29 October, 2014

Share the Love

Was talking with an angler friend yesterday about the state of the fly fishing industry and the need to get new folks into the sport. And then today Gink & Gasoline had a great blog article about taking a newbie fishing.

It's like the old angler's joke...

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he stays out drunk every weekend.

Seriously - if you're a fly type, take a buddy with you. Or offer to get someone introduced to the sport - take them in to the local shop and introduce them around. Our sport is full of gear, gizmos, and gadgets. It can be intimidating as hell. And there are still some arrogant a-holes around fly fishing who somehow feel compelled to make it overly complicated. You know the type -- has to catch every fish on a dry fly with a silk line or some such non-sense or it's not "real fly fishing".

If you've got a boat, you have the perfect opportunity. Often you'll have an empty seat. Might as well put someone in it. Heck, they might even buy the beer or kick in for gas. And if you bring someone new into the fold our sport stays strong. Plus you get a new fishing buddy. Teach 'em to row and maybe you get to fish more! I actually set-up a couple of extra rigs for guests (sorry, I'll take you fishing, but you're not throwing my Scott Radian...) suitable for trout, smallmouth, and even some steelheading.

And bonus points if you take a kid or a woman. We need kids who grow up into outdoorsfolk. And a lot of women are intimidated by our male dominated sports. But I know a number of women who've really gotten into the sport, once they got past the initial push.

What are you waiting for? We all know someone fly curious -- get 'em out there!


28 October, 2014

Take Care of Your Gear and It Will Take Care of You

Noticed the price of fly lines lately? Yeah, they're pushing a hundred bucks these days for many of the most popular lines. In my experience, the performance improvements are very much worth it - especially if you're a less-than-perfect caster like myself.

600' of fly line on the floor.
In my Trout/Smallmouth quiver I had a wide range of lines -- floating textured, intermediate, sink tip, etc. I've dealt with polymer-based products of all ilk for enough years to know that if you care for them they last longer and perform better during that life. With that in mind, this year I started to do a little research on fly line care. What I found centered on two key areas:

Even the cleanest of rivers has a monumental amount of gunk. Leaves. Algae. Dead salmon guts. Bugs. Tree bark. Foam. And your line floats through all the same gunk on every drift. Today's modern fly line has a wide range of coatings, textures, and other advanced technologies to enable it to cast, mend, and perform well. Initial research showed a number of folks who recommended simply washing them in dish detergent. Then others said, "no, that strips the chemicals, use liquid hand soap...". Wait, I've got an idea, manufacturers develop cleaning solutions for their lines. Since they designed the damn thing, maybe they know a thing or two about cleaning them. A visit to my friends at Schultz Outfitters - guys who know lines - recommended two products:

A well-conditioned line floats higher (if it's a floater - duh), casts further, and lasts longer. Just like all of my polymer kayaks and canoes have been regularly treated with 303 Protectant, my fly lines need protection, too. For the past couple of years I've been using Rio's Agent X Line Dressing

The process was pretty simple - strip the line off the reel. And yes, it takes a while to strip 100' of fly line of. Even longer to do it six times like I did. Try to keep it neat so things don't tangle. Chaos is a pain here, so take a little care. Then clean, and let them dry overnight. Next apply the dressing with a cloth. Leave it to dry overnight, buff with a clean cloth and bingo bango, you're in business. Reel 'em up, put the reels in cases, and you're ready to store.

And yes, I know storing the line on the reel isn't as good as wrapped around a larger coffee can, or spun back on to the original spool is better. However, if you're reading this blog, you're at least a bit serious about this. Which means you've got more than one reel/line to deal with. Do you really want to wrap 600' of line around a coffee can? And then have to re-spool it all in the Spring? No, you don't.

There you have it -- line maintenance 101!


22 October, 2014

Watt up?

Never did understand the whole watt meter thing in cycling. Silly things cost like a kajillion dollars. Most of the earliest ones were in a rear hub, so now you need a full-custom rear wheel. Why not just monitor heart rate and distance? Watt up?

Now, I get it.

This year, as part of a commitment to not porking up over the Winter, I'm trying a new fitness routine to ensure I get some regular, productive exercise. Part of that program is using local cycling studio Power Cycling and coach Marc Mueller. In addition to keeping me engaged enough to actually work out regularly, my theory is that this sort of sport-specific training will benefit me come Spring.

My first visit was a fitting, followed by a performance assessment. The goal was to get me comfortable on the CycleOps trainers, and to begin to explore my level of fitness and what would be required to reach my anaerobic threshold.

During this first visit, the mystery of watt up began to be revealed. When you ride out on the road with a cycling computer with a heart monitor, you gain a little insight. You can watch heart rate as it's impacted by time, distance, speed, hills, wind, etc. And you can see your current and average speeds. But what you can't see is how much power you're putting out under any of these conditions.

With the watt meter, now I could get a full 360 degree view of what was going on. I could see my heart rate over time, at a given pedaling cadence and power output level. Friggin' cool! I could see how quickly I recovered, how well I was holding a wattage output. I now realize that the data I had out on the road was interesting, but not nearly as useful as it would be with the added dimensionality of wattage.

Last night I did my first real training ride. Marc creates training "levels" of intensity using wattage outputs based on your baseline tests, but then he tweaks from there. My half hour training ride felt good, but not as though I had pushed myself too hard. Sure enough, my results showed it. Mid-range average heart rate. Decent but not exceptional wattage. Bottom line? I'm getting a harder training ride assignment next week!

Some pretty cool information here. I don't know that I'll be rushing out to drop $1,400 on the Garmin Vector power meter pedals. But they do suddenly look interesting...

03 October, 2014

Muskies Still Suck

"Muskies still suck" - the best quote about fly fishing for muskie I've yet heard. But somehow, they get inside our heads. For freshwater fly guy, this is the Alpha Predator. The Big Kahuna. So much so that even the guys in the fly shops we visited in Montana all said, "Man, you've got some awesome 'skis out there. I'd LOVE to come do that!"

But yet, Muskies still suck. They're an aggressive, but fickle predator. They lie in wait, ready to pounce, but don't. They follow to the boat - and even through a figure eight - and still don't hit. But yeah buddy when they do... wow!

So, on this year's muskie fly date with Capt. Jon Ray, it was my time for revenge. I missed three last year, but I've now come to learn that at least I got three shots. Despite brutal conditions of 15-20mph winds with gusts over 30 and nowhere to hide, I got one.

Cute little guy, ain't he? My first boated muskie on the fly!
Wasn't a big one, but I hooked, fought, and landed a legit muskie on the fly. And I'm damn proud of it. I saw the boil, then the follow, and the strike. A vicious predator. Absolutely mugged the fly with no apologies.

Of course, there's the one that got away. About an hour earlier I had a much larger one all the way to the boat. We watched it roll, then follow, and finally WHAM! Game on! At one point, I had a Scott Tidal 9010/4 rod bent IN HALF with an angry muskie on the other end. This was my first experience with this rod and it definitely has some backbone. In addition to making a day casting a soggy Muppet on a 350 grain Scientific Anglers Coastal Express line all day a relatively easy task, it was definitely up to the power of an adult muskie. 

Earlier in the day I missed another that was on briefly. Dad stuck three, with two solid fights, but none boated. Though he made up for it later in the week with a nice one boated.

While I don't think I'm going to become a full-on muskie convert, I do believe that at least one muskie trip a year is in my future. Hunting with a fly rod!