Tenkara on the Selway and Meadow Creek, ID

It has been far too long since we have been out fishing, or camping, or otherwise. On top of that I just replaced the fishing vest I've had since 5th grade with a more modern Patagonia Atom sling pack from Backcountry Lark in Moscow...and new gear deserves to be tested!

So, off we went up the Selway River to find somewhere I could fish and Katie could relax, swim and explore. The drive up the Selway to a campsite above the Falls turned out to be just the ticket. The fishing was phenomenal, and despite recent fires that came right up to our camp the area is gorgeous.
Part of the rugged Selway Falls

Selway Falls is an incredible jumble of giant boulders that looks like it would be stellar to watch at medium to high flows. As it was the low water let us see the incredible rock carved basins (carved by smaller rocks spinning in a water vortex until the carve a hole out of the surrounding rock). Flows were also low enough to let the summer Chinook ascend the falls, so we were treated to seeing them resting in the pools above the falls.
Look closely, along the shore there are multiple large salmon resting in the eddy above the falls

Some of these salmon scared me to death as I was fishing the confluence with Meadow creek. Two scared me as they slid back downstream, half their body out of the water, after failing to ascend the riffle into the creek. Both times they noticed me and started splashing right next to my leg as I was wading. They are amazing animals!

They also attract the bald eagles and at least one fell victim to the group of adult and juvenile eagles we saw multiple times during our stay.
Dead salmon with an eagle pinfeather that was laying nearby. This gives some perspective on just how large the eagles are, the fish was probably well over 20"

Our camp was perfect, with a grove of cedar trees perfectly spaced to hang two hammocks, and a family of deer that seemed monumentally unconcerned with our presence.

As I said, the fishing was stellar. I brought my tenkara rod as well as my western style rod, but the western rod never made it out of the case. The creek was cold, and the perfect size to wade and fish with a bit less than a rod length of level line and a six foot tippet. Fish were lined up like cordwood in the pools as well as in the cold water at the confluence.

I probably only fished 100 yards of stream but was catching a fish with every second or third cast in the pools. Ironically, the smallest fish were in the Selway below the confluence, apparently the big dogs had claimed the best territory in the cold holes of the creek and kicked out the little guys to the relatively warmer river (and it was noticeably warmer outside the plume of the confluence). All the fish I caught in the creek were over 10 inches, with some up to 16".

I didn't intend to become a "one fly" angler, but after tying on a couple varieties of flies without much luck I tied on a size 12, green bodied kebari that suddenly made clear just how many fish were in the stream! I used that fly for the rest of the weekend, losing one to a big cutthroat that got away and one to the top of a hawthorn bush.

The Stealth Atom sling pack was awesome. I still need to get used to using it, but the fold down worktable pocket makes it easy to store and tie on flies without losing them. The tippet spools and nipper are really well placed. I'm still befuddled as to why it goes over the right shoulder...it leaves the net on the wrong side of your body, requiring a hand switch while fighting a fish, and also makes your casting shoulder a bit tired if you carry a full water bottle. But, overall, it's a huge improvement over my old vest. The waterproof pocket is a nice touch and it carries everything I need plus a touch more if I really wanted to fill it full.

Top of the Line Fishing Net from a Racquetball Racquet

As you know, I'm not much for spending money on gear. I buy my basketball shoes on the cheap, and I'm even more stingy when it comes to fly fishing. Why? Because anything sold with "fly fishing" on the box is priced twice as high as it would be in the spin fishing aisle and I don't buy the claims of superiority that companies make.

After all, I remember when IM6 was the gold standard and people still caught tons of fish...now manufacturers are making 'throwback' style super-slow action fiberglass rods as if technology from the 70's was some gold standard...and no matter the technology people are still catching tons of fish. 

So, clearly, the amount of money you spend on a rod doesn't correlate to the number of fish you catch. It might correlate to your comfort while doing it, or your sense of prestige...and a good warranty is a good idea...but it isn't the key to catching fish.

With that in mind, when a fish swam through my net via a giant hole, I decided it was time to replace it. I wanted to replace it with a good rubber net because I do believe the hype that slippery wet rubber does a better job of keeping the fish from losing scales and it's slime layer than mesh fabric. But, those nets are ridiculously expensive! There are cheaper rubber nets in the spinning aisle (imagine that!) but they were too big for wearing on my back while wading around. So...what to do?

A trip to Goodwill got this idea started. I saw a racquetball racquet on the shelf for $4 and got to thinking that it looked an awful lot like the design of quite a few nets out there. A quick look online showed that it's pretty cheap to buy a replacement rubber net. A tape measure made clear that a medium sized flyfishing replacement net would fit just right with the dimensions of a racquetball racquet frame.

Done! I snapped up an atrociously ugly Wilson Titanium racquet and went online to find a net. Here's what it became:

Ugh, that thing is ugly, but it's the right size!

Racquetball racquets also have a wrist strap connection that is nice and strong...perfect for a net keeper. 

Injected foam handle means it might float. De-string and take off the plastic rash guards. 

I used a dremel to take the handle down a bit and round it. 


Used some paint stripper from the garage to take it down to bare metal, since the paint didn't stick to the original finish. 

Nice bare metal. Doesn't look or act like titanium to me, I think it's mostly aluminum. 

Painted with some enamel stray pain. 

Knotting on the handle out of paracord. My pioneering merit badge came in handy!

Cut down the string guides so the net will be recessed once it's attached. 

Nice Turks Head knots on each side of the handle. 

I went with a Fishpond net because at $25 they are decent deal for a good net. The net is lightweight, unlike some on Ebay and ones I saw in stores that look awfully chunky and heavy. 

Also, the kit has everything you need, including a needle...but just barely enough. I had less than 6 inches of dacron left at the end. 

Snap the rash guards back on the racket. 

Sew the net in with the dacron thread. Loop in to attach the net, stitch through every hole with a running stitch to keep the plastic guard in place. 

Here's what a good attachment looks like. They won't all line up this well, do what you have to to make it work. 

Looks pretty classy from the outside. 

And there you have it! A medium sized net, super lightweight and looks very classy. Possible for $30...much less if you go with a cheaper Ebay rubber net (a nylon net is even cheaper) or find a deal on a used racquet.

I'm not gonna lie, this cost a bit more than $30 if you count the stuff I used that I just had lying around. A package of paracord is $6, spray paint is $4, a dremel is pricey but you could just as easily use a knife and sandpaper...but it's pretty cheap all told. If you went with a cheaper net this could be a $15 net...even less if you don't really care what it looks like.

Old Shoe Review: Nike Super.Fly 4 Jacquard Performance Review

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, and even longer since I’ve posted an Old Shoe Review. The reason is that I haven’t changed shoes for awhile, or more honestly, that I haven’t changed models. 

Since my last update I’ve broken one pair of Air Jordan XX9’s and am well into wearing out a second pair from the Nike warranty (apparently the lateral sole tears eventually due to the way I play, the same thing is happening again). They truly are the greatest guard shoe ever made though, in my opinion. But, I knew I was going to need a new pair of shoes soon so I have been looking around for other options since the XX9 isn’t going to be available forever and the reviews of the XXX aren’t that great…and they haven’t hit the sale rack yet.

The Jordan Super.Fly line was automatically intriguing since it incorporates the unlocked zoom air and flight plate that makes the XX9 so comfortable and springy. They are also quite a bit cheaper, and you know I’m not one to ever pay full price for a pair of sneakers. 

But, the upper on the Super.Fly 4 just wasn’t anything I could love and the lacing system didn’t seem to be very appealing so I never gave them a serious look.

Luckily, we don’t have to settle for the ugly (I think anyway) mesh and foam upper now that the Super.Fly 4 Jacquard has released. Always a fan of wild shoes, I immediately liked this pattern and it caught my eye when it went on clearance at Nike.com.

But, if you look around the internet there are literally no performance reviews of this version of the Super.Fly, even though for all intents and purposes it’s an entirely different shoe. So...now that these shoes are available at good clearance prices all over the internet it’s time for me to change that and let you know how they play.

First though, take a look at what KickGenius has to say about the original version, since they are the best shoe reviewers out there and comparing this new design to the old one is informative.

Having cashed in the change bowl on my dresser at the Coin Star machine and come away with a Nike gift certificate (yes, I cashed in my piggy bank for a pair of shoes!) I put it toward a pair of clearance black and white Super.Fly 4 Jacquard’s hoping that they might hold at least a candle to the XX9. The upper is fabric and the lacing system has been upgraded to fabric loops that look somewhat similar to the XX9 Flight Web lacing system, but tucked classily under the upper rather than on top. Don’t be fooled, this is a VERY different shoe than the XX9.

The lacing system is really good, but missing one critical lace at the ankle

Lets start with the upper. The fabric upper is a huge improvement over the foam and mesh version in my opinion, but it isn’t Flight Weave. It’s pretty heavy duty, actually a bit stiff, and multiple layers. It doesn’t conform to your foot the same way and it isn’t anywhere near as lightweight. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just really different. It’s more supportive than the XX9 for sure, so if that’s what you want this is a good shoe. The weave seems very durable as well. I thought the white threads would start to break right away and get frizzy, but they seem to be really strong and durable against abrasion.

I’ve worn these shoes for three hard runs of a couple hours each, plus several hours of shooting and drills. The upper is still pretty stiff and when you cinch down the laces you can really get great lockdown. The laces are missing one critical lace loop at the ankle that would really lock in the heel, so you have to lace them tight to keep your foot from sliding forward. But, it’s not hard to get great lockdown.

The last these shoes are built around is a bit narrow in the forefoot. They aren’t narrow like most of the Kobe’s are (a shoe that is too narrow for me to ever find a comfortable size) but the toe box is narrower than I would like. Perhaps I’ve grown used to the extra room that the XX9 has (I had to size down to 9.5 from 10 in the XX9 so my toes wouldn’t slide around on cuts). But, the lacing system allows you to get the fit where you want it and still lock down your foot. The heel feels great, it doesn’t slip around at all. I wouldn't order a larger size unless you have really wide feet. 

Closeup of the woven, jacquard style fabric
Now for the lowers which, I hate to break it to you, are not at all like the XX9 either. Yes, it has a somewhat similar unlocked zoom in the forefoot (three separate pads rather than the two in the XX9) and a Flight Plate style shank system but it feels very different. I can actually feel the spring in the forefoot zoom quite a bit more in these shoes than in the XX9, but it’s in a strange place. I feel it on the outside, just behind the ball of my foot. It’s a tiny bit annoying actually, it feels like you have something stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Your brain forgets about it while you are playing, but when you aren’t playing it’s annoying to get used to.

The mid sole in general, including the forefoot zoom, feels more squishy than the XX9. The forefoot doesn’t feel as springy, as if there’s been a tradeoff between energy return (stiffer) and comfort (more give). That’s not all bad. My feet didn’t feel tired at all after playing in these and my heels sometimes feel kindof beaten down after a lot of playing in the XX9’s, especially when I’m tired and I start heel striking more often. They are also quite a bit less "slappy" than the XX9, the heel-toe transition is very smooth. 
The heel counters keep your heel locked in
and the ankle area is really comfortable

The XX9 is a great shoe if you are on your toes a lot, which you should be in basketball, but the heel padding is the one area that should have been improved. So, it’s nice to have a bit softer foam in the heel of the Super.Fly 4. But, as an experiment I switched to a pair of XX9’s between games and I was stunned at the difference. The XX9 is lighter, with an incredible balance between lock down and support, and the footbed is more sculpted and contours to your foot. But, the biggest difference to me was the traction.

So, since we're talking traction, lets talk about the outsole. I love the clear outsole with the red zoom bags. It looks awesome. I expected the herringbone traction to be really solid since herringbone is usually pretty good. But…the traction is the one part of this shoe that I am really not a fan of.

Like the rest of the sole the traction feels, for want of a better descriptor, kindof squishy. The rubber is really soft, so it sticks to the floor pretty well, but then it’s like it kindof bends and squishes along the floor a bit further than you expect it will. It's like the difference between a rubber eraser and silly putty, if you can imagine what I mean. 
The traction on the Super.Fly 4 is good, but soft
and fails on really hard cuts

It squeaks really nicely which is usually a good sign, and in most instances traction was great, but it wasn’t like the XX9, where I can put my full weight behind a V-cut at top speed and there’s no slip at all. The XX9 is actually scary that way, it will stop so hard I worry about my ankles because I’ve been making harder cuts at much higher speeds with them, trusting the shoe to hold the floor. Trying that in the Jacquard left my foot skidding across the floor, a missed pass, and me having to put my hand down to keep from tumbling.

But, in the end I think I probably shouldn’t be comparing these shoes to the XX9. Compared to just about any other basketball shoe they are really good, definitely well above average. In every aspect except the most extreme cuts they work really well. I think that the fabric will break in and soften with a bit more playing, which will help the forefoot fit. The lacing is a strong point, it’s far better than the original Super.Fly 4, as is the fabric upper. It also just plain looks awesome with the pattern of the jacquard weave.

If you have a penny jar you want to put toward a pair of shoes, these would be a good pair to get. It’s possible to find them for a really decent price on pretty much any site right now and they are an upgrade from the original version of the Super.Fly 4. That said, ROSS Dress For Less got in two pairs of XX9 in my size last week for $50 each…a "Legend Blue" Carolina bluecolorway and the Year of the Goat colorway. I’m set for basketball shoes for more than a year. Don’t expect too many Old Shoe Reviews for awhile.

Big News! PLOS Ecology Community Blog Editor

Hello all. Sorry for the long delay in posts. I have a couple in the pipeline but I wanted to alert you to some good news on the blogging front.

I have officially been selected as one of three PLOS Ecology Community blog editors. I've already posted two posts with them on a freelance basis; 

The position will entail a couple posts a month on the PLOS Ecology blog, engagement with prominent ecology bloggers and writing collaboration with other ecologists and leaders in the field putting PLOS papers into context and creating a community for ecologists on the web. 

Wish me luck and keep your eyes open for new posts!