Friday, November 25, 2016

Fly Fishing Dollars, and Sense

Frederic Halford at left tying flies.

Public domain image hosted on wikicommons. Some sort of attribution ought to go to Mike Cline who is listed as the author. I'm not sure Mr. Cline is the original photographer but I'm happy to have the public domain image to use.

It's the season of shopping. 

They'll no doubt be plenty of chances to acquire fine tackle and other gear during the next six weeks. I have no less then five "fantastic blow out deals" in my email bin now.

Careful, anglers. Careful.

There's a lot of money to be spent in this pursuit. Unfortunately, damn little of your money actually does that much from the trout's perspective.

Yes, that's coming from a man who has bought a couple rods a year for the last half-dozen years.

I've a nice stout 4/5 piece of split cane that Chris Lantzy sold me out of his "ready bin" this spring. I'll post the review here but I've spent more on a dinner this year than I gave Chris for the rod and the rod is a charmer. The point being is that great gear -- meaning gear we can effectively use on the stream -- isn't necessarily expensive gear.

I like SA System One click-and-pawl reels. You can find them for less than fifty bucks with a spare spool (Got a whole collection of spare spools. Easier just buy a whole new reel than fumble with a bunch of spools.) I like my Galvan Brookie too and a I gave a lot more than fifty bucks for it.

To the trout, which is better? The Brookie reel holds a three weight Wulff TT line that can roll cast the skin off a cat. (Catgut reference. No actual cats skinned in the writing of this bog entry). My usual SA has a five weight Wulff TT line.

Now, both reels throw the same class of line just fine. I could carefully buy a half-dozen SA Ones for what I gave for the Brookie and that I bought on a brother-in-law deal from my fly shop owner. Dirk is a soft touch about reels. Don't let that get around.

The point is this: good gear isn't expensive. There is fine inexpensive gear that will catch trout all season long. Trout gear isn't scotch.

Cheap scotch is seldom any good. Once you get old enough tmmo like a decent scotch, there's no such thing as a cheap bottle.

What can you spend money on here in "sale" season?

Decent boots. If they're on sale, buy a good pair. Pinched feet and hammer toes scrunched into a neoprene vise ruin a day faster than anything. I like the old "Centurion" style for cobble bottoms but for hiking-in they're just brutal. We've little cobble here in Michigan and I'm looking hard at something lighter. Once upon a time I used Chuck Taylor high tops with felt I cut and epoxied. Those days are gone.

Lighter boots make the day easier. Consider it.

A new line. Yes, I make fun of Airflo Super-Dri Bandit lines. No, I won't use one. However, finding a line you like at a discount to new is probably a good deal. Haven't bought a line in three years? Haven't washed your line in that time? Might consider a new line. Your old line sucks (water). The finish on your line breaks down with age and use.  The line becomes less a precision instrument. If you're throwing water on the backcast, you are seriously in need of a new floating line.

A Tackle Buddy spinner holder. Yes, this comes from the walleye world where old guys fish with pre-spliced and tied spinner rigs of 30", 45" or even 60" lengths. These hard plastic and rubber devices are little more than waterproof paper towel rolls that prove incredibly convenient to hold pre-tied dropper rigs.(Look here ). When the sun goes down and you need to re-tie, having one of these pre-spun with half a dozen dropper rigs you can splice-in with a surgeon's knot is the difference between catching and swearing for half-an-hour. It'll fit in your bag and for sawbuck, it's a bargain.

There's no fun in packing out because you can't see to tie a knot.

A flask. Look, you've got your priorities. I've got mine.

A decent whiskey. My priorities are working overtime.

That flask needs something more than Jack Daniels. Ditch that domestic bourbon and get some decent Irish Whiskey (which means Bushmills -- the oldest continuously operating distillery in the world, thank you very much). If you grow-up and discover some actual taste buds, a scotch old enough to vote is a nice treat but we're talking bargains here ... and that scotch won't be.

If you're an occasional angler on the water a half-dozen times a year, don't be cheap with your beverage. A nice whiskey travels well and goes down fine after that trophy trout you'll land. Trout have taste and class. They've no proven affinity for Old Milwaukee Light.

New Tippet. I know half of you out there in Troutland are using three year old tippet. I know it. That stuff gets brittle. Don't hoard tippet. Buy it as you need it, seasonally. Now counts as "next season."

A pipe. Now, I'm a cigar man and have been since before I could buy a drink. I had a locker on Fifth Avenue for over twenty years (my tobacconist moved and thus no more locker). I have a weakness for women I cannot afford, scotch whiskey I shouldn't afford, and cigars I shouldn't be allowed to to afford. I still love them all.

However, that cigar will ruin a line or leader if the two should meet. Yes, that's the same advice I give to friends seeing the other woman: let the two meet and it'll ruin your day. My close friends are old enough to be past the stage of infidelity. They cannot afford any other ex-wives.

You'll be sitting on the bank watching the river at some point next year. Hopefully, you'll be doing that a great deal. A pipe is a safer alternative to the cigar. I save cigars for around the campfire or on my deck. The pipe is the field implement of choice. Peterson makes a nice product that won't break the bank.

A Decent Set of Compact Field Glasses. Now, I know there's always too much stuff in the sidebag or the vest. I know it. However, you'll be better served  "glassing" the water than your present "squint and search" method allows. The fish you miss could be because you aren't looking before fishing or you aren't looking well enough at the water you intend to cover.

There's also the utility of looking at all the lovely birdies. (Obscure Missouri Breaks reference but I've a weakness for killers and Brando plays a good one). Seriously, a pair of waterproof compact binoculars good enough for glassing the water will run under $40. More seeing = more catching.

Never take anything on the water whose loss will pain you something sore.

Trout are heartbreakers. Don't give 'em extra chances by overspending on gear.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Camping for Trout: Tent

At left, the wondrous joy of a comfortable cot in the woods.

I've written before that I live far enough away from serious trout water as to make the "trout dash" uncomfortable. It's three-and-a-half hours each way and since trout love dusk, it is a problem to just deadhead a trip.

Driving home after midnight just isn't fun anymore.

I'm cheap  ... tent, primitive campground. [ I don't like a Generator Joe. I go to the woods to get away from the modern trappings of central air and the ubiquitous background music not of my choosing. Primitive camping keeps the plush RV folks at bay. Thankfully.]

I'm writing here about my tent selection because I want to encourage other trout fishermen who live in that three-to-six hour window from good water to consider this as an option. It's much better than when you were a scout. Much better.

Modern gear is great. The nights under the trees will give some of the best sleep you have all year. It's a wonderful experience.

Picking a tent means touching the model you might want. Some of the new tents on the market are super light and consequently built like tissue paper. I'm not going to say bring back the old Forest Service canvas beasts; but, at the same time you have to live with the gear you buy.

Make sure that the durability factor of what you think you want will last you a few seasons or you'll rapidly be unhappy.

I spent a couple months trying various models. I picked something I think could work for anyone.

I went with a Marmot Tungsten three-person model.

It is a great tent for car camping. Plenty of room for two adult-sized cots (I use the Allagash Plus Cot from Byer ) and when it is just me - as usual - it is spacious without being a pain to set-up or pack-up. Still works when I can get Beargirl to the woods. (Okay, hasn't happened yet. Only guest grandcubs sleep in it and on occasion, one snoring foxhound).

It's heavy for backpacking at a field-prepped five plus pounds. Today, that is way too much for a single person to pack. No need. If you haul it in the back of a vehicle? Fine.

The weight trade off? Durability.

The thing is a tank. Super tough and I am hard on gear. It's a great mid-point buy and for the money I think represents a great deal of value for around a dozen seasons. I've thirty-four nights in mine now. Love it. Dry. Cool. Warm enough. Ventilated. Stormproof.

It manages the condensation for one medium sized trout angler and a smallish foxhound AOK. Lou the foxhound looooovees it. Hound. What can I say? He likes sleeping under the stars with me.

Would buy it again in a heartbeat AND I carry the beast when I've got less than a mile to pack gear.  I wouldn't take it up a mountain; but, I'll pack it in for an afternoon.

I've had to wash the thing once when it was sprayed by feral cats (in my meadow with the grandcubs).

Some pictures:

Here I have the rain-fly half-off. I do this a bit in the summer so when I'm wrong about the 20% rain forecast, I'm just pulling the rainfly over and placing three stakes at two-thirty when I hear the big splat of raindrops in the leaves above me.

It's a hubbed pole design and the hub is permanently affixed to the two-pole interchange. The tent hangers for the inner mesh attach in an idiot simple fashion with the large plastic hooks. They feel like football helmet plastic -- way tough for the job of holding up the mesh. No worries here about durability. That isn't true of all manufacturer's inner tent clips.

 Huge d-shaped doors with dual zippers and zipper pulls that don't "jingle" in a breeze.

Side view.  I stake out the tent using eight stakes as a rule. I'm an overkill sort of guy but spreading the rainfly increases warm season ventilation and in the cool season, helps with eliminating condensation and dew when the temperature plunges after dark. I do a bit of the shoulder-season and night-damp is a real issue next to the river. Vent, and stay dry.

 Another interior view. The cot is thirty inches wide and there is more than enough room for setting up and deploying two cots inside.

When I am packing gear. I like the Klymit line of inflatable pads. I have to have a good pad as I'm an old back patient. I'm prone to pretty severe stiffness and with the Klymit pads, no worries at all.

My current Kymit pad -- I'll cover in another review -- weighs a pound, rolls to the compressed size of a coke can, inflates in a dozen breaths, and at 2.5" thick keeps even a heavy side sleeper off the ground and comfortable. Amazing gear.

I like the cot for the springy bed effect. There's no doubt a good cot beats the best pad. However, a bad cot is a useless POS. The Byer cots are amazingly easy to deal with and produce a great sleeping surface if you can pack the the weight. I use them car camping so, no worries.

I can only say from my own experience that the comfort of a good tent makes me willing to disregard almost any inclement weather for a camp excursion. Shoulder season wet requires drying the gear before storing and that can be an issue. However, planning to pack-and-go the second weekend in June is a breeze. You can fish wet. You can sleep dry.

A good tent covers a number of ills. Low cost means high spousal approval, too. Try getting the same level of approval pulling a $50K Bambi into the driveway. Good luck with that! [ Kev -- an Amber Angler -- could easily get away with it, lucky dog. His spouse thinks the vintage Bambi trailers are the bee's knees. Vintage, though. Would need to be vintage.]


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

... Foreign and Domestic

Brook trout, left. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

When I think of all the trouble I've caused -- both foreign and domestic -- I am hard pressed to associate any of it with time on a trout stream.

So, following the popular technique of citing a carefully chosen specific event then generalizing its outcome to all manner of "logical certainties" I am here to suggest trout fishing will save the American political system.

Think of it yourself. How much trouble do you really cause when you are in a stream? Really?

If all our politicians spent fifteen percent of their terms on a trout stream, they'd cause fifteen percent less havoc.

Why, go for broke and put them out with a rod in hand for fifty percent of their allotted time in office.

One day in congress means one obligatory day fishing.

There'd be a lot less Mickey Mouse and a lot more attention on habitat maintenance and improvement projects. Maybe there'd be some legislation about egregious fly line proliferation, too.

Okay, okay. I'm not really that bigoted. I respect another angler's right to buy a line called "Super-Dri Bandit" if they want to. I will however make fun of them.


Trout: save the fish, save the vote.

Look - it's a better platform than anyone else has going right now.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Camping for Trout: Water

I love getting away to fish for trout. My best trout water lies some three-and-a-half hours away. Camping makes a trout road-trip a relaxed, enjoyable weekend outing.

The issue with camping and with hiking-in to remote locations involves water. The trout have plenty. We anglers however struggle a bit.

Water is heavy to carry. It requires prior planning for provisioning. It's precious and requires rationing on-site.

None of these attributes do much for trout hiking and camping.

I've carried water in coolers for car camping which is fine unless I'm hiking six miles to my fishing spot. Packing sufficient water is inconvenient and frustrating given that my ultimate destination is water. A good filter system gives me almost unlimited supplies for coffee, hydration, cooking, and even hygiene.

Wild sources for drinking and hygiene as an alternative? Not so good. Infection and diarrhea are not good souvenirs of a weekend trip.

The Grayl filter set (pictured above on my desk next to a large coffee cup) is a practical reliable solution. I've used it this past year. I'm delighted. The thing fits into my side bag when I'm on the water and in camp keeps me from wondering about the "potable" water available from campsite wells.

The water processed through the Grayl filter also tastes great. You can read the specs on the Grayl website in the link below. Virus, bacteria, cysts, protozoa, heavy metals: removed.

 Mine is an older now discontinued model which weights one pound. The current 'ultralight" model omits the aluminum sleeve in favor of a composite bit for an empty weight of about 11 oz.

The thing works like a coffee press and it works well. Filter capacity runs about 40 gallons for a $25 filter. Pretty good for clean water.

The web site is here.

Above, the component on the left is the outer sleeve.

The component on the right is the inner sleeve with the modular filter (the plastic colored bit) on the bottom.

They work together and process 16 oz of water in about 20 seconds.

Initial position. Fill the outer sleeve with water and set the inner sleeve on it.
 Press the inner sleeve down into the outer sleeve.
Done. Finished position. The inner aluminum sleeve holds the clean water. The top has a solid positive control built-in so the whole unit is a reliable transport bottle for your now clean water. It's got a bunch of silicone gaskets that keep the clean part clean, the dirty part isolated, and your pack dry.

The top -- closed. Open below.

Open -- note the nice large opening hole. You drink, not sip.

I give this the full Amber Angler endorsement as a useful bit of kit. If you're on the water or interested in trout camping, you save a lot of time and frustration with the Grayl filter bottle.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Another Project

At left, the look of incredulous doubt from a foxhound.

I bought a new rod today -- sort of. I spoke for one that I'll buy for myself as a Christmas present before Christmas this year.

I bought a 3wt Fenglass rod.

Now, I've a got 3 wt and it's got my name on it. It is however graphite. Bushwacking is not the best place to use that particular rod.  It's delicate.

Thus, a relatively inexpensive Fenglass that I can put a little Galvan Brookie onto spun with a Wulff TT line I love. Remember, this is Michigan and I've lots of stream completely blocked off from breeze. Dusk and dawn are almost never a problem with wind, either.

I'm going to track my little local recovery stream -- Mill Creek -- for a good fifty outings through this time next year. It'll make a good local article if I can't get any of the angler magazines to bite. I probably can because over an entire year, even and idiot with a camera like me can get good snaps. Pictures help.

I've not tracked a piece of water reliably in a diary before and it seems a good use of some ink. I'm here four miles from the stream, have an interest in its restoration, and have an interest in saying something meaningful to folks who might want to fish it. So, a little pen and ink work.

It'll give me something to shop around next winter. " A Year, Fifty Outings, and The Soft Hackle: A Lesson in Classic Flies." Editors pick titles. Probably a good thing given this one. Too long.

Lou likes the idea of coming into the woods with me. He's not so sure about the water. He's not much on wet paws. Foxhound.