Category Archives: How-To

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Canadian Fall Fishing: Topwater Crappie Action

I’ve come to realize that crappie take top-water flies with incredible enthusiasm. Although not a “classic” fly rod target, their surface-slurping tendencies – especially in the fall – deserve your attention…

13 inch Minnewasta CrappieAlthough the spring crappie bite can be awesome, late summer and early fall can be even better.  At my latitude in southern Manitoba – just north of the U.S. border – this time period typically runs from the last week in August through the first two weeks of September.

When the weather is pleasant and settled, crappie at that time of year turn on like crazy.  I usually fish small, shallow, flatland reservoirs and the fish swarm into the same weedy bays they frequented in the spring.  They are also drawn toward turns and points on rocky shorelines.  The rip-rap along a dam is another magnet.

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The magic really starts to happen an hour or two before sunset.  The crappies often give themselves away as they swirl after baitfish and other critters.  Better yet, they eagerly suck in #8 to #12 streamers attached to a intermediate line and a 3 to 5 weight rod.  A type II line also works well, especially if the water is 5 or 6 feet deep.  Some of my “go-to” patterns are shown in the accompanying photos.

IMG_1369Occasionally, if there are sunfish around, I will use a #12 or #14 nymph.  Both crappie and sunfish will hit a small nymph but I really believe that crappie prefer something a little bit larger.

Wait a second… Didn’t the title of this article say something about top water?  Don’t worry, it’s coming…

As dusk moves in, put away the streamers and tie on a panfish-sized popper or gurgler.  Short, rhythmic strips – and the resulting surface commotion – draw the fish in.

My favorite outfit for presenting poppers and gurglers was inspired by a Sage Bluegill.  A Sage Bluegill is probably a bit heavy for most of the panfish in my area so I’ve taken a crisp action 4 weight that is 7 ½  feet long and matched it up with a 6 weight line and a light reel.  The resulting combo loads great with a short line; it is amazing at hitting little pockets in rip-rap or any other target.  Plus, an 11 inch crappie puts a good bend in it!

IMG_0639A boat or a float tube are great for working fall hot spots but walking along the rip-rap face of a dam is also effective.  Actually, as dusk turns to night – but the fishing is still lit up – walking on shore with a minimum of equipment is perhaps preferable to being in a boat or a tube.

Crappie are a great way to say good-bye to the dog days of summer and say hello to fall!

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A Look Inside: Fishwest’s Yucatan Adventure 2014

Editor’s Note: Dave Zanardelli from Pennsylvania recently returned from the 2014 Fishwest hosted trip to Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe, Mexico in cooperation with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Here is what he said to say about his experience:2014-08-22 14.18.55

Tarpon Cay Lodge, in cooperation with the Hotel San Felipe de Jesus, may be the perfect destination for the first time tarpon fly fisher. From my first impression upon arrival of complimentary margaritas to ease the travel fatigue, to the last impression of making a detour on the way to the airport to visit a Mayan ruin, everything is just about as good as it gets. Comfortable accommodations, excellent housekeeping, and the highest quality food make a visit here an experience that will remain a pleasant memory for a very long time.2014-08-20 17.58.36

Now, the important part…tarpon! Baby tarpon are not everywhere, but one is never out of sight of them   for very long. Every day provided multiple opportunities at fish, from singles to schools of a dozen or more that had one thing on their minds – eating! The fishing is not difficult, and the casting is not all that demanding. Never before has a guide on a tropical flat instruct me to make a short cast, at nine o’clock, at 20 feet! A raw beginner will have reasonable opportunities to boat fish. Of course, being a capable caster greatly increases the number of chances. And when a tarpon does eat your fly, good luck boating it! These guys jump, fight, jump, run, jump, and bulldog all the way to the boat. One tarpon to the boat in three hook ups seemed about average.2014-08-17 12.05.30The second most important factor in any trip – the guides. These guides are friendly, expert at what they do, enthusiastic about what they do, and top notch at providing instruction. Carlos and Chris are among the best fly fishing guides I have encountered.

2014-08-22 12.36.16For those of you who want numbers, here they are. In six days of fishing, I jumped between 40 & 45 tarpon and managed to boat 16 of them. They weighed from about 7 pounds to nearly 20, averaging at about 12 pounds.

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I will be back next year. Along with a companion too skeptical to go on this trip, but is now convinced of his error!

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Last Thing: The team here at Fishwest is proud to announce we will once again be hosting a trip to the Tarpon Cay Lodge in conjunction with Yucatan Fly Fishing in San Felipe, Mexico. Join us from August 15-22nd of 2015. Please check out the Fishwest Outfitters Travel Page for more details or call us toll free at 877.773.5437

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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.

Fitzroy-Trout

Simple Fly Fishing 101: Tenkara Rod Setup

As some of you may notice if you frequent our website, Fishwest is now excited to bring you Tenkara rods. Better yet, we are bringing you the Simple Fly Fishing Tenkara Rod & Kit from our great friends from Patagonia.

In a very simple nutshell, Tenkara is the traditional Japanese method of fly fishing, it is ideal for mountain streams. Tenkara fishing an angler only uses a rod line and fly. That means no reel is required. 

Even though these rods are designed for smaller creeks and rivers the possibilities of what these rods can do is really endless.  I for one am quite intrigued about these rods and am excited to see them in the action. Now I just have to learn how to use one. Do any of you out there use these cool rods?

 

Destination Travel: Deneki Andros South Lodge

I have been lucky enough to find this wonderful sport of fly fishing and I have had the chance to check out some really neat destinations both locally, regionally, and abroad in pursuit of the ultimate fly fishing adventure. Today I want to take a moment and talk about one of my favorite places I have had a chance to go, The Andros South Lodge run by the great folks Deneki Outdoors. Andros South

Getting to the Island:

The Andros South Lodge is located on the eastern side of the Island of South Andros in the Bahamas. Getting to South Andros is a relatively easy endeavor and can be accomplished one of two ways that I have experienced.

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Andros From The Sky

The first (and my preferred method) is to take a plane into Fort Lauderdale FL and then take a charter plane from a company called Watermaker Air direct to the Congo Town International Airport on South Andros.The second (and more difficult) option entails a flight to the Capitol city of the Bahamas, Nassau.  From Nassau it is a short flight to Andros via a Western Air flight. The thing that makes this difficult especially for anglers like us coming from the west is that this results in having to spend a night in Nassau.  Accommodations in Nassau can range from staying at the luxurious Atlantis Casino to the beach front Orange Hill Inn for the evening. This is not bad however I would not recommend a Bahamian taxi ride. That was an eye opening experience for sure.

I for one would much rather take the more direct route via Fort Lauderdale and the charter flight. Customs in Congo Town are much easier than the counterparts in Nassau.  Traveling, Airports, and Security checkpoints are not my favorite things in the world therefore I would opt for the path of least resistance.IMG_0108

Lodge Accommodations:

Upon arrival at the Congotown you are greeted by the Deneki bus and Kermit the lodge bus driver.  After handing you a cold Kalik (National Beer of the Bahamas) or a bottle of water, Kermit proceeds to take you on the short journey down the one road on the island to Kemps Bay. Within 15 minutes you have arrived at the lodge.

IMG_0159I would describe the accommodations at the Andros South Lodge to be “Rustically Comfortable”. Each angler or anglers is assigned a room aptly named something fishy (Bonefish, Permit, Cuda ect). The rooms are quite comfortable, clean and simple.  The rooms consist of an extremely comfortable double bed, a dresser and a small bathroom.

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The Slack Tide Bar

One of the nicest parts of the lodge grounds has to be the “Slack Tide Bar”. This small palapa of beachfront paradise is located just steps from both the dining room and “hotel” rooms at the lodge.  Each night after fishing appetizers are served and tales of the days fishing conquests are shared before dinner. The “Slack Tide” is also stocked head to toe with just about any beverage somebody could want ranging from a great selection of beer to liquors and everything in between.  Everyone seems to convene at the bar after dinner to continue the party.IMG_0166

Meals are served twice a day (In the dining room that is). Breakfast is served starting at 6am. Breakfast usually consists of some variation of the following. Eggs served with some type of breakfast meat with Toast, Grits, or pancakes. Lunch is served on the boat while fishing and it consists of filling out a deli style menu which involves sandwiches, chips, fruit, and beverages.  Dinners at the lodge are served family style and highlight local cuisine. Meals are exceptional and may include dishes like cracked (fried) conch, grouper served with cassava root boiled in coconut milk or my personal favorite… Wait for it Lobster tails.  These meals are arguably the greatest part of the stay at the Andros Lodge apart from the fishing of course.

One more thing about the accommodations of the lodge, this is not a five star resort by any means. If you are looking for white tablecloths and something of that nature please look elsewhere.  If you want somewhere to consider home while experiencing the ultimate bonefishing adventure please look no further.

The lodge staff at Andros South is some of nicest people you will ever meet in your entire life. All of the folks are extremely friendly and treat you like you are part of the Deneki family.  From Gloria and the kitchen staff, to the self proclaimed “director of security”, Mr. Gerrard and everybody that I forgot will do everything that they can in order to make your stay awesome.

The Guides & Fishing:

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Let’s just say I saved the best for last. Any saltwater fly fisherman knows that the Bahamas is considered the arguable Mecca of Bonefishing.  I would argue that the flats around South Andros are the crown jewel of Bahamian bonefishing.  The network of flats and number of bonefish alone found within a 15 minute boat ride of the dock at deep creek is simply astronomical.  This is the perfect place for all different types of anglers from rookies to salty vets due to all the different situations and types of fishing one may experience with the Deneki guides.

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All the guides at the Andros South lodge are top notch. Bottom line is that these guys know their stuff.  These guys are some of the best guides and teachers I have ever had the opportunity to fish with hands down.  They will both challenge you as an angler but give you all the tools and instruction in order to be successful and also leave the Bahamas as a better angler. I have had a chance to fish with all of the guides except for two over the last couple of years and I have to say each one of them has there own distinct personalities. Take Freddie for example, He will sing all day from the poling platform while pointing out fish. Or Josie, who is all business, who expects the best from his anglers but will put you in prime spots to catch what he calls “bonezilla” or better yet “wife of bonezilla”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can expect to see all sorts of fish throughout the fishing grounds near the lodge.  From shots at single and pairs of bonefish to schools of ten to twenty or even hundreds at certain places one thing is for sure. You are bound to get casts at happy bonefish. The bonefish generally range anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds with the average fish tipping the scale around 3 or 4. These fish will be seen either on flats throughout the island or while exploring an extensive network of mangrove creeks. These fish usually are found feeding or cruising in 1 to 2 feet of water and can be stalked either via poling the boat or on foot. If the bonefishing ever gets boring (which it wont) make sure you have a 10 weight or spinning rod on hand in order to throw to some rather angry barracuda or Jacks. No matter how you slice it the fishing on the island is spectacular.  Don’t fret over missed shots… You will get plenty.1618418_10152328492692845_158668094_n

I hold this place with such reverence because this is where I tasted my first success as a saltwater fly fisherman. Everything that is aforementioned makes this place amazing. The staff and guides will do all they can in order to make your stay and angling the ultimate adventure. However don’t take my word for it. Pack up an 8 weight, some mantis shrimp and gotchas and check it out for yourself.

Fishwest runs a yearly trip(s) to the Andros South Lodge. For all those who are interested you can check out the details HERE. Spots are still available for our March 2015 trips.

 

Rio Products

How To Video: Attaching a Braided Loop

People constantly come into the shop and ask us for instructions on how to attach braided loops, well the fine folks over at Rio have decided to make this sweet little video with instructions on how to do just that. Welded and braided loops are becoming an industry standard due to the ease of use associated with them. From Spey to Stillwater and everything in between these little  Braided Loops have a use in just about every form of fly fishing.

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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.

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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!

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Yellowstone’s Little Sister

Much has been written – and deservedly so – about Yellowstone National Park and its fisheries.  (Take a look at Marc’s articles elsewhere in this blog for some very interesting samples.) What about the Tetons just south of Yellowstone?

The Grand TetonsSince the Tetons don’t bother with foothills, the view from the road is incredible.   Rugged peaks simply erupt from sage-covered flats.  And all kinds of trails lead right into these eye-popping mountains.  Naturally, what makes it a complete destination – at least for the typical Pisciphilia reader – is the nearby fishing.

It’s all about the cutthroats in this part of the world.  Other trout seem to be merely incidental catches.  No need for any size 20 Tricos. Large, attractor dries are the usual fly shop recommendation.

I’m no expert; in fact, I’ve merely sampled the rivers around Grand Teton National Park on a couple of different trips.  Nevertheless, I hope my impressions might spike your curiosity and even help you plan out a possible trip…

The Snake River: This is the one you’ve probably heard about.  It’s a big, wide river with a relentless, pushy current. Don’t even think about wading across!  It parallels the Tetons and then runs south. Common wisdom dictates that a drift boat is the best way to fish it. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to walk along and pick at some very juicy-looking pockets along the bank.   Better yet, if you find some braids, crossing a side channel or two will lead to enough water to keep you busy all afternoon.  You can even feel a little bit smug, knowing you’ll cover those enticing seams more thoroughly than the guy who zipped by in the drift boat.

Fishing The SnakeThe Wilson bridge access, just outside the town of Jackson, leads to a path that runs up and down the river in both directions.   Locals walk their dogs there and you might have to relinquish your spot to an exuberant black Lab.  Despite that, the Tetons form an impressive backdrop and you can definitely find some nice braids.  I have to admit that although the numbers were okay; my biggest fish from the area was perhaps eight inches.  Maybe my technique wasn’t quite dialed in?

There are other places, like boat ramps and the Moose Bridge, to access the Snake River for wading.  Further researching the resources at the end of this article will likely reveal even more.   Although wading is thoroughly enjoyable, the Snake offers a lot of river and a lot of scenery. On my next visit I will seriously look into the guided drift boat option.

The Hoback River: The medium-sized Hoback River follows Highway 191 and pours into the Snake south of Jackson.  There are many access points along the highway and the river has a little bit of everything – shallow riffles, rocky runs, pocket water, and deep glides.  The good water is much more obvious than on the Snake.  It is far more wader-friendly as well and you can cross some sections quite easily. Although the holding spots might be a fair hike apart, there are definitely 8 to 14 inch trout to be had.

The Gros Ventre River: This stream is a little smaller than the Hoback and just as easy to read.  It seems to follow a well-defined pattern of riffles and runs. Crossing it to optimize your drift is possible in most areas.

Despite all this, my catch rate on the Gros Ventre was almost nil. Nevertheless, I know the fish are in there and I’ll be Moose Crossingback. In the meantime, I’ll blame my lack of success on the bull moose that wandered into the stream and forced me to detour around a couple of prime runs.

Speaking of wildlife, the Gros Ventre River runs right by Gros Ventre campground on the road to Kelly. The river is easily reachable from the road and the sage flats in this region are like an American Serengeti. On more than one occasion, bison delayed traffic as they crossed the road.

Granite Creek

Granite Creek is a small stream that is paralleled by a good gravel road as it tumbles toward the Hoback River.  It alternates between pocket water in forested sections and a classic meadow stream in picturesque valleys.  (Think Soda Butte Creek with far fewer fishermen).

The meadow sections were perhaps my favorite places to fish in the entire region.  Although the water looked impossibly skinny from high up on the road, there were actually all kinds of places where the bottom slipped out of sight – undercut banks, around boulders, and just below riffles – where the bottom slipped out of sight.  It seemed like most of these places held fish that were extremely adept at quickly spitting out a dry fly.

Cutties Love HoppersHowever, a few actually came to hand. They were solid, gorgeous cutthroats up to 14 inches. Given the size of the water they came from, they seemed like true lunkers,

Granite Creek also had a couple of bonus features built into it.   One was a spectacular waterfall near the end of the road – a great place to simply admire, or cool off by splashing around.  And if you cooled off too much, there were some hot springs right at the end of the road.

Miscellaneous Notes: A standard 9 foot 5 weight worked great on all the above rivers except for Granite Creek, which was more suited to an 8 foot 4 weight.  When large attractors like Chernobyl Ants and Turk’s Tarantulas did not get eaten, smaller patterns like Trudes, Humpies, Irresistibles, and Goddard Caddis filled the gap. Drifting the odd nymph or swinging the odd sculpin pattern also worked.

Resources:

Book: Flyfisher’s Guide to Yellowstone National Park by Ken Retallic.  (It includes a chapter on the Tetons!)

Fly Shops in Jackson, Wyoming: High Country Flies and also the Snake River Angler. (Be sure to check out their websites.)

 

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!