Words by Brock Munson
Chasing Scale: Passports? Check. Fly rods? Check. Inflatable kayaks? Check. These are the bare essentials of any Chasing Scale fly-fishing adventure trip.
When it comes to travel, the world has gotten a whole lot smaller. For those who long to see and experience the wonders of our planet, getting from point A to point B has become a much less complicated task after stepping out from those dark, archaic times (you know—those times before the internet when all we had were guide books and travel agencies).
New technology has not only streamlined global travel, it has spawned great advancements to paddlecrafts such as SUP boards and kayaks. Case in point IMHO: Advanced Elements inflatables. A company with vision and purpose, Advanced Elements is a master chef when it comes to cooking up that delicious kayak combo platter of durability, weight, packability, performance and style.
Chasing Scale is a unique fly-fishing production team of two creative individuals: Brock Munson and Ryan Bonneau. Travel is in their DNA. Based in Hawaii, Brock is a professional graphic designer. Based in Colorado, Ryan is a professional photographer. They combine their talent and zest for adventure to produce eye-catching short travel films, brilliant photography and comprehensive essays. They’ve been fishing buddies for nearly 20 years now and have embarked on many a wild experience on the water chasing elusive fish in remote locales around the world.
Before discovering Advanced Elements, those experiences commonly entailed hiking and wading with rod and reel while dreaming of those hard-to-reach Shangri-la where the waters teem with large, mythical, hungry fish all of whom have never seen an artificial fly. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with hiking and wading but, when Brock and Ryan added Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks to their arsenal, what was once a dream soon became a reality.
Prior to discovering Advanced Elements, challenge after challenge befell Chasing Scale on each and every trip to foreign countries. “Stress and time are unnecessary factors we deal with upon arriving to any foreign land. There’s always a few important chores to take care of in the city before journeying out into the unknown. One such chore is securing suitable wheels. Another is purchasing fishing licenses (where applicable),” says Bonneau. “Food and beer is somewhere on that list. Renting kayaks is another. This last chore is unobtainable 9 times out of 10. Why? The countries we visit either don’t value such a recreational activity or just don’t have the means to own a surplus of paddlecraft to maintain a successful business. If, by chance, there was such an outfitter, the odds that it would rent kayaks for multiple weeks at a time are poor. Bottom line: a search for rental kayaks eats up too much valuable trip time. And, it’s stressful running around a foreign city you’ve never been to. Traveling with Advanced Elements inflatables saves time and relieves stress. Problem solved.”
Space is always an issue when transporting gear in rental vehicles (or public and private transportation for that matter). And, roof racks don’t normally come with economy options, especially in third world countries. We at Chasing Scale like to use the money we save on not choosing the Premium rental vehicle for camera gear and fishing gear. Nowadays there’s no need to strap kayaks on the roof or wedge them precariously through the back window of an economy hatchback like the conspicuous tourists that we are. Advanced Elements has designed and engineered their inflatables to be lightweight and to be folded into compact sizes that adhere to flight standards for luggage.
They also fit nicely into rental vehicles next to coolers, camping gear, fly rods, camera gear and clothes. Problem solved. Accessing the nooks and crannies of any fishery was always a challenge. Firstly, we only have limited time while traveling abroad. Unless we’re backpacking with all our gear, exploring great distances during limited daylight hours just isn’t safe or practical. Secondly, we encounter a lot of variables when it comes to the myriad of different fisheries we target. Soft, mucky substrate can impede progress and limit mobility. Imposing cliffs can completely block access. Thick, impenetrable brush can line the banks. Dangerous animals like crocodiles or sting rays lurk in the depths and can quickly end a trip. Having kayaks at our disposal has not only helped us with finding fish safely and efficiently, it’s added to the adventure by allowing us access to the farthest reaches of a fishery. And, the ability to pack the boats on our backs really helps us to access logistically challenging put-ins such as ones found in deep canyons or through heavy vegetation. Problem solved.
Models paddled: AdvancedFrame Kayak AE1012, AdvancedFrame Expedition Kayak AE1009
Type of water: rivers, lakes, coastal waters, lagoons, bays and estuaries.
Typical uses: day touring and fly fishing
“We were in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego in the Fall of 2018. It was the end of the road and the farthest south either of us had ever been. It felt like the end of the world. We were staring at the Darwin Mountains named for the famous naturalist that conducted studies in the region many moons ago. Our monthlong, 3500km journey through Patagonia, a trip of a lifetime, was nearing its end,” says Bonneau. “The four weeks prior was a cornucopia of formidable roads, craggy mountains, massive glaciers, charming little towns, cutting rivers, gin clear lakes, big fish, wind, rain and snow. In that moment, we found ourselves parked next to a beautiful river. After referencing the map, we learned that the river drained a big lake to the east, eventually working its way west and ultimately emptying into an inland system of fjords not far from the open ocean. A recent dusting of snow on the surrounding mountains added quite the backdrop to what looked like a very “fishy” river. It was one final chance to land a mythical sea run brown trout. Accessing the fishable water, however, would be a challenge. The section by the car ran fast and heavy.
“We didn’t dare to risk putting the kayaks in at that spot for fear of catastrophe in such a remote place. Instead, we loaded the kayaks in the carrying duffel bags and packed them on our backs through rough terrain and finally reached safe, fishable water. After inflating the boats, we put-in and worked the river casting big streamers to promising runs and pools. The sun was low on the horizon as the day and our time fishing in this magical place was in the twilight hours. The setting was truly ethereal. We decided to park the kayaks and enjoy the fleeting moment, launch a few more casts and take a few photos. Was it divine intervention? Who knows. But just then, time seemed to stand still. With golden light casting deep shadows on a terrain of unimaginable beauty and the river reflecting the unforgettable scene above, what seemed perfect got even better…”
He continued: “Something big took Ryan’s fly and a fight followed suit. The beast moved into the weeds and after a lengthy struggle, the fish was free not a foot from Ryan’s waiting net. So close! The excitement was palpable. After few casts of my own, I had one on! Minutes later, I hoisted the biggest brown trout of my life. Ryan’s next cast landed him a beauty of equal size. It might have simply been the timing of that moment, but those fish were the most beautiful I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding. With their safe return to their life in that river so too did we return to our lives back home.”
What’s next for Chasing Scale? Taimen in Mongolia? Pike in Canada? Durado in Argentina? Tarpon in Mexico? One thing’s certain: they’ll have their Advanced Elements kayaks with them on the fly. Learn more about their journeys at chasingscale.com.