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With now 19 hours to go, this looks more organized than it is. Half those reels don't even have backing. And the list of 25 other TODO items isn't helping.

In about 20 hours, I'll be boarding a plane for Juneau, Alaska, the starting point for what I'm taking for granted will prove to be the trip of a lifetime. During this trip, I'll have the privilege of touring two regions which are inarguably two of the last great strongholds of wild salmon worldwide.

My trip begins in southeastern Alaska, where I'm lucky enough to be included in a ensemble tour of the Tongass National Forest -- also known as the American Salmon Forest -- that is comprised of representatives from Trout Unlimited, a diverse group of journalists and bloggers, professional photographers and more. We'll get a first hand look at the commercial and recreational fishing industries and the amazing ecosystem that sustains them.

Brook trout like this one are less heat tolerant than browns and rainbows.

With many of this year's Independence Day celebrations set to be hot and steamy ones, it seems like a good time to send along a reminder about fishing during times of high stream temperatures. If you're taking advantage of the holiday to chase trout, it is important to know when and where it is safe to fish during the hot summer months and the warmer water that comes along with them.

Each species of trout has specific tolerances when it comes to stream temperatures. Regardless, though some species tolerate warmer temperatures better, all trout fall into the same general range. A good rule of thumb is to avoid pursuing trout in streams where the water temperature has increased to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above. For optimal fish safety, avoid water that's reached 68 degrees or higher.

Camped at Palisades on the Madison River.

Lists. Some people thrive on making lists. I can appreciate the satisfaction that comes with checking off items on “to-do” lists as well. But most of the time, once all of the items are ticked off, the list goes away.

This is not the case with trip checklists. I can barely recall where I keep these things (currently in a tattered high school style composition book – and floating around in folders on a computer I can never seem to find). They also differ widely from trip to trip, location to location.

So in the interest of a virtual archive that may just be helpful to you, here’s my checklist for 12 days in eastern and central Idaho and southwestern Montana, July 3rd – 16th. I plan to spend five or six nights in comfortable accommodations and the balance of the nights camping. (I mean Larry Keel is playing at Trouthunter in Island Park, Id., on July 4th for goodness sake – I’ve got to go and stay there, right? And if you’re in the area and not planning to spend a night at the Murray Hotel in Livingston, Mt., you’re doing it wrong.)

A beautiful leopard rainbow trout near Reel Wilderness Adventure's camp in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Eight days remain in the EPA's open public comment period regarding the feasibility of mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. To date, 523,320 have been received. While there is no question that over half a million comments represents a large number of individuals making their opinion heard on the issue, more voices are needed. The proponents of mining in Bristol Bay continue intense lobbying efforts to prevent the EPA from exercising its power to preemptively veto large-scale open pit mining in Bristol Bay.

Earlier this week, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively criticized the EPA, expressing doubts that the assessment process was being handled fairly. Shively was smugly critical of the conclusions in the EPA's latest draft of its assessment of risks associated with projects such as Pebble Mine, calling the EPA out for having drawn conclusions about the mining process without having a mining plan to review. Shively, however, failed to acknowledge that although the PLP has sunk almost $600 million dollars into researching and preparation for the Pebble Mine site, they have refused to publicly release a mining plan, despite numerous and repeated requests that they do so.

A closeup of the Redington Vapen clearly shows the new 'X-Wrap' blank construction.

A couple of weeks ago, Redington sent a 5 weight Vapen Red our way for field testing and we headed out last week to do just that. Although we've only spent a small amount of time with the rod, I thought I'd take the time to relate some initial thoughts on this provoking new offering from Redington. For more about the Vapen, and what makes it different, head here.

Redington Vapen Red
A closeup of the Redington Vapen clearly shows the new 'X-Wrap' blank construction.

Arriving on a new piece of water for the first time, I was hoping to put the Vapen through its paces. Once I arrived, seeing the small (20-30' wide in most places) stream with some of the most consistently dense forest canopy I'd ever seen, I immediately began to fear I had brought along the wrong tool for the job. So much for doing your homework.

And, for the most part, I had brought along the wrong rod for the day. After all, Vapen means "weapon". Redington had built the rod in my hands to fire line, not make delicate 15-20 foot presentations. After struggling to make a few short casts, unable to load the rod properly at such close range, I was about to head back to the car for another rod. I gave it a bit more time however, and given the opportunity, the Vapen started finding ways to shine.

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