28 November 2011

Setting an IGFA Record?

I want this patch, dearly
A little more than two years ago, after talking with Cody, I decided that I wanted to set an International Game & Fish Association fly rod world record in Caranx melampygus, Trevally, Bluefin.  With each publication issue, I always turned to the world records section regarding the Bluefin Trevally.  I studied the categories, where others had fished to catch their records, worked on tying a Bimini knot (which was always an abject failure), and thought and thought about those beautiful Bluefins.

In 2010, we decided to sign up for two rod slots with Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company and return to the Seychelles in November 2011.  We spoke with a guide, Kirby LaCour, during an August 2011 Tailwaters Louisiana fishing trip.   Kirby told me to use our swimming pool and practice lifiting a bunch of grapes with the intended rigging I was going to use when trying to set the record, so I could understand what it would feel like to work with light class tippet.  As the time drew nearer for our trip, both Cody and I ensured that we had what we needed to take on the trip.  We checked the IGFA website for all the requirements we had to meet--whew! it was a lot.

IGFA Rules in a nutshell:
Attached to the fly line could be a tapered leader of no specific material, length, or strength.  The class tippet must be of nonmetallic material, at least 15" long excluding the knots at each end, and no stronger than the class category for which the record was being set or broken.  A shock tippet, which was optional, could be no longer than 12" and was tied from the class tippet to the fly.  Any knot could be used to tie the fly line to the tapered leader to the class tippet to the shock tippet to the fly.  To ensure that these rules are followed, the angler must cut at least one inch of the fly line (above the braided or welded loop), keep all of the leader intact, and submit the entire leader.  IGFA's suggestion is to get a stiff piece of cardboard, label it with the angler's name and class tippet strength, cut slits along its top and bottom, and wind the leader around the cardboard moving from one side to the other, because, if the leader is difficult to untangle or becomes knotted, then the catch is not certifiable.

My fly rod could not be less than 6 feet nor have a butt longer than six inches, when measured from the reel's center.

The fly had to be a recognized type of artificial fly, and just because a lure could be cast with a fly rod does not necessarily mean that it met the definition of a true fly fishing lure.

The caught fish had to weigh at least 1 pound.  The weighing had to occur on solid ground and especially, not on the boat (rocking and swaying motion could add to fish's actual weight).  If the fish was not weighed at a certified IGFA weighing station, then the scale had to be officially certified by IGFA (a $30.00 fee performed by IGFA for its members).

The pictures--there had to be a plethora of pictures!  Angler and fish.  Weighing fish.  Close-up of the actual scale weight.  Length of fish from tail tip to mouth.  Length of fish from tail fork to mouth.  Close-ups of each measurement.  Girth measurement and a close-up.  Complete fly rod, reel, and fish.  Close-up of reel, part of rod, and fish.  Fish horizontal.  Fish vertical.

On the first day of Seychelles fishing, bad weather bound us to Alphonse Island.  Cody and I fished with guide Brandon King.  After two years plus of thinking about this record, I asked myself now that I was here, did I really want this record?  Did I really want to work for this record?  Did I want to ask Cody to sacrifice some of his fishing time, so I could set this record? 

In what is the Bonefishing Mecca where I was having no luck, I was not sure what my answers were to those questions.  Then, as the rains poured down upon all 13 of us Tailwater Anglers, two South African fly anglers, and seven guides (Serge was on a two week holiday back on Mahe), I asked, "Lord, is this really a ridiculous, vain attempt?  This goal was never initiated as one."  I guess He knew my heart, because before five minutes elapsed of me asking this question, I caught a fish, and not just any fish.  I caught and landed a small Bluefin Trevally.  Brandon was talking about it, and I turned to him and said I want to set an IGFA record with a Bluefin Trevally.  That was it.  I knew I was going to work on that record for the next six days.  I guess Cody always knew that I was going to attempt to set the record, even when I did not, because when I told Cody, he was not in the least bit surprised.

Day 2 did not offer many opportunities for Bluefins; the chaotic weather did allow us to cross the channel and fish the St. Francois and Bijoutier Lagoons, but the Bluefins were allusive.  Scoty did put Cody on his dream fish for the trip--Milkfish.

Day 3 was the first really good opportunity to cast to Bluefins, and boy did I have a lot to learn.  After lunch, we began the search.  Cody and I were fishing with Guides Wayne Haselau and Alex, and by now, all the guides knew I was pursuing a goal.  We went outside the western surf; we boated to coral reefs just inside the western surf, and I cast and stripped like I was a mad woman possessed.  I had never learned to strip quickly single-handedly.  I can do a very quick two-hand, tuck the rod in your armpit, retrieve, but Wayne did not like my rod tip action when I stripped two-hand.  So, I learned to single-hand strip quickly, right-then-and-there; on the fly, I guess one might say.  Let me say, "Oh good grief!" that was hard work.  However, I was rewarded nicely and rather quickly, and then, after less than a five second hook-up, it was Bluefin Trevally break-off #1.  Apologies to Cody, because I just sacrificed a very nice Crease Fly tied by Cody Bell.  I kept at this crazy pace for three hours.  Determined, I was.


At this point, it needs to be said that the Great Rod Debate had already begun amongst the guides.  Deciding which record, the 3 kg/6.6 lb. record (which needed a 3 lb 8 oz weigh-in to beat Ms. Caroline Pilcher's existing record) or the 2 kg/4.4 lb. record (which was vacant and needed a 1 lb weigh-in to set the record), rod, and fly in our arsenal of fly fishing gear to use for this record was an Act even greater than the U.S. Congress; yes, really!  I had a 7# TFO Professional (medium action), an 8# TFO TiCrX (fast action), a 9# TFO Professional (medium), and a 10# TFO TiCrX (fast) from which to choose.  Wayne had me using the 10# due to a strong lifting-powered butt section, and a topwater fly.  Those Bluefins did come after that fly, but I had to learn to pop my tip and slow my retrieve enough just to hook the fish.  Tuesday, I had about 15 break offs, and used muscles I didn't even know I had.

Day 4, Wednesday, Cody and I fished with Guide James Christmas.  We targeted big fish, and looked for Bluefins near coral reefs (those were non-existent) and out wading in the surf.  We only saw one pair in the surf, which ended up being a good piece of luck.  I was sore from Tuesday, worn out, not casting well, and really lousing my retrieve.  James gave me excellent information to remember about my retrieve and rod tip, and knew I was forcing the issue of catching Bluefins and so backed off the record until I could reconnoiter and get my timing and casting synced.

Day 5, Devan van der Merwe, the head guide of Alphonse Island Resort, took us to the shores of St. Francois on Thursday.  I had never been on or that close to the island.  Devan said he was nervous, and I told Devan that truthfully, I was too.  I wanted this record really badly.  We began tag-teaming the rods; the 10# had the 6.6 lb class tippet and the 7# had the 4.4lb class tippet.  The 10# had a floating fly; the 7# had a sinking fly.  Let me say, I sacrificed about half my fly box that morning.  The break-offs on the 7# were so numerous, that I lost count after 20.  The 10# break-offs occurred less, but we were not getting fish larger than 1.5 pounds.  Devan held the fly having me pull and showing me how hard I could pull without experiencing a break-off.

Now, every time we pulled a class tippet leader out of the ziploc bag, the guides would comment and say how thin, how fragile they thought the material to be.  Seeing as we weren't catching anything near a 3 lb. 7 oz. Bluefin, I talked it over with Cody and Devan, and we decided to just go with the 2 kg/4.4 lb. record.  Next, Devan took us to the Aquarium, a coral reef just off Bijoutier Island.  I had the small fish chasing my fly, but no looks from the bigger guys, so we tied on bigger flies.  Zing, those bigger flies just kept on going, breaking my line at the class tippet, too heavy for the line to sustain their weight during casting.  Can't say how many break-offs and fly sacrifices I made, because there were too many.  I hooked up with fish, but was broken off on the coral beds; I was broken off at the class tippet time and again.  I began to measure where the class tippet was breaking and most consistently it was at the 11.5" to 12" mark.  At dinner that evening, most of the other guests, Dan Bolin, Jim Cochran, Randy Cupp, Robert & Ian Johnson, Matt Jones, David Leake, Jared Louviere, Ben McMasters, Jed Rosenthal, Will Ryan, Roy Washburn, and Clay Williams, learned that I was trying to set an IGFA record.  We talked strategy; we talked rod strength and leader length.  I expressed that I did not understand how I was going to be able to catch a pound or greater fish on a 4.4 pound tippet that kept breaking off at 11.5 to 12 inches.  Genuinely, I was beginning to lose faith that this record could be done.  Randy said something that made me feel better.  Randy said everything we were talking about made sense, because he had seen 175 pound men bench press over 440 pounds, so fish size and strength were not necessarily relative.  That thought got me to thinking.

Day 6, Friday, the last day found Cody and I paired with guide Andrew Mayo.  Earlier in the week, while travelling on the Tam Tam to St. Francois, Andrew spoke with me and gave some kind and good advice about seeking an IGFA record.  I shared with Andrew Randy's sentiment, and as Andrew was bringing his skiff to pick us up on the Tam Tam, Andrew had an epiphany, and put his idea in to play.

This was our last day of fishing the Indian Ocean with the Alphonse Island Resort staff, and I had been  working diligently all week to catch a Bluefin Trevally on both the 6.6lb/3kg and 4.4lb/2kg class tippets. When the week began, both of my tippet spools were new and contained 30 yards of line. By Friday, I had enough 4.4lb/2kg tippet to make five class tippet leaders.

Due to a slowly receding tide, Andrew boated us in Dolphin Skiff #4 to the island St. Fran├žois. We arrived at 8:40. Andrew and Cody had previously rigged my 7# fly rod with the 4.4lb/2kg class tippet, and they were tying more of the same class tippet leaders with the remaining line and rigging Cody’s 7# fly rod as well, to create a tag-team effect.

At 7°09’19.87”S 52°44’29.61”E are two coral beds where Bluefin Trevally are known to thrive. I began casting in between the two beds and hooked a fish almost immediately. It made a run back toward the beds, and after two minutes, broke off the line on the coral. I switched to Cody’s 7# fly rod, and Andrew and Cody rigged my rod with a new leader. I used a crab pattern, had a hook-up on the second strip, and the fish broke off the line immediately. I waited for Andrew and Cody to finish rigging my fly rod, handed them Cody’s fly rod for re-rigging, and began casting. This time I was using a Big Dale Bonefish Fly. For approximately 20 minutes, I was catching Bluefin Trevallys, but they were weighing in at .5 lb or less. I switched flies to a White Gotcha to keep the smaller fish from being able to eat the fly. I had a hook-up; the fish swam back to the coral, and broke off at the shock tippet on the coral bed. Since the class tippet was still intact, we tied on a Chartreuse and White, Lead-eye Clouser. I hooked a fish after many strips. It swam back to the coral, but I was able to keep the line from breaking. I played the fish for approximately 10 minutes, beached, and weighed the fish at .75 lb.

We decided to practice taking the measurements and photos using this fish. Fearing the receding tide was going to force us to move, we also clipped the fly line just in case this was our last fish at this spot. We preserved the line, released the fish alive, and Cody and Andrew began to make a new loop in my fly line and re-rig my fly rod. Andrew reported that we had about 15 minutes left of fishing before the outgoing tide trapped us on the island.

Following Andrew’s recommendation, Cody tied on a bead chain eye, Chartreuse and White Clouser. Then, Andrew and Cody resumed re-rigging my fly line. At this time, there were two 4.4lb/2kg class tippet leaders remaining. Andrew suggested taking the skiff boat out beyond the reef and walking back, so we could remain fishing on St. Fran├žois. We all liked the idea, and Andrew and Cody began gathering the fly rods, fly boxes, bum bags, and other accoutrements, and headed toward the skiff. At 10:17, as they were walking away, I hooked up with a fish. This fish fought harder than most of the other ones I had landed, and I hollered back at them that I had a hook-up which might be successful. Cody began timing the catch, and Andrew came back to the area where I was fishing. Andrew stayed for about five minutes, returned to the boat to sort through what would be left behind, prepared to move the boat, and then, returned back to where I was fishing.

This fish fought differently, making only one run back to the coral beds. Mostly, this fish swam right to left and left to right. I noticed many other fishes—Mullet, Bonefish, Bluefin Trevallys, and a Milkfish chasing the Bluefin I had hooked.  (Once we saw how the fish was hooked, we understood why the fish never made any long runs out.  All the other fish were harassing the hooked one, trying to eat the fly out of its mouth.  This "chase" tired the fish faster and really prevented it from running back out to the coral beds.  Luck can't be created, but I'll take good luck everytime it comes my way!) After a seven minute fight, I beached the fish, and a Bonefish had followed my hooked fish on to the beach. Cody nudged the Bonefish back into the water. Then, Cody weighed the Bluefin on the Boga Grip, and it weighed just slightly over 1 lb. Andrew looked at it, agreed on the weight, and we decided to boat to East Knoll to weigh and measure the fish. Keeping the fish on the Boga in the water, I began walking back to the skiff, when a Lemon Shark appeared. Andrew stayed between my catch and the shark, keeping it away from my fish. After the shark swam away, Andrew hustled to the skiff, helped Cody load everything on to it, got a small jug filled with saltwater, and we put the Bluefin into the jug.

We boated approximately three minutes to East Knoll, located in the vicinity of 7°08’25.26”S 52°45’21.10”E. Guide Scott Keller had boated anglers David Leake and Randy Cupp to fish East Knoll for Bonefish, so they were present when we arrived. Scott and David came over to see us weigh, measure, and release the Bluefin Trevally. We weighed and photographed the fish and then returned it to the water. We measured the X to X, photographed, and returned it to the water. We measured the XX to XX, photographed, and returned it to the water waiting a little longer before pulling it out to measure its girth. After the girth measurement and photos, we took the photos of the full length fish, fly rod, and reel, close-up fish, fly rod, and reel, and the fly as it was hooked in the fish’s mouth. Unfortunately, this Bluefin Trevally did not survive regardless our efforts to keep it oxygenated during the measuring and photos. We all felt that the boat ride to East Knoll stressed the fish rendering our efforts to keep it oxygenated futile.

While Andrew tried to revive the Bluefin, Cody and I clipped the fly line, preserved the line, leader, and tippet, preserved the paper where we recorded our measurements and time, and rigged a new loop and leader in Cody’s 7# rod. Cody began fishing for Bonefish and Bigeye Trevally, and Andrew and I preserved my Bluefin Trevally in the ice chest, so we could take it back to the ICS conservation team on Alphonse Island so they could have it for research studies.

The application, account, Boga Grip, 2kg empty spool, pictures, and fly line have  been submitted to and received by IGFA.  Now, we play the waiting game.

Weighing on East Knoll

XX - XX Length Measurement
X - X Length Measurement

Girth Measurement

Close-up of Cody's Rod, Reel, and Bluefin

Fish with Beadchain Eye Chartruese & White Clouser Fly as he took it

Andrew & I completing the IGFA Application

27 November 2011

Seychelles 2011

Cody and I returned to the Seychelles for the best Bonefishing on the planet.  Again, travelling on a Tailwaters hosted angling trip, Cody and I, along with 10 other fly fishers and Matt adding to his photography portfolio, journeyed from Dallas to Houston to Dubai to Seychelles islands of Mahe and then Alphonse.  This was Cody's third trip to Alphonse Island and my second.  The 14-hour flight from Houston to Dubai went relatively smoothly.  Staying in the Millennium Hotel was a nice respite between plane flights.

Being south of the equator, Alphonse's spring is just beginning, and we endured rainfall daily throughout the week.  The first day's rainfall and winds were so high, that we were island bound for the day, because the Tam Tam could not cross the channel.  The Bonefish were skittish and hookups challenged most everyone at the beginning of the day, but by mid-morning, all anglers were hearing their reels zing with those oh so wonderful Bonefish runs.  I even added to my species list with one of the Triggerfish Trifecta--a rather large Picasso Triggerfish.

With the sun shining and rain abating, Brandon took us out to the reef after lunch.  Cody cast to some skittish Yellowfin Margin Triggerfish, but with no luck.  We scoured the horizons for Triggers, Geets, and other reef fish, but the barometric pressure's inconsistency turned the fishing off.  We returned to Alphonse, and Cody caught a nice Bonefish to end the day.

Monday found us riding Tam Tam south across the channel past Bijoutier to St. Francois Lagoon.  Scoty took us Bonefishing on the "Gravy Train" flat, and we had a field day.  I wanted a Permit, and we saw one tailing just across the channel flat, but that was it for the morning.  Cody hooked up with many nice Bonefish, including a 4-pounder.  In 2009, I used my 8# rod, but on this trip, I designated my 7# for the Bonefish.  The fights were longer, but I was working on a game plan, so I had to dedicate rods for certain species and leave them rigged that way.  After lunch, we searched for Bluefin Trevallys, Permits, Triggerfish, and Giant Trevallys.  The last 30 minutes of the day, we located feeding Milkfish, which feed very similarly to Catfish eating food off the surface.  Since Milkfish only eat algae they skim off the top, it was important to cast the fly in their feeding area.  Their mouths when feeding, are about the diameter of a Styrofoam cup.  Cody cast to within two inches of a feeding Milkfish, but it rejected his fly.

Tuesday, Wayne and Alex took us bonefishing again, but I told Alex I only wanted to catch the big fish, since I was targeting Bluefin Trevally for an IGFA world record.  Alex worked on spotting the "big" ones, and I conserved my energy.  It was great fun watching Cody hook up with a 6.25# Bonefish, and we had a very nice doubles Bonefish.  Wayne took us to a reef, where I hooked a gorgeous Blue-Spangled Emperor fish, and had Honeycomb Groupers steal my flies away from very big Bonefish.  I cast to some Triggerfish, but the fly line spooked them.  Permits were still evasive.  At lunch, I couldn't resist the schooling Blue-Spangled Emperors and Parrotfish, so off I waded and eventually hooked up with a fish (but it broke off before I could identify it); then, I stumbled upon a Triggerfish who had his fly stolen by a Tomato Grouper.  Before leaving the area, we saw Geets from afar feeding on the Mullet.  The afternoon was spent targeting those Bluefin Trevallys for the record, when we literally stumbled upon a "sunbathing" Geet.  Cody cast to the fish, but it nonchalantly moved off its reef to the coral beds below.  I was exhausted and beginning to feel the record was beyond my grasp.

Wednesday was spent with James targeting big fish.  First thing in the morning was a nice Permit feeding off a Stingray's mudding trail.  I cast to it three times, but the Permit only fed to the right of the trail before it became curious enough to check us out, and then swim away with fright upon seeing us.  Cody cast to a Geet, stripped in his line, but it wound around his reel and fighting butt.  The Geet's wake from chasing Cody's fly was huge, but Cody stopped stripping due to the line chaos.  James wanted Cody to keep stripping the fly and told Cody the next time his line became entangled to continue stripping until Cody hooked-up with the fish.  After the hook-up, Cody would probably have to jump forward off the boat's bow, and while jumping, that would give Cody the time he needed to untangle his line and fight the beast.  It was all I could do to keep from laughing, because the scenario is quite plausible, but it just sounded hysterical to think of all that multi-tasking.  We hit some reefs looking for the Bluefins, but we didn't find any. 

After lunch, we hiked a 1/4 mile to the surf and searched for Bluefin Trevallys, Lemon Sharks, and Triggerfish.  Only one pair of Bluefin Trevallys appeared, but the 10# rod's line was entangled, so there was no casting to them.  I did spend the majority of my afternoon casting to Triggerfish, 15 of them to be exact.  Four of the Triggers had the fly stolen from them by three Honeycomb Groupers and one Bonefish.  I did hook-up with a Triggerfish and ran like a mad women possessed on the reefs following the fish to avoid hang-ups on the coral.  Now, running on the rocky, uneven surface is difficult enough, but I was supposed to run with my fly rod above my head all the while reeling in my fly line.  I became entangled on a coral, but James, all 6'4" of him, ran ahead and created enough slack in my line so we could get it unwrapped from the coral.  I continued following the Triggerfish, steadily reeling in, but it made a 90 degree turn, and the angle we were now located from one another caused me to pull the hook from its mouth, instead of creating a solid hookset.  Thus, it was Triggerfish Off!  At the end of the day, the Milkfish were in a feeding frenzy, so I cast into them hoping for a hookup while they were inhaling their algae, but no such luck.  Cody caught all various and sundry of reef fish, including a Picasso Triggerfish, a Goatfish, Bonefish, Honeycomb Grouper, Tomato Grouper, and the most wildly colorful Surge Wrasse.  The return hike was not too bad, but I was glad to reach the Tam Tam for some R&R.

Devan guided us on Thursday, and due to the high tide, we boated and beached on St. Francois Lagoon.  Devan knew an area where Bluefin Trevallys conglomerated abundantly.  We were all working hard to set the IGFA record, so the morning was dedicated to the Bluefins.  The sun shone resplendently, so we fished for them until noon, and then headed to Helmut Knoll and the channel east of Bijoutier for lunch and dredging.

We switched to sinking lines, big, bright flies, and got our retrieving arms ready to strip.  What a blast!  Cody caught a 13.5 pound Dogtooth Tuna, a species first, that put a huge bend in his 12# rod--amazing.  He caught a 7.5 pound Bluefin Trevally that was breathtakingly gorgeous.  Cody caught a Bonita, brought it to the surface, but it ran again, and three Giant Trevallys chased after the Bonita.  Cody declared that it's ass was his.  When the Bonita came to surface, it had its tail, but we could see a piece of its side was missing.  Devan told Cody to free spool the line, and Cody tried to catch one of those three Geets using the Bonita, but they'd had enough.  When Cody brought the Bonita in to the boat, he discovered that its tail actually belonged to the Geets!  I caught a Russell Snapper and to my absolute delight, a Moontail Sea Bass.  Talk about brilliant colors--truest red body, a crescent-shaped moon tail tinged with sunshine yellow, and a myriad of yellow-ringed pale lavender spots all over its body--beautiful!  Dredging is truly like selecting a grab bag and receiving a great prize.  We never knew what fish species we hooked until it was near the surface, and then it was to a round of oohs and ahhs, with Devan explaining what we had caught.  The blues, greens, and water clarity allowed us to see fish, but until we had it netted, it was a great guessing game.  Dredging was hard work, but it yielded some great species and a whole lotta fun!

Friday was our last day to fish, and Devan knew that I really wanted that IGFA record, so he paired us with Andrew Mayo.  We again spent the morning fishing for the Bluefin Trevally on St. Francois Lagoon, and just as the tide was receding past the point of no return, I hooked a fish that could set the record.  We followed all the IGFA requirements, and then began fishing for something other than a record. 

The weather and the light were not to our advantage.  The storms blew in around lunch time, and since we were near Tam Tam, we made a run for her to have lunch in a dry setting.  Devan, Alex, and Robert and Ian (father and son from Johannesburg, South Africa), Scoty, Jared, and Will all had the same idea, so we ate a nice lunch and waited for the bad weather to abate.  Eventually, the rains stopped, but the cloud cover remained.  Andrew asked if I wanted to try to set another IGFA record, which I did, so we targeted some more Bluefin Trevallys.  The winds were too high for us to dredge Helmut Knoll, so we stayed near the coral reefs around Bijoutier.  Cody did catch a few Peacock Groupers, Russell Snappers, and a small Moontail Sea Bass.  I caught a couple of Russell Snappers, but I was just worn out from stripping so hard all week long, so I mainly enjoyed watching Cody fish.  Even though the conditions were unfavorable, Friday was a great day!  Andrew worked really hard to help me catch a record fish, and we caught some beautiful species, which Cody and I dubbed "Aquarium" fishing. 

We slept late, Saturday morning, packed our bags, hung around the lounge, walked the beach, fished, and relaxed, while waiting for our Beechcraft to take us to the island of Mahe.  We took group photos, boarded the plane for an hour-and-a-half flight northeast, bid goodbye to Robert and Ian, stored our luggage, and went to Eden Island for a long supper at Bravo!  Our bill for 13 people was a little over $1,000.00!  We were all shell-shocked at the mugging we were getting.  Our iced tea bill alone was $40.00.  At 21:00, we divied everything, paid our bill, caught our taxis back to the airport, checked in, and waited for our 23:50 flight to Dubai.  The airport was stuffy and crowded, mainly because the flight to Heathrow was delayed for over an hour.  Fortunately, the flights to Qatar, Frankfurt, and Dubai were on time, and off we flew.

We landed in Dubai around 5:00 and were able to clear customs and security by 5:30.  I showered, changed clothes, and we walked around the airport looking for the Dunkin Donuts booth that was there last time.  Dunkin Donuts is no longer present, but we found a tribe of Africans sleeping in the floor, a Cinnabon store, a Marble Slab Creamery, and a place to rest before catching our 9:30 flight to Houston.  We boarded at 9:00, and I fell asleep rather quickly.  While sleeping, we taxied, then waited 35 minutes on the tarmac before taking off; thus, we were behind schedule with trade winds not in our favor. 

After a 16 1/2 hour flight, we eventually arrived in Houston at Bush Intercontinental at 17:45; however, we had missed our Houston to Dallas flight--the last Continental flight of the evening.  So, as we were clearing Customs, we were dialing Southwest Airlines and booking flights from Houston Hobby Airport to Dallas Love Field, where our cars were located.  Customs was easy to clear; locating our bags was a chore, but we did find them.  David arranged for three taxis to take us 35 minutes, a $75.00 cab fare, south.  We waited in line 45 minutes, but checked our free-flying bags and headed to our Gate.  At 20:05, we loaded the very full plane for home, where we landed 55 minutes later.  Bag retrieval was a little slow, but we found our bags, trekked to our car, and headed to Whataburger on Mockingbird @ Lemmon.  Oh, that was a great #7 with real Iced Tea!  We arrived home to our bed at 23:00.  As Judy Garland sang John Howard Payne's infamous words, "There's no place like home," I was truly believing it at that moment.

Yes, the trip is a veritable beating; yes, we fly eight planes round trip; yes, we have to pack everything we need but keep the "need" to 33 pounds; yes, the food is absolutely outstanding, and yes! I would do it all again!  (However, I might not fly non-stop to Dubai anymore.  No plane is comfortable after 16 hours; no plane!)

25 November 2011

OBN's Gear Review: Women's Keen Sandals

Disclaimer:  As with all reviews on FishOn! the fly, the following review is my honest opinion, I received the Keen Women's Whisper Sandals free of charge and agreed to provide a review in exchange. FishOn! the fly is not sponsored by or associated with Keen or Planet Shoes and is accepting no other compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future, but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

First of all, thank you both Outdoor Blogger Network and Planet Shoes for the opportunity to gear review this pair of Keen shoes.  I am a big fan of Keen footwear, and I enjoyed putting this pair through "its paces." 

At the beginning of September, I received a new pair of purple Keen Whisper sandals from Outdoor Blogger Network's Gear Review giveaway from Planet Shoes.  Being the proud owner of a navy blue pair of Keen Newport sandals since Christmas 2005, I was not sure how the Whisper style was going to be different or better.  It didn't take long to notice a few differences immediately.  While both styles are waterproof, The Whisper style as compared with the Newport style weighs less, is less bulky, and has a more streamlined toe protection design.  The specs for the two styles are:

                                    WHISPER                              NEWPORT
widest girth:                     4 1/8"                                      4 5/8"
single shoe weight:            9 oz                                        12 oz
pair weight:                      1 lb 2 oz                                  1 lb 8 oz

Living in Texas the drought affected most of the fishing areas, so I was unable to take the shoes on a carp fishing trip.  To compensate, I put the shoes through routine, everyday wear to test their comfortability.  I wore them to work, with casual wear, exercise workouts on an elliptical, and I noticed that the foot bed was slightly different adding more support for the small toe bone and Cuboid bone, the bone on the outside of the foot, which made the Whisper pair more comfortable.  Being lighter, I found I wore the sandals longer during the day, as well.

After enjoying their daily wear, it was time to take the Whispers fishing.  The Fredericksburg Fly Fishers host an annual event called Oktoberfisch on the South Llano River in Junction, Texas.  I wet wade-fished Sunday, and I love the Whispers improved footbed and sole tread!  I waded upstream against the current, downstream with a swift current, and crossed the stream to retrieve a fly all without a wading staff, and enjoyed comfort and stability while fly casting and catching fish.

Taken upon return 11/24/11
Having worn the Newports in saltwater, I was curious to see how the Whispers would stand up to the salt.  Returning Sunday, 11/20/11 from a 10-day trip to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, I was very pleased with the way the Whispers handled exposure to saltwater.  The shoe's upper material, simulating a suede material at the ankle and along the tongue area, nylon on the side supports and ripstop cord for cinching, and comfortable neoprene lining all handled the saltwater well, cleaned well, and showed little signs of wear in a harsh climate.

In addition to all the Whispers improvements, Keen has made this style available in a myriad of colors designed especially for women--grape, yellow, beet red, pale lime green (called Nile), various shades of light to dark blues, brown, and black.  This would make an excellent gift for the outdoor lady!
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