Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rainy reward

For the past four years, I've been telling Kelly about the magical fishing moments that can happen in the middle of a downpour. Kelly doesn't like to be cold and wet, so she usually just dismisses my suggestions to go fishing in the rain. This weekend was different. She was determined to go fishing, so we went in spite of the weather.

We waded our neighborhood creek armed with ultralights yesterday afternoon, and for the short amount of time we put in, I'd say we had some pretty good success. I caught three bass while Kelly only caught two...

but one of hers easily outweighed all three that I caught combined.

Good things come to those who fish in the rain.

I think now she may actually believe me when I tell her that the fishing can really heat up when the rain starts falling. That fish is hands down the largest either of us has caught from our little neighborhood creek, and I seriously wouldn't expect to catch any bigger. This is a small creek- barely twenty feet wide in most places and only two or three feet deep in the deepest holes. The particular hole near the bank where this fish was hanging out was probably only a foot and a half deep, four or five feet long, and maybe two feet wide. Just before catching the fish, Kelly had been dealing with a minor line explosion from her reel because it had fresh new line on it. I fished a few other likely spots while I waited on her to deal with the mess, and I intentionally left that hole for her to fish with her plastic worm. Once she got her line situation straightened out, she began to wade forward (thinking I had already fished all of the good spots). I told her to stop so she wouldn't spook the hole and let her know that I had saved it for her. I told her where to cast because I thought there might be a decent fish there. The result was the fish pictured above.

Sometimes I'm just too nice and make it way too easy for her, but I'm really glad she caught the fish. To her credit, she made a perfect cast into the hole, worked the worm like a pro, made the strike at the right moment, and played the fish to perfection... and to think... at this time last year she had never even fished a plastic worm.

Today was actually our first serious attempt of the year to fly fish for bass, and the results were pretty poor. Kelly caught the only bass of the day on the fly- a small Spotted Bass on a big cone head woolly bugger.

First bass of 2013 on a fly

The rain wasn't too bad today, but the stream we fished was running a little high and the wading was pretty difficult. After we gave up wading with fly rods, we spent a few minutes fishing from the bank with ultralights. I landed a pair of small basses- one Spot and one Largemouth. I was really hoping for a big bass on the fly for Easter, but I think Kelly may have used up all of our luck yesterday.

Hopefully, her rainy day bass will be the first of many good fish for this year. It looks like we're already off to a great start.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Smallmouth sometime soon?

This year winter has more than worn out its welcome. I truly enjoy the changing of the seasons and the beauty that fall brings, and I will readily admit that I actually enjoy winter. It's the time of the year when I take a break from fly fishing for bass and turn my attention to trout... but enough is enough.

I don't often share content from other sites, but here's a great article on spring Smallmouth Bass fishing from I say great because I think it's 100% on point, and I would agree with just about everything the author has to say. It even applies down here in the South at the southern limits of Smallmouth country. I especially agree with the author's advice on rod and tippet selection. However, I'm not really a fan of Clouser minnows or crayfish patterns, although they certainly work for some people in some places. My luck with those flies has just been very inconsistent. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of wooolly buggers and the action of their marabou tails... but I wouldn't waste my time fooling around with little ones.

Spring River Smallie taken on a "Giant" Woolly Bugger in 2010

It's been far too long since I've had a decent Smallie put a bend in a rod, but hopefully that situation will be rectified very soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gear review: Guideline Swell polarized sunglasses

Good polarized sunglasses are essential equipment for serious anglers, and I'm always on the lookout for new affordable eyewear options. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find good quality fishing eyewear with a reasonable price tag. Kelly and I have both recently had pairs of Costa Del Mar sunglasses, almost universally considered to be the best polarized fishing shades money can buy, but sadly we both lost our precious Costas... and just can't bear to lay down the cash for new ones. Costas are just too expensive to lose on the trail (mine) or accidentally run over in a parking lot (Kelly's)... and we speak from experience here. We've been making due with inferior eyewear for the past couple of years now. Fisherman could really use some quality options that won't cost as much as an August power bill in the deep South (think January heating bill for those of you that live in the great white North), and that's why Fisherman Eyewear's Guideline Eyegear should be on your radar.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out a pair of Guideline Swell polarized sunglasses from Fisherman Eyewear, and at an MSRP of $69.95, they provide a much more affordable option than the big names in fishing sunglasses. I admit, I was not familiar with Fisherman Eyewear, but maybe I should have been. According to the company website, "nearly 40 years ago Fisherman Eyewear was the first sunglass company to introduce Polarized sunglasses to the angling world." Who knew?

My first impression of the Guideline Swell was that they are well made sunglasses. You can tell they're not cheap shades, and according to the company's e-mail "they are constructed from Grilamid BTR, 51% bio-based polymer, they are far more durable than the average sunglasses." The conservationist in me likes knowing that the company is making some effort to use a more sustainable plastic for their product. Another early impression was that they need to come up with a more custom fit protective case for this pair of sunglasses. This is obviously a generic case that they use for a variety of different Guideline Eyegear models, but the Swell really didn't fit in it very well. That being said, I wouldn't let an ill-fitted case stop me from buying a pair.

Kelly laughed a little when I first put them on because the "large, modified square" style seemed a bit big for my face. They're also more of an "old man" style than I would have chosen for myself. I typically wear something that has more of a modern wrap style... something that would probably fit better in the case pictured above. According to the company, "Guideline’s Swell sunglasses are a take on the classic wayfarers," and I agree that they have a very classic look about them.

That look eventually grew on me (and Kelly too), and after wearing them on a few outings I began to choose them over my cheap fishing shades from Walmart. The reason was simply the quality of the optics. To say "I was impressed" would be an understatement. The view through these lenses is absolutely spectacular and easily equivalent to (or better than) more expensive polarized fishing eyewear that I have worn previously. The Swell pair that I tested featured the "copper" colored lenses and performed very well on overcast days just as the manufacturer website recommends. I used them while kayak angling on Lewis Smith Lake (as seen in the photo below), and the polarized lenses produced a crystal clear view into Alabama's deepest and clearest lake.

I've also used them while stalking the banks of a small creek and while driving around town, and they have performed exceptionally well in all situations. The copper lenses may not be the best choice for a bright and sunny "blue sky" day, but these glasses are also available with gray lenses which are recommended for those conditions. For those of you who wear prescription glasses, it appears most (if not all) of the Guideline Eyegear styles, including the Swell, are available for prescription lenses. Of course these are a bit more expensive than the basic versions, but at $169 they still cost less than a lot of the big name polarized sunglasses even without prescription lenses.

So, if you're in the market for a reasonably priced pair of polarized fishing sunglasses, I would highly recommend a look at the Guideline Swell... especially if you like that classic wayfarer look and a vivid view through your lenses.

*These sunglasses were provided courtesy of Fisherman Eyewear for the purpose of this review. The Naturalist's Angle is in no way affiliated with Fisherman Eyewear and this gear review represents an independent unbiased opinion of quality and performance.*

Friday, March 15, 2013

"D.I.Y." Fly reel shelf

This one isn't nearly as cool as my DIY fly rod rack or even my DIY fly tying bench, but based on the popularity of those two posts (#1 and #2 most popular posts on this blog respectively) I figured this one might be of some interest.

This piece is far simpler than either of the aforementioned DIY projects. The only real figuring was deciding how many spaces I wanted and how big I wanted them to be. I ended up settling on 16 spaces that measure 4.5" each. My largest reel is about 4.25" so that determined the size of the spaces. It's a pretty close fit for that particluar reel. It's located in the space at bottom right. It is a J.W. Young reel branded for L.L. Bean's "Guide" series. The reel pictured to its left is the same type in a smaller size. I'm certainly no collector of Young reels, but I do have a thing for L.L. Bean. There are five other Bean reels on the shelf including my Hardy made GQS. I think some of the smaller reels, like the antique Pflueger Medalist #1492 in the upper left, look a bit dwarfed by the 4.5" spaces. So, if your reel collection trends toward smaller reels, I would recommend making the spaces smaller.

I used 1 x 4 pine for all but the top which is a 1 x 6. I got a little carried away during the process and ended up cutting too many pieces for the shelves. I actually used up wood that should have been left to complete the top, but it turned out to be a "happy accident" (term my 9th grade art teacher used way too often)... one of those situations that worked itself out in a really nice way. Without enough 1 x 4 left to make the top, I opted to use a 1 x 6. I think it capped the piece off very nicely, and I ended up with a larger, more functional top shelf.

I decided to employ the top shelf to help organize my pile of ultralight spinning reels from days gone by. Those reels have caught a lot of fish and have taken quite a beating over the years. Some of them are "Franken-reels" assembled from random interchangeable parts from several donor reels of different brands. None of those spinning reels were expensive or high quality when new, but they served me well and are still functional. They deserve a nice place to spend retirement... but they don't need to be mounted to a board or put in a sealed shadow box. They may be called back to active duty at any time.

In case you were wondering, this is how the boards are cut to create the square spaces.

This is not precision carpentry by any means. As with most of my carpentry pieces the finished product has a rustic quality. I used a Danish oil finish in a walnut color to give it the look I wanted.

My goal was to create a shelf that would get the majority of my reels (and spare spools) in one place... instead of stashed among several separate gear bags. I wanted to be able to look at the wall and easily locate the reel that I want to use on any given day. Now when a reel is out of place, I'll know it.

The only problem is that this shelf filled up so quickly, and I already need a second shelf. At least I got an unintentional head start...

If you have any thoughts or questions, please don't hesitate to ask or comment below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

EYB in BHM... and notes on the big "M"

When you can't get out to go fishing, you might as well enjoy some indoor entertainment... and over the past few days, Kelly and I have gotten our fair share. We went to F3T in Atlanta on Thursday night, and followed that up on Friday night going to see Eli Young Band in concert here in Birmingham.

We were delighted to be introduced to the opening act, Sonia Leigh. I really liked her sound. Kelly described one of her songs as "a cross between the Indigo Girls and Kings of Leon." Try to wrap your head around that. She closed her set with a song that found favor with the locals. Sorry, we didn't get our own video. The one below was found on Youtube. Same song, different place, smaller venue, but hopefully you'll get the picture.

Sonia is apparently a local herself. She hails from Clanton which is only about fifty miles south of Birmingham.

Kelly shot the video below using her iPhone at the concert. I think it turned out pretty well. (Way to go, babe!)

This is really the song that made me pay attention to the Eli Young Band. Any song that makes mention of my hometown makes my ears perk up... and there's a whole bunch of songs that mention Memphis. As a matter of fact, Memphis is mentioned in more commercially recorded songs than any other city. At the time of this posting, the list is at 1074 songs (over 800 distinct titles). No, it's not "the Big Apple" (New Your City), the "City of Angels" (Los Angeles), "the Big Easy" (New Orleans), or even "Music City" (Nashville). If you ever had any doubt about the influence of Memphis on recording artists and the music they make, I think they've spoken loud and clear with this little known fact. I just sent the Memphis Rock & Soul Museum number 1075 to add to the list- "Even if it Breaks Your Heart" by Eli Young Band.

Our friend Ty, fly fishing blogger formerly of Finewater Fly Fishing and more recently Carp Aficionado, has started a series of posts he calls "Memphis Monday" in which he shares a little bit of Memphis "funkiness" with everyone in the blogosphere. I think Ty might be the only person I have ever encountered (although we haven't met in person- only online) who has actually lived there and has as much love for the city as I do. Ty and I are both alumni of the University of Memphis- known locally as "Tiger High." It's a great university, but receives little respect from most native Memphians. There's so much negativity in that town from the locals.

Sadly, very few people who grow up and live in Memphis appreciate their hometown for what it is. There are many things that Memphis isn't (and never will be), and unfortunately most native Memphians seem to dwell on those things... or the other negatives (crime, politics, corruption, etc.) that plague most large cities. I'm delighted to tune into Ty's weekly posts- even if I'm the only one doing so. It's nice to get that little weekly taste of home from someone else who understands and appreciates the "funkiness" that is Memphis.

Thanks, Ty.

Friday, March 1, 2013

F3T in ATL

When you live in a place where fly fishing isn't the "normal" way to catch a fish, you don't really expect the Fly Fishing Film Tour (a.k.a. F3T) to visit your town. Maybe one day the F3T will visit Birmingham or Memphis, but the list of tour stops in the South is still relatively limited. Currently, there are no stops in the state of Alabama or Mississippi... and I don't expect to see any visits in the near future. Fortunately for us, the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta is only about two and a half hours down the interstate... and apparently there are enough fly fishers to be found among the metro population of over five million people to actually warrant an F3T tour stop.

When I saw that this year's tour would be coming to the ATL, I quickly bought our tickets online. The show was sold out, which should be a sign to tour organizers that southern fly fishers like this kind of stuff too. Since this was my first ever fly fishing film festival, I tried to find out what to expect from a little searching online. I didn't really find anything, so I figured I'd share a little from our experience for those of you who haven't ever been either. I think a list is in order.
  1. Lots of dudes. Kelly was one of maybe 20 ladies in a theater that seats 375.
  2. The films are really short. Some of them weren't much longer than the trailers I had already seen online. I know they're trying to squeeze in as many different films as possible, but I was expecting at least a couple of them to be a bit longer... maybe 30 minutes. Don't expect anything longer than about 15 minutes.
  3. An overdose of Orvis rod and reel close ups. Although not listed as an official sponsor of the F3T, Orvis is well-represented in the tour's film selections. There is nothing subtle about the product placement for Orvis in the films they sponsored. Although Sage is the big name rod sponsor of the tour, I left feeling like Orvis kicked their butt in the marketing department by sponsoring the actual films.
  4. They give away some pretty nice swag during the intermission. We weren't lucky enough to win, but they gave away some pretty nice stuff including an MFC boat box and a Sage fly rod. I'm not sure what model of rod it was, they just said "Sage fly rod" and gave it away. It may have been a Circa. They showed a pretty cool promotional video before the films began that would make most any fly fisher want one.
  5. There wasn't really much swag or promotion outside of the films themselves. I can't speak for what it may be like elsewhere, but I kinda expected there to be more going on outside of the actual movie theater. The local TU chapter was selling raffle tickets for a "trip of a lifetime," but didn't even have a display table... just a guy with a manilla envelope and a few tickets in his hand. There was a display table for American Rivers, and they had a drawing for two bottles of Scotch which were also given away during intermission. In case you haven't already gotten the hint, you really don't want to walk out during intermission to make a long phone call... or get stuck in the long line at the men's restroom.
Well, I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Overall, it wasn't quite as magical as I had hoped for, but it was still an enjoyable experience. If it doesn't make it to my town next year, I wouldn't hesitate to make the drive to the ATL again. Kelly and I agreed that our favorite of the films was "Urban Lines." I think it was the one that we could relate to the most, and it had the best message- "fish where you are." It also featured a brief cameo appearance by a Smallmouth Bass, one of our favorite fish around here, which earned it a few brownie points. I think the F3T could really use a little more warmwater representation...

I also think it's about time we get a real video camera.