Friday, December 30, 2011

Ramblings, Reviews and Reflections.

All to often, given my background in retail and wholesale, I would say consumers are more likely to complain about bad service rather than commend good service. In the past week, I have had two very solid experiences with strong customer service.

I had previously reviewed a wading jacket from LL Bean that, at the end of the day, I really wasn't pleased with how the product performed. Following the simple instructions for easy return, on their website, I returned the jacket and received word that I would be credited the full amount. The shipping was also pre-paid via the label printed from their site. The process could not have gone any better and I was refreshed at how they stood behind their policy of 100% satisfaction. Hopefully, this is not something I will need to take advantage of again but this policy does give one a level of comfort...kudos to LL.

A trip to Orvis, to return a gift, led to the same result. I've been shopping my local Orvis store for about 2 years and the most pleasant thing is the fact the the staff has remained the same over that time. In retail, that's the exception, not the norm. I often wonder if Corporate understands how important consistency of sales staff is to the consumer...it's like the bartenders from "Cheers". I exchanged my item with no hassle and nothing but smiles and nice conversation from the staff.

The flip side of my recent shopping excursions has also reinforced how hard it has become to buy American. I am not hard core when it comes to buying local however, I have tried over the last year to become more aware of the selection available and but American if it's feasible. I still have a preference for foreign cars and hope US automakers can step up the quality of their vehicles. I was surprised to walk around the Manchester VT based company and see how many products are made overseas. Are you really telling me that a magnetic net holder can't be produced in the United States at a competitive enough price or is Corporate that motivated by the bottom line? ( rhetorical, as, sadly, I know the answer already )

Which leads me to the review of the Orvis Magnetic Net holder...

Normally, I wouldn't review a product until I have had some time to use it on the water and gauge its performance for myself. Sadly, this item didn't even make it the the river. On the positive side, the magnetic connection is fantastic however, someone in procurement should have been concerned with quality over price. I was optimistic that the welded loop on the plastic coil would be sufficient...I was wrong...yes, I did tug at the coil to check the weld and it popped immediately. In fairness to me, I pulled with the smallest amount of force, even less than how my net has been pulled in the Farmington in the past. Had I been on the river, my net would now be a floating memory. The other bug in my craw concerns the disconnect between the internet price and the store price. This item is on sale on the Orvis website however, it's $5 more in the store. I see this happen quite often and while stores will make the adjustment if this situation is brought to their attention, I am left to wonder how many times I did not catch such a mismatch.

I grew up in Waterbury, The Brass City. My first job was at the old Howland-Hughes department store...the Grand Dame of all businesses located downtown.
Exchange Place, downtown Waterbury CT
The Waterbury Clock Company
In its heyday, Waterbury was the leading producer of brass products in the world. Now, this city is a shell of its former self and I am left to watch it continue to decline a little more each time I return to visit my parents. Gone are the manufacturers and factories that were once fanning the flames of growth. Gone is the bustling downtown that was full of hope and promise. Vacant buildings now dominate the landscape. Given our present course, I can only wonder what the town will look like when my kids are old enough to make the drive on their own...

Monday, December 26, 2011

There really is a Santa Claus.

Now some would debate that I've been more naughty than nice this year however, it looks like I covered myself on the big guy's list...Simms Rivertek Boa boots...can't wait to try them out.
who's better than santa?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dynamic Nymphing, a book review.

I had read some articles concerning the upcoming release of this book by George Daniel and was intrigued. I pre-ordered a copy from Amazon a few weeks ago, not expecting the book until January, and I was surprised by its arrival at my door yesterday.

Sometimes I have purchased and read books only to be sorely disappointed by the content or lack thereof. Happily, this was not the case with this book. I was introduced to Czech nymphing this past April and quickly became fascinated by the technique. I have read several books on the topic and this book is the most comprehensive and best written of the group. Some of the books I have read almost require an advanced degree to complete however, Mr. Daniel has written a book that anglers of all levels can pick up, read and find a wealth of information to bring to the river.

I finished this book today and will begin the re-read over the weekend to digest the content in greater detail. This book reinforces a need for patience on the water and the need to really focus on your surroundings. Certain sections of the book have made me realize that I may have been skunked on various occasions not for lack of fish in the water rather, for lack of staying in a section of water and trying to determine why I was not hooking fish. Sometimes I am so convinced that I have the proper rig that I cannot see that I might not be getting the flies deep enough, casting accurately or even reading the water correctly. Mr. Daniel suggests taking the time to solve your problems on the water rather than give up and find another place to fish. Although I have only been fly fishing for about 5 years, I still consider myself a relative novice. Given the shear amount of gear available for anglers, one could easily think that the best gear would help you land more fish. I was pleased to see that Mr. Daniel addressed this topic and, similar to what I have said about golfing, it doesn't matter what clubs you use...you can either play or you can't.

I plan to re-evaluate my gear and focus on a few rods that I am most comfortable with on the water. The same holds true for flies. I am amazed at the volume of choices that are available for use in attempting to fool a fish into taking a bite. In my opinion, Mr. Daniel is also saying that you can focus your flies to a more narrow assortment and learn to fish them consistently well anywhere in the world.

I would certainly suggest  anyone interested in learning more about this technique to pick up a copy of the book...it's well worth it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Polar Express.

This past weekend, my family joined some of our neighbors for a trip to Essex, CT for an evening trip on The Polar Express. This was my gang's first time on The Polar Express and my usually crazy 6 & 7 year old boys were amazingly reserved. I'm not sure if it was the Elf that was leading our train car in Christmas carols or the visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, but my guys were really mellow over the course of our 90 minute trip.
Overall, the evening was a lot of fun and all of our kids, 8 kids all under the age of 8, had a great time. For me, the highlight was seeing something like this train ride through the eyes of the children...eyes wide like saucers and mouths hanging wide open at the sight of Santa is what the season is about. We are fortunate to have such a good group of neighbors and a bunch of great kids for our boys to grow up with...

Good friends, good times and good memories.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Product review.

About a year ago, I purchased an L.L. Bean wading jacket with Gore-tex Paclite fabric. Every Gore-tex product I have used in the past has been fantastic and lived up to its billing.

On the Bean website, this jacket received rave reviews and, to this day, continues to enjoy close to 100% satisfaction from a large enough group of purchasers. Each time I have worn this jacket in the rain, maybe 6 or 7 occasions, the pockets fill with water and the seams get the really wet look like they are just saturated and ready to fail. Mind you, I am not out fishing in gale force rainstorms. This occurs in light to medium rainfall and has left me very disappointed with this jacket.

While the overall style, fit and storage are adequate, the actual performance of the jacket is not up to snuff. I am curious how all of their website reviews are from customers who just rave about the great features and performance of the jacket. Overall, a thumbs down for this particular product.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Location, location, location...

Like prime real estate, I've learned that fishing is sometimes all about location. I spent a little time around some notoriously good water as the flows below the damn are finally back to a wadeable number, around 450cfs. Each spot had me standing about 4 feet from the bank and I could not help staring at the water on the opposite bank. There was more slack water, better seams and overall, a more leisurely flow. The trouble was going to be getting to the other side. I ended up walking about 1/2 mile upstream and finding a spot where I was comfortable walking across the river.

Contrary to proper technique, I really didn't feel like walking back downstream only to turn around and begin fishing my way back up so I fished my way downstream. I was rewarded, almost immediately, for my efforts...
fly lipped just right...
There were tiny Olives coming off the water and I continued to nymph a 2 fly rig with a Vladi woven grub anchor and a BHPT trailing. Both of the Browns took the smaller BHPT and I landed 1 greedy little Rainbow who took the larger of the 2 flies.
I fished the yellow / brown version of this guy
In recent weeks, I have been snagging a lot of branches and debris sub-surface so I have been subject to many false alarms. My next strike was the real thing as the belly of the fish instantly flashed as it turned and bolted downstream. I let him run a bit and proceeded to reel in another nice Farmy brown.

At this point, the rain started coming down a little harder and it was time to begin the trek back to the car. I'm just happy that the flow was cut back to allow a trip out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hydro Therapy.

While this term is most associated with massage, for me, hydro therapy represents some quality time spent on the water. I am still intrigued as to how reflective time spent on the water can be...there is so much to see and yet, so little to focus on besides the task at hand. I find that I have consistently had this one thought each time out...the river is never the same from 1 second to the next, she seems to instantly forget who she is as she rolls through each riffle yet, somehow, she remembers it all.

to cold for today...
Coming across something as simple as a rope swing conjures up images of a carefree youth. Regardless of the fact that I never tried a rope swing until I was well into my 20's, one can imagine the countless splashes that others have had in this spot. Bush-whacking has become a secondary partner to angling. When I first came to fly fishing, the spots with the easiest access where the places I would park myself and cast a line. Over the past year, I've found that the path taken to a favorite spot is almost as fun as the fishing itself. The chance to see undisturbed flowers or to come upon a white-tailed deer, almost as surprised to see you as you are to see him, are wildly rewarding.

lured from the cold depths...
It's been 2 years since I've played a round of golf, after having played for 30 years. I can safely say, I have never received such pleasure from golf as I have from a trip to the water. This thing, fishing, is obsessive, engrossing and challenging in ways that I cannot relate to anything else.  While I choose to live a life with no regrets, I hope I live long enough to come close to developing angling skills that. hopefully, my boys will carry through their lives.  My wife, she just smiles and shrugs when I recap, wide eyed, my most recent trip to the river...she is however, my best catch.

my better half couldn't pass this up...

Friday, December 9, 2011

My favorite places...

Over the years, my job has provided me the opportunity to travel to lots of amazing places. I'm only about 12 states shy of having been to every state and I've been to 10 different countries. I've decided to create a secondary theme to my blog and share "My favorite places". These places will be both near and far, familiar and unfamiliar.

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to travel to Alaska, on business. At the time, I wondered when I would have this chance again. So, I added a few days to the trip and departed early do some exploring. As a birthday gift, I traded in some frequent flier miles and hotel points and my eldest sister and frequent travel partner joined me on the trip.

Since the sun didn't set until after 11pm during our stay, we wandered the semi-dry river bed of a local State Forest. After a short stroll, we realized we were not the only ones walking the riverbed that night...

This imprint was the size of my head...
Luckily, we only saw prints and not the real thing...One the drive back to the hotel, we came across what has to be the most scenic Wal-Mart in the country...

Five minutes drive out of Anchorage, in any direction, brings more natural beauty than you can process.

While in Anchorage, I made what my wife and I consider one of our top 5 purchases - a Nikon D5000 Digital SLR camera. Photographs have never been the same...

200mm lense and a bear in rehab...

could pass for the Farmy after Irene came through
A color of blue in the water like I have never seen...
Hopefully, the future will afford me the opportunity to return to Alaska with my family. In my quest to visit all 50 states I figured this would be the hardest to get to but now I think it may be the hardest to get back to...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sherman T. Potter

Those who know me best might say I was / am a little obsessed with the television show M*A*S*H. I grew up watching this show and thought that many of the characters portrayed were done so with comic genius and tremendous timing. Alan Alda is one of my all time favorite actors and who could not love Jamie Farr as the cross-dressing, I want out of the Army nut, Max Klinger.

One of those amazing ensemble characters was Col. Sherman T. Potter, who was played by Harry Morgan. Morgan passed away today at the age of 96.

Harry Morgan appeared in several episodes of M*A*S*H, in different character roles, prior to joining the cast as Col. Potter after the departure of Col. Henry Blake, perfectly portrayed by Mclean Stevenson.

Click here for one of my favorite Col. Potter Scenes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A mixed bag...

I'm not nearly as observant in my day to day routine as I find I am when I am on a river. Lately, I feel like I see every shadow, every movement, every action that I am otherwise not tuned into during a "regular" day.  For me, fishing seems to sharpen my senses and open my mind to a world of possibilities that are only available to me while I am wading, bush-whacking or otherwise outfitted to fish. Reading water is done with an almost Zen-like focus that allows me to tune out everything else in the world for those moments.

I recently had the experience of selectively working a stretch of water and casting to very specific seams of water only to be rewarded on the first cast each time I settled on a location.

Lots of these around on this day...
I landed one fish, on a recent outing, that appeared to have had a battle with a heron or other bird or prey or possibly a situation where the fish had been foul hooked. This got me thinking about the few instances where I have foul hooked a fish and the overwhelming feeling of guilt I have had for landing a fish in such a fashion...I wish I knew a way to prevent such an occurrence going forward.

I was however, pleased to see plenty of rising fish during this same outing and found myself just watching and not actually fishing to any risers as most of my fishing has been sub-surface this season.

Which leads me to my next ramble...

I go through tippet these days like it's going out of style. I found myself searching my pack for 5X and came up with a spool of Umpqua tippet material. Twenty minutes later, I remembered why I don't use this particular brand of tippet as I always seems to have an issue with the Umpqua material coiling like a pig tail. I never seem to have this issue with my RIO or Orvis tippet material. I have read that some swear by the Upmqua tippet but I just don't like how it has performed for me.

Finally, I must shift gears again and share one of my favorite homes on my local river...

Perfectly situated from a nice little section of riffled water, this house is quintessential New England with its wreathes on the windows and a plume of smoke billowing from the chimney. While there are a few homes along the river that I like, I must say this is my favorite.