Sunday, 13 November 2011

Brian O'Keefe Interview

When planning a major flyfishing and photographic adventure, it is easy to overlook something. Especially when  planning such a trip from scratch for the first time. I thought it might be wise to talk to some people who have done this before to gain some first hand knowledge of what is really involved. 

Brian O'Keefe is a well known fly angler and photographer from Powell Butte, Oregon in the USA. He has travelled the world extensively since 1973. His photographs have been published in periodicals such as: the Los Angeles Times; the New York Times; the Miami Herald; USA Today among others. Some of his work has graced the covers of  Field & Stream; Outdoor Life; Fly Fisherman; Fly, Rod and Reel; Fly Fishing Salt Waters; Fly and Fish Magazine; Outside Magazine and Mens Journal. Brian also works as a tackle rep for Scientific Anglers in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. 

I would like to thank Brian for taking the time to answer the questions below, as his answers are both informative and interesting.

FWE -   Do you have a favourite place to both fly fish and photograph, and why? 
Brian - Cuba is a favorite because of endless habitat and great fishing. There is a good chance at big bones, permit and tarpon, also. The water is very clear for underwater shots and the weather is generally quite nice. Add great food and drink and it is a really fun place. 

For freshwater, my list would be Alaska, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Alberta/BC, Canada, Montana. I have not been to Kamchatka, or many fishing places in Europe or South Africa. North Western Australia is very high on my list!

FWE -  What is the most remote place you have visited? 
Brian - Bikini Atoll. I was the first angler to be given permission to fish there after the atomic/radioactive security was lifted.

FWE -  Generally in remote waters, do you find the fishing is up to your expectations? 
Brian - Yes, most of the time. However, there are many remote destinations where the local people have netted or sold fishing rights and there is actually better fishing in Florida, Colorado, etc because of fisheries protection and intelligent regulations. Generally, non-populated or sparsely populated places, like Alaska, New Zealand and parts of the western US, have great fishing.

FWE -  What are your main considerations when researching a possible new location? 
Brian - Fishing quality, scenic value, weather, logistics, safety and an interesting culture (did I mention good beer?!!!).

FWE -  What do you consider are some of the biggest challenges involved in planning a fly fishing and photographic trip to a remote, relatively unexplored waters? 
Brian - Infrastructure - guides, good boats/fuel, transportation, communication and safety. Sierra Leone, during their last war, was a bad time to be there tarpon fishing. 

FWE -  When you visit a remote area with no professional guides or tourism operators, do you use local sources such as native “guides” if there are any, or do you simply rely on your own pre trip planning? 
Brian - Both. When an experienced guide is available, that makes a huge difference. Someone who can help with the local language, transportation, etc is a huge asset. I have done a lot of trips where I just winged it. I have found lobster guides who helped, commercial fisherman who helped and dive boat operators who dropped me off and picked me up.

FWE -  Do you have an equipment backup plan for both photographic and fly fishing gear while away, as obviously in a remote location you can't access shops to buy replacements if for example you drop a camera or break a fly rod? 
Brian - For cameras, these days there are several high quality point and shoot cameras that are a great back up, and sometimes the go-to camera. In particular, I like the high end Panasonic Lumix cameras with the big zoom telephoto/Leica lens. Still well priced, at around $500 US, but remarkable quality. And, I take a couple spare rods and lines. The worst problem I had with gear was on a trip to the Bahamas. A local guy with a boat dropped me and a friend off, for a week, in a offshore reef and island/flats complex. My wading boots were new and rubbed my feet raw. I did most of the trip in my socks and eventually got a sharp object in my foot and then got a bad infection.

FWE -  What resources do you find most useful for researching? 
Brian - Google/Internet, Google Earth, dive magazines and websites, private airplane guidebooks and airport location maps.

FWE -  What measures do you take regarding Safety & health when visiting remote areas?
Brian -  I avoid stupid mistakes like getting line cuts on my hands, knife cuts (especially when cutting limes for rum drinks!!), being careful with sharp fins and teeth on fish, being careful around rusty stuff, broken glass, coral, etc. I keep a skeptical eye out for con artists, drug smugglers and thieves. I have been around people who went crazy with a machete. I avoid really drunk people who get political, belligerent, weird, etc. I have been in almost every kind of boating accident or predicament. In some places I take extra spark plugs/wrench. I watch out for too many mosquito bites in the tropics. I got dengue fever in Venezuela. No fun. In a new place, I do not eat everything on the menu. Grilled seafood and beer, can't go wrong!!

FWE -  Have you ever found yourself in a potentially life threatening situation? If so what happened? 
Brian - 
1) I was filming permit with an old fashioned movie/film camera in Belize and was lost by the dive boat. I drifted and swam for 3 hours in rough seas and very little hope for rescue. I found a small reef with a light pole and waited there for a boat to find me.

2) Also in Belize, but 25 years ago, I was on a flat, 18 miles from the mainland and the guide went back for the boat. On the way back to get me, his motor conked out and he drifted out of sight. 5 hours later, in the last light, with the tide coming in and the flat getting too deep to wade, he finally found me. 

3) I was exploring some remote rivers in southern Belize and Honduras with two 'wild and crazy' guys. Way up one river we came across a big pile of 'stuff'. I knew it was a lot of coke or pot. I told the guys what are you going to do if it's drugs? They said they will have to kill me. I said how about taking me to the nearest town and coming back for the drugs. OK. 

4) I have been nose to nose with several bears in Alaska. Less than 4 feet away. Snarling, spitting, on their hind legs. But, they did not swing or bite. I backed off slowly and all was well, except for my bar bill that night. I have had to run from bears a couple times. Experts say not too, but I disagree. Sometimes in the woods, a zig zag running pattern will buy you a little time. The bear will track you with their keen sense of smell, but hopefully you can get back to a boat, or plane or cross a river, before they catch up. You have no idea how fast you can run with waders, a fly rod, etc. 

5) I have been on trips where others were seriously injured. A friend fell and slid off a cliff, 30 feet. Broke his back, femur and lesser body parts. It was a huge rescue. I have been close to freezing to death once and been around people with bad hypothermia. I've been robbed, marched off at gunpoint by military, had a knife against my gut by drug runners and more that a couple close calls with sharks. Please don't show this to my mother!!

FWE -  What type of stratergies do you put in place for getting out of very remote areas in case of emergency, and have you ever had to use them? 
Brian - Proper planning and common sense go a long ways. I have been on Alaska 100 mile float trips and some people brought terrible equipment. No planning, or too cheap to do it right. I don't use a Sat Phone, but I know people who do and they are well priced now. 

On a bluewater trip off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, I was helping a friend with his 65 foot sportfisher. We had all the latest electronics but we encountered a 'perfect storm'. One system from Equator and another from Hawaii and we were in the crosshairs. For three days we fought the towering seas. One time a huge wave knocked the boat over and the props came out of the water. The boat bounced back, but we lost the fridge that was bolted to the floor and every plate, glass, bowl, etc and ripped off the stabilizers. Oh, and that was Christmas Day!! There was nothing anyone could do to help us, but we made it. Fishing was slow!!!

FWE -  Is there a "bucket list" of places you must try and get to and fish/photograph? 
Brian - 
1)  North Western Australia. I worked in Wundowie, 70 miles from Perth, in 1974. I heard about the remote towns there, but never made it. 

2)  Ireland for fishing, photos, pubs and to see my homeland. 

3)  Slovenia/Bosnia/Croatia - fishing, photos, culture, people, food, fun. 

4)  Iceland - Isn't that where the super models come from!!?? 

5)  Tasmania - I have met some super nice people from Tasmania and read about the fishing. Snakes?!! 

6) I would like to bum around South Africa. I learned how to order beer in Swahili, now I need to put it to use. 

7)  Golden dorado in Bolivia. 

8)   Kamchatka for rainbows on mice flies. 

9)  Another trip to an Indian Ocean bonefish/GT destination. 

10) Austria for trout and grayling.

FWE -  If so, are there any particular ones on the list that stand out and why? 
Brian - North Western Australia - It sounds like a very interesting and beautiful fishery. I like the rough and tumble Western Australia lifestyle and the big flats, big fish and cold beer combo.

FWE -  What is your current camera system and why did you choose it? 
Brian - I use mostly Canon gear. I made the switch to Canon the year of the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. My friends who were shooting there tried all the auto focus cameras and liked Canon the best. They have been quite durable and reliable. I am sure most current brands would be more than adequate.

FWE -  What lenses do you currently use, and what are your favourites, both specific lenses, or types/focal lengths? 
Brian - I use just a few lenses, I am not a gear freak. I use a 10-22 Canon zoom. It is the same as my 17-35 that worked on my film cameras. I don't have a full sized sensor camera, so the 10 to 22 is my wide angle lens of choice. I use a 70-200 2.8 a lot. It is a workhorse and tack sharp. It is 20 years old, also. I have a fixed 300, but I only take it in the car or boat. I have a 100 mm macro, a decent flash and that is about it for above water. 

I still use a film camera for underwater shots - the Nikonos V. My "pro' camera cost me $350 on ebay. I'm a fishing bum!

FWE -  What do you focus on in your photos (no pun intended)? Technical, capturing the moment, getting something unique, other? 
Brian - All of the above. The 'day in the life' stuff, big wide scenics, fish head close ups, action/casting/jumps, plus food, people, culture, transportation, etc.

FWE -  What is next for you? Surely you are planning on going somewhere in the near future. 
Brian - My next trip will be to the Bahamas. An annual trip, easy to get to for us and the fishing is good and the water is clear.

FWE -  Do you have any other tips, because despite all the questions above, I most likely missed something that may be useful when planning the Flywater Exposed trip? 
Brian - Only that sometimes a great trip can be because of the people you went with or met. Being over-organized makes the trip seem like work. Stay loose, go with the flow and be flexible, courteous and helpful. I like bringing small gifts for kids and dropping in on schools. And, I like it when the guide fishes!!

To read more about Brian O'Keefe and to see his work, please visit his website.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The 1D-X Dilemma

Starting the Search for the Perfect Flywater Exposed camera

Flywater X, just seems to fit. But will this be the perfect camera to take on a flyfishing trip like the one this blog is all about?

The 1D-X replaces both the 21MP 1Ds MkII (pictured  above) and the 16MP 1D MkIV. 
Images courtesy Sydney Camera Style 

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to talk about the new EOS 1D-X that Canon recently announced. To be honest when reading the announcement, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to see my perfect camera announced, and was expecting it to be a direct  replacement for the approximately 4 year old 1Ds MkIII. Instead, with the 1D-X, Canon had finally merged its two 1 series cameras to produce one camera somewhere in between.  

What I had hoped for were:

  A sensor with between 28 and 36MP
  Improved dynamic range
  Improved Autofocus

Not too much one may think, and I guess that with the new camera, according to the information and specs from Canon, I may have got two out of three. The surprising thing was that the only one that I thought I could count on getting, the increase in megapixels, was the only one that didn't eventuate. In fact, the megapixel count has decreased and is down by some 3 million pixels. A relatively minor decrease, but since I shoot a lot at ISO where digital noise (graininess) isn't really a problem, and I want to print large, exhibition prints. I would have liked to have  more resolution, and from what I am reading, most others who shoot landscapes or work in the studio are of similar mind. Canon seems to think that the superior image quality that this machine is capable of producing will make up for the slightly less resolution over the 1Ds MkIII, and I guess that at this stage we should just give them the benefit of the doubt, at least until the camera is made available and can be tested properly.

Well, that is the main negative out of the way. There are a lot of things about this camera that sound great, and if they all work as promised, then despite the slight "lack" in resolution, it should be a fantastic camera. Firstly is the fact that like previous 1 series Canons, it is sure to be built like a tank and should stand up to almost any environment, no matter if it ventures to Antarctica or the Sahara. It will definitely be well sealed from the elements. Canon also claims that its autofocus is improved, and that its new metering system (which has a processor all to itself!) is much improved. From pictures that I have seen, and from what I have read elsewhere, it seems that button placement and controls are also an improvement over older 1 series bodies that it replaces which were already great. Now, if those larger pixels and newer technology combine to produce greater dynamic range like that of the Nikon D3X or the Phase One IQ180, then it is likely to produce very impressive image quality. The 1D-X also shoots fast, especially considering it has a full frame 18mp sensor. This at first seemed of no use to me, however if a hooked fish jumps, a fast frame rate is certainly an advantage in capturing a great shot of it.

One last thing that seems to come up everywhere this camera is mentioned is the ISO range which can be boosted to a mind boggling ISO 204, 800! Its claimed low light capabilities seem impressive, and it will be interesting to see how it compares to the current high ISO king, the Nikon D3s I have no doubt that it will be good, but exactly how good remains to be seen. That being said, I just saw this new low light video sample which does look pretty good. I am thinking at some point I am going to have to start doing a bit of filming while out fishing so I can post some clips here. More importantly perhaps some good footage to supplement the images and text might be nice while on the Flywater Exposed trip. My 7D should do a reasonably good job for now, I just need to work out what I am doing as shooting stills is quite different to shooting video. If I start soon, I should have a reasonable amount of experience by the time I get to Flywater X. 

If you have read through to here, you will have picked up that this camera is sounding pretty good (of course we are only going by the specs as it isn't even available yet), but it is not perfect for Flywater Exposed. Problem is, there is no perfect one camera solution. It could still end up being the best compromise between image quality, portability, ruggedness and features that sees it coming along for the trip. Once it is actually being used by photographers, it and its images can be assessed properly.No doubt we will look into this further after March 2012 when it should hopefully be in stock locally, and we will also be exploring other possibilities along the way.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

First Day on the Water for the Worst Fly Rod Ever

Catching Fish, and it isn't even finished!

This brown took a bead head wooly bugger fished close to the bottom

Well, this rod still needs some work, but it is now fishable. Despite the gap between the two pieces of cork and still having the original cheap wire spin guides, I decided to take it out for a fish after work. The fish were rising in the tail of the first pool I approached, but the only way to get the fly to them from my position was with a downstream cast across the pool, thus allowing the fly to continue downstream to the fish. They blatantly ignored a number of good presentations before I spooked them. It was a frustrating start. It didn't help that the bank behind me was steep and had plenty of grass and foliage to snatch a fly on the backcast. This was the first problem I noticed with the rod - the length. It didn't like roll casting, nor was it easy to get the back cast over the tall grass. At only around 5 foot long, I decided that its real place is in super tight water with a lot of overhead cover to impede casting.  It also didn't help that I could see absolutely tiny mayflies around, but I didn't have a fly small enough to imitate them in my box.

Back to that first pool, I had spooked all the fish in the tail out, but suspected some fish would be hanging in the deep mid section, and if I went deep then perhaps there were some that had not been spooked from my previous casts. I tried a brown bead head wooly bugger, and had fish come up slashing at the fly but no hookups. I decided to let it sink almost right to the bottom amongst the small boulders and work it close to the bottom. A few strips and the fish pictured above snatched the fly and came straight up, launching itself clear of the water. I decided to take a quick shot with the phone since it was the first fish for the rod, but I was disappointed that it was not taken on a dry.I went on to hook three more - all on a parachute adams, landing two and spooking a number of other fish on approaching their pools. Not bad for the first outing. It looks like this might be a rod that sits in the car permanently for those quick unplanned trips, or just as a backup. I need to get the grip tidied up; both between the grip and reel seat, and the grip itself could do with a little more sanding. A few proper snake guides and some neat bindings will finish up a fun little project. 

I am not sure that it is the worst fly rod ever, but I am pretty certain it would be close. I did discover that it wasn't too bad for bow and arrow casting into tight spots, as long as distance wasn't important. No doubt you will see more of this rod around here from time to time.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Canon EOS-1D X announced

Is this the perfect Flywater Exposed adventure camera?

Just announced is the new Canon EOS-1D X. Already people are the talking, wondering if this is really the replacement for the 1Ds MkIII, since it has less pixels (18MP for the 1D X VS 21MP for the older 1Ds MkIII). I will be looking into it as a possibe camera for the trip. I will also talking about it in more detail after comparing specs more carefully and working out exactly what I need.

For a sneak peek of the 1DX, check out this on dpreview or for a more official source, here on Canon USA's site.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

My Fly Art

"Permit Tailing on Crab Fly" - Pastels, Sharpie, and Pen.

As mentioned in the previous post, I have just recently decided to start drawing again. I may even eventually start painting.  It has been a long time since I have done anything more than just sketching in a notepad or on a scrap of paper though. Today I got out a heap of my old artwork and had a look at if tor the first time in a few years. My tastes certainly have changed since then, and I could also see how my work had changed over the years. Below are a few of the images that I saw today. I simply put them on my dining table and snapped away under the available tungsten lighting with my 17-40L on the Canon 7D. I white balanced them by eye, so they are not accurate but give a pretty good idea of how the drawings look. I am even thinking that producing a few drawings from Flywater X might be a cool way to supplement all the photos that will be taken. 

These drawings are all for sale, and profits will be put towards equipment purchases and travel costs for the Flywater Exposed project. For details and pricing, please email me.

Firstly, here are some crops of the above drawing.

 Crop from "Permit Tailing on Crab Fly"

 Extreme crop from "Permit Tailing on Crab Fly" (Larger than actual drawing)

Another extreme crop from "Permit Tailing on Crab Fly" (Larger than actual drawing)

This fly image below is similar to the new drawings I am about to start working on. They are relatively small and will be very reasonably priced for original artworks. No prints will be produced, so you can be assured of getting something that no one else has on their wall. Each will be hand signed.

 "Parachute Hackled Dry Fly" - pastels and pen

This last drawing is different to what I usually do. It is quite abstract compared to my other work, but for some reason I like it.

 "Vertical Brown Taking Dry" - pastels

 I have not shown any of my colour pencil drawings here yet, but in the past they were one of my favourite things to use. I also quite enjoy using lead (graphite) pencils to produce monochrome drawings. I am sure at a later date, some of my new drawings using both of these materials will show up on Flywater Exposed somewhere. Keep an eye out for them!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Art For Sale Soon!

I have recently been sketching a lot, and with Flywater Exposed as well as my new book project I figured I am going to have to come up with a way to supplement my regular income to get things happening as soon as possible. I used to do a lot of artwork in the past (even studied visual arts at university for a year), but haven't done much for the last few years. I am going to start small and produce a series of original fly fishing related pieces which I will offer for sale. Funds will go towards both projects. Hopefully I will have some new work ready in the next few weeks. Prices will be extremely reasonable for original pieces of art - more details and pictures soon.

I also have a pen, sharpie and pastel drawing that I did a couple of years ago of a tailing permit sizing up it's prey - a merkin crab fly. I am thinking of selling this piece as it was commissioned, sent to the client COD, and returned to me unopened. Not sure what happened, but it has been sitting still packed away ever since. I will have to get a picture of it posted here and get the size in case anyone is interested.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Worst Fly Rod Ever?

Turning One Bad Rod Into Another

A little while ago, I stumbled across some $5 rod and reel combos and just couldn't resist buying one. I knew it's fate immediately. It was going to be my first solid glass fly rod. A test cast with a 4wt line told me that it may be better with a 5 or 6wt line for the short casts that I would be using it for. I will figure that out once the rod is rebuilt though.

You get what you pay for!

Step one was to get rid of the reel seat, and find something to replace it with. A couple of broken graphite fly rods became donors. removing the original one piece plastic grips and reel seat from the green beast revealed that the bottom half of the blank was shorter than the top. 

With a mini hacksaw, I managed to cut off the cork that I needed from both of the old rods, as well as cutting through the metal on one reel seat to remove the bits I needed to create my own cap and ring seat. I decided to trim and reverse one of the original grips to make a short half wells style grip. It needs a bit more sanding to get it the way I want it, but it feels ok in the hand. Certainly good enough for this rod! The second grip pictured below was sanded considerably after the photo was taken to allow the threaded ring to slide over it to hold the front of the reel foot in place.


The finished reel seat is nothing special, but is seems to hold the reel securely. I think I spent enough time sanding it considering it was going to end up on what could possibly be the worst fly rod ever made. The end cap, cut from the same original reel seat fits perfectly in place. Now it's just a matter of deciding how much to trim off the front and cutting it down, filing the inside graphite tubing so it slides onto the blank extension behing the grip, and gluing everything in place.

I am still trying to decide if I will strip off the few cheap wire guides and put on some snakes salvaged from one of the graphite rods. If I find a line that it casts well with, then I may just do that. I'm even thinking of stripping the green paint from the blank and leaving it as plain white glass. I will decide that if and when I strip the old guides off. 

More than anything, I can't wait to take this thing down to my local stream and catch a trout with it. No doubt there will be a report with pictures to post up once that happens.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Improving Your Fishing Photos With Flash

Fishing Photos With a Difference
There are at least three types of shots that come to mind when I think about fishing magazines. Those lit entirely with natural light (usually daylight), those shot with fill flash, and a few that are taken at night time with flash. The first two types can look fantastic, but those flash lit night shots are not too appealing to the eye. A well lit angler holding up a fish which often has a glowing eye and overexposed scales standing in blackness is what typifies these shots. To me, they are only any good as a record of a special capture when there is no other way of getting the shot.

Off camera flash can make your photos stand out from the rest

Controlling the Light and getting creative
Using fill flash is a good way of controlling shadows caused by strong sunlight. It can improve the look of a photo immensely and is one of the most important things someone new to outdoor photography can learn. That being said, it isn't overly creative.

You come to appreciate what a difference being able to control the light makes to a photograph after working with studio lighting on location. It allows you to create an image that makes your work stand out from a typical happy snap. If it wasn't for the pure impracticality, I would love to have a battery powered strobe system along on all my fishing trips. Unfortunately, carrying around my favourite portable Elinchrom flash system, the Ranger RX, or even the much smaller but less powerful Ranger Quadra RX is not a possibility on a normal fishing trip. Apart from the battery packs and flash heads, there are other things that also need to be carried including light stands and accessories. Then there is the worry of wind blowing it over, and water damage when you need to get in close to the waves to capture that unusual angle. In my case, it also means hiring the gear as I still don't own my own. It is certainly not cheap to buy. My solution is to use a hotshoe flash, often called a speedlite.  

I am not going to be able to cover everything here - in fact that is not my intention. I will be writing a follow up post shortly to detail the necessary equipment and how to use it. Also, before we go any further I need to point out that getting the most from this post relies on you understanding not only the basics of exposure, but also how to set the flash output to balance your flash lit subject with the background. With some advanced compact cameras, you can get some of the results you see here, however for the most part this is the domain of SLR or other cameras that have a hotshoe to allow a speedlite to be used. For best results though, having a system that allows you to get your flash off the camera gives you the most flexibility and the opportunity to capture the best shots. For now a few examples will give you an idea of what can be done.

 Top Left - No flash. Top Right - On camera flash. Bottom - Off camera flash

The example above shows a series of shots of my mate Joel taken after a fishing session on what is usually a surf beach. The first shot was taken without flash, and was exposed for the background. The second was taken with a speedlite mounted on the cameras hotshoe throwing  light onto Joel from the camera position. It is worth noting that this shot can be achieved with a cameras built in flash providing it is powerful enough. The bottom shot was the final result. It was achieved with the flash held by one of the other guys I had been fishing with. He held it high and to  my left, aiming it down at the subjects face. You may notice that unlike the shot with direct on camera flash, there is a shadow side to the subject which gives a very different look than the more typical direct flash look.

The two shots below are typical "grip and grin" shots. The first shot was taken with the flash on camera. The second one, the flash was hand held off to one side. Ignoring the backgrounds and colours - which do you prefer?

This type of shot is common in fishing magazines

With the flash off camera, the shadows created make for a more striking, 3 dimensional looking image

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Book Project

Firstly, apologies for the gap between posts. No photos or images today, but some ideas I have for a book project. I have a couple of ideas and one in particular I would like to talk about here.

For the last few years, I have been contemplating putting together a book on fly fishing legends. The idea was to compile a list of some of the most influential living fly fishers in the world, and to photograph them. Writing down some notes after chatting with them would compliment the images and I would have the makings of a book.

It didn't take long to realise that this idea was too broad, but still I couldn't shake the idea of photographing such legends of the sport as Bernard "Lefty" Kreh, Charlie Smith, and a host of others. Thus the plan hatched to make a series of books.  At worst, a single book and a small collection of photographs which may be useful for publication elsewhere, but more importantly would be significant to me to have as a part of my personal work.  

Being from Australia means that the most practical thing to do is to work on an Aussie fly fishing legends book first. If the opportunities come, then I can always photograph international legends in between and keep these aside for other books later on if I build a large enough collection. I guess the most important thing to do now is to write a list of who I want to include and then find a way to contact them to see if they are interested in taking part. Not only will it be fly fishing personalities, but I want to also include some fly tiers tackle designers and authors who are important to Australian fly fishing.

I will be posting a full list here soon. Who knows, you may also be able to tell me who else is deserving of the "legend" status who I might have missed. Perhaps you even know someone who is on the list and can help me get in contact with them.

To get things started, here are a few people (in no particular order) I would like to include and will be trying to contact soon for the Aussie book:

Rod Harrison
Rob Sloane
Greg French
Rob Meade
Max Garth
Murray "Muz" Wilson

There are quite a few others to be added, but this is a start.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Incredible Wildlife Art of Craig Bertram Smith

Something To Hang Over the Tying Bench

There are a number of artists that I really admire, and no doubt plenty of others that I am yet to discover. I will share some of these artists with you over the coming months, and hopefully I will be able to collect some of their work for myself over the next few years. 

One of these artists is Craig Bertram Smith from South Africa. His amazing drawings and paintings are exceptional, and I am fortunate to own one of his fine art giclee canvas prints. I would love to add an original painting to my wall one day too.

As someone who used to draw a lot and occasionally even paint, I am always in awe of other artists that can consistently produce beautiful, high quality work. I had a passion for drawing in the ultra realism style, but I could never get my drawings to look quite the way I wanted so was never satisfied with what I finished up with. This makes me even more appreciative of craig's work.

Below is the print I own. After discussing with fine art framer Jodie Prymke, we decided to mount the print on aluminium to keep it flat. This aluminium mounting is also common on fine art photographic prints and was done by Atkins Technicolour using archival materials. Jodie then matted the print and framed it in a fairly simple blue. The frame perfectly compliments the fins that give this fish its name - the Blue Fin Trevally (or Kingfish). This picture which is just a snapshot of it hanging on my wall doesn't do the print or the framing justice. It needs to be seen up close to appreciate its true beauty.

"Electric Blue" - Fine Art Giclee Print on Canvas

Now after taking up photography myself, I automatically get the photographic ultra realism I desired in my drawings. This means I can now concentrate on being more creative with my own work. As you can probably tell, I still love art, and I often find myself sketching when I should be doing something else. Looking at the work of other artists, no matter the medium is inspirational - especially work like Craig produces. It is certainly worth hanging some of his work over your tying bench, or even better in your living room. 

Apart from fish and fishing, Craig also does some amazing work depicting wildlife on the land too. To see more of his work, please visit

There is also a neat article on Craigs work here at Global Flyfisher

All images in this post (apart from the shot of my framed print) Copyright Craig Bertram Smith

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Glass Fly Rods and The Fiberglass Manifesto

Why Not Give Glass a Go? 

This little Twizel River rainbow might have been more fun on glass

Over the last few years , I have become fascinated with fiberglass as a material for fly rods. Sure, fast rods that are described as cannons have their uses - sometimes even in fishing - but there is something about slower rods. The key to appreciating glass after fishing faster and stiffer graphite is in the feel. "But graphite is more sensitive" I hear you say, well maybe you are right technically, but the feel of good glass is something different. I remember putting a fly reel onto an old broken Sabre 1-2kg (2-4lb) spin rod years ago. From memory I cut the bottom grip off and using the only fly line I then owned, a cheap double taper 7 weight, took it down to a local stream. Despite the heavy line, it laid that fly down in the most delicate manner. And the feel, I can't begin to describe the smoothness in which this rod loaded and unloaded. It was like magic. I just wish I had kept it, or at least was able to get another of these blanks. 

I forgot about this for a while, but at some point remembered how casting that rod made me feel. I never caught a fish on fly with it, but prior to my fly fishing days it took hundreds of fish (dozens of fresh and salt water species) on baits and lures. It felt great even with tiny fish hooked up. Most ultralight graphite rods need a decent fish before it feels like you have hooked something worthwhile. Despite the big bend a little fish would put in that little rod, it still managed to take larger fish up to maybe 8lbs or so.

This McFarlands life came to an early end. It did catch one little brown first though

I decided it was time to look into trying glass again while working with David Anderson in Sydney after chatting to him about the glass rods he owned. Some internet research turned up this article on the Trout Underground, as well as the useful and very informative Fiberglass Fly Rodders forum. I decided a McFarland 3wt Spruce Creek in the high end Presentation Grade would be my first proper glass rod - but it wasn't to be. I won't go into detail here, but to cut a long story short, I ended up with an 8' 5wt McFarland for a trip to New Zealand. It seemed nice, but before I had the opportunity to really get a feel for it I slipped over and the butt section hit a rock. The impact snapped the rod above the grip (picture above). I still need to send that rod back to Mike McFarland, and eventually get that 3wt from him that I originally wanted. 

The other resource that I look to on this topic is The Fiberglass Manifesto or TFM for short. It's a great blog which I read regularly and is worth checking out if you have a spare minute. It keeps anyone interested up to date with what is happening in the world of glass fly rods, and its author Cameron Mortenson is always willing to talk to those with an interested in glass rods. It turns out that TFM has just celebrated its 3rd birthday and now contains over 1000 posts! 

Thanks to a little experience with glass, and a lot of reading about it, I now have a number of glass blanks that I intend building in the near future, as well as some other beautiful finished modern glass rods that I have my eye on. One thing I will say is that this glass thing is addictive, so beware!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Atlantic Options

When I originally decided on this project back in 2009, I actually got as far as some preliminary research into the Atlantic Ocean region. I found a number of interesting places, and even started to narrow them down. As this was quite some time ago, I will have another look as somewhere might have been missed. Below is a copy of my original notes, but more research into all these areas as well as any other options I find before narrowing my decision further.

Feel free to look these areas up and please let me know what you think of them either here or on the Facebook page.

*Greenland (Denmark) - LooksGreat, Arctic Char
*Bioko (Equatorial Guinea) - Looks like tropical paradise coastline
*Bissagos Islands (Guinea-Bissau) flats paradise perhaps
*Newfoundland & Saint Pierre and Miquelon
*Sao Tome and Principe- looks great, tropical looking place
Rocas Atoll (Brazil)
*Fernando de Noronha (Brazil) - beautiful lagoon, but looks to be a marine park with no fishing!
*Falkland Islands (UK) (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) - Awesome but perhaps too well known 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Regional Breakdown

As mentioned in the previous post, breaking the world into regions will (hopefully) turn selecting flywater x into a much simpler task. I am going to search each region in the order listed here:

      Atlantic Ocean
      Indian Ocean
      Far South and Antarctic Region
      South America
      North and Central America
      Arctic Region
      Pacific Ocean

After selecting 3 places from each of these regions, we will be left with a total of 33 possible locations which will then be looked at in more detail.Once this stage is reached, some serious reader input will be requested. 

While all this is going on, I will also be busy writing some reviews and organising and presenting some interviews. I have a feature on a fantastic artist almost ready, and it will be up in the next few days.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Where to Begin?

Finding a Suitable Location

All photographs in this post courtesy of  Matt Denton

Until I make a firm decision on where to go, I cannot make any real plans. A while ago I did a bit of random searching using google earth, I found a number of interesting islands. Some of them looked like the traditional tropical paradise, others looked more like the antarctic (some were indeed part of the antarctic region). There are also many remote areas worth looking at on the major land masses. I soon discovered that my haphazard approach also meant that each time I looked, I found yet another place which looked good. It was time to come up with a simple plan of attack. Here it is, step by step:

1. Deciding Where Not to Go
After a bit of thought, common sense prevailed. There are a number of areas that can be discounted readily. Some exceptional looking areas are extremely dangerous. War zones, areas at high risk of terrorism, and areas where pirates are commonly to be found are out. I will be searching to find out what areas are dangerous in a variety of ways, mostly relying on smart traveller, the Australian Government website detailing travel warnings based on all sorts of issues including the ones I have mentioned, as well as health warnings and a few other things that need to be considered. Any highly populated areas, or popular tourist destintaions are also out, as well as remote areas commonly visited by anglers such as Christmas Island/Kiribati (featured in the pictures). This should remove a lot of areas, but there is still a lot of the world left to scan.

2. Breaking it down
The world is huge, and rather than simply going back to randomly searching all over, I have decided to divide it up into regions and look thoroughly through each one . Each continent will be a region, as will the big oceans.As I search each region, I will compile a list of all possible locations before moving onto the next.
3. Selection
I will next look in more detail at each of the possible locations on my regional lists and pick what look to be the best three locations from each region. These will be studied in even greater detail still, using the usual online search methods, as well as map searches and talking to locals and people that have been there via email, and through discussion forums. The single best option from each region will then be selected, after gathering every necessary bit of information I can on them. From there I will pick the one that looks to have the best opportunities for both fly fishing and photography. I will also select a second location as a backup, just in case. I may well end up asking for your help in making a final decision on flywater x. At least for now, I have a plan of attack. The search begins!