29 September, 2010

Complex Equation

I now have all the pieces and parts to put together my switch rod setup for swinging flies to steelhead. Little did I know that there's a good bit more complexity to all this. But the more I read about this technique the more eager I am to give it a go - the idea of a slammin' take from a powerful fish like a steelhead completely charges me up.

For those not familiar with Skagit rigs, it goes something like this. In addition to a line that looks something like some sort of cartoonish licorice rope (seriously -- my 475 grain Rio Skagit Short is about 2-3x the diameter of a regular 8-weight fly line), you will likely use a cheater section that's a 2-1/2 to 7 foot piece of additional line. The cheater is used (I think) to adjust the actual amount of weight-forward line so your rod loads properly to execute a spey cast.

Then, in most cases you attach a length of sinking line (mine's T-14) to get the fly down to the fish. The length (I currently have 8' and 10') are determined by flow rate, depth, and time of year. This is the part I don't yet understand, but I'm guessing I'll figure it out on the water.

Onto this sink tip, goes a short, stout leader that can withstand the powerful takes that tend to happen with this style of fishing.

Of course, since I don't want to spend a fortune, there's some assembly required. You can buy sink tips with welded loops and leaders already nail-knotted on. But where's the fun in that? So in the coming days, I'll be affixing loops to T-14, then tying leaders onto the other end.

A lot of work, but based on the little taste I've had, it looks like a very cool way to fish. And, for Winter, I've got an indy set-up all ready to roll with 10-weight Rio Atlantic Salmon/Steelhead line on a Ross Momentum 5. So this 11' Temple Fork Outfitters Deer Creek Series could become my default year-rounder!


28 September, 2010

Groove On

Looks like tying is another of those things where you need to find your groove. Had some time to kill this morning and wanted to tie some alternative pheasant tail nymphs (on scud hooks I use for steelhead egg flies). Funny, but I couldn't tie a decent one to save my life!

On the upside, filled my box with eggs and caddis nymphs over the weekend. Felt nice to load up on stuff I tied! And, I've got enough left over to fill my Dad's request for some flies before his trip to the U.P. later this month. I have about 2-3 dozen eggs for him and a dozen or so caddis in various colors.

Been reviewing some steelhead books lately, getting ideas for flies to fill my boxes for Winter. I think next fly to learn are hare's ear nymphs. They sound productive and will be good to have in my box. Also found a reference to a Great Lakes stonefly that looks a lot like a caddis pattern I already know. Stones are a go-to for me, so I think I'll hop on tying up a dozen or so.


24 September, 2010

Fish On!

Did my one annual trip for salmon yesterday on the Pere Marquette river with friends. I've written plenty about my feelings on salmon. Not my bag, but fun for a day.

Turned out to be a nice, warm day. Breezy, but very pleasant. Given the NASTY forecast of 80 degrees and a high chance of violent thunderstorms, it was stunning. Last year's trip was on a day of high 40's and continuous drizzle.

My companions on this trip love salmon fishing. And they put up BIG numbers. Between three of us in the boat, we'd landed 10 by 9:30am! Lots of fish, many pretty fresh.

But my reward was something different entirely. I noticed some trout below a pod of salmon feasting on the egg buffet. On one long drift, BAM -- hit one. Turned out to be a great 20" male in full pre-spawn Fall color. This was a gorgeous fish with rich brown and gold tones, and some red accents. Probably the prettiest fish I've ever caught. And, for 2010 my largest brown thus far! After a quick revive, he happily sped back to take his place below the egg conveyor.

I can't explain how much this fish made my day. I was grinning from ear-to-ear after that one! Such a pleasant and beautiful surprise. Another bonus was a little steelhead skipper. Small, but more imporantly my first chromer of the year!

A great day. On the drive home I was thinking -- "Gosh, I needed that!"


21 September, 2010

So Much Water, So Little Time

Just finished re-reading Bob Linsenman's excellent book "Best Streams for Great Lakes Steelhead". Probably not a beginner's book (I think most of it was lost on me when I read it the first time), but this time I got so much from it.

One big thing was a whole wealth of new locations. I was especially captivated by the rivers of Southern Ontario, as well as the Steelhead Alley rivers of Ohio/Pennsylvania. The Ontario rivers seem especially alluring. Most seem big and perfect for swinging flies or drifting nymphs on fly gear or centerpin. Plus, it's Canada and they're just cooler.

Of course how to fit this into life is a bit more challenging. Road trips take time - a precious commodity these days. I suppose I'll just put them on my bucket list.I'm pretty good about getting to this sort of thing, but you can never tell when the opportunity will arise. Meanwhile, I've already got two Fall steelhead trips brewing, plus at least one Winter trip solidified. Was talking to a guide friend today who thought the upcoming season looked to be as good as last Fall/Winter -- woo hoo!!!


20 September, 2010

The Greatest Snow on Earth

Received the 2010-2011 promot catalog from the folk at Ski Utah over the weekend. Seems everyone has their favorite Out West destination for skiing -- mine's Utah. In addition the already-explained "greatest snow on earth", the resorts surrounding Salt Lake City have so much more going for them.Over the years, I've skied most of the major areas, with the exception of Snowbird and Sundance. I'm sure I'll get to those eventually.

I will offer one caveat to all this. I'm not a big fan of the areas around Park City. While I started out there, I quickly found Utah has so much more to offer. PC has plenty to do, but it's pricey, crowded and gets less snow (typically). But, remember, I'm not that big on resort ammenities. I'm there to ski and see. Plus, I'm cheap...

On a couple of trips, I've stayed in Salt Lake City, and used the Ski Utah web site to figure out who got snow and head there. Salt Lake has cheaper accomodations, lots of great restaurants, and is a under an hour from a dozen ski areas.

My favorite? It's a tough call that's very dependent on conditions, but all-around I think I enjoy Solitude most. A local turned me on to it a few years back and I've tried to return on every trip. No crowds, varied terrain, and the stunning scenery of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The drive up is beautiful. It's also the site of my wildest day skiing -- an all-day powder dump with a full-blown thunder and lightning show! Weird, but it was a great day on the slopes.

If you're up to get more off the beaten path, Powder Mountain is some off-the-hook skiing -- especially after a dump. I've only been here once, but  I enjoyed almost two feet of fresh for my journey! Lift tickets are downright cheap, and the locals are super-friendly. You won't find the luxe cafeteria and marble bathrooms of Deer Valley, what you will find is some truly excellent skiing. Afterward, Rooster's Brewery in Ogden has some tasty brews and even better food.

Finally, there's Snowbasin. Again off the beaten path (both Snowbasin and PowMow are outside Ogden), Snowbasin was completely redone to host the SLC Winter Olympics. The terrain is exceptional and diverse. The snow's good, and the drive up from the valley floor is totally cool. As a bonus -- the food at the Needles Lodge is full-on gourmet and still very reasonably priced. One caveat, however, Snowbasin tends to get socked in with fog/inversions easily. It's happened to me twice and to friends I sent there last year. When that happens your visibility extends roughly to your ski tips. A bit spooky. But it burns off after a couple of hours.

As you can guess, already thinking about a trip this Winter...


17 September, 2010

Fall Trout

I started my fly fishing journey with Steelhead -- which I imagine will always be my passion. Later I discovered trout and found that rather fun, too. Although, I've always thought of that as a summer thing. A pleasant June evening on the PM or AuSable tossing BWO's on a 4-weight at dusk before retiring to a campfire to cook dinner.Or perhaps mid-morning drifting nymphs. In shear numbers, this is how I've caught most of my trout. Although, I must admit my two biggest fish were actually surprises in Winter while steelheading.

At any rate, I've typically felt like trout fishing was "over" once the terrestrials were done and the salmon showed up. That's the time I tear down the 4-6 weight rods and starting digging around for the 8 weight sticks. But this weekend I think I'll mix that up and hit the Pere on Sunday (have a wedding in Mt. Pleasant on Saturday) for some late-season trout. I've packed my 6 weight for nymphs and an 8 weight with a 300 grain sink tip for streamers. Time to expand my repertoire. Current reports have the salmon run primarily focused on the lower river, so this should keep the crowds down.

Either way, some quality time standing in my favorite river will be most enjoyable!


16 September, 2010


I think fly tying may just be one of the most totally relaxing things around when you can't be outside. Got a half hour to kill? Sit down and bang out a few flies. In the mood to learn something new? Fire up YouTube, find a new pattern, and then give it a try.

Currently, I'm making great progress on filling the egg box for steelhead season. Have some basics (cheese, pale pink, cream, steelhead orange, and late roe) tied in reasonable quantities. Now moving on to some nuke eggs which have always served me well.  Coupled with a bunch of green and olive caddis I've tied lately, this should put me in good stead for the coming Fall/Winter season.

On Sunday I'll hit the PM for some early Fall trout chasing, which should enable me to try out some of the beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymphs I've been tying up. It's been nice to re-fill my boxes and not get hit for $25 at the fly shop!

But back to the relaxing aspect. I find that I do need to pay attention to what I'm doing to achieve good results. Much like shooting, this means you can't be thinking about other things (Did I turn off the stove? What about that headline I need to re-write to make that ad work? Will mortgage rates go any lower? Should I shift some of my retirement dollars into a Roth IRA?). But it's not TOO mentally demanding. Plus, it's a great creative outlet.

I think it helps that I have a great spot to tie - my home office. Nice desk, comfortable chair, good lighting. All my tying supplies are nicely organized so I can find them quickly. Very chillaxing!


14 September, 2010

Foundation of Bad Habits

Found some time to slip out to the Sharonville DNR shooting range on Saturday. Haven't done much of this sort of shooting this year -- not very pleasant when it's 90 degrees and dripping humidity.

After about a half-hour a Dad and two teen-aged kids show up. Everyone seemed to be in a frenzy, first to set targets, then re-set to get on the bench they son had set-up on. It was evident that Dad had squeezed this little field trip into a busy day. He was trying to get the kids an opportunity to shoot shotgun slugs at deer profile targets. But at every turn he was yelling at either the son or daughter and continually pressing them to hurry up. It became pretty annoying pretty quickly, and more importantly illustrated a key point. What's the rush? Safe shooting and hunting DO NOT happen at a compressed pace. You need to be aware of your surroundings and in tune with what you're doing. Having your ranting father in your ear all the while certainly does little to foster learning.

The son seemed completely rattled by all this. Every time Dad started yelling, his fumbling only increased. The daughter, however seemed much more able to focus and complete tasks. But none of them looked to be having any fun. Which causes me to ask -- why bother? If you're just going to turn it into a task for the kids, suddenly it's like taking out the trash. In this era where kids exposure to the outdoors is so reduced and the major industry groups are bemoaning declining participation in hunting and fishing this type of interaction will only turn the next generation off.

Just my observations. I wish I could say I'd never seen this sort of thing before, but sadly I have.


13 September, 2010

Fat's Where It's At

Been reading a ton of positive reviews on Line Prophet 100's just lately. Naturally, this has me itching for ski season! Most reviews have commended their versatility. I must say that I found them amazing on Utah powder, as well as Michigan groomers. Really the only place I've found them lacking was on rock-hard weeks old Michigan hardpack (out West they call it ice..). Tip softness just causes too much chatter.

The biggest surprise in reading reviews is how fat is the new normal in ski designs. I've had my Prophets for two seasons. At first they were totally unusual and sparked lots of conversation on lift rides with strangers. In fact, my K2 Public Enemies, a season older than the Prophets, did as well. The Public Enemies are 85mm underfoot and the Prophets 100mm. When I bought the Enemies, the replaced some Fischer RX9s that were maybe 65mm underfoot. Now it seems that many all-mountain skis are as 80-90mm.

I will say that the Prophets just look COOL. Beefy and solid. And the float the deliver, even in a small amount of powder is truly amazing. They make skiing the deep easy. That said, my deepest powder day was over 20" of fresh at Powder Mountain, Utah -- and it was on the Public Enemies! I wish I'd had the Prophets then!


10 September, 2010


Picked up various reels, spools, etc. last week in preparation for steelhead season. I'm switching my Orvis BLA V over to be my single-hand reel for chuck-n-duck and indy fishing. I have Climax Zip Line on one spool, and Orvis Wonderline III Steelhead line on the other. Had to order a new spool from Orvis to do this.

I was checking things out and putting them away on Saturday when I found a little surprise. It would appear that Orvis has redesigned the BLA at some point in the three years since I've owned mine. The spool fits, but just free-spools and doesn't engage the drag. A closer look revealed a totally different design.

This was even news to the guys at the local Orvis shop. I don't think any of us knew about this redesign. So now we've got to sort out whether Orvis can get the older style spool or what I'll be doing. Fortunately, I'm unlikely to be doing any steelheading for a month or more. But, I'm glad I checked.

If you have one of these reels and need a spare spool, proceed with caution - or at least check the return policy!


01 September, 2010

It's Coming...

Hints of color in the trees. Nights are a little cooler. College football games are starting. Baseball standings are starting to mean something. Shorter days. Canada geese migrating. All signs of Fall. The precursor to Winter.

Found some good news on the Farmers Almanac this week though:

"A second storm track will be oriented across southwestern Canada into the Great Lakes, producing a procession of fast-moving “Alberta Clipper” systems that will bring snowier-than-normal conditions to parts of the Northern and Central Plains, and to the Ohio River and Great Lakes region."

After a Winter with minimal snow last year (which the Almanac accurately predicted) I welcome this. We live in the Great Lakes, it snows here. There's little I enjoy less than a grey landscape with 38 degrees and drizzle.

It's time for another epic Michigan ski season. BRING IT!