30 December, 2009

Highlight Reel

All these "Best of 2009" got me to thinking about some of mine, like:
  • December steelhead on the Manistee with guide Jon Ray and my Dad. I think Dad caught his first steelie on a fly that day (along with three others!) and I got two steel and ended the day with my biggest ever brown trout.
  • Camping along Lake Superior's shores and fishing the Two Hearted river this summer. One of the most peaceful spots I've ever been to. Cooked the best steak I've ever eaten over the campfire that night.
  • Re-discovering mountain biking through my cool new singlespeed 29er. Especially rides at Island Lake rec area.
  • Pleasant summer nights camping on the Pere Marquette and catching some nice trout on an evening hatch.
  • Rabbit hunting with my friends at Muscato Enterprises. Always fun and always feel welcome.
  • Camping; I love it. Makes me feel self-sufficient.
  • Last two days of MI skiing at Caberfae. Arrived to 6" of fresh powder, snowed all day (and night) and enjoyed a second day in bluebird skies and a foot of fresh!
  • Finally feeling like I have steelhead rigging figured out enough to be self-sufficient. And getting proficient with indy rig so I don't have to chuck n' duck everywhere.

Hope your year is filled with some outside memories!


28 December, 2009

Season Opener

Headed North to open the ski season at Caberfae yesterday. A little fresh snow and high 20's made for a perfect day. Surprisingly I was able to get my powder boards out for a the morning. While they certainly weren't necessary, I like to ski them when conditions are right.

They're Line Prophet 100's and I'm amazed how versatile they've proven. In anything short of Midwest boilerplate, they do a solid job -- surprising for a ski that will float in 14" of fresh powder! I skied them until lunch time. Glad I threw them in at the last moment.

Another pleasant surprise was that from Turn One I had my ski legs back! While I will admit that by five, I was ready to end my day and head homeward. But for most of the day I was charging the most aggressive lines I could find, and even making a few flat-out blazes down the hill!

Great day, and a solid opening to the season. Snow was decent, considering Cadillac got a half-inch of rain on Christmas Day. Now we just need a few big dumps to build up the base!


23 December, 2009

Lifetime? Whose Lifetime?

Read a great article in Fly Rod & Reel magazine over the weekend. The discussion centered on lifetime guarantees on fly rods. They argued that the cost is built in to the initial purchase price as the manufacturer has a history on warranty costs and can factor in this cost when setting the selling price. As a marketer, I completely understand this logic. Your costs are covered, but now you also have the added marketing benefit of a lifetime warranty.

As a buyer, I own several rods with lifetime (or 25 year -- hope that's not a lifetime for me!) warranties. And, I'll quickly admit that this warranty was an influencing factor in their purchase. I own a couple of TFO rods that were purchased both for their price/performance ratio as well as their lifetime no-hassle policy. Break a rod? Send it back with $25 and you get it repaired or replaced. Period. Ditto my Orvis Clearwater 8 wt. steelhead rod.

Initially I thought this mostly applied to lower-cost rods like TFO, Redington, lower-end Orvis rods. But then I remembered Scott has a similar guarantee. Unfortunately, both of my Scott rods were purchased used from a friend and the warranty is only for the original buyer. Oh well, small price to pay for my two favorite rods!

I will say the article was thought-provoking - and not just for fly rods, for anything with a lifetime guarantee. If you take good care of your gear, your odds of needing a replacement go down (unlike the clumsy fellow ... you all know one...). Would you prefer to pay less and forgo anything beyond the standard year or so?


22 December, 2009

Wascally Wabbit!

Joined in the annual Muscato Enterprises bunny hunt at my friend Nick's family place. Been doing this the past three years and it's just a blast every year. Nick's dad, Dominic, is about the most gracious host and being invited and welcomed back is a genuine honor. You really couldn't ask for a nicer group of hunting companions. Nick's brother won the "furthest travelled" award after trekking up from Tennessee to join in! With my buddy Paul joining us, and other Muscato family and friends, we had a total party of 8 guys to cover a lot of ground.

Fantastic weather -- 30's with some fresh snow. But yesterday's menu was fully of wiley wabbits. We earned every one. Highlight was our three-timer. After repeatedly tracking one particularly clever bunny (which charged Nick at one point!) Nick dispatched it with a solid single shot.

My personal highlight was a shot at a HUGE rooster pheasant we kicked up in one of the food plots. Funny part was that I heard this beast of a bird before I saw him. Sounded like a helicopter take-off! I whiffed - this thing had afterburners. Up. And GONE! Threw a couple shells after him, but to no avail.

A great day, with great company. Thanks, Nick!


18 December, 2009

Nice Rack

Swapped bike rack for ski racks last night. Took me about 10 minutes total. I love Yakima racks - wouldn't buy anything else. In addition to my tower/crossbar set-up I have a Yakima Steelhead bike rack, Hully Roller/Mako Saddle kayak rack, and the FatCat4 ski/snowboard racks. All are well-engineered, rugged, and butt-simple to install and use. Every Yakima product I encounter seems to incorporate some surprising little innovation - they're the Apple of the rack biz!

If you're going to run a rack system all the time, I strongly recommend the fairing. Helps mileage, cuts down noise, and give you a place to support your favorite brands Ricky Bobby style with a melange of stickers!

Another piece of advice - spend extra for the good stuff. I initially bought a lower cost ski rack and hated it. Noisy, killed my mileage, and ugly. Fortunately, REI's exceptional customer satisfaction policy enabled me to trade up!


17 December, 2009

Tie One On

Though I thought I'd never be interested, I think this Winter will be time to learn to tie flies. I recognize the obsession this can become, so I'm starting down this path with some trepidation. It does look like something that could be done in front of the TV or wherever, so that's a plus for a nasty winter evening.

Reality is that my species of choice are steelhead. And the means losing flies. Lots of them, if you're doing it right. Steelies like cover and that means drifting through all kinds of nasty shit to get to them. At $1.50 and up for flies, that adds up. My last trip, I lost 10 in a fairly average day.

Plus, I was looking at egg flies recently -- there's really not much to them so how hard can it be? Famous last words, I'm sure. Talking to my buddy Mike about a basic class for steelhead flies at Colton Bay where he runs the fly shop.

Here we go. Updates will be coming.


16 December, 2009

Wrenchin' for the Wright Wreason

I love winter wrenchin' on bikes in the basement workshop. Cozy, fire up some tunes. Maybe have a beer or three. Got a nice workstand and all the tools. Totally therapeutic.

But last night was the best. After a long day at work, I spent a couple of hours assembling a bike we got for one of the kids in our adopted family through SOS Community Services. Made one of my favorite activities even more heart-warming.

Funny thing, I can't see how most parents assemble these things for their kids. I've got a fully equipped shop and have worked in several bike shops. I've put together hundreds, if not thousands, of bikes of all shapes and sizes. It still took me a decent chunk of time. Of course, I probably agonize over the details more than most. Had to get those brake calipers perfectly centered, toed in the pads for no squeal, re-tensioned the too-tight chain. Probably not going to be appreciated by the five-year-old who's getting it. But, it sure felt good to do!

Enjoy the season!


15 December, 2009

Tips & Tricks

Seems like little stuff can make a big difference, so here are a few of my faves:

Spend time outside in the winter? Then you have those painful cracks in your fingers that never seem to heal. The solution? A dab of Superglue! Seals them up and lets things heal up again. If you think about it, this is roughly the same substance used as liquid stitches in ER's.

Disposable Latex Gloves
I got this one from the owner of my local bike shop. Buy a box of these and keep them in your shop. When you have to work on something greasy or with solvents, throw a pair on. Cheap, and makes clean-up so much easier. When I worked in a bike shop, it seemed like I could never get my hands clean from accumulated greasy grime. No problem now! Also great for comprehensive tear-down and cleaning on guns.

CLP Spray
My cleaning choice for all but the nastiest of firearms (I reserve Remington's RemAction for that) is also just about the best all-around household cleaner/lubricant I've found. Works great on the track for my screen door, one squeaky hinges, etc. There's a reason it's called Clean-Lubricate-Protect!

Zip Ties
I think these are the modern equivalent of Duct Tape. My uses are to numerous to list but these ingenous little devices seem to get used in every pursuit or hobby I have. I stock a multitude of sizes and colors for almost any application.

Just a few faves -- enjoy!


14 December, 2009

Pin to Win

Had the opportunity to try some centerpin fishing recently. I've always been intrigued with this method since learning more during a presentation at last year's Midwest Fly Fishing Expo.

For those who don't know, it's basically drift fishing with flies under an indicator using a running line and a SUPER smooth reel. There are those who would say it's not fly fishing. But the terminal tackle's basically identical to my indie rig, and the running line is about the same as chuck n' duck. Seems like there's always some blowhard in fly fishing claiming that if you're not doing what they are, it's not "really" fly fishing. I figure, if you're not tossing spawn bags or hardware that looks like it escaped from your silverware drawer, you're good.

Back to centerpin. In addition to the super-smooth, super-long drift, what's most cool is the reel. Most are a very precise and smooth running large arbor reel so the line feeds to keep up with the current. But, there's NO drag system. Fighting a large fish means palming the reel to provide drag and slow them down. Which gets interesting when you're trying to figure out just how strong 8# fluorocarbon leader is!

The Matrix XL reel came well recommended among the budget solutions. Good arbor size, smooth spooling, and durable. Oddly I've heard the Ross is too wide. Too bad, as Ross is my default setting these days.

Suspect I'll be picking one up after I get the TFO 11' switch rod. Tools for situations.


11 December, 2009

Big Stick

Had a few opportunities to float fish with a longer rod lately. Must say I really liked it. I have a 9'6" Scott S3, but these are things like 11' Orvis Helios and a 13" G. Loomis. I'm amazed at the difference in line control with the big stick. Mends move BIG line and quickly.

Casting seems a little exaggerated, but 11" of graphite sure can move the line on a roll cast! Astounding how much easier it is to really cover a spot.

Looks like an 11' switch rod is in my future. Temple Forks Outfitter's Deer Creek Switch series looks to be in my future. Sweet rod, and way less pricey than the big Helios. Should be a sweet rig mounted with my Ross Momentum 5 reel! Maybe add a centerpin to the arsenal for long-range drift fishing.


10 December, 2009

Gear Passions

Over the past few weeks I've had exposure to the new Adams Golf super-frickin-cool top-secret driver through work. Readers of this blog will know golf isn't my thing, but I've seen first-hand how my golf-nut client friend react to this cool new piece of gear. Then I saw a Tweet from a fly shop buddy who got a preview of the new Orvis Mirage reel and how off-the-hook cool it is.

Got me to thinking about my own gear and the pieces that inspire those feelings. Yeah, they're inanimate objects, but somehow they stir something.

One is my Orvis Battenkill BLA V reel. I own a more expensive Ross Momentum, but there's something about this Orvis (shown in the picture in the header) that's special. Jewel-like finish, precision design, super-smooth operation. Plus, it's good at it's job. Throw a screaming steelhead on it and the drag system shows it's engineering.

Another is the White Industries ENO Eccentric hub on my mountain bike. Again, beautiful finish and aesthetics are a key. But, like the BLA, it' so well engineered for it's purpose. The eccentric design allows easy chain tensioning on a single-speed without sliding drop-outs or an eccentric bottom bracket.

The last is my Scott A2 6 weight 9' fly rod. This is my main all-around rod for warm-weather fishing for trout and smallmouth. It's one of my favorite sticks. Better control, better distance, and just makes me a more precise fisherman. As an FYI, it was a close call between this rod and my Scott S3 9'6" steelhead rod. That's a sweet stick, too. I love my Scott's -- searching for a short 3 weight on eBay to replace a low-end TFO.

Seems I never regret a penny I spent on truly great gear!


09 December, 2009

Fish ON!

Had a blast on the Manistee yesterday with friend/guide Jon Ray of Hawkins Outfitters. Took my Dad along as he's not had the pleasure of a day with the Master of the Manistee. For early December (hell -- for ANY time of year) we had an oustanding day. We hooked up on 13 or so, and landed 7 total.

This was my second time out with Jon on his unique "fly line indicator drift" technique. It's a little complicated to master, especially once you get some angry chrome on, but it really enable you to find fish in some pretty unexpected spots. It's hard to explain how it works, and I don't want to give up his secrets, but it's pretty darn cool!

Ended the day on a very cool note. Hooked up on what felt like a decent sized fish. After a nice fight, I get the fish near that boat and we find out it's a FAT lake-run brown! This was, by far, my biggest trout yet! A nice end to a really fun, productive day!


07 December, 2009

Say yer' Prayers, Rabbit...

Took my new wheelgun to the range yesterday for it's inaugural shoot. I've wanted a revolver for a while, but couldn't justify spending the big $$$ for an S&W (not to mention the higher ammo cost for one of the larger calibers).

Courtesy of a Cabelas special event, I scored a deal on a Taurus M94 revolver in .22 LR. If you haven't handled one of these, I highly recommend. Great build quality, feels solid in-hand, and super-sharp in stainless steel. Mine's a 4" barrel model, since it will be targets-only.

Great, so how's it shoot? In a word - outstanding. I love it. Target sights are easy to see, easy to align, and make it all happen. On first three rounds, I was getting 2" groups at 10 yards; not bad for a first time out with a new gun! Best of all, ammo's under $20 for a brick. Try that with 9mm!

Did get a nice treat, too. Met a guy at the range who let me shoot a couple of his guns (and of course I let him shoot the new revolver). His hot rod gun was an S&W in 9mm on a 1911 platform, custom built by S&W Performance shop. WOW -- this thing was insanely accurate! Thanks, Sam!


03 December, 2009

Shoulder Seasons

I am going stir-crazy in this Michigan late Fall weather. 40's and drizzle are what I detest. I've always loved Winter, and in recent years have really embraced summer. But this stuff SUCKS.

And, this week the weatherman is the ultimate tease -- promising snow every day. Of course, when it DOES snow the media will be bemoaning it. Not me. Bring it! The past two snowy winters have been outstanding.

At least it's getting colder. That's a start. Those short cold evenings that seem to be showing up lately are the harbinger of the white stuff. A friend of mine was up on the PM earlier this week and said there was snow on the ground. He's a skier, too so he was pretty pumped about it.

Meanwhile. I'll continue the Fall clean-up of the bikes, some indoor target shooting, and slip in a day or two in the river.

C'mon Old Man Winter, we're waiting for you!


02 December, 2009

Bobbin' Along

I've recently become a big fan of Redwing's Blackbird Phantom floats for indicator-style fly fishing for steelhead. After trying cheapie foam floats (seem to always fall off), and Thill's (somehow I just never felt the love - that's really an ice fisherman's tool) I've found the perfect solution.

Sure, you have to put them on the leader before you tie up the rig, but once you do, easy as pie! Easily adjusts for drift depth, and stays put after you move it.

But the best part is how it functions as an indicator. Neon top segments are easy to see, and equally simple to tell you what's going on below the surface to keep flies suspended nicely below. Clear bottom is great for clear water and spooky fish (as is usually the case on the PM).

I've used Redwing's micro swivels for a couple of seasons, too. Great solution for simplifying rigging (tieing complex knots in 20 degree weather isn't all that fun for me) and over 30# breaking strength.

Lean more about all this stuff at http://www.redwingtackle.com/.


01 December, 2009

Don't Get Fleeced

I've always liked Polarfleece and it's derivatives. Comfy, warm, dries quickly. But it was completely lacking in ANY windy conditions. If the wind was blowing at all, needed a shell over it to have a prayer of warmth. And, forget it if any rain is in the forecast.

A couple of years back I picked up a windproof North Face fleece. It quickly became a staple. Stops the wind, fairly comfy, even repels some water. But it gives up a lot of warmth over conventional fleece.

On my way up to a recent trip fishing on the Big Manistee, I realized I probably didn't have the proper outerwear. A quick stop netted me a Browning Hell's Canyon jacket. Little did I know how much I'd like it. When fishing the Big Man from a jet sled, it's all about surviving the ride from the launch to the first hole, and the ride back at the end of the day. It's a fast, chilly, splashy, windy ride, usually. You're warm for that, you're fine for the rest of the day. This Hell's Canyon jacket was perfect -- toasty, water repellent, and impervious to wind. And, with almost the comfort of conventional fleece!

In addition, this jacket has some great design features like neoprene cuffs with a nice cinch-down system, well positioned and generous chest pockets, and a ScentLock liner. Best of all? I paid $85 for it! My only regret? Camo's not always appropriate for everyday wear and I'd like another one for more general wear in a solid color!


30 November, 2009


Been really enjoying fishing with my Dad over the past couple of years, so I picked him up a great surprise. He's started to like steelhead and salmon fishing on flies, but he's been doing it on a pretty low-end rig. Landing these big fish is largely about stopping them and maintaining control. This means a high-quality reel with a strong and reliable drag system.

Buddy of mine is selling off gear so I picked up a nice Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor V (the old design) spooled up with Orvis running line. Perfect solution for chuck n' duck rig! And, got a bargain! I think the old man will be most pleased by this surprise and I'm happy to do it for him. Slap that on a TFO Signature or Orvis Clearwater and we've got a solid steelhead/salmon solution.

More to come soon -- been buried in work just lately! Gotta' earn money to fund my pursuits!


25 November, 2009


I'm lovin' indicator fishing -- did it all day on the PM yesterday. I had an ephiphany on my first drift yesterday. It's not the cast, it's the drift. Sure, my roll cast is tons better, but that's really only a means to an end.

There's a special feeling from finding a spot, seeing a drift that hits the bubble line, avoids snags, and gets the depth just right. And indy fishing gives you a perfect visual high sign that you got it right! Indicator tipped forward? Dragging bottom, shorten up. Tipped way back? Goofy drift, pull it and start over. Straight up or just slightly forward? Nailed it. Plus, there's something really cool about doing it on a fly line. A bit more challenge.

But, yesterday was Boy Scout Knot Tying day. Seemed to be my day to find submerged snags. Started off on third drift when I lost it all -- and then realized I didn't have any swivels on me. Hike back to the truck, and lesson learned. Bought a dozen flies in the morning; came back with two...


20 November, 2009

Gear Lust

Dang - every time I think I'm done with fly gear, I stumble into something else I just NEED. Or, at least I think I do.

This week, after figuring out my indicator fishing, I had a chance to watch my buddy fish them with his 11' Orvis Helios. I can see the benefit of line control with the longer stick, plus with a switch rod, you have some nice two-handed casting opportunities when you really need to cover some water.

No way I'm dropping $800 on a Helios, but it looks like Temple Fork Outfitters' new Deer Creek Series switch rod will be perfect at a fraction of the cost. Checked one out at local fly shop yesterday - looks like a sweet rod.

I've got a couple of TFO's Signature Series rods and they both perform really well at a very low cost. My 10 wt. was perfect for horsing in big ass Kings. On the other end of the spectrum, my 7'6" 3 wt. is ideal for trout on tiny tight UP trout streams. And they were both CHEAP.

Ah, well, one more stick...


19 November, 2009

Let It Snow!

Well, it's official, Winter started at 7pm last night - with the premier of Warren Miller's "Dynasty" ski flick. I've been going to these as my Winter kick-off since I was in college. Always leave amped up for the upcoming season, as I did last night!

Of course, I walked out of the theater into 45 degree drizzle; but you gotta' live with that to get to snow. This time of year is one ripe with anticipation. What kind of snow will we have? After two exceptional seasons, I'll admit I'm nervous. Whatever your views on global warming, you have to admit we've had some WEIRD weather patterns around the globe in recent years. Alta gets 700" of snow last year? Insane. I'm not sure the term "global warming" is appropriate, but I would certainly buy into "global climate change".

I think this weekend I'll need to break the boards out of their bags, pull gear out to inspect, and all that pre-season stuff. But, in the meantime, hoping to slip a couple more steelhead fishing trips into the coming weeks. Have to be in Gaylord overnight next week, so may take a detour on the way home to get in some river time.


18 November, 2009

Dress for Success

On Monday's PM run, finally got attire just right. I blew it BADLY on the September salmon trip, so this was my first wading trip since (Manistee was fishing from boats). Started the day at a chilly 25 degrees with a water temp in the low 40's. Had a long row in to first hole, but stayed plenty warm.

Bottom was Simms base layer, fleece pants, waders, plus heavy boot socks. Top was Simms base layer, mid-weight fleece, Browning Hell's Canyon heavy weatherproof fleece, topped with Simms G4 jacket. Fingerless fleece gloves and fleece ski hat had it just right.

So much more comfortable to be dressed warm! Made fishing and being outside far more enjoyable. Glad I'm making transition smoothly to winter fishing conditions.


17 November, 2009

Best Indications

It started out as a possible fill-in for a friend who guides for steelhead in Ohio's Steelhead Alley region, but then out of the blue, Schultzy asks - "What're you doing Monday? Fish are in the PM and I have the day off." When a professional guide and fly shop manager invites you to fun fish, unless it's impossible, you go.

It was cool to fun fish with a guide. Mike took me to all his fave holes and we really just had a play day on a great river. He got to chillax and I got to learn some more at the same time.

Highlight was finally getting comfortable (and even preferring) fishing my indy rig. Chuck n' duck is easier and usually more productive, but as it's running line, it's not REALLY fly fishing. But my roll cast hasn't been that great and I really didn't completely understand how to get my drift right on the indy. That all changed yesterday after fishing nearly 8 hours on that rig. Tuned up my roll cast and mends to get things right where I wanted them. And, more importantly learned how to read the indicator to set depth. Even found I could read holes to assess which style of fishing would be most productive.

With all of that said, didn't catch a thing. No rain for a week meant very low, super clear water. I think every fish in the river saw us the moment the hull of Mike's drift got wet! A few other solid guides were out on the same stretch and everyone had the same result.

Ironically Mike stuck one on the first drift. I did some net work, and we had the first (and only) steelie of the day -- a 9-10# buck, shown at right. Photo complete with Schultz Shit Eating Grin. Nice work, brother!

Great day and a very enjoyable trip, especially as it's sandwiched into a SUPER busy work week. Had to work a much of Sunday to pull this off, but it was worth every moment!


13 November, 2009


This working for a living thing sure seems to be in the way of my outdoor activities! Oh, well, I enjoy what I do, and I've got to pay for my toys somehow!

11-48 looks like it's going to require a little Dremel work to get things moving. I was kind of stuck, but talked to the gunsmith at Williams this morning and he got me headed in the right direction. Not sure when I'll get to it, as I'm headed into a VERY busy week.

On the upside, might get to sneak out on the Pere Marquette for a bit on Monday. A buddy who guides and runs a fly shop is itching to fish on his day off, so we may sneak off with his boat for a day. Reports are steelies are stacked up in PM and White. Would be cool to take advantage of it before a week jammed with meetings and a couple of high-profile (and pressure) presentations.

Just a quick note, and now back to it. Gonna' play, you gotta' pay!


10 November, 2009

Parts Therapy

Took the 11-48 out on Sunday; bad news as it wouldn't cycle properly from round one. Bolt kept hanging up about 1/3 of the way through return travel. I could help it along manually, but sure threw me off. Many clays lived to fly another day.

After a long day/evening at work, I decided some tear-down was in order to figure out what's what. Somehow assembly and disassembly of guns, particularly shotguns, is super relaxing. Unless you've done it a bunch, you have to be slow and methodical. Otherwise springs go flying, parts get lost, or some other mishap.

Semi-autos like my 11-48 are particularly fascinating. As soon as you get it apart, you can see an intrinsic logic. Lots of "Oh, that's right, this connects to that to provide that action..." moments. The 11-48 is inertia-driven, so lots of connectors and springs.

After stripping it down and cycling 8,347 times I figure out the carriers that connect the bolt to the main recoil spring are rubbing against a hole they feed into.

Tonight's project? Figure out how to correct that. I think the gunsmith at Williams may have re-assembled incorrectly. And with guns, not right is wrong.


09 November, 2009

Cold Conquered

Great road ride yesterday morning with some friends. Rode from downtown Saline out toward Manchester and back in a big loop. Total about 22 miles. Felt GREAT!

While yesterday was unseasonably warm, at 8 am it was still only around 40 degrees. For as much as I love cold weather skiing, fishing, and hunting, I don't do cold on the bike well. But yesterday worked great - base layer, middle insulating layer, and wind-proof shell. Grabbed my winter gloves at the last moment, which was a good call.

I think the key for me is not getting cold at first. That's when I bail. By the end of the ride, I was a bit too warm, but for the most part comfy. Nice to know that the season doesn't have to end in September! Hoping to get 1-2 more rides in now!


06 November, 2009

11-48 Follow-Up

Quick follow-up to yesterday's post. Found time to slip up to Williams Gunsight and pick up my 11-48 last night.


As soon as I picked it up everything was happy. Much better mount, bead's right where it's supposed to be. No fumbling, no moving my head around. Truly amazing the difference a proper fit makes already. Can't wait to bust a few clays with it.

Yeah, the used stock doesn't match the fore end, but this gun's not about pretty. It's for breakin' clays and hunting small game.

Very happy. Kudos to Kevin at Williams Gunsight. Excellent work at a great price!


05 November, 2009


Been wanting to get my Remington 11-48 working better for me as a shotgun for clays. It came with a battered recoil pad that almost disintegrated when I removed it. Tried to install one myself, after Gander Mountain sat with my gun for a MONTH and did nothing. Let's just say, I don't think I'll be applying for any gunsmith jobs any time soon. Fugly.

I'd heard good things about Williams Gun Sight east of Flint. On a recent trip North, I was able to stop in and chat with one of their gunsmiths. He figured out that my length of pull is WAY too short on this gun. Might explain my low averages and difficulty finding a consistent mount. He offered that he likely had some used stock that could get the length where I needed it. Even called me to discuss options and provide his opinion. I think it's going to be a huge improvement. Hoping to run up there and pick it up this week -- wanted to try some clays this weekend.

Report to follow!


04 November, 2009

Where Am I?

I was out with a couple friends who are outdoorsy sorts and they were talking about where they deer hunt. It was amazing how precisely each knew where the other was. This was reinforced last week when talking to a fishing guide about where he deer hunts - I knew where he was talking about to within a few hundred feet even though it was hundreds of miles away in the Upper Peninsula.

This is a huge benefit of spending time in the outdoors. To be safe and effective, you need to know where you are. A skill that serves most folks well in many other situations. I'm not sure how, but most of my friends who're outdoors a lot tend to know innately where they are. Contrast this to a lot of indoor types so seem to have a hard time finding their way home. What's most amazing is that you can drop these outdoorsy sorts into unfamiliar settings and they pretty quickly acclimate and find their bearings.

Fascinating, to me. I'm sure it's got some caveman connection. But it's a cool and useful skill!


03 November, 2009

Reel Deal

I'm lovin' my Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor 5 reel this Fall. I've caught salmon, steelhead, and brown trout on this reel. Drag system is perfect -- smooth, fast engagement. Great stopping power. Couldn't be happier with its performance.

Mine's spooled up with 20# Climax ZIP line for chuck n' duck style fishing. It's tough and tangle-free even in the coldest weather.

One of my favorite facets is the finish. It's almost jewel-like and looks great on any rod. In terms of appearance, this one's my favorite. I wish my Ross Momentum had been available in silver (it's champagned colored).

I see Orvis has them on sale just now (http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=65HE&dir_id=758&group_id=768&cat_id=7626&subcat_id=7644) - if you're looking for a solid large-species reel, I highly recommend!


02 November, 2009

Can't Explain

The NRA was flogging this article hard in the latest edition of their propaganda ... err magazine.


First the disclosure - I'm an NRA member. I joined because they're really the only viable option for a voice of gun owners. But, I do find I'm out of alignment with a lot of their views. This article was one.

The NRA commentators acted as if this process were completely egregious. In my opinion, gun ownership SHOULD be a little challenging. I think anyone who wants to own a firearm legally, who isn't a felon or mentally ill, should be able to do so. The author cites $833 in costs -- including a safety course ($250) and the purchase of his handgun ($275) as if these were outlandish costs. A first time gun buyer, especially handguns, who doesn't take some sort of safety course is a moron. Guns are capable of lethal force. They should be treated with the same respect (as the author learned upon handling one).

This sort of spin is what makes the NRA so unpalatable for the masses. Did the author get to purchase a gun? Yes. So drop it. Making a Federal case of the process only points out your extreme viewpoint. And the article highlights inequities amongst States - something the NRA support under the "State's Rights" cloak. WTF?


30 October, 2009

Brothers in Arms

Some great times with some good friends this week, old and new. I love fishing solo, but I equally love the camaraderie of a good group trip, too.

Jim invited me on his annual trip a couple of years back. We'd gotten to know each other as he represents some magazines the I advertise in on behalf of clients. After our first trip we figured out that we fish well together - easygoing, but both a bit driven at the same time. Now this trip has morphed into something larger and even better. So I was thrilled to have Jim land the biggest steelie of the trip. And, he did it on a more complex rig than just standard chuck n' duck bottom bouncing!

Through Jim's trips I met guide extraordinaire Jon Ray. A day on the water with Jon is bound to be a fun one - doesn't hurt that this guy knows how to find fish. And, while Jon's got hundreds of clients, it's always like being out with an old friend. Only he knows about 87,000 times more about catching steelhead than any of my other friends.

And Troy - a treat to have him along on this trip. Troy's one of my clients, but one whom I've been lucky enough to count as a personal friend. A truly unique and exceptional guy with many talents, he's also one of the genuinely nicest human beings I know. When he joined up on this trip, I was excited that this experienced fisherman was going to get out on his first experience for steelhead on flies. Even though he got skunked on day one, at the end of the day he's borrowing my stick to go at it again! On day two he got to fish the PM. Got one steelie on, but found out why they're a top game fish. But nice consolation prize - a solid 14# salmon!

Jim, Jon, and Troy -- as always, great to hang with you guys. As well as new friends Mike, Andy, Dean, Tim, and Doug. A great trip with a great group.


29 October, 2009

Man of Steel

Awesome trip on the Big Manistee the past two days! A friend and business associate put together a trip with ten guys from as far away as Tulsa. Rented a GIGANTIC house at the Barothy Lodge (on PM, outside Walhalla). Five guides from Hawkins Outfitters handled everyone from experienced fisherman to complete newbies over two days. Couldn't have asked for better guiding. Tough fishing after a week of cool, rainy weather. Fish were scattered all over, but as always, Jonny Ray had a plan. We had boats all up and down the river from Tippy Dam almost to Manistee Lake searching for fish.

Got the pleasure of fishing with Jon on Tuesday. If you're looking for a great experience, this guy's just a blast to fish with. He's especially good at reading clients and delivering what they need. I want to learn when I fish guided and Jon's great at offering a good-natured barb that pushes me to be better. And this guys knows every inch of that river (and many others, too). Hook up with him at http://www.hawkinsflyfishing.com/.

After a nice vapor lock on my first fish (note to self -- let 'em run when they want to; don't touch the handle yet...) I hooked up on a couple of little skipper. Fun fights, but certainly not photo worthy. Not long after, I boated a nice 6# fish. Lost a fairly large one in the afternoon, but had it in close enough to get a good look. Oh, well. That's why steelies are some of North America's top game fish.

Partner (and trip organizer) Jim got a couple of solid monsters. One over 10#! A great day.

On our return to the lodge, my buddy Troy sees me in the parking lot unloading my road into the truck. Troy's an AVID and excellent fisherman (monster muskies), but this was his first time fly fishing for steelies. And, he'd gotten skunked. So three of us sat with beers and cheered Troy on as he threw casts for another hour on the Pere! That guy's got heart a mile wide.

More to follow - back to work!


26 October, 2009

Steelie Starter

Headed north today for two days of steelheading with a group and the exceptional guides of Hawkins Flyfishing (http://www.hawkinsflyishing.com/). Hoping to get paired up with Jon Ray (at left, with friend Jim who's organizing this trip) tomorrow on Big Manistee. Great guy, finds fish, and offers great coaching to help you land 'em. Didn't catch my first steelie with Jon, but had an initial learning day with him that set me on a solid path.

Rumor has it that the guides may mix it up and fish both the Manistee and the PM. I never tire of the PM, so this would be great!

23 October, 2009

Old Fave

It's duck weather today. Cold, windy, and been raining hard pretty much all day. Weather that smart animals use to outsmart dumb hunters.

But I'm wearing one of my favorites today - my Filson jacket. Classic waxed cotton. Like Barbour, but more American rough-n-ready. This garment is the single most waterproof item I own. I've stood in a steady downpour outside for two hours in this coat and stayed totally dry.

The best part? And yes, this is totally weird. It smells like the canvas tents of my Boy Scout years. Especially when a little moisture hits it. A strange, comforting sense of time and place that I love. Makes this jacket so endearing to me.

If you've not checked out Filson, I highly recommend. Their products are durable, functional, and good looking. Another nice feature is a broad selection of liners that can take you through the coldest of weather.


22 October, 2009

Steals and Deals

In most cases, I'm a big advocate of spending money with local shops - either where you live or where you fish, ski, hunt, ride, etc. But, sometimes the local shops don't have the brand you're seeking, or you have something that's not worth full price to you but that if you found a deal...

So, here are some of my fave online deal sites.

Price Point is a great resource for a whole range of cycling gear and clothing. I find a lot of deals on last year's models here. Way cheap and have some pretty obscure stuff, too.

If you fly fish for steelhead or salmon - who love to run under cover to break you off - you lose flies. Lots of them. This is a great source for keeping stocked. And the quality seems excellent. Surprisingly, they tell me everything is made in Canada.

A grab bag of outdoor leftovers. I check it pretty regularly. When they have something you want, it's usually darn cheap.

Nice wide selection of regular catalog items, but the clearance sales can be astounding. Carry Simms and Oakley - two of my faves.

Bargain barn for outdoor gear of all flavors. Their membership program saves you an additional 10% on every purchase. It's a strange mix, but when I'm looking for something, I often start here.

Mixed feelings about these folks. Prices are great and huge selection of shooting and hunting supplies, including ammo. But beware, shipping can be ridiculously expensive. Combine orders or go in with a buddy.


19 October, 2009

Feelin' Frosty

Trip to Minnesota and real exposure to actual snow, plus some recent river trips have me eager for winter steelhead. There's just nothing quite like the solace of an empty winter river. Last winter I bet I saw no more than a half dozen people out. Contrast that to the "combat fishing" of the most recent salmon jaunts. Of course, 20 degree temps thins them out.

Funny though, this year should be even more fun as I might have the opportunity to CATCH something! I suppose I can chalk last year up to learning how to winter wade (and swim...), the access points, and such. Winter wading is certainly a more considered endeavor than other seasons. In fact, just getting into the river is a challenge with shelf ice, differing melt flows, etc.

But, I'm excited for this season - feel 100% better equipped with skills, tools, and knowledge. And there's nothing quite like an empty, slush river for that feeling of truly being outside and off the grid.


16 October, 2009

Chuck. Duck. Repeat.

Loving the new chuck and duck rig for wide open spaces! Was easily able to cover a nice bit of river on last visit to the PM. Indy fishing with fly line is fun, but really better suited to tighter spaces. Plus, it's more work!

So, my set-up is as follows: Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor V reel, with backing, and Climax ZipLine in the greenish 20# test version. The guide who helped me configure this suggested that while the 20# ZipLine is harder to find, it works much better than the heavier 30# white stuff. Evidently the 20# is less tangle-prone.

I must say that for me, it works extremely well. I was able to cast very accurately over fairly long distances. Minimal "Christmas tree" issues where you decorate the local flora with snagged flies. May have helped that I fished a single egg fly rig all day. Fewer hooks, fewer snags?

This set-up should also be good for winter - less resistance in the water which should make it easier to get the flies down to sluggish cold weather fish.


14 October, 2009

Stir Crazy

Between work, travel, family, and other commitments I haven't been able to get outside much in the past week or so. Every time this happens, it seems like I start getting a bit wound up. The outdoors is really my relief valve. When I spend too much time inside, I find I'm getting a bit twitchy. Hoping things simmer down a bit so I can get a bike ride or something in!


13 October, 2009

Tickle Me, Salmo

Got a couple pics back from last week's salmon trip on the PM. What a great day! Hooked up within the first three casts, but didn't realize it until after that first fish got off. Salmon hit with a dull "thud" that's unlike steelhead or trout. Then they run away like a bulldozer. What a fun fight!

I think I hooked up on 15-20 fish during the day. This resulted in 6-8 solid fights - fish I either chased down the river and they broke off, headed under logs or other cover, or just lost the hookset. But I managed to steer this hen clear of obstructions and into the net!

Cool part was that after a few hook-ups I could tell which fish were solidly hooked and I had a decent chance of landing. Felt different when playing them. I credit that to my TFO 10 wt. which seems to have really good line feel.

Fun day! Not sure I'll get out again as salmon run is wrapping up, but steelhead were coming up right behind! Tight lines.


12 October, 2009

First Flakes

Travelling to Long Prairie, MN for a couple of days on business. Fortunately, I checked the weather before departure - got snow over night, and snowing hard today. Those first flakes always trigger such a primal response in me.

At-heart, I'm a winter animal. While I enjoy summer, something about that cool snap in the air hints at skiing fresh powder, pushing a snowy sorghum field for December pheasants, or standing alone in a slushy river bottom bouncing for steelhead. Some of my favorites. Can't wait.

Drove past a Pheasants Forever preserve on the way in this morning. Made me want to boot up and go for a stroll!


09 October, 2009


Awesome experience on the PM yesterday chasing Kings! More will follow, but one of the highlights was doing it on my own rig. Somehow I find that even more rewarding than using the guide's gear.

This was the first outing for salmon set-up; TFO 10 wt. 9' rod, Orvis BLA V reel (one of my steelhead rigs), with Climax Zip line for chuck-n-duck. Couldn't be happier with its performance!

From my first hook-up I could tell this was going to get the job done. The TFO rod casts great, but more importantly has the backbone to handle a big, angry salmon. I was consistently able to muscle these monsters out of tricky situations with this rod. Low cost, and with a lifetime warranty - nice! The Orvis BLA's drag system slowed 'em down nicely, while providing some tippet protection.

Thanks to guide Gene Lake for turning me on to Zip line - no nasty memory coils so it casts just great. As a bonus, it's CHEAP!

Loved this style of fishing with strong fights, and lots of fish that outsmart or just plain outfight you. And with this rig, I felt like I had a solid chance at anything I hooked well. More will follow on this great day when I get some more pics from my buddy Dan.


06 October, 2009

Take Deux

Off to PM tomorrow afternoon for more "business fishing" first day with client and folks from a business magazine, second with friend and a prospective client. Since I'm not a golfer, this works for me!

This will be my second attempt at Kings on the Pere this season. Got skunked on the first. Guys I was with said I was doing it all right, just wasn't my day. We'll see if professional guiding with an expert who's fished this river for over 30 years helps me!

I think I'll bring my TFO 10 wt. with the Orvis BLA V on it. All spooled up with chuck-n-duck line already. A lot of times guides don't have rigs set up for us left-handed folk unless you let them know in advance. Plus, rocking my own gear is appealing.

Should be a beautiful time of year to be outside. Lots of color starting to appear here in SE Michigan - expecting glorious color up there.

Reports will follow!


05 October, 2009


This weekend I read that over 60% of gun owners surveyed in a recent study think the new administration wants to take away their firearms. I have to say this puzzles me. As far as I can tell, there's been no evidence of any actions that support this. Maybe I've missed something, but it seems like I'd have heard about it. I suppose it's just party stereotypes in action.

And these same folks are clamoring about how "black arms" (military-style rifles) will be banned. Yet in the past week, I've seen Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger have all introduced new .22LR variants on the AR platform. If black arms were going to be banned would these large companies be investing in the engineering and manufacturing resources to build more of them? I doubt it very much.

It's this kind of paranoid "gun nut" behavior that gets firearms owners such a negative reputation. The reality is that most of us are responsible, regular folks. No arsenals of fully automatic weapons in the basement. No pallets of .223 ammo stockpiled. The reality is that I know a number of people with concealed carry permits who seldom carry (me included). We own guns to hunt, target shoot, or as collectors of antiques.

Seems to me that with the economy, health care, the war in Iraq, and so much more that President Obama's got FAR bigger fish to fry for now and a long time coming. Let's all spend out time worrying about something else.


02 October, 2009

Great In(vest)ment

For a while now, I've been thinking it was time to replace my super-cheap mesh fishing vest. No structure, pockets are in the wrong places, lacking a lot of attachment points. While standing in the PM last week, my forceps suddenly just dropped off the retractor. Fortunately I was in the shallows and just picked them up. But that was then end of the decision making cycle - time to graduate to a decent vest.

I've become tremendously brand-loyal to all things Simms, so that's where I start. And, once again, they don't disappoint. While the G3 Guide is phenomenal in terms of details, it's $75 more than a regular Guide vest. Beyond some cosmetics and a couple of other pockets, I really can't see any paying the difference.

Last night I transferred everything to the new vest. What a huge improvement this will be! D-rings for attaching tippet and stream thermometer. Upper pockets that will each hold a fly box. And, real, functional lower pockets that will actually keep things IN them!

But the biggest surprise is the structural design. My old vest just hung on me, especially when loaded down with steelhead hardware (all those little weights start adding up!). The Simms vest has a collar system that distributes the load more. And the entire vest just has more structure. It's like the difference between a tennis shoe and a hiking boot. Once again, Simms designs a better product.


01 October, 2009


Just when I think I'm gone - no firearms I lust for and no new purchases in a long time, I make the mistake of visiting Cabelas gun counter. And, I stumble onto a combo that's intriguing. A .22LR revolver. Well-made, and affordable. Great.

As ammo prices have skyrocketed and availability has tightened I've come to love my .22's even more. A mid-range box of 100 rounds of CCI ammo is only 6 bucks. Contrast that with 9mm or .45ACP where 50 rounds might cost you $20.

I've shot several friend's revolvers in a wide range of calibers (no .22's yet). Love 'em. Simple. Reliable, and a little different from all the autos out there.

The object of my affection? Taurus 94. Stainless steel. Well-built, and affordable. Sweet little pistol.

And let's not even talk about the S&W 15-22 rifle I learned of...


30 September, 2009

Feelin' the Steel

Funny, even with the lousy weather this week, I'm energized. Wind and rain bring the salmon into the rivers and the steelhead behind them. I enjoyed learning more on trout this summer, but steelhead are my favorite species to chase.

I'm especially excited for this season as I feel like my knowledge has grown so much in the past year. I think the biggest area is rigging and tackle. I now have both Indy and Chuck-n-Duck rigs and know how to tie up proper rigs and how to fish both. I also have a better understanding of how to get the flies/eggs down to where the fish are. My guess is that most of last season I was just floating flies WAAAAY up over there heads. Especially with Winter steelhead, that's unlikely to yield much result.

Going on a trip with a guide, followed by a day on my own, for salmon next week. I hear there are starting to be some steelhead behind them. Maybe I'll just target those?

Tight lines!


29 September, 2009

Is that a bait shop in your pocket?

While wandering around Meijer recently (OK, maybe returning bottles and buying more beer...) it occurred to me that they might have some compact tackle solutions for all the hardware of steelhead and salmon fishing. My vest and bag had become a collecting point for 87 little stupid zip-seal bags, each containing some piece of needed hardware. And it seemed like many times the right items were never in my vest - necessitating a jury rig, or a hike back to the truck.

Sure enough, $3.99 buys me a perfect little Plano pocket tacklebox. Slightly larger than a fly box, so it fits in my vest. Two-sided with lots of compartments small and large.

As this was the designated weekend for getting my act together for time on the river, I was eager to see how it worked. In a word: PERFECT! On one side snap swivels in #10-#14, micro swivels, glass beads for sliding slinky rigs, and indicators.

On the other side, weight of all flavors - slinkys in several sizes, an assortment of split shot, and pencil weights. And to top it off, even had a wrist lanyard floating around in the bag from some pliers. Somehow it's easy to imagine dropping the whole thing in the river on a cold snowy day. This will at least add some extra insurance against that occurrence.

This will be the perfect "grab it and go" solution. One box, all the stuff. The other advantage is that it's easier to see what I have in-stock in case I need to pick up more of an item.

Not bad for 4 bucks!


28 September, 2009

Hello, Old Friend

Since completing the build-up of the mt. bike, the road bike hasn't seen a lot of miles this summer. Cool temps probably haven't helped, but I'm sure it will balance out over time.

Yesterday proved the perfect day to correct this. And even surprise myself a little. Did a 20 mile ride along the Huron River. At first I thought it would just be a short spin, as I'd convinced myself my aerobic fitness was lacking. But, once the muscles warmed up, I found I just wanted to keep going! I'm guessing I've been getting plenty of cardio on the mountain bike, just more in intervals.

Bike road and felt great. Everything was tight, crisp, and responsive. And, other than some wind, it was just about the perfect early Fall day for a ride. Hello, old friend -- good to see you back!


25 September, 2009


Unlike fishing dry flies for trout, species like steelhead and salmon require some more hardware to get the job done. Proper rigging to get the flies down to the fish demands a wide range of swivels, snaps, and various sorts of weights. Noticed on this week's trip to the PM that I've accumulated a lot of disorganized junk in my vest. Seems like there are 82 different little ZipLoc bags in there. Starting to get to be hard to figure out what I have and don't have. And where it is.

Regular readers will know - sort of disorganization isn't me.

Rainy day predicted tomorrow, so I think tackling (nice pun, eh?) this job is in order, before steelhead season gets rolling. Nothing like searching for a #5 snap swivel in 15 degrees and snow. Trying to figure out what's the best container for all this stuff. I'd like to have it be readily accessible to throw in my vest or jacket. Might use an old spare leader wallet I have laying around. Or may look for a fly box with compartments, instead of foam inserts.

Also need to assess stock of stoneflies and eggs for steelhead season so I can get things ordered if needed. Sounds like a fun bit of gear-related puttering!


24 September, 2009

River Adventures

Enjoyed a great day on the Pere Marquette river yesterday. My friend Jon invited me to join him, father-in-law Ken, and son Daniel for Fall King Salmon.

I've fished with Ken before and this is a guy who knows his fishing - plus he's about the nicest human being you'll ever meet! True to form, he had the hot hand, with the first hook-up, the most fish, and the biggest fish (the trifecta!). I always enjoy a day on the water with Ken, and I always learn something from him.

But I think the biggest suprise of the day was Daniel. You never know about kids and outdoor pursuits. But Daniel clearly got the bug from his Dad and Grandpa - he was completely into the (LONG) day from beginning to end. His patience and enthusiasm were most impressive. The coolest part was the reaction of others on the river - it seemed like everyone we met thought having getting him out and started was super cool. And, honestly, it was. Kudos to Jon for introducing him, and to Daniel for his impressive skills and focus.

A truly enjoyable day - even though I got skunked. More on that in another post.


22 September, 2009

Slammin' Salmon

Off to Pere Marquette river with a friend and his son and father-in-law tomorrow. Should be great fun - my first attempt at salmon on fly rod. We're fishing a couple of spots I'm very familiar with for steelhead and trout.

This has set off the great gear selection frenzy. Never want to get there and not have the right stick. I think I'm going to take the following:

  • TFO 10 wt./Orvis BLA V reel/Zip line running line - set-up for chuck-n-duck style.
  • Scott 8 wt./Ross Momentum V reel/Orvis Wonderline fly line - either indy or just chuck-n-duck with fly line.

Seems like this combe gives me a couple of options. Most likely I'll end up fishing the TFO with the running line. I seem to be able to cover more water with this rig. I do think I'll stop at Baldwin Bait & Tackle for some hardware. I've been fishing split shot off a tail, but I think a slinky rig would enable the weight to slide around more and help me detect strikes and avoid snags.

More to follow!


21 September, 2009


The new mt. bike shoes (Five Ten Impact2 lows) ROCK! Super-grippy. When combined with the spikey Sun Ringle Mag Octane pedals, it's almost like a clipless system.

Best part is the addition of some sole stiffness and upper support. My Van's were like slippers in that regard, so this is a welcome change. No more barkin' dogs after only a couple of miles.

Only issues? Had to swap out the black shoelaces for some grey ones to tone down the Orthopedic Shoe look. And they're too shiny and new, but a few rides will take care of that!


18 September, 2009

Sweet Feet

New 5.10 Impact shoes arrived last night. Look like they'll be great for mountain bike. Old school Van's just haven't been cutting it. Super sticky soles and great pedal feel, but ZERO sole stiffness or support. After a mile or so arches start to ache. Guess that's to be expected from a shoe designed for skateboarding where board feel and traction are everything.

Impact's have been well-reviewed online. They use 5.10's Stealth rubber -- the same used in their climbing shoes. It does seem SUPER sticky with a cool tread pattern of dime-sized raised dots. They also seem well-padded, so should protect and also stay dry on dewy mornings.

It's amazing how much difference the right footwear can make in so many other outdoor pursuits. I think these should be a good solution. Hoping to get some time out at Island Lake trail this weekend to try them out!


17 September, 2009

The Best Fluff

Ski porn is showing up daily in my mailbox. Was looking through a Powder magazine last night and noticing something - the photos that most grab me are all in Utah. Second place is clearly BC, but there's just something about Utah that connects, even visually. Doesn't hurt that you can get to about a dozen ski areas within an hour of downtown Salt Lake City.

This photo is from Powder Mountain, a hidden gem outside Ogden. I figured out how to ski powder on this day. They'd had 12" overnight and another 10" the night before. It was both the most frustrating and rewarding day I ever had skiing. While I'd been in foot deep powder once or twice before, it was at Park City and was pretty much skied out by noon. PowMow is so large (most skiable area in Utah) and off the beaten path that I had all day to figure it out -- too cool!!!

Deep powder is such an adjustment for easterners. Unlike icy conditions or hard snow, setting an edge is BAD. Sit back, roll at the hips and go dog, GO! Coolest part was that falling was no big deal. Like landing in a pile of down! By the end of the day, I was just stepping off into whatever slope I wanted.

PowMow is just one of several Utah destinations I love. If you're planning a trip, I highly recommend getting off the well-worn Park City path. While PC and Deer Valley are great (sorry, NOT a Canyons fan at all), you get more value, better snow, and more fun at places like PowMow, Solitude, Snowbasin, Brighton, or Alta. So far the only major close area I haven't done is Snowbird -- soon enough!


16 September, 2009

Reel Deal

If you fly fish for steelhead you lose flies to trees, rocks, and angry fish. It's a fact of life. So paying $3 each for a steelhead fly never made much sense to me.

A friend turned me on to www.reelflies.ca as a resource. They seem to have a solid selection of a decent range of the classics. Oddball local faves like Iso's aren't here (you should be buying those at the local fly shop anyway). Curiously, no terrestrials either. But, for the basics a great selection and very affordable. Also some really nice assortment packs at a great price.

My Dad and I decided to go in on some and try them out. Arrived last night (quick -- only 6 days from order) and they look great! I ordered a nymph assortment to build up that box, as well as a dozen eggs and some black stoneflies. Can't wait to hit the Fall steelies with these!


15 September, 2009


Last night as I'm hustling to mow the lawn before it gets dark, it hits me - change of seasons is here. Then this morning as I'm driving to work realizing it's darker than I'm used to, it's reinforced.

Every year I anticipate winter. What will this one be like? Lots of snow? Cold? The last two have been pretty good. My season ender for skiing in MI was over a foot of fresh pow in the course of a couple of days - outstanding. A lot of other great days in that season, too. Ordered my season ski pass, so sure hope for another good one. I imagine shortly I'll be dusting off ski gear, putting on a fresh wax, getting things in order for another season.

But I think one of my new favorites is winter steelhead fishing. There's something about the solace and purity of standing in a fast moving winter river that's unique. And, I seldom see anyone on even the busiest stretches of river. Not much action, but I've learned some tactics in this off-season that may prove helpful.

Meantime, I'll enjoy my mountain bike and some Fall fishing. Somehow, I'll survive those few weeks between the leaves turning and the flakes falling.


14 September, 2009

One and Done

Been putting in lots of miles on mountain bike lately and really enjoying it. Rode Island Lakes blue trail on Saturday morning - great ride! Then covered local Olson Park on Sunday morning.

Have had several friends look at single-speed and ask, "why?". My Dad calls it a "no-speed". Which got me to thinking - why did I do that? Why does that bike give me such a stupid grin?

No derailleurs to fall out of adjustment. No frantic scramble before a hill to get off the big cog. One less thing to think about. And fewer moving parts in any mechanical system are ALWAYS better.

Serious mountain bikers see it in the parking lot at trailheads and you get lots of positive looks and comments. Novices are surprised. I like the shock factor somehow.

Without all that extra hardware, I just feel more connected to the trail. You pay more attention to hills and momentum to ensure no walk-ups. One less system to think about means that much more enjoyment, somehow.

Hearkens to a simpler time.
As I kid, I rode trails all the time on bmx bikes - it was one of my favorite things to do. My single-speed is a bit of an overgrown bmx bike. Plus, it's easy (and fun) to wrench on during downtime. And bmx bikes offered almost unlimited opportunities to upgrade and tweak components - a fun side benefit of any interest.

With an apparent Indian Summer upon us, looks like I'll get lots of opportunities to ride this Fall!


11 September, 2009


Take a moment today to reflect on this significant anniversary. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe, if you're an American, 09.11 changed your world. Pause to remember those who lost their lives, and the courage we saw during this event.

I got a bit choked up when I did.


10 September, 2009

Rules of the Road

I've seen plenty lately on cyclists rights and related topics. But we play a role in that discussion too -- every time one of us does something stupid.

This morning I watched a cyclist roar up to a red light at a busy intersection on the LEFT side of the lane. With no sign of a stop, he then makes a right turn (still in the left side of the lane) while in the blind spot of a truck that's making a right on red.

Dude, I know you're in a hurry to get your ride in, but that was STUPID. First, it was illegal. Second, if that truck didn't see you and changed lanes after the turn - splat.

We expect drivers to respect us, but a lot of us don't respect drivers. It goes both ways.


09 September, 2009

Hardware and Software

May head north to the Pere Marquette river this weekend - early King Salmon are in and trout seem to still be going well. This means the shift to the big gear is on. All summer I primarily fished my 6 wt. 9' Scott A2 quite happily. Great for trout and smallmouth bass.

But salmon and steelhead are another thing. From the simple line-leader-fly of dry fly trout fishing, I move to more complex rigs. Now the decision of indicator fishing on floating lines versus chuck-and-duck on running lines. Doesn't help that I've been reading a couple of books on Great Lakes salmon and steelhead that are just fueling the overthinking. Fortunately, during the off-season I added some gear so I have both styles of rigs. After Fall fishing in the U.P. I started to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each style and how to match it to the river.

I think this is one key appeal of fly fishing, for me. As I learn more, it becomes even more enjoyable. Knowledge truly is power. And, you catch more fish!

Should be the start of a fun adventure. Have several Fall trips planned this season, and will undoubtedly do lots more winter steelheading.


04 September, 2009

Do you feel it?

It's coming. Do you feel it?

The mornings have been cool and crisp. Seeing flashes of color in the trees here and there. Ski magazines all started to show up this week. The Caberfae ski area season pass application arrived the other day. Conversations are starting to include skiing more and more.

While I've learned to embrace summer in Michigan and truly enjoy it, Fall and Winter are my clear favorites. I'm a winter animal. Soon it will be time for the return of ski season, and the solace of winter steelheading fly fishing.

I can't wait...


03 September, 2009

What do you seek?

This sign is outside the fish hatchery at Thompson, in Michigan's central Upper Peninsula (one of only two locations in the state that raises steelhead).

Got me to thinking about what I seek from going fishing. I think it includes:

- there's no better place to get away from everything else going on in life than a river.

- fishing is a lifelong journey of learning. Whether it's tying a new knot, learning a different cast, or chasing a new species, there's always something new I'm exposed to. Activities with this dimension prove the most engaging to me.

- when I'm standing in the middle of a river, the connetion to nature is intensely powerful. Curiously, I find this connection the strongest when winter steelheading. Maybe it's because I'm standing somewhere I really don't belong?

- there's an instant connection with people who fish, and especially fly fish. An almost automatic bond. It's like you share a great secret.

So, why do you go fishing? Or mountain biking? Or skiing? Or whatever it is you do outside? Think about it.


02 September, 2009

Unsung Hero

Just a plug for my Simms L2 wading boots. Though I often tend to forget them, they're such a huge part of comfortable, safe, enjoyable fly fishing.

The AquaStealth soles are awesome -- super-grippy on almost any bottom structure. Also, don't freeze up like felt can. And environmentally responsible as they won't transport invasive species.

Like all Simms products, consistently exceeds my expectations! They cost more, but they're worth every penny.

01 September, 2009

Noises - Part Deux

New pedals (Sun Ringle Octane Mag's) on the mountain bike are great -- super sticky, smooth cartridge bearings. Love 'em.


The d*mn clunk was still there. More subtle, but still present. And now accompanied by an unpleasant creak, that I initially thought was the saddle. Great. Nothing like "clunk-squeak-squawk" roaring through the woods.

On Sunday took a ride on the blue trail at Island Lake. A couple of miles in, I look down at the bottom bracket and notice a gap with the left ring to the frame.


Sure enough, it's loose. So, this week's project - if I can carve out some time in a busy work week - is to tear the whole thing down. I think I'll clean it all out (Remington RemAction gun cleaner works GREAT for this sort of thing) and lube key interfaces, plus Loctite the retainer rings. Oddly, I enjoy projects like this one. There's something therapeutic in it. And, it beats a whole new Profile crankset and bottom bracket.

Geez, I love chasing odd noises on bikes. But it sure feels good when you find them!


31 August, 2009

R.I.P. $12 Tent

After two seasons, it's time to retire the $12 tent (now valued at $16 as it needed a $4 patch). I realized recently that I was avoiding camping any time there was much chance of rain. Let's just say my confidence lacked.

Courtesy of a sale, I am now the proud owner of a North Face Moraine 23. From the instant I opened the box, the differences in quality were evident. But c'mon -- the new tent retailed for 15x the cost of it's predecessor.

The $12 tent served me well in helping affordably re-discover camping and how much I enjoy it. I'm also finding that camping makes it even easier to enjoy other activities; some great campgrounds by trout streams and mountain bike trails! But perhaps my favorite part is cooking over an open fire. I love to cook, and especially to grill. Campfire cooking takes the challenge to a whole new level!

Lest you think the $12 tent is dumpster bound, it's on to its next chapter - a new tent for my niece and nephew to utilize in their adventures. Farewell and bon voyage!


21 August, 2009

Plaxidope - Lesson Learned?

Plaxico Burress is all over the news this week for his 2-year prison term plea bargain. Some say too harsh, others not enough -- I think it's about right. This NFL star, in the prime of his earning potential is being taken out of circulation. This sends a powerful message about the seriousness of gun crimes and proper handling of a firearm.

Let's look at his trail of ignorance:
  1. Concealed permit had expired.
  2. Concealed permit was from another state.
  3. Gun wasn't registered properly.
  4. No holster; just tucked in his pocket - and with a round chambered.
  5. Carrying in a bar.

Nice work, genius. I can decide which of these is most outlandishly stupid. I'm inclined toward #4. Holsters aren't for Quick Draw McGraw old west antics. They serve a simple purpose; to keep the firearm under control in a consistent place, and to prevent accidentally hitting the trigger and discharging the gun.

Lock him up. And keep him there. And keep it in the media as an example. You own guns, you need to have the respect, intelligence, and common sense they demand.

And, let's not even get into the fact that he was wearing sweat pants in an NYC club...


20 August, 2009

Sweet Ride

My SE mountain bike has me all nostalgic for my youth. This BM Flyer (yeah, make the joke...) is really just a 29er upsized version of the old OM Flyer 24" that SE made for a few years. As a kid, I spent a lot of time tearing around, jumping over things, and generally wreaking havoc on various BMX bikes.

For me, the SE brand represented the most innovative and stylish bikes around. And they were usually among the most durable - I broke a LOT of bikes and parts back in the day. Actually cracked one of the early CroMo (strong stuff) CyclePro BMX frames IN HALF after only six months of riding.

I only owned one SE though - a PK Ripper. Eventually, it became too small, so off it went for something larger that I can't remember. What I do remember was that it was NOT an SE Quadrangle. I wanted one of those so badly, but cost was just astronomical and I tended to buy what I could find a deal on through the bike shop I worked for. Sadly, we weren't an SE dealer.

Poking around online I find a guy in CA who's had a custom, jumbo Quad built for himself. From the looks of the few photos online
it's pretty much authentic - except that instead of being a 20" wheel BMX bike, it's a full-size 26" mountain bike style! What a cool ride! I can't imagine the cost for this frame though. A handmade straight tube bike is one thing, but this beast is a complex maze of overlapping tubes and quirky angles. Nevertheless, it's WAY cool!

Whatever you're riding, it's a great time to be out there! I'm really enjoying tearing up the trails.


19 August, 2009

Bug Box(es)

Fly fishing has provided no end of learning. Seems like there's some "ah-ha!" every time. I love to learn new things, so this has been very rewarding.

The evidence of my learning has been the progression of my fly boxes. At first, bought a cheap one and stuffed everything in it. Then two things happened -- got too many flies, and figured out that waterproof fly boxes are worth the extra money.

By this time, I'd learned the difference between "dry" and "wet" flies. So started the first re-shuffling. Then I started getting more serious about steelhead, which triggered the addition of a steelhead box. After that a big bug box for streamers. Also poppers for bass on lakes, as well as some BIG flies for muskie. And, then mid-summer I discovered terrestrials -- hoppers, ants, spiders and other stuff that floats in the river and entices those mid-day summer fish to have a taste.

Did a re-org -- again -- this weekend. It's now mostly by species/location. So here's the current inventory. Standard size boxes are Scientified Anglers two-sided System X boxes, larger are Orvis or Cliff's.
  1. All-purpose trout box: dries on one side, nymphs (and split shot and indicators) on the other.
  2. Steelhead box: eggs on one side, nymphs on the reverse.
  3. Terrestrial box: all manner of earth-bound stuff that can fall in the river. Orvis Toon Hoppers are my current faves.
  4. Streamer box: big trout streamers, muskie streamers, and some mice for late-night mousin'.
  5. Lake box: assortment of large and small poppers for largemouth bass on lakes.
  6. Huron box: assortment of hex and terrestrials that are working for smallmouth on the Huron river.
  7. Leftover box: some salmon flies mixed in with some oddballs and other mutts.

This system seems to work pretty well for me. I can grab 1-2 boxes, throw them in my vest and be ready to go on fairly short notice. It's also easy to tell what I'm running low on.


18 August, 2009

One for Fun

Gotten in a fair bit of saddle time on the single-speed. And, I love it. The simplicity just completely works. Out on the trail I can hear the geared folk coming a mile off -- clink, ker-plunk, sproing... as they shuffle gears to get into the right one for the uphill, the descent, the corner, whatever. Got a hill to climb? Pedal harder.

Plus, I feel so much more in-tune with the bike, the trail, and my body. Much more able to find the groove of the ride.

Only downside I've found are moderate downhills. With 31-18 gearing you spin out pretty fast. It's not an issue on steeper hills -- no need to pedal there anyway! The Hammerschmidt front crankset (basically gives you two gear ratios, without two cogs) looks appealing, but that's more hardware, cables, etc. which I don't want.

And you stand out in the parking lot and on the trail. Maybe as a retro eccentric, but the s/s does seem to garner a measure of respect! I seldom see any others sans gears, even at crowded trailheads.

Finally an update - the WTB Laser V saddle and I have made peace. I think I just needed to get my arse broken in properly (seriously -- I was reading an article in Bicycling that talked about just this issue). And the narrow profile works well for leverage in technical trail spots.

Diggin' my new (to me) ride! Only issue is the road bike's not seeing as many miles this summer.


17 August, 2009


Clunks are bad. Whether on a bike, ski bindings, fly reels, or a gun. A clunk means something's assembled wrong, doesn't fit right, or has worn significantly. In some cases it's a sign of imminent catastrophic failure. In other premature wear.

But, they're often hard to track down. I've been chasing one on my mountain bike since the start. When I shift my weight side-to-side, there's a distinct "clunk" in the drivetrain. As a somewhat obsessive gearhead, this has been driving me bats. I've had the crank arms off, cleaned, greased and tightened them; had a look at the bottom bracket, and more. No sign of anything fitting less-than-perfectly. I put on my best super-sleuth act, but can't find anything that's less than jake. Grrrrr...

As I'm headed down the trail on a ride on Saturday it occurs to me though I tightened the pedals in the crank arms, I've never checked out the pedals themselves. BINGO! Right pedal clunks nicely when you tug on it!

So, new better quality pedals are on order. Glad it was something cheap. I was starting to look into a Profile crankset (and spindle, and sprocket, and bottom bracket .... $$$). Thirty bucks for a pair of new pedals is MUCH better!

Great ride on the yellow trail at Island Lake yesterday. At about 6 miles, it's a little shorter than the blue trail I rode a couple of weeks back. That's such a great area to ride, and close to home. But, I am SORE today!


14 August, 2009

Small Ball

August is prime time for the Hex hatch on the Huron River. Last night was my first one out for it. Also my first time out on the Huron this season. During the early season frequent downpours kept it up to almost flood stage, so not safe for wading. Since then I've had the good fortune to fish several of Michigan's best trout streams, but never seem to get to the one in my backyard!

The Huron is a great smallmouth bass river. If you have haven't had the pleasure, smallies are great fun. Some have called them "warmwater trout" which is probably pretty accurate.

Was great to fish five minutes from home. But, the crowds were out -- stopped at my original intended destination to find ten trucks parked and a river full of guys waving sticks. No thanks! So, off to a secret destination that was MUCH less crowded.

If you don't fish and haven't had the experience of a hatch coming off, it's pretty wild. Especially with a bug the size of Hexagenia limbata. It was like cricket-sized hail!

One big difference I noticed right away was the dramatic difference between the Huron and the northern MI/UP spring-fed streams. It's much warmer, but also has a lot more silt and such that almost eliminate visibility. Requires a bit more cautious wade, as you can't see obstacles.

Got two last night. First was easy -- after only about 20 minutes, hit hard and ran with it. Second one made me work for it. Half a dozen strikes, but wouldn't take it! Then finally a harder strike and finally FISH ON!

A great outing, all in all. And the quick drive home was nice, too!