I have to finally admit it there are three mistresses in my life.  As when I sleep they haunt me with their siren sounds.   I think of them when I am awake and long for them when we are apart.  Their beauty captivates the very essence of my being.   They are alike, yet unique.  Their names are White, Platte and Pere Marquette.

The crystal clear waters of the Platte beckon always in my mind.  She is a about as wide as the White with riffles and holes.  She guards her rainbows and browns and reluctantly relinquishes these treasures to those few who remain faithful to her. This was the first river I fly fished for trout and she became my first love.   In earlier years she graced me with views of spring run steelhead but only yielded to my courtship after many pilgrimages. It was here I learned the importance of stealth and concealment, the necessity of gently landing a fly and how patience was more than just a virtue but a skill to be perfected.

This is where an airborne ballet was performed by a beaded nymph.  Where yards of line carved graceful arcs in the morning mist, where time and space lost all meaning.  She kept calling me back and I continued to give in to her wooing. She enticed me one evening with a vicious strike from a brown that shot out from an undercut bank like a missile to intercept my caddis.  The fish darted across the river and then came upstream, cleared the water and shot the fly back at me.  I could hear the river proclaiming, “Yes, I have some good fish but only for those who spend the time to learn my secrets”.  The memory of that lost catch tempted to me to return time and again to recapture that moment as evidenced below.


The White ambles, alternating between long expanses of shallow boulder strewn riffles and shorter, narrower runs that tempt the angler to probe her depth.  Her tannin colored waters conceals boulders that make fast movements risky.  Quick to warm in the spring and slow to cool in the fall making her a haven for brown trout.  My first encounters with her left me with a damaged ego and fishless days.  I continued to call and tempted her with dries on a cool and windy day in May and she finally yielded a favor.

This particular afternoon I could do no wrong as the browns attacked the fly.  Although they were on the smallish side it was tantalizing enough to keep me coming back to ply the waters.  To my surprise on a nice September day those browns got bigger and attacked my wooly bugger with a vengeance as they feasted in preparation for the upcoming winter.  Later that evening I drifted the bead head bugger into a small deep run and felt it come to a sudden abrupt stop.  I gave the line tug assuming I had snagged on the bottom when suddenly the snag began move. I was fast into a nice brown.  My tenacity was finally handsomely rewarded.


The lore of the Pere Marquette River for me is that her fish are legendary.  Her reputation makes one feel unworthy to begin to seek her out.  She is ever changing, moving swiftly with runs longer and deeper than her sisters.  On my first visit she was receptive, yielding two fine salmon to my egg fly but I found that her depth and current intimidated me.  I sought her out again after a time but felt uneasy in her presence and I abandoned her.

But once again she seduced me and I returned in humble anticipation that she would entice me with browns and rainbows.   I placed a black bead head wooly bugger into a deep bankside pool and she granted me a nice rainbow that allowed me to show off in front of a drift boat maneuvered by one of the many river guides.


Encouraged by her favors,    I sought her out again.  This time I arrived at the river confident in my abilities to charm and conquer her, convinced I was her master and she was mine forever…  I confidently cast a Dave’s hopper against the bank where it floated on the surface only to catch a snag at the end of the run.  I tied on another to have it repeat the same abysmal performance.   Rising fish watched my offering pass; the fly ending up on a fallen limb like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

The sun began to set as I left her side with my head held low.  I could hear her laughing waters sing a taunting melody:

“You thought you were my master, that you owned me.  Not so!  I own you. You will return and if I choose to I may grant you a favor.”

I plodded heavy hearted back to my truck and knew this river would always challenge me.

These are my first three but there are others that have now entered my life and vie for my attention.

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One of my most used tools is my power miter. Most of my projects require the use of this tool especially for cutting 2×4’s, trim, etc. The problem with a power miter is that they do not come with a stand like a table saw. When I use it outside I can often put it on my deck and stand on the ground which allows me to use it in a less awkward position. Other times it is on my drive or garage floor and I attempt to use it on my knees. Another problem is if you are cutting longer boards you need to stack a couple 2×4’s to provide a support to keep the wood level. While looking at a Handyman’s magazine a couple weeks ago I found a solution to my problem.

I had an old gas grill at my cabin and decided I could use that for my portable work table. The following is the procedure I used for the conversion.

This is the grill before work started. Remove the grill, the control mechanism and the propane holder.


This is the frame work after stripping off the grill.


This is the table without the saw. For the table I used a piece of ¾ “ plywood and cut it to fit the frame of the grill depth wise and also cut it length wise leaving myself enough space on the one end for handholds. I drilled though the plywood and the frame and then attached it using machine screws and nuts. The holes may also be counter sunk to allow for a smooth surface. Also for added strength I attached a brace on each end. On the bottom of the grill I made a small platform where I could place the saw when not in use or place some other tools. Next I spray painted the unit just for looks.   The supports are made from 2×4’s cut to the height of the table. In order to hold the supports in place I drilled through them and the table top and also counter sunk the holes so I could use 5” bolts that would just drop through the holes and provide a smooth top surface. By using the longer bolts it prevents the support from falling over without having to use nuts to hold them in place.


This is the finished product. No more bending over, looking for 2×4’s to match table height or sore knees from working on the garage floor. The only expenditures I had to make were for a can of spray paint, some machine screws and some 5” bolts which all came to around $6.00.


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Over the last two sections I covered rods, reels, lines and flies. Now I’ll wrap it up with accessories and casting.
There are four items that I consider necessities and they are a hat, polarized glasses, sun screen and insect repellant. The hat provides protection from the sun and an errant fly and the glasses do the same as well as help in spotting fish. Sun screen is self-explanatory as well as the repellant.
Today some consider a vest old school and instead have switched to chest or sling packs. In either case the purpose is to carry items like fly boxes, floatant, tippets, and possibly an extra reel. I still use a vest and actually have two, a summer weight and one for cooler weather. Regardless of the option one chooses, the biggest challenge is to decide what is necessary to take otherwise the vest or pack will become quite heavy and overloaded. Then the typical reaction is to get a vest or pack with more carrying capacity.
Another item to consider is waders, although if you are fishing warmer waters they may not be necessary. Like my vest, I own two different pair. I use a pair of heavier neoprene waders for early spring, fall and winter wading and a pair of lightweight breathable waders for late spring, summer and early fall fishing. I prefer the stocking foot waders which require the purchase of wading boots. Waders with the boot attached can also be purchased and are usually less expensive overall. Again this is a preference item but I feel I get a better fit in my waders and my boots with this option. Therefore I feel more surefooted in wading. A key issue is what type of water you will be fishing. The bottom structure of the river will play a big role is selecting the type of sole on your boot. One thing about waders is that when you least expect it, they will leak.
For years I fished without a net but one year my daughter gave me one as a present and I have used it ever since. There were a number of fish that could have been lost had I not had that net. The net also is good for the fish in that the angler does not need to battle the fish to the point of exhaustion before landing it and thereby preventing needless morality.
When we think of fly fishing we imagine some person standing in a river and casting a fly in a graceful manner. In reality most of us have ended up wrapped in fly line and being embarrassed. Fly casting is different than spin or bait fishing where the weight of the lure is responsible for the taking out of line. Fly fishing uses the weight of the line to propel the fly. The real test is not how far can I cast a fly but can I accurately place it where I want it.
In many sections of the country with overhanging limbs or brush, thirty feet may be a long cast. The best way to learn to cast a fly, outside of taking lessons, would be to observe a video and then go out into your backyard or some other open area and practice. I have found women to be easier to teach then men as they do not try to “muscle” it. Casting a fly is not about brute strength but is in the motion of the lower arm moving back and forth in a controlled manner. Outside of practice it is not necessary to perform the casting motion a half dozen times before the fly lands on the water.
The fish are in the water not the air.
This has been a very brief description about the sport and more detailed information can be obtained on the internet or at a book store. Don’t get bogged down in research but go to a local fly shop and talk to the people there. Be careful because once you try it your hooked!

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line and backing



In the prior post I talked about rods, reels and fly line and now I will deal with backing, leaders and flies.

Backing is the line you first put on your reel.  Fly line itself is usually around 90 feet in length and therefore the backing line is required to help fill the spool.   It also provides additional capacity should a large fish take out more line.  Backing is usually made of Dacron and comes in 100 yard spools of 20 and 30 pound test.  Once this is on the spool, then the fly line is attached to the backing and wound on the spool.  I prefer to connect the two lines together using a needle knot.   However there are other types of knots which can be used and detailed instruction found on the internet.

The next required line is a leader which attaches one end to the fly line and the other to the fly.  Leaders are co-polymers or monofilament and normally are around 9 feet in length.  The end which attaches to the fly line is thicker in diameter and gradually decreases as it proceeds to the end where the fly is attached.  This tapering aids the fly in its flight and how it lands on the water.  I use 2 or 4 pound test monofilament about 9 feet in length mainly because I am a cheapskate.  I get hung up in trees.  When I break off the line and lose the leader and the fly, I don’t feel nearly as bad.

Open a fly fishing catalog and turn to the section on flies and stand to be amazed and confused by the assortment that is available.  Dry flies, wet flies, streamers, nymphs and poppers along with a host of patterns and various hook sizes are available.  Sounds confusing I am sure but all a person needs is around a dozen or so different patterns and types to begin fishing.  Over the years I have found that I rely on around a half dozen streamers, nymphs and dry flies.

Below are some that work best for me here in the mid-west.  But depending upon your geographical location, you may need to alter the selection.   I prefer a hook size of 10 or 12 normally.

Flies 1

DRY FLIES                                             STREAMERS                                        NYMPHS

Royal Coachman                                   Black Nose Dace                                   BH Gold Ribbed Hares Ear

Parachute Adams                                 Mickey Finn                                          BH Black Stone

Dave’s Hopper                                      Conehead Marabou Muddler            BH Pheasant Tail

Black Gnat                                             BH Woolly Bugger                                Zug Bug

flies 2

Of course with a purchase of flies a fly box is required to hold the various flies and to have them readily available for use.  A medium size light weight foam fly box should serve a person well until such time as they become a full blown addict and end up with more flies than can be used in a dozen seasons.

flies 3

Part 3 will deal with waders, vests and casting, casting being the one item you can’t buy.

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Part 1

My introduction to fly fishing began when I was in middle school shortly after dinosaurs no longer ruled the earth.  A neighbor whose lawn I cut in the summer and whose drive I shoveled in winter gave me my first fly rod.  The rod was a three piece sectional metal rod which I proudly kept in its fabric rod bag when not in use.  I had an old clicker style reel and used monofilament line.  My lures were garden hackle (worms). To the dry fly purist this would be an abomination but I presented my offerings along with a bobber to detect the strike.  I read articles in outdoor magazines about fly fishing for trout and salmon while the specie of my pursuit remained panfish and bass.  The seed was planted and as life progressed so did my interest.

Like anything in life, fly fishing has its own specific terminology for rods, reels, lines, flies and even casts.  Fly fishermen are rarely observed unless you happen to be floating down a trout stream or are watching a movie like, “A River Runs Through It”.  Sometimes called, “The Quiet Sport” and shrouded in a type of mystique, the sport has been gaining in popularity for various reasons not the least of which is offering rehab for many people.  This brief primer should provide the reader with enough information to begin to acquire the equipment necessary and embark upon an adventure that borders on addiction.

Fly rods come in a variety of materials: cane, glass and graphite.  There is nothing as beautiful as a cane rod crafted from bamboo; however, a quality cane rod comes with a price that could put a serious dent in the wallet.  Fiberglass was the material used in the past and has since been replace with graphite.  Graphite rods come in a wide range of prices starting around fifty dollars and going up to over eight hundred.  The length may be from 7 ½ feet to over 10 feet and the weight also has a wide range.  Weight does not refer to the physical weight of the rod but the weight of the line that the rod is made for.  A rod that has the designation of 4 5 9 means that it is a rod that comes in 4 sections is made for a 5 weight line and is 9 feet long.

Reels are devices on which the fisherman stores the line.  To the novice a simple reel should prove sufficient unless you are going after steelhead or muskies (freshwater) or bonefish or tarpon (saltwater).  Reels usually can handle a range of fly lines so it is important to make sure the reel can handle the line you intend to use.  A person starting out will normally use the outfit in pursuit of panfish, bass, trout and pike and with that in mind I suggest a five or six weight outfit. The next option on the reel is whether to choose a regular reel or one with a large arbor (spool for holding line) reel.  The large arbor reel does a better job of preventing your fly line from coiling but the tradeoff can be weight.

Fly line can be purchased for as little as twenty dollars to as much as one hundred dollars.  This is an area where I recommend an investment in a good quality line.  The description for line can seem to be almost a foreign language but it is not that difficult.  Lines may be level, double taper, weight forward, floating or sinking.  For the beginner I suggest a WFF (weight forward floating) line with a welded loop as it will make casting easier and the loop makes changing leaders easier. 

The next article will deal with flies and accessories so come back for that one.

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Those of us who live in the north have an opportunity to participate in cross country skiing provided that the weather gods give us ample snow.  Unlike downhill skiing there isn’t a need to travel to a ski resort or buy lift tickets.  Some communities have municipal parks, golf courses or state parks that provide access to cross country trails and some even have facilities to provide for equipment rental.  Outside of skis and boots there is no requirement for special clothing. 

When we were kids our skis were purchased from the Salvation Army Store and our boots were our normal winter snow boot.  Our bindings were either a section of belt or length of rope that was to keep the ski is on our feet.  Sometimes it performed all too well when a release would have been much more to our advantage.  This would happen when we wiped out and our ski would be vertical with our feet still stuck in the bindings.   We learned on hillsides and even attempted jumps, stunts they would make most parents shiver.

Cross country skiing can be enjoyed on various types of terrain.  Some golf courses or state parks allow skiing which usually means across fairly flat land.  Other state parks or ski resorts have trails which cover various types of country from flat land to hills and from open country to forests.  For the adventurous and physically fit federal or state lands are available where one can blaze their own trials.  However, if going this route it’s a good idea to have a lay of the land and bring a compass.  Yes. I know cell phones have a compass or GPS but I love a compass.  It requires no batteries and it works in an area with a dense canopy that may impact the signal to the GPS.

So how does one get into the sport?  First and foremost I would recommend going to a facility that has groomed trails and rents equipment.  Also, if there are lessons provided, take them.  There is no shame in taking a lesson, getting valuable tips and learning how to get up after taking a spill.

 The next step is getting measured for the right size ski.  This is something that the novice cannot do properly.  Ski size and type are important.  Many skis are no-wax which simply means they do not need to be waxed for the various snow conditions.  No-wax does not mean any maintenance.  Skis need to be cleaned and the bindings checked for proper functioning.

The comfort of the ski boot is very important.  If the fit is too lose will not have proper control over your ski.  If the fit is too tight the foot will be cramped and a miserable time is in store.  Depending upon the type of boot a heavy stocking may be required.

So in order to help beat those winter blahs and make this time of year pass quickly give this sport a try.  It is fun, you see some great scenery and it will help remove those pounds that were packed on over the holiday.

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fromt hillside 061

Fall is a tough time of year for me as I am torn between fishing, hunting and yard work. I used to small game hunt some time ago but have since graduated to archery hunting for deer. I also rifle hunt for deer.
Archery hunting has changed considerably from the days of the recurve bow. Today we use compound bows and also the cross bow has become popular. Bows have become lighter and have the ability to send an arrow with faster speed. Technological advances in design and construction have been driven by the increased popularity of archery.
The moderate weather of the fall coupled with an expanded season in comparison to the firearms season in many states has also been a contributing factor for the wide spread appeal of bow hunting.
I began bow hunting around twenty five years ago and found out rather quickly that I had much to learn. Although my skill with a bow is good, the ability to take a shot was the challenge. I do not hunt from a raised platform. It seems like every opportunity I have to use the bow is met with a deer that is at my eye level and looking right at me. If I were in a tree it would not see me pull back the bow so I’m usually successful in killing a tree that I did not see in the early light of dawn.
Probably one of the most appealing things about archery season is the quiet. Unlike firearm season the air is not disturbed by the sound of gunfire. The stillness of the woods gives you the opportunity to watch wildlife in an undisturbed setting. A fond memory of mine was the day when I watched a coyote from a distance of 15 yards chase field mice. Sitting in the woods I have seen eagles, hawks and owls up close and just enjoyed the sights and smells of the outdoors.
Much like fly fishing, archery is a quiet sport that provides the individual with the opportunity to enjoy nature to its fullest. I have yet to take a deer with an arrow but, like in all the years past, I am still in pursuit.

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Fall for many folks is a glorious season.  In the Midwest we get to enjoy the leaves turning to brilliant colors, warm shirt -sleeve days and two blanket nights.  It’s a time when some look forward to being done with the weekly grass cutting and trading the time to watch football.

In my world it is a time when I am torn between fishing and hunting.  It is also a time when I look at those brightly colored leaves and know that eventually they will fall and cover my lawn.  It is also a time when I will need to rake them at my cabin.  Now before you think I am an ogre, let me say I enjoy fall as much as anyone. But being task oriented type A personality that I am, I want all the tasks finished before the first snowfall and deer season, whichever comes first.

Another fall activity is the annual fishing trip with my son and his friends.  I enjoy being asked and going along even though I am the old guy in the crowd.  Maybe they just enjoy dragging a senior citizen along hoping that he can get them discount via his AARP card.  But in any case I still like the trips. It’s a special time. The best part is spending time together; having some laughs and engage in some competitive fishing.

Fall is also when a friend comes to the cabin and we archery hunt.  The day starts before sunrise with that life giving gift of coffee that jump starts our hearts.  Out to the woods we go and eagerly await a deer or lunch.  This year put us on a mission to find a new diner.  Over this past winter two of the nearby ones burned and the third closed due to the health of the owner.  Fortunately, we found a new place with a varied menu, decent prices, friendly service and good coffee.  Hunting deer is second place to good conversation, laughs and watching westerns in the evening.  Sorry folks but watching “Dancing with the Stars” or “The Voice” would require us to shred our man cards.

The leaves have finally begun to fall in earnest, the cabin needs winterizing and some of my fall chores have been completed.  What really mattered were the meaningful experiences with my son and my “hunting” friend.  The leaves?  They will be waiting for me in the spring if there is an early snow, and if it does snow, well, no one will know because they will be covered.

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Creek Chub

There are times in our lives when we stop the dreaming and decide to make the object a reality and so it was Sunday morning when I decided to stop daydreaming about fishing the Betsie River above Thompsonville, Michigan and just Git Er Done!

This was a typical August morning that started off sunny and cool but would soon warm and make this fisherman thankful for breathable waders.  As I arrived at the river I knew this was my day as there were no other vehicles around and as I was about to enter the river a large doe on the hillside on the opposite bank stood there trying to isolate my position.

The clear rock and gravel strewn river made me glad that I had kept this mornings appointment with the river.  My first cast placed the brown stone fly right where I wanted it and no sooner than it entered the hole I felt the tug of a fish.  This was going to be a good day I thought.  And so it was on almost every cast I found a fish, not all monsters but some rather respectable.  Each cast seemed destined to fall where I had hoped and as I proceeded downriver my anticipation was high for that one fish that would make the day a moment to remember during the snowy months of winter.

This day taught me that the upper Betsie had a magnificent fishery albeit it was a creek chub fishery but I certainly caught some of the largest chubs of my life.  With that in mind I decided it was too nice of a day to spend it here and so I wandered off to the Platte while wondering where the trout in the Betsie might go on days like this one.

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Rivers served as the highways for explorers and avenues for transportation and trade in the early days of North America.  Thoughts of those days recalls the adventures of Lewis and Clark, Father Marquette, birch bark canoes and the voyagers who traded furs and ventured into unmapped waterways.  This was a hard and dangerous way for a person to live. Even with the advent of the paddle wheel boats that traversed rivers like the Ohio, Missouri, and the Mississippi, danger still lurked due to shoals, submerged logs or even fire.

Today we use the rivers more for recreation than we did in the past.  We tube, kayak or canoe.  We also fish.  Weekends on some rivers has created so much congestion that governmental agencies have regulated the numbers and time people are allowed to float them.  Unfortunately with all this use comes a large amount of misuse.

I enjoy fishing and kayaking rivers and I am always amazed at how some people who use these waters treat them as though they were their own personal trash can.  Some of the most common items are beverage containers (aluminum, glass and plastic), plastic bait containers, fishing line, snack wrappers and empty cigarette packages.  I have also seen tires, clothing, and appliances by the river.

Today I went out with a group from Trout Unlimited to pick up trash along the Rogue River in West Michigan which is used solely for recreation, while we achieved our goal of collecting the trash left behind by people; it would have been a better day had there been nothing left behind to pick up.  I returned to the same area that our group had just cleaned two hours earlier to do some fishing. After a few different groups of kayakers passed by, would you believe, I found some beverage containers in the river.

If we all took out what we brought in and tried to leave as little sign as possible on the landscape that we had been there, what a difference it would make on our environment.  We may never be able to get back to the pristine environs of the past but we can have a major impact by treating the outdoors as though it was our living room.

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