Catching up

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M ike Schmidt on the Salmon River swinging flies and rocking a full SmithFly get up. Hook it up.

So it’s been a while since I’ve updated over here.

I’ve been so busy over at SmithFly this thing has taken a back seat, and it may just get retired here soon in favor of a blog on SmithFly.net.

In Jan, Feb and March, I logged 16,000 miles on the road and visited 16 states showing off our SmithFly gear. I met a TON of great people and sold a ton of stuff. It’s been an awesome, start to the new year! New year, hell it’s April, Q1 is toast – but it was a dandy.

We’ve added two great new dealers to the network the Deleware River Club and MyFlies.com. We have more deals in the works. So things are really growing quickly.

We have a BIG deal in the works that could give SmithFly a huge boost of exposure and we are really stoked about that, stay tuned.

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A great shot from the talented Russ Schnitzer of me at the Denver Fly Fishing show standing in the booth in front of our new retro wordmark.

 

Sometimes your home water surprises you with a late breaking curve ball.

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Sometimes your Home Water surprises you with a late breaking curve ball.

Last weekend I snuck away for the quintessential October evening of fishing. Everything was just right.

The Great Miami River was low and clear, a rarity I cherish. The air was cool and dry. The sun was setting. The breeze was moving enough to rustle the drying yellow leaves but not blowing enough to warrant a wind breaker. It was one of those days.

The fishing was understandably slow due to the low and gin clear conditions. The water was also unseasonably cool which  made the smallmouth a little more hesitant. So I wasn’t expecting to knock anything out of the park, a nice single into right field would be fine.

I waded to some known sections and felt not a nibble.

I noticed that one particular pool, one usually fairly difficult to access because of swift currents and wading obstacles, was fishable.

Some teenagers had just finished wading through it in blue jeans. There were four of them, two guys and two girls. The one couple waded through piggy back style, the guy acting as horse. The other couple waded separately. The young girl opting for the ankle deep riffle below the bridge run. Her blue jeans darkened in the water and she sreiked and giggle as she slowly made her way across. When they re-united onshore there was some hugging and horse play under the bridge. Then they left and headed for home, across the bridge.

As they were watching me cast and walking back across the bridge a fish hit my little black wooly bugger. They watched as I hand lined it in and pointed at me from the bridge. No doubt saying something along the lines of , “oh look he got one.”

It was an average fish. I snapped a couple photos and let it slip back into the current seam.

I fished on to no avail but plenty of enjoyment at just being there on an October evening, enjoying the weather.

I got home transferred the pics from my camera over to my computer and  was shocked! That was not an average SMALLMOUTH! It was a Largemouth, from a spot that shouldn’t have ANY Largemouth in it. Fast current cold water temps — not what you would think of as typical Largemouth territory, but there it was, a beautiful little Largemouth.

It was the perfect  late breaking curve ball that I hit into right field for a single on an October afternoon.

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SmithFly Invents Way of Attaching Fishing Gear to Coolers

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SmithFly Invents Way of Attaching Fishing Gear to Coolers
Cooler Kilts Help Small Watercraft Fishermen Carry and Store Gear

DAYTON, OH (October 22, 2013) — Innovative fly fishing gear maker SmithFly Designs will launch the Cooler Kilt, a one-of-a-kind product enabling pouches to be attached to coolers, on November 25.

By snapping directly to a cooler, the Cooler Kilt keeps gear consolidated, out of the way, and easily accessible. It was designed for people fishing on small watercraft, including stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and micro skiffs, as well as spin-and-bait casting fisherman and hunters.

Many anglers keep coolers on board of their watercraft to carry water, lunch, snacks, and beverages. They also carry cumbersome bags that are intended for wading. SmithFly owner and fisherman Ethan Smith set out to design a product that easily enables people to attach their gear directly to the front of their coolers.

“There wasn’t a good solution for carrying fly boxes and tackle on the water while fishing from smaller, more nimble boats,” said Smith. “Now you can haul your gear and your beer in one trip from the truck to the boat. The Cooler Kilt lets you put your stuff right where you can access it, without any hassle.”

Cooler Kilts are made in the U.S.A. and will be available in five sizes accommodating cooler sizes from 25 to 65 quarts. They’re constructed of 1000D Cordura, and feature multiple rows of Mil-Spec nylon webbing with one-inch tactical bar tacks. The back of each kilt has snaps that attach to coolers. The snaps are available as stainless steel self-tapping screws similar to those of boat covers, or as pressure sensitive adhesive pads with snap heads.

Preorder for the Cooler Kilt, which starts at $45 (including shipping), is available beginning on October 28. For more information and to place a preorder, visit smithfly.net/2013/09/21/cooler-kilt.

About SmithFly Designs

SmithFly Designs offers American made fly fishing vests, tackle bags, waist packs, belts, and pouches with interchangeable parts that enable fly fishermen to customize their gear. It was founded by designer and fly fishing blogger Ethan Smith in 2010 and is based in Troy, Ohio. Visit smithfly.net to learn more.

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A wooden rowing frame and matching oars for a Towee – it can be done, and it works!

Over the weekend I completed a project that took more time than I had anticipated, a wooden rowing frame and matching set of oars for my Towee Calusa.

Towee_With_Wooden_Rowing_Frame

Todd and the good folks at Towee make the SRO Rowing frame from Aluminum. I love the design. However, I splurged on the boat and spent a little more than I would have liked to get the Calusa model which features more options like bow bulkhead and cap, flat floor, extended back bench, storage under the bench seats etc. All those features are items I need and use. Ad to that the trailer and the motor and I was capped out on the spending. So I opted to forgo the SRO Rowing Frame in favor of rigging up one those myself.

My father-in-law is a dab hand with the welder, as in he used to teach welding classes and build fireplace inserts, so after a quick look over the basic structure of the Aluminum rowing frame he was confident that we could fab one up in his shop.  But after returning home I decided to take a swipe at a wooden version in stead. If the wooden version didn’t work, then we could attempt the Aluminum version. Wood is cheap, aluminum not-so-much.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, like all 12 of you subscribers have, then you  know that I built a wooden canoe a number of years ago. WIth that experience I was confident that I could laminate up the curved armsof the frame from thin strips of western red cedar the same way I did the bow and stern stems on the Wee Lassie.

Wee_Lassie

I took measurements from my Towee and  laid out a simple bending mold with clamping holes to hold the strips while they dried.

I went to the local home center and spent an inordinately large amount of time sorting through the giant stack of cedar boards to find the most clear specimens and set about ripping them into 1/8″ thick strips.

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Gluing up the curved arms of the wooden rowing frame

It was a slow process of glue, and let dry, glue and let dry, glue and let dry. You can’t rush it, but it took shape and finally looked a lot like the aluminum frame that I was imitating. But, the arms seemed a just  little too flexible.

Once I had the rest of the frame assembled I started in on the oars. I glued up nine foot long one and a half inch thick shafts from ash that I had cut down in the back yard a few years ago. I added to that a 1/2″ thick blade of alternating sugar maple and cherry strips. Not that you care, but the maple tree grew in my parent’s back yard just outside the Kitchen window and the Cherry had grown in the pasture on my Uncle’s farm in the Youngstown area — the heart of the legendary Allegheny Plateau and home to the most straight grained and desirable cherry wood on the planet. I hand shaped the oar shaft and paddle blade into their final dimensions but it quicly became clear that shafts of the oars as well as the arms of the frame, were a bit too flexible for my taste.  They all would need fiberglass and epoxy, just the Wee Lassie canoe to strengthen and stiffen them.

I went over to my man with the epoxy plan Raka‘s site and ordered up the 1.5 QT UV inhibited kit and some 6″ glass tape.

After a week or two of epoxy, sand, glass, epoxy, sand, epoxy sand, well into the wee hours of the night, I had a stiff and strong rowing frame and a matching pair of hand made wooden oars. I then ordered up a a pair of Sawyer’s Anchor Rite Rubber Stops and a set of Perko Oarlocks and Top Mount Oar Lock sockets. I added some rope to the oars and epoxied over that to make it fast. I installed the sockets and oarlocks. Done and Done.

But what if they didn’t work?

Well, I tested the frame and oars out this Sunday evening on a quiet stretch of the Great Miami River, and I’m happy to report that they all worked like a charm.

Granted the water there is a fairly flat stretch of froggy water that gets hit by the local worm dunkers fairly hard so we got skunked.

But there I was — with my 8 year old son, while the sun was going down,  dry fall breeze  blowing from the west, rowing the Towee down the Great Miami, chucking poppers at the bank, waiting for the gulp of a smallmouth. To say I got choked up, is an understatement, it was truly a wonderful and memorable way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday evening, even if the cold front had turned off the fishing.

I was far from Skunked, I had proven that I could put together a useful piece of art work form otherwise average pieces of wood, that would now help engage in my favorite activities.
It was a gratifying, and humbling experience, now let’s go fish some more!

SmithFly Digi-Pouch makes cameo appearance in BF Goodrich’s Playground Earth Episode 3 “Browns Rising”

Through creative editing most soft goods brands like SmithFly, even the big names, were not featured very prominently in this episode of BF Goodrich’s Playground Earth. But if you watch carefully, and we know you will, a SmithFly Digi-Pack makes a cameo appearance at min 2:36. After all BF Goodrich paid for the production and it wasn’t cheap so we TOTALLY understand why they wouldn’t want our name plastered all over their cool video, we get it.

But yeah we still made the cut, which is pretty awesome and proves that we aren’t making this stuff up.

Louis actually likes the Digi-Pouch. Here is a link to his effusive review:

The Smithfly Switch Belt and Digi pouch, Fly Fishing Gear That I Can’t Live Without

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The choice of music is rather nice too, some claw hammer banjo stuff. We love that! Our complements to the production team on selecting some evocative music that captures the contemplative nature of fly fishing. Wait, did I just use contemplative and banjo in the same paragraph? Ah well…

Do you know what the three most difficult years in a banjo players life are?

3rd grade…

Little Miss Cutthroat Video – a classic bit of ‘mericana “my Yellowstone dream boat.”

This is classic. David Thompson and Ben WInship’s video for Little Miss Cutthroat.

I’ll never tire of timeless clarinet solos, set to a solid jazz guitar rhythm back up. Priceless.

And Happy Birthday Jerome Garcia, pick them taters SPUD!

 

Blanking Carp on Beaver Island

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An un-interested and well educated carp on the flats of Beaver Island.

Our first day on Beaver Island I walked out to the beach and spotted the carp. Main Island, wadable. Tight to a rock. Knee deep water. A pod of them. Probably 8-10 in all. All of them over ten pounds, the biggest of them pushing 30.

Last year I didn’t see one carp on the flats of Big Sand Bay. You don’t see fish down there too often. We didn’t know that when we booked that place. But this year we stayed closer to town near a point where Dave Hossler caught a nice one last year. So I thought the fish might be there, but now I had a bead on them.

I tormented them for hours. They tolerated me but for the most part ignored my offerings. A good couple follows, a turn, a few refusals, one good solid take, one head shake and the fish was off. Nothing. After that, they moved into deep water. I toyed with them the next day too, and the following day, but to no avail.

Later, Kevin told told me that those fish had been played with so much that they simply won’t eat a fly anymore. They’re just too well educated in the way of the fly. Alas.

I had two days booked with Steve the first member of the SmithFly Stream Team.

It was the day after JP‘s Carp Trip, and the weather was much better than when Cameron’s Trip was there. However, the Mayfly carp funk was still in effect. Even the uneducated fish weren’t eating like they normally would because they were so stuffed with mayflys. Again, alas.

The wind was blowing a bit the morning we went out. It was choppy with 2 footers projected for the main lake area. We headed a spot called Indian Bay where there’s a dock that leads to a trail into an ancient Indian Burial ground.

We found a decent number of fish, and the mouth flaring meant that they were eating.

After about 6 casts I layed one out to a large carp headed straight towards the boat. One long strip, and pause, the fish chased. I bumped it  a few times, and let it settle. He charged it, flared his lips, and ATE the fly in eight inches of gin clear water, 10 feet from the bow of the boat. When the fish came tight, my leader was almost in the tip top. He rolled up on the surface and his big wide flank of gold shined in the morning sun. Steve let out an affirmative but understated, “NICE DUDE!”. I thought that fish would be in the net in a second. But as soon as the fish laid eyes on the boat, he turned tail and screamed away from us in a panic. He pulled the drag out smoking fast right to the backing, and then, NOTHING.

The line was dead. Fish off.

That was a good sign. Maybe the mayfly carp funk was over? Maybe the day would be better.

But it really wasn’t.

We fished the rest of the day, and found quite a few more fish on the various flats around garden and hog island. We found lots of lookers and one other hook up with accompanied LDR, but that was it. Maybe it was me? I dunno.

To save the day, and avoid being totally skunked, Steve took us to a known smallmouth hang out and we landed and dandy smallie. But it’s NOT why we go to Beaver Island. I love smallies but Beaver is about giant CARP — on the flats.

In Beaver’s defense, my skills just aren’t where they need to be, yet. You have to be able to know EXACTLY where the fly is, many times in choppy, wind-driven, water by watching where the end of your fly line is. You have to be able to move the fly the right way — one big strip, and then little bumps. You have to be able to put the fly in front of the fish in the right way, at the right depth, at the right time. And I’m just not there yet, it also helps to be a MONSTER caster, which I’m not. So really, it was probably , for the most, what I like to call operator error — me.

The fishing really compares to what I’ve read about Permit fishing, and no I’ve never landed a Permit, or even seen one in the wild.

It’s difficult and that’s what keeps us going back. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Kevin suggested maybe I should take up Steelheading in Washington State, it might be easier  🙂

Beaver_Smallie

I’ll be posting a series of posts about other aspects our trip to “the rock” as the locals call it, here in the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled.

The Trek-Tech Blog reviews the SmithFly Digi-Pouch and they like it.

The guys over on Trek Tech Blog put the Digi-Pouch through a couple months of tests and wrote a nice review of it. While not strictly fly-fishing it’s a great testament to the usefulness of our gear in extra-piscatorial activities. It’s a brave soul that straps his wife’s DSLR to his pontoon boat in a gear test, but I appreciate the faith in our gear! Pay them a visit to read the whole post.

 

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SmithFly Digi Pouch, $60, www.smithfly.net.

The Good: Keeps your DSLR and car keys dry as a bone. Room to boot.

The Bad: Still looking for it.

The Ugly: The light grey color doesn’t match the rest of my mint green and burnt orange fly fishing gear.

The SmithFly Digi Pouch is an 18 ounce roll top dry bag (6” Diam x 13.5” H) that is designed to accommodate a Digital SLR camera while on the water. Like the other modular pockets and packs designed by SmithFly, the Digi Pouch attaches to SmithFly’s base vest and waist packs utilizing the military derived MOLLE (pronounced “Molly”, like the lady) system.

Over a period of 3 months the Digi Pouch was strapped to my waist while wading through my favorite fishing grounds and to the side of my pontoon boat while punching through rapids. Though I do not typically carry a large heavy camera with me while fishing, I stole my wife’s DSLR and stowed it in the dry bag for testing purposes.

The Digi Pouch easily contained the Canon EOS Rebel XTi with the base 18-55 mm lens attached. The throat of the dry bag is very wide allowing the camera to be easily loaded and unloaded and the roll top portion of the bag is tall enough (10”; approx. 3 rolls worth) to give the user enough room to adequately seal the bag over large bulky items. The Digi Pouch provides complete brief submergence-proof dryness to your goods as long as the opening rim surfaces are clean and pressed firmly together while rolling the bag closed.

 

Proving Grounds Playground Earth – a SmithFly Cameo in an amazing web-i-sode adventure series.

At the risk of you all thinking I’m becoming a Gink Whore (which of course I am) I’m posting another link to the inimitable Gink and Gasoline today.

At min 1:57 you’ll see Louis rocking the Digi-Pouch on the Owyhee river. See I’m not making this stuff up, and neither are they.

They were sponsored by one of the “big guys” in the industry and had the pick of the litter when it comes to top notch gear packs bags etc. But what was he using on this adventure — his SmithFly Dii-Pouch. Word.

The other main point that I think this series “OFFICIALLY” marks is the addition of fly fishing into the pantheon of adventure sports. Its been a long time coming but fly fishing is no longer viewed by the outside world as boring, or old fashioned, or stuffy, stodgy, uninteresting, or elitest. It’s becoming viewed as fun, fast, thrilling, breathtaking, adventurous, action packed, dramatic, inspiring, heady, and every bit as lunatic fringe sport as every other X Games event. Not that I think this “legitimizes” the sport of fly fishing or ads anything of value, just that the perception of the sport from the outside uniformed observer’s perspective is shifting, which is cool.

Oh, and we sent a Digi-Pouch over to the UK to carry a DSLR to the South Pole as well, on foot. Check out the Scott Expedition, and Studio Canoe for more info.

So yeah, later this year a SmithFly Digi-Pouch will be standing at the South Pole, so that’s cool.

 

 

Great Write up of the SmithFly Digi-Pack by Louis Cahill on Gink and Gasoline blog.

My butt, flats fishing in the Digi-Pouch, photo by Mrs. SmithFly.

My butt, flats fishing in the Digi-Pouch, photo by Mrs. SmithFly.

Louis Cahill, photographer and fly fisherman extraordinaire has a great write up on the SmithFly Digi-Pack. I think the “changed my life” part may be a bit of hyperbole, but overall I think he likes it… what do you think? See quote below.

Full text on the Gink and Gasoline Blog.

EVERY NOW AND THEN A PRODUCT COMES ALONG THAT CHANGES YOUR LIFE.

An innovation that suits your needs so exactly that you wonder if you’ve been talking in your sleep. Some gadget, like your iPhone, that leaves you wondering how you lived without it.

Well, I have been talking. For some time and not in my sleep, to every manufacturer of fishing packs I know about making a truly waterproof pack that I can trust and is large enough to carry my camera. No one listened.

As it turned out though, I was not the only one thinking about this problem. While I was talking to the big guys, a clever fellow in Ohio by the name of Ethan Smith was solving my problem. There in the shop at Smithfly, Ethan was changing my life.

As you might guess I carry an insane amount of gear when I’m on the water. Along side my fishing pack with its six fly boxes, eight spools of tippet, split shot, line dressing, water bottle, net, and so on, there are two Nikon DSLRs, an array of lenses, a flash, batteries, data cards, lens cloth and the kitchen sink.

This all started out in a backpack containing a waterproof Pelican case that weighed forty pounds. Try hiking, wading and fishing with that for a day. Not only was it killing me but it took forever to get to my camera and I missed too many shots. I eventually discovered small dry bags made for kayakers and they were an improvement but I had to carry four of them and they were so small that I couldn’t carry the camera with the lenses I wanted on it. I had to assemble the camera, in the river, every time I took it out of the bag.

Then I discovered the Smithfly Digi Pouch. The Digi Pouch is a super heavy duty dry bag that offers not only safety for your gear but amazing versatility. It works as part of the Smithfly modular system and attaches securely to the Smithfly Switch Belt. The system is brilliant in its simplicity.