29 June, 2012

Wet & Wild

Last year I discovered the simple beauty of wet wading. When it's stinkin' hot and you're in some nice water, it's just an exceptional cool-down. Even the most breathable waders get pretty sticky when temps head toward the 90's.

Best of all is the convenience - a pair of river shorts and some sort of footwear and you're off to the races. And, after you're out of the water, no waders to hang dry, no boots to deal with. For warm water excursions on local SE Michigan rivers, it's the way to go!

The caveat is true trout streams. If a stream is truly cold enough to support trout year-round, it's likely too cold to wade for any length of time without some waders. Sure, I did it on the upper Manistee last Summer, but the ambient air temperature was 96 degrees F.

If you're still stumbling around in waders in the heat, give it a try!


26 June, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Got in some fishing at my new local fun spot. An extremely short distance from my home, this is the perfect "Tuesday Evening" spot. Quick drive, string up the rod and go!

After a few outings, I've found some nice structure. And with structure, comes -- SMALLMOUTH! At one especially prolific spot, I had just switched over to a small topwater popper, I got nailed on the first cast. Now that's MONEY! Within an hour I had a half dozen more fish, including a couple of nice mid-teen's bruisers.

The next day I returned, this time without my 7-weight but rather with my 4-weight. None of the fish I found were huge, so I figured a lighter rod makes a 10-incher feel like a tuna! What a blast! Cast. Twitch. Twitch. BAM! Repeat. Though I did manage one nice teener, and a sunfish the size of a softball.

Also in Day Two I went superlight. I've already been wet wading in some river shorts and Simms Streamtread sandals. Now I stuck a fly box and some 10# tipper in my pocket, grabbed some nippers, and clipped a hemo to my shirt.

A rabid fly fishing friend told me he's got a similar spot. One where he can go light, tuck two beers in his hip pack and kill a couple of hours on a weeknight.

An added bonus? For me, the nearest rivers with any real trout population are 2-3 hours away. With $4/gallon gas, this makes popping some local smallies look pretty fun. Save some gas, fish for bass!


15 June, 2012

First Impressions - Scientific Anglers Titan Taper Fly Line

In the quest for distance, I swapped in a Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Titan Taper for use on my Scott A4 907/4 stick for smallies and carp. And now, my two word review...

"Holy sh@t!!!!!"

To call this line a rocket is an understatement. The web site says, "Loads quickly and delivers the biggest flies to the furthest targets". That's marketingspeak for, "This thing will throw a half a chicken down a football field". It loads my 7-weight Scott A4 like a freight train. And the Mastery Series texture isn't a gimmick - it really does aid shooting line considerably. This is the second Mastery Series line I've added to my quiver (the other is a GPX in 6 weight) and these things will definitely move the line.

Did some quick testing with Mike Schultz at the Schultz Outfitters Secret Testing Facility (aka Riverside Park in Ypsi) to determine line weight. Mike's found that in some instances underlining can be a benefit, depending on the rod. With my A4, the rated 7-weight was perfect. I will be interested to try this line on a stiff stick like a Scott S4 or a Sage Z-Axis.

Looking forward to hucking some leech patterns at local smallies and carp on this rig over the weekend!


14 June, 2012

Roll with Soul

For a while now I've wanted to get a retro-cool click-and-pawl reel for my Scott ARC 1287-3 spey rod. I'm starting to develop an appreciation for matching the character of rods and reels. And as this sense developed, this classic olde schoole stick seemed to be dying for a click-pawl reel.

It started with a Ross CLA-6 because it was the right size and didn't cost much. But it had no soul and isn't the most sophisticated drag for bad weather steelhead with a bad attitude. Then I stumbled on a gently used Orvis Mirage 6. This thing is a beautifully engineered and machined reel with a first-rate sealed drag system. In short, it's the shizznit. But it seems better suited to a Helios or a Sage TCX. So my quest for some soul continued.

The Circle Spey from Speyco seemed like an excellent option. These semi-custom traditional style reels are hand-machined in Wisconsin. Some dialogue with owner Tim Pantzlaff and I'd settled on the Circle Spey model. Now I was just waiting for some spare cash to fall into my grimy paws.

In the meantime...

Along comes an opportunity to pick up an Abel Spey reel. Abel reels have an amazing reputation as some of the most durable, well-made reels for salt or freshwater applications. And the Spey model (without ports, of course -- points for style) looks and feels just like an updated classic Hardy. The machining and finish are top-notch. The design is simple and classic. And the sound of that clicker --- mmmmm, music! Can't wait to have an angry Fall steelhead make a run for Lake Michigan and make that reel sing!

I'm also taking this opportunity to re-configure my lines for greater diversity. I've been using a full Rio Skagit line, but I'm going to switch over to a running line/shooting head combo. This will enable me to enjoy some of the experimentation of using different style heads with more convenience (and much less expense). I'm planning to start off with a 500 grain Skagit Extreme Intermediate head from Scientific Anglers and a Scandi head of some sort. I've been running the Skagit Extreme Intermediate on my 6 weight switch rig for smallies and it's been great.

Can't wait for the Fall run! Fish on!!!


12 June, 2012

Product Review - Simms Streamtread Sandal

Last Summer I discovered the joys of wet wading. On a hot day, it's just perfect - cool and refreshing! This is especially true of the local warmwater rivers. A good trout stream with proper water temps migh be a little chilly on all but the hottest days. And, it's just that much less gear to deal with.

At first I just wore my Simms Rivershed boots with neoprene socks. That was OK, but they really didn't fit that well and I found that, especially in sandy rivers, I ended up with lead foot due to all the accumulated sand and debris in my boots. Then I tried my Teva sandals. Comfortable enough, but no protection from rocks, tree limbs, etc. that you tend to bump into while wading.

Then I found the new Simm Streamtread Sandal. Think of these as the offspring of a Keen sandal and a Simms wading boot! The uppers offer great protection and easy fine-tuning of the fit. And the lowers are basically a Simms Streamtread sole that nearly identical to a wading boot. The full toe box provides protection, while the open sides enable easy draining and pebbles, sand and other debris easily clear. Thus far I've had a couple of opportunities to wear for boat-based float trips and for walk-in fishing on the Huron river. This sandal is perfect for both boat-based and walk-in uses. Plenty of support, grippy rubber sole (even compatible with studs!), and comfortable all day long.


06 June, 2012

Go Green!

Recently received a direct mail piece from Patagonia promoting some stories of key products. These folks are rapidly becoming one of my most respected brands in the outdoor space. In addition to making some exceptional products, I've really come to respect how they're running a successful company in an environmentally and socially responsible way. As an aside, if you haven't read CEO and found Yvon Chouinard's book "Let My People Go Surfing", I highly recommend it. Perhaps the best business book I've read in recent years.

At any rate, this catalog has a very frank discussion of wetsuits. The bottom line was this - no matter what you do, manufacturing wetsuits (and many other pieces of gear) is inherently environmentally destructive. Patagonia goes on to say that there's really no way to replace neoprene rubber in a wetsuit, but that they take steps to minimize it use. And that at the end of the day, a wetsuit that lasts longer benefits the environment.

I came away from this catalog with a real respect for Patagonia. Their directness on this issue was refreshing. Especially as it ultimately does NOT benefit them as they're essentially saying that the only way to reduce the environmental impact was to sell fewer.


Today I realized something. I was reading all of this in a PRINTED catalog that was sent to me in the MAIL. Two strikes, and perhaps a touch hypocritical? I buy most of my Patagonia gear online, or from a local retailer. I'm totally comfortable with a web-based interface. Why kill trees and contribute to the carbon footprint with direct mail? To my recollection, Patagonia's never asked me if I'd prefer to receive communication via e-mail.

Interesting. Shows you that even the best companies sometimes fail at walking the walk.


04 June, 2012

Big Time Small Mouth

Had a great opportunity to get my smallmouth bass game dialed in recently. Was invited to float a mid-Michigan river that's been producing epic levels of fish lately. Don't have to ask me twice!

Original plan had been to fish topwater with poppers. But we also were prepared with streamers, and friend Jay wanted to have a shot at carp, if we saw them. During the first ten minutes of the float, we quickly discovered that Murdich Minnow streamers were the hot ticket as Jay outfished me about 10 to 1! So, I quickly switched over to the streamer program.

This is super-cool sight fishing, especially in the low, clear water conditions we experienced. Just like trout, you could easily watch predator chase down the prey. Well, most times...

I got warmed-up on some dinks -- in the 6-8" range. Pretty quickly we were shaking off the little guys to pursue the river donkeys. By early afternoon, I had my personal best 18.5" fish. Came out of the edge of a weed line to SMACK the streamer. I love that smallmouth fight -- even the little ones are fun. But the big ones like this can get you bent on a 7-weight steelhead rod!

Just the sheer numbers we stuck that day were a huge help in building confident and experience. I quickly got better at hooksets and fighting fish. Between three of us we likely boated at least 75 fish and shook of maybe that many little guys. A few other highlights of the day:

  • Spent a good part of the day casting a Scott S4S (hey, it was already rigged and ready). Wow - there's a reason they're $700. What a rocket!
  • Mid-afternoon I cut the popper off and fished my Scott A4 907/4. While not the S4S, this new rod did not disappoint. And, I got a couple of nice fish.
  • Made my drift boat rowing deubt! My friends say, "If you can't row, you can't go" so time to man up and learn. Did very well at managing speed, putting us in the right places. Even managed to back-row up to retrieve a streamer from a tree!
  • Murdich Minnow was MONEY, time and again. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up, too.
  • Having a great new waterproof camera is excellent. Unless it's bured in the backpack at the other end of the boat when you land your personal record fish...
Many thanks to Brian and Jay for inviting me along on their float. I look forward to the opportunity to do it again.