Tuesday, February 25, 2014

$25 Well Spent

As fishermen we fish when we can. There are times we know it's better to get out than others. Lately I have been unable to find a good combination of weather and timing. I was tired of reading how good the bass fishing was over the weekend. I ran over to the local lake before it got dark. There was a chill in the air and I was afraid it might have put the fish down. I tried various retrieves near the bank. One thing I have to say is the Eagle Claw Featherlight handles 30-40ft casts amazingly well. Even with heavier flies like a cone headed bugger. I was using 5WF line and never had an issue of the cast not going where I wanted. When I tried to get some extra distance the cast started getting sloppy. I think it was more of my casting technique than the rod. Even with the great casting I was ready to catch something and see how this rod feels when fighting a fish. I noticed I could feel more of what was going on with this rod. I could feel when the fly hit a rock or some debris. It has been awhile since I've fished streamers and I had to remind myself to keep the rod tip down and point it at the line. Then I felt what was like a rock that stopped the fly then let go. I cast to the same area and near the same spot and felt the feeling again. I thought maybe it was a snag so I tried one more time thinking if I feel the same thing it's definitely a log or a tree branch. The next cast I didn't feel anything. This got me a excited. I cast 5-6ft to the left of where I had cast before and started my retrieve. Again I felt the rock feeling but this time the rock started moving. It was the first fish I had on this year and I couldn't have been happier. 
I decided to try out the other cool little feature on this rod.
I really don't understand why more rod companies don't add a ruler to their blank. It seems so simple and it's very useful. I think it would help in the practice of catch and release. 

In the same area where I caught this bass I brought a few more to hand. The key was a small 1inch strip retrieve that has worked well when the water is cold. The strips are very quick and work best when your line is a little slack. When you do the strip the slack line should tap the rod. So the whole time you're doing the retrieve you'll hear tap, tap, tap, tap... If you feel any resistance do a strip strike. I've found sometimes what's good is even if you don't hook a fish when trying to do the strip strike let your fly die and just sit on the bottom for 5 seconds. Then continue the retrieve. I picked up several fish once I start the retrieve again. What I think happens is I pull the fly out of the fishes mouth too early and the fish is still interested but confused. Once the fly just sits there on the bottom the fish thinks it's and easy meal and picks it up. There's definitely a trick to fishing the bottom of the water column which I haven't figured out yet. There's a factor to how fast the flies sinks and your retrieve. 

It was great to get out and I'm happy to have gotten the 2014 skunk off my back. I was impressed with how the Featherlight handled these fish. This rod has by far outreached my expectations. I see it as the perfect rod for someone who is just getting into fly fishing or just needs a 5wt to fill a gap in their rod collection. I don't think it would be very good for nymphing or casting small dry flies to finicky trout. I'll test that theory more this spring. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Eagle Got Me

I really didn't want to spend more than $50 for a fiberglass rod. I scoured Ebay since the fly show and searched Craigslist. Nothing fit what I was looking for. I decided to give the Featherlight a try again. I tried this rod once in the past but I was only able to fish it once before it lost a battle with a car window. That rod was the 3wt version. 

From most of the reviews I read the 7ft 5/6wt seems to be the most preferred. You can find the rod online for under $25, that's including shipping. The rod arrived today and I had a chance to look it over.
What I first noticed about the rod was how sturdy it felt. For the price I thought it would be chincy and fragile. If you're into cosmetics this isn't the rod for you. The paint around the ferule looks like it was done with a spray gun. Another spot had paint missing where it looked chipped off. The wraps aren't the greatest either.
You don't buy this stick for it's looks. For the price I don't think you can beat this rod. It's not the prettiest thing you'll cast but it does the trick. This part confused me a little.
I thought this rod was made in China. A sticker indicating that was on the bottom of the reel seat. So now I'm wondering if the blank is made in CO and everything else came from China. It would be nice to believe the rod was made in the US but in all honesty I don't care.
I'm looking forward to testing this rod out. It will be fun to see what white bass, crappie and bass do to this rod. It's going to be a spare rod and something I have the kids use. If they like the rod enough at this price they can both have one.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dipping My Toes Into The Fiberglass Realm

Ever since the fly show I have been looking at fiberglass rods. The search has been a little overwhelming. There are so many choices and price points it is hard to know what is good and what is worth the selling price. Many of these old rods are selling for more than they did 40-50yrs ago. What's crazy is some are in the same exact condition they were 40-50yrs ago. A member of the local fly fishing club was nice enough to let me try out a bunch of different glass rods. He showed me a few that looked brand new. I found it hard to believe that anything sitting around for 40yrs could look that good but I saw it first hand. The day wasn't the best for casting. There was a stiff 15-18mph wind and it was eating up my back cast. I found I could one way or another cast with any of the rods. It was just a matter of timing and figuring out how the rod flexed. I liked all the rods but one in particular stood out. The rods I tried were:

Fenwick FF85
Fenwick FF705
St Croix 5wt

I went into this looking for a cheap rod I could throw poppers with but then I tried the FF705. I loved the feel of this rod and it has made me expand my search to look at 5wts. The only bad thing is fiberglass rods that are in the 5-7wt range have higher prices than heavier rods. There has been an increase in the demand for these rods which has made the prices sky rocket. Thanks a lot Fiberglass Manifesto. I don't want to spend more than $60 on a rod. Mainly because I'm not sure how much I'll like fishing these sticks. When I'm first interested in something I kind of geek out on it. I've read so much about Fenwick, Garcia Conolon and Wright and Mcgill that I'm kind of burnt out. I had been basically researching and shopping all weekend. After losing a Ebay auction I decided to take a break from looking for a rod. The TFF member was nice enough to lend me the FF705 to try it out for awhile. I'll play with this and look for rods from time to time. I really don't "need" another rod but what fisherman does? 

I'd love to hear info from other people if they've tried or have these rods:

Fenwick FF858
Fenwick FF807
Fenwick FF806 or FL-7
Garcia Conolon 2404-A 5-Star Dry Fly Action

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Isn't All Bad

We've had more snow than I have ever seen in NC. It puts a damper on the fishing but there are other ways to spend your time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

NC Fly Fishing Show 2014

I don't know if it's the weather or how my work has been lately but I have been feeling kind of blah. I didn't have the same excitement and anticipation I usually have for the Fly Fishing Show. I was hoping to find something new to give me a jolt of fly fishing excitement. After doing a few laps I was a little underwhelmed. I was hoping to see something new and as I slowed down and started to really comb the different booths I did find some interesting things. 

I had walked by the Wildscape booth a few times and saw that there was an aquarium on a table but it looked like it was filled with plants and possibly crayfish. A table near the aquarium featured some jewelry. When I looked closer and talked to the woman manning the booth I realized the jewelry I was looking at was actually caddis casings. The aquarium didn't contain crayfish at all, it actually had live caddis that were in the process of building casings.
I thought this was pretty neat but wondered if it was right. The person doing this wasn't trying to be malicious or exploit the caddis. I mean they are just insects right? Still they are living things and I wasn't sure of the ethics behind taking an animal from it's natural habitat to use for your own gain. The owner has a background in biology and after talking to her more I realized she has a love for these critters. Reading Wildscape's website I found that the owner created a simulated stream and uses this as a way to farm caddis.
Once the caddis do their thing and are adults she lets them go. 

Then not even 2 booths away I ran into Brad Mcminn. He is an artist based in Asheville, NC and his work is very striking.
The style of his art is amazing and I had a hard time walking away. I talked to Brad for quite a bit and he seems to be a very humble and talented guy. Which is a surprise when every other person walking by his booth tells him how awesome his work is.
It really was amazing and I hope to buy one of his prints soon.

What I love at the fly shows is running into friends and people you might not meet if there wasn't an event like this. At one point it was like a small blog convention. There was Mike from Mike's Gone Fishing talking with Cameron from TFM and Lance who is with Lance Milks Fly Fishing. It was great to finally meet Cameron face to face. I sat through his presentation on innovations in the fiberglass industry and I'm very interested in jumping on this whole glass bandwagon.

Probably my favorite part of the fly fishing show is talking with the tiers. There was two in particular that really impressed me. Cliff Benson and Max Stevens have a company called Pursuit Flies. These guys are only 17 but seem to have really gotten it together. I wish I was that ambitious as a teenager.
It's great to see someone doing what they love and being able to make it fund their passion. 

What I realized is the marketing part of the fly fishing show had gotten dull for me. I was now going for the connections with friends and the opportunity to meet new people. The fly fishing world is really a small group of people. If you talk to someone long enough you'll find they probably know someone you know. The only reason for this connection is fly fishing. This situation happens every year. I talk to a certain tier, they tell me where they're from and I ask them if they know this person. Then I see what I like to call the "look." It's always a funny look kind of like yes I do know that person and it's weird you'd bring them up. Then there's always the following look of understanding.  A look of well why wouldn't you know them they love fly fishing. In the grand scheme of things we're a small bunch.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cold and Fishless

I was hoping that the one day above freezing temperatures would be good for fishing. I knew the water was going to be cold but this river is a tail race and the consistent generation of water keeps the river from freezing over. When we parked the sun was on us and you could hear the sound of snow slowly melting. Once we worked into the canyon and moved into the shade the temp dropped considerably.
Huge chunks of ice lined the banks and water was melting deep under the ice. You could hear and see water dripping around the rocks. In certain places there were veins of air and water that you could see through the ice. The air bubbles in the running veins looked almost like bugs. The river was clear and the water levels were great for fishing.
The last time I fished this river I would see fish spook every 100yds or so. On this day I saw nothing. No flashes, rises or any signs of life. There were caddis and stone flies fluttering here and there but no indication that anything was chasing them. The river seemed dead. Usually when you fish a river you see minnows or suckers. This river doesn't seem to have any of those fish. There are only trout. The trick is finding them. My guess is they went downstream to find warmer water. When it gets warmer I'm sure they'll be back and so will I.