Saturday, December 27, 2014

Orvis SS Wader review

As I promised a month ago, it's time to provide a quick review of the silver sonic waders I purchased from Ozark Angler in Little Rock, AR.  When I was deciding, I immediately appreciated the welded seam technology.  I compare it to my 25 yr old riveted aluminum matter what I do it's always going to leak.  If I were purchasing a new aluminum boat I would only look at welded models.  So that thinking led me to just a few options.  Nothing against the others but I chose the Orvis brand b/c they were slightly less expensive and were in stock at my favorite fly shop (trying to support local small business).

The review:  Keep in mind I've only used these on 4 outings but I'm very satisfied with them. Besides the welded seams, I wanted something I could wear while paddling my kayak.  So the quick release convertible-top feature was what really sold me on the purchase.  Being able to drop the top when paddling, but easily raise when I want to wade was key!!

Top up

Great fit - stocking foot is only about 1 size bigger than my foot.  With thick socks, liner and size 13 boots they fit perfect.  I can stand in my kayak and fish all day w/o any discomfort.  Actually, they are more comfortable than standing barefoot or wearing my Brooks running shoes (I wear the same shoes I run marathon's in when sight fishing reds in LA marsh for comfort).

Seat in Low position...needed to move pegs back to paddle effectively.  Or just hang'em over the side!!

Something unique to kayaking is the seated position and how your legs extend straight out.  So depending on the seated position High/Low, I must adjust the pegs closer to me.  No big deal.  Sitting in a kayak and wearing these waders is easy to do and very comfortable.  Never feel like my movement is restricted...even when using the stand assist strap to pull myself up to a standing position or lowering back to a seated position (that's a tricky endeavor).

In my experience exiting a yak is easier than exiting a drift boat

My favorite performance feature is the convertible top.  I drop it when paddling to keep from getting too hot or sweating.  And when I'm ready to wade it's easy to raise back to chest high.  I love this feature.  Only bad part is I can't re-attach the back snap it's placed between the shoulder blades and unless you have 3 arms or double jointed it's not going to happen w/o taking the straps off the shoulder and re-attaching.  As it is, I don't disconnect the back.  I disconnect the front 2 and lower.  No biggie!

Drop Top action - if wearing in NOLA be sure to yell throw me some beads Mr.!!
Durability - The fun times!!!  I have never fallen out of my kayak in almost 5 years of standing and kayak fishing (native ultimate 145 and cuda 12) not to mention 25 yrs in canoes/bass/ski boats and 6 yrs in the Navy.  However, my only exit from a drift boat...I went down hard.  Yep, few trips ago, we were beaching the boat for some wading and I did the...nah, I don't need a hand getting out, jump from the boat in 2 foot of water.  Both feet decided to mutiny and left me falling on my a$$.  Luckily, years of experience conditioned me to hold my fly rod up and I feel against the side of the back and back side softened the landing.  Only my ego needed further attention. The waders, didn't help me stay up, but they didn't show any signs of failure pinch or wear mark from sliding down the side of a drift boat.  A fish brought to hand and my fragile ego was all good also.  Big thumbs up!!

Wet exit from the craft
These are great for active anglers.  Not to mention, the unmentionable, but when you got to's a snap!!

Other gear reviews:
Orvis Encounter 9'/8wt/4pc
Orvis Clearwater 9'/6wt/4pc
Orvis Recon and Hydros SL review

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gifts that matter

My oldest gave me her gift early, she was too excited to wait until xmas.  Gifts like this are the best compensation a stay-at-home dad could ever receive.  Very thankful!!!

 Brown Trout painting.
I have had my girls on the water in canoes, kayaks, and various other boats, since before they could walk.  They haven't taken to the fishing lifestyle (Bummer, since a rod/reel is always beside them) but they love the outdoors, camping, and nature.  As 2014 draws to an end, it's gifts like this that remind me of what's really important, be sure to share your passion with your kids.  They'll love you for it and in return you'll get the best gift ever...a bond with your child.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Secret to surviving the holidays is....!!?? LRR - TR

Found some time over a busy weekend of last minute shopping and visiting with family to sneak away and spend an afternoon on my favorite Ozark tailwater.  Here's how it all unfolded.  I got a call from my uncle Thursday afternoon, he wanted to go float the Little Red River, and wanted to know when I was going again.  I didn't have anything planned until January but since it was a family event, figured I could convince my wife it was a good idea.  All she asked was that I spend Saturday with her in North Little Rock finishing our shopping.  That may not sound like much...but trust me, it's a fair trade.  I hate traffic, shopping, and crowds...multiply that x100 on the weekend before xmas...and I made a real sacrifice.  Seriously, ever been in Toys-R-Us, 5 days before xmas...I think it's possessed...normal people do CRAZY things in that store.  I maintained my sanity (relative, I'll admit) by keeping my mind completely focused on one thing...FISH'N.  That's my secret.

Having narrowly survived the mass of insanity on Saturday.  I was rewarded and cherished a great day of fishing on Sunday.  Nothing like the hustle and bustle of a congested city, to make you appreciate the quiet and solitude of nature.  

The plan was to meet my uncle at Libby walk-in at 5:45.  Load his kayak into my truck and drive up river and float back to Libby.  So that's what we did.  No issues on the shuttle.  Arrived and got started right on schedule.  I started catching fish right away.  I wasn't interested in nymphing so I tied on a small streamer and worked the deeper fallouts behind shoals. It wasn't fast but my first fish was a healthy brown of about 15"s.  Few casts later and had a fat bow in hand.  Caught several in that 1 spot.  After about 30 mins, we had a "guest" show up and he wanted to fish the same water.  No biggie, I was ready to try something new so I let him have it.  

My uncle doesn't fish much so I checked in on him before we left.  He had gone to BP and spoke with someone who told him he needed 5x tippet material for his spinning reel...not a joke!  As you can imagine I felt terrible for him b/c he couldn't cast his spinning rod 10ft.  The good news is he saw how much fun the fly can be and decided to invest in a new beginner set-up.  I'm going to help him out...1st advice I gave him was, "avoid BP."  He still had a great time just being on the water.  

Back to the fishing.  Moved down a little and found a good spot with good water moving.  It was a min. flow day, so finding moving water and no other people on it was the key.  This location looked perfect for swinging soft hackles.  I went to work and brought several more bows and a small brown to hand.  Also, managed 3 that were about 4"s...the thought crossed my mind to let them struggle in the current and maybe enticing a large brown to feed (Not my idea, watched a Kelly Galloup video where he had a large brown lock on to a small bow and followed up by catching it on a streamer).  Decided against it for now but maybe next time!!  

Saw a few fish rising in a fallout so I worked to them and landed a dozen more bows.  Must have gotten a homeowners attention b/c more "guests" descended on me.  3 guys emerged through the trees...but didn't encroach!  They kept their distance, until I broke off and had to walk to my kayak (upriver from them) to tie on a new soft hackle.  I watched as they nearly fell over themselves getting to my recently vacated location.  Lesson learned, get a sling and wear it when you leave the safety of your yak!!!  It's cool, my uncle had moved down river so I needed to catch up anyway.

Found him and he say's, "man where did all these bugs come from."  Say what...yep, nice hatch on the river.  Parked the yak, tied on a midge, and caught several including the best brown of the day.  It put on a great show for us...jumping several times and making long runs. 
The constant sight of rising fish was enough to get my uncle really interested in trying the fly rod.  I gave him a short lesson and pointed out a few fish...he had a few takes which was very exciting for him but was slow on the set...understandable since I hadn't explained that part.

It was around lunch time and it had been a great day.  So we decided to wrap up the day and head for the vehicles.  I couldn't resist a few fishy look'n spots and was able to catch a few more...but also penalized for not following the rules of the paddle out.  My last presentation to a fish was flagged with nice big birds nest.  I could have probably taken a few minutes to work out the knot...but knew I wasn't playing fair so I cut the fly off and put the TFO away.

I know my wife is going to ask me to help wrap gifts.  I already figured out my response, "Sure, I'll go get the bows."  I might survive this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cast from the Past - Ozarks

It's that time of the year when the days are short, the weather is fickle, and I'm missing my time on the water.  When I can't get out, I start dreaming about my spring adventures.  Which causes me to relive some past adventures.  Decided to share a few of these, pre-blog, adventures under the title, Cast from the Past.

April 2012,  2 night solo float trip in the ozarks.  It started out as a fishing trip with friends but as the weekend got closer, everyone found something better to do...hard to imagine.  Guess it's all when you can...sleep if you want...WINNING personality.

Streamside B&B (won't find in the phone book)
I can honestly say it was their loss...some of the best fishing I have ever experienced.  It was the beginning of the spawn.  The SMB were either on beds or feasting in preparation of bedding up.  Soft plastics were all that was needed...flukes and craws...1 on each rod.


Measured and weighed most of what I caught before releasing
I would throw the fluke between shoals in the calm water and watch them attack it from 10ft away. They were on a search and destroy soon as the SMB heard a splash they'd key in on it and go on the hunt.  Several times I would see the wake before the fish....a second later I'd feel the heaviness as they found my fluke sinking slowly.

When I got to a shoal with a protected backwater, I'd look for bedding activity...

Off the bed

It didn't take long to locate a few and the craw didn't stay in the water long.  There were usually 2 or 3 beds in an area.  I didn't fish all of them...just a few b/c I don't like fishing over beds.  But I couldn't pass up on the opportunity.

Chunk of a bronzeback

My favorite time to fish the Ozarks is anytime but I really like, March - early May.  Very few people are on the water.  The ones who are, are anglers...too cold to get drunk and swim!  Just the way I like it, early and empty!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Call me crazy! (but in a good way) - LRR

You're crazy...that's the best way to describe the looks I get when I tell people I'm fish'n in December, from a kayak, and I'm getting up at 3:30 am to do it.  I had an area in mind that I thought would hold fish, but it was about 2 miles from the launch.  I knew it would get busy so I figured the only thing to do was leave an hour before sun up and paddle in the worries...I do it all the time. 

Getting started-Camera phone doesn't like to work before 6am

Get to the river, unload, get started.  A peaceful start to the morning that was briefly interrupted, not by crazy boat people, or powerbait chucking dock people...nope!!  Picture paddling in complete silence, Christmas decorations beaming from houses...suddenly someone does a cannonball into the water about 20 ft from my about a cardiac moment, fun times!!    I guess the beaver was stealing xmas ornaments/gifts, b/c he raced me to his hut...every 100yds I'd hear a tail splash, this went on for about 1/2 a mile.

Hand tied flies a buddy gave me to try on this trip - everything I tried caught fish!

Only thing more annoying was arriving to my spot and finding 100 people, each throwing 2 fly rods.  Not really, it was only 6 guys and each had only 1 fly rod...but they left me little room.  Poor planning on my part...from now on I'll start me crazy!  So I moved on, dragging my cuda over dry land so not to disturb any redds.

Located another spot and beached the yak for some shallow wading.  It was a good spot and I caught several.  A guy in a boat eases down and politely passes w/o messing up the water.  He later returns on foot.  As we're talking he gives me some good info about another spot...but also informs me that my prime location was money.  That group was from TX and rents the same house every Dec.  IN FACT, a guy in that group had landed a 26" brown earlier that morning....that's GREAT news, just what I wanted to hear...nothing like finding out you could have had an opportunity at a pig, OUTSTANDING!!!  I should have been there earlier, call me crazy!

Decided to check out the other spot so I load up and paddle ahead.  Found some more fish and 1 large brown that wasn't doing so good.  Hard to judge size from the picture, it's about 6' deep, and I'm the camera is about 12' away.  Going back to my quantum physics days, using the average height of a known.......just kidding....I'm more of a "Quantum Leap" guy.  My guess was about 25 inches.

I've gone as far as I care for the day, about 4.5 miles.  The beginning of Cow shoals is where I break for lunch.  I don't fish cow...combat fishing isn't for me.

Blondes make good fish'n partners.  Little white dot, way up there, in the pic is the sign marking Cow Shoals

Made the turn around and fished my way back.  Lots of bows and a few browns.  None of any real size but all beautifully colored and full of fight. Really great day of fish'n.

Passed "that" spot again and the same guys were still hitting it hard.  Talk about a pounding...all day on 1 shoal.  I floated right through them this time, browns scattering like crazy.  Call me crazy, but give'em a rest!!

A full day of fish'n and some catch'n.  Covered about 9 miles of river.  Paddled back in the same conditions I paddled up in...darkness.  Call me crazy!

Monday, December 1, 2014

In Good Company - Little Red River

After returning from the family vacation in Branson, MO on Wednesday, I made plans to fish with some friends on the LRR Friday and Saturday.  I was going to be in my kayak while they would use their drift boat.  Plans were made and wouldn't you know it...changed.  While getting fat at the table on Thursday my brother expressed some interest in trekking up with me.  SO, I let the guys know and we made new plans for Friday.  They would run a shuttle for us and we would all meet at a predetermined shoal around lunch.  Wade some and all float/fish back to the trucks.

Checked the generation schedule, like any responsible yaker would and learned that 1 unit was suppose to be online starting at 7 am ending at 10 am.  No biggie, we'll be out or close to the take out, before the water reached us.

Dirty flow catching up with us.  Thought about waiting it out, but it was getting late.

Having overeaten and talked about fishing all evening I was ready to go, NOW!  But I made myself wait for everyone else.  The cell phone alarm goes off at 4 am...I know it b/c I was up at 3 am and heard it...somehow I remembered to set the alarm before I went to bed.  But forgot to turn it off when I woke up early.  Now I'm doing, the "please stop beeping," quiet but in a real hurry shuffle.  Trying to get the cell phone turned off before my kids wake up and my wife breaks my fly rod over my head (remember we're staying with the we're all in close quarters.  It was a close call but I managed to save the day.  Went from "Zero to Hero" in 2 seconds flat!!!

I met my brother in a commuter parking lot.  We load his kayak and hit the road, arriving at Swinging Bridge access around 6:30 am.  It's cold around 32f, but warming to 50f by the afternoon.  We unload and I get the call that the guys have made it into Heber with the waders my brother needs.  I drive up to get the waders and give them my spare key to shuttle my truck down river.  I was warned the waders might have a small leak, but never passed on that info to my brother.  I figured a small leak was better than no waders...PLUS, I wasn't wearing them...PLUS PLUS, everybody knows you only replace waders when they leak, meaning -  extra waders are always leaky waders.  More on that situation later.  As we're BSing, I get the word that the COE started generating at 5am...what...those turkey's.  Now I'm in a hurry b/c they got the drop on us, no time for small talk, time to make wake.  SO, I rush back and we hit the water fast.  Fishing went like this:

My brother was spin-fishing and did really well.  He caught too many to count on small jerk baits and small crappie tubes.  I started with a sowbug and caught this small brown 1st.

Followed that with a few bows.  Didn't take many pictures on Friday b/c the water was on the way.  It wasn't fast for me, probably b/c I was going to fast.  Caught ~10 on different nymph patterns.  Around lunch the water found us.  It was dirty and rose fast.  We decided to pass up the shoal.  No way we could wade with an extra 3 feet of water on it.  The other crew had a drift boat so they stayed and fished out the afternoon.  I tied on a streamer and pounded the bank as we tried to stay ahead of the muddy flow but drew no interest.  Throwing streamers from a kayak on 1 unit is possible but not the best situation.

As we make it to Lobo, my brother is complaining about how cold his foot is...I laughed and told him about the leaky waders.  When he removed his boots his left foot was soaked. times.  "Black Friday" now affectionately named "Frozen Foot Friday", and ended in a laugh.

Saturday - A new day, a new plan...1 yaker and 1 drift boat throwing fly's in 20+ mph winds...why not?

Started the morning at 4am, but didn't have trouble sleeping or shutting the alarm off.  Planned on meeting the crew for breakfast before hitting the river.  Made a fuel stop and realized I lost my credit card (had it the night before)...oh no...that's not good.  I'm trying to figure out the right words to use when I tell my wife, that some how I lost my cc, but she needs to call the bank b/c I'm fishing and don't have time.  Short story goes...I don't meet the guys for breakfast b/c I was sending a text with just the right amount of sorrow, thank you's, and your the best.  I get the follow up text...expecting some bad language, I read it w/o hesitation, b/c...well y'all know why!!  Reads something like this..."sorry babe, I took it out last night when I was ordering something off the internet, and forgot to put it back."  AWESOME news, I'm not in trouble and she may or may not feel a little guilty for the grief she put me through!!!!  Time to fish...and I really enjoyed the day even in THE...25-30 mph winds.

Fishing went like this:  Got dropped off at Lobo, guys shuttled my truck to Dripping Springs.  We planned to meet at a predetermined shoal and fish until lunch.  On the way, I ran into a feeding frenzy...bows rising all around me.  Caught about 15.

Nice bow, hard to judge the size b/c the net is the size of a ceiling fan.

They were quick to take a olive zibra fact they stripped it clean of the olive thread.  That action caused me to be late to the party on the shoal.  Received a text from the boat guys, making sure I knew which direction was down river.  Off I go trying the catch up...never really did....more on that later.

Upon arriving, I get the news that everyone's catching fish.  A nice brown had been caught and lots of bows.  Sweet news...let me in on that action.  So I tie on a prince and swing it for about 20 minutes...w/o any takers.  Try a few other bugs and have the same luck.  It was lunch time so we take a break and hatch a plan to fish down to the take out and wade a few places.  Great, b/c this place is void of fish...except the ones all the boat guys are catching.  Guess my buddy felt sorry for me b/c he gave me a couple of his hand tied fly's to try.  And guess what came back into my life.

Standing and fishing from a kayak in my new Orvis SS waders = no problems. Great flexibility and durability (tested the durability - I'll explain in a later review of the waders)
The winds were terrible but the fishing was going pretty good, so I didn't really mind going backwards (against the flow) or helicoptering out of control.  I even landed a bow with the paddle in 1 hand and the fly rod in the other.  I guess I ended up with about 25 bows
Doesn't she look lonely - yak w/o a paddler

The day was almost done and we had about 2 miles of river to cover.  My detour in the morning had caused us to be slightly behind schedule.  I told them they could leave me but they refused.  My bad or maybe not...I ended up in the boat after all!!  Out of the wind, kayak in tow!!

Most of my trips are solo but it was a pleasure to fish with guys who know way more about fly fishing than I do and were very willing to share their knowledge.  Good times with great people!