27 June, 2014


This year I decided to take the advice offered to me and get in some practice casting the fly rod. My overhead cast isn't all I'd like it to be. Of course, it is possible that hanging around with guys who can throw an entire 100' fly line effortlessly probably doesn't help when setting a realistic expectation.

Yesterday I had a few minutes after eating lunch and needed some "outside time", so I broke out the rod/reel I'd brought in for just these pursuits. While I'm walking to the field, I notice the rod. "854/4" - wait minute, that's not my A2 906/4 that I'd intended to use. It's my 8'6" 4-weight Scott A3. Naturally, I have the Ross CLA 3 with a Rio Gold 6 weight line on it. Predictably, it cast like a 4-weight with a 6-weight line. But it's nice to get outside for a bit.

So last night, I take this rod home, thinking I'd grabbed the wrong one and intending to swap it for the 6. Not so fast, cowpoke...

A few weeks back I went out to my favorite little quiet walk-in spot on the Huron River near my house. Beautiful sunny day, perfect temps, just a bit of wind. An idyllic time to throw some small poppers at a mix of panfish, rock bass, and smallmouth. But from the get-go, my casting is piss-poor. Can't even competently throw a 20-footer. WTF? Is the wind goofing me up? Or am I just that rusty? Net result, while it was a nice afternoon out, no strikes, and I left feeling pretty disappointed in my casting skills.

Last night when I go to stow the 4-weight, I notice a rig hanging in the rod rack. This is the one I took on the aforementioned outing. Well, a 4-weight line on a 6-weight rod suddenly explains a lot...

Today I take 20 minutes to cast at lunch with the 6-weight rod and the 6-weight line/reel. From the FIRST cast, it's ON. Nice clean loops. Solid distance. Reasonable accuracy despite a cross-wind. Just money.

The moral of the story is a simple one. Before you rush out, check your inventory. What rod's in your hand? What reel? What line is on that reel? In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "duh-OH!".


19 June, 2014

Solo Outing

Fun little float on Sunday afternoon. Perfect day for it - 80 degrees and sunny. No humidity. All systems GO!

As I was going solo, this presented the perfect opportunity to run the kicker motor. I've only done one outing with that and while it went OK, I wouldn't describe it as outstanding. But no one drowned and I didn't lose any key gear.

I've got a nice stretch of the Huron River near home that's good for the float down-motor up strategy. Looks like some decent spots, plus the water's pretty big so flow levels aren't an issue. There are launches at both ends that I can get my Clacka into, so it's a good option. I chose to launch at the upper spot so I could float downstream and motor back.

This proved to be a mistake. The launch point is a prime spot for canoes and one of the major livery services. Holy crowd scene. And canoe renters seem to be among the dumbest animals on the face of the planet. Within five minutes of hitting the launch, I've been reminded of that fact at least three times. No, I did not move that kayak to put it in your path to the water. I moved it so I could clear my truck and trailer off the ramp. Doing so will afford you access to the water. Dumbass. And the launch here is a bit sketchy. For some reason, the canoe folks put in a sort of dock/launch that's fairly difficult to put a trailer and driftboat onto. But I manage, and soon I'm off.

My view from the rower's seat - very nice!
My plan is to row between likely looking spots and then fish off anchor. Having covered this stretch before, I figure on a nice 3-4 hour outing. Perfect.

But then there's the wind. 10-15mph, coming straight upriver. On a stretch with minimal gradient and therefore current. Surprisingly little impact on my casting, but it sure slows my rowing!

I've got both my Scott Radian 907/4 and Scott A4 904/4 with the former rigged with Rio Outbound Short for streamers and the latter with Scientific Anglers Titan Taper for topwater. Did I mention how much I love owning a drift boat? Walking in, I'd have never been able to run two rigs like this. In the boat - no problemo!

My trusty river ride
First couple of spots don't yield anything on topwater, so I throw the streamer a bit. No deal. But after a while I switch back to the always productive Boogle Bug on the floating line. Not long after, I stick two rock bass in quick succession. OK - I'm on the board!!!!  Early in my fishing evolution, UP fishing guide Brad Petzke taught me the progression on a trout run - dry fly, then nymph, and then if that's not working dredge that streamer through there. If you run through first with a streamer, you run little chance of getting anything with subsequent techniques. Solid advice and my guiding mantra for this day.

And it works. After drifting the Boogle with no success, I run Mike Schultz's S4 Sculpin pattern through. MONEY! Stuck a rather angry mid-teens smallmouth. This one's bulldoggin' for the bottom, but eventually gives it up. Definitely a nice fight from a mid-sized fish.

By now, it's getting a little later, so I decide to continue on my float. I want to run the full stretch to look at terrain and get some time on the tiller on the way back up. Damn pretty day. And I made an interesting discovery. While the river has plenty of canoes and kayaks, this year there are a ton of Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs). And SUPs bring out the Bikini Hatch like you wouldn't believe. Oh, the stuff you see on the river.

At the bottom, drop the Nissan 3.5Hp kicker in. Fires right up and away I go to the top. I'm really happy with this little motor. Easy starting, quiet, and very straightforward operation. Plus at only 41 pounds, it's easy to handle. Buzz back up to the top, grab the truck and load up the trailer. Five minute ride home. Not a bad day way to pass an afternoon.

16 June, 2014

Project Ruger - Part I

My new project gun is off to a nice start. My goal is to completely trick out my Ruger Mark III as a tack-driving range pistol. Oh, and it should look cool.

The stock Ruger grips on my Stainless Target model are bad. I'm not even sure they're legitimate plastic - more like 1930's Bakelite. They make such a terrible first impression. This otherwise SWEET looking gun just looks cheesy. Plus, they're slick and don't fill the hand very well. I was surprised though that they shot pretty well.

I remember handling a Mark II some years back with the checkered cocobolo wood grips and really liking them. Ruger offers a 20% off coupon when you register with them (nice little spiff - smart, too) so a pair are ordered.

From the instant I open the package, I know these are MONEY! Rich wood tones. Nice matte finish. And a perfectly positioned thumb rest on the left side. Five minutes with a 2.5mm allen wrench and we're ready to rock.

The transformation is nothing short of jaw-dropping. From Plain Jane to Hot Rod in about a minute! Astounding how such a seemingly minute difference could have such an impact. I got to shoot it on Saturday and the new grips made it feel so much better in-hand.

So, what's next? Well, I need to get about 300 more rounds through it, but I can already see a few items on the horizon (I love these aftermarket projects - the parts are so inexpensive):

  • Replacing the cheesy plastic "Loaded Chamber Indicator" with a stainless steel filler (already on order).
  • Volquartsen extended magazine release and extended slide release. The new grips are thicker and a longer release would be helpful. 
  • Williams Fire Sights fiber optic sights; these are a definite "maybe". I want to shoot the stock sights some more.
  • And the big one -- a Volquartsen accurizing kit. This includes lots of components, but is mostly a trigger job to smooth the break and reduce the pull slightly. A little pricey, plus I think I'm going to have Volquartsen do the installation. I've taken a Ruger trigger apart before...

13 June, 2014

Cast Master

A quick outing on the Huron River last Sunday was a good reminder of the importance of practice casting. This was my first time throwing a floating line since last Summer (roll-casting a steelhead rig doesn't count). And I suuuuuuccccckkkkkked. A little wind and I can't throw a small popper 25' on a 4-weight. Whaaaaat?

Yeah. Gotta' get my ass out there and throw around the floater a bit. It's not strength. It's not power. It's all timing, finesse, and muscle memory. All things that appear to have gone completely out the window during this evil, Polar Vortex-fueled Winter. This is unfortunate as last year I did a casting lesson and was feeling much better

Timing was for shit to start. By the end of my outing, it had gotten better. But I think I need to go spend a little time throwing the floater on a calm evening to get that muscle memory back to where it needs to be. Solid aggressive pick-up, drift back, let the rod load, hard stop, go forward. It's a progression. I learned in my class that I need to break those steps down and then put them back together. I think it's time for a couple of weeks of casting practice. Topwater smallmouth's just coming into its own and I'll likely have some chances to go chase trout in the north. Got to get my game on!


06 June, 2014


My Browning Buckmark .22lr semi-auto has always been one of my favorite handguns to shoot. Feels good in-hand, very accurate, good sight picture. I just shoot this gun really well. But its not without drawbacks. First, it's a bit fussy on ammo. Anything less than mid-grade stuff and you get 2-3 stovepipe jams per box. It's very reliable with CCI MiniMag. Good luck finding any. And second, there's a lot of plastic in this gun. Yeah, I know, when properly engineered, plastic is fine stuff, blah, blah, blah. But somehow guns (like fly reels) should be metal. Finally the upper is really basically held together by two screws. These can work loose, affecting point of impact. Plus it makes it a bit of a pain to do a tear-down. Don't get me wrong - I love this gun and will likely never sell it.

But I'm looking to build the ultimate tack-driving target range .22 handgun. I want something that shoots nearly any ammo without a burp. That feels solid in-hand. And that enables me to put up dime-sized groups at under 30 feet. I've been poking around online for a while and found that the Ruger Mark III series has a reputation for having this potential. It's a solid, proven gun. Quality from the factory is basically very good. And there are a TON of aftermarket parts available to improve it.

A recent stop at Guns Galore, in Fenton, MI uncovered a Ruger Mark III Target model in stainless steel (hey, I have a shiny gun attraction...). And their prices were considerably lower than list. As soon as I held this fine firearm, I knew I'd found the basic platform for this project. Solid. Fits my hand like a glove. Great sight picture. I like the balance from the steel lower and bull barrel. Sold!

Of course, I'm aware of Ruger's reputation for difficult tear-down and re-assembly, but it seems like a small trade-off for the benefits. Plus, I watched the videos on Ruger's site and it doesn't look THAT bad. I'm eager to clean out the factory grease/protectant and get this one cleaned and lubed for a trip to the range!

I'll be writing more about this one after I get a chance to shoot it, and then as I start to make modifications. At the outset, I think it will be a candidate for a Volquartsen trigger/action kit, some Target style wood grips, and possibly Williams Fire Sights. But first I want to get to know it and see the strengths and weaknesses.

Looking forward to this journey!