February 28, 2014

TU #196 - The Bluebacks

First there were the Greenbacks, now there are the Bluebacks...either way, we're probably better off for having both of 'em.  Perhaps Florida needs an Orangebacks, I'll see what I can do...

Check them out at www.bluebacks.org.

February 27, 2014

A Social Media Rant of Troutrageous! Proportions

So I gotta ask a question of my fellow bloggers...I know there's a lot of you out there...  Outside of writing your blog, do you really enjoy the social media part of blogging?

I don't.  And I haven't for some time.

Look, I dig writing a blog.  It started as a place to post pictures of fish and my kid, but turned into a creative outlet.  I work a desk job concocting spreadsheets and negotiating prices all day, so that release is not only welcomed, but needed.

But I'm at a point in my life where I'm really starting to detest Facebook.  I think I'm turning into an (almost) 37 year old curmudgeon.  I honestly believe it's a total time drain and other than maintaining about 40 or so actual "friendships" from afar it's something I could definitely do without.  Plus you'll go blind if you do it too much...

Fortunately(?), I've already all but given up on Twitter.  I once found some value there, but not so much anymore.  Life is so much more than 140 characters.  Those last 3 sentences were 157.

I never really embraced Instagram or Pinterest.  Pictures are cool, but everyone cross promotes their Instagram pics on Facebook.  I don't give a crap about any of the "next gen" social networks out there.  Is Snapchat yet another method one can use to distribute inappropriate pictures of their junk?

For some reason I'm like one of the 7 dudes who sort of enjoys the quirkiness of Google+, but even that is becoming nothing more than a collection of people running around taking pictures of absolutely nothing with their Google Glass cyborg eyewear and cloud-created "Auto Awesome" animated GIFs.  Hey Google+, not every winter picture needs animated snowflakes added to it...

I think the only reason why I actually still do social media (outside of writing the blog) is due to some sick sense of obligation I have to feed content to my roundabout 1000+ Followers, Likers, Circlers, or whatevers.  The sad thing none of us probably want to admit is that if we don't post something new to Facebook (or insert social network of choice), the followers won't miss us at all.  They'll just scroll down to the next picture of their friend's adorable baby or the Russian dash-cam car wreck video or the photo of their friend's half drunken bottle of IPA in their news feed.

But wait a second, one of the first things you're told...or you read...or whatever...as an impressionable blogger is that you should promote your writing to expand your audience.  Everybody consumes content differently, so it's incredibly important to post your crap on Facebook, Twitter, and places like that...  It's a necessary evil, right?

Eh...Google Analytics tells me that over the last 365 days only 8.8% of my blog's visits came from social media referrals.  And half of the 8.8% came from Blogger referrals (i.e. blogrolls), not Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, etc...  So is 4.4% of my traffic all that important, especially if the process of acquiring it isn't all that enjoyable?  Heck, I'm probably doing it wrong anyway.

As I'm re-reading this in closing I'm not exactly sure where I was going with this whole post...but I'm in too deep to just toss it aside.

Look, I still enjoy blogging.  It's fun, and I value all of the friendships I've made along the way.  Perhaps this is just my way of saying that if I'm quite a bit less active on social (other than syndicated blog posts that Facebook will probably not let you see unless I pay them for the honor), it's intentional, but nothing personal.  I'm just making better use of my time.  Maybe even out fishing...

The incredible irony of this post is that it was inspired by a instant message exchange with Jason Tucker on...you guessed it...Facebook.

February 26, 2014

Wednesday Nibbles - The FU February Edition

I'm just going to come out and say it, February as a month kind of sucks...and I don't even mind Valentine's Day.  For whatever the reason, February possesses the power to rob me of all creative juices - hence if you check my monthly post tallies in the Archives over in the right sidebar, February's totals are always among, if not THE, lowest of the year.  So I figured I'd combat writer's block by resorting to an old standby, Wednesday Nibbles, so enjoy...or not...whatever...

I ditched the Mangrove.  The rod gave me fits so I figured I'd try an ECHO3 Saltwater model from Echo Fly Rods.  The specs were good, the price was right (thanks eBay) and heck, it's just fun to try something else...especially if you're not keen on what you've got.  Hat tip to Carp on the Fly.  If nothing else they seem durable (peep the video below), which was an issue with my previous 8-weights.  I'll (hopefully) give it a good workout during Lilly's spring break on our mini-vacation to Clearwater Beach.

If all goes well, I might try an ECHO glass rod in a lighter weight as well.  Damn that Cameron Mortenson...but I could just watch this video over and over and over.  One might say it's "superfine," but let's not confuse the two rods.

Why no L.L. Bean the perceptive reader might ask?  Because they have an annual fishing gear sale that corresponds to the beginning of trout season in another month or two and I needed an upgrade before then.  Any purchases with the Bean will need to wait until the 20% off thing they do.  I may like to buy stuff, but I try to be frugal.  I'm thinking of selling one of my 3-weights to bankroll that Pocket Water Bean rod...anyway...

Holy crap.  Yeah, did you see Taco Bell is going to start serving breakfast?  While this concept goes against the calorie counting that I've been doing since the holidays...their main menu item is just about enough to make you say "screw it, and my cholesterol."  As such, I present the Waffle Taco in all of its scrambled eggs, cheese, sausage (or bacon), and syrup wrapped in a waffle glory...

I was always partial to the old school Egg McMuffin, but nothing says "opening day of trout season" like a Taco Bell waffle taco...  Side note, the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league team in Allentown updated their logo to be a strip of bacon this week.  Inspiring.

Speaking of over the top, what is the deal with this trend of folks tying these obnoxiously ginormous streamers and posting them on the social interwebs?  Maybe I just have dubious Facebook acquaintances, but all I see are folks lashing together parts of chickens, rabbits, heck probably even pandas (and hopefully cats) to 8 inch long hooks and applying liberal amounts of Fish Skullz and Clear Cure Goo.  Articulated, of course.  Perhaps it's in preparation to combat Godzilla this summer.  I guess I get it, big flies catch big fish...at least I think that's the idea.  I wouldn't know anything about big fish.

A fairly tame example lifted from Nomad Anglers

I probably shouldn't knock it because tying these monstrosities is plenty more manly on many levels than tying petite reverse hackle kebari.  Heck, if the name of your fly ends in the letter i, it's kind of effeminate by default, it might as well be called Tutti Frutti...

Yes they are...

Did you watch the Olympics?  I won't pick on Bob Costas, he's received enough grief for coming to work sick...  I also won't pick on the US Hockey team for pretty much mailing in the bronze medal game.  What I will say is Snowboard cross is by far my new favorite sport.  Racing, crashing, racing, and even more crashing.  I could watch this over and over and over again...kind of like when I'm flipping through the channels and stop in my tracks each and every time I notice that Gladiator is on.  (MAXIMUS!)

To close it out, time for some blog love.  My blogroll has gone through some updates recently, in with the new, out with the old and non-updating.  With that, three blogs worth your time checking out are The Rogue Outdoors, The Barbless Angler, and Low Gap Creek.

The first one is a multi-interest blog, one of those interests being adventures in herping.  I had no idea what herping was, but fortunately it does not involve venereal diseases.

Herping...courtesy The Rogue Outdoors

The second blog is about a dude who fishes and ties some really sweet flies.  I get lost in the pictures, I wish I could tie like that.  Oh, and I guess the last blog is the latest creation of that Owl guy.  At least for this week.  I mean just when you think he's finally gone...

So do yourself a favor and check 'em out!  Post annoying comments in their blog posts while you're at it.  It's fun.  Blame me, it's all good.

February 20, 2014

The Rod Goes BOOM!

I've never blown up a rod before...at least like I just did.  But don't get me wrong, I've broken my share of rods...

Heck, I've actually broken the rod tip section on my Tenkara USA Iwana twice.  Once being in a careless rush when collapsing the segments, another time on a fish...although the fish wasn't that big.  I probably had a small nick in it before I had the fish on...it was back when I used to fish bead head nymphs with my tenkara rods and I probably clipped it with the bead at some point.  

Iwana (not broken in this picture) with beadhead Copper John

Fortunately, tenkara rods are easy to fix...you can just order a new segment without having to send in your rod...or at least you can with Tenkara USA.  I guess I'm a little bit smarter now (not much) and haven't broken a tenkara rod in probably 3 or so years...(is that a jinx or what?)

Then there was the 3 weight I snapped when I fell down on some rocks on the last day fishing with Owl Jones in the Smokies.  (Wow, was that almost 2 years ago already???)  That was a by-product of me being part clumsy and part foolishly confident about navigating the slick rocks and fast-ish water I was wading in.  Much like Tenkara USA, Redington took care of me too...actually sent me an entirely new rod rather than just replacing the broken tip.

Broken Redington and paperwork...

More recently there was the Mangrove.  Oh, the Mangrove.  I really have a love/hate relationship with that rod.  Casting it is kind of like playing golf when you're not all that good.  You can be spraying drives (or in this case casts) inaccurately all over the place all day, then it unfurls the most friggin' sweet straight and long cast ever and makes you forget all about the chaos that just happened. 

Anyway, I snapped the Mangrove when I didn't realize my backcast was stuck in some tall grass as I pulled the rod forward to lay out some line in front of me.  Didn't take much force either...which makes me wonder.  Devastated (since the rod was relatively new), I packed it up, sent in the warranty claim, and yet again, the manufacturer, this time TFO, took care of me.

Mangrove you ignorant slut

On Sunday, I found a new way (to me) to break a rod.  I had picked up what I'd consider a relatively inexpensive backup rod (you know, just in case the Mangrove decided to break again - oh, the irony) from a relatively known brand I won't mention and it finally arrived last weekend.  Excited, I grabbed my reel, strung up the rod, and took it to the backyard.  

The first cast laid out about 30 feet of line perfectly.  Much better than the Mangrove.  Tried to up that distance to 50 on the next cast and although it wasn't perfect, it got it out there.  Third cast I tried 70.  Should have known better than to push my luck, but whatever, fly rods are made to cast line.  One false cast to get some line out, a second false cast to get a bit more, but on the third the rod just exploded on the backcast...as if the weight of the line was just too much.  Didn't hit a thing.  Maybe you've done that before...probably speaks to my horrid casting form...but I never had...and it actually scared the crap out of me when the thing "popped."

So I'm faced with a decision.  Deal with a warranty claim that will cost about 1/3 of what I paid for the rod in the first place?   Or just give up and ditch it?  And while I'm at it, ditch the Mangrove too....just because it pisses me off from time to time...and I ain't got no time these days for rod drama.  As much as it pains me to drop like $600-800 on a plastic rod, perhaps a serious 8-weight is a better option than juggling two mid to low pricepoint rods...

Sigh.  #fishworldproblems

February 16, 2014

The Florida Shad Run

This is the time of year that the shad run on the St. John's River and its tributaries in Northeast & North Central Florida.

They're supposed to be a ton of fun on medium to light tackle.  I won't be chasing shad today, rather I have a day of chores ahead, like cleaning the BBQ grill and running errands, but we both can go virtually, through the lens of Captain Rich Santos, a Jacksonville area guide.

(This video is actually from 2013, but what's not to like about cows, fan boats, and fish?)

February 15, 2014

The Quest For The Ultimate Fly Fishing Kayak - Part 5

The fifth installment of the "Quest" series brings a bit more information on a kayak first mentioned back in Part 2; the 2014 Feelfree Lure 11.5 Fishing Kayak.

Feelfree Lure 11.5 fishing kayak

Being initially turned on to this boat from nothing more than 3D renderings, it's really neat to see how it evolved into a final product.  What's not to like about this kayak?

Personally, there are 3 things that catch my attention.  Stability, seating, and accessories.

The Lure seems quite stable for its relatively short length.  A 36 inch width surely plays a role in that.  There is already some video online showing extensive fishing from the standing position.  An additional stand up leash makes it easy to safely go from a seated to standing position.  While I don't find myself standing all that much in my kayak, it's good to know you can in the Lure if desired.

The multi-position Gravity Seat is pretty much like a mini La-Z-Boy chair.  With multiple adjustments from low to almost a foot high, the seating configurations are practically limitless.  I'd love to take this for a test paddle just to see how different the balance is between the low and high positions.

Finally, I'm drawn in by the optional Uni-bar "dashboard" concept.  Most kayaks come with side rails that make it easy to add rod holders, GPS, camera mounts, you name it.  The Uni-bar works with the side rails of the Lure to create a horizontal platform for additional mounting capacity.  I haven't pimped my kayak out with too many add-ons yet, but this appears to be an ultra convenient option which allows the angler to have key accessories laid out directly in front of them for super easy access.

Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK.com) recently did a very good intro video about the ins and outs of the new Lure.  It's definitely worth the time to watch.

Stats (From Feelfree website)
Length: 11' 6" (350 cm.)
Width: 36" (91 cm.)
Weight : 69lbs (31 kg.)
Capacity: 375 lbs (170 kg)

I currently hold no association with Feelfree Kayaks or Austin Canoe & Kayak, this post simply highlights product(s) of interest for those seeking a kayak for fly fishing.

The Quest For The Ultimate Fly Fishing Kayak Series
Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4

February 12, 2014

Obsessed With L.L. - Part 2

I was surprised with the overall positive response that the post on Monday regarding L.L. Bean (fly fishing) equipment received.  Happy to find I'm not in the minority.

I was even more pleased to see someone take the ball and run with it, as +Jay Eubanks over at The Naturalist's Angle wrote a follow up piece yesterday entitled "L.L. Cool Beans" about his experiences with what we'll call "vintage" Bean rods & reels.  If you enjoy gear porn, head on over and check it out.

February 11, 2014

Call of the Wild - Northeast Florida Edition

I live on reclaimed swampland in Northeast Florida.  They dress up the name of the property around my house by calling it a "Plantation" or a "Preserve," but let's be honest, it's swamp.  Which for a Yankee that is accustomed to concrete and asphalt environs, creates some new opportunities to get up close to nature.

While there aren't any gators (that I'm aware of), there's plenty of other critters wandering around, especially at night.  We've got deer, turkeys, raccoon, bobcats, opossum, and I hear rumors of hogs...even though I've never seen one...not to mention all sorts of other birds, reptiles, amphibians, and probably worst of all, ungodly creepy insects.  Heck, when we first moved down here, my wife found a scorpion in Lilly's bedroom.  I guess that's what happens when developers & suburbanites encroach, the animals go on the move.

However if there is one thing that has become quite clear since moving to Florida (besides the fact that thou shalt not take Tim Tebow's name in vain), it is that armadillos are unfortunately not very skilled at successfully crossing the road.

So why did I tell that rambling backstory?  For no reason other than to set up this video that has nothing to do with fishing, but made me laugh and has everything to do with those highway impaired turtle-rabbits.  Enjoy...but not with young children...

February 10, 2014

Obsessed With L.L.

Mama said knock you out?

No, not that one.

I received the L.L. Bean fishing catalog in the mail the other week.  I'm not sure what it is about that book, but I not only want, but can justify to myself owning pretty much every piece of gear in the book.  Perhaps it's because it's not overwhelmingly large like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's...maybe it's because the prices are a touch less than those found at Orvis.  I don't know...there's just something about the stuff.

Now, I have to come clean.  I have a bit of a backstory with L.L. Bean and fly fishing.  I first learned to cast a fly rod on a whim at one of their Outdoor Discovery classes at a store in South Jersey.  My first fly rod outfit was a 3-weight Quest II also from L.L. Bean.

Today, L.L. Bean products still makes up a fair portion of my fishing gear.  While I have somewhat retired the old rod & reel, my wading boots are Gray Ghosts & when needed, my wading jacket is the Emerger.  I also have some technical apparel in the form of fishing shorts, zip off pants, and Cool Weave shirts.  I love each and every piece of gear.  It works great, is low maintenance, and it's good knowing it's all supported by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
After paging through this year's book I love the upgrades (in concept) to the Silver Ghost rods and reels, the addition of stitchless Kennebec waders, and I'll probably own every piece of L.L. Bean tropicwear by the end of the summer.  Heck, if I lived closer to trout water, I'd probably close the deal on the Pocket Water rod & click reel to compliment my tenkara rods...I've had my eyes on that outfit for over a year.

I guess the reason for this post is to wonder aloud why L.L. Bean gear isn't discussed more in fly fishing circles?  Value fly fishing brands such as Redington and TFO get lauded often in print and online, yet L.L. Bean goes largely unrecognized...even in places like message boards and forums.  Is it because the large majority of their offerings are private label, and unlike Orvis, not made available for wholesale (i.e. you won't find it in fly shops or trade show circuit)?  Is it a pay for play thing, where if they're not paying for sexy advertising they're not going to get the love?  Maybe it's something else...who knows...?

And no, I'm not being paid for this post.  (Although I'll accept all donations!)  I'm just a fan.

So end of day...you've got preferences as an angler, I've got preferences as an angler.  I'd just say that if you're in the market for new fly fishing gear, especially as someone making the jump from spin fishing much like I did 5 years ago - I've been nothing but satisfied over the past few years with the offerings from L.L. Bean.  

Now if they'd only compliment their private label merchandise with Tenkara USA rods and Vedavoo packs...

February 8, 2014

No Rest For The Weary

For all of my loyal (and imbalanced) readers, I apologize for the silence that the last two weeks have brought.  Sure, I could have mailed in some really lame posts (like this one), but I figured silence was probably a better option.

My day (and many times night) job revolves around sporting goods internet retail.  As such, the past two weeks were by far the busiest of the year, amplified by travel, and arguably more stressful and time consuming than any Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or whatever holiday-based Adjective / Day of the Week combo you want to throw out there.  

I think it was only 174 to 0 at this point...

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not seeking sympathy.  I don't deserve any.  I have a unique occupation that many would enjoy.  I'm simply informing the masses as to why it was pretty quiet around here.  It's not that there wasn't the desire, it was that the closest I got to fishing was walking past the NYC Orvis store on 5th Avenue after hours on Saturday. 

19 hours of travel on Monday...

But with that in the rear view, it's time to have some fun again.  It's time to gather inspiration and turn it into adventure (& blog posts!)  I'm looking forward to the promise and new challenges that the upcoming Spring represents.  I can't wait.  

Oh, but while it's still cold...go USA!