If you don’t know already own a pair of polarized glasses is worth it’s weight in gold when fishing. I would argue a nice pair of sunnies is probably the most important fishing accessory. Since the days of Action Optics the staff over at Smith has been committed to bringing some of the best technical eye wear to the fly fishing industry. Smith glasses are a favorite of the shop staff here at Fishwest. From Jake with his Frontman’s to Richard with the Backdrops they can be seen time and time again. If you haven’t had a chance to checkout the offerings from Smith Optics I would urge you to do so.
Without further adieu, check out this awesome video put together by Smith highlighting the excellent Florida Keys fisheries.
We have been getting a few requests to give our opinions towards some of the more talked about rods. Last Saturday turned out to be quite the nice day at the shop so we decided to string up a few 9ft 5 weights and put them to the “test”. Morgan and I decided to test the following rods: The Scott Radian, The Sage One & Method as well as the Winston Boron IIIx.
In order to maintain all fairness and accuracy within the test itself we utilized the same reel and line setups on each one of the rods. All the rods in question were outfitted with the Orvis Encounter series fly reel and the Rio Gold fly line.
To gain a complete feel for each of the rods targets were placed at intervals of 30, 50, and 70 feet respectively to simulate a variety of fishing situations out on the hunt for trout in the Rocky Mtn west. Please know that Morgan and I are basing this article solely on our opinions of the rod performance. No consideration was taken on objective factors such as looks, warranty, or price ect.
The Sage Method kicked things off for us:
This rod is newest member of the Sage family of fly rods. This rod falls into the “Super Fast” category of Sage Rods. This category started off with the introduction of the TCR series which was later replaced by the TCX line of rods.
At first glance you will notice two things about this rod. It is extremely lightweight and quite stiff. The stiff feel is to be expected with the “super fast” action profile of this rod.
JC: At 30 feet I feel that this rod struggled mightily. Paired with this line, this rod had zero feel at thirty feet and made the rod hard to cast because it would not load properly. Also presentation was compromised at 30 feet due to the stiffness of the rod, the casts tended to lie down a little bit on the harsher side.
Within the 50 foot range this rod began to excel and casting was a breeze. The overall presentation of the fly landed quite softly which was nice. The accuracy on this rod was also exceptional at this distance and beyond.
This rod could easily touch the 70+ foot mark with accuracy and distance with no questions asked. The rod still had plenty of power to spare. Paired with the right line, possibly a 6wt GPX or Rio Grand this rod could easily cast 100 feet and more
Overall this rod despite its shortcomings has some practical advantages in my opinion. If this rod was overloaded with a 6wt fly line it would perform much better. This rod would excel being used in a variety of situations (big nymph rigs, articulated streamers, large dries). The stiff action of this rod would stand up extremely well to the windiest of conditions.
Morgan: Although I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of this rod, it still seems like this is a rod for more experienced casters or those with a specific purpose in mind for this rod (salt, streamers, or heavy nymph rigs).
I personally don’t enjoy faster action fly rods for throwing dry flies, in most cases they are lacking in presentation. Even though this rod lacks in presentation it thrives throwing long casts, streamers, and big nymph rigs.
At 30 ft, this rod is a broomstick, plain and simple. There was almost no chance of feeling the rod load at such a short distance. With that being said, it still made the cast. Albeit, not the lightest presentation out of the bunch but definitely still fishable. Like JC had mentioned, I too would have liked this rod even more with an over-weighted line such as the Rio Grand, Scientific Anglers GPX or Airflo’s Super Dri Exceed. I have even heard of guys over-lining this rod by two line weights.
Casting this rod at 50ft was a breeze. This is where this rod really started to shine. We start to get a feel for when/where this rod loads up in the forward and back casts at 50ft. My casts were cleaner and had a much lighter presentation at this distance. It easily picks up 40 or 50ft of line and set’s you up to lay it right back down without more than a couple false casts to clean up your cast or change directions.
My casting abilities became very apparent when I started making 70ft attempts but this rod, compared to others, did help make up for my inexperience at longer distances. These long distance casts seemed, to me, to be what this rod was made for. Being able to pick up 40 or 50ft of line, make a couple false casts and shoot the line out to 70ft distances was a breeze. Although the line we’re using is a typical trout taper, the line shot very well and could have only shot better with a line with a heavier head.
This rod is not an all around Rocky Mountain trout rod in my opinion. This is a great rod for heavy flies and long casts, but can still make due throwing dries in a one rod situation. The Method would be great on our larger western rivers or on the salt.
We hope that you have enjoyed the first installment in our four part series where Morgan and I review various 5 weight rods. Next up is the highly anticipated Radian from Scott Fly Rods. Stay tuned, for in depth information on the Sage Method and more, visit the place for All Things Fly Fishing Fishwest.com
The Headwaters ½ day pack quickly became a shop favorite when it was released in 2012 and believe they have struck a home run with the 2014 model. The original was nice for short day trips, light and sleek, had a good amount of room for boxes, a light rain jacket, and the hydration bladder. Had an additional pocket for the smaller accessories and if you needed a little more room the hip and chest packs could be attached with Simms’s Catch and Release system. The only issue with the original, some days you wished the main compartment was just a little larger. Although you could fit a good amount into it, everything fitted into it tightly, requiring you to remove everything in the bag to reach items that may have slipped to the bottom.
The 2014 model of the Simms Headwaters ½ day pack is still lightweight and continues with most of the original features, hydration pouch, the Catch and Release Magnet system (on the front), and the breathable back panel, the main improvements are the larger main compartment and the DWR treated fabric. The larger 15 liter (915 cubic in) main compartment with stretch mesh dividers gives you a little more room and organization for all your gear, minimalizing the frustration of removing everything in order to reach items in the bottom of the bag.
The smaller compartment on the back has also been altered; they have made it larger in order to fit more accessories. They have used 420 Denier abrasion resistant fabric that’s treated with DWR for more water resistance and 630 Denier abrasion resistant fabric on the bottom for extra protection from wear. The designers also added magnetized tool ports on the shoulder straps which I found to be my favorite feature, nothing more annoying than consistently losing your hemostats or pliers because they weren’t as secure as you’d hoped or having to reach inside a pocket to get them.
The only thing I wished they continued with would be keeping the Catch and Release magnet system on the back of the bag, this was a nice feature when you were utilizing the hip or chest pack and throwing streamers, you had the extra room you needed and it was out of your way when stripping the fly. The larger secondary pocket makes up for this but it’s always nice to have the ability to add more room when needed.
All in all this is still a sweet pack, fits well, has plenty of room for your short day trips, and distributes the weight superbly, this has been my go-to pack since it came out and will be for many days to come.
I have to say I was quite intrigued when I heard that Ross Reels decided to bring back the Gunnison as part of the new Heritage Series of reels. I remember learning to fly fish with these reels as a kid on all my dads gear. Some of my greatest early fishing memories are associated with those reels. He continues to use those same reels to this day. He swears that those are the “best reels ever made” and trust me he was very quick to tell me Ross “knows what good is” when they decided to bring them back.
That’s enough reminiscing from me about the Ross Gunnison for the time being. For all those who didn’t know that these reels were coming back check out the info below! These will be available mid June 14′
REINTRODUCING THE GUNNISON:
The Ross Reels Gunnison is one of the most famous fly reels ever produced and 28 years after its debut, many still see daily service in the hands of guides, lodges, and individual fly-fishers everywhere. The Gunnison offered form, fit, function and durability combined into a package that still comes to mind whenever anyone thinks of “Ross Reels.” Having tamed both freshwater and the salt, the Gunnison is back and available once again as this year’s featured Heritage Series product.
The Ross Reels Heritage Series is about getting back to our Colorado roots – specifically those products that made us the premier fly reel manufacturer in the world. The Ross commitment to manufacturing USA made quality fly fishing products has not wavered since we began crafting fly reels over four decades ago. To honor this legacy we are reintroducing the Heritage Series, showcasing our famous products that have been and still are the favorite on-water tools of fly fishers across the country and around the world.
First in that line is the timeless Gunnison; a true workhorse reel made available to an always adventurous public, it gained its reputation for indestructibility and reliability on water ranging from the salt flats of Christmas Island to the remote wilderness rivers of Alaska. One of the first reels available with an advanced composite drag system, in 2014 Ross has taken the design one step further and re-engineered the bearing housing to improve performance; all while allowing post-1998 frames to fit on the 2014 edition. The Gunnison has once again set the standard for what a fly reel should be – smooth, powerful, lightweight and durable.
The Heritage Series Gunnison will be available in sizes G1 , G2, and G3, individually numbered from 1 to 500, 1 to 1000, and 1 to 500 respectively, and laser engraved with the Colorado state flag. Not just a collector’s piece, these are fly fishing tools, designed for years of productive service out on the water. Place your order today, and own a piece of fly fishing history.
Sometimes in life, you actually “get what you pay for!” So let’s talk hunting for a minute. Yes, I know we are right in the middle of 5wt’s and May Flies but let’s talk hunting and let’s talk Sitka Gear.
Was I skeptical about the product and the price……YEP! Did I try to convince myself that there were other hunting clothes on the market that could do what Sitka Gear claimed to do for almost half the price…..YEP! Did I end up buying Sitka Gear…YEP! Do I have any regrets…NOPE!!!
Last spring as I prepared mentally, physically and economically to go on my “Do it yourself Archery hunt for Elk in the Gunnison National Forrest of Colorado, I begged and pleaded with my lovely wife until I got the “green light” to go ahead and make the purchase. After an intense review of the product line, I narrowed down my selection to the following Sitka Gear necessities:
When I received my Sitka Gear I immediately fell in love with the feel of the fabric. “4 Way Stretch Poly/Lycra Technology” is what they called it; I called it soft and flexible and comfortable and lightweight and awesome!! The camo pattern that I opted for (no pun intended) was the Optifade Open Country. This pattern not only kept my outline concealed while glassing adjacent ridges while out in the open, it also kept me hidden in the Aspen Clusters and Dark Timber.
The fabric is forgiving and it moves with you, not against you. This is vitally important when climbing up steep mountains or straddling fallen timber. The fabric is water resistant and dries quickly. This material also repels the “hitchhikers” as I call them, you know, those burrs and little brown “do-dads” that always cling to your clothing. Those things that you spend an hour picking off yourself, only to find 78 more of them once you get home………yea, those things do not stick to Sitka Gear. There is also some type of “something” around the inner waist-band of the pants that keeps your base layer top from coming un-tucked. So when you bend over, your shirt stays in your pants and not half way up your back allowing your “plumbers crack” to be exposed.
So why am I telling you this stuff right in the middle of bug hatches and broken leaders, because now is the time to go out and get you some Sitka Gear. The prices are usually discounted this time of year. Father’s Day is approaching and maybe your Birthday is right around the corner…….who knows. Maybe you can sweet-talk that special someone in your life to go out and get you some “just because it’s the right thing to do.” I already talked my lovely wife into this last year, but I need more…………”I hope you read this Julie—you’re the best wife ever”!!!
Enjoy your spring everyone and remember to fish hard, hunt hard and be safe.
From the title, you can probably guess that this article is about fly fishing in Cuba. Cuba is an amazing place and its fly fishing is definitely one of the reasons why.
To be honest I only fished two days in Cuba. And one of those days wasn’t even a good one. Nevertheless, from what I saw, I would recommend fishing in Cuba to anyone…
A quick web search will reveal that most Cuban flats fishing are controlled by an Italian outfit named Avalon. Any monopoly has drawbacks but in this case I think it has been very healthy in preserving the fishery and the environment.
Avalon has fishing operations throughout Cuba, including Cayo Largo, a beautiful island south of the mainland with a handful of all–inclusive resorts. So when my girlfriend Deb and I booked into one of these resorts, it took about 5 minutes for me to send an email off to Avalon. I was hoping to book a day trip and chase some bonefish.
Here’s one of the drawbacks to a monopoly… “Not possible,” they replied. “We only do full weeks. Contact us closer to the date of your trip and we’ll see what we can do.”
I had previously devoured the Avalon website and really wanted to experience their fishery so it was an agonizing wait. Finally, a few weeks before we departed, I begged and pleaded with the Avalon representative and managed to book two day trips. I won’t mention the price – that’s another drawback of a monopoly!
Our very first night in Cuba was in Havana. It was actually New Year’s Eve and we saw a grand Cuban tradition – hurling a bucket of water into the street from the front door. Luckily, we saw it from a distance…
The flight from Havana to Cayo Largo was on board a big dual-prop plane that looked like it dated from the 1960’s. It was terribly noisy but it still gave us a good view of the immense flats that spread out from Cayo Largo. The landing – on a modern airstrip – was surprisingly smooth.
Cayo Largo is an idyllic Carribbean island with only a handful of resorts. A white sand beach? Scenic, rocky coastline? Palm trees? Scub pines? Starfish in pristine water? You can take your pick and with a little effort, you won’t have to share with anyone.
On our first day of fishing, we taxied to the Avalon fishing center and were met by the fishing director and three guides. Yup, our guide and two others. It was a bit like a NASCAR pit stop; we had five outfits with us, and they had them all completely rigged in about 2 minutes. Another minute passed and we were in a state-of-the art skiff, planing towards the flats. I had in my hands a fly box that the fishing director gave me; it held a dozen proven local patterns.
I have to admit, however, our first day fishing was not too remarkable. Deb is not a fan of long boat rides so we fished the closest spots to the dock – a few large flats that were fairly deep and often held permit. However, a cold front had blown through a couple days before. Unlucky for us, the temperatures were still down and the winds were still up.
I think I spotted three fish that day; most of the time the guide was directing my casts across wave-rippled water. Regardless, he was excellent, with eagle eyes and a very patient manner. By the time we pulled up to the dock, both Deb and I had landed a couple bonefish.
We spent the next couple days exploring the island and sampling the excellent mojitos at the resort. When the cold front had thoroughly passed – and the winds lay down – I showed up for a second day of fishing. Deb had elected to spend the day at the resort.
I was paired with a different guide – although his patient, professional demeanor was very much the same as the first. Our plan, he said, would be to fish along a string of small cays that stretched outward from one end of Cayo Largo.
The first spot we pulled up to held an immense school of bonefish. They circled away from us and then towards us. I had absolutely no problem spotting them. It was about as easy as it gets in flats fishing – cast your fly about ten feet in front of the wriggling, cruising mass. Wait ‘til it gets close… A couple strips… Watch five or six fish peel after your fly… Fish on!
With my reel buzzing, the guide would pole like crazy away from the school. We’d land the fish. And then repeat. These were solid 4 pounders. Every one of them went well into the backing. I’d wish I could say that after five fish I was ready for more of a challenge but to be honest – it my personal bonefish paradise. Lots of good-sized, eager, easy-to-see fish!
Nevertheless, the guide didn’t want to educate too many fish and he suggested we push on. And so it went for the rest of the day – from one tiny little cay with a gorgeous flat to the next… It was perhaps the most perfect day of bonefishing I’ve ever experienced. There were no more huge schools, but plenty of singles and doubles and small groups. The water was gin clear, perfectly calm, and never more than knee deep. The bottom was a magical white sand that didn’t hide fish very well. I landed 10 or 11 bonefish that day with a couple going 5 or 6 pounds. I could have landed more but the guide talked me into so many other things…
Like checking out a tiny cut through some mangroves for tarpon. They were in there – four or five good-sized juveniles! They finned lazily, wickedly obvious in the clear water. And just kept on finning lazily as my fly swam past. After a few casts, they melted back into the mangroves.
I also chugged a popper across a couple deep channels for barracuda. One showed himself but turned away. In disdain? I really think that barracuda are way smarter than most anglers think.
The guide even had me tossing a jig on a spinning rod into a couple more channels. He wanted me to sample some of the snapper fishing. Success! A four or five pound mutton snapper grabbed the jig and pulled like only snapper can.
Actually, that mutton snapper was quite an inspiration. Because shortly thereafter, we were about a mile offshore, and my tarpon rod was rigged with a sinking line. I was working a Clouser down among the patch reefs. To no avail, unfortunately. But just the anticipation of a big snapper on a fly rod made it worthwhile.
Before we headed back in, we checked out a couple deeper flats for permit. Truth be known, Cayo Largo actually has quite a reputation for permit. Maybe it’s a good thing that none showed themselves that day; I was riding a bit of an adrenaline high after all the action and a permit might have pushed me over the edge.
Back at the dock, in the comfort of the Avalon fishing center’s couch, I had a couple beers and a slice of pizza and gradually came down. If you ever decide to come to Cuba, bring a lot of gear. It seems the possibilities are endless…
* * * * * * * *
Here are a few additional notes if you every make it to Cuba…
It might be a tad inflexible, but Avalon runs a first class operation. They rotate anglers through well-defined zones to spread out the pressure. Both guides and boats are top notch.
A day or two in Havana is mandatory! Catch a jazz club, stroll the Malecon, admire the architecture, get a cab ride from a ’55 Chevy (or maybe a bicycle) – it’s gritty and grand at the same time.
The countryside near Vinales – about an hour from Havana – is incredibly exotic. Lush green farms with red soil are butted up against huge domes of vegetation and limestone.
Did I mention the great fishing?
**Editors Note: Being that Dale hails from Canada, It is very easy for him to be able to travel to Cuba for excellent adventures like this one. On the other hand us Americans are not so lucky…
Recently I bought an 8 weight setup to use for this upcoming season but still had a decision to make when it came to the type of line I wanted to use with it. The questions I asked myself when making this decision were: Where and how was I going to fish this rod? What brand of line did I want to use? Did I want to use a floating, intermediate, or a sinking line?
I thought about these questions and started to answer them one by one, I decided I would most likely be throwing streamers with the rod, and wanted a line I could use to throw large flies for pike and to throw articulated flies for trout in large rivers. I felt like an intermediate line would be the ticket for this application and decided on the Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate fly line. I knew Airflo had a great reputation for their fly lines but had never owned one, I had used their lines before on trips and liked them but always stuck with Rio when it came down to purchasing a line. I wanted to try something new so I went with Airflo, I was not disappointed.
The Airflo Extreme Distance Fast Intermediate line has a lot of features I like about it, the Polyfuse coating and the Ridged running line makes for a smooth and slick surface through the guides to get the extra distance needed for long cast, and the weight forward head loads the rod quick for less false casting. The sink rate for this line was also great, one and a half inches per second works great in the situations I would be fishing in, I can get the fly deep by waiting a few extra seconds before I start retrieving the line but slow enough to I can still use it to swing streamers in rivers without the fly getting to deep and snagging on rocks. I also like the translucent green head; I believe it gives it a little more camouflage in the water compared to a solid color sinking line or tip. Since the line is a full intermediate it gives the fly a level plane to drift and during the retrieve, making it easier to create a more life-like presentation of the fly.
The only down fall I found about this line is the shooting head on the line is pretty long, making long cast in a confined area tough, it’s not a super aggressive head so casting with trees and bushes behind you can get a little frustrating. You need to make sure you have enough room for your back cast when trying for long distance shots.
What I am using it for and the places I will be fishing it, you couldn’t ask for a better line, I encourage anyone to try this line if you are looking for something to use with streamers in shallow water. If I wasn’t disappointed I don’t think you would be either.
Please pay attention to the next five words that you read…….William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack. I really shouldn’t say anything else and keep you all in suspense. However; I will continue to ramble on about this innovative product that everyone needs to add to their fly fishing arsenal.
Out of the box, the pack seems small and you begin to doubt the capability of it holding all your necessities, but once you begin to transfer your gear from your outdated fishing vest you start to realize that this pack is roomy and strategically designed to keep proper things in proper order. This pack is equipped with (2) built-in zingers in which you can attach a variety of accessories. There are (2) side-zip pockets on the front that will allow you to keep sunglasses, magnifiers or other items closely secure and easily accessible. There are (3) zippered compartments on the back pack part of this chest pack. The larger compartment will easily carry a packable rain jacket, extra fly boxes or a day’s lunch plus a drink. The adjustable AirTrack Suspension keeps the weight well balanced and evenly distributed. The comfort is unbelievable and there are no pressure points whatsoever.
Now that I have your attention, let me get to the selling point of the “Willie J” Confluence Chest Pack….. “No-Zip Magnetic Closure System!” I know you’re shaking your head and saying “huh??” Yep, you heard me, (2) magnetic closure front pouch pockets. This is the coolest thing since sliced bread.
The magnetic force is quite strong and keeps your gear in place. Yet with one simple pull, you can open these pockets and access your needs. The larger magnetic closure pocket has a removable foam Fly-Pad. This pocket will also hold a couple small fly boxes and there are several mesh compartments within this pocket that will secure other essential items that you may need. The smaller magnetic pocket boasts the “Willie J TCS”, Tippet Control System. This system allows you to connect your various size tippets securely inside this magnetic pocket. There is also ample room for weights, floatant and other must-haves. The bottom of this Chest pack has (2) built-in compression straps that you can cinch up a jacket or whatever you need.
I know that I probably forgot (50) or so additional selling points of William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack, but please keep in mind, I am simply sharing my review and opinion of this product. I do not work for William Joseph and I have nothing to gain. Yet I honestly feel that you will gain a lot by giving this pack a looksee. Oh, did I mention that it comes with a lifetime warranty from William Joseph? Well it does!!
As many of you know here at Fishwest we strive to be considered the “World’s Local Fly Shop”. This means that each day the staff here (myself included) come to work ready to serve the customer and provide the best experience in the fly fishing industry. Why am i saying this you ask?
Because its always nice to receive messages like this one from Sam in West Virginia:
“I received my pack today. This is so awesome. I want to thank everyone at Fishwest for keeping my fishing trip on schedule. I was worried that I wouldn’t receive the pack and I leave for my Steelhead trip in the morning. But It was just delivered to my home and I couldn’t be happier. I want to give a special thanks to Lacey…. I couldn’t have asked for a better Customer Support Person. You helped me with my return and got my new pack out the door in time for me to keep my scheduled fly fishing trip. ”
All you fly fishers out there are the reason that we do this. This photo made our day! Thank you for your continued support!
The Mothers Day caddis hatch on Arkansas River in Colorado is famous. Slowly the hatch creeps up steam in late April and early May dictated by the magical water temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. A little extra snow melt cools the water and postpones the movement of cocooned caddis pupa squirming to the surface to shed their shucks and lifting airborne. But don’t worry; with 2 decades of water quality and structure improvement, the 102 miles of the Gold Medal freestone river from the Pueblo Reservoir to Leadville has a plethora of spring hatching bugs. Blue-wing-olives, caddis, golden stones, smaller dark stoneflies and midges now populate the waterway plus Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently introduced salmonflies which seem to like the Ark.
Dark (purple, brown or black) BWO nymphs size 20 to 26 and bright (chartreuse, orange or red) midge larva, also size 20-26, are always in the water column, moving up or down and deciding if the time is right to surface and hatch. The improvement of water quality on the river that endured a century and a half of mineral mining byproducts has changed the trout from smaller, short lived browns to a mixture of healthy rainbows and browns enjoying a longer life and growing to sixteen inches or more.
Until you see rising fish, Czech or high stick nymphing are the best techniques. Fishing with a long line and an indicator has limitations and works only in certain areas. Use a heavy attractor pattern like a golden stone, smaller dark stone or San Juan worm as the lead fly and a BWO nymph or midge larva pattern 12 to 18 inches lower. Methodically fish and try to reach all the parts of deep tail-outs below riffles, seams and deeper holding water. During the middle of a May day the trout will key into the specific hatch, either caddis, midges or BWOs. A dry fly as an indicator with the emerger of the same insect as the dropper is a good method. The sub-surface tends to be where the action occurs with so much competition with naturals on the surface. Dead drift with long leaders, good knots and fine (6x or 7x) tippets to weary trout.
The tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir is open to angling year round. The spring runoff captured from Arkansas River flows out of the dam at a fairly consistent temperature and generally close to gin clear. When high, discolored water surges through the freestone river section; this is the place to be. Public fishing is available for nearly all the water that meanders through the City of Pueblo. Anglers must pay a small fee in some areas. Colorado Parks and Wildlife have built structures for a decade, studied fish populations and created a first class fishery. The same techniques and fly patterns apply here as the mountainous head waters. The big difference is the city resides at a 5000 foot elevation and frequently has 50 degree air temperatures in January and February. Fly fishers feeling the effect of winter cabin fever, but hesitant to angle in cold weather will find they don’t have to wait for Mothers Day to catch big trout.