Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Loop Army.

Legend tells of a chance encounter in Russia between two groups of fly fishermen. Two Americans run into a special forces unit on a helicopter ride over the Kola Peninsula. The unit, armed to the teeth, not with military weapons but with cutting edge and bad ass fly fishing gear, jokingly referred to themselves as the "Loop Army". The name stuck and since then, the Swedish Fly Fishing Company: Loop has been gathering a North American army of followers, including this writer. As I released my baby tarpon in a small mangrove channel, the last thing on my mind was a chance encounter with some Generals of the Loop Army.

As the baby tarpon returned back to the emerald green water, I surveyed my leader for abrasions and quickly retied on a fresh toad. I began surveying the water for a fresh cruiser when a large SUV stopped on the bridge to my left. Normally, I couldn't care less about observers. I was hounded all week by cruise ship tourists asking me if I caught anything, or how the fishing was. These observers were not your typical tourists. The first thing I noticed was the large pontoon boat strapped to the top of the SUV. Mind you, we are in the Caribbean, not on a flowing river. These were fly fishermen, no doubt. Serious fly fishermen to be hauling a pontoon boat around the world to be used on saltwater flats and in the ocean surf. The second thing I laid eyes on was the hat of the man in the driver side window. I own that hat. The Loop logo of the anthracite hat was unmistakable. They drove off the bridge, parked the SUV, and three men came out to the bridge.

As they came and rested on the rails of the bridge, I recognized two of the guys. I guess Facebook networking was about to pay off. Matt and I exited the water and became the annoying tourists about to ask some stupid questions. I was hesitant at first due to my beginning years as a young fly fisherman looking for answers. I usually was disregarded, laughed at, or ignored. As we approached, I realized that my instincts were correct. It was the Loop Pro Team, evidenced by their emblazoned logo's on their fly fishing shirts. Soon, Matt and I were shooting the shit with Stefan and Alex Haider of Austrian Outdoor Sports and their friend, also named Alex. We talked about our successes, local hot spots, and the terrible conditions with the constant storms and rain. We exchanged numbers and off they went, looking for "the fish".

Matt and I packed up and headed back to his place to plan our New Years Eve festivities. As they planned and made phone calls inside the house, I was out fishing the front yard. Later, I packed it in and set up shop on the sea wall looking for tail or any sign of movement. Then, another chance encounter happened as the SUV and pontoon boat came down the road and I found myself once again talking to the Loop guys. They parked and came up to meet my sister and Stacy and we discussed their success on a local flat landing two bonefish and a shark. We invited them over for a afternoon BBQ and some drinks and they obliged.

That night at my brother's place was an epic New Years Eve. A variety of food and drink was enjoyed by all. It was awesome to talk about fly fishing and conservation efforts in America and in Europe and how unregulated our waterways are in the U.S. compared to overseas. We talked about the Pebble Mine and the grave danger Salmonids face in a lot of our waterways on both coasts as well as in the Great Lakes. We talked about the state of the Caribbean islands and how development and overfishing effects fish populations. We also compared pictures and videos from the past week and their previous excursions to Venezuela catching tarpon and bonefish.

We also discussed Loop tackle and the growing status of the Loop Army. Loop has always been on the front lines of innovation in the industry starting with the large arbor reels and now once again with composite cork and their new x-grip. While other companies remain stagnant they produce innovative new products that cater towards passionate anglers, especially young anglers that are the future of the sport. The new rods and reels and especially the clothing coming out in 2010 meets the needs of form, function, and style. Two new lower priced rod series in the Xact and Evotec (Once Epic) and a transformation of their wading jackets with a new 4-way stretch fabric similar to that found on Patagonia's SST. The guy's were pumped to talk about this stuff and it sounded like a new fleet of destroyers will be coming out soon. I received my first Loop rod two years ago and have since bought two more. They perform flawlessly and I am constantly surprised at how well they fish and cast. Check them out the next time you buy a rod.

New Loop 2010 gear here & here.

Stefan and Alex Working a Flat in the Distance.

Lexi's First Time Out in Saltwater.

After our BBQ, we headed to a bar and restaurant situated along the water where you can see tarpon and jack weaving in and out of the lights alongside dinner tables. We met up with two local fly fisherman, a father and son duo that also knew the Loop guys and for New Years Eve the only fly fishermen on the 12 mile island celebrated New Years together. It was an old crowd but fun nevertheless. My sister tangoed with an old fella that looked and danced like a zombie. It was hilarious.

Matt, Lexi, & I Celebrating New Years.

Myself, Alex Haider, Alex, Stefan Haider, & Matt.

The Crew Formed a New Years Train.

On the final day of the trip, I worked a local flat, hoping for one last chance at a bonefish. I was later joined by Stefan, Alex, and Alex and we worked our way down the flat. I spotted one large bonefish that came straight at me but he easily spooked. I resigned to blind casting with a small shrimp pattern working the ledge along the flat. I was rewarded with a long distance hookup and run. The fish ran hard twice and I was ecstatic thinking I was on my first bonefish. It turned out to be a good sized Blue Runner. My dying "waterproof" camera (a victim of the salt) took its last image ever as I released the snapper. We all went out to a local bar for some appetizers and more drinks before saying our goodbyes. I was heading back to the freezing cold of the Northeast while the Loop Guys and my brother and sister remained on the island.

Stefan Haider Working a Small Corridor.

I Wonder Why They Call It a Blue Runner.


It was awesome to run into a group of professional fly fisherman and have the chance to fish and hang out with them for several days. It's amazing how a sport such as fly fishing can unite anglers from around the globe and how we can all share the same passion towards fishing and conservation. It was also cool to pick the brains of two guys that are directly involved in the development process of one of my favorite companies.


Ms. Erdosy said...

ZOMMMBBBIIIIEEEE... I lost my voice from laughing so hard that night. Great post, as always :) that trip was... unreal

Austin said...

Great story, and it sounds like a great trip! Loop reels are sweet, and if I read too many more stories like this I'll have to head south instead of continuing my northward migration... Keep giving'er!

Mark said...

Thanks Austin, Loop reels are indeed sweet. They make great rods too.

Looks freezing up in Alaska, I too am contemplating a return trip down south.