27 February, 2009

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I love winter. To me, nothing is prettier than a fresh snowfall. Lots of people I know are bemoaning the hard snowy winter and looking to get away someplace warm. Not me.


Must say I don't care for the late Winter/early Spring transition. 50 degrees today, 20 tomorrow. Dramatic swings in the barometric pressure that screw up both fishing and my sinuses. Snow melts to a gray mish-mash. Warm days are tempting, but it's not quite time for cycling season. And though I'm winding down ski season, I'm not QUITE ready to give it up yet.

So, I'll pass my time planning for opening weekend for trout in the U.P. with my friends and family at my folk's place, clean guns, wax and scrape skis, tweak my bike, and maybe head out to the range or shoot sporting clays.

Plus, it's supposed to be back to 20 degrees tomorrow and snow a little. Sadly, not enough for XC skis or my snowshoes!


26 February, 2009

Surprise Winter Tip

Like many outdoorsy sorts, I find my hands take a beating in the winter. No matter how much I moisturize, keep things clipped, etc. I still get painful cracks and cuts. Seems fly fishing and shooting sporting clays (pushing shells into the magazine) are the worst offenders. I don't feel any burning urge for Marlboro Man Hands, so I try to take care of them.

Now before you go thinking I've gone all girly on you...

I stumbled onto the ultimate solution. Super Glue. Yup, that's right. A little dab on that crack that won't heal, let it dry, quick hit with a file, and PRESTO -- back in business. It sounds weird, but it's basically similar to the liquid stitches used in hospital ER's. And it works.

And, yes, I realize that glueing your fingers is weird. But, I'm over it.


25 February, 2009


A couple of over-the-top days skiing this week at Caberfae. On Friday, I noticed the weather patterns for the area had changed and they were calling for big snow on Saturday, so I planned to head up on Sunday morning. Got a bunch of work done and decided to take Monday off and make it worth the drive with some fly fishing on the PM.

Sunday morning brought a pretty drive up and found 10" of fresh powder on the hill and minimal crowds. Mix of sun and clouds all day, until about 3:30. Then the snow started. Big, fluffy flakes and HARD -- like being inside a just-shaken snow globe. And it just kept coming down. At one point I was riding up on the lift with a guy who just said, "Epic". That pretty much summed it up. Couldn't see much, and didn't care.

About 7:30 I realized that the drive to Baldwin might get a little dicey if I didn't hit the road. My original plan had been some fishing, but I realized I can fish all summer. Powder days - especially in Michigan - are rare. Best to take advantage.

Monday was an outstanding day. Fished the PM for a couple of hours - no swimming this time. Then headed back to Caberfae. Wow, what a day. Bluebird, 8" of fresh powder. No crowds. Warm. No wind. Just couldn't have asked for better.

Best of all? Two solid days on my powder skis! In Michigan no less! When conditions are right, my Line Prophet 100's are just outstanding. Float, cut through crud, and super smooth. Even skied them on some soft bumps quite well. Lousy on typical Michigan hardpack, but when they're on the right stuff, they rock.

Epic. Best word I have. A couple of my most satisfying ski days I can recall.


20 February, 2009

Spend Local

I've plugged the local business angle before, but as the economic grip tightens, it seems even more critical. If your local fly, bike, or ski shop doesn't survive this not only are jobs lost in your community, but you lose access to so much knowledge and help.

Buying local doesn't have to mean more expensive. But even if it is a little more expensive, you save on shipping. And I'm finding that many local shops will negotiate on big ticket purchases to a surprising extent. Just ask. I had planned to order a Ross reel for steelhead, but after talking to the store owner and finding out he was carrying a lot more inventory than he wanted, we cut a great deal on an Orvis reel that I'm extremely happy with! Win-win!

Even paying State Sales Tax ultimately benefits your home playgrounds, with funding for roads, schools, and other areas. And it's still cheaper than shipping.

One trend I have noticed -- with the dip in the economy, these guys are carrying a lot less inventory. Makes good business sense to me, but some folks are instant gratification types. I find that in most cases they can order me what I'm looking for and have it faster than online resources anyway. And if it shows and it's not right, you're dealing with a real human being who will make it right.

I'd even suggest you take this philosophy on the road. Most fishermen I know will stop in at the local fly shop or bait shop for info on river conditions, what's working, or just to learn. Make sure you drop a few bucks (or a lot of bucks!) with them when you do. Buy a hat, some flies, a few pieces of gear.

Now, a quick plug for some of my favorites, both in Ann Arbor and elsewhere in Michigan:

Sun & Snow Sports (http://www.sunandsnow.com/)
Great range of ski, snowboard, and kayak gear. And owner Rob is one of the best bootfitters around.

Colton Bay Outfitters (http://www.coltonbay.com/)
Great spot for fly fishing gear, and outdoor apparel. Mike Schultz is a wealth of fishing knowledge and owner Jon Davis always works hard to make you a good deal on just-right gear. Midwest's largest Filson dealer - and really nice guys.

Great Lakes Cycle & Fitness (http://greatlakescycling.com/)
Nice bike and parts selection, great prices, and friendly staff. And shop manager Steve Sauter builds amazing custom wheels.

Baldwin Bait & Tackle (http://www.fishbaldwin.com/)
Great place for info on the Pere Marquette prior to a visit. Nice stock of gear and flies, and a pleasant place to pass a little time. I almost always stop in.

Schmidt Outfitters (http://www.schmidtoutfitters.com/)
A new addition - I've stopped a few times on my way to ski Caberfae from Baldwin. Early morning hours have made this a favorite stop and it's a great fly shop with a ton of great gear. Had the chance to meet and chat with Ray Schmidt on last stop and thoroughly enjoyed.

Jay's Outdoors (http://www.jaysoutdoors.com/)
An exceptional alternative to the mega-stores, with locations in Clare and Gaylord. Broad range of every sort of outdoor gear, and very good pricing. Sure, they're not as deep as a specialty store, but I find so much there.

Hope this helps you consider another perspective on how you spend your money. I sure find that these retailers appreciate my business more than ever.


16 February, 2009


Picked up my 10 weight Temple Forks Outfitters rod for salmon (and steelhead back-up). Man -- it's a BEAST. If you haven't checked out the TFO Series One rods, you should. Affordable, seem to be a good build, nice action, and a lifetime warranty.

Last Fall I watched guys fly fish for salmon on Manistique River (while I was on spinning gear) and thought, "Next year, that's how I'm doing it...". Can't wait to throw some big bugs at 'em!


13 February, 2009

Things I Don't Get

  1. Golf.
  2. Ultimate Fighting
  4. People who don't like beer
  5. Ice Fishing
  6. Skydiving
  7. Beach Volleyball as an Olympic sport
  8. Basketball (sorry, Pete...)
  9. Why the price tags at Cabela's all have a "Was" and a "Now" price -- even when the price is the same
  10. People who don't like snow

Somehow, I felt compelled to share.


12 February, 2009


With the excitement of the unplanned swim, I didn't get to what I really wanted to talk about from that day.

I'm really captivated by steelhead fishing on flies. There's something about the strategy, experimentation, tweaking of rigging, and all that appeals to me. That it's a chance to be on a deserted river on a beautiful winter day doesn't hurt.

During the past few months I've had the chance to learn more about various Great Lakes techniques - chuck n' duck, indicator, and swinging. I've only caugh fish chuck n' duck, but I think I owe that more to the excellent guiding skills of Jon Ray (www.hawkinsflyfishing.com). On my own I've mostly been indicator fishing, with a lot of input and knowledge from Mike Schultz of Colton Bay Outfitters.

On my last trip, I finally felt like I wasn't just doing what someone else told me to do. That I had begun to understand the "why" rather than the "how" and adjust my tactics accordingly. Watch the indicator for the proper depth, move the split shot around, etc. And when I snagged up and lost flies, I was able to re-tie quickly and get back fishing. I saw the river in a whole different way and it was a really empowering feeling.


09 February, 2009

Midnite Mousin' and Tasty Chili

Can't always nail that title line...

Went to a seminar at Colton Bay Outfitters on Saturday by Tommy Ray of Hawkins Flyfishing. It was on midnite mousin' for monster trout in the PM. Never really thought about it, but this approach makes a lot of sense. Tommy's enthusiasm was really captivating, so now this is on my ToDo List! The idea of catching a 20" trout at 2am in July sounds pretty cool! Plus it seems well-suited to my admittedly crude casting skills.

Made some great venison chili for lunches this week. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Thanks to buddy Keith for the raw materials!


06 February, 2009

Gear Head

Somehow, I seem drawn to the activities that require gear. Or maybe I just realize that the right gear can make a big difference in a successful and pleasant outing and a miserable one. Here are a few random favorite items.

Fishpond Pitchfork Clippers
Fishpond stuff is just aesthetically cool. They even managed to take the lowly line snipper to a new level. I own two. And yes, they cost too much for what they are. But they're so cool.

Cabela's Brittany Upland Boots
When I started bird hunting I quickly realized I needed some good, supportive, waterproof boots. I didn't want to spend a lot and found these. Who needs $200 Danner's?

Simms RiverTek & WaderWick BaseLayer
I can't say enough good about this stuff. It's light, it wicks like a sponge, and seems pretty durable. Stirrups on bottoms are nice so they're not sliding northward with activity. Great in the water, but a really good base layer for almost any activity.
Giro G10 Helmet w/Tune Ups
I resisted skiing with a helmet for a long time. Thought it made me old and uncool or something. One time out in this exceptional brain bucket and I realize how wrong it was. Comfortable, warm (when it needs to be), well-ventilated (when it needs to be), and surprisingly cool looking. And adding Tune-Ups for built-in sound completes the package. I feel like an armadillo in it.

Nordica Speedmachine 10

Great fit, great performance, even cool style. I was very happy with these boots. Then I had Rob from Sun & Snow Sport in Ann Arbor do a full-custom footbed and fit. WOW. I always thought ski boots were just supposed to be uncomfortable. Turns out they don't have to be. And, energy transfer to the skis is astounding now.
Giant OCR3
I love my bike - it was affordable, handles great, and is super-comfy. I got a deal on a previous year's model and have literally ridden the wheels of it. But the core is a frameset with just-right geometry and the right blend of spring and suppleness. Yeah, I've made some upgrades (the adjustable stem HAD to go!) to it, but all fairly minor stuff.
So, there you have it. A few faves from my bag of tricks.

05 February, 2009

Thank You

Just wanted to take a moment to say "thank you" to those of you who take a moment or two out of your day to read this blog. It's become a fun outlet.

Many of the people I know in my profession have some frustrated desire to write a novel. Me, I always preferred short stories. So writing for this blog has been an ideal outlet. And showing some photography is fun, too. Although, it appears my pocket digital camera was a victim of the swim. But not before I got a couple of nice pictures.

Thanks for stopping by! Entry on some of my favorite gear is brewing. Maybe tomorrow!


04 February, 2009


I've told the story of my Steelhead Swim to a few friends over the past couple of days and the reactions got me thinking about fear. Several folks said, "No way I'd be back in the river after that..." while others said, "Well, now you've done it and survived it...".

You can't live life afraid. That's a revelation which has only become clear to me recently. Could you get hurt skiing that black diamond run? Yup. Will you die from heart disease if you sit on the couch all the time? Probably equally likely. Now, I've taken a swim in a 38 degree river in January. And while I don't take it lightly, I also recognize that I was prepared, stayed calm, and knew what to do. That felt good. Now I'm less afraid of the river.

I love to cook and try new things. I realized recently that it's because I'm not afraid to fail. It's just food. If it doesn't turn out, I have the number for the local pizza place memorized. I've made some great stuff, some mediocre stuff, and some truly disappointing stuff. With cooking, if you always stay in your comfort zone, you'll never learn. Some good cooking friends helped me see that in recent years.

This inspiration has been helpful. It gets me to thinking of other things that invoke fear and analyzing them to understand why the spark this fear and dealing with it. The bigger fear? Not living life. It's amazing how much this transfers -- and conquering fears is momentum-building. Once you stare one down, the others look more manageable.

An aside - the idea of the swim was way worse than the actuality. I really was never scared while it was happening. Adrenaline? Maybe.


03 February, 2009


Like my info says, I make my living in marketing. So today I thought I'd intersect that with some outdoors stuff.

While there are some solid brands in the Outdoor segment (Browning is one that springs to mind) I think few do it as well as Simms in the fly fishing space. Their consistency and commitment to staying on-brand is fantastic. Every execution - from their excellent web site, to their print advertising - supports their clear position. I love their "guide as hero" position. The implication being if it's good enough for a professional guide who counts on this gear to earn their living, then it's solid for the weekend warrior. In some way, most of us who fish harbor some secret desire to be a guide -- chuck the day job and the mortgage and get out there. And, naturally, their smart a$$ tone appeals to me.

But for every brand that's solid in marketing, there are dozens that fall short in their product or its delivery. Not Simms. Every piece of gear I own from them is exceptional, and includes some unusual value-added feature. I know it's a good product line when I'm hard-pressed to name my favorite. Even the lowly ball cap quickly became my favorite. And every dealer I've visited was knowledgeable and on-the-ball.

And the benefit to the company is clear -- Simms gear isn't cheap. But with a solid brand, they're able to charge what it's worth. That's the true value of the brand. This isn't a commercial for Simms (well, OK, maybe it is...) but it's one of the brands that most consistently captures my attention as a marketer. Well done!


02 February, 2009


Well, it was inevitable...

I took a swim on Saturday in the 37-degree Pere Marquette river, with air temps in the low 20's. Was walking along working a hole near where the Baldwin flows in when suddenly, BLOOP -- I'm up to my chin in cold water.

Cool part was my reaction. I know from reading and other learning that you panic, you drown. I stayed really calm. Assessed that I'd stepped in a hole, got my feet under me and downstream and started looking for next shallow bar. Got myself up out of the river, found a path to the bank and climbed out. Even had time to consider if I should deploy my inflatable life vest and decided I didn't need to.
So, now the fun part starts. The half-mile hike back to the truck. I know that if I stop moving, everything freezes. This is bad. So, off I go. Fortunately, all my layers are doing what they're supposed to (got to LOVE Simms base -- it works) and I'm warm. And squishy.
As I'm walking out I start thinking, "Man, I want a beer... I earned it...". Of course, I didn't have any. So, I decide to stop at a convenience store. When I unzip my jacket pocket to get my wallet out, a bunch of water drains out. And my wallet is soaked. The look on the clerk's face was priceless. Surprised some fish didn't flop out, too!
I've now completed a rite of passage. Took my first cold-water swim. And, all things considered, not so bad! Made a good story for my visit to Edy's Log Bar later that night.