29 August, 2011

Swing's the Thing

While there's plenty I'm looking forward to about Fall, little excites me more than swinging streamers for amped-up, pissed-off steelhead. I thought I knew a thing or two about "the tug is the drug". But my first mind-blowing grab last October on a Manistee river buck changed all that.

Normally, detecting steelhead strikes is more like finding a fart in a windstorm. I miss tons more than I hit. Not so with swinging. Ka-WHAM! And then the rodeo ride of the first ten seconds of a steelhead fight starts.

But it's more than just the take that intrigues me. Chuck and Duck is fine, when conditions warrant it (ever fished the UP in Spring? Short, deep holes and LOTS of flow mean it's almost the default setting). But there's so little feedback and I just feel less involved. In recent years, I've mostly switched to indicator fishing. It's cool due to all the  issues of managing drift, depth, and other presentation factors. But sometimes its a bit overwhelming.

Enter swinging. Find a good run, select a sink tip that puts you in a reasonable place given conditions, belt out a nice circle spey or double spey cast and you're fishing. Plus, it fits my Fish Fast mentality. Didn't pull one out on the first three drifts? NEXT!

Finally there's the tying aspect. There's a great quote from Ed Ward in the first Skagitmaster, "These flies aren't so much tied as they are engineered." That engineering fastinates me as a tyer. How can I make this fly push water and imitate a baitfish effectively? What colors work for this river? How do I want this fly to behave in the water? That process of continuous improvement absolutely fascinates me. How can I make an inferior fly (like my first efforts) better? How can I make a good fly a great one?

This year's goal is simple - I want to get a steelhead on a swung fly of my design and creation. If I pull that off, I'll be giddy. Will it happen? Who knows, but it will be fun to find out!


25 August, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

As a kid, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the Sears Christmas Catalog. That magical moment that marked the official start of the Holiday season!

Over the last week, I've started to find the first Fall issues of the ski magazines showing up in my mailbox. And yes, I do receive Skiing, Freeskier, and Powder. I have a problem, but we've already covered that.

The September issues always feature test reviews of all the new skis and boots for the upcoming season. Fortunately, I'm very happy with both my K2 Public Enemies and my Line Prophet 100's. Between both of these, I'm covered for most of the conditions I'll encounter. And with a custom bootfit, I'm loving my Nordica Speedmachine 10's. But, it's still fun to look...

23 August, 2011

Product Review - Scott A3 907-4

I've got in a few days with my Scott A3 907-4, so I thought a review was in order. This stick was initially purchased for my October trip to The Stonefly Inn and the waters of Montana, but I also figured I had plenty of other uses for it in the Great Lakes region, too. Turns out I was right! Thus far, I've put it to use:
  • Stripping streamers for Spring trout
  • Tossing poppers to panfish (OK, it's overkill, but it was what I had along...)
  • Stripping streamers to smallmouth bass
I've paired this rod with a Ross Evolution LT 4 reel - an awesome combo! For this stick, I have spools with a 200 grain Rio sink tip, a Rio Outbound Short intermediate line, and a Rio Clouser floating line. Thus far, I've only cast the sink tip and the Clouser line.

Sink tip lines are an interesting challenge for a fly rod, in my opinion. The rod needs some backbone to effectively throw a sink tip, but it's still got be be light enough to cast all day without wearing your arm out. My A3 walks that line nicely. The medium-fast action has some oomph to get the line moving, but I've cast this stick for pretty long periods without fatigue. This rod's also equally comfortable tossing poppers large and small.

Thus far I've gotten a couple of decent sized trout and smallmouth on it. Seems to have the backbone to fight like a champ. I'm eager to hook into a hawg in Montana to really see what it's got.

I'm quickly finding this to be a favorite in my quiver that's far more versatile than I'd even expected. Highly recommended and a great value!


16 August, 2011

At the Hop

Heading to the Northwoods for a long weekend of R&R. Work's been pretty steadily crazy lately, so time off the grid is looking really nice.

Talking to a guide buddy today and he reminded me that terrestrials are still the fly of choice for trout. I love fishing hoppers. Nice big foam fly. Easy to cast, easy to track, easy to see strikes. It's like Training Wheels Trout. Had a great time fishing hoppers with Jon Ray on the upper Manistee a few weeks back. Cast, wait, strike, wait, WHACK! Fish on!

Can't wait. Great Beer Fishing. Beer in one hand, rod in the other. Wet wade. Cast, sip, wait, sip, pinch, strike, set beer down, strip, strip, land. Repeat. A true joy of summer.

Whatever summer brings you, enjoy the time!


12 August, 2011

Product Review: Fizik Alliante Road Saddle

As expected, part of the recent road bike fitting included a saddle replacement. I originally put on the Serfas RX saddle not long after I bought the road bike a few years back. But I'd been noticing it's cushy top and wide profile seemed to have some ill effects. It almost seemed to rob power, and I felt like it was throwing my hips out of alignment as I compensated for the width.

During my first fitting session with Oscar, owner of Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness, the saddle was one of the first things he commented on. He diplomatically said that, "nomally we don't put this type of saddle on this sort of bike." What he didn't say was, "...because it's mostly designed for Grandpa cruisers..."

The options were dizzying, and more importantly looked like some sort of medieval torture device. I settled on a mid-priced Selle Royal saddle. More aggressive than my previous one, but not nearly full-out racing gear. Great Lakes has an excellent 7-day trial period for saddles. So, off I went. After a couple of rides, I found that while it was comfortable, it lacked the center channel feature I liked about the Serfas and that made certain southern regions less comfortable. Plus, I found that the narrower profile and lower padding were surprisingly comfortable.

So, back I go to the shop. After some discussion, I decided to move to a Fizik model - actually one of the torture devices I'd seen earlier in this journey. A little more expensive, but with less padding, an even narrower profile, and an anatomical center channel.

From the first mile, I knew I'd made the right choice. I'm not sure how a saddle makes a bike feel faster, but it did. Comfort was surprisingly good. Plus it just looked COOL on my bike.What was surprising was realizing how much I'd been riding almost bowlegged compensating for the wider saddle. The whole ride felt more efficient and I could tell my ergonomics have improved.

The only downside? Minimalist padding means I need to put in some time on the road to toughen up. By the end of a ride, my butt's a bit sore. However, I know this can only be addressed by riding more miles.

If you're looking for a great, high-performance saddle, I highly recommend the Fizik line. Not cheap, but worth it!


11 August, 2011

Signs of the Seasons

Fall is on its way. Our first week of cool temps has arrived. It's darker in the mornings. And the Canadian geese are starting their journey, honking all the way.

I've learned to appreciate and enjoy Summer, but I always reach a point where I'm done. I start looking forward to chasing steelhead, the Fall colors, cooler days, and tailgating. Last week, I hit that point. I could tell because I started thinking about organization among my fishing gear - switching over from trout and smallmouth gear to the big gun steelhead hardware. I'll probaby tie up a couple of new streamers this weekend.

But, still have some trout trips in mind, plans to get out on both mountain and road bikes, and some canoe floats I'd like to do. I'm sure there's plenty of warm-weather fun yet to come, but at the same time, I'll be making plans for the coming season.


10 August, 2011


Had a nice feeling of accomplishment today in my evolution as a fly guy. A friend, who's a novice with the fly, mentioned he was headed to the area around the Au Sable in a couple of weeks. It felt really good to be able to readily recommend some terrestrials and a few dries likely to bring some fish to hand. A very fulfilling feeling from a couple of years back when it seemed like I'd look in the bins in the fly shop and barely be able to identify anything.

I think this is a combination of two factors - experience, and tying. At any rate, it's a nice feeling.


05 August, 2011

Adventure on River X

Normally I've not been a big advocate of the "secret fishing spot" that many fisherman pride themselves on. Readers of this blog have seen posts on the AuSable, Pere Marquette, and other well-known rivers. These rivers have been made famous in magazines, TV and other media. My blog mention isn't going to lead to crowding. But now I've found my secret spot.

Took a drive into Northern Michigan last weekend to fish a piece of water that's been recommended to me for a while. After visiting, I wonder why it took me so long. Found a great campground, right on the banks and got my tent set-up. What I found was some phenomenal water! Beautiful surroundings, great fishing, easy wading. But best of all - no crowds! I fished two days on this piece of water and never saw another fisherman! In Michigan's Lower Peninsula, this is a rare occurrence. The 90+ degree daytime temps probably kept a few away, but this was far from a crowded river.

On Sunday I hitched a ride with a guide buddy for a short float. What a great chance to see even more great water (with easy walk-in access throughout)!  I also got to brush up on my dry fly skills casting to the sweet spot, and learned the art of the SLOOOOOOOW hook set that scored me far more fish once I figured it out.

So there it is. I found my own sweet water. Sorry, can't tell you where it is. Go find your own!   ;)


01 August, 2011

Product Review: Scott A3 854-4 Fly Rod

I'll mix it up this time and skip right to the end, then explain...

I love this stick! If a 4-weight fits your need list, add this one to your quiver.

OK, now that I've gotten the exuberance in up-front, let me tell you more. After a few outings with tiny dries on my Scott A2 906-4 I felt the bug for some lighter tackle bite. Since the Scott A3 series has become my default setting, that's where I decided to start. I had the opportunity to cast both the 8'6" and the 9' versions, before choosing the former. I paired the new rod with a Ross CLA 1.5 and Rio Selective Trout LT fly line.

This weekend I slipped north to investigate the upper stretches of the Manistee River. This time of year, it's hoppers and teeny tiny tricos. Perfect -- let the 6 weight handle the big bugs and the 4 weight to for small stuff.

Casting a rod in your backyard is somehow totally different than casting it out on the river. From the first cast, I found this a magic stick. Distance and accuracy were non-issues. And presentation was always ever-so-delicate. And the light weight made casting comfortable and kept my form in-check. Quickly I was able to entice a nice brookie and a small brown to accept a pile of feathers and fur as food.

I was also very happy with the pairing of rod and line (thanks to Mike Schultz for his help in getting that right). This now-discontinued line from Rio was just right with this rod. It balanced casting power with a smooth, delicate presentation.

In short, buy one. You won't regret it.

As an end note, I'm looking forward to pressing this rod into duty as my bluegill/panfish rod. Picked up a Ross Evolution LT 1.5 and a Rio Clouser for it. Should be many hours of fun!