Monday, September 8, 2014

Crimson Ghosts

I just returned from ten days in the Alaskan backcountry on an amazing DIY silver salmon trip.  You won't see any photos on here from that trip, however.  Some places are just too sensitive.

I returned from Alaska in time, however, to document our own local salmon run.

Our local "stockeyes" make great subjects.

Friday, March 28, 2014

There Will Be Bones - Yucatan DIY Flats 2014

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson
Mexican mullet, a sergeant major and a damselfish cavorting among the rocks

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent WilsonI needed to get away.  Away from the last throes of winter, away from the cabin fever and, most of all, away from the constant 'pinging' of my godforsaken iPhone.

I needed to swim in the ocean.

It was that time of year again.  Time for our post-winter escape to the Mayan Riviera.

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson
I got out again on my favorite DIY flats south of Tulum.  'Twas a good day with a lot of nice fish - many bones and a few jacks.  Unfortunately, no permit.

You've got to love a place that affords walk and wade access to great bonefish flats.  All you've got to do is endure Tulum's speed bumps, eco-chic tourists and a pretty lousy jungle road and you're there.

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson
Mexican Bonefish vs. Merkin
Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson
Mexican Bonefish vs. Gotcha

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

The fishing was great and, although I did not get any shots at permit, I was determined to return for another chance.

Alas, I came back 48 hours later and was promptly escorted out of the water by a boatload of federales. 

"Senor, necesitas regresar ahora mismo.  No puedes pescar aqui sin una panga.  Este lugar es muy peligroso.  Hay gran crocodilios aqui."

"Damn," I thought. "The rules have changed and my DIY flats fishing option has gone down the tubes."  I knew there were crocs here, but I always avoid the green water and make it a point to be back on land long before dusk.  

Nonetheless, the man ain't having it here anymore.  Whether it's due to a legitimate safety concern or a desire to make sure gringos hire local guides, these flats are off limits without a boat.

That's it for the fishing report, but - if you're interested - you can read on to find out about the rest of the trip and my attempts to help instill a love for the ocean in my son and nephew.

Sam (4) and Hans (8) tried snorkeling, attended Xcaret's "Shark and Stingray Encounter," explored a cenote' and checked out a baby sea turtle nursery.  Here are some highlights:

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Photo Copyright 2014 Brent Wilson

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Got This

You may have noticed things have been pretty quiet around here.  A few people have asked why. 

Life has a way of reminding you there are more important things than blogging about fly fishing. One such reminder, in my case, is autoimmune disease.  After many years of relatively smooth sailing post-diagnosis, my health took a significant nose dive this year. 

I'll spare you the sordid details, but that - among other things - is why it has been so quiet around here.

The good news is that things are looking up. Thanks to the magic of pharmacology and a smart doc's protocol, the good days are beginning to outnumber the bad. 

I got out yesterday with Chris for some local fishing.  It felt great to be out on the river.

Rocket from the Crick

Chris the Fishin' Machine with a Nice Bow

Here's to a healthy and happy 2014.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Still Life: A Suburban Canal in Miami

Tens of thousands of motorists drive past this suburban Miami canal every day.  Busy people with busy lives never give this water a second glance.

They don't see anything of value - just weeds, water and trash.

When I was a kid, this canal was my saving grace.  It was a place where my friends and I encountered wild creatures and explored the natural world.  Some days we experienced the worst aspects of city life - like the time we found two bundled corpses in the weeds during Miami's drug war era - but most days we caught fish and created great memories.

I fished my old neighborhood canal again today for the first time in decades.  It felt great to see my childhood haunt still harbors a remarkable underwater world - a far more interesting place than the surrounding sanitized suburbs.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gear Review: Redington's Vapen Red Fly Rod

It seems fly rod manufacturers introduce a 'revolutionary new design' using 'space age' composite materials every few weeks.  Scroll through the pages of any current fly fishing mag or e-zine and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Maybe I'm suffering from marketing fatigue, but I usually dismiss these claims as industry hype.

After fishing Redington's new Vapen Red rod for the past couple of months, however, I've joined the ranks of new believers.  The Vapen is a workhorse of a fly rod, designed with the perfect balance of spring and punch.

The first thing people notice about the Vapen Red is the unorthodox grip, which was designed in conjunction with golf industry giant Winn Grips.  The real story here, however, is the rod itself - a graphite blank cross-wrapped with high-density carbon ribbons.

The Rod
Redington says this new "X-Wrap" carbon technology provides maximum vibration dampening, strength and torsional stability.  For me, this translated into smooth and accurate casting.

The rod is outfitted with a carbon fiber reel seat insert and anodized reel seat highlights.  I fished the 9' 7-weight model, throwing streamers with an intermediate sinking line.

The first thing I noticed after casting the rod was its sheer power.  Heaving weighted streamers and lines required less effort with the Vapen versus other rods I've fished.  The rod loaded and shot line with ease.  The Vapen (Swedish for "weapon") had no trouble lobbing heavy artillery.

More importantly, my casts seemed to land on target consistently.  I attribute this to the dampening effect of the cross-wraps.

The Vapen is supple enough to detect subtle nuance while stripping flies, yet robust enough to turn fish in swift water with authority.  Redington has engineered a rod with a solid balance of these important qualities.  It's a fast-action rod with ample sensitivity.

The Vapen Red PowerGrip
The Grip
It should be noted Redington provides two grip options with the Vapen Series:  a traditional A-grade cork grip ("Vapen") and the PowerGrip ("Vapen Red"). 

The PowerGrip is a solid alternative to traditional cork grips.  It's made from a non-slip polymer designed to reduce fatigue and amplify power.  Personally, I think Redington is off to a good start with the PowerGrip, but I see some room for additional improvement.  I'd prefer a larger diameter radius in the center of the grip (for more of an "hour glass" design) and an even 'grippier' surface material.

Seduced by the Vapen Red

It is worth noting Redington's Vapen series of fly rods won more industry awards in 2013 than any other.  The rods, which retail for $349.99, cast as well as many rods at twice the price and carry a lifetime warranty.  The series is available in 5-weight through 12-weight options.

Anyone looking for a good 'new school' composite rod should check the Vapen Series out.  You can read more about it on Redington's website.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Kicking Summer Out On Its Treacherous Ass

I haven't been fishing much as of late.  I've got much bigger issues to contend with right now.
I reckon the month of September deserves at least one post, however, 'cause it brings some good things each year:

First, September ushers thousands of cars with Utah plates south again for at least six months.  The impact of this can not be overstated.

Now that our brutally hot summer is over, I am certainly enjoying the elbow room. 

September also turns those damn bluebird skies into dark, brooding cloudscapes.  When the big man upstairs drapes a chilly gray sky over gold and red leaves, it's 'go time.' 

Thus, I decided to put an end to the dry spell and got out on the Henry's Fork Sunday afternoon.  Despite the brutal wind gusts (30 m.p.h.+), I managed to land some decent fish without impaling myself.
Good Fish, Lousy GoPro Photo

Summer is a bummer. 

Thank you, September.

Then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King - Salem's Lot

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Super Unison

Like red-cloaked pilgrims, our local kokanee salmon have begun their great journey once again.

Their mission is extraordinary:

Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Product Review: Oliso Pro Vacuum Sealer

I was approached in July by Oliso about a product review for their vacuum seal system. I thought about the tremendous amount of meat and veggies my wife and I were about to freeze and thought this could be a great way to store food for the winter. The fact that this model is designed for travel (i.e., Alaska trips) was a major plus, so I agreed to check it out.

My wife Sue spent a great deal of time with the Oliso sealer and agreed to help out as a guest blogger for this review:

August has been a great month for this beginning gardener. Produce a-plenty and countless meals made with fresh kale, green beans, squash, tomatoes…the list goes on and on. Wondering how I could capture this abundance of fruits and vegetables to enjoy in the long Idaho winter months ahead? I gave canning a try a couple of years ago without too much success – it took too long, required too many supplies and everything tasted mushy. Fortunately, the Oliso PRO Vacuum Sealer recently found its way into my life (perfect timing).

Ten pounds of fresh string beans and a box full of peaches were the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Ease of Use: Directions were easy to follow and I was on my way to vacuum sealing in no time. It was really easy to figure out! You just place the item in a bag, seal it shut (getting as much air out as possible), and "voila!" - slide the bag into the vacuum sealer.

Time: This thing is FAST! Most of the time was spent trimming and parboiling the beans – the actual vacuum sealing took around 2 minutes per bag. Once my beans were ready to go, I had 10 pounds sealed in about 6 minutes.

Functionality: The Oliso PRO Sealer seems well-constructed.  It comes with a set of resealable 'ziploc' style bags.  Once you open a vacuum bag, you can reuse it up to nine additional times.

Overall Satisfaction: 10 out of 10! Bring on winter – I am not eating lousy, bland store bought green beans or canned peaches this year!

Suggestion:  The only drawback I see is in the Zip Disc – this device is used to securely seal the zipper for proper vacuuming. It’s small, it’s white, and there is only one. My four year old son tried to take off with it and incorporate it into a Lego tower. Fortunately, I quickly retrieved it. 

I would definitely recommend this product and will spend the next few weeks furiously vacuum sealing any and all fresh produce I can get my hands on. 

Thank you for the opportunity, Oliso.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gear Review: Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Pack

The venerable Swiss Army knife has become my personal benchmark for all outdoor gear tests.  It set the high water mark many years ago in terms of form, function, utility and durability.  Although we've seen some great advances in technology and materials in recent years, not many products these days hold up to this high standard.

Vedavoo's Tightlines Sling Pack, however, is right up there.  Think of it as the "Swiss Army knife" of sling packs.  Here's why:

The sling itself is a utility belt adorned with daisy-chained webbing loops for S-biners and a paracord loop for tippet spools.  There are plenty of options for adding retractors and other accessories along the shoulder strap.  While the overall design is simple and clean, the pack has a lot of features you won't find on other companies' slings, including removable modular pouches.  This is a nice option for downsizing on minimalist outings.

Removable Pouch on the Right
The pack is constructed right here in the USA with 1000D cordura, webbing, and YKK zippers. The stitching is robust and beefy and there are zippered storage pockets galore.  It's got enough capacity to carry two full-sized fly boxes (with the additional 'deluxe' pouch), plus a day's worth of accessories. 

Unlike other slings I've tried, this one stays put on your back until you're ready to swing it around to access your gear.  I've worn it on 'all day' outings in complete comfort.

If you're in the market for a sling pack, I highly recommend checking this one out.

Here's a video demo from Vedavoo:

Disclaimer:  This is not a sales pitch. I purchased this product after seeing it in person at the IFTD show.  I am a Vedavoo customer who is reviewing this gear without any form of compensation.  I dig my Tightlines pack and thought you might like to know about it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Livin' On Sleep Deprivation

www.uprisingblog.comOur lack of population density in east Idaho makes for some great fishing and, unfortunately, a pretty weak music scene.

Jay Farrar of Son Volt
Good bands rarely come through town, but one of the all-time greats showed up this month. 

I was stoked to watch Son Volt play at our local ski hill.  I've been a fan of Jay Farrar's music since Uncle Tupelo's early "No Depression" days.  The band did not disappoint, busting out classics like "Drown," "Grindstone," "Windfall" and "Chickamauga."

Son Volt's set will go down as the highlight of my summer. 

Trampled By Turtles
The Targhee Bluegrass Festival sweetened the pot this weekend with Trampled By Turtles, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Spirit Family Reunion and many others.

If this keeps up, I am going to be spoiled rotten.