25 February, 2011

CLA all the Way

The Ross CLA series of reels has quickly become a standard in my fly fishing quiver. As of now I have two CLA 3's - one with a standard fly line and the other with a 200 grain sink tip for streamer fishing. On my lightl line dry fly I've got a CLA 1.5. All great reels, especially at the price. Fully machined, very nice finish. Plus they're super-smooth with a nice start-up on the drag.

When I acquired my Scott ARC 1287-3 spey rod, the logical choice was a CLA 6. I'm curious how the drag mechanism is different from the smaller reels as I've not taken one apart. So, now one's on the way. Should be fun to have a full spey set-up!

This is not to say I don't love both of my Momentum's. But that's a whole different price point and the only reason I own these reels is because I scored tremendous bargains. I'd love a Momentum LT 6 for the spey rod, but at $500+ that won't be happening.

If you're looking for a great mid-priced reel, I heartily recommend a look at the CLA series from Ross.


24 February, 2011


After doing a little reading, it would appear that I stumbled onto a highly regarded spey stick. The Scott 1287-3, from everything I find online is a lot of spey caster's favorite stick. I was surprised by how many folks raved about its smoothness and abilities for long, accurate casts. Mine was owned by a guide who used it as his personal spey rod, so it's in excellent condition. As a bonus, it's got good fishing ju-ju! Many steelhead have been caught on this stick.

I've got a new Rio Skagit 500 grain line all set. Now I just need to find a #6 reel for it. I think the Ross CLA will be the winner. Affordable, and with a reputation for no-frills reliability.

Can't wait to get the whole rig together and cast a bit with it. Hoping I can have the whole set-up before Spey School in July!


23 February, 2011


Before the start of last ski season I had a full custom fit performed on my boots by Rob at Sun & Snow Sports. Rob's a master bootfitter and he did the full treatment on my boots - custom footbeds, reshaped the shell in some places, ground the liners. The investment was worth every penny. The fit is exceptional. Energy transfer to my skis is quick and precise. No more cramping in my arch. And I can ski all day with warm comfortable feet. If you ski in off-the-shelf boots, I strongly recommend a professional fitting.

What's interesting is that Rob did my fitting sans socks to get a fit that's true to my foot. He recommended a super thin sock, so I picked up some SmartWool PhD Light socks. Unfortunately last weekend's trip happened on short notice, and I forgot to grab ski socks. So, I picked up some general purpose Wigwam ski socks. The difference was unbelievable. The comfort and performance of my boots was significantly less with these socks. It was shocking how such a small issue as slightly thicker socks made a difference. But, I guess that's a testament to how precisely my boots fit.


22 February, 2011

Fat's Where It's At

Spent the past couple days skiing at Caberfae. Potential for big snow was in the forecast, so I tossed in the Line Prophet 100's. While I'm amazed at these fat skis versatility, powder and the subsequent crud is where they shine. I enjoyed skiing them two days back-to-back, which I don't often get to do.

Yesterday morning I really was able to get in the groove with these fantastic boards. I was just ripping down the steepest slopes with big swooping turns at high-speed with total stability. I was shocked by my ability to hold a fast line consistently. Surprisingly, when you need to go edge-to-edge quickly to scrub off speed, or handle tight quarters, they rollover very quickly.

Even got to surf some first tracks in 8" of fresh powder. For Michigan, that's a rare treat and one these skis are more than up to. Sit back a little, roll your hips and let 'em go!

Visually, I love these. The graphics are very unique (I actually don't like the newer versions as much) and that big fat board under foot looks like a water ski snuck onto the snow. Very cool.

If you're a Midwest skier considering a second set of skis for out West and the fortunate Midwest Powder Day, I strongly recommend a demo. I'm incredibly happy with mine!


18 February, 2011


I love those moments when something you never quite grasped became immediately clear. It's like a bolt of knowledge came from the heavens. I call it the "Ah-HA! Moment". In some cases, it's better termed "Duh-OH!" (said in your best Homer Simpson voice). I had one this week.

When I bought my Renzetti Traveler tying vise, I was told I needed the materials clip, too. At this point I know how to tie (poorly) all of two flies. So, I just do as I'm told and buy it. Fast forward a year. The little clip and spring have been hanging on the arm of my vise. Every once in a while I look at the thing and wonder how the heck you use it. Do you lift the spring and slip the material under it? That seems cumbersome, at best.

Wednesday night I'm at Schultz Outfitters "Bar Flies" tying class and the demo tier looks at my vise and says, "Use your materials clip to hold that in place." I shoot back a puzzled look and do my best confused-dog-head-tilt. So he shows me. You just pull longer materials down into the spring. And VOILA -- they stay there. At which point, I feel like a complete dumb a$$.

I sure will find tying streamers easier now! All that flash chaos will stay put.


17 February, 2011

Product Review: Simms Windstopper Softshell Hoody

I love fleece. It's comfy, warm, wicks moisture, and a great insulating layer for all but the coldest conditions. But, it sucks in windy conditions. Not only does wind go straight through it, I think it somehow gathers more velocity. Don't ask my how that's possible.

Enter windproof fleece. I've had a The North Face windproof fleece for a few years, as well as a camo Browning Hell's Canyon jacket. Both have served me well. I'm especially impressed with the Hell's Canyon. Warmer than most windproof fleeces, which often give up some warmth over standard Polartec.

But my latest addition absolutely delivers. For some time I've wanted a Simms Windstopper Softshell Hoody. Regular readers will know I'm a huge fan of Simms products for their quality and functionality. But, they're not cheap. I've finally picked up one of these outstanding jackets, and I'm glad I did.

The fit is the first thing I noticed. Roomy, but not overly so. Plenty of shoulder room for casting, including the more active style of spey.

Quality is typical Simms; that is -- exceptional. No missed stitches, waterproof zippers, and nice backing behind the main zipper to protect from the wind. And, a GREAT hood design you can actually wear.

So far, performance has been outstanding. It's lightweight, but decently warm. Stops wind dead. All this in a non-bulky package.

Bar none, the best fleece garment I've found. Plus it actually looks fairly stylish (unlike the Hell's Canyon) so wearing it at places other than a deserted stretch of steelhead water is possible. Bottom line? Not cheap, and worth every penny.


16 February, 2011

Spey to Play

As expected, fishing the switch rod has gotten me to thinking about a full-on spey rod. Just when I thought I was done. And then I stumbled on a deal on a gently used Scott ARC 12' 8" spey rod with a Rio Skagit line included. After doing a little reading I find out this rod is extremely well-regarded.

There's something really cool about spey fishing. It's like the first time you see a really good telemark skier. It's all power and grace.

It's not surprising. From the first time I saw someone belt out a long, beautiful cast with a spey rod it got my attention and somehow touched my soul. Just a beautiful way to fish on big water. Like so many things, it's all about proper form. Watching a gifted spey caster is just a beautiful moment. A few accelerating movements, a quick flip of redirection and BAM that line's 85 feet over THERE.

Much like centerpin fishing, this is just a super-efficient way to cover water. It'll be interesting to see if I can learn to put the brakes on when needed. That's my main issue with the centerpine. I can bang out some pretty long casts - into the trees, the opposite bank, whatever gets in my way. With a 550 grain Skagit line on and some momentum, I'd imagine shortening up may be difficult. But that's what I have my switch rod for!

Can't wait to get the new stick out on the Manistee, Manistique, or some other big waters and see what it can do. Report will follow soon.


15 February, 2011

Meta-Furs and Other Creatures

I make my living in marketing and advertising. Whatever your opinion of the profession, what I do at the end of the day is help my clients tell compelling, relatable stories effectively. I'm amazed how often outdoor metaphors help in my day job.

For example, I was on a conference call with a client today talking about how to secure great stories for use in case study ads. When I told them this was more about hunting than farming they got it. You carefully choose your target, study it's behavior, and devise an effective strategy before you ever step into the field with a rifle.

I give a presentation on Demand Generation, which is the skillfull integration of messages and metrics to help move a prospective buyer from awareness to purchase by recognizing their information needs. This approach is best summed up by likening it to fishing. In fly fishing, your best success is determined by your knowledge, your approach, and adapting to the unique differences of the situation you're faced with -- much like demand generation.

These metaphors are powerful tools for creating visual images that help businesspeople digest complex concepts. And, really, that's what many outdoor passions are all about -- gaining the self-awareness to deal innately with an astounding collection of complex and inter-related variables. How deep is that run? What time of year is it? What's the barometric pressure doing? What species am I chasing? In business you need to quickly assess a myriad of variables to reach a conclusion. Same as in the outdoors.

Now, to the title. I had a creative writing professor in college who was a native Texan. One of my classmates noted that he pronounced it "meta-furs" as opposed to "meta-fours". Somehow that term always stuck with me.


14 February, 2011

Tied on Demand

Tied up a bunch of flies for my Dad this weekend for a UP fishing trip. He's had good luck with my green and olive Caddis nymph patters and had run out. Also tied him up about 3 dozen eggs in various sizes and patterns, including some new experiments.

It was a nice way to spend part of a Saturday. Best of all was being able to tie multiple sizes and colors, knowing the rivers and conditions he'd be fishing in! Nice to have this knowledge and know how to apply it.

I've been mostly tieing steelhead streamers lately -- which are as much engineering as anything. With some pretty extensive materials and steps, I seldom tie more than one or two. And it's usually a complete mess! So, it was nice to bang out a couple dozen eggs in under an hour.


11 February, 2011

Two Hands on the Wheel

Two handed fly rods rock. Even though I've only gotten in a few outings, I can already see the benefits. The longer rod improves line control, but it's the casting efficiency I love. When loaded properly, that LOOOOOONNNG cast requires so little caster energy. Plus, there's nothing like the beauty and grace of a good spey caster. It's a style of fly fishing I could watch all day - poetry in motion.

So, the switch rods will inevitably lead to full-on spey rods. I can see that coming. Longer casts, bigger water.

What I lack is form. I have one or two basic casts, but I'm very limited in my repertoire. I've found the river position, current flow, wind, and other factors all impact cast selection. Fortunately, I've signed up for a one-day spey school this Summer with casting guru Will Turek. Can't wait to get a more solid foundation before I develop bad habits.

Fly fishing is truly an amazing pastime. So much to learn, so many opportunities for growth.


10 February, 2011

Tie One On

Took part in Schultz Outfitter's new Bar Flies series last night. Each week they've invited clients and friends to a local watering hole and a guest tyer teaches new patterns. Last night it was Aaron Wiley, Eirik Vitso, and Mike Schultz. What a fun way to spend a February evening! I got to tie three new patterns with a helpful eye only available. Last night's included a sculpin, a popper, and a crayfish pattern. And with Bell's Two Hearted on draft, a recipe for a perfect night.

I'm always amazed at how much I can learn from a good tyer. Something as simple as twisting a feather while palmering can make the difference between hackles that lay back properly and a full-on mess. By evening's end I'd already picked up several good pointers. As a bonus, I came home with three new patterns and recipes for each.

I've definitely figured out my preferences. Tying eggs for steelhead is a given -- cheap, able to adapt size and colors for the conditions I fish or expect to. I also tie a lot of nymphs including green caddis, pheasant tail, and hare's ears. Great as they're workable for both steelhead and trout. And I've been playing around wth big, gaudy, swimmy steelhead streamers for swinging. But I've arrived at the conclusion I'm just not that interested in dry flies. With pricey materials, small hooks, and fussy, multi-step processes, dries don't do much for me. That's one category I'll continue to buy.

My favorite quote of the night? "Ugly flies catch fish". As my flies aren't always the prettiest, I was happy to hear this from a seasoned guide! Nice idea for educational series, guys!


09 February, 2011

February Fun

This month is perhaps my favorite part of my favorite season. By February, the snowpack is as deep as it's likely to get in the Midwest. A little warm-up isn't going to turn everything into a sloppy grey mess. The skiing's consistently good. The fish have settled into their Winter program, and if not active, are at least consistent. A brief warm-up can turn on the streamer bite.

It's a time to embrace all things Winter. But at the same time, you get that glimpse of the promise of Spring. A warm day or two here and there, a south wind. Days are finally feeling a bit longer. For me, it's my favorite time within my favorite season. This time of year I'm faced with making choices for how to spend my spare time. Fish? Ski? Snowshoe? Tie flies? Take a class? Shoot handguns indoors? And more.

January can be brutally bleak, March brings the entry of Spring. Neither is the majesty of Winter in Michigan that February delivers. Sad it's only 28 days...


08 February, 2011


I'm just itching for my new Remington VERSAMAX shotgun to arrive. Unfortunately, so are many others - most dealers are sold out and any new guns that arrive are quickly snapped up.

I've had the chance to read a few more reviews and most of them seem very positive. What is interesting is watching the comments on the bulletin boards. Lots of Remington-bashing by loyalists to other brands, but that's typical. Browning people bash Winchester, Benelli fans beat up on Beretta, etc.

One nice thing about this gun -- it's American-made by an American-owned company. Hard to find these days.

So for now, I'll content myself with more reviews and online posts. Can't wait to bust some clays on a nice Spring day!


04 February, 2011


Was thinking about some fly fishing firsts the other day:
  • First steelhead; Manistee river with guide Fred Steuber. Even though it was a little one, he gave me a good ride. To this day, that tug-THUMP sequence can't be beat.
  • First surprise species: catching something you weren't fishing for is still always a neat feeling. My first was a 26" lake-run brown with Jon Ray. Cool since we were Winter fishing for steelhead.
  • First solo steelhead; Pere Marquette river in February. Got about a  6-7# male with beautiful colors on the end of a drift (why do they always hit when you're not quite paying attention?). To this day, that same hole is often my go-to starting spot on the PM. Funny thing is 30 minutes later, a bit downstream I got a nice 16" brown, too!
  • First fish on a fly I tied; Pere Marquette river in August. Nice little brown caught on a beadhead pheasant tail nymph.
  • First steelhead on a swung fly; with guide Russ Maddin on the Manistee. 8# male just blew up this fly at the tail end of a swing. A completely cool experience that helped me understand the appeal of this style of fishing.
  • First time hitting the cycle; a day in the UP with Dad and guide Brad Petzke. By lunchtime I'd gotten a nice trout on  a dry fly, another on a nymph, and a third on a streamer.
  • First camp-and-fish; Pere Marquette river in July. For utter and complete check-out from reality this just can't be beat. Fish when you feel like it. Chill in camp when you don't. You can't beat the pace.
  • The "Ah-Ha" Day; float on Pere Marquette river in November with Mike Schultz. The day I figured out indicator fishing -- how to do it, when to use it, and how to adjust for conditions.
And the best thing? Many more "firsts" left!


03 February, 2011

Random Ramblings

Wow -- where did the week go? After being down sick on Monday and Snowmageddon 2011 eating up Tue/Wed in the Midwest, this week vanished.

I've been reading more and more on the Remington VERSAMAX. Just can't wait for mine to show up. Eager to get out for Spring sporting clays and get it all set-up for me. I think that's one of the things I'm most excited about. With such a wide range of adjustments and interchangeable cheek pads, I should be able to dial this thing in to perfection. Truly looking forward to a gun that fits ME. Will shoulder consistently and quickly.

Starting to line up Spring steelhead trips already and it's pretty exciting. I had to cancel two different January outings due to frigid temps. Have a February date set-up, but I think that will close out the Winter season. I'm looking at trips to Lake Superior region of Michigan's UP, possibly Steelhead Alley in Ohio, and a few walk-in's on the Pere Marquette, White, and maybe the Muskegon. Didn't make it out West to ski this year, but these sorts of trips more than make up for that!

Already thinking about summer trout fishing and camping, getting my road bike out, and more. And, ski season's not even concluded. Nice to have options!


01 February, 2011

One And Done

Got out on Saturday for a Winter favorite -- a fresh snow rabbit hunt at my buddy Nick's family place. I've written about these hunts before; always a good time. Great location to hunt, have gotten to meet some great people, and some great hospitality.

I got the first, not 50 yards from the start. Crossing shot at maybe 10 yards. One shell, one rabbit. We jumped several more for a total of five. At one point we tracked a crazed group with tracks going everywhere for a long distance. After much perseverance, we did manage to get one.

Later, I realized I'd taken one shot, with one shell, and gotten one rabbit. There's something Zen to that and I like it.