New Exsul Fleece Gear from frogg toggs

Utilizing a 3-layer fabric system consisting of a polyester soft shell outer, polyester fleece inner, and waterproof and breathable DriPore™ 2126281[1]membrane, the Exsul Fleece products are extremely water and wind resistant and offer great insulation from the cold.

The Exsul Fleece Jacket, Vest, and Pants are stylish enough for everyday casual wear, tough enough for hard use, and are exceptional when used as an insulating layer underneath frogg toggs rainwear or wadewear on those tough winter days afield.

Jacket – Men’s and Women’s available
• Relaxed fit raglan sleeve
• Adjustable cuff with hook and loop closure strap
• Zippered side handwarmer pockets
• Zippered chest storage pocket
• Wind-blocker collar design
• Shock cord adjustable waist
• Water and wind resistant

Pants – Men’s sizes only
• Side seam pockets
• Zippered rear security pocket
• Tapered ankle cuff with secure elastic opening
• Shock cord adjustable waist
• Water and wind resistant

MSRP Jacket $109.95 (S, M, L, XL, 2XL)
MSRP Vest $69.95 (S, M, L, XL, 2XL)
MSRP Pants $69.95 (S, M, L, XL, 2XL)

New Gear: Plano Flex N Go Satchel

plano_flexngoPlano’s fully interchangeable Flex ‘N Go Tackle Satchel stands upright like a briefcase and features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for a pair of swappable Plano 3600 StowAway® boxes on the other – each Stowaway held securely with a flexible strap.

Plano Redesigns Web Site

Tackle box maker Plano just redesigned their Web site, promising the new design will “make selecting products as easy as finding them in a tidy tackle box.”

The Stakeout

Used to be that pushpoles were the most convenient way to temporarily anchor a skiff to a flat.   Of course if the wind was blowing over 15 knots and you had even a moderately heavy skiff, you had to be very careful about the angle at which you inserted the pole into the bottom.  Too much flex–especially on one of the early glass or graphite pushpoles–meant a trip back to the dock with a pole that might or might not be repairable.

So it’s not surprising that several companies have come out with manual anchoring systems based the pushpole-as-anchor concept but with a lower cost and a lower likelihood of breaking.  Three products worth mentioning are the Stiff Ram-Rod, the Wang Anchor, and the Stick-It Anchor Pin.  All are pictured here with links to their Web sites, and they’re all under $150.00.

Anchoring poles like these differ in materials and durability, but the key difference in my opinion centers on how the anchors are attached to the skiff.  Most have a Y- or T-shaped head that will accept a looped tie-off line, which can be attached to your platform or a cleat.  The Wang system includes a bracket which must be attached to the hull or deck.  And the Stiffy adds a stainless steel shacked for clip-on ease.

Stay Warm

Grunden PVC Jacket

Grunden Briggs 44 PVC Jacket – a life-saver

I’m not the only person to say that the coldest they’ve ever been is when they’ve been on the water.  But I may be the only person to say that the coldest they’ve ever been is when they were on the water and the air temp was 65 degrees.   It happened when I was guiding customers who were throwing tube lures to barracuda.  I had broken all the rules of staying warm: my hands kept getting wet, I kept running the boat to get to a new spot (increasing the wind from 15 mph to 40 mph), and I was underdressed.  Plus the water was even colder than the air.  Three hours into it I was too cold to tie a knot and had to convince my customers to go in.

I was less cold when I got caught in a blue norther two miles from the boat in Aransas Bay.   I was wearing shorts and a sweater, and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in about 20 minutes.  When the rain hit I was smart enough to get into the water (counterintuitive, yes), which was still in the low 80s even though the air had dropped into the 60s.

What are the cardinal rules for staying warm on a skiff in winter?  Here are mine, more or less in order:

  1. Wear wind-proof clothing.  Nothing lowers body temp like a strong wind or running in the boat.
  2. Don’t get wet.  If that means skipping the flats that you’ll get spray getting to, do it.  If you do get wet, dry off.
  3. Wear one or two layers more than you think you’ll need.  A five degree-temperature drop over the course of a day is huge when the temperature starts at 70 degrees.
  4. Don’t wait until you are shivering to go someplace warm.  Remember, you have to run to find warmth.

After a couple of experiences with hypothermia, I kept a Grunden PVC jacket in my storage area in cases of emergency; there were many times over the years that I was glad to have it.

Trolling Motor Caddy

The trolling motor caddy is a new product and has just been introduced by Boat Outfitters.  It fits all standard shaft diameters and adds just enough storage space to the bow of your skiff to eliminate stepping up and down to get leader material, pliers and lures, or most anything else being carried in your pockets or around your neck.  Boat Outfitters even provides a measuring guide available on their site for accuracy.

No need to remove it following installation; when storing your trolling motor to make a move it remains securely fastened and out of the way.  Priced at $34.99 and available through Boat Outfitters.

  • Trolling Motor Clamp-on Drink Holder & Gear Organizer
  • Fits all standard shaft diameters – Measure Your Trolling Motor Shaft
  • Have a common trolling motor? – View Our list of shaft sizes by brand & model
  • Add storage space and functionality to your trolling motor!
  • Integrated Drink Holder, Pliers Holder, Leader Storage, & Rod Holder
  • Fabricated from durable 3/4″ King Starboard (not cheap injection molded plastic)
  • Remains securly clamped when trolling motor is retracted and stored

Aubut Spinning Rod for Tarpon

Aubut Tarpon Spinning RodChris Aubut and Keys guide Aaron Snell discuss a new softer spinning rod Aubut designed for dealing with tarpon. [Read more…]

Permit Hook Secrets

Partridge Sea PrinceThe closing of the last hook shop in Redditch, England this week reminded me of a semi-secret hook style I’ve always used for permit flies.

For those who don’t know, Redditch was the center of British hook-making for what is likely to have been hundreds of years.  It all likely started with needle-crafting technology, which then translated to fine hook-making.  As the Partridge of Redditch Web site notes: “It is not easy to establish when this started, but according to one likely theory it started with the existence of a large monastery at Redditch. The monks were reputed to have been skilled artisans, and when Henry VIII dissolved the brotherhood the monks were taken in by leading Catholic families in the area, who obviously put their skills to use. From there processing of steel and specialised metal work were developed and refined.”

Redditch was sold to Mustad in the 1990s, then later to another company, but they continue to produce my favorite permit hook of all, the Sea Prince.  I began tying permit flies on the Sea Prince #1 in the 1980s and have never found a reason to switch.  What makes the hook unique is its slightly recurved point.   Whether it is the recurve or the confidence I’ve had in the hook I’ll never know, but I’ve never had a permit come unhooked using this hook–except for once when a permit crushed the hook and spit it it out.  This hook also happened to be Jose Wejebe’s favorite tarpon hook for a number of years.

Del Brown and I were fishing Ascension Bay in the late 1980s and he was fishing his standard hook, a straight-point O’Shaunessy from Mustad.  During the first two days of our trip, we each hooked five or six permit.   He lost three, and I didn’t lose any.  (At which point I stopped fishing.  You know, guide/client relations and all.)  Del had many more fish come “unbuttoned” during the years we fished together.

On first glance, one might think that stainless steel, rather than carbon steel, would be too soft. It certainly is for tarpon hooks, in my opinion.  But for permit flies it has two advantages, especially in the Sea Prince. First, it doesn’t rust, and if you’re like me, you’re happy to throw a permit fly that works at more than one fish on more than one day.  Second… well, it sticks.

Rod Protection: I’ll Take the Pledge

That’s right, I said Pledge®–the same stuff your mom used to clean furniture (back when furniture was made of real wood).   This tip was passed along to me by an old Key West guide back in the 1980s when I asked what would help protect my fishing rods.   Pledge actually does a remarkable job of putting a shine on not just on the rod itself but on the guides as well, and in my experience it provides a layer of protection to both.  Maybe that’s because it contains “silicone formers” in an “isoparaffin carrier” and octylphosphonic acid–a corrosion inhibitor.

Believe it or not you can also clean sunglasses with the product.  It won’t streak, and leaves a nice shine on lenses.  I’m sure it breaks all kinds of lens cleaning rules though, so check with your sunglass manufacturer before trying it.

On a somewhat related note, never put ArmorAll® on any fly lines or PVC products–it has ingredients that break down polymers and will leave your lines cracked.  The best thing for cleaning a fly line is  plain old warm water and mild soap.

Boat Lines: Nylon vs. Polyester vs. Polypropylene

Braided Polyester Dock Line

West Marine Sta-Set X Polyester Double Braid

One of the most common first-time-skiff-owner mistakes is going down to the local West Marine and picking up the cheapest dock lines on the rack.  The problem?  Usually these are three-strand twist nylon lines that are very stretchy and take forever to dry out.  Unbraided nylon is fine for spring lines and even as cheap anchor line, but once you’ve owned a nice set of doubled-braided nylon or polyester lines, you’ll wonder why you ever allowed the cheap stuff on your boat.  In fact, whenever I’ve sold a skiff I’ve kept the dock lines–usually a nice set of braided polyester lines that feel nicer in the hand than braided nylon.  The polyester lines also absorb less water than the nylon.  Polypropylene lines (think water-skiing rope) absorb the least amount of water and they float, but they are the weakest of all lines.

What should you buy for dock lines?  I’d suggest at least two 15-foot, 5/8″ lines with pre-spliced 12-inch eyes (loops in the end).  In a jam you can loop the two 15-footers together and make a tow line or longer tie-off line.  But in most cases having lines that are longer than 15 feet just makes them harder to manage.

Another tip, you can also use double-braided lines as tie-off lines for a pushpole.  Try it sometime: attach the eye to the poling platform and when you want to stake out, just wrap the braided line around the pushpole three or four times.  Works like a charm, and it’s very easy to release or change the length of the tie-off.