Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Gamechangers & my own ICAST Best of Show

Gamechanger. It's a word so overused today that even Matthew McConaughey no longer speaks it. Really, what makes a product a "gamechanger"? 

It has to be something that everyone will want to own (at least someday), and that it's competitors will be anxious to copy.  Within the fishing universe, it has to make a difference in the way we fish, the flies we tie, the success of our fishing, or which adds functionality.

With that in mind, I think "gamechanger" should be rare indeed. I can think of a few examples: the Orvis Helios fly rod, breathable jackets and waders, competition jig hooks, the Hobie Mirage Drive, the Yeti cooler. And there's more. But not many more.

The world's largest fishing trade show - ICAST - was held two weeks ago. Not at it's usual location in Orlando, Florida, but online. The virtual show had far fewer exhibitors and far fewer featured products than the floor show normally has. Still it was worth spending several hours on my computer, gathering what info I could.

When it comes to fly fishing and kayak fishing, ICAST isn't near the showcase that Fly Tackle Dealer or Outdoor Retailer are. Still, there was no gamechanger this year by my definition. Maybe with the pandemic, some companies decided to hold back. Or maybe 2020 is one of those years where there really isn't one.

As for the ICAST New Product Showcase and "Best of Show" awards. They've always been popularity contests. Even moreso this year with the virtual showcase. For that reason, I've always done my own. As a flycaster and a kayak angler, my focus is on products of appeal to me - and maybe some others.  So if you disagree with my choices, you're free to email me at idontcare@gmail.com.

With that in mind, here's Cormier's ICAST Best of Show.

Frabill Floating Trout nets

Whether wading, kayaking or fly-fishing Frabill's new Floating Trout Nets put success in the hands of anglers who always stay close to their targets. Safely catch and release with the net frame directly on the water surface. Comfortable rubber handle includes lanyard with carabiner, Fish-friendly dipped micromesh netting and five classic hoop shapes with flat bottom netting.  Price TBA.

Plano Z-Series Waterproof Backpack

The perfect gift for the angler that has everything, the Z-Series Backpack has a new look and multiple upgrades to keep anglers hands-free and agile. Most notably, the Z-Series backpack is now completely waterproof thanks to a roll-top design and 500D PVC casing with welded seams protecting two 3700 size Stowaways. MSRP is $89.

Hardy Zane Pro

According to Hardy, the new Zane Pro performance saltwater fly rod sets the standard for premium, fast action. Made in England, the Zane Pro features a reduced blank diameter for better wind penetration and reduced weight. Redesigned mandrels and pattern layups boost performance of the aerospace grade carbon fiber and advanced SINTRIX 440 resin system. Titanium recoil guides with a ceramic insert and a scratch-resistant, hard-anodized double up-lock reel seat round out the offering. Offered in 1pc & 4pc designs. MSRP $850.

Douglas Sky G

The newest Saltwater addition to the Douglas lineup. According to Douglas, the SKY G offers superb dampening and recovery, near-effortless casting, accuracy, and outstanding durability. Innovative top-of-the-line components include: REC Titanium Cerecoil stripper guides with zirconia inserts, REC Titanium recoil guides, AAAA flor grade cork, and more. Includes a wicking rod sock, aluminum tube and a lifetime warranty.  The freshwater Sky has been winning "rod shootouts" since it came out last year, and now expands to the saltwater version. At $695, it's priced about $200 less than it's main competitors.

Sawatch Fly Rods

Eagle Claw is excited to launch a new line of high performance fly rods. The Sawatch Fly Rods are manufactured with a 30 ton light weight graphite blank. The moderate fast action offers forgiving casts for beginners, but is very responsive for those experience anglers. The Sawatch rods fits in Eagle Claw's commitment to offering performance fishing gear that will not break the bank. Offered in 8'6" 4wt, 9' 5wt, 9' 6wt, and 9' 8wt.

Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120

At 12 feet long, 34.5 inches wide and weighing 85 pounds, this is one of the lighter pedal drive kayaks on the market. It's also one of the least expensive, with a price point of $1899. The PDL features an easy-docking system for launch and landing, and a superior mesh frame seat with lumbar support and adjustable track. What really stands out about this kayak is the hull... it appears that Old Town incorporated the Ocean Kayak tri-hull (at least to some degree). One of the best hulls ever, period! Can't wait to test this out.

Carlisle Magic Angler

A longtime fan of the Magic Angler, it's a lightweight, efficient and powerful paddle - with the emphasis on power.  I've used mine as pushpoles and for everything else they weren't intended for.  The asymmetrical, slightly curved blade shape, combined with a lightweight, flexible fiberglass shaft produces smooth yet powerful strokes. This new version features a cutout in the blade to free snagged hooks and a ruler on the shaft that can be used to measure your catch.  MSRP $110.

Flying Fisherman Carico Sunglasses

These are new for 2020, but for some odd reason weren't featured in the New Product Showcase, but similiar to their Drop Back series which was. The AcuTint polarized lenses give excellent contrast and clarity for a budget-priced sunglasses, while the wide side panels block out ambient light and glare. Best of all, they come in a tortoise/amber color that provides good contrast under all weather conditions. And remain cool to the touch on those hot sunny days. MSRP is $25.

Flying Fisherman Sunbandit Pro Series Gloves

I have a pair of Simms gloves that work pretty good, but don't really grip as well as I'd like. The new Pro Series from SunBandit come with silicone printed padding on palms and fingers. Again, this is one of those products where hands-on would yield whether it's worthy of a "best buy". But knowing the FF brand quality, I'll take a chance here. At least, they're certainly stylish! MSRP $25.

Snook and Everglades Hobie® Polarized Sunglasses

With a streamlined full-wrap fit, the new mid-priced Snook and Everglades series feature Hobie® Hydro 360° dually coated polarized lenses, and provides all-day comfort through co-molded rubber temple tips and nose pads. The Snook is slightly narrower, the Everglades slightly wider. Best of all, they come in my two favorite lens colors: copper and yellow. A sure winner! MSRP $89.

Flyweight Stockingfoot Wader

I love lightweight waders but they come with a compromise in quality and durability. Simms has met the challenge with their new Flyweight wader with a 4-layer fabric in the legs and a 3-layer fabric in the uppers. Yet maintaining light weight and breathability thanks to the Gore-Tex material. In the crotch and under arms is a stretchable Gore-Tex material to enhance mobility. For the fly angler who hikes aways to their spot, this wader deserves strong consideration. MSRP $549.

Finally.... my overall "Best of Show"... and it might surprise readers.

Line Cutterz Dual Hybrid Micro Scissor

Line Cutterz brand was featured on TV's Shark Tank and grew from there. Their new Micro Scissor is advertised as the world's smallest dual line cutter - for braid, mono and fluorocarbon lines. Up to now, braid cutters have come in small sizes... if you consider able to fit in a large pocket "small". But the Line Cutterz is REALLY small. The length of your middle finger. It weighs almost nothing. It features a corrosion resistant ceramic blade and a stainless steel scissor. It's compact and won't catch line when using it with a zinger on a PFD or fly vest.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Why this week's ICAST more important than ever

Tomorrow kicks off ICAST, the world's largest sportfishing trade show. But it won't be taking place as scheduled in Orlando. Due to concerns about the Covid19 pandemic, the show was reformatted to a virtual format. Buyers, retailers, media, pro staffers and other parties will access the show via the internet. While details of how it'll work were only released this past week, questions still remain as to how information about products will be presented.

One thing is certain. Since Fly Tackle Dealer has already been cancelled, "Virtual ICAST" will be critical for companies that make products used by fly rodders. Only a small number of fly tackle makers will be represented at this show - as it has been since the split with IFTD.  But most of the products that flycasters use are also conventional and will be well represented at VICAST. These include waders, packs, boots, nets, hooks, kayaks, phone apps, etc, etc, etc.

Fishing retail sales have been significant since the pandemic.  We expect it to continue.  With anglers confined to the water or to the internet, every bit of news about new products will get maximum attention.

We're looking forward to seeing what new products are coming out for 2021.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Free Fishing Days, 2020-21 licenses now available

Each year, wildlife agencies in each state designate a "Free Fishing Day(s)" for the public to fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license. These events are part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 6-14, 2020.

This year, Louisiana's free fishing days are this Saturday and Sunday, June 13 & 14.

It should be noted that while there is no cost (license) required to fish on these days, certain species or types of fishing may still require a permit. For example, a Recreational Offshore Landing Permit (ROLP) is required to possess tunas, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, snappers, hinds, cobia, wahoo, and dolphinfish in Louisiana waters. This permit is free of charge.

Speaking of licenses... Louisiana annual fishing licenses for 2019-2020 expire June 30th at midnight, after which you'll need a 2020-2021 license. The new licenses became available on June 1st, and are good from the time of purchase thru June 30 of 2021.

Licenses can be purchased in several ways: (1) online at https://la-web.s3licensing.com, (2) at local license vendors, and (3) at LDWF offices in Baton Rouge, Opelousas, Lake Charles, Pineville and Monroe. Acceptable methods of payment made online are Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Cristobal bears down on Louisiana coast

Later today, Tropical Storm Cristobal will make landfall south of New Orleans with peak winds of about 40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph. Heavy rain bands which moved into southeast Louisiana, coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle, will extend northward as Cristobal moves into north Louisiana tonight and tomorrow.

What Cristobal lacks in strength, it makes up for in size. The storm surge from this storm has been significant for a non-hurricane, with as much as 4 feet of water inundating areas from Clermont Harbor, MS, south to Hopedale. Grand Isle has also been inundated from storm surge.

The storm forced the cancellation of the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club's Louisiana Slamboree tournament, as well as the K&C Central Louisiana bass tournament on Lake Vernon. The timing has also been bad for speckled trout anglers as fishing has been on fire from Grand Isle and Leeville, and out west at Holly Beach and Big Lake. Solid stringers of 14 inch and larger trout were taken since Memorial Day.

The center of the storm is expected to travel along Interstate 49, with heavy rainfall forecast on the east side of the center.  This will likely put a hurt to some great bream fishing now happening across northeast and east-central Louisiana.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Welcome to SweatFest 2020!

SweatFest - the one festival no one likes to celebrate! Well, except for those who love the beach, snowballs, and cutting grass. Kids love it too because no school. Although this year, that's been true since March.

The Summer soltice may not arrive until later this month, but seasons in Louisiana are always about 2-3 weeks early. Memorial Day weekend is usually the kickoff for 90 degree days and 70 degree nights, and high humidity.  Oh, and the sporadic tropical storm in the Gulf.  Enjoy the June breezes because come July they go away and the sweating kicks up a notch.  And so does the tropical storm activity.

With SweatFest comes an emphasis on summer safety. Summer sun and heat bring many dangers to anglers. Heat stroke is the number one threat. Bring an ice chest or cooler tote bag with water and/or sports drinks to stay hydrated. The sun itself is a threat, but does its damage over time. Skin exposed to high UV radiation months can lead to skin cancer. Protect your skin by putting on a high-SPF waterproof sunscreen before you get on the water. Wear long sleeve breathable shirts, a rim cap or a bill cap in conjunction with a gaitor (buff). Always were some type of cover for your feet.

Also be aware that thunderstorms can be a daily occurence in summer. At the first sign of towering  cumulus clouds, start making your way back to the launch (especially if you're in a kayak). Lightning can strike from eight miles away, so waiting for lightning to approach is not a smart option!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Tidbits Thursday

Marsh & Bayou Outfitters is moving. Founded by Ben and Chris Tiblier, M&B has been in business in the French Quarter of New Orleans since 2014, a local source for fly fishing products as well as for fly fishing guides. On Tuesday, MBO posted on their Facebook page that they've decided to move from the Big Easy to the Northshore. The new location will be 2800 Florida Street in Mandeville, with an opening sometime in July.

Date set for Lake Athens Fly Fishing Festival.  LAFFF was originally scheduled for the first weekend in April, but postponed due to the COVID19 outbreak. Now organizer Johnny Martinez has set a June 27th date. The event has been condensed into one day, with the Big Bass Challenge (tournament) starting at 7:00am, and awards presentation at 2:00pm. Other activities include casting instruction, casting contest, fly tying demos (including realistic tying by Fred Hannie), and a raffle to benefit Casting For Recovery. For more info, go to www.johnnyonthefly.com.

Online fly fishing and tying continues. Organizations, clubs, and fly shops are continuing to hold Zoom webinars and meetings at this time of social distancing. The Kisatchie and Acadiana clubs are holding a joint "Tying Tuesdays" each week. The clubs have announced continuation of this through June. Once regular in-person meetings resume, the clubs will continue to hold an online "Tying Tuesday" at least once, perhaps twice, a month.

Meanwhile, FFI has weekly Zoom webinars. Fly Fishers International has been holding various meetings each week. For example, this past week the FFI Tying Group did an online tying session, the Learning Center did a casting program with Molly Semelik, Jeff Currier continued his global fly fishing presentations with a program on "Big Fish of Canada", and the Conservation Committee continued their series of "Conservatin Conversation" with steelhead and cutthroat trout expert Dr. Richard Williams. These series and other presentations are posted on this webpage .  You do NOT need to be an FFI member to attend.

And then there's OFF THE WATER. Prior to the pandemic, the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club had started doing a weekly Facebook Live program on Tuesdays at 8:00pm. The program features weekly guests on a wide variety of subjects, and cover topics from recent and upcoming tournaments, fishing locations and tips, fishing reports, tackle tips, and much more. It's also entertaining as well!

Speaking of kayak fishing. Check out this article by Melinda Martinez of the Alexandria Town Talk about kayak fishing in central Louisiana. The article features myself, Mark Elliott of H2GO Outdoors in Monroe, and Jerry & Kelly Maynor of Tioga. Martinez also mentions the Kayak & Canoe Fishing Tournaments Of Central Louisiana Group as well as Pack & Paddle of Lafayette.

Fishing reports. Great bream fishing continues across south Louisiana, especially in the Verrett-Palourde system. Recently bream have been bedding strong in central and northern parishes. Hotspots include Cane River, Lake Nantachie, Chicot Lake, Black River Lake, Caney Lake, Lake D'arbonne, and Cross Lake. Bass fishing on Toledo Bend in backwaters is good with frog patterns right now. On the coast, speckled trout have been hot in Golden Meadow and Hopedale, with some big fish being caught out west in Calcasieu on the south end of Big Lake. Redfish have been pretty solid everywhere except those areas affected by river water (fish are there but flies aren't as effective).


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Redington, Risen add new products to 2020

After this past week's new products posting, I received a couple of emails announcing more new items just released. Both from companies that target the budget and mid-priced market.

Redington Run fly reel - Let's face it, most freshwater fly fishing situations don't need a machined reel - which can cost hundreds. For example, the very popular Lamson Liquid and Orvis Encounter are not machined and sell for around $100. What they do have are very good centerline drag systems (conical and carbon disc) and appealing aesthetics. The new Run offers likewise. The carbon fiber drag is adjusted using an ergonomic knob. It comes in three color options (black, silver, burgundy) with a nylon reel case and a lifetime warranty. MSRP is $109.

Risen 23PS rods - Speaking of aesthetics, you normally wouldn't find high appeal in anything less than $500, but the new freshwater-targeted 23PS series does just that. For $289, you get a rod built on a fast-action IM12 Metallic Green blank, light green and silver thread wrappings, a nickel silver machined reel seat with green burl wood insert, and AAA-rated cork grip. The only negative is that the series is limited to five lengths/weights. The 23PS also includes Risen's lifetime warranty.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

While you were quarantining - five new products for 2020

Many non-essential businesses are beginning to reopen, including fly shops and other fly fishing related retailers. As they do, fly anglers might be surprised to find several new items arriving as we move into summer. These were products we expected to see in Spring, until the pandemic arrived.

Here are the ones that we think will generate the most excitement:

Simms Dry Creek Z Sling Pack - Submersible packs aren't new. What's different with the DCZ is the TruZip, a 100% waterproof, self-healing zipper that isn't a tooth zipper. While the pack incorporates lots of interior room (enough for a laptop?), it also features a water-resistant exterior pocket for quick access to keys or wallet. What excites me most about the DCZ is that it comes in a gorgeous Pacific Blue color as well as the usual camo. After all, this is fishing not hunting. MSRP $229. 

Orvis Hydros fly reel (upgraded) - The Hydros is one of the best values in a mid-priced saltwater fly reel. The machined body is complimented by a sealed clutch-bearing drag and low startup inertia. For 2020, Orvis has reduced the weight while strengthing the top-end drag. It also comes in LSU Purple. What's not to love? MSRP for the Hydros IV (8-weight model) is $259. 

Cheeky Launch - Friends will tell you that I love my Cheeky reel. It's not just functional, but I love the simplistic style and color. Also a big positive: a narrow spool which eliminates line stacking. For 2020, Cheeky has replaced it's popular mid-priced Boost series with the Launch. Lighter and with improvements on their sealed carbon drag system, the Launch 400  (8-weight model) weighs only 6.8 ounces and comes in a beautiful light blue color (notice that I love blue). MSRP is $249. 

Sage Maverick - this is a new mid-priced saltwater rod series that replaces their Motive series. I had an opportunity to cast this new rod at a show back in December before it was even announced. I was blown away. Unlike the Motive, the 7-weight Maverick had no problem casting 90-100 feet of line on target. Not that I fish that far out, but that type of reserve power comes in handy at times. No problem casting 30 feet on target either. Now the question is, how does it fight a big red? Sage salt rods have always risen to the occasion there, and if the Maverick does, it'll be one of the best salt rods on the market at any price level. MSRP $550. 

Orvis Recon II - At the December expo, the Sage rep told me, "We're aiming for the Orvis Recon". The Recon has been in the top tier of every group review, e.g. "shootouts", often rating above premium rods costing twice as much. Orvis is not sitting on their laurels. For 2020, they've adapted their Helios 3 technology into the Recon. Now I like the Helios 3, but I don't think it's the best premium rod (some friends do). So for me, adding H3 tech to the Recon might not be an improvement. If Orvis successfully managed to keep the beloved Recon taper while injecting the Helios vibration reduction, then this rod will certainly remain king of the mid-priced rods. MSRP $549 for the 8-weight model.