Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Product Review: Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack

Magnum Sling Pack

It has taken a few years for me to finally settle on a tackle-management system. I really don't like the vest, especially when using a two-handed fly rod. I tried older Orvis chest packs and a Simms waist pack, but I didn't feel like I found the right pack until I tried the Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack. It's a great pack, but I always thought it would be nicer if it was a little roomier.

Fighting a salmon-original Safe Passage Sling Pack

Enter the new Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack...

I had considered buying the highly water resistant Orvis Gale Force Sling Pack instead, but decided against it (more on that later). Here is the volume breakdown of all three packs:

Safe Passage Sling Pack: 472 cu. in.
Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack: 840 cu. in.
Gale Force Sling Pack: 1,008 cu. in.

As you can see, the Gale Force pack wins in the capacity department. I decided against it mainly due to the fact that it is one large compartment. I wanted the separation that the Magnum pack offers. Sure, it would have been nice to have the water resistance, but very little of my stuff is loose, so I think what is inside will stay relatively dry.

The Magnum is almost double the capacity of the original and the difference is definitely noticeable. I don't feel like I have to cram anything in there. Most of the time, while salmon fishing, the original Sling Pack is sufficient. For my Russia trip, I felt I needed greater capacity as most of my flies/tubes are substantially larger than the flies I use in North America. Plus, I felt I could use the extra room for storing extra shooting heads, polyleaders, snacks, etc.

Aside from the overall shape, both Safe Passage sling packs have virtually identical features. The original pack does not have a zippered inside compartment, however. I find that inclusion to be quite useful on the Magnum pack. Like the original, the Magnum comes with a velcro-backed fly patch. I don't store flies on the patch as much as I use it to dry flies on, or at least store them after being fished. There's probably enough room in this pack to fit two velcro fly patches if one was inclined to do so.

Fly patch & internal pockets (elasticized & zippered)

I use the main compartment to store my Finsport Fly Wallet (for tube flies) and a large fly box. There is easily enough room for another good-sized box or two smaller boxes, snacks, empty collapsable water bottle, etc.  Sure, you might have to stack things up inside, but I just put the lesser accessed stuff on the bottom and it seems to work just fine. 

Main compartment

My only real gripe is with the nylon waist strap. I can't stand using it as a waist strap. It does, however, come with a buckle that can be (theoretically) used to secure the waist strap around the opposite shoulder/armpit area. I think having another strap would help reduce back strain which can occur from a long day on the water. Unfortunately, the strap cannot be adjusted small enough for me to use in this fashion. It's about twice as long as I need it to be. I'm sure Orvis could have found a way to make the strap adjust to a smaller size. I guess I'm going to cut mine in half and affix an extra plastic buckle. Whatever works, I guess...

In conclusion, I rate the Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack 4 out of 5 stars. If I had some options with the waist strap, I might have given it all 5 stars. This is a great pack, especially for those of us who fish with two-handed rods. If there was a way Orvis could fuse the Magnum pack with the Gale Force pack, I'd probably give it 6 stars! Of course, I would be happy to field test any future prototypes, so please put me on the list...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Same Thing Murray

A great fly, despite the weird name

Historically, there are some salmon flies with some pretty strange names. My favorite has to be "Moonlight on Mrs. Higginbotham" (???). The Same Thing Murray has a pretty weird name, albeit not as weird as Mrs. H's fly. I would venture to guess the Murray has caught a lot more salmon in its relatively short life than the old, obscure Mrs. H fly.

When looking at the stats of this blog, I've noticed the Same Thing Murray is often searched for. I am going to try to keep my eye on the stats and post flies which seem to be frequently "requested." Feel free to make a formal request if there's a fly you'd like to see highlighted. I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best to post it.

This one is a notch or two tougher to tie than a standard hairwing such as a Blue Charm, Cosseboom, etc. Make sure you leave plenty of room for the double head. I leave the butt ends of the moose hair wing long to make a nice platform for the head components to sit on. This can be a bit of a tricky tie at first, but don't get discouraged. It just takes a little practice and some planning to nail this one.

Here's the recipe I use to tie Doug Hasting's "Same Thing Murray," which is slightly different from the original dressing:

Hook: Tiemco TMC 700 or Daiichi 2441
Tip: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Orange hackle fibers
Body: rear 1/2-fluorescent green Gordon Griffiths floss (or chartreuse Uni Stretch); front 1/2-peacock herl
Underwing: a few strands of lime green or peacock Krystal Flash
Wing: Moose body hair
Collar Hackle: Black hen
Head: Chinese red Uni Stretch, followed by black ostrich herl

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lady Amherst 5/0

Lady A, with mallard strategically hiding lacquer stains

Despite being tied in the classic Ranger style, the Lady Amherst is not what the purists consider a "true classic" salmon fly. Having been invented  in post-Victorian era Canada (c. 1925) by George B. Bonbright (Fishing Atlantic Salmon; Bates, 348), the Lady Amherst is most closely associated with the large salmon of Qu├ębec's Grand Cascapedia. The Lady Amherst is an early season fly, most commonly tied on large irons. To me, she's every bit as "classic" as any of them.

The Lady Amherst was the first fully dressed pattern I tied, probably four years ago or so. While more iconic flies such as the Jock Scott and the Popham seem to garner the most attention, the Lady Amherst was the fly that really drew me in. I have a real affinity for the contrast of white/dark feathers, especially from the Amherst Pheasant and the Silver Pheasant. I think I still have a couple of crude, early ties of this fly, which will definitely see some time in the water next month.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fly Box-Doubles for the Kola River

A big box o' doubles

Though I mainly plan on fishing various tube flies while in Russia, I couldn't help but tie a box of doubles for myself. I guess I just love the way a fly looks on a double hook. These are large flies, in sizes 2/0 and #1-#4. I think some of the 2/0 flies might weigh at least as much as some of my flies tied on copper tubes.

Most of these doubles I tied are established Canadian fly patterns, though there are some European patterns represented as well. The flies can be divided into three categories:

1. Large to jumbo-sized versions of flies I have found to be particularly successful, such as: Sugerman Shrimp, Ally's Shrimp, Same Thing Murray, Red/Green Butt Butterfly, Black Bear Green Butt and the Green Machine.

2. Proven flies I have fished, but have not yet had success with, such as: General Practitioner, Rusty Rat and Silver Rat.

3. Flies which are totally new to me, such as: Ghost Stone Fly, Picasse, Sunburst Flamethrower, Green Highlander Longtail, Blue Charm w/Green Butt and the Pompier.

I tied the large Green Machine with chenille, but I think I'm going to tie a couple with deer hair (as well as a couple of large Shady Ladies). I don't think the buoyancy of the deer hair will offset the weight of the double hook very much, especially considering I tend to pack the deer hair on my bugs rather loosely. This was my first chenille Buck Bug-style fly. The deer hair versions look more durable to me.

Anyhow, we'll see what happens!