With the holiday season in full swing, there simply isn’t much time to fish. It is, however, always time to get ready for the next round, whether it be a single trip or the upcoming season. Budgets may be tight, but these are the transition months when manufacturers roll out new stuff for the gift-giving rush, and retailers dump last year’s everything. In other words, it’s a darn good time to be picking up fly fishing gear. Deals abound…
And when I say backcountry, I don’t mean anywhere near the Rocky Mountains…
Adiós muchachos y muchachas.
Editor’s note: the bright yellow box is full of…uh…sunscreen.
Hooking a fish with a very long, flimsy bamboo fiberglass graphite pole, using a piece of animal hair for bait, and then cranking it in with a reel that has no gear ratio? Fly fishing is very serious business, and competition only makes it more so. But fly fishing is still a sport of sharing – sharing the great outdoors with all of Mother Earth’s creatures, as well as exchanging flies, techniques, and if all goes well, some good stories too.
In the spirit of sharing, I’ve decided to disclose how I’m gearing up for this weekend’s Teva Mountain Games 2-Fly Xtreme competition – in other words, how I’m going to hand all the competition their hats…
1 ) Fly selection – big flies make for big fish (and I’ll bet no trout in Colorado has ever seen a 4/0 hook either).
2 ) G. Loomis GLX 12-weight – faster that Speed Racer, and more accurate that Superman’s x-ray eyes in a pasties-required strip club.
3 ) Hawaiian print knock-off, weight forward edition – good for blending in to the surroundings (and the large belly aids in distance casting).
4 ) Lucchese 1883 Mad Dogs – soft and supple goat skin keeps wader booties from tearing (and lack of cleats keeps ‘fly fishing ambassadors’ from crying over scratched rocks).
5 ) Black cape – you cannot even hope to get into the party without a cape and a mask (budget constraints forced leaving out the mask).
6 ) Tibor Gulfstream – very large arbor makes up for the lack of gear ratios in high-priced fly reels (as if there was anything but).
7 ) Bottle of Dos Gusano – quite possibly the finest tequila on Earth (for making your fellow competitors sick for days)
8 ) Wide brim hat – for Xtreme glare protection (doubles as fly patch and automotive wax applicator)
9 ) Impact resistant glasses in hi-vis shooter yellow – because you never know who or what you might run into while fly fishing with a bottle of tequila in your front pocket.
MG signing off (to fall down in a bar in Vail)
Editor’s note: The colossal and amazing diagram you see above is also available in a larger than life (and larger than screen saver) 2304 X 3072 pixel version, absolutely free! Don’t miss this amazing offer – download it right now here.
We’ve got the sporting clays of fly fishing, and then there’s golf casting:
From the looks of the article, golf casting is somewhat of a lost art. But rejuvenating this ‘sport’ isn’t going to help the Canyon River Resort sales, that is unless golf casting fairways are supposed to be nothing but water hazards.
(h/t to reader Barry Nicholson and Field & Stream)
MORE: Steve Rajeff is the Tiger Woods of fly casting. I’m now digging around to see if he’s driving a Buick too.
Singlebarbed opines that fly shops are being taken over by internet retail (h/t to Tom Chandler). The hypothesis is manufacturers are too quick to get new products out the door, and when clearance time becomes eBay time, shops are taking a whacking as a result. An impending recession is driving bargain hunters away from the shop front and onto the net. Maybe that is so, but I’m not sure that is the whole story.
While I hate hearing the little guy lose the fight, I also believe that businesses in general need to adapt to changing times or go the way of the horse and carriage. Once “the movie” came out the fly fishing industry burgeoned, and there have certainly been some good times. However, the go-go days allowed many shops to adopt a traditionalist attitude towards their customers – I’ve been in a number of shops where “the help” never bothered providing me with any because I didn’t look or act the part of someone who was about to buy an $800 rod and a $500 reel. Many would rather stand around with the regulars, yaking about the fish I know they didn’t actually catch than provide assistance to a so-called stranger. A prime example follows…
A buddy and I planned a hike/camp/fish up in the Nevada Desolation Wilderness area. We’d heard of the chain of lakes, and were amp-ed about the prospect of finding a few Goldens. We drove from San Francisco and stopped in this (now forgotten named) local shop to get the scoop and gear up. When it came to fly selection, I thought the shop keeper’s opinion would do the trick. But when I asked the guy behind the counter what the fish were feeding on, he looked me up and down once and then replied…”bugs”. Needless to say we walked right out, leaving some tippet material on the counter.
The bottom line is some fly shops and equipment dealers know how to burn you, but there are others that can surely pick up the slack. Some shops will do the obvious, embrace the net, while others will simply maintain an attractive persona (in one way or another) that drives consistent foot traffic. Others will do both. I’ve had some great experiences with some shops, and for that reason they keep me coming back regardless of the latest deal on eBay…
Some of my favorites:
- Western Rivers Flyfisher (Salt Lake City, UT) – The first time I walked into this shop, Steve Schmidt asked me if I wanted a fresh cup of coffee. That’s all she wrote. During my time in SLC, Western Rivers prepped me for Green River trips with piles of cicadas. My old (but still kicking) Simms waders came from there. One of their guides fixed me up with flies and custom maps for an Alaska trip (that sadly never ended up happening). An hour before I was leaving for Cabo I realized I was short a reel, and the shop came through last minute with a Tibor Gulfstream – my girlfriend picked it up while I was frenetically packing, and even she thought the folks there were mighty cool. And when I absolutely had to have a Scott G2, Western Rivers came through again with the best price I could find and likity split shipping.
- Discount Fishing Tackle (Denver, CO) – Probably the most “non-nonsense” shop I’ve ever been in, and probably the main reason I never bothered picking up tying again. It’s like a small warehouse of fishing gear, catering to both the fly fisher and conventional tackle folks alike. No fancy fixtures in this place, but the fly selection is outstanding (in fact, at least half of my boxes are filled with their flies). And besides a few posters, the only advertising in the joint are the gratuitous pictures of hardcore fishing folks/customers with trophy fish, stapled prominently over the checkout counter. One of the proprietors even knows some old friends of mine, Grant and Gisel Hartman of Baja Anglers (some extraordinary people in their own right).
- Orvis Cherry Creek (Denver, CO) – Orvis is a big outfit, and I generally stay away from big outfits. But the folks in the Cherry Creek shop get it, and I am hard pressed not to visit every time I am in the area (which is almost daily). My “license” experience wasn’t the only positive case at Cherry Creek either. Last year I was looking for a particular fly, and the open tray was empty. The rep jumped through hoops, pulling out drawer after drawer, opening box after box, looking for this particularly fly. We didn’t score, but all was not lost. He pointed me to Orvis on the net, and in less than a week I had what I wanted.
Note that these three shops share little in common besides the subject matter fly fishing. One is an independent, high end outfit that relies on personal service to make the grade. Another is a no frills, hard to find place that competes on price and lets their experience (in photo) tell the story. And the last is one step removed from a big box retailer, but doesn’t forget that fly fishing is still a sport that requires people.
In a recessionary environment, the fly fisher will hunger for bargains. Manufacturers will flood their SKU list, and drown the market in leftovers. That is always “the way it has been.” But if retailers presume that their revenue will always be “the way it has been” and don’t act in accordance with the changing tide, an empty shop and an empty cash register is the way it’s gonna be.
I been taking a few less experienced folks fly fishing lately. I love getting out on the water, but I also loving sharing what experience I have. I was in the same boat once – I knew nothing about catching trout, and several people have given me their brain dump over the years. I continue to learn from others, and will continue to pass techniques and prime spots on whenever I can.
In that regard, I received a kind “thank you” note from someone I took out the other day. They were no newbie, but had taken a bit of a sabbatical from fly and rod. We had a good day. They’ve since decided they’re going to do a bit more fishing, and made a few inquiries. Here are the answers (not an all inclusive how-to-catch-’em dissertation)…
River flows for the US as a whole are tracked by the USGS, and some states have additional markers of their own. State-by-state links to gauges can be found here, and if you’re in Colorado the Division of Water Resources publishes additional data of interest here.
What’s good and not good regarding river flow is a matter of experience, and it’s all relative. For example, the San Juan River below Navajo Dam gets pretty crowded while running 750 cfs, but I’d be hard pressed to wade the Blue River below Green Mountain Reservoir at that level (in fact, I do not wade it above 350 cfs). Meanwhile, Maryland’s Gunpowder River would be completely blown out at 500 cfs, and a number of people would avoid Cheesman Canyon at that level too. But I’ve had good luck at Cheesman at even 540 cfs, because I don’t mind casting three tandem nymphs accompanied by five No. 6 bead weights…into eight foot deep pools.
The rule here is communication. Talk to fellow anglers, and talk to folks in fly shops (particularly if you’re new to an area). Record your experiences at different water levels until you find out what suits you. One man or woman’s knee deep heaven can be another’s drift boat horror, and visa versa.
Some Additional Tidbits
I spent a lot of time cutting my teeth doing ridiculous stuff like tying knots until I was blind, casting in my front yard while people passed by snickering, and dropping full boxes of flies in the river. Much was learned which makes for smooth goings on the water now.
A Final Recommendation Loaded With Grand Wisdom
If you are strolling along the river and see a porcupine the size of a medicine ball hiding in the bushes, take a quick picture of him and then keep moving…