Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Most fly fisherman have what could be described as a fair amount of gear. In other words, roughly 1 cubic hectare, most of which is compacted through the miracles of spousal concealment into 1,500 square feet of garage/basement/offsite storage.

Without looking like you’ve got an adolescent pachyderm strapped precariously to your back, not all gear can be taken on all trips. Invariably favorites emerge and receive heavy use, while other equipment (possibly “specialized”) simply provides comfort to the angler’s soul through existence within the stash.

What follows is a list of my regulars from 2009. I’m interested in hearing from everyone about their favorite swag that has proven itself on the water. Drop me a line if you have anything you won’t leave home without.

Sage 2500 Series

Sage 2560 Front

The reels I’ve cranked the most in 2009 have been Sage’s outgoing lineup, and I’ve used the 2540, 2550, and 2560 in all manner of conditions. This series offers an o-ring sealed drag, which is numbered for exact repeatability. As the British would say, this feature is “the dog’s bollocks.” Figuratively this means the pinnacle of coolness; you can disregard the literal translation. The knurled drag knob is ideally tensioned so as not to be changed inadvertently. Converting from right to left hand retrieve is as easy as any reel I’ve tried, and the large arbor helps limit line memory and makes uptake a breeze.

Sage 2560 Numbered Drag

As of Christmas, 2500 reels are getting harder to find. Red Truck Flyfishing still has the limited edition green 2550 for 5/6 weight lines at $210. These originally sold for $375 and the spools are fully interchangeable with the new 4500 series which offers both carbon and aluminum options. This means no problems with an orphaned body anytime soon.

Outcast PAC 9000 Pontoon Boat

I have spent a considerable amount of time on stillwater in all manner of buoyant contrivances. To date, my favorite craft is the PAC 9000, bar none. This remains one of the most expensive options for those in the market for a ‘toon, but it really does perform in a class by itself.


The quad 10” diameter pontoons keep a shallow draft, provide a flat surface for gear, dramatically improve stability, track like an arrow, and provide redundancy. There are many quads on the market, but few with such a low profile. In addition there is something ingenious about the strapless frame system of the PAC 9000.

Even Outcast’s own line of less expensive quad models fails to track as cleanly or as directly as the flagship. I believe this has something to do with the tension of strap mounts along with weight distribution, but the result is superb handling. The PAC 9000 is available at River Bum or your nearest Outcast dealer.

Galvan Fly Reels

During 2009 I have landed everything from brook trout to tarpon on Galvan’s Torque and Spoke fly reels. At no time have I been disappointed, and Galvan’s products are designed and manufactured in the USA.

Galvan Torque Driftwood

The Torque and Spoke are exceptionally light for aluminum reels, enabling them to be used across 3 or 4 rod weights to maximize your investment. These models use the same drag design, which has nice detents and makes a muted, single-pawl click when advancing line. Changing from right to left hand retrieve is easy, and spool removal is such a snap it can be done one-handed. I slightly prefer the drag knob of the Torque, especially if using gloves. The Spoke is lighter, and the visual design is first rate.

Galvan Spoke Front Quarter

Stillwater Outfitters keeps a good selection of Galvan reels on hand and is great to work with. They offer a free fly line with the purchase of these reels.

A short review of the Spoke, with additional photos, can be read on my previous blog post here:

Galvan Spoke

Airflo “Slow Glass” Fly Line

Airflo’s Sixth Sense Slow Intermediate (AKA Slow Glass) stands alone as uniquely Airflo. Rated at 0.5 inches per second, this line has an ability that I absolutely love – especially during the spring. It seems to achieve neutral buoyancy down around 3 to 5 feet, which allows for some slow, twitchy subsurface retrieves.

This characteristic is very difficult to imitate with a floating or even a Type I sinking line from any other manufacturer. Using this line to imitate lethargic crayfish, dragonfly nymphs, chironomids, or minnows can be decidedly deadly. The line is a light green, although all the product photography I’ve seen depicts the peach-colored floating variant. It is available at Tackle Direct.

Scientific Anglers Waterproof Fly Boxes

Simple, well-designed, double-sided, and transparent! If you are like me and tend to carry 6-10 fly boxes on a given excursion, it’s a huge boon to be able to select the right stash at a glance. The fact that the whole lineup is watertight and floats make these a right proper bit of kit. I also appreciate the internal design, which allows you to secure/remove most flies without damaging the foam for maximum re-use.

SA Big Fly 116

Sage TCR

I arrived late to the party on the first generation Technical Casting Rod. When the TCX was released, a few fantastic deals surfaced on the outgoing TCR. Reviews about this series tended to be love/hate, so I was always hesitant to buy one given the price point. Well, I was missing out.

Sage TCR & Galvan Torque

The Sage TCR 890-4 may be my all-time favorite thick stick. I also have the 1090-4 which is excellent, but the 8-weight is a cannon that casts like a laser. The 890-4 is getting hard to find, but Fly Fish USA still shows some in stock. I know that Red Truck still has a small quantity of 10-weights if you’re in the market for a rocket but want to save some cash.

Sage Z-Axis

My go-to stillwater rod this season has been the Z-Axis 796-4, and it is the best rod I’ve ever used in this category. The “Z” has backbone to throw meat at tiger muskie, but the tip has enough feel to make accurate touch casts in skinny water for lake-sized midge fishing. It’s not a delicate dry fly rod by any means, but it’s as versatile as anything I’ve ever fished.

Tiger Trout

Nothing but Net

PVC net bags are the way to go. They hold their shape, resist tangles (both fly and fish related), become almost transparent in the water, and are gentle on the quarry. This year I have used the Brodin Ghost Frying Pan Float Tube, and the Wachter Magnum when more reach was needed.

Brodin Iceflow

River Bum offers a full line of Brodin nets along with top notch service.

Wachter nets are available at

Wachter Magnum Sepia

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

National Geographic

I was honored to have one of my photos selected by National Geographic's Senior Photo Editor Susan Welchman as a daily dozen winner yesterday. Each month winning submissions have a chance to be published in the magazine.

If you are interested in entering, visit the Your Shot web page and create an account. Photographers can submit only 1 image per month, and entries compete against thousands of submissions from all over the world.

National Geographic Your Shot 12/15/2009

The full image:

Seeing is Believing

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Peep Show

The new Nautilus NV is a wicked, sultry vixen. Here's a sneak peek inside my lightbox - I'll be reviewing this minx down the road a bit.

Nautilus NV Rear Spiral

Nautilus NV Halved

Sunday, November 29, 2009


If you haven't worked the term "gourmandizer" into a sentence lately, Thanksgiving is a great time to break it out. Essentially it means the same thing as "trencherman." I did my best impressions of both over the long weekend. Many thanks to Mom for letting us fill her house with bird dogs and ravenous appetites, and happy birthday Kevin!

The pups always have a ball up there this time of year.

Prarie Pointer

Sadie Sepia

Kaiser on the Prarie

Best wishes and happy holidays!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Wings

If you've never tried to photograph waterfowl in flight it is likely that bliss, melodious laughter, and decadent high-living are far more common occurrences than facial spasms in daily life.

The objective this weekend was to capture a few airborne acrobatics. Execution is something of a symphony, requiring just-right lighting (not too much, not too little), planning, and a high degree of familiarity with your camera controls.

Even with all of the above, the likely result is still an Epic Fail. Still, once in a while, Ghostrider requests a fly-by.

Drake Flare


Hen Drop


Wings Extended

While keeping watch on the skies, don't forget to look down once in a while either. Marshes can produce outstanding reflections if you get low to the water and seek the right angles.

Hen Sunrise

Mirrored Drake


That's my swan song for the weekend. JayMorr rocked the D700 on the trip, so check his blog sometime soon for his newest uploads.

Swan Portrait

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Wild Canadian geese rank second all-time (behind only the chukar partridge) in their ability to confound the wives of men.

"You're going to wade through a festering marsh in temperatures cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey for the slim chance of seeing a goose?"

The question is not entirely unreasonable. Incidentally eye rolling so extreme that whiplash becomes likely is highly unbecoming of a lady.

This morning a short window of gorgeous light opened up for a moment, and I captured the portrait I was looking for.

Canadian Goose Portrait

JayMorr got some shots of the inbound birds in flight - drop in for a closer look.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fowl Intentions

If boredom ever sets in before dawn when temperatures hover around 15 degrees, I recommend finding a metal cylinder and clutching it with blue fingers to stave off the tedium.

Finding wild wood ducks in Utah is a little like looking for Manhattan-style chowder in Boston. This weekend I decided to scout a timber patch up North where I have seen a few previously, and asked JayMorr if he was interested in loss of feeling in his extremities.

It took a lot of patience but a few opportunities presented themselves. We found mallards in great supply, and got lenses on a few drake woodies.

Drake Woodie Headon

Wrong Hen!

Drake Wood Duck

Mallards, while common, are beautiful birds when you get a close look.

Drake Profile


Troubled Waters

Conditions were right for some nice reflections. I thought the tones in this hen mallard's plumage made for great contrast:


Check out Jay's Blog for more images, including some shots of a drake wood duck in flight.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blue Water Copperworks

Anyone who has not seen the work of R. Hanes Hoffman, Jr. is missing out. I've had the opportunity recently to chat a little with Hanes and also check out some of his sculptures. He is expanding his business and is continuing to seek audiences out West, especially for his trout-related heavy metal.

Stop by his site BLUE WATER COPPERWORKS and gawk at the goods. If you, or the local fly shop, may be interested in getting your hands on some of his original work just drop a line.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Two photographers in the same drift boat is rarely a good idea. The result is far too much right-brained activity in a confined space, listing the boat and dooming the occupants to row in tiny circles for the duration of the trip.

Wisdom being the better part of lint flicking, I decided to set aside the lens in favor of a thick fly stick on yesterday’s pursuit of rainbows afflicted with gigantism.

Most of the excitement came in the pitch blackness of night on a long, deserted road during the drive home. It was here that Morrison explained his deep and abiding distrust of Howie Long, stemming from a series of Chevrolet commercials that make outrageous fuel economy claims.

Driven by an unrelenting inner fire to burn down Howie’s mythology, Jay set out on a quest to drive a 100-mile stretch of remote highway in a V8 pickup while basking in the cheerful holiday glow of the LOW FUEL indicator light.

It is my firm belief that we coasted into the Last Chance in Hell gas station only as a direct result of the hybrid energy technology which I invented during the drive. The traditional gasoline engine was supplemented with electric power derived from organic profanity, which I was flickering about the crew cab like sheet lightning. High CO2 emissions were the only possible downside of this technique, for which I hope to secure patent protection in the near future.

Check out JAYMORR’s blog for more of his excellent imagery of the trip.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Something Silver this way Comes

It was 4:00 AM, and my phone’s alarm was screeching that it was time to wake up. Two hours earlier I had arrived at a small town hotel in Mexico after travelling all day. After a brief stint attempting to get comfortable in a bed so short that a spider monkey would have been forced to adopt the fetal position, it was time to fish.

The pre-dawn darkness revealed little about our surroundings as we made our way to the docks. A small marine light illuminated our home for the next several days, a nicely maintained panga-style flats boat with a 60-horsepower outboard.

Our guide put us at ease by asking us to stay alert and watchful as we sped through the blackness, explaining that many fishing boats lacked lights and that three pairs of eyes were better than one. The motor then broke the morning stillness, and we raced towards the mangrove jungles to the North under a tropical sky filled with shooting stars.

SuperPanga - Blue

Before long we were rapidly approaching the entrance to a tidal river, and the motor suddenly fell silent. Dawn was breaking to the East, and I grabbed my 8-weight and stood on the casting deck while attempting to discern the shoreline as we poled through a series of tiny mangrove islands.

The Pole

The water was gin-clear and without so much as a breath of wind the surface was like an expanse of glass. Looking down, I noticed the constellation Orion was mirrored on the sea as though it were my own reflection. Then I heard it: The sound of rolling tarpon.

This type of fishing can quickly become an addiction. Casting a fly towards fish you can see, then stripping it near the surface only to see a powerful wave begin pushing water towards it as the tarpon charges. The take is ferocious.


The hook set must be strong and well-executed in order to endure the coming spectacle. The first jump comes quickly, and is often followed by half a dozen others within the first few minutes. It is not uncommon for these fish to clear the water by 6 to 10 feet or more.


Blast Off


Flats fishing was short-lived on this trip as the sun began to rise. It was then that things would get interesting. The tarpon would retreat deep into the mangrove jungles, and we would follow them. Initially the guides would use poles to push the boats into the mouths of tidal rivers, and begin moving us upstream. It would not be long until these waterways would turn into tunnels, leading under dense forest canopies while narrowing rapidly. Spiders with the diameter of a baseball would periodically drop into the boat with a “thunk” and cause no small amount of spontaneous movement. At times fleas which were easily size 14 could leap into the boat from the surrounding vegetation and make a mad dash for the nearest gringo.

Pushing Water

Tidal River


Ultimately we would be laying down flat on the casting deck, pulling the boat forward by grabbing mangrove roots a few feet at a time. Invariably, the ever-narrowing rivers would give way to small lagoons, at times more than a mile from the ocean. Here the tarpon would be, and here epic battles would ensue as powerful fish were hooked in confined spaces surrounded by snarls of root systems on each bank. It seemed like a land before time, and when everything occasionally went right – bright fish would come to hand and smiles would glint like scales in the sun.

Scouting the Fish

Tarpon Tail

Open Wide

Side Scales

Galvan Tarpon

Baby Tarpon

Tarpon Dorsal Selective

Baby Got Back

Seeing is Believing

If anyone is interested in trying this adventure out for themselves, drop me a line. I would be more than happy to put you in contact with the guys that made this happen. Thanks for reading.