February 28, 2015

The St. Johns River Alliance Highlights Shad Alley

Here's a nice video put together by the St. Johns River Alliance about "Shad Alley," the area of Florida I fished earlier this month. It's such a neat spot, the video does a good job showing off the diversity of the St. Johns River.

Plus, it's less than 3 minutes long and well worth the watch.

h/t Capt. Rich Santos

February 26, 2015

Is The Goo The Poo? So Many UV Resins To Choose From

I really don't care for fly tying. I don't do a ton of it, but there are a handful of patterns that I've become pretty competent at lashing together, and have become the core of my fly box. Tying really is somewhat of a necessary evil...sure I could buy flies, but I've accumulated so many hooks, hackles, beads, and thread over the past few years, it'd be a shame to have them go to waste.

One commodity I haven't acquired to date, but am kinda intrigued by is UV resin...you know, the epoxy-like stuff that gets hard really fast (without help from special pills) when you shine a special flashlight on it. I'd like to get my hands on some, especially since I'm starting to tinker with saltwater flies, but I'm not sure where to sink my $20 or $30 (before UV flashlight, of course).

saltwater fishing fly streamer clouser minnow
I know, I know...baby steps...

I guess the market leader is Clear Cure Goo (CCG)... It seems to be the brand that most people would recognize when it comes to this stuff...as well as the one most commonly referenced by the fly tyers I follow on social media. It comes in a lot of different flavors, and with all the "love" out there, I guess it can't be a bad product. Or maybe they just have a lot of tyers on their Pro Staff.

Then sort of in the last year I've read some folks really raving about Deer Creek Diamond UV resins, which are pretty much the same thing (I guess?), except they've always been "tack free." (Evidently the original recipes of CCG dried tacky and needed a topcoat). I don't know a ton about Deer Creek Diamond other than I think it comes from the UK, so perhaps that's why it's not as common as CCG.

Deer Creek Diamond UV Fly Tying Resin

I also understand there are a slew of other choices...Loon, Solarez, Jif, etc...so I was wondering what you all might be using and if there's a reason why?

Any recommendations or feedback is welcomed in the comments below...

POSTSCRIPT:  Cheech over at Fly Fish Food just posted an entry about UV Resins today as well. Coincidence? (Probably, I'm not vain enough to think it's some sort of retort to my post). I'll add the link to go read his post HERE as the commentary over there will probably contribute to this conversation too.

February 17, 2015

Tenkara Tuesday - Driftless Tenkara

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday.

There's a really great article in the most recent edtion of the Kype Magazine e-zine on tenkara fishing the Driftless region of Wisconsin (and Iowa & Minnesota) by Mike Lutes of Badger Tenkara.

Driftless Tenkara Kype Magazine Mike Lutes

The article isn't the typical tenkara piece that you've probably already read in countless publications over the past few years...you know...Japanese tradition...kebari...simplcity...all that stuff. Rather it's a breakdown of the area, its trout, and some of the modified tenkara tactics the author has employed to find success on the endless streams one might fish.

It's a good reminder that if you're new to tenkara, it doesn't have to be all about reverse hackle flies and level line. In fact you can go a totally different path and still reap many of the rewards a tenkara rod can provide over "traditional" tackle.

You can read the entire article in the window below...

...or by clicking HERE.

February 16, 2015

Warmwater Fly Fishing Is Warming Up

Hadn't checked the neighborhood ponds in about a month, so I snuck out for an hour or so on Sunday. Happy to report the fish seem to be waking up from their winter slumber.

Saw quite a few large bass cruising the shallows and tons of active panfish. Was fortunate to bring about a dozen to hand as I quickly circled the pond's perimeter.

Florida Retention Pond Bluegill Fly Fishing

The bigger ones appear to be on the move too. I had a really nice sized largemouth come up to smash a fly on the fall...but it got me hung up in the dense weeds lining the bank. I had to break it off, I was using a tenkara rod and I didn't want to horse the fish out of the thick tangle of vegetation.

Here's a pic of a little one though...you know...just zoom in to get a similar effect.
Sight fishing these dinks was actually a blast, each racing up to slam the fly as soon as it hit the water.

Tenkara Fly Fishing Kebari Bass

I think now that the temperatures are on the rise, it's time to venture outside the neighborhood ponds and try to find some legit largemouth action.

February 15, 2015

Tenkara Rod Co. / Backcountry.com Goat Tenkara Kit


Tenkara Rod Co Backcountry Goat Rod Cap

Appears the guys over at the Tenkara Rod Co. have partnered with Backcountry.com on a special make up (SMU) tenkara rod kit called the Goat. Maybe this isn't a new revelation, as I don't frequent Backcountry.com all that often, I just happened to see it there last night and I don't recall hearing about it before.

Tenkara Rod Co Backcountry Goat Rod Package

I guess it's sort of like prior iterations of co-branding, similar to the Backpacking Light / Tenkara USA Hane from a few years back, or even more recently the re-badging of the TFO tenkara rods as Patagonia "Simple Fly Fishing."

Really don't know much about the Goat rod other than the fact that it's 12 feet long. Not sure if it's a Sawtooth with a different coat of paint, or if it's something totally new. The description provided is as minimal at tenkara itself.

Just found it sort of interesting, as Backcountry.com has carried Tenkara USA products in the past, as well as the Patagonia / TFO rods. Would be curious to see if now that they have their own Goat rod, if those other brands get the nudge out the door...or if this move is simply to address an opening price point omission. At $159.95, the Goat is far more price friendly than their offerings from other brands at well north of $200.

Here are a few more pics, lifted from the Backcountry.com website that show off the paint job better, including the integration of Backcountry.com's ubiquitous Goat logo...

Tenkara Rod Co Backcountry Goat Rod Branding
Tenkara Rod Co Backcountry Goat Rod Extended

February 14, 2015

Fishing Haturday - TN FLY CO

I'm not from Tennessee. I've never fished in Tennessee. I think I've been in the state a grand total of 2 times...once to Nashville and another time to Tullahoma (don't ask, although it's a pretty random story).

Regardless, today's Fishing Haturday featured hat is...

TN FLY CO Tri-Fly Logo Hat
Don't worry Brian Schiele, I'll have a "regular" cap for you next time...

There's just something about the Tri-Fly logo...which I suppose emulates the 3 stars in the Tennessee state flag...that I really dig. Even take the whole Tennessee factor out of this, I just think it looks cool...almost subtle patriotic or something...

It's available in many colors, shapes, and styles HERE, starting at $25.

February 12, 2015

Proposed Changes to Pennsylvania's Delayed Harvest (DHALO) Regulations

I'm headed back up to Pennsylvania toward the end of March. I'm going to try to get some trout fishing in, even though many streams are "closed" for the month for stocking. (I fish some wild trout streams that are not impacted by the closure). Pennsylvania has some confusing rules when it comes to trout waters, including two different "Opening Days," so it's always good to check the latest regulations before getting a line wet at this time of year...

Bill Murray Caddyshack Trout Fishing Meme

Anyway, as I was doing this, I stumbled upon several people voicing  their displeasure about some potential changes to the PA Fish & Boat Commission's Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) regulations for 2016. 

Currently, you can fish DHALO waters year-round with flies or artificial lures, with a window of time in the summer that allows you to harvest fish. Otherwise, the water is catch & release only, and as the name indicates, no bait is permitted. The long and short of the changes is would:
  • Extend the delayed harvest period by three weeks (earlier)
  • Reduce the size requirement to harvest from 9" to 7"
  • Allow use of bait during the period, with children under 16 being allowed to use bait year round
The best recap of this whole situation can be found on paflyfish.com.

Stocked Brown Trout Caught On Woolly Bugger

As you might imagine, there could be a lot of people who probably will not like this change. Especially fly fishers that don't want mouth breathing bait fishers stealing all of the fish from the stream early, ruining the potential for extended season of trout fishing. (I joke of course, I have nothing against fishing with bait). 

Personally, I don't know how I feel. I think I can see the issue from both sides, even the PFBC's who clearly want to open up more fishing opportunities to its paying customers licensed anglers, especially kids. The waters I fish are largely unaffected by the proposed change, so I'm trying to put my feet in the waders of both parties. 

I suppose unless there is some sort of gigantic last minute grassroots campaign (and I'm not advocating one), these changes will be passed mid-this year.

Whatever happens, let's hope if it doesn't work out as expected for all involved, that the PFBC is willing to reverse course for future seasons, restoring what I've always thought were a successful (& generally well received) set of regulations.

Do you fish for trout in Pennsylvania?  
If so, what are your thoughts on the proposed changes?

February 10, 2015

Tenkara Tuesday - Big Rods & Saltwater Tenkara

Welcome to Tenkara Tuesday...

I receive a lot of emails asking me for a recommendation on which tenkara rod one should use to target saltwater fish. I think the assumption is that since I live in Florida, I use tenkara tackle on larger "Florida" species like redfish, snook, speckled trout, cobia...who knows, maybe even jacks and tarpon. Heck, there was even a comment on yesterday's shad post about if tenkara could be used to combat a shad run.

I want to snap your tenkara rod in half...maybe thirds...

Personally, I don't intentionally use tenkara on larger fish. Never have. And it's not because I don't think you can. Rather, it's just not what I'm looking for when I fish tenkara. To me, tenkara rods are for trout, or trout sized fish...bass, bluegill, etc...in small streams or creeks. Yes, you can catch BIG trout with them, but for me, that's been the exception and not the rule. I'd rather use a reel on the big guys. I like reels, especially the sound they make when there is a substantial fish on the other end.

(I'm not defining your tenkara, I'm defining mine. At least at this instant in time...which is always subject to change).

However, if you do want to use a fixed line rod to try and catch larger and/or more salty species, I think that's awesome! As such, I compiled a few rod recommendations over time to possibly answer your rod choice question. Many of them have been supplied by people with some first-hand experience with mostly big fish tenkara.  So in no particular order...

Tenkara USA Yamame
While not the longest rod in Tenkara USA's lineup, the Yamame is advertised as having the most "backbone" which is a pretty important trait when it comes to muscling around heavy fighting fish.  I've also heard of anglers that opt for the Amago, which is slightly longer, although perhaps not as stout.

Image courtesy: Tenkara USA

Zen Fly Fishing Kyojin
This rod is a pig, pure and simple.  I had the pleasure of handling a Kyojin last Fall in Colorado and this is one stout rod.  With an 8:2 flex rating and an extended 40" handle, this is a two handed beast of a spey-kara rod. The diameter of the graphite blank alone will make any other tenkara (or fly rod) look like a toy in comparison.

Image courtesy: Zen Fly Fishing Gear

Riverworks Tenkara Monster Series
I've only seen this rod in pictures.  I don't even know if you can buy one yet. The Monster Series is a 14' split grip two hander...perhaps one of the most unique tenkara rods I've ever laid eyes on. That's really the only reason why I posted it...this thing could be killer in the right hands. 

Image courtesy: Riverworks Tenkara

All Fishing Buy UNAGI Series
You may not be familiar with All Fishing Buy, but they've been offering fixed line fishing rods for quite some time. They were actually one of the first resources to sell tenkara rods domestically. They advertise their Unagi rods as able to "land big fish such as Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, or even Striped Bass."  I selected these rods from their many offerings as they are advertised as tenkara rods, even though the site also offers other larger fixed line rods intended for other forms of big fish fishing.

Image courtesy: All Fishing Buy

Daiwa Kiyose 
The Daiwa Kiyose comes in a couple different flavors, but the two I'm going to mention here are the 43M and the 53M.  The 43M is a very versatile zoom rod, with fishable lengths at approximately 12.5 and 14 feet.  For those who have handled a tenkara rod before, it's probably the model you'd be most comfortable with in hand.  The 53M is the next size up, and it is a substantial zoom rod that fishes at approximately 15.5 and 17 feet.  And when I say substantial I mean it, check out the grip...

Image courtesy: TenkaraBum

Please note, these are only suggestions. A few rod options to perhaps point you in the right direction. Other than the Yamame, I've never fished any of them, but they all appear to have specs that line up to be able to handle themselves in on big fish, even in the salt.

At the end of day, the only thing I'd really recommend is that if you are going to take tenkara "BIG" do your research and choose a rod that you can easily obtain replacement sections for should it happen to break. It's also good form to always follow the manufacturer's recommendation for tippet size. It's only fair should you plan on using their warranty service.

Heck, the tenkara community is a pretty small one, if you find a rod you think might work, try emailing the retailer directly, I'd bet they'd give you their honest opinion if it's the right rod for you and your target species.

Are you a big fish tenkara angler? What rod do you use and prefer? 
Would love to hear your first-hand recommendations in the comments below...

February 9, 2015

Fly Fishing The Florida Shad Run

I lived in Philadelphia for 35 years, and outside of one aborted attempt, I never tried to go shad fishing. Not once. Many do, and look forward to the annual event, to the point that there is even a Shadfest in not-too-distant New Hope (PA) & Lambertville (NJ) that celebrates the rite of spring.

When I moved to Florida, I learned that shad also run all the way down here...who'd a thunk it? Not me at least. I thought Florida was redfish, speckled trout, and snook. I also discovered that the same guide that took me out for flood tide redfish in kayaks last fall, Captain Rich Santos of First Coast Fly Fishing Unlimited, also ran guided trips to go and catch them...well, that was an immediate no-brainer that I decided to address come the new year.

Unfortunately, due to whatever Mother Nature had up her sleeve (mostly high water levels) the shad decided to run a little later this year, so our January trip turned into a February trip, which happened to be last Saturday.

mitzi skiff
Captain Rich & His 16' Mitzi Skiff

Being a total newbie to this type of fishing, I learned 4 things about shad.

1.  They are camera shy
American Shad don't like to be caught. It's not that they won't hit your fly once you find them, actually quite the opposite.  It's that they have no tolerance for being netted, nor do they like to be in your boat as you remove the hook. They are pretty much one solid muscle that freaks out nuts until you get them back in the water. At least if you don't exhaust them to death during the fight. Which leads to...

2.  They are sharp
Captain Rich warned me about their bellies being sharp.  He said bring gloves, but I didn't have any other than thin solar gloves. But we had to of course get at least one grip & grin photo to validate the trip...

florida fly fishing shad
Grip n' Grin
Photo by Rich Santos

I'm smiling through the pain in this picture, my left pinky finger is hamburger. (Actually, it's not that bad, nothing a quick band-aiding couldn't fix). Let's just say that I don't need another photo of a shad in hand and "keep 'em wet" will largely apply from now on.

3.  They are slimy
Like incredibly slimy. Like Ghostbusters slimy. Like imagine if your fish came out of the water drenched in an inch thick layer of KY jelly. I tried to hold the one above and it started going into convulsions so I tried to brace it against my chest instead of having it flop around the deck of the skiff. Um, yeah...not the best idea.

Cleaning up after the "money shot"  :)
Photo by Rich Santos

4.  They are also darn good fighters on a 6-weight fly rod
What a blast!  The biggest one of the day was just above 19 inches long, and very thick.  Awesome fight, complete with acrobatics! Shad like to run, jump, all that fun stuff.

bent rod fly fishing shad florida
Fish On!
Photo by Rich Santos

Shad are pretty awesome, and I'll be back for more. Even though I'm kinda mad because I now know what I was missing up in Pennsylvania all these years...

But enough about the shad. The experience of fishing is always about more than the fish you're chasing.

The area of Central Florida that Captain Rich took me to was very interesting. It's the headwaters of the St. Johns River, so the waterway is far more narrow than up north where I live just outside of Jacksonville. It also happens to run through some fields, pastures, whatever you want to call them, that houses an incredible amount of animal life.

Livestock such as cows and horses graze the banks (under the shade of palm trees of all things...which is kind of a foreign concept to a Yankee), while flocks and flocks of different bird species are everywhere. We even saw a camera-shy bald eagle. White pelicans were in especially high concentration while we were out...because, they like to eat shad...and they're not stupid. While they winter in the South, there's no better place to be than "Shad Alley."

A Bunch Of Pelicans Standing On A Flooded Bank
Photo by Rich Santos

Oh, and did I mention the alligators...it's Florida after all, right? We saw two on the day, this one was somewhat cooperative when it came to taking pictures, although it really didn't care for us bothering its sunning.

The Tolerant Gator
Photo by Rich Santos

And I won't even get into the local "wildlife" piloting the multiple airboats and gyrocopter (yes, gyrocopter) zooming all around and about all over the place. Let's just say it was an amazing display.

Overall, the day was a huge success.  I scored my first 4.5 shad on the fly (the .5 is for the long distance release on the final one of the day), explored a very new and unique area to me which I'd recommend to anyone, and got to learn some new tricks from one of the best guides in Northeast Florida. Oh, and it was 70 degrees with beautiful blue skies the first weekend of February. It'd be real hard to top that again if I tried!

If you happen to be in the Jacksonville area and want to get a rod bent, a full list of Captain Rich's guide services (as well as many other resources) are available on his website flyfishjax.com.

February 1, 2015

Tenkara Guide Sling (via Tenkara Talk)

Jason over at Tenkara Talk has been an awesome resource for tenkara-related information pretty much since tenkara became a "thing" in the United States.  If you're into tenkara, I'm surely not telling you anything new.

He posted an excellent video yesterday on how he configures his Zimmerbuilt Tenkara Guide Sling for a day on the water.  I also own a Tenkara Guide Sling for those longer outings when I need to bring a bit more than what my Vedavoo Tightlines Sling will carry...I'm definitely going to take his advice on the tippet placement!

I'd like to note, while it's called a "Tenkara Guide Sling," I also use this pack when fly fishing with a rod and reel.  It's a very well designed pack that's exceptionally lightweight.  It's one I'd recommend to any fly fisherman.

Bow & arrow cast and Tenkara Guide Sling for the win!
Image Courtesy: Owl Jones