Ecuador Fly Fishing at Orvis Happier Hour

     Recently I had the opportunity to attend Orvis of Madison's Happier Hour.  For those of you out of the loop, Happier Hour is a monthly free seminar/talk that they hold the 2nd Thursday at 5:30pm.  This months speaker was Javier Guevara from Ecuador Fly Fishing Tours.  He leads affordable fly fishing trips throughout the U.S., Mexico and Central America.  His talk covered a lot of information not only about his trips, but also techniques for trout, tarpon, peacock bass, and the formidable payara.  I learned so much about the rigging, flies, and presentations, that at the end of the seminar I was literally speechless.  I couldn't come up with a single question to ask him since my brain was still trying process just how cheap his trips were.
     A big thank you to Orvis of Madison for putting on this event.  If you're interested in learning more about Javier's fly fishing trips check out his website here.  To find out what's going on with Orvis of Madison and the line up of Happier Hour speakers check out the website or give them a call at (608) 831-3181.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.

Which Native Watercraft Propel Kayak is Right for You?

     So which Native Watercraft Propel driven kayak should I buy? 

     This is the question I've been fielding ever since I wrote the post on the new Ultimate FX Propel.  The answer in my mind is pretty simple.  For me I would (did) buy the Slayer 13 Propel.  My reasoning is very straight forward, I occasionally fish the Great Lakes.  For those of you who haven't spent time on Lake Michigan, the chance of flipping over in the cold water is ever present.  From my point of view the scupper holes on the Slayer Propel make it the better choice.  That "better choice" is my opinion though and it may not matter in the slightest to you.
     When you look at the two boats on paper they are really close in both carrying capacity and size.  The differences are much more apparent though when you view them side by side.  The Slayer Propel is a sit on top and the Ultimate FX Propel is a sit inside.  That means you get a dryer and lighter ride in the Ultimate, but you get an unsinkable boat in the Slayer Propel.  I don't see many scenarios when a kayak angler would have to worry about flipping something as stout as the Ultimate FX Propel, but if you frequent the Great Lakes or the ocean I think the Slayer Propel is the better choice.  For many anglers that won't even be an issue so the Ultimate FX Propel would make sense, but for me I just don't want to risk it when out on big bodies of water.
     That's about it for my thoughts on which is the better boat.  If you frequent bodies of water which could put you in situations where flipping the kayak comes with the territory buy the Slayer Propel.  If flipping isn't an issue where you fish pick up the Ultimate FX Propel.  Neither boat from Native Watercraft will disappoint it's owner, they are just built to do different things well.  To check out my review on the Native Watercraft Slayer Propel follow the link here.  To read my thoughts on the Native Watercraft Ultimate FX Propel follow this link.  The best thing you could do is get a hold of your local paddle shop and test paddle both of them.  That is the only way you'll figure out which of these two amazing kayaks is right for you.
     Tight Lines.

Learning to Troll the Great Lakes

     As many of you are probably aware, trolling is not a technique I have much luck with.  I find it extremely boring and really cumbersome.  Tending multiple rods, maintaining consistent speeds, and keeping track of how different lures are running drives me crazy.  Still you can't argue with the advantages.  Lures stay in the strike zone longer.  You can cover ridiculous amounts of water.  Also the options that you have when running multiple lines at once is amazing.  I've decided that this year I'm gonna make an effort to really learn how trolling works, so I ended up in Illinois this weekend at a free seminar put on by the Lake Michigan Angler tackle shop.
     This was my first time to ever step foot into this shop and to say it was overwhelming would be an understatement.  This shop has everything a dedicated Great Lakes angler needs to catch fish.  Whether you're an accomplished charter captain or a weekend warrior they have the knowledge and know how to get you on the fish.  It was an amazing place to visit and the staff was some of the most courteous and friendly I've ever met.  I perused the aisles taking in the myriad of lure options, filled up my coffee cup, and headed into the back room to take in a 3 hour seminar on trolling for spring salmon.
     The seminar was presented by Frank Juzwik.  He is one of those anglers that has been on the Great Lakes so long that he could probably catch fish in his sleep.  His presentation was well laid out and it included everything from how to find the fish, to seasonal weather patterns, and he had a ton of tips for rigging/tackle selection.  I learned more about dodgers, dipsy divers, and down riggers, in those 3 hours than I can even remember.  We covered every setup and technique imaginable from simple flat lining to managing a 9 rod spread.  It was an amazing presentation and it was FREE.  I will definitely be attending more of these seminars in the future and I can't wait to put some of the techniques I learned into practice out on the water.  To learn more about the shop or to attend one of their upcoming seminars check out the link here.
     Tight Lines.

The Great Wild Radio Show Interview

     Last weekend I took a break from my crazy schedule to do an interview with Gary "The $hooter" N-ski.  Gary is the host for the Great Wild Radio Show a broadcast radio program featured on multiple stations from Kansas to Canada.  We talked for a bit about what I'm up to, the Madison Musky School, and angling in general.  One of my favorite things about his radio show is its hosted podcasts on Podcast Garden.  I encourage everyone to take a listen and subscribe to the link here.
     Tight Lines.

Native Watercraft Ultimate FX Propel 13 Review

     Unless you've been away at sea or living under a rock you're probably aware that Native Watercraft has revamped their kayak line for 2016.  The reintroduction of the Manta Ray is making waves due to it's low price point.  The original Ultimate has been put back on the market at the request of paddlers dedicated to the ownership of the kayak that really put Native Watercraft on the map.  For me however the most exciting news to come out of North Carolina is the introduction of a brand new kayak platform for the Propel drive system.  It's called the Ultimate FX Propel and recently, I got to see it in person.
     The Ultimate FX Propel is a boat that was designed from the ground up.  Although it's hull design and overall look are based on the Ultimate FX if you see them side by side it becomes apparent that you are looking at something totally new.  This new kayak needed to be more than an Ultimate FX with a pedal drive to function on the water.  So after lots of testing, retesting, and then testing some more, this is what you get.  Let's take a look at the spec sheet.

  • 13 foot 6 inches in total length
  • 32.5 inches wide
  • 13 inches deep
  • 79 pounds fitted hull (empty)
  • 98 pounds fully rigged (seat and propel installed)
  • 400 pound carrying capacity
  • Thwart Box, Hatch Cover, and First Class Seating stock
     These specifications make this boat a great addition to the line up.  It fills a void between the Ultimate FX 12 and the Slayer Propel 13.  It's definitely not a replacement for either of these models, more of a compliment to the best features of both.
     Taking a more in depth look at this boat tells a little bit more of the story.  A roomy sit in cockpit allows for a dry and stable ride.  This kayak doesn't have the high/low First Class seating that other boats in the FX line enjoy.  It is still a fully adjustable First Class seat, but with the inclusion of the pedal drive it has to be able to adjust fore and aft to accommodate different leg lengths.  The Ultimate FX Propel also features a roomy open front hull design that allows for ample storage.  You can see from the photo that you are able to store a full size paddle (broken down) in the cockpit. It also includes a water bottle holder conveniently molded into the cover on the Propel drive hatch.  Rudder control is left of the seat just like the Slayer so it feels intuitive and familiar when using.  The Ultimate FX Propel also features lots of mounting tracks in the front, sides, and back of the kayak to accommodate accessories from Ram Mounts or Yak Attack.  Of course all the Native Watercraft accessories you currently own will work with this kayak as well.
     A great new feature is the integrated transducer mount on the bottom of the kayak.  It allows your expensive transducer to be drawn up inside the hull to protect it from damage.  It even has a wire pass through and a molded battery box below the pedal drive.  This is the first kayak from Native Watercraft that seems to be purpose built for the angling enthusiast.  It even has a new hard sided thwart box that is included with the purchase of the kayak.  The thwart box is a stand alone tackle management system that utilizes the track system on the Ultimate Propel 13.  It has 2 rocket launcher style rod holders and could be used to store tackle, shoved full of ice and beverages, or add an aerator and it can keep the bait alive.  The thwart boxes slim design still makes it possible to carry a fishing crate when out on the water.  As I said before, it seems to have been laid out with the kayak angler in mind.
     As you can see from the photos this new kayak from Native Watercraft is a well thought out addition to the line up.  It definitely fills the gap between the Ultimate FX and the Slayer Propel series well.  You get a wonderful angling or even recreational platform for the money.  The Ultimate FX Propel 13 starts out around $2,700.00 depending on your dealer.  You can't really go wrong purchasing this kayak.  The real question now is which Propel model of kayak should you buy, the Slayer or the Ultimate?  I'll cover my thoughts on that question in a future post.
     Tight Lines.

Wendell Webb LOTW Seminar

     Monday was the monthly meeting of the Capital City Chapter of Muskies Inc.  I've been a member for a number of years now and a big reason I continue is because of the excellent speakers they bring in each month.  This time it was Operation Muskie angler Wendell Webb.  He gave a nice presentation about dealing with post frontal conditions on Lake of the Woods (LOTW) in Canada.  LOTW is amazing, and this would have been great information to have before my trip last fall.  Mr. Webb shared some great tips for finding cold front muskies and was also nice enough to open up his tackle box and show us some rigging tricks he uses when chasing finicky fish.  I don't want to give away all his secrets, but here are a couple points he made in the seminar.
  • Downsize your lure offering.
  • Increase your hook up percentage by swapping out the hooks.
  • Move off the rocks and look for the weeds.
     Want to know the rest?  Then you'll need to get your local chapter of Muskies Inc. to book Mr. Webb as a speaker.  He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Esox pursuit, especially on LOTW.  For more on the Capital City Chapter of Muskies Inc. follow the link here.  If you're interested in the good works accomplished by Operation Muskie click this link here.
     Tight Lines.

Native Watercraft Ultimate FX Propel 13 Video Walk Thru

     Over the weekend I finally got the chance to see the newest offering from Native Watercraft.  I have been dreaming of getting my hands on one of these boats since I joined their Pro Staff last season.  I made up this quick video walk thru of the boat at Canoecopia before the expo got underway Sunday morning.  I'll have a more detailed post with photos turning up on these pages first thing Wednesday.  Until then check out the video below and be sure to stop by Native Watercraft's website to see the entire line of kayaks and kayak related accessories.
     Tight Lines.

A Couple Last Minute Updates

     This weekend is Canoecopia at the Alliant Energy Center and the Slayer will be on display in the Native Watercraft booth.  I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to finish a couple of the things I had been putting off over the cold winter months.  Some of these are actual upgrades, some are updates, and one is totally for cosmetics.
     I started it all off by replacing the seat cover on my First Class seat.  For those that are not aware Native Watercraft has updated the material and color for their kayak accessories to a really nice grayish weave.  Since my seat cover had numerous rips and a few cut off hooks in it I thought it would be nice to replace it.  It is purely cosmetic because it uses the same seat frame and has the same padding as the original, but I love the way it looks so I'm more than happy with it.
     The second update is more of an upgrade.  The 2016 Slayers come with a great new cup/rod holder next to the seating position.  I loved the idea of having cup holder that wasn't on the floor of the kayak, especially when fly fishing.  I ordered one of these directly from the factory and replaced my original rod holder with the cup/rod holder combo.  This freed up my old flush mount rod holder to be installed behind my seat.  I'll use this rod holder a lot when trolling for muskies.
     Speaking of muskies, the final upgrade was a set of Supernova Fishing Lights.  I've wanted some lights in the cabin of my kayak and under the hatch for a while now.  In fact I ordered the lights last summer, but never got around to installing them.  I went with two of the 4 LED strips in red and wired them into a switch under the front hatch.  The red lights are more than bright enough to use for knot tying, and it should cut down on the temporary night blindness I currently experience when using a headlamp.  The installation was really simple and they don't use much in the way of battery power.  To find out more about the Supernova Fishing Lights line of products follow the link here.
     That's it for kayak upgrades this season as far as I can tell.  If you get the chance swing by Canoecopia this weekend.  I'll be giving some presentations on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  I will also be in the Native Watercraft booth most of the weekend to answer any questions you may have about the kayaks or fishing in the Madison area.  Hope to see you there!
     Tight Lines.

Vibrations Tackle and the 2016 AIMTM (Anglers Insight Marketing) Weekend Walleye Series

     One of my sponsors (Vibrations Tackle) recently announced that they will be the first lure sponsor signing on for the 2016 AIMTM Weekend Walleye Series.  This is a great tournament series here in the Midwest for walleye anglers to compete in.  The past few seasons have shown that the Echotail lure has been extremely effective in tournament fishing and they are really excited to be on board for the 2016 season.  For the official press release follow the link here.  To learn more about Vibrations Tackle and the Echotail line of lures follow the link here.
     Tight Lines.

Don't Tie What You Can Buy

A popular carp pattern I can't purchase locally, despite how many times I've asked for it.
     Whenever I attend a fly tying class or seminar I get laughs as soon as this phrase comes out of my mouth.  You see many fly anglers learn very quickly that they either love to tie flies or they don't.  I fall into the later category as many of you already know, but I see real value in learning to tie.  I just don't see any value in tying flies that I can readily purchase.
     For me I spend time tying flies that I can't get at a local shop.  I am of the belief that if I can support a shop in my area by purchasing the flies that already exist then I should.  That is how many local shops stay in business after all.  Sure they love the big sale they get when somebody stops in and buys a new rod, but it's usually all the little purchases that keep the lights on in the long run.  So if you want to make sure your local shop stays open buy the common patterns from them, they will surely appreciate it.
     Another reason to only tie what you can't buy is cost.  I'm not talking about the dollar it costs you pick up a black Wolly Bugger or a couple Parachute Adams.  I'm referring to what your time costs.  My time is special to me, to my family, to my clients, to my business.  When you run the numbers it is almost impossible to tie the workhorse patterns cheaper than you purchase them.  For most of us when we sit down at the bench we are immediately losing money.  I'm not saying it isn't relaxing or enjoyable, just that it isn't cost effective.
     Some of you are probably thinking that I'm delusional at this point.  Many are thinking, "By learning how to tie the classic nymph and streamer patterns I'm becoming a better tier."  To be fair though I never said not to learn how to tie these patterns.  I said, don't tie the ones you can buy.  A quick Google search of nymph patterns gave me hundreds of effective flies to learn to tie that I can't buy locally.  These nymph patterns will teach me the same skills that I would learn tying a Pink Squirrel.  The only difference is I can run over to Orvis of Madison or Cabelas and buy a Pink Squirrel.  It makes more sense for me to search online for a different bead head nymph pattern that would be just as effective and then buy the materials needed to tie that pattern.
     So the next time you sit down at your fly bench or are considering a materials purchase to tie a big batch of streamer patterns consider just buying the patterns you need.  Your local shop will thank you, and so will the local economy.  Plus if you force yourself to learn new patterns or even just color variations on the classics you'll probably catch more fish.  Because every brown trout in the Driftless has already fallen for a Pink Squirrel.
     Tight Lines.

The Pedal Driven Kayak

Pedals make kayaking easier.
     "Look it has pedals!"
     This was a common phrase over the weekend in the Rutabaga Paddlesports booth at the WI Fishing Expo.  To be honest it has been a point of interest at every expo that I have attended this past year.  For those outside the world of kayak fishing, the pedal driven kayak is an amazing piece of engineering.  The ability to keep you boat moving without paddling, just blows peoples minds!  In fact I would guess that at least half of the questions I fielded over the weekend were directly related to the Propel drive on the my Native Watercraft Slayer.  The pedal driven kayak is here to stay.  Whether it's a Native Watercraft or a Hobie, new anglers to the sport love the pedal driven kayak.
The Native Watercraft and Hobie pedal driven kayaks ready to launch.
     The confusing thing is the view by many anglers inside the paddling community.  I have over heard on more than one occasion that some people see the use of a pedal driven kayak as cheating.  "Isn't the whole point of kayaking to paddle a boat?" they ask me.  I'm sure to some people, that pedaling a kayak might seem like cheating.  They are probably the same people that think using a fish finder is cheating.  We all know that using a fish finder doesn't make it any easier to catch fish.  Sometimes all a fish finder is good for is letting you know that the fish are around.  As a community I would think we could find other things to be concerned about when kayaking.  I would hate it if I ever heard about somebody being turned off from this sport because they were ridiculed for choosing to use a pedal driven kayak.
The ability to stand can the difference when out on the water.
     What you do get when fishing from a pedal driven kayak is convenience.  You can do a lot more with a pedal driven kayak when out on the water.  Trolling for example, is much easier when pedaling.  You can let out lines and keep a more consistent speed to stay in the zone when you're pedaling.  Also in tournament situations the speed of a pedal drive whether it's a Propel or a Mirage is hard not to notice when you head out across the water.  With minimal effort you can cover a lot of water using the biggest muscles in your body (legs).  Talk about an advantage.  I can go clear across the lake while eating a sandwich, or tying on a lure, then fish immediately with absolutely no arm fatigue.  Plus pedal driven boats are ridiculously stable.  This means that you can stand and fish much more easily in the current pedal driven kayaks then on most paddle kayaks on the market.  To me that's a huge advantage in kayak fishing.  Even the most comfortable seats kill my back after a few hours so I spend a lot of time standing when I fish from my Slayer.  The more comfortable the kayak is the more you will use it that's a given, but if you're a purist and still need a good reason to look at pedal drives consider this.
You can always paddle a kayak with pedal drive if you want to.
     You can paddle them!  Whether you fish from a Native Watercraft or a Hobie when you want to paddle them you have the option.  Doesn't matter how much you want to pedal a paddle kayak, you just can't do it.  For me that's a game changer on the water.  If I'm already gonna be in a small boat I want the boat with the most options.  The ability to paddle or pedal opens up tons of fishable water.  From little creeks, to big lakes, to the wide open ocean, you can use a pedal driven kayak in all of them.  So if you're thinking of dropping some money on a new kayak this season (Canoecopia perhaps), be sure to consider the pedal drives.
     Tight Lines.