Monday, February 19, 2024

FLYLAB - Epic Reference 686 Review

Have you heard of Flylab yet?  They are a membership driven fly fishing resource providing gear reviews, advise, partner deals, and more for $120 a year.  They launched earlier this year and it'll be an interesting model and website to see grow. 

One recent review of note, Andrew Steketee of Flylab does a deep dive on the Epic Reference 686 that is worth a read.  I've said it for years that this is the glass 6-weight from which all glass 6-weights are judged and this review is required reading if you've been considering this fly rod.

Want options?  The Epic 686 is offered as a Blank, Build Your Own Kit, in the Reference Series, or as a Reference 686 Combo with a fly reel and fly line.

There are a handful of glass fly rods that I think everyone should own and this is one of them. 

THE YOOPER FLY LIFE - How to Tie the Crystal Borcher's Parachute

I have a real soft spot for trout patterns that originated in northern Michigan and this variation of the Borcher's Parachute is an obvious winner.  When Todd of The Yooper Fly Life posted an image of this pattern on his Facebook page, I immediately asked if he'd do a step-by-step to share on T.F.M.  Notice his recommendation that this can be tied in size 8 to size 24.  You can get a ton of mileage out of this pattern, tied in various shades and colors, for your dry fly needs.

Some background from Todd...  "Len Halladay’s Adams gets most of the accolades as the go to dark mayfly imitation
due to its national appeal and distribution, but locally in much of Michigan, Halladays home state,
and especially in northern Michigan centered around the Grayling area, it’s Ernie Borcher’s
parachute that reigns supreme.

Borcher’s dark bodied standard and parachute imitations of turkey tail (formerly condor) and moose are often the first choice of local guides and recreational fishers when attempting to imitate any hatch from Hendricksons, Brown Drakes, and Isos to the tiniest of Blue-Winged Olives and midges.

The pattern is so effective and common in northern Michigan fly boxes that I’ve found it often pays to have a few that are just a little bit different from the norm when the six boats in front of you are all throwing the standard fly shop version.  

Actually, I got the idea from tying Jack Dennis’s Adams Para-Wulff, which also has a pearl rib, and have
had great success with this simple variation for a number of seasons now.

The Sulky pearl tinsel is the key ingredient, and can be found at most craft stores or online from the guys at Fly Fish Food. It is much thinner than standard Krystal Flash and available spooled tinsels and is
very strong making it perfect of use on dry flies even down into midge sizes."

Hook: Any Standard Wire Dry Fly - Sizes 8-24
Thread: Brown 6/0 (8/0 for smaller sizes)
Tail: Black Moose Body Hair
Dubbing: Brown Superfine or Other Fine Dry Fly Dubbing
Rib: Sulky Pearl Tinsel (Craft Store Score!)
Body: 3-4 Turkey Tail Fibers
Post: White Poly Yarn (I prefer McFlylon)
Hackle: Mixed Brown and Grizzly Neck or Saddle of Your Choice
Finish: Loon Water-Based Head Cement

- Place hook in vise and wrap brown thread base. (Size 10 Daiichi 1180 pictured)

STEP TWO - Measure tail to length of hook shank and tie in.

STEP THREE - Spin on small amount of brown dubbing for the underbody.

STEP FOUR - Tie in Sulky pearl tinsel for rib and three turkey tail fibers for body.

- Wrap turkey tail forward to 2/3 of shank and counter rib with tinsel.

STEP SIX - Attach and post white poly wing.

STEP SEVEN - Tie in brown and grizzly hackles together on post.

STEP EIGHT - Finish thorax with more brown dubbing.

STEP NINE - Wrap hackles together and secure at base of post. (I like four turns/total of eight wraps)

STEP TEN - Trim hackle tips away, finish brown thread head at eye, trim post at length of shank, glue and "Go Fishing"!

Want to see more?  Follow Todd on Facebook, Instagram, and through his YouTube channel.

SCHULTZ OUTFITTERS - Senyo on Indicator Streamers

Greg Senyo of Schultz Outfitters is back with another fly tying video and this time around it's indicator streamers for steelhead.  He gets bonus points in my book since he's a "Glass Geek" too for trout, steelhead, and smallmouth.

Check out the Schultz Outfitters website and YouTube channel for more.  Don't miss the upcoming Bobbin the Hood gathering the first weekend of February.  Visit the Greg Senyo Fly Tying website for flies, grab a copy of his book, and more.

Monday, February 12, 2024


I'm a week home from the Amazon Basin and already looking forward to getting back.  Bolivia and small stream dorado are on my short list and this Gold Fever film isn't making it any easier...

Check out Tsimane Lodge.  This is an experience that I want to do sooner than later.

A Good Last Day

As our trip to see Joel and Deb Thompson of Montana Troutaholic Outfitters was winding down this past October, we spent our last day on the water on a stretch of the Clark Fork River that we thought should give up some trout eating BWO's (they really didn't) and streamer chases (which they kind of did).  Guide Rick Marcum from the Grizzly Hackle jumped in on the trip and we had a great time in the drift boat together.  It had been a few years since I last saw Rick and it was really good to catch up. 

The morning started out cool with thick fog that took a few hours to fully burn off.  Getting the boats into the river and loaded up was a fun challenge since Joel and Deb had brought all three of their pups for the trip and Riley, the yellow lab, was especially excited.  Once underway, everyone settled down and the pups couldn't have been more fun to have on this day on the river.

If you're new here, the Montana trip started with a series of shop visits and fly fishing around Bozeman that can be seen HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.  I still have an interesting story to tell with Bozeman Reel Company that I'll share soon and Joel is going to tell the story of his vintage Chevrolet Suburban.  If there is a cooler "Guide Rig", I don't know what it is.  Also, if you missed the last two posts from this Montana series, you can find them HERE and HERE.  Tough to beat a week in early October in the 406, even if fishing was tougher than it should have been.

This day on the Clark Fork River was a lot of crashing the banks with small streamers trying to move a big fish.  I caught a few, missed a few, and moved a few.  More than anything, I just took in the view which changed moment by moment as we moved down the river and as sun and blue skies replaced low hanging fog.  I stayed in the backseat and snapped a few images.  We had a late afternoon lunch finishing off the last of our hard meats, cheeses, crackers, cold brews, and a few sips of whiskey. 

Certainly not a bad way to end a week in Montana.  Slow scroll for the photographs...

Joel, Deb, and Rick, thanks for a really fun day on the river.  Your hospitality through the week was greatly appreciated.

If you ever find yourself in the Missoula area and are looking for a guide to spend the day with, look up Montana Troutaholic Outfitters.  There are a lot of fly shops in the Missoula area but maybe none finer than the Grizzly Hackle.  It's worth stopping by and plan to hang out a bit.

FLY FISH FOOD - How Simms Waders Are Made

The folks at Fly Fish Food stop in at Simms and get versed on what it takes to make a pair of "Made in Montana" waders.  Can you believe that breathable waders have been around for almost 30 years?

Check out the Fly Fish Food YouTube channel for more and if you haven't seen Simms spring drop, stop in there, too.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Well, I Guess I'm a "Watch Guy" Now...

As last year was winding down, I started thinking about what I wanted from 2024.  There are a few milestones that I hit this year with turning 50 in September.  My wife and I will have been married for twenty-five years in October.  Our children continue to grow up with Hadley living in Alaska and attending college in the fall and Finn thriving in his first year of high school as part of student council and on the golf team.  In my professional life, I have just over two years until I can retire if I wish.  And, somehow T.F.M. turns sixteen this fall.  It's been said before, but life moves fast.  

I'm not usually one for resolutions but jotted down several goals for the year that I wanted to reach.  Surprisingly, I've already checked a couple off the list with taking a significant fly fishing trip (Brazil with a few more planned through the year) and that I wanted to find a nice watch. 

This watch idea has been somewhat of a slow burn for the last couple of years.  It likely kindled in having to choose a wristwatch when I reached my 20th work anniversary as a gift from the town that I work with.  They signify milestones of your career with a desk clock at 10 years, a wall clock at 15 years, and then a wristwatch at 20 years.  That watch is usually only worn when I'm in my dress uniform.  I've been wearing an Apple Watch at work for a few years but on the weekends, I wanted something of more significance to wear in my off time. 

I began researching different watch companies, leaned on a few watch nerd friends, traded DM's with fly rod maker Matt Leiderman (who is also a watchmaker), poked around Instagram, and began working through what I did and didn't like.  Just like considering a new fiberglass fly rod, I needed to figure out what I was looking for, budget, small brand vs. big brand, movements and complications, and more.  As always, it can be enjoyable to take on new obsessions and the learning that comes with it.

It didn't take me too long to come across Oak & Oscar.  They are an emerging watch company in Chicago with a neat brand story.  A small team.  A connection to fly fishing.  A "microbrand" within the industry who are creating a community of "Owners" around their high-quality watches.  This is a brand that I could get into as I like the storytelling and brands constantly engaging with those who are investing in their company.  It also helped that I have two friends who have several of their watches who they have nothing but positive things to say. 

Over the last couple of months, I've gotten to know Chase Fancher and Greg Trotter of the Oak & Oscar team and one thing quickly led to another.  What started with me looking at the green dial Olmsted 38, ended with me going a differently direction in purchasing the Humboldt GMT with a black dial.  I wanted something that I could dress up with the stainless bracelet or brown leather strap while also being able to change the look with nylon straps of several colors.  I've been wearing this watch for several weeks now and am beyond impressed. 

So, while I'll try not to be the weird wrist check photo guy on Instagram, I make no promises...

If you're into watches at all, check out Oak & Oscar.  Follow along with their story on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel.