Tag Archives: Salmon

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Fishwest 5wt “Showdown” – Part 4: The Helios 2


FWF05FWDCFW_lgToday marks the long awaited return of the Fishwest 5wt Shootout. Morgan and I have been so busy fishing and in the shop lately that we haven’t had a chance to get together and really put the remaining rods to the test. For that we do apologize so without further adieu here are our thoughts on the next rod in the shootout: The Helios 2: Tip Flex by The Orvis Company.

The Orvis Company has a long and storied history in the sport of fly fishing. Charles F. Orvis of Manchester Vermont started the Orvis Company in 1856. Orvis holds the distinction of being the oldest fly tackle manufacturer in America, since its inception Orvis has been producing exceptional fly tackle and is constantly pushing the boundaries of technological innovation within their fly rods.

orvis_logoThe Helios 2 is the flagship of the Orvis line with good reason.  Building off of the 2007 release of the original Helios, the H2 is 20% lighter and stronger than its predecessor the Helios.  If the performance of the rod doesn’t speak for itself the ascetics of the rod most certainly will. The deep blue blank and the Machined aluminum reel seat with beautiful wood insert take this rod over the top.

As always in order to maintain fairness within the test we utilized the same reel and line combination with each rod. For this test we have decided to use the Clearwater Fly Reel from Orvis and that is paired with the Gold Taper fly line from Rio.

Without boring you to death with more details here are the thoughts Morgan and I had about the H2.

IMG_760330ft: Paired with the Rio Gold Line I feel like this rod did okay loading up within this distance. With that being said you could totally tell this rod has plenty more to offer in terms of power so it took a minute to get used to casting this rod within this distance.  The presentation qualities of this rod would suffer in my opinion due to the tip being a little on the stiffer side when paired with this line.  I honestly believe that if an angler overlined this rod it would definitely perform much better in what I would consider “typical” trout range.

50ft: This is where the rod really started to shine. This is where the rod became more accurate and a lot easier to cast. Flies landed like a whisper. The extremely lightweight nature of the rod itself made it both easy and highly enjoyable to cast at this distance with knowing that the rod still had plenty in the tank in order to throw out the “hero” cast.

IMG_760570ft: Again long distance casts were smooth as silk and as easy as 1st grade level math homework.  Again the rod handled the casts with grace and precision. These casts rarely if ever get made when fishing for trout. However with the H2 in hand I would have the utmost confidence in getting the job done right in the first cast.

Morgan:

I was very excited to get my hands on the Orvis Helios 2 after watching some very impressive videos of the rod intentionally being broken.  Being the oldest U.S. fly fishing company, Orvis rods have a lot to live up to and the 9’ 5 weight Tip Flex H2 did not disappoint.  In my opinion, this rod was one of the best do it all, Rocky Mountain trout rods in our shootout. Orvis offers the H2 in either a Tip Flex model or a Mid Flex model. With many rods currently on the market being faster action tip flex rods, we chose to stick with the most similar offering for the H2. Aesthetically, the H2 is beautiful. A dark blue blank strays from the ambers, greens, and blacks that we see from many other manufacturers.

IMG_760430ft: The Helios 2 did pretty well casting within 30ft which is what I would consider “Utah range” for our local readers. The rod had a little more backbone than I prefer for short casting but adjusting your casting stroke will get you into the sweet spot. The tip is little stiff for close quarters presentations but an over weighted line like the Scientific Anglers GPX or even the full weight heavy Rio Grand would get the rod loading more at shorter distances.

50ft: With 20 more feet of line, the rod started to load a bit deeper into the blank which made the feel of this rod much more apparent. The smooth taper and light weight of the H2 made it a breeze to cast and a pleasure to hold. The H2 was plenty accurate at 50ft and as we saw, it could do ever greater distances with great accuracy.

IMG_761670ft: Long distance casts were met with ease and accuracy. Most of us rarely cast 70ft casts but when it becomes necessary to make serious casts, it can be done and it can still be done with confidence and accuracy. The performance of this rod with this much line out doesn’t suffer. Some rods will get it done but this rod gets it done well.

Overall Morgan and I agreed 100% on this rod. This would be an excellent “all around” trout rod. However with that being said we also came to the conclusion that this rod may be best suited overlined with a 6wt line or a line with over weighted construction like the Scientific Anglers GPX ,Rio Grand, or the Orvis Hydros Power Taper.

There you have it as always we hope that you enjoyed our thoughts on the Helios 2 and this latest addition to the Fishwest 5wt shootout. For questions about the H2 or any of the rods in the shootout please give us a call at 801.617.1225 or drop us a line at support@fishwest.com. Stay tuned for the next installment. The “One” rod by Sage.

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Bristol Bay (A Southern Perspective)

Editors Note:  Bristol Bay Alaska is one of the most pristine wild places on this planet. As an angler and an outdoor enthusiast I hope to see this area remain unchanged for a long time to come. Organizations like Trout Unlimited are doing all they can in order to prevent this mining project from ever taking place. Its up to us to let our voice be heard in order to protect this region for future generations.  Take action by clicking HERE.  -JC

The legal term used to describe it was mineral rights.

The way it played out was like this.  A family would have a few acres in East Tennessee or Southeastern Kentucky with maybe one dwelling and a barn.  A representative for a coal company would show up and offer hard cash if the owner would sign over the mineral rights to his property.  In the poverty ridden condition that most of my ancestors lived, a city dude offering a couple of hundred dollars in cash for what might or might not be under the ground seemed like a no brainer.  A no brainer until a group from the company showed up and told these folks they had to leave because they had come to claim not what was on their property, but what was under their property.

DSCN6837Mines bored deep cavernous holes in the hillside to extract the black gold that would become a defining element of my regions contribution to the industrial revolution.  With impunity these companies worked round the clock to pull ton after ton of coal from the land.  Many of these families stayed on in mining camps where they toiled six and sometimes seven days a week raping the land they used to own.

One of the resounding effects the mines had on the region was not in what they pulled from underneath the land; it was the runoff of poisons that they polluted into the streams that flowed from the high country.  Streams that once were a water source and a provider of food ran orange and red; literally everything within them died.  Children were born with defects which were in part generated by mothers who were exposed to a myriad of caustics that invaded their bodies and in turn the bodies of their children as toxic levels of selenium, mercury, and arsenic seeped into the water table.

The financial boon filled the pockets of many, but a very small percentage of them actually lived in the area.  Workers were paid in scrip, which were just tin tokens from which to buy from the company store which inflated the prices thereby increasing their profits as well.

It took decades for this to be turned around, and in the area in which I grew up; its effects remain on a pilfered landscape, and a few streams which have yet to recover.  And it is quite possible that they will never recover.  Sometimes, the impact of industry on a landscape is too great a price to pay; it is too large a burden to risk.

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Bristol Bay Aerial View (Photo Credit: Ben Bulis)

When the subject of the pebble mine in Alaska began to surface, I felt connected.  From an environmental standpoint, I saw here in Tennessee (albeit on a much smaller scale) what could happen there and was angered to the point of action.  Sometimes, and perhaps it could be argued most of the time, the best development or industrial progress is none at all.  There comes a time when we must evaluate financial gain against the strong backdrop of what would be lost.  In most cases what would be lost, is lost forever and triggers a chain of events that will impact much more than the particular region.

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Alaskan WIlderness (Photo Credit: Ben Bulis)

Bristol Bay is a massive area that is primarily wild untouched country.  This area has been home to native Alaskan Tribes for millennia and is considered to be the largest fishery for sockeye salmon on the planet. Hundreds upon hundreds of miles in streams participate in the watershed through the Nushagak and Kvivhak rivers, and smaller streams such as the Napotoli and Stuyhok.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency began a study on the area and how a pebble mine might impact it from an ecological and environmental perspective.  This was of utmost importance to the Alaskan native tribes who have entire cultures built around the lifecycle of the salmon that call the bay home.  The study intended to evaluate the development and mining of this area be its impact while in operation (which was estimated to be between twenty and one hundred years), and the recovery and maintenance of the area after the mine had closed.

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Cockpit View (Photo Credit: Ben Bulis)

Personally, I have yet to visit Alaska, but from a distant perspective, to negatively impact a location where nearly half of the sockeye salmon in the world congregate with numbers going well above thirty million fish moving inshore to spawn is beyond a bad idea, it is criminal.  If you also take into account the other fish species that live there (lake trout, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, grayling, pike), the sheer numbers of fish that would be effected staggers even the broadest of imaginations.  Try to wrap your mind around 200,000 rainbow trout in one watershed!

The long term economic impact would be catastrophic as entire communities who, through commercial fishing and tourism, find their subsistence would find themselves with a dwindling fish population and a constantly growing demand as well as the ever upward costs of living.  There are families who have been in an economic relationship with Bristol Bay for hundreds of years.  To fish its waters for sustenance and financial gain is all they know.  To remove or reduce it would be to (in effect) kill entire villages.

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Alaska’s Wild Waters (Photo Credit: Save Bristol Bay)

The E.P.A. assessment states that up to 94 miles of streams would be completely lost because of their location in relation to the mine footprint.  94 miles!  Can you imagine how many fish would just vanish forever?

The E.P.A. report goes on to state that reduced food resources would result in the death of many streams outside the footprint due to the loss of organic material, a reduction in winter fish habitat and by nature of design, reduce or remove vital spawning areas.

The blow that would be dealt to creatures such as the storied brown bear, or the bald eagle would also be irreparable.  A reduction in food, a reduction in habitat, and once again a reduction in the local economy and way of life.

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Sockeye School (Photo Credit: Save Bristol Bay)

When do we say enough?  When do we finally realize that once a fragile thread like Bristol Bay is severed, it is highly likely that it will not be mendable?  When do we stand and say that not only is it a bad idea for the wildlife, it is a bad idea for the people?  When do we stop and take a position that does not approve in any shape, form, or fashion the potential health risks involved in a huge mining operation?  When do we finally realize that clean water impacts every person on this planet, and that wild places need to remain wild places?

Hopefully, that time is now.

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Alaska’s Unknown Floating Fishing Lodges

(Warning:  Cute kid fishing pics contained herein.)

The dream:  Alaskan fly-out lodge.   The problem:  Dream exceeding budget.  The solution:  A cruise ship.

Seems highly unlikely, right? Swapping a cruise ship for a floatplane.  But it works…  Even though a cruise ship won’t immerse you in Alaska’s remotest fishing, it will get you places a road won’t go.  And the scenery may be even more spectacular.  Better yet, the whole family can come along for about the same price.

With that in mind, my daughter Kerri and I hopped on the Norwegian Sun, a cruise ship traveling from Vancouver up the Inside Passage into Alaskan waters.  The first port of call was Ketchikan, where we took in a lumberjack show.  No fishing was on the agenda but the town’s main drag was a salmon river.  The downtown shops overlooked glides and riffles instead of concrete and traffic.  Handrails ran alongside the wooden sidewalks; if you leaned over the rail, you could see pink salmon running upstream.  The whole place was a great, big fly-fishing appetizer.

KetchikanThe next stop was Juneau.  Kerri stayed on board at the ship’s daycare.  With all the activities they had planned, she wouldn’t miss me one bit.  I hiked off the boat and down the street to the local fly shop, where I met up with Luke Woodruff, my guide for the day.  About an hour, Luke anchored his boat where a small stream poured into the salt.  We were relatively close to Juneau but could have been anywhere along Alaska’s wild coastline.

We waded the beach, sharing the water with hordes of pink salmon.  They were very eager; my rod was almost constantly bent by a four or five pound pink.  Although pink salmon, or humpies, register lower than cohos or kings on the desirability scale, the fun factor of any 4 or 5 pound salmonid should not be overlooked!

Father n daughter pinksFor a change of pace, Luke suggested hiking up the stream and trying for some cutthroats.  Five minutes down the path, a mother brown bear and her cub ambled into view, about 50 yards away.  We looked at each other and reversed direction without a word.  Our pace was definitely brisk on the way back to the beach.  A few furtive, over-the-shoulder glances confirmed that the bears were not following.  Although Luke carried a 12 gauge shotgun with slugs, I was quite relieved that he never even took it off his shoulder.

The next stop for the cruise ship was Skagway; both Kerri and I headed off the boat.  But this time for the mountains instead of a salmon river. Some rock climbing – guided and beginner friendly – was on the agenda.  After Skagway, the ship headed up the Tracy Arm for some serious scenic fiord cruising and iceberg spotting.

Untitled-1The final port of call was Wrangell – another chance to fish! This time Kerri joined me and guide Marlin Benedict had his jetboat waiting just down the pier. We headed up the silty lower reaches of the Stikine River to a deep pool in a clearwater tributary.

Once again, the pink salmon were thick. We could see schools swimming by underneath the boat.  Often, the take was visual and I watched a humpy inhale my streamer.

Double header (1)Kerri – who was nine at the time – used a spinning rod and the pinks kept it under strain.  Marlin enthusiastically netted Kerri’s fish and that process intrigued her immensely. To be honest, after four or five salmon, she actually convinced Marlin to use the rod and let her control the net. In the spirit of true customer service, with perhaps just a hint of sheepishness, Marlin hooked fish after fish, and let Kerri net them.

Kerri nets oneOn the trip back downriver, Marlin revealed another facet of his repertoire.  He allowed the boat to drift slowly downstream and we looked for the hulking shapes of king salmon amongst the pods of pinks.  It was a unique and unexpected opportunity for sight fishing watching for big, dark outlines and making a cast.

With time running out, I actually connected with a king.  Kerri cheered, the reel buzzed, and my backing made a rare but welcome appearance. There were a couple tense moments involving some tree branches but eventually about 15 pounds of chinook were brought on board for a quick photo.

King salmonAfter that,  it was full throttle all the way back to the Norwegian Sun.  There were no more stops scheduled so we enjoyed the ship’s amenities for a full day and a couple evenings all the way back to Vancouver.

Being a full size cruise ship, there were a lot of amenities – far more than most fishing lodges.  Come to think of it, a cruise ship actually makes a pretty good Alaskan fishing lodge…

Neah Bay

Northwest Black Bass – A Welcome Diversion from Salmon Fishing

Each year I have the opportunity to spend several days chasing Coho with my parents in the Strait of Juan de Fuca adjacent to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  While the primary purpose of this annual trip is to keep salmon on my grill the rest of the year, a few years ago we began to pursue another species as well.  It is a well known fact that real men arise at the crack of ten, sometimes the Coho are only feeding closer to dawn.  When this happens you had better be up and underway when running lights are required.  Pre-dawn marina departures of vessels of all shapes and sizes contributes to the charm of small fishing towns and Sekiu is no exception.  If the bite is early and the  typical limit on Coho is two fish per angler per day,  you may very well find yourself back at the dock before breakfast.  The Olympic Peninsula  is full of things to do once the salmon are caught, filleted out, vacuum sealed,  and frozen. One could venture out to Cape Flattery, the most Northwest point in the continental United States. Visit the crystal blue water of Lake Crescent, or just hike around in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Once these things are done, as most anglers are apt to do, it usually returns to some kind of fishing.

PENTAX ImageNear Neah Bay  there are hours of entertainment to be had catching strong fighting and great tasting fish.  Using an ultralight spinning  rod and a small plastic tail jig a person can burn an entire day catching Black Sea Bass near the kelp beds.  These fish typically range from 2-4 pounds, put up a great fight, and are simply a blast to catch.  The catch limit  is pretty high (check the regulations if you go) and they taste great.  We would position the boat near the kelp bed and allow the boat to drift with the wind and/or tide along side of the bed casting into the channels between the branches of the kelp.  These fish tend to school so when you catch one, there are sure to be more. Anyone that has spent a couple of hours filleting out a mess of crappie knows that it takes about the same amount of time to clean a small fish as it does a larger fish so it is definitely worthwhile to put the smaller fish back to grow up a bit and keep the larger fish.  However, if you want to take it to the next level, you can keep a few smaller bass to be used as live bait for Ling Cod, a bottom dwelling beast from another age.  Ling is a great eating fish and they fight really hard as well.

black_sea_bassOne year as I was packing for this trip, it occurred to me how much fun it might be to catch black bass on a fly rod.  My four piece five weight was summarily tossed into my bag along with a couple of Clouser minnows.  When we arrived at the kelp beds I went forward to fish off the bow since fly casting from the rear of a Grady White would preclude anyone else being able to fish.  Being on the bow, I was higher than I was in the stern and could clearly see deeper into the water.  This also allowed me to more accurately place my fly between the branches of the kelp and see its descent into the darkness below.   I was using a sinking line to get the relatively weightless fly into the fishes realm.  No sooner had the fly dropped below the first kelp petals than a strong two pound bass darted from the cover of the kelp and took the fly with an aggressiveness that shocked me.  I set the hook and the fight was on.  Since I am unaware of a method to quantify laughter, suffice it to say that I laughed a lot while catching these fish.

After a good fight the fish tired and I was able to bring it closer to the boat.  The smaller fish I was able to hoist from the water using the line, but the bigger fish presented a problem.  Since I was balancing on the bow of the boat and the net was at the stern, I had to lead the larger fish along side of the boat to be netted by Captain Jeff.  I soon found that the deeper my fly went, the bigger the fish that ate it.  Several times while the fly was sinking, a smaller bass would dart out from the kelp and follow the fly only to be chased off by a much larger fish from the depths below.  It is a good day when fish are literally fighting over your fly.  This type of fishing allows for one of the things that makes fly fishing so great, the ability to see the fish take your fly.  Allowing this revelation to sink in, I decided to fish with streamers more often on my home waters.

While all four of us were catching fish,  the fly rod was consistently taking the larger fish.  Hooking and landing a four pound Black Sea bass on a five weight fly rod makes an impression on one’s soul and brings a smile to my face even years later.

Florida Keys

Great Days 5: Florida Keys Flats Fishing by Smith Optics

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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.

Helios 2

A Shop Favorite: The Orvis Helios 2

 

The Orvis Helios 2 is a new arrival to the shop here at Fishwest. The 905.4 is  quickly becoming one of most sought after rods in the shop collection to fish for the day. The reasons are simple. These rods are super lightweight with a nice crisp fast action. Simply put the 905.4 is a fine tuned, high performance, trout catching machine. Don’t take my word for it stop in the shop and talk to Jake or Morgan about it and see what they have to say. While you are there give this rod a test cast or two. You will surely be impressed as well.

Scott Fly Rods

A Look Inside: Scott Fly Rods

 

Scott Fly Rods is a company steeped in tradition. From it’s humble beginnings in the early 70′s in San Francisco to the present day in Colorado the staff of Scott Fly Rods has been focused on one goal.  That goal is simple: To create high quality, handcrafted fly rods.  Scott rods are a favorite of the staff at Fishwest and it’s not hard to see why. They are wonderful sticks. If you haven’t already, please check them out. Stop by the shop and cast one or two!

**Big Thanks to  Felt Sole Media for letting us share awesome video**

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The World’s First Triple-Textured Fly Line: Introducing Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Fly Lines

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***The Scientific Anglers rep for Fishwest , Greg Pearson dropped off a few of these lines for us to put to the test. We now have the 5wt GPX and 8wt Saltwater taper to fish. Scoot will have the pleasure introducing the Sharkwave Saltwater to Andros Bonefish starting Sunday. That 5wt GPX will be visiting Utah waters ASAP. After we have a chance to try these lines out we will share our thoughts and reactions. In the meantime check out what SA has to say about this innovative fly line***

The Development of the SharkWave -
When we introduced the Sharkskin(TM) family of lines in 2007, they weren’t simply the latest in a long line of high-quality innovations. The Sharkskin created an entirely new category of product: textured fly lines. These lines, developed and manufactured at the Scientific Anglers facility in Midland, Michigan, represented one of the most interesting and groundbreaking evolutions in the history of fly line technology.

The benefits of the textured lines were numerous: increased surface area allowed the lines to sit higher in the water, offering less drag, easier mending, less water spray, and easier pick-ups; the micro-textured surface trapped air to provide increases in both shootability and flotation—all while decreasing friction; and the microreplicated pattern increased the durability of the lines, allowing them to last up to twice as long.Sharkwave Coil

The accolades mounted. But we knew we could do better.
Using what we learned while developing the Sharkskin, we developed the Mastery Textured series. These lines took the high points of the Sharkskin technology and combined them with the easy feel of traditional, smooth fly lines, resulting in a textured line that performs like the Sharkskin, but feels smoother to the touch.

Then something struck us: Let’s take the best parts of the Sharkskin, combine it with the Mastery Textured series, and see what happens.

The result? Meet the SharkWave, the world’s first Triple-Textured and Triple-Colored fly line. Featuring Sharkskin texture on the tip section, Mastery Textured divots for the belly and running line, a smooth Tactile Reference Point at the AFTMA 30-foot mark, SA•ID line identification, AST dry slick technology, Improved Dry Tip technology, and Streamlined Loops, the SharkWave is unlike any fly line we’ve ever produced.

It’s fishing. Friction-free.

The Scientific Anglers Sharkwave will be available in March. For more details check out the line by clicking HERE

 

WInston BIIIx

R.L. Winston: The Boron Story

 

The Winston BIIIx was the most recent addition to my quiver this summer in a 590.4 . This rod is simply amazing for throwing dries.  I cant wait to fish this thing more and really put it through it’s paces. Once I do I will most definitely have share my thoughts on that beautiful piece of Winston Perfection. Till then check out this video that explains the intricacies and benefits of Boron infused blank construction that make these rods so special to cast & fish.

Check out all Winston products by clicking HERE

 

 

Loop Opti Reel

Loop Tackle: The Story

 

Being Scandinavian in origin means that Loop doesn’t have a huge following here in the United States however that is slowly changing because the products they offer are exceptional especially the rods and reels . Check out this video that gives a little insight into the world  Loop Tackle. We have had a chance to spend some time with Loop Rods and Reels here at the shop and they are pretty awesome. Are they on your Holiday Wish List?

Check out Loop Tackle products for your self by clicking HERE