Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chew on This!

Saw this on the Wavewalk website, and I really think it hits the nail on the head regarding the "kayak fishing phenomenon" and it's ebb, and flow over the past decade, and its likely future. I remain of the opinion, one I have blogged about before, that for fly fishers, and all fishers, of all ages and sizes, this boat is the best overall human-powered craft on the planet. I own one and love mine, and want to share it with others who, like me, have been otherwise frustrated and ultimately disappointed with kayak fishing. The W500 is waiting to be discovered by the fly fishing masses! Check it out!

WAVEWALK FISHING KAYAKS Fishing kayaks for kayak anglers looking for the perfect kayak fishing experience

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Well..I did it. Yesterday (Sat. Jan 22) I made the four hour drive to the fly fishing show in Somerset, NJ. Left the house a tad before 5 am and walked in the door of the exhibition hall at 8:50 am. And am I glad I did! Just as I had been told by some of the exhibitors at Marlboro, the vibe in the hall was palpable. More people, more buzz, and virtually all the best known brands and names in the industry, Jersey is now generally acknowledged as the largest fly fishing-only show in the world. It took the entire day, but I think I covered every booth on the floor, and squeezed in three seminars, two featured fly tying presentations, and a casting demonstration by the inimitable Lefty Kreh. The crowd was 6 people deep surrounding the casting pool, but I was able to get close enough to get a couple of pictures. Just three weeks shy of his 86th birthday, the world reknowned fly fishing legend was in classic form as he imparted nuggets of wisdom from his more than 50 years as an outdoor writer, fly inventor (Lefty's Deceiver), rod designer, author, fly casting innovator/teacher, and, I might add, entertainer! What sets Lefty apart from his elite peers, is his effervescent personality. Beyond his unparalleled knowledge and experience, people flock to him to bask in the genuine warmth of his personna, and to smile and laugh at his quips and anecdotes until their faces hurt, all while learning something that can really help them be better flycasters and fly fishers. I have seen Lefty several times over the last 25 years, and he was every bit as vital and animated yesterday as I have ever seen him. I don't think anyone involved in flyfishing would disagree, that no one person has done more to advance the sport, and in the most delightful way, than Bernard Victor Kreh.

In the realm of fly design, the creator of arguably the most widely fished and tied fly on the planet, is Bob Clouser. Bob was also in attendance in Jersey, and gave a tying demonstration of his classic Clouser Minnow, showing in great detail all the nuanced elements that are part of tying this versatile pattern correctly. I won't list all the talking points, but the first thing Bob pointed out was the most common mistake he sees in Clousers tied by others. All too often, the weighted eyes are tied in too far forward, i.e. too close to the hook eye. The correct placement is at a point one third of the total length of the hook (measured from the front of the eye to the back of the bend) back from the eye. Also, I gotta tell ya, Bob is no slouch in the entertainment department either. I was priviledged to be in the room to see and hear Bob and Lefty trade quips and laughs with each other for most of a half hour. The two are long time friends and fishing partners and had everyone in stitches as they held court in the Featured Fly Tiers room at the show. Truth be told, another reason I chose to make the trip to NJ is that these guys haven't been to the Marlboro show in years, and they are not getting any younger. Their influence on our collective fly fishing lives and the industry that serves us is deep and wide, and will continue to be, long after they are gone from the scene. It was a thrill to once again get close to them and to draw upon their expertise and generosity. I hope I get the chance to do it again.

There were so many other highlights for me at the show too. I own and fish TFO flyrods, so I spent some time at their booth, as I did in Marlboro. The difference at Somerset was that, save for Flip Pallot, I think their entire pro staff, including Lefty and Bob, were in the booth at one time or another, as was company founder and president Rick Pope. Rick was gracious enough to spend a good fifteen minutes of one on one time with me in a give and take over the new BVK rod series. In the process, he shared some great insights on rod building and design, along with some tidbits about how Lefty and Flip collaborated on the BVKs. He broke down, in great detail, the differences in their casting styles and corresponding preferences in rod characteristics and performance, and how those elements were blended to arrive at the final product. Fascinating stuff. I also drifted back and forth between the Hatch Reels booth and the Nautilus Reels booth and had nice conversations with both Jesus Marmol of Nautilus, and Hatch company president and CEO John Torok. I very much like both manufacturers' line of products, and when I am ready to pull the trigger on a new reel, these two makes will be at the top of the list. By the way, neither was at Marlboro. Nor was Sage, G Loomis, and a number of other well known equipment manufacturers. I was also intrigued, as were a number of other attendees, by a new reel manufacturer from my home state of MA called Cheeky Flyfishing . Company rep Ted Upton took the time to show me some prototypes of these incredibly light-weight, but seemingly durable machined annodized aluminum reels that will be available in six or seven colors. Customers can mix and match different color reel housings, spools, and reel feet for a personalized, and, may I say, aesthetically pleasing array of combinations. They hope to roll out their full line of sealed drag reels in sizes that will handle everything from trout to tuna sometime in the very early spring. Check 'em out.

All in all, I got enough extra out of the Jersey show as compared to Marlboro to warrant another trip down next year. It helps that I have a daughter in the NYC area who allowed me to crash at her place for the night after the show, thereby avoiding the marathon of driving down and back home the same day, or, in the alternative, having to shell out $180 for a hotel room. I'll wrap up this post by mentioning that the thermometer bottomed out at 12 degrees below zero this am (it is now Mon.) here in central Massachusetts. My scheduled trips to Florida in mid March and late April cannot come soon enough!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Feathers 'n Flash

The fly fishing shows feature so many gifted fly tiers that it is hard for a relative hack like me not to walk away just shaking my head in awe of the knowledge, creativity, skill, and pure talent on display. Sure, I can sit at my vise and wrap thread around some fibers, some flash and a hook that will, on occasion, hold together long enough to actually catch a few fish. But these guys are in a whole different league. Their mastery of materials management, technique, and efficiency, and their in-depth knowledge of natural hair and feathers and how to choose the best quality of each for any application just blows me away. All are impressive. But some are more entertaining than others, and, after all, shows, by definition, are supposed to entertain. Dave Skok, beyond his obvious talent as a tier, is most certainly entertaining.

Dave is widely known in the fly fishing world as an innovative and gifted fly tier, photographer, and writer. His flies are in demand all over the country because they are the epitome of functional art, i.e., they are uniquely beautiful creations, and, they catch fish. As mentioned in the previous post, I spent a good deal of time watching Dave at the Marlboro show, and it's easy to see his talent. What was more interesting and more revealing, was listening to him talk as he tied. Mind you, this is a fellow almost a full generation younger than I am. What struck me was his self-confidence (he knows he's good at what he does) tempered by a comfort in his own skin, and, despite the notoriety and the accolades he has earned, his obvious awareness that the fly fishing/photography/writing schtick is what he does, not who he is. Also in evidence was a quirky, self-deprecating sense of humor, and, a passion for the fish that are, after all, the source of great joy (and, in Dave's case, a roof over his head and a warm place to go to the bathroom) for all of us who pursue them with fly rods.

On the fish, specifically, striped bass, I was privy to a conversation Dave was having with two colleagues as the show was about to close for the day about the state of the fishery here in the northeast. The news is not good. Anyone who has fly rodded for stripers in New England the past few years can confirm it. While I don't know the scientific units of measure these numbers represent, or even if they are entirely accurate, if true, they illustrate the dramatic decline of the striper population. The last decent striped bass year class index numbers were from 2003 and measured in the 25 to 30 range. By contrast, back in the abundant striper years of the early to mid 1990's, these same numbers were typically in the vicinity of 100! From 2003 to now, the number has averaged around 6! Striped bass are not reproducing at rates that can sustain the fishery. That's scary. The reasons for this are complex but no doubt include the over harvesting of baitfish, particularly, menhaden, the commercial harvest of wild striped bass, pollution and the resultant degradation of habitat in the Chesapeake Bay area, fungal disease, and the lack of consistent and coordinated science-based management of the fishery throughout the range of stripers from the Carolinas to the Canadian maritimes. All who love to fish for stripers need to tune into this issue. Mother Nature is incredibly resilient, but not necessarily in the short term, i.e. within the span of our fishing lives. We humans have got to be smarter than we have been heretofore when it comes to safeguarding this incredible resource. A lot of money, a lot of livelihoods, and, most importantly, a source of immeasurable passion and joy, may otherwise be lost.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marlboro, MA Fly Fishing Show

Spent a full day at theMarlboro show yesterday. As always, it was a welcome boost to the spirit in the dead of winter to stroll amongst the collection of new rods, reels, fly lines, outerwear, fly tying paraphernalia, and literature. Though I have never been, I am told the Somerset NJ show dwarfs this one, as many vendors/exhibitors choose to do Jersey as the one show they do in the Northeast, owing to its proximity to so many more population centers within a relatively small radius. Attendance figures for Somerset would seem to justify bypassing Marlboro if you had to choose between them. I am contemplating making the trip to attend Somerset this year to see it for myself, but I still go to Marlboro each year. It's a short ride from home and is the first chance for me to actually get to hold some of the newest gear in my hands and fondle to my heart's content, most items on my wish list. I spent the most "quality time" this year with the new Tibor Signature Series reel at the Bears Den booth, and with the new TFO BVK Series 8wt fly rod at the TFO booth and also at the indoor casting pond. While it is admittedly presumptuous to judge any product after one "date", I can at least offer some valid first impressions.

The Tibor is a beautifully crafted American made piece of work in keeping with the company's well earned reputation for quality and durability. It is decidedly lighter in hand than the traditional Tibors of comparable size, with ported housing and spool, yet feels solid and smooth. One of the features is a constant slight resistance even with the drag backed off completely to prevent over-running the spool when stripping off line. The drag is sealed and requires little or no maintenance, and the spool is easily removed while retaining the loosening knob. If money was no object, (but it almost always is!) this reel would be a fine addition to my arsenal of flyfishing tools. But in terms of value, at a retail price just south of $800, it is hard to justify. I know that part of that price reflects American labor earning a living wage with benefits, and for some, including me, that is a real consideration. But there are other very good quality reels made in the good old USA that cost hundreds less. The ones made by Hatch come to mind. The Hatch line of fly reels are not cheap either, at $500-$700 in the saltwater sizes, but are a better value IMHO.

At a retail $249, The TFO BVK (Bernard Victor Kreh) 8wt rod is an excellent value. I spent a good 15 minutes casting an 8wt floating line with it and this stick has an excellent feel. Decidedly a fast action taper, but with enough tip flex for more delicate tosses. It is truly a featherweight for an 8wt coming in at a whispy 3.2 ounces, whereas by comparison, my TFO Axiom 6wt, my current favorite rod, weighs 5.3 ounces. The BVKs feature two REC recoil stripping guides, which, from an aesthetic standpoint, don't do much for me, but the rod blanks are a handsome olive color. I would give this rod a serious look but for two small gripes: 1) the stripping guides are seriously undersized, and 2) the fighting butt is too small. The BVK 9wt is appropriately built with properly sized guides and fighting butt. Put the same components on the 8 and I'll buy one. Undersized stripping guides are not so much a consideration for measured, 30 to 50 foot casts in sight fishing situations. But for longer casts aimed at covering water where generated line speeds are quite high and the line is released by the stripping hand on the 2nd haul, the line could more easily find its way around, rather than through the small guides and snag, robbing distance or totally collapsing the cast.

The undersized stripping guides are a trend I have noticed with several flyrod manufacterers the past few years. My guess is it relates to the preoccupation with ever lighter flyrods which have drawn good consumer response. The small butt on the BVK 8 was definitely to save weight because it even looks two sizes too small. To me, the over-emphasis on light weight is misplaced by the manufacterers. 2 ounces in rod weight is not the reason for fatigue on a typical flyfishing outing. IMHO, the more likely reason is an unbalanced rod/reel combination, and/or a breakdown in casting mechanics from battling wind or weather. The other potential trade-off with the new featherweight slim rod tapers, notwithstanding the very good warranty program, is breakage due to being excessively brittle. TFO has tested the BVKs in the lab and on the water and are confident in their design. They probably are right but only time will tell.

And then, there were the many elite fly tiers at the show. This year, I spent a considerable amount of time time watching Dave Skok at his vice, and also at his "5 Essentials on the Fly"presentation. More on Dave in the next post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Tis the Season!

No....not THAT season...the holidays are over! I'm talking about the few sources of emotional warmth and light available to all those "Waiting to Flyfish" during these cold, snowy, endless weeks of short days and long dark nights. I'm talking about the Fly Fishing Show season!

Each year during the months of January and February here in the Northeast, the salvation of our flyfishing souls can be found by attending one or more of these 3-day (Friday-Sunday) commercial gatherings of fly fishing tackle manufacturers and vendors, outfitters, fly tiers, authors, and rock stars of the fly fishing industry. We can all come together to attend dozens of seminars, fly casting and fly tying clinics, and exotic fly fishing destination presentations, drool at all the new gear, chat, lie, laugh, share, and otherwise hobnob with our brother (and sister) wielders of the long wand. The Marlboro, MA show kicks off the season on MLK weekend in mid January, followed by the HUGE show in Somerset, NJ the following weekend. More info at Mid February brings the annual one day show/extravaganza hosted by Bears Den flyshop at the Holiday Inn just off Exit 9 on Rte 495 in Taunton, MA, which includes a showing of the annual "Fly Fishing Film Tour", an outstanding collection of fish porn produced by flyfishing film makers from all across the country sponsored by several of the heavy hitters in the industry.

Granted, some of the presentations don't change much from year to year at the 3 day events, but every year truly does bring at least something new, and I, for one, look forward to visiting all the booths at these shows, working my way systematically from one end of the exibition halls to the other. I find that watching the elite fly tiers ply their craft always reveals a trick or two I can use in my own efforts at the vise. Even though I have been fly casting for more than 20 years, the casting demonstrations always yield some useful information that finds its way into my toolshed of skills, or reinforces some of the fundamentals of casting and presentation that make me a better fisherman. And who doesn't love to sit in a darkened room and watch a film or narrated slide show of some warm, tropical paradise, with palm trees, deep blue skies, and white sand flats teeming with bonefish or tarpon on a cold January afternoon?

This year, I'm trying to put together something that will add a new element of excitement and enjoyment for me, and possibly, for all of you who may be thinking of attending one or more of these shows. I'm not sure what, if anything, will come of my work on this, but I will post something on that in the very near future. Do check back within a week or so!