Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gear Review - Redington Sonic Pro Waders

All Bum Trout gear reviews are unbiased, honest, and nobody pays me to say anything.  I wish somebody would though...

I've learned that you can't make a good wader review after using those shiny new things one or two times.  It takes a period of punishment and abuse to judge if a pair of waders are worth one's salt. 
I've had my pair of Redington Sonic Pro waders for roughly six months and have been putting them through their paces.  Long days of walking, banging through brush, and duck hunting in freezing temps.  Needless to say, I haven't been babying these things.  Here's the verdict so far. 

Comfort/Fit:  In very few words, the Sonic Pros fit nicely.  Redington went with an ergonomic design with these waders and the results are quite pleasing.  The Sonic Pros fit better than any waders I have used in recent memory.  There is ample room to layer up if needed yet even when I only have on a thin baselayer and a t-shirt it doesn't look like I'm wearing a trash bag.  Got to look good when you're fishing, right?  My favorite part of the fit comes from the articulated seams, especially in the knee and seat.  I have full range of movement without the binding I've experienced with other waders.  I can't understate how nice this is when you are trying to scramble up/down steep banks and jump over boulders.   

No Stiches

Features:  Can't complain with the list of finishing touches on the Sonic Pros.  First off, the fleece lined hand warming pocket provides a much needed relief from frozen winter fingers, and the best part?  The pocket zips shut.  This may not sound like a big deal until you find yourself rowing a boat all day long having your oars constantly snagging in the handwarmer pocket.  This used to drive me crazy.  The simple addition of zippers fixes this annoying problem.

Continuing on, the Sonic Pros have ample storage for keys, wallets, cell phones, fly boxes, beef jerky, or a small dog or ferret.  The external pocket is handy, large, and fully waterproof.  The internal flip out pocket is water resistant.  In addition, the internal pocket has plenty of places to attach hemostats, retractors, and all those other gizmos you find necessary to carry.  Just don't carry one of those ridiculous fish counters.  You don't want to be that guy, do you?  

The gravel guard lace hooks are different from what I'm used to.  I am familiar the metal tab style lace hooks that always inevitably get flattened and never work right again.  At first I was leery about the plastic hooks but now I really think they're a good design.  The only beef I have with them is that they are a bit of a pain to get hooked on your laces.  A task exponentially more difficult with cold fingers.  Once hooked however they never come off, and help keep your fly line from tangling around your boots.  

The wading belt design is yet another simple but smart feature built into these waders.  The addition of a couple extra belt loops on the waders keeps your belt from inadvertently falling off and getting lost (Something I've experienced more than once!).  The wading belt is nice and stretchy and extra wide.  Something I like.   

 Durability/Construction:  So far so good.  After a few dozen hard uses these waders look almost new.  I stumbled across a strand of barbed wire a few trips ago and my Sonic Pro's didn't get a single hole in them.  Redington says the Sonics are constructed with a 4 layer fabric in the lower leg and seat, and a 3 layer fabric everywhere else.  The thicker fabric on the seat and not just the lower leg is a nice feature as this area takes a lot of abuse.  So far the sonically welded seams show no signs of wear and the interior double taped seams look as good as the day I bought them.  The fabric is treated with Redington's DWR coating for added waterproofing.  As of yet it seems to be working, I've managed to stay dry so far.    
Love the Zippered Handwarmer Pocket

Value: Are they worth the $300.00 price tag?  In short, yes they are.  At $300.00 the Sonic Pros aren't the cheapest pair of waders you will find but they sure aren't the most expensive either.  For the money you get a LOT more features than what you will find in most other companies comparably priced waders.  For the price, you get Redington's top of line product while with many other companies $300.00 wader, you will only get a middle of the road product.  The Sonic Pros aren't made in the USA if that bothers you, but nevertheless the craftsmanship seems solid to my eyes.   

Innovative Gravel Guard Hooks
Overall Impression:  For what it's worth I am really impressed by Redington's Sonic Pro Waders.  If I had to grade them, they would get a solid A+.  They fit great, are loaded with high end features, and seem to be well build.  For those who like to wade fish a lot and are looking for a wader that will stand up to loads of abuse during long days of walking, I wouldn't hesitate recommending the Sonic Pros.  I also like the color scheme of these waders, did I mention that?  Hey, one has to look good while out on the river after all.  Am I right?      

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Montana Fly Fishing Magazine - Winter 2013 Issue

The 2013 winter edition of the Montana Fly Fishing Magazine is out.  As always this magazine is online and 100% free.  

I'm lucky and happy to say that an article of mine is featured in this months issue!  I would like to thank the magazine's editor, Greg Lewis for this opportunity.  

If you haven't already checked out Montana Fly Fishing Magazine, click the link below.  You'll be glad you did.  

Montana Fly Fishing Magazine   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Annual Post - Cape Solstice

The winter solstice.

 A day to reflect on your place in the world and the magic of the seasons.  Living in Montana we are fortunate to get to experience all four at their best.  Spring is full of life, rebirth, rain, hunting morels, and chasing the big hatches.  Summer days are, as Norman Maclean would say, are "arctic" in length.  Endless, beautiful, full of long hikes, beautiful fish and dry flies.  Fall is about golden leaves, hunting season, throwing streamers for big browns, and those fantastically crisp mornings.  Winter is snow, skiing, and catching up on everything you should have done when you were fishing the rest of the year! 

The winter solstice is always a much anticipated event, the start of the long journey towards spring.  In My Story as Told by Water, fly fisherman and author David James Duncan points out how sedentary things, mountains, forests, people, are truly the ones who migrate, travelling along with the equinoctial tilt of our planet.  It is in fact the creatures we consider migratory, that actually don't move at all.  The following is taken from Duncan's book.  
In the fly-fishing classic The Habit of Rivers, Ted Leeson glimpses this journey when he looks up from his home river at departing Canada geese.  He writes,
As the recognition of autumn comes suddenly, in a moment, so one day you first hear the geese....Bound for the south, these birds seem to me a strange point of fixity...for in a sense they don't move at all.  They take to altitudes to stay in one place, not migrating, but hovering, while the equinoctial tilting of the earth rocks the poles back and forth beneath them.  The geese remain, an index of what used to be where, and of what will return again.  Their seasonal appearance denotes your passing, not their own.

Duncan writes the next passage after noting the sudden change after the first cold snap of the year.  If you live in the Rockies you know the one I'm talking about.  The day when fall suddenly gives way to winter, when that stream you were fishing days or weeks before suddenly has the appearance of an immovable solid.  It is on these kinds of days that you realize that you are indeed the one migrating.
Returning home from these surroundings, I found that our house, too sat differently upon the land.  The log walls were no longer anchored to solid ground: they cut through the axial stream like a ship's prow. I'd step indoors with a sense of climbing aboard, make tea, sit at the window, watch the mountain world plunge, shiplike, through the slow equinoctial flow.  Winter solstice became not a date on the calendar but a destination: something to sail toward, then around, the way schooners used to round Capes Horn and Good Hope.  When my daughters climbed in my lap, I couldn't contain my wonder.
"We're moving!" I told them. "The house, the mountains, the whole world is sailing. Can you feel it?"
 They gazed gravely at the mountains, then nodded with such serenity is seemed they'd always known.  And on we glided, deep into winter, out around Cape Solstice, then straight on back toward spring.
Sailing Onwards, Towards Spring.
Duncan, David James (2001). Tilt. My Story As Told By Water: Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections,    Bird-Watchings, Fish-Stalkings, Visions, Songs and Prayers Reflecting Light, From Living Rivers, In the Age of the Industrial Dark. (pp. 57-60).  New York, NY. Sierra Club Books.       

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lackluster Fishing Advice - Things I've Learned About Streamers

Streamer fishing. 

It's all the rage these days.  Walk into any reputable fly shop and you are likely to find dozens of crazy concoctions of fur, feathers, eyeballs, rubberlegs, and god knows what else.  There are no shortage of patterns out there to try and attempt to tie.  Unfortunately tying more than a few of these patterns require nothing less than the entire Feathercraft material catalog and a P.Hd in rocket science.

Fishing streamers is an awesome way to chase trout and if you've never done it it's sure worth a try.  There's nothing quite like it when a big brown slams your fly.  It's true, (most days at least) if you want to catch bigger trout you should be fishing streamers.     

I've in no way shape or form a master streamer fisherman, however in the many years I've been working at this technique here are some of the few things I've learned:

1.  Switch up Your Retrive:  I've found more often than not, it's not the fly you are using but how you are fishing it that matters.  A lot of guys are content to as I call it "grip it and rip it," for hours and hours.  By grip it and rip it, I'm talking about slamming that fly into the bank and stripping it back to you roughly perpendicular to the current.  The timing of the strips is steady like a metronome, strip, strip, strip, etc...  While this may be the most effective approach at certain times, often there are more effective ways to fish your fly.  The following are a few retrieve methods that I like to use.

              - The Jig:  What's the most effective lure ever created?  That answer is easy - the jig.  The bouncing, jumping, diving action of a jig is hard to beat.  Jigs imitate all sorts of wounded and/or dying creatures, easy targets for predators.  Most of the streamers I like have heavy conehead or dumbbell eyes so I can jig the fly.  To accomplish this retrieve channel your inner bass fisherman.  Twitch the rod upward and then drop it, take up the slack each time with a strip or two.  Jigging, at times, can be deadly.

              - The Strip Pause:  This is somewhat similar to the jig but imparts a little more swimming action to the fly.  This may be my go to retrieve.  I love a strip, strip, pause cadence, keeping my strips short and fast.  This gives the fly a darting action similar to how sculpins swim.  With this retrieve a lot of fish will chase the fly on the strips and then on the pause, pounce on the fly when it is dropping in the water column.   

              - The Swing, Dangle and Drop:  Not often my first choice but at certain times, particularly in colder water temps, this technique can be very effective.  Also a good choice for fishing the fast/slow current seams that you find in freestone streams.  This is basically the traditional down and across wet fly swing approach.  When your fly gets to the end of the swing let it hang downstream for a few seconds often a fish will slam it when it is "dangling" downstream.  I also like to lift the fly and then drop it when it is dangling.  Sometimes that extra little bit of action does the trick.    
              - The Fluff:  An especially effective technique for fishing from a boat and can be deadly during high water conditions.  For this technique I use a floating line and a 9ft. leader.  This setup allows me to mend my line  and impart a lot of action on the fly without stripping.  The reason for this lies in the fact that in high water most fish are pushed tight to the bank to escape the fast water in the main river channel.  By casting your fly tight to the bank and then initiating a series of downstream mends you can impart a great jigging action and keep the fly on the bank where the fish are.  When you are doing this right when you mend you should be able to see the fly for a second and then it will drop out of view.  This technique is also extremely effective for fishing streamers under and around structure such as trees, logs, and rocks.   

              - The High Stick Lead;  a great technique for fishing pocket water, small streams, or in places with lots of structure (logs, rocks, etc.).  Think of this almost as Czech nymphing with streamers.  By keeping a high rod tip you can "lead" your flies throw tight boulder filled slots or thrgouh channels between the weeds in spring creeks.  You can jig and twitch the fly as you lead it through a run.  One warning about tight line streamer fishing.  Since you have a tight line to your fly you may miss a few fish, try to resist the urge to yank up when a fish eats.  Often the fish will hook itself if you can keep your cool and give him a second to eat it.   

2.  What Flies Work Best? aka Does your fly swim?:  No silver bullets here.  There are thousands of patterns out there and I'm sure they all work.  I will give you a few of my favorites in a bit but first.  What makes a good streamer?  I believe every effective streamer pattern ever tied has these important elements.  
             - Materials and construction that let your flies move and breath in the water:  A fly may look great dry but what does it look like when wet?
             - A realistic profile:  Again, what does it look like when wet, does it look like a sculpin, a baitfish, an old sock?
             - Flash:  I'm a believer in flash and most flies that I ever have had success with contain at least a few strands of krystal flash.
             - Weight:  I believe streamers should be weighted enough to allow the fly to jig and dive.  Medium sized lead dumbbell eyes usually do the trick.  A modest amount of weight allows me to fish a fly with a floating line, a sink tip, or full sinking line as conditions dictate. 

Okay so here are some of my go to streamers. 
Karnopp's Space Invader - size 6. 
McKnight's Home Invader - size 6. 
Urchin Buggers - sizes 8-4. 
The Kreelex - size 6. 
Double Bunnies - sizes 4-6. 
Skiddish Smolt - size 4.  
Sheila Sculpin - size 6. 
Garrett's Bellydancer - size 4-6. 
Sculpzilla - size 4. 
Kelly Galloup articulated stuff. 
Cheech's leech - articulated.       

3. Color matters more than patternA lot of folks are always searching for the killer fly.  While some patterns certainly are more effective than others (see above) I think it's most important to have a few patterns that you have confidence in and have them in multiple colors rather than say having twenty different sculpin patterns that are all olive.  On any given day or for that matter hour, color can make or break you.  If I had a dollar for every time I switched colors and immediately hooked up I would be a man of modest income. 

3.  The big fly doesn't always catch the big fish:  This has to do a lot with the water you fish.  Knowing what kinds of forage fish live in your water goes along way to helping catch fish.  It is my experience that many times a size 6 streamer will outperform a six inch long articulated pattern.  Why?  The benefit of the smaller fly is that fish will almost always tend to eat it, not just swipe at it or smack it broadside but eat it.  If you are only fowl hooking fish with larger flies and/or getting grabs but no hook ups, try switching to a smaller fly.  On a piece of water I like to occasionally fish that holds many browns over 20 inches, I rarely fish a fly bigger than a size 6 and I am rarely disappointed by the results. 

4.  It's good to be Impatient:  Experience will teach you more than anything as long as you take the time to learn from the past.  If I know where a fish lives and I don't catch him on my first or second cast I do one of several things. 
                1. Change my retrieve. 
                2. Change colors. 
                3. Change the size of the fly.  I rarely will go more than 15 minutes without changing if I'm not getting good responses to my fly.  

5. To Sink or Not to Sink?:  Sink tips, full sinking lines, weighted vs. unweighted flies, there's too many options to choose from.  What works best and when can be the subject of much debate.  What setup I choose to use is largely determined by the conditions and whether I am wade fishing or in a boat.  The majority of my streamer fishing is done with a floating line.  My second most used setup is a 5ft. fast sinking or extra fast sinking polyleader.  I prefer the Airflo Polyleaders (see A Bum Gear Review - Airflo Polyleaders) but companies like Rio are making very similar products.  I tie on the end of the polyleader an 18inch section of 1 or 2x tippet and have at it.  I have a 300 grain sinking line but honestly I find very few reasons to use it.         

6.  How the fish see the fly is important:  Have you ever seen a bait-fish flee upstream?  Me neither.  Given the choice spooked and scared fish will almost always run downstream.  The reason for this is simple, current.  A fish can swim faster downstream than up due to it using the current to aid in it's escape.  For this reason I like to fish my streamers running downstream or parallel to the current.  Fish your flies directly downstream back to you can be very effective at times.

7.  Think like a hunter:  Many times you are not looking for a "bunch of fish."  Instead you are looking for one or two big ones.  I've had days where I've gotten that "bunch of fish" fishing streamers and I've had a handful where those "bunch of fish" are big ones.  When you have a day like that simply enjoy it.  If you want to be a successful streamer fisherman however, it pays to think like a big game hunter.  Where is that trophy going to be holding?  How do we get into position without spooking it?  How do we make that one shot count?  More often than not your first cast through a run is the one that produces so it pays to make it count.  Plan your shots, take a few moments to analyze the situation, (structure, current, casting technique) and you will catch more and bigger fish.  That I can guarantee.        

8.  Final thoughts:  If there's a way to summarize what I've learned it would be this.  Avoid becoming a creature of habit.  What color, size, and retrieve that worked last year, yesterday, or even an hour ago may not get you into fish.  Don't get locked into only fishing one fly one way, be willing to experiment, take risks, and do different things.  Don't make streamers your back up plan, make it "the" plan once in a while.  Instead of nymphing all day try throwing streamers.  That first two foot long brown you land will make it all worth it. 

If you are just getting into fishing streamers or are interested.  Remember you don't need a hundred different patterns.  Pick 5 or 6 and have them in multiple colors.  Double bunnies and wooly buggers are always a good start and are simple and cheap enough to tie in various sizes and colors.