Initial Thoughts: Blue Halo Fiberglass Rods

Back in Somerset at The Fly Fishing Show in January, I had the opportunity to meet Cortney Boice, president and co-owner of Blue Halo, a fiberglass fly rod company out of Utah. Chris had turned me on to Blue Halo in the previous year, but living in the great white north doesn’t exactly allow me many opportunities to get out and try much in the way of the latest gear. I had an inkling that I was probably missing out on something special, and I confirmed those feelings at the show when I finally got a chance to let fly with one of Blue Halo’s 8ft 5wt  fiberglass rods at the show’s casting pool. What I experienced was leaps and bounds better than I could have ever expected, and with each cast it became instantly clear why Cortney is so passionate about these rods.

Cortney Boice, present and co-owner of Blue Halo demonstrating the durability of the Retroflex II series fiberglass rods.
Cortney Boice, president and co-owner of Blue Halo demonstrating the durability of the Retroflex II series fiberglass rods.

I’m a newbie in the glass game, no doubt about it. I picked up my first fiberglass rod last year in the form of a 7ft, 3wt Orvis Superfine Glass, and few decisions in fly fishing have had such a positive impact both leading up to and after the first few lengths of line I threw with that rod. Fiberglass is a different world within fly fishing, and one far too often overlooked. The Superfine Glass helped me get my foot in the door, but my initial casts with that Blue Halo 5wt insured that I wouldn’t turn back.

Considering the amount of fishing I did last season alone, casting is something I never really give a second thought to while on the water. My gear performs the way it should, and I adjust my casting stroke relative to the conditions of any given day. With that said, I was surprised at how much I learned about my casting habits with the Blue Halo in hand. I realized instantly that I desperately needed to slow down, and when I finally opened up my loops the rod really took over. The slow, forgiving action of these rods is a thing of dreams in the dry fly world. Each cast felt so effortlessly accurate and precise that for a moment, I forgot I was in an auditorium full of people. The experience was brief, but it was all I needed to start saving up to fill an open slot in my arsenal for this coming season. I simply can’t picture fishing dry flies with anything else, and upon sampling the goods, I have no doubt that most people would agree.

Blue Halo rods come in a variety of colors across the 3wt, 5wt, and 7wt classes respectively. They feature what Cortney and the crew call second-generation RetroFlex technology, which is said to combine maximum feel with the sturdy reliability of an augmented and reinforced butt section. At the end of the day, what I experienced was a responsive, durable rod that not only hit it’s mark with minimal effort, but did so in such a way that casting it felt almost second-nature.

Click HERE to see what Blue Halo has to offer today, because few companies deserve your support more. Expect a full review in Summer, 2015.

Tight lines,

-Ben

Up’North Down’South

Did you catch us in the Sunday edition of the Portland Press Herald? A big shout goes out to Mark Latti for showing Chris and I some love in his latest column! The exposure is much appreciated, even if attracting any level of attention was never really the goal to begin with. At the end of the day it’s all about casting a line, regardless of what mother nature has in store. Some of the best memories I have on the water, and indeed some of the best fish I’ve caught in the last year, have all come on days when the weatherman sang stories of wind, rain, and snow. The lesson I’ve learned over and over again is that time on the water equals success on the water. The fish don’t much care about weather reports, and the fisherman catches little from the comfort of his couch. If there’s anything I want people to take away from our experiences during any part of the season, it’s that we work for every second we spend on the water. Sometimes we catch fish, many times we don’t, but we always get our money’s worth.

Always.

Click to read the full article!
Click to read the full article!
ChrisCosta

Frozen Ambition

Hang it up.

We knew the day would come, Maine winters are far too unforgiving to humor us with open water indefinitely. With January out of the picture, February has taken the reigns with more of the same. I’m half tempted to chop my thermometer at zero, the temperatures just don’t seem to venture north of that mark anymore. The days of sunshine are few and far between, wind whips mercilessly and without warning, and winter has commenced it’s full-frontal attack on my fly fishing desires. It’s a tragic scene to say the least. I’ve watched the rivers close up all around me; waters slowly succumbing to the imminent freeze. The pools are gone, the runs have disappeared, and access is non-existant. Close the curtain, raise the lights, and proceed towards your nearest exit. The show is over folks, nothing more to see here.

Chris taking it all in. The fishable runs of the lower Fish River have officially frozen over, only days removed from our last outing.
Chris taking it all in. The fishable runs of the lower Fish River have officially frozen over, only days removed from our last outing.

My apologies for dancing to a dramatic tune, but it can be difficult portray our latest northern dilemma any other way. Our last trip to the water left us feeling more hopeless than happy. It comes with the territory – that’s life throwing flies in the northernmost reaches during the winter months. Eventually the snow comes, the water hides away under a thick layer of ice, and limited options turn into no options at all.

It’s a humbling feeling to stand on the iced-over waters you had been fishing only a week before. Fully geared up in waders, a feeling of overwhelming sadness serves as a reminder that all good things must come to an end. We put our time in this winter, no doubt about it. We raised a lot of eyebrows, prompted a lot of questions, and enjoyed a little local fame during our jaunts to the river in January. People took note, questioned our sanity, and applauded our dedication. Some days we found fish, most days we found frustration, but every day brought it’s own version of fulfillment. If shortening the offseason was our underlying goal, I’d say we found great success.

After some searching off the beaten path, we finally found a small stretch of open water to make a few casts. The waters were swift, and the window was closing, so Chris made the best of the situation in search of a few final casts.
After some searching off the beaten path, we finally found a small stretch of open water to make a few casts. The waters were swift, and the window was closing, so Chris made the best of the situation in search of a few final casts.

Less than two months remain until open water fishing arrives – we have affectively cut the traditional off-season in half. It may seem like an eternity now, but those down days are sometimes necessary in the grand scheme of things. A time to fill fly boxes, examine past success, and plan for future outings. We’ll replace aging gear, retire tired flies, and read up on tactics and new techniques. There might be a fly fishing season, but being a fly fisherman is far from a seasonal venture. I’ve said before that the true key to success in fly fishing is simply going fly fishing. The same applies to the offseason – no rest for the wicked. It may be a while indeed before I get an opportunity to set foot in the water, but my mind will never truly leave the river.

So while we close the door on our season, think of it as more of a change in direction rather than a break in stride. The first month of 2015 has given us plenty to smile about, and the journey has only just begun. This year will be one to remember, and we are off to a pretty epic start. Stay tuned, big things are on the horizon for the northern 207.

Tight Lines,

-Ben

Gear Review: Vedavoo TL Beast Sling Pack

This Gear Review of the Vedavoo TL Beast Sling Pack is done by Chris Bard; Assisting Editor, Contributor to Maine Fly Castings.

Every year, Cameron Mortenson of TheFiberglassManifesto.com holds a “12 days of Christmas” giveaway. This year’s giveaways had the theme of “Made in America” and every prize included in each giveaway was made right here in the USA. There were many great prizes including fiberglass fly rods and amazing hand tools, most of which were crafted by smaller companies who were staking their claim as to why their gear was worth the extra dollars for the added quality. It was during this time that I stumbled upon Vedavoo, a gear company that is taking the fly fishing world by storm. I didn’t fully realize why until I held one of their sling packs in my hand, now it all makes sense.20150123_230425

Better American Gear. This three word statement is the flagship to what Vedavoo stands for. As it states on their site:

“Our work is hand-cut, prepped, built, and finished to order in our workshop. We use American fabrics, hardware, and webbing – even the thread we use is USA made! Why – because it lasts, and because it matters. We’re looking forward to building for you!”

Every part of that statement rings true, but the last part is really what really sold me on their product. How could a company whose scale is growing at such a rapid rate really look forward to building for ME? It really sounded superficial until I began talking to Scott Hunter, the founder and chief designer for Vedavoo. I’m a rather indecisive person, especially when it comes to my gear. I always take the time and effort to make sure I’m getting the right piece of gear for the job that I need it to do. I reached out to Vedavoo and within the hour I had a response from Scott. At the time I didn’t realize that he was the founder of the company, I was just happy to hear back so quickly. We had a short discussion via Facebook and after a few questions he guided me in the right direction of which pack would be best suited for the type of fishing I was doing. Their packs are fully customizable and come in a multitude of different sizes, styles and colors. Also, several of their packs accept what they call ARC accessories, allowing you to further customize your pack and different purpose attachments such as tippet holders or a plier sheath depending on what you require of it. I settled on the TL Beast Sling.

My fully loaded TL Beast.
My fully loaded TL Beast.

Let me start by saying I don’t pack light when it comes to fishing. Up until this year I was a vest guy. I liked having a million pockets and every one of them had something in it. After long days on the water I found my back sore and my shoulders achy, I needed a change. The TL Beast Sling offers great storage, for the things I need. Apparently, carrying just the things I need is WAY lighter than what I’m use to lugging around in my fishing vest. I was suddenly liberated nearly empty tubes of floatant, pre-spooled nymph rigs I had completely forgot about, three pairs of gloves and many other miscellaneous things that really didn’t need to be on me at all times. Everything on the TL Beast is strategic and efficient; it is spacious without the bulk. Most importantly, it’s comfortable to wear. Vedavoo’s unique design allows the pack to rest on your back, not on your hip. It stays where you put it but moves easy when you need to swing it around to change your fly or grab a drink of water. Fully loaded, it feels nearly weightless. It almost has a minimalist feel, but it is far from minimal. It was designed to hold a Cliff Beast Jr, or as I like to call it, the meat locker. I’m a streamer guy; this pack is made for streamer guys. I can carry nearly my full arsenal of streamers as well as a decent box of dries and a small box of nymphs. (see below photo) On top of that it will hold a water bottle, rain gear, leader/tippets, gloves, floatant and any other small gear you could possibly need. The only conflict I had was this pack design was how to carry my long handled net. To solve this I contacted the craftiest seamstress I know (thanks Mom!) and together we designed and attached a sheath into the pad of the pack. With this addition, I can carry all of my essential gear that I need on the water.

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The TL Beast is designed to hold this Cliff box like a glove and it carries more then enough flies for a day on the water.

The durability of these packs is unmatched. The material is 1000D American woven Cordura, which is incredibly resistant to abuse. It is perfect to withstand the hike through heavily wooded areas to get to your favorite fishing. It is also utilized by many military and law enforcement companies who require a durable yet light material to comprise their gear. The stitching is also immaculate; every detail is paid attention to. Though I have only had it for a short time and haven’t put it through the ringer yet I can confidently say that I will have this pack for years to come.

So comfortable you forget it's there, even fully loaded it feels as light as a feather.“We’re looking forward to building for you!” It wasn’t just empty words, they really are. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Somerset Fly Fishing Show and meet Scott in person to pick up my TL Beast Sling. He shook my hand and told me about all of the great things Vedavoo was doing. He also looked me in the eye and said, “We really appreciate your support.” It wasn’t an invoice or a generic e-mail, it was very sincere. I’m not a guide, nor am I prostaff for a laundry list of fly fishing companies; I’m just a guy who has a passion for fly fishing, living in rural Northern Maine. It really meant a lot to me. Vedavoo takes pride in their 100% American made product and I am proud to wear their brand on the water.

If you are looking for a great pack that is not only well built, but also stands out as an efficient and innovative piece of gear that’s making waves in the fly fishing industry, they are well worth checking out. I promise you will not be disappointed.

A chilly day on the water with the TL Beast.
A chilly day on the water with the TL Beast.

The TL Beast Sling as well as Vedavoo’s other American Made products can be found here: Vedavoo; Better American Gear

 

Gear Review: Kast Steelhead Glove

This Gear Review of the Kast Steelhead Gloves is done by Chris Bard; Assisting Editor, Contributor to Maine Fly Castings.

Let me start off by saying this gear review is completely independent of Kast gear. These are gloves that I purchased at full price after doing my own, independent research. With that being said, everything stated here is my opinion of the product. Anybody who has fished with me knows that I am quite hard on my gear. If I don’t like a piece of gear, or it doesn’t keep up to my exhausting use, I will replace it with something that does. My quest for proper winter fishing gloves has been no different. After trial and error of several different types I was left with a question, “Is there a such thing as functional winter fly fishing gloves that are actually warm?” I sure hope so…

Winter fly fishing is a relatively new sport in Northern Maine (instated in January of 2014) so there is no product market in the area to meet the new demand for much needed winter fly fishing gear. The internet has helped fill the void, and through strenuous research, my fellow fish-hungry friends and I have been able to piece together the essentials we need.

My first attempt at a winter fishing glove were some fold over mittens. They kept my hands relatively warm and still allowed me the dexterity to feel my line, great! Then my hands got wet; not so great. It was then I realized that dry was very important in the harsh Maine winter weather I was still becoming accustomed to fishing in. Up next was winter fishing glove attempt number two, neoprene. Ah ha, dry! I really was patting myself on the back for this one, and then I started fishing. Dexterity is defined as “skill in performing tasks, especially with the hands.” These gloves wouldn’t know dexterity if it slapped them in the face with a size 22 midge tied to 7x tippet from the opposite river bank. I found myself staring at my stripping hand every cast because I had absolutely no idea where my line was. Above all else, my hands were COLD. The gloves that I thought were going to be moisture free safe havens for my poor digits turned into sweat lockers, which quickly threatened frostbite every second I had them on. It was at that point when the rivers froze over for the winter and my pursuit for the perfect glove would have to continue the following winter season. In the off time I did much more research, and everywhere I looked pointed me to the same direction.

Enter the Kast Steelhead glove.

A great look at the Kast brand.
A great look at the Kast brand.

All I can simply say is, wow. The day they arrived I anxiously ripped open the package and threw them on. For lack of a better phrase they fit like a glove, but it was so much more than that. I was nervous they wouldn’t fit since I was ordering a size that I wasn’t use to. With most gloves I fit in a medium, but after following the sizing chart on Kast’s website they pointed me to a small. I’ve been burned by these charts before so I was a bit apprehensive, but they were true to their size – snug but not constricting. Right off the bat that was an A+ for me. Literally seconds after I slipped them on I had the sink running, time to test the dry. When the sink was full I took a deep breath and jammed my hands in. I opened and closed my hands several times, waiting to feel the cold water kiss my skin. Much to my approval, my hands were completely dry. Now we’re talking! After, I tested the sweat factor. I learned the hard way last time that waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean dry. I kept the gloves on inside, performing simple tasks. While doing so I discovered I could pretty much carry on in my normal routine with these gloves on. They felt like my buckskin work gloves I use to protect my hands when I do any sort of yard work (which I have had for a few years now, and feel like satin on my hands). The best part was even after keeping them on for several minutes indoors, my hands weren’t really sweating. They passed my control tests with flying colors, but how would they perform on the water?

The first day out with them was less than favorable. The temps were in the low teens and it was breezy, but I had fished conditions like these or worst in the past. That being said, it was usually on those same days where I would sit on the shore every 5-10 minutes with my hands jammed into my waders wondering if it was really worth it to be out there. The first cast I knew that these were the gloves for the job. No matter what, fishing with gloves is fishing with gloves. I’m not going to lie and say I could feel every inch of my line glide between my fingers; that’s impossible, but I could feel my line. I wasn’t constantly looking at my stripping hand to make sure my line was still there, or struggling to get a grasp on it while I double hauled. Dexterity in the elements remained intact, A+. Not only that, but my hands were warm AND dry. I was elated, and then I caught a fish.

Chris's first fish to the net of 2015.
Chris’s first fish to the net of 2015.

The true test, a process I have never been able to pull off without removing my gloves. The fight and netting were business as usual but for me; the hard part was in the hook removal process and release back into the water. With these gloves I was not only able to remove the hook safely, but even managed a few “grip and grins” with the fish friendly palm material on them. Hands fully submerged and dry, I watched him swim off and was ecstatic with not only the first catch of the New Year, but the performance of these amazing gloves.

Hands took a dip but they stayed dry giving me time to properly let the fish catch it's breath before swimming back into the depths of the chilly river water.
Hands took a dip but they stayed dry giving me time to properly let the fish catch it’s breath before swimming back into the depths of the chilly river water.

For those of you that want to get down to the bare-bone facts these are the Pros: Waterproof, Warm, Comfortable, Great Dexterity, Price (the Steelheads will run you about $80 a pop, and while that may seem like a lot of money for fishing gloves, I assure you it is well worth every penny for warm and dry hands in harsh conditions), and the look is great. The back of the thumb section is also made of a silky soft fabric, which is great if you’re like me and that’s the closest thing to a tissue that you use. No chaffing! The only Con I could really come up with was the fact that if you submerge your hands beyond the cuff of the glove you are going to be miserable, but that is true for any waterproof glove. This can be avoided by wearing a jacket with neoprene cuffs and actually putting the cuff over the glove (as I neglected to do one day and paid dearly). Other than that, I really have nothing bad to say about these gloves. If you’re thinking about getting a pair, buy them. You won’t be sorry. They are great for all areas of winter fishing, even ice fishing! I’m sure we have all spent time on the water with cold and wet hands and can agree that it really sucks. Try them out, I promise you will spend a lot more time fishing, and a lot less time trying to bring your hands back to life.

If you want to check out Kast’s gloves or any other pieces of their extreme weather gear they can be found here: Kast Extreme Fishing Gear

 

 

Updates Updates Updates!

Just a quick note as you set out to beat Tuesday’s laundry list of regular, every day responsibilities into submission. New updates have been added to a few pages, most notably the contributor and about pages. Find them here: “The Sick” and “About.”

I’m not forcing you to read them, but as a regular visitor (you better all be regular visitors) it is something of a requirement – your civic duty as an American even. We’re up and rolling on all cylinders for the most part, save a few minor tweaks and additions that should be sorted out and implemented within the week. The road ahead is covered in snow paved in gold, so subscribe in the top right hand corner of the main page. We’d hate for you to miss out.

Chris taking measurements for wide-load signs on the Fish River.

Coming Soon:

  • KAST Gear initial thoughts and reviews
  • More Bios, Introductions, and fresh layout updates.
  • A winter fishing report or two, or five.
  • Random ramblings from frustrated fishermen, probably on the subject of these arctic weather patterns we can’t seem to shake.
  • A recipe for spinach artichoke dip (not really)
  • A look at the products we’re most excited about for the 2015 season
    • …and probably a fair amount of grumblings about how we can’t afford any of them.
  • Photos of stuff and things (heavy on stuff, less emphasis on things).

Ready, Set, Tuesday!

-Ben

“Thaw”

Frozen guides, frozen line, frozen everything. Most people in Aroostook County hang up their fly rods when the regular open water fishing season comes to a close in September, but we aren’t most people. The lower Fish River is open for business to anyone who dare throw a fly (or artificial lure) in the winter months, and some exciting action awaits those who are willing to dodge the ice flow in search of trout and salmon. So far, Chris and I seem to be the only ones willing to put our frozen feet forward. Call it crazy, call it addiction, judge us if you need to. The point is, fly fishing in the winter is better than no fly fishing at all. Few experiences offer the solitude that standing in a should-be-frozen river does, and hooking up on frigid days is by far one of the most rewarding feelings fly fishing has to offer.

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A mid-wading rest on the edge of the ice during a rare, warmer January day.

 

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Chris stepping down off the ice and into the frigid Fish River on a beautiful January day.

The air temperature has hovered around 10 degrees throughout the majority of our winter jaunts to the river, accompanied by a mixed-bag of wind, snow, and freezing rain. Most call us crazy, many call us sick, but those who understand our passion just call us on our addiction and tip their hats. This isn’t chasing steelhead on 20 degree days – what northern Maine offers for fly fishing in the dead of winter is a different sort of animal. You have to be willing to layer excessively, pick your spots carefully, and give in to suffering in the name of success – or lack thereof. Open water is not easily found, and most access requires a careful footing and some crafty weight distribution across dangerous ice shelves before you can get your feet wet. When you finally do take the plunge, keeping an eye upriver is essential if you plan on keeping your footing. Ice, slush and other debris cover the surface on most days, and many casts are made blindly in the name of safety. You have to be willing to lay it all on the line in the name of wetting a line. The days of failure will be plenty, but it only takes one fish to warm the soul when hope seems like a distant, frozen memory.

After one month, we’ve found some success on large, meaty wooly buggers thrown across currents and swung into what the steelhead guys refer to as “couch water.” The deep sweep has produced some great fish on some of our coldest days in January, and with every take our confidence grows. The winter learning curve is steep, but with success comes knowledge we can work with to tip the scales in our favor. Below are the fruits of our labor thus far.

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Day 3: “Somerset or Bust”

Rise and shine ladies and gentlemen, it’s the third and final day of the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey.  With clear weather on tap for today, we are sure to have one of the best crowds of the weekend! Saturday was no slouch either, as we enjoyed the opportunity to chat with a load of people who have been great influences on us throughout our years in the fly fishing game. As you saw earlier, Chris finally got his picture and a few good laughs with fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh. I also had the pleasure of finally meeting the Fishing Poet himself, Mr. Matt Smythe. Matt has been a huge influence on the direction of my work throughout the years, and his writing is absolutely some of the most top-notch stuff I’ve ever read. His advice and encouragement are alway held in high regard, and it was awesome to finally put a face to a name. Hopefully we can wet some line together in the not so distant future!

Matt Smythe

In addition to our countless meet and greets yesterday, we also managed to squeeze in some research and development while digging through the fly bins. The mission was to build a meaty menu for the Fish River’s trout and salmon, and I think we covered the spread well with our selections of the bugger, sculpin, and articulated variety. Winter into Spring should bring loads of excitement if these new patterns can produce like we are hoping they will. Far and away from the classic streamers our northern fish are used to seeing, our hope is that new offerings bring with them new opportunities for some truly trophy fish.

Be sure to join us on the third and final day of “The Fly Fishing Show” if you are in the Somerset, New Jersey or greater New York area. The show goes on, and we are excited to meet even more new faces in chatting about the sport we love.

See you in the crowd!

-Ben

“Get Cheeky”

Day two of “The Fly Fishing Show” didn’t disappoint, with huge crowds trickling in throughout the day despite the previous nights snowfall. After a brief early morning lull, the convention center floor saw an impressive flow of traffic that included a greater number of families and kids than what we saw during day 1. The changing dynamic of the crowd brought even more excitement, an endless supply of stories, and even a few familiar faces.

One of the highlights of the show for me personally was getting the opportunity to connect with the guys from Cheeky Fly Fishing. Bringing Cheeky into Quigley’s Outdoors was a personal goal of mine through our first year of operation, and thus far the response both online and in-house has been fantastic. It’s been a pleasure to work so closely with Ted, Grant, and the rest of the crew as they continue to design, develop, and stand behind such a unique, quality product.

Showin' off the Cheeky Line for a photo with Ted Upton and Grant White of Cheeky Fly Fishing. It's been a pleasure working with these guys through Quigley's Outdoors, and was an absolute blast meeting them this weekend. Always fun when you get the chance to support the companies that go out of their way to support you!
Showin’ off the Cheeky Line for a photo with Ted Upton and Grant White of Cheeky Fly Fishing. It’s been a pleasure working with these guys through Quigley’s Outdoors, and was an absolute blast meeting them this weekend. Always fun when you get the chance to support the companies that go out of their way to support you!

 

More on day two’s action tomorrow morning – sleep is calling my name.

Cheers,

-Ben