Picked up a pair of Chacos with all this fly fishing I have been doing. And while I know they are no fashion statement, it is as good as (dorky) pair of hiking sandals is going to get. Lifetime warranty and Vibram soles make this footwear option a no brainer. Their customer service has a phenomenal reputation and you can even get them re-soled if you should ever wear out the bottoms, which I can not foresee happening anytime soon. Fast drying and great traction while wading though the rocky bottoms of rivers make these a warm weather must have for all different types of feet.
"If we carry purism to its logical conclusion, to do it right you'd have to live naked in a cave, hit your trout on the head with rocks, and eat them raw. But, so as not to violate another essential element of the fly-fishing tradition, the rocks would have to be quarried in England and cost $300 each." --John Gierach
May has come to and end, which means the fish are out in Iowa! This years venture is to become proficient (or at least not embarrassing) fly fisherman. A couple of youtube videos on tying knots and learning how to cast, have enabled to to catch over 20 fish in a few of the local lakes and ponds these last couple of weeks! So, it is possible to learn and even more possible to not spend a scrillion dollars in doing so. Many people ask, "Don't you have to be in a river to fly fish?". If someone ask you that politely remind them that fish live in many different types of water. Around here we have a lot of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. I picked this set up to enable myself to catch anything from bass and bluegill to those picky trout (should I ever head north east).
This next series will narrate my set up and a ton of useful information on getting your first fly rig set up on a very friendly budget!
I have pieced together a set up that is probably more than great for a beginner, but there are tons of starter kits out there, which make getting on the water fast, easy as pie. A lot of people who want to try or like having a set up for their friends or significant others go with these starter kits. My girlfriend has a LL Bean Angler II Outfit and is really enjoying learning on it, and for under $100 fully loaded, you can argue the value of getting to learn fly fishing with your awesome girlfriend!
I will save you all the trouble of searching the interwebs by sharing these links to combos and outfits:
LL Bean Angler II - $80
LL Bean Quest II - $100
LL Bean Pocket Water (for those tight creeks and traveling trips) - $285
TFO NXT Fly Outfit - $200
Reddington Fly Fishing Outfits - $100 - $300
Bass Pro Combos - $40 - $495
Cabela's Combos - $40 - $800
In all honesty you can easily invest a solid two hours in going through and comparing these items. At the end of the day, go get started and enjoy being a student and amateur. I personally like products with lifetime warranties and reels that are made from aluminum vs plastic. But hey, you can catch a great fish using a stick and line, so long as you know know how to find the fish!
"These medium fast and progressive action rods are smooth casting and powerful, yet very forgiving—and are an incredible value. Lefty says they are the perfect rods for all anglers and skill levels. Traveling anglers can afford to take them as a backup, but often return with a new favorite."
- Temple Fork Outfitters website
After reading tons and tons of blogs, you eventually have to go out and spend money. I picked up this Temple Fork Outfitters rod online from Cabela's bargain cave for $100 + free shipping. A couple of friends have TFO rods and they love them. TFO is a Dallas based company whose rods are manufactured in South Korea, so that along means quality. Yes I am from South Korea, no I am not automatically biased..
I have used this rod for about 15 hours over the last two weeks and have caught a hair over 20 fish. The rod is medium fast, which makes it easy to transfer energy when you are "loading" the rod with line during your cast. TFO offers cheaper rods even, and others that are about three times more expensive. So pro or not you can find something that will make a good addition to your arsenal. A lifetime warranty, cork handle and affordable price point make this rod the best bang for the buck. Go get one!
LL Bean's Quest Large Arbor Reel will run you about $50 and is built from die cast aluminum to survive all of your drops. I purchased this reel based on an article from Joe Cermele at Field and Stream, he's got a lot of experience on me, so I'd listen to him.
I so badly want to tell you that the huge steelhead bending my rod in the photo at left was landed. Unfortunately, I cannot. Nor can I tell you the four other steelhead hooked during the same session were landed. Luckily for L.L. Bean, I wasn't field testing one of their nets in Pulaski, NY, this past weekend. Equally lucky for Bean, my horrible landing ratio was a product of the need for 4-pound tippet, a crowded river, and making dumb decisions at critical points in the fight...not the performance of new Quest Large Arbor reel I was using.
L.L. Bean's Quest fly reels have been around for a while, marketed as introductory reels for beginner fly fishermen. The original Quests are made of a composite resin. This year, Bean upped the ante with the Quest Large Arbor series, which have spools and housings made of die-cast aluminum, and some extra beef in the sealed disc drags. The model I got to play with was the #2, and it sells for only $45.
Even before I got the reel wet, I noticed that the tolerances felt incredibly tight while spooling up some 7-weight line. No metal-on-metal rubbing within the frame or jiggling in the reel foot. I also like the no-click line intake and comfortable inward-tapering handle. Frankly, based on feel, I wasn't at all surprised that when I tied into my first steelie, the reel performed flawlessly. The drag was buttery-smooth, and I couldn't feel any torquing or shifting in the frame when cranking like crazy to keep up with the fish. I own a few reels with much higher price tags that don't perform as well, so I'm thinking this utilitarian Quest is going to become a workhorse I lean on often.
Now, you could argue that one trip out cannot gauge overall worth. That's fair, but let's be honest here: if a reel that's ice cold because of the conditions can tolerate the smoking runs of super-angry winter steel without crapping the bed, I don't think it will have any problems dealing with trout, bass, or carp that won't take a fraction of the line half as fast. Whether you're looking for a new reel, or perhaps a reliable back up to keep in the truck, it's hard to go wrong with the new Quest series that range in price from $40 to $50.
Where the heck to do I put all my fly fishing stuff? I am only 26 so a vest is way to old man-ish for me. Orvis has a solution and surprisingly it is cheaper compared to other vests and hip packs out there. The Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack ($89) is a minimal pack with all the necessities for a day on the water. It provides easy access to your tippet, flies, clippers, scissors, etc and it slides easily from your back to your chest quite nicely. I used my mine this last weekend and it worked perfectly and I would agree with everyone in saying it is comfortable, easy to use, and less dorky than the other alternatives out there. If you are needing to wade in water that goes above your chest, well... this won't help you there. But for the 99.9% of all the other times you fish, this little pack with make your day much easier.
I recently ordered a "furled leader" from Cut Throat Leaders. I am excited to get it hooked up to my line and get some casts in. From everything that I have read, the furled nature of the leader is supposed to fall freely, absorb shock, and provide extra strength. Most people say they use these and never have to change them again. So, mine is in the mail and I will let you know how it goes! Note: Don't forget to pick up some leader floatant.
These little rubber clamps are what is standing between your vehicle and your vehicle being more awesome. These little clamps are used by auto-nerds all over. They are easy to mount, each clamp sporting a hard piece of plastic backing and a 1/8" hole, meaning you can bolt these suckers wherever you see fit.
Check out my DIY: Axe Mount using a par of fist clamps.
Say hello to our new logo!
I am terrible at drawing, sketching and really anything free hand. It has taken me all winter, countless horrible sketches, drawings and really, utter embarrassment in my venture to make my own logo. I may do graphic design for a full time job, but let's all cut me some slack and remember the fact that I got my undergrad in Advertising and not Graphic Design.
Anywho, here is what I came up with and I am pretty proud of myself. Any comments and critiques are welcome!
No more leaking coffee! Hydro Flask has really got things figured out. For all of you who want to carry around your delicious Third Wave coffee in a perfectly sized 12 oz size, pick up one of these! All the trendy shops have their awesome, branded Klean Kanteens and no matter the lid, it always seeps out hot coffee when it is not held upright. Problem solved. Here's a simple equation for all you engineers out there: Hydro Flask > Klean Kanteen.
Hydro Flask is a stainless steel, insulated water bottle that keeps your hot things hot and your cold things cold. These awesome bottles are the brain child of hot days on the surf in back in 2008 in Hawaii. Here's what the About Us page on Hydro Flask's website has to say:
Hydro Flask was subsequently launched in Bend, Oregon, at the base of the Cascade Mountains, a hub for world class skiing and snowboarding, cycling and mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing, fishing, golf and craft brewing. Word quickly spread among recreational hobbyists, professional athletes, beer enthusiasts and coffee lovers of a better water bottle with a breakthrough combination of design, technology and performance. Our fans were amazed to find ice-cold water in their Hydro Flask after leaving it in a blazing hot car for hours and equally impressed after snowshoeing up a mountain and being able to enjoy piping hot coffee at the summit. (see full article here)
The TRX: Tactical Force Kit is incredibly over priced. It is $300 for a bunch of car straps with handles. However, find a kit on craigslist (for... let's say $100) and you have yourself a deal! This is a great purchase for the end of winter and early spring months to get that #beachbod2014 we're all looking for. I really enjoy my kit because I get a great workout that feels very Crossfit-esque. Great for strengthening stabilizers and core training. I don't have the time after a 35 minute commute to also go the gym, so being able to do this at home is a huge plus. Watch a few videos and you'll probably feel inspired to hang upside down in your apartment, I know I did. Now you can camp, climb and look great all year long.
Thank you Poler Stuff for being awesome. I picked up their Two Man Tent over the winter when they were having their 30% Off Sale. I just used this rad piece of gear on a recent Tusk Adventure to the Ozarks (Brozarks) about an hour and half south of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The temperature at night was 33 degrees fahrenheit with a light snow, so needless to say this the Two Man Tent was put to the test.
This tent has some great features and is about the size of MSR's Hubba Hubba NX. The tent itself is all mesh which made for great ventilation. A single pole system made set up in the dark fast and easy, and the outer shell was completely waterproof and the extensions on the front allowed us to store things like muddy boots and lanterns, while still keeping thing nice and dry. The Two Man Tent has two arced doors on each side, so there's no having to crawl over your guest when you have to exit in the middle of the night. The bottom layer of the tent also kept the weather and water out. All in all it was a great night and I would highly suggest this tent to anyone who wants a tent that looks cool and performs well. My photo was even featured on their NYC Instagram account, check it out! here.
Field Notes Expedition look like they were made for the outdoors (cough, cough, Pinterest, cough). But that isn't going to stop you or I from buying them. They look great in your hipster raw denim jeans, camp-box, or EDC pocket dump. The pages are supposedly a "48-Page Durable Materials Memo Book", but after a couple of weeks of getting thrown around in your pocket these little guys crack and tear around the edges. Just don't read the Fieldnotes web-description and believe it. While I wouldn't use them for serious, they are worth the $10 based on aesthetic alone. http://fieldnotesbrand.com/colors/expedition
Just picked this bad boy up from Amazon ($30). It's light and engineered by Fiskars for a high swing speed, which means more deeper cuts and more efficiency. It looks great, feels great and is a must have for gathering firewood as well as looking awesome. It has a an "unbreakable" handle and has a unibody design that encases the axe head at end so you don't have to worry about the head flying off an ruining your weekend fun.
Check out Fiskars Axes.
SOG Twitch II is my EDC (Every Day Carry). The Twitch II features a straight edge, drop point tip, SOG's Assisted Technology and has an overall length of 6.0" It can be operated with one hand and has a hand locking mechanism on the back to prevent the blade from saying hello to the inside of your thigh. The rosewood handle is not as durable as it's original, but it is lighter and there is something about a wood handled pocket knife that makes you feel like a kid again. This is a great addition for anyone who wants to make their EDC a little more classy, and please but it off Amazon and not any retail store. You will save yourself about $30, so you're welcome in advance.
Kammok is one of those awesome brands and I can't get enough of their stuff. A Dallas, TX start up, Kammok is partnered with Malaria No More and donates a treated mosquito net to families across Africa. The Kammok Roo, as they call it, is a lightweight, one or two person hammok that can be used for camping, lounging, motorcycle trips, etc. I use mine about four times a week when the weather is nice. It has been camping, hiking and even to the mountains of Cinque Terre, Italy. It packs into a small ball about the size of a softball, and paired with a set of Python Straps, you are lounging in minutes.
Thermarest ProLite Sleeping Pad is every campers necessity. Don't get too excited about the comfort, but think more along the lines of heat retention. Whether you are in your tent, out in the open, or chilling in your Kammok Roo, this sleeping pad will keep you warm. It is "self inflating" and I have yet to figure out what that means, as I mySELF inflate it with my lungs every time. Not sure why that is on of Thermarest's selling points. The ProLite comes in four different sizes ranging from a length of 36" to 72" to accommodate your packing needs.
I use this pad even when I am couch surfing as it keeps me from having that weird lower back pain after sleeping on any said couch.
Mechanix Tactical Original is one of those pieces of gear that everyone should have. It is a durable second skin for your hand. Whether you are BMX-ing, chopping wood, or working on your car, do your hands (and significant other) a favor and wear a pair of these. And in black on black, they look super awesome. Honestly, I picked a pair of these up after a summer of doing work on my car and then seeing the movie Lone Survivor, where the team all wears a pair of these gloves.
How awesome is this:
If you are looking for some three season boots that will last a lifetime, look great and even be dressy enough for the weekends, then look no further than Red Wing's Heritage Beckman Boot.
While they take an investment in several pairs of thick wool socks, and a two month break in period, like any good leather, it is well worth the hard work and blisters. I picked up a pair in store on a trip to Red Wing, MN. They are a daily wear and have been in the water, mud and office at work. They clean up great and after they are broke in, rival my Cole Haan Air Madisons.
The are made from a much thicker leather than the Iron Rangers, but from all the reviews I have read, these boots have been told that they are "meant to take a beating" from customer after customer. Looking for a good investment in boots? Then look no further than a pair of Beckmans.