30 April, 2009

In the Bag

Those who know me well will recognize I'm a little freaky about organization. Things have a home. And when they're not in their home, they're not happy. And they get lost, damaged, or you can't locate them when you need them.

In recent years, I've discovered activity-specific organization that's been hugely helpful. It started with small toolboxes for repairs -- I have a toolbox for bike tools, another for gun cleaning suppliers, and still another for ski waxing and tuning gear. But now I've expanded it to having bags dedicated to activities.

Last night, packing for UP fishing trip was simple. Grab the fly fishing bag (reels, fly boxes, tippet, and various floats and weights), stuff waders, boots, and vest into wader bag; and then two rod tubes. Clothes in another bag -- done.

While this approach doesn't guarantee elimination of lost items (somehow I managed to lose my fishing and hunting license last year...), it sure helps. Where are my spring ski gloves? In the bag. The 8# fluoro? In the bag (at left).

Of course, for this to work, you have to get stuff back in the bag after you're done. But I've found that the benefits of organization seem to be enough to motivate me to ensure that I do this promptly.

And, before you say it, yes -- I'm a freak. I'm good with it. At least I can find my stuff while you're still fumbling for yours!


29 April, 2009

Pictures Back Soon!

New Nikon Coolpix S210 arrived today! All charged up and ready to roll for trip to fish the UP starting Friday. Also bought a waterproof Pelican case that should protect during any potential dunkings. This seems like an ideal solution and FAR cheaper than a $300 waterproof camera.

All ended up a really good deal -- camera is a refurb from www.newegg.com for $85. Refurbished by Nikon with a warranty. It's 8 megpixels and seems like it will work well. I've really missed not having a good compact camera for my adventures. Look for pictures to return again soon. And thanks to buddy Jon for helping me realize this was a better solution!


27 April, 2009

Fish & Learn

Ended up with the opportunity to fish the PM again on Friday, courtesy of my buddy Dan. Once again, we were with master guide, Gene Lake. Great day -- got to own Waddel's Riffles for most of the day with five guys and two boats. Benefits of gettting up EARLY (try 4am)! Dan had the hot hand with five fish landed. I got a couple on, but no success in landing.

I love fishing with a guide who likes to teach, and Gene's a really good example. On Friday he suggested I bring my steelhead rod and he'd help me with fine-tuning the rigging and teach me some more about how to properly fish the indicator. Got a lesson in roll-casting, and double spey. I'm no expert, but at least I have a clue now.

Now that I've done more chuck n' duck style fishing, I wanted to get rigged up for that. During the day I remember that I have an Orvis Rocky Mountain reel that I'd been planning to use for Fall salmon with a spare spool. A quick chat with Gene about line and a 15-minute visit to Baldwin Bait & Tackle after we get off the river for Climax Zip Line and backing and PRESTO, I've got a rig for the UP this weekend!

A great day on the water and an even better day for personal growth!


P.S. Finally figured out a digital point-and-shoot solution and new camera is on the way. Look for photos to return to this blog soon!

21 April, 2009

Wonders of Wading

As I was standing in the river on Friday, I was reminded of how much I love wading. There's something about standing in the river in waders that just feels fantastic. It's peaceful, and you're protected from the cold of the river, as well as the rocks, logs, and other bottom features.

The feel of the current against your legs is hypnotic and relaxing. And the sensations vary so much from season-to-season -- from the slight coolness of winter steelheading to the downright cooling pleasure of being in a cold stream in mid-summer with only shorts under your waders.

Wading is truly one of life's greatest simple pleasures for me. Unless there's a leak...


20 April, 2009


Fantastic day on the Pere Marquette on Friday with my friends Jon and Dan and guide Gene. The more time I spend on that river, the more I appreciate how special it is. Truly a beautiful setting with some amazing fishing.

Day started out COLD -- standing in the parking lot waiting to meet the guide at 5:30 it was maybe in the high 30's. BRR! But once we got on the river and the sun came up, it quickly warmed.

We fished from Green Cottage, down to Gleason's Landing. All in the flies-only, catch-and-release zone. This was a real plus, as I've only done from M-37 down to Green Cottage, so it was all new water for me. And most of my fishing has been walk n' wade. A boat was real treat to get to more spots.

Slow fishing much of the morning -- bright sunny day had the fish skittish. And the guide said spawn was slow to get rolling. But around lunchtime, we really hit it on one special hole. Within twenty minutes, Jon got a steelie, Dan a brown, and I got a teeny Rainbow! As we were finishing lunch a nice sized steelhead jumped right next to it -- so back at it! Jon hooked up, but after a dramatic jumping fight, she got off the hook.

Saw a few more, but no hook-ups most of the afternoon. Then we found a prime spot late in the day. Our guide, Gene, scouted out a great location with some active fish. I made a few casts, snagged up and lost flies, so Jon jumped into the spot and quickly hooked up on the nice buck pictured above. He put on a textbook perfomance playing and landing this great fish.

A fantastic day on a great river with good friends!


16 April, 2009


Though I fished winter steelhead all year, that was mostly a solo act. Something I certainly enjoy, but this afternoon I'm headed to Manistee to meet up with some friends and a guide for a day of spring steelhead. At heart, I'm a social animal, so I'm really looking forward to this. There's something about a fishing or hunting trip that I really enjoy. It's a nice mix of friendship, laughter, and getting outside -- mixed in with a little competitiveness!

Plus, any trip with a guide is a solid opportunity to learn. And we'll be on the Pere Marquette, which has rapidly become one of my favorite rivers. A truly beautiful setting. Although this season I hope to explore a few other rivers I've not been on yet -- the Betsie, Platte, and AuSable are all likely targets.

Report will follow soon, but sadly no pictures. Still no replacement for the compact digital camera yet.


14 April, 2009

Who Needs Business Golf?

Fly fishing for steelhead on the Pere Marquette on Friday with one of my clients, and some folks from an online media outlet we utilize. Spring run is well underway, weather looks gorgeous -- should be a great day. Which got me to thinking -- who needs business golf?

My Dad spent a long and successful career while seldom ever playing golf (and not well when he did...). I've actually found a great bond with clients and business partners in so many other things. Especially fishing, hunting, and shooting. I've shot clays and targets with clients, fished steelhead with the media, and Lake Michigan salmon with prospective clients. A friend of mine did a pheasant hunt for associates, clients and prospects for a number of years -- always a great event for all who participated.

Years ago I worked with a sales rep who had a solid book of business that he'd helped nurture through outdoor pursuits. It's surprising once you start talking about such things with people how many are into them. And, I've even found it helpful in getting access to trying new things with someone who knows what they're doing.

Never really had much interest in golf -- nice to know I don't really need it to do business!


10 April, 2009

Old Skool

Been wanting to update my circa-1983 mountain bike for a year or so. Didn't really know what I wanted to do, didn't want to spend the money, and so on. Then recently the idea of a single-speed struck me. No fussy derailleurs. Lighter. Less maintenance. Easy to just hop on and take a spin. Saw a beautiful Cannondale at local bike shop But, ouch -- $1,000. For something I really just want for a short trail ride, or a ride around town.

So, I start poking around online. Through Craigslist, I find an SE Racing Big Momma Flyer (BMF -- how cool is that?) that looks to be in great shape. After some research, I figure out that these bikes are real gems. Built like a truck, but still lightweight. Solid components. And though they have rim brakes, they're fully disc-ready.

Picked it up the other night -- it's SWEET! It's a 29er and those big wheels roll over everything. Cool looking, too. I think it will be perfect for what I wanted. And the retro-SE thing really appeals to me. As a kid, I raced BMX bikes and owned about 847 of them. Including an SE Racing PK Ripper and an OM Flyer cruiser. The BMF definitely reminds me of them. Even has a Landing Gear fork!

Of course, there's some tuning and customization to do, but it's surprisingly minor. Wheels need to be trued and re-tensioned. Stock gearing is a brutal 41-18, so I'm looking for a smaller front cog. I want to re-install the chain tensioner and put a longer chain on for easier gearing swaps. And, naturally, I've already ordered Avid BB-7 discs and cables. But it's all low-buck stuff on an already bargain-priced ride. Should be a GREAT addition to the stable. More will follow as I get to know this cool ride.


07 April, 2009

The Reel Deal

When I started fly fishing a couple of years back, I picked up a basic Ross Worldwide Flystart reel. It's been dependable, seems to work properly, and a solid piece of gear. Lots of places you read say that a reel is just something to hold the line anyway.

But one day last year I stopped in at Old AuSable Flyfishing in Grayling and got talking to the owner, Andy. He was explaining some of the differences in better reels. All of this made sense, but then he said something that I didn't really get until later. He told me he just loves the feel of really finely made reel. The click, the smoothness of the operation, and the fit and finish.

With the addition of my Orvis Battenkill large arbor (pictured in the header of this blog) steelhead reel, I started to get it. There's something in it's machined beauty that the lowly cast Flystart just doesn't have. It feels smooth, solid, and almost jewellike. And it's darn pretty, too and balances the rod wonderfully. I can't really describe it, but the feel is so different. Plus, the drag system could likely stop a freight train. This Orvis reel certainly isn't super-high-end; check out the Hatch reels if you're near a dealer -- STUNNING. But they START at $400 and rise quickly. OUCH!
I also have a Ross CLA that's just beautiful in a 6-weight. Super smooth operation. Feels like it could spin forever. Perfect match for a Scott A2 rod in the same weight.

So, thanks, Andy, I get it now...


06 April, 2009

Watering Holes

It seems that somehow the tastiest adult beverages happen after some sort of outdoor adventure. While some of my best experiences have been sitting on the tailgate of a truck, I do was thinking over the weekend about some great watering holes. To keep this short, I've limited it to places I've been a number of times and had consistently good experiences. If you're near one of these places, stop by for a draft and a burger - you won't regret it.

Spike's Keg O' Nails -- Grayling, MI
On the banks of the AuSable in Grayling sits my favorite bar, perhaps in the world. From a seat at the bar you can look out the picture window to one of the country's most famous trout streams. It's burned down and been re-built twice since its founding in the 30's. If you're there on a busy weekend evening, try the "non-smoking section" which is basically a sheet of plywood atop the pool table. The SpikeBurger is lethally good. The beer is cold. The staff and patrons friendly. And it's cheap. Last summer I had a burger and two beers for $12 with tip. Whatever you're headed to Northern Michigan to do, this place is a must-stop. I've been known to time travel around a meal at Spike's. Do it right and you can visit the Old AuSable fly shop for some local wisdom and a great stock of gear.

Edy's Log Bar -- Baldwin, MI
A true cultural experience, a stone's throw from the flies only section of the Pere Marquette and an institution in this fish-crazy town. The service is consistently hit-or-miss and it's incredibly smoky, but oddly this is a place I seldom miss. Bell's Two-Hearted on tap fuels the opportunities to people-watch that are unparalleled outside rural Alaska. Last winter, I had the pleasure to meet Jean (the manager and daughter of Edy) - as fascinating a person as you'll ever encounter. And a treat to talk to. The food is -- well -- better-than-average bar food. But it's still bar food. If you frequent these sorts of places, you know what I mean. I can't begin to fully understand it, but I almost never miss a visit when I'm in the area.

Squatter's Brewing -- Salt Lake City/Park City, UT
I like good beer. And Squatter's does that right. But their menu of creative and innovative food really drives the experience for me. A mixture of Asian and Latin American influences, with a healthy dash of creativity leaves me with a meal that never comes up short. I've only been to the Park City location once, but often stay around the corner from the main SLC location. Plus a big, comfortable friendly bar. A great stop after a solid day in UT powder. As an aside -- this was a tough call between Squatter's and Rooster's in Ogden. Both are equally good, but unless you're skiing Powder Mountain or Snowbasin, Rooster's is a little out of the way.

Marley's -- Manistique, MI
This bar has been in continuous operation since the 1890's and retains a lot of the classic UP logging bar ambiance. High tin ceilings and a classic bar really set the tone. Until recently, they even maintained Stroh's on draft for the whole experience. Marley's has the strangest, and yet somehow most delicious burger. They boil them. Yes, you read that correctly. Boiled burgers. But they're juicy, flavorful, and atop the most amazing homemade buns. I don't know why, but it works. A great stop after fishing the Manistique near the siphon bridge, or on your way home from a myriad of destinations.

Original Gravity Brewing -- Milan, MI
Technically, it's not a post-outdoor stop; since it's on my way home from Cabelas. But Brad Sancho brings great beer to the Ann Arbor area and his place is super comfortable. OG is the antithesis of Marley's, Spike's, or Edy's -- all non-smoking and family-friendly. And you can't even get a burger there. But cavernous, but comfortable space works. And the grilled pannini's using top-shelf ingredients works. If you're headed to Cabelas, hop off at the Plank Road exit and stop in. The IPA that was recently added to the regular inventory is remarkable, as is the County Street Amber.

The Party Lounge -- Cadillac, MI
From the exterior, this place looks like post-war Berlin. The only way I found it was when a Caberfae local turned me on. But you walk inside and the transition is shocking with oak trim and a cozy bar. And the food that cranks out of this little kitchen is outstanding. The clientele are the best part though. A mix of locals, skiers, snowmobilers, ice fishing fanatics, hunters, and others it's always an interesting place to strike up a conversation. In the winter, the Saturday night steak fry is something not to be missed. Grilled over charcoal in the back alley!



02 April, 2009

In Search Of...

After this winter's unexpected swim on the PM and the subsequent drowning of my compact digital camera, I've been on the hunt for a replacement.

Given that I mostly use it when I'm fishing, skiing, or something outside, I thought a waterproof/weatherproof model would be a good idea. My guess is that it gets dunked again sometime.

But I'm surprised by the lack of decent options. I'm a loyal Nikon fan (great optics, and I've owned a LOT of Nikon products) but they don't make anything waterproof or even weatherproof. Olympus has a waterproof line. They're competitively priced and seem to have some nice features. But every review I've read says the picture quality is poor at best. While I don't shoot a lot, I'm a reasonably serious photographer when I do -- have a decent chunk of a Fine Arts degree and friends who are working commercial photographers. So, crappy image quality is an issue. Found some Ricoh models -- same story.

Rumor has it that Canon will introduce a better model in the next month or so. I'm not a Canon fan (it's a Pepsi/Coke thing -- you either seem to like one or the other) and it's supposed to be a bit pricey for a compact camera. But, I may just have to suck it up. Or, perhaps I could just start carrying my Nikonos IV dive camera (yes, I own one...). If only it were digital...