Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hero Drifter Float Co.

A little while ago I ran across a post that caught my interest on a new fishing forum I has also stumbled across called .  The post centered around a custom float maker out of PA named Michael Weber and his artisan float making business Herodrifter Float Co.  The images of his beautifully hand crafted custom floats intrigued me...So much that I had to private message him an inquiry about the possibility of producing a loafer design for me.  Michael was quick to respond and inform me he had been a loyal follower of the blog for some time and would like to work with me on coming up with a suitable design for my needs.  To the best of my knowledge there have been no balsa loafer designs available and I was eager to give some a run.  Over the coarse of 3 or more weeks we would exchange ideas, thoughts, fishing banter and photographs via email as the process unfolded.  Upon arriving home from Mexico I was eager to pick up my awaiting parcel from Mike at Herodrifter Float Co.  I had a precursor look at the prototypes via an emailed image but was eager to get the final product in my hands.  As expected I was not disappointed.  The final result definitely demonstrates the passion Mr Weber has for his craft.  I can only begin to wonder how much time Michael has into these hand crafted works of art.  My wife happen to see me unpack them and commented on how beautiful they looked.  The field trials will be in the coming weeks...that is if I can bring myself to risk losing one of these beauties...I may have to bump up my mainline to 20lb or run the risk of swimming after them if one should break off!  Stay tuned...

Michael Weber and Herodrifter Float Co. can be contacted through the forums at or via email at

Riviera Maya

Mexico...I would have never imagined...Riviera Maya...Sand, Sun and Cerveza...Paradise

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cold A$$ MO

Fished the Muskegon today with our guide friend Jeff Stuhan.  Always a pleasure to hook up with Jeff and share a float.  Fish are a bonus to the camaraderie and laughs.  Today had the makings of a stellar day with the exception of one thing... willing participants.  Norland and I were all in but the finned critters had lock jaw.  After each section we fished we would run the boat over it looking to see if any fish scattered.  As fate would have it quite a few runs did indeed hold fish.  We threw everything at them hard but still came up on the short side of the stick. 

Finally on a super long throw my float dropped and I set up to a very strong and healthy Muskegon hen.  Based on the days ongoings it was a brilliant miracle that she made the net.  Nonetheless the outing was still a success.  We spent quality time on a magnificent flow in the middle of February with a great Guide.  We shared a tonne of laughs and stories.  We didnt turn a tonne of fish but we didn't get blanked!  :O) 

The skies were a crisp blue and at times the sun actually warmed our weary weathered faces... another gift from the West Side.

Winters Return

After last weekends successes  I was eager to return to the cabin and the west side for another few rounds of winter steelheading.  Norland had just returned home from his firearms recert and was anxious for some much needed R&R.   Anxious to fish we made plans for a three day session on the west side.  The first day would see us on the Manistee, the second on the Muskegon and the final morning session back on the Big Man.  We eagerly left home at 4pm Friday with an ETA of 7:30pm.  Mother nature had finally decided to interject and a stern reminder of what winter was all about was thrown across the state.  The road conditions changed from perfect to treacherous in a matter of minutes. 
What was to be a manageable and brief trip to the cabin took a turn for the worse on I-75 when traffic ground to a halt.  The roads were covered in ice and numerous accident were observed along our travels.  What would have normally taken 3.5hrs ended up taking 7.  After finally arriving at the cabin we unpacked the truck lit the fire and hunkered down for the remainder of the evening with visions of hitting the big river the next day.

The evening lows were biting cold and the next days projected highs were indicative of a late to mid day start.  We took advantage of the conditions that were dealt to us and spent a morning of leisure that included some healthy banter over a healthy breakfast, coffee, and WFN.  The cabin septic plumbing had been causing some grief as of late.  It had all come to a head the weekend prior when the toilets wouldn't fully flush.  With limited time to troubleshoot the problem no resolve was accomplished.
 In my absence the problem hadn't self-repaired so the morning hours were quickly consumed attempting to snake the septic line from the tank back into the house.  After a few attempts we found success and the joys of modern day plumbing were once again restored.

It was now mid day and we geared up and made our way to the river.  The temps were now at the days projected highs and there was not going to be a better opportunity to hit the river than now.  The access bore witness to the extremely cold temps and we were fortunate to have only another vehicles occupants to share the river.
Going in we knew the drill.  The struggle today was going to be shared between iced up guides, frozen lines and intermittent centerpin freeze ups.  The game plan was easy...hit the reliable water hard and fast with confidence and determination then get the hell out.  Today's temptation was the Wax Worm and in short order proved to be the right decision.  After a worthy battle I managed to bank a healthy 6-7lb wintered hen.   This fish certainly instilled the effectiveness of the wax worm in Norlands mind and in no time he was into a hot steelhead of his own.  We worked the water hard over the course of the next two hours and I managed to turn another healthy coloured up buck prior to calling it a day for lunch and a much needed warm up back at the cabin.
Over an insanely delicious lunch consisting of beef jerky, jerkey dip, and beer we decided to make an attempt at a late day drift.  Horseshoe bend was the destination and we eagerly gathered up our affects and made our way toward the river. 
The access was isolated and the single set of snow covered tracks down the trail spoke to the pressure that this session had experienced over the previous week.  We make the hike down to the river and meticulously began to work our way along her banks ever so seeking our adversary.  This section of the river is very beautiful and under winters blanket is quite serene.  True silence is a rare gift in this modern age and can be experienced here in honestly.   The fishing in this section can be tough to say the least but the rare rewards and backdrop always justify the efforts.  Well into the session way deep on a long meandering drift my float disappeared.
 I set up praying it wasn't more of the ever so plentiful timber lining the river to get validation when a large fish rolled on the surface.  With ample room I played the to my awaiting grip.  These MI fish exhibit outstanding winter colourings and she was a beautiful example of what a prime winter hen should look like.  By now the days light was failing and we had a healthy hike out before us so we called it a day and headed back to the warm cabin to rest our now weary bodies.  The evening was spent speculating of Sunday's successes on the MO with Guide Jeff Stuhan over some Beers and Jerkey. 
Life is good...

Monday, February 06, 2012

Temple Fork Outfitters Gary Loomis Signature Series Centerpin Rod

I have been fortunate as of late to have had the opportunity to run some pretty cool gear on the river. The blog has evolved over the years and has afforded me a venue to share my writings, photography, thoughts, and opinions. It has also developed a somewhat cult following of Die Hard steelheaders looking to quench their insatiable appetites for anything and everything Steelhead. The cabin affords me the opportunity to fish 365 days a year as the West Side MI flows don’t have seasonal restrictions or freeze over/ lockup scenarios. Thus, the perfect scenario to field trial gear and offer an unbiased accurate description as to the performance characteristics of the said equipment. The reviews as of late have been met with great appreciation. This coupled with the fact that I get to run the stuff without financial commitment had me looking to further my horizons. I recently reached out to Temple Fork Outfitters Regional MI Rep John Bueter with an inquiry regarding the TFO group’s newest offering, the Gary Loomis Signature Series Centerpin Rod.

John is a great guy and wasted no time returning my email inquiry. Along with this response was an invitation to meet up, talk about the company, my blog, and pass along the stick to me for a field trial and evaluation. I too wasted no time accepting the invitation and made arrangements to meet up Saturday afternoon after my morning session chasing some chromers on the big river.

Arriving to John's resort outside of Baldwin it didn't take me long to learn he was a passionate fisherman. After exchanging biographies, some of his which included owning a successful fly shop, travelling the world in pursuit of fish, and now representing numerous major players in the fishing scene, we talked a little about TFO's dive into the Centerpin Rod market.  We also talked of Gary Loomis' involvement with the introduction of the TFG CTP 1302-2. It was clear that John was a tried and true Fly Guy but he exhibited a genuine interested in the Centerpin fishing scene. His open minded enthusiasm about the method was refreshing and exciting. John informed me the rod was a collaborative effort with Gary Loomis that saw the TFO group producing this rod based on Gary's specs. He also hinted at TFO’s commitment to this line of rods and teased me with a rumor that there is possibly a second generation or additional models in the works behind the scenes.  John jokingly told me of a converstation himself and Gary Loomis had about the Centerpin rod demographic.  He quoted Gary as saying when it comes to Centerpin float fishing every end user seems to be an expert rod designer.  I chuckled to myself and thought how true that statement really is.  He handed me the blank in the rod bag and we made our way to his office.
The TFG CTP 1302-2 specs out as follows:
Blank color - Translucent Green
Guide Wraps – black/copper accents
Length - 13'
Power - Light
Line Wt rating - 6-10lb
Lure Wt - 1/8 - 1/2 oz
Blank weight 2.9oz
Pieces - 2
Action - medium
Guides - 2 Hi and 9 low frame SIC
Reel seat- graphite fixed/AL Hoods
Retails for $179.95

We talked shop for a bit in the office before we parted ways and I made my way back to the cabin with a new toy for the next day's outing. Arriving back at the cabin I pulled the rod from it's rod bag and assembled it for a closer inspection. The dark green blank is a very refreshing and visually appealing alternative to normal greys and blacks of the mainstream blanks. The fixed graphite/single hood reel seat is well placed on the handle configuration with ample premium cork fore and aft sections. The SIC's are discreetly finished with black wraps and copper accents.
The guide configuration sees two high frame SIC followed by nine low frames up to the tip. All guides appeared to be adequately sized for cold weather fishing scenarios. The gold lettering and winding check contrast the deep green blank nicely leaving one with an impression of refinement, style, and class. Upon picking this rod up for the first time one immediately notices just how light this stick is. At 2.9oz it really is a feather in the sea of its competitors at this price point.
Upon whipping the rod around one soon realizes the action rating of 2 or L (light) is very accurate. My first impression was that this rod is a wet noodle. With the ultra-light weight and the flex I was getting in the great room I was starting to think it was a small to medium flow rod and more in tune for the smaller Ohio and Ny Tribs. Nonetheless the manufacturer boasted of adequate power in the bottom end. The only true answer to my suspicions reside mere feet below the raging surface of a cold winter river so I kept an open mind as I eagerly rigged up a pin for the next morning’s river trial.  I went with the Imperial as it needed fresh line and wasnt already rigged on a rod.

The morning came and I hesitantly met the alarms beckoning with a snooze or two prior to finally dragging my weary bones from the warm bed. It was 7:30 and after feeding the dog and stoking the fire I sat down with my morning java and played out the days events in my head. The day prior’s successes were negated by poor luck and human laziness. With a limited window to field trial this rod I wanted to stack the odds in my favor as much as humanly possible. There were fish in that locale and my best bet would be to stick to the program and run the reliable water. It was a cool and damp morning with an overcast sky. The temps were hovering in the positive and the winds were moderate to non existent. Quintessential steelheading weather with the makings of a great day on the water. After finishing off my second cup of coffee I donned the gear, loaded up the rod and made my way towards the river.

With a minor change in the weather pattern from the previous day’s sunny skies the river traffic was slightly down. The water I wanted to fish was abandoned so I cut to the chase and waded out on the bar. I adjusted my float, affixed my offering and made the first cast. The rod casted like a dream. The feather light configuration and low frame SIC's complimented the top end of the rod and my offering rocketed out into the river. It caught me a bit off guard and resulted in a further cast than planned.
The second drift saw me tight to the outside edge of the main flow where I had initially wanted to float. It was midway into the drift when the float jetted below the surface. The rod loaded up and I was into a large winter hen. Instantly the rod folded over in the top end. The bend was very pronounced and concerns surfaced as to how it would fair for the remainder of this battle. It quickly became apparent that there was some much needed power in the bottom end once the rod was pushed there. Similar to the GLX line of rods there was an extreme parabolic bend observed. More than the 3 power GLX version I recently reviewed and I highly suspect it would closely mimic the 2 power model. I was not about to down play this review and bow to the adversary so I fought it as hard as I would with one of my more powerful blanks to see what it could do. Within a reasonable amount of time I had a beautiful 6-7 lb Mansitee Steelhead at my feet posing for pictures. The rod didn’t fail my efforts and made true on the TFO promise. My feelings of joy were twofold… First there is no better way to accurately form an opinion on a rod than to run it hard on a hot fish which just played out before me and secondly I got to do this on my second drift through the run and get some vindication for yesterday’s struggles. After a few quick pics for the report the pretty lady scurried back into the depths no worse for wear. I regained my composure and validated the integrity of my tippet and hook before wading back out onto the bar. With a keen sense of accomplishment I was now hoping to perhaps be lucky enough to pick up a few small browns or so to put some icing on the cake.
I popped on a big fat waxie and lobbed out my third cast into the middle of the slack water approximately 5 feet out past the fastwater edge. As my offering began to enter the drift the rod was almost yanked from my hands and I set up only to be answered by a giant fish exploding two feet from the water. This fish was huge and extremely hot. Before I could evaluate the status of the rod the fish had jumped no less than three more times across the 50 ft diameter range. When it all registered I can recall making the assumption that there was no hope in hell of turning this fish with this rod.  Once again the rod was beyond a full C configuration.  I had already committed to giving this fish a run for it’s money and was not going to back down.  My only chance was to push the rod to it's limits or simply say goodbye to this giant fish.  The rod was folded over completely but stopped the fish and managed to afford some control. I was gaining ground and actually holding my own quite well.
The power in the bottom end is quite surprising once one gets their head around pushing the rod there.   It can be a struggle for those that have become accustomed to the higher power faster rods of recent times. The old school noodle rod faction would take to this blank in a second.  It is important to state that this rod never once flexed into the handle and the power band once again mimics the GLX design.   After a stellar battle that entailed no less than 8-10 acrobatic jumps and numerous blisstering runs the fish made the net of a courteous old timer local. His reaction only added to mine when I got the first glimpse of just how large this fish was. I have been fortunate to have landed some decent steelhead in my day and the majority of the largest have been MI fish. This fish was definitely a contender for my Personal Best if not indeed the one. River bank estimates were in the 14lb class and it was well in to the 33-34” class. This fish was simply a genetic wonder for the species and a true testament to the Big Manistee Fishery. There was no better fish and under no better circumstances to put this rod to the test and push it to it’s limits. Hands down the facts are the rod stepped up to the plate and delivered. After numerous timely photos the beast was returned to the depths. I now had to regain my composure both mentally and physically. Two hot fish within 3 drifts equated to my body feeling the ramifications of the good life. After a short reprieve I jumped back in and worked the section over for the remainder of the outing. I managed to bring to hand a beautiful chrome shaker that had the rod pumping in that ever familiar fashion that only a chromer can do and always brings a warm smile to an avid steelheaders face.  I also managed to entice another stellar wintered up buck in the 6lb class. The more fish I caught the more comfortable I became with this rod. A 4 for 4 day on this river is an outstanding day and to pull it off while field trialing some new equipment is a blessing.
The rod deliverers true to it’s promises. They make no boastful remarks about being the answer to every fishing scenario in the Great lakes. They accurately rate the rod as a Light action 13’ steelhead centerpin stick with moderate action. The top end of this rod is very slow…extremely slow and as previously stated most likely mimics the GLX 2 power model.  The bottom end steps up to the plate and cranks it out of the park when you lay the wood to her. If you are a fan of slow rods then you will love this stick. It is a rod for the individual that is not afraid to test their gear and go hard. One has to have faith in their gear to do that and it can be intimidating for those that are not used to pushing the envelope. I know I was initially, but as favorable results kept coming the more and more comfortable I became with its abilities. Having said this I would definitely not recommend this rod as a big water stick. If your primary aspirations are chasing giant fish in giant flows then you need to pursue other options. A full day of big fish in big water would certainly stress one’s body and push it to the limits. As all rods do… I think it has it’s time and place and would be best suited for small to medium sized flows. The south shore flows of Lakes Erie and Ontario come to mind as excellent running grounds for this stick. No different than it’s extremely higher priced GLX equivalent. I can say with some certainty that if you are a GLX 2 power fan you will like this blank.
The rod is best described as a higher end entry level centerpin production rod. At $179.99 with a limited life time warranty one would be hard pressed to go wrong purchasing this stick. Comparable options in this price category are heavier and bring less to the table. The rod is a feather in comparison to other options. This rod has its place and I’m certain will have it’s fans and proponents but I can say without any shadow of doubt that it did me proud on this demo and I have the pics to prove it. It comes down to individual preference, fighting style, and immediate needs. If you are looking for an entry level centerpin rod and don’t want to go all in financially and fish moderate sized flows you will be more than happy with this blank. It did leave me optimistically wondering what the rumored TFO pin-rod prototypes will be like. Can’t wait until that rumor comes to fruition :0)

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Caddis Larvae

After another full work week finally the weekend rolled around and we were cabin bound.  This time my wife and I made the trip over while the kids decided to spend some time with their cousins.  After a rather busy week at work I was eager to hit the river and see what I could drum up.  With a mid week thaw in the mix I was hoping for some new players in some old places.  It was a beautiful morning in Northern Michigan and I took my time rummaging around the garage. I moped around feeding the birds, and loading up the recycling into the van before finally gearing up and hitting the river.
As expected with such a stellar day the river traffic was up.  The flow had stabilized at 1800cfs and was running clear.  It didn't take long to hook into a 2 lb coloured up buck.  The Wax Worms were once again the ticket.  Fifteen minutes or so passed until the float once again dropped at the end of my drift and a larger fish was on.  The fight ensued and I started to make my march towards the shore from the middle of the river when the rod unloaded.  As if scripted I quickly retrieved my float and checked my leader to validate my suspicions.  Once again a rookie mistake.  Simple laziness was to blame for the loss of a large fish.  Previous to hooking up I had noticed a small abnormality on the flouro tippet most likely from the zebra mussels in the river. 
Instead of retying I gave it the multi-tug test and ran with it.  Hind sight is always 20/20 and now I was 1 for 2.  With blue skies and positive temps I decided to work my way down river and around the bend for a healthy walk.  The forest takes on a calm beauty of it's own under the blanket of winter and cover of crisp blue skies.  The fresh air was doing me good and I dropped into the river periodically along my travels.  The fish were less cooperative than anticipated and the usual haunts were failing to produce any players.  I switched up from jigs, roe and waxies with little to show for my efforts when my float dropped on a long deep run with a roe bag.  I set up to a couple of head shakes and then nothing.  It was one of those days where you don't want to miss your opportunities and now I had blown 2 of them.  One on my own accord and one from a less than mediocre hook set. 
Once back to the bank I noticed a fair amount of caddis casings in the river.  It's funny what you see when you really start to look and the more I looked the more caddis I seen.  I was curious as to what the bug looked like once outed from it's well camouflaged self made home.  Upon pulling the casing apart I was shocked to see a larvae that remarkably resembled a wax worm.  It was astonishingly similar and pretty much resolved a question I had been searching for an answer to for a while. 
Every time I asked why wax worms were so effective nobody could explain to me a logical explanation.  I always scratched my head as to why these "maggots" worked so well.  It was like an epiphany and made complete sense as to why they are so effective this time of the year.  Matching the Hatch!  I fished my way back to the stairs with no other takers.  Having an appointment later in the afternoon I called it a day and made my way out of the river valley.  The outing produced a few good bends in my rod, a long sought answer, and a few more floats for my collection of river oddities.   Tomorrow is another day.