The days have been hot, and we don’t often look for a reason to head out into the blast furnace that is Phoenix in July. But, I take a certain satisfaction from stowing away clean gear, so we donned our swimsuits and headed out into the bright morning sunshine.
After washing down and giving them a gentle scrub to work off the dirt and mud, I had my assistant give it a thorough spray down with some 303 Aerospace protectant. Landeen turned me on to it when I first bought my boat, and it has kept the pontoons looking fantastic over time.
As with any water project with a two and half year old, the job took three times as long and ended in a water fight. My hope is that she learns two important lessons: put gear away clean and never miss out on a water fight.
After a day of fishing dry flies to Apache trout at Christmas Tree Lake, we ate like kings around the campfire. Waking up the next morning with a half a day to kill, we broke camp and headed to Becker Lake to see if we could tease out a couple of those big rainbows that live in the lake.
The lake was like glass when we pulled in to the empty parking lot. After a short row across the lake, I followed the lead of my two buddies who had fished the lake before, and started searching the water with a big foam hopper. Just as I was giving up hope, the water around my fly erupted as a Becker Lake rainbow savagely attacked the hopper. After a hard hookset and a pretty good fight to the net, I cradled the 18″ fish in my hands before releasing it back to the lake. I fished for a couple more hours before rowing back to the boat ramp.
My first trip to Becker Lake was a memorable one. As an avid stream fisherman, I’ve really enjoyed learning about still water fishing and experiencing the high country Arizona lakes. I’m grateful to have good buddies who I can ask questions and glean information from regarding fishing still water lakes. With temps soaring here in the Valley, I’m already looking forward to loading up the truck and heading north.
“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.
Rambling Review: Vortex Viper 15×50 Binoculars
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.
- 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.
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.
Quality HD Glass
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
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.
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.
Rambling Review: Lowa Tibet LL
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.
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.
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.
Little to no break-in time
Vibram Masai soles
Waxed nubuk leather uppers
Glove grade leather lining
5mm full length nylon stabilizer
Prognosis: If you are in the market for a quality set of mountain boots, the Lowa Tibets LL boots are an excellent choice.
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.
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…