Monday, May 30, 2016

10 For Spring

Spring is an interesting season.  From my own fly fishing perspective it's a time for changing out fly boxes in the gear bag to concentrate on bluegill, bass, and carp.  The family pond starts warming up and free time after work and on the weekends is spent in the kayaks paddling and fishing with the children.  The garden is planted and the lawn gets mowed weekly.  The grill comes out a couple times each weekend to put some char marks on meat and vegetables.  The school year is thankfully winding down and summer plans are being made.

No doubt there's a lot going on but underneath it all, the focus is where can we go and have fun next?  Three cheers to Spring.  It's here. 

Here's the line up for "10 For Spring" and what I've been on the water with so far this season.

I've mentioned it on T.F.M. several times that the biggest surprise at last year's IFTD show was coming across the Diamondback Rod Company booth and putting hands on the prototype Meeker series fly rods.  After years of them being around in several different forms, it was great to see that Nate Dablock has a clear vision where he'd like his company to go.

The E-Glass Meeker series fly rods have been designed off of the most beloved Diamondback Glass tapers from the past, and the eight foot four weight that I've had since early spring is really excellent.  It's a fun and capable four weight that can cast small to medium sized flies with ease.

Along with casting beautifully, the Meeker series fly rods hits all the high points from the aesthetics as they are made of a glossy blank blank, red thread wraps, good cork, solid hardware and the little things like Diamond shaped alignment marks.  Also included with each fly rod is a black fiberglass rod tube and high quality embroidered rod cloth.

Consider everything that is written above and add to it that this is likely one of the best values, with a whole lot of performance, in the sub $300 fiberglass fly rod field.

It's been a fun ride watching Paul Puckett and Will Abbott of Flood Tide Company build their Charleston based apparel company over the past several years, and this spring brings a significant transition from being a hat and t-shirts store to now offering several button up shirts and shorts as well.

The Sol Legare series shirts are made of 100% nylon and offered in "Lowcountry" and "Migration".  These are a great fitting shirt (read relaxed fit) that can cover all the bases from the bow to the bar to dinner.

The Hunley shorts are offered in two colors and made of a poly/cotton mix.  The Fighting Fiddler embroidered near the bottom hem is a nice touch.  The shorts run on the slender side so order a size up if worried on fit.

Let's not forget that Flood Tide Co. makes some stellar hats and the 7 Weight Trucker is likely to be sold out before the cease and desist letter arrives in the mailbox.

To soften the blow a bit on your next online order, now through June 21, use code "FIBERGLASS" for 15% off your next Flood Tide Company order.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but growing up, especially during my college years in southwest Michigan, I used to be into birding quite a bit.  "Into it" meaning that each weekend I would hang out with a couple bird nerd friends and we'd get up before sunrise on Saturday mornings and work our way from Lake Michigan inland, winter trips to "The Soo", and spring trips to Pointe Pelee National Park for the spring migration.  So weird that college girls didn't think this was a totally cool hobby...

On college kid finances I purchased a set of 7X35 and 10X50 binoculars but have always wanted a really nice set.  The 10X50's are long gone and the 7X35's have been taken by the children and stowed away in their nature bags.  This was a good excuse to start looking around for a new set, and over the winter I came across Maven Outdoor Equipment Company, a newcomer in the optics game, as mentions kept coming up in online searches and articles.

What I liked immediately is that they are more or less set up like a small shop fly rod builder in being customer direct, and with an impressive listing of Stock Optics you can go your own way with the Custom Optics route if you chose.  My interest was further perked when I found that they had a new 7X45 magnification in the B.2 frame and we've had a great time over the past couple months with a demo set on backyard and family property birding trips with the children.

I have a stock set of B.2 7X45's but if you go the Custom Optics direction then you can use the "Maven Custom Builder" to design your ultimate set of optics and choose frame size, magnification, body armor, neck strap rings, custom focus wheel, lens rings, tripod collar plate, labeling, and there is even an option for engraving.

Fair warning, Custom Optics can bump the price but you certainly can get exactly what you're looking for inside and out.

P.S.  Call me old school but I'll never stop using my Peterson's Field Guide, and while I still am using my twenty some year old Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds, Hadley and Finn both are starting out with the Peterson's Field Guide to Birds of North America, which is a complete and excellent field guide that should cover us on our stateside travels.

Spring in South Carolina means that there are typically a few weeks between the cool of winter (which often times isn't that cool) and the oppressive heat of the summer (heat + humidity really is something).  Those precious days in between are what our family considers "hammock season".  It doesn't always last very long but there are typically a few weekends where everyone will grab a hammock and head to the wooded backyard with books, iPad, and whatever else to enjoy for a bit.

The Kammok Roo Hammock came for demo complete with the upgraded Python Straps and the spacious hammock is made from LunarWave nylon with a maximum capacity weight of 500 pounds with handy lash points along the edges.  Slide in alone or invite someone to jump in with you and enjoy.  Each Roo comes with climbing rated carabiners and dyneema slings.

The upgraded Python Straps provide eighteen points of connection and let you fine tune your hammock hanging needs.  These also come in their own nylon carrying bag.

The Kammok Roo Hammock system is certainly a premium offering in the hammock game and it's easily our new favorite.

A few months ago I was flipping through a fly fishing magazine when I came across an ad for the TimesNine Fisk Bag.  I immediately liked the looks and features that I could see in the photograph and it wasn't long before I had one to carry along on a few trips.

The short review?  I dig a messenger style gear bag and this is one of my favorites.

The longer take?  The Fisk Bag was designed by Jim Cook and every detail has a lot of thought behind it starting with the interior layout of this gear bag which allows me to carry fly boxes, accessories, a couple lenses and Nikon DSLR, with room to spare.  The Fisk Bag has three exterior pockets, rod holder and magnetic work station, rod tube holder, D-rings and nylon loops in just the right spots, and heavy duty nylon shoulder strap along with a removable waist strap for a comfortable and customized fit.

The Fisk Bag is "Made in the U.S.A." of top quality materials and will certainly last for many years as a favorite streamside companion.  You might like it so much that it'll pull double duty and you take it on the plane with you on your next trip.

Remember to use code "FREESHIP" to save a little money on your order.

I am always looking for new ways to carry flies and recently I have been using the Fishpond Sushi Rolls to keep track of streamers and warmwater flies.  The rolls are easy to stow in the gear bag and don't eat up the same space that a large plastic fly box would.

The genius in the construction of the Sushi Rolls is threefold, with a heavy duty exterior with Velcro lash downs paired with thick interior foam, and foam spacers along the edges to keep flies from getting crushed and allowing for flies to dry as well.

The Fishpond Sushi Rolls are available in three handy sizes from small to extra large and can house baby streamers to musky flies, long as your forearm, with ease.

I'm like a damn moth to the flame with foam flies of all sorts, and the vise work of Eric Snyder of Warmwater Specialties has caught my eye as of late with a handful of his patterns that look great, float high, and are sure to get a reaction on the water.

A couple months ago I sent Eric some PayPal funds and asked that he send a mashup of his spring and summer foam favorites.  What arrived was a mix of small to large flies with the Mad Damsel and Mad Frogger being the two instant favorites.

Eric recently launched a new website that is worth checking out with all of his offerings.  Follow along on his Instagram page for the latest vise offerings.

For quite a few years now, whenever I had the opportunity to bend someone's ear at the Ross Reels, I'd mention how cool it would be if they either re-released some of the old favorites or went back to the drawing board on a new click and pawl fly reel or two.  I got excited over the winter as a few photographs from the fly fishing shows surfaced of the now released Colorado LT fly reel.  I've been fortunate enough to put hands on a late stage prototype of the Colorado LT and I can attest that this is an excellent offering from the Montrose, Colorado shop.

Following the theme that simplicity is best, the Colorado LT fly reels are fully machined and made with a total of just fifteen parts.  What you can't hear in the image above or online is the sweet soft click that these wonderful fly reels have.  

The Colorado LT is offered in three sizes covering suggested line weights 0-3 weight, 3-4 weight, and 4-5 weight.  All three size fly reels are offered in three color choices of Matte Black, Platinum, or Light Olive.

When the product developers take on a full scale project at Orvis, they totally geek out.  Sometimes this "geek out" process takes several years until a product is ready for the catalog.  I've followed this process with the Superfine Glass, Silver Sonic waders, Pivot wading boots, and most recently the next generation of the SuperStrong Plus tippet and leaders.  Orvis knows that getting everything right during the development process is what makes for customer confidence and awards.

The first stages in developing the new SuperStrong Plus tippet involved looking at knot strengths and breaks of both wet and dry knots, and then the task of comparing the many tippet offerings on the market.  What they found along the way was that tippet diameters varied greatly from company to company, and that 5X tippet from Company A was different than Company B, which was still different from Company C in diameter, which typically also affected break strengths.  Some materials had such weak knot strengths that it was almost 50% of the straight pull.

The latest generation of SuperStrong Plus tippet boasts true to size tippet diameters and incredible knot strengths, which surpassed their previous offering, and that of their competitors as well.

I've been using a stack of SuperStrong Plus nylon tippets from 0X to 7X since early in the year and have a lot of confidence in it.  The product developers at Orvis geeking out on tippet will mean stronger knots and hopefully less lost fish.

It seems that less and less of my time fly fishing is spent on a trout stream and I'm more typically pursuing warmwater and saltwater species from the kayak or a boat.  This means I'm not dealing with lightweight tippets and instead using heavy weight nylon monofiliment, braids, or wire which isn't always easy to make clean cuts with nippers.

A few months ago Buck Knives sent me a pair of their Splizzors.  Think scissors that got it on with pliers to make for a badass multi function tool.  The Splizzors cut with ease through everything with serrated 420HC steel blades and have heavy duty Dynaflex handles in red which are easy to see.  The long nose plier tips can snatch flies deep out of the mouth of a catch.

The Splizzors are full of form and function with scissor edges with replaceable blades, small and large crimps, plier tips, lanyard hole, and the ever handy bottle opener.  The Splizzors also include a heavy duty belt shealth.

Along with the Splizzors Replacement Blades Kit, Buck Knives also offers Saltwater Splizzors which are made from 12C27MOD Sandvik Stainless Steel with cerakote coating to fight corrosion. 

I really enjoy having reliable and worthy tools, and the Buck Knives Splizzors are an essential for the gear bag or belt when on the water.

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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