A promo for Scientific Angler's new Frequency line series.
A promo for Scientific Angler's new Frequency line series.

Talking fly lines with Scientific Anglers

We sat down with John Van Vleet for a chat about Scientific Angler's new image, the ever-growing complexity of the fly line industry, line technology, SA's two new line series, what's on the horizon and more.

A promo for Scientific Angler's new Frequency line series.
A promo for Scientific Angler's new Frequency line series.

Hatch Magazine: SA has been going through a bit of an image change of the last year or so. Are these changes only skin deep, or has there been a philosophical shift regarding the kind of products SA is looking to develop?

John Van Vleet: Our organizational change is much more than simply a cosmetic one. After being purchased by Orvis, we were able to essentially start from the ground up and re-evaluate our entire product lineup and manufacturing mindset. We have completely shifted our focus back onto our customers in an effort to make fly line selection a less daunting, less expensive, and more enjoyable process. While we will never stop pushing the technological limits of our capabilities, it’s extremely important for us to make lines that cast well, fish well, and won’t cost an insane amount of money. That’s the most important thing to us at the moment, and something we have admittedly done a poor job of over the past few years.

New Zealand rainbow trout.
Guide Brent Piri with a silvery New Zealand rainbow trout.

New Zealand at last - Part II

Maori Magic

After fishing with van da Loo, I caught an Air New Zealand island hopper to Wellington, the capital, and went on to Taupo. There, I fished the Tauranga-Taupo River with guide Brent Pirie, a spry 50-year-old who has been guiding in the North Island for 14 years. The freestone river, not as well known as the nearby Tongariro, gave up some really fat, healthy rainbows on the fly, my largest going over 6 pounds. I spied that one rising 2 inches off a rock wall in what is known as the Cliff Pool, and was able to plop my fly, a spidery looking thing called a Turks Tarantula, right into his feeding lane. His dogged fight, with hard runs up and down the pool, almost breaking me off on an underwater log, was just spectacular.

New Zealand rainbow trout.
Guide Brent Piri with a silvery New Zealand rainbow trout.

Brent and I had fished on Maori forest land, hiking to the river through a dense forest of fir trees and lupin and Toi Toi bushes, the latter characterized with white, streaming, brush-like heads. We hit many deep, fishy looking pools as we went. The Maoris, who came to New Zealand from Polynesia in 1280, before the Europeans even knew it existed, make up 14 percent of the country’s population today. Their rich culture is found everywhere, from the loud, exotic native dances (called “Kapa haka”), to haunting music performed with trumpets (“putatara”) and wooden flutes (“koauau”) that are played through the nostril, to native delicacies such as fish wrapped and steamed in peppery taro leaves in a “Hangi,” or pit fire.

Motueka River - New Zealand
Guide Paul van da Loo on the Motueka River.

New Zealand at last - Part I

There was no denying it the day was going downhill. I was fishing the Wairau River, a pristine wilderness stream that rose in the evergreen-blanketed Saint Arnaud Range on New Zealand’s South Island, then wound and snaked its way through narrow gorges and valleys for 150 kilometres before reaching the Pacific. It was a gorgeous late-summer day, with temperatures in the 70s, not a cloud in the sky. I was standing in water so clean and pure you could drink it; 20 yards ahead, water was cascading through as pretty a riffle as you’d ever want to see, flowing into a deep, azure-blue turn pool. Such pools, as I’d discovered in the past few hours, often held at least one trophy brown trout, fish that averaged 4 pounds and went up to 8 or 9.

Motueka River - New Zealand
Guide Paul van da Loo on the Motueka River.

Behind me, my guide, Paul van da Loo, wiped a grimace off his face, and remarked, “Well, let’s hike up to the next pool. That fish you just missed isn’t coming back.”

And so it had gone that morning. In the first two pools, I had struck too slowly when my dry fly strike indicator suddenly disappeared beneath the water, the trout below spitting out my No. 18 gray nymph well before my reaction. Then, at the next pool, I piled up my 18-foot leader right on top of a trout sitting behind a midstream boulder, sending him fleeing from the pool as if the Forces of Darkness were attacking. Later, I lined another fish. When I finally did hook one, a monster that had to go at least 7 pounds, his downstream run out of the pool was so powerful that I broke him off in seconds.

Barracuda
Photo: Dan Decibel

Barracuda, bonefish on decline in the Florida Keys

Bonefish are on the decline in the Florida Keys. So are the fish that eat them. Barracuda, once a traditional target of winter flats fishing, are now scarce.

“I just started guiding in 2000, which is not long in the whole scheme of things,” Key West guide John O’ Hearn said. “In the winter you could go to any flat and have a few cudas on it, even if it wasn’t a good flat. You could go anywhere and there would be barracudas. Over the years, you had to get better and better [at finding them]. There are places still with good barracuda fishing. You just have to keep working harder and harder.”

Barracuda
Photo: Dan Decibel

With so few fish, O’Hearn and other colleagues in the Lower Keys Guides Association started a Save the Barracuda Campaign and urged the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to implement harvest regulations to protect the saltwater predator.

Trinity River BigfootT

Half-pounders in Sasquatch country

It was a typically misty autumn night in October 1998, and I was busy putting the Times-Standard newspaper to bed along with handful of folks on the copy desk when the phone rang.

“Newsroom,” I answered quickly, annoyed that someone would be calling within minutes of the copy deadline.

Trinity River steelhead

“Yeah,” a shaky male voice on the other end of the line said, somewhat hesitantly. “Is this the newspaper in Eureka?”

“Yep,” I said, phone to my ear, eye on the newsroom clock.

“I want to report a Bigfoot encounter.”

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