30 May, 2009

Ready to Roll

Singlespeed 29er mountain bike is finally ready to roll. Had to make some modifications/parts come together in sequence, but took it for maiden voyage this morning.

Sweet! Big wheels roll over most anything. Super responsive. And butt-simple. No derailleurs. Just what I was shooting for. Take a look at the drivetrain at left - really not much too it. White Industries ENO hub is a great solution for achieving chain tension, too. Currently running a cheap ACS 16t freewheel in rear, until I figure out correct gearing and can upgrade to something that doesn't sound like a beer can full of rocks.
Bike seems completely bulletproof. Since it's an SE, it's mostly an overgrown BMX bike - super tough components. Disk brake upgrade was an excellent (and surprisingly cheap) choice. Smooth and powerful, and won't be affected by dirt or mud.
More to follow as I get this beast out on the trails!

29 May, 2009


Often in this blog I'll write about some product, service, or shop I've had a positive experience with. This is not one of those entries...

Recently, I've noticed the my Orvis Silver Label XT waders are exhibiting an odd behavior. There's a drain hole beneath the additional layer(s) over the knee area. And it doesn't seem to drain -- only allows them to fill up. I first noticed it in the Au Sable on UP trip in the left leg. Then both legs were filling up on the Boardman two weeks later. They don't leak inside, but it's a "Michelin Man" effect on the river. And I'm thinking it's also not overly safe.

So, I stop at the fly shop where I bought them. Manager tells me he had a pair years ago and they had the same problem. He doesn't think Orvis will do anything, but he'll call them to discuss. He then adds that this sort of thing is why they don't sell Orvis waders anymore.

I've had a number of Orvis products that have been excellent. It's a company I've always thought well of. If the fly shop doesn't get me anywhere, I'll be taking it up with them directly.

Perhaps it's time to look more closely at those Redington CPX waders I've been hearing all the good things about...


27 May, 2009


I was thinking the other day of all the Michigan rivers I've had the opportunity to fish in the past two years. And how many I still want to investigate. In the past two years, I've fished on:
  • Au Sable
  • Boyne
  • Days
  • Huron
  • Jordan
  • Maple
  • Manistee (Big, below Tippy Dam)
  • Manistique
  • Pere Marquette
  • Sturgeon (Central UP)
  • Thompson Creek

For a relative newbie, I think that's pretty solid. A few are on my hit list for the coming year:

  • Pine (NW lower peninsula one just below Manistee
  • Little Manistee
  • Betsie
  • Big Two Hearted
  • Fox
  • Platte
  • Manistee (Big, upper portions)

That should keep me busy exploring! With all the bad you hear about Michigan in the news, our natural resources are really unmatched. To have all these world-class rivers within a few hours is pretty amazing. I must say the Pere remains my favorite, but I'm also getting to like the remote little UP trout streams. And while the Huron doesn't have trout -- it's five minutes away.


26 May, 2009


While most of my outdoor pursuits this holiday weekend involved 30-some-odd bags of mulch, rakes, a lawnmower and other similar implements of destruction, I did get in one cool related thing.

My friend Josh is a renowned flatland bmx guy - used to have a full ride with Team Schwinn back in the day. Watching this guy throw down tricks is completely astounding. The balance, grace and sheer strength required is way-cool.

Shooting photos while he rides is something I've always enjoyed, and he needed some for an ad that one of his sponsors wants to do. So, it was off to try out a new parking lot in Saline.

As a kid, I was in on the early days of flatland (I even still have a couple of pairs of Van's!), but it's pretty amazing to see how it evolved. One of the most impressive parts are the bikes themselves. Full rotating brakesets, oversized pegs for more standing points. These bikes are also built like tanks. Everything is super-rugged.

It's always cool to see how Josh choreographs tricks, too. Just doing the trick isn't enough, but there needs to be a graceful entry and exit strategy. It's wild to see it evolve.

Unfortunately, just like my road riding, the wind is not your friend in flatland. But we got some great images neverthless. I hope you enjoy them and can see some of the grace and poise of this really cool sport.
Hope you had a good holiday weekend!

22 May, 2009

No, really...

A few UP pictures! More coming soon! Top to bottom - me on the Black River; Dad with first trout of the trip from Bear Lake, Paul with his first trout on Au Sable during Hendrickson hatch, Rich figures the split out on the bill for the trip (Travel with old guys -- they figured it down to the cent. $51.60), upper Thompson Creek. Paul and I took a walk and saw at least a dozen spawning pairs of steelhead on this stretch.

Enjoy -- have more coming soon!


21 May, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballpark...

Scored some Tigers tickets for last night's game, so Dad and I headed downtown. Beautiful evening, 80 degrees at game time. Few thing are better on a summer evening.

While I love being on some obscure river up north, I find a baseball game on a summer evening every bit as cathartic. Comerica Park is a great destination and to me is about as good as the city of Detroit delivers. The people are friendly, the view of the skyline as the sun sets is wonderful.

And then there are the hot dogs. Though it's a simple pleasure, there's nothing like a real natural casing hot dog from the ballpark. Not the generic steam table ones at every stand. You have to hunt down the "real thing" and grilled onions just finish the deal. Grab a cold beer to go with it and you have a complete meal. Healthy? Nope. But damn tasty.

Didn't hurt that the Tigers won, and I got to see Zumaya pitch -- always a treat when he's on. A different sort of outside, but nevertheless it's outside.


19 May, 2009


I was thinking on my drive to work today that I hope Great Lakes Cycle gets done with my mt. bike today. With warming temps and sunshine, I'm eager to go for a ride. May get the road bike out this weekend, though lots of yardwork that needs to be done first.

Sorry, nothing too profound today. FYI, look for pix from UP trip soon -- I now have them collected from others on the trip so I'll do a post soon with a bunch.

Work calls!


18 May, 2009

Freeze, Learn, Repeat...

Great weekend in northern MI with Dad and Uncle Bill. We signed up for Hawkins Fly Fishing's "Next Step" school, held on Saturday. The class promised to help folks with a basic knowledge of fly fishing learn skills to help them up their game, and as usual, Chuck and his team didn't disappoint.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit less cooperative...

Driving over to the class site on the upper Manistee the drizzle turned into rain. We geared up and headed to our first station and the rain turned into deluge. Then the wind joined it. So, as we're listening to Russ Madin explain the basics of nymphing it's just dumping on us. But, all were attired in waders and GoreTex, so we're waterproof anyway! Although it was flat-out COLD.

Class was great. Russ' primer on nymphing was really useful. A great alternative to drys when there's no hatch. Then it was on to Tommy Lynch and stripping streamers. While this was the section I'm not sure when I'll use, it was FASCINATING and as always Tommy was a great presenter. After that, some casting lessons with Chuck and son Zach. Evidently Dad, Bill, and I all needed a little help there. The afternoon included knots and reading the bugs and other food sources in the river with Rich from Orvis Royal Oak. Last up was Ed McCoy with dry flies.

At every station we learned so much. Really hard to say what was the best part. Kudos to Chuck, Tommy, Ed, Russ, and Rich for a really great day. And always nice to see Jon Ray who was on-hand to document the event photographically.

Sunday the three of us decided to use our newfound skills on the river. A short drive from Uncle Bill's place on Spider lake brought us to the Boardman River at the Forks campground. Beautiful stretch on a nice, sunny day. Easy wade and great structure with gravel beds and some nice cover. I'll be back. Couple of lookers, but didn't close any deals.

Thanks to Bill for his hospitality and Dad for joining me. Great trip! I feel like my skills improved 1000%.


14 May, 2009

Blade Runner

I've always loved good knives. Whether it's the Wusthoff cutlery in my kitchen, or my little Buck stainless pocket knife. There's something special, yet utilitarian, about a well-crafted knife. I even still have my folding pocket knife from Boy Scouts.

Recently I picked up a great one - a Rapid River Knifeworks skinner fixed blade. Handmade in the Central Upper Peninsula of Michigan these are super-solid knives. The back edge of the blade is almost 1/4" thick. This is a seriously rugged knife. The laminate handle is a really nice piece of wood and it came with a very functional sheath. As handcrafted knives go it was also a bargain!

And, per yesterday's topic -- it was all Michigan-made. Lifetime guarantee, and free sharpening and polishing for life. If you're in US-2 in Rapid River (outside Escanaba) I highly recommend a stop. Nice folks and a great selection.

13 May, 2009

Buy or Buh-Bye

It's been a while for any social responsibility topics, but a conversation with a friend the other day inspired this one. I've written before about the value of buying local for keeping local businesses thriving and available to you as an expert resource in your outdoor pursuits. But have you considered the economic impact? I hadn't fully.

According to a study published by Andersonville Development Corp. when you spend $100 with a locally-owned business, $32 leaves your community and $68 stays. Contrast this with a non-locally-owned business where $43 stays and an astounding $57 leaves your area. This study is a little dated (2004) so I wonder how dramatic the difference is for Internet-based business -- I'm sure it's astounding.

So, think of it this way -- if you spend money locally, it may cost more for the purchase, but it saves you in the long run. That business pays taxes, which helps keep yours down. Their employees spend money in the community, which keeps costs competitive. I own a home in a town where the largest employer is a public university who doesn't pay taxes, so this really hits home with me. And it didn't hurt to be able to have my local bike shop set-up my disc brakes on the mt. bike properly after I couldn't quite get it right. Or have the guy at the fly shop teach me how to tie a new knot.

A little off-topic, but I'm also a believer in trying to buy locally sourced produce. In addition to usually being more fresh and healthy, it also requires less fossil fuel for transit. But the Michigan Food & Farming Systems consortium also says that if every Michigan family bought just $10 per week in Michigan produce, it would keep $37 million a week from leaving Michigan. That's stunning. And in a state that's in the news almost daily for it's faltering economy, that's not chump change.

This is not to be elitist, or high-falutin'. Do I sometimes fall short of this goal? Yup. But I find that if I'm conscious of making these decisions, it's really pretty easy to spend more money locally. Change comes not from a few making sweeping modifications, but from many making incremental improvements.


12 May, 2009

A Question of Style

When I started fly fishing a couple of years back, I had no clue how complex, and yet logical it all was. While I have by no means mastered it -- and doubt I ever will -- I'm surprised by how much I've learned, especially in the past year. I really spent the first year bumbling around learning how to tie some knots, how not to drown while wading, and how to accidentally snag trees and lose flies.

On the way back from the UP trip, I got to experience my first real "hatch" on a trout stream, spending an evening on the Au Sable during a Hendrickson hatch. Most of my recent fishing has been sub-surface with either weighted steelhead rigs, streamers, or nymphs. The bugs were as thick as snow at times and it was a really amazing experience. Plus, it was a really good opportunity to put the things I've learned from others and from reading to work. My casting was solid -- I was consistently able to put flies where I wanted them using standard and roll casts. By mending, I could get a natural drift. It felt really good to be able to think of a strategy and then implement it.

Ah, but all was not perfect. I didn't actually CATCH anything! I had a few takes and some interest, but no closed deals. I think part of it was learning to detect strikes. After a few days of steelhead fishing, where it's like hooking an angry freight train, trout were so subtle and polite. A simple "gloop" was about the only indicator.

The beauty, style, and subtlety of trout fishing was very therapeutic. Smooth delivery, cadence, and technique all seemed key, but not stressful. A really relaxing experience and perhaps the best way I could imagine to spend a pleasant summer evening.


11 May, 2009

Get it in Gear

Flashback to the old theoretical math I always hated in school this weekend. Trying to re-gear the 29er single-speed bike. Current gearing is 41-18. OK on a flat street, but that's about it. Bought a 20t freewheel, but then I have two big cogs and I'm not sure it lowers gear ratio enough.

A friend gave me a Graveyard 31t front sprocket (way cool piece of BMX gear) this weekend. So this set me off on a quest to start comparing gear ratios and see what I might need to run in the back. After trying about 14 online calculators, I gave up. Seems to me it shouldn't be that hard to devise a calculator that lets you input wheel size, crank length, front and rear gearing and gives you a simple multiplier ratio.

At any rate, I think a 16t rear freewheel should do it. Appears to be a little lower than 41-20 and significantly lower than 41-18 stock. Yikes. Why is it always the simple things that become the most complex?

On the upside, the rear wheel is SWEET! Seems completely bulletproof. And the White Industries ENO eccentric hub seems the perfect solution for chain tension.


08 May, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...

But wait, it's not all fly fishing...

Took the new (to me) single-speed mountain bike for a spin last night. I'm digging that thing (SE Racing BMF). Big 29er wheels roll over obstacles effortlessly. It's just simple and stupid fun to ride.

And, it's proven to be a fun tweaking platform. Found an online deal on disc-brakes (Avid BB-7's for you gearheads) and cables. After a quick review of an installation video on YouTube, I got the front brake installed and set-up. Looks way-cool and cleaner than the rim brakes, works GREAT.

Steve Sauter at Great Lakes Cycle is working on my back wheel to get some more strength and also to convert it to a White Industries ENO eccentric hub so I have a chain tension solution. Once that's done, I'll install rear disc. Also picked up a little larger freewheel for rear to see if I can get the BRUTAL gear ratio (41-18) down a bit. A friend who's a lifelong flatland BMX guy thinks he has some extra smaller front sprockets, so that might help, too. I'm thinking 34t should do it.

Fun project bike, fun to ride, and scratches my itch for an updated mountain bike. Pix coming when I get a bit further along.


UPDATED: Picked up rear wheel today -- WAY cool! Steve did a great job. Having him do the front so I have a bulletproof set. Hoping to install freewheel and new chain this weekend.

07 May, 2009

The Best Tool

This week's trip fishing steelhead on the fly in a variety of spots was a great place to test out some recently acquired knowledge and newly configured gear. Through excellent guide Gene Lake on the PM, I was able to learn more about the differences between Indicator and Chuck n' Duck rigs. I gained an understanding of how to fish them, cast them, and select when to use each.

On the tighter rivers, like the Black River pictured at left, the Indicator can't be beat. Simple roll-casting lets me cover the short distances with great accuracy and fewer snags. And I can even drift under trees and cover that would normally snag every time. My roll cast isn't perfect, but it's getting better with each outing. I'm hoping to fine-tune it at the upcoming Hawkins Outfitters class on 16 May. With Orvis Wonderline in 9 wt. steelhead and a pretty traditional rig, I was able to cover most of the smaller UP rivers (including the TINY Thompson Creek) quite easily with minimal snags.

But the big water called for a tool that enabled me to belt out long casts and drift a large piece of water. On the wide-open spaces of the Manistique (at right), just below the paper dam, the Chuck n' Duck enabled me to cover more water easily and with great accuracy. By the second day, I was making long, clean casts with surprising accuracy.
It was really cool to truly understand how each tool worked and when to use which. I find with any pursuit, that moment of clarity is a really cool experience. The "ah-ha!" moment if you will.
P.S. The wade across to Manistique to get to the island shown in the picture was HAIRY, but I pulled it off pretty confidently! Wading skills are improving. No swimming for me on this trip!

06 May, 2009

No Match for the Hatch

Capped off an excellent UP/Northern Michigan fishing trip with a stop on the Au Sable last night. More on the rest of the trip this week when I have some time (work calls). But wanted to write a quick note on the Au Sauble experience (my first).

With the help of the guys at Old Au Sable, we found a great location, got some solid pointers on flies, and encouragement that an "epic" Hendrickson hatch was going to happen that evening. I can't say enough good things about Andy and his staff. If you're headed through Grayling and have even a passsing interest in fly fishing, these are great folks with a terrific shop. Very willing to help newbies!

So, Paul and I drive to the first access point they suggest. NOBODY there!!! Woo-hoo! Wader up! My fly efforts have been mostly wet nymphing or various steelhead techniques. This was my first true attempt with a bit of knowledge and the right equipment on the dry fly. The hatch was surely on -- the bugs were so think they almost looked like little snowstorms at times. And they looked just like what I had tied on. Paul got a couple small ones, while I had some solid interest but no takers.

But, what a cool experience. Easy relaxed wade down a superb river. Leisurely casting (after a few days of more vigorous chuck n' duck and indy fishing for steelies). An entirely pleasant way to spend a nice summer evening. Of course, the two mile hike back upstream to the truck in waders wasn't optimal, but I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. I will definitely be back!

I'll be back with more on UP trip this week -- including lots of photos!


01 May, 2009

Fish On!

Headed to the UP this afternoon for a few days running around the rivers up there. Have a good group going -- family and friends and my Dad. My Dad and uncle put 200 miles on yesterday scouting some good spots. A lot of the rivers are still pretty high, but they think they found some solid places.

I love exploring in the UP. It's such a different place from any of lower Michigan. And this will be a good time to test some of the knowledge I've acquired since my trip up last Fall. Eager to try the new chuck n' duck rig, and the teeny-tiny trout rod on some of the little streams back in.

Photos and reports will follow!