Monday, June 27, 2016

The Fly Roadtrip

The last two years my family has agreed to keep the kids for two weeks while they attend an art camp in Little Rock, AR.  It’s a really great experience for everyone.  The kids get away from the parents.  The family gets the kids without parent oversight.  And I get to sneak away for a two week fly fishing road trip.  The real challenge was deciding where to go.  

There are some obvious obstacles with weather and cost being the primary ones.  This was a solo trip so there’s no splitting the bill.  I camp and cook my meals to save money.   I make several game plans but don’t pick the first destination until a few days beforehand.  It’s completely based on the weather forecast.  This year the trip started in Southeast Louisiana and ended in Wisconsin.  The beauty of a road trip is, as long as you’re still moving, you’re doing it right.  Don’t know how many miles I traveled but I caught fish in 5 states and camped the entire trip.  There were several challenges over those 14 days.  Rain, lightning storms, cell phone being locked (carrier thought it was lost/stolen) and equipment failures that tried to rain on my parade but those are what made it an adventure.   

There's not much that gets the heart racing like chasing redfish through the marshes of Southeast Louisiana.  However, Tropical Storm Colin tried to put a damper on my fun.  It traveled over Florida but impacted the Louisiana coast.  I arrived Monday afternoon to rain.  Luckily, the 15-20 mph winds pushed that through quickly enough.  What never crossed my mind was the tidal impact.  The tidal surge kept the tides really high while I was there.  The worst part was the water clarity.  It resembled coffee more that chocolate milk.

Zero visibility

If given the choice, I'd rather sightfish reds in the marsh.  Surprisingly, this technique works best when you see them first.  Not as productive when they spot you first.  At one point, I was polling along and looked down to see a 30 inch red swimming in the shadow of my kayak.  I was losing 10 lbs of water a minute through excessive perspiration so I'm guessing he was cooling off in the shade.  I briefly considered pouncing on it.  I knew how that would go.

If you're a parent you've probably experienced something similar.  That time you were sitting on the couch playing with your child on the floor.  When they suddenly jumped up and into your chin.  It's nothing like that.   Putting your hands on a red while it's green is like getting punched in the face by an airbag.  I had no interest in MMAing this trip so I passed on the opportunity.

The same scene played out each day.  Start at sunrise.  Paddle a few miles into the marsh.  Stand up and scan the area around me for movement.  Seeing a copper colored red swimming in coffee was futile.  I'm not sure how many reds I spooked over those three days.  It was like trying to find a rogue peanut in a jar of creamy peanut butter.

But sightfishing is much more than actually seeing fish.  It's a hunt and hunters use all their senses.  I'm not a hunter so I just used my ears.  If you can't see them, listen for them chasing and crashing bait.  Reds are known for their aggressive behavior.  Over the next three days I covered miles of water listening for the distinct toilet flushing sound a red makes when it eats.  Watching for any movement of bait or those distinct "V" wakes they make when they zero in on a target.  When one was found it was almost always a guaranteed eat.  Unless you folly the presentation and then it's almost always rejection.  I experienced my share of both everyday.  

After three days I was exhausted.  I hadn't planned on MMAing this trip but big reds come ready to battle.  The heat, winds, and miles of paddling had added up.  I tapped out and started driving to the Ozarks.  Stowed the big sticks and packed the dry bags.
Read part 2 here:

The Video post if you haven't seen it:

Best viewed on YouTube here:

Friday, June 24, 2016

My 2 week journey on the fly

Here is the video.  I promise to get on here and do a full write up soon.  Looking forward to telling the full tale.  Just need more time to gather pictures!  Until then hope you enjoy these highlights.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Gear Review - Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boots

If you know me, you know I'm not in a hurry to do reviews.  I'll gladly share my thoughts when asked but don't like putting anything in writing until I've had some time to use the product.  I've been wearing the Korkers BuckSkin boots for 18 months and in many different environments.  I feel like that's enough time to do a comprehensive and honest review.

One random Saturday in November I took my waders, socks and headed to my local fly shop.  Really it was Thanksgiving and I needed a time out.  After an hour or maybe three hours of trying on every boot in the shop and scaring away all the customers.  To be fair the shop guy said, I should test them like I would in real life.  What would I do if I saw a bear in real life?  I'd push the guy beside me down and yell "bear" as I ran away.  A sweaty guy in waders running through the store screaming "bear" wasn't good for business.  Happy to be alive, I decided to live life to the fullest and purchased the Korkers BuckSkin boot.  I'm happy I did!

What impressed me most was the OmniTrax® Interchangeable Sole System.  I travel and fish in several states, boats and environments.  Having one boot that I could use in most situations, simply by changing the soles, was very important.

For example, if you're fishing in Missouri felt soles are not allowed.  The locals will throw rocks at you until you leave.  Easy fix, pop off the felt add the studded soles.  Now you're feeling like a stud and getting in your buddies drift boat when your buddy starts coming at you like Von Miller in Super Bowl 50.  You scramble and quickly audible to the regular rubber soles.  All good now and ready to hit the water.  In my kayak, I regularly change between felt and rubber soles.  The felt doesn't grip well on the kayak.  But I prefer to use felt when wading.  It's a quick and easy change between the two and can be done on the water without having to remove the boots.  The extra soles don't take up much room in my sling pack either.

Keeping it together.  No issues.  Extra soles stored in my sling pack.

The fit is great.  I ended up going a size larger than my normal shoe size.  When you add waders and socks they fit snug but also remain comfortable.  More importantly, I feel like I'm wearing a hiking boot while walking and wading.  At almost 3 lbs (pair) you're not going to out run a bear but a few miles of hiking won't kill you.

Drying after first day of use Thanksgiving weekend 2014

It's also important to mention how quickly these boots drain.  It wasn't something I was concerned with until I started hiking a few miles to the water in them.  They get rid of water quickly.  I now use them as a wet wading boot on multi day/night kayak camping trips in the Ozarks and in the "Driftless."  Regularly walking several miles each day in and around the water.  Obviously a traditional wet wading boot would be a better option.  But when you're kayak camping, traveling, or want to spend your cash on something else, these do the job just fine.

Some concerns I had in the beginning were on the durability of the OmniTrax® system.  I read reviews about the button on the back of the boot wearing excessively and breaking.  To date, I have not experienced that issue.  I was also worried I would wear out the ports and tabs on the soles by changing them often.  The end result being the boot wouldn't retain the soles or they'd fit loosely.  I'm happy to report that none of my concerns have merit.  The points where the soles snap to the boot have not worn out or expanded.  The tabs still fit properly in the ports without gaps and remain tightly sealed to the boot.

I've been very happy with my Korkers BuckSkin boots.  Over the last 18 months, I have been challenging them to fall apart.  I've left them too close to the camp fire, drove 200 miles with them dangling from my kayak rack and crushed a few beer cans with them.  But they've kept it together and kept me upright while fishing.  I would recommend taking your waders, socks and visiting your nearest fly shop to test out your bear escape plan.  You might find a new pair of wading boots while you're there.