Tuesday, August 2, 2022

WITC - The Beaver Island Edition

I'm not sure if you've come across the golf-focused "What's in the Bag" posts on social media and the internet and I figured there is some apt crossover with what's in my travel case and gear bag on various fly fishing trips.  I'm going to start with a travel case post and will follow up with a gear bag post soon on what I carried along to Beaver Island, Michigan while fishing with Captain Kevin Morlock and Captain Steve Martinez of Indigo Guide Service

I've been doing this trip for fourteen or so years and have landed gear wise on what I usually need and don't need for the most part.  Somehow though, I still pack too much in my duffel or suitcase.   
I like seeing what others carry along on their trips and figure that you likely do too.  So, here we go...

A week or so before heading to Beaver Island, a big box arrived from Sea Run Cases which had two of the Riffle QR cases (one for a giveaway and one for me) and then the new Norfolk Expedition QR case.  I was eager to take the Norfolk QR along since it's the largest travel case that Sea Run Cases makes right now and there have been times where the Expedition Classic wasn't quite large enough to hold all the gear needed on the trip.

The Norfolk QR does a couple of things really great with the first being the added space throughout the case and then the ability to take a layer of dense foam padding out of the various storage areas to make additional room for larger fly reels.  Also, the "QR" in the name stands for a Quick Release strap which is handy for slinging the case over your shoulder.  

Sea Run Cases are wonderful and soon I'll do a case to case to case review showing the differences and size dimensions between the Riffle QR, Expedition Classic, and the Norfolk QR so that everyone can see the comparisons on which hard case would be the best fit for you and your travels. 

For whatever reason, years ago I wanted to carry six weights along on the Beaver Island trip.  I guess I thought I needed to bring a "smallmouth stick" but fast forward to now and it's just eights, nines, and tens.  Truth told, I spend most of the week with a ten weight in hand unless it's a day of little to no wind.  The tens are just easier to cast and layout long casts in the typical flats conditions of the islands around Beaver Island.
I'll talk about it more in the trip recap post but Tim Rajeff of ECHO Fly Fishing was on our trip this summer so of course, Bad Ass Glass fly rods were in one or both boats each day.  I really like these fly rods and they offer everything that you'd want in a heavy line weight glass fly rod at a price that makes sense.  They are short, powerful, and handle quite a few different fly lines.  Bad Ass Glass gets the work done. 

I brought my ten along, Tim gifted me an late Bad Ass Glass unpainted white prototype nine-weight he figured that I'd dig, and (Breaking News) he also handed over the newish addition to the Bad Ass Glass lineup with the 5-weight.  We had some fun with
I like the entire offering list of Epic fiberglass fly rods but the 888 is absolutely one of my favorite eight weights in glass.  It's an absolute workhorse performer and the spectrum of fly lines that it likes is impressive too.        
There is a short list of glass fly rods that I think everyone should own and the Epic Bandit is on that list.  Even if you don't think you need one, you need one.  It just does everything when it comes to big fish, big flies, and big water.  I could go on and on but in the end the summary is, you need a Bandit.  

I carried my Reference Series Epic 888 and Bandit on this trip and as I mentioned in this T.F.M. post, it just make sense to me to invest in a "factory" option for heavy line weight glass instead of going a more custom route with a build.  Big fly rods just run higher risks of getting damaged banging around in the boat, getting cracked with lead eye flies, or any other weird on the water catastrophe.  Accidents happen and the Reference Series fly rods are going to be the easiest fixed along with saving you a few hundred dollars on the initial purchase.  
Over the last several years I purposely don't take untested fly rods on the Beaver Island trip anymore since I really don't want to waste any time "testing" when I should be "fishing".  I just value this trip that much.  I did make an exception with the new Moonlit NIRVANA PhoenixGLASS and asked to have one sent directly to the island so it was waiting for me when I got there.

The short of it?  I like this fly rod A LOT.  It has a ton of power, light in hand, feels great, and handled a couple of different fly lines on it with ease.  If you've been wondering about one of these 8-weights, just go ahead and buy it.  You won't regret it. 

Orvis Superfine Glass 888
Longtime readers know I'm a fan of the Superfine Glass family and the 8-weight might top my list as my favorite in the series.  Maybe it's because I've spent more time with that one than the five others and it just flat out performs.  I don't think there is a better "Made in the U.S.A." factory made glass fly rod for the price point than 

I like the slight taper tweaks overall in the new generation of Superfine Glass, four-piece fly rods make travel easier, and the new cosmetics are a stellar mix of nostalgia while fitting in perfectly with the other Orvis fly rod series with the contrasting color identification section just up from the grip.

You don't have to break your piggy bank on a high performing heavy line weight fly reel and the Bravo is proof of it.  Less than $140.  Saltwater safe.  Available in 7/9, 8/10, and 10/12 which means they fit most of the Bad Ass Glass fly rods perfectly.

I don't have any yet but Tim Rajeff brought a couple of the Bravo LT fly reels with him and they are impressive as well.  I'm going to have to get one for the new Bad Ass Glass 5-weight soon.
A couple of years ago the Hydros fly reels got a facelift and I've been fishing the heck out of them without any issues.  The large arbor design is perfect for picking up fly line quickly, the large drag knob is easy to adjust, and the Hydros IV and Hydros V balance out heavy line weight glass perfectly.

I've caught a lot of oversized carp (and redfish) on the SFG 888 matched with a Mirage LT IV and it's never let me down.  These fly reels just flat out perform.  Made in the U.S.A. quality and overall just one of my most favorite fly reel series out there right now.  I have three or four of these in my stash and it's unlikely that I'll ever let them go. 

There is a lot of crossover on the Beaver Island trip with my Louisiana redfish trip when it comes to fly lines.  The trick is to making sure these fly reels and fly lines get properly cleaned after the winter redfish trips so they are ready to go for the Beaver Island trip.

I've used a couple generations now of the Redfish line and the latest XP version is great.  I've found it to be a perfect match for the Epic Bandit too.  It's ultra-slick, turns over big flies, and works great in cool to warm water.
This has been a favorite fly line on my eights and tens for several years now and my only complaint is the green on dark green color combination can make it a little hard for the guides to see the end of the fly line over dark green flats which is common around the Beaver Island archipelago. 

This fly line casts great on heavy line weight glass and turns over heavy flies with ease.

This is a great Lake Michigan fly line for carp with a short heavy taper that loads the fly rod with minimal back casts.  Perfect for quick shots and match nicely with glass fly rods.   

I'm picky about sunglasses and a big fan of carrying a couple different lens colors with me on any trip.  Beaver Island especially since most days you'll see sun, clouds, and even fog.  It's good to have options to break through the glare.    
The last two Beaver Island trips I've only worn Bajio Sunglasses in several different lens colors and this summer I took along three pairs in a couple different frames with Rose Mirror, Violet Mirror, and Green Mirror polarized lenses.  

Of the three, I wore the Violet Mirror lenses the most and they provided high contrast in a lot of different light and clouds situations.  It was kinda weird wearing purple lenses when I saw my reflection but what I was able to see was impressive. 
I need to do a full deep dive on Bajio Sunglasses but the short of it is that I really like the fit, the fact that the frames are bio-based, and the technology of the lens options.  The clarity and lens color with polarization when on the water has worked out great too.  I'm impressed.  More on that later...  

You'll see more and some of the same tools for the trip in the "WITB - The Beaver Island Edition" but here's my favorites that always have a place in the travel case or gear bag.
Who knew a small pair of scissors could be so handy in building leaders, trimming flies into shape, cutting braid or bite wire, and (when cleaned up properly) are great in the kitchen for cutting up ingredients.

I've got a couple of pairs of the Bubba shears around and the small size is perfect with a lot of extras packed into the design.  And they are sharp, sharp, sharp.

Speaking of sharp, your flies need a touch up every now and then and the Loon Outdoors Hook Hone is on my lanyard for quick fly tuneups.  Use the loop to attach to your lanyard so it's always handy.

These are a "premium" nipper but actually half the cost of others in the same seemingly over the top space.  I like the mechanics of these "Made in the U.S.A." nippers and the simple fly line lanyard is a nice touch too.

I've used a few different pliers over the years and have landed on the Orvis pliers being my favorite.  The fit and feel in my hand is great and they've held up to saltwater and freshwater use without any issues.  The Gokey made leather sheath is a nice touch too. 
It's been awhile since I've preached about my devotion to this handy fly patch but it fits perfectly looped on my nipper lanyard (along with the hook hone) giving me flies and the tools needed if I walk off on my own looking for carp and smallmouth on the flats.  At the end of the trip the patch is burdened with a couple of dozen flies of what worked or at least wanted to have at hand in case I needed them.  In truth, I've "stolen" dozens of flies from Captain Kevin Morlock and Captain Steve Martinez on these trips since their flies always end up on the fly patch.

I've talked about it before and likely need to do some sort of sun protection gear/apparel update but I don't tan and don't try to with my fair skin.  I cover up and make sure I start the day with with a heavy smear of sunscreen on any part of me that will be exposed to the sun.  It just makes sense. 

TropicSport Mineral Sunscreen 
Right before the trip a care package from my buddy Geoff (who's a TropicSport rep) arrived with a tube of mineral sunscreen and a facestick.  I used them both through the week with great results.  I didn't get burnt and I like that these sunscreens are eco-friendly without chemicals that can do damage to me or the environment.  I am going to keep using it and will report back on what future thoughts are.
Thanks for reading through the WITC gear review.  There are a few affiliate links (Sea Run Cases, Epic, and Moonlit Fly Fishing) peppered in this post that when purchases are made a few coins are added to the T.F.M. piggy bank.  Thanks in advance for the supportIf you have any questions or need suggestions on the gear mentioned above, please send me an email.

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