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Michael Gracie

Line winding station

When it absolute, positively has to be there overnight (and/or rigged with your own two hands) …

fly line winding station

The stainless container was a five buck setback; pens are readily available via any manner of office visit.

MG signing off (because overnight is still a month away)

Thumbing it to Andros South

It’s about quality over quantity. Unless you’re standing on a flat with an empty fly box.

With all the chatter about what a pain in the rear it is to fly nowadays, I decided to stack the deck in my favor by doing FIBFest with the minimal amount of stuff possible. I’m carrying just one bag, a 2,600 cu.in. duffle, and going as cheaply as possible on everything besides rod, reel and line. The goal is to do the entire week without borrowing a single item from either the other FIBFesters or our gracious host (other than maybe a little CPU time). Here is the packing list:

bonefishing gearThe Essentials

  • Scott S4S rods(1) in #6, #8, and #10, in a heavy duty postal mail tube
  • Lamson Litespeed reels in 3X, 3.5X, and 4, plus some spare parts for each(2) (’cause I often leave reels directly behind the tires of trucks that are about to back up)
  • RIO Bonefish 6(3), Rio Tropical Clouser 8, Rio Redfish 8 (for when I trash the Tropical Clouser in the mangroves), and Rio Saltwater Tropical F/I 10(3)
  • Roughly 1,100 yards of 30# gelspun backing (don’t be a sissy, you fingers are going to get cut anyway)
  • A leader wallet with roughly a dozen tapered flouro and Toothy Critter jobbies in it, and spools of CFX flouro in 6#, 8#, 10#, 12#, 15# and 20#
  • A hundred flies in a five buck Plano box that doubles as bass bug storage, and another small ($3) Plano box for when we’re on foot

I’ll note that I’m carrying way more flies than I’ll probably need, but it’s a pretty wide assortment, including some weightier stuff for deeper water. Last time around Norman gave me a nice ribbing for not being prepared when we shot over to the West Side, and goodness knows I cave under pressure as it is.

(more…)

Fly Reel Anodization Explained: The better to hide from you I say

Ever wonder about all those fancy terms fly reel manufacturers use to describe the finishes on their products? Should you even care if your fly reel is anodized? I did, and do. Thankfully, Phil Monahan of MidCurrent cuts to the chase on the matter:

Fly reels generally come in Type II, although a few may feature Type III anodizing. (Type III is also known as “hard anodizing.”) The “Type” describes the thickness and consequent hardness of the coating. Type II anodizing creates a coating of less than .001 inches, while Type III describes anything between .001 inches and .004 inches. Manufacturers claim that Type III anodizing “penetrates” the metal, as well as coating it, but all anodizing methods penetrate to a certain degree.

What really caught my eye, however, was this:

From a marketing standpoint, hard-anodized reels are a tough sell because they aren’t shiny; the finish is more matte than Type II.

I find it hard to believe that people would choose their reel based on how shiny it is, but I suppose that is the case. I take the opposite tact – I don’t want my gear to look shiny, flashy, etc. as I don’t want the fish to see me coming. In fact, I’ve chosen to stick with Waterworks-Lamson reels specifically for their Hard Alox coating (notwithstanding their otherworldly customer service), because it is both tough AND dull.

Then again, when you suck you need every advantage you can muster.

MG signing off (to find some camo face paint)

People and Stuff – IFTD 2010

A photo essay of sorts from the International Fly Tackle Dealer’s show…

Will be adding to the set as time permits.

MG signing off (the show must go on, but we’re going fishing)

Special thanks to The Waterworks-Lamson

I’ve been fishing with Lamson reels since long before it became Waterworks. Before Sage was in the picture even. I caught my first trout with a Lamson reel, and my first dozen spanish mackerel (but that’s a story for another time). They build great gear, and then back it up with the kind of jump-through-hoops service that makes one reminisce about the good ole days of mom and pop shops with their names on signs over the front door.

All of my fresh water gear is cranking Lamson, and much of my salty stuff is too (including the oh so fine Scott S4Ss I picked up this last winter – the 908/4 was taken to task at Deneki’s FIBFest, and a review is forthcoming). The bottom line is…I adore the stuff out of Idaho (and I don’t mean potatoes). Now the love is even more so.

A local Project Healing Waters chapter recently received a contribution of rods and lines, and was obviously looking for some reels. The request went out to Lamson, and there was barely a chance to blink before this hit the inbox…

The reels are being assembled as I write this.

You can make the finest gear on the planet, but without compassion for people less fortunate what do you have? I say not much.

I know our friends in Ketchum have a lot more than just great reels going for them.

Thank you!

MG signing off (to say thanks, again)

Tallying the score for my fly-fishing year (2009)

I’d planned on fishing Christmas day, but with high temps expected to climb no higher than the teens I’m likely to bag it. Hence, my fly-fishing year is over, and this year-in-review comes a few days early.

The learning curve

I spent 30 minutes talking one-on-one with Lefty Kreh, in the second week of January. I should have quit while I was ahead. (+30)

Creating infamy

The Wall Street Journal showed up in Denver after I guaranteed them some carp on the fly footage, and Tom Teasdale got front page billing in the print edition, nationally. I know self-made entrepreneurs with $250 million net worths that never made the front page of the WSJ. So I take all the credit for this one. (+250)

Time spent fishing is better than time spent working

I had 22 days on the Blue River, 21 days on suburban lakes, 13 days on the urban South Platte, 10 days on the Dream Stream, 4 days on the Williams Fork, 3 days on the North Platte, 3 days on the salt, 1 day in Cheesman Canyon, 1 day on the Colorado, and a few minutes on Gore Creek and Ten Mile Creek. (+78.5) ALMOST FORGOT: 2 days on the Eagle, and a day on “Moose Creek” – so +81.5

Worth a mention

I caught this fish and this fish using 5X tippets and tiny flies (+2). I used a San Juan Worm one day this year – this fish was the result (+1). I almost died from dehydration in the Carp Slam, but thank my lucky stars Barry Reynolds was my partner (+10).

Some gear runs through it

I acquired five fly rods and four fly reels this year (+9). I dumped one 2009 rod for another (+0), gave one rod up as a going away present (+1), and passed on three reels to folks that really needed them (-3). At least two rods will get ejected in the spring, and I’m on the hunt for another reel (-1).

I retired some waders, and waited patiently for some others (+0). I booted three pairs of wading boots, and wound up with two pairs in their place (-1). I gave away two wading belts (+2), and I found my socks (+20).

I bought seven fly lines, was given one fly line, sold two fly lines, and gave seven fly lines away (+13). I ruined one fly line, and one fly line just plain fell apart on me (-2). Two fly lines are still in the boxes (-2). I gave away a tippet dispenser, six spools of tippet, 250 yards of gelspun backing, and spooled/rigged four reels for newbies (+261).

Fly boxes are for civilians

I purchased 780 flies, tied ten flies, bent four hooks, popped 28 leaders with two-fly rigs, and snagged 2,462 flies on tree branches. (-1,732)

Liar liar pants on fire

I caught 225 brown, rainbow and/or cutthroat trout over ten pounds, 150 carp over forty pounds, 90 largemouth bass over eleven pounds, and one state record brook trout (at twelve pounds) that I didn’t get a picture of since I was by myself in a desolate location with no food, water, or camera. (225 X 10) + (150 X 40) + (90 X 12) + (1 X 12 X 11,500 foot elevation) = +147,330

High note

I acquired a king’s hoard of new friends, but unlike royalty throughout history I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And I spent some precious time fishing with some dear old friends too. ((7382 + 6) X 1014 = 7.382e+17) (Note: score arrived at by adding total friends, new and old, to the number of beers consumed in their company, individually, post-outing, then multiplying by the ACTUAL VALUE of time spent fishing and/or drinking with them)

Final tally

I want to say I lost count, but the reality is I’m an accountant, which means I don’t know how to count it was just a darn good year.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, What-Have-You, and a Happy New Year to all.

MG signing off (until 2010)

Fly fishing hacks: Do you retrieve with the right hand, the left, or both?

Retrieve hand may depend on sizeWhich hand do you retrieve with? That is the question.

I’m a right handed person, and like most I cast with the right hand and retrieved (i.e. strip or crank the reel) with the left. At least as far as fresh water fishing went. The reason we’re dealing with past tense here is as follows…

Quite some time ago I found myself on a lonely flat in the Keys, in early June. As it happens, my fly managed to connect with a sizable tarpon, and after fifteen or so minutes of fighting I found my right arm and hand cramping up. Call me a sissy if you must, but I even wound up asking for help – my partner-in-crime just laughed. My exhaustion eventually resulted in an exploded rod, when the nasty beast was within fifty feet of the boat and I levered back a bit too much in hopes of putting the nightmare to rest getting the fish in once and for all. I wound up losing two sections of rod, a fly line, and a fly. In retrospect, I realized the cause was simply being a candy-ass tired.

What knocked me down? Casting a 12-weight all morning, and then having to fight the fish with the same arm. Meanwhile, I knew I could have reeled faster with my right hand, only it was incapacitated by the rod in it. Thereafter, I switched retrieve on all the reels I owned which held more than a couple hundred yards of backing to right hand, meaning whenever I hooked up I’d have to switch rod hands before the reeling began. I’m now doing this with all bigger rigs (say anything 8-weight and above), and it has suited me just fine. While I’d like to say I’ve lost fewer big fish as a result, we all know I don’t hook any fish to begin with I haven’t done any empirical study. Nevertheless, it feels quite natural to me now.

I’m fishing the conditions, knowing I can put more line back on the reel with my right hand when I need it most. And I’m giving my right arm a much needed rest in the process. With smaller rods/reels/targets I still cast with the right and reel with the left.

What hand do you fight with? Do you maintain that position regardless of the type of fish you’re targeting, and the gear you’re using? Or are you a switch hitter like I’ve become?

Delusional Inquiring minds want to know.

A traveling note for fly fishing folks

During fly fishing travels I’ve always checked my bags. The last couple of times I flew I found TSA inspection tags on or in my multi-rod tube, and in one case my duffle (which contained fly boxes and reels) was completely ransacked. My rods are too much for carry-on (all three-piece), but during this trip I decided to avoid the reel rumble by toting everything else with me.big fly box

I knew I wouldn’t have a problem with reels and lines, but with my fly box containing slightly more than #20 Griffith’s Gnats I pinged Pete McDonald (figuring he knows salty travel pretty well) to see if there was any risk of my box getting bounced at the X-ray machine. I got a mixed response (i.e. carrying them is no problem but I check mine regardless), so I decided to take the chance that TSA understood big hooks are dangerous to nothing other than big fish. It turned out to be smooth sailing.

I wasn’t planning on seeing any bonefish or permit, but I left the crystal shrimp, Charlies, and other assorted small goodies in the box, hoping I might find a carp or two in one of the twenty-seven-point-nine million retention ponds located in the southern suburban sprawl. That bet didn’t pay off – it turns out you have to jump through hoops to get even triploid clean-up crews into the Sunshine State – despite tromping around a half-dozen developments I only saw one grassie, and it was tucked under the safest of cover.

No need to worry, fans of the crappiest luckiest fly fisherman on the Third Rock from the Sun, a blow by blow of my backcountry adventure is coming forthwith.

MG signing off (to pole around a salty creek)

Why I heart gel spun backing

The reason is simple math. The Lamson Velocity 3.5 pictured below (which I picked up from Sierra Trading Post, cheaper than dirt) has a factory spec’ed capacity of 200 yards of 20-pound Dacron, plus a WF9 line.

lamson-velocity-35-hard-alox

But I strung the puppy with 30# gel spun, and it gobbled up an entire 300 yard spool with ample room to spare. So while this reel is mainly serving ghetto duty (with the lovely and talented Rio Carp Camo WF8), I can still throw a fat-bellied 9 or 10 weight line on it if I find warm ocean breezes.  I’ve saved the $160 I would have paid for another new reel, or roughly $100 for a spare spool.  And while I once had thousands of yards of the stuff lying in wait, I’ve since pointed enough friends to reel deals (and subsequently spooled them up too) that I’m now grabbing this braided wonder in $19.95 chunks. Still, I think it’s smart money.

What isn’t smart, however, is getting your fingers near this stuff if some some denizen of the deep gets a hold of your fly and hops on the express bus – the backing will slice those digits to shreds. I was formal instructed in the ways of the buck in (too many) accounting classes, but learned about the dangers of razor-thin backing screaming through fly rod guides the old-fashioned way.

There will be blood (and you have been warned).

From Lefty Kreh’s lips to my ears

Words of wisdom from a fly fishing icon (and maker of fine lemonade)

I thought I was about to meet a man jaded by attention. Lefty Kreh is certainly a fly fishing legend, and today he was deep in his realm – an outdoors industry convention. But the person I sat and chatted with was a kid in a candy store, eager to share his insights on more than half a century of throwing fly lines, an economy and industry seemingly in flux, and embracing family.

Lefty Kreh and Michael Gracie

Onward…

Mr. Kreh on the expense of picking up the sport of fly fishing:

Yes, there is a lot of expense regarding fly fishing. In some cases I think it’s just too much, but the industry is adjusting. There was a time when really expensive gear was all there was out there – nowadays you and I can pick up just about any inexpensive combo, go out fishing, and have a good time. In fact, just about anyone can.

Following up on the above, Mr. Kreh on fly rods:

There are no bad fly rods out there for sale anymore. You can pick up a rod at a big box sports retailer that does the job quite well, and without breaking the bank.

And Mr. Kreh on reels:

Like rods, where technology worked its way down to the point where all of them do a good job in the casting and catching departments, fly reels are following. The very best are still built for people with lots of money, but even those people are holding back. Now we are seeing great reels come off the shelf that are both very functional and very affordable.

Mr. Kreh on the economy, and how it will effect the sport:

I lived through the Great Depression. And while it wasn’t the best of times, one thing I found that rang true was that the lack of money brought people closer together. Families in particular, banded together. Even if we see similar bad economic times, that one point will make it seem nowhere near as bad. Fly fishing doesn’t need to be a solitary pursuit – more families participating in the sport of fly fishing, together, would be great for our sport. It’s interesting that when ever there has been a recession in this country, the number of fishing licenses issued goes up. That could be the basis of a whole other discussion, but again I find it interesting.

Mr. Kreh, on why it seems kids would rather play video games than go fly fishing:

I think part of the fascination kids have with video games, and computers and the internet, comes from the fact that parents sometime struggle to make ends meet. So they both work, and kids need an safe outlet when the parents are not around – technology like video games may have given kids some of that. But with our economy taking a dip, I think that there may be less work for those parents, and less money for those video games. At least one of the parents may be around more for their kids, and while I wish the best for families in that situation from the money standpoint, I also think parents and children being together more is a good thing whether they decide to spend that extra time together fishing or not. If the parents decide to take their kids fishing, that’s even better.

Mr. Kreh on the start of the International Sportsmen’s Expo:

I’ve been to a lot of these events in my day. This is the best Thursday I’ve seen in quite a while.

Mr. Kreh on why women make such great fly fishers:

I can teach any women to fly cast, just as long as I’m not married to her [laughter then ensued between both of us, as well as a couple of folks listening in]. Women are more patient that we are (well most of the time..wink wink). There are groups now to bring them together to learn the sport, which is good for fly fishing. And you also see organizations like Casting for Recovery popping up that help women through very difficult times in their lives, through fly fishing. And I think that is great for both the women that participate as well as the sport.

And finally, when asked how he’s kept it all together for so long, and with such enthusiam, he added:

I thank my darling wife.

I could have spent a month with Lefty Kreh, picking his brain about why he tied this or that fly a certain way, or better yet…how to add thirty feet to my casting range. But as he stood up, acknowledging the folks standing by for his next casting demonstration, those things now seemed so trivial. I left thinking there are few lemons in Lefty’s world, while carrying the certainty that fly fishing had something to do with it.

Editor’s note: As if the time I spent with Mr. Kreh at the ISE wasn’t good enough, I also got the chance to sit down and chat with two of the finest guides in Colorado, Pat Dorsey of Blue Quill Angler and Chris Ramos of Anglers Covey. These gentleman have been fly fishing and guiding others all their lives, and their office, classroom and backyard barbecue is situated primarily on Colorado’s famed South Platte River. I’ll have the text of that discussion up ASAP (probably hopefully by midday Friday) – it is equally insightful regarding the passions of some fine folks who live fly fishing day in and day out (and you might get a few secret tips too), but is also a significantly amount of content I have to parse through. Nevertheless, if you can’t wait that long head over to ISE Denver at the Colorado Convention Center tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday and meet them in person!