30 June, 2010

Nice Ride

I love my road bike. I realized that last night. While I may lust over the full-carbon Scott CR-1, the reality is I don't really need it and I don't seem to have $2,000+ burning a hole in my pocket. And, really, will it be THAT much better?

Perhaps the reason I love this bike so much is that it's all set-up for me and my riding style and build. What started as a pretty entry level 2004 Giant OCR3 now has some pretty nice gear that works for ME, including:
  • Look 110mm stem to replace the crappy, creaky adjustable stock one
  • Look clipless pedals
  • Garmin Edge 305 cycling computer
  • Fizik bar tape
  • Michelin Krylion Carbon 700x23mm tires (super smooth, puncture  resistant and great road feel)
  • Serfas Rx saddle
  • Kool-Stop brake pads (big stopping improvement)
  • Custom-built wheels by Steve Sauter of Great Lakes Cycle with Mavic rims, Shimano 105 hubs, and stainless DT spokes -- after I wore our the factory wheels these are an AWESOME upgrade
Sure, I have a few issues with this bike. Not a big fan of the triple crankset as I never use the granny gear and having to cover a triple means the front doesn't shift very crisply. And for some reason, Giant uses house brand long-reach brakes that don't stop very well. But the aluminum frame is the same used on higher end Giant's. It's stiff enough for efficiency, but soft enough not to beat me up on long rides.

Just goes to show you that it's not always the most expensive toy that wins - sometimes it's the best toy for YOU.


29 June, 2010

Pieces and Parts

Been stocking up my tying supplies lately. Now I finally understand the scramble among guest tyers when they find something in-stock at a shop. There's such a myriad of supplies, that few shops can stock everything. So, when you find copper 7/64" beads, you snap up three bags (not a made-up example; I've actually been looking for these).

Yes, I know you can go online and order this stuff. But two factors come into play. First, I try to support local shops wherever possible and tying supplies is the perfect opportunity. And second, spending $8.95 on shipping for $2.50 worth of beads is silly.

Even the big box stores don't hold much inventory. Was in a Cabelas last week and they had even less than my local fly shop. This depleted inventory seems likely an effect of the down economy. I know a lot of specialty retailers are using reduced inventory as a source of cash flow management (and who can blame them?).

So, if you find 7/64" copper beads and size 16 2x long nymph hooks, buy me a couple bags!


28 June, 2010

Well, hello!

Noticed a big bug on the screen as I was getting ready for work this morning. Recognized it IMMEDIATELY. Hexagenia Limbata - or as it's more conversationally known amongst obsessive fly fishing types:


Sometimes called the Michigan Mayflay, these big bugs turn on an unparalleled feeding frenzy. Hexes started early in Northern Michigan, and from most accounts finished up last week. Late June is early for the Huron, but that's how things have been. This usually marks the beginning of Huron River smallmouth fishing me. A great evening is fishing the dusk hatch, just a few miles from home with no crowds.

Cool part about hex dries is how easy it is. You're not trying see a #16 BWO drift. We're talking an inch-long, mostly white fly. The takes are unmistakeable. And seeing the drift is no problem at all.

Now, if the rains would slow for a bit so the river can come down, I'd be all set. We keep getting heavy dumps of rain. Just about the time things clear out from one deluge, we get another.


25 June, 2010

Critical Juncture

With this news, it looks like the Asian Carp situation in the Great Lakes Basin  is at a critical juncture. Carp are continuing to make progress toward our waters. Sadly it's happening concurrently with the BP oil leak in the Gulf.

I find I'm at a crossroads with the Obama Administration. It's beginning to feel like the environment is low on the President's list of priorities. In the first round of litigation and negotiation on the Asian Carp situation he showed himself to be almost completely environmentally unaware - siding with his native Chicago to keep the locks open at all costs. Illinois officials cite a few million in lost revenue as the only reason for this decision. Nevemind the billions in lost revenue to surrounding basin states, as well as decades of environmental devastation to the Great Lakes. But Obama proved toed the line with his native state.

Then the BP spill happens. I don't pretend to fully understand the complexity of a fix, but it is pretty easy to see that the inability to fix this situation is at the intersection of big company inefficiency and bureaucratic ineptitude. Seen an interview with an EPA official? They all pretty much just say, "I dunno' -- ask BP..." every time. And BP's no better. Ever worked with a big company? If you have, you know they're not exactly known for their ability to nimbly adapt to the unexpected. And, where is Obama in all this? Honestly, I don't really know. Yet he can hammer through an uprecedented healthcare reform in record time. Why can't this same focus come to the environment? What Obama did was to override the analysis-paralysis of government and force his agenda. That's what's needed here, too.

The BP spill is complicated. Just a quick fix at 5,000 feet is no simple matter. Asian Carp is much simpler. Shut the locks. Now. Tell Illinois to just deal with it -- it's part of a greater good for the Great Lakes region. Then seal off all the tribs to the Mississippi. After that's done then the Corps of Engineers and all the other governmental agencies can do all the studies they want (all funded with OUR tax dollars -- awesome). But the stop the advance FIRST. The Marine Corps has a guiding philosophy that an 80% confidence level is good enough and avoids the negative consequences of making no leadership decision. That model seems to work pretty well for them -- let's run with it.

There you go, President Obama -- let's see some of that decisive leadership that got you this opportunity. Step up. This may not be important to you, but to a lot of people it is.


24 June, 2010

Technology Upgrade

Dad's finally admitting that perhaps his 1950's fiberglass rod isn't the most effective tool. Actually, I think he said, "I've had it 51 years and never caught any trout in the first 50." Might be a touch of exaggeration. But I sent him back up to the UP with my back-up Ross Flystart rig. Early reports are that it's a much more efficient tool.

What he didn't know was that the Ross was a temporary solution. I rallied the family for Father's Day and he's getting a new 6-weight all around rig. Orvis Clearwater II 9' mid-flex rod, an Orvis Battenkill Mid Arbor (with free spare spool -- thanks Orvis!) and Rio line. He was pretty excited when I called to tell him on Father's Day.

This will round things out nicely for him. He's already got a 6' Orvis 4-wt. for the backwoods bushwhackin' brook trout streams he loves. And now he's got a big stick for more open water.

Can't wait to hit the Escanaba with him to see him try it out!


18 June, 2010

Tying Progress!

OK, I'm getting there -- finally with fly tying! No oddball streamers or exotic dries. Just focusing on learning a couple patterns at a time.

Got Wooly Buggers down pretty quickly. Once I banged out a few, got pretty consistent. As I've had good luck on Pheasant Tail Nymphs, decided these were next. First few were, to be kind, clunky. Just wasn't happy with the sequence of steps and the result from the recipe I had.

Enter YouTube. Wow. Quick search yielded a half dozen clips. Watched a few until I found one I liked. Good combination of being executable and good finished product. Then wrote out a sequence and off to the tying desk! BAM! First one perfect. Second, too. Then I picked up some 2x nymph hooks and bead heads to try a weighted nymph. Again, solid results!

Best reward? I sent Dad back up to the UP with a half dozen and he left me a voice mail last night he'd just caught a couple of trout on them! MONEY!

Up next, time for some dries. Then I find a hopper or other terrestrial, since it's getting to be that time of Summer...


15 June, 2010

Chrome on the Brain

Everyone I know who fishes seems to have a special passion. Mine is steelhead. Yeah, I have grown in my appreciation of trout, and even caught some very nice ones, as well as a growing overall number. But there's really nothing like pure chrome.

And, I've noticed I'm already pining for the Fall run. Had planned to pick up a 4 wt. stick for trout on dries -- just decided it can wait. I'm already thinking about Skagit lines and sink tips for my switch rod. Talking to guides about Winter trips. Last night while looking for something to read, I went seeking Matt Supinski's excellent Steelhead Dreams.

But I'll make it -- lots of great trout fishing remains. Still a few hatches on. And there's always nymphing. But another new fave is terrestrials. Total blast on those hot July days when nothing else works.


14 June, 2010


Took advantage of a rainy, sticky summer afternoon and some free time to go spend some time on the range with the handguns yesterday. Besides finally deciding that my Taurus M94 revolver needs to go back to the manufacturer for service, I discovered something - I just LOVE my Springfield XD 9mm.

While my results with Buckmark and Taurus .22's were fine, I could write my name at 20 yards with the XD. Fits in my hand perfectly, sights are easy to acquire, and in the three years I've owned this gun, I don't think it's EVER misfed. Plus, it's got some unique safety features not found on Glocks or S&W M&P models. The best is the grip safety. Unless you've got a firm, proper grip on it, it simply won't fire. Perhaps Plaxico Burress needs to switch shooting platforms?  ;) From 7 yards, out to 25, the XD is just rock solid with nice tight groups.

My carry gun (KelTec P11) on the other hand leaves a bit more to be desired. Don't get me wrong -- it's good for its intended purpose, but when I'm putting up 1" groups with the XD, the KelTec is more like 4". The other challenge is that putting more than a couple dozen rounds through it beats your hand up pretty well. Again, its really not intended to be a range racer. It's small, and light. These qualities make it a great carry weapon, but a rough shooter.

Afterward, I got to check out a used Sig P220 in .22LR. Hmmmm -- SWEET gun. A .22 auto built on a rugged Sig platform. At $499 used, not a terrible price. And for $400 you can get a conversion kit to shoot .45ACP. But I think perhaps that will have to wait. Hard enough to find time to shoot the guns I already own!


10 June, 2010

Water(ing) Holes

One part of the fishing adventure is that oh-so-tasty beer (or three) afterward. I love little local watering holes with character (and often characters...). And fishing seems to get you near some interesting places. Note to the uninitiated in the ways of the Northern Michigan bar -- don't roll in wearing khakis and a golf shirt. You may not find the warmest welcome, unless you're planning to buy a round. Camo is always a sold apparel choice in such locales.

So, I've found two new ones...

Barski - Baldwin, MI
When I'm not camping around the Pere Marquette, finding good eats can be interesting. While I love Edy's Log Bar, the food is a mixed bag depending on who's cooking and it's classic greasy bar food only. But on my most recent visit, I was pointed to Barski on M-37 just north of town. What a treat! Good food, diverse menu, nice folks. Solid bar food, plus way more including homemade Polish specialties.

Herb's Bar - Rock, MI
I know -- you're already asking, "Where the hell is ROCK?". Think dead center of the UP. One of the few places I've never been in the UP, and a great tip from Brad Petzke. This is not a place to grab dinner - even if they did have a menu, I'm not sure I even saw a kitchen. But if cold Old Style on draft strikes you as the right kind of retro-cool, you'll dig it. The locals were friendly, and it looks like a place that's been there since 1933 (which it has). And, you're just a few minutes from the stunning Escanaba river.

Both are great places after a long day on the water, or to hide out from a rainstorm.


09 June, 2010

What A Long Strange Trip...

Was reflecting today on my immersion into fly fishing. Seems to occupy a growing chunk of my time, but also offers so much. A few benefits:
  • I get outside regularly, and Iget to see some beautiful new places.
  • I'm continually learning - this is a BIG area of fulfillment for me; I need to be learning new skills all the time it seems.
  • I've made some great friends I wouldn't have met otherwise and fishing is a great way to spend time with them.
  • It's given my Dad and I an even stronger connection - a common passion.
  • No matter where I go, it seems I meet someone who's into fish on fly and I make a new friend often.
  • I can teach others; something else I like a great deal.
  • It's a continual challenge; there's always something new to do.
Ever since my first day out with Fred Steuber guiding on the Manistee, I was hooked. As they say, "The Tug is the Drug" which is surely true for me.


08 June, 2010

Out forTrout

Awesome weekend of UP trout fishing with Dad! Started off with a day on the water with Brad Petzke of Riversnorth Outfitters on Friday. In the morning, we fished a section of river that was just money for me. Landed three fish and had several others on in just a couple of hours - including a nice 17" brown!

Brad gave me some much-needed instruction on stripping streamers. There's a bit of coordination required that's not exactly intuitive, but with some patient teaching, I figured it out. And it produced results! BAM -- those hits on streamers are not to be missed. Oddly, this stretch was not as kind to Dad who got skunked.

But after lunch, it was a different story. It was all Dad's program with numerous hook-ups and 3 good fish landed. I got two more for the afternoon, including one on nymphs -- so I hit for the cycle with fish on dries, nymphs, and streamers in a single day.

It was clear to me that part of Brad's UP program is protecting his locations. Unlike any guide I know his truck is COMPLETELY sans decoration -- most seem to roll NASCAR-style with 82 stickers from every related company. When asked, he said, "Don't need to draw attention to the fact that I chose to be HERE." Solid logic. I will say we were on the Escanaba River. But that's all you'll get out of me.

More to follow on this awesome trip. One note, we did return to this piece of river on Saturday evening. Once again, my hot spot, not Dad's! But, in his defense on Saturday he had equipment issues -- he's vowed to avenge this wrong!


03 June, 2010

Road Trip!

Headed to the UP this afternoon for a weekend fishing with Dad and some top-notch guides. Tomorrow we're going to chase some trout on the Escanaba River with Brad Petzke of Riversnorth. I've heard so many good things about Brad and his intimate knowledge of UP streams and rivers. My interactions with him have been fun and engaging and seems like a really good guy to share a day on the river. Sounds like it will mostly be nymphing and dries, maybe stripping a few streamers.

Saturday I'm sure Dad and I will fish somewhere in the UP. We have a couple of solid secret spots, or may seek out something new. Rain on Friday should bring some much-needed water and hatches to the mix.

Sunday morning we'll head downstate to meet up with Jon Ray for the big trout freak show. Plan is to seek out the hidey holes of some big pigs. As Jon said on the phone, "You guys are just fine catching trout you can hold in one hand on your own. I want us to find some that take TWO hands." Love that about fishing with Jon -- once he's comfortable with your basic skills and knows you want to learn, he'll always advance your skills.

Lot of road and river miles, but should be fun with Dad, a good chance to see some out of the way places, and a blast with some guide friends.


01 June, 2010

Tied Up

Had some time Saturday morning to practice my fly tieing skills. Per an earlier post, I've decided to concentrate on building some skills with a few simpler patterns before expanding my repertoire. Last weekend I tied some respectable green caddis nymphs. This weekend was the excellent all-around Wooly Bugger.

Of course, the hatches in Michigan are really starting to happen. This makes me want to tie some dries, especially my favorite Isonychia's. I think I'll try some Parachute Grey Drakes and Parachute Adams next. I learned how to tie these in my intro class.

I'm really happy with my Renzetti Traveller vise! Buying something better than a $29.95 made-in-Pakistan vise off eBay has really paid off. Easy, precise, and things just seem to be in the right place.

It's nice to have a good rainy day activity!