Friday, June 6, 2014

Blue Ridge Overland Gear IFAK and Head Rest Bag Review

My wife and I are avid surf anglers and enjoy chasing Red Drum, Pompano, and Whiting (locally referred to as Sea Mullet) on the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area.  We spend 70 to 80 days a year using our truck to transport us and our fishing gear to spots too far from the pavement to carry all the gear required to chase fish.

As time passes we accumulate more and more gear.  Add up fishing tackle, foul weather gear, and standard beachgoer articles like umbrellas and chairs and it quickly adds up to a truckload.  The back seat in the extended cab houses its own collection, some luxuries and others required by the OHV permit guidelines and good sense.  Beginning to keep this collection organized is where Blue Ridge Overland Gear (BROG) enters our story.

Before BROG I used a hard plastic lidded container to store my recovery gear and repair items under the rear seat of my 2007.5 Chevrolet 2500HD extended cab.  A small first aid kit in the original hard plastic case was jammed into a space between this box and my folding solar cooker.  More accurately speaking, the first aid kit spent most of its life in the rear floor because it wouldn't stay in place under the seat.

Being a fan of The 4x4 Podcast ( I was familiar with BROG’s offerings, such as the Dutch oven case, but had never seen something I HAD to have.  That is until I saw the Headrest Bag.

Headrest Bag
Photo: Blue Ridge Overland Gear

Earlier this week I installed the Headrest Bag on the back of the driver’s seat.  I was able to move my recovery/repair items from under the rear seat into this bag.  A snatch strap, tire plugs, rescue tape, JB Weld, gloves and other numerous items were placed inside and I still have room for more ‘stuff’.  I like the fact that I can quickly remove the bag from the seat and convert it into either a shoulder bag or a backpack should the need arise.

I also ordered the Head Rest Panel and IFAK (First Aid Kit) Bag, freeing up the underseat space assigned to the first aid kit.  The Head Rest Panel fits the Chevy headrest well and tightened securely.  The hook and loop straps securing it to the headrest were captured on the rear panel so there are no straps hanging down.  It’s a very neat installation.

Head Rest Panel
photo - Jeff Madre
 The IFAK Bag is well made and had plenty of room and more than enough pockets and straps to secure the items from the kit plus supplemental items like another space blanket and even a small pair of bolt cutters.  Access in an emergency situation will be much quicker now that I don’t have to hunt down the first aid kit.

The completed setup. Nice, no?
photo - Jeff Madre
Craftsmanship was high on all the products.  I did notice some skewed thread lines holding down a patch of hook and loop, but this was the only imperfection I could find in what appears to be a fairly complicated article to sew.  I was struck by the absence of tag ends that seem to plague almost every other sewn article I’ve purchased for the last several years.  It is obvious that BROG products are sewn by people that care about what they’re building.  It’s good to see affordable, quality gear being manufactured in the USA.  We need more of this happening.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Surprises can be good, too!

The wind was blowing 15-20 MPH with higher gusts, which is perfect for Red Drum fishing on the south side of Hatteras Island.  It doesn't make for a nice beach day, but it produces memories and in the end those are what we'll have when we're too old to throw 8 ounces of lead and a mullet head.

Having spent the first part of the day working on some long-delayed camper maintenance, we decided to slip down towards Hatteras Inlet to see if we could catch a few of the large Red Drum that slip out of the Pamlico Sound and feed against the ocean shoreline.

It was June of 2011 when Sandy landed her first citation Red Drum, a 48" beast that had nearly pulled her off her feet.  She did a great job fighting and landing that fish in the rough surf.  This gave us hope that we could repeat that performance this evening.

Sandy's 48" citation Red Drum - June 2011

The first casts were shorter casts in the deep holes between the shoreline and a shoal that appeared where you'd normally have the first bar.  This close to the inlet you don't have a regular bar, but a scattering of shoals and holes.  This shoal was doing a fine job of producing a blanket of foam on top of the water as the wave crumbled on its way to shore.

Periodically our lines would suddenly slacken and move toward shore.  This caused us to grab them from the spike and run hilariously toward the dune, all the time pumping them in an attempt to pull out the slack and cause the circle hook to find the corner of the fish's mouth.  After a couple of smaller bluefish and a few empty hooks it became apparent that the bluefish were lifting the 8 ounce pyramid sinkers off of the sandy bottom while cleaning off our hooks.

We had arrived at dead high tide and were now about halfway down the tide.  The whitewater in front of use looked perfect and I was confident that there were Drum feeding.  We just had to get through the bluefish first.

I sent my next bait a little farther from shore, this time dropping the sinker and a chunk off Spot onto the closest edge of the shoal in front of us.  We were now about halfway down the tide and the whitewater looked like a Currier and Ives print, if either of them had been drum fishermen.

After a few minutes without any action, I reeled in the bait a few feet to make sure it wasn't buried in the sand.  It's not uncommon for a sinker and bait to be buried in minutes.  Everything looked good and so I sat back down on the tailgate, tucking out of the wind which, by this time, had dropped to about 15 MPH.

After all of the slackening lines we'd seen, I told Sandy that I'd just like to hear a 'classic' drag run where the clicker goes off in that delightful sequence of accelerating clicks until it is screaming "Fish! Fish! Fish!".

A few minutes later I heard it.  Click, click click click, cliiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!  Then it stopped.

I carefully lifted the rod from the spike, turned off the clicker, tightened the drag on the Saltist 30 reel and reeled as I lowered the rod tip.  A slow upward sweep of the rod tip and we were hooked up!

I got a series of surges that felt like a big drum then the line went slack.  I started reeling the line in as fast as I could trying to get some tension on it again.  I felt pull enough to know that the fish was hooked but was swimming directly to shore.  Suddenly I had a strong steady pull on the rod and my heart sank.  I looked at Sandy and said "I think this is a damn ray!".

Suddenly I saw a boil in the water just behind the trough at the edge of the beach and then felt head shake as the fish took off down the beach.  This was no ray.

I ducked under the other line that was still out and took off in hot pursuit.  I was behind this fish and I needed to get at least even to it so that I could apply some leverage and get it to shore.

The fight didn't feel that much like a Drum.  The head shake was a little quicker and not as 'deep' as a Drum's deep, slow surges.  Still, I knew whatever it was I was going to do my best to land it.

About 150 yards up the beach the run stopped and I had gotten the fish into the breakers at the edge of the shoreline.  A flash of a forked tail told me this wasn't a Red Drum, but made me think I had on a shark.  So much for a Red Drum citation from the surf.  I was going to reel in this shark and at least be happy for the fight.

Another couple of waves gave me the opportunity to pull this fish in a little closer and as the 'shark' rolled I saw the unmistakeable side of a Cobia.  Each wave would roll the fish and allow me to take another 15-20 feet of line onto the reel.  Each pause between the waves would allow the fish to turn and swim towards the ocean, taking that same 15-20 feet of line back in a game of piscatorial tug-of-war.

This went on for several wave cycles and finally it appeared that the fish was wearing down.  Finally the 50 lb. leader entered the rod tip and made its way onto the reel's spool.  This was a minor victory in that I didn't have to worry about the 17 lb. mainline breaking any more, but there was still the chance that the hook could tear loose if pulled too hard.

Another couple of waves and the Cobia slid up the wash and onto the smooth wet sand above the surf.  I remember thinking that this fish needed to 33" to be a keeper.  Looking at the fish laying there, it felt too close to call.

I grabbed the end of the tape in one hand and the 33" mark in the other and pulled it tight.  There was fish left over!  I let my fingertips slide down the tape until I finally reached the tip of the tail at the 47" mark.  The needle on the scale at the tackle shop hit a solid 35 lbs.

Cobia near Hatteras Inlet, NC - 47 inches, 35 pounds

In closing, I say "Go fishing."  You never know what can happen, but you have to have a hook in the water to be in the game.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Newbegun Creek in a nor'easter

The weekend weather report was for hard winds from the northeast, so a trip to the beach was out.  I decided to launch my kayak and fish one of the local creeks that I recently fished for the first time.  I had pretty good luck on that trip, so I was hopeful that today would be even better, now that I knew a little something about the fishy spots.

 While I was rigging up my kayak I realized that I had a single small spinnerbait rig (Beetle Spin) on the small rod.  I had left my small spinnerbait box in the garage.  This was not good, because that's the only rod I caught anything on last time.  I elected to launch and fish it until I lost it.  My backup plan was to fish the 8 wt. fly rod using a small green/white Clouser minnow that I'd had some success with recently on White and Yellow Perch.

At about 8:45, I launched straight into a 15-20 MPH northeast wind and paddled away from the shore and around the end of the dock.  After I cleared the dock I turned sideways to the swell and paddled like hell to get into the lee of the point on the opposite side of the mouth of the creek.  While taking a couple of waves over the side of the kayak, I realized that I had left my stakeout pole in the truck.  While it would be an inconvenience, it wasn't a show-stopper because I had an anchor and a drift chute.

Upon reaching the opposite side of the creek and tucking in away from the wind, I was surprised that my first catch was a respectable Croaker.  Quite a surprise to find this fish that I associate with the ocean in this little creek.  I boated the Croaker, but unfortunately he took the tail off of the curlytail grub.  Not a problem, I soon found, as the White Perch were more than happy to attack what was left.

I swapped the grub for a self-tied bucktail on the spinner frame and picked up this small Striped Bass.  Like the two caught in this creek last month, it measured about 10".

Further along the shoreline I kept catching more White Perch.  It's pretty easy to locate them as the bust the top of the water while feeding on minnows.  A little farther up the creek and I hooked a species that I've been chasing locally without much success.  Too bad this little guy was only 8" long, but at least it was a Red Drum.  The fish had an interesting pattern of spots, too.


I worked my way up the creek and found this fat little 13" Largemouth Bass hanging out around some old pilings.  He didn't put up much of a fight.

Shortly after this I got hung in a branch around a duck blind and watched my spinnerbait break off just before I was able to reach it.  That was the end of the catching.  The rest of the trip was flailing in vain with the fly rod and reeling in a Redfish Magic while White Perch pecked, and pecked, and pecked.

The next couple of shots are landscape photos.  The first is smoke from a wheat field fire.  I was surprised that they burnt the field with the wind blowing as strong as it was today.

The final photo is a shot I took from shore after I landed in my friends' yard.  The wind picked up about 2 PM and was gusting up to 30 MPH when I made the downwind run across the creek at about 4:30.  The hairiest part was navigating through the areas in the creek that are shoaled up.  Those waves coming in from the river break in those spots.  I was working hard to avoid them on the way back.

Until next time, go fishing!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bluegills and Belgian Cast

I finished cutting the grass and figured I would head down to a local boat ramp with the fly rod and try out my new sinking tip and the green/white Deep Clouser that I tied yesterday.

Wow, what a swirling mass of mayhem that combination was!  It took a few minutes and a Belgian cast to get things working somewhat.  Introducing a double haul helped even more.

I didn't catch any fish on the fly, but I did have a couple of nibbles on the Clouser.  That is a huge milestone because I never catch anything at this ramp.  I guess my luck was pretty good this evening because I put the fly rod up and pulled out the spinning gear and managed to land this bluegill on a Beetle Spin.

This is the largest fish I have ever caught at this ramp.  It's not fishy, but it is close.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Perch mulligans and a reverse-tie first

After striking out on White Perch on the fly rod yesterday, I tied up a couple of Clousers that might entice them to bite next time. Hopefully, the high tie method will help them to fend off some of the floating grass.

The second fly is my first attempt at a Bucktail Deceiver (BTD) using the reverse-tie method. I wasn't very happy with the shape of the fly, but a quick rinse under the faucet made me feel a little better. Still, I think I may have crowded the tie-ins, creating a fly that's excessively bulky. Fishing it will reveal the truth.

A layer of Zap-A-Gap goo will keep the eyes in place, and also stiffened up the red bucktail enough that it should serve as an effective weedguard. I love happy accidents!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday report

 The hard NE wind had the creek down 1-1 1/2 feet below normal. This worked to my advantage when I slid under the old railroad bridge a little over 3' off the water. I was able to hug the shoreline and stay out of the wind most of the day.

The White Perch were biting pretty good today. I probably caught 20, but they got smaller as the day went on. I also hooked 4, landed 2 Largemouth Bass.

The surprise of the day was a couple of Striped Bass. The Striped Bass were only 10', and the season on them is Oct. 1 -- Apr. 30, so back they went.

I caught NOTHING on the fly rod today. Thank goodness I took a light action 5'6" spinning rod and a single Beetle Spin with some extra bodies.

All in all, a pretty good day fishing in spite of the wind.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Panfish flies

I've tied some panfish flies this week.  The Panfish Polecat, Carter's Weighted Rubber Legs, and some additional flies (L-R). 

The chartreuse/pink flies were tied with crappie and shad in mind.  Hopefully a future post will speak of their outstanding success!