Monday, March 20, 2017

10 For Winter

I have what might be described as a weird relationship with winter now.  After my first twenty some years in Michigan, where there is typically several months of consistently cold and snowy weather.  I've traded most of the next seventeen years for winters South Carolina which is nothing short of a weather roller coaster of warm, cool, and the occasional cold snap here and there.  For example, it was eighty something a couple of weeks ago and then last Sunday it snowed for a couple of hours before warming up again.  It's hard to figure South Carolina winters but much of the time it feels like we jump from fall to spring with a bit of winter mixed in.

The weekend before last I was home in Michigan for a long weekend and it was a solid reminder what winter is all about.  Morning's in the teens, days that don't get past 20 degrees, and snow squalls in March.  It was strangely glorious but as we're standing at the doorstep to spring, it's nice to be back in shorts and look back over the past several months at the pieces of gear that got me through it.

Several years ago Tim Rajeff and I had what would be somewhat frequent conversations on fiberglass fly rods and when asked what ECHO might consider offering, one of my first suggestions was heavier line weight fiberglass fly rods that would be capable of work in the salt (and beyond) with the focus beyond casting well, to not break the gear piggy bank. 

It took some time to work towards the recent debut of the Bad Ass Glass series with ECHO Glass in "Small Water" and "Big Water" and the Glass Two-Handers being introduced over the past couple of years.  The Bad Ass Glass fly rods arrived in most shops as the new year began and this bright blue heavy line weight fly rod won't be easily mistaken for something else.

Bad Ass Glass fly rods are all offered in nine foot in length and in line weights eight, nine, ten, and twelve and ready for big fish adventures.  These are fun fly rods to cast with power to whoop whatever they come across.  A late prototype B.A.G. nine weight went to Blue Horizon Belize with me and the eight will likely go along to the Palometa Club next month.   I've got plans for the ten weight on the Saluda River soon looking for stripers and the twelve weight would certainly be fun to bend on a Charleston coast shark this summer.

ECHO gets extra credit points for the intensive line recommendation charts on the website which give suggestions for each line weight in this series and the very cool blue fiberglass rod tubes which were made for the Bad Ass Glass fly rods that includes a carry strap and a lid design which will keep your fly rod tube from rolling away.

When it comes to tools that I carry and enjoy using, I've often shied away multi-tools since they typically optimized the idea of "Quantity Over Quality".  Most have tons of tools and gadgets that flip out from the inner recesses of the pliers handles but they are either cheaply made or so poorly designed that they aren't worth a damn.  Most of the time pliers wouldn't be spring loaded and the tools either weren't long enough or were impossible to position how I needed them to be used.  I'd rather carry several worthwhile tools than one that that just isn't usable when needed.

Enter the Gerber Center Drive which is U.S.A. made and be-all end-all for those looking for a sixteen tool/feature multi-tool that not only has a spring-loaded needle nose pliers which open from a push button but also a 420HC blade over three inches and the final genius, a magnetic center-axis bit driver that can actually reach where you need to work.  It feels right in your hand and this multi-tool, with bit set and sheath, are in the outside tool bag kit at all times.

The only downside that I've found so far is that "U.S.A. Made" doesn't come cheap but look around online.  There are some deals to be found to make the purchase a little easier on your pocketbook.  Spend some time on the Gerber Center Drive website as there are a lot of resources, videos, and information on this well thought out multi-tool.

Over the winter months it seems that I think more and more about flats style fly fishing.  What started with redfish and carp has lately upped the interest with permit and bonefish with the allure of other species to pursue in saltwater on skinny water flats.  There is a hierarchy of saltwater fish that I want to tangle with and the Giant Trevally is near the top of the list.

I just finished reading Peter McLeod's new book, GT - A Fly Fisher's Guide To Giant Trevally, and it's got me ready to book a trip to someplace where these brutes live.  This book is over 200 pages and along with great writing and imagery, this book will be the tome for far flung anglers for years to come.

Peter's book not only recounts his many experiences from a long list of places he's fished but is a helpful primer on all things GT.  This book is split between Part I with chapters highlighting everything from where geographically GT's live, equipment and fly considerations, how they hunt and eat, and then Part II with chapter after chapter on specific destination spotlights where Peter Mcleod tapped friends with extensive knowledge and experience to highlight each significant fishery.

If Giant Travally are in your future, just go ahead and order this book.  It deserves a place in your library.

The Harker's Flannel has been in the Howler Brothers line up for past several fall collections and for good reason, this is a great fitting and warm shirt perfect for long days outside.  This shirt features a regular fit with metal buttons, double layer elbow patches, chest pocket and and hunters yoke on right shoulder.  This is a favorite fall and winter shirt to wear alone or to layer for additional warmth.

The Dispatch Fleece was first introduced as a Jacket and is now offered is a Pullover Fleece.  I really like the styling of this piece and it's perfect to dress up and down depending if you wear a t-shirt, button up or shirt and tie underneath.   The 100% polyester Polartec fleece is warm and I like the stand up collar, reinforced canvas yoke and elbow patches along with the chest pocket.

As always, use discount code "TFM2017" for 20% off your order and don't forget the Web Specials page too as last year's Harker's Flannel and Dispatch Fleece Jacket are both shown there in limited color/size choices.

The original Steelhead Glove was highlighted in the "10 For Winter" post two years ago and while others are still trying to catch up with a comparable glove, Kast Gear went back to the drawing board with some exterior fabric upgrades and aesthetics to make an already perfect glove even better.

The Steelhead Glove features one piece OutDry interior construction which keeps things dry while the fleece interior keeps hands warm with stretch fabrics improving fit, dexterity and feel.  These gloves are 100% waterproof/submersible, windproof, and breathable.  The Steelhead Glove are must haves for winter fly fishing and any other outside activity where you want to keep your hands warm and dry.

As mentioned in the last review, the Raptor Trigger Gloves are a favorite as well if your hands aren't going to get wet and having your index and thumb fingertips exposed are helpful for casting or operating your mobile phone while keeping your hands warm.

For best fit please remember to consult the Kast Gear Sizing Charts.
As the trip to Blue Horizon Belize (T.F.M. posts HERE, HERE and HERE) approached late last summer, I knew I needed a flats boot for the trip.  A couple friends had worked with Orvis stress testing what would be the Andros Flats Hiker and had been wildly impressed.  I figured I would be as well.

The Andros Flats Hiker was designed to be worn barefoot and are solidly built from the non-marking lugged sole to the comfortable neoprene gravel cuff around the ankle.  The shoe upper is made with a lot of foot and ankle support from a lightweight and durable polyurethane and nylon with heavy duty laces and metal lace loops for ease of adjusting.  Offered in full sizes, the Andros Flats Hikers shouldn't only be considered for the traveling angler but also those looking for a comfortable and well made wet wading boot. 

Last winter was my first experience with the Simms Coldwater Pant (T.F.M. posts HERE and HERE) and I gleefully lived in these for several days on the Pere Marquette.  It's always a priority for me to keep my head and feet dry and warm and that's followed closely by staying comfortably warm through the core and leg areas.  The perfect solution was found in the Coldwater Pant and anytime I need to warm up quick, I reach for these. 

The Coldwater Pants are made of a medium weight nylon with water-resistant finish with micro fleece lining makes for the perfect pants in the boat and under the waders on cold days.  Add to that with fleece lined hand warmer pockets, adjustable elastic waistline, and Velcro tabs on the hems to taper down and hold the pant legs in place when wearing under waders.

The other week while on the Pere Marquette again, it was never above 20 degrees and I was wearing these pants under a pair of breathable waders.  I worried I might get a little cold since I was in the water quite a bit through the day but the Coldwater Pant kept my legs toasty.

Made in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Stormy Kromer Original Cap has been made more or less the same way for over 100 years.  Tough to beat perfection and I don't have another hat that I get more compliments from than the couple Original Caps that I wear anytime the temperature dips down low enough to don one.

It's tough to choose just one and my suggestion is to choose a wool Original Cap and then also have a Waxed Cotton Cap around for those cold and wet days too.

I've had a friendship with Scott Hunter since the start of his small but growing company and I am constantly impressed with the innovations and gear pieces that he produces that will certainly stand the test of time with durability and smartly designed in every way.

I have offered the Super Fly Wallets in the T.F.M. Store for quite a while now and Scott's recently added it's oversized big brother with the Esox Wallet to the Vedavoo website which more than doubles the surface area of plush shearling fleece for swing flies and streamers while giving you twice the pocket space for heads, leaders, tippet spools, and other accessories.

Consider these wallets a must have for keeping your flies and gear organized.  

Have you ever gotten your children something but it's kinda of you too?  I did that a couple Christmas holidays back by gifting Hadley and Finn their own personalized Manitou Half Hatchets from Victor Axe + Tool.  I already had their Brimley Axe and soon after added the Waxed Canvas Tool Roll which was highlighted in "10 For Fall" a couple of years ago.  Most recently I started using the Tool Duffel which is just perfect for all the weekend's necessities around camp or for an outside work project.

We've been working on rebuilding our dock down on the family pond and part of the prep ritual was loading the Tool Duffel with all the odds and ends needed such as tape measure, several pairs of gloves, pencils, chisel, rope, safety glasses, koozies, etc.  The Tool Duffel is a great size and sturdily built.

The children couldn't be happier with their Manitou Half Hatchets and these are perfect to have around camp.  The forged BARCO axe head holds a great edge that's easily resharpened and the 13" hatchet handle is a perfect length for for chop jobs big and small.    

Victor Axe + Tool axes and gear items are all built in Grand Rapids, Michigan and this is a small company that continues to impress with their very well thought out offerings.

DISCLAIMER - Items for this post were either purchased at full retail price, on an industry discount, or provided free of charge to demo and review by the respective company.  It should be known that any product that is reviewed on this website is one that I have used and would recommend for others to use as well.

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