28 April, 2010

Off the Grid

E-mail. Facebook. Cell phone. Texts. Twitter. Instant Messenger. Blogging. My profession seems to demand my connectivity. In general, I'm a pretty efficient communicator, so I mostly don't mind. I'm not usually a slave to these tools, in fact they make it easier to do my job.


I'm headed off the grid in a very short while. To places without WiFi, and in fact where often even cell phones don't work. And I'm looking forward to it. Yes, I'll definitely check in, but it will require a conscious decision to find a place with service. I already know that several of my favorite UP fishing spots DON'T have cell service. I may visit those first.

Ahhhh. More tales next week - with pictures!


27 April, 2010

Rip n' Strip

Headed to the PM tomorrow night for a day of "business fishing"(hey, I don't golf...) on Thursday. I'd been wondering what the plan was -- this was originally booked as a guided steelhead trip, but there's not much chrome in the PM these days. Just talked to the friend/media partner who put this together and he found out from the guide that the plan is primarily stripping streamers for trout! AWESOME! I set-up sink tips in 6- and 8-weight configurations over the winter. I've done a little technique research online, and did a quick demo in a class last year, but nothing beats getting out and doing it on the water! Eager to get out and do it.

After I get off the river, I'll then be headed north to the Upper Peninsula. This is the annual Spring trip with my Dad, Uncle, and assorted friends. Talked to my Dad on Sunday -- rivers are low, but he managed to land a steelhead and a brown. As of now, I'm thinking it might be time for some exploration off the beaten path (or at least to new places for US). Was doing some reading on the middle section of the Escanaba, which looks interesting. Also considering a trek to the Two Hearted in a couple of spots.

On the way home, if weather permits and there's a good hatch on, I'll likely do a bit of the Holy Waters of the AuSable. Always had good luck here in the past and it's very pleasant on a Spring evening.

Should be a blast! Now to get my work and packing done!


26 April, 2010

Whole New World

After my brief introduction to fly tying, I am completely overwhelmed -- but in a good way. Just walking into a fly shop with a good selection of tying supplies seems to knock the little hamster right off the treadmill in my brain.

So many favorite patterns I want to figure out how to tie -- Hendrickson's, Sulfurs, little black Stoneflies, BWO's, various egg patterns. Stopped at Nomad Anglers on Saturday morning where I finally secured the elusive green d-rib for tying green caddis nymphs. But, I also picked up a really comprehensive book on tying techniques and patterns. One piece of advice they had was not to get overwhelmed -- learn to tie 3-4 basics. Then add to your repertoire. I think this is good advice. Toward that end, I think I'll focus on these four:
  1. Egg flies -- it's still steelhead season for at least a little while, and I want to have my program DIALED for these come Fall.

  2. Wolly Buggers -- easy to tie, plus solid for summer trout and smallies. A big Huron River fave.

  3. Green caddis nymphs -- always had good luck on these, and now I have the materials for them.

  4. Grey Drake Parachute or Adams Parachute -- having a dry in the mix forces me to up my game and this is a solid all-around pattern.

Naturally I've already picked the next four. But I'm hoping I can spend the next month or two getting these down. Plus, a nice supply of these four will get me a solid start on summer!


22 April, 2010

First Aid

Eerie experience on my way home last night. Was an early arrival to the scene where a man had jumped from a highway overpass. I don't think details are necessary -- you can likely imagine them for yourself.

For a while I've been thinking I should renew some of my First Aid/CPR certifications, since it's been a LONG time. Last night's scene put some more motivation onto that feeling. I find myself in plenty of places where having some training could prevent a bad situation from degrading into a disaster.

This is kind of the missing link in my Boy Scout "Be Prepared" ways. I'm usually way overprepared for my outdoor adventures -- extra layers, waterproof gear, etc. And, I'm usually thinking things like, "What if it's colder than the forecast?" or "...if that rain turns to snow....". But what if something injury happens to me or my companions? That's a significant missing element in my plan.

So, I think it's off to the Red Cross web site. I think a basic First Aid/CPR class will be a good start. Probably a good idea for anyone.


21 April, 2010


On my last couple of treks to the PM, I've gone west on M-20 from my buddy's place outside Mt. Pleasant. This takes me past a couple of BIG pieces of land surrounded by fences -- both identified as game ranches. This intrigues me, as the game ranch hunt is one I've never understood.

These places charge a premium to basically shoot fish in a barrel. Of course you shot a monster buck -- it was caged in by 14' high fences! And yes, you can practice excellent QDMA to grow bigger deer and cull out the smaller ones when you have total environmental and feeding control. Naturally the new MI DNR ban on baiting was the result of finding issues in some deer on one of these ranches.

I've heard other stories of folks who shot exotic animals like buffalo that were brought in to one of these ranches. I find this even more odd. I have a friend who hunts big game - but he TRAVELS to places like Wyoming, Montana, or Mexico to do so. He doesn't have one planted in Caseville, roll out on a quad and shoot it. In my opinion, a part of the appeal of a hunt is going to a place and tracking that animal.

One of the ranches I passed was this place in Bitely, MI (just south of Baldwin). So, being the curious sort, I poked around their web site. WEIRD. Not one of the testimonials is from a MI client. Then there's the clear undertone of the Christian experience. So, your God wanted you to hunt one of his creatures with the unfair advantages of a ranch environment?

Everyone's got their own thing, but I wouldn't take anyone over the age of 10 to a trout farm - how is this different?


20 April, 2010


One part of Sunday's change-up on the river was that I broke out the Chuck-n-Duck rig for a bit after lunch. Didn't have much luck in the morning, and I figured maybe the issue was that I wasn't really getting down to the fish. Plus, I had it with me, so what the heck?

The primary criticism of C&D is that it's not "real" fly fishing as it uses a bunch of weight and a running line, rather than a floating fly line. Ordinarily, I don't get swayed much by "real fly fishing"discussions as they're usually tech weenie esoteric elitist bullshit. But in this case I just found I was enjoying it less than fishing my indy rig. Roll casting is more fun for me, and I'm actually better able to deliver the fly to where I want it, while avoiding overhanging branches and other obstacles.

Plus, the other name for C&D is "bottom bouncing". While that's all cool on more unobstructed rivers with gravel or sand bottoms, the PM is full of downed timber and other hazards - part of what makes it a great fishery. Within a half hour I'd already lost more flies and split shot than I did the balance of the day on the indy rig.

After a short stint, it was back to the truck for the indy rod. MUCH better, went right back into the zone!

I suppose I should take all of this as a sign of growth. After all, C&D was my introduction to steelheading. For the first couple of years it was the only way I'd ever caught fish. But, over the past year, with the guidance of some good teachers coupled with some hours on the water, I've graduated to indy fishing as my main tool. All in all, I must say this feels like an accomplishment.

Tight lines!


19 April, 2010

Mixing Up the Program

Decided to shuffle the deck on the PM yesterday. Been reading Rober Traver's "Trout Magic" and a recent story mentioned that most fishermen return to the familiar. When I started at my usual spot, though only two trucks in the lot, there were several folks out on the river, plus some guide boats.

Initially, I decided to move fast through this area working around the others I encountered. But then it occured to me to move to the end. Gleason's Landing is the end of the flywaters (and of most guided float trips) so I decided to move down there early, then jump back up the river later. Turned out to be a decent strategy. Far fewer folks at Gleason's. Then after lunch I moved up to the Ledge Hole access to work that. As I was rigging up in the parking lot four guys walked out. Those were the last people I saw all afternoon!

I really enjoyed getting out of the comfort zone and finding some other good spots. As an added bonus, I haven't been back to the Ledge access since taking my little unplanned January swim a couple years back. So, I needed to conquer it -- which I did. Seeing it now I can see how I stepped into it; but I'm amazed how much I've learned since then. My wading skills are MUCH better now!

Found some nice fishy spots. I think some will be especially good for summer trout on dries and nymphs. While I had a few strikes, and a chase from one sizable brown, my only catch was a little rainbow. Hey, better than getting skunked, right?


16 April, 2010

Let the Fun Commence

Just heard my fly tying vise arrived at the local shop. Been anticipating this for a while -- now I can try out some of my newly acquired expertise on my own. Since learning to tie eggs the other night, I've been thinking up recipes all week. Hmmm -- cheese body, red spot, cream veil. Or maybe that spot needs to be purple? I even ordered a few additional colors, just to enable experimentation. Want to try one of my Manistee River favorites, the Jonny Ray Superman! And yes, it looks about like what you'd guess...

Also, in week one we tied some Green Caddis nymphs. I want to bang out a dozen or so of those before end of month trip to the UP.

This should be a cool and creative outlet!


15 April, 2010

Slow Go

Geez did my fitness fall off over the Winter. Took a second ride of the season (Spring keeps toying with us in Michigan) last night. Enjoyed being out, but wow am I a slug. Downloaded ride data from my Garmin and, well, it's not good...

But, then I remember that improvements are a result of continuous and regular effort and won't be instantaneous. Just need to get out 2-4x per week and I'm sure that after a couple of weeks, all will be well. But, for now, I think I'll stick to solo rides -- I think a group ride would kill me.

On the upside, sure was nice to be out on the road. Bike felt tuned and crisp. Shifting was great and precise. Even the normally poor brakes (Note to Giant: long reach calipers and house brand brakes? Why?) felt solid and had decent stopping distance.

OK, just have to squeeze time into schedule. A few weeks and I won't even remember the slow start!


14 April, 2010


Instructor at Colton Bay basic fly tying class was good enough to teach me to tie egg flies last night. We tied Nukes, Glo Bugs, and he even showed me how to tie in the contrasting spot. Turns out its as easy as many had told me. But I don't think I'd have ever figured it out on my own, or watching videos. Most importantly, I learned the key variables between good and great eggs.

Later in the evening the class got into a discussion of "why would you tie flies?" All concurred it certainly wasn't because it was cheaper; until instructor Chris Hatcher (good guy and solid teacher, btw) commented, "Unless you chase steelhead on the PM and loose a dozen eggs in a day...". Yeah, that sounds about like me. Last trip I think I lost 10. If you're paying $1.50 (not uncommon) for them that's pretty easy math.

But the coolest part was that now that I know the basics, I can start experimenting with recipes. Colors, sizes, styles, hook size and configuration. From this simple pattern, I can explore dozens of options. Plus they're cheap -- a bag of McFly Foam is about $3 and will produce dozens of flies.

Looking forward to exploring more!


12 April, 2010

Knot Right

Found another goal for the summer. I've got to work on my knot tying skills. Sure, I can bang out improved clinches even in on a 5 degree winter day, and I can tied a triple surgeon's knot practically blindfolded. Sadly, that seems to be about it.

Made an attempt at a perfection loop recently that looked like a ball of yarn by the time I was done with it. And blood knots look so sleek and elegant -- except mine. My nail knots just slip apart before they grab.

But, I can tie improved clinches and surgeons knots. Why? Because I tie lots of them. Watching guides amazes me. Those guys just bang out 83 different knots almost without looking. Again, practice.

So, I think that's a good summer's goal; learn to competently tie two additional knots. I think up next will be perfection loops and blood knots.


09 April, 2010

Michigan April

Had temps in in the low 80's last week. This morning there's a trace of SNOW on my porch roof. Ummm, OK, we'll call that a setback on Spring then!

On the upside, I think fly tieing may become the perfect fill-in for this situation. As of now, my bike's cleaned up, household chores and repairs are in good shape, and I don't watch a ton of TV. Downtime? Tie flies!

But this weekend I get to participate in one of my favorite warm weather activities - Tiger baseball! Friends are coming to visit and we scored super-cheap mezzanine tickets for tomorrow afternoon. There's little that's as much fun as a Tiger game on a nice day in downtown Detroit. Supposed to be sunny and mid-60's. In April, I'll take it! Nice way to relax, meet some nice folks, and enjoy one of the best things about Detroit. And a little Slow's BBQ afterward might just round out a great day nicely!


07 April, 2010

Tied Up

Second week of beginner fly tying class last night. Having a blast with it! Sure, my flies aren't perfect, but I'm surprised by how easy it is to get pretty good results. I'm really intrigued by the possibilities for creativity, once you've got the basics down. Don't like flat rib? Use tubing! Prefer black over olive -- it's YOUR fly!

I did get to use a good vise last night and could definitely tell the difference. Very easy to get a firm grip on the hook bend. Also the rotary vise was really excellent for trimming and clean-up. Renzetti Traveller looks like the solution.

One thing that became clear to me last night was that certain practices need to be consistent so you'll always know how you did it. For example, I've learned to always wrap over and away. That way, whether I'm tying in material, wrapping a body, or taking apart a goof, I know how things should be oriented to prevent a self-destruct. And, yes, I learned by doing it wrong a couple of times.

Only downside? We shot two dozen pheasants on last hunt and I didn't keep ANY tail feathers!!! Last night we learned to tie Pheasant Tail Nymphs. Guess what one of the key ingredients is?

Looking forward to learning more!


06 April, 2010

Can't Leave Well Enough Alone

The incessant need to tinker and tweak continues. The latest victim? My Raven Matrix centerpin reel. And yes, you are correct, I have yet to even wet a line with this rig...

Centerpins are all about a super-smooth free-spooling reels with effortless start up. The idea is a friction-free super long drift where the current unspools line. Folks spend hundreds to thousands on precision machined reels. Several folks recommended the Matrix to me as the best affordable reel available. And it does spin like a perpetual motion machine.


After haunting The Steelhead Site, I find some references to bearing upgrades. Makes sense -- higher end cycling hubs are largely a result of better bearings, ditto for skateboards. So, through the site I find Boca Bearings in Florida. Sure enough, quick search reveals they have bearings for my reel. For under $30 (shipped, too!) I score their top-of-the-line super high tech ceramic bearings. Shipped dry, as is recommended for 'pinning reels -- grease hampers start-up and can really gum up in cold conditions. Stainless steel races, high-tech polymer seals, and smooth, durable ceramic balls. About as high-tech as you could want. Definitely satisfies my need to tweak. Can't wait to drop them in and give it a spin!

Report to follow!


05 April, 2010

Give A Dam

What did the fish say when he hit the brick wall?


Classic joke and illustrates a good point. When you dam rivers, fish can't go where they prefer. When you consider anadramous species like steelhead and salmon where they start in rivers to spawn, move to the lakes to grow, and return to the rivers the impact of a dam is tremendous. In many river systems, like the AuSable, this journey is artifically shortened by a dam that prevents migration.

But there's more bad stuff that dams cause. One of the best simple discussions I've seen is here.

Why bring it up? As infrastructure budgets are shrinking at local, state, and Federal levels many communities are considering removing dams rather than investing in repairs that will lead to more repairs in the future. If you're in a community where this is happening, if you're interested in healthy rivers, it may be worth your while to get involved.


02 April, 2010

Is This A Problem?

First step to getting help is admitting you have a problem. It would appear I have a fly rod issue. As I was putting the basement back together after some recent plumbing chaos, I noted the growing army of sticks. At-present, the following are in the arsenal:
  • Scott A2 in 9' 6-weight; my all-round trout/smallie rod
  • Scott S3 in 9' 6" 8-weight; my all-round steelhead rod for indicator fishing
  • Orvis Clearwater II in 9' 8-weight for chuck-and-duck steelheading
  • TFO Signature in 7'6" 3-weight for tight UP trout streams
  • Raven IM6 13' 6" float rod for centerpinning
  • Ross FS in 9' 5/6-weight; back-up/learner rod
  • TFO Signature in 9' 10-weight for Kings
  • Albright GP in 9' 8-weight; probably for stripping streamers to big trout and as a back-up (hey, it was CHEAP...)

On the upside, I don't think I paid anything near retail for any of these. Many were used from guide friends clearing out their garages. Others were sale or closeout items.

At the moment, only two others are possibilities -- looking to pick up a Scot A2/3 in 7'6" 3-weight to replace my TFO (I love the Scott A Series rods), plus may be doing some trade out for a longer 11' switch rod for drifting indicators to steelies (probably a TFO Deer Creek).

Let's not even talk about reels. Yet.


01 April, 2010

Ready to Roll!

Spent some time on the road bike last night. The season-opening degrease, wash, wax. Always love doing that. Everything looks so shiny and new afterward. Hope it gives me a little extra jump on my first ride. Weather's supposed to be warm the next few days and we've had some rain to wash the roads off, so I'm thinking this weekend will be first outing. Now we'll find out just how much my fitness slipped over the winter.

Also, had the local shop do some tuning to the shifting, wrap the bars with fresh tape, and tension and true my wheels. Crisp! I like it.

Shoes are due for some new cleats (when did standard Look cleats become hard to find items?). I had some problems with numbness in my toes last year after 15 miles or so. Sure enough, guys at the shop thought my cleats weren't positioned correctly. So, now that's been fixed.

Here we go! Game on. My goal is to get back to 75+ miles per week. Get outside. Burn some calories. Should be fun!