Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Orvis BR announces June Fly Fishing 101 classes

The learning curve to fly fishing can be steep if you don't have someone to help guide throught the tackle, terminology, and casting basics. Fortunately, there are several opportunities to get that assistance - and at no cost.

Orvis offers "Fly Fishing 101" classes through their stores. FF101 is a one-day, 2.5 hour clinic designed to introduce the basics of fly fishing and fly casting.  It includes hands-on rigging and casting instruction.  It's perfect for beginners of all ages (under 16 must be accompanied by an adult). There is NO cost, but pre-registration is required as class size is limited.

The Orvis store in Baton Rouge just announced three sessions:
- June 3rd
- June 10th
- June 17th

For more info, or to register, call (225) 757-7286.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Review: Lamson Velocity 7-weight fly rod

Yes, Virginia, there is a Summer Santa. He often comes disguised as a UPS delivery man. There's no celebratory anticipation.. no decorations.. no festivities and no fruitcake. But make no mistake, his gifts often bring joy to our hearts.

And boy, did I need some uplifting in my life. Ten days ago, I woke up from a short nap to a sharp pain radiating over my right abdomen. I felt pretty certain it was a kidneystone, having had one for the first time just 14 months ago.  My wife took me to the ER, where the diagnosis was confirmed. I was prescribed pain meds and told to see if it would pass over the weekend.

Well it didn't pass. And sometimes bad things can happen if you allow them to linger. A checkup on Monday revealed that my kidney was slightly swollen. So early Tuesday morning, I underwent something called "Lazer Lithotripsy". Rather than describe it, I suggest googling it. While this is considered a minimally invasive procedure, full recovery can take 2 to 4 weeks. During that time, body energy levels are low. Like taking a short walk can wear you out.

So here I was yesterday... feeling like Austin Powers after he lost his mojo. Donald Trump would describe me as a "low energy guy" and that would be optimistic. But then I heard the UPS truck pull up... I perked up and rushed outside. It was Summer Santa bringing me a brand new Lamson Velocity 7-weight fly rod, purchased from No Wake Outfitters in Metairie.

Some background here. At the New Orleans Fly Fishers annual Rio Rodeo in September, Tom Jindra told me of a new fly rod he thought I'd be excited about. Tom is a longtime friend and former president of Fly Fishers International, past chairman of the FFI's Casting Board of Directors, and someone long involved in the fly tackle industry.  He now reps for several brands. As with all reps, I tend to temper any such enthusiasm for new products.

But a few months later, at the NOFF biennial expo, I had the opportunity to test cast the Lamson Velocity - and I was blown away!  This was one of the best casting rods I'd ever put in my hand. I had a need at the time for a new 7-weight rod for bass fishing. But the need never presented itself... this has been a really bad Spring for me and fishing. Probably the fewest times I've fished in 40 years - and I live on a lake!

So for an early Father's Day present to myself, for putting up with pain and the lack of fishing time this year, I ordered the Velocity last week. When the package arrived, it took all of two minutes for me to setup. The paired reel was an Orvis Hydros I won in a gamblers draw at the FFI Gulf Coast Classic earlier in the month. The reel already had backing and an Orvis Pro Taper textured fly line (one of the best lines on the market and worth $120).

The only problem with the line was that it was a 6-weight. You'd think that might underpower a 7-weight on short casts (under 30 feet). WRONG! This combo casts like a dream. Whether the cast is 20 feet or 90 feet, everything was effortless. The rod balances with the reel so well, and there's little swing weight in the rod tip. After 30 minutes of casting - stopped short only because it was getting dark and mosquitos were joining the act - my impression was that this might be one of the very best rods I've ever owned!

So here's how Lamson describes the Velocity: These rods have a fast action and can punch tight loops into windy situations. The high modulus graphite gives a lightweight feel with enough power to throw large flies, cast heavy lines, and quickly fight the lunkers. The 7 and 8-weight models feature anodized aluminum seats with full wells grip and composite fighting butts. The flat-faced Lockdown Reel Seat is designed to ensure consistent locking of your reel and no rotational movement after a long day on the water. Velocity rods come with a tough cordura rod tube and rod sock, and lifetime warranty for defects. MSRP is $469. Repairs caused by misuse can be done for $50. Lamson offers a 2 week turnaround on repairs.

My thoughts on what Lamson says: I'd describe the action as slightly moderate than pure fast. As mentioned, it loads perfectly well at all ranges. That lockdown reel seat is one many of us rodbuilders are now using, and it's the cat's meow! As for price, at $469 it's in the lower end of the mid-priced rod range, nearly $100 less than our previous favorite, the Orvis Recon.

So the bass have had it easy this Spring without me around much to terrorize them. I've also missed out on several kayak bass tournaments. Those days are numbered!  Pretty soon, I'm going to attack the baskeens with a new weapon that will produce hundreds of sore lips. For now, the doctor says rest. I can patiently wait.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

LDWF reports results of red drum survey

At the January monthly meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC), LDWF marine fisheries biologist Jason Adriance gave the most recent assessment on red drum stocks in the state.  The report summarized that, while spawning stocks of redfish are still above the conservation standard, the number has been declining since 2005 as fewer redfish escape to spawning size.  And unless management changes are initiated soon, we could see a situation where the fishery is unsustainable.

At the May meeting of the Commission, Adriance followed up with more details of the assessment as well as results of a public survey conducted among licensed anglers.

Stepping back for a moment, lets understand what's happening.  The reasons for redfish decline are much like those for the decline of speckled trout:
- loss of habitat (especially diverse habitat)
- decline of forage (yep, menhaden again)
- increased fishing pressure

Regarding the latter, it should be noted that the current regulations ( 5 fish per day, 16 to 27 inches only, with one exception over 27 inches)  were established 34 years ago in 1988.  The numbers of saltwater anglers in the state, the amount of fishing effort, and the expertise and technology to improve fishing success have all increased dramatically since then.

Red drum are unique in that the vast majority of harvest are juvenile fish.  These immature fish are typically under 4 to 5 years of age, under 27 inches in length, and under 10 pounds in weight.  When a redfish reaches 4 to 5 years of age, it usually migrates to nearshore or offshore waters to join the spawning population.  To protect these spawning stocks, recreational harvest of mature redfish in federal waters is not allowed and severely limited in state waters.  Current regulations for Louisiana are 5 fish per day, 16 to 27 inches only, with one exception over 27 inches.

At the January meeting, LDWF biologists offered a wide range of scenarios to bring both juvenile escapement and the spawning potential recruitment (SPR) back above the conservation standard. To accomplish this, the very minimum in harvest reduction would have to be 35 percent. Scenarios for 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent reduction were presented.  These findings and scenarios were then presented in a polling of saltwater anglers to learn what management changes would be most acceptable.

The Fly Fishers International (FFI) Gulf Coast Council (GCC) is actively engaged with LDWF biologists in results of the poll, with the idea of coming up with a recommendation to the Commission for new regulations. The GCC has stated they would like a 40 percent (or more) in harvest reduction, but with a plan that most anglers could support.

CCA Louisiana is also involved in this issue, and they've stated that the very first step should be to eliminate the oversize slot allotment. That alone would result in an average 10 percent reduction in harvest.  

What the poll results indicated is that most Louisiana saltwater anglers prefer to keep the smaller sized reds - typically 18" to 24" - compared to the larger slot sizes. That too would elevate the harvest reduction. There was strong support for reducing the daily harvest to 3 fish, but anything less than that was not well received.

We'll continue to track this issue as it unfolds.