Death Star Chronicles

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Death Star Chronicles
How To Dress
Simms Softshell Hoody
Agitator Flies
All pictures are Mouse-over.

The Death Star Chronicles
The Death Star that the sage 7126-4 TCX was named after...
No one ever said, " May I  use your Sage 7126-4."  It was always more like, " Hand me the Death Star."  Because of its user friendliness and superior line speed, "The Death Star" soon became the most popular rod in my camp. Maybe we should have called this file "The Death Star Love Chronicles". Pictured below is evidence of "Death Star Love". Please send us your evidence.
Tony Antoniuk with the "Death Star"... Joe palanuk exercises the "Death Star"...
Mark Bachmann landed this steelhead with the "Death Star"... Chris Anderson with a "Death Star"...

How to Dress For Cold Weather Fishing
How you dress will make as much difference to your success in winter steelheading as your choice of tackle.  Pictured below are some men who spend a lot of time searching for big steelhead and other related species during wet/cold weather.  Anglers who catch fish like these, don't have the time or an inclination to use any but the most practical gear. "We know, because it's what we use."

Mark Bachmann hate cold, so dresses warm...

Josh Linn can ignore the cold because he has the right gear...

George Cook in TDF 

Mike Kinney fishes cold river such as the Skagit... 

Winter steelhead weather can mean rain and lots of it. 
The word "rain" turns most people off, because they associated it with discomfort. However, rainy days don't have to be uncomfortable, if you dress properly. 
Many rainy days can be beautiful.
 
Everything is washed and clean. Rain softens the edges of the landscape. It dampens sound and a rainy day on the river can be one of personal intimacy. But the best reason to fish in the rain, is that steelhead are more aggressive on cloud-cover days.
If you dress correctly, you can be comfortable, even during long days in cold, wet weather. If you don't dress correctly, you can get cold & wet.  As you lose thermal energy, your motor skills will suffer.  Warm muscles perform better than cold ones.  Dress to keep yourself warm and dry.  Keeping your skin surface free from dampness is one of the biggest keys to staying warm.  
Many people think that preparing for rain only means the addition of a rain coat and chest high waders.
 
The selection of these items is very important, but what you wear under this outer layer is also very important.  Any moisture trapped within your clothing will conduct heat away.  This means that you not only have to keep the rain out, but your clothing also has to have the ability to disperse your own perspiration.  When dressing for cold or wet weather fishing; dress from the inside out.
The layer of clothing next to your skin is the one you will feel all day.

Layer your clothing to stay warm... Maximum perspiration zones are your arm pits, groin and feet.  All these areas need special clothing.  Your inner layer should be made from synthetic material for maximum comfort.  It should be soft and designed to wick moisture away from your skin.
Never wear cotton clothing under your waders.
Cotton retains moisture and has very little insulation value when damp.  It also becomes a medium for fungal infections.  The organisms that cause infections such a jock itch and athletes foot can not live in synthetic fabrics.  Synthetic materials tend to  "pass-through", rather than "retain" moisture from perspiration.   Nylon, acrylic and polyester do not retain as much moisture as cotton or silk. Wool is the only natural fiber that will keep you as warm as synthetics. However wool is more expensive and often less durable.
Dressing with layers of Synthetic material can further customize the wicking of moisture away from your
body.  A layer of Simms WaderWick™ Underwear next to your skin with a layer of Simms WaderWick™ Fleece over it. This will keep you roasty-toasty during what would otherwise be inhospitable climatic conditions. Pay special attention to the layers that cover your legs and feet. These extremities are the ones that will be immersed in cold water.  When water temperatures are below 50-degrees double layering is recommended.  Water temperatures below 40-degrees demand heavier double-layering. Two layers of fleece or even three layers are recommended when the water is in the 30's. Pay special attention to your socks. Water runs down hill and some of your body perspiration will collect at your feet. This happens much less with breathable waders, but is still a factor, especially if you are hiking between pools.  There is no way for wader feet to breath inside your wading shoes.  Wader feet are still made from insulating, but non-breathable neoprene.
We like thick wool/nylon blend socks that have a knitted loop pile on the inside which gives them the capacity to retain a lot of loft, even with the squeezing pressure of your waders around them. They act as a reservoir for migrant perspiration but help keep it away from your skin.  
Of this type, Outdoor Socks by Fox River are the best we've tested.  They are knee length so provide another layer of insulation for the lower leg.  Remember, all socks are made from knitted yarns which tend to wash-out as you launder them, thereby loosing loft and insulating qualities.  Replace them often for maximum comfort. 
Your outer layer is your first layer of defense.

It must be water-proof, but it too must be able to dispel any moisture that might collect inside it.  This is accomplished by a special membrane sandwiched between two layers of protective fabric.  This membrane is porous so it can breath.  The pours are of a diameter that allow smaller gaseous molecules to escape, but will not allow larger liquid molecules to enter.  Non-breathable waders and rain jackets have all but disappeared from the steelhead fly fishing scene in favor of newer technology fabrics such as:  Gore-Tex.
 

Because of a revolutionary immersion technology from W.L. Gore & Associates, Gore-Tex keeps water from getting in, yet is very breathable, even when completely submerged and allows sweat and moisture to escape. This keeps your skin dry and helps you retain your body heat. Gore-Tex does not stretch, but the articulated knee design employed in Simms G3 Guide Waders allows a streamlined fit with full mobility of the angler.  A good fitting pair of waders should mold to your body and give you the most streamlined configuration you can have. This lessens water drag in the currents and makes wading less difficult.  Waders with bent knees enable a closer fit than straight legged waders.  For durability multi-layer construction is nearly mandatory from the crotch down.  Five-layer construction co-developed by W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. and Simms was designed specifically for use in fishing waders.  Simms/Gore-Tex® waders feature this laminate, which

Dick Bushnell with a January steelhead...
results in the most puncture-resistant, most durable, most technologically-advanced breathable waders you can purchase.
Wading shoes serve three purposes: to protect your feet and to enhance your balance and traction. High top leather or man-made leather wading shoes give better support and last longer per dollar spent, than their cheaper canvas counterparts. Felt soles with silicone carbide studs have been considered to be the best traction devices during the past ten years. Recently felt soles have come under scrutiny because of research leading to the opinion that the spaces between the felt fibers transport spores and eggs form invasive species from one watershed to another. Felt soles have been outlawed in New Zealand and a couple of states in the USA. Recently Simms has teamed up with the Vibram Shoe Sole Company to produce footwear that is less likely to transport harmful species. They have produced wading shoe soles that wear longer, hold traction devices better, and are more environmentally friendly than felt. These soles give good traction on most kinds of bottom structure, especially if tungsten headed screws or star cleats are added. Cold weather anglers will enjoy Vibram soles because snow won't stick to them and build up like it does on felt soles. Some guides object to having studded shoes in their pretty boats. If yours is that way, get a different guide. Fly-casting, like many other athletic events, depends on good traction.  A selection of proven wading shoes can be found here.
Be sure that your wading shoes fit for maximum support, but have enough room so as not to impair your circulation.
Always wear your waders and full under garments when fitting a new pair of wading shoes. Our favorite wading shoes are Simms Guide Boots Korkers Wading Shoes with Omnitrax interchangeable soles may be the most advance angling footwear available. These wading shoes allow you to change soles to fit any environment. Remember all of your casting and wading performance starts with the bottom of your feet. If you are slipping and sliding, you can't cast very well and you're bound to get wet and cold.

Josh on the Clackamas in January 2009 is smiling because his feet are warm...
Boot foot waders are gaining popularity with some of the Northwest's most experienced steelheaders. Simms will add BootFoots to any of the their new breathable waders. You can order BootFoots added to G3 and G4 Pro waders from us online. There is a 4 to 6-week wait as all BootFoot waders are custom made. We highly recommend adding Simms Hard Bite Boot Studs and/or Simms Star Cleats to any Simms Wading Shoe or BootFoots with felt or rubber lug soles. Be sure to have them installed by our Stud Service.

Your wading jacket forms the roof over all your innerwear. It must have a weatherproof parka hood. A wading jacket must be impenetrable to rain by keeping water from coming through the fabric shell and must also be designed to keep water from running down your neck or up your sleeves. A jacket that is rain proof is also wind proof. If the outer shell material will allow perspiration to pass through without allowing rain water to get in, you can remain comfortable in about any kind of weather you will encounter during productive steelhead fishing.

We have worn every generation of Simms Guide Jacket since they were first introduced. They just keep getting better and better. The G4 Pro Jacket has proven itself to the most demanding anglers and has held up against the most demanding conditions. It's made from 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro Shell fabric, which offers the ultimate in breathability, durability and extended comfort. The Simms G3 Jacket is also proven in harsh conditions and costs about $50 less. It was redesigned in 2009 and is constructed from 3-layer GORE-TEX® Performance Shell fabric technology.

Since your jacket is the outer most shell, it is the most convenient place to carry your gear. Few avid winter steelheaders wear fishing vests. A vest worn on the outside of your jacket gets wet. A vest worn inside your vest is hard to get at. Besides, you don't have to carry that much gear.

For a whole day of steelhead fly fishing, all I carry are: (besides my rod & reel) 1. A lanyard with a leader clipper, hook file, and nail knot-tying tube. 2. (1) Medium size box of flies. 3. Zippered wallet to carry Skagit tips and leaders. 4. Leader dispenser with 10, 15 and 25 pound test hard, abrasion resistant leader material. All of this gear will easily fit in the breast pockets of a properly designed wading jacket. If these breast pockets are equipped with D-rings you can attach your tool lanyard and then drop the tools into the pocket where they can't get tangled in your fly line.

Don't forget to consider your hands.
Neoprene gloves are great for cold weather, especially if you are rowing.  Both slit-finger and fingerless gloves are appropriate at times.

The selection of a hat is of prime importance. It must be waterproof, even though it will be under the hood of your waterproof jacket most of the time.  A baseball cap with a bill will shield your glasses from rain and help keep your face moisture free.  A waxed cotton baseball cap is very practical.  We had these specifically made for the purpose. If the weather is really cold, a cap with ear flaps such as the Simms Gore-tex Extreme Hat is advisable.

The Fly Fishing Shop Logo Waxed Cotton Cap
Item Description Price To Top
FFS-WAXED Waxed cotton baseball cap with The Fly Fishing Shop logo, Forest Green, one size fits all $25.00 SALE ENDED

Ice in your guides is never a good thing...


Simms Windstopper Softshell Hoody
Mark Bachmann wearing the Simms Windstopper Softshell Hoody on the Deschutes 10/27/09...
This is an incredible garment for those of us who play outside in the cold. The blend of high-tech fabrics has been engineered, to be lightweight and non-binding, yet warm, and extremely comfortable. The hood keeps the wind out of your ears and off the back of your neck without infringing on your peripheral vision. Because this coat is mid-length and not completely waterproof, it is best when worn as the outside layer under your waders. The slick, stretch fabric moves with your body under your waders, and gives you extra freedom of movement and more mobility than wearing fuzzy fleece in the same position. The Simms WindStopper Softshell Hoody is a very comfortable top layer for lounging around camp, or the lodge on cool evenings. The entire jacket and hood fit easily inside a G4 Pro Guide Jacket for and extra layer of warmth during cold winter days. The style of this jacket is perfect for going to the office, a bar or restaurant, or going on vacation. Pockets and zippers are well located. It has no annoying features. Should last for years. Will not easily go out of fashion...a very practical garment, and a good investment. Get yours now while they are available. MB

Like two layers in one - windproof and water-resistant. The Simms WINDSTOPPER® Hooded Softshell Jacket performs on the water and out on the town.

  • This softshell blocks wind and rain while offering the pliable comfort and warmth
    of mid-weight fleece

  • Soft yet rugged stretch nylon shell with
    soft and very warm microcheck interior

  • High, fleece-lined collar for additional protection from the elements

  • Large zippered chest pockets

  • Zippered, polyester mesh-lined hand warmer pockets

  • Adjustable cuffs

  • Adjustable shock cord hem

Simms WindStopper Softshell Hoody
Item Description Size Price To Top
048597 Windstopper Softshell Hoody, Color Coal Medium $219.95 SALE ENDED
048603 Windstopper Softshell Hoody, Color Coal Large $219.95 SALE ENDED
048610 Windstopper Softshell Hoody, Color Coal X-Large $219.95 SALE ENDED
048627 Windstopper Softshell Hoody, Color Coal XX-Large $219.95 SALE ENDED

Agitator Series Flies for Anadromous Fish
Agitator Black  Agitator Purple Agitator Pink
steelhead often take Agitator flies aggresively... Agitators get noticed by steelhead. In Oregon, we have steelhead in many rivers year round. Most return during the coldest months of December, January, February, March and April. Average water temperatures are 36 - 46 degrees. At these temperatures, steelhead will bite, but won't move far for a fly. To make matters more challenging the rivers are often very high and sometimes off color. The Agitator Series has evolved from the late 1960's to cope with tough winter & spring conditions. Through the years Agitators have been called by other names, but the design theory has remained the same, "get down quick and stir thing up". The current design has remained the same since around 1990. They have heavy nickel plated brass eyes for maximum sink rate. The design is compact for easy casting and they are densely colored for maximum visibility. The soft flowing materials employed create maximum movement.
Agitators are designed to get deep in a hurry and stay there in a controlled manner. Agitators are medium size, meaning that they are larger than traditional steelhead bucktails, but smaller in silhouette than most tube flies or stinger flies. Often they are just the right size. Though designed primarily with winter steelhead in mind, Agitators are also very productive for summer steelhead and Coho salmon. Agitators were first designed to be high-stick "nymphed" with a floating line and long leader. The heavy eyes allows them to be fished dead drifted deep along the bottom. They are perfect for fishing pocket-water. They have also proven to be very effective when fished on the swing with both floating or sinking tip lines with either single or two-hand rods. Agitators do not tangle or foul. They average 1 3/4" long.

Agitator Black & Red
Black and red is a winning combination any time of year. On our local rivers it is a good choice in the spring for early summer steelhead and spring Chinooks, but is also often deadly on winter steelhead.  This is a great fly design for picking the pocket water where you have to get deep in a hurry.
Agitator Black & Red
Item Description Size Price To Top
20215-02 Agitator Black & Red 2 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Agitator Purple & Flame
This is the most popular summer color combination  Fish this fly deep in the slots when the water is low and clear.  Can be used with a sinking tip line or suspended below a yarn strike indicator. Is also surprizingly productive when water is cold or off-color any time of year. Can be the answer when the White River mucks up the Deschutes.
Agitator Purple & Flame
Item Description Size Price To Top
20220-02 Agitator Purple & Flame 2 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

Agitator Pink & Orange
This is a favorite early winter fly everywhere in the Pacific Northwest.  It seems to be most productive when the water is very cold.  Of course this is the condition that drives steelhead into deep water where a heavily weighted fly is most useful. If you only had one fly to fish for winter steelhead, this very well could be it.
Agitator Pink & Orange
Item Description Size Price To Top
20225-02 Agitator Pink & Orange 2 3 for $5.95 SALE ENDED

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark, Patty & Crew