon hunter, but over the last few years I’ve managed to visit some of the Yucatan’s premier baby tarpon fisheries.  Although not definitive, my impressions might be helpful if a trip is germinating in your brain.

It should be noted that all my trips took place in July or August.  Visiting the Yucatan in the heat of summer sounds a bit twisted but it’s actually prime time for baby tarpon.

The gear for baby tarpon is simple – an 8 or 9 weight rod, a floating line, and a reel with a smooth drag.  Most baby tarpon will not take you into your backing.   Some veteran baby tarpon fishermen recommend stripping them in without putting them on the reel.  A decent fly selection would include baitfish patterns, poppers, and Seaducers – all on 1/0 or 2/0 hooks.  A very functional leader looks like this:  5 feet of 50 lb mono for a butt section, 2 feet of 25 lb mono for the tippet, and 2 feet of 40 lb fluorocarbon as a shock tippet.

Now, here’s a look at some baby tarpon destinations…

Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe (Rio Lagartos)   www.yucatanflyfishing.com

San Felipe, about 100 miles west of Cancun, is a sleepy, pleasant village where walking around gives your camera a taste of real Mexico.

The baby tarpon fishing starts after a 5 minute boat ride.  It’s mostly blind casting the mangroves off points or in the rios, which are saltwater creeks.  Oftentimes, rolling fish provide targets.

Once you’ve shaken the jitters when fishing to babies, San Felipe can give you the opportunity to come unglued in front of much larger fish.  A boat ride of an hour or so will take you to a spot offshore where migratory adults up to 100 pounds hang out.  This is sight casting to rolling fish over deep water.

Isla del Sabalo at Isla Arena    www.yucatanflyfishing.com

If San Felipe is sleepy, then Isla Arena is comatose – in a good way.  Even though you are only 100 km north of Campeche, it’s like the edge of the world.

The fishing is very similar to San Felipe with the addition of sight fishing on the flats in front of the mangroves.  (N.B.  Tarpon are much easier to see than a bonefish.)  Some of the guides like to go WAY up the tiniest of creeks.  Bring a mosquito repellant and don’t forget to duck under that mangrove branch!  I found a Sage bass rod a great tool for such close quarters.

You will likely fly into Merida, which is an incredible colonial city.  It’s like being in Europe, but the tarpon are much closer.

Paradise Lodge on the Costa Maya Coast   www.tarponparadise.net

Between Chetumal Bay and Espiritu Santos Bay, Paradise Lodge has a breathtaking variety of fishing opportunity.

Baby tarpon are the backbone of this fishery; they hang out in cenote lakes, which are land-locked lagoons connected to the ocean via underground channels.  Each day starts out with a truck ride as your boat is trailered to one of these lakes.  Bring your casting arm – you’ll blind cast the mangroves like crazy.  Nevertheless, you’ll probably see enough tarpon to keep your motivation in high gear.  One of the lakes has a good population of both snook and barracuda.

During your stay at Paradise, you’ll probably drive south to sprawling Chetumal Bay to chase bonefish and permit.  I caught my only permit in Chetumal Bay.  I’d like to say I made  a 70 foot cast to a tailing fish but I actually flipped a crab pattern about 30 feet into a HUGE mud.  The permit that popped out was VERY small.  At dinner that night, I downplayed my catch and was promptly chastised by the lodge owner.  “A permit is a permit!” he insisted.

If baby tarpon are the backbone of the Paradise Lodge fishery, then Espiritu Santos Bay is the jewel.  It’s a long, pre-dawn drive to the north.  Punta Huerrero, an obscenely picturesque fishing village, guards the bay’s entrance.   Once your skiff ventures into Espiritu Santos Bay, you’re not on the edge of the world, you’ve actually gone over it!

Very few people fish Espiritu Santos. Its flats are beautiful, wild and abundant, just like its bonefish.  Chances are you’ll see permit, too.  My guide even pointed out a few wily snook underneath the mangroves.  I didn’t believe they were there until he chased them out with his push pole.

Isla Blanca by Cancun  www.yucatanflyfishing.com

Cancun, as you probably know, is fueled by thousands of beach and bar-seeking tourists.

However, 30 minutes north of the sunscreen-slathered hordes lies Isla Blanca and its tremendous variety of fishing environments – hidden lagoons, picturesque bays, mangrove tunnels, small flats, large flats.  Is your boat careening towards a solid wall of mangroves?   Relax, the guide knows exactly where the opening to the other side is. Baby tarpon, a few bonefish, and smallish permit roam all over these waters.  The permit, although small, are numerous.

If you want a break from fishing, and perhaps Cancun’s frantic pace, there are loads of guided excursions to Mayan ruins, traditional villages, and cenotes.

Isla Holbox   www.holboxtarponclub.com

Isla Holbox is comfortably touristed but in a golf-carts-on-funky-sand-streets sort of way.   It is about 60 miles northwest of Cancun; the last part of the journey is onboard a ferry.

Although Holbox is noted for big, migratory tarpon in the open ocean, the backcountry flats and channels in the lagoon behind it have excellent populations of babies.  Tired of slinging 500 grain heads on a 12 weight?  The babies chase poppers and streamers and put on a great show when connected to an 8 weight.  I found sight-fishing for the babies to be excellent.

Another attraction at Holbox is the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks.

Nichupte Lagoon (Cancun) and Campeche

These are a couple places I have yet to visit.  The former is the lagoon directly behind the Cancun hotel strip.  The latter is a colonial city.

Frigid in the shade

More Cold Weather Fishing Tips

Winter presents some of the best fishing all year. Less crowds, dry fly fishing, and you don’t need to be on the river at O’dark-thirty. What more could you ask for?

When asking anglers about winter fishing, one might encounter many different opinions. There are those that enjoy it immensely and those that believe winter fisherman are crazy. If you are of the latter opinion it’s in your best interest to make sure you understand how to dress for warmth and be comfortable on the river before you decide to spend the winter tying flies and hibernating.
Staying warm and dry by layering clothing is key to enjoying yourself while fishing on those cold winter afternoons. Layering gives you the option of adding or removing clothing based on temperature and activity level. Your basic layering categories are as follows:

Base Layer

Base Layer or “Next-To-Skin” is the first part and maybe the most overlooked part of staying warm. Base Layer clothing is designed to keep you dry by ventilation or by “wicking” way moisture. Not all Base Layers are made equal, material is what sets them apart.

  • Wool – Best – Provides the best breathe-ability and insulation
  • Synthetic – Good – Provides good breathe-ability and insulation
  • Cotton – Avoid – Provides some insulation and very little breathe-ability

Insulation

Insulator clothing should be worn over the Base Layer to provide warmth. This should also be non-cotton piece to still promote breathe-ability. The weight of your insulator pieces should be chosen by activity level.

Outerwear

Outerwear is the final piece you put on and provides protection from wind and precipitation. Choose your Outerwear based on conditions. If you are fishing in wet and humid conditions a heavy duty rain jacket will provide the greatest protection from the elements. If you are fishing in cold dry conditions a soft-shell jacket provides excellent warmth without bulk.

Gloves, Socks, and Hats

Don’t forget any of these. Your hands, feet, and ears are the first things to get cold. Taking care of these extremities will keep you noticeably warmer and on the water longer. Make sure you layer your socks by following the same Base Layer and Insulation system and discussed before, but still provide room for ventilation.

Winter fishing can be very productive and if nothing else it is a good opportunity to expose yourself to sunshine on short winter days. With the right clothing it doesn’t only have to be for the “crazies”.

Keeping Your Feet Warm

Let’s talk about keeping your feet warm. This discussion always comes up this time of year, and a little bit of planning and foresight will really go a long way toward making your winter days on the water much more enjoyable. First, we will develop a strategy for warmth, and then we will talk about what equipment will get you there.

Three things really stand out as important when discussing this topic: pre-fishing warmth, moisture, and insulation.

Pre-fishing warmth: Your feet need to be warm when you put them in your boots. No matter how dry and insulated your feet are, you will have a hard time warming up your feet once you step into the water.

Moisture: Moisture is the enemy of warmth. Check your waders frequently for leaks, as even a pinprick leak in your neoprene booties can spell disaster for warmth. The seam between the neoprene and wader fabric is one of the weak spots when it comes to leaks, so pay particular attention to that area. Even in the absence of leaks, however, feet can become wet with sweat. One of the best ways to deal with sweat is through the use of a polypropylene liner sock. This may be the most commonly overlooked weapon in the arsenal against cold feet. If you’ve never worn them, you’ll be amazed. Buy some. Today.

Insulation: The final important consideration is providing your feet with enough space in your boots to be properly insulated; this means buying wading boots that are large enough to accommodate neoprene booties and multiple layers of socks. All of the preparation mentioned above will be meaningless without enough room for an insulating layer of air to surround your feet. Further, tight-fitting boots may restrict blood circulation to your feet. Obviously, multiple pairs of socks will help to provide this insulting layer around your feet. Avoid cotton as it tends to collect moisture much more easily than wool or fleece.

There are a number of other recommendations that I have heard over the years and never felt compelled to try. These include such things as rubbing down your feet with petroleum jelly before putting on your socks and wearing plastic bags over your feet. The plastic bag idea would seem to trap moisture around your foot, so I would advise against it. Besides, following the advice above should prevent you from needing to resort to dipping your feet in Vaseline before fishing.

As far as equipment goes, make sure you have the following items on hand:

  • Polypropylene Liner Socks
  • Quality Wool Socks
  • Fleece Pants – I’d recommend finding a pair with stirrups to make sure they don’t ride up throughout the day.

I hope these tips make your winter days on the water a little more pleasurable and a lot less miserable.  No use sitting at home while some of your favorite waters are devoid of other anglers on chilly winter mornings, right?