28 May 2011

Good advice from Stripers Online

Time/Date: 0530 CST, 28-May-11
Location: Northern Saskatchewan

I was browsing the fly fishing forum on Stripers Online the other night and came across a thread titled "I need an introduction to surf fishing with the fly rod."

Reading through the thread, I founds this gem of advice from Mike Oliver (who has over 6200 posts on the forum!):
  • Search out Bait.
  • Fish structure. That's rocky ground, points, boulder fields, Shallow surf water. Jetties.
  • Fish steep sandy beaches. Look for bars and cuts and the rips they create.
  • Fish Current. It can never be too strong. Bass are not lazy.
  • Fish inlets and esturies and salt water ponds where they exit into the sea.
  • Fish to start with at pre dawn to first light until the bite stops. Fish dusk.
  • Fish all night when you are happy with your casting.
  • Fish hard and with purpose and you will catch.
  • Fish neap Tides, Full moon and New Moon spring tides to find what works best in your area.
Trust me you don't need much more than the above to put yourself onto fish. Plus you don't need your hand holding and you found the fish and that is very satisfying.

Brilliant post.

It's a perfect 'what-to-do' primer to get started. My own reading list (and extended reading list) for my Saltwater 101 self-study course is obviously more in-depth, but Mike's post definitely summarizes a billion pages of information on catching striped bass on the fly rod.

Don't forget, you can stay up to date on striped bass conservation efforts at Stripers Forever! Join their mailing list today.

Enjoy some tunes:

23 May 2011

Post 101...? Really?

Time/Date: 0835 CST, 23-May-11
Location: the undisclosed, top-secret fly tying training facility above 57° N

When I wrote my little rant about scaring people off from getting into fly fishing with $700 reels the other night, I didn't realize it was the 100th post on 411#3.

Yeah, I know. It surprises me, too.

Anyway, when that (insignificant) little stat was discovered this morning, I decided to do a little housekeeping with regards to my blogroll.

Some links not overly relevant to the world of fly fishing were removed, and some that I have been reading regularly on my feed reader have been added.

So, without further ado, the following folks have been added:

Fat Guys Fly Fishing
This River is Wild
The Fin.com
Windknots & Tangled Lines
Michael Gracie
SoCal Salty
Compleat Thought

So check them out; they're all great sites worthwhile of your attention (i.e., they're good time-burners to get you through boring stints at work).

They, and several more, are located on my blogroll on the sidebar.

Disclosure: Joe from SoCal Salty had a contest for a pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses. I won it. It's awesome. You can see the details here. But me winning that contest had no bearing on him making my blogroll. Honestly.

Music time; an oldie but a goodie:

21 May 2011

Clouser Madness!!!

Time/Date: 2200 CST, 21-May-11

Location: An undisclosed top-secret saltwater fly-tying training facility above 57° North (Canada). Nowhere close to saltwater.

Alternate title: I have no friggin' clue. Apparently I have the rare case of writer's block known as Title Writer's Block. #Lame

Also, this is not a rant. Well, maybe a little bit...

I was swiping through an article in a back issue of Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine I downloaded through the Zinio app on my iPod last night.

The publication is great; they have a contributing editors list that has, by my calculations, roughly 3,457 years of fly fishing experience. The fact I can carry 9 or so issues of the mag on my iPod is pretty damn awesome, too.

I read an article about year-round angling opportunities in the Fort Myers area. It was a really good article and was simultaneously entertaining & informative.

Then I stumbled upon their little FFSW Tackle Bag sidebar for angling in Fort Myers and read this:

REELS: Any of the reputable brands, such as Tibor or Islander, that have smooth drags and large-arbour designs.

For fly rods, the author wrote "8- or 9-weight for redfish, snook, tripletail and Spanish mackerel; 11- or 12- weight for tarpon and cobia." No mention of brand names. Same for lines, leaders & polarized sunglasses.

Any old rod, line or sunglasses will do. But for reels, any of the reputable brands, such as Tibor or Islander. I mean, nothing against Tibor or Islander, but why the plug for them?

I know a smooth drag & large-arbour design is pretty much needed for those species. I also know Tibor & Islander, and others (Nautilus, Hatch, et al.) are among the best for providing those. But they're the top of the line.

Suppose some newbie (aka, me, 8 months ago), just trying to figure this whole fly fishing in saltwaters (ha! got that in there!) thing out, reads that, hops online and sees a $700 price tag for a reel.

Do you think that's going to bring more people into the sport (and lifestyle) of fly fishing?

This goes back to an earlier post (rant?) about $800 fly rods vs. $250 fly rods, and something Dylan over at Skate the Fly has written about as well.

Too many people semi-interested in trying out fly fishing are intimidated by the (supposed) money & skills required. And some companies & publications & people in and around the industry perpetuate this, whether purposely or not.

Simple math:

More people fly fishing
= more money for shops/manufacturers/publishers
+ (hopefully) more people involved in conservation
+ a happier society in general (& less focus on shit like reality TV and the like)

Getting into fly fishing ranks in my top 5 things I have done with my life. Yeah, there are still lots of skills I need to learn. But they're not that hard (except whip-finishers...bastard tool of the devil, those things are). 

It hasn't left me in the poorhouse, either. In fact, for the price of one of those reels, I could outfit a person with TWO of my rigs. Possibly three, if you tossed in my 3-weight set-up.

So here is my edited version of that section of FFSW's Tackle Box for Fort Myers, Florida:

REELS: smooth drags are highly recommended. Reels with large-arbour designs are an asset, as they retrieve line quickly. 200 yards of 20lb backing for 8- or 9-weights or 250-300 yards of 30lb backing for 10- or 12-weights.

See? Not being a corporate shill, and not scaring potential anglers away with $700 price tags for reels.

By the way, I caught redfish last fall on a reel that retails for $125 and did just fine, thank you very much. Even got my saltwater fly line off of ebay for $36.

This is what I tied up tonight. I find my very limited materials here are keeping my options for tying, well, limited. But I like how this one came out.

I have a fever, and the only cure is more Clouser!
Just because I was humming this song all day:

15 May 2011

The next, logical step(s)

Time/Date: 0900, 12-May-11
Location: F'ton...very soon to be elsewhere...

A little bit of a housekeeping post to update folks with some recent & upcoming happenings.

1. I'm leaving today...
...for roughly 3 weeks. Quick little contract up in northern Saskatchewan; I figure since the fishing conditions are so harsh right now in NB from a brutal spring, I might as well go somewhere more brutal, weather-wise, and make a little bit of cash to finance this uber-fun fiasco that is my life.

2. I'm not all that dumb...
...seriously, I'm not. I took an exam last week & scored a 96% on it. Really, I did.

What exam, you might ask. Well, it was my guide's license exam.

That's right: I am now a licensed fly fishing guide in the province of New Brunswick. It's not going to be a main source of income for me (just yet), but it's something I'm going to look into as time progresses. As in, the near-future.

It's a logical next-step...

3. Logical Next Step #2
It's my view a person can't be totally, 100%-dedicated to fly fishing without being an advocate for conservation. I've been a member & supporter of the following groups for the last little bit (I urge you to join as many as you can):
I want to do whatever I can to help these groups conserve fish habitat & make sure there are healthy populations of fish stocks. It's in my best interest: I can't catch them if they're not around, nor can any of my future clients (see #2, above).

But unfortunately it can't all be yummy dinners & silent auctions: people need to get some skin in the game and start doing more positive things.

So, a month or two ago (unbeknownst to me due to being in Senegal or Mexico) I was named to the Board of Directors of the Nashwaak Watershed Association.

I love fishing on the Nashwaak River. I'll do anything in my power to keep being able to fish the Nashwaak.

Fortunately for me, a lot of people involved in this group feel the same.

So, as you see: it was a logical, next step (even though I didn't know I was on the board until last night).

Please see below the music for an important note from the President of the Nashwaak Watershed Association on natural gas exploration in the Nashwaak river valley. Thanks!!

Fredericton Outfitters is having a huge blow-out on switch & spey rods, from $50 to $300 off on all sorts of models.

If you ever wanted to get into swinging two-handed rods, this is your opportunity to get in at a decent price.

Be sure to check out the Spey Spectacular here.

5. Music
I just really like this song. Best enjoyed up loud & while singing along. Trust me.

6. Nashwaak Watershed Association President's note...
...on natural gas exploration in the Nashwaak River valley:

The Nashwaak valley is now hosting visitors from the United States, here on business. That business is to fracture the ground under our feet in order to develop wells of natural gas from shale deposits deep underground. To accomplish this they wil require millions of gallons of our water, to which they will add chemicals and then pump it down the holes under extreme pressures in order to fracture the shales and thereby force any existing gas (or oil) to the surface along with our now toxic water. The water will then be stored in containment areas on the drill sites. Some of this water can be used again in the second or third try at fracturing, because not every attempt yields a well, and not every well is viable. Even those that are initially producing wells can be useless in as little as a couple of years.

According to the company's own internet site, there are no jobs of any significance to be had for New Brunswickers, and natural gas is currently at rock bottom prices in North America. Western Canada is awash in natural gas from conventional wells right now, and the United States is estimated to have reserves of natural gas in their own shale deposits sufficient to last for centuries.

So... let's take a minute and add this all up. Shale gas requires millions of liters of our fresh water to be rendered poisonous and left somewhere on the ground for us to clean up in order to maybe find a resource that is currently in such abundance that no one wants it, and no one is likely to want it for a couple of centuries, unless of course we intend to give it away (since we appear to already be prepared to give away the water and the responsibility for the long term clean up).

Whatever royalty regime the provincial government has been offered is most likely attached to the selling price (market value) of natural gas, and as we know that is rock bottom, that pool is likely shallow from the get go.

Now, lets see... we lose millions of liters of fresh water, we accept long term responsibility for a cleanup on who knows how many sites, we have no expectation of employment or business opportunities, the resource is currently surplus to need, and as such royalitites are not likely to even offset the cost of the water.

We should always welcome vistors to the valley. It is the hospitable thing to do. I doubt, though, that anyone should expect our hospitality to accommodate so many permanent losses and long term costs without any significant benefit to those of us left to do the work. It is my suggestion that if you, like many of us looking at this type of venture, are having a hard time finding a good reason to support it, then maybe you could send a note or make a call to your MLA, Kirk MacDonald, asking him to represent your opinion in the Legislature, as forcefully as you feel necessary. You may also wish to send notice to The Ministers of Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources

You may also post a comment of your own on this page to begin a discussion on this or any other matter of interest to people in the community.

Thank you for your time, 
Paul McLaughlin, 
President Nashwaak Watershed Association

Please feel free to share this with anyone you want. Knowledge is power.

Next post will be from Northern Saskatchewan!


Saltwater 101 - Extended Reading List

Time/Date: 2225 CST,15-May-11
Location: Northern Saskatchewan

I posted my first reading list for my self-directed saltwater fly fishing course a couple months ago. Here are a few more titles I've been reading while waiting for stripers to arrive (and now waiting to leave here so I can return closer to saltwater).

I'm not completely through all of them yet but, based on what I've read of them so far, they would be good additions to any (wannabe) striper fisherman's library.
  • Fly-Fishing the Saltwater Shoreline by Ed Mitchell: This is the sequel of Fly Rodding the Coast and is more detailed with regards to various species found along the coast of Northeastern US (and, sort of by default, the Maritime Provinces). Like the previous book, this is a reference manual that will be handy to keep close at hand.
  • Fly Fishing the Striper Surf by Frank Daignault: This guy is a crusty old salt and well-known sharpie when it comes to fishing stripers. He's published about four thousand books about surfcasting (which I haven't read). This book is alright & I enjoyed his crustiness that comes through in his writing. You'll learn lots of useful tips from this book.
  • Striper Moon by J. Kenney Abrames: Don't be put off by this book being half the number of pages of a magazine: this is a good read. This book is written almost purely on opinions & observations, and not necessarily a how-to book. As Lefty Kreh wrote in the foreward: "My only regret is that Ken did not write a bigger book."
There would have been a fourth title to review in this post, but it's has been on backorder since the first week of March. Apparently (as I found out after the fact) it's a "must-have" title for anything & everything about fishing stripers on the fly; in fact, that's the title: Stripers on the Fly, by Lou Tabory. 

I keep forgetting I ordered it, but Amazon keeps emailing me every 3-4 weeks to say the delivery date is going to be 4-6 weeks later than planned. So maybe in July I'll have a blurb about it.

Of course, by July, I'm hoping to have landed my first striper on the fly.

I brought my fly-tying vice to Saskatchewan. And, unlike Mexico, I'm actually using it!

I find a bit of irony in tying my first flies of 2011, saltwater flies at that, while located in Saskatchewan, the furthest I have been from an ocean in over a year (I think...?).

I brought a very small sample of tying material with me: bucktail, yak hair, marabou, crystal flash, thread, eyes, stainless steel hooks, head cement.

It's been good practice for the last couple nights, which I sorely need: I've probably tied less than a dozen flies in my life. I hope to stay motivated to bang out one or two each night I'm here...or until my materials run out.

Here are a few examples (in chronological order, since Friday):

Blue over white bucktail with pearl flash, size 1 hook
Clouser practice: Night Clouser with red flash
Black bucktail streamer with red head & chartreuse flash
Black on black bucktail with black flash
(my heads are getting a little more tidy)
Music time. An appropriately-titled song for me for 2011.

08 May 2011

Just one more cast

Time/Date: 2240, 08-May-11
Location: F'ton

Following a fairly successful debut in New Brunswick's bass circuit last week, this past week was spent looking (and swearing) at various weather reports & hydrometric data on my beloved Nashwaak River.

Last year, we were catching some gorgeous sea-run trout within a week after the season opening. This year...not so much.
Nashwaak River Hydrometric data: leading cause of swearing for past 24 days
It pretty much dawned on me these past few days that I will not be fishing the Nashwaak whatsoever before I take off on Thursday for a 3-week work tour (strange & exotic location this time around: Northern Saskatchewan. At least the odds are in my favour for not having machine guns pointed at me this time around).

What's an addict to do to get his fix?

Start driving, that's what.

350km, with gas at $1.38 per litre...that's $5.46 US per gallon, my Yankee friends...

First stop:
My beautiful gf & I went to the seashore. I packed my 8wt & 10wt rods...just in case...

The seashore & the little seaside village we visited were very nice. Very small, but nice. The few lobster boats in the harbour were getting ready to head out once the tide was high enough (Bay of Fundy tide primer here).

But I didn't bother unpacking the rods. I should have, at least for more casting practice. But whatev...

Second stop:
A certain area in southern New Brunswick known for possible congregations of striped bass, sea-run trout, smallmouth bass, and, though off-limits in this particular region, Atlantic salmon.

Result: Let's just say I half-expected Noah to float by at any minute. Road signs stating "Caution. Water Covering Road Ahead" had prepared me for this emotional kick to the groin.

It was a decent place to hide behind a tree to take a leak. And that's about it.

Third stop:
Totally unplanned. I had resigned to hauling ass back home & not fishing. But when crossing the bridge over <CLASSIFIED> Creek*, near the village of <CLASSIFIED>, I saw...no flood waters...and people fishing...standing in water up to, not their necks, but their knees!!

I jammed on the brakes and pulled over to the side of the road, hopped out & cooly (not really) sauntered over to the bridge.

Me: "Hey, how's it goin'?"
Fisherman 1: "Not bad. Got me a couple."
Me: "Hmph. Mind if I slide in upstream of you fellas?"
Fisherman 2 nods.
Fisherman 1: "Fill yer boots."
(note: In these parts, "Fill yer boots" is a way to say "yes." As is: "Have at 'er" and "Give 'er.")

With that, I sprinted cooly sauntered back to the truck, asked my beautiful gf if she minded if I fished for a little bit and geared up.

I caught 3 nice little trout, 13" to 16" long, in the first 15 minutes being out there. I thought to myself after releasing the third, "Don't be greedy. Just cooly saunter back to the truck, thank the two guys for letting you fish upstream of them, and tell them their secret of the little stream is safe." But that little red bastard on my shoulder was whispering in my ear.

Just one more cast.

I got greedy. And fished for almost an hour and a half more. Without catching anything else. While my beautiful gf waited in the truck (lesson learnt. Trust me. Oh god, please trust me. Guys: do NOT do what I did).

Just one more cast.

The line somehow got wrapped around the tip of my rod on the fourth (& last) trout. I blame the trout, though I'm sure I assisted in the process. It seemed so very clear to me, especially since I was talking myself through it the whole way. Out loud.
  • "I can lose the fish or the rod, what's more important?"
  • "You seriously want to sacrifice your fly rod for what could end up being a 12" trout?"
  • "Well, it's a TFO rod...great warranty...I'll just chase trout with my 3wt & the sea-runs on my 8wt...it'll all work out."
  • "Don't do anything stupid just yet. Think this through."
  • "I'm obviously thinking this through; I'm having a conversation with myself about this debacle, for Christ's sake."
  • "Quick! He's turned upstream. Do SOMETHING!"
I did do something. I landed that trout. Another 16 inch-er. And I didn't break the rod.

I cooly sauntered back to the truck, smiling at my awesomeness, and high-fiving the little red bastard on my shoulder.

Just one more cast.

At the truck, my (self-appointed) awesomeness quickly evaporated. 

I had some apologizing to do.

Sorry, sweetie. It won't happen again. Promise xo

* - This is NOT a spot-burning blog. I will say 'the Nashwaak River' or 'the Miramichi River' or 'the Fundy Coast' as they are each well over 100km long. DON'T BURN SPOTS ON THE INTERNET!

For the first time since I started writing this blog, I had a hard time picking out music for this post. Usually I hear a tune on the radio or my iPod on shuffle and think it's totally appropriate for that certain time, place & activity. But, due to someone who will remain nameless' choice of radio station(s) in the truck today, I'm stuck with Britney Spears' new song in my head.

SO...to figure out music this time around, I opened iTunes, went to my purchased folder, pressed shuffle & skipped ahead 8-10 songs without looking at what I was skipping.

This is what it ended up at. Enjoy.

05 May 2011

FredRock 2011 Lineup!!

Nick & Mike of BabZees Entertainment have just released the lineup for FredRock 2011 & it's a doozy!

Nick mentioned to me a month or so ago they were seeking a more balanced, festival-like feel, and, man, did they ever succeed at that!!

The lineup for the August 13th show is: The Sam Roberts Band, the Joel Plaskett Emergency, Enfield, Classified, Serena Ryder & The Beauties and Carmen Townsend.

GirlTalk busts out the beats & the TP at FredRock 2010
Check out the FredRock 2011 website for more details!

Read Adam Bowie's (Twitter: @adamjbowie) write-up in the Daily Gleaner here.

Give FredRock a follow on Facebook & Twitter (@FredRockFest).

Congrats to Mike & Nick, & all the best for a super-kick-ass FredRock this year!!

PS- The festival is at the Loyalist Rugby Park...that's my club & extended family. Just sayin'.

The Sam Roberts Band releases their new album, Collider, on May 10th. The new single is I Feel You, and I dig it. A lot. Give it a listen below.

02 May 2011

First casts of 2011

Time/Date: 1015, 02-May-11
Location (finally sunny & mild) Fredericton, NB

(This is a longer-than-normal post, with a longer-than-normal tune at the end. You might want to save time by listening & reading simultaneously)

After two weeks of fishing season, I finally got out fishing this past weekend. Two weeks of cold weather, freezing rain, snow, rain, wind, blown-out rivers...everything short of a meteor impact.

On Friday, my beautiful gf & I went 'adventuring' down to the Fundy Coast to scout out some locations in preparation of the arrival of Morone saxatilis, aka striped bass, aka stripers!

Migratory stripers arrive in late May, but I had an itch to test out new gear and wanted to finally look at places I've known only as points on Google Earth until then.

Our first stop, Lepreau Falls, was more touristy than fishing, but whatev...it was nice there.

After the waterfalls stop & some driving, I found a nice-looking spot with a sand bar, strong current, etc...perfect place to keep in mind for stripers in a few weeks...and also a perfect place to try out my new gear!

I won't bore you to death on the comedy of errors that lead to me getting ready to actually fish (it involved my gf asking, "What are you going to do when I'm not here to help you get dressed for fishing?" And we'll leave it at that.).

I tried out my new Redington waders & 8wt CPX rod, Lamson-Waterworks Litespeed reel, and my homemade stripping basket. All worked flawlessly...once I remembered how to dress myself...and to set the drag on the reel...and how to cast (5 months not casting is a long time).

After an hour or so of casting, we continued our adventure, which turned out to be a leisurely country drive throughout southern NB. When things were over, over 400km were driven, plus a couple (four, actually) cable ferry rides, and $75 worth of beef jerky were brought home.

(The beef jerky is from who we affectionately call The German Butcher but the actual business name is Elke's BBQ and they are AWESOME. They are located in Lower Cambridge, but go to the Fredericton Market each Saturday. Their web info is here, Facebook is here)

Saturday evening was the annual Icebreaker dinner & auction in support of the Miramichi Salmon Association. Good times, good food, few good laughs were enjoyed.

Find out more about the Miramichi Salmon Association here.

On sunday, I accepted an invite from Andrew (Twitter: @fishingyankee) to fish in the NB Sport Fishing Association's first bass tournament of the season. Andrew is our local area's resident muskie-pro-in-residence & we met up through Fredericton Outfitters & the local twitter fishing community (population: about 7 people...for now...).

We met at 4AM to head to the tournament, held at the Grand Falls Flowage. Thankfully Andrew was driving, as I would have taken us to Grand Falls, NB, about 5 hours drive the other way. Our day is best summarized in point form.

First, the facts:
  • This was our first competitive bass tournament. For both of us. In fact, this was my first time fishing for bass.
  • We had a borrowed boat. On water neither of us had fished before.
  • The morning was windy & cold as hell.
  • Andrew had to keep listening to me talk about fly fishing.
  • I caught the first keeper (at exactly 12") at 7:18AM, thinking, "This isn't gonna be too hard." I was wrong.
Next, the outcome:
  • We caught our limit!!! Well, Andrew caught out limit: 5 fish, 9.20 pounds. We culled (live-released) my first keeper of the day.
  • We were the only newbie team, and 8 teams ended up below us. One of which with a very expensive bass boat. That was alright!
  • We had a friggin' blast!
I brought fly gear with me, but, as it was Andrew's tournament, I vowed to not haul it out until the limit was caught. The wind of the morning would have made it messy anyway, so it worked out really good

My "firsts" list:
  • First fish of 2011
  • First bass ever...and 2nd/3rd/4th...
  • First bass on a fly rod...and 2nd, too!
  • First fish with my Redington CPX 8wt (a little overkill for bass fishing, but whatev...I wanted more casting practice with it)
All in all, a great time. I'm not ready to buy a bass boat by any means, but it was a cool experience to see how those "other guys" fish (i.e., the gear casters).

Thanks, Andrew!

Explosions in the Sky, a band I've featured in 411#3 a few times already, released a new album last week, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Get it. It's good (iTunes here). The first track off it is below.

(Note: today is Election Day in Canada. No matter what your political stripe is, get out & vote. Just not for the Conservative Party of Canada, which was recently found in contempt of Parliament for hiding and/or falsifying information from your elected representatives. They are the first government in the Commonwealth to be found in contempt. They don't deserve your vote. Just sayin'.)