Fly Fishing Arizona: Christmas Tree Lake

0 Comments

Sunrise over Hawley Lake
Sunrise over Hawley Lake

“Blip.” A trout rises to the right.

The fly dropped softly, a foot short of the center of the concentric ripples and the krystal flash wings gleamed in the morning sunlight. There was an ever so slight pause before the nose of the Apache trout broke the surface. The ant pattern disappeared, the hook was set, and the fish danced its way to the net.

This scene played itself many times over for most of the morning. At Christmas Tree Lake on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the Apache trout like to rise to dry flies until the sun gets too high in the sky. Around eleven, we switched things up and stripped small leeches, damsels, and nymphs off of the banks with pretty good success. As evening approached, there was another flurry of activity on the surface as trout began rising again to ants and mayflies.

Back in the Valley, the temps were well over 100 degrees, but after a light rain as we got off the water, the mountain air was crisp and clean. It’s easy to have a good day when the fish are biting and you’re hanging out with a couple of good buddies.

Apache Trout
Christmas Tree Lake Apache Trout
Alex Landeen
Alex Landeen doing what Alex Landeen does
Apache Trout
Apache Trout
Landon working the bank at Christmas Tree Lake
Landon working the bank
JW Young and Sons Pridex Reel
JW Young and Sons Pridex Reel
Christmas Tree Lake
Strip, Strip Strip, Set
Alex Landeen
Alex hooked up
Christmas Tree Lake
The Fleet

Rambling Review: Vortex Viper 15×50 Binoculars

0 Comments

Vortex Viper 15x50
Vortex Viper 15×50

Rambling Review: Vortex Viper 15×50 Binoculars

Why:

I grew up hunting back East where it’s pretty easy to get by without a set of optics. Life in the West is a different game and quality binoculars are worth their weight in gold when looking for animals in the wide open expanse of the Arizona mountains. I’ve gotten by with a pair of Nikon 10x42s, but there were so many times when I needed more to look a little farther. After a bunch of research, the Vortex Viper 15x50s were the perfect addition to my tripod for javelina and deer season.

Vortex Viper 15x50
Vortex Viper 15×50

First impressions:

  • HD Lens Elements – HD (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass delivers impressive resolution and color fidelity, resulting in High Definition images.
  • XR Lens Coatings – Vortex proprietary XR anti-reflective coatings, fully multi-coated on all air-to-glass lens surfaces, increase light transmission for maximum brightness.
  • Roof Prisms – Valued for greater durability and a more compact size.
  • Waterproof – Optics are sealed with O-rings to prevent moisture, dust, and debris from getting inside the binocular.
  • Fogproof – Argon gas purging guarantees superior fogproof and waterproof performance.
  • Rubber Armor – Provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection.
  • ArmorTek – Ultra-hard, scratch-resistant coating protects exterior lenses from scratches, oil and dirt.
Vortex Viper 15x50
Javelina with the help of the Vortex Viper 15x50s

Field Use:

Setting up the first morning of the season and putting my eyes to the Vortex Viper 15x50s was like entering a whole new world. The first thing that jumped out to me was the clarity and brightness of the image when viewed through the HD glass of the Vipers. On that first morning we spotted a herd of javelina almost a mile and half out. I had the opportunity to sit side by side with a buddy who was using a pair of Swarovski SLC 15×56 and view the herd through both binoculars. In truth the Swarovskis were exceptional, and to my untrained eye, I could see the slight difference between the two. The Vipers however definitely held their own against the top of the line binos on the market and provided a crystal clear picture edge to edge. When considering the discrepancy in price between these two great binoculars, the HD lens Vortex Vipers put up some stiff competition for it’s competitors.

The Vortex Viper 15×50 binoculars boast a rugged design with Vortex’s Rubber Armor coating, heavy duty O-rings that keep out moisture, as well as Argon gas purging to keep them fog free. One of the most attractive features of the Vortex binoculars is the guarantee that comes with all Vortex optics:

  • Unlimited Lifetime Warranty
  • Fully transferable
  • No warranty card to fill out
  • No receipt needed to hang on to

Over the following month, I carried the Vipers and spent many hours looking through them and watching animals at much greater distances than I could have with my 10x42s. They absolutely filled a huge need in my optics lineup. I still carry my 10s on my chest, but the 15s are always in my pack for situations where I need to see a bit farther.

Vortex Viper 15x50
Vortex Viper 15×50

Pros:

Price

Quality HD Glass

Durable Construction

Vortex VIP Warranty

Prognosis:  The Vortex Viper 15×50 binoculars offer top of the line glass at a middle of the road price. If you are in the market for a new set of 15s, The Vipers definitely deserve consideration 

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. The Vortex Viper 15×50 binoculars were provided for the purpose of this review by Camera Land. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no 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.

Arizona Fly Fishing: Spring

13 Comments

Arizona Fly Fishing
Crystal Clear Water

The crusty hamburger buns were all that were left in the cupboard, so I slathered a thick layer of peanut butter and jelly on each side, put the sandwich in a ziplock bag and stowed it in my pack.

Eight hours later, I sat streamside reflecting over the morning of fishing while eating that crusty PB&J. With work and family, the days on the water seem to be fewer and fewer, so I purposefully reveled in the fresh air, the smell of pine trees and the sound of the running water. The big brown trout that had smashed my streamer just an hour before was still fresh on my mind and I replayed the scene in my mind again – bent rod, netting the fish, and the release – over and over.

By the time the sun began to set, it was still several miles back to the truck. The last mile was dark enough where I contemplated digging through my pack for my headlamp, but I trusted the steep canyon pathway, having walked it many times before.

Arizona Brown Trout
Arizona Brown Trout
PB&J
PB&J
Pine branch
Needles

Rambling Review: Lowa Tibet LL Boots

0 Comments

Rambling Review: Lowa Tibet LL

Lowa Tibets LL
Lowa Tibet LL

Why:

Lowa boots are some of the finest made boots on the market today. I’ve had the great opportunity to put a couple of different pairs of their boots through the ringer while hiking, hunting, and fishing around Arizona. The Lowa Renegade LL and the Lowa Uplander GTX were both solid boots that are still in my rotation of hunting boots, but I recently put a pair of Lowa Tibets LL boots on my feet this past year and was really impressed by this heavy duty hunting boot.

Lowa Tibett LL
Lowa Tibett LL

First impressions:

The weight – At 1900 grams (67 ounces), this heavy duty boot comes in much heavier than a lightweight hiking boot.

Leather lined – The “LL” in the title stands for leather-lined. The Lowa Tibet LL boots are lined with glove quality leather that greatly aids in moisture wicking and ultimately, comfort. For Arizona hunting and hiking, this was a no-brainer for me. The Tibets also come in a several other variations: Goretex and Superwarm Goretex

Vibram – The Tibet LL boots come standard with the Vibram Masai sole. Lowa states that the Masai sole provides excellent grip on all surfaces, thanks to self-cleaning mountaineering tread. The large lugs and the undercut heel provide uphill and downhill traction.

Manufactured – Lowa Boots have been handcrafted in Europe since 1923 under the world’s most stringent manufacturing, environmental and labor regulations.

Lowa Tibet LL boots
Lowa Tibet LL Boots in the desert

Field Use:

My first experience with the Lowa Tibet LL boots was right out of the box with no break in time. Not ideal when side-hilling after Gambel’s quail, but I couldn’t have been more pleased with the fit and feel of the glove quality leather. No hotspots or blisters. The Nubuk leather upper, combined with the leather interior, allows for some real breathability that other boots with Goretex lining lack.  

The other feature of the Lowa Tibet LL boots that blew me away was the support. The Tibets are a heavy duty mountain boot and the 5mm full length nylon stabilizer in the boot provides serious support while hiking the loose rock hills in Arizona. The boots also feature a tongue stud and x-lacing with locking eyelets. This allows for perfect tension throughout the boot.

One thing to note about the Tibets is the weight. These are not a lightweight hiking boot and are instead built with a heavy sole that can take any abuse you throw at them. Although the boots are a bit heavier, I found that the comfort and support they offered far outweighed the additional weight.

Lowa Tibets LL
Lowa Tibets LL Boots

Pros:

Little to no break-in time

Vibram Masai soles

Waxed nubuk leather uppers

Glove grade leather lining

5mm full length nylon stabilizer

Cons:

Cost 

Weight 

 

Prognosis:  If you are in the market for a quality set of mountain boots, the Lowa Tibets LL boots are an excellent choice.

 

Lowa Tibets LL boots
Lowa Tibets LL boots in the turkey country

 

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. The Lowa Tibet LL boots were provided by Lowa for the purpose of this review. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no 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.

Arizona Turkey Hunting: A long time coming

22 Comments

Arizona Turkey Hunting
Arizona Merriam’s Turkey

It’s been a long time coming. Truth be told I’ve had a tag for the past six years and have spent quite a few weekends hiking, scouting, calling, and waiting. I’ve suffered rain, snow, unspeakable winds, missed opportunities and blown chances on my Arizona turkey hunting journey, but ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything about how my turkey hunt has unfolded over the years.

This year, everything came together on the last morning of the hunt, when that Merriam’s gobbler stepped out in the opening. Walking back to the truck with that heavy bird over my shoulder, I said a prayer of thanks for that turkey’s life, and for a good hunting buddy who helped put me in the right place at the right time.

Right now as I write this post, all I can think about is turkey and stuffing…and turkey sandwiches…and turkey chili…and turkey pot pie…

Arizona Turkey Hunting
A view from my evening stand
Turkey Calls
Turkey Calls
The hike out
The hike out
Plucking
Plucking
Arizona Merriams Turkey
Arizona Merriams Turkey

A morning on River X

18 Comments

River X
Me working a run on River X (photo by Kyle Graf)

The winding dirt road led to a cattle guard, followed by a break in the fence. Through the break in the fence was a trail and at the end of the trail was a river. This particular river held brown trout, and when a streamer swung through the current with the perfect blend of speed, depth, and the right amount of movement, a brown trout ate it with conviction. After a few fleeting hours it was over. Back up the trail, through the hole in the fence, and up the winding dirt road, River X faded into the rearview mirror.

It’s been weeks since I walked down that trail and stood on the banks of the river, but I can still see the mountains, smell the sage, and feel the line come tight on a fish like it was yesterday.

Brown Trout
Meateater Brown
Somewhere
Somewhere Out West
Brown Trout
River X Brown Trout
Alex Landeen
Landeen working it
River X
River X running strong

Pyramid Lake 2016

10 Comments

Lahontan Cutthroat
Lahontan Cutthroat

From an objective view, the trip was relatively unremarkable compared to ones in the past, but 2016 goes down as one of my favorite Pyramid Lake trips. Although there were a few low points (broken rods, sand blasting from high winds ripping along the beach, etc.), my experience was much more relaxing than in years past. The long drive to the lake, the stiff cold wind as we stood on our ladders, the stink of wet old wader funk all had the warm feeling of familiarity to the point of endearment. With numb fingers and bleary eyes, we tied on new flies and stripped them through the deep blue waters, waiting and praying for the tell-tale tug of the cruising cutthroats.

I love the grind. I love having to work for a fish. This wasn’t my year for that ten pound fish. It always seems just out of reach, and ultimately that’s what keeps me coming back.

Makers Mark
Pyramid and Makers go together like peas and carrots
Pyramid Lake Fly Fishing
On the Ladder – photo by Brian Johnson
Lahontan Cutthroat
Lahontan Cutthroat – photo by Brian Johnson
Cui-ui
Cui-ui and me – photo by Alex Landeen
Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat
Kyle with Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat
Cui-ui
Brian with a native Cui-ui
Lahontan Cutthroat
Alex with the fish of the trip for our group
Lahontan Cutthroat
My final fish from the lake (photo by Brian Johnson)
Pyramid Lake
Fading light at Pyramid Lake

Rambling Review: Game Planner Maps

2 Comments

Rambling Review – Game Planner Maps

Game Planner maps
Game Planner Maps

Why:

There’s nothing better than pouring over a big map laid out on the kitchen table. There is no substitute for tracing lines and scouting for hard to reach hunting spots on a physical map. With the advent of quality interactive maps on line, the whole game has been turned around with access to information on a whole new level. Add in a map on a smartphone and now outdoorsmen have more information at their fingertips then ever before. Trying to coordinate information between a paper map, a digital computer map, and a smartphone app has always been a bit of a headache. Recently, my good hunting buddy turned me on to Game Planner Maps and it’s been an awesome map and scouting tool that offers paper, desktop, and smartphone maps.

Game Planner maps
Game Planner Maps Legend

First impressions:

The Paper Maps – Game Planner Custom Maps are double sided and printed on water and tear resistant paper. Maps include a USGS Topographic base map, unit boundary, roads, springs and seeps, water bodies, wilderness area boundaries and specially designated areas (where applicable). The default map size is 24X36″ and covers ~300 mi² at 1:40,000 scale. This scale is a good compromise between detail and coverage; and you still get the 1:24000 base map. A 24X36″ map provides a large area and enough detail to accurately read contours and terrain features. 

The Desktop Map Viewer –  interactive maps with a long list of overlays, boundaries, habitat, water, species information, and tools. Currently, Game Planner Maps have the following states to check out on their desktop viewer:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

The Phone App – The phone app is pretty slick as well. Game Planner Digital Maps are designed to work with the Avenza PDF Maps mobile application. The system allows your Android or Apple phone to function as a GPS with no need for cell service or an internet connection. Once the maps are loaded to the PDF Maps app, you have the ability to see your location on the map, record waypoints, track your path, and measure distance.

Game Planner Maps Phone App
Game Planner Maps Phone App

Field Use:

I found the Game Planner Maps system to be an invaluable tool this past hunting season. I used the Desktop Map Viewer and paper maps to do quite a bit of scouting and trying to find access. There are so many valuable tools and overlays built into the Desktop Map Viewer that it’s easy to get sucked in to the program and spend hours gleaning information about the landscape and habitat. Although I’ve used Google Earth for years, the Game Planner Map Viewer has really proven to be on a whole other level of information.

I’ll admit that I’ve got a whole shelf full of paper maps. It’s become a bit of a tradition that when I start hunting or exploring a new unit, I pick up a physical map of the area to learn the lay of the land and take on my hunt. Having seen a bunch of different types of maps printed on different types of paper, I was really impressed with the detail on the Game Planner paper maps as well as the durability of the material.  All Game Planner paper maps  are double sided and printed on water and tear resistant paper.

The Game Planner Phone App proved to be an advantageous tool this year during quail season. Although most of my hunting takes place out of cell service, the PDF maps still afford me the opportunity to see my location on the map, record waypoints, track my route, and measure distance. It sure is nice to see what’s around the corner when exploring a new area.

Although Game Planner Maps offers standard hunting units in a growing number of states, they also have the ability to create customized property maps. Game Planner Maps is the brainchild of my friend Ed Vergin. Ed lives and breathes maps and truly has developed an awesome product. If you need anything map related, he is the guy to talk to. Contact him at info@gameplannermaps.com.

Game Planner Maps
Game Planner Maps

Pros:

Great tool for scouting

Multiple tools and overlays in Desktop Map Viewer

Convenient phone app for field use

Ability to use without a cell signal

Customized property maps

Customer service

New states being added to their database

Cons:

Cost (I’m really searching with this con. As with any useful tool, there is a price tag. Definitely worth it in my opinion.)

Prognosis:  Game Planner Maps offers an array of useful map tools and worth checking out for scouting and hunting season.

 

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Ed Vergin, owner at Game Planner Maps is a friend of mine and was kind enough to give me a few maps to check out. If they sucked, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no 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.