30 September, 2009

Feelin' the Steel

Funny, even with the lousy weather this week, I'm energized. Wind and rain bring the salmon into the rivers and the steelhead behind them. I enjoyed learning more on trout this summer, but steelhead are my favorite species to chase.

I'm especially excited for this season as I feel like my knowledge has grown so much in the past year. I think the biggest area is rigging and tackle. I now have both Indy and Chuck-n-Duck rigs and know how to tie up proper rigs and how to fish both. I also have a better understanding of how to get the flies/eggs down to where the fish are. My guess is that most of last season I was just floating flies WAAAAY up over there heads. Especially with Winter steelhead, that's unlikely to yield much result.

Going on a trip with a guide, followed by a day on my own, for salmon next week. I hear there are starting to be some steelhead behind them. Maybe I'll just target those?

Tight lines!


29 September, 2009

Is that a bait shop in your pocket?

While wandering around Meijer recently (OK, maybe returning bottles and buying more beer...) it occurred to me that they might have some compact tackle solutions for all the hardware of steelhead and salmon fishing. My vest and bag had become a collecting point for 87 little stupid zip-seal bags, each containing some piece of needed hardware. And it seemed like many times the right items were never in my vest - necessitating a jury rig, or a hike back to the truck.

Sure enough, $3.99 buys me a perfect little Plano pocket tacklebox. Slightly larger than a fly box, so it fits in my vest. Two-sided with lots of compartments small and large.

As this was the designated weekend for getting my act together for time on the river, I was eager to see how it worked. In a word: PERFECT! On one side snap swivels in #10-#14, micro swivels, glass beads for sliding slinky rigs, and indicators.

On the other side, weight of all flavors - slinkys in several sizes, an assortment of split shot, and pencil weights. And to top it off, even had a wrist lanyard floating around in the bag from some pliers. Somehow it's easy to imagine dropping the whole thing in the river on a cold snowy day. This will at least add some extra insurance against that occurrence.

This will be the perfect "grab it and go" solution. One box, all the stuff. The other advantage is that it's easier to see what I have in-stock in case I need to pick up more of an item.

Not bad for 4 bucks!


28 September, 2009

Hello, Old Friend

Since completing the build-up of the mt. bike, the road bike hasn't seen a lot of miles this summer. Cool temps probably haven't helped, but I'm sure it will balance out over time.

Yesterday proved the perfect day to correct this. And even surprise myself a little. Did a 20 mile ride along the Huron River. At first I thought it would just be a short spin, as I'd convinced myself my aerobic fitness was lacking. But, once the muscles warmed up, I found I just wanted to keep going! I'm guessing I've been getting plenty of cardio on the mountain bike, just more in intervals.

Bike road and felt great. Everything was tight, crisp, and responsive. And, other than some wind, it was just about the perfect early Fall day for a ride. Hello, old friend -- good to see you back!


25 September, 2009


Unlike fishing dry flies for trout, species like steelhead and salmon require some more hardware to get the job done. Proper rigging to get the flies down to the fish demands a wide range of swivels, snaps, and various sorts of weights. Noticed on this week's trip to the PM that I've accumulated a lot of disorganized junk in my vest. Seems like there are 82 different little ZipLoc bags in there. Starting to get to be hard to figure out what I have and don't have. And where it is.

Regular readers will know - sort of disorganization isn't me.

Rainy day predicted tomorrow, so I think tackling (nice pun, eh?) this job is in order, before steelhead season gets rolling. Nothing like searching for a #5 snap swivel in 15 degrees and snow. Trying to figure out what's the best container for all this stuff. I'd like to have it be readily accessible to throw in my vest or jacket. Might use an old spare leader wallet I have laying around. Or may look for a fly box with compartments, instead of foam inserts.

Also need to assess stock of stoneflies and eggs for steelhead season so I can get things ordered if needed. Sounds like a fun bit of gear-related puttering!


24 September, 2009

River Adventures

Enjoyed a great day on the Pere Marquette river yesterday. My friend Jon invited me to join him, father-in-law Ken, and son Daniel for Fall King Salmon.

I've fished with Ken before and this is a guy who knows his fishing - plus he's about the nicest human being you'll ever meet! True to form, he had the hot hand, with the first hook-up, the most fish, and the biggest fish (the trifecta!). I always enjoy a day on the water with Ken, and I always learn something from him.

But I think the biggest suprise of the day was Daniel. You never know about kids and outdoor pursuits. But Daniel clearly got the bug from his Dad and Grandpa - he was completely into the (LONG) day from beginning to end. His patience and enthusiasm were most impressive. The coolest part was the reaction of others on the river - it seemed like everyone we met thought having getting him out and started was super cool. And, honestly, it was. Kudos to Jon for introducing him, and to Daniel for his impressive skills and focus.

A truly enjoyable day - even though I got skunked. More on that in another post.


22 September, 2009

Slammin' Salmon

Off to Pere Marquette river with a friend and his son and father-in-law tomorrow. Should be great fun - my first attempt at salmon on fly rod. We're fishing a couple of spots I'm very familiar with for steelhead and trout.

This has set off the great gear selection frenzy. Never want to get there and not have the right stick. I think I'm going to take the following:

  • TFO 10 wt./Orvis BLA V reel/Zip line running line - set-up for chuck-n-duck style.
  • Scott 8 wt./Ross Momentum V reel/Orvis Wonderline fly line - either indy or just chuck-n-duck with fly line.

Seems like this combe gives me a couple of options. Most likely I'll end up fishing the TFO with the running line. I seem to be able to cover more water with this rig. I do think I'll stop at Baldwin Bait & Tackle for some hardware. I've been fishing split shot off a tail, but I think a slinky rig would enable the weight to slide around more and help me detect strikes and avoid snags.

More to follow!


21 September, 2009


The new mt. bike shoes (Five Ten Impact2 lows) ROCK! Super-grippy. When combined with the spikey Sun Ringle Mag Octane pedals, it's almost like a clipless system.

Best part is the addition of some sole stiffness and upper support. My Van's were like slippers in that regard, so this is a welcome change. No more barkin' dogs after only a couple of miles.

Only issues? Had to swap out the black shoelaces for some grey ones to tone down the Orthopedic Shoe look. And they're too shiny and new, but a few rides will take care of that!


18 September, 2009

Sweet Feet

New 5.10 Impact shoes arrived last night. Look like they'll be great for mountain bike. Old school Van's just haven't been cutting it. Super sticky soles and great pedal feel, but ZERO sole stiffness or support. After a mile or so arches start to ache. Guess that's to be expected from a shoe designed for skateboarding where board feel and traction are everything.

Impact's have been well-reviewed online. They use 5.10's Stealth rubber -- the same used in their climbing shoes. It does seem SUPER sticky with a cool tread pattern of dime-sized raised dots. They also seem well-padded, so should protect and also stay dry on dewy mornings.

It's amazing how much difference the right footwear can make in so many other outdoor pursuits. I think these should be a good solution. Hoping to get some time out at Island Lake trail this weekend to try them out!


17 September, 2009

The Best Fluff

Ski porn is showing up daily in my mailbox. Was looking through a Powder magazine last night and noticing something - the photos that most grab me are all in Utah. Second place is clearly BC, but there's just something about Utah that connects, even visually. Doesn't hurt that you can get to about a dozen ski areas within an hour of downtown Salt Lake City.

This photo is from Powder Mountain, a hidden gem outside Ogden. I figured out how to ski powder on this day. They'd had 12" overnight and another 10" the night before. It was both the most frustrating and rewarding day I ever had skiing. While I'd been in foot deep powder once or twice before, it was at Park City and was pretty much skied out by noon. PowMow is so large (most skiable area in Utah) and off the beaten path that I had all day to figure it out -- too cool!!!

Deep powder is such an adjustment for easterners. Unlike icy conditions or hard snow, setting an edge is BAD. Sit back, roll at the hips and go dog, GO! Coolest part was that falling was no big deal. Like landing in a pile of down! By the end of the day, I was just stepping off into whatever slope I wanted.

PowMow is just one of several Utah destinations I love. If you're planning a trip, I highly recommend getting off the well-worn Park City path. While PC and Deer Valley are great (sorry, NOT a Canyons fan at all), you get more value, better snow, and more fun at places like PowMow, Solitude, Snowbasin, Brighton, or Alta. So far the only major close area I haven't done is Snowbird -- soon enough!


16 September, 2009

Reel Deal

If you fly fish for steelhead you lose flies to trees, rocks, and angry fish. It's a fact of life. So paying $3 each for a steelhead fly never made much sense to me.

A friend turned me on to www.reelflies.ca as a resource. They seem to have a solid selection of a decent range of the classics. Oddball local faves like Iso's aren't here (you should be buying those at the local fly shop anyway). Curiously, no terrestrials either. But, for the basics a great selection and very affordable. Also some really nice assortment packs at a great price.

My Dad and I decided to go in on some and try them out. Arrived last night (quick -- only 6 days from order) and they look great! I ordered a nymph assortment to build up that box, as well as a dozen eggs and some black stoneflies. Can't wait to hit the Fall steelies with these!


15 September, 2009


Last night as I'm hustling to mow the lawn before it gets dark, it hits me - change of seasons is here. Then this morning as I'm driving to work realizing it's darker than I'm used to, it's reinforced.

Every year I anticipate winter. What will this one be like? Lots of snow? Cold? The last two have been pretty good. My season ender for skiing in MI was over a foot of fresh pow in the course of a couple of days - outstanding. A lot of other great days in that season, too. Ordered my season ski pass, so sure hope for another good one. I imagine shortly I'll be dusting off ski gear, putting on a fresh wax, getting things in order for another season.

But I think one of my new favorites is winter steelhead fishing. There's something about the solace and purity of standing in a fast moving winter river that's unique. And, I seldom see anyone on even the busiest stretches of river. Not much action, but I've learned some tactics in this off-season that may prove helpful.

Meantime, I'll enjoy my mountain bike and some Fall fishing. Somehow, I'll survive those few weeks between the leaves turning and the flakes falling.


14 September, 2009

One and Done

Been putting in lots of miles on mountain bike lately and really enjoying it. Rode Island Lakes blue trail on Saturday morning - great ride! Then covered local Olson Park on Sunday morning.

Have had several friends look at single-speed and ask, "why?". My Dad calls it a "no-speed". Which got me to thinking - why did I do that? Why does that bike give me such a stupid grin?

No derailleurs to fall out of adjustment. No frantic scramble before a hill to get off the big cog. One less thing to think about. And fewer moving parts in any mechanical system are ALWAYS better.

Serious mountain bikers see it in the parking lot at trailheads and you get lots of positive looks and comments. Novices are surprised. I like the shock factor somehow.

Without all that extra hardware, I just feel more connected to the trail. You pay more attention to hills and momentum to ensure no walk-ups. One less system to think about means that much more enjoyment, somehow.

Hearkens to a simpler time.
As I kid, I rode trails all the time on bmx bikes - it was one of my favorite things to do. My single-speed is a bit of an overgrown bmx bike. Plus, it's easy (and fun) to wrench on during downtime. And bmx bikes offered almost unlimited opportunities to upgrade and tweak components - a fun side benefit of any interest.

With an apparent Indian Summer upon us, looks like I'll get lots of opportunities to ride this Fall!


11 September, 2009


Take a moment today to reflect on this significant anniversary. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe, if you're an American, 09.11 changed your world. Pause to remember those who lost their lives, and the courage we saw during this event.

I got a bit choked up when I did.


10 September, 2009

Rules of the Road

I've seen plenty lately on cyclists rights and related topics. But we play a role in that discussion too -- every time one of us does something stupid.

This morning I watched a cyclist roar up to a red light at a busy intersection on the LEFT side of the lane. With no sign of a stop, he then makes a right turn (still in the left side of the lane) while in the blind spot of a truck that's making a right on red.

Dude, I know you're in a hurry to get your ride in, but that was STUPID. First, it was illegal. Second, if that truck didn't see you and changed lanes after the turn - splat.

We expect drivers to respect us, but a lot of us don't respect drivers. It goes both ways.


09 September, 2009

Hardware and Software

May head north to the Pere Marquette river this weekend - early King Salmon are in and trout seem to still be going well. This means the shift to the big gear is on. All summer I primarily fished my 6 wt. 9' Scott A2 quite happily. Great for trout and smallmouth bass.

But salmon and steelhead are another thing. From the simple line-leader-fly of dry fly trout fishing, I move to more complex rigs. Now the decision of indicator fishing on floating lines versus chuck-and-duck on running lines. Doesn't help that I've been reading a couple of books on Great Lakes salmon and steelhead that are just fueling the overthinking. Fortunately, during the off-season I added some gear so I have both styles of rigs. After Fall fishing in the U.P. I started to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each style and how to match it to the river.

I think this is one key appeal of fly fishing, for me. As I learn more, it becomes even more enjoyable. Knowledge truly is power. And, you catch more fish!

Should be the start of a fun adventure. Have several Fall trips planned this season, and will undoubtedly do lots more winter steelheading.


04 September, 2009

Do you feel it?

It's coming. Do you feel it?

The mornings have been cool and crisp. Seeing flashes of color in the trees here and there. Ski magazines all started to show up this week. The Caberfae ski area season pass application arrived the other day. Conversations are starting to include skiing more and more.

While I've learned to embrace summer in Michigan and truly enjoy it, Fall and Winter are my clear favorites. I'm a winter animal. Soon it will be time for the return of ski season, and the solace of winter steelheading fly fishing.

I can't wait...


03 September, 2009

What do you seek?

This sign is outside the fish hatchery at Thompson, in Michigan's central Upper Peninsula (one of only two locations in the state that raises steelhead).

Got me to thinking about what I seek from going fishing. I think it includes:

- there's no better place to get away from everything else going on in life than a river.

- fishing is a lifelong journey of learning. Whether it's tying a new knot, learning a different cast, or chasing a new species, there's always something new I'm exposed to. Activities with this dimension prove the most engaging to me.

- when I'm standing in the middle of a river, the connetion to nature is intensely powerful. Curiously, I find this connection the strongest when winter steelheading. Maybe it's because I'm standing somewhere I really don't belong?

- there's an instant connection with people who fish, and especially fly fish. An almost automatic bond. It's like you share a great secret.

So, why do you go fishing? Or mountain biking? Or skiing? Or whatever it is you do outside? Think about it.


02 September, 2009

Unsung Hero

Just a plug for my Simms L2 wading boots. Though I often tend to forget them, they're such a huge part of comfortable, safe, enjoyable fly fishing.

The AquaStealth soles are awesome -- super-grippy on almost any bottom structure. Also, don't freeze up like felt can. And environmentally responsible as they won't transport invasive species.

Like all Simms products, consistently exceeds my expectations! They cost more, but they're worth every penny.

01 September, 2009

Noises - Part Deux

New pedals (Sun Ringle Octane Mag's) on the mountain bike are great -- super sticky, smooth cartridge bearings. Love 'em.


The d*mn clunk was still there. More subtle, but still present. And now accompanied by an unpleasant creak, that I initially thought was the saddle. Great. Nothing like "clunk-squeak-squawk" roaring through the woods.

On Sunday took a ride on the blue trail at Island Lake. A couple of miles in, I look down at the bottom bracket and notice a gap with the left ring to the frame.


Sure enough, it's loose. So, this week's project - if I can carve out some time in a busy work week - is to tear the whole thing down. I think I'll clean it all out (Remington RemAction gun cleaner works GREAT for this sort of thing) and lube key interfaces, plus Loctite the retainer rings. Oddly, I enjoy projects like this one. There's something therapeutic in it. And, it beats a whole new Profile crankset and bottom bracket.

Geez, I love chasing odd noises on bikes. But it sure feels good when you find them!