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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.

 

A Look at the Glass: The Orvis Superfine Glass

I’ve been fishing a less-expensive glass rod pretty heavily for the past six months (a Redington Butter Stick, 7’6” 4wt) and I wanted to get my hands on some top-of-the-line glass to see if I’d enjoy the best glass the industry has to offer. A pretty big gap exists between low-end and high-end fly rods, and I was curious whether or not that parity exists with fiberglass.

orvis_logoOrvis was kind enough to send me the 7’ 3wt and 7’6” 4wt versions of their Superfine Glass rods. I’d heard nothing but good things about the Superfine Glass line of rods, and with Orvis being a leader in the fly fishing world, it made sense to see what they had to offer.

I played with the rods for a solid weekend, fishing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, putting the rods through as many situations as I could find out here in Utah.

I fished the rods with the help of a few friends on the Provo River, Huntington Creek, and Thistle Creek. The Provo is a large, wide river with big, picky fish. Huntington is a medium-sized tailwater fishery, and Thistle is a tiny spring creek buried in mountains of willows. I tried to find three different types of water to really put the Superfine Glass through its paces.

I’ve also decided to break this review up into two sections – one for each rod I was able to fish. But before we delve into how each rod performed and my thoughts, I’ll just give a quick few suggestions here:

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  • I fish mainly a dry-dropper rig on 11-12-foot long leaders. I didn’t nymph with these rods, because nymphing with anything under 9 feet long isn’t practical.
  • The weekend I fished the rods was very windy, which played into my final thoughts on the rods.
  • One buddy of mine, a superb fly fisherman whose skill outpaces my own, had never fished glass before he tossed the 7’6” 4wt Superfine Glass. His thoughts are included.
  • The action on these rods was amazing. The rods flexed deep into the bottom third section of the rod, and when a fish was hooked, bent nearly to the cork in some instances. Some folks don’t like that much play in a rod, but I adore it. You could easily feel every head shake and roll of the hooked trout. Surprisingly, for being so bendy, these rods also threw exceptionally tight loops at distances up to about 40 feet. For those of you who revel in casting, and enjoy feeling every bit of your line load, the Superfine Glass is a great rod.
  • If I were Orvis, I’d think of going with a different color for the blank. Olive-green looks great for the Army, but fiberglass lends itself to being A deep red, blue, or green would look fabulous. Just a suggestion.

Now, let’s get started.

7’ 3wt.

superfine_1Any 7-foot rod is, in my opinion, a dry-fly instrument. And that’s exactly what the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass rod is. On Thistle Creek, a small spring creek with mostly smaller brown trout, it threw very tight loops, powered line out well, turned over my longer leaders, and played fish the way a rod should. I was impressed with how the 7’ rod was able to punch line – just a slight flick of the wrist and the line would shoot out straight and flat.

However, if any breeze showed up at all, the 7’ 3wt buckled under the pressure. Wind seems to be fiberglass’s biggest enemy,  as the 7’6” 4wt rod didn’t do well in wind either.

I wouldn’t take the 7’ 3wt Superfine Glass out on streams wider than say, 10-15 feet. It just doesn’t have the backbone to throw an accurate, 40 foot cast. On the Provo River, this rod really struggled to throw flies to rising fish that were beyond 40-50 feet.

I did really enjoy this rod. Small, short, light rods have their place in most anglers’ quiver, and if you enjoy the classic slow action that glass provides, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better performing rod than the Superfine Glass in the 7’ 3wt model.

7’6” 4wt

When it’s all said and done, I prefer this rod to the 7’ one. The 7’6” 4wt had the spine to turn over leaders well at longer distances, and to push the line through breezy conditions. The loops were tight, the rod was responsive, and it was just a pleasure to fish. The extra 6” on this model as opposed to the 3wt makes a huge difference in the rod’s capabilities.

On Thistle Creek, this rod performed just as well throwing small dries to fish in close. On Huntington Creek, where we battled some wind on Saturday, it was a lot of work to throw line, but the job got done. On the Provo River, it handled dry-dropper combos well and threw casts accurately out to 50-ish feet.

superfine_2My friend Chris fish glass for the first time with this rod. He said it reminded him a lot of his Orvis Battenkill bamboo rod, and that he loved the way it set the line on the water. The longer length and stiffer blank of this rod made picking up larger amounts of line to re-cast much easier than with the 7’ model.

If I had to choose, I’d definitely go with the 7’6” 4wt. It’s just a more versatile, complete rod.

When all is said and done, Fishing fiberglass fly rods reminds me of when I try to fix my truck on my own – it ends up being a lot more work than it should be.

With that being said, it’s also a lot more satisfying to fix your truck on your own instead of taking it to a shop, and the same can be said about fishing fiberglass fly rods. Although I’m not great at fixing trucks and I’m just an average flinger of flies, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Essentials For Pike Part 2 – The Packing List

Spring is fast approaching and the pike are staging for their spawn; the females are full of eggs and are aggressively taking streamers and the males are battling off competitors willing to bite anything that may pass in front of them. With the fishing turning on I want to go over more of my packing essentials for these apex predators. I went over rods, reels, and lines in part one of my packing list, part two will focus towards leaders, tools, and the flies to use.

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After I have put together my rod outfit, the next item to think about is your leader. There are two ways to go about finding a leader. First and the easiest way would be to buy a tapered leader specified for pike. Both Rio and Umpqua have pike specific leaders, they look like your traditional tapered leader you would use for trout but have a piece of wire tied to the end to keep the fish from slicing your fly off. This is a great way to get started, simple and fast, just a loop to loop connection and you’re ready to go.RI31PKML_lg

Using wire isn’t always the best way to go; sometimes pike can become leader shy, depending on the fishing pressure and water quality, wire leaders can spook fish at times. For locations or times when wire is not ideal we switch over to custom hand tied fluorocarbon leaders. I know what some of you are going to think when I say “hand tied leaders”: sounds complicated, but it’s not. We start with about a five foot section of 20 pound nylon tippet; we tie a barrel swivel onto one end of the 20 pound and tie a perfection loop on the other side. This will allow you to make a loop to loop connection like you would from any other manufactured leader. Next you will want to tie on a section of 60 pound fluorocarbon onto the other side of the swivel, usually anywhere from two to four feet, this is the section that will really help your fly turn over and the stronger, thicker section will help avoid pike from cutting off your fly but it may still happen.

Next on the agenda would be a good selection of flies, you want to have multiple colors for varying conditions. I still stick to the old saying when it comes to my fly selection: “Light days, light colors. Dark days, dark colors”. When I buy or tie flies the main components I really look for in a pike fly are flash and water pushing ability. It doesn’t necessarily have to be both, but at least one of those attributes is a must for myself. The flash does a great job enticing the fish and coercing a strike, where the flies mass helps push water towards a target’s lateral lines, once again enticing and coercing a fish to eat. A few of my favorite flies to use in our area are the Gen-X Bunny, Umpqua Pike Snake, Umpqua Pike Fly, and Barry’s Pike Fly.  Although these are my go-to, I have also had some luck with a few saltwater baitfish patterns, such as clousers and deceivers.

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You will also need some essential tools when out chasing pike. The first and foremost are a pair of pliers, the longer the better in this case. You want to keep your hands as far away from the business end of the pike as you can, so the shortest pair of pliers I would use would be 8 inches. If the fish gets hooked down deep you may have to cut the fly off, which is why I use a long pair of Rancher pliers, in the 12 inch size.  If my fly goes any deeper than that I will just cut the leader in order to avoid unnecessary stress and damage to the fish.

Next item would be a large net or pike cradle.  Both have their benefits but I have found if you are fishing by yourself a net is the better way to go (Brodin Excalibur Ghost Net in my case), because typically you need an extra person to hold the cradle while you steer the fish into it. The cradle makes for a quick and easy release with as little stress on the fish as possible. You are able to work on removing the hook while the fish rest in the cradle, allowing it to remain in the water and not adding pressure to the swim bladder.

You always should have a place to store the equipment, a large sling or day pack works best for storing your gear while out on the water. The Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling is a solid choice if you are looking for the convenience of a sling pack, large enough to fit your Bugger Beast or Fishwest Bulkhead Box, tools and a water bottle. The sling feature is great when you’re wading around a lake and need to grab something out of your bag quickly, being able to swing the bag around your body instead of completely removing it helps when standing in the middle of a lake.

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Here are a few more items I like to carry with me when I’m out on the water:

  • Buff – These are lifesavers when it comes to blocking out unwanted weather. Great for both winter and summer fishing, blocks UV rays, protects against wind, keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and quick drying.
  • Lippa 4 Life – I like having these for the smaller fish, allows you to grab the fish by the mouth with minimal stress and damage done to the fish. They also allow for a solid grip on the fish mouth when removing the hook out of any toothy critter.
  • Stripping Guard – Hours upon hours of casting and stripping can cause havoc on your fingers, having a few of these helps avoid the cuts and burns one can get from consistent rubbing of the line against your finger.
  • Camera – To take a picture of anything of note throughout the day, hopefully it’s something fishy.
  • Big Nippa – I have used my trout nippers to cut the tippet for my pike leaders and it works the first couple of times, dulls the blades quickly, and getting the pliers out every time you need them is a pain. The new Big Nippa from Rising is killer for cutting your big game and saltwater leaders and tippets.

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Attention local customers: Fishwest will be having our annual fair on April 25, 2015. This years theme is Troutside the Box, focusing on Pike and Musky fishing in Utah. We will be going over fly patterns, techniques, equipment, and conservation. There will be food, drinks, demos, a casting competition, and plenty of great giveaways so stop on by. For everyone who can’t make it out stay tuned for part III!

Blue Wings

It was about a quarter to 10 on Friday evening, and just ahead in the darkness I could see the large Welcome to Oregon sign looming.

“Let’s stop and grab a quick picture,” I said to my friend Mike Kingsbury, who was driving.

Mike nodded, we pulled over to the side of the road, and straddled the state line between Idaho and Oregon, posing for a few quick pictures.

We were on our way to a lonely tailwater in Oregon, where we were going to meet our good friend Ryan McCullough and his son Josh for a quick day of fishing on Saturday. There was a rumor that the stonefly hatch was hot and that was at least part of why we were making the 1,000 mile round trip drive on a weekend.

But the real reason for the trip went deeper than fishing. Ryan McCullough is a dear friend of mine, whom I first fished with on the Fryingpan River in February of this year. He’s got an obsession with Winston rods that’s rubbed off on me, and he’s the best dry fly fisherman I know.

buddiesRyan (Angler in Blue Jacket) also happens to be a missionary for the Assemblies of God church, and is set to leave for Germany sometime this summer. This trip to Oregon was the last time we’d be able to fish together until he returns three years from now. The trip was more of a farewell to arms, if you will.

Mike and I had left Mike’s place in Roy, Utah around 4:30 that afternoon, and we pulled up to the river in Oregon right around 11 that night. Ryan had told me he’d be driving a blue Buick, and as we drove along the river to the spot where we said we’d meet, I kept looking for the Buick with Washington plates.

Finally, I saw something that looked blue and Buick-like, so I told Mike to pull over and I got out of the car. As I walked towards the blue Buick, I could see it had Washington plates, and there was a small tent pitched next to it.

“Hey Mike, I think it’s them!” I shouted. “It’s a blue Buick with Washington plates.”

From inside the tent came Ryan’s voice in reply, “Ya think?”

Ryan and Josh got out of the tent, greeted us, helped Mike and I get situated, and then we all fell fast asleep, ready for what we assumed would be a glorious Saturday of stonefly fishing.

I woke up before anyone else on Saturday, so I took a stroll to the river for a moment. Ryan and Josh had driven 11 hours from their place in Olympia, while Mike and I had driven 7 hours from Utah just to come together to fish for about 10 hours on an overcast Saturday in Oregon.

But it was worth it.

As I walked along the river, I could see fish holding in the shallow runs, long brown trout hunkered down in the very slight morning chill. A few of them saw me, and slowly swam off to deeper water.


I waltzed back to camp, only to find Ryan, Mike, and Josh awake, cooking bacon and eggs on a small stove. We all took our time eating, waiting for the morning to warm up to what we thought was appropriate stonefly hatching levels. Eventually, after we broke down camp and rigged up our rods, we went back down to the river and started fishing.

The stoneflies weren’t out, and neither was much else. We saw a few risers, but nothing to get excited about. I switched from dries to a couple of my custom midge emerger patterns, and found a few willing mouths quickly. After that, the action kind of died.

Then the rain started.

It was a drizzle at first, but then it turned into a steady onslaught. It wasn’t debilitating, but annoying enough that my flies seemed to be getting wet more quickly than normal. The fishing was slow, I was wet, and I needed to step away for a moment and rethink the fishing situation.

Ryan chose that moment to stop and think as well.

“You think we wanna head upstream and fish by the oak tree?” I asked him.

snakeHe nodded. “Give it a half hour, then yeah.”

I went back to tell Mike and Josh the plans, and settled back into roll casting some midges. For the next few minutes, the river was dead. Then suddenly, I heard a holler from upstream. I turned to see Ryan with a fish on, and he yelled, “Took a blue wing emerger!”

mikeMike, Josh, and I all hurriedly switched flies, and within minutes we’d all hooked into some nice fish.

For the next three hours, the blue winged olives came off, hatching like crazy, turning the fish that are normally pickier than those on the Green into voraciously careless feeding machines. It was without a doubt the greatest blue wing hatch of my life.

The hatch winded down, as all great hatches do, and eventually we realized it was over and the fish were full. So we left the river, not wanting to overextend a good thing, and proceeded to pack up the wet waders and fly rods for the journey home.

brownThe cars got packed up, and we all stood around shooting the bull, not really ready for the trip to end but knowing we all better hit the road soon. Ryan and Josh had to head back into Idaho to pick up Ryan’s wife, and Mike and I had to head back home that way anyways, so we all decided we’d say “goodbye” then.

The drive to Idaho passed without incident, except for Mike running a stop sign. We ended up meeting Ryan’s wife in a Starbucks parking lot in Nampa, the evening going from calm in Oregon to blustery in Idaho.

Finally, the time came for real goodbyes. I gave Ryan and Josh both a hug, they climbed in their car, and just like that, they were gone.

As Mike and I drove east on I84, I shook my head and laughed as I recalled the blue wing hatch that morning.

IMG_4804I can’t think of a better way to send off a group of friends than by fishing an incredible hatch together.

Essentials for Pike Part 1 – The Packing List


IMG_7936Spring is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest are prepping for the upcoming pike season. With more fly anglers targeting these incredibly powerful fish, we have gotten many emails and customers coming in to the shop with questions on the proper gear they will need to catch them. So here is a rundown of some of the essential equipment we use when targeting Pike:

First you need the right fly rod. Typically we use 8 weight fly rods when targeting pike. The action of your rod may vary depending on how you are fishing. When blind casting, whether it’s from a boat or from shore, we have found a medium or medium/fast action rod works best. Pike flies can get relatively large; the slower action in a medium or medium/fast rod will allow the rod to load properly with less line and effort, thus cutting down on fatigue throughout the day.

ORF21HE2R4_lg_800x800If you are sight fishing for pike, a fast action rod will do the job best, this will allow you to present the fly quickly and more accurately than a medium action fly rod, plus it will help throw those large flies when the wind picks up. Also the fast action will help you cast further when sight fishing.

Richard’s choice: Helios 2 890-4 or Ross Essence FS 890-4

The next item to consider is your fly reel. Pike are not known for making long powerful runs after hook-up, but this doesn’t mean you want the cheapest reel on the market. They get big, so you will still want a solid drag and a reel that can hold a good amount of backing. Like I said before they are powerful so you will want a drag strong enough to stop them and have enough backing just in-case you do hook into that monster fish, 150 yards of 20lb backing should be more than enough for these fish. When it comes to the construction of the reel I look for machined reels with a sealed or easily maintained drag system. It isn’t out of the question to hook into a 40 inch fish when targeting this species and the last thing you want is for you drag to fail or for your spool to pop off midway through the fight.

Richard’s Choice: Orvis Mirage IV or Waterworks-Lamson Speedster HD 3.5

Once you have figured out your rod and reel setup, the next item to consider will be your line. First thing to consider is how you will be fishing for these guys; pike take top water flies just as much as they take streamers. For top water flies you will want a floating line of course, and for streamers you would want anything from a full intermediate line to a slow sinking line, around 1.5- 4 inches per second. We are usually targeting pike in the shallow marshes, water between 18 inches to 10 feet, so heavy sinking lines are not used as often and can cause headaches in this shallow water. A heavier sinking line may be appropriate if you are fishing in a swift moving river.

A lot of pike flies are large and sometimes not very aerodynamic, so you will want a line that will be able to turn them over and carry them through the wind. We suggest one with an aggressive front taper, this will help turn over the large flies as well as help load your rod. An aggressive taper will also allow you to make short quick cast when sight fishing. No matter on the type of line it helps to do a little research in your area on how anglers there are catching Pike, this may help narrow down the options to find the best line for the type of fishing in your area.Screenshot_2015-03-16-15-24-25-1

Richard’s Choice: Scientific Anglers Titan Taper (Intermediate) or Rio’s Outbound Short (Freshwater Intermediate)

Stay tuned for part two of Pike fishing Essentials where I go in depth into leaders, tools, and flies. Please feel free to contact us at 877.773.5437 with any questions that you may have.

 

Gear Review: The Tacky Fly Box

After a few days of letting the dust settle from the most recent Fishwest hosted trip to the Andros South Lodge, I wanted to take a minute to tell you about a really nice piece of gear I picked up for the trip.  This gear isn’t the latest fly rod, reel or line. I am talking about a fly box, a really good fly box for that matter.

1613869_718118501640955_5530473741500308413_nThe Tacky Fly Box from the fine folks over at Tacky Fly Fishing is a game changer, pure and simple. This fly box is extremely lightweight and compact with the coolest feature being the silicone slit storage used to hold the flies. The silicone feature grips the flies extremely well, which means no more torn and beat up foam, and in my case it was easy to rinse out at the end of the day to get all the potential salt buildup out.

The only downside about this box in the nature I was using it was the shallow and thin design. The larger bonefish flies that lived in the box did not allow the magnetic lid to close very easily. If the box was just a little deeper this would have not caused an issue.

All in all, for the first model of box I am quite impressed. When loaded with various bonefish flies (i.e. gotchas, Charlies, Mantis Shrimp) this box was able to hold about two dozen flies , which made this box perfect to tag along on flats wading adventures. This is a far cry from the 150+ trout flies that this box will hold but that is most certainly understandable. Lets just say it will become a go to trout box at some point.

IMG_20150312_080754I for one cannot wait to see what the guys over at Tacky Fishing produce in terms of boxes in the future. If they are anything like their first box I will be in line to pick one up for sure.

Check them out for yourself by clicking : HERE

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.