Friday, November 25, 2016

The B.I. Chronicles - Tailgate Gear Review

Well, after a summer of seemingly being on a go to everywhere, I'm am more or less home bound for the next several months.  Not like I don't have a lot of other things going on with work, home, and the holidays but it is kind of sad to not have a trip on the books until after the new year.

What I do have is a little bit of time to circle back and hit the high points of fly fishing gear used on a several of the significant trips that really made the difference.  I have been doing a Beaver island trip with Indigo Guide Service for seven years in a row and over time have really whittled down what I need and don't need for a week there.  After years of carrying too much, I really just worry about the essentials now.

This summer's trip to Beaver Island (high points HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE) was a great mix of friends and good times.  It's always fun to have a full week at the Fisherman's House, with six or seven days on the water with the guides at Indigo Guide Service, to poke around looking for a few carp (smallmouth and pike as bonus), relax and take it all in.

Here's seven pieces of gear that made the difference on this trip.

Over the years my "uniform" when fly fishing has gone from overladen fly vest to overstocked lanyard with seemingly a zillion  tools hanging off it to now a simple cord lanyard, nipper, and a Smith Creek Middle Fork Fly Patch.  It's all I need.  The fly patch is so handy to have since I can load up with Beaver Island favorites before a wade in the grass or have a place to dry flies out before going back in the box.  After a week at Beaver Island typically both sides are jammed full of crayfish and goby patterns in a mix of colors and sizes.

Whether you wear it on your lanyard, attach to your vest, or find another spot for it, you need one (or several of these) around.  Each Middle Fork Fly Patch comes with a quality zinger and cable to attach just about anywhere.  The double sided foam is ribbed so that hooks stay put and I've had several for years now that show little wear.  

If there is one thing to count on at Beaver Island, the weather is unpredictable and it's unlikely you're going to see a full week of sun and cloudless days.  What's more likely is a weather day (or two) and a few days that start off cloudy or with fog that burns off as the day goes on.  With that, an essential piece of gear for this trip has been a pair of Smith Optics sunglasses with the Techlite Polarized Low Light Ignitor lens to light up the flats and help visualize what is going on under the water even under gray skies.   

This polarized yellow lens works better in low light and cloudy conditions than any other that I've used and I continue to be impressed with the quality and clarity of Smith Optics ChromaPop when everything lights up with the sun.

On all fly fishing trips now I carry two pairs of Smith Optics with one pair being the Techlite Low Light Ignitor lens and the other in ChromaPop to over all levels of light through a day on the water.

There are a lot of choices when it comes to sun gloves and though I've worn a lot of them, I always circle back to the 12wt. WORKwt. Glove.  These form fitting poly fabric gloves have film laminate in just the right places for grip and and protection when stripping fly line through your fingers.  With five sizes from extra small to extra large, there are sure to be the perfect size available for your hands.

These gloves easily do double, and even triple duty, going from the dude at the bow with the fly rod to the guy on the platform push poling to also working great for kayak anglers with paddle and fly rod as well.

It's always good have a pair around or spring for the WORKwt. Glove Three Pack to save a few dollars on each pair.

For whatever reason it took me a few years to get it but when the guides at Indigo Guide Service said they were all fishing ten weights on Beaver Island, I still thought that I needed to fish eight weights.  I guess I'm a slow learner, but the past several trips I've been using the Bandit almost exclusively and it's hands down the perfect fiberglass fly rod for the carp flats around Beaver Island.   

Fly fishing for carp around Beaver Island demands everything from a fly rod that can be used to pick lazy tailers off in the grass to making long accurate casts to cruising carp along the edge of an island.

The Bandit excels in so many situations and handles quite a few different fly lines depending on the needs of the angling situation.  I've used everything from Scientific Anglers GPX and Anadro to Airflo Grand Slam to RIO Products Redfish with all positive results.   

This ten weight feels surprisingly lightweight in hand and that's likely due to it's sub eight foot length.  It balances great with several different large arbor fly reels and I continue to grab it for anything and everything from carp to stripers to redfish to even, in a pinch, sharks.

Need to make long casts?  No problem.  Need to turn over big flies?  No problem.  Need to turn the head of a big fish?  Also, no problem.  This is the do all heavy line weight fiberglass fly rod that I think everyone needs one of.  And maybe another as a backup. 

For as much as I am a sucker for click and pawl fly reels, there are just some situations that require the slow down and stopping power of a sealed drag fly reel and for over a year now I've been using the Orvis Hydros SL fly reel with great results.  In fact, there have been quite a few guides that I've fished with that have been similarly impressed with this fly reel as well.

The Hydros SL fly reels feature fully sealed drag-clutch bearing, increased line retrieval from a super large arbor spool, and super tight tolerances.  Smooth operation, durable construction, and priced from just under $200 to $259 make this an easy choice for new fly reel needs.

Want to learn more?  Check out this post on the Orvis News blog post on the design and making of this fly reel and this video where Tom Rosenbauer goes feature by feature on this great fly reel.

For years I've been looking for the perfect fly line for Beaver Island and it's admittedly been a lot of trial and error with taking a stack of fly lines along for the trip and switching them out with different fly rods to see what works best.

This summer I found the perfect match for the Epic Bandit with the SharkWave Anadro.  This fly line taper turns over the larger flies used for carp around Beaver Island and still allows for long accurate casts as well.   

I have been using several of the SharkWave fly lines and like the multi texturing to assist with casting but the Anadro has won out for warmwater angling of all sorts.  This fly line pairs great with several different fiberglass fly rods and I've used it on six weights on up.

One word of note that this fly line likes to stay clean for ultimate performance.  I learned by lesson this summer that after a full day of being fully impressed that on day two (without the line being cleaned) I was having all sorts of casting and distance issues that were all fixed again with a through cleaning of the line.  Keep it clean and you'll be happy as can be.

I am in out and of boats and kayaks so much that a solid gear bag is a must have for everything fly fishing related and typically a DSLR camera and a couple lenses as well.  I've used quite a few different gear bags and always seem to come back to the Westwater Boat Bag from Fishpond.

The Westwater Boat Bag is up for all kinds of different duties depending on the trip.  Some trips the divided three spaces are full of large fly boxes and other trips are used for camera gear, spare fly reels, sunglasses, and anything else that might be needed for the day.   

The Westwater Boat Bag falls right into that sweet spot of durability meets extreme water resistance meets being the perfect size for all the boat gear needs.  The TPU welded fabric construction (the latest model with Cyclepond fabric) with water resistant zipper keeps moisture out and gear inside dry no matter the condition.  I've long lost the two small clear zip pockets but the large flip pocket on the top of the boat bag holds everything from tools to wallet to sun gloves and masks to mobile phones.  Lastly, the two dividers are adjustable with Velcro stripping all around the interior and can be removed or moved around as needs require to fine tune how your gear needs to be stowed.

While finishing this review this morning I remembered that I had previously posted a T.F.M. review three years ago on the Westwater Boat Bag.  This is a gear bag that is still ticking and in great shape after almost four years of continued use.

That's it for this trip.  Look for upcoming Tailgate Gear Reviews covering the trips to Wyoming/Montana and Belize in the coming weeks.

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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