29 January, 2010

Ross is Boss

It all started with my first fly gear - a Ross Flystart outfit in 5/6 wt. Then when I picked up a short 3 wt. for small UP streams, I needed a reel, so a Flystart 1 was added to the mix.

But then the addiction took over - I discovered the REALLY good stuff...

When I picked up a good deal on a used Scott A2 6 wt. This nice rod needed an appropriate reel - in this case a Ross CLA 3. Perfect - reasonable price, wonderfully smooth and powerful drag, and fantastic quality. My A2/CLA is my all-around go-to rig for a good portion of the year. I've also ordered a spare spool for this one for a 200 grain sink tip line.

Later, when I was setting up my indicator rig for steelhead (Scott S3 9'6" 8-wt. rod) I picked up a Ross Momentum 5. This thing is a BRUTE of a reel. I think the drag could stop a truck. The champagne finish is unique, and the reel's as pretty as it is powerful. A charging Fall steelhead is no match to this one.

Naturally, I just couldn't leave well enough alone, so when I found a good deal on a Ross CLA 1.5, I just had to upgrade the 3 wt. with a better reel and line. This was a recent find, so I haven't had the chance to get it out on the water.

Ross very rapidly became one of my favorite brands. Every Ross product I've encountered exceeded my expectations. And there's a Ross solution for virtually any price point or application. I've never had any problem with my gear, but I'm told by friends that Ross backs their excellent products up with excellent support.

One of my favorite qualities are the little details - like the spool release knob on my Momentum, or the "no tools" switchover from left to right hand retrieve on the CLA's. Even the very affordable Flystart reels seem surprisingly well-built.

Perhaps my only complaint (if you can call it that) is that their marketing seems to fall short of their exceptional products. The brand's solid, but a bit visually dull when contrasted to more flashy brands like Hatch or Nautilus. Perhaps this is a reflection of Ross' demographic however, as I see anglers of all ages and types with Ross, whereas Hatch seems to be pursuing mostly a younger, more affluent crowd.

Looking for a fly reel? Look at Ross first!


28 January, 2010

Mmmmm ... toasty!

Added a new tool for the super-cold days; down! Picked up a Mountain Hardwear SubZero down jacket on sale a Cabela's recently. It's quickly become my go-to when temps are below 15 F or so.

Checked the thermometer yesterday morning before heading to work and it's 10 F. But I was toasty despite having to be outside to and from meetings a chunk of the day.

Jacket is really light, but warm, and with reinforced shoulders and outer sleeves, seems like it will be pretty durable. The coolest part is the stuff stack. It will stuff into a fairly compact bag that makes it easy to take along for times when you might need it, but aren't sure. Took it out on Manistee river last weekend, but didn't end up wearing it as temps were mild.

I looked at a number of jackets before settling on this one. Seems like a good balance of price, features and durability. Mine's orange and black, so it even has a little style (as much style as you can have while looking like the Michelin man...). One key difference in down was the loft. Cheaper jackets felt thin. And with down, thin is bad as it's all about that trapped insulating air.

If you want to stay warm in the cold, I highly recommend checking one out!


27 January, 2010

You Sunk My Battleship!

Been intrigued with sinking tip lines for a while. But with learning chuck n' duck,then indicator, dry flies, terrestrials, and more I really never had time. But the idea of stripping streamers for big brown trout, swinging streamers for steel on big water, or other sub-surface presentations seemed pretty cool.

It started with Tommy Lynch's presentation during the Hawkins Outfitters "Jump Start" school last Spring (highly recommended, btw). Tommy was showing us how to strip streamers on sinking lines. As he was demo'ing in the Manistee river, he got not one, but TWO strikes! Hmmm -- this technique may work. Then a couple of weeks back I saw Tommy's presentation at Colton Bay Outfitters. Big fish after big fish, all caught on stripped streamers on the PM. Yet more evidence.

Sure enough, it seems many of the serious guides advocate some type of sub-surface presentation. Jerry Darkes was hot on sink tips for warm-water species. Jon Ray extolled their virtues for swung flies to steelhead. And more. OK, it's time.

So now I've got a 300 grain Rio DC line on my Orvis Rocky Mt. Turbine IV reel. Should be perfect with one of my 8 weights. for chasing big trout on rivers and swinging to steelhead. Also picked up a 200 grain Rio DC line for use on my Ross CLA III reel on my 6 weight Scott A2 that should be good for smallmouth on the Huron, or chasing trout on UP lakes. Found a great casting video via the Hawkins web site.

Looking forward to learning how to add this strategy to my bag of tricks. As I mature in my fishing, I'm finding that I'm really mostly interested in fly fishing tactics. This means gaining skill with a wide range of techniques to match the water and species (and my mood, I suppose).

Tight lines -- this should be fun!


25 January, 2010

Bob Down!

Dad and I took advantage of the January thaw for a day on the Big Manistee river with Jon Ray on Saturday. With partly sunny skies, a high near 40, and some rain on the way it looked to be the perfect day of midwinter fishing.

Winter steelheading is a whole different game from Fall and Spring. Lethargic, moody fish may or may not be especially motivated to find the bite. Good thing that wasn't the case this trip! I started out with two nice adults pretty quickly. Then Dad got on the board with two nice fish in a row.

My highlight for the day was a 9-10# fish -- in fact my biggest steel of the past year or so. Had a solid hookset, but then there was that funny Winter steel "stall" where you think they popped off. But then it was game on! I love fighting steelhead. Even the little skipper I got later in the day was a fun little fight.

We fished on Jon's hybrid indicator drift method. This was my third time out on this style and I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it. With an 11' switch rod and this technique you're able to cover so much water without repositioning the boat. But, as a fisherman, there's some definite skills to acquire. The most challenging is the almost-simultaneous line pinch-hookset-strip routine that has to happen PRONTO to get things set-up. You quickly need shift from feeding line, to clamping the line firm, followed quickly by a solid hookset. Then it's off to the races as you strip line by hand to get tension on the fish. Once you've done that, you can catch your breath and settle in to fight the fish. Oh, and somehow find the clarity of mind to spin the line that's in a puddle at your feet up onto the reel...

Great day on the river - many thanks to Jon for his skill and patience. If you want to have a fun experience, I highly recommend a day on the Manistee with Jonny!


21 January, 2010


Just when I think I'm done, I see this from Springfield. Smallest 9mm on the market. I love my full-size XD. Super-reliable, accurate, safe, and well-built. This new compact is decently priced and seems the perfect carry solution.

I like my KelTec, but it's not the hallmark of precision, nor accuracy. And shooting more than 1-2 clips is painful (small, light gun with large round...) so I don't get to practice with it as much as I should.

Gotta' go check one of these beasts out!


20 January, 2010

Carry A Big Stick

Just finished an article in American Rifleman on the "new" carry gun - allegedly the .380. The basic premise of the article is that with this smaller round, the burgeoning population with carry permits will be more likely to do so.

For non-gun folks (if you're even still reading this post) the .380 is the same diameter as a 9mm, just shorter. Because of this, it carries about 25% less gunpowder and thus achieves lower velocities. In a smaller round like .380 and 9mm, 25% is significant.

One of the key tenets I was taught by multiple instructors during my concealed classes was to always carry the largest round you're comfortable shooting regularly. We were taught that if the worst possible scenario were to happen and we were forced to use our firearm, it needs to get the job done.

For me, the the standard 9mm Luger is that round. Reasonable firepower. Practical to carry (especially in the compact form of my KelTec P11). Certainly there are those who feel the 9 is underpowered -- cool, that's what .40 S&W or .45 ACP are for. If you feel you need that stopping power, then you're willing to deal with the extra weight and bulk of those firearms.

To be honest, I seldom carry. But when I do, I want to have confidence I'd have the firepower to back up a worst-case situation if I found myself in one.


18 January, 2010

I'll Pass, Thanks...

Took a trip downriver to the lower Huron river this weekend. I've wanted to go explore and has some location suggestions from a knowledgeable friend. I know folks who've caught steelhead down there, and it's only 40 minutes from home.

I think I'll pass...

Part of the reason I go fishing is the solitude and access to nature. This didn't qualify for either. Best potential spot was within sight of I-75. Fun. And there were a half dozen other guys working this spot. Crowds and combat fishing are part of the reason I'm not that wild about Kings up North.

Don't get me wrong -- I can get away without a float plane. The upper Huron, near my house is a great place to do that during the summer months. Sadly there's a network of dams that prevent steelhead from getting that far north.

One of the reasons the Pere Marquette is about my favorite river is the unique balance of minimal "civilization" balanced with accessibility. For only a 3-hour drive, I can get away from major traffic and lawnmowers, with world-class fishing.


15 January, 2010

Gear Lust

If you haven't seen a Hatch fly reel, go to their web site right this moment.

I want one of these monsters - BAD! Of course, I have no need, nor reason to own one. But they're SO cool and exquisitely made. I remember a discussion when I first started fly fishing with Andy, the owner of Old AuSable Fly Shop in Grayling, about the feel of a truly great reel. At the time, I could appreciate it, but hadn't really had the chance to handle a great reel.

In my day job, I do a lot with machined parts and tooling. So, I appreciate truly beautiful CNC work. This is the hallmark of Hatch. This stuff is built like a brick shithouse AND it's beautiful, too! Inside, the unique drag system seems virtually indestructible, smooth and progressive, and impervious to the effects of weather or conditions. My Ross Momentum's a pretty cool reel, but the Hatch 9 Plus makes it look like a toy.

I want one. Sadly, they're stupid expensive - at least by my standards.


14 January, 2010


Great Presentation by Tommy Lynch, PM guide extradordinaire for Hawkins Outfitters last night. Learned some cool tips and tricks, access points, and more. It was a good reminder of the myriad of styles and techniques.

Tommy's a big proponent of streamers, stripped and swung. And judging from some of the truly monster fish in his presentation, it works. At some point, I'll want to get a good sink-tip line on one of my bigger reels to give this a try.

So, I'll just add that to the rigging list. I'm primarily fishing indicators for steelhead, with some Chuck n' Duck in the Spring and Fall. I tried centerpin drifting and liked that a bunch. Now it's streamers. OK, so that's four rig styles. The good news is that I've achieved a level where I start to understand each, and when it's appropriate. For example, I've now heard from two guides that I can put my Chuck n' Duck gear away in the winter. Drift fishing is the only way to catch steelhead in the winter. OK, that helps. Takes one choice out of the mix!

Got some location pointers from one of the guys at the local fly shop. Can't get up North this weekend, so I think I'm going to go have a look at the lower Huron. I hear tell there's steel to be found there!


12 January, 2010

Yoga Update

Went to week 2 of yoga class last night. Must say I'm finding it pretty fulfilling. Had some problems with my tweaky right knee after last week's class - talked to the instructor before class and much better today.

The stretching seem to really benefit me, although it quantifies just how much I need to work on my flexibility. Although at only my second class, I had noticed some improvement.

One thing that appeals to me is the order and respect of the class. When the instructor tells us that "five minutes early to class is on-time" I know I'm in the right place. Definitely appeals to my need for promptness. What was amazing were the number of people who rolled in late, despite knowing that. And, not just five minutes late -- one woman was 45 minutes after the start time!

I also like the notion of getting in touch with your motions. As a lifelong participant in balance and motion-based sports, I was amazed how quickly I was able to pick up on things like foot positioning and weight distribution. A lifetime of skiing, surfing, skateboarding, biking, and other sports means I usually know what my feet are doing. They're the connection to almost all of these pursuits.

Looking forward to my flexibility improving, but really enjoying the process.


11 January, 2010


My buddy Paul refer to the need to go shooting as "ITF" or Itchy Trigger Finger. I think lately I have IFF -- or Itchy Fishing Finger! I think my next trip North to ski may need to include a few hours on the river.

I've been eager to walk-in and wade some of the lower Manistee, and Tippy Dam is only a few minutes drive from Caberfae. Or, I can take a little drive down to the PM. Either way, it's time to get in some cold water!

There's something about the serenity of a winter river that's truly unique. This photo, taken last January sums it all up. Crisp. Cold. And, nobody else out. This spot on the PM is just above one of my better runs for walk-in fishing on the PM. I've hooked steelhead, caught trout, and truly enjoyed it. And it's a ten-minute walk in from good parking!

Alternately, if weather's right, maybe I'll try chasing chrome on the Lower Huron. I hear there are some good spots around Rockwood. And it's only a 45 minute drive from home.

Tight lines!


08 January, 2010

Cold Smoke

I've read that Native Americans in Alaska have over 40 different names for snow based on it's composition. I got my fave today -- what I've most often heard as "cold smoke powder". I love words and there's no better description. Light, fluffy, crystalline. Couldn't make a snowball out of it on a bet. It's literally like cold smoke (duh - hence the name). And, I found 6" of it on my driveway today. Never mind moving that stuff around.

It's the snow that gave Utah the tagline, "Greatest Snow on Earth" and it's just about my favorite thing. This was our first real significant snow of the year in SE Michigan (while everyone else has been getting dumped on, it seems) so I was doubly happy to see.

Now I just have to get some time to go play in it!


06 January, 2010

Activity Gene?

Over the weekend, I was listening to a science commentator on NPR talk about the fact that within the next decade we'll be able to have our own genome mapped for under $1,000 to find health risk factors. Wow.

Then, later in the day, I was riding up the ski lift with a guy who was bemoaning finding time for all his activities -- skiing, sailing, mountain biking -- a problem I share. At the time I thought that some people are just naturally more active than others. I certainly seem to fall into that category as I don't sit well and seem to always have trouble finding time to fish, ski, hunt, cycle, shoot, or whatever...

But then I got to thinking: What if there's a gene for activity? Somehow it wouldn't surprise me. So, do active parents have active children? My sister's a hardcore cyclist both on-road and off. And in-his mid-60's my Dad's still out fishing, working out, and keeping very active. Perhaps there's something to this genetic notion. At any rate, it's interesting food for observation.


05 January, 2010

There Is No Try

For a long time I've been interested in taking a yoga class. I've read that many top skiers practice it with benefits of flexibility, strength, balance, and more.

Last night I attended my first class through the local Y. Now, I get it.

While it was all rather new and foreign to me, I very quickly understood how this will benefit me. In even the most basic poses, I could feel my own lack of flexibility. Fortunately, what I lacked in flexibility I did make up for in other areas like balance.

The instructor was great - she balanced newbies and more seasoned practitioners alike. I felt welcome and able to ask questions. She corrected me on a few things, but not so that I'd feel singled-out. Afterward we chatted for a bit (her day job is in marketing/advertising, too) and she commented that I'd had a solid first outing and would be very surprised by how quickly flexibility would come.

But the best part was afterward. I felt totally loose and relaxed. Already looking forward to next week's class! If you're active and have considered yoga, I must say I'm glad I gave it a go!


04 January, 2010

My Review of Black Diamond Mercury Mittens - Men's

Originally submitted at REI

The Black Diamond Mercury mittens are designed to keep hands comfortable while climbing mountains and backcountry skiing in temperatures as low as -20°F.

Warm & Well-Design

By Seanahee from Ann Arbor, MI on 1/4/2010


5out of 5

Gift: No

Pros: Warm, Great Design

Best Uses: Skiing, Backcountry

Describe Yourself: Advanced

Gear Usage: Winter Sports, Cold Weather Living

Just purchased these as a solution for super-cold days skiing. Tested them this weekend on 5 degree day with 15-20 mph winds. Wow, very warm and highly windproof!

Seem to be very well-built for durability. Like the separate trigger finger for improved grip dexterity.

My first Black Diamond product and very satisfied.



I think I had my coldest day ever skiing on Saturday at Caberfae. Temps never made it into double-digits AND winds were 15-20mph all day. Oddly, with the sun out it didn't seem so bad while I was out there. But about 4:30pm I realized is was just chilled completely.

But, over the holidays, I added a new weapon to the cold weather arsenal - mittens! For some reason, I've always resisted them. Maybe I thought the loss of dexterity would be too much, or that someone I was a wuss for wearing them.

New Black Diamond Mercury mittens rock -- super warm, comfy, and functional. Trigger finger is separated to enable some grip and dexterity. My hands were actually a bit too warm initially, but as day wore on they were great. Biggest pleasant surprise was how much easier mittens are to take off and put on. No finger fumbling. Quick and easy. And wrist leash meant when they were off, no worries about dropping them.

Happy New Year to all!