30 October, 2009

Brothers in Arms

Some great times with some good friends this week, old and new. I love fishing solo, but I equally love the camaraderie of a good group trip, too.

Jim invited me on his annual trip a couple of years back. We'd gotten to know each other as he represents some magazines the I advertise in on behalf of clients. After our first trip we figured out that we fish well together - easygoing, but both a bit driven at the same time. Now this trip has morphed into something larger and even better. So I was thrilled to have Jim land the biggest steelie of the trip. And, he did it on a more complex rig than just standard chuck n' duck bottom bouncing!

Through Jim's trips I met guide extraordinaire Jon Ray. A day on the water with Jon is bound to be a fun one - doesn't hurt that this guy knows how to find fish. And, while Jon's got hundreds of clients, it's always like being out with an old friend. Only he knows about 87,000 times more about catching steelhead than any of my other friends.

And Troy - a treat to have him along on this trip. Troy's one of my clients, but one whom I've been lucky enough to count as a personal friend. A truly unique and exceptional guy with many talents, he's also one of the genuinely nicest human beings I know. When he joined up on this trip, I was excited that this experienced fisherman was going to get out on his first experience for steelhead on flies. Even though he got skunked on day one, at the end of the day he's borrowing my stick to go at it again! On day two he got to fish the PM. Got one steelie on, but found out why they're a top game fish. But nice consolation prize - a solid 14# salmon!

Jim, Jon, and Troy -- as always, great to hang with you guys. As well as new friends Mike, Andy, Dean, Tim, and Doug. A great trip with a great group.


29 October, 2009

Man of Steel

Awesome trip on the Big Manistee the past two days! A friend and business associate put together a trip with ten guys from as far away as Tulsa. Rented a GIGANTIC house at the Barothy Lodge (on PM, outside Walhalla). Five guides from Hawkins Outfitters handled everyone from experienced fisherman to complete newbies over two days. Couldn't have asked for better guiding. Tough fishing after a week of cool, rainy weather. Fish were scattered all over, but as always, Jonny Ray had a plan. We had boats all up and down the river from Tippy Dam almost to Manistee Lake searching for fish.

Got the pleasure of fishing with Jon on Tuesday. If you're looking for a great experience, this guy's just a blast to fish with. He's especially good at reading clients and delivering what they need. I want to learn when I fish guided and Jon's great at offering a good-natured barb that pushes me to be better. And this guys knows every inch of that river (and many others, too). Hook up with him at http://www.hawkinsflyfishing.com/.

After a nice vapor lock on my first fish (note to self -- let 'em run when they want to; don't touch the handle yet...) I hooked up on a couple of little skipper. Fun fights, but certainly not photo worthy. Not long after, I boated a nice 6# fish. Lost a fairly large one in the afternoon, but had it in close enough to get a good look. Oh, well. That's why steelies are some of North America's top game fish.

Partner (and trip organizer) Jim got a couple of solid monsters. One over 10#! A great day.

On our return to the lodge, my buddy Troy sees me in the parking lot unloading my road into the truck. Troy's an AVID and excellent fisherman (monster muskies), but this was his first time fly fishing for steelies. And, he'd gotten skunked. So three of us sat with beers and cheered Troy on as he threw casts for another hour on the Pere! That guy's got heart a mile wide.

More to follow - back to work!


26 October, 2009

Steelie Starter

Headed north today for two days of steelheading with a group and the exceptional guides of Hawkins Flyfishing (http://www.hawkinsflyishing.com/). Hoping to get paired up with Jon Ray (at left, with friend Jim who's organizing this trip) tomorrow on Big Manistee. Great guy, finds fish, and offers great coaching to help you land 'em. Didn't catch my first steelie with Jon, but had an initial learning day with him that set me on a solid path.

Rumor has it that the guides may mix it up and fish both the Manistee and the PM. I never tire of the PM, so this would be great!

23 October, 2009

Old Fave

It's duck weather today. Cold, windy, and been raining hard pretty much all day. Weather that smart animals use to outsmart dumb hunters.

But I'm wearing one of my favorites today - my Filson jacket. Classic waxed cotton. Like Barbour, but more American rough-n-ready. This garment is the single most waterproof item I own. I've stood in a steady downpour outside for two hours in this coat and stayed totally dry.

The best part? And yes, this is totally weird. It smells like the canvas tents of my Boy Scout years. Especially when a little moisture hits it. A strange, comforting sense of time and place that I love. Makes this jacket so endearing to me.

If you've not checked out Filson, I highly recommend. Their products are durable, functional, and good looking. Another nice feature is a broad selection of liners that can take you through the coldest of weather.


22 October, 2009

Steals and Deals

In most cases, I'm a big advocate of spending money with local shops - either where you live or where you fish, ski, hunt, ride, etc. But, sometimes the local shops don't have the brand you're seeking, or you have something that's not worth full price to you but that if you found a deal...

So, here are some of my fave online deal sites.

Price Point is a great resource for a whole range of cycling gear and clothing. I find a lot of deals on last year's models here. Way cheap and have some pretty obscure stuff, too.

If you fly fish for steelhead or salmon - who love to run under cover to break you off - you lose flies. Lots of them. This is a great source for keeping stocked. And the quality seems excellent. Surprisingly, they tell me everything is made in Canada.

A grab bag of outdoor leftovers. I check it pretty regularly. When they have something you want, it's usually darn cheap.

Nice wide selection of regular catalog items, but the clearance sales can be astounding. Carry Simms and Oakley - two of my faves.

Bargain barn for outdoor gear of all flavors. Their membership program saves you an additional 10% on every purchase. It's a strange mix, but when I'm looking for something, I often start here.

Mixed feelings about these folks. Prices are great and huge selection of shooting and hunting supplies, including ammo. But beware, shipping can be ridiculously expensive. Combine orders or go in with a buddy.


19 October, 2009

Feelin' Frosty

Trip to Minnesota and real exposure to actual snow, plus some recent river trips have me eager for winter steelhead. There's just nothing quite like the solace of an empty winter river. Last winter I bet I saw no more than a half dozen people out. Contrast that to the "combat fishing" of the most recent salmon jaunts. Of course, 20 degree temps thins them out.

Funny though, this year should be even more fun as I might have the opportunity to CATCH something! I suppose I can chalk last year up to learning how to winter wade (and swim...), the access points, and such. Winter wading is certainly a more considered endeavor than other seasons. In fact, just getting into the river is a challenge with shelf ice, differing melt flows, etc.

But, I'm excited for this season - feel 100% better equipped with skills, tools, and knowledge. And there's nothing quite like an empty, slush river for that feeling of truly being outside and off the grid.


16 October, 2009

Chuck. Duck. Repeat.

Loving the new chuck and duck rig for wide open spaces! Was easily able to cover a nice bit of river on last visit to the PM. Indy fishing with fly line is fun, but really better suited to tighter spaces. Plus, it's more work!

So, my set-up is as follows: Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor V reel, with backing, and Climax ZipLine in the greenish 20# test version. The guide who helped me configure this suggested that while the 20# ZipLine is harder to find, it works much better than the heavier 30# white stuff. Evidently the 20# is less tangle-prone.

I must say that for me, it works extremely well. I was able to cast very accurately over fairly long distances. Minimal "Christmas tree" issues where you decorate the local flora with snagged flies. May have helped that I fished a single egg fly rig all day. Fewer hooks, fewer snags?

This set-up should also be good for winter - less resistance in the water which should make it easier to get the flies down to sluggish cold weather fish.


14 October, 2009

Stir Crazy

Between work, travel, family, and other commitments I haven't been able to get outside much in the past week or so. Every time this happens, it seems like I start getting a bit wound up. The outdoors is really my relief valve. When I spend too much time inside, I find I'm getting a bit twitchy. Hoping things simmer down a bit so I can get a bike ride or something in!


13 October, 2009

Tickle Me, Salmo

Got a couple pics back from last week's salmon trip on the PM. What a great day! Hooked up within the first three casts, but didn't realize it until after that first fish got off. Salmon hit with a dull "thud" that's unlike steelhead or trout. Then they run away like a bulldozer. What a fun fight!

I think I hooked up on 15-20 fish during the day. This resulted in 6-8 solid fights - fish I either chased down the river and they broke off, headed under logs or other cover, or just lost the hookset. But I managed to steer this hen clear of obstructions and into the net!

Cool part was that after a few hook-ups I could tell which fish were solidly hooked and I had a decent chance of landing. Felt different when playing them. I credit that to my TFO 10 wt. which seems to have really good line feel.

Fun day! Not sure I'll get out again as salmon run is wrapping up, but steelhead were coming up right behind! Tight lines.


12 October, 2009

First Flakes

Travelling to Long Prairie, MN for a couple of days on business. Fortunately, I checked the weather before departure - got snow over night, and snowing hard today. Those first flakes always trigger such a primal response in me.

At-heart, I'm a winter animal. While I enjoy summer, something about that cool snap in the air hints at skiing fresh powder, pushing a snowy sorghum field for December pheasants, or standing alone in a slushy river bottom bouncing for steelhead. Some of my favorites. Can't wait.

Drove past a Pheasants Forever preserve on the way in this morning. Made me want to boot up and go for a stroll!


09 October, 2009


Awesome experience on the PM yesterday chasing Kings! More will follow, but one of the highlights was doing it on my own rig. Somehow I find that even more rewarding than using the guide's gear.

This was the first outing for salmon set-up; TFO 10 wt. 9' rod, Orvis BLA V reel (one of my steelhead rigs), with Climax Zip line for chuck-n-duck. Couldn't be happier with its performance!

From my first hook-up I could tell this was going to get the job done. The TFO rod casts great, but more importantly has the backbone to handle a big, angry salmon. I was consistently able to muscle these monsters out of tricky situations with this rod. Low cost, and with a lifetime warranty - nice! The Orvis BLA's drag system slowed 'em down nicely, while providing some tippet protection.

Thanks to guide Gene Lake for turning me on to Zip line - no nasty memory coils so it casts just great. As a bonus, it's CHEAP!

Loved this style of fishing with strong fights, and lots of fish that outsmart or just plain outfight you. And with this rig, I felt like I had a solid chance at anything I hooked well. More will follow on this great day when I get some more pics from my buddy Dan.


06 October, 2009

Take Deux

Off to PM tomorrow afternoon for more "business fishing" first day with client and folks from a business magazine, second with friend and a prospective client. Since I'm not a golfer, this works for me!

This will be my second attempt at Kings on the Pere this season. Got skunked on the first. Guys I was with said I was doing it all right, just wasn't my day. We'll see if professional guiding with an expert who's fished this river for over 30 years helps me!

I think I'll bring my TFO 10 wt. with the Orvis BLA V on it. All spooled up with chuck-n-duck line already. A lot of times guides don't have rigs set up for us left-handed folk unless you let them know in advance. Plus, rocking my own gear is appealing.

Should be a beautiful time of year to be outside. Lots of color starting to appear here in SE Michigan - expecting glorious color up there.

Reports will follow!


05 October, 2009


This weekend I read that over 60% of gun owners surveyed in a recent study think the new administration wants to take away their firearms. I have to say this puzzles me. As far as I can tell, there's been no evidence of any actions that support this. Maybe I've missed something, but it seems like I'd have heard about it. I suppose it's just party stereotypes in action.

And these same folks are clamoring about how "black arms" (military-style rifles) will be banned. Yet in the past week, I've seen Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger have all introduced new .22LR variants on the AR platform. If black arms were going to be banned would these large companies be investing in the engineering and manufacturing resources to build more of them? I doubt it very much.

It's this kind of paranoid "gun nut" behavior that gets firearms owners such a negative reputation. The reality is that most of us are responsible, regular folks. No arsenals of fully automatic weapons in the basement. No pallets of .223 ammo stockpiled. The reality is that I know a number of people with concealed carry permits who seldom carry (me included). We own guns to hunt, target shoot, or as collectors of antiques.

Seems to me that with the economy, health care, the war in Iraq, and so much more that President Obama's got FAR bigger fish to fry for now and a long time coming. Let's all spend out time worrying about something else.


02 October, 2009

Great In(vest)ment

For a while now, I've been thinking it was time to replace my super-cheap mesh fishing vest. No structure, pockets are in the wrong places, lacking a lot of attachment points. While standing in the PM last week, my forceps suddenly just dropped off the retractor. Fortunately I was in the shallows and just picked them up. But that was then end of the decision making cycle - time to graduate to a decent vest.

I've become tremendously brand-loyal to all things Simms, so that's where I start. And, once again, they don't disappoint. While the G3 Guide is phenomenal in terms of details, it's $75 more than a regular Guide vest. Beyond some cosmetics and a couple of other pockets, I really can't see any paying the difference.

Last night I transferred everything to the new vest. What a huge improvement this will be! D-rings for attaching tippet and stream thermometer. Upper pockets that will each hold a fly box. And, real, functional lower pockets that will actually keep things IN them!

But the biggest surprise is the structural design. My old vest just hung on me, especially when loaded down with steelhead hardware (all those little weights start adding up!). The Simms vest has a collar system that distributes the load more. And the entire vest just has more structure. It's like the difference between a tennis shoe and a hiking boot. Once again, Simms designs a better product.


01 October, 2009


Just when I think I'm gone - no firearms I lust for and no new purchases in a long time, I make the mistake of visiting Cabelas gun counter. And, I stumble onto a combo that's intriguing. A .22LR revolver. Well-made, and affordable. Great.

As ammo prices have skyrocketed and availability has tightened I've come to love my .22's even more. A mid-range box of 100 rounds of CCI ammo is only 6 bucks. Contrast that with 9mm or .45ACP where 50 rounds might cost you $20.

I've shot several friend's revolvers in a wide range of calibers (no .22's yet). Love 'em. Simple. Reliable, and a little different from all the autos out there.

The object of my affection? Taurus 94. Stainless steel. Well-built, and affordable. Sweet little pistol.

And let's not even talk about the S&W 15-22 rifle I learned of...