31 July, 2009

Summer Gear Faves

Seems like it's about that time. Some of the gear I'm finding most enjoyable and/or useful this summer.

Rapid River Knife Works "Skinner" Knife
Whether camping, fishing, or just knocking around out in the woods, a good knife is a continually useful tool. And, if it can be a really nice one, that's a plus. I love this classic hunting knife, handmade in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Beautifully crafted blade, great ergonomics, and a super-nice sheath. Even a lifetime warranty.

White Industries ENO Eccentric Hub/ENO Freewheel
For single-speed mountain bikes, this combo is unbeatable. Chain tensioners suck, so unless you have an eccentric bottom bracket or track-style dropouts you've to tension the chain somehow -- enter the ENO Eccentric Hub. Perfect solution. Plus it's super smooth rolling and built like a tank. While it's pricey, the ENO Freewheel is the answer to cheesy, noisy cheapo freewheels. Even rebuildable. As an added benefit it has a really nice click sound when coasting! Great drivetrain solution. Bombproof.

Simms G4 Jacket
I've written about this one before for winter steelhead fishing. Well, after a couple of torrential summer rains, it amazes me even more. The most weatherproof garment I own, yet highly breathable. Easily the best hood design I've ever seen. Never in the way, but always does its job. Plus a gazillion pockets in all the right places. Not cheap, but worth every penny when the weather turns sour.

REI Camp Bed Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad
After a few tossin' and turnin' nights camping, I decided to invest in a better sleeping pad. Oh man, this is SUCH an improvement. I don't backpack, so it was all about comfort and not weight. Perhaps the best outdoor investment yet. Zzzzzzzzzz.......

Scott A2/Ross CLA/Rio Gold
My all-around summer fly rod; great for drys or nymphs on a wide range of rivers. Six weight is just right for punching through wind, but still enables delicate presentations. And Scott rods cast like butter. The Scott/Ross combo seems perfect. Can't wait to steelhead on Scott S3/Ross Momentum rig this Fall!

Enjoy the summer; Fall activities are right around the corner!


30 July, 2009

Common Ground

After the fluff of flip-flops, seemed time to tackle a more serious topic. WARNING: If you're a gun nut, read this with an open mind. If you're anti-gun, do the same. It's a Constitutional right to own a gun, but it's also a Constitutional right not to get shot with one. Everyone's opinion has a place.

Seems there's lots of gun discussion going on just now. Gun nuts think the President wants to take away their guns. Anti-gun folks keep getting fuel as gun nuts hoard ammo and assault weapons.

Maybe we need to find the middle?

Owning and using a gun is a serious responsibility. Yes, we have a Constitutional right to do so, but that doesn't mean we should take it any less seriously. In many areas, I think we're grossly underregulated. In others, perhaps we just need to be more consistent. But, I'm willing to live with some more regulation if it prevents us from becoming the UK where you get to store your firearms in a locker at the police station and check them out to use them. So, a few ideas:

National Consistency
State-by-state variance in gun laws traces its roots to issues of State's rights first raised during Constitutional times. But Federal regulation would eliminate variability and loopholes. For example, the Michigan Concealed Pistol License is fairly challenging to obtain. It requires course work, range time, a half day with a legal expert to understand the legalities, followed by review by the County gun board, a Federal background check, and a fair bit of money. Contrast this with North Dakota where a 15-minute visit with the Sheriff and his endorsement that you're OK and PRESTO you're a CPL holder. Not right. In Tennesee, laws were recently passed that enable you to carry concealed in BARS. Yeah, that seems like a great idea (BTW, it's illegal in Michigan).

A shotgun is far more lethal than a handgun. Yet, you can buy one in just a few minutes at the local Walmart with a minimal check. A gun is a gun, if you require registration of ALL functioning firearms, then it's easier to find the unregistered ones -- which are likely the real problem. In fact, I'd be open to adding some regulation of shooting ranges. You want to shoot at a public range? Fine, produce the registration for all of your firearms and c'mon in. No registration? Sorry.

Gun Shows
Ever been to one? They're a fascinating cross-section of society. While I concur that they have a place - finding oddball parts, unusual older firearams, or other items - they're pretty sketchy. The category of "antiquities" is an interesting one. Yes, that M1 Garand is an "antiquity", but it's still functional and it was used in WWII to kill people at fairly long distances. So, it should go through the same registration process as any other firearm. And, it's pretty easy to pick up conversion kits for fully automatic weapons here. Put an end to it. Nobody needs a machine gun, no matter what Ted Nugent says.

Waiting Periods
If you have a legitimate reason to own a gun, waiting three days isn't going to kill you. And it will afford more time for the background check and registration processes that help ensure firearms aren't being purchased by the wrong folks.

Bottom Line
As I alluded to earlier, if law-abiding gun owners give in a little and take some extra steps with registration and demonstrating that they're legitimate, this changes the equation for illegal guns. When all the legit guns are registered, it makes it a BUNCH easier to crack down on the illegal ones. And, if we give a little, maybe the other side focuses their efforts on illegal firearms, rather than the law-abiding folk.

Give it some thought. Just my perspective.


P.S. One more thought for gun owners. Eliminating stupidity would also take some fuel from anti-gun fires. You "forgot" your gun was in your briefcase? Really? Then you're a moron who doesn't deserve to own it. A firearm is potentially lethal at any moment. Keep that in mind.

29 July, 2009

Sign of Summer

Despite the cool temps, I can tell it's summer -- I get to rock the flip-flops. My favorite footwear. Easy on, easy off. Works well when doing the wader shuffle on the tailgate of the truck, can kick them off before diving in the tent.

Now, I wouldn't be me if we were just talking about $1.99 Target specials. Picked up some Reef Mick Fanning's. Very cool -- actual arch support, air cushion heels, and even a bottle opener in the sole. Nice to see a flop designed with the same consideration that would be given to a traditional shoe. Walked all over downtown Chicago in them a few weeks back. Try that with a cheapie flop.

Since I wear them so much, decided to pick up a pair of Chaco Flops this week. I think I'm going to really like these as well. Seem completely bulletproof and have great arch support.

OK, not the most deep topic, but I have to say these are the footwear I turn to before and after fishing, mountain biking, and lots of other activities outside!


28 July, 2009


It would appear I have a thing for red and black bikes. Somehow, without any conscious effort on my part, I have two of them.

The Giant OCR road bike was purchased because it was a deal. Buying the previous year's model, saved me $200. Only change in current year's was that it was blue. And so it begins...

SE BMF was similar happenstance. While searching for a single-speed mountain bike, I stumbled on this oversized BMX bike which SE only made for a few years. Found a nice one nearby through Craigslist. Sure enough, my 2006 model was the last year of the red and black color scheme - they also switched to blue the next year.

I'll admit I may have unconsciously fueled this trend. When I had new wheels build for road bike, I kept the black rims. And Michelin Krylion Carbon tires (awesome all-around road tire, btw) in red and black moved things forward. On the mountain bike, I was pleased when the 31t Graveyard front sprocket my buddy had on hand was black rather than silver.

Funny thing in all of this is that of all the bikes I've owned - and that's a TON over the years - I've never had a red one before that I can recall. One maroon Schwinn, several black, a couple green, bunch of chrome bmx bikes, lot of blue - no red. Weird.

But, I love both of these bikes. Perfectly suited for what I wanted each to do.


27 July, 2009

On Target

Took a trip out to the range with .22's yesterday, with great results. Overlapping groups at 25 yards, then silver-dollar sized groups at 50. Too windy for the 100 yard.

The CZ 452 is proving to be a real favorite. Out of the box, this surprisingly affordable rifle was great. But with some tweaks, it's just amazing. Most recent addition was a J&P striker spring for more positive ignition - this thing dents the cases! Also reworked the trigger with an Eric Brooks kit. For $30 this is the best money you could spend. Took pull down to 1.5# and totally eliminates creep and slop. Tight, light, and crisp. Replaced stock swivels with Uncle Mike's so I could add a Montana Sling.

I'd originally planned to leave this one with iron sights, but once I tried longer range shooting with a friend's scoped Savage I changed my mind. A mid-range Bushnell 4-9x scope is perfect. Only complaint is the stock mounts. I'm looking for some taller ones, probably from Millet to get scope a touch higher to better clear bolt and enable some fore-and-aft adjustment.

After some experimentation with ammunition, I'm finding this one likes CCI the best by far. Either Stinger or standard (i.e. cheaper) Hi-Velocity. Tried a couple flavors of Aguila -- not good. Winchester's just so-so. But I can drive tacks with CCI.

Surprise of the day was the Ruger 10-22. I usually think of this one as less accurate than the CZ, but it was only slightly so yesterday. I've extensively re-worked the action on this one which has improved function and accuracy. Bringing down trigger pull helped most, though I would like it lower still.

I love .22's. Cheap to own, cheap to shoot. Seem to be very ammenable to tuning. Really help my marksmanship and learning.

Just as I was contemplating moving to 100 yard, all hell broke loose with high wind and rains. Time to go! But a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon.


24 July, 2009

Mighty Muskie Hunt Update

Well, skunked on Lake St. Clair yesterday. All three of us. We were marking fish on the finder and trolled all over the place, but to no avail. Did have a little excitement at the end, outrunning an incoming thunderstorm.

General consensus was that we weren't getting deep enough. We found the most fish in an area near the river channel on the north end. Most were 15-22' deep. I know I wasn't getting flies more than 5' deep and the spin guys didn't think they were getting below 10'

But this starts to get to something I really enjoy about fishing - the problem-solving component. As soon as I got my line in the water, I realized I was just planing the surface and that wasn't going to get me anywhere. Fortunately I had some decent sized split shot, so on go a few of these. Not enough. So I slide on the sink leader between the fly line and the leader. Better, but I'm still not there. Next time, I think maybe a sinking fly line and perhaps some more weight configured differently.

As they say, "it's more about being out there..." which is fishing code for "didn't catch anything, but had fun anyway.". Great day on the water!


22 July, 2009

Big, Nasty Teeth...

Get to do some muskie fishing tomorrow afternoon on Lake St. Clair with some friends. Somehow the logistics seem to work out that I've only been able to do this once before, so I'm pretty excited. We got skunked last year. The idea of catching a 3-4' fish with teeth is pretty engaging! And, it's pretty cool that one of the best muskie fisheries in the country is virtually in my backyard (well, OK and hour or so away...).

Naturally, as usual, I can't do things the easy way. I got it into my head that there's no reason you couldn't catch one on a fly, rather than conventional spinning gear and lures. And I own a big fat 10-weight TFO that I picked up for Fall salmon. So, why not?

A little research on the web and it looks like there are lots of folks doing it. Looks like a stout rod and a few hundred casts should get it done. Stopped in at the local fly shop on Sunday and one of the guys helped me get set up with some MONSTER flies -- these things have hooks like something you'd see in a horror movie. Also requires a bite-proof leader, so picked up some Rio "Toothy Critter" leaders (cool name, eh?).

Looks like a strip n' troll combo could get it done. We'll see. Report to follow.


P.S. Another great road bike ride last night; 18 miles at a respectable pace!

21 July, 2009

Groove Relocated

Oddly, just haven't been able to find my groove on the road bike this summer.

Until last night.

Headed out for an after-work ride and everything clicked. It's weird when it happens, but I can tell from very shortly into a ride if it's working or not. I think part of the issue this year has been the cold weather. I don't like riding in the cold (odd for a guy who skis and stands in the river fly fishing all winter) and that's likely part of it. Last night was a perfect, warm summer evening and the first time I can remember this year where I wasn't cold. But it's more than that - a jump in my stroke. An odd twitchy energy. I settled in quickly for a nice 14 mile ride and even took the hilly route! Felt really great to be out and not forcing myself to ride.

I am having some numbness in my feet after ten miles or so -- I think I need to look at cleat position. But that's relatively minor. Glad to have my groove back. If storms hold off, maybe I'll try again tonight.


20 July, 2009


I was just thinking this morning that there are few things more relaxing than a nice campsite, a tasty craft-brewed beer, and a pleasant evening after a day outside. At left is a fine IPA, with a Lake Superior sunset in the background. Michigan Brewer's Guild Beerfest is this weekend, so I'll likely find some other tasty brews to put with it.

Summer in Michigan - really a special time. So much outside to do and seems like never enough time to do it. Whatever you do, find some time to get out there and do it.


17 July, 2009

The Right Stick

On recent trip I took the perfect trio of rigs. Each has a purpose and suited it well.

Scott A2 9' 6-weight/Ross CLA 3/Rio Gold
My all-rounder. Casts beautifully, excellent balance. I'm continually surprised at how well it performs -- especially in windy conditions. Winds were pretty high on both Two Hearted and AuSable and I had no trouble covering the water I wanted to. I think a real strength of this combo is that it's well-matched; the reel complements the rod and the line (Rio Gold is AWESOME) is ideal for the rest of the package.

TFO Signature Series 7"6"/3-weight/Ross Flystart/generic Ross line
On small streams, I have tons of problems with 9' rods - lots of flies lost in trees. Two casts in on the upper Two Hearted with the Scott, I realized I'd selected the wrong rod. So back to the truck for this one - MUCH better. It was also perfect on the very-small Blind Sucker. Great for short casts in tight cover. I didn't put much money into this one, but it seems to outperform my expenditure. Another bonus -- TFO rods come with a lifetime warranty. Nice!

Orvis Clearwater II 9' 8-weight/Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor V/Orvis Wonderline Steelhead
Originally set-up for indicator steelhead fishing, I now realize I'll get a lot more use from this big monster. It's outstanding for chucking big bugs - streamers, bass poppers, and more. And I love it for steelhead. The Orvis BLA reel is a solid, reliable performer, even in the coldest winter conditions. A recent deal on a Scott S3 in 9'6" means this one's getting an upgrade, more on that later.

I feel like I've found the perfect quiver for most of the conditions I'll have the opportunity to fish in Michigan. For relatively little money, I'm assembled a set of tools that have served me well and should enable me to pursue most species in most settings.


15 July, 2009

Summer Camp

Loving rediscovering camping. Did it a lot as a kid with my family and in Scouting, but haven't for a number of years until last summer. I don't really need a week backpacking the Tetons, but I'm digging overnight car camping. It's fun, it's low cost, and it puts me close to good fishing and mountain biking options.

Camping also appeals to the bargain-hunter side of me. My $12 tent has served me well, albeit not in any major rain yet. And $10-15 per night for a campsite is a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest hotel.

One place I did splurge was on a better sleeping pad. A nice thick pad from REI (http://www.rei.com/product/778152) was just the ticket. Found I wasn't sleeping very well on the cheapo I bought at first.

Maybe my favorite part of camping is campfire cuisine. Somehow the idea of building a fire and cooking my meals over it appeals to me. On my Two Hearted trip, dinner was a perfectly grilled steak, grilled asparagus, and roasted redskins. Yum! All turned out perfectly -- probably helps that I do a fair amount of grilling on charcoal at home. In the morning a cheese and bacon omelette was perfect fuel for a day on the river. Was speeded up the the arrival of the rain though! Growing up I had a Scoutmaster who loved doing dutch oven cooking on our Boy Scout camping trips. I remember being really amazed by some of the things he made and how good they were. Also his commitment to lugging that heavy piece of cookware everyplace!

I think the next investment may need to be a little better tent though. Mine's pretty small, and the flimsy fiberglass poles are starting to show their use. Probably a good item to look for a deal on over the winter.


14 July, 2009

Hangin' with Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway has long been one of my favorite writers. While he was known for several haunts, including Key West, Charlevoix, and Spain, the Big Two Hearted River (east of Grand Marais, MI in the Upper Peninsula) was a frequent location in his Nick Adams stories.

I kayaked the Two Hearted a few years back and found it to be a beautiful, unspoiled river. In five hours of paddling, I never saw a single house. Nor a lawn (try that on the AuSable). So, when the opportunity to fish and camp along the river appeared, I jumped on it. With kayak, mountain bike, and fly rods I was ready.

The campground at the mouth was the perfect home base. I found a prime site - a 50 foot walk from the mouth and Lake Superior beyond (view at left). After setting up camp and checking things out, I struck out for the High Bridge access in the evening, thinking I'd fish that and work my way down the river to the Reed & Green Bridge access, then back to camp at dark.

Like many UP rivers, the Two Hearted is richly stained with tannins - like fishing in bourbon. Just makes it that much more beautiful.

At the High Bridge, I was happy to have my Yooper Stick -- a short (7' 6") 3-weight TFO rod. Tight quarters and this little rod was perfect for it. But, I was reminded of one challenge of UP rivers -- access. While you can usually get IN the river, heavy brush and trees can make getting OUT a problem. No luck at High Bridge, but a pretty wade.

Then it was on to Reed & Green. Wind was up and this part of the river is wider, so back to the trusty all-around Scott A-2 6-weight. I love this rod -- casts beautifully, super smooth delivery, and just seems to make me better. Two casts in and I've got a trout interested in the fly. On the fourth, he hits it. And, I've got my first fish of the trip. Nice little rainbow trout.

After I work my way around the bend, I find I'm out of the wind and a little hatch is starting and fish are feeding more. I'm really struck by the beauty of this place. The Two Hearted is truly a special river. As darkness is settling in, I hook a brook trout. Nice way to end the evening!

As an aside, many people don't know that Hemingway didn't fish the Two Hearted. He spent most of his UP time on the Fox river (at left) outside Seney. But the Two Hearted had a more powerful name (with "Big" added for more impact) and according to legend he wanted to protect his secret spot. My Dad and I have discussed fishing the Fox, but have decided it's probably unwadeable due to a lot of silt and deep holes. One day we'll drag the big old Grumman aluminum canoe up and give it a shot some day.

I'll definitely be back to the Two Hearted and if you like to be on the water to fish, canoe, or kayak, I highly recommend it!


13 July, 2009


A friend put this on his blog. It's freakin' amazing. I've watched it about 87 times. The fluidity, grace, and creativity is just unreal. The way this guy sees urban landscapes as an opportunity to throw down some amazing sh*t just blows me away. And it doesn't hurt that it's set to one of my current favorite pieces of music. Turn up the sound and check it.

Watch it, over and over. I see something new every time. Enjoy. Report and pictures from the UP trip coming soon.


02 July, 2009


Anyone who doubts there's a global climate change need only step outside. It's July and it's like 60 degrees in Michigan. WTF?

And we've had two of the coldest, snowiest winters on record. So, the term "Global Warming" doesn't seem to apply. Though I have enjoyed some very fine skiing, both in Michigan and Utah!

Most of the hatches are delayed on Michigan's rivers. On my last trip to the Pere Marquette a couple weeks back I only had success with Sulfurs -- a hatch that should have been long since over. Yet the Hex is on schedule. Weird. And bugs know weather.

Bottom line is that it seems you're so much more aware of changes in climate when you spend a lot of your time outside. And, it's definitely been different.

Things will be quiet for a few days as I head North to enjoy some fishing, mountain biking, camping and relaxing. More to come from that trip soon! Get outside and enjoy the Holiday weekend!