Monday, June 30, 2014

Spey Nation VII

H: June 28, 2014: It was SN III for this flygirl. Despite a lower than usual turn out, I had a great time at Spey Nation. I admit I had second thoughts about going this year since I'd already seen just about all of the presenters before. But I had promised friends that I would go, so I went, and I'm glad I didn't miss it! A big thanks to Geoff and the rest of the SN crew for another great clave and the free Friday night F3T film tour at the Tailwater Lodge.

You couldn't have asked for better weather. I arrived at the Pineville parking lot around 8:30 am. My first order of business was to cast some new rods. I walked over to the LTS booth and was immediately drawn to the 12' 6" 8-weight X1 with its sexy matte black finish and high-gloss wraps. I wish more rod companies would leave their rods in this natural matte graphite finish. Now, if the X1 cast half as well as it looked...

Hyun Kounne double spey casting with the LTS X1 spey rod at Spey Nation 2014
Double speying with a LTS X1 spey rod at the Nation. Photo courtesy of W. Robin Hill. See more great photos from Spey Nation 2014. 
Manning the LTS stand was the 2014 Spey-o-rama women's casting champion, Whitney Gould. She was super nice and offered to come down to the river and cast with me. We talked and cast for a while. We tried out different lines on the X1, including a well matched Gaelforce line. And I even got some spey casting tips from the champ. That was pretty cool! Oh, and the X1 was a sweet rod—lightweight, smooth progressive taper, really easy to cast and feel the rod load.

I also cast the LTS Explosive spey rod, another 12' 6" 8-weight. It was "explosive" all right, but not in a good way, at least for me. It felt way too tippy. I also took the new Beulah Onyx and latest Sage Method spey rods out for a spin (6–8 weights). While I enjoyed casting them, I'm still waiting to find a spey rod I like better than my G. Loomis NRX two-handers ;).

I met Poppy from the Red Shed fly shop. He and Mrs. RedShed drove all the way from Idaho to attend Spey Nation. They were the nicest people and I hope to make it out to their Clearwater clave some day! I really liked the 54-ft. Gaelforce lines Poppy brought along. And I regret not taking one of the Gaelforce rods for a spin. But they were huge! 12- and 10-weights (16 ft!). A bit too much rod for this flygirl and for this river.

2014 Spey-o-rama casting champion, Whitney Gould at Spey Nation
2014 Spey-o-rama casting champion, Whitney Gould. No errors in this cast.
I caught bits and pieces of some of the demos, but I spent most of the day on the water, casting. I sat down for Whitney's presentation on common casting errors. She was definitely nervous and started off a bit shaky but pulled it together for a good demo. She's such a good caster, she had a hard time demonstrating the errors. It's tough trying to go against muscle memory ;) Throughout the day, I saw her on the river, generously giving tips and lessons to both novice and experienced casters. Reminded me what Spey Nation is all about.

Speaking of lessons, my friend Sam had taken one with Travis Johnson (2014 Spey-o-rama men's champion) at last year's Nation. She heard he was giving a lesson later that afternoon, so we both signed up. But casting all day long finally caught up with me and I was too tired to get the most out of it. I lasted maybe 80 mins. Which was a bummer, because Travis turned out to be a good instructor. I picked up some pointers (different hand/arm setup positions) that I'm eager to experiment with. Plus, I was able to cast a prototype mid-belly line Travis designed (to be manufactured by Scientific Angler and distributed by Beulah shortly). A really nice casting line, definitely a contender for my 13' 8-weight NRX.

Sam Decker taking a lesson with Travis Johnson after Spey Nation
Sam, clearly having a miserable time ;) during the lesson with Travis Johnson after the Nation.
A couple of things I realized at SN VII: 1. I'm no longer too self conscious to cast in public (as long as other people are casting, too ;). 2. I've finally reached a level of proficiency in my spey casting where I'm comfortable and knowledgeable enough to move beyond the basics, to analyze both the style and substance of different casters and decide what might work best for me. Now, if only Master Buhr would head back East... ;)

See you at SN VIII!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Dam Good Film

H: June 8, 2014: A few nights ago, I joined some friends from the NYC Fly meetup group at a free screening of the Patagonia produced documentary, DamNation. It was inspiring and made me want to rappel down the side of a deadbeat dam in the cover of night with paint can and brush in hand... But I'll leave that to veteran daredevil activists like Mikal Jakubal and just write something on this blog instead ;).

Patagonia's DamNation documentary poster
DamNation is not an impartial look at the history and proliferation of dams in the U.S. (over 75,000). In fact, the history and rationale for dam construction is too quickly glossed over. Rather, it's beautifully filmed, unabashed propaganda for freeing our rivers of obsolete dams whose economic and environmental costs now outweigh any previous benefits. It advocates restoring our watersheds to their natural state, allowing salmon and steelhead to return unimpeded to their spawning grounds and vital nutrients to be dispersed throughout its ecosystem.

Watching the demolition footage of several dams, including one on the Elwah River in Washington's Olympic Peninsula, was uplifting, especially knowing the immediate impact its removal has had on rejuvenating wild fish populations.

Despite touching upon a wide range of issues and historic events—the negative impact of hatcheries and hatchery fish, the loss of Native American fishing traditions on the Columbia River, the flooding of beautiful places such as Glen Canyon in Arizona—DamNation's message is loud and clear. It's time for deadbeat environmentally damaging dams to go.

As a fly fisher who supports wild rivers and fisheries, I wholeheartedly embrace its message and urge everyone who cares about the health of our rivers to step up and take action. We need to be the guardians of the watersheds and fisheries we hold dear, yet so easily take for granted.

You can watch DamNation on demand at Vimeo, find a free screening near you, or purchase the DVD from Patagonia. I highly recommend it!p

After watching the documentary, if you, too, are inspired, go to change.org and sign this petition urging President Obama to crack down on deadbeat dams, specifically 4 dams on the lower Snake River in Washington.

DamNation. Directed by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel. Produced by Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel. Executive Producer: Yvon Chouinard (Yvon rocks! :).