Category Archives: web site

A bit over half a mile and an unknown depth

I suppose a few would describe themselves as “lunker hunters” … thrill seekers who curl their lip at everyday fishing, whose passion is hunting fish that ignore the cholesterol content of Chironomids and groan as they break the surface for a dry fly.


Not my cup of tea precisely, but as my shortcomings are legion, I shan’t sully their sport.

Paying eight hundred dollars for the location of a world record fish, is another thing entirely …

On the one hand, it’s well documented that anglers are incapable of estimating length and girth, and no matter how many times they cross themselves and insist on “being struck dead,” five pounders are two pounders, and nothing “South of the Mason-Dixon” is anywhere near twelve inches…

… and while we admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the advertisement, we are forced to rely on the owner’s questionable judgment, failing eyesight, and sobriety level when he saw his Moby Dick.

Then we’d have to assume that if we drained a large lake of water, we wouldn’t find anything bigger than the current record, making this fish truly “one in a million” Awesomeness.

Smart fish can get big without any contact with humans. They can live a long life, die, and once their bloated remains sink to the bottom, vanish entirely.

Any beast of size in the ocean is either ate by us or a pack of something smaller. I’d suspect every truly large lake has one or more fish at world record weight, most are fileted by the propeller of some drunken water-skier and never make our radar.

On rare occasion they swallow a toddler in the shallows or wash up dead on some beach and give the locals bragging rights.

Then there’s the “catching” part.

Any fisherman worth his salt will likely admit to catching more than most, but none of us have much experience in catching a specific fish.

“The most recent studies tend to indicate higher rates of dispersal and homing behavior.  At Lake Rideau, Canada (1996-1998), fish were displaced from 1 to 10 miles.  After 2 weeks, average dispersal distance of bass was only 440 yards.  However, 37% of fish eventually returned to their original capture site (all were displaced less than 5 miles).  A study at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland (2000) indicated that 64% of largemouth bass had moved at least 0.3 miles within a week.  The average final dispersal distance of bass was 6 miles from release sites and 95% were at least 0.3 miles away.  Even though fish were displaced 9 to 13 miles from capture areas, 30 to 40% of bass returned to initial capture areas.  At Lake Martin, Alabama (2005), bass moved an average of 5 miles from the release site after 10 weeks.  After 2 months, no fish were in close proximity to the release site, and all fish tracked over 3 months returned to within the same general area of capture.”

Todd Driscoll, Texas Fisheries and Wildlife

Assuming that bass move as described, and we “should’ve been there last week,”  we’re searching a radius of 0.6 miles of lake for some couch-bound fat kid that wakes around noon …

I’m thinking I’d troll a trot line and hope for snaggage .. and hide the hole that 6/0 treble made with mascara …

Too Close for comfort

Roman_Red350Nearly every periodical teases me with some gizmo whose description promises revolutionary change and awesome functionality, and price tailored to a member of the Saudi royal family.

Like you, I have a weakness for gadgets made from the protective titanium bathtub of a decommissioned Warthog, but my budget can only support the early plastic variants of decades past, and am therefore forced to avoid eye contact with my peers when scuttling from creek to welcoming tailgate.

More than once I’ve scratched my head thinking of our fly fishing demographic and the statistics of Who We Are, and would love to claim a bit more education and disposable income than most of the sporting fraternity. On the down side, we still have trouble grasping the notion that an ounce of graphite scrim applied to a spinning rod doesn’t make it base or common, and when slathered onto a fly rod mandrel – doesn’t enhance its value to rival a red diamond, or a pristine copy of Action #1.

Why a bait casting or spinning rod containing as much boron or graphite as a fly rod is one tenth its price, and why we don’t rise en masse to hurl crates of Sage and Orvis into the Boston harbor has  forever eluded my understanding.

All that extra education squandered as we majored in beer drinking with a minor in Sociology or Psychology, and skipped those important Physics classes that would have given us balance and scientific wisdom.  Worse yet is none of them “people” studies sunk home – given the chill with which we relinquish our hole to our brother angler.

When all seems darkest and I resolve to swap fly rods for flower arrangements (to upgrade my friends and peers) the Internet washes up a bit of lightness to restore my mood, akin to Styrofoam at high tide …


… the $450 bass lure.

I was reading a bass forum on the usefulness of the new (Dyneema) braid was in bass fishing. Most of the participants commented on its fine diameter, and one fellow pointed out the 100 pound test was equal in diameter to his old 20 pound dacron standby – and had the added ability for him to hand-over-hand himself down the line to fetch lures.

As you might expect there was a flurry of questions, and he revealed his newfound obsession for Roman – Made lures from Japan, and as most were $150 – $450 each, he opted to swim down and retrieve them when snagged.

While I admire his sudden frugality, I wasn’t buying the overall story. Anyone throwing $500 dollar bills in Harm’s Way is doing so for the rush of endorphins that come with your losing the entire food budget for the month.

I figured he’d likely had a track or football scholarship – one of those unfortunates that peak in college, have a short NFL career, and are attempting to salvage the adrenalin rush of lost youth.

In summary, the one class in Psychology I was required to take at City College Harvard … suggests that I require at least one group to point fingers at and question their fishing sanity. The notion of us fly fishermen BEING that group, is of course, unthinkable.

How to tie a seven inch Rapala Rainbow Trout

I couldn’t help thinking of some young fellow with his tongue clenched between his teeth manhandling some thick-stemmed saddle into an unruly imitation of his first fly collar. That was one of many Defining Moments for those of us persisted, as we could have cursed loudly and abandoned the sport, yet we somehow persevered until the source of our pain became child’s play.

… (mostly because we were masochists) and being one of the many that kept at it, I find myself eyeing the future and realizing some of those hardships will soon vanish, to be replaced by some other test of resolve.

At the moment it’s merely Plano and Rapala that need worry about their revenue given hard plastics are the most consumer friendly printing medium, but 3D printer technology is improving so fast that foodstuffs and metals will burst from our nozzles as precisely as they do with commercial applications and industrial printers. Like all technologies, only miniaturization and mass marketing are needed to bring their price down to the point where they’re spitting out See’s candy about as fast as you can order it from


Some canny fellow takes a micrometer to his favorite lure, pumps the data elements into his printing software, and outputs a Wee Wart or jig head, or … saddle hackle …

Textiles are likely to be a snap given most are already polymers. A hint of heat and a spiral tuck, and it’s not too much of a stretch to see fly components crapping out of that same nozzle.

Beads, jig heads, rattles, eyeballs, spat by the gross from your printer and ready for a final dusting of spray paint or glitter.


Like the music industry and media moguls of Hollywood, angling is likely to see angry executives insistent that “home tied” Rat-L-Traps constitute the new Communist Menace, and insist on a lifetime fishing ban for the perpetrator.

… whose wife will be ecstatic at the prospect of her spouse finally shouldering chores without being nagged incessantly.

Certainly the IPO may make you some coin, but the value of will be the money you save

The financial wunderkind of Wall Street are already lining up in anticipation of the IPO of, a Chinese B2C web company that makes look like a neighborhood market.

… and it may seem odd to be talking high finance and initial public offerings on a fly fishing blog, but Alibaba and I are old friends, and has been the source of much of my fishing tackle, and all for pennies on the dollar.

Whether you plan on investing in the company is immaterial, what’s important is to understand how you can leverage their business model as a simple customer.

Computers were once thought to make offices paperless, electronic transactions replacing whiteout, staples, typewriters, and most interoffice correspondence. That promise has never been been realized  yet the migration from paper to electronic media continues. Each step forward results in some unforeseen Target debacle that makes us all leery of anything more complex than a #2 pencil ..

The internet held similar promise diminishing the “bricks and mortar” retail presence in lieu of countless web clicks, and while its impact on physical stores has been substantial, companies with significant retail presence have augmented their square footage with websites, and leverage both mediums.

What the Internet did successfully is destroy the notion of “B2C”, business to customer relationships, as the worldwide draw of a web presence made many millions of micro-transactions hugely profitable.

Pre-Internet a company would require a minimum order of 5000 bicycles to establish an account, and only other businesses could absorb that volume, private citizens could not.

The internet has undone the notion that other businesses are necessary to broker consumer sales and manufacturers are now free to cut the middleman out of transactions to enhance profits. Alibaba is an aggregator of manufacturers within a searchable interface that allows consumers to find manufacturers willing to sell direct to them, instead of only to other businesses. Consumers benefit from wholesale pricing, manufacturers get more profit per transaction, and the jobber is reduced to making the small dollars that bulk discounts can grant – rather than making profit at the expense of both manufacturer and consumer.

As manufacturing has largely been shipped overseas, China and the Orient are now the manufacturing engine for the entire world, and Alibaba breadth of product is ample demonstration that “Made in America” has been replaced by Hong Kong, Sialkot, or Hanoi.

Many of the rods, float tubes, waders, fish hooks, and fly tying materials, that we paw through at your local shop stem from the Orient, which is why is such a compelling shopping experience.

I’m not a fly shop, how can I benefit from wholesale?

As you can buy float tubes, motorcycles, or saddle hackle from Alibaba, all you need is the desire to buy a bit more than a bubble pack of something, or perhaps you wish to broker a purchase with a group of like minded fellows from your casting club.

Let’s take simple brass beads for fly tying as an example. Launch your browser at the address, and enter the search term,”fly tying beads” on the search bar at the top of their website.


Here is an example of the first vendor returned by that search, the Qingdao Leichi Industrial And Trade Co., Ltd., of Shandon, China. They sell every fly fishing item known, from fish hooks to IM6 fly rods and reels. From our perspective the most important feature is the Minimum Order required by the company, and for Tungsten or Brass socketed fly tying beads, that is 500.

In a fly shop a 25 pack of socketed brass beads is somewhere between $3 and $4. This manufacturer’s price varies weekly based on the international spot price of copper, brass, or tungsten, so a quote request (delivered typically as an Excel spreadsheet attached to an email) will only be accurate for a limited time.

The last time I purchased copper beads from this vendor they were about $4 per thousand, which is what a jobber like Spirit River pays. Most jobbers will allow the shop to double its money on the retail price, so it will sell a 25 pack to the store for $1.50 – $2.00. The jobber makes about $80 on its $4 purchase, netting them a profit of about 2000%.

… which is why both consumers and manufacturers want to reduce the middleman’s share.

Was I a fly shop owner Alibaba would be my only catalog, as I no longer need the jobber or his wares. The limitations of fly fishing’s niche customer base suddenly mitigated by my ability to get product directly from the manufacturer, thereby increasing my profits substantially.

… which has been the promise of micro-transactions and the Internet, now realized.

Because many thousands of small transactions are the same as a few large transactions, all manufacturers are moving to this B2B / B2C platform, and why Alibaba is such a hot topic among the retail brokerage houses.

Sending Money overseas, avoid Banks

Conducting business overseas has also been simplified by the Internet. There are three basic options available; your local bank, an ePayment vendor like PayPal, or Western Union.

Doing business with an entity like Qingdao Leichi Industrial And Trade Co., Ltd, will require you to exchange US dollars for Renminbi or Yuan. As the currency exchange rates also vary daily, prices quotes are usually good for a fixed amount of time. Banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America should be avoided, as they are still stuck in archaic bank to bank exchanges and typically levy a $45 charge for brokering the transaction and money swap. Paypal (if the vendor accepts it, and many do) has a sub-$10 fee, as does Western Union, which can transfer money to Pakistan or Hong Kong faster (usually overnight) than banks (about a week), and for about a quarter of what banks charge ($10).

A Western Union account can be tied to a credit card making repeat shopping easy. You will need to call your credit card company on large transactions, and certain countries are on “watch” lists – due to fraud or hostile governments, you may need to pre-authorize the transaction to the destination country in order for it to complete its journey.

contactInitiating contact is done via email with the vendor. Each company has a contact name to request price quotes and all will contact you in English.

For small items like fly tying beads or fish hooks I typically ask if I can get samples, or can I pay the shipping to receive samples.

I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not, and typically will explain what my anticipated transaction will be if satisfied with the samples. You don’t need to be a company to do business here, so tell them up front you’re looking for a buy of about 10,000 beads, 2500 each of 3mm, 4mm, and 5mm, and perhaps a couple thousand more in Tungsten.

The Perils of the Orient

Each of the vendors on Alibaba are interested in sales, not fraud, and each of them have a satisfaction and longevity rating, allowing new customers a bit of insight into their past dealings.

It’s never a sure thing, but ask yourself how many of the thousands of affiliate shops on Amazon are intent on fraud. Good ratings drive sales, and sales is the reason they are offering their services, so it’s reasonable to assume a modicum of professionalism.

Copyright laws have little bearing in China and imitation goods are rampant, so you need to be cautious about “Made in China” versus a wader that appears to be a famous US manufacturer at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes it really is the same wader, sometimes it is merely an imitation of that wader, made of very poor quality materials and leaks like a sieve.

Note the availability of the “Battenkill” reel for $35. Whether this is the same reel rebranded by Orvis, we’ll never know. Request a sample, and if it’s a good reel, order a dozen more for your casting club and use them on rods loaned to the public during free casting classes. Fly lines and rods are available for a fraction of store prices, why not equip your club with an inexpensive and serviceable set of tackle for casting practice.

A great deal of the rods and high dollar equipment we use (float tubes, reels, etc.) are made by these same manufacturers and re-labeled by American companies, so you’ll need to do extra diligence before dropping the large dollars. Ask if a vendor in the states carries the item already, perhaps you can view or inquire of that middleman for additional information. Caveat Emptor, baby.

Take this standard one man rowable boat. In the US it may go for $600 –$1600 each. This vendor lists it as $300, minimum quantity only one needed. Postage will boost its price much more, so always inquire of the shipping fees. Typically DHL is used for normal packages, and freighter is likely used for the bulky pallet sized items. Nothing of size shipped from mainland China to the US will be cheap. is also one of the best sites to bulk purchase fly tying materials. Most of the iridescent and opalescent synthetics in use today are also manufactured in the Orient, so getting a few skeins of something that sells by the yard will save you considerable money.

It’s worth a couple evenings simply browsing all the categories and viewing prices. Our colloquial terms for items may not hold in their listings, and “float tube” might be “floating boat”, but you’ll find plenty once you drill down to the proper keywords.

The only real downside is you can’t park it by the John for uninterrupted browsing, like the old Herter’s catalog ..

Trout Underground victorious in Stienstra Lawsuit

lawsuitThe Trout Underground has successfully defending itself from a spurious lawsuit by San Francisco Examiner Outdoor columnist Tom Stienstra.

Mr. Stienstra took exception to the Underground mentioning his apparent 2010 Marijuana bust, and chose to flex a bit of judicial muscle, albeit a bit tardy given the statute of limitations had expired on any potential defamation complaint.

I suppose the angling version of the judge’s gentle reminder would’ve been, “ … you should’ve sued him last week.”

Anyone who’s ever relied on information provided by weather-people or outdoor columnists (present company included) should not be surprised someone was smoking something …

You can read the Underground’s initial report of the incident at the link above. Myself, I see it as a simple narration of facts reported by other news sources and have trouble with the concept of apparent malicious intent.

Thinking of the great heritage angling writing has – and the many colorful characters that have added to angling lore, the only surprise here may be denial. Amid all the flashing bulbs and stern gendarmes leading some minor angling worthy to the Hoosegow, should be an unapologetic smile and a couple of choice epithets for the press.

That’s the stuff of legend … not, “I never inhaled …”

A light dusting of green for us damp Valley types

My only hope is the predictive services offered are a bit more accurate than your weatherman, as guessing on storms and their payload is a science based on an awful lot of hypothetical …

… mostly involving how much water the ground can absorb, versus how much will wind up as actual runoff.

beaver_scrub Travelwriter sent me this link just after I’d returned his dog from a hike through the watershed, which featured the obligatory back scrub in fresh beaver deposit, so I’m not altogether sure whether I’m doing you a favor or not. (You may want to rely on your own observations until you can confirm the site is accurate.)

In short, it’s a NOAA map of California showing what storms are calculated to dump and the resultant effect on watersheds. Additional tabs feature what the storm actually dumps and once past, allows you to compare the pre- and post- conditions for accuracy.

Just remember its tea leaves and tarot cards, a predictive engine for rainfall and runoff.

While flood prediction is not terribly exciting to fishermen, those of you chasing steelhead and salmon can get insight into what a fresh storm has in store, and how badly flows might be altered, and may save you a fishless fishing trip or two …


Yesterday’s big winter blast rolled through the valley leaving green and chocolate in its wake.


One little turn of the spigot and I’ve got six feet of muddy water roaring through the channel, suggesting outside of a dry spell, fishing will be slim for the next couple of months.

Scale Magazine: European Fly & Spin eZine

Scale Magazine Logo

Another eZine entrant, this time from Germany (available in English), entitled Scale – and covering both fly and spin fishing.

They’ve got the best logo I’ve seen – considering the topic matter, and I’m a sucker for reading about someone that catches fish – instead of whining about how woeful their season has become like … uhm … me.

No whiners in Germany. Thank Heavens.

To the Cloud

Cloud_Girlfriend Considering us fishermen and our lack of social graces, even computer nerds have better luck with the fair sex than us.

Six or seven marriages later, you’re handing over everything that wasn’t spent on backing and fly reels, and asking your buddies to help move your fly tying desk, as it’s perched prominently on the lawn, along with your comic book collection.

The advent of social media makes the missus all that more visible, and long distance friends will eventually want corroboration of them tales of daring do …

Consider the Perfect Girlfriend, synonymous with the Perfect Crime. You make her, refine her until she’s everyone else’s dream fisherperson, and benefit from “I was there and seen it” for even the most egregious fishing fantasy.

She tweets, she facebooks, she’s lithe, witty and stunning … she’s your Cloud Girlfriend.

She knows what to say and when, since you control her every move, she knows how to make your buddies wives bland in the comparison, and she’ll never mention the skid mark after your bear encounter, never give up your secret fishing hole, nor correct your 14” estimate, to the 6” inches it really was …

Consider that embellishment is part of your base nature, and for believability’s sake – you may want to go light on the manacles and automatic weapons, the nun’s habit is already over the top.

How to get top price for unwanted fly tackle on eBay

It’s certain to alter my eBay experience and while the bricks and mortar side of the tackle business will likely retaliate with skimpy dressed sandwich-board waving nubiles, Grandma and the local constabulary will make short shrift of a vendor that succumbs to temptation.

She claims her earlier sales were cancelled due to a violation of eBay’s sales policy, and now that she’s read the fine print she’s back on the Internet with even more to sell …

That's $33 per lure

… which, given her immaculate feedback rating is liable to drive squinch-faced Meg Whitman into a tirade of four letter words unparalleled in today’s modern boardroom.

I’ll tip the hat to the innate display of creativity. Next time I’ve got some broken 10-speed or extra lawn furniture I’ll be sure to frame them nicely between Miss June 2001’s … er … obvious talents.

Like everything else on the Internet, if it looks soft and smells sweet, it’s a pipedream obscuring some unshaven truck driver from Des Moines.

Lord help us all if she’s got rods to sell … you be sure to alert me.

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 …