Saturday, December 9, 2023

GEAR REVIEW - Tools for Nelson's Spring Creek

There are places that you can go fly fishing that really don't take a lot of thought or pre-planning other than bringing along the basics.  What you have will usually get you through the day.  However, there are other special places that really do require some additional planning to make sure that you have everything needed to make the day.  In my mind, Nelson's Spring Creek was one of those places and I was glad that I had planned as well as I did for never being there before. 

No doubt, the trout of Nelson's Spring Creek have seen every fly, every drift, and it was amazing to see where they were tucking themselves to make it that much harder to get a fly in their path.  I liked the challenge and was glad to have touched a few trout while there with the invitation from Tom and Alexis Brodhead of 406 Fly Lines.  If you missed the previous T.F.M. post on our day, start there and circle back to the gear review post.

Here's a quick rundown of the gear that helped make the day what it was.  Not everything made it into the photograph that I took on my buddy's porch outside of Missoula but the descriptions with links below can take you all the websites for a look.


For most of this trip to Montana, either I was fishing a 406 Fly Lines fly line or those who I was fishing with was using them too.  Of course, Tom and Alexis both had them on their fly reels and on this day, I used a 4-WF fly line that was an excellent match for the Steffen 8' 3/4 weight.

Tom and Dusty Smith of Livingston Rod Company been working together creating the perfect western spring creeks fiberglass fly rod and the 8'9" 406 Spring Creek Rod 3-weight is a gem.  When available, Tom is offering finished fly rods (with a 3-DT fly line included) and blanks.  Email Tom directly to inquire on availability. 


I have a lot of "special gear" that I've accumulated along the way of fly fishing for going on thirty years and this little SC Series fly reel from Bozeman Reel Company is certainly cherished.  Flawlessly made with the most wonderful purr.  I've fished this reel a few other places but bringing it home to Montana just seemed right. 

I've got a plastic bin that is full of floatants of sorts and figured that tiny CDC flies of some sort would be on the menu which meant Loon Dust was going to be the best choice.  Sure enough.  There was no reason to fully dunk these flies and the brush applicator was perfect for spot applying floatant. 

When Loon Outdoors rolled out the Trout Plier, I was immediately impressed.  These are unlike most fly fishing pliers that are really too much for trout fishing.  The Trout Plier has everything that you need by crimping barbs, cuts tippet to braid, spring jaw, and a shape that makes hook removal from a trout mouth easy.  I like the coiled tether cord and if I'm less than impressed by something, it's the included plastic sheath but there's a solution for that later in this review.

I've had this magnifer around for awhile and just really never have needed it since most of my fly fishing is large eyed warmwater and saltwater flies.  I tossed this in the sling and so glad I did as my eyes were aching big time with threading 6X on size 22 and smaller hook eyes.

The clip attaches to most anything, swivels to position however you need it, and without a double, the Magnifer was a day saver.  This is just one of several really smart designs from Artisan Angler.

New for this year from Orvis was a "wide-mouth" series of nets to include a Hand Net, Guide Net, and Boat Net.  These nets feature a large wide hoop with a deep net.  The frame and handle are made of composite which makes for a lightweight yet strong landing net. 

As a side note, this hand net came in handy for traveling out to Montana since I placed it on top of some "special cargo" of bourbon bottles wrapped in clothing in my rolling duffel.  It gave some rigidity to the top of the bag and protection for what was beneath.

I am really picky about wading boots and when the Forra Wading Boots arrived from Patagonia, they checked a lot of boxes before I even put them on.  First, these are lightweight and second, they are designed with a protective toe box with a durable barrier that extends all the way around the boots for ultimate protection while wading.  These are perfect for traveling since they certainly aren't as heavy as some of the other wading boots that I've worn lately.  The Vibram Mars sole was grippy and I was always comfortable in them with a week of hard use on this trip.

There are a lot of fly fishing slings out there but I end up be really choosy on what works for me since I like to carry along my Nikon DSLR with at least one other lens.  Most slings end up being too small.  This was the first trip that I've used the Stealth Sling 10L and was really impressed with how much it carried, how many thoughtful nooks and pockets there where, and then how comfortable it was to wear.   

I don't know if I've used any other tippet than S.A. for a few years now as I have no reason to use anything else.  It works.  I will say that most of my tippet spools are measured in pounds and not "X" from a mostly warmwater and saltwater focus in my angling.  I scrounged up spools for the trip but tt's time for a fresh stack of 0X to 6X spools. 

When the Riffle QR first arrived, I kinda figured that it was maybe a little small to work for a week long trip but for a dedicated "Trout Trip" it was actually perfect.  It was nice not lugging a larger case through the airport and I was able to fit four fly rods, four fly reels, two pair of sunglasses, and a few other accessories in with just a little bit of Tetris skills.

If you're looking for a smaller than most of the fly rod cases out there, this is a great choice. 

Since I figured (and hoped) that this October trip could more cloud filled that bluebird sunny, I know that I'd be in my low-light sunglasses most of the time.  I carried along the new Guide's Choice XL frames with ChromaPop Low Light Yellow Lens.  This lens has been a top early morning, evening, and cloudy day pick for years and the latest update to the fame made for a perfect fit.

I have an article circulating in my head on "Sunglasses Systems" and the Guide's Choice or Guide's Choice XL in both ChromaPop Low Light Yellow Lens and ChromaPop Green Mirror Lens are a covering most angling situations that I'm ever in.  Carrying two pairs of sunglasses on a trip makes sense and having two different lens choices to match the lighting is a smart part of that too.

There is a short list of "Must Have" Steffen Brothers tapers to have and in my book, the 8' 3/4 weight is at the top of that list.  It's long enough to be effective on small to large streams and depending on what you prefer or what you're doing with it, can be lined with a 3-weight or 4-weight fly line. 
I've been wearing a few different pieces from Skwala for over a year now and the Carbon Wader and Fusion Hybrid Jacket are both proven winners.  Their attention to details, fabrics, and fit are evident and it's no surprise they are making moves quickly in an industry with quite a few players already.  Circle back to the T.F.M. post on my visit to Skwala headquarters for more thoughts on that. 

I started wearing the Carbon Wader this past summer on Beaver Island and really liked the simple innovation that they use throughout their design.  These are a great travel wader since they have eliminated a lot of bulk and weight and the shoulder yoke that leads to buckle-less straps with G-hooks to fine tune your fit.  The waders convert from full length to waist-high with the magnetic release on the straps.  These are durable, lightweight, and comfortable for long days on the water.

The Fusion Hybrid Jacket has been my pick from fall into winter as it provides warmth, stretch, and is a neat mix of synthetic insulation in the core with fleece arms that provide a very comfortable fit.

On this day, it started out chilly in the 40's and might have warmed up to the mid-50's before a system moved in the late afternoon to bring some light sprinkles.  I was in this jacket all day and was more than warm enough.   

If you're in need of a waterproof shell, the Fusion Hybrid Jacket layers perfectly with the Carbon Jacket or RS Jacket too.

I mentioned it in the T.F.M. post about fishing Nelson's Spring Creek that Tom Brodhead of 406 Fly Lines has sent me a copy of Satoshi Yamamoto's book a few weeks before I came out and it was an essential read that I poured over several times. 

Lefty Angler & Flies is a great online shop and way to connect with guide Satoshi Yamamoto if the Livingston spring creeks and Yellowstone River area are in your plans.

You can tie your own flies for Nelson's Spring Creek or better yet, ask Jacquie Nelson to handpick a dozen or two out from their bins at the fly shop for you.  You're going to be using 6X (or even 7X) so having a few extras of each pattern is a good idea.  Nothing worse than breaking off a trout on light tippet on a fly that is working, only to realize that it's your last one. 

I mentioned it above that I'm not that keen on the included holster for the Loon Outdoors Trout Plier and Scott Hunter of Vedavoo solved that issue with his handcrafted Plier Holder.  Made with either a Fixed Beltloop or with a Quick-Wrap Loop, these are made to last and great for these or other pliers.

Well, who's ready to try your hand at Nelson's Spring Creek?  I'm ready to go back.  Let's go...

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