Sayonara 2012!

2012, what a ________ year. A lot of adjectives would be appropriate, but just plain strange will do.

In 2012 I:

  • got caught in an avalanche
  • lost some friends
  • almost bought a business
  • worked my butt off
  • had the weakest winter any one an remember
  • collected an unemployment check and got a front row view to the plight of millions of Americans in this economy

Despite the tough parts, there were some pretty awesome things that went down

  • jumped some grande tarpon
  • skied a ton
  • volunteered
  • hooked a lot of steelhead
  • and met a special lady

So all in all 2012 kept me on my toes. 2013 is already looking like it will be a big year.

In the mean time, we’ll close out 2012 with a little bit more of this.

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RIO Skagit iFlight Review

Early this summer I was having a typical BS session with RIO pro staffer and skagit guru Mike McCune (congrats btw). At one point during our chat Mike looked around to make sure nobody would overhear him and asked “Hey man, where should I go shad fishing right now?” I got a good chuckle and figured he must be up to something if he was going to be chasing shad….

Mike hinted that he was testing a line that was “super cool man!” It turned out to be RIO’s new Skagit iFlight line. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to get my paws on one and have fished it quite a bit. I’ve also thrown the other offerings in intermediate skagits on the market and while I can say they are all very nice lines, for me the RIO Skagit iFlight is the best one out there.

The Rig

I’ve been using the 475 grain iFlight which is 22′ feet long. The first 8′ float while the remainder of the line is intermediate (1.5 ips) sink rate. I throw it on a 6129 Sage VXP (best rod on the planet!) It’s attached to 30lb Trilene Big Game for running line. I like my skagits short so the length is perfect. The mass, even at 475 grains, will turn over any size winter fly I could ever want to throw.

The Tips

Dialing in sink tips and when to use them has been a bit of an adventure in a good way. The sinking belly gets down really effectively so when using 10′ of T material it’s not hard to dredge the bottom even in some substantial current. This allows you to fish much lighter tips than normal; where I might fish 10′ of T-11 I can now use a 10′ type 3 or 6 tip and achieve the same depth but with much more ease of casting.

The Swing

The RIO iFlight cuts under surface chop and swings much much slower than a conventional floating head/tip combo. You get a short window to mend the line before it slips under the surface, but from my experience so far if you botch mending just let it swing, it slows itself down and isn’t a big deal at all. One thing I have noticed is a lot more grabs on the hang down which is hard to discern whether its a coincidence or not.

The Casting

About my only concern was how this would cast when swinging so deeply and slowly. Other full sinking heads can be a pain to get up and out of the water. The iFlight tends to be a lot better with the longer floating section making it pick up with a snap t or circle spey just fine. As with a floating head and heavy tip you may have to give it a quick roll cast. I find that doing various variations of the Perry Poke works really well with this line (check out Skagit Master 1 for more on this cast). The iFlight has the same oomph as a skagit short and has no problems with a heavy tip and/or large fly.

The Verdict

The RIO Skagit iFlight has quickly become my go to winter line. I can fish deeper without the heavier tips required with a floating head. RIO’s new iMOW tips are excellent additions to these lines for ease of use. The only limitation I have found is swinging into small slots where it’s beneficial to have a floating line and a bit of a hinge with the tip to reach down into nooks and crannies. In addition to winter fishing its proven to be a great shad line (just ask Mike McCune) and would probably work well for stripers and other alternative applications. Yet another great line from RIO to add to your spey arsenal, it never ends!

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Moving Forward

There’s a certain sense of optimism I can’t help but feel. It defies all logic, when life is in shambles one normally doesn’t feel especially stoked on the future. But I do. Last weekend we spent a chunk of time getting blanked chasing a certain goal. This inspired us to make a big move, explore some places new to us and break out of our comfort zones. Lo and behold it worked. Mojo changed and all was unbelievably right. I feel like that trip was an appropriate metaphor for life. All I can do is chase my goals and dreams and realize, its life, stuff happens. Instead of getting down or sticking myself in a position to fail, I can recollect and put myself in a better position to succeed wherever I choose to go.  Now which direction remains to be seen but I know somewhere out there the next adventures, successes, and failures await and I can’t wait to meet them.

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Summation

I feel like Robert Frost in saying I can summarize everything I need to know about life in 2 pictures

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Fall can be a spectacular time of year if you’re willing to do a bit of searching. It offers some pleasures that are hard earned but absolutely spectacular in the places they take you and the people they associate with.

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Firsts

Fall is here, or is trying to arrive anyways. After riding a desk for the last few months I decided enough was enough and gathered up the lady friend and headed for Bridgeport. Laryngitis and work be damned, we hit the road with a few different goals in mind. Unfortunately they were cut short by illness but we still had a good time for a few days on the East Walker before limping back to Sacramento fueled by advil and pseudofed.

It was a nice change of pace as fall usually means a frantic steelhead fueled existence that consists of too few trips and too many missed opportunities. Flows were pretty meager as the East Side had a dismal winter. Additionally with the reprieve of cool nights came our perfect timing of catching the moss die off. Cleaning flies every few casts, all part of the fall experience.

Anyhow we caught some fish, marveled at some granite, and hacked and coughed our way to a fun time.
Heather was on her second day with a fly rod, and did quite well. She’s got the nymphing gig dialed and even hooked a fish or two on streamers. I’ve put her in a pair of my beat up Redington Sonic Pro waders and so far she’s given them a run for their money, slipping and sliding her way through several watersheds, and to my surprise, no leaks. Pretty damn impressive.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with a photo, the angle just sort of worked out, for me anyways. Heather’s first Brown, and first good fish, tape measured at over 21″. I would have instructed her on how to hold a dandy fish like that for the camera but for some reason I wasn’t quite expecting it 5 casts into the trip.
Luckily she hasn’t killed me yet over the picture.

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Tarpon Cay Lodge Report

I just got back from a few days fishing with the good folks at Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe, Mexico. Mexico has fallen on hard times tourism wise due to the swine flu scare and now the drug cartels. Fortunately the Yucatan Peninsula is a very safe place to visit, and as a result of the lack of tourism, offers some awesome fishing.

San Felipe is a small fishing village about 3 hours from Cancun via car. It’s a quaint and clean little town and the residents couldn’t be friendlier. The Hotel de San Felipe serves as the base of operations, and includes your meals. The fishing boats are literally right off the back step making logistics very simple.

The fishing at Tarpon Cay varies between baby tarpon from 5-25lb and ‘Grandes’ which are migratory fish that show up in the summer time. Thus you can have the backcountry mangrove fishing experience, flats, or offshore experience if the winds cooperate. We fish 8 and 9 weights for baby tarpon and 10 + for the big boys. My stick of choice for the baby’s which were larger and more plentiful than normal this trip was a 990 Sage ONE. It’s an amazing rod that is light enough to cast all day but with the backbone to punch into the wind with authority and subdue big fish. I’m a big fan of the ONE and the 990 gave me a lot of confidence that I could put the fly exactly where I wanted at any time. My big fish rod was a Redington Predator 1090. It’s an amazing value at $250 and is a stout stick that casts well in the wind and can really lay into a big fish. With it’s carbon fiber reinforced butt and ferrules you can yank on a big tarpon about as hard as you want without having to worry. A good saltwater worthy reel is nice to match so you don’t have to worry about going overboard with maintenance. I fished Sage 6000 and 4200 series as well as Ross F1′s and they all performed flawlessly.

Casting is crucial, to have success one needs to be able to double haul quickly and throw at least 50-60 feet into the wind. We did get plenty of closer shots but the better you can cast the more shots you’ll have. Usually the only complaints we hear about this destination is from people who can’t cast or don’t realize tarpon are difficult to land (they go crazyyyyyyyyy!)

We used a wide variety of flies from the San Felipe Special, to gurglers, seaducers, and various Puglisi flies. For backcountry and flats fishing a floating line is perfect, with a clear floating line giving some extra stealth, and for the deeper flats and offshore an intermediate tip line like the RIO Outbound Short Tropical is a nice asset.

Big props to Sage, who outfitted me for the trip, for making some really nice tropical clothing. When you think Sage, clothing doesn’t exactly come to mind, but I practically lived in there Quest Seychelles pants and Quest Keys crews. Normally I’m not a big fan of pants and long sleeves when it’s hot but these did a nice job of keeping the sun off, wicking moisture, and not overheating. I only abandoned them for other apparel once they got to covered in Tarpon slime.

Overall I was completely impressed by the operation, I’ve heard nothing but great things and it was reinforced. The food is good local fare. A hearty breakfast each morning with sandwiches  in the boat followed by a tasty dinner or lunch depending on when you get back. Ample supplies of beer and margaritas are available…as well as bottled water. The rooms are air conditioned and comfortable and the lodge is filled with classy artwork making it a very comfortable place to stay. Besides fisherman you’ll see quite a few Euro’s on holiday there as well. Another perk is that ATT has perfect cell service from the lodge. The staff is friendly and really goes above and beyond to make you feel like you’re right at home. The feeling I got at the trips end that I could go there a week every summer for the rest of my life. I’ll let the pics say the rest.

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Prepping a Travel First Aid Kit

First and foremost I’m going to preface this article with I’m not a doctor. Please consult one before making any life changing decisions. I’m writing this from experience with training and usage of WFR skills over the years. If you’re interested in a practical course of useful and potentially life saving info then I highly recommend going though a WMI sanctioned WFR course.

One of my favorite parts of prepping for a trip, big or small, is organizing a thoughtful and simple first aid kit that can address some of the potential hazards posed by a destination and activities. I think that by customizing your kit for a particular adventure it forces you think about the possible scenarios presented by the location, making you better prepared overall. If traveling with a group your mates will be stoked when you jump into action because you’ve already thought out a protocol for when little Johnny gets bit by a black mamba (ok maybe that’s a little overboard….)

Getting Started

The first thing I do is analyze and prioritize potential hazards posed by the activities and locations, and how they may interact and compound on one another. By weighing the potential discomforts a destination poses, when something inevitable goes wrong you can turn your trip around depending on the severity. I like to get by with as minimal a kit as possible. If afforded a large amount of space I may bring extra first aid material and divvy it up into a smaller pack for the day. I’ll always carry the basics like NSAID’s and gloves but a lot of the rest depends on what I’m doing and where.

Prime example: Packing for the Yucatan

I leave in exactly a week for a bunch of fishing in the Mexican Yucatan. This requires a bit more forethought as the trip’s priority is fishing which may or may not be close to civilization, and the standards of care and sanitation probably aren’t going to be quite as high. So far my prioritization is as follows.

1. Gastrointestinal/Dietary- We all know that gringos usually have hard time with the H20 and potentially the food. In order to prevent this I’ll carry the basics like hand sanny for in a pinch prior to meals. Additionally I’ll carry Pepto for my sensitive tummy, as well as a preemptive prescription of Ciproflaxin which can stop a bacterial attack in it’s tracks and save a trip. Consult your doc before getting a Cipro scrip as it can literally kill you…I personally can have a mild allergic reaction to shrimp, and my self control isn’t the strongest, so I’ll have an antihistamine on hand for when I inevitably dive in to a pile for dinner (not recommended!!!)

2. Trauma/Lacerations- Being in a boat tossing large tarpon flies in the wind makes me leery of potential impalement of a large fish hook. Additionally we have had people get banged and cut up in the boat in rough waters. In a humid environment any open wound is susceptible to dirt and muck getting perspired in. For cuts and laceration the essentials that I carry on every trip are a combo of Suture Strips and Tincture of Benzoin. For a cut that won’t respond to pressure these items will help close things up temporarily. I carry a plastic dental syringe and a source of clean (bottled) water to irrigate a wound prior to treatment. Lastly a mild antibiotic cream that helps kill bad bacteria and facilitate healing is present as well. Most importantly before any of these should be used, put on some sterile gloves. Remember if it’s warm or gooey and bodily you probably don’t want direct contanct…

3. Heat/Sun injuries- The last major concern I have is likelihood on sunburns and dehydration. While the best way to treat is overall prevention I may carry some electrolyte tabs to help rehydrate and settle my stomach if dehydrated as well as aloe to sooth sunburns. A sunburn will cause the body to become more dehydrated so it’s important to be extra vigilant as they can become correlated. I don’t anticipating being to far off the grid so I should have consistent access to bottled water, it might be a good idea to take something like a Steri-Pen if uncertain.

Thus these 3 potential situations can become a lot easier to handle should they arise because they’ve been given some forethought. Having stuff go wrong happens (just ask me about throwing up in St. Peter’s Basilica, whoops!), so little things like this can help make your trip or one of your travel partners a lot easier.

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