Latest Angler Trends Media Report has just released its latest angler trends media report, covering May-June 2013. The results are captured in the graphic below.

It’s interesting but should be obvious that the top two types of items purchased are flies and tippets. Those are basically consumables that have to be replaced as previous purchases are used up (tippets) or lost (flies). Rods and reels in comparison represent about one-third the percentage purchases of flies and tippets. That’s to be expected given the several orders of magnitude (100X) differences in price. What wasn’t reported, at least in the publicly available report, was where those items are purchased.

The perceptions of many commentators I’ve read, and believe, is that most purchases of flies and tippets are done locally, but many purchases of rods and reels are done online, where prices are better, taxes are avoided, or there’s something free thrown in (e.g., a fly line on a reel). The challenge for local fly shops is to capture as much of those 20% of sales (rods and reels) as possible. Or we will soon lose more local business – in this case our local fly shops.

Angler Trends May to June 2013

Strikes, But No Sets

Lower Low

Last Sunday I spent the last hour of an ebbing tide fishing at a local state park beach that I had not fished before. In that time I had at least 6 firm strikes on my popper with two to three other probable, but was unable to land any of them.

That in itself isn’t remarkable or noteworthy. Many fly fishers get strikes but don’t get the hook set before the fish looks for a meal elsewhere.

What was remarkable to me was the frequency of the strikes indicating the fish were there. Failure to land could have been timing, technique, or fly size.

The popper had a size four hook and it’s possible the fish weren’t getting the hook far enough into their mouths. But I’ve seen photos of small fish with large flies (and hooks) in their mouths, so I think that can be discounted.

Timing is the same as in fresh water: feeling the fish take the fly and then setting the hook. There was wind on Sunday and I was using a floating line in the very shallow water and it’s possible I was missing the first tug due to the rippled water. But that’s too easy an explanation.

That leaves technique, or lack of it, as cause. The standard technique for setting the hook with fresh water species is the rod set: feel the strike and quickly raise the rod on the tight line, setting the hook. In saltwater, a strip strike is used: the rod is kept pointed at the fish and line is stripped to set the hook. The strip strike is thought to be more effective with the harder jaws of saltwater fish. I did see one of the strikes at the surface. It was a small eight inch or so cutthroat trout. Given that, I think I should have been successful with a rod set.

That I wasn’t means I didn’t maintain tension while stripping in of the line. After I got home and thought about it, I recognized I wasn’t using my rod hand and line hand in proper sequence. As I was stripping I released the line pressure with my rod hand. Then, as I came to the end of a strip (short or long) I should have used the index or middle finger of my rod hand to maintain a tight line as I repositioned my line hand for another strip.

The obvious cure for that is practice, practice, and more practice.

And the noteworthy thing? To me it was that I was having a blast even without landing a fish. The excitement of feeling a connection with a living thing at the end of my fly line was incredible as always. It’s been the same every time whether I bring the fish in or not. I think it’s the sense of connecting with something natural and wild.

So it was a good day of fishing. I had fun and I taught myself a lesson.

Still next time I think I will use a smaller fly.

The Rod Maker’s Journey

Tom Morgan is a custom rod builder, and is the former owner of Winston Fly Rods (1975-1981) where he built the reputation of Winston rods first in bamboo, then in fiberglass and graphite. But he is more than a good businessman; he is an artist of the highest order. To own a Tom Morgan rod, which I do not, is to hold an object of art that links one back to a tradition of master craftsmen.

Tom Morgan would be renowned as a fly rod maker alone, but what makes his life special transcends the mechanical aspects of rod building. For you see, Tom Morgan has Multiple Sclerosis and hasn’t touched one of the rods he builds in many, many years. The rod building is done by his wife Gerri Carlson and two other workers. She is now the master craftsman of Tom Morgan rods – a journey that started with her knowing nothing about rod building when she met Tom.

And in addition to demands of filling the orders that come in from around the world, Gerri takes care of her husband through the daily struggles of supporting someone unable to do even the simplest of things most of us take for granted. From shaving to the “poop wars”, she embodies unconditional love.

There is a remarkable article about Tom and Gerri on ESPN.COM. It is inspiring and touching. Read it and think about the tears in Tom’s eyes as he watches a friend cast, wishing he could pick up a fly rod and cast just one more time. And read about the remarkable woman who loves him and builds Tom Morgan rods.

The article is located here.

Fly Box Simplication – A Status Update


I had a previous post about using Plano boxes as fly warehouses – from which individual flies are pulled for the day’s fishing (see post here)

I wanted to report on what I’ve found.

I started with my saltwater flies, as I have a smaller assortment for sea-run cutthroat trout fishing than I do freshwater fishing.

I decided to put everything into the same box and organize by the same fly type, e.g., all baby chum salmon patterns in the same slot; all euphasilids (shrimp-like crustaceans), and so on. I did put my clouser minnows in different slots as I had a number of each color; if I got more flies I would probably combine them in a couple of slots.

I think the Plano boxes for saltwater flies – at least mine – is a terrific organizing tool. Admittedly, I keep a group of the flies I most use in a small box in my sling pack. But it’s good to know I can keep everything else in one place and if needed could just bring the Plano box to the beach.

I’ve not been as satisfied with my organization of freshwater flies. I’ve not yet figured out an approach that works with the array of flies. I think part of the problem is that I’ve accumulated those flies over a number of years without much of plan. So, for example, I‘ve got bunches of Parachute Adams but only a few Stimulators. Then I’ve got weird numbers of sizes – sometimes too many sizes; other times not having enough.

The more I think about it, a better approach for my freshwater flies would be to go through and toss out the old ones; then determine what I want to keep. As it is, freshwater fishing will be less of a priority given the nearness of the Puget Sound beaches. And when I do make the drive over to the Yakima, I can stop by one of the local shops and pick up a bunch for what’s working.

So maybe this is just an intellectually empty exercise – at least for my freshwater flies. But then again, it’s still thinking about fly fishing.

The Closing

I’ve made mention in previous posts about our move to Gig Harbor. The house was ours on the first of July.  We started hauling boxes over immediately. Movers brought over the big items (e.g., beds and furniture) the following weekend. Last week we cleared out the storage locker we used during the “decluttering and staging” we had done in preparation for selling our Kent house. That means our Gig Harbor house finally has everything we own in it. Plus, it seems for some period of time, storage boxes, as we adjust to new realities in closets and rooms.

This past Friday the buyers of our Kent house finally closed with the recording of the deed. They own the house and we now have only our new one. Everything has been closed.

Closing is a term used in the western of the United States to indicate when the parties in a real estate sale complete the transaction under the supervision of a trusted agent (escrow officer); documents are signed and any funds needed to complete the transaction are collected. Interestingly, as it was something I didn’t know, that in the eastern part of the U.S., it’s called settlement and is handled by a settlement agent.

But did we really close something?

In both a literal and figurative sense we did.  Obviously, we closed (completed) the financial transaction discussed above. And figuratively, we closed out a part of our lives in a place we no longer live.

A good many things will be missed, but not all.

We’ll miss our neighbors – some of whom I didn’t get to know as well as I should in all the years we lived there. The excellent arts program run by the city of Kent, which gave me a chance to see the East Village Opera Company and Roger McGuinn. The routes we developed to walk our dogs or for me to go running. A few very nice groceries and restaurants – specifically Paolo’s. QFC and Nature’s Market – both for their quality vegetables and fruits; the latter for an excellent variety of supplements. And the noise of children on their way to and from school buses – marking the end and the beginning of summer.

While many of the above are close enough for a visit, it’s never the same. Stepping away from a place even for a time means only coming back as a visitor. It’s like going back to the house you grew up in. It’s never quite the same.

Fewer words are needed for won’t be missed: one neighbor for the large numbers of cars in varying states of repair cycled between curb and driveway; the tedious routes endured on the daily drive to work; the tired and increasingly tiresome array of chain restaurants (mostly fast-food) that were close by; and the way in which the main floor of our Kent house became unbearble when outside temperatures reached even only the high seventies.

So this reflection is the final close of that chapter of life.

The new chapter has begun.  We live in a house we like in an area we’ve wanted to live. I can be standing in salt water casting my rod not more than three miles from where I live. Our new neighbors seem nice. I’ve started my list of things to be fixed or upgraded in the new house. And the drive to work – while long – isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. As in all things, there will be the good, the bad, and the things to be endured.

But the last three months of moving are over. It’s time to get back to fly fishing.