Like many of us, you probably dream about fishing more than you get to practice your dead drifts.
One trick that’s guaranteed to increase your days on the water is to be prepared. Keeping your gear organized, with a pre-printed checklist at your fingertips, shortens your prep time and ensures you won’t waste precious daylight. Plus, having an “essentials” list is great prevention against arriving at the stream when strikes are hot and realizing your reel is still sitting on the kitchen counter. Of course it goes without saying that angling for different fish requires gear that caters to that species—and we’ll cover species-specific lists in the coming weeks. But this general overview should keep you on point.
Obviously this is a good thing to buy in advance, and you can generally get them online. Keep in mind that you may need an endorsement for specific fish (for example, in Oregon you need an addition to your license for catching salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon. Have your government issued ID ready. Sometimes you can print the license immediately for an added fee, or have it mailed. You can also buy fishing licenses at many fly shops, sporting goods shops, big box stores like K-Mart and Bi-Marts, and even hardware stores and gas stations. Do a quick search of your state’s fish and wildlife department website for specific details.
A Rod and Reel
If you are just getting started, consider a preconfigured package that includes the rod, reel, and line. This can take out some of the guesswork and ensure that your system works fluidly together. You don’t have to spend thousands to get your feet wet—but avoid the low-end starter packages as, to put it bluntly; they can be a waste of money. Plan on spending $100 to $150—a worthy investment that will improve the experience, both for you and the fish. The fish you are planning on catching determines the weight of the rod you’ll need. Bigger, stronger fish usually require a heavier, stronger rod. If you are fishing for trout or bass, you can get away with most any reel, but if you are fishing for bigger, more vigorous salt or freshwater fish, you’ll need something with a drag system. Visit your local fishing store and get some tips before you buy—anglers love to talk—and while they may tell some tall fish tales about their exploits, they’ll deliver the straight stuff about equipment.
A fishing vest can help you keep your flies, nippers, hemostats floatant, tippet, strike indicators, weights, and net organized. And don’t forget your zinger! Polarized sunglasses are a must for cutting the glare off the water. Sunscreen, insect repellent, and a lightweight rain jacket are smart additions to your pack. You could also bring along an old ski pole or wading staff for balance in rocky streambeds. Don’t forget UPF garments such as sleeves, neck gaiter, and fingerless gloves.
As you’ll soon discover, it’s far too easy to tangle line on a snag or tree branch, or have that legendary fish break it as its trying to escape. The right fly line makes a difference when it comes to catching fish. If you’re fishing for bigger catch, or in rough conditions, bring a heavier line. For clear water lake fishing, it’s a game of stealth, so bring something clear and light that will become nearly invisible in the water.
This is the piece that connects the fishing line to the fly. Often, the leader is a fine piece of fishing line that is easier to tie to the fly, and less conspicuous to the fish. Tapered leaders are the best.
You can get away with wading in a pair of old sneakers, but breathable waders keep you warmer and add protection. Water shoes are the best invention since the aluminum beer can—they are designed to get wet, without allowing in sand and grit. The lightweight mesh material drains quickly, and aggressive rubber soles have great traction in amphibious situations. Avoid felt soled shoes or boots as they can transfer invasive amoeba like the Whirling Disease, from stream to steam.
The Right Flies
When selecting flies choose them from the fish’s point of view and don’t just settle for the one your Uncle Wiggy gave you for your sixthbirthday. Drop in a nearby bait or fishing equipment shop and they should steer you toward the right ones. Or better yet, check the local fish and wildlife site for tips on what to buy or tie.
A Basic First-Aid Kit
Keep it small and simple: Band-Aids, Neosporin, gauze, ibuprofen, and roll of sprain tape should cover the basics of what you should encounter on the river or lake..
As with the vest, a good fishing hat completes the look—but it also offers key protection against the sun—a wide-brimmed design will keep the sun off your neck and ears, while baseball caps are good for cutting the sun’s glare (and hiding bedhead) for those early morning casts.
Far View Lodge | Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
While touring the gob-smacking testament to human invention that is Mesa Verde National Park, it’s easy to understand why the Anasazi chose this valley as the place to build their ancient cliff dwellings. Even without the presence of the country’s largest archeological preservation, the unfettered beauty of this region of the southwestern Colorado is enough to stop you in your tracks and invite you to linger for weeks, which is why the Far View Lodge is so wonderful. The aptly name hotel sits 15 miles inside the park—one of the very few national parks that have hotels inside their borders—perched atop one of the higher points in Mesa Verde.
From your private balcony (yep, each room has one), you can cast your eyes across the expanse of four distinct states, spot curious wildlife, and trace your gaze across distant mountain ranges. We say spend the day exploring the park, and retire to your room to watch the sunset. Then head down to the lobby to dine at the Metate Room, and return to star gaze across that expansive western sky. Then repeat again the next day—the park’s mysteries reveal themselves with leisurely exploration, and the Far View Lodge makes for the ideal basecamp. The rooms are perfectly bare bones. No TVs, no telephones, and no cell service. Nothing, in other words, to distract you from the surrounding landscape. But they do have in-room fridges to keep a few of Colorado’s famed craft beers cold. Or upgrade to one of the Kiva Rooms, which also come with handcrafted furniture and an a/c. The Far View Lodge is open from mid April till mid October, and the lobby does have free wireless for those who simply have to stay plugged in, even while blissing out.
Myth: If you are lost in the woods, look for moss as it only grows on the north side of a tree.
Fact: Moss will grow wherever there is enough moisture, and this could be on any side of the tree. Factors such as prevailing winds and amount of sunlight affect where moss might grow. But in general, if you have moist wood, you have moss.
If you do happen to get caught out in the woods without any sort of navigational tool, there are a few natural tricks you can use to help you head in a general direction (that is if you know in which general direction you should be heading).
In general, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but keep in mind it only rises due east on two days of the year—the equinoxes. Every other day of the year it rises and sets to either side. The trick is to think about the season and which pole, north or south, is pointing towards the sun. This will give you an indication as to which side and approximately how far of east and west that the sun will rise and set that day. You can also use a stick to aid your sun navigation— the shortest shadow cast by a stick each day will form a perfect north-south line anywhere in the world and this happens at midday (when the sun is at its highest point in the sky).
At night, use the stars if you can see them to establish north. Anyone with a bit of basic astronomy knowledge should be able to pick out the Big Dipper. Trace a line from the star at the right-hand base of the pan, through the star at the right-hand rim of the pan, and follow it upwards. The north star is roughly five times the distance between those two pointer stars. Once you locate the North Star, drop a vertical line down to the horizon and that is north.
Another trick is to know from which general direction weather usually moves through the area. The breeze will indicate that direction. Throw a few leaves or bits of light grass in the air to follow the wind.
And if all else fails, remember the best thing you can do is to just stay put if you get lost. This will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
Based in Southern California, Conway Bowman is a man who loves to catch fish, and the fly rod is his weapon of choice. He has traveled the world in search of Atlantic salmon, wild trout, redfish, bonefish, and tarpon. Bowman currently holds the IGFA world record for redfish caught on the fly (41.65 lbs Redfish, Record: World Fly Rod, 20lb Tippet). We recently caught up with the man to ask him a few questions about his passion for fishing.
1. When did you start fishing and who taught you?
I started fishing at age three. My father introduced me to fishing.
2. You have become known as the Mako Shark Man. How did you get into fishing for sharks? Do you have a special rig/technique for hooking makos?
I started fishing for makos 25 years ago off the San Diego coast. I always wanted to target big saltwater fish on the fly rod but never had the money to fly around the world to do so. I would read all these amazing stories in magazines about tarpon, tuna and marlin. I found out later that I had one of the world’s best bluewater game fish and fisheries right out my back door. With the help of some commercial fishing friends, I figured out how to catch mako sharks consistently very close to shore off San Diego.
My rig is very simple. An eight-and-a-half-foot 14-weight fly rod, a very large fly reel with 500 yards of backing, a floating fly line, 30-pound test leader, and 60-pound stainless steel wire attached to a big orange fly called the Mako Bomb (10/0 hook). This is all I use to catch makos up to 300 pounds. Add a 24-foot bay boat, good tides, and some fresh tuna for chum. Oh, and a lot of patience.
3. You run Bowman Bluewater Guides & Outfitters out of San Diego. What are your essential items to pack for a saltwater fly-fishing trip?
It depends on what I’m targeting, but in general, this is what always stays in my boat bag in addition to my rod and reel.
1) Polarized glasses (amber lenses)
2) Sun protective clothing (face, neck gaiters, hat, sleeves, gloves)
3) Lip protection (a must)
4) Sunscreen (30 SPF w/ zinc)
5) Box of baitfish pattern flies (saltwater streamers)
6) Small bag of split shot weights
7) Duct tape (works for repairing everything)
8) Multi tool/knife blade and screw driver
9) Microfiber cloth (for cleaning camera lenses to sunglasses)
10) Small point-and-shoot camera (to document all the fish I say I catch and so my wife knows I went fishing)
11) Bottle opener (for obvious reasons)
12) Copy of passport/ID and emergency contact info
13) Handheld GPS (just in case I get lost or the guide gets lost. Yes, it happens.)
14) My St. Christopher medal (for good luck)
15) A good attitude (you catch more fish if you’re in a good head space)
4. Do you have any memorable “One That Got Away” stories?
I’ve had so many nice fish get away it’s difficult to sort out the most memorable.
How about the one I wish I threw back? It’s a great story, you’ll just have to wait to read it in another article.
5. What is the one fly any self-respecting fly angler should always have in the box?
If you are fishing for everything other than permit, I would suggest a Chartreuse Clouser Minnow. If you are fly-fishing for permit? A spinning rod and live crab! Just joking! For those who target permit on the fly, this most frustrating and humbling experience can leave even the finest of fly anglers with little self respect. Another joke!
Long regarded as the textbook on all things hiking and mountaineering, The Mountaineers were the first to introduce the concept of The Ten Essentials—and despite all the technological advances of the last few decades, the core of their insight remains a timelss checklist to ensure that you’re always ready to respond to accident or emergency, and can handle an unexpected night in the great beyond. True, you may not need all ten items for every adventure, why both taking the risk? After all, if something goes wrong, you’ll be whispering private thanks to each and every item.
Navigation: Whether you use a traditional map and compass, an app on your smartphone, a handheld GPS, or even a GPS watch, some form of navigational ability is the key to not getting lost or getting yourself un-lost. And it should be more than just knowing that moss always grows on the north side of the trees.
Sun Protection: Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, and protective clothing. Nothing can ruin a great day outside more than sunburn, snow blindness, or even heat stroke.
Extra layers: Depending on the climate, you will want a rain jacket or light insulated jacket in your pack in case the weather turns foul or you get caught out all night.
Illumination: Even if you plan to be gone for only a couple of hours, it is essential to have some sort of light source, just in case. And batteries don’t last forever so be sure to check them regularly.
First-Aid: A basic first-aid kit should be able to do three things: stop bleeding, pain, and allergic reactions. As part of the kit, also include some sort of communication device—whether it be your cell phone, whistle, or satellite messenger in case of a real emergency.
Fire: Either a lighter, fire starter, or waterproof matches.
Hydration: Although it is always good to have enough water, keep in mind that one liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds. If you have access to a water source on the trail, consider ditching the excess and carry a water filter, bleach, or some iodine instead. Fully hydrate at the start and end of the day. And since you aren’t carrying a ton of water weight, you have space for that flask full of your favorite trail tipple to enjoy around the campfire at the end of the day.
Repair Kit and Tools: A knife or multi-tool comes in handy for a variety of tasks. Wrap some duct tape around your water bottle or hiking poles and you can fix almost anything—at least for the time it’ll take to back to civilization.
Food: You need enough food to fuel you through the day’s adventures, but plan on throwing in a few extra no-cook items such as jerky or energy bars.
Emergency Shelter: Space blanket-type emergency bivies weigh nothing and cost nothing, so there is you just round of reasons to not stashing one at the bottom of your pack.
Columbia Sportswear Take Ten App:
Take Ten is the second in a series of mobile apps designed by Columbia Sportswear to help you get the most from your adventures in the Greater Outdoors. This app is designed to introduce backcountry users to the Ten Essential Groups, a collection of items promoted by outdoor experts as critical to the safe enjoyment of our wild areas.
The Ten Essential GroupsAt the heart of the app is a user-expandable database of tools and equipment divided into ten groups:
Jordan is pure magic. The country, bordered by Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Israel is exotic as all get-out, with men wearing the traditional red-and-white-checked keffiyeh (headscarf) and long white robes and women in the traditional hijab and modest dress. By day, the old markets (there’s one in nearly every town) are a kaleidoscope of scents; cardamom-spiced coffee, za‘tar, and saffron dominate, while at night, the clubs and restaurants are hazy with the smoke of fruit-flavored tobacco, sucked down via hookah pipes by men and women alike.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as it is formally known, is an oasis of peace in a region of the world that has become synonymous with political turmoil—a quiet house in a noisy neighborhood. But Jordan is safe—as one adventure tourist was advised by a prominent FBI agent—“safer than visiting Chicago.” The Nebraska-sized country has a constitutional monarchy, with strong civil rights, religious freedom, and close ties with the United States and the European Union. While it’s pure Arabia—the country is primarily Islamic, and Arabic is the main language—English is taught in schools starting in the first grade. The country rates #1 in education in the Arab world, something that’s obvious when you share tea with a local Bedouin family or sit among students in a pub in Amman debating international politics or the war in Syria.
The Kingdom is at the cradle of civilization, with amazing archeological sites dating back to the Paleolithic period (tens of thousands of years B.C.) The best known is Petra, a UNESCO site settled by the ancient Nabateans who carved the giant columns and granaries into the sandstone cliffs. It’s a must-visit, and could dominate several days of your itinerary as you hike around the valley. But don’t let that be the only spot you visit.
The country’s geography is vast desert, punctuated by steep hills, fertile canyons, oases of pink oleander and palm, and miles of coast. The port city of Aqaba boasts world-class diving in the Red Sea, Wadi Rum’s vast desert landscape supports legions of hikers and has given birth to a new breed of Middle Eastern rock climbers, and the historic Dead Sea offers plenty of ways to embrace the recuperative benefits of the waters and mud.
Your likely gateway into Jordan will be Amman, a bustling city of 3 million (Jordan has a population of 7 million), with the ancient souk (market) in the middle of town. But—as tempting as it is to rush out and start exploring—give the city a few days to adjust to the welcoming country. A good measure of when you’re ready to venture out? When you get used to everyone saying “hello hello!” in a warm chorus of greeting from every street corner, car, and bus.
This is the first in a series of articles on all that Jordan has to offer. Our #omniten team is exploring the country April 7-16. Follow their adventures by searching #omniten or #TryingStuffinJordan.
Our picks of the top spring (and summer!) ski destinations:
There’s a lot more to snow sports than cold, gnarly weather. In fact, there’s no shame in being a fair-weather skier. From April through August you can find some of the best turns of the year. First, there’s the hero snow—snow that resembles corn but remains forgiving and still holds an edge. And then there’s the lack of crowds. Most ski areas make the bulk of their single-ticket profit during holidays; Christmas to New Years, Spring Break, and Presidents Day are big ones, but even mini-holidays like Valentine’s Day can result in arduous lift lines. After mid-March visits sharply decline. So chances are very, very good you’ll have no lift lines, a chair to yourself, and private runs. Lift prices drop dramatically after March as well. Most resorts offer a spring pass—which ends up being a fraction of what it costs for mid-season rates.
And did we mention the weather? Spring and summer are the best times to hang out on resort patios with your favorite pair of sunglasses, a cold drink, and good friends. Warm temps means that you don’t need so many warm layers. Plus good snow and warm weather equal great conditions that are ideal for beginners.
Here’s our list of the top places to ski in the spring and summer months. And don’t forget to pack your Hawaiian shirt and Mardi Gras beads, as spring skiing generally equals live music, barbeques, and frosty beverages.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closes for the season on April 6th, but the Aerial Tram re-opens for the summer season on Memorial Day. There is fantastic skiing off the tram, with Cody Peak being a local’s favorite. Winter season pass holders ride the tram for free, or you can buy a single-ride ticket. From the top, you can ski down, snowshoe, hike around and grab breakfast at Corberts Cabin (the waffles are divine). Click here for details. Also, don’t forget to check backcountry conditions at www.jhavalanche.org. There is no in-bounds skiing (or ski patrol), and Jackson Hole does not conduct avalanche reduction efforts!
The glacier on Blackcomb Mountain means that the ski season generally lasts through June. The area has some of the best grooming (and snow making machines) in North America—which helps to extend the season long after other resorts have shut down. This year, Whistler closes on April 21, 2014 (the Peak 2 Peak Gondola closes this day as well), but Blackcomb stays open until May 19th. Lift ticket prices drop after March 31 and then drop significantly on April 22 when Whistler closes. Spring skiing is terrific because Blackcomb has some amazing high-alpine terrain and glaciers where the snow lingers long after the first day of summer. It also doesn’t hurt that the area sports some great alpine and valley restaurants with perfect patios for a lunch break or a sunny après. The biggest spring event is the World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF), which runs April 11-20. The Festival combines Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series with career-making showdowns of action sports, photography and film, the best spring snow conditions, and the best nightlife. This is the ultimate celebration of everything that’s core to mountain culture! More info can be found at www.wssf.com. Price details can be found here. The area also offers discounted unlimited spring skiing passes and discounts and spring offers for guests who pre-purchase their passes for next season. Details can be found at www.whistlerblackcomb.com.
Closing day at Mt. Bachelor is scheduled for Sunday, May 25th. Given the current base depth of 110”/141”, as long as there are seasonal temperatures through March and April, it’s looking like it’ll be a great spring, with the standard 360-access off the Summit. You can buy a Spring Season Pass that’s nearly as cheap as a weekend of skiing over the Christmas holiday—it’s valid starting March 31st through closing day. Details on the spring pass, events, and the ‘Springtacular Season’ at Mt. Bachelor can be found here. Locals are crossing their fingers for a snowy next few months, and if the snow and base depth cooperate, the mountain is planning on the ‘JulySki’ opening of the Summit for the July 4th weekend.
Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge has longest ski and snowboard season in North America. You can ski daily through Labor Day. Starting around June 1st (depending on snowpack and weather) the skiing and riding then moves from the lower mountain up to the lifts that access the glacier. The Magic Mile chair does what it promises—with a full mile of turns. The Palmer Chairlift drops you off at 8,540 feet on the side of Mt. Hood, a great place to start your ski to the bottom, or if you’re more vertically inclined, to climb to the summit. Usually by Memorial Day, only those two lifts remain open. Starting June 1, skiers and snowboarders can usually get access to two chairlifts every day. On most days, skiers can lap the Magic Mile and Palmer Chairlifts. Terrain park features are usually installed on Magic Mile. Summer lift tickets cost $60. Timberline also runs camps during the summer season. The three- to six-day camps target performance, masters, families, and freestyle. Most are scheduled mid-June through July, and some are designed to include kids.
Welcome To #TryingStuff: Your First Step To Adventure
On this, April Fools’ Day, let us pause to praise the time-honored pastime of tall tales that add spice to the world of adventure and the outdoors. From naval-gazing blogs about your latest exploits to stories of the one that got away to less-than-humble pronouncements of landing a big jump, exaggeration is just a much a part of the outdoor world as fresh snow is part of skiing—you can have one without the other, but it’s a lot more fun if both are involved. We love them almost as much as documents of a triumphant failure.
And in this age of instant updating via 1,001 social channels, the impulse to proclaim your exploits from the top of the virtual mountaintop—while standing on the literal mountaintop—is both far easier than even before. Get the right followers and you can graduate from being a legend in your own mind to corralling a world of fans who endure a burst of envious hatred whenever they read or see visual evidence of your latest successful exploit. And that’s without the “April Fools’!” punch line.
And we say go for it. Tweet it, pin it, Vine it, Instagram it, and post it. Like it, share it, email it, and do whatever it verbs currently apply. Hike the world’s most dangerous trail. Upload a video of an antelope attacking a mountain biker. Film your own version of Danny MacKaskill’s ground-break video and land big-time sponsorships. But just remember: at the core of all that sorta-vital, hopefully-viral “sharing” is the simple impulse to try new stuff in the world just outside our door and just beyond our computer screens.
That’s what we’re here to celebrate: #TryingStuff, be it a new sport, hot spot, a classic trail, or a new climbing route. Throughout the coming months we’ll be profiling some of the best ways to get out there and experience new things, with everything from essential lists for a cadre of sports to Q&As with top athletes and personalities in the outdoor scene to must-visit multisport adventure hubs around the world—and a whole lot more.
So come back often. Let us know how we’re doing, what we got right and what we missed. Share your own tall tales on the Columbia Facebook page, our partner in this intrepid new venture. Help us tell your story. And above all, keep trying stuff.
Oh, and keep exaggerating bragging about all those exploits—both the triumphs and failures. Because real enthusiasm is contagious.