Two new nets; SA's System X fly box; furled leaders and more
- By: Buzz Bryson
Scientific Anglers System X Fly Box I'm an admitted fly box junkie. I have boxes full of fly boxes at home (worse, some are full of temporarily "lost" flies, but let's not go there). My collection ranges from the under-$2 variety bought at a manufacturer's outlet store to some fairly pricey Wheatley and C&F boxes. Most, though, are modestly priced, simply because they work well for my needs. And my needs are simple: A fly box must be lightweight but durable, maintenance-free, provide easy access to the flies and, above all, hold the flies securely without damaging them.There's nothing more frustrating than arriving at a fishing destination-be it at the end of a dusty, bumpy gravel road or a four-connecting-flight exotic destination-and finding all the flies in my box in a massive tangle. Scientific Anglers' new System X boxes meet all my needs, and add even more features that make them user-friendly. Most obvious, the boxes are transparent (green or blue), so you'll know right off if you've grabbed the right box. The boxes are lightweight, constructed of a tough semi-flexible plastic. Of course, I'm sure you could crush one under a car tire but, short of that, I don't think this box will crack. Boxes are 6x4x1.5 inches in size. The box has a rubber gasket which, combined with the light weight will not only keep flies dry, but keep the box afloat should it slip from your hand or pocket. Possibly the neatest feature is that the inserts (there is one insert per box, holding flies on both sides) are removable. The inserts are similar to those in the popular C&F Design boxes, having the same tough foam (but without the micro-slits) with gaps to keep hackles from crushing. SA has opted to provide three inserts: standard, dryfly, and streamer/saltwater. In addition to being different colors, the inserts have different layouts to facilitate varying fly sizes. So, if you're one of those fastidiously organized anglers, you can sort your flies by size, season, species, stream or what have you. SA even makes a "suitcase" for the inserts. Constructed of lightweight, molded foam, the suitcase will hold four inserts, making it great for safe, at-home storage of extra inserts, or use it as a large-size box for boats. Most important to many, the price is right: Boxes are $19.95, extra inserts $9.95 and the suitcase retails for $24.95. Big Blackfoot Nets None of us wants to look like a newbie when we're out on the river, right? So we wear the same old tweedy sweaters until the elbows are totally gone, and eschew soaping the waders in favor of living with their stained appearance. I had the same feeling about my old wood-frame net until I discovered Big Blackfoot Nets in Montana. The company builds one-of-a-kind, handcrafted nets to a purchaser's specifications. With a few extra bucks in the bank, I decided to indulge my inner child and have a net built with hoop and handle that fit my exact needs. Along the way, I acquired a work of art. Jerry O'Connell blends his aesthetic approach to net building with the use of exotic materials, and an understanding of their function. A hoop, for instance, may be constructed of dark, richly colored purpleheart, with padauk laid on inner and outer faces, and accented by inner strips of light pau amarello and canarywood. The same flexibility applies to the design of the handle, one of which included 30 different woods. Plus, hoop shapes and butts are built to client specifications. As O'Connell says, "Our net designs were created not according to accepted style, but according to what really works in a given situation." The result: A new net that looks at home with the old sweater, and which complements the beauty of a wild rainbow taken on a fly. Prices vary depending on options chosen. -Ed Lawrence Signature Concepts Rubberized Nets These days, an increasing number of driftboat guides seem to be using nets with rubber bags. This is chiefly a matter of enlightened self-interest: Rubber bags are less likely to injure or disfigure the fish that a guide counts on to help him earn his livelihood. It goes almost without saying that healthy, abundant fish, unmarred by nets and hooks, make for happy clients and the increased likelihood of hefty tips and future bookings. Until recently, most of the rubberized nets I'd seen were of the long-handle, driftboat variety. But I like to do whatever I can to protect my fish even when I'm not fishing with a guide, so I was extremely pleased to get my hands on the new Signature Concepts rubberized catch-and-release net. The handcrafted hardwood (ash and walnut) net itself is a thing of beauty: flawless, superbly finished and strong. I know it will last a lifetime if I take reasonably good care of it. The bag is a tough, 15-inch-long shallow rubber pocket that promises to gently cradle all but the biggest trout or landlocked salmon without straining a bit. In addition to the health-and-beauty benefits to the fish I catch, the rubberized bag is less likely to snag a fly. And, according to Signature Concepts, it's also easier to shake the water out of a rubber bag than a conventional one-which certainly makes sense-as well as easier to rinse off fish slime and its attendant odor. The catch-and-release net retails for $69.95. The company also offers a number of other rubberized nets for different types of fishing. Contact the company for a catalog. -- Paul Guernsey Fly Fisher's Furled Leaders George Beech, of The Fly Fisher, and Bjorn, his son, manufacture furled leaders. George has rejected many of the traditional thread materials often used for furled leaders. Instead, he uses three synthetic materials-monofilament, copolymer and fluorocarbon lines-for his leaders, in line weights 0 through 14, ranging from 6 to 15 feet long. These are designed for trout, steelhead, salmon, bonefish, striper, snook, redfish and tarpon. A modest additional cost adds the Edgar Pitzenbauer silver-ring system for convenient tippet attachment. Each leader is designed to handle a three-foot tippet and, like all furled leaders, most will cast a longer tippet if required. Depending upon the line material, there are three leader types: Floating, uniform-sinking and full-sinking. The more laps of fluorocarbon, the faster the sink. Thus, various combinations of monofilament line, copolymer line and fluorocarbon line determine the sink rate. George notes that the trout sinking leaders descend at about 1.75 to 3.5 inches per second, about the same as a number 2 or 3 sinking-tip fly line. The steelhead and salt sinkers drop even faster, at about 5.5 ips. Sizes 8 and 10 sink faster yet. The distinctive character of a furled leader is evident in both the casting and the catching, especially in the adequate weight, shock-absorption and smooth presentation. Unlike braided leaders, furled leaders lift easily and pick up little or no water. If you have not done so, perhaps it is time to toss a furled leader. The retail prices range from approximately $12 (regular) to $15 (fluorocarbon) and an additional $0.60 for each silver ring. The leaders are sold through Feather-Craft and The Fly Fisher shop. --Darrel Martin L.L. Bean Stripping Basket Some view stripping baskets as equal parts pain-in-the-neck accessory and can't-live-without necessity. I'm one of the latter. There's nothing more frustrating than being unable to control the line at your feet, either because the current carries it downstream or tangles it around your legs, or the wind blows it around or off the boat deck or, in the case of sinking lines, it just disappears somewhere beneath the water's surface. I often remember the photograph in Joe Brooks' classic, Trout Fishing, of Joe holding up a brilliantly colored, leg-length rainbow taken from New Zealand's Tongariro River. Almost as eye-catching as the fish is the stripping basket Joe used to control the shooting head he was using-a cardboard box prominently labeled "Wattie's Sliced Beets." L.L. Bean has introduced a new stripping basket that isn't much more expensive than Joe's cardboard box. At only $19.50, the Bean basket packs a lot of features. It's made of sturdy polypropylene, with a fully adjustable two-inch-wide web belt to hold it comfortably (and with a quick-release buckle for easy removal). Every part is completely waterproof, corrosion-proof and fast-drying. The basket itself is curved to fit nicely on the hip (or on any part of that spare tire around the waist that many of us have), and has no sharp edges to jab the wearer or catch the line. Inside there are seven cones to keep line from tangling while allowing it to shoot freely on a cast. The approximate dimensions are 17x11x6 inches. The depth is particularly significant, as it is deep enough to hold line securely, but not too deep to be a bother when wading out a bit. There are no drain holes in the basket. Some anglers prefer this, because a bit of water in the bottom can keep the line wet for better shooting. Others would rather have holes, so an errant wave or misstep won't fill the basket with water. For those of the latter persuasion, the conversion can be made with an electric drill in about a minute. I suspect Bean designed the basket with the thought that the modification would be just that simple. A neat feature is the "rod holder:" simple slots on either side of the basket where a fly rod can be set while retying a fly, wading, just waiting or, hopefully, unhooking a fish.