30 June, 2009

We're An American Brand...

Another brand I've really noticed again lately is Oakley. As a marketer, the brands I respect are those that combine outstanding outbound communications with products that fit the brand and deliver on the brand promise. Oakley certainly fits that bill. Unlike Simms, which I've blogged on before, Oakley has managed to cover an amazing spectrum of markets - from golf and fishing to snowboarding and motocross.

Last week I was in Chicago and visited NikeTown -- always an interesting branding stop (though I never seem to BUY anything, hmmmm.....). Nike now has this 6.0 push to get into bmx, surfing, skateboarding and such. Oakley's home base. Whereas this always looks natural for Oakley, the Nike product and marketing just looked forced.

From a company that started making bmx bike handgrips (seen the price or original Oakley grips on eBay lately? Wow.) they've expanded to become a leader in sunglasses, watches, and a vast array of other gear. And they're products seem to always deliver some special "surprise and delight" feature. Even their t-shirts just seem to fit a little better and be a little more rugged. Said mountain bike shorts seem to have all the details right -- great fit, pockets in just the right place, extra ventilation strategically placed.

Kudos to Oakley for an exceptional brand and products that reinforce it.


29 June, 2009

New Spot

Scouted out a new location on the Huron River yesterday afternoon while out knocking around. Nice gravel bottom, lots of nice fishy looking pockets. Unfortunately, I was there in the blazing mid-day sun. A couple guys were there working it, but no luck.

Plus, the river is WAY up. We keep getting these torrential rains right before the weekend! Last week it was Thursday. The week before we got 4" of rain on Friday night. The Huron is completely blown out, and certainly not safe to wade.

Soon as it is, I'll be back there on a weeknight for the hex hatch. Until then -- anticipation!


26 June, 2009

Train (not) In Vain

Needed to be in Chicago for business the past couple of days, so decided to take the train. What a great way to travel - as long as you're flexible about when you get there and back.

Tuesday night left Ann Arbor about 7pm, so I got to enjoy a twilight ride out across southern Michigan. All familiar places, but a different way to see them. Saw lots of familiar spots on the Huron River from a different perspective. Must have seen two dozen deer, especially heavy in Jackson County. Also turkeys galore. I think they knew season was over!

Unfortunately, due to bad weather in Washtenaw County, the return home was a little LOOOOOONG. Lots of signals were out, so we crept along at 15mph (that's 6 minutes per mile, btw) from Grass Lake all the way to Ann Arbor. A long, slow crawl. But a great trip overall.


23 June, 2009

Never Enough Time

Recently, while shooting clays with a friend, he remarked, "Ya' know there are just too many things I like to do to do them all...". Wow, do I hear that - although another friend refers to me as the Master of LeisureTime Activities. I'll certainly never be one of those guys who retires and can't figure out what to do with themselves because work was all they had!

This time of year is rough. The fishing is good in many places with hex hatches just starting up north and rumors of good days locally on the Huron. Weather is consistently warm, so road riding is always an option. Unfortunately, new mountain bike also calls (though recent heavy rains have slowed that call a bit). I love sporting clays in the summer. And some time at the target range is always fun. Plus the kayak becons. Naturally, this is all at the time when the grass seems to need to be cut every 6 minutes, and other projects around the house are in full-swing!

Though I suppose it helps that I really don't spend much time in front of the TV - after talking to others it's surprising how much of your life this can eat up. And, I'm pretty good about planning how I'll get my work done, and chores around the house so I can have time to go play. When I don't get to go play, I get a little itchy, so that keeps me motivated.

It's summer -- enjoy doing whatever you do!


22 June, 2009

Great Read

Picked up the latest edition of The Drake magazine on Friday (http://www.drakemag.com/) and devoured it almost instantly. If you fly fish and haven't checked out this fantastic magazine, I highly recommend.

Unlike other outdoor magazines, this one's less about the gear. It's full of sublime writing, fantastic photos, and more of a focus on the soul of fly fishing. The writing is top-notch, and it's got a nice tasted of 'tude that just works. Also a good example of staying true to your brand.

On Saturday, I think I had a first -- local fly shop had a 5th Anniversary Bash/Sale. Oddly, I didn't need anything. I spent $0. Spooky.


19 June, 2009

Think Outside the Bottle

At the Y this morning I noticed a sign informing members that they were removing the bottled water machines due to the carbon footprint implications and suggesting bringing a refillable water bottle.

I whole-heartedly support this move and others like it. This is particularly critical in the state of Michigan. There's been considerable public attention paid to the desires of the Southwest to tap the Great Lakes. But water mining by the bottled water industry is completely off the radar in the mass media.

Consider this -- the Ice Mountain/Nestle water plant in Evart is based on the springs that feed the Pere Marquette and Muskegon rivers. These two rivers are Michigan treasures. And most guides I know have said the rivers have been consistently low in recent years, despite heavy winter snowfalls. Coincidence? Likely not.

The ironic thing is that it's a pretty simple decision. Get a Nalgene or KleenKanteen water bottle -- heck get a couple. I have one at home and another in my office. When I take a road trip, I fill one up before I head out. If you're out and about and must have a bottled water, look for products that aren't labelled "spring water". Little known fact -- Dasani (a Coke product -- that's how much money there is in this market) is simply municipal water with some extra filtration.
If we all do a little, it will help a lot.
Sermon concluded.


18 June, 2009

An Open Letter to the MI DNR and the National Forest Service

Normally, I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but I may have to make an exception...

Both the MI State Parks and National Forest campgrounds have all moved to the BIG steel fire rings. I get it -- safer, protects us from the idiots who don't respect fire. A good idea.

But why not put some ventilation at the base so they draw properly? The last few fires I've had were a BEAST to start. Fires need oxygen and when they're 18" down in a steel ring, it's not getting there. Which affords you the opportunity to blow on the fire until you practically pass out. Cool, huh?

Also, in Michigan we've had a lot of issues with destructive insects wiping out entire forests. So the state has a campaign not to move firewood and buy it locally. Which brings up another challenge -- really lousy firewood available locally. The wood I picked up in Baldwin was green and mostly pine.

The result is a great combo of poor wood and firepits that won't draw. Took me a solid hour to get a fire going the last two times. For the future, I think all I can do is be very selective about buying local firewood.


17 June, 2009

Zen and the Art of Singlespeed

Lovin' the single-speed mountain bike. Rode some trails at Olson Park for a couple hours last night. The single-speed is just what I was looking for. It's bombproof. It's simple. No thinking "am I in the right gear?" -- perhaps because you're always in the wrong gear?

Dropped the ratio to 31-18 and replaced the lousy ACS "beer can full of rocks" rear freewheel for a White Industries freewheel. There's a reason these things cost 4x what the low-end ones do. They work. Quiet, smooth, and clearly indestructible. The gear ratio's a little low for on-road, but not terrible. But it's great for trails, including some moderate hills.

Really was able to get into the riding groove. Funny, it was like being a kid on a BMX bike tearing through the woods again. Of course this BMX bike has 29" wheels that roll over EVERYTHING and disc brakes that would stop a freight train.

It's taken a little work and tweaking -- which is odd considering it's supposed to be a simple bike. But, the results are worth it. Now I can just ride it. That is until I decide it needs a Chris King headset, or carbon fiber bars...

16 June, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Awesome "Nick Adams" weekend on the Pere Marquette river. Drove up Saturday morning, camped at the Clay Banks campground, cooked all my meals over an open campfire! Very relaxing after an insane week at work last week, and an even more challenging one this week.

Fished nymphs Saturday afternoon, no luck. But enjoyed the area around the Green Cottage access. The Pere is such a pretty river - remote, but still accessible. Knocked off around 5 to chillax at the campsite with a couple of beers (took a growler of Original Gravity IPA, yum!) and the new Beretta catalog while waiting for the sulphur hatch to get rolling. Chatted with a nice guy in the next campsite. I like that about camping in primitive campgrounds. The people are great.

Wandered down to the river around 7. On the way down, chatted with two guys from Ann Arbor, one of whom turned out to be a former client of mine! I'd never fished the Clay Banks, but it's a great area. Nice bottom structure, easy wade. Got a nice little brook trout on my third cast! Another about an hour later. Funny, with a whole box full of nymphs and dries, I only had luck with Sulphur emergers. Knocked off about 9 to get the fire going for dinner (more on that in an upcoming post/rant).

Sunday morning was beautiful with puffy clouds and high 60s. After stoking up the fire for bacon and eggs, I headed down to the river again. Got two solid takes, but didn't close any deals. After a couple of hours, broke camp and headed back to Gree Cottage. Pretty wade, but no success. Threw about every flavor of nymph I had with me to no avail. Clearly a sign to head back downstate.

A great getaway and was fun to camp and be self-sufficient!


12 June, 2009

Road Trip

Looking like a good weekend to slide out of town. Drake hatch is happening on the Pere Marquette rivers, weather looks good, and work's been busy so a little fishing/camping trip seems in order.

Picked up a deal on some Frog Toggs back-up waders while Orvis is "examining" my others. Seem like nice waders and will be nice to have an extra pair. I've wanted to volunteer for some river clean-up days so these will be nice to have.

Also looks like a nice weekend to break out the trusty $12 tent. I like the idea of this sort of trip. No real agenda, drive up, find a nice piece of river and an open campsite and I'm set. Might even try to do a little menu planning so I'm completely self-sufficient (why sit in a smoky bar when you could enjoy campfire smoke instead?).

Plus, the Pere is one of my favorite rivers and I want to try to walk in at some spots I've not done before. Should be a nice trip! Pictures and details to follow. Enjoy the weekend!


09 June, 2009

Wadus Updatus

Score one more for buying local. Was at fly shop where I purchased my waders and chatting with the manager some more about waders. He decides he's going to ship them back to Orvis and make a stink (he wasn't working there when I bought them) as he's seen this in too many others.

Cool for me, bad for Orvis. I suspect I'll get my money back and buy some Simms...


08 June, 2009

First Rides

Got in a couple of solid "first rides" this weekend - on road and off!

Friday night took the single-speed mt. bike out for it's first trail ride. My sister had mentioned Olson Park on the north side of town as a great place to start. Close to home, so off I go. Great place to start with the new bike! And I couldn't be happier with it's performance. Handles great, disc brakes are excellent, and big 29er wheels roll over everything in their path. No crashes, either! I'll definitely head back to that location as I only rode one of several trails. Now that I've had it off-road, I decided that 31-16 gearing is just a little tall. So I've ordered 18th freewheel and should be all set now. When you only have one gear, getting it right is critical!

Saturday morning I headed out with my neighbor for a quick ride to Dexter. I was a little apprehensive -- my first road bike ride of the year, and Mike's been out a lot this year. Our little Saturday ride was a triathalon warm-up for him! But I held my own. Hills were rough, but it felt SO good to get back out. Bike rode really well and everything worked flawlessly. I'm glad I he nudged me to get out. As a sidenote, Mike's riding a new Cervelo tri bike. What an amazing piece of gear. Not super-fast, but you can tell it was designed for one thing -- efficiency.



05 June, 2009

Here Fishy, Fishy...

After yesterday's deep topic, I thought a few more photos from early May UP fishing trip could be fun! Starting at top left - Big Murphy Creek in western Schoolcraft County, fly rods in the toaster, fishing on Big Murphy Creek (turns out they were suckers...), me in the morning on Bear Lake, Black River just north of US 2 in western Mackinac County, and outside my favorite up north watering hole/dining spot. Enjoy!

04 June, 2009


A friend of mine today described shooting sporting clays as, "Really, really cool golf...". That description made me laugh. No plaid pants allowed! Hoping to get out tomorrow if all aligns.



Curious Times

Ordinarily I am NOT one to support the "gun nut" viewpoint. These folks often strike me as conspiracy theorists who are overly paranoid.

But, there's a sudden and real shortage of ammo available. A friend noticed it last weekend on a visit to a local gun shop. Then last night I went shooting at an indoor range and there were "one box per customer" signs up all over. Even the reload I generally shoot wasn't available in 9mm or .45.

A chat with the owner provided some insight. Evidently the issue is a shortage of primers. No primer, no ammo. And this primer is mostly hung up in customs (as most of it comes from China these days).

Like most problems, I'm sure there's no one simple cause. I know a few gun nuts who stockpiled ammo right after the election. That likely sucked a good deal of inventory out of the supply chain and set up the situation. But it wouldn't be hard to imagine the anti-gun folks influencing a customs slowdown.

If this is the case, that's unfortunate. Whatever their position on guns, I find most folks agree that most of the problems likely don't stem from legal owners. So, why punish these legal owners who follow the rules, store and handle their firearms responsibly, and use them to hunt or sport shoot? Especially when the problem is with the $50 Saturday Night Special bought on a streetcorner complete with 50 rounds.

But, maybe it's not a conspiracy, but only a coincidence. Will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

AMMENDED: Had an interesting chat with friend who's shot competitively for years, told me some more stories of gun nut stockpiling that make that seem an even more compelling than previously. This one may be an interesting example of really skewed supply-and-demand economics.

03 June, 2009

Muscle Memory

Back at the gym this week on regular schedule after slacking off for a bit (and drinking more craft-brewed beer than I should...). Definitely sore and surprised how fast things fade. That got me to thinking about the importance of practice and muscle memory in so many things I do.

Fly casting -- learned from Chuck Hawkins that practice casting just 15-20 minutes a few times a week will work wonders within only a couple of months. Sure enough, when I practice cast more, I cast much better. Improved distance, control, and no Rowdy Yates whip crackin' on the back cast.

Cycling -- having to re-learn how to ride a mountain bike after several years only on road bikes. It's weird and surprising how different it is. Fortunately, my balance is solid, so that helps. Still can't believe people ride those in clipless pedals. INSANE.

Skiing -- every year I start out slow and can feel myself improve through the year as the movements become instinctual, rather than conscious. In recent years as I increase frequency, that time is shorter, but it's always there.

Sporting Clays -- a couple of years ago I was shooting clays pretty regularly. I quickly found that the more I did this, the better I was. On first time out this year I had to re-learn some things -- like "don't aim, POINT".

Well, I suppose the old, "practice makes perfect" adage may have some truth to it.


02 June, 2009

Clever Engineering

I'm always impressed by the large and small innovations I stumble on. The latest is the White Industries ENO Eccentric hub.

If you're building a single-speed where the frame has vertical (road) style rear dropouts, figuring out how to tension the chain becomes a real issue. You can't retrofit an eccentric bottom bracket, so if the manufacturer didn't think of that, now what? From everything I read, most chain tensioners suck - they skip, slip, or otherwise malfunction at the least convenient moment. So, now what?

Enter White Industries. The ENO Eccentric has the axle bolts mounted off-center. Rotating the axle moves the hub fore and aft and tensions or loosens the chain. Elegantly simple. And, as the bike shop owner who suggested it said, "Well, you really dont' have any other choice...".

In addition, it's a great hub. Cartridge-style bearings, great finish. Seems every bit as good as the more pricey Chris King or Phil Wood hubs -- and they don't offer the eccentric configuration.

Plus, the move to a dedicated single-speed hub (instead of converting a geared hub with a single cog and spacers) moves the flanges outward for a wheel that's 40% stronger. Bonus!

Still dialing in the gearing -- I think at 31-16 it's too tall. When you've only got one gear, it seems to put the pressure on getting it right! Once I figure it out, White makes a freewheel that's supposed to be IT. Hoping to hit the dirt this weekend.


01 June, 2009

Hunting the Little Orange Disc

Got our Friday afternoon with buddy Jon for the year's first round of sporting clays. Beautiful day, had work finished up early and we both wanted to get outside a bit.

First station was EMBARASSING -- we both went 0 for 6. Not even close to hitting anything. Ugh. But then at second station we both stopped aiming and started pointing. By the end of the round I was hitting 40% and Jon was up around 50%.
This was also the inaugural round with the Remington 11-48 autoloader. I've hunted with this gun a couple of times and it did very well. Equally solid for clays. Shoots where you point it, feeds reliably. Of course it's inertia-driven, so it's got some solid kick to it. Was really nice to have the speed of an auto on tough pairs.
Great day to be outside and an all around pleasant afternoon. Now I'm eager to get back out. Since my waders went back to Orvis on Saturday, looks like I'll be out of the water for a bit. More time for clays!