Friday, March 29, 2013

And the winner is:

The Random Number Generator has spoken: Ben Sameshima is the winner of the Simms loot.

Ben, shoot me your address via the Contact Me link above and I'll get your stuff in the mail.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Simms Scavanger Hunt

This scavenger hunt has been a week or so in the offing. I've been traveling on business - all airports and offices (with an occasional stop at a pub for sustenance) -- so I've been greatly delayed in getting this post up. I've got a brief respite having just arrived back in Slovakia. Sadly, trout season here doesn't open for another three weeks. Damn.

When I posted my Headwaters Pro Waist Pack gear review last week I promised a scavenger hunt for some Simms loot. Rich Hohne has provided a Simms Wading Belt and Cap (about $60 of Simms goodness) to distribute to the lucky winner.

Add a comment below with the answers to these questions. All the answers can be found on the Simms site. If you trust that someone who has answered before you got the questions correct, go ahead and cut an paste their answers. Of course, I would expect that some the readers of this blog* would start off with a set of answers that were intentionally incorrect so as to disqualify as many folks as possible.

From the list of correct entries I will select, at random, a winner. You have until at least Wednesday night to enter though my ability to adjudicate this event in a timely fashion will be determined by work schedule, access to the intertubes and Zlaty** consumption. It may take a bit longer to get to the judging so no bitching if it does.

The Questions:
  1. What is the name for Simm's footwear technology that promotes features and/or materials that are more resistant to "hitch-hiking" organisms?
  2. What country was Cathy Lang fishing in when she caught the monster brown featured in the Catch of the Day?
  3. How long is the warranty on Simms products due to workmanship or defect?
  4. What are the three ways to buy products from the Simms website?
  5. How many styles of waders does Simms sell? Is that number really unlucky?

* I'm thinking of you, Kirk, though it could just as easily be Jonny. Or T.J. Or Mike. Or Marc. Damn, there are too many to list. Don't trust anyone.
** Zlatý Bažant, Official Slovak Beer of Sipping Emergers

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack Review

Like many fly anglers, I'm a gear junkie. There's nothing that gets my juices flowing like walking into a fly shop or opening the latest catalog and perusing the baubles. There is so much stuff I don't need that I must buy.

One area where I am weakest are vests. Well, not just vests, but waist packs, chest packs, traditional vests, modern vests, and sling packs. On one trip to Pennsylvania a few years ago I couldn't decide between two vests so I bought both. Somewhere out there is the perfect pack. I don't yet own it.

Currently I'm partial to the sling pack designs. I own two; one of which I'm quite fond.

Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack
Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack, $99
Last fall, Simms sent me a waist pack (Headwaters Pro Waist Pack, $99) as part of the loot from last summer's Yellowstone Blogger Tour. I had tried a competitor's waist pack a few years ago. It did the job of storing the gear but I found that being at my waist it spent a fair amount of time slightly submerged when I was wading larger rivers. So, it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I tried this new waist pack. I've fished it pretty steady through the fall and winter and I've gotten a sense for its worth.

Waist pack configuration leaves little to the imagination. Basically, they're belts with pouches. The Simms pack has three compartments with two side pockets. The outermost pocket came with a large fly patch so it could be used as an ersatz fly box. I learned long ago to stay away from these fly manglers (Fishpond was fond of these on their vests) so out came the fly patch, in went a fly box.

The Middle Pocket: Gadget Holder
The innermost main compartment is where all the big boxes, cigar case, flask, powerbars, camera, first aid kit, etc. go. It's about as voluminous as one would expect and I've yet to want for room. It also includes a couple of mesh internal pockets that allow for some organization.

The middle pocket is the gadget holder. This slim pocket has a couple of mesh internal pockets as well as two bottle holders so you can leash your floatant and desiccant. It does beat having to dig around in the bottom of the pocket for stuff you use often. I do wish that the holders were more rigid. It's difficult to "reholster" bottles one handed though it can be done.

Stuff I liked about the Simms Headwaters Pro Waist Pack

A couple of things strike me right off the bat. First, a very clean design. There are few places for a fly line to catch on. I'm always getting my line caught on one thing or another and with this pack it seems to happens less often. I've noticed that cleaner designs are becoming part of most manufacturer's lines but Simms seems to have this down well.

Shoulder Strap: Great function,
but it needs a connector for a net
Next, there's a shoulder strap. A first I couldn't discern it's purpose. But after using the pack I realized that the purpose of the strap is to keep the pack at a specific elevation on your waist. No worries about it slipping down and getting wet and if you want it to ride high all you do is shorten the strap.

Stuff I didn't like about the Simms Heawaters Pro Waist Pack
The problem with most waist packs is being able to easily see into the depths. This pack also suffers from that. The pack is soft so the larger section seems to collapse at just the wrong angle to make peering into it difficult. I find i have to reach down and pull it up to see in properly. This is partially due to my middle aged body topography but i would appreciate a slighly more rigid design that held its shape.

The large main compartment could hold a water bottle but I prefer mine on the outside. A water bottle holder would be a good addition. I've ended up clipping mine on with a small carabiner.

The should strap just begs for a loop from which to hang a net. Again, a small carabiner has done the trick but it seems like an obvious miss.

Yet to be tested
The belt portion of the waist pack is well constructed. It's got a mesh back and a rigid foam lattice that seems like it would provide good ventilation during hot weather. I've only used the pack with waders and only during cooler weather but it does appear to be design that could be beneficial during the waderless summer months.

Overall Impression
If you're a waist pack person this is a good one. Yes, if you wade deep it's going to get soggy though the shoulder strap helps to prevent this. Perhaps the greatest testament to the design is that I haven't run back to my sling pack yet. I think I've become enamored by the additional capacity a waist pack provides.

Free Stuff
In the next day or so (I'm traveling on business so time for posting is rare) I'll post a Simms scavenger hunt. Rich Hohne of Simms has provided a Simms Wading Belt and Cap as a bit of loot to distribute. Hopefully tomorrow. Maybe Thursday.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Learning to Fly

Before you read on, head over to the Unaccomplished Angler and send him your hat photo. He's got the best prizes I've ever seen in a blog contest. I've had hats with mojo in the past but I've lost them all. There's one that would have fit right in with the contest but sadly someone walked off with it......

I started fly fishing eight years ago. My buddy Ross thought I needed a hobby other than work[1] and so he dragged me up to Manchester, Vermont for three days of Orvis indoctrination. I fell hard for this new thing, just ask Ann. Heck, the fact that I'm writing this stuff here says something about my passion for this sport.[2]

After the school I fished a bit on my own. It took a month or so for me to land my first trout on a fly. That spring I hired a guide to give me some nymphing instruction. And then I attended my first TU meeting and fished with some very talented anglers who helped me run up the learning curve.

If you're not able to do all that, you're left with figuring it out on your own. Fortunately, there are some professionally-crafted, free online resources to help new anglers through the process.

The benchmark is the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center. It's hard to compete against Orvis in this space. First, they got the talent (e.g Rosenbauer, Kutzer, etc). Second, they've got the resources to do some pretty slick video and animations. Finally, they've got Rosenbauer years of experience running a fly fishing school. Their knowledge about how to teach is deep. Plus they integrate the hundreds of podcasts that Tom has done over the years. Again, lots of knowledge upon which to draw.

Redington has a site called New to Fly? It doesn't have the depth of content that the Orvis site has but it covers the basics well. The lessons are more demonstrations than lessons. They show the things but don't explain the "why" behind it. For example, the Overhead Cast Lesson doesn't explain the dynamics of the cast -- rod loading, etc -- but simply shows the actions. For some this might actually be better; less confusing technical stuff. For me, I like knowing why. It helps me better understand what I'm doing. That said, it's got lots of content to cover the breadth of knowledge required to get up and running.

Cabelas also has a learning site called Cabelas Fly Fishing University. It too covers that landscape of things you need to know to fly fish. However, for a large company this offering is weak.  There's no video that I could find. A majority of the offerings are text only and are broken down into such small chunks of information that I had difficulty putting them in context. Also, the look and feel of the website reminds me of learning sites from work and that's the last thing I'd like to be thinking about when learning about a hobby. Finally, it seems like they've taken the content out of a book but not a very good one. If you want to learn from a book, I think there are better ones out there.

While websites help I've found that the best ways to learn are to actually fish with people who know what they're doing. Just watching a good angler cast helps you add to your repertoire. Also, lots of fly shops hold clinics that let you get free instruction and tuning. Finally, hiring a guide can be the single best way of improving your technique. Just make sure you ask around for recommendations. There are some guides out there who know as much about education as Cabelas does.

[1] I thought doing hand crafted emails for work was a hobby. Who knew?
[2] Not to mention my desire to hear myself talk (or write, in this case)

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Last summer I spent time in Yellowstone National Park with Trout Unlimited, the National Park Service, Simms and the Yellowstone Park Foundation on their blogger tour. The purpose of the trip was to see first hand the recovery efforts of native trout in the park.

The restoration of native trout in the park is an amazing story. The erradication of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake is at the center of the Yellowstone Cutthroat restoration. While the restoration is a partnership among a group of organizations there are some extraordinary individuals who are making this happen.

The one individual who is most responsible for the momentum of these efforts is David Sweet, a Wyoming Trout Unlimited member. If not for David the telemetry work in Yellowstone Lake, the collaboration of the many partners in the program and the netting of 300,000 lake trout in the past summer would not have been nearly as successful as it has been.

David has been recognized in the past for his work in Yellowstone. In 2011 he received Trout Unlimited's Distinguished Service Award. This month he has been recognized as a Hero of Conservation by Field and Stream Magazine.

Like most important things in life, real progress is made because of the passion and drive of a single person. Dave is one of those people.

Congratulations, Dave!

David Sweet on Yellowstone Lake

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Physical Therapy

About a month ago I finally went fishing.

No, that's not right. It was last Saturday.

I've had this sharp pain in my shoulder for the past week. I awoke with it one morning and it's been there ever since. I attribute it to sleeping wrong. It could also be due to the fact that my shoulders seem to be curled up around my ears. Stress does twist the body.

On Saturday I stood in cold, moving water for a few hours. It was surprising how quickly the pain in my shoulder disappeared. I didn't notice its departure, but when I got out to warm my toes and stretch, I found that I could put my arm above my shoulder without the deep, stabbing pain. Perhaps it's coincidence but I'm crediting the healing power of fly angling.

The fishing was about what you'd expect in the dead of winter when there's no hatch and the water temp is just bit north of freezing. Only one bump and that one came to the net. It was a nice sized Brown though it was getting thin. I almost felt guilty tricking it with a pink egg. Almost.

I hadn't fished this spot in a long time. It's a popular pool that gets a lot of attention during dry fly season but is empty when there are no bugs in the air. When I do fish this stretch I usually fish it from the east bank but a tip put me on the west bank at the head of the pool. I'm not sure if one fish proves the tip was valid or perhaps fates smiled upon me. Either way, I got one and was satisfied.

Later I watched my youngest test for Junior Black Belt in Kung Fu. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to see him test in a small group. Usually it's a cattle call for the lower belts but Black Belt they take seriously and so he was up there with two other kids.

He did fine in the test and was awarded the belt. Like most parents, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Every error or forgotten move, I felt the angst four-fold. I think it may have actually been more stressful to watch the test than take it. By the end my shoulders were back up in "work" position.

It's Tuesday evening and the twitches are returning. The weekend is down the road a bit as are the angling possibilities. More snow is on the way. I'll have to find some other form of therapy to get me through to my next session.