Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The 2013 KBF Invitational - An Entirely Different Story

After the KBF Open ended, we all gathered for the KBF Invitational captain's meeting at Blacks.  I was on the fence about entering, but after hearing all of the awesome big fish stories from VIP Adventures I figured that if nothing else it would be fun to chase monsters for a day or two.  I was also a little disappointed with my finish in the Open and was hoping to redeem myself.  So I was one of the 60 anglers up early Saturday morning, winding through the backroads of South Carolina like a string of red ants.



I randomly drew "Group 6" and would fish with 30 other anglers who did the same.  Among them were 2nd place Open finisher and SC guide Justin Carter, Hobie World Champ Marty Mood, TKAA Champ and 3rd place Open finisher Ray Montes, KBF Open winner and KBF Challenge Series Champ Andy Thompson Sr., Big fish magnet Andy Thompson Jr., RiverBassin Champ Tim Perkins and a bunch of other really talented anglers.  Oddly enough, I think only one of the names above made the day-2 cut, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Group 6 started on the larger of the two lakes, while Group 5 started on the smaller of the two.  We all launched and waited to do a shotgun start.  Of course, the pedal boats took off - leaving a wake behind them.  I managed to tuck in behind Donny Miley and draft his boat down the lake.  Within a few minutes I was at the far end of the impoundment.  I don't think any of us realized just how small these lakes were, but it was close quarters fishing.

Immediately I realized there were some awesome points on the lake.  The problem is that they were overgrown with green pond scum and almost impossible to fish.  My plan was to try and hook two good fish shallow early and then fish the deeper areas of the lake when the sun got up and wind started blowing.  On cast number three I got a bite, set the hook Santee Cooper style and ripped a 9" bass out of the water about two feet.  I reeled him in, unhooked him and didn't even bother measuring him before throwing him back. 

I weaved in and out of different arms of the lake and managed bass measuring 14", 12.5", 13", 14.75" and 12" fishing shallow.  At that point, I knew I had to start doing something else.  So I started throwing a 3/4 oz Strike King Red Eye Shad over deep humps and oyster bars.  It seemed like a perfect plan, but I just couldn't get bit.  Eventually, the guys around me were catching them with the same type of technique and I knew something was wrong with my approach.  I downsized to the 1/2 oz version of the Red Eye Shad and on my second cast hooked a 14.75" fish.  But it was too little, too late our time on the first lake was nearly up.  I managed one more bass - my biggest of the day at 15" - and about a 9" crappie. 

It was 10:45 AM and time to switch lakes.  I knew, as did others, that we left them biting in the first lake.  We also knew that the wind was forecasted to keep blowing hard, which should have kept the lake biting most of the afternoon.  But, we were also excited to see what the other lake had in store. 

We packed up our gear and meandered over to the other lake.  When we arrived we saw two 5.5-6 lb fish being carried from the water for the "live big bass weigh-in".  I knew I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to make the cut.

In order to avoid the 4 hours of monotony that I endured that afternoon, I will keep this short.  The second lake was brutal.  It was way too small for 30 boats and had been ravaged with baits all morning by the other group.  I ended up catching probably 10 bass in the 11"-12.5" range and that was it.  I didn't get a single good bite over there....and I certainly was not alone.  It turns out that both of the lakes were loaded with 11"-13" fish and had few over 16"-17".

I headed back to the launch and loaded everything in the car.  I tried to help as many folks as possible get their boats back to their cars as well and found out that my two fish weren't as bad as I had once thought.  Still, I knew the cut was out of reach.  Eventually the other group came back over to where we were and the folks at VIP Adventures put together a low country boil, of sorts, for us.  There were a lot of frustrated anglers and a bunch of rumors swirling.  They announced the first cut at 30" and 21 anglers had at least that much.  I missed the 30" mark by just .25".  The top-15 cut eventually landed somewhere around 32.5", so I wasn't really that close, but 22nd (roughly) out of 60 of the best anglers in the country is nothing to sneeze at.  And as I mentioned above, most of the heavy hitters who did well at the Open struggled in the Invitational.

I gathered up a spare spinning rod, fish finder battery and YakAttack Park 'N Pole that I had loaned to different folks over the course of the day.  It was time to hit the road.  I have no idea how day 2 went, but the results will be released this week over at KBF.  I do hope someone from "Group 6" won it, so good luck guys and gals!

Since the tournament ended, I have talked to a few folks about their day 1 experience.  Most felt like I did - frustrated and a little let down.  Others were a little more harsh, especially since it was leaked that a few competitors had some very good inside info on the private lakes that the rest of us were not privy to and that helped them A LOT on day 1.  But this industry is growing at a rapid pace and with that growth comes a cutthroat aspect that is unfortunately sad.  Admittedly, it left a bad taste in my mouth and soured me a little bit on tournament fishing - especially in private bodies of water.  But it was still a lot of fun and I met so many awesome people.

I know they are working on an entirely new format for the Invitational next year, which I think could be really great.  Keep an eye on KBF for more details on that and kudos to Chad for listening to feedback and coming up with the new ideas.

Now it is time to go fun fishing!  Tight lines!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The 2013 KBF Open - My Story

For a long time, I was on the fence about entering either the KBF Open or KBF Invitational.  It meant taking a couple days off of work, battling guys with way more knowledge of the lakes than myself and being away from Mary May and the dogs.  But in the end, it seemed like too much fun to pass up.  So, last Tuesday afternoon I packed up and headed to the Santee Cooper Lakes in central South Carolina.  It was a roller coaster of a week for me and although not an unsuccessful tale, it was certainly a "what might have been" experience.



I spent evenings the week before the tournament scouring over lake maps and aerial photography.  I also elicited the advice of friends Bill Kohls and Will Petty.  As mentioned previously on this blog, Bill and I often break down lakes in very similar ways and regularly talk fishing strategy.  I met Will, a very talented angler form the Charlotte area, through Bill back in 2011.  Will had fished Santee Cooper a few times before and was able to give me a lot of good advice going in to the event.  For those of you not familiar with Santee Cooper - it is made up of two huge lakes.  The upper lake is Lake Marion and the lower lake, connected by a diversion canal, is Lake Moultire.  After lengthy discussion, I decided to start fishing a creek on the south side of Lake Marion.

PRACTICE

I got to Lake Marion around 1:30 PM on Tuesday.  I was on the water by 1:45 and headed out to explore a long set of deep docks I saw on the map.  The ends of said docks dropped into 10-15 feet of water, which is quite deep for these lakes.  It looked like a perfect area for fish to stage as they moved back the creek to spawn.  I fished them hard, but only managed one small bass which ate a 4" Berkeley Power Tube.  I talked to a few other bass boats in that area and most of them were finding the bite slow as well.  So, I decided to paddle out toward the mouth of the creek in hopes of finding some fish.  I fished another hour without a bite and was beginning to wonder if all my game planning had went terribly wrong.  About that time I ran into a group of kayak anglers from Florida who had been in the creek arm all morning.  They too had been skunked.  I spoke with them for a few minutes, but was determined not to give up on the area.  I paddled to the backside of an island that looked promising.  As is much of the lake, it was littered with cypress trees and mixed grass.  It looked too good to not hold fish, but still I was without a bite.  Finally, at 4:15 PM, I got my first sign of life.  I flipped a finesse worm to a big cypress tree located on a point situated off a funnel area.  I felt a bite, set the hook and immediately the fish began pulling drag.  I knew it was a solid fish as it bulldogged me toward deeper water.  After a good fight, I landed the brute - a 21.5" fish that was in the 5.5 lb class. 

The biggest fish I landed from Santee Cooper at 21.5"

At this point a light bulb went off in my head and I realized I was wasting a lot of time casting to trees that weren't holding fish.  So, I paddled up to the next tree that looked like it fit the pattern, tossed in my finesse worm and BAM - fish on!  This fish again pulled drag like it was nothing and had a stomach that looked like it was about to burst.  The 19.5" fish weighed around 4.5 lbs.  Santee Cooper was growing on me.

I didn't want to sore mouth all of my fish before the tournament, so I made just 3 more casts.  The last of the three happened to hook my third fish of the day - a 3.5 lber that measured at 18.5".  I then just cruised around marking trees, drops and grass beds until about 5:30 PM.  At that point I packed up and headed for camp to game plan for my second day of practice.

This 4.5 lber made for one heck of a practice session

I talked with some fellow anglers who had mixed success.  In talking with them, I realized that I was fishing a different pattern than most of them - targeting colder, dirtier water.  So I decided to try a different creek arm on my second day of practice.  This particular creek was situated right off of the main river channel and had a mix of trees and side channels that looked perfect.

The next day I launched around 7:15 AM.  I paddled about 15 minutes to my starting area and within 5 casts was hooked up on a nice fish.  He ran drag like those before him and tried to wrap me around a cypress knee.  Thankfully, my Carolina Custom Rod was up to the task and bullied him to the boat.  It was a 20.5" bass - my cold water gamble was working.  After releasing the fish, I scouted a shallow, reedy area with no luck.  I then went back to deeper water hoping to replicate my pattern once or twice again.  This area didn't have many prime targets, so it made for a lot of paddling between casts.  Finally, I found an extremely fishy looking spot and had a fish smoke a jerkbait.  It was another good fish, measuring a fat 18.5"....and it was 8:30 AM.  I realized that in about 5 hours of fishing a lake I knew nearly nothing about, I had managed a 5 fish limit of about 22.5 lbs.  I was feeling confident so I marked a few more spots and then paddled back to the ramp to avoid the brutal winds that were forecasted to roll in that afternoon.

The rest of the day I caught up on work, napped, prepped gear, did a little more map study and eventually headed down to Blacks Fish Camp for the captains meeting.  KBF head honcho Chad Hoover went over the rules and details of the event and there was a definite buzz in the air.  There were 131 anglers entered and eager to show their fishing skills.  I got to see a lot of familiar faces and meet a bunch of new friends too.  I didn't stay too terribly long and headed back to camp to get some sleep before the big day.

DAY 1

Official launch time was 6:30 AM with first cast at 7:00 AM.  I arrived to find an empty launch around 6:15 AM.  The air temp was 34 degrees and the water temp had dropped nearly 10 degrees overnight.  That sort of cold front can kill a bite.  My mind was racing and to top things off,  6-7 other kayakers rolled up around 6:30.  I knew it would be about execution and focus.  I scarfed down some jelly beans (eating candy is a pre-launch tournament tradition of mine), absorbed some caffeine via a Coke and around 7 AM I made a long paddle to my main area and started working a trick worm very slowly. 

It was in the 30's to start day 1 of the KBF Open

I hit my first few trees with absolutely nothing to show.  I then went to an area I had marked on the map, tossed a cast to the base of a big cypress tree and saw my line immediately swim sideways.  I set the hook and knew it was a big fish.  Unfortunately, my drag must have been knocked around in the car because it was lighter than I typically set it and I never got a good hook set.  I continued to fight the fish on light drag until I caught a glimpse of the brute.  I decided to try and tighten up the drag and re-set the hook.  The plan almost worked, but as I tried to tweak the drag the fish came right at the boat and when I put pressure on the hook it popped right out.  I dropped an f-bomb that was probably heard on the lower lake.  The fish was in the 21"-23" range - a heartbreaker.  A fish like that at 7:45 AM is a game changer, but I had to shake it off and keep fishing.

I continued fishing that area with only one other bite - a fish that bit very lightly and stole my worm.  It was around 10 AM and I was fishless.  It was time to make a run to my other area and try to get a couple quick fish on the board.  I paddled back to the car, packed my gear, loaded the yak and was headed 10 minutes down the road.  I launched at warp speed only to find that the wind was just blasting my area.  I was paddling through near white caps and rolling over some serious waves, but the MK Stealth 12 handled it like a champ.  The areas I had caught fish in or marked the day before were totally out of the question because of the wind, but there was one area that looked perfect.  It was an ideal place for fish to tuck in out of the wind and river channel for a quick rest and snack.  Sure enough, on the first cast I hooked a fish that felt more like a freight train.  We fought each other with all the might we could muster and when he finally hit the bottom of my net I had the utmost respect for him.  The bass measured 19" and was probably in the 4.5 lb range.  I was on the board and feeling good.

A very health 19" bass from a Lake Marion creek arm

I briefly fished around the area before paddling back to the launch, re-loading and heading back to the creek I had started in.  Some anglers were leaving as I was pulling in - never a good sign.  I ran to my best area - nothing.  Then my second area - still nothing.  My pattern had changed slightly.  I began throwing a variety of baits hoping to get some sort of reaction bite, but was having no luck.  Finally, around 1 PM, I made an adjustment and immediately caught a 17.5".  I quickly followed with a 17", 15.5" and 15" fish to end the day.  It was a two fish limit, so I went to the weigh-in with 36.5". 

After the judges surveyed all of the photos, I was only a couple inches off of the lead for Day 1.  The best stringer was 40" followed by 39" and 38.5".  The big bass was 21.5" (although there was a 22" bass caught and photographed without the required identifier).  I was told my total put me somewhere in the 6-10 range.  What I didn't know was that on day 1 we were fishing to simply make the cut into Day 2.  On Day 2, we were all re-zeroed and it was like an entirely new tournament.  Since there were about 40 skunks, the cut was simply catching one fish.  I knew my spots were all recharge spots, meaning that fish would cycle in and out of them throughout the day, but I was still a little bummed about the zeroing process.

Regardless, I liked my pattern and was eager to start day 2.

DAY 2

The plan for day 2 was to start in my secondary area, try for two really quick bites and then chase big fish shallow the rest of the day since I expected the warm weather would move a few big fish up in the afternoon.  I got to the launch at 6:45 AM knowing that I needed some sun for my areas to produce.  While getting ready, I realized that I was out of jelly beans and other Easter candies - never a good omen for tourney day!  I decided to wait until 7 AM to launch because there was a public park that opened at 7 AM and launching in it would cut about 15-20 minutes off of my paddle.  Well 7 o'clock came and went without a sign of a park attendant to open the gate.  When 7:15 came and I called the number on the sign.  The guy who answered seemed surprised it wasn't open yet and assured me that at any moment the attendant would be there to open it.  7:30 AM came and I decided I was done waiting around, launched from the cement launch, paddled an extra 15 minutes and grumpily started fishing.  I worked my way down a line of trees without a nibble.  Eventually I came to the tree where I had caught the 19" fish the day before.  I felt a bite, slowly lifted my rod and felt the line hang up on a stick.  It was a risky situation - set the hook and possibly have it shoot sideways and out of the fishes mouth or don't set it and hope that it somehow becomes lodged.  I chose to set the hook.  For a second, drag peeled and then nothing.  The hook popped free.  I am not sure how big the fish was, but it definitely would have helped me.

I paddled to a creek arm adjacent to where I had been fishing.  It was an area that looked great on the map, but was impossible to get to with the high winds of Wednesday and Thursday.  I fished the area hard - really hard.  Finally, I got a bite and landed a 17" buck bass.  I knew I would need to upgrade before the day was done, but it was a start.  I fished that area a while longer without another bite.  So I paddled back to the park and beached my boat.  It was nearly 10 AM, so I figured the park would surely be open.  The plan was to jog about 1/4 mile back to the car, drive the car down into the park and load up there rather than fighting the wind for 15+ minutes around a long point.  I ran to the car as quickly as I could, but as I emerged from a wooded area, I noticed that the gate was still closed.  Insert day 2 f-bomb here.

Another bass that didn't quite get it done...
*note that I turned in a better picture to be judged

I ran the 1/4 mile back to the yak and was about to drag it the 30 yards back to the water when I spotted a sandy jogging path.  I grabbed the tow rope and headed for the path.  Let's just say that pulling a fully loaded yak some 150+ yards down a sandy path is not a fun tournament day task.  But I eventually made it to the gate and across a small grass patch to where I had parked.  Although my legs were on fire, the drag saved me a good 10 minutes or more.  For a moment I contemplated the letter I would be writing the city park and rec department, but I was too motivated to be angry and headed to an area that I hadn't pre-fished at all, but looked perfect on the map for big fish moving up to spawn.

Long story short, that area looked great in person as well.  In fact, I found one secluded pond that looked downright amazing.  But I couldn't buy a bite and the last thing I wanted was to come in with only one fish.  In all, I wasted about 4 hours chasing a big fish that never materialized.  I headed back to my main area for one last hurrah before I had to get to the weigh-in.

I launched, made a short paddle and on my first cast hooked a 17.25" bass that completed my limit.  I knew I needed a 20"+ fish and I knew my time was running out.  I fished super hard until 2 PM and managed only one more fish - a 17" bass that kept my string of mediocrity going strong.  I decided to pack up again and fish one last area that I had seen near Blacks Fish Camp - a backwater area with lots of vegetation. 

If only this fish was a little bigger!

I got to the area, pulled off the dirt road (which was littered with cans) and dropped my yak in the water.  The backwater was small and I was able to fish it pretty thoroughly in about 15 minutes, but it was fruitless.  I packed up the yak and spent a few minutes helping a county employee pick up the cans.  Knowing I had a very marginal total (34.25"), I figured it might be in danger of a tie.  So I headed to the weigh-in knowing that tie-breakers go to the guy who shows up first.


THE RESULTS

Immediately I knew I would struggle to make the top-10, but was hoping I at least placed "in the money".  After some tasty BBQ the results were announced.  There were 29 day two skunks and it took 28" to make the top 25.  They called a bunch of really good anglers to the stage and my heart lept with each place called.  Then came #12.  #13 has 33.25".  #12 was 34.5".  My heart sank.  Had I forgotten the identifier?  Did I leave the mouth open?  Did I submit a bad picture?  I was fairly sure I had double checked everything, but my heart was now in my throat.  The top 3 were announced - Ray Montes took 3rd, Justin Carter took 2nd and Andy Thompson, Sr. took home first prize, $3000, numerous goodies and a lot of glory.  Eventually there was a short break in the action, so I crept up front to ask about my photos. 

Chuck Wrenn, who might be the nicest guy I met all week, was quick to help and realized that they hadn't registered one of my fish.  The judges looked at the photos to double check and all agreed that they were both good to go.  So, my total was upgraded and I officially finished in 13th place with 34.25".  A big thanks to Chuck, Chappy and Chad who were all super helpful and apologetic about the mix-up.  I took home a custom rod, a gift card and other goodies for the finish.  According to a fellow angler, if I had caught another 1/2" of bass, I would have been in the top 8.  Oh what might have been!

My finish also qualified me for the KBF Invitational which was being held the next two days at VIP Adventures - private lakes about an hour away.  I was a little torn, but decided to enter the Invitational.  Tomorrow I will tell that story.

A huge thanks to all of the folks who made the KBF Open possible and big congrats to all of the competitors.  I met so many great people and great anglers and had a blast in the process.  Also, a big thanks to all of my sponsors, affiliates and companies whose gear I use on the water.  As I mentioned, my Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 was AWESOME handling tough conditions on that big lake.  It was also one of the fastest non-pedal boats out there.  And my Carolina Custom Rods paired with Abu Garica reels gave me incredible sensitivity and fighting power to handle those brute bass.  As usual, my P-Line performed great, my Columbia PFG gear worked like a charm, my Kokatat PFD kept me safe and my Crack of Dawn Black Diamond paddle was the perfect blend of light weight and power.  I was also blown away by the clarity and quality of my new Smith Optics Backdrop Evolve glasses with polarchromic lenses.  Good gear can go a long way!

Until tomorrow, tight lines!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2013 Carolina River Fishing Rodeo

River fishers are a different breed. We embrace the adventure that comes with floating a remote river...lakes barely peak our interest. We often find ourselves submersed knee deep, casting along deep shoals...wading shoes are a must. We fish in all seasons, often dragging over shallow, rocky shoals and low-water sand bars all summer long...pedal boats need not apply. We don't let obstacles like rapids get in the way of our goals...better strap on your PFD and strap down your gear. And our favorite sounds are those made only by the nature that surrounds us...and of course, peeling drag.

This year we hope to re-kindle a tradition in the Carolinas - the River Fishing Rodeo. This event was once an annual occurrence that brought together river fishers from not just the Carolinas, but from across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The Rodeo is a multi-day camping, fishing and story-telling affair where anglers can hit the river during the day and swap fish tales around the campfire in the evening. It is meant to be a laid back, relaxing event for folks of like mind to visit, learn, share and have fun.

A group of ugly mugs from the last NC RiverBassin Rodeo


The 2013 Rodeo will be held along the banks of the Broad River near Gaffney, South Carolina. This location is within 30-40 minutes of a number of rivers and creeks that offer fantastic fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and other species. The event will be held May 30-June 2nd. A $5 per night fee will be charged and will cover camping, campground patrols, bathrooms and insurance. If you plan to just drop in for the day to fish and hangout, we ask that you would cover the cost of the event by paying a small day use fee of $3-$5 depending upon the visit. Food and beverages will be the responsibility of the individual, but if there is interest we can try and pull together for a group meal on Friday and/or Saturday evenings.

A variety of fishing opportunities will be available on all days - ranging from beginner level to hardcore river fisher. Significant others, children and families are all encouraged to attend. There will be a lot of very experienced, talented river fishers present who are willing to share their knowledge with anyone interested. So if just starting out in the sport, this is a great event to attend.

Although details of the event will be publicized in a number of different forums and questions will be answered in each, the official planning thread will be housed at NCangler.com (under the “Meet and Greet” section), which is free to join. The thread will include evolving details of the event and an RSVP list.


Please email Drew (drew@manpoweredfishing.com) and/or Eric (foothillsangler@gmail.com) with any questions you may have. We hope to see you there! Tight lines!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Flies have Arrived - Big Flies for Big Bass

You can't approach something like the "50 Chunks on the Fly" challenge with a box of wooly buggers and bass poppers.  I knew that in order to succeed, I needed some flies that target bigger bass.  Now, it would be misleading to say that I don't already have a few of those in my fly box, but you can never have too many big flies when going into battle.  Plus, I had spotted some cool designs online and had a few ideas of my own.

So, as I mentioned in a previous blog, I emailed by good friend Levi Blazer.  Levi now lives in Michigan and as a result is currently addicted to steelhead and salmon fishing.  But, he also chases smallies and muskies on the fly with good regularity.  Whenever I have an idea for a fly, no matter how out in left field, I contact him.  He takes my scatterbrained ideas and forms them into a design.  Sometimes that design already exists and sometimes he ties up some prototypes.  This batch of flies is a hodgepodge of existing mainstream patterns, existing local patterns and a bit of our ingenuity...mainly his.  The flies, minus a couple "top secret" patterns, can be seen below.


The Flies!  Note the 5" Swimbait for reference
 
Most of the flies above are shad or baitfish immitators.  I threw a 5" swimbait in there for a size reference.  I better stay strong in my casting mechanics this year!  The huge fly at the top is an articulated deciever inspired by patterns from Levi's friend Eli Berant.  You will also notice a twist on the traditional Taco Pescado, some Foam Head Minnows, chenille worms, and a few other patterns thrown in there.  The crayfish pattern looks super good in the water (I filled up the sink) and is a product of Mike Schultz.  A few of the patterns above are actually tied with rattles - just to give a slightly different look and sound.
 


A close-up of some of the minnow immitators...and the big rabbit fur fly with rubber legs
 
 
Notice in the first picture that there is a black rabbit strip leech in the right hand column.  There is a specific technique that I want to try with that fly.  If it works, I think it could be a totally new concept for bassin' fly fishers - at least I have never heard of it being done before.  Details will come on that later...I can't give up all of my secrets at once.
 


The bottom bouncers
 
 
You might notice that there aren't many floating flies/bugs/frogs/poppers in this group.  First, I am not a huge popper fan.  In fact, I think they incredibly overrated - at least traditional offerings.  Most are too small for my taste and have limited appicability.  If you are fishing a small pond or private lake, you might be able to fool a big bass with it, but in public waters, you are more likely to land a bream or short bass...if anything.  The poppers I do carry are longer than your typical popper and can be popped, spit, and walked.  These subtle differences and multiple applications, I believe, are why they consistently outfish traditional poppers.
 
 
When it comes to bugs and frogs, I do have a couple favorites.  In fact, I stumbled upon a pattern last year that is a combo frog-mouse-bug that has been deadly.  I don't even use it's name in public...that is how good it has been.  I just hope that there are a couple flies in this batch that turn out just as good!
 
In other "50 Chunks on the Fly" news, I bought another 8-weight fly rod.  I ended up with the Allen Fly Fishing Alpha II reel and AFF Xa rod.  Allen is based in Texas, of all places, and produces really nice US-made products.  They also have some good deals running right now.  And the Patagonia wading boots that I won from Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop via their Facebook contest.  Thanks again guys - they look great!  I am not sure how the metal bars on the bottom of the boots are going to work in the kayak, but there is only one way to find out.  With a little luck, it will be warm soon and the boots will be an afterthought until next fall.
 
 
If you are interested in learning more about any of the flies above, shoot me an email (drew@manpoweredfishing.com).  Levi said he would be glad to tie a few for anyone interested.  Hopefully I can get my flies in the water soon and put chunk #1 on the board!  Tight lines!