30 November, 2010

Small Giants

Great column in this month's Ski magazine by Warren Miller on the virtues of small ski areas. I've long been a fan of the smaller ski areas for a broad range of reasons. They're friendly, tend to focus on skiing over ammenities, and usually less pricey. Sure, the lodging's not Michelin-rated, but that's really not what I'm there for.

In Michigan, I love Caberfae Peaks and have for years. Family-owned and with super-friendly locals it's a great place to ski. Plus, it's situated just far enough from Lake Michigan to get hammered with some tasty lake effect snow. Good terrain with a mix of skill levels. And the people I meet are just great. Never been a fan of the color-coordinated, bitching-about-everything (lift lines, food, etc.) set at places like Boyne. Yes, I do know some great serious skiers who regularly visit Boyne, but I also meet more poser assholes who talk up the place. Not so Caberfae. Everything from the woman on 110mm powder boards skiing trees to the newbie guy in full deer hunting camo. And all friendly as can be. An added bonus? My favorite Winter steelhead fishing waters are within a 30 mile radius. Can't ski? Fish!

Out West, I found the same love of the local place returning. My first couple of years I skied mostly the Park City areas. While I enjoyed them, lift lines are long, lift tickets are expensive, and there seemed to be a lot of people there to "be seen". On the advice of a SLC local, I paid a visit to Solitude. Ahhhhhh, now that's more like it. In addition to some great terrain, NO CROWDS. Since then, I've probably skied a dozen days there -- it's become a must-visit in Utah. A couple of years back, I ventured further afield to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain (at right), up near Ogden. Both are equally exceptional and totally different. Snowbasin benefitted from a complete re-do for the SLC Olympics and is super-posh. The dining makes Deer Valley look like a Denny's. And the skiing is excellent. A former local area all grown up. At the other end of the spectrum is PowMow. What a great local place! Zero ambiance -- I think Caberfae might have more! But, the largest skiable acreage in Utah. And it's quality terrain. I've only skied one day, but I'll be back!

So, support the little guy -- so we can keep them around. Whether it's Wilmot Mountain in southern Wisconsin, or Snowsnake in Harrison, Michigan there's some great skiing and good fun to be had with the locals!


29 November, 2010


A little swinging humor. As a new convert to this really cool style of steelhead fishing, I found this pretty damn funny! Enjoy!

24 November, 2010

Rod Review -- TFO Deer Creek Series Switch

Now that I've got a little time in with this one, I thought a review was in order. Thus far, I've really only swung flies on a Skagit line with it, so I'll add more later when I've had the chance to Indy fish it a bit.

Temple Fork Outfitters new(ish) Deer Creek Series are family of 6 switch rods ranging from a 5/6 weight all the way up to a 10 weight. As befits my steelheading passion, mine's an 11' 8-weight. Especially in a switch rod, 4-piece construction is key to easy transport.

From the start, this rod makes a great impression visually and in the hand. A deep blue blank with copper wraps, and a matching blue anodized reel seat makes for a nice visual. It's a good looking rod! The two tone grip is comfortable in the hands and seems to have very nice cork. And, it all comes in a very nice larger diameter case.

TFO is known primarily for low-priced rods with good value. The Deer Creek seems to take that to a new extreme. I own a couple of TFO Signature rods for more specialized purposes (a short 3-weight for bushwackin' and a stout 10-weight for salmon) but neither of them are all that pretty. Both perform in a workmanlike manner, but are nothing special. But at their low price and with a lifetime guarantee, I have no complaints. But the Deer Creek is something entirely different. It's easily as visually appealing and feels as good in-hand as my Scott's or any Sage I've seen.

With some help from buddy Mike Schultz of Schultz Outfitters, I was able to figure out a line configuration. Skagit line is a 475 grain Rio Skagit Short, with a 5' Rio Skagit Cheater. This links to 6'-10' lengths of T-14 depending on water conditions. For Indy fishing, a 10 weight Rio Steelhead & Atlantic Salmon line is spooled up. Both are on Ross Momentum V reels.

As pretty as this rod is, it's a rocket ship on the water. Once I refined my casting stroke a bit, I was easily able to shoot powerful, accurate casts almost effortlessly. A very experienced guide (who will remain nameless as he's on a competitor's pro staff) cast it a few times and simply said "Kudos to TFO -- great stick". I got slammed on the swing on the Manistee and landed a nice 8# steelhead. The rod was outstanding fighting this fish. Plenty of backbone to lead things, but soft enough to offer some shock absorption.  

Regular readers will know I'm a Scott rods fanatic. Just exceptional products, all American-made and a Michigan-owned company. When I bought the Deer Creek the Scott A3 switch either wasn't available or I didn't know about it (plus, there wasn't a local dealer at that time). Last night I got to do a side-by-side comparison of the two. I'd been considering if I should sell the TFO and buy a Scott. I decided against that. After comparing, I think the TFO Deer Creek is a prettier rod with a better grip design. This is no knock against the Scott -- I'd buy one in a second, but it's not worth the effort of selling what I have first. The flex pattern did seem a bit different, but not huge.

Complaints? I only have three:
  1. No hook keeper; I wish it had one. Although the Scott didn't either. Not major.
  2. It's a LITTLE bit heavier. Not an issue with swinging two-handed. Maybe it will be for Indy fishing, but if that's the case, then I'll just fish my Scott S3 single hand.
  3. It's made in the East, not the US. Can't have it all.
Looking for an high-performance rod a great price? The TFO Deer Creek switch is worth a look. I think you'll like it.I sure do. Until I can justify big money for an Orvis Helios switch or a Sage TCX, I think it will be a great tool for me. Given the Deer Creek's performance, that may never happen!


22 November, 2010


Ran across this shot last night from Winter 2008. Despite today's forecast of 64 and thunderstorms (wait, it IS the week of Thanksgiving, right?) it got me rolling for ski season. But it also got me thinking about my quiver and how it's ideal for the way I want to ski.

When I joined the world of modern skis (my Kastle 207's look pretty cool screwed to the ceiling in my workshop) I picked up a pair of Fischer RX9's. Great boards. Ski magazine's Ski of the Year for two years in a row. But, like most Fischer products of that era they were STIFF and all about fast. After a while I realized that I'm past wanting to do that all the time. Sure it's fun once in a while, but poking around on bumps, in powder, or in the trees on stiff race boards isn't that enjoyable.

Enter my K2 Public Enemies. Before buying, I did a lot of research. Despite being originally designed as a park and pipe ski, the Public Enemy quickly gathered a reputation as a great all-mountain ski that's surprisingly versatile. I picked up a pair at season's end (50% off -- thank you very much) with some sweet Tyrolia bindings and all set. Quickly I found that my Fischer's were almost never skied. So when a friend needed some new boards, they got sold. I've always loved K2's (remember the 712 and the balls-out VO Slalom? I owned both) and these are no exception. They just seem to do a lot of things really well. With the exception of the iciest conditions - where a stiff ski with an aggressive edge offers greatest advantage - I don't miss my Fischer's one bit.

A few powder days in Utah had me longing for some true fat boards. At 85mm underfoot, the K2's certainly no narrow-waisted supermodel. But I wanted some fat boys to enjoy the true float experience. I noticed my local shop has a pair of Line Prophet 100's in 184cm. A little online research reveals the Prophet 100 is the powder board equivalent of my Public Enemies -- a solid powder ski that's very versatile for all mountain skiing. Score! Wrangled a deal on these and some Marker bindings with brakes big enough to clear the width (not the easiest chore before the market explosion of fat boards) and I'm ready to rock. Once again, the versatility is shocking. Awesome in any powder from a few inches to a over a foot, rock-solid in crud, and even decent as things firm up. Their only true nemesis seems to be pure rock-hard ice. The soft tips just start to chatter too much and blow any hope of edge hold.

With these two skis, I can readily ski almost any conditions on almost any slope. Got a foot of fresh? No problem! Two-week old crust? Got it. Bumps? Cool. High-speed groomers? Can do! I've owned lots of skis over the years (LOTS -- did I mention I worked in a ski shop for a while?) but I don't think I've ever had this perfect a pairing.

Now, we just need to get that snow rolling...


19 November, 2010

Wind Blows

Had some real run-ins with the wind while fishing this Fall. Bailed out on the second day of a two-day trip on the Manistee in late October after a HUGE tree blew down into the river not far from the boat. This weekend bailed on last day in the UP when winds got consistently above 30 mph. Talked to my Dad today and he fished very little this week as the wind continued.

I can tolerate so many outdoor conditions, but nothing seems to make outdoor conditions difficult or impossible like high winds. I've fished all day in solid pouring rain. Snow's great, and as long as temps aren't in the negative digits, cold's fine, too. But some solid, sustained high wind sends me scurrying for shelter.

Cycling -- if it's windy, I stay home. Too much work. I don't even try.

In skiing, I can tolerate it, to a point. My most hairy day was skiing Solitude, UT with sustained 40 mph winds and a full-blown thunder AND lightning storm. Weird, but I stayed out there. I did an evening at Caberfae a couple of years back with 30mph sustained and gusts to over 50. Felt like being sandblasted when you skied under the snow guns. Not quite sure why THOSE were running.

Wind is definitely my outdoor Kryptonite. What's yours?


18 November, 2010


Been looking for a warmer insulating layer for hunting and fishing in Winter. Generally, I'm a synthetic guy - polyprylene base layers, fleece, etc. But lately wool has intrigued me. It's warm, even when wet. It doesn't accumulate odors the way man-made materials can, and it's just got a retro-cool about it.

Stumbled on a good deal on a Columbia Gallatin wool jacket (I love shopping for such things during deer season -- always on sale). Not too wool prickly, and seems super-warm. Very well-constructed, especially for the price. Tried it on under my Simms G4 shell and it all seems good.

I'm eager to try it out on some frosty conditions. Sadly, we'll have highs in the low 50's much of this week locally, so that will need to wait. But, its Michigan. Could be 20 next week.

The alternatives in synthetics weren't cheap. Standard 100 and 200 weight fleece is OK for warmth, but 300 Series Polartec is where it's at. Unfortunately,  at $165 a North Face Denali jacket is twice the price. Beyond the Denali, not a lot of true 300 Series options. Plus it doesn't have Yooper Cool like a subtle camo wool garment! This should make those Winter runs on a wide open jet sled MUCH more tolerable.


17 November, 2010

I Am A Steelheader

I don't think things get really interesting until daily highs stay consistently below 45 degrees.

I am a steelheader.

I check every knot three times after I tie it.

I am a steelheader.

I have a closet full of layers for virtually every possible sort of nasty weather.

I am a steelheader.

My overhead cast sucks, but I can roll cast a rig with two flies, weight, and an indicator like a machine.

I am a steelheader.

I own only two 4-6 weight rods; and at least six 8 weights.

I am a steelheader.

I keep a tube of superglue in my bag for cracked fingers.

I am a steelheader.

I relish the curious looks I get from people when I explain that yes, I do wade all winter.

I am a steelheader.

I'm happiest when it's snowing.

I am a steelheader.


16 November, 2010

Just in Case

On my first outing with the new switch rig, I discovered something key. At 11' long, this rod doesn't fit in my Rod Loft in the Element. Hmmm. And, I love to be able to quickly transport a rigged (or semi-rigged) rod so I don't have to spend a ton of time standing riverside tying knots.

A visit to my local fly shop and some time on Google reveal, there aren't a lot of case solutions. Two-piece cases are too long, and most four-piece are too short. Plus, what to do about the butt section? Enter the Sage Switch Rod/Reel Case. Looked pretty good. Naturally, no Sage dealers near me to look at one. Fortunately, I'm connected to the owner of Streamside Anglers through Facebook (nice guy with lots of great stuff in-stock BTW, highly recommended).

This case completely exceeds my expectations. Fits my rod PERFECTLY. And unlike many other rod/reel cases includes dividers to protect each section. Each divider has Velcro connectors to ensure everything stays put. The rod tube overall is a bit larger in diameter to ensure a good fit. And the long reel pouch accomodates the switch rod butt. Best of all, the price is very reasonable.

Now my switch rod is in one easy-to-transport, protective case. I couldn't be happier. I think I'll need to investigate other Sage luggage and cases. Nice stuff!


15 November, 2010

Pin to Win

Did a long weekend chasing Fall steelhead with Dad in the Central UP this past weekend. Though we try to mix it up, the Manistique river is our default setting for chromers. It consistently fishes well, we both know a bunch of good spots, and it's easy to access.

However, we had one challenge -- the dam is WIDE open just now. Water flows were over 1,300 CFS and have been as high as 2,000 in the past week. The current is just blasting through. This meant we needed to do some thought on tactics, and locations. We principally worked one area as it had some good holes and slower flows. I did some swinging, with one strike, but no deals closed.

I hear lots of flack about pinning, but I love mine. There's just some water where it's the only way to fly. Purists will scream, "it's not fly fishing" but most of those people only fish May-Aug with dry flies on tiny little sticks. C'mon out and and fish Winter chrome with me, pansy. Everything below the running line is fly gear. From the indicator down, I run a very similar rig on my pin to what I run attached to a fly line on an indy rig.

In high water and long runs the pin is awesome. Super long drifts, and reliable casting make it idea. A 13' 6" rod means easy repositioning and the ability to stay tight to the indicator no matter the conditions. But that same long rod makes solo landings a little tricky!

Only complaint is that I get cold pinning. I tend to rest my hand on the back side of the reel. Cold stainless steel plate chills your hands pretty fast. May be time for the Hillbilly Heatilator solution with some cork or neoprene!


11 November, 2010

Picture = 1,000 Words

It's time to shop for a new compact digital camera. As regular readers will know, I drowned my trusty Nikon Coolpix S9 after a Winter swim in the Pere Marquette river. It was replaced with a low-cost refurbished Nikon Coolpix S220. While the S9 was a great camera, the S220 is not. It seems to have real trouble with almost any contrasty image. And color balance is mediocre. I've owned a ton of Nikon gear over the years and this is only the second disappointing item (early generation 43-86mm Nikkor zoom was an absolute train wreck of a lens), so that's not bad.

A year or so back I looked into water/shock/coldproof compacts. I pretty quickly found out that while they were durable, image quality was very poor. Plus, they were pricey. But the appeal of such a beast is powerful. Right now, I keep S220 in a small compact case. Fumbling with that has become a pain, and results in me taking fewer pictures as it's not very convenient.

But it would appear that advances in technology benefit me here. I've now got three viable candidates in consideration.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2D
I'm all about good optics for great images. And the only thing better then my beloved Nikkor lenses is Leica glass. Guess what's in the Lumix? Yup, a 28-135mm Leica. Sweet. Evidently the earlier TS1 had some issue with sealing that have been addressed in the TS2. At present, this seems like my leading candidate.

Canon Powershot D10
Canon's first entry into waterproof has gotten solid reviews. Most say it's got great image quality, a good user interface and many other admirable qualities. But I have two issues. First, it's bulky. And big cameras get left at home. But second, it's a Canon. This is a Coke-Pepsi thing. As a lifelong Nikon loyalist, I just don't think I can do it. Oh, and it's the most expensive of the bunch. There, yeah, now I don't have to buy one...

Pentax Optio W90
My favorite camera brands (Nikon, Olympus, Leica) are notably absent from the waterproof scene. But Pentax has always been a brand I thought highly of. And this one is totally cool looking. Has that "you could park a truck on this thing" look. Price is good, too. But the image quality, as reported in many reviews, seems sub-par.

So I think it's finally time to take the plunge (pun intended) on a waterproof compact camera. Not that I won't miss fumbling with a fly rod, camera, and case while trying to take a picture of a buddy with a fish. Or just leaving the camera in my pocket all day on a bluebird ski slope.


10 November, 2010

Rock(er) On

Looks like the "next big thing" in skis is rocker. Reading a lot of articles touting it as the latest innovation, on par with shaped skis. As a marketer, I am immediately suspicious. Shane McConkey developed the Volant Spatula in 2004, and the K2 Pontoon shortly after that. If rocker's such a revelation, why has it taken 6 years to hit the market? The answer seems simple -- the ski industry had nothing else new to sell us. Unless you're a park rat, twin tips are unneccessary and passe. The adoption of shorter shaped skis has largely been completed. I seldom see the long skinny sticks anymore. So the marketing machine needed to find something we could lust after.

What's fascinating is that I somehow missed this whole movement. Normally, I'm a gearhead in almost any pursuit. I think that at the root of it all, I'm really happy with my ski gear. My Nordica Speedmachine 10 boots have a full custom footbed and a completely worked-over fit. They're the most comfortable, responsive boots I've ever owned. My K2 Public Enemy skis are the perfect all-around Michigan boards, and solid for Western groomers. When the fluff falls, my Line Prophet 100 skis are the stuff for powder. I love my ski gear -- I bought exactly what I wanted at the time and have remained happy.

Now, I just need that snow to get started! Nice to see Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah getting 15" this week. It will be here soon enough!


09 November, 2010


In skiing, it's all about the line. How do you find that perfect groove within a gigantic hill. In fly fishing, it's all about the drift. Early on, I focused on staying away from trouble -- snags, rocks, etc. Now that my skill set has matured, and I've learned more about the ways of fish, I actually chase the trouble. That 10 pound steelhead isn't likely sitting out in the middle of the river, away from sticks and logs.

Now that I fish several styles -- indicator, swinging, and bottom bouncing -- I have the tools to be able to think about the drift. How do I put that fly where it's most likely to incite action? And drift is (for me) a 3D proposition. I consider both the horizontal plane, as well as the vertical plane. Am I getting deep enough? Or, am I just slamming into bottom obstructions and snags? I think setting up a rig for swinging got me really thinking more about this in a whole new way. As I'm assembling sink tips with various lengths of T-14 and weighted and unweighted flies I'm considering the flow, depth, and configuration of the rivers I tend to fish.

At the same time, there's great adaptation for conditions. I don't fish chuck n' duck much anymore, but sometimes it's the only tool that works. For example, last Spring on a UP trip the water in the Manistique was REALLY low in the most productive runs. One attempted drift made it evident that indy fishing wasn't going to fly. So I grabbed the trusty chuck n' duck stick and had a fish on the second drift through!

Adding this knowledge and awareness to my skill set has been really cool. It's improved my confidence, and upped my success and enjoyment. But, as always, I want to grow. After fishing with some really talented guides and watching them I've come to realize that I could benefit from better skills reading water. I'm fascinated when we roll up to a spot and the guide says, "Lousy swinging water, but great for bottom bouncing". How did he know that? I suppose it's years of pounding that spot. But sometimes I feel like its more of an intuition formed by looking at the dynamics. Now, I just need to figure out better what those dynamics are.


08 November, 2010

Dress for Success

Cold weather's here, with more on the way soon. So it seems like a good time to talk about some of my favorite gear for staying warm and dry. If you wnat to play outside, it takes some extra planning - and gear.

Simms G4 GoreTex Jacket
Getting wet is the fastest way to get cold and unhappy. This jacket is my go-to for fishing. It keeps you bone-dry in the most pouring rains, cuts the wind, and provides that critical outer face against the weather. It's also got about 847 pockets so there's a place to keep most everything. In fact, for Winter steelheading, I generally switch my gear over and just use it as a walking tacklebox.  One key favorite is the hood -- seems cut perfectly and easy to raise or lower. A small detail, but one that matters on the water. Expensive. And worth EVERY penny.

Black Diamond Mercury Mitt
Michigan delivers some brutal ski days. My coldest day out last year started with temps at 3 degrees. I don't think it cracked the single digits at all that day. Fortunately last year was the season I gave in to mittens. I normally ski in gloves for the dexterity, but on those days with frosty temps and high winds, the mitten is the perfect solution. I hunted for these for a while and there are a suprising range of mitten configurations and materials. Like all of Black Diamond's products, these were clearly designed by a skier.

Browning Hells Canyon Jacket
I bought this one on a whim. I was rolling North to do some fishing last Fall and felt like I wouldn't have the right layers to be warm on the chilly mornings before sunrise. It's proven to be my most versatile all-around jacket. It's impervious to wind, neoprene wrist cuffs enable you to snug it down tight, and it's got pockets in all the right places. It's even fairly water-resistant. The best surprise is the warmth. Most other windproof fleece gives up some warmth. Not this one. Toasty! Also, surprisingly affordable.

UnderArmour ColdGear Turtleneck
This is an older model that I'm not sure even exists in their line-up now. Probably replaced by something with far more tech features, but I love it. This item is the base layer of choice for staying warm. Great wicking properties ensure that even if things heat up you stay dry. In my experience, an effective base layer it critical to staying comfortable.

Simm RiverTek Bottom
Not just for cold weather, I basically use these under waders year-round. Stirrups are a great feature that keeps them put with wading boots. Mid-weight makes them ideal for a wide range of conditions. I fish in these until the hottest part of the summer. I should probably get a second pair to rotate in, but mine show virtually no wear.

Mountain Hardwear Sub-Zero Down Jacket
It's not many things (stylish, waterproof, cheap...) but it is one and that's WARM. Really, really warm. When the real January polar temps roll in, I reach for this one. From the instant you put it on, you're warm. Plus, it's so light and fluffy, it feels like not wearing a jacket. Most puffy's aren't very durable, but heavier Cordura on the shoulders seem to make this one a bit more rugged than most.


04 November, 2010

Keep Your Powder Dry (and warm)

I have boots that are very warm. I have boots that are very dry. What I lacked were boots that were both. My duck hunting excursion finally convinced me I needed to change that. Everything was comfy, dry, and toasty -- except my feet which were dry but COLD. And cold feet suck. I've found that's the most critical element to being comfortable in the outdoors. Once your feet get cold, you're miserable.

Fortunately, the onset of deer hunting season is the perfect time to pick such things up. It seems every major retailer has something on sale. I've found Dunhams to be a solid source for many pieces of outdoor gear. So last night I scored a pair of Columbia Scrape insulated rubber boots for $50 off. I looked at more expensive Muck, LaCrosse, and Irish Setter boots, but as is often the case with the Columbia Performance Hunting Gear line, the extra cost didn't seem to be warranted. The boots have a nicely lugged sole, a supportive arch/instep, and seem well-constructed. For my purposes, I think they'll be more than adequate.

I haven't even worn them, and these seem like one of the best ideas in a long time. Should be perfect for boat-based Winter steelhead fishing, duck hunting, even just to pull on and snowblow the drive!


03 November, 2010


Had another first-time experience yesterday -- duck hunting. Hunting buddy Dan was kind enough to invite me to join him on Walpole Island, Ontario. For those unfamiliar, this is a legendary location. The St. Anne's Marsh club (currently closed) is the oldest hunting club in North America. Unfortunately right now it's locked in a First Nation tribal dispute so we couldn't hunt it.

Once we crossed the river from Algonac, cleared Canadian customs (surprisingly smooth, considering firearms were involved), and navigated securing hunting licenses, we were ready for some ducks.

Guide Jesse Sands navigated the maze of canals through the marsh to put us on a great pond. The three of us mostly sat and chatted in the blind until dusk, as we saw few ducks within shooting range. Then it all changed.

Important life lesson: Ducks are FAST.

Not fast like a pheasant coming up on flight path. Fast like an F-16 on a strafing mission. These things are hauling ass. For the ones we could see on approach, no problem. But with many, by the time you perceived them, "splash" they're safely in the water.

The coolest part is the sound of a duck screaming down toward the water. There's a "whoosh" that's clearly the sound of a foil (wing) moving VERY rapidly through the air. Unfortunately, by the time you hear it, you probably missed your shot.

Try as I might, when we got a group coming in, I had a very hard time resisting the urge to shoot at the mass. Most experts tell you to pick a bird and target that bird. Hard to do with a dozen ducks rolling in at 50 mph.

A really cool experience. I'll be back. This time with warmer waterproof boots.


01 November, 2010

Swing for the Fences

New switch rig was just awesome on the Manistee last week. It's a Temple Fork Deer Creek Series switch rod in 11' 8-weight. Reel is a Ross Momentum V. Line is 475 grain Rio Skagit Short with a 5' cheater. For indicators, I'll switch to a Ross Momentum LT V with Rio Atlantic Salmon/Steelhead in 10 weight. But that's a story for another day.

Once I got some pointers from guide Russ, I was covering serious water with ease. I was belting out accurate casts over 75'. It was interesting to note the different stroke from a single-hand roll cast. With the switch rod, I needed to stop far higher on the forward cast. Once I made that change, it made a huge difference.

As the day progressed, I learned more about the effects of the bottom hand. A lot of the power comes from using the bottom hand properly, with the top hand as a pivot, on the forward cast. Once I added this to my stroke it became even easier to add distance.

Also, I learned that this line is designed for shooting, so a bit of the head needs to be back inside the guides. If you don't do this -- it's Thrash Fest. Later I found some online references that there's actually a marked sweet spot on my Rio Skagit Short line that needs to be near the upper hand for best casting. I'm eager to try that out.

Switch casting with a Skagit rig was everything I wanted it to be -- fun, low-effort, and accurate. Kudos to guide/gear guru Mike Schultz for helping me figure out the right line, cheater, and showing me how to make up my own sink tips. I could never have navigated the complexities of Skagit without his help. Now this rig's a rocket! Time to continue to improve my casts and catch some steelhead!