Sunday, January 29, 2012

GLX...the next day

I slept in this morning.   Saturday was a big day and its successes had left me more than content. I sat down with my morning coffee and reread my glx review. There was still some uncertainty in the assessment and the more I relived the previous days successes the more I longed to hit the water for round two. I mulled over  some of my options and decided on a clean and quick session with no more than an 1-1.5 hours on the water. 
I was after one more chromer and another shot at testing the limits of this blank.  With the self imposed time constraints I knew where my best chances of pulling this off would be so I packed up the gear and headed to the river. It was now early into the afternoon and river traffic was minimal. Once again my preferred water was unoccupied so I dropped into the river and the hunt was on.  
There was no easy participants but I stuck to my guns and methodically picked away.  I was now at my limits on the bar and well into the middle of the river  when I made a long throw deep into a slack water section. I mended my line and trotted back lightly on the float keeping my line taunt and my offering up off the bottom. The strike was violent and was not only visually confirmed but was accompanied by a firm tug felt through the entire blank. 
The glx loaded up and the water exploded.  My opportunity was before me.   On the way to the river I had decided I was going to stand my ground and test the limits of this blank. I felt I knew enough about the rod to gamble a fish on it. So with some degree of confidence I went hard at this fish. Like all of the fish as of late this fish was hot and made some long deep runs. Each time I managed to stop and turn the fish.

The rod was  in a full  parabolic bend but never once bent into the handle as I had read on some of the previous forum reviews.   It seemed to flatten out about 10" from the top of the handle.  After a fair fight the fish made the bank and my day.  It was one of those river bullet fall spawners.  I have encountered a few of these fish this past season...They are long, lean with huge rudders.  These fish really slam your offering and go ballistic once hooked. 
The rod performed under this test and was actually quite enjoyable.  I didn't feel underpowered on this fish but then again it was not a 8lb + class specimin. I still have mixed feelings on this blank but today was a move in the positive direction.  The remainder of this outing failed to produce an additional steelhead bite but I did managed to root up a couple of handsome browns.  It was a whirlwind session but quite enjoyable. 
 I learned a little more about the GLX and put a few more fish on the bank.  The field trials will have to continue and I suspect the only true answer to my query will come with the spring runs in late Feb/early March.  .

Stay tuned for further updates as this story unfolds

GLX...initial impressions

For as long as I can remember Loomis has owned the centrepinning rod market.  If you were anyone in the floatfishing scene you fished a loomis blank.  It started way back with the Premier blanks then the Gl2, Gl3, IMX,  and now the GLX series of rod blanks.  Each rod brought forth improvements as the evolution of rod blank technology progressed.  For the most part the search for the holy grail was a feather light blank with adequate power. 
I always thought they were splitting hairs after the GL3 but the masses flocked to the IMX series of blanks with a passion.  For years the IMX was the pinnacle of float fishing blank technology but like everything in life the show had to go on and the next bigger and bestest thing had to come along.  For Loomis it was the GLX.  This floatfishing blank spawned a rift in the float fishing community.  There were factions that stood by their brand and praised the blank to no end and there were other factions that made claims the sticks were underpowered and inadequate for the sport. 
At the same time Loomis made a conscious decision to only produce factory rods and thus eliminated the custom rod niche market.  Blanks were no longer available and this added some fuel to the controversy as to weather or not these rods were worthy of purchase.  If you sell custom rods it is in your best interest to pimp a blank that is available for you to sell and profit.  While all of this drama unfolded I sat back and watched with mild interest.  I had not yet fished an IMX and was quite happy with my GL3 so the temptation of shelling out $600 bones for a stick rife with controversy was not on my radar. 
But still I followed the story as it unfolded.  For the most part the Canadian Centrepinning scene seemed to abandon the GLX as a viable option and moved on to the CTS version.   At the same time  the growing American Centrepinning demographic embraced and seemed to worship the blanks.  I have always been one to base my opinion off of fact and was curious to form my own on these rods.  It was not until recent that a good friend afforded me that opportunity. 
Harv Senior had an unfortunate incident on Ontario's Saugeen river back in November when he blew his GL3 up on a hot November Giant.  Loomis stood behind their warranty and offered the Harv's the option to upgrade to the GLX for a marginal fee.  They jumped at the chance and chose the GLX 1563 2S 8-12lb version.  This was the most robust version of the stick available and was receiving the most praise from the Centrepinning scene.   Shortly there after I was considering making a deal on a GLX I had ran across on an online forum. 
Harv got wind of my venture and interjected with the offer to fish their blank all winter and make an informed decision as to weather or not this was indeed the stick for me.  It's hard to turn an offer like that down and in no time I had the rod in my hands.  At the same time, upon Harv's suggestion, I had arranged to demo the AVID and Frogwater. 
This demo had a defined time period so the GLX would have to wait.  Finally this weekend came and the opportunity to fish her was before me.  I chose to pair her up with the Frogwater while I still had it in my possession and see how the ultimate light combo would fair on Michigan's finest flow.  I rigged her up and made plans to fish below the coffer the next day.  Saturday morning came and I awoke to fresh snow.  The  forecast suggest the possibility of a couple of inches but it was apparent that the system was under estimated and dumped a generous 5-6" of fresh powder.
The morning was a classic winter scene and I eagerly geared up and made my way towards the river.  The roads were terrible and I was hoping this would work in my favor and keep the masses at home.  As luck would have it the river was sparsely populated and my preferred drift was unoccupied.  After the previous weekends successes on the wax worm it was my obvious offering to start the day.  The GLX was a joy to cast and easily put my offering on the inside edge of the middle seam. 
As luck would have it mid drift the float dipped and I was into a fish.  Initially I thought it was a trout until the fish realized it was hooked and the battle ensued.  The rod performed perfect and the fish was on the bank in a reasonable amount of time.   It was a smaller fish and  really not what I was hoping for to put the blank through its paces.  I continued to pick away at my usual lines while working my way down towards the central bar until it happened...the float dipped, I set up and the water exploded.  The fish have been unseasonably hot this winter and this fish was even more so. 
The blank loaded up nicely and the fish continued to scream down river.  Having heard the power of this blank is in the bottom end I put more pressure on the fish.  The blank was now in a full parabolic bend and the fish was under control.  Now  knowing where my power and control point were with this rod I played the fish with reasonable control to the bank.  The power of this rod is certainly in the butt section and made for an enjoyable exchange with the fish.  The fish was a healthy 6-7lb hen and a fair opponent to trial this blanks characteristics.  Initially I was impressed with the blanks abilities.  The light weight characteristics made the blank a dream to cast and fish.  The blank loaded up nicely and once the power was located seemed to control a fair sized opponent in a large flow quite well. 
The large parabolic bend was actually a joy to fish  once the power band was located.  Another feature of this rod was  the addition of recoil guides.  The initial premise was to shed weight with additional benefits like ice up mitigation and guide durability. Again the addition of these guides on the blank brought forth controversy amongst the floatfishing community.  Some praised the design as the answer for deep winter guide ice ups yet others complained of inferior metallurgy and line gouging.  Today the guides seemed to take longer to build up ice than traditional guide designs and cleared quite freely but nonetheless still built up ice.  They demonstrated no obvious adverse casting restrictions and overall the rod casted as good or better than other 13' blanks in my repertoire. 
The morning session came and went and I was quite pleased with the rod performance.   I had two quality chromers under my GLX belt and an afternoon before me.  I had made plans to meet up with JB Ricks from the Consummate Sportsman Blog and float the river in the afternoon on the North side.  After a courteous riverbank meet and greet we worked our way down to Suicide bend.  For the next three hours we pounded the water to no avail. 
Not even a trout or brown would come to hand.  Upon my suggestion we decided to finish our day up near the coffer.  Once again the fishing proved to be tough.  It was getting late in the day and JB had an hour drive ahead of him so he made the call and pulled the plug.  I wasn't yet ready to take it on the chin and opted to tough it out for another hour or two.  We bid farewell and joked at the premise that the fish would turn on once JB hit the parking lot.  I continued to work my way down toward the boat launch at the bend in the river.  Once there I chose some slack water on the outside edge of the inside torrent that I frequently fish from the opposing bank.  I  made the cast and tended my line.  The pace was moderate compared to the racing flow at my feet.  The float made it's way about 10 feet until it disappeared and I was into a fish.  Instantly I knew it was a decent  but as the battle ensured it became apparent that this was the fish I longed for to put this rod to the test. 
The rod performed flawlessly and was well into it's parabolic curve.  The fish exercised the available real estate and took me well into the river and around the bend.  I managed to get the fish to within 15 feet of the bank but I struggled to seal the deal and discovered my problem lied in the fact that I was working the fish with the top portion of the rod once he was in the shallows.  Upon becoming conscious of this I loaded the rod up hard and into the butt section.  Not until then did I get the required backbone to finalize the deal.  The specimen was grand.  A deep wintered buck of at least 30" and 10+ lbs.  The rod handled the fish but did leave me with question as to how it would have faired with a hot November or Spring fish of similar proportion.  The power of this blank comes late in the game and it is easily understood how one would be quick to dismiss this blank as underpowered. 
I am not one to throw caution to the wind and lay the boots to a fish thus pushing the gear to it's breaking point.  Having said this I was nervous discovering the power band of this rod.  I can say with some degree of confidence that once you locate this sweet spot and learn how the rod fishes it  will do you proud.  The struggle lies with becoming comfortable with a late bloomer.  One has to have faith in this rod and allow it to load up deep into the parabolic bend.  This is where it ultimately performs.  Because of this the rod is not for everyone.   I still need a few more days on the river and multiple hook ups to determine if  this is the rod for me but  I can say without a doubt that it is not for everyone and not for every situation.  If you are looking for a big water high gradient flow stick I'd suggest other alternatives.  If you fish large-moderate to medium-small flows then this stick may be for you.  With a $600 msrp I would recommend establishing your need prior to diving in head first.  I currently own a Loomis 1562 GL3 and don't see enough merit in the GLX to part with the coin.  To make the plunge based on weight would be splitting hairs.  The guides really don't warrant the cost and the GL3 has more power earlier into the blank.  If you were heading into this point as a progressive move from an intermediate or introductory offering and your fishing conditions met the criteria as listed above you wouldn't be hard pressed finding satisfaction with this rod.  Now having said this...if you are one that has to lay the boots to each and every fish and stand your ground to no avail this blank may not be for you. 
After a full day of fishing this blank I can honestly say I understand why it has spawned so much controversy.  This rod is not for everyone and with a hefty price tag one should understand their needs and desires prior to committing.   For now this is the review I will leave you with.  As this story unfolds I promise to update this report with further honest and accurate assessment on the rods performance.
Until then tight lines...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

St Croix 15' Avid Review

Well I think I have already explained the perks of the GBO demo program to everyone via the Riverkeeper Frogwater post. The other item of interest I had gotten on loan to demo was St Croix's latest offering...the AVID series.  In particular the AVID/AVS150MLM3. St Croix's 3 piece 15' offering to the Centrepinning world.

The specs of this rod are as follows:
*length - 15'
*configuration - 3 piece
*power - medlight
*action - moderate
*blank construction - SCIII Graphite IPC Technology
*rating 6-10lb 1/4 to 5/8 oz
*guides - Fuji® Alconite® Concept Guide System with black frames.
*handle - St Croix Sliding Rings
*manufactured in USA

First off... going in I have to say I had been a fan of the big sticks for a while. For a few years I began to exclusively fish a 15' Frontier. In fact I loved that rod so much that I bought a spare blank to spin up my own personal tie. Life interjected and things seemed to change so I never got around to it. It's on the list though just need to find the time and inspiration. So... I was willing and eager to accept an offer to fish the AVID. My initial impressions of the rod were positive. The glossy slate grey blank offers up a very refined look. The Black Fuji Concept guides add stealth to the presentation and the blue-grey guide wraps add just a enough colour to complement the blank while keeping the package clean and mean. I like the Fuji Concepts and had used them on my 13' Rainshadow 1562IST build a few years back. They are very sharp looking guides and have been bullet proof for me. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the sliding ring handle configuration but I do understand it's purpose on factory rods. It does provide some flexibility for the end user to land on their personal reel placement location.
I have a factory Loomis GL3 that I cherish with slide rings and have contemplated many times stripping the handle and doing it up with a fixed reel seat but just can't bring myself to tamper with something that already works. The St Croix offering is the works and works good. The added rubberized cork accents at the top and butt of the handle add some elegance to the arrangement but more note worthy about the butt addition is the fact that it will provide some wear protection for the armpit tuckers...and trust me...mid day with this bad boy and you will be tucking it under your arm. I had a 13' St Croix Wild River that had worn a flat spot on the inside of the butt section from rubbing on my wading jacket underarm over the years. I miss that rod...a true noodle.
I didn't put the rod together until we made the cabin last Friday night. When I did I had my 15' Frontier beside her for an accurate benchmark comparison keeping in mind that I have a custom tie with a reduced guide count configuration. The first thing I noted was the blank butt diameter was larger on the St Croix.
I followed the taper of each through to the first and second joints and the St Croix diameter remained larger. This explained why the overall weight seemed greater. Now I am operating off of assumption as I technically didn't weigh both. I tried but we don't seem to have a digital kitchen scale at the cottage. (yeah I was surprised too!) Also there are fewer guides on my custom so that would lend to it feeling lighter as well but I'm still thinking its heavier. Another point of note... I question why so many guides? There are 14 guides on this blank adding to the overall weight. I'm sure that they could have reduced it down to 12 without compromising the action thus shedding some weight. I paired the rod up with the Frogwater as I was dying to fish it. Would probably been better to pair it up with a heavier float reel to afford some attempt at balancing out the rod better. Nonetheless I'm sure it would still remain tip heavy. Finally the morning rolled around and I got to put her through the paces. The thing I love about 15' sticks are their ability to effortlessly cast a mile. With minimal effort I was reaching the center lines of the river without being waist deep in the flow. Another point of note is the ease of line control. When fishing big flows line control is unparalleled with a 15' rod. This particular morning was under a severe cold snap so the plethora of guides were adding to the inherent problems of fishing below freezing...icy guides!  The rod length definitely aids in line retrieval as one can pick up a "mile" of line and flick spin retrieve quite efficiently. This outing didn't offer the opportunity to put a bend in the blank but there was always the next day. Sunday morning found me on the river again. The temps were more favourable but there was a moderate and increasing downriver wind.
This quickly brought to light an unfavourable characteristic of the larger taper and lengh of this stick. The wind picked it up like a flag pole and added to the stresses it was putting on my shoulder already. Now there needs to be some form of understanding when fishing an affordable 15' float rod offering. The first is that there will always be some facsimile of stress on ones shoulder. There has to be...The ability to perfectly balance these rods out is slim to none without loading up the butt section with an anchor for a reel which essentially moves the problem. Some times we gotta step up and be men...Right! I'm just sayin...Go to the Gym! But when the wind is rocking and you are swinging a large taper stick it can be frustrating to futile. Point of note...I fished the Niagara one day with Norland. We made the hike down and it became quickly apparent that the wind was tunnelling through the gorge. It became even more so apparent when my Frontier had a bend in it and my float and line were flailing in the wind parallel to the surface of the water about 5 feet above it. Needless to say...that was not a fun outing. Finally my float dropped and the rod loaded up nicely. I will admit that the bend in a large stick will put a smile on your face. The lengh does offer up some forgiveness as well. I was cautious not to test the overall power of this stick on the first fish as I greatly needed the photo op. As luck would have it the fish won that round but there were 5 other opportunities that afforded me the ability to put the blank through the paces and some critters on the bank.

The following are my findings... likes and dislikes of this blank.

-visually appealing...clean attractive finish and sweet lines
-Fuji concepts in black...very stealth
-15' length
-3 piece design...breaks down nicely for transport
-action...nice semi parabolic bend
-power...inherent power of the big stick.  There when you need it.
-price...msrp $300

-butt diameter and overall taper
-number of guides
-overall weight
-tip heavy
-wind sock
-sliding rings

Final Thoughts:
I'll have to admit I was a little disappointed with this blank from the weight and taper perspective.  St Croix had the opportunity to take some readily available feedback from the Centrepinning community and really challenge themselves to put out a fair priced production blank that afforded some progression in this regard.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out what everyone really wants in a big stick and it doesn't take much effort to drum up that feedback.  Also to me it was a marginal step backwards from previous 15' offerings to the steelheading community.  Now having said this...the blank fishes well.  It is heavy and picks up the wind very easy but it certainly is nice with a critter on the other end.  It wouldn't be fair to compare this stick to say a GLX as the price point difference doesn't even warrant the effort.  In summary if you are looking for an affordable "brand new" 15' float rod with a lifetime warranty and can handle a minor workout over the course of your day this stick is for you.  If you are already suffering from shoulder issues or are just plain soft stay away.  This stick is for men!

You can read more about St Croix and their AVID series of rods via their website

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Riverkeeper Frogwater Review

In the last couple of years an Ontario fishing forum I frequent had started to embark on a really cool demo program. The program essentially saw fishing rod and reel manufacturers give the site host their products for users to demo and offer up comments and reviews. A very cool program for the end user and potential buyer to get their hands on some high end gear without risking their hard earned dime. Also an equally cool way for manufacturers to get accurate feedback from passionate individuals essentially free of charge.

I never really took part in the official program because of its popularity and waiting lists. I had honestly forgotten about it until Harv suggested I contact Bruce from the GBO board and look into getting a Riverkeeper to demo. I took Harv up on his suggestion and before you knew it I had a Rod and Reel in my hands to trial free of charge. The reel was the Riverkeeper Frogwater model manufactured by Robb Marquette from Stratford.
I had followed the introduction and evolution of Robb's reels online via forum chats but aside from holding Harv's Riverkeeper I had yet to fish one. The masses were quick to fall in love with Robb's artisan pin creation and thus it received rave reviews.
My initial first impressions upon holding the Frogwater was how little justice the pictures I had seen do for this reel. It certainly is a well build aesthetically appealing pin. After playing with the reel for a while I decided to contact Robb through email to learn more about him and his reels and start deliberations on a modified Frogwater of my own. I also wanted to pitch the prospect of documenting the event for a potential Magazine Article on the entire craft artisan pin creation process. First thing I discovered about Robb is that he is a very personable guy. He was more than accepting of my questions and ideas and was genuinely looking for feedback to better his creations. After lots of email conversations Robb gave me a brief chronological history of his evolution in the Niche Centrepin Reel manufacturing arena.  The below is a cut and paste from that communication:

Hi Brian,

Got to busy yesterday for a reply,,,,work,work,
here a little history on my reels.

I've been making reels for myself since 1991, at first it was an attempt to have a larger diameter reel for fishing larger flows, and retrieving line faster, most reels where 5.5" or larger, at the time there where only 4.5" reels available to my knowledge.
I would use the reel a few times to find out what I liked and disliked, then sell to fund the next, I never did a clicker in those reels, as it was to much work, and I didn't much like the pawl and gear clicker that was the norm.

In 2007, after much discussion with the wife decided to purchase some quality machinery and start making reels as a hobby, I decided on a 5.25" reel to be my first run, but there was clicker problem!!!! After several attempts of recreating the same old clicker, a friend of mine said why not a motorcycle brake, and off we went,,, 8 months later and a lot of empty beer cans we had a very neat clicker design, and it worked well ,but was to big, so we took some weight out here and there, and made things smaller, then it was ready.

I made a run of 25 5.25" reels called the Riverkeeper, and they sold very well, but a lot pinners found them a bit big, and a bit heavy. So next round was to be a smaller reel 4 7/8's in diameter, same clicker, the reel was also called Riverkeeper, and wieghed in at 9.4 oz's I made 2 runs of 25 and again they sold well, but I thought they where missing a look on the back plate, so I ported it, and made 50 reels RK 2 meaning Riverkeeper Ported.

Shortly after I was done that run, a fella that had bought 2 of every run I made, asked if I could make him a reel that looked the same but even more porting and he wanted the reel to weight 8 oz's, he wanted the reel to fish Frogwater,,,,,hence the name, I made only one prototype, witch I still fish today, There are about 80 Frogwater reels in circulation, I'm planning on a run of 20 to take the Frogwater to #100 including the prototype, but i'm not sure what I'll do after that, Life has become very busy 4 kids 2 jobs and a honey do list as long as my arm,,,I call it my hobby that went crazy.

Finally the weekend came and my first opportunity to fish the Frogwater was before me. The conditions were tough but I wanted more than anything to run the reel and put it through the paces with the hopes of one willing player to tie it all together. To say my first day was a challenge would be an understatement. The temps were Arctic and steam was coming off the water which made the visual aspect of the game almost impossible. The fish were under lock down and the elements were weighing heavily on my body. The reel ran flawless but the trip didn't bode well for a detailed review of the reels performance. The second day saw a break in the weather.
The participants were willing and 6 hot fish put the reel through its paces. The following is a summary of my findings on the Riverkeeper Frogwater Centrepin Reel:
Visually the reel quite aesthetically appealing with current available color configurations of Black, Green, and Champagne. The front face porting and lines take inspiration from the likes of the Mykiss and John Milner Reels albeit different enough to have an identiy of its own. The fixed bearing cap looks handsomely familiar and would make Keith Snary himself smile. The key feature on the front face or spool are the handles.
Finally a Centrepin reel that has properly sized ergonomic handles that allow adequate comfort and function for the user with manly hands. I found the handle spacing perfect and the over all design afforded me the opportunity to efficiently flick spin the spool without false or botched attempts and never once did I injury my fingers or thumbs in the process. I have fished a lot of pins and these handles are by far the best I have encountered on any reel.
The back plate porting is attractive and where form really meets function. Much of the reduced weight of the Frogwater comes from this addition that the original Riverkeeper model lacked.
Aside from the handles the real gem of this reel is the clicker mechanism. The clicker design resembles a disk brake arrangement. I was told the inspiration came from that of a motorcycle. The design is genius and simply is the best overall clicker design available on any Pin out there. Clicker designs have been a pet peeve of Great Lakes Floatfisherman for years and Robb had found a design that makes this concern null and void. The device is engaged via sliding the centrally located handle in an upward movement. A caliper style arrangements slides over an inner ported stainless steel disk. There is no fidgeting or arc motion required in the engagement initiative . A simple upward force and the clicker is engaged. The dual ball detent design affords the spool to be locked in place with more than adequate pressure to transport the largest of great lakes floats to and from the river without line detensioning while still providing the opportunity for the angler to turn the spool if required. The tolerances on this reel are precise and exact and meet or surpass those of similar higher end Pins on the market. The startup is best described as effortless and meets the premise of which the reel was named...Truly a Frogwater fishable reel.
This speaks volumes to the precision craftsmanship and quality Germain ABEC5 bearings incorporated in the design.
If I had to choose one pet peeve I have with this reel it would be the inability to remove the spool effortlessly while on the river.  I'm certain this was a conscious decision on the manufacturers part but there are times when the quick spool removal feature comes in handy.  To many this is of no issue and I currently own reels with similar designs and manage fine.
 The reel is simply a pleasure to fish and one takes to it readily as if they have fished it for years. Priced similarly to comparable pins in this category one would certainly be pleased with the their purchase and have a quality reel that would be handed down through the generations.

Reel specs as quoted from manufacturer:
-spool and back plate material - 6160 T4 aluminum.
-spool diameter - 4 7/8"
-spool width - .625"
-spool depth - .350"
-316 stainless steel accessories including the clicker disk, that is controlled by 2 stainless steel ball detents
-ABEC 5 stainless steel bearings ( German)
-overall Weight - 8 oz's
-colour options: Black, Green, Champagne
Robb Marquette and Riverkeeper Reels can be contacted via email at
or by phone at 1-519-272-9881

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#*%$!...That can't be good

The cabin was extra cold this morning.  Cody-buddy didn't wake me for his 3 a.m moonlight piss so the woodstove didn't see any refueling during the early morning hours.  There was definite hesitation as I rolled out of bed at 7:45 to re-stoke the fire and start my day.  Between yesterday's bitter cold session on the river and the afternoon work out from snowmobiling and raking the snow off the roof my body was feeling the effects.  The morning air still harboured a wicked bite as it hit my face upon opening the front door of the cabin to let he dog out.  The swaying of the trees spoke to a moderate breeze.  I was seriously leaning towards a morning on the couch with the fire, Internet and some Baileys coffee. 
I sat down, powered up the lap top and started to check the blog roll.  The coffee was magnificent and I settled in nicely watching the fire start to dance that magical way it does when it's burning efficiently.  After acknowledging some comments on the day priors post I opened up the Consummate Sportsman's blog and was pleased to see "Hollywood" Ricks had spun off another HD video.  Each video JB has been knocking out betters the prior so I was anxious to review "January Slab Hunt".    I must say the video was awesome.  It certainly put a smile on my face and more importantly had me motivated to get off the couch and geared up to hit the river.  I noticed there were 2 or 3 squirrels hitting the bird feeders hard this morning and I took this as a positive to indicate a somewhat warmer shift in the weather.  I loaded up the van and headed for the river. 
Prior to this trip I had made arrangements with Bruce Farrell from the Grey Bruce Outdoors board to demo a 15' St Croix AVID adorned with a Riverkeeper Frogwater Edition Centrepin.  The gear is on loan for a limited time and I was anxious to put a bend in the big stick and run the Frogwater through some big river action.  The day priors session spoke to the refinements of the reel but I really needed a fish or two to develop an informed opinion.  I have been getting bombarded from my Michigan brethren to run the "Waxie" as they call it this time of the year. 
I decided to stop and pick some up on the way in the hopes that a Brown or Rainbow could be enticed at a minimum.  I wanted every option available after yesterdays lock down.
The river was once again deserted.  I had the run of the water below the coffer so I decided to start up tight with a black and red Norland special.  I gave it a fair run and decided to switch it up prior to working my way down the drift.  I adjusted my float and tied on a new #10 135 Dai Riki Scud to my 5.6lb Raven Flouro tippet.  The maggots were looking me in the eye so I popped open the container and mulled around the sawdust for a big fattie.  After two drifts tight to the coffer I threw out my third and started to shuffle sideways towards a gravel bar that protrudes out into the flow.  Doing this I took my eyes off the float to concentrate on the substrate of the river when the rod was almost pulled from my hand.  I set up and a very hot titanium steelie jumped a foot or so from the surface and screamed down river.  The avid loaded up nicely and it was fish on!  For a late January steelhead this fish was on fire and gave me a run for my money breaching the surface multiple times.  From what I seen it was a purple buck in the 7lb range.  I was cautions not to put the boots to this fish with the big stick as I was unfamiliar with the blank and the power it possessed.  Just as I was starting to gain some ground the float flew over my left shoulder and the fish was gone.  Anxious to evaluate the incident I collected the slack line and pulled the rig in for a close inspection.  Fully expecting a broken leader I was surprised to see the knot had failed on the hook end.  Disappointed
I shook it off and retied a fresh hook,  chose another fattie waxie and picked away at the middle seam working my way down towards the large bar.  From here on in things got weird. For the next hour and a half I hit five more fish of which three were blown from the hook popping free.  There was no denying the effectiveness of the wax worms.  I had fished them before but never with as much conviction as I had today and never with as much success and reward either.  The three other fish I lost were well into the battle and almost done deals when the hook just popped free and the rod went lifeless.  I couldn't really figure it out other than I was very hesitant to hammer them on the hookset with the big stick and  a non-stretch mainline that came on the Frogwater.  Needless to say I did manage to put a couple of nice fish on the beach.  One was a 6lb Titanium buck that was simply outstanding and the other a long pretty hen in the 7lb range.  All of the fish today fought remarkably strong for the time of the year and I could only tie it to the shift in the weather and figured they were putting on the feedbag after the day priors lock down.  The hen was giving me a tough time once I put her on the beach and in my haste to keep her under control and eliminate any risk of getting the Frogwater wet I leaned over and my camera fell into the water in front of me.  Instinctively |I grabbed it in as soon as it hit the bottom but not before it had become completely enveloped in 6" of the frigid waters of the Big Manistee.
Reluctantly I powered it up and hoped for the best.  It came to life but I could see the lense had seen some minor moisture.  During all the ruckus the Frogwater Centrepin got splashed and was now frozen up.   I positioned the fish and took a few shots for lucks sake and hoped for the best.  The camera took the pictures and I accepted this a positive and cleaned as much surface moisture from around the lense as I could prior to tucking it deep into my waders for the remainder of the outing.
As expected the water splashed on the reel had locked it up solid and the rest of the morning was played out fighting an ever increasing cold wind with the big stick, frequent attempts to de-thaw the reel and another blown Steelie.  Tight tolerance pins are works of engineering but can be ones nemesis during the frigid months.  It's imperative to exercise every precaution practical to keep these pins clean and water free at these times. 
That don't work for me and my shutter bug tendencies.  It's a risk I'll aways take for the photo.  Today it didn't work for me, the reel and my camera but I wouldn't change it for a minute.  After a harsh lesson of what typical deep winter steelheading can be on Saturday morning I managed to turn it around and hit 6 quality Michigan Steelies in the matter of a few hours today.  The landing ratio was poor but I'm gonna chalk that up as a learning curve issue with the new gear and my reluctance to hammer them on the hook set.  I plan on putting up a detailed review of the St Croix 15' Avid and the Riverkeeper Frogwater Edition Centrepin reel soon so stay tuned.  As of 4pm this afternoon I think I have managed to dry out the digital camera and just may have dodged a bullet.  It was a matter of time and I should probably feel blessed it hasn't already happened multiple times like it has to my useless acquaintences.  Time will tell.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Arctic Cold

I tried to fish this morning.  I should have known better as the forecast forewarned me of pain and despair. But still I went... driven by the blind desire to fish...trial some very cool gear...and mildly quench my never ending  OCD affliction.

I had forgotten just how short these Arctic session need to be and left the river nursing my  burning cold fingers and toes. 

Today old man winter won a small victory but I will be back...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow Deer

Pulled the game camera tonight and was pleased to see we had alot of visitors since our last trip over.  Finally got some much welcomed snow here in Western MI.  Things should get interesting on the river.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Rig

O.K. so I got a legit request to put up a post describing my "rig" for steelheading.  aka my Centrepin setup.  I had never really thought about any form of technical education through this media.  After some consideration I opted to email the said individual his request but later thought I might as well cut and paste the entire conversation here for any of the visitors or lay people that may not be familiar with the Great Lakes Float Fishing Centrepin setup.  I make no prior claims to being any sort of expert.  I merely responded with my personal beliefs and system for Great Lakes Steelheading.  I am coming out and making the statement up front...what works for me doesn't necessarily work for others.  Steelheaderes are a funny bunch.  Like most of the world now actually....Haters!  Purists may have alternate opinions.  F*ck them...its fishing and should be fun.
Hope you find this helpful and at a minimum hope it brings a smile to your pathetic muggs.

cut n paste email...
Hi Fish Tales…

As per your request about my centrepinning rig…
I can tell you that you will need a 13’ float rod with an action suitable to the flows you are going to fish. Large turbulent flows require a stick with some backbone like an St Croix Avid in the 6-10lb line class or an 14’ IM8 Raven or a 15’ 3 piece Frontier or maybe the new Rainshadow XST in 13’ 6-10.
As for a centrepin reel go with the industry standard Islander IS float reel. Best all around production float reel ever. Will last you a life time and they are bullet proof and beautiful. Get a black one and roll cool on the river ;0) I have a gold, black and slate grey.
Line is simple…I use cheap and frequently replaced Berkley Trilene XL mainline in a 10lb class. I run green because I am straight and dig chicks... And it looks cool on my reel…oh ya and I'm straight.
Now you may need to beef up your mainline depending upon the flows you are fishing and the size of critters you are after. If you do I’d go up to 12 or 14 max. The thing with Berkley XL is that it is cheap…very limp, casts great, strong as shit and cheap. I mean cheap because you will get a lot of line twist and need to replace your mainline a bunch of times like every 6-8 trips is what I do but it’s only $6 bucks a pop.

Next comes the rigging part…
Here ya go…depending upon your flow choose the smallest float you can get away with keeping in mind more weight is better for casting and you do need to see that f*cker when it floats down the river. But… fish can see giant bouy’s a mile away...right!!! eh!!!  I only run Drennan floats and in particular I like loafers in 8gm size. I’m getting old and the small orange speck on the loafers is getting hard to see but I’m holding out until I have to switch because I’m a stubborn regimented pos and then it will be to a Drennan Piker or Zeppler about 11 gram size or less. These are not cheap but all other floats out there are Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!  Im not a balsa fan ;0)
Float goes directly on your mainline then a micro swivel tied to mainline and fluorocarbon leader. Don’t cheap out on your leader…only run flouro…I prefer the Raven 5.6lb variety as the sh*t is as tough as cable and the fish don’t see it. Some peeps will argue that mono is just as good in off colour water etc…I don’t give a F*ck why risk it. You will get way more hookups running flouro hands down end of story. I always run a 18-20” flouro tippet. Then your hook of choice. If you are using jigs then it’s decided. If you are running flies then it’s decided. If you are running roe bags then I suggest Dai rikki scuds in a #10 or larger depending on your flow, fish size, and line ratings.
Then comes the weighting system. So…you need to understand that you have to load up enough shot under your float in order to make it sit in the water column properly…without any weight the float will not work and it will just lay on it’s side on the water surface. Experiment here. Keep in mind that your offering at the end of your rig needs weight to get down to the bottom. I primarily bulk shot my rigs. Quick and easy…simply put 3 or so split shot of size req’d above your swivel on the mainline. Then adjust your float up your mainline for water depth that you are fishing and put your split shot under it to make the float work and are ready to fish. You can easily adjust for depth with this rig by sliding your float and split shot up and down the line as req’d. Some peeps stagger shot from the float down to the leader every 6” or so…those people also tend to be homosexuals. Kidding… not really…
That is way too much work and a pain in the ass for me.  The secret to successful steelheading is getting your sh*t to the bottom quick. That is where the fish are. The float and center pin allow you to fish long lines parallel to the shore with minimal swinging. One can cover a tonne of water quickly and efficiently. The ideal is to keep your mainline off the water thus eliminating the need to mend for obvious reasons. Keep your line as tight as possible and don’t be afraid to trot back on the float in order to try and keep your offering leading your float. I don’t get all too anal about that as some times a lagging bait occurs and for some god forsaken reason I tend to still catch fish…weird…now the purists will call me out on this but my blog does have a few pictures of steelhead on it. ;0)
Any questions? Clear as mud? Keep it simple…don’t over think it. Get your bait down, keep your line tight…set up on any abnormal float deviation.
Btw…I see you have fished the Situk in AK…I’m jealous…very jealous…I actually may hate you…joking…My rig would work perfect on that flow. 8 grm drennan perhaps a 12lb main line, 6-8lb flouro tippet and #8 or #10 scud or #6 jig hooks with marabou that would be a lot of fun!!! Almost booked a trip for this may…just may do it yet…who knows.

Hope I helped and didn’t offend,
Brian Morin
Aka Lambton

OK now Haters...Start Hatin... Oh ya and in my defense if Arn and Norland can catch fish with this method there must be some form of legitimacy to it...those guys are useless.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


Well for three days in a row the Alarm lost the battle.  I really didn't give it much hope this morning.  I awoke just shy of 9 am to clear blue skies.  The sun was a welcome sight and there was a moderate bite in the air.  The lack of wind and warm sunshine had my hopes up for a late morning bite so I gathered up the gear and made a quick escape to the river.  For the next  hour I struggled to entice a take.  Then it happened...the float dropped...I set...the GL3 loaded up...and as quick as it began it was over. Opportunities on days like today are far and few between.  Knowing this quite well I worked my way back up to the top and called it a day.   This mornings results didn't really surprise me.  The river has been hit or miss the last couple of weeks.  It has been on or completely shutdown.  It was nice to feel the sun on my face and breathe some cold clean air.  Any opportunity to spend some quality time on the river in January is certainly a gift.  I really wanted to load the GL3 up again and put her through the paces but it wasn't meant to be.  Can't wait to return in the coming weeks and try again.

Crimson Ho

With an 8:30 appointment at the local garage for our van the game plan this morning  was simple.  Wake at 6 am, resurrect the now dwindled fire, and relax on the couch for an hour with a warm cup of Joe prior to hitting the big river.  Well once again the comfort and warmth of our bed overpowered the piercing alarm and I found myself rushing around the cabin at 7:30 frantically trying to get everything in order so I could have my wife drop me off at the river access prior to the Van's scheduled repair.  After yesterdays success and the minor temp drop of the night prior I was pretty much prepared for a tough morning session.  The 15 or so vehicles already at the access site really didn't surprise me much as it was Saturday and it has been a consistent theme this winter with the unseasonably warm weather and the lack of snow for other winter pastimes.  I made my way down to the river with hopes of some open water below the coffer.  I was pleasantly surprised to witness a lonely stretch of river until well around the bend. 
The weekend warrior focus was above the coffer and that didn't hurt my feelings in the least.  I picked my starting spot and tossed a green and brown Norland Marabou special to the center of the fast water shute.  Three or four drifts later and the float dropped.  It didn't take long and a large trout launched a foot and a half from the river and spit the jig.  Promising results I thought to myself as I inspected the jig and made another throw back into the run.  For the next hour I struggled to entice a take.  The cold damp wind didn't help matters and my lack of winter acclimation was starting to take a toll on my demeanor.  A short walk was in order to warm up and get the blood flowing.  I was hoping the inside of the big bend would find my salvation and warm my now chilled body.  This water seldom lets me down and in no time the GL3 was loaded up.

By the immediate head thrashing and surface rolls I could tell I was into a decent sized late run Coho.  These fish are almost textbook in their fighting strategies and are almost a 180 degrees from a steelie.  With no boat between me and the shore like the day prior I worked the fish back towards the bank and the small window of real estate to beach the fish.  He was a gnarly Crimson Buck in full spawning colors.  His kype was pronounced and armed with a multitude of serious fangs.  It was very apparent that his run from the lake was met with great resistance.  His scared body told a grim tale of the hardships of the river.  These gnarly males will battle to the end for prime spawning rights.  Unlike King Salmon Coho's will readily seek out any available forrage while they are in the river and attack with great aggression. 
I still get a thrill out of hooking a decent one and marvel at the astounding spawning colors they transform to in the name of procreation.  After a multitude of pics the old man was released and we bid a farewell.  The entire episode took a tole on my hands.  I had underestimated the cold river water and the damp chill in the air and now my hands were aching.  I took 15 mins to regain my composure and get my hands working again before working my way back up towards the coffer for another shot at the center shute.  I was now thinking that I would cut the morning session short and get back to the cabin to take care of some errands.

I noticed the section was now vacant and I made my way up to fish the bottom end where I typically have the best luck.  As I dropped in the river a couple of Indicator Fly fisherman dropped in the river above me and we all started to cover the water.  I was admiring the pace of a similar line I fish in the spring when the float dropped and I set up to a giant Steelhead.  For the next 10 mins I struggled to turn the beast from the fast water.  Any inch I gained was quickly recouped.  I was reluctant to put the boots to this fish as the jigs have a well defined limit and I wasn't prepared to lose the fish on a straightened hook.  The fish was winning the battle and there was nothing I could to but hope for the best.

My hands and shoulders were aching.  Finally I started to gain some ground.  Still the fish fought back and wasn't quite ready to surrender when my worst fears were realized.  Without warning the 8gm drennan flew past my shoulder and the fish was gone.  I quickly inspected the jig and was pleased to see that it's integrity held.  I knew my chances of landing this fish were dwindling as the battled lengthened so I wasn't overly surprised or disappointed when the eventual happened.  I actually think there might have been more disappointment with the audience that had formed on the far shore.  My hands were now throbbing with pain and once again I found myself idle in pursuit of warmth.  A chill had now set across my body and my toes were also starting to hurt from the cold.  I made a few more good drifts before succumbing to the elements and calling for my ride.  I was happy with my successes and the stern reminder that sometimes the fish have to win too.  I contemplated just how big that fish could have been as I made the hike out.   The pain in my toes reminded me of the joys associated with winter steelheading.  Tomorrow is another day...I wonder if the alarm will lose again.