Category Archives: Gear

Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Striped Bass Fly Line

A special line for a special season – I chose this one after some research. It came down to this line or Rio’s striped bass line.

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As the name suggest, it’s a species-specific line that performs in all kinds of saltwater situations. Slow sinking, with a clear line tip for stealth and a green running line for visibility, the lone shoots well, has a very slick finish to it, and is easier to cast than most sinking lines I’ve thrown. The slow sink puts the fly in the strike zone and cuts through swell and white water in surf conditions – a major bonus for beach fisherman. Paired with an 8 to 10wt rod, it’s perfect for the impending striped bass migration, and the endless fishing that will go with it. Outside of the blitz, the line will be perfectly appropriate for flounder, bluefish and croaker fishing flats and shorelines alike.
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Gear Review – The Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack – A Year Later.

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Analysis tells me that one of most popular posts to appear on this blog was my review of my Orvis sling pack. It originally appeared a year ago, and since then, it is viewed every day by people who Google the sling pack and seek reviews. As such, I thought it might be helpful to write a follow up.

Since that initial post, I’ve taken that pack on almost every fishing excursion I’ve been on, whether it was ten minutes from home, or several hundred miles away by airline. The Safe Passage has spent countless hours on my back while I waded saltwater flats, cast to the breakers on beaches, crept around trout streams, hunted snook in the mangroves of Florida, and all manners of fishing in between.

So, how is it holding up?

To look at the bag, you wouldn’t know the miles I’ve put on it. Despite it’s exposure to a saltwater environment and being dragged through bushes and trees on the way to rivers and streams, all the exterior components remain intact. No snags, rips, or tears. No discoloration from all the sun, and everything attached externally, including forceps and nippers and D-rings remain as solid and functional as the day I started using them. The nippers are not as razor sharp as they once were, but they’ve chewed a lot of leader.

As time has passed I’ve developed preferences on where things are kept and what to attach to the bag when wading for long periods. I can comfortably carry a water bottle and my landing net on the outside of the bag, and keep the interior free for fly boxes, tippet and other necessities. The locations of the D-rings were clearly well thought out when they developed this bag, as nothing ever gets in the way. I’ve worn it over just a T-shirt, and on top of a heavy layers of coats, sweatshirts and thermals, and with a little adjusting of the strap, you can easily make it comfortable regardless of your clothing.

The on-water performance has been impressive – never hindrance, always accessible and easy to manage. You can be waist deep in saltwater on an incoming tide and still comfortably reach all of your necessary gear by just sliding the bag to your front side. In fact, waist deep water is where this bag has a big advantage over waist packs and vests. The pack rides high up on your back, so I’ve waded very deep without fear of it getting soaked. That said, I’ve also stood in hours of rain and had the items inside remain dry.

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I keep the fly box I’m currently working out of in the small front pocket, making it easy to look around in, and also because this is where the foam pad resides. I use this pad, as intended, to store flies on after I use them, instead of placing them into a fly box while wet. This is the only part of the bag showing any wear, as the repeated poking with hooks has left a couple of noticeable spots in the foam – but this is to be expected, the foam is replaceable, and frankly, the wear is so minimal I could go for years without the need to replace it.

Currently, my bag holds two pairs of forceps, my trimmers, a leather leader sheath, six pre-packaged leaders, four rolls of various tippet, A pack of sanitary hand wipes, fishing licenses, hook sharpening stone, a flashlight, two large fly boxes and two smaller boxes for small nymphs and streamers, and there is still plenty of useable space. on many trips, I can also fit my rain jacket, my camera gear and a snack.

A year later, I come away only more impressed with this product as I’ve had time to consider what I’ve put it through and where it’s been. I’ve never been a bother to wear, but on a few occasions, I’ve been hassled by not wearing it. The convenience of having your nippers over your shoulder and your forceps on your chest when the need arises can spoil you, and when you find yourself without, you’ll miss it.

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Hat Tip to TU.

When the good people at Trout Unlimited are not playing a significant role in improving the lives of fish and fisherman, they can occasionally be found chatting with members and followers on their Facebook page. 

Just before Christmas, the status of that Facebook page asked readers to submit the last fly they used to catch a trout. The question immediately reminded me of something I’d otherwise forgotten – that when I sent my money to TU for my membership this past summer, they had been running a promotion where my membership fee would earn me a collection of TU swag, including stickers, a hat, and a collection of various and popular trout flies. I was on the TU page to join anyway, not necessarily expecting more than a newsletter in return, but was happy to learn I’d receive a bunch of goodies.

Time passed, and the TU package arrived at my house. Everything promised was included, except the flies. A note inside, I recall, said the flies were in a back-ordered status, and would follow shortly. I stuck a sticker on my stripping basket and promptly forgot about the whole deal .

And then, that question was asked on Facebook, and I remembered I’d never received my flies. I made a smart ass comment- completely in jest, mind you – that I certainly hadn’t used a TU fly because I had not received them yet. I even left one of those winky face things that is now the universal symbol for – “Hey. Just kidding”.

Not fifteen minutes went by before I received an email on my Facebook account from a Brennan Sang – a community manager for TU. He was concerned that I hadn’t received flies and wanted to know how he could help. I sheepishly explained that I was just kidding – I was feeling like a whiner – and that I’d forgotten about the flies, but explained what had happened. He said he wanted to look into it – and just a few short days later, a small collection of trout flies arrived in the mail.

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In an era of customer service that ranges from passable to dismal across a myriad of industries, the fly fishing world is pretty lucky. Some of the major rod builders have excellent customer service, as anyone with an expensive broken rod will attest. What TU did for me was a small thing, but the attention to detail and the commitment to make things right even after I’d expressed my relaxed attitude about the whole deal, deserves to be commended. They don’t just want to do great work, they want to do it right. We’re lucky to have them.

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Filed under Conservation, Fly, Free Stuff, Gear, Trout Unlimited, Uncategorized

Blue River Fly Company Closeout Sale.

Sad news from the good folks at Blue River.  As of December 31st, they will be closing their doors for good.

As such, if you head over there now, you can scoop up some gear at 40% off of sticker price. They have a bunch of good flies, fly boxes, and other gear. If that weren’t enough, 10% of closeout purchased will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Getting Organized.

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The messy old vice.

For several years now, I’ve done all my fly tying on the little travel vise you see in the image above. I picked it up at a Bass Pro in Las Vegas for about thirty dollars, and it came with some tools nestled in a nice, but cheap wooden case. I tie more now than I used to, but while I may one day, I’m not prepared just yet to splurge the few hundred bucks on a nice professional level vice. There is always a smarter way to use that money. Such as rods, lines, materials, beer…..

So far, this vice has been sufficient, but the drawbacks were mounting. For one, the base of this vice is just the box. It can move very easily when applying any pressure while tying. Secondly, because the vice lives inside the box, any clippings of fur, hackle, marabou or flash falls directly into the box, on top of the tools, and then – because of what I see as a flaw in design – sticks to the felt that lines the interior. In short, it became a hell of a mess. I find myself picking the materials out of the tools before I can use them. This will not do.

I decided on a simple plan to cure the lost tools, the mess, and the shifting vice. I picked up a couple of pieces of inexpensive wood from a craft store. One was a simple ten inch block for wood carving, the second a good sized, appropriately heavy plaque.

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Then, I attached the block to the base with a few nails, drilled some holes in the block for an organized tool keeper, gave everything a good sanding, and then began applying a light wood stain.

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Once the stain was dry, I removed the old vise from the travel box. Unfortunately, the box didn’t survive the abuse, but the vice came away, and after sanding down the dry glue that had attached it to the case, I was able to mount it to it’s new base with a few screws. What I was left with is a much more organized and functional tying station that actually looks pretty good, if I may say so. It took about an hour and cost less than twenty dollars for all the materials.

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I’d still like one of those fancy vises someday, but this will do just fine for now.

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*Not a Fly Shop.

When I discovered that Gander Mountain’s Salisbury, MD store had a “Complete Fly Fishing Shop”, I got excited. The nearest fly shop to me is just shy of two hours away, and while I’d always prefer the local guy over a big box store, the prospect of a convenient location to pick up some flies, replace some gear in a pinch or check out some goodies in-person instead of in pictures was welcome. I pictured something like a Bass Pro setup – A small section of the store lined with fly rods, lines and reels, all kinds of flies, hooks, tying materials and whatever accessories we just can’t live without this year, despite the sport surviving centuries without them. What I found, however, was, ….well, hilarious.

Yes, just beyond the Snow White, Mickey Mouse and Sponge Bob fishing outfits lies the “Complete Fly Fishing Shop”. I can accurately account for it’s inventory – Three Scientific Anglers starter kits, leader material, backing, some packaged flies, Gink, three identical floating lines and some line clippers and forceps.

To be fair, the beginner can go here and be outfitted for their local urban waters. You can buy an 8 weight and some poppers and go fish for bass. But ….a “Complete Fly Fishing Shop”? Hardly! Half of a small shop aisle does not a fly shop make.

Does this qualify as false advertising?

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Gear Review – Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack

(A follow up to this post, after a year of using this product, can be found here.)

Regular readers will recall that I recently pondered the value and capabilities of the Orvis Safe Passage sling pack. Since then, it has been revealed that, with absolutely no uncertainty, Santa Clause reads my blog. This is the only explanation for the fact that I found same said sling pack in my Christmas stocking this year. So thanks, Santa.

At initial inspection, the pack is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Orvis. Quality products, built to last. the material is thick and feels durable. The zippers are heavy duty, and everything is stitched to last. Looking inside, I was happy to see a lot of available space over two compartments, and, more importantly to me, several accessory sleeves within the main compartment for additional organized storage.

This picture is slightly deceiving to my eye. The storage are seems bigger than this picture implies.

As I took my every-day gear from my old back pack and loaded up the sling pack, I was pleased to find that everything would fit comfortably in the interior pockets without utilizing any of the main bag space, leaving that area free for whatever I could think of or needed: rain gear, extra reels or lines, camera gear, lunch……

Pictured below, all of my every-day items that I was able to store without utilizing any of the main compartment accessory sleeve space:  Fishing license, sanitizer, four spools of leader and tippet material, a few pre-packaged leaders, hook sharpening stone, small cap flashlight, two types of floatant. Not pictured, an additional set of nips, and a leather leader straightner. both hang from convenient attachment loops inside the main compartment.

In the front fly box pouch – three fly boxes with room for two more. Also in the front fly box pouch comes an attached piece of ribbed foam that allows you to store the flies you are currently using, so as to allow easy access without even removing or opening a fly box.

The two sets of forceps, one of which came with the bag with a matching trout-skin set of nippers, are stored both in a sheath on the front of the bag, and in an additional sheath on the chest strap, leaving your tools in reach while wearing the pack on your back. Also on the exterior is a zinger attachment point for securing your nippers or any other tool you may attach to a zinger. There is a magnet at the base of the attachment point that secures your metal nippers and keeps them from swinging around while you walk and fish.

On the water, the sling back did not disapoint. In fact, it is truly a pleasure to use. Everything is stored neatly on your back as opposed to hanging from your clothes or from a lanyard. Your nippers and forceps are in easy reach. If you need to access your fly boxes or anything else within the bag, you simply slide the back around to your front, and everything is right there, and right side up. An additional bonus I found that isn’t advertised by the good people of Orvis is that that main fly box compartment sticks out slightly to allow a wide box to be stored. As such, when the bag is in front of you, it creates a small shelf on which you can place your fly or fly box or leader spool while you use your hands for something else, like tying knots or whatever else you can think of.

When the bag is on my back and the straps have been tightened to fit comfortably and securely, I can honestly say I’ve forgotten its even there, which to me is the ultimate sign of great design. It doesn’t move, even when you are casting for distance or leaning over to land a fish, yet is easily accessible the second you need it. I’ve worn it for six hours at a time,  hiking and fishing, and it transports my gear effortlessly.

Orvis has produced exactly what I wanted in a bag. I simply have no complaints. It sits above the water when wading, is comfortable on a long day of bank or boat fishing, stows all I need for a day on the water with room to spare, and keeps all of my regularly used tools within reach when needed, and secured when not in use. It looks good, feels good, it works, and is of top notch quality and durability. I simply can’t ask for more, and even though mine was a generous gift, I can conclude that it’s definitely worth the money. At the end of my first day of fishing with the pack, I looked around for my backpack and open fly boxes; items I have always left out on the ground when bank fishing, before I remembered it was all stowed in my sling pack. I can’t imagine going fishing without it.

(Update – Seems I am not alone. Fishing Jones likes the Safe Passage, too!) – Neil

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