Category Archives: product

While I’m skeptical if they say it’s good, I’ll always believe the brethren when they say it’s bad …

anti-mosquitoI remember his comment as if it was yesterday. “It attaches to your belt and emits anti-mosquito sound waves, keeping the bloodsucking pests off you without changing your genetic code with a generous dollop of DEET …”

Upon his return from the wilds of Alaska we were doubly quick to ask, “Well, how did the mosquito thing work?”

His reply was ominous, “I had to get a transfusion in Fairbanks, and another before leaving Sitka. Eventually I flung the contraption into the brine as we approached Seattle …

As I wander through the app store on the iPhone (which I’m testing for work), you can imagine my uncontained glee when finding an outdoor application

Despite the risk of carrying it strapped inside my waders, I can repel all manner of bloodsucking organisms, laughing all the while as I expose my nether regions to the impotence -  until my battery sputters and dies …

Which, I’ll guess, will be about seventeen feet from the parking lot.

I can only assume that “Kids-Safe Mode” is when you’re forced to give your own life to save your children.

You get a sudden waft of hot electronics, and press the phone into the midsection of the closest child, screaming, “Bobby, take your sister and RUN!” …

Wherein we profess a weakness for four letter fly rods .. and their makers

The entire idea of a much ballyhooed “lifestyle” brand is largely lost on me, my shortcoming entirely, nothing wrong with the rest of you. Guys love wearing other people’s advertising, and I don’t – insisting that Jim Beam pay me for the privilege.

( … and due to the vast expanse of my pasty and sodden flesh, it better be at billboard rates …)

But I get the idea in theory – whose intent suggests you like something enough to buy their other products, or recommend them across the board, or that you’re branding your arse cheeks with some companies logo because you are committed to their policies and neo-industrialist war mongering products …

Or there’s the nonchalant fly fishing variant, bastardized of any real nobility by changing it into a “support my feet up, beer swilling, fishing lifestyle by dumping large coin for my washed out tee shirt that we’ve emblazoned with a cool logo.”

Naturally all this is going through my head as I’m suddenly confronted with a rod company claiming it’ll sell me the graphite rod of my dreams for $233, featuring an extra tip, a case and sock, with the additional promise of weregonnadonate20%oftheproceedstothefish

Case, Sock, And Extra Tip

That’s rarified turf by any means, and I simply had to support them for no other reason than give Harvard Business School some heartburn …

So I ordered a 9’ #4 to replace my backup trout rod – which was starting to show the wear of real abuse, given its infancy rattling around the boat followed by rattling around the back of my truck.

The rod arrived in January and while both of us were largely idle, we managed to dance outside in between squalls and beat the lawn to smithereens. It felt responsive and supple, so we took it to the creek and tormented ourselves by roll casting over the late model Nissan’s breaking apart in the chocolate water …

Rise Instream  9ft #4

It’s a nicely apportioned rod, with a crisp action that smacks of the RPL III days of Sage. The picture above gives you a glimpse of black wraps on brown blank, and the simple block-letter label.

It has a simple “Made in China” label on the reel end, which made me pause not at all.

This is a fishing rod, not a garish streetwalker, this is that “lifestyle” tool that suggests, “if the #4 was rock solid, I bet the #7 is tasty too.”

… and it’s about time for an inexpensive rod that you’d feel brokenhearted if you sat on it sudden-like, but wouldn’t break you to replace it . It’s the rod you give your kid on his fourteenth birthday hoping he’ll take it up permanently, knowing the rod won’t be an issue until he’s expert … and then only maybe …

I equipped it with an LRH Lightweight which was a nice pairing

Sage-like action that I’d call  “crisp,” neither too slow or too fast to alter your casting stroke, and when you suddenly change direction because of a rising fish or low hanging limb, it responds quickly without feeling slow or overburdened.

With my known preferences on rod speed and recovery rates, it would be a #4.5 in your language. Enough power left in the spine to throw a #4 with authority, and it wouldn’t feel awkward with a line size heavier.

The fittings are sturdy and unremarkable, like the gleam of a new Craftsman hammer. Solid, business-like and competent.

Cork work was better than average – with few filled crevasses and no unsightly color mismatches.

Rise Instream #4 cork gripTypically a rod maker fills any gaps in a cork handle with sanded cork mixed with adhesive. Poor cork quality yields overly large areas that need to be repaired, and can result in a color mismatch, which persists as handling oils and dirt will color them slightly different due to the adhesive being present.

The largest crevasse in the handle is shown at right, about half an inch, the balance of the handle was immaculate. This is indicative of quality cork and quality control.

Rise Instream 4: Reel seat threading

If there’s any component on a fly rod worth cursing it’s the reel seat and its thread. You’re unwrapping a bad cast from the tip of the rod instead of the water, and while doing so – dragging your reel and reel seat in the sand on the bottom.

Rise Instream #4 Reel seat beautification trimNaturally we’ll find out it’s jammed once its black dark, the assembly rendered balky due to grit in the threads.

The Rise reel seat has a broad thread that made it difficult to tell whether it was sharp or dull (triangular or square thread), sure sign of some rounding. A single knurled sleeve fastens reel to reel seat – and while I’m more comfortable with the second locking sleeve, it’ll do on a light rod.

I may rethink that on the first 12 lb carp I hook – but for the moment I’m content …

The balance of the fixtures include a knurled hood imbedded under the cork to complete the remainder of the reel seat, shown above.

A Hook keeper, someone thought of me But the biggest surprise was finding that the low price included a hook keeper – which due to habit, I find to be an essential component of my scramble up banks, brazen dash through bramble thickets, and for quick and lazy disassembly of rods for that drive to the next hole.

Guides are two footed; two carbide, 7 snake, plus the tip.

Below is an example of the finish on one the largest carbide stripper. Laid on thickly as is customary, nothing out of the ordinary.

Rise Instream #4, Stripping Guide detail

Testing the four pieces of my rod shows the blank is not aligned on a single spline prior to the guides and grip being mounted. Two of four pieces  lined up, the remaining two placed the spline on the sides of the rod.

My preference is for all  component splines to line up, but as this is a hotly debated issue amongst rod makers, I’ll leave you to the opinions and mercy of your local rodmaking Sensei.

Buying a rod on another’s say so is a tremendous leap of faith, yet after four months of fiddling around trying to find something I don’t care for on the rod – the best I can do is the block lettering is unsuitable, fly fishing should have something light and airy – and in cursive …

All I’m suggesting is that the nice people at Rise have earned my admiration, mostly because I adore an action like those early Sage or Echo tapers.

… and while the rest of the crowd lusts after “hedge fund” rods from the perfumed darlings of yesteryear, I’ll stick to my Asian imports and continue to make payments on my house.

High priced painted strumpets we’ve got a plenty, and I’ll let their fanbois argue their respective merits, what’s been sorely needed is the “Craftsman” rod – a rod that costs commensurate with a hobby, a lifetime tool – one that won’t take a lifetime to pay off ..

Full Disclosure: I purchased the above Rise fly rod at full retail, which should have been $233, but I was volunteered to save New York state to the tune of eighteen dollars. It was later refunded.

Free Range Dubbing: Unless you’re looking at it in direct sunlight, you’re not seeing what I made for you

Free Range Label I figure my sudden foray into dubbing was like McDonald’s adding salads to an otherwise lard-based menu. How the lights abruptly dimmed and the sudden demand for lettuce left most of the country rediscovering Broccoli for their evening meal.

Like the gals and their hair extensions, I was unfazed that I emptied most warehouses of everything furry. I started with the wholesale furriers, worked my way through the local stuff and fur coats on eBay, and when I’d exhausted the obvious sources, I’d make the call to my contact at the SPCA to see what was chilling rapidly …

A couple of months worth of effort turned into the better part of a year’s worth of research, failed automation, test groups and test colors, research on color mixing, dyes … and worse, suddenly needing to find vast amounts of odd animals to include once refined to their final formula.

Failed automation meant having to do it all by hand in the kitchen. Meaning it’s been a lonely year – bread, water, and solitary confinement does that to a person …

All of this started off simply enough, a general indifference to the dubbing products available in today’s fly shop, most of which featured some sparkly synthetic as its only real quality. Absent from the shelves are the natural dubbings of the past; crafted to make it easy to apply on thread, or coarse so its stubbled profile resembles something comely, or all natural featuring aquatic mammals to make gossamer thin dry fly bodies.

Instead were pushed towards some glittering turd that is about as easy to dub as a Brillo pad, and sparkles like a perfumed tart.

So I brought the manicured styles back; finding in the process that few tiers are left with the skills to refine dubbing to specific tasks, fewer relay the ritual to print to teach others, and most new tiers are content with products the way they are as they’ve not been exposed to others. It’s as if the qualities of fur and the skills to turn them to our advantage are disappearing.

As mentioned in previous posts on dubbing, there are three distinct layers in a crafted dubbing, allowing you to insert distinct qualities as part of each layer’s construction. I’ve likened dubbing construction to a cigar, where the finished product contains binder, filler, and wrapper.

The Wrapper is the coarsest material, often made of animals with well marked guard hair, suitable for adding spike and shag to the finished blend.

The filler is often the coloring agent, made up of semi-coarse or semi-fine materials that comprise the bulk of the dubbing…

… and the binder is the softest component, which is often added in proportion to the filler and wrapper to hold all three layers together in a cohesive bundle.

Somewhere in all of this can be a fourth layer, not always present, that I call “special effects.” Shiny or sparkle, pearlescent or opalescent, some quality that natural materials lack which can be added to liven it with color or a metallic effect.


The Free Range Difference

What I’ve constructed is a dubbing designed to assist both beginner and expert tiers by including specific desirable qualities that should belong in any quality nymph dubbing:

Ease of Use: The material isn’t unruly nor possessed of qualities of some Brillo-style gaudy synthetic. The soft binder layer entraps the spiky wrapper and makes dubbing the fur onto the thread easy.

Sized for 8 – 16 hooks: All the fibers present in each color have been sized to best fit your most common sizes of nymphs. That means you won’t be yanking too many overly long fibers out of your dubbing, or off the finished flies, as even the multiple guard hairs used have been chosen for length as well as coloration.

Minimal Shrinkage When Wet: The fibers of the filler layer, which comprise the largest part of the dubbing as well as most of the color, are chosen for their curl, so they will maintain their shape wet or dry, and what proportions leaves your vise will be retained when the fly is soaking wet.

Blended Color versus Monochrome: Each of the colors is the result of between 5 and 11 different materials, each with different shades and tints that add themselves to make the overall coloration. Like Mother Nature, whose insects are never a uniform color, each pinch yields a bit of unique in every fly tied.

Spectral Coloration: The special effects of each are often synthetic spectral color components, containing a range of colors that are sympathetic with the overall blend color.

Only Buggy Colors: We chose to concentrate our colors into traditional insect hues leaving the lightly used colors out of the collection. Most fly tiers have a drawer filled with colors that are rarely used, we’d prefer to focus on the “money” colors like olive and brown.

Rather than a single color of Olive, we’ll offer a half dozen olives – as they’re far more useful than coral pink or watermelon. We’ve done the same for brown and gray, and even added effects to make more than a single black.

Food-based Names: Everyone knows that colors named with food references are twice as tasty to fish. We got’em, they don’t – ’nuff said.

Twice as much: Earlier in the research phase of the project I discovered the average dubbing vendor now only gives you 0.91 of a gram with 2 grams of brightly painted cardboard. I’ll give you a couple grams of goodie, and a biodegradable slip of paper instead …

Free Range Dusky Olive

What it isn’t …

It’s not going to leap onto your thread unassisted, nor will it make your fingers less tacky and curb your propensity to grab too much. It’s not some painted harlot made gaudy by too much color. Special effects are nearly invisible to the eye, representing about 2% of the fiber, and until the fur is moved into direct sunlight, only then can you see the refractive elements that make the mix glow and sparkle.

Naturally once someone says, “ … and the trout see …” Everything past that is a leap of faith. Millions of nice fellows have roused from their cups to pound  table and insist trout love something or other. This entire collection is my sermon on colors and textures, imbued with everything I hold sacred.

Until I can get some automation in place this is more a labor of love than  profit. I managed to incur some fierce loyalties to the end result from many of the folks testing, and with a new season about to debut and them tying to make up for lost time, they’re looking for me to live up to my end of the bargain.

I have 20 colors completed and am planning about 10 additional colors to fill gaps. Most of the Olives and Browns and Grays are completed already, I just need to see what I reach for that isn’t there.

Yes, we’re a bit ahead of our supply lines still, but the season starts next weekend, and I can’t have you feeling naked and resentful. I figure after a couple trips into the season I’ll know exactly what’s missing.

If you would like a sample of the dubbing, drop me a note. I’ll put something in there you’ll like and you can send me a stamped envelope to cover my expenses …

The Graphite rod with the curves of a woman

I didn’t know much of anything when I saw first saw it, now I’m not sure I know more, but I’ve certainly scratched my head enough.

Knowing that the only truism about “advances” in [insert angling gadget here] science, is that whatever the manufacturer claims can be discarded immediately. It’s up to all them other fellows who’ve laid hands on product to pick the proper tone for the superlatives … as that’s all we ever hear in any product testimonials.

But they’ve still been able to fling the SOB, and reading between the obvious gushing prose and the overtly favorable yields some small barometric differences.

Certainly an “S” shaped rod is a bit of an oddity, and knowing that the maker would have 17 reasons why it was twice as good as a straight rod, I was hoping I’d have that “ahah” moment before I read his line of speculative logic so I could follow that esoteric principle of physics which was being exploited.

I briefly entertained particle physics and quantum theory, but the fit seemed just a bit forced.

Global Dorber Ultra Wave

Seventeen guides on a five weight was easy enough to swallow, given the manufacturers belief that more friction resulted in the fly line touching the blank than anything or anywhere else in the cast. That’s plenty of epoxy and extra weight, but I could follow the scent of the physics – and could therefore nod sagely enough.

A couple of reviews suggested what most reviews do, it was great, mostly awesome, and everything else ever cast was now obsolete, landfill even.

Naturally the forums were quick to Pooh-Pooh everything – as forums are wont to do. Something about anonymity and someone else’s mother always breeds courage …

But having seen all this before, and not having one to fling to offer anything actually learned, I kept fixating on the unknowns and what it couldn’t do …

I’d love to see what the rod tube looked like. I wondered how I could toss it into a truck bed, or lash it to a pack frame, and mostly I wondered how all the scientific data suggested I needed a double recurve in the rod so I could fling enormous gouts of five weight, into a stiff wind, given that 95% of the time I’m fishing at 35 feet or less?

But that’s my fishing, which differs from the manufacturer, and all those stalwarts that fish polar ice caps, forest fires, and really arduous geography.

I figured those self same stalwarts insisted on the technology because all their aging bamboo fleet had kinks, sets, and curves rivaling women, and naturally they were homesick.

Asymmetric is a tough road to hoe, evidenced by the continued fervor over whether to match segment splines or no. Most of us have an elliptical casting stroke, because straight back brings the fly in line with them precious eyeballs. An asymmetric rod with an semi-oval casting motion and you’re going to have a rod release or jump where you’ve never had one before.

I’ll wait a bit and read more – it’s certain that it’ll foster additional forum based hot air, and perhaps we’ll all be enlightened.

Considering I’ve only got twenty good years left, I figured two would be enough

It was simply the best fly line ever made, and if you were a bamboo junkie your heart broke on the announcement of their demise. The best plastic facsimile to the silk fly line, with a finer tip than any line before or since …

… that self-same tip that won’t float more than six inches unless you curse it with much vigor..

It shoots twice as far as a conventional line, and the brace on the table and message from the owner, below is testament to their being hoarded forever.


… and making the generous fellow that had a few remaining, my new best friend.

Masterline brochure Page 1

There may be a few more available, if interested drop the nice man a note.

I have a stash of old vintage Masterlines that I am going to part with. They are the Sunset Line and Twine Formula F series. Sunset is the firm that distributed Masterlines in the USA . It is my understanding that the Formula F is the identical line to the Masterline Chancellor which is the mid-grade line under the Chalkstream. However, these lines are available in creamy white (called foam white by Masterline) and olive (called surface green by Masterline) where the Chalkstream was available in grey only.  The olive lines I had have all been sold.  These are beautiful lines and some of the best casting lines ever made. I feel these lines are specialty lines that are excellent for spring creeks and rivers like the Henry’s Fork as they are not super high floaters. What they lack in high buoyancy, they make up in performance. These lines are thinner and have greater density than regular plastic lines. So, they cast really nice. They also have fine tips. They are probably the closet thing to silk. I am selling them at $50 per line, plus shipping. Considering the price of new modern line ranges from $60 to $70 and that I have seen the Chancellor selling as high as $135 online, I feel the price is more than fair. These vintage lines are new (never used) and include the original label wrapped around the line. I have the creamy white and some olive in DT4 and DT5.  The olive have all been sold.  If you are interested, please let me know via email at soon as I do not expect these lines to last long. I will accept check or money order and a 3 day inspection period.  Ideally, I would like these lines to go to people who are familiar with them and would enjoy them.

Masterline Page 2

I would guess these are late 80’s (early 90’s) vintage. Note the “No Silicone” warning on the above sheet. Standard DEET based insect repellants will make the surface instantly tacky, wash repellant off immediately.

… and reading the above now you understand why the new Scientific Anglers textured lines are mentioning golf balls.

Don’t let the age bother you, these lines are as supple as the day they were spewed through the extruder.

Sure Titanium is expensive, but is it even capable of a patina?

Your balky recalcitrant gate is merely prolonging the suffering. You took the easy path last weekend opting to ignore chores and familial responsibilities in favor of the NFL Pro Bowl – or worse yet the NFL Combine, and now the missus has your elbow clenched tightly to her as she strolls the flea market gushing over damask tablecloths and window treatments …

… which she really doesn’t care for, but knows it tortures you horribly …

Suddenly your practiced eye seizes on the top of half of a split cane something-or-other, and as your gaze follows the carefully spaced thread windings to the table, you see that aging Hardy Perfect next to a few other reels – most adorned with the patina of the last century.

Naturally your spouse is pulled clean out of her shoes while you hustle over to the kid manning the booth, and while his mom empties the arse-end of an aging station wagon onto the table, you’re left hefting a Pre-War Perfect and some level wind contraption called a “Ustonson Original Multiplying Winch” …

With only a sawbuck to your name, the quick glance at your spouse confirms you’re no longer on speaking terms, and when she starts boxing your ears later – it’ll sure seem like she’s a multiplying-wench, so do you lay down for the Perfect knowing that it’s enormous value should console her briefly even though you’d never sell it?


-via the Angling Times

While a 3 5/8” Perfect would nicely appoint a Spey rod, you just missed purchasing what many consider to be the most expensive reel in the world, valued at about $50,000.

… assuming you ever found out what you’d passed up, just keep it to yourself. Confessing to the Missus would merely require you to serve both sentences consecutively, instead of at the same time.

I’d rather have an intelligent rod than a smart phone

Tomy Virtual Fishing Rod The smart phone revolution allows us practiced urbanites the luxury of ignoring both our fellow man and the world around us. We get to demonstrate to others how small our existence has become, as we grimace and mutter in digital isolation, sparing us the uncomfortable interaction with others on the bus bench nearby, or ignoring that old lady and her sacks of groceries, assuming it’s someone else’s problem.

While the successful feign their importance, us fishermen can brandish hand held virtual fishing rods, giggling as the phone crowd place their faith in four square inches of glowing screen; ignoring parked cars, a quick bath in a sidewalk fountain, and walk without hesitation into oncoming traffic …

Instead we can put out someone’s eye when the subway lurches forward, trading tweets, twits, and chirps, for whirring gears and a vibrating handful singing the lament of big fish and too little backing.

Not to mention the convenience of shape, allowing you to park your sandwich on the main stem should you hook something requiring both hands to subdue.

Makes me wonder just how compelling Tenkara is – given how quickly all these Japanese fishing appliances dump the rod and retain the reel …

Coldstream Outfitters, I buy because Ma says so

The roots of change always seems to start with a couple of old guys whose ardor for fishing overcomes their good sense. It’s a fishing truism that hungry and willing fish make the trek up or downstream half as long, with each new bend or riffle gleefully exploited given the fish are in the mood to eat, and us fishermen always in the mood to feed them.

While I’m acclimated to the local conditions a bit better than Older Bro, the both of us recognize that the Sweet Bird of Youth has long flown away, leaving us portly and out-of-shape anglers, versus the virile and manly form of our earlier misspent youth.

While we wheeze loudly cursing the scorching sands and unstable cobble, husbanding our water supply as best we can while looking for shade, it doesn’t take more than a single trip-gone-bad before we’re resolving to bring more water, less flies, and lighter gear.

coldstreamTraditional vests with their multiple layers of fabric and pockets, whose siren song lures anglers into carrying twice as much as needed,  are a hellish addition to an angler’s heat burden. More so when temperatures enter triple digits, something all too common in my summers.

What’s needed is a reduced flavor, something that will accommodate a couple boxes of flies, a couple spools of tippet, nippers and forceps, a pocket or two on the front for split shot. leaders, or indicators, and the rest left at camp with the packrat SIMM’s vest, with its hoard of extra pockets filled with the forgotten debris of dozens of fishing trips, most of which is carried needlessly.

Learning from our “near death” experiences – made doubly so by the proximity to air conditioning and cold beer, and armed with a couple soiled napkins, we roughed a Brownliner Special design, something  that could be worn in blazing hot weather that wouldn’t interfere with a hydration pack, that would provide basic storage.


It’s a shorty vest, which have nearly disappeared off the market with the dominance of the traditional length vests. Less material adds less heat and allows me to use the same model Shad fishing without having to dry my vest and all my fly boxes after each trip. More importantly as it doesn’t get wet, I’ve lowered my invasive species absorption rate – and can trundle around different watersheds without having multiple vests drying in the garage.

… which my brother would as soon change, given his preference for us owning three or four each, just to be safe …

With nothing in the back of the vest save a neck level D-ring, you can wear a hydration pack with comfort.

G10 Front View

Work requires me to wear a cell phone on certain weekends, so I had him add a cell pocket on the shoulder (removable) that will accommodate most models of smart phone. High on the shoulder means a better survivability rate for non-waterproof cameras and phones.

Mine has survived three such dunkings without damaging the phone – as most mishaps aren’t full submergence.

G10 Back View

Cinched tight with the front snapped together you should be able to do away with your wading belt altogether, given the vest has your belt built into it.

Extra spool pockets lower the chest-area bulk by locating them on the belt versus a front pocket.

Shad fishing often requires two or three sinking shooting heads of different density on different spools, adding additional bulk to the front pockets and increasing water drag on a traditional length vest. The G10 keeps them out of the water and dry.

I was relieved when I got my prototype, now that Older Bro had something to trade for the fistfuls of flies I donate each trip, I assumed I’d be able to return the favor by light-fingering some extra spools pockets. Ma unfortunately rose to his defense, “… he did all that sewing, so you fork over some cash to your Bro …”

Full Disclosure: Despite being kin to the vendor, Ma insisted I pay the fly stealing SOB full retail, blood being thicker than water stops short of entitling me to a discount apparently ..

It pains me to admit that my brother’s handiwork was most appreciated this last summer. The creek might have had low fish populations, and the Shad coincided with heavy releases from the dam, but I was able to cut quite the figure as I pirouetted through the humidity and heat of the brown water.

Handmade in the US of A, and every stitch sewn by a retard Renaissance man …

The Bride of Donny Beaver

It’s the height of old school fly fishing advertisement; private water, a couple US presidents as testimonial, some comment from a noted outdoor author of impeccable credentials, and a brace of tastefully coifed wine wrapped in wicker, something  to put purpose in our “51 year old demographic” stride like only Ben Gay could do …


The problem is that us fishing types are starting to believe all that press about how “50 is the new 20”, and we don’t have the time for these “training wheel fisheries” featuring fat planted fish …

Brigadoon features deep runs and fast moving waters and has the second highest population of trout in the United States with an average size of 22 inches and 8.5 pounds. Stewart’s Brigadoon is strictly a catch-and-release fly fishing operation, with barbless hooks and no landing nets.

arrogant_bastard_ale Little wonder the smallest tippet you’re allowed to fish is 4X, there’s a two minute fish-playing rule, all fishermen must be accompanied by a guide, the trout are fed, there’s a full time security guard, and the host is nicknamed the “Brigadoon Bitch” and doesn’t fish.

I’m sure the wine is delicious, however.

The younger crowd may respond a bit better if a brace of ABA was cooling in the tailout of the Bridge Pool.

They may be slow to imprint the sport with their own unique style, but so far they’re more comfortable with tungsten beads than toddies. Old grape juice is fine for baking and sanitizing flesh wounds, but spirits were meant to be swilled from the bottle, left crushed on the bank or artfully arranged as decor on the lodge porch.

… I don’t think they care much about old things from France, unless they’re bamboo, and then maybe …

Both a warning and a reminder for California anglers

All this just to purchase the damn thing I can just imagine that old guide turning apoplectic as he explodes at the console, “I don’t want to use no gawd … damned … computer, just gimme my gawd … damned fishing license …”

Sorry. In addition to seeing through off colored water and threading a #20 dry fly onto tippet, you may want to brush up on them precious keyboard skills …

The California Department of Fish & Game has embarked on a new process for getting your fishing license, and naturally they claim it’s easier, faster, and largely computerized. The downside being that either you or the store clerk will have to enter all that data somehow.

I opted for an online transaction via their web site, with a menu of charges that resemble a fast food drive thru.

Rumor has it that it’s a three inch wide strip of paper that can grow in excess of 64” long (depending on the options chosen) which will add a couple inches to your wallet when folded. The basic license is 3” x 7” and once you start adding ocean privileges, second rod, and all the other flavors it’s been said the license can reach five feet in length.

My license is 3 inches wide and 7 inches long. The basic license cost was $43.46 and the second rod stamp was $13.53. As it was last year a Bay Delta Enhancement Stamp is not needed to fish the waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River or the Bay Systems.

I also decided to purchase a Steelhead Report and Restoration Card, which cost $6.48. Again the printer produced another light blue thermal copy, actually two separate pieces of paper both of which were 14.5 inches long. One was the report card itself again printed with my personal information on it, the other copy with instructions, examples and fishing location codes to report the water on which the steelhead were caught.

Needless to say if you also secured a salmon punch card, a sturgeon punch card or any other report card, you are talking about quite a bit of paper to be folded into a wallet.


… which was confirmed by an incredulous angler holding a handful of tickertape, along with all the new rigor associated with its purchase. If purchased as a gift, you’ll need to provide all the data on the license to the counterperson, including their height, weight, eye color, driver’s license number, and full address.

If purchased online at the Department of Fish & Game’s website, you’ll have to navigate a bit of poorly written HTML to purchase via credit card. At the final screen will be a downloadable PDF as a temporary license that will work for two weeks while you wait for the full license to be mailed you.


At issue is all the menu options and sub-licenses and how they all must be attached to the main license. It could be that they’re meant to be separated  but that would be asking to forget one or more of them.

What’s likely behind the new format is cost. Thermal paper is cheaper to produce than adhesive backed stamps on Tyvek, and printing it on a roll of toilet paper allows inexpensive Point-Of-Sale printers to be used. Governor Schwarzenegger hasn’t been terribly friendly to Fish & Game and continues to ravage their budget, what you’d expect from a fellow that did all his recreating in a gym.

The new system requires vendors to purchase a DSL line to the Internet (which may not be possible in those out of the way locales) and while the DF&G are providing the touch screen console and printer, a number of shops have decided to stop selling fishing licenses entirely, as it’s simply too much bother.

Remember that the temporary licenses (PDF’s) printed on normal paper with ink or laser are not permanent – and standard 20lb bond will dissolve in water, so I’d suggest enclosing it in a license holder to keep it dry.

… then again, 60″ of folded 3 inch wide paper could prove indispensable in the woods …