Monday, June 18, 2018

Fishing from a plastic boat - an anniversary and a prospect

A tease pic of the 2019 Topwater kayak
Thirty years ago this month, I did something that radically changed my life forever. I rented a kayak down in Sanibel. And went fishing in it.  After getting the feel of the plastic boat, I managed to lay a cast along some mangroves. I twitched my topwater lure a few times, pausing after each twitch. Then suddenly, an explosion of water where my lure was. A good-sized fish then took to the air. I had hooked a snook! Just as important, he had hooked me - into puddling (fishing from a canoe or kayak).

When I got home, I started fishing from a friend's canoe. Soon after, I started fishing from another friend's kayak. Shortly after that, I bought a canoe so I could share my paddle fishing adventures with my boys. In 1997, I bought my first kayak. I've had six more since then, as many as 3 at one time. Today, the lone boat in my plastic navy is a Native Ultimate 145. Although I am in the market for a sit-on-top.

No one knows when the first kayak was created. But folklore tells of an Inuit eskimo who carved the first kayak out of ice. His name was Jerry Utkuhikhalikaha (Ut for short). Ut had two problems with his creation - his butt got cold sitting on ice, and his kayak would melt away in summer. Ut had to move south to California where there were trees. Here he was able to carve a kayak out of wood.

As materials evolved, kayaks went from wood to fiberglass to rotomolded plastic. As of 1988, all kayaks were SINKs (Sit INside Kayaks). That year, Tim Niemer founded Ocean Kayak in Ferndale, Washington and launched the first SOT (Sit On Top) kayak. It completely revolutionized the recreational kayak industry and paved the way for kayak angling to become popular.

The last decade has seen an explosion in kayak fishing. Once considered an extremely niche market, fishing kayaks now dominate sales. Companies have risen and fallen. At the time that I bought my Ocean Kayak, it was the most popular kayak brand. Today, it's struggling to keep up with the likes of Hobie, Jackson, Native, Wilderness, NuCanoe, Vibe, and most recently, Bonafide. Not to mention a host of standup paddleboards.

With ICAST coming up in three weeks, I once again expect to see a bunch of new boats. That's been the case the last four years. Ocean Kayak finally made some waves last year after a decade of dormancy with their Malibu Pedal boat. It was a good effort, but it got lost in a wave of other new offerings - especially the introduction of the Bonafide.

OK's sister company, Old Town (both are now owned by Johnson Outdoors) has been leaking bits of information and "mystery video clips" about a new boat called the Topwater.  They describe it as the "compact SUV of kayak fishing".

Many years ago, I sent a design to OK for a new version of their popular Caper - one of my favorite kayaks ever. The design had a framed seat and a flat cockpit area.  It kept the dimensions similiar, but added an inch to the width to accomodate the frame seat. It also retained the tri-hull design that provides great tracking and stability.

From the little I've seen of the Topwater, it's either this "Dream Caper" or a smaller, more streamlined version of their highly popular Predator MX. Nearly everyone who owns a P-MX loves it, but at 82 pounds it's a bit heavy. If the Topwater does happen to be an improved P-MX, I expect it will be a highly popular boat.  Not sure if it would be the 2nd boat in my plastic navy. But as I remind my wife, I'm actually two boats short.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

What's happening this week 6/17

Today is Father's Day. Wishing all of you dads a wonderful day - especially those of you who have made fishing a part of your family life. I'm especially grateful on this day to my late father, who shared with me his passion and skill of fishing, hunting and gardening.

On Monday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers hold their monthly fly tying session at the Rapides Westside Library in Alexandria. Time is 6:30pm.  This month, the group will tie the Disco Midge. Bring your tools, if none, the club has a few sets for use during the session. Materials are provided. Beginners are welcome. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

On Tuesday, the Contraband Fly Casters hold their monthly meeting at St. Paul Lutheran Church on 1620 East Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles. Fly tying and discussion at 6:00pm, meeting at 7:00pm.  On the agenda: the club's upcoming fly fishing expo in July. Guests are welcome. For more info, go to www.contrabandflycasters.net.

Also on Tuesday, the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club holds their monthly meeting at Pack and Paddle on 601 East Pinhook in Lafayette. Time is 6:00pm. On the agenda: upcoming LA1 Slamboree tournament, CPR Update, tackle tips, and fishing reports. For more info, go to www.lafayettekayakfishing.com.

Also on Tuesday, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) will hold a "Pint Night" at Columbia Street Tap Room in Covington. Time is 7:00pm. Come grab a beer and a burger and discuss water access issues with BHA regional directors and board members.  For more info, contact Jason Sheridan at jason.a.sheridan@gmail.com.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers hold the 2nd of their twice-monthly fly tying sessions at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall on 444 Metairie Road. Bring your tools, if none, the club has sets for use during the session. Bring $1 for materials. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

Starting Friday, and continuing Saturday, it's the "Leeville Fly Fishing Weekend" which replaces the long-running "Grand Isle Fly Fishing Weekend". Members of fly fishing clubs in Louisiana and Mississippi (and elsewhere) are invited to fish along the Highway 1 corridor, then join the group for Friday night shrimp boil and Saturday night fish fry (sharing a portion of their filets for the fry). Make your own lodging arrangements. RSVP if attending either the Shrimp Boil or Fish Fry. Go to www.rsff.org for details.

On Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another "Fly Fishing 101" at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet. Orvis FF101 is a one-day, 2-hour clinic introducing the basics of fly fishing and fly casting. There is no cost, but pre-registration is required as spots are limited. For more info, contact 225-757-7286.

Sun safety - always in season!

It never fails. As we approach the 4th of July holiday, or the summer solstice, suddenly a barrage of articles about summer safety. Particularly those warning folks to be careful to protect their skin through Labor Day.  If you think about it, the amount of solar radiation that hits Louisiana in early September is the same that hits us in mid April. So those articles are bit late, if you ask me! Nevertheless, good advise is always welcomed.

If you ask a dermatologist, they'll tell you that you should protect your skin from sun damage year-round, even if the period from Spring equinox to Fall equinox is the worst time. Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation can cause sunburn, wrinkles, skin spots, eye damage and worst of all, skin cancer. Each year, nearly 70,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma - the worst form of skin cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises the following:
- Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10am and 3pm.
- Wear clothing to cover skin, SPF rated clothing is best.
- Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF factor 15 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply every 2 hours.
- Wear sunglasses with a UVA/UVB rating of 100 percent.

Of course, protecting the skin and eyes from sun doesn't protect one from dehydration and heat exhaustion. Or from the threat of summer lightning storms. So make sure to pack plenty of water (not highly-caffeinated liquids) on your fishing trips. And be alert to the weather around you. If you hear thunder, you're probably closer to danger than you think. Stop fishing and start making your way back towards harbor. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Finding Joe Brooks airs this weekend

The world premiere of the highly-anticipated fly fishing film Finding Joe Brooks is set to air on Father’s Day weekend, June 15-17 on Sportsman Channel (Friday at 7:00pm CT) and World Fishing Network (Friday at 9:00pm CT), and Outdoor Channel (Saturday at 6:30pm CT).

One of the most iconic fly fishers of the 20th century, Joe Brooks wrote for many of the top outdoor publications in the nation including Field & StreamOutdoor Life and many others. Brooks was a born natural with the fly rod, whether casting or catching, much like his good friend and fellow Maryland native Lefty Kreh.  His articles and books on our sport gained national  attention propelling him to become one of the most respected fly fishers in the industry.  

I was a young boy still mystified by this thing called "fly fishing" when American Sportsman first aired on the ABC Network.  Brooks was a frequent guest, and his adventures with the long rod were my early inspiration.  Although my maternal grandfather was an accomplished flyrodder and fly tier, by this time he had passed.  Those American Sportsman episodes - especially with Joe Brooks - were the next steps to my lifelong pursuit of this sport.

I'm really looking forward to this film, and hope you are too!

Monday, June 11, 2018

We're a month away from ICAST / IFTD

Let's start with some acronyms. ICAST = International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, the world's largest fishing trade show. It's hosted by the ASA = American Sportfishing Association. IFTD = International Fly Tackle Dealer, the world's largest fly fishing trade show. It's hosted by AFFTA = American Fly Fishing Trades Association.

For decades, ICAST and IFTD held separate events, in different locations, usually 2-3 weeks apart each summer. In 2013, the two shows merged into one. Giving retailers, media and industry folks a chance to see all fishing-related products at one event. And reduce their expenses of having to travel to two different events. ICAST and IFTD held separate auxiliary events - such as seminars and demo days - but the rest of the event was seamless.

That 2013 show was held in Las Vegas. Since then, ICAST/IFTD has been held in Orlando. The event has continued to grow - last year it hosted 582 exhibitors in nearly 2000 booths covering 650,000 square feet of space. Almost 15,000 folks attended - quite a number considering that ICAST is not open to the general public.

However, this July 10-13 will be the last year of the merged show. Next year, ICAST returns to Orlando for the 6th straight year, while IFTD will be held in Denver. While the merged show has numerous advantages for the fly industry, it's no secret that many have "Florida Fatigue". Most fly companies are located in the Midwest or west of the Mississippi. Florida was fun at first, but the combination of long travel and tropical heat have offset the saltwater and warmwater fishing opportunities. For those of us media who cover different categories of products (e.g., fly fishing and kayak fishing), the merged show has been golden. It will be greatly missed!

Why is IFTD so important to you the readers? It represents an opportunity for us in the media to see, exam, and even test out just about every fly fishing product there is. Including some new products that will hit retailers in Fall 2018 or early 2019. Even the largest public event - the Somerset Fly Fishing Show - has only a fraction of this many product companies. 

As writers, that gives us great responsibility. Take fly rods, for example. Of the nearly 80 companies that sell fly rods, only about five percent are sold at any fly shop. And 90 percent of all fly shops combined only sell about 16 different brands. That same level of exclusivity applies to nearly all product lines. There's also many accessory products that seem lost in a world where marketing isn't just important - it's life or death!

Most media simply edit the countless product press releases. I'm proud that we're one of the few that go to every booth, exam and test every product (best we can) and give an unbiased review. As well as give the inside scoop on the people and companies that make these products. And learn why each product fits a specific need. It's not an easy task - from 8:30am to 6:00pm each day with no lunch break. Plus the demo days. Even then, we sometimes miss a product.

Once again, our focus will be on fly fishing products, any and all accessories of interest to fly anglers, kayaks and kayak fishing accessories. As of today, there's been some rumors about new rods from Sage and others. As for kayaks, Bonafide and Old Town have confirmed new boats. Everything is tight-lipped, even among pro staffers. Companies love to make the big announcements at ICAST, and we respect that.  Here's what we can say - the last three years have seen an unprecedented number of new fly and kayak offerings, and like with Orlando, there's fatigue!  So expect fewer new products this year.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

What's happening this week - 6/10

On Monday, the Red Stick Fly Fishers will hold their monthly meeting at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries building on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge. Casting practice at 6:30pm, meeting at 7:00pm. Guests are welcome. For details, go to www.rsff.org.

On Tuesday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers will participate in a special Fathers Day edition of the Alexandria Farmers Market off 2727 Jackson Street. Time is 3:00pm to 6:00pm. The club will be doing tying and casting demos. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

On Tuesday, the North Louisiana Fly Fishers will hold their monthly meeting at the Red River National Wildlife Refuge off Sunflower Road in Bossier City. Casting lessons during our social gathering at 6:00pm, meeting starts at 6:45pm. Andy Tackett and Randy Haimen will give a presentation on the Mayfly Project. For more info, go to www.northlouisianaflyfishers.org.

On Thursday, the New Orleans Fly Fishers holds the 1st of their twice-monthly fly tying sessions at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall on 444 Metairie. Time is 7:00pm. Bring your tools, if none, the club has sets for use during this session. Materials are provided. Bring $1 for cost of materials. Beginners welcome. For more info, go to www.neworleansflyfishers.com.

On Saturday, Orvis of Baton Rouge will hold another "Fly Fishing 101" at their store on 7601 Bluebonnet. Orvis FF101 is a one-day, 2-hour clinic introducing the basics of fly fishing and fly casting. There is no cost, but pre-registration is required as spots are limited. For more info, contact 225-757-7286.

Orvis will also hold a special Fathers Day in-store event from 11:00am to 3:00pm, with free food and refreshments, as well as sales items.

Also on Saturday, Masseys Outfitters in New Orleans will hold another "Kayak Demo Day" near the Cabrini Bridge on Bayou St. John. Time is 10:00am to 3:00pm. Weather permitting, check their Facebook page for updates. Boats from Hobie, Jackson, Native, Bonafide and others will be available.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

What's happening this week - 6/3

On Tuesday, the Acadiana Fly Rodders will restart their monthly meetings after a short hiatus. Location will be Grace Presbyterian Church Hall. Time is 6:30pm. For more info, contact Bob Tabbert at 337-989-0815.

On Wednesday, the Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishers will hold their monthly meeting at the Abita Brew Pub on 72011 Holly Street in Abita Springs. Time is 6:30pm. For more info, go to www.pbasinflyfishers.blogspot.com.

On Saturday, the Kisatchie Fly Fishers will hold their annual Summer Workshop, an "Introduction to Deer Hair Tying".  Time 8:30am to 12:30pm.  The class is free. As of this writing, there are two (2) open spots. Members of any organized fly fishing club can participate. Deadline is Thursday. For more info, go to www.kisatchiefly.org.

Also on Saturday, Masseys Outfitters of New Orleans will hold a "Kayak Demo Day" at Cabrini bridge on Bayou St. John. Time is 10:00am to 3:00pm. Subject to weather, check their Facebook page for updates.