21 February, 2013

Eco-Friendly AND Off-the-Grid: BioLite Campstove

Every once in a while I run across an exceptional, innovative, unique outdoor product. Thanks to Jon Ray for helping me find this one. Wow. Heat up some stew for a hot lunch by the river while charging your iPhone? Yes, you can...

18 February, 2013

A Good Cause - and Some Goalsetting!

Image (C) Jennifer Leigh Photography
At the encouragement of my buddy, Josh, I've signed up to ride the Mid-Michigan Komen Ride for the Cure in August. I considered it last year, but didn't for two reasons:
  1. I found out about it too close to the event and wouldn't have had time to raise the minimum goal.
  2. I hadn't yet ridden a single 30 mile ride. Oh, who the hell am I kidding - I hadn't even ridden a 20 mile ride.
A common strategy I've read in cycling (and other) magazines to help get in shape is to set goals. I figure that the timing of this event is perfect to motivate me to get my fat ass out there and moving. I need to drop some pounds, and convert my fatness to fitness. This will be the perfect motivator.

But this ride has an even more important component. My late friend Pam Prentice. After a long battle with breast cancer, the disease won out. Pam was an exceptional person. Words can't really describe her. And her husband Tom is also a close friend, as well as daughters Cait and Paige. This horrific disease really effected their entire family.

Please consider donating today - it's tax-deductible and you can do it securely online. Just click here to learn more. Thanks, in advance!


13 February, 2013

Filson - Might As Well Have the Best

Filson gear is a legendary brand in the outdoors. Founded in 1897 to supply rugged, warm, functional clothing for timber cruisers, rangers, and others who worked outside in the Pacific Northwest, the company has developed a reputation for peformance. In recent years, they've clearly made a marketing effort to broaden the brand footprint by expanding from their traditional waxed cotton and wool gear into being more of a high-end clothing brand. Not at all an uncommon trend - Barbour, Carhartt, and others have done the same.

Five years ago, when I needed a durable coat that shrugged off rain and snow, held up well, and would look good with everything from jeans to suits, I turned to Filson. At the time, a local retailer was one of the largest dealers in the Midwest. With a wide selection, I found that the Field Coat in cover cloth seemed well-suited to my needs and budget.

Great jacket - fit well, got compliments, pockets galore. With a range of zip-in liners I was able to adapt to nearly any conditions.

After a year, I noticed some wear holes at the edges of the pocket flaps and sleeve cuffs. Nothing huge, perhaps 1/8" at most. When I visited the store I purchased it from, the owner shrugged it off and stopped just short of calling me a worrywart. Among the reasons I will no longer shop at this establishment.

This Fall I noticed that jacket seemed to have lost a bit of its waterproofness. After some time on the Filson web site, I found that they rewax for a modest price. I also found that they recommend rewaxing annually or semi-annually. Oops. As I made plans to return the garment, I noticed more, and larger holes at the previous locations, along with the sleeve underseams. So, now I'm not happy.

When I called customer service, they very friendly guy on the phone quickly told me that, as I felt, this wasn't right and to send the jacket to them for inspection. Into the FedEx it went, and within a few days, I got a call from Pete in Customer Service. Yes, he thought this wear was a failure. And they wanted to be me into something new. They credited the full amount of my original purchase toward a new jacket (they've since discontinued this one in the cover cloth --- hmmm, other premature failures?). I selected the same Field Jacket, but decided to upgrade to Filson's most durable - the Tin Cloth.

After work yesterday, I arrive home to a package on the front porch. At no charge, Filson had rush shipped my new jacket. Nice. That's the way to handle customers. This is a brand that shall be added to the realm of Nikon, Simms, Jeep, Toro, and my other favorites for standing behind their products.

Best of all, I wore it for the first time today and I love it. The tin cloth is like armor. As I had an appointment in one of the nastier areas in Detroit, I decided today would be a good concealed carry day. My Springfield XD Subcompact fit nicely in the enormous bellow front pocket. And the heft of the tin cloth kept it completely concealed.

Want good stuff from a company that stands behind its product? You might as well have the best - Filson.


11 February, 2013

Kickin' it Retro

I've had a fascination with retro reels just lately. It started when I picked up an Abel Spey. As soon as I had my hands on it, I knew I had something super-cool. The first thing I noticed was the machining tolerances. I've seen it when working with clients in the tooling industry - big chunks of metal that fit together so tight there's nearly a vacuum seal. When I released the spool to have a look at the reel's innards, I could almost feel the air being pulled in. This one made my Ross Momentum V and my Orvis Mirage's feel sloppy by comparison - and neither of those is any quality slouch (for the record, I think the Mirage is maybe the best disc drag steelhead reel bargain out there). The reel foot is like some monstrous bridge girder.

But inside it really gets interesting - by being, well, less...

A center shaft accepts the spool. A gear at the base of the spool connects to two pawls. Above the pawls, two springs provide tension. There's a simple external knob to change the spring setting, but it's really mostly superfluous. Rotating the pawls sets the retrieve hand. Yep, seriously, that's it. Want more drag? Palm it. It's about that complicated. I learned the pure joy of the human drag while running a centerpin (shut it -- from the mainline down, it's identical to my float fishing fly rig, no spawn bags here). The connection to the fish when YOU are the drag is surreal.

When the opportunity to score an Abel Classic reel came along, I jumped at it. It's like a little version of the Spey. And, it's SWEET on my Scott G2 5-weight. And how often are you going to need a drag system on a dry fly trout?

So, at this point, I think I'm done, right? Not so fast...

A few months back, I meet the guy behind Kingpin reels from the UK. Though they originally made their name in centerpins, they've gotten solid props for their spey reels. And they're doing some very cool limited-edition specials. Naturally, they're doing a Great Lakes edition. D*mn. Now I'm going to end up with another stick to perch it on, too. It arrived last week and holy crap is it sweet. Very different from the massive bulk of the Abel. Don't get me wrong, it's stout. But the real attention-grabber on this one is the clicker. Like a chainsaw on a steel fence. Bold. Distinctive. And the details on this one are amazing. Brass inserts cover the line guards, eliminating the potential for line wear. The fit of frame to spool is outstanding. And so much more. Can't wait to hang this one on a big stick. Funny thing is that I think it will land on the Sage TCX 7126 "Death Star" - about as modern a rod as you can find!

Thus far, I've had a half-dozen days out with the Abel's. Nothing landed yet (one on briefly). Can't wait to hear one of these fabulous beasts scream when a big chrome grabs my fly!


01 February, 2013

New School vs. Olde Schoole

Seems like there's some stuff brewing in my local fly scene between the old farts with pipes and the younger flat-hat generation. Or at least the old farts seem to think there is. In all candor, I can say that the younger generation really doesn't seem to care about this alleged conflict.

One of my pet peeves in the sport of fly fishing (OK, yeah, maybe it's not a sport...) are the elitist trout-chasing dry fly purist snobs. These folks seem to love endless discussions of furled leaders, Orvis Superfine ultra-slow 4 weights, and the latest developments in fishing vests. They want fly fishing to be this niche sport that stays that way. These are usually the first people to say that this, that or the other technique, "Isn't REALLY fly fishing..."

I started this obsession as a steelheader - first chuck n' duck style and later fishing indicators with a floating line before graduating to swung flies. So, I suppose I'll never be a "real" fly fisher. I love smallmouth, hucking streamers for aggressive trout, and swinging flies. I do enjoy trout fishing immensely, but I'd have to say that a size 18 Adams on a floating line is really down my priority list.

So, when I start hearing one local guide and shop owner calling the next generation a "Circus" and "Hollywood" it rubs me the wrong way. Dude, no one put you in charge. Sports grow and evolve. Look at skiing - the emergence of freeskiing probably saved that sport from certain extinction. I don't see anyone advocating we all slide back to classic Hanson boots, straight skis, Salomon 444 bindings, and the one-piece fartbag suit. In fact, many in the industry proclaim skiing to actually have won out over snowboarding. The new school has infused energy and made skiing "cool" again.

Funny part, as I alluded to earlier, is that the new school really has no issue with the traditionalists. Most of them look up to many of these guys and the river skills they've acquired. Shoot, we're seeing a nice revival of traditional click-pawl reels in steelhead circles (I've even got one on my Scott G2 dry fly trout stick - it's a sick rig!). The younger guys I know are courteous, quick to invite newbies into the sport, and respectful of their impact on the environment. Many spend time to pick up trash while they fish, and participate in major river clean-ups (not just on the trout streams Up North).

So, to borrow a quote, "Can't we all just get along?" I think your ability to throw a #22 Caddis 50 feet on a floating line to fool an unsuspecting brookie is righteous. But so is me throwing a pretty circle spey cast with a sink tip and a 4" ball of wool, flash, and rubber legs downstream to an eager steelhead.

BTW, at 46 I'm clearly in the old fart demographic. But there's nothing that says I have to act my age. My younger friends accept me as one of their own and even help me stay young myself. Shoot, there are plenty of guys my age in that new school crew - I think even my 70 year old father counts!  A note to the traditional purists - you don't own this sport. None of us do.