26 February, 2010

My Review of Raven Matrix Center Pin Reels

Originally submitted at FishUSA.com

Center pin float reels are the ultimate weapons for float fishing. They allow for the smoothest and most controlled float presentation possible. The sleek, ergonomic design of the MATRIX float reel offers incredible value. Blending great performance with cutting edge design.

Pin to Win

By Seanahee from Ann Arbor, MI on 2/26/2010


5out of 5

Pros: Smooth Reeling, Easy Casting, Durable, Line Doesn't Tangle, Reliable

Best Uses: Fly Fishing, River Fishing

Describe Yourself: Avid Fisher

Knowledgeable guide friend turned me on to Raven Matrix. You can't get more reel for less than 2x the price. Seems VERY durable and the closed design should keep most grit out. Plus, it's a great looking reel!


My Review of Raven Float Rods

Originally submitted at FishUSA.com

Long fishing rods provide excellent control when float fishing, allowing longer drifts and better hook sets. The Raven 13#39; 6 float rods are ideal for most conditions, while the Raven 14#39; float rod is great for large rivers. The Raven 11#39; 6 Steelheader is the perfect all around rod, and is ...

Excellent Value and Performance

By Seanahee from Ann Arbor, MI on 2/26/2010


4out of 5

Pros: Durable, Good Tip Action, Sensitive, Tremendous Value

Cons: Small guides for icy temp

Best Uses: River Fishing

Describe Yourself: Avid Fisher

Tried centerpinning for the first time last Fall and nailed a BIG lake run brown. I was hooked. Picked up this rod and a Matrix reel. Really great set-up at an excellent price. Sure, the G. Loomis float rod is better -- but it's $550. Mine's got the fixed mount which I definitely prefer. Good all around rig. Don't agonize -- buy it.


Why I Do It

When I tell a lot of people I fish steelhead all Winter, many look at me like I'm nuts. Especially after I explain that, no, I don't mean ice fishing in a heated shanty on a frozen lake. IN the river.

Take a look at these photoe. This is what I see all day in the river in Winter. I love the solitude. And, honestly only on the most brutal days do I even notice the cold. Sure, you have to dress right, but you'd be surprised by how little that really requires. For me, it's base layer, insulating layer, outer layer. A hat is a must and gloves if it's below 20 or so.

On Monday, I didn't see a single person all day. I was on the river from 10am - 2:30pm. Nice! Oh, and literally about 5 minutes from downtown Baldwin. That's what I love about the PM over many other lower peninsula rivers. I'm under 3 hours from home, there's a real town with food, lodging, and a good fly shop. Sure, I can get this solace in the UP, but I have to drive 6+ hours.

This solitude, plus the chance to hook into a steelhead is why I do it.


25 February, 2010

Bob Don't Lie

It's said when float/indicator fishing that "Bob Don't Lie". While that statement was originally intended to convey that when it's down, it's Fish ON! it really means a lot more.

Indicator fishing is the one way I can tell what's going on BELOW the water. Straight up and down on drift? All systems go. Tipped slightly back? Even better as it means flies are just slightly ahead of the indicator and the fly line. Tipped WAY forward? Dragging bottom, shorten the depth. Horizontal on the water? Abort - something's not right. Start over as this often means flies are fouled or weight's all wrapped around something.

I've become a big fan of the Blackbird Phantom series -- usually in the 4.0 gram size. Clear bottom is invisible to twitchy steelhead in clear water, but the top's readily visible to me. These seem just about right for most conditions on the Pere Marquette. I picked up some 7.0's for the center pin rig as it seems like I'll be mostly on bigger/faster water that will require more weight to get the flies down.

Now that I've figured out Indy for steelhead, I'm curious to try it again with nymphs for trout this summer. Should be interesting. Although for that use, I'll likely switch back to the smaller, easy to cast Thill Ice n' Fly which reduces tangles and downtime.

But the best part of indicator fishing -- BOB DOWN! Then it's game on!


24 February, 2010

Family Heritage

I've been pulling together some photos for my Grandmother's 90th birthday party and stumbled on an interesting revelation. It would appear the outdoors gene runs pretty deep.

My favorite is the picture of my Grandma and her two sisters - Evelyn and Marjorie - heading out onto Watkins Lake, outside Pontiac, MI. Looks like they're ready to do some fishing. Watkins Lake was central to a lot of my Mom's side of the family. It seems like all of us have some memory of time spent on that lake or in the surrounding woods. My great grandparents built a "summer house" on some land, and subsequently my Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Tom built a new "big house". For generations, I think kids learned to catch bluegills and panfish off the end of the dock between the two houses. I know my Uncle Matt and I both did!

As a kid, one of my fondest memories was heading to the "Plumbers Cabin". This unique location, outside Mio, MI was a collaboration between my great grandfather and several other Master Plumbers. Located on a full section (640 acres) it was a prime location for all manner of hunting and fishing antics. The main building was a concrete block structure that served as base camp. I regret that I only recall a few visits to this amazing place.

It was interesting to see the family heritage in the outdoors. I think the best part was seeing how my Grandmother and her sisters were involved to -- I credit Great-Grandpa Seeley for involving "the girls" in an era where that didn't always happen. I think this showed in their later lives -- all three turned out to be pretty exceptional characters!


23 February, 2010

Solo Act

Major milestone while fishing the Pere Marquette yesterday. I hooked, fought, landed, and released my first solo steelhead. I've caught plenty of steelies, but all have been in the company of a guide. That's no picnic (if you've hooked on, you know) but doing it all on your own is a whole other thing.

When you're solo, a million things are running through your head. Should I fish that dark water? Or the seam? How's my depth? Am I running enough weight? What about my flies - cheese or something darker? Hex nymphs or stones? When you're our with a guide, you know an experienced hand is helping you sort all that out. Which leaves you to focus on detecting strikes, fighting fish, and closing the deal.

But, as guide friend Jon Ray says, "bobber don't lie..." and when that bobber went down on the PM yesterday, I knew I'd done at least some of that stuff right. Had a nice little fight with a beautiful buck. Got him landed, unhooked and released promptly - I want them to live to fight another day. Only problem is that when you're a solo act, pictures are a bit more challenging. So I have to settle for the image that's burned into my mind. That's just fine by me.

The best part may have been calling my Dad on the way home. Right away he said, "That's your first steel on your own, right?" and I could hear the pride and excitement in his voice. Very cool.


P.S. I did get some nice pictures from a very pretty snowy day on the river; coming soon!

17 February, 2010

Carp - the Latest

Hoping to either attend this meeting or at least watch the video stream of it. It's one of a series of informational meetings being held throughout the state. Seems like the legislative bodies are maybe finally clued in on this potentially devastating issue. We'll see.


16 February, 2010

The Pin is IN!

My new center pin rig showed up last night. VERY excited - yet one more way to chase chrome! Now I've got the tried-and-true Indy rig, a 300 gr. sink-tip for swinging streamers, chuck n' duck for fast water, and the pin for covering a lot of water on the float. Between all of these, I'm set for almost any situation I might encounter in Michigan. As a friend said, "more tools". We have lots of different types of rivers in this state and no one approach could cover them all.

Been reading the Raven "Guide to Float Fishing" to learn more about rigging, casting, and such. It's a pretty intriguing way to fish -- kind of like Indy to the nth degree! With an Indy rig you can cover only a few feet with a smooth, drag-free, controllable drift. With center pin, the only limitation seems to be eyesight (Bob down? I can't tell?) and other fisherman.

I think I'm most intrigued to try the pin on the Manistique River in the UP. I've actually already got my first drift all picked out! It's not the greatest spot for Indy fishing, although it works OK on C-n-D rigs. But with a 13' 6" rod I think I can cover the whole river effectively.



12 February, 2010

Out of My Element

DISCLAIMER: This is my blog, so I write about my opinions, experiences, and thoughts. This is not me telling you how to live your life. I am merely reflecting on mine.

So, I'm about two years in with the Honda Element. It's an OK vehicle - decent in the snow, holds my stuff. It's a bit of a tin can on the highway, its underpowered, and the mileage could be better for its size, but it's a Japanese truck. Well, actually a truck sitting on a car chassis.

But that's not my issue. I convinced myself I was OK driving a foreign car. And, at the end of the day, I'm not. I live in SE Michigan, an area devastated by the collapse of the American car industry. I know many people who've lost jobs, houses, and lifestyles as a result of this. I have many family connections to the industry, going back to my great-grandfather who was a foreman at the original Fisher Body in Pontiac.

Yes, I know my Element was built in Ohio by UAW workers. And yes, I know it created jobs in the supply base. But at the end of the day, I feel disloyal for driving it.

On top of that, it's a Japanese truck. I've always felt that the Japanese could really never figure out how to make a truck properly. There's something that's never quite right. Sure you hear of the occasional solid entry -- the old Toyota FourRunners or Isuzu Rodeos -- but most are destined for mediocrity. Recently, I had the opportunity to ride in a friend's Chevy 4x4 pickup. Ahhh -- that's right, this is how a truck should work! Felt the same way in my uncle's (retired Ford tool & die maker, btw) F150 last Spring.

So, it looks like the shopping list for next time is the F150 or the GMC full-size offering in an extended cab. Seats four when needed, mileage these days is nearly that of my Element. And, no foreign-car induced feelings of shame. Plus, if I can score that deal on a drift boat...


11 February, 2010

Pin to Win

Been looking into a center pin set-up since I got to fish one a couple months back. The long drifts seem ideally suited to exploring new locations efficiently and on larger water. Plus, it's just fun!

A buddy had a rig that was gathering dust in his garage, so I've now got one on the way. It's a Raven Matrix reel on a 13'6" Raven IM6 rod. Last weekend I picked up the Raven "Guide to Float Fishing" and this set-up looks like it will be perfect as an all-around solution for the Manistique, some other UP rivers, and maybe even winters on the PM.

There's plenty of debate amongst hardcores as to whether center pinning is "real" fly fishing. But there are similar debates about chuck n' duck. For me, if you're fishing with flies instead of spawn bags, live bait, or hardware - it counts. And really pinning is more similar to indicator fly fishing than anything. Just MUCH longer drifts. I must admit I find those "real" fly fishing discussions kind of esoteric and pointless anyway. Mostly just elitist chest beating. If it makes you happy, presents a challenge, and fits your criteria -- it's fly fishing.

The coolest part of pinning is that the whole principle is a free-spinning reel that uses the resistance of the line to feed. Where this gets interesting is when you get a fish on. There's no drag system on a center pin reel -- it's all in the skill of the fisherman applying the brakes by palming the reel to slow the fish.

My goal was to have a rig and get comfortable with it prior to heading to the UP in April/May for Spring steelhead with Dad. Looks like I'll make it!


09 February, 2010

Carpe Diem

Maybe you've heard a little about the Asian carp issue in the Great Lakes. But I've had several non-fishing folks as questions like, "Is it really that big a deal?" or "What's the issue?"

Asian carp are eating machines. A single fish can eat up to 100% of its body weight PER DAY. They literally devastate the food supply in the waters they inhabit - snuffing out both native and naturalized species. Initially I thought perhaps the colder water temps of the Great Lakes region would hamper them, as it does with some other fish. Nope. Asian carp do just fine in a broad range of water temperatures. Once they establish a foothold in a region, it's game over.

In addition to the food supply there's the behavior of the fish. It seems surface disturbances like boat wakes rile them up to start leaping high in the air. Imagine running across open water in a boat, only to find a 50 pound fish flying at you.

Generally, I'm an advocate of minimal intervention on the course of nature - I favor dam removal on rivers, I'm pleased that it looks like the weir on the PM will be shut down in the near future. But that's in the case of natural occurrences. The Asian carp were brought to this country by catfish farmers in the Missippi Delta region to clean up the waters in their fish farms. Unfortunately no one understood their voracious appetites, nor their ability to migrate to other waters. In this case, we need to stop an element that man introduced, so I'm all for whatever it takes.

What's fascinating is the response of our (alleged) leaders in Washington. The Supreme Court refused to hear MI Attorney General Mike Cox's case, and President Obama proved himself an Illinois homer by initially supporting his native state's opposition to closing the Chicago locks. It would appear that some progress is finally being made and pressure will begin to be applied to Illinios, but it still falls short of the drastic measures this exceptional species merits. At times I wonder if we really did learn anything from the lamprey or alewife problems.

Finally, there's the simple economics. Michigan is a state that's been hammered by the recent recession. Current unemployment in the City of Detroit is 30% - triple the national average. And this ripple has been felt throughout the state. The commercial and recreational fisheries industry in Michigan is a $7 billion annual business. Combine that with other Great Lakes states, as well as the Province of Ontario and you could easily be looking at a $20 billion annual industry. I've read varying reports on the impact of closing shipping on Illinios - most seem to center at about $70-80 million. Yes, you read that right. We're gambling on a $20 billion industry over $70 million. Unfortunately, as the gateway to the Missippi River, Illinios holds a lot of the cards right now.

What can you do? For starters, visit Mike Cox's web site and sign the petition. If you're more intrigued, write or e-mail your legislators to continue to apply pressure to the Obama administration and the Illinois legislature.

08 February, 2010


Ski season resumed on Saturday at Caberfae. Despite a busy weekend schedule, I was able to run north on Friday night so I could be on first chair on Saturday.

Conditions were surprisingly good, especially as there's not been significant new snow in some time. But during the recent thaw there was no rain, and temps stayed fairly cold at night.

Day was sunny and beautiful from the start. Although it was COLD! I heard discussions of -2 with wind chill and I don't doubt it. Winds were well over 10 mph even at 8am and built through the morning. But trusty new Black Diamond mittens meant toasty hands! And, I do love something about the cold, crisp days. I think that rush of cold air with every breath brings another level of awareness to the body.

Biggest surprise was lack of crowds. Even at the peak of the day, lift lines were moderate. I can only assume that was due to being SuperBowl weekend. But, whatever, I'll take it. Even at day's end there were still fresh groomers to be found. Pretty unusual in the Midwest.

Storm system is coming. We've missed most of the snow this year. So, prospects of up to 12" are pretty exciting!


05 February, 2010

Big Stick

Another favorite among gear is my steelhead indicator rig. It starts with a Scott S3 in 9'6" 8-wt. configuration. Then I added a Ross Momentum V reel. And finally, Orvis Wonderline Steelhead line, overlined a bit in 9-wt. Also to run an indicator rig, you need an indicator. I've settled on the Blackbird Phantoms - invisible from below, easy to read from the top.

It's a great all-around set-up for steelhead fishing on a pretty wide range of rivers. With the longer rod, I can cover a good bit of water. And the Momentum's drag system is outstanding. Smooth start-up but strong as an ox.

Like my other Scott rod, the S3 is fantastic. I was amazed at the difference in casts, control, and even line feel. With my Scott's, it's just easier to cover water and to tell what's going on. I'm really glad I picked this rod up.

But the biggest improvement on this set-up is me! Initially I didn't really get the whole indicator style of fishing. But thanks to guide friends Jon Ray and Mike Schultz I'm much more clear on how to set it up, read the indicator, and other key elements. Also, I learned a decent roll cast, which helps immensely.

This summer, I think I'll also try poppers for bass on this one. I fish with a friend on a local lake from his boat and I think this rig will be solid for that, too. I had thought about using the new sink-tip set-up on this rod, but I think I'll put that on my 9' Orvis Clearwater II instead.

Nice to have gear dialed and just what I wanted!


03 February, 2010

Where's Winter?

Last Fall, the Farmer's Almanac called for lower than average temperatures and less than average precipitation for our region. I'd say there's some truth to that. Michigan's always been known for overcast skies (we're surrounding by the largest bodies of fresh water in the world) but this year has been brutal. I think the reason is a lack of snow. A little fresh snow every few days, mixed in with the occasional dump keeps things white and pretty. Grey skies with grey ground just seems to frustrate everyone. Then you mix in a week of drizzle and 40 degree temps and it's just perfect.

But last night we got a little snow. The difference is amazing. Please keep it coming! The difference in the moods of everyone around me, and even in me, are astounding.


01 February, 2010

End of An Era

Yesterday afternoon my great uncle Tom Moffat passed away peacefully. Uncle Tom was one of my earliest outdoor influences. I can remember fishing for bluegills off their dock on Watkins Lake outside Pontiac for hours on end. I learned to sail in his Sunfish on the same lake.

Whenever I hear comments on the "wussification" of the modern man I think of Uncle Tom. This guy was the original badass. After returning from the pacific theater of WWII, he took a job with Michigan Bell as a lineman - because he didn't want to be indoors. When he retired years later, it was only because he'd been buried in not one, but two cave-ins while servicing underground lines. Management wanted him to take a desk job - nope, not this guy. After retirement he and my Aunt Marjorie relocated to Northern MI with a home outside Mio (the southern "winter" place!) and another outside Manistique (the UP summer home). Eventually, I think the Moffats just decided that Mio was too "citified" and moved full-time to the UP.

I always knew Uncle Tom for two passions. One was raising and training world-class field trial bird dogs. Growing up my family's Irish Setter was a result of one of Tom's horse trade deals. I can remember string of Setters in the Moffat household.

The second was shooting, especially trap, skeet, and sporting clays. As a kid I can remember the gigantic reloading set-up on the pool table in the basement. I always marvelled at that operation. Though intensely private and modest, I learned in later years that Uncle Tom was a crack shot. For several years running he was the UP senior men's skeet champion. Folklore has it that when Tom showed up for a shoot, others often just went home.

A recent memory was an afternoon spent with Uncle Tom, my Aunt Marjorie, and my Dad visiting on the porch of their home on Gulliver Lake in the central UP. After a beautiful sunset, Uncle Tom offered to show me a few special pieces. Turns out he was a collector of the Winchester Model 12 shotgun. At one point he had over two dozen in various gauges, models and styles -- all in impeccable condition.

R.I.P Thomas Samuel Moffat; born 23 September 1925, Pontiac, MI; passed 31 January 2010, Manistique, MI. You left a lasting mark on this outdoorsman!