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Monday, August 31, 2015

Sponsor Me Bro...

Follow for follow? Like for like?

Do you fish for pictures? Neither do I.

#followforfollow #likeforlike.  When I started with this social media world 3 years ago I had no idea what those things meant!  Don't worry.  I have translated them into the Queen's English for you.  It means this: Hey, uhhhhh, I don't have any good content on my social media platform (specifically Instagram) so I'll like yours if you like mine.  Is this like a co-ed gym class in 9th grade?  Shouldn't people just see the content you put out into the world wide interwebs and decide whether or not they like it or not?  Nope.  This is a world of non-original content and asking for likes.  See below.

From the diary of a habitual re-poster: 
There are days when I stay up until the early morning scanning my phone for THE shot to post.  You know, you have to be in the right place at the right time to get the right picture and you have to have dedication to pull it off.  One morning I just finished with another DirecTV sales call (yes I'm awesome) and my manager turned her back long enough for me to launch Instagram...  There it was.  The queen mother of all social media fodder - A super hot chick holding a giant Brook Trout!  I had been practicing my screen captures all day so it was mere muscle memory to capture this beauty.  I could contact the original account to ask if they are cool with me posting their image, but I NEED likes right NOW!!!  Picture up, and look at this - I just gained 15 followers and 100 likes in 10 minutes!!  This is exactly like fishing for rising fish - but better - I think anyway.

Picture of an actual PRP
This must be what goes through the mind of the Pure Re-Poster (otherwise known as the PRP).  Re-posting is actually a cool part of social media, and I really don't have issues with it if it's done the right way.  Hell, we even re-post pictures all the time if the picture is representative of our "end-game" which is to help people tie better flies so they can catch fish.  Tie a great fly based on our patterns?  yep.  Catch a nice fish with one of our patterns hanging out of it's meaty grill?  Even better.  What we don't do is Purely Re Post content, in other words, our media channels consist of 95% original content, and 5% re-posts from our followers.

Don't get me wrong... There are good pages out there that do a great job bringing the latest and greatest from the fishing/tying industry, and they are good because they are updated by well respected members of the community.  They aren't just scavenging pictures on Instagram so they can get likes; they share relevant material that they think their followers will gain value from.  They also add many original posts and pictures that I look forward to. I consider these sites valuable, and they most definitely don't fall into the category of a PRP.  

We started our site mostly to share information on tying flies and getting our patterns and recipes out there.  In all honesty, I was tired of sending out the recipe for the Cheech Leech for the hundred billionth time, or maybe just the 50 billionth, but it was a lot.  We made a few videos and started posting stuff on social media, and like many other tying/fishing sites, we were trying to gain as many followers as we could.  We found a page on Facebook (that no longer exists) that offered us a post on their page if we gave them 2 dozen low fat minnows for a giveaway.  Their page had 40K followers!!!  We did it and we got lots of likes, but were those organic/quality likes, or were they likes from the give-me-something-free crowd?  As we became more familiar with social media, we realized that there were TONS of pages out there that existed purely based on re-posts from other pages.  On Facebook, it's kind of hard to take off with this approach because it's a bit more interactive, but on Instagram where it's based mostly on imagery, these PRP pages were off to the races!!!  Mega followers for zero original content!  This is genius!!

The question I have is this: What is the point???  If all you do is spend all day trolling pictures to put on your page, are you looking for likes? Sponsorships? Marketing dollars?  Hot babes with fancy creams and lotions? I don't get it.  Regardless of what the end game is in this PRP business, at least be courteous while you are furthering your page by using someone else's work.  If a page contacts us and asks if they can use our image, more than 99% of the time I'll give them permission.  Other pages tell people to tag them in their pictures with a unique hashtag to "pre-approve" some of this PRP business.  The two types of PRP that I absolutely can't stand on Instagram (I'm sure they exist on other platforms too) are the pages that give you credit but don't ask permission, and the pages that flat out steal images and credit them as their own.  I recently had a brilliant exchange with a page that posted one of our images without asking permission.  I was "on one" so I commented on the image something to the effect of "What is the point of your page."  This apparently didn't go over too well with the page owner and several snide remarks went back and forth, so I requested that the image be removed from his page.  My point??  If you are going to act like a salty and vinegary cleaning device, I have no interest in letting you use my image to further your fake site. Period.  My comments were deleted and the picture remained until I employed a covert task force that consisted of a contest, the FFF #prostaff, and the Rattlebass.  The picture was removed and I was blocked from the page and the owner couldn't understand why I wouldn't want all of this "free" marketing.

In another instance, there was a kid that was posing as a Simms pro and Orvis endorsed guide (well WHOOPTY friggin doooooo) and was trying to gather up free crap for posting something to his page.  Upon further research, he was stealing images of flies and claiming them as his own.  That might work if you aren't stealing images from one of the most renowned tyers in the WORLD...  A tyer who has a very distinct skill set, and ties flies that are so good that you immediately recognize them as his patterns.  That would be like a 6th grader going to his teacher with a Van Gogh and claiming it as his own.  Taskforce 6 was deployed again, and he begrudgingly took the images down.  I was proud of one of my comments to him "Just because you have LeBron's jersey, it doesn't make you LeBron."  (I'll be here all week to sign autographs)  He said that he gave credit where credit was due, but he only added the original tyer's initials.  Weak sauce Mr. Pro Orvis Simms Patagonia Massengill.

There really aren't any legal ramifications for being a PRP,  but if you go about it the wrong way, it does not shine very positively on you from an ethical standpoint (see salty and vinegary).  If you are a PRP there is help:  Turn off your phone, grab a camera, go outside, go fishing, take pictures.  See?  It's a bit of work to get good content!  Maybe I'm blowing this way out of context, but maybe I'm not.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Fly Tying Room Renovation

The fly tying desk gets a facelift

I usually go through some sort of fly box or fly tying area re-arrangement once every year or two -- especially during the dead of winter when I'm spending more time at the vise. And for the past probably three years, I've been using a fairly large flat oak dining table as my main base of operations in the tying man-cave. As Cheech and I spend a good amount of time in the man-cave plotting out trips, talking flies and materials or doing our filming, I've realized that room is much too small for such a huge piece of furniture. So I decided to retool the room, making it more Sasquatch friendly.

Before we get too far, I've written about some of my organization tips here and here. I'm sticking to the same ideas there as far as storage goes, but I've realized I needed to consolidate and change up my tying area and make it even more efficient. I'm mostly talking about getting away from my Dwight Schrute style "megadesk" to something more user-friendly.

For me, the biggest thing when it comes to my tying desk (besides my light snobbery) is making sure I can easily reach as many materials as I can without taking my butt out of my nice comfy chair. If I have to stand up or even worse, take a few steps, I'm losing out on precious fly tying time and physically taxing my body way too much. But seriously, it really is nice to have most of the materials at my fingertips without having to dig through boxes or pull stuff off of peg boards and stuff like that.

So to begin, here's a shot of my previous setup:

Fly tying room before the renovation
You'll see the big table there in the corner. It took up too much space and in order to reach the things on the top shelf and towards the back of the table, I had to stand up and move things around. Not the most efficient setup.

Here's the "after" setup:

Renovated fly tying area
I ended up taking the table out and replacing it with a cheap ($20 total) corner unit from IKEA. I got it in the clearance area, so it was super-cheap. This freed up a lot of space and allowed me to form more of a "cockpit" tying area where most of my materials and tools are in arms' reach.

Here's a video to walk you through it all...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Biot CDC Callibaetis

Feed the Gulpers

Biot CDC Callibaetis, the Slurpee of the lakes

Remember that time when you were fishing your favorite reservoir out of your donut float tube?  The time when you were rigged up with your 6 weight, a type 5 sinking line, and your very best bugger pattern?  The time when you started seeing dimples in the surface only to realize that those were fish dimpling the surface, and not only were they dimpling the surface, they were eating mayflies???  I remember that time.  I had never really considered rigging a dry fly line for lake fishing, but what did I know - I was a neoprene wader, 'murican flag bandana wearing, secret dubbing having, bugger strippin', EXPERT...  This day was similar to many that I have had over my fishing journey, because it taught me that I should never get too comfortable with my techniques and that I should always keep an open mind to learn new things.

If you have ever fished a good callibaetis hatch on a stillwater, you have experienced some very exciting fishing.  It's exciting because you never know if the fish is going to crush your fly with reckless abandon, sip it gently, or swim up to your fly to count it's body segments only to decide that it's not "real" enough and flip you the fin.  When tying flies for lakes (or for froggish slow moving water) it's critical to dial in your flies just a little bit more than you would for faster moving water where fish don't have the luxury of window shopping before making a commitment. Split your tails.  Use materials like biots to make segmented bodies. Sparse up your hackle just a bit...

Brookies eat Callibaetis like I eat Skittles.  Fast and Furious.

This pattern has been particularly effective due to some very cool materials that we have been playing with.  The wild turkey biots give a very mottled effect to the body, and the speckled badger hackle plays very well with the "speckled" callibaetis theme.  Another big player in the "match the hatch" game is Nature's Spirit materials.  They have their colors so dialed in that it makes it very easy to tie a fly that is G'd up from the feet up (That's bad gangster lingo for "matching head to toe."  I apologize... kind of.)

The next time you are fishing a lake, pay attention to what is happening on top of the water, even if you are killing it stripping buggers, rocking a 'murican flag bandanna, and listening to Skid Row on your portable boom box.

~ Cheech


Speckled Tan
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #14-16 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Veevus 16/0 - Dark tan (BUY HERE)
Tails: Coq De Leon rooster cape - Med pardo (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit wild turkey biot - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit CDC tufts - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Callibaetis (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting Hebert Miner - Speckled badger (cape or saddle) (BUY HERE)

Speckled Gray
Hook: Daiichi 1180 #14-16 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Veevus 16/0 - Dun (BUY HERE)
Tails: Coq De Leon rooster cape - Med pardo (BUY HERE)
Body: Nature's Spirit wild turkey biot - Muskrat Gray (BUY HERE)
Wing: Nature's Spirit CDC tufts - Medium gray dun (BUY HERE)
Thorax: Nature's Spirit fine natural dubbing - Muskrat Gray (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting - Grizzly (cape or saddle) (BUY HERE)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Desk Dump: 5 for Summer

5 Materials for Summer

Desk Dump: 5 for Summer
I know it may be disappointing, based on the title here, if you were expecting to see my dog taking a dukey on my desk, but no we'll save that for a later post. However, if you've been around the social media and interweb channels long enough, you might be familiar with a very popular style of photo and blog post called "Pocket Dumps" (Google it if you're not). We've toyed around with the idea of doing something similar that would revolve around tying, so this is the first in a series of pocket dump style posts we're going to name "Desk Dumps". These posts will feature materials we have on our desks a lot lately and how we're using them. In terms of pocket dump jargon, this would be called an EDC (Every Day Carry) type material. And while our EDC materials will vary throughout the year, we'll try to stay on top of what we're tying.

So in this inaugural post, I'm going to stick to some of the materials that have been on my desk the longest this summer. (click each material heading for a link to see more info on each material)...

Nature's Spirit Select Cow Elk

Out of all my materials, I'd say the Cow Elk from Nature's spirit, in pretty much all colors, has been on my desk the longest for the past few months. It's been used on caddis patterns, Fripples, foam patterns like the Moodah Poodah, the Project cicada pattern and a few others. Check out the colors here.

Speckled Badger Hackle

I don't think my speckled badger has been back in its bag since the time we got it back in April or May. The nice thing about this versatile hackle is that it's got enough variation in the colors and hues in one cape or saddle, you can literally use it for a bunch of different patterns.  See more here

Partridge Czech Nymph Hooks

Once we started to carry Partridge hooks, my hook choices for  tying sessions have changed quite a bit. And my favorite, probably most versatile in the mix, is the Czech Nymph hook. I use them for everything from emergers to nymphs to soft hackles (see the biot nymphs below). Sharp as can be and stout quality hooks. They come in a bunch of sizes here.

Nature's Spirit Wild Turkey Biots

These Wild Turkey biots might get my vote for material of the year. I'd seen them in the past, but never tied with them. What you get here is a natural segmented coloreffect similar to peacock quill, but with the ridge effect you get from biots. And these ones come in a sweet variety of colors to tie anything from Callibaetis to Caddis and everything in between. The biot nymphs shown here are tied with the Callibaetis color:

Danville 140 Denier Thread

We sell a lot of different threads on our store and I really find myself tying with a pretty wide variety of threads for different purposes. But when I got a couple of sample spools from Hareline, I knew right away this would be a go-to thread for bigger patterns like streamers, big foam jobs and most of my stillwater patterns. If you haven't tried this particular size of Danville's you owe it to yourself to at least try a couple or three colors.

Monday, August 10, 2015

California Leech Variation

It's highly adaptable

California Leech

Several years ago when I first started to poorly cast, kick, and strip (I know... bad play on words) or as I called it "stillwater fishing," I was a bugger guy.  All you needed was a handful of olive, black, and brown Wooly Buggers and a type 3 sinking line.  Sure, I caught plenty of fish, but it wasn't until I started paying more attention to some of the excellent patterns out there that I really started to catch more fish.  One of the extra "ninja" patterns that I had heard about was the California Leech that was made famous by Bill Scheiss at Henry's Lake in Idaho.  Bill's flies were usually pretty scraggly, and not the prettiest of flies, but they sure caught fish.  There are many different versions of California Leech dubbing, but the best I have used is made by Mike Andraesen from Bountiful, UT.  It's a blend of flash with his famous Canadian brown mohair that can be adapted to be used in a wide range of patterns.

In the pattern that I tie in the video, it's not an original California Leech because I change the tail, it's too bulky, and I wrap hackle through it.  The original calls for a marabou tail, and a very thin body without hackle.  BUT...  I have caught many fish on the "variation" that I tie in the video, so that's how I tie all of mine now.  This fly also opens the door for a lot of creativity, and I'll list some pattern variations that can be very effective as well.

To fish this fly, I usually like to find where the fish are holding and use a full sink line to get the fly down to their depth.  I start off with long slow pulls with some pauses, and a lot of the time the fish will eat it on the pause.  The key is to vary your retrieve until you find what the fish want, and then duplicate the retrieve that caught fish...  Clear as mud?  Good, now go give some friendly fish free facial piercings (Say that 5 times fast).

~ Cheech 


California Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Rusty brown (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Arctic fox tail hair - Brown (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Amber or copper (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - California leech (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Brown saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)

Pond Olive Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Red (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Arctic fox tail hair - Black (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Peacock (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Red (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - Pond olive plus (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Black or dark olive saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)

Canada Blood Leech
Hook: Daiichi 1710 or Allen S402 #6-10 
Thread: MFC 3/0 - Wine (BUY HERE)
Tail 1: Nature's Spirit Bugger bou - Claret (BUY HERE)
Tail 2: Krystal flash - Pearl (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: UTC wire size BR - Wine (BUY HERE)
Body,: Canadian series dubbing - Canadian blood plus (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Black or claret saddle or neck hackle (BUY HERE)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review: Zeal Optics

Sustainability and quality in one package

Curtis wrangles a nice rainbow while sporting Zeal glasses

I remember the trip when I realized how important good lenses are.  I had a lot of experience fishing our local cutthroat lake with flies, and if there is a common theme for that lake, it's short striking cutthroat.  The game changer for this trip was the fact that my father in law and I were fishing standing up on our new-to-us tin boat instead of sitting in kick boats.  I was fishing a pretty bright fly around 12 feet deep and I could see the fly the whole time due to good polarized glasses.  We really weren't doing super well until i realized that my fly would disappear for a few seconds at a time, but I couldn't feel any bites.  The next time my fly disappeared I strip set and it was fish on.  We repeated this for the rest of the day in what turned out to be one of the best trips we have had on that lake.  It wouldn't have happened without good polarized glasses.

I have fished with $15 gas station cheapies to $250 lenses, and the technology that is available now is pretty amazing.  As with any other fishing related product, we are always interested in the new companies in the fly fishing world to see how they compare with already established companies.  Sometimes the newcomers rally shock us with great products, and other times it's more hype than anything else.  We met Joe Rizzo from Zeal Optics in the spring of 2015 and we were intrigued by what is by far the most environmentally friendly product in the optic field.  Frames made from bean oil???  Lenses made from plants??? Yep.  The list of eco friendly features goes on and on.  We wondered how this eco-tech would stack up against other glasses that we had used in the past so we put them through their paces pretty hard.

I got the Tracker model in both the copper lens and the bluebird HT lens.  I wanted something that I'd use for the majority of my fishing, and I also wanted a lens that I could use in low light situations (like evening caddis hatches).  My first impression was that they were very comfortable to wear and they fit my huge noggin really well.  The true test was on the water where they could definitely hold their own, and I realized that they were on par with any of the other high end lenses that I have fished with.  It's cool to be able to fish with a product that ranks highly in both technology and environmental friendliness.  I have been fishing them hard for about 4 months and I keep them out of their case on purpose to see if they can stand normal wear and tear.  So far they have proven to be very durable and scratch resistant, even though I haven't sat on them yet, which is a sure fire way to destroy glasses.
The Zeal Big Timber has an automatic lens for bright and low light.

And from Curtis:

I got the Snapshot model in a Copper lens and took them to Mexico to fish the flats with my eagle eyes and a pair of similar Costas and Maui Jim glasses on board.  I really wanted to just see how they all compared.  I was really surprised at the clarity and sharpness of the Zeal's when compared to my other two pair of "go-to" sunny weather glasses. In fact, I'd say under some conditions, I'd end up switching back to the Zeals because I was seeing the Bones a little more clearly. So after that first day of the trip, I decided to leave my other glasses back at the hotel because the Zeals were doing everything I needed them to do. Now whether or not it was a combination of the sun, the flats' coloration and the tint on these specific lenses, I can't say for sure (definitely not a knock on the other glasses) but I was still very impressed with what I experienced.

I guess we had our answers...  Zeal glasses can hold their own in a tech heavy market where eco-friendliness usually isn't as big of a priority as it ought to be.

~ Cheech

Eco-friendly:  These glasses are made from plant based products and are 100% biodegradable.

Prescription friendly: Many of their models can be ordered with prescription lenses.

Very functional: These glasses are born from high technology and perform as a high tech lens should.

Cost effective: The Tracker is $119, and the Snapshot is $79.

Lightweight and comfortable: The frame is rubberized on the critical places where it touches your face.  They don't move when you are acting a fool swatting mosquitoes.

Fog:  These glasses fogged up a little easier than some of the other glasses that we have used, but it was mainly a non-issue.

Make sure to check out the full line of Zeal products for the next time you have a pair of shades go over the side of the boat.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cinnamon Toast Ant

Not for human consumption

Cinnamon Toast Ant with the Rising Brookie net
The good thing about having friends that are super fishy is that they give you the feedback needed to create killer bugs.  Around 2005 Bryan Gregson requested an ant of some sort to take to some small streams that he had been fishing, but you have to know that Bryan has fished about everything under the sun.  I looked at a lot of ants online, and I looked at a bunch of fly patterns to make sure I didn't give him anything that he already had before I hit the vise.  I tied up a prototype ant that was kind of similar to the now-named Cinnamon Toast Ant, and sent him on his way.  They ran into an unexpected Green Drake hatch that weekend, and since he was there to do some product testing, he followed through with his promise of fishing this cinnamon ant.  Well, he was glad that he did, because this ant outperformed all of the green drake imitations that they were fishing.  

Cinnamon Toast Ant

His feedback was to make it more visible and to make it float better - check and check.  Similar to the Unsinkabeetle, this fly has cartoonish wings that stick up and out to sides, making it more visible.  I also changed the hook from a heavier wire scud hook to a Gamakatsu C12 because I really like the hook gap and the light wire diameter.  It's great because the back half hangs just low enough in the water, but not so low that it's hard to see.  So far, we have fished this fly for picky stillwater trout and some terrestrial eating river fish.  The consensus is that they LOVE cinnamon toast.  If you tie this one, make sure to tie the Black Toast Ant as well.

Buy the Cinnamon Toast Ant HERE
Buy the Black Toast Ant HERE


Cinnamon Toast Ant
Hook: Gamakatsu C12 or Daiichi 1130 #10-14 (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC premium thread 6/0- Rusty brown (BUY HERE) (even though we didn't use it in the video.)
Underbody: Nature's Spirit hare's mask dubbing - Rusty spinner (BUY HERE)
Body and head: Fly foam 2mm - Rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Wings: Sparkle emerger yarn - Cream (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting dark barred ginger cape or saddle (BUY HERE)

Black Toast Ant
Hook: Gamakatsu C12 or Daiichi 1130 #10-14 (BUY HERE)
Thread: MFC premium thread 6/0- Black (BUY HERE) (even though we didn't use it in the video.)
Underbody: Nature's Spirit hare's mask dubbing - Black (BUY HERE)
Body and head: Fly foam 2mm - Black (BUY HERE)
Wings: Sparkle emerger yarn - Cream (BUY HERE)
Hackle: Whiting grizzly or black cape or saddle (BUY HERE)