Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's done and ready...

After a countless emails and a few late nights my first build is complete. I must say I am more than happy with the end result. For starting out with a low key simple build in mind I managed to bling it up a little for the final product. Not too flashy but I think it has a nice clean classy look to it. Learned a tonne on this build that will be put to good use in the future. Had a lot of input from good friends and I thank them for that! I Look forward to putting her through the paces in the coming weeks. Now I just hope she doesn't blow up on the first hot chromer.


Rainshadow 1562F
Fuji concept SIC's with smoke grey finish
Smoke Grey Batson A8 Aluminum Skeleton reel seat
9" fore grip with burnt and burl cork accents
8" aft grip with burnt and burl cork accents and butt
Metallic Copper thread wraps
Solid copper winding check
Solid copper Butt Accent
Guide sizing 20-16-12-10-8-7-7-7-7-7

Thursday, March 27, 2008

When is enough, enough?

The 3 a.m. alarm tone came far too early this morning. After showering and loading up the gear I headed for the boarder to cross over into Michigan. This morning the border crossing agents seemed to question my intentions as if to tell me enough is enough. least I took it that way. While driving across the state I began to second guess my decision to fish today. I was only 1/2 in the game and would normally be pumped about what lied ahead. I began to speculate...Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I chasing after my passion too much? Have I become Obsessive Compulsive? A freak? LOL... I know some would be quick to answer yes to all those questions. But seriously...Today my head was not 100% in the game and it made me second guess why I was there. Perhaps it was feelings of guilt for skipping out on a meeting? Hopefully Norlands funk isn't contagious.

Arriving for first light I decided to make the best of the outing and give it a fair shake. The river was in mint condition with a slightly elevated flow from the previous days melt water. I really didn't expect a push of new fish and figured it was going to be spotty at best. In my favour was the fact that the river was mine. Not a sole in sight. If for nothing more than the solitude perhaps I would put my ill feelings to bed. Today I stretched my legs and managed to find some new water and once again came to the realization that Western MI truly is a beautiful place.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Return to the West Side Part II

Enough can not be said about living within 5 hours proximity to true world class steelheading opportunities. From the Disney Land opportunities of NY, PA and OH to the pristine pure waters of Michigan and Ontario there is always an opportunity to to pursue our passion.
It is no secret that as of late my favorite destination has been the West side of MI. With the south shore tribs of Erie blown out it made the decision very obvious.
Gene, Steve, and myself made the trek across the state early Thursday morning. The destination was Wellston and the Manistee for some big water action. We had decent success the week prior and figured it would only be better. A deep damp cold had set across the region and the morning was reminiscent of those late December outings. The parking lot was rather full for a Thursday morning which led us to believe there may have been another push of fish come up the river. Early in the morning I had my long overdue incident and came down hard on my tail bone on a large boulder. Kinda reminded me that a focus on river safety really is important when your on the road. Luckily for me I came down even and escaped with minor soreness. After the first hour we realized the going was gonna be tough. The river was stingy and not willing to give up a fish for us. A few hours into the morning Steve managed to find a nice long Manistee up towards the Coffer an put himself on the board. Steve and Gene also both managed a couple of 18" Browns. I managed a few resident Rainbows and smaller browns but no Steelies. It was not looking very promising for the two day trip so we decided to regroup and hit the highway. After a brief discussion of our options in the car the boys decided that we could finish off Thursday on the PM and hit the White on Friday. I could tell Gene and Steve both wanted to visit the White and for good reason. That little river is a gem.
On the way out of Wellston we hit the mini mart for some refreshments and continued to head south on M37 towards Baldwin. The road back to the Sulak access point was questionable to say the least but the old green machiene got us back there without incident. The PM is a pretty river. One could go as far to describe it as stunning but for some reason she avoids offering up a steelie for us. Gene summed it up best when he said it doesn't matter if we catch fish there it is always still worth the visit. The drive back from Sulak to Baldwin takes you through some very scenic MI country side. A mixture of National Forest Lands and Agricultural charm. It wasn't long from the side road turn off when we spotted a field full of deer. A quick count revealed at least 40 and the adjoining field had another 30 anyways. The state is literally overrun with deer and it is nice to see such healthy populations. They were all very healthy looking and survived the winter fine.
Arriving back in Baldwin we decided to stay the night there and make the 1 hr drive to Hesperia in the morning. There is no shortage of accommodations in Baldwin. The town caters to the fisherman with numerous fly shops and a prolific fishing theme in the local business' signage and advertising. We chose to stay at the Outdoor Inn. Having 3 in our party we were very happy to find a room with 3 beds. For $75 a night the accommodations were very supurb. The beds were extremely comfortable and the bathroom very clean and modern. The room was so comfortable I hit the snooze no less than 10 times and G disabled the alarm after that. Being pretty much exhausted from Thursday we slept 10 hrs and awoke late. Nobody seemed to mind as the rest was well needed. 8am Friday morning put us once again on the road through the MI country side. Tom Tom wanted to take us through the sticks and I was all for it. I love the back road scenery and we saw some pretty interesting sights and wildlife. We arrived in at our access point on the White to realize Genes breathables and wading boots were frozen solid in the trunk. We had to fire up the car and thaw them out. Gene told us to carry on and he would meet us down there. The river was running a litte high with a nice slight tinge to her. There was nobody in sight and we fished some pretty promising runs and holes that I was familiar with from my first trip there last April. With no luck in the first hour I informed Steve about this nice deep bend up river. We made the hike and river crossing to arrive at a vacant pool. A few drifts in and I located a nice White river chrome hen in the slack inside pocket of the bend. A few pics and she was on her way. We decided to double back and hit a larger bend pool I was aware of down river. On our way we met up with Gene and he informed us he had fished that pool and managed a nice fish in the tail out. We all made the trek down river to try our hand again and explore some new water further down. Steve hooked up fishing some nasty lumber and landed a very nice White river buck. This fish was a bonus. All three of us managed fish. I was very happy that Steve and Gene landed fish on this river as I knew they would be hooked for certain. Further down stream we made a river crossing to investigate another large bend. The run looked very promising and Gene fished the tail out and I had the top end. Steve ventured down river to the next opportunity. We fished this run hard for 10 mins or so when my float disappeared. I set up on a very hot fish. This fish was all over this pool and on fire. I managed to keep it in the run but when the fish started pulsing up river I new it was something special. In the past when I have experienced this the fish proved to be large. When I did get the first flash of chrome my suspicions were confirmed. It was a large long chrome Hen. My heart was pounding as I have longed for one of these fabled MI giants. I see the pics of them on all the guides websites I frequent buy have yet to tangle with one myself. The White is a smaller river that is heavily wooded with prolific overgrowth so you can imagine the challenge with a 15' Frontier and trying to beach a giant with essentially no beach. Thank God Gene was there to assist and once again handled the fish perfectly when put in front of him. This fish was magnificent to say the least. Quite possibly the largest steelhead I have caught to date and definitely one of my most memorable.
We took many pics and handled her with care as she was ready to do her business.
After admiring her beauty and the pics captured she bolted back into the blackness of the White with nothing more than a bruised ego. Fish like that are few and far between and once again I shared one of my best steelheading memories with my good friend G. This fish made my trip. It went from spectacular to stellar in a heartbeat. The White River is a magnificent place and I cannot wait to explore her in more depth in the coming weeks.
Our departure time was quickly upon us and we needed to hit the road as Gene had a 6pm deadline and we had a 4.5-5hr drive ahead of us. On the way home we reminisced about the trip and the experience. On the edge of Grand Rapids we drove into a Spring snowfall which turned out to be a storm. The roads went from great to horrific with over 20 accidents witnessed in a 60 km stretch. At one point in time it took us over two hours to travel 5 kms. The 5 hr drive home turned into 8hrs. The Radio Station reported numerous accidents across the region and no end in sight until 11pm that evening. We managed to work our way out of the mess and arrive home safely. If I had to do it all again I'd do it in a minute. Great company, great scenery, great rivers, and great fish. Western MI continues to captivate and call.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another Day Closer

Well after heading to the gym last night I didn't have much ambition to work on the project when I got home. Tonight was a different story. I had a pleasant surprise dropped off on my desk late in the afternoon. The copper winding check turned out better than I had hoped. After minor honing I installed it and epoxied it into place. With this piece of the puzzle complete I thought tonight was as good a time as any to break out the thread and spin up the hook keep and bottom two guides. So far I am pleasantly surprised with the results. I think I'll spin up the rest of the guides and make sure I'm happy with the colour before I epoxy.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What have I gotten myself into?

For the last 3 years I have been talking about taking on a rod build project. Each year I would muster up the ambition to make the announcement that "this would be the year". Then a distraction would surface and my build ambition would quickly dwindle into nothingness. This year was almost no different. I made the proclamation and then did indeed get distracted. Distracted for the entire winter until the last month or so when on a whim I ordered my build components. I actually begun to get excited about the whole concept and process. After an unexpected delay in shipping I finally received my order. While laying all the components on the bench I begin to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Not one to give up I dug deep and mustered up the ambition to start. I thought it would be a good idea to journal the entire build here.

Initial thoughts were to keep the build fairly low key. For this build I ordered a Batson Rainshadow 1562F. For the handle I ordered a St Croix sliding ring handle kit with the idea that I would have enough cork in the two sections to pretty much lay out any configuration I landed on. I ordered a smoke grey finish aluminum A8 Skeleton reel seat also for simplicity sake.
Prior to starting I thought it would be nice to have a darker cork butt cap. After a generous donation from a friend I had enough burnt, and burl rings to put something interesting together.

I started the build by laminating the cork ring sections. Some lamination's were for handle accents and another for the butt cap. This process proved to be a little messy. For this I used C-clamps to put compression on the rings to achieve nice tight joint lines. Next I laid out the handle configuration and decided where I needed to cut the St Croix handle sections. The cutting process was done using the drill press and a razor blade.
Next the burnt cork handle accents needed to be laminated to the main handle sections. For this process I made some jigs out of 1/4" threaded rod, stainless washers and nuts. After drying overnight the handle sections and butt cap were ready to be shaped. For this process the drill press and abrasives were utilized. After the sections were shaped it was time to ream out the handle sections. In order to speed up the reaming process the bulk of the cork was removed carefully using my cordless drill and aircraft drills progressively increasing in size until the hand reamer was used for the finish bore. Once reamed the handle section was dry fit and any adjustments were made. The butt cap was then fit to the handle. The handle was now ready to be epoxied to the blank. Prior to permanently affixing the handle and seat assembly the blank needed to be spined and identified with a china marker so the seat was permanently affixed in the proper orientation. The handle sections were also marked with a china marker for ease of alignment once the epoxying process commenced. The aft handle section was epoxied first then the reel seat. The reel seat section needed to be built up as the ID of the aluminum reel seat is not tapered and much larger than the OD of the blank. To do this I used masking tape and built up 4 separated spots that would support the seat while the epoxy set. Then the foregrip was epoxied and tension put on the sections so the joint lines were tight and uniform. The winding check I had ordered was not the proper ID so I am in the process of getting the Machinists at work to turn me a copper one to match the copper thread wraps I have chosen. The guides where laid out and identified with a white china marker on the blank.
Once I get the winding check I will be able to proceed with the build. Please stay tuned as I will be updating the Blog as it progresses.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Return to the West Side

I have wanted to return to the west side of MI since my last visit Nov 10/07.
In particular, I have longed to fish the Manistee River or Big M as it's often referred. I love this river. Literally! This river has a hold of my spirit. This river gets my blood pumping and makes me feel like a kid again and that's what fishing is all about.
The Big M flows strong, clear and clean and the river bottom is strewn with expansive gravel bars, troughs and ridges. All this located in a scenic mixed hardwood backdrop known as the Manistee National Forest. One should consider themselves blessed to fight a Wild Manistee Steelhead in this river as it truly is a gift.

On this trip I had the privilege to fish with Steve H. This was our second attempt at fishing together and I was hoping this trip would bring more success than the first. As I recall, the first trip we arrived at an Ohio trib beyond flood stage. Bad flash back...

We arrived at the Tippy Damn Angler access Park shortly after first light and were greeted by a friendly attendant who informed us that we were the second to arrive.
A smile quickly donned my face and we proceeded down to the parking level. A quick check confirmed the river was in perfect shape. We geared up and made our way down to the river. A few drifts into the morning and I hooked up with a large fish. As we were the only ones in this section of river I had plenty of room to play this fish and needed it. With lady luck on my side I managed to put him on the bank. This fish was pushing 30" and Steve weighed him out at 9lbs. A few pics and he was on his way unscathed. My day could have ended there and I would have been satisfied. Not 5 mins after Steve hooks into a chrome hen that demonstrated why these genetics are so highly sought after for stocking programs throughout the Great Lakes. There cannot be enough said about both parties putting those initial fish on the bank. Once that is out of the way the rest of the day is just a bonus. We were lucky enough to each manage another and a few bonus resi-browns through the rest of our stay. Going in to this trip I had not set my expectations too high but today we were very fortunate to have exceeded them. I look forward to my return.

**Special thanks to Steve H. for his companionship and camaraderie. We will do it again.**

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I had the opportunity to fish a much anticipated MI East Side Trib this past weekend. I have developed a recent passion for the MI tribs and took up an invitation to fish the AuSable with a Huron Steelheading journeyman. My guide had grown up on the AuSable and has spent his fishing life chasing chrome throughout the state of MI. John P was one of the early noodle rodders of the GL steelheading scene working closely with Dick Swan back in the day. Although we didn't turn any fish we did share interesting conversation enveloped in a stunning MI winter scape. I thank John for his hospitality and company. The Huron National Forest is as equally impressive as the Manistee National Forest and the AuSable has the feel of the Big M on a marginally smaller scale. Another one of MI's gems. I truly anticipate my return...