Another Secret: Canoe Chairs

Call them canoe chairs or camp chairs, sitting in one of these lightweight, portable alternatives may change your mind about what’s possible in simple comfort on your skiff.

I first discovered canoe chairs when a client of mine with back problems asked if I had anything better than a stiff cooler-top cushion.  Having just returned from camping in southern Montana, the pleasure of my Therm-a-Rest chair kits was fresh in my mind.  As an experiment, I brought one on board.  From that day forth, this client and several others insisted on this alternative.  And though I prefer to stand up while running, the cushioned canoe chair always beckons, and provides a nice break when running miles across open water.

Therm-a-Rest Compak Chair

Chair kits like the Therm-a-Rest Compak have the advantage of adjustable cushioning and even smaller total size when stored — though they tend to take up more room when inflated.

The advantages of a canoe chair are many, but chief among them are back support and simplicity.   There’s nothing like “stretching out” in a flexible chair during a midday break.  And most canoe chairs can be easily folded up and stored or taken out of the boat.  They’re maintenance-free (a phrase I’ve learned to love).

The one disadvantage of a canoe chair is that they tend to blow out of the boat.  This can be remedied by getting into the habit of sliding them into the cockpit or rear storage area while fishing, and remembering not to stand up while running.

The Best Fifteen Bucks You’ll Ever Spend

Stainless Steel Hook RemoverThere are very few pieces of equipment that I’ve held on to–or that have lasted–for more than ten years.  In fact, the only one I think of, other than fly rods and reels, is my stainless steel hook remover.

Why did it deserve a permanent place in my skiff?  Let’s just count the things I have done with it:

  1. Removed innumerable barracuda flies from toothy gullets.
  2. Removed dozens of shark flies for in-the-water releases.
  3. Removed hooks from particularly tough parts of tarpon, permit and bonefish mouths without twisting.
  4. Retrieved various bolts, screws, flies, and random items from engine pans and drains.
  5. Retrieved various items from the kitchen disposal that didn’t belong there.

What’s more, these devices are so well designed and so simple that they are almost indestructible.  Just be wary of some of the cheaper models that may not use top-quality steel and springs.

Dry Launch Tip – Gulf Wax

If your skiff and trailer combo allow for a dry launch (wheels barely touching the water), you know that carpeted bunks need to be re-conditioned every so often to allow for easy sliding.

Many of the folks we know use silicon spray to keep their bunks slippery, and it does the job, but Gulf Wax is an overlooked household product that makes a great lubricant and is also eco-friendly and very inexpensive to use.  To apply, simply grab a block in your hand and run it all over the carpet.  Lubricating only the lower portion of the bunks will still allow for some friction and some margin for error.  One word of caution: after you’ve slicked down your bunks, make sure you do not unhook your vessel before backing down the ramp.

Action Video: GoPro’s New Hero3 Camera

GoPro Hero3

GoPro Hero3

The new GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, their high-end version of the new release, features a 12MP camera that can shoot 4K video at 12 fps, or 1080p video at up to 60 fps. It also comes with a Wi-Fi remote.

If you want to join the growing numbers of anglers filming their high-intensity moments on the water, you can pre-order the Black Edition for $400 (November 14 shipping date). Or go with the $200 or $300 models that shoot at lower frame rates and with fewer megapixels.

Free Fly Bamboo Face Mask

Free Fly Apparel just sent us a sample of their “Breathe” sun mask, a highly porous and soft alternative to the thick polyester masks marketing by some other companies.  My first thoughts after slipping it on:

1.  Very lightweight–enough so that I wonder about the UV protection.

2.  Amazing breathability–I doubt there will be any “vapor haze,” even on the most humid days.

3.  Very comfortable–equal to any sun mask I’ve tested.

More on the mask after I get to wear it a while.

The Best All-Around Sunglass Color

Orvis Tri-Spectrum Sunglasses

Orvis Tri-Spectrum Sunglasses: These are the lenses that I have been wearing very happily for the past two years.

An over-eager optometrist might tell you that you need gray lenses for blue-water fishing, yellow lenses for overcast days, and amber lenses for the flats.  But the closest lens to perfect for just about any near-shore fishing is brown (as opposed to the orangey-red color that some companies call “amber”)–and polarized of course.   Brown increases contrast and highlights color differences better than any other tint.  Of course all eyes are different (8 percent of males are colorblind), so don’t take anyone’s word for what color will produce the best visual experience for you.

Years ago an eyeglass company came out with “clear” polarized lenses that were ideal for running in low light and evening in semi-darkness.  I tried a pair of polarized Transition lenses recently that worked very well for early morning running, but my favorite all-around lenses in recent years have been the Orvis Tri-Spectrum “amber” lenses (I know, it’s confusing; the picture at left shows that they really are more yellow-brown than amber).

Another factoid about sunglasses: The more light the lenses let in, the more you see.  So make sure you balance lens darkness with where you will be fishing.  Super-dark lenses are great for big white bonefish flats that are lit up by the sun but will be a poor choice for spotting laid-up tarpon in dark, mangrove-stained water.

One last thing: don’t ever run your boat without glasses on unless it is impossible to see with them on.  Your eyes are far too valuable.

Review: Free Fly Apparel’s Bamboo Fishing Shirt

Free Fly Bamboo Fishing Shirt

Free Fly Bamboo Fishing Shirt

I would never have imagined that wearing grass (I believe bamboo is technically classified as grass) would be so comfortable.  Enter the Bamboo Tech Long Sleeve fishing shirt from Free Fly Apparel.  Aside from being extremely comfortable and soft, this shirt is also very lightweight and provides natural UV protection.  The combination of 70% viscose bamboo and 30% polyester fiber provide a comfortable, relaxed fit that is great for fishing or just about anything else.  For fishing purposes, I love that there are no buttons, zippers, or fancy cuffs to snag fly line.

Bamboo contains natural antibacterial microbes, which makes it a great material for outdoor clothing products.  To test its odor-resistant qualities (and maybe to annoy my wife just a little), I wore it all weekend, fishing a full day and then pressure washing the house and working outside the next.  No odor.

I do wish it had a collar, or enough material to cover any exposed neck area between shirt and a sun mask.  A hooded version of this shirt (same material) will be available in the spring 2013 line.  Another thing to like: it retails for $50.  Learn more at


Rod Review: Thomas & Thomas TNT

Thomas & Thomas TNT Fly Rod

Thomas & Thomas TNT Fly Rod

Bjorn Stromsness of Bonefish on the Brain gives  a honeymoon-infused review of Thomas & Thomas’s 7-weight saltwater TNT fly rod, which he calls “pretty much an ideal bonefish rod.”

“It is a sweet stick, responsive and easy to cast. I don’t know if I’m the guy to break down exactly what made the rod cast well. I know what I like and I liked it.”

Blending In

Columbia Delta Camo

Columbia PFG Tamiami Camo Long Sleeve, in Delta Camo

A comment last week by a long-time guide about the advantages of poling from the deck–“It’s a heck of a lot easier to sneak up on tailing fish”–got me thinking about the new lines of camo-wear designed specifically for anglers and new for 2013.   Columbia‘s Amphibious Assault line is has that distinctly digitized look common to modern military camo, while Simms‘s Cloud Camo goes au naturale.   Does either help you get closer to fish without being detected?  They likely both do, but only if you’ve first considered all the other aspects of stealth like a silent approach and delivery of your cast with as little motion as possible.

Del Brown used to occasionally wear a fluorescent green hat while we fished for permit, mostly just to annoy me.  It worked–he missed more than a few shots at fish that saw him far sooner than they should have.  Unless you’re looking to heighten the challenge like that, blending in with the sky ain’t a bad idea at all.

Simms Cloud Camo

Simms’s Cloud Camo

Building Your Own Rods, Video by Video

Mudhole Rod Building VideosWorld Fishing Network’s “The Mud Hole” is a collection several dozen videos on how to build and finish rods.   The videos include everything from finding the spine and guide spacing to attaching heat-shrink rod handles and cleaning up thread with an alcohol torch bottle.