Well I'm back from ICAST, although I am not entirely sure why we were delayed by an hour or so on the final flight from Paris to London - extreme weather? Bright blue skies when we eventually landed at Heathrow, and one five minute torrential downpour on the drive back home. Is the weather these days really more "extreme", or are our great authorities increasingly losing a bit of backbone?
Orlando is what it is, but that aside I do love going to the US. I love how sport fishing (and hunting/shooting) is just so big in scale across the pond, and therefore it has to be taken so seriously by the powers that be. I was once told that there are about nine million anglers in Florida alone, and even if this figure is not entirely accurate, as an angler and somebody who works in the sport fishing industry, to feel that much buzz and excitement about this thing we love is a huge thrill. The fact that saltwater anglers in Florida for example have a stack of fish to catch must have some correlation to anglers having to pay for a license that is actually doing a lot of good. Sea fishing is meant to be free? Quite possibly - but more fish or free fishing? It's a subject I feel very strongly about, but it's Monday morning and I ain't going there at the moment.............
Now it's slightly arse about face to go to the US to a huge US fishing tackle trade show and end up seeing one of the most awesome Japanese lure rods I have ever picked up and wiggled, but right across from the impressive looking but naturally freshwater biased DUO stand was a small Major Craft booth. If you read this blog then you know how much I rate their "budget" Skyroad rods (see here and here for example), and ever since I heard of Major Craft's top of their range Truzer bass rods I have wanted to see them. Lo and behold but Major Craft had a couple of them on their stand, and one of the guys there spoke pretty good English as well.
I have picked up a few different 9'6'' lure rods that lie somewhere in the 5-35g range now, but I don't remember waggling one that felt so instantly impressive as the 9'6'' 10-30g Major Craft Truzer - lighter than a Skyroad (not a heavy rod as it is), it felt ridiculously responsive with a very steely action, help!! I also saw the 9'8'' 15-42g Truzer, and although it's obviously a more powerful rod, I can't believe how light the thing was. There are two more Truzer rods in this (sea) bass range, a 9' 10-30g, and one that seriously, seriously appeals to me for so much of the sort of lure fishing I end up doing these days, a 9' 7-23g rod. I dread to think how good that thing might be. If stuff had been for sale at the show I would have bought the 9'6'' there and then.
Here'a a picture of this new Stormr Fusion waterproof jacket that I saw at the show - I believe this thing won a clothing (apparel) award at the ICAST show, and believe me, with the size and importance of this show within the US tackle trade, winning awards at the thing is of huge kudos to a company. The Yanks do the outdoors very seriously indeed, and this is one jacket that I am seriously interested in getting hold of to give it a good testing in the sort of weather we can end up fishing in during autumn and winter especially.
Above is a photo (not mine) of these new IMA surface lures. I don't know whether they will ever become available to us here in the UK, but they do look seriously interesting. There were obviously a huge amount of lures on display at ICAST, with the majority aimed at the massive US freshwater market, but of course a lot of those kinds of soft plastics especially are more than applicable for some of our own species.
I kinda pride myself on at least having heard about many of the different kinds of sport fishing around the world, but I have to admit to being completely gobsmacked when a fascinating couple stopped by for a chat at the Fiiish stand. I will tell you about it most likely later in the week, but when this couple then stopped by again on the last morning to show us a bunch more photos, it was all I could do to stop my jaw hitting the floor in amazement. The US continues to fascinate me for so many different reasons.
I love going to the Florida Keys, and as outrageously impressive as the inshore and offshore fishing can be down there, it's easy to make the mistake that Florida is not about much more else - which is miles away from the truth. OK, so we got done by conditions last year in the north west corner of their sunshine state, but it was just so interesting to get to talk to so many anglers who fish for so many awesome species throughout Florida. There's so much shallow water sight fishing for stuff like redfish, snook and tarpon, and then further offshore you start messing with the wreck donkeys (amberjack), cobia, dolphin (mahe mahe) etc. We gave one guy some Black Minnows as he said he would be giving them a go for the tarpon outside of his backdoor when he got home that evening, and blow me down if he doesn't turn up the next day with photos of a "small one" around the 40lb mark he smashed second cast on a 120mm Black Minnow. Imagine having that sort of fishing right outside your house!!
The larger companies such as Simms and Columbia had plenty of impressive looking gear, with a big emphasis on hot weather fishing clothing and related stuff. Why anybody in their right mind would consider wearing a material like cotton these days to fish in warm weather is beyond me, albeit I take the point that we don't exactly suffer with an excess of hot weather here at home, and much of this sort of technical fishing clothing isn't that easy to get hold of here.
After my issues with the new Simms Vapor wading boots, I asked their product manager which ones I should be looking at for the sort of fishing and photography I tend to need them for, and straight away he said the new Simms G3 wading boots. Gotta say they do look very impressive. I hear of more anglers buying the Simms Oceantek wading boots from abroad, and I hear really good things about them - but then they are essentially a saltwater version of a wading boot I know well and have very good experiences of, the Simms Rivershed.
It's admittedly not that easy to get very excited about the grips on fishing rods, but the Winn Grips felt great. I believe they make golf grips and have moved into fishing, and I liked the softish but very grippy feel to them. The Owner stand had some great looking hooks, but sadly we get to see very little of their stuff here in the UK - I really like some of their weedless hooks with those centre-pin hitchhikers on them, and as handy as it is that Lure Heaven have a couple of models available, I so wish we could get hold of more of them. There is one particular model with a little belly weight on the shank that for me is the absolute perfect hook for rigging with the 5'' Flash-J for example, but currently I have to buy them from overseas - or pick some up when I am in the US.