Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review: "An Entirely Synthetic Fish" by Anders Halverson

I think most fly fisherman would generally agree that the reason the remaining naturally reproducing native trout species have been relegated in their native ranges to only the most remote headwaters and out of the way streams is due to stocking practices and, to a lesser degree, habitat degradation (I also think that most fisheries biologists would agree with them). However, aside from the obvious reason that they were trying providing more catchable fish for the angling public, I’m not sure most fly fisherman have really thought too deeply about how it came to be that the very administrators and scientists entrusted by the public to watch over our resources, had, for more than a century, determined that breeding and planting hatchery raised rainbow trout as far and wide as possible was in the public’s best interest. In his new book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish, Anders Halverson not only explores the history of hatchery rainbow trout, but he also provides enlightening insight and analysis into the thoughts and motivations of the key players in their ascension to become the world’s most ubiquitous and synthetic fish.

In a time of heightened interest in biodiversity and concomitant movement toward the preservation and restoration of native species, those of us that are keenly interested in native trout will do well to read this book. If, for no other reason, than to gain a sense of humility, and, perhaps, some restraint, as we cavalierly charge forth in the support of reestablishing native trout in their native ranges. Having read this book, one can’t help but to examine their positions critically and to ask themselves: is it possible that future generations will look back and wonder how it is that we didn’t realize the unintended damage being levied as a derivative of our actions...despite our good intentions?

Learn more about the book and where you can get a copy here: An Entirely Synthetic Fish

Saturday, February 06, 2010

On Lightweight Backpacking and Fly Fishing

I hesitate to describe this as a post about "ultralight" backpacking and fly fishing as some of the true ultralight backpacking guys really take it to the next level--and make a lot of sacrifices to get there. Those guys will look at my kit and load weights and chuckle. Nevertheless, I believe that there are a lot of folks that backpack primarily to fly fish and that are also interested in lightening their packs so in this post I am going to outline some thoughts on combining the two activities and also outline what gear I carry and why.

To start, my outlook on lightweight backpacking is based on the following ideas:

  • Most importantly, and aside from being fun of its own accord and being a great way to see the last untouched places, backpacking is the only way to get to the really good fishing.

  • Deep trips into the backcountry are often required to catch native trout in their native ranges.

  • The lighter the backpack the better. While backpacking you should be able to comfortably fly fish with your pack on. This allows you to test the water to see if it is worth stopping and dropping the pack to fish hard. You also need to be able to fish while hiking in order to surgically strike the fishiest looking water without delaying the overall hike too much. For me, the cutoff to comfortably fish with a pack on is about 25 pounds.

  • Lastly, there are certain comforts that are worth a few extra ounces here and there.

So, what's in the pack and how much does it weigh?


Gregory Z65 Backpack, size medium - 62.0oz/3.88lbs
Lightweight yet big enough for extended trips.

Montbell U.L. SS #2 Sleeping Bag - 31.0oz/1.94lbs
Warm, stretchy and really really light.

Thermarest Neo Air Medium Pad - 13.0oz/0.81lbs
Light and comfy.

MSR Hubba Hubba Tent - 67.0oz/4.19lbs
I've had mine since '05. Light, roomy and simple to pitch.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove - 3.8oz/0.24lbs
Tiny, light and bullet proof.

MSR IsoPro Fuel - 8.0oz/0.50lbs
Works with the stove and lantern.

Mammut X Zoom Headlamp - 6.0oz/0.38lbs
Lights up the darkness. You could land a jumbo jet with this headlamp.

MSR WaterWorks Ceramic Water Filter - 14.6oz/0.91lbs
Good flow and attaches directly to waterbottles. Very easy to field clean.

Evernew Titanium Cook Pot - 4.8oz/0.30lbs
Holds a full load of mac-n-cheese.

Primus Lantern (before the easylight) - 5.0oz/0.31lbs
In the backcountry a lantern makes a campsite feel like home.

Gregory Seam Sealed Rain Cover - 3.0oz/0.19lbs
Wet gear and clothes can ruin a trip.

Spyderco Ladybug III Knife - 0.5oz/0.03lbs
Light and sharper than Occam's.

Nalgene Wide-Mouth Cantene Water Bottle - 2.0oz/0.13lbs
Between this and the hardshell I have enough water for a night.

Nalgene Bottle - 6.2oz/0.39lbs
For water on the trail.

Rei Insulated Mug - 5.0oz/0.31lbs
Warm coffee in the morning makes me human again.

First Aid Kit - 1.0oz/0.06lbs
Custom kit for wounds and blisters.

Mini Bic Lighter - 0.6oz/0.04lbs
Small, simple and reliable.

Coghlan's Plastic Matchbox w/ Safety Matches - 1.0oz/0.06lbs
Always have a backup in the backcountry.

GSI Outdoors Lexan Fork (Sawed-off) - 0.6oz/0.04lbs
I've had this fork forever: tough, lite and costs $0.79!

Optio WP Camera - 5.6oz/0.35lbs
Fishing cameras get wet.

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent - 7.6oz/0.38lbs
This thing works and can be the difference between a good night and bad.


Sage ZXL 7'6" 3 wt (in sock) - 2.6oz/0.16lbs
The rod I bring varies depending on the destination, but generally a short 3 works well in the highcountry.

Sage LL 3 Wt (in sock) - 2.5oz/0.16lbs
Breaking a rod shouldn't ruin a trip.

2" Polycarbonite Tube w/ Caps for 2 rods - 7.0oz/0.44lbs
Light and tough rod tube for two rods.

Ross Evolution Reel w/ 3 wt line - 6.0oz/0.38lbs

Fly Boxes X 3 - 10.8oz/0.375lbs
I bring 3; nymphs, dries, streamers. The cost of not having a fly you want is huge.

Tippet/Leaders/Hemos/Clippers - 5.9oz/0.37lbs
All the gear I need.

Columbia Aquatooth Water Shoes - 19.0oz/1.19lbs
Quick dry shoes for wading.


REI SPF Long Sleeve Shirt, Granite Colored - 9.8oz/0.61lbs
Great stealthy fishing shirt with enough pockets for everything.

Smartwool light hiker socks - 3.2oz/0.20lbs
Years of hiking in smartwool and never had a blister.

Marmot Aegis Rain Jacket - 14.0oz/0.88lbs
Let's just say the Outside mag gear of the year was well deserved.

Patagonia Capilene 3 Shirt - 7.8oz/0.49lbs
Solid mid-weight shirt.

Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms - 3.9oz/0.24lbs

Backup Underwear - 2.6oz/0.16lbs

Mountain Hardware Fleece Beanie - 0.9oz/0.06lbs

Columbia Titanium Shant Legs - 4.0oz/0.25lbs
Zip on legs for my hiking shorts (btw shants=shorts+pants).

Fingerless Wool Gloves - 2.0oz/0.13lbs
Great warm gloves for cold nights and for fishing.

Toiletries - 5.7oz/0.4lbs
TOOB toothbrush,sunblock,chapstick,DEET,wet wipes.


Columbia Titanium Shant Shorts - 8.0oz/0.50lbs
Not as comfortable as the non-convert shorts but functional.

TNF Ruckus Vaporwik Shirt - 7.1oz/0.44lbs
Quick drying but needs to be aired out each night....

Costa Del Mar z580 Polarized Glasses - 4.1oz/0.26lbs
Heavy but no lens I've tried holds a candle to the z580.

Vasque Boots - 64.0oz/4.0lbs
Heavy but damn solid boots. For a guy that has broken his ankle twice, I could not do 20, or even 10, mile days without them.

Hiking Underwear - 2.6oz/0.16lbs
Avoid chaffing.

Smartwool light hiker socks - 3.2oz/0.20lbs
Years of hiking in smartwool and never had a blister.

Baseball Hat - 2.5oz/0.16lbs
Always be hiding.

Suunto Altimeter Watch - 2.0oz/0.13lbs
Altitude is crucial to navigation.

Komperdell Titanal Predator Trekking Poles - 20.0oz/1.25lbs
For years I was too cool for hiking poles. That was stupid.

This list boils down to 22.31 pounds in the pack and 7.14 pounds worn, not including food and water. I usually go with dehydrated meals which comes out to less than a pound per day and water is about 2 pounds per 32 ounces (a full water bottle's worth). Generally, I will also bring a bear cannister along which is another couple pounds and sometimes different rods and gear are required. I usually go solo as well, but if I am backpacking with a friend, a lot of the above can be shared to reduce the weight loads. Waders are sometimes nice to have as well and I've yet to find a good lightweight pair for backpacking.