Sunday, April 29, 2012

Detonation Studios, Ian Majszak and Bryan Gregson are working together again. This time they won the show at the Simms annual Shoot Out videography contest, held during the Simms Ice Out event earlier this April in Bozeman, Montana. Each group that participated in this years event,  worked with some of the West's top fishing guides, bringing in it all together with just a few days to put it on the screen.

Ryan Thompson's Swift Current Productions entry.
Bryan Husky's Fishbite Media   
Brant Oswald's Raw Waters Production

This is a one of a kind event with the competition sponsored by Costa and The Drake Magazine. It is nice to see the industry celebrating fly fishing filmmaking and the fishing guides that help to educate the world about what fly fishing, conservation and being out in nature.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hipsters and I Are Alike in One Way....

...we are both getting ripped on. Check out, "This Machine Kills Hipsters," on the Echo Fly Fishing Blog. The Echo Solo Spey Rods are the best spey rod for the money hands down.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keep Talking

For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn't have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.
-          Stephen Hawking

Every year, my home water sees more fishing pressure, and becomes more and more crowded.  I’m not sure why, exactly, but there are a number of reasons that have probably contributed to the growing numbers of steelheaders on the river.  

It’s easy to complain.  10 years ago we had our pick of the prime runs, even on weekends.  Things have changed.  Now, we often share the water with others casting flies or lures or bait.  But complaining won’t change things, or turn back the clock.

Confronted with the reality, I have spent a lot of time wandering and wondering what an angler can do in the face of growing fishing pressure?  Quit fishing?  Become more and more aggressive and territorial when it comes to fishing?  Keep fishing and find new ways to appreciate the experience?  Start a blog and complain about it?

Personally, I’m not willing to quit fishing my home waters, no matter how crowded they become.  I love them too much, and the memories that I often “fish for” are well worth the time spent.  I also refuse to become more aggressive and territorial like some anglers have become, resorting to tactics that range from camping in sensitive areas or trails to “claim” a spot, to outright displays of aggression and bullying toward other anglers, to belligerent refusal to share the public water.  I’m happy to blog, but I’m not going to become a complainer, an armchair steelheader, or another part of the problem.

So, I ask myself:  Faced with increased numbers of anglers concentrated into a finite amount of water during the prime season, how can I/we maintain a river environment where everyone can have a positive experience?  

This year, more than ever, I have tried to embrace a river ethic and angling presence that is embodied in the essence of Stephen Hawking’s words.  

It doesn't have to be like this.

“All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”

 It seems simple, yet this is difficult sometimes.  We steelheaders can be a solitary and socially challenged group.  We go to the river to find some solitude and perhaps, some fish.  Working through a piece of water, alone, at your own pace is one of the joys in steelheading.   

But as more and more anglers share the resource, having an entire run to yourself isn’t always possible anymore.  There is a certain anxiety that we have all felt when another angler shows up at a run that you had to yourself for a while.  It’s easy to wonder what’s going to happen, and to think the worst.  Competitive thoughts sometimes pop up.  Is he going to low-hole me?  Or crowd me out?  We stop thinking about fishing.  We stop enjoying the process of fishing and start worrying about the other angler.  Some of the joy is lost.

So, what can we do to preserve the quality experience?

I propose that the best thing that we can do is to all let down our guard a little bit, and start communicating with other anglers that we meet on the water.  I know some anglers who have always done this, perhaps as a reflection of their personality, but to me, being outgoing towards strangers is not my first thought.  

So, what can we do?  First, be the one to take the time and put in the effort.  If you see another angler, walk up and introduce yourself.  Ask how things are going, and ask how that person is approaching the water so that you can consider a way to approach it that does not interfere with that person’s experience.  Be friendly (some of us have to fake this).  Ask if you can share the run with the other angler(s), and explain how you would be fishing (swinging flies, drift fishing, running bobbers and jigs).  If the spot is small, don’t hover or creep without saying hello. Mention to the other angler to take as much time as they like and then patiently wait for your turn in the spot.   I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Start a conversation!   Work it out.  Expect occasional negative reactions from people, but don’t be discouraged.  The great encounters will outweigh the negative ones.

Keep talking.

You might be surprised.  If nothing else, you will become a better ambassador for the sport of fly fishing.

And maybe you and everyone else will have a better experience on the river.

Take care and fish on.

PS - This one is also running as the Sexyloops Frontpage for Wednesday, April, 25, 2012.  If you dig STEEL, you might also dig Sexyloops.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day 2012

A hen coming to the surface while a buck tries to sweet talk her. 
How you doing?

On April 22, 1970, a group of tree hugging hippies got together and started Earth Day. This day and anniversary is considered the day that the modern environmental movement was created. Today this day has since taken off and is used by environmentalists throughout the country in a wide variety of different arenas. This year I chose to celebrate this weekend by joining a group from the Native Fish Society, consisting of both gear and fly fishermen doing stream surveys. We were looking and counting steelhead spawning beds and fish in the tributaries of one of the local drainage's.

Steelhead redds

Steelhead spawning beds or redds can generally be easy to distinguish, because they create a noticeable pit and tail spill in the gravel bottom. At times they are associated with tailouts where sweeping gravel can also be bare and confuse those looking for them. Due to this, it is important for anglers to stay off of all of them this time of year to avoid a catastrophe.

Two bucks dancing in a tailout, looking for a partner.

A  buck chillin on a bed, waiting for a partner. 

The life cycle of steelhead and all anadramous fish start and end here in the gravel. It is imperative that all anglers and outdoorman alike understand the importance of these spawning beds. By doing hands on field research, much of which is done on a volunteer basis we can gather needed information about both the escapement for each river drainage. It also allows us to better understanding how each watershed is affected by environmental stressors such as logging and warm water runoff. Groups like The Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Native Fish Society, Wild Steelhead Coalition and Trout Unlimited work together with each individual state's Department of Fish and Wildlife to establish the data needed for escapement numbers. By doing so throughout the late winter, spring and early summer, we are able to make sure there are numbers allowing for recreational fishing. Most importantly we are able to make sure this prized possession in the Pacific Northwest is allowed to live and thrive despite the obstacles of over population and harvest.

Selective tree harvesting in the drainage.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ibex Wool and Wool Vs. Synthetics

Knitty Gritty

Back in my college days, my mother decided to gift me a real wool flannel collared shirt made from a local company in Oregon. Although flannel shirts were popular in the 90’s grunge days, and yes I was a big fan of that era of music, a wool flannel shirt just did not seem to attract the ladies like I would have liked. My shirt stayed in the closet for some time. I guess that is what happens when mommy tries to dress you. It was not until years later when I started taking it out while fishing that I realized that wool was really what it was all cracked up to be, warm and comfortable. I new it was expensive and sometime scratchy, but never really thought about why wool had been used for thousands of years.

Years later, and while spending more days here in the Pacific Northwest on the water during the cold damp days of Winter, Spring and Fall, I started to wonder why we did not see a lot of fishermen wearing wool products. I do remember watching Lani Waller in his Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Steelheading videos back in the 80’s wearing wool, but have not noticed it since then.

With lots of fly fishing manufacturers producing product lines made of light weight breathable synthetics, you would have thought that wool products would have been somewhere in there. Maybe I missed it, but while walking through those high end sporting good stores, you cannot help but see Merino wool socks, gloves and clothing for hikers, rock climbers, cycling and skiing. Realistically, fly fishing clothing from companies like Simms and Patagonia, companies that know their market, have comparable prices to that of companies that produce wool outdoor clothing. But why not wool for fly fishing?

So is there a difference?

Though wool is much different today then the generations before due the use of finer fibers from different breeds of sheep, the term Merino was coined from merino sheep. Today Merino has blended into a term for all fine wool. Unlike the sandpaper feel wool once had, it is now comfortable and stretchy and lacks the pruritic feel it once had.

Wool fibers have a scaly external sheath with bundles of internal fibers within. This is what gives it that itchy feel. These fibers are hydrophobic, thus wicking or repelling moisture away from the fabric. The very internal portion of the fiber is hydrophilic and can absorb moisture when saturated. This moisture however is carried away from the skin when the evaporation process starts due to its fibrous structure and though your cloths may be damp, you will not feel clammy next to your skin. When you warm up and this moisture evaporates you will feel cool.

Synthetic fibers have a more uniform structure, made of polyester or polypropylene (polypro). Where in wool, moisture is held within the fibers, synthetics hold it outside the fibers, speeding up the evaporation process and you get the same cooling effect as with wool, but for not as long since the moisture is held within the fibers in wool. Also with the moisture being outside the fibers, this leads to increased evaporation. You will loose that feeling of weight faster then with wool. The individual synthetic fiber also has an external texture that helps disperse the moisture for evaporation, and with its increased mobility, thus dry faster and keep moisture away from your skin.

Wool does have this interesting feature that synthetics are lacking in; they have antimicrobial qualities due to its protein based material. Thus when you sweat, you do not stink as much. Synthetics have decreased this margin over the years, but they have not closed the gap on wool. When using wool as a baselayer and wearing waders and a shell it is hard not to get that mold and mildew smell associated with the damp nature of the climate we have here in the Pacific Northwest. Wool will help prevent you from retaining those smells after those waders are taken off.

Overall both are great products with different attributes for the outdoorsman. Wool keeps you warm and less clammy on your skin when damp, prevents you from getting B.O. and barbecue. Wool also is flame retardant due to its non-synthetic nature and lack of coatings, more biodegradable and comes from a renewable resource and can keep you cool when it is hot and warm when it is cool. Synthetics dry faster, carry less weight, especially when damp and are slightly less expensive and also keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it is cool.

For some reason daydreaming while stepping through run after run this winter has made me think about wool vs. synthetics and why my wool Ibex Nomad Hoody felt better then the baselayers I used in the past. It was warm, comfortable, dry and not much more expensive then the other baselayers I wear. Ibex’s Knitty Gritty Fingerless Gloves are pretty badass too. I only wear wool gloves in the winter and this is by far the best pair I own. I am certain to some degree I didn’t stink as much this Winter while wearing wool, but I am sure for once that had something to do with my smell instead of how the fishing went.

Ibex Outdoor Clothing is a Vermont based company that specializes in wool products. They provide high quality outdoor lines for skiing, mountain climbing, cycling and baselayers for any outdoor adventure. In time I am sure they will provide the same for fishing enthusiasts as well. Wool is a unique product that is versatile, comfortable, and warm. The fact that it also comes from a renewable resource and not a petroleum based synthetic is an easy sell for you tree huggers out there. Just remember your fly lines are made of them as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012