Wednesday, December 14, 2022

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: "Fly Fishing Minnesota" Available Now!

WOW! Just in time for Valentines Day giving for the Minnesota angler in your life: What an amazing resource. Well worth the weight (and it weighs a pound or two) and the wait. It's been coming since before the pandemic, and now it's here. Maps, narratives, suggestions, instructions, all in Carl's low key, inimitable style. It came today and I can't put it down. Beautiful photography, great maps with keys, gear and fly recommendations, outfitters, guides, and even muskie and bass waters. A fantastic guide to trout and other fish in our great state. I only hope it comes out in e-book so I can download it into my tablet so I don't mess up what is also a great coffee table book. Well done, Carl and Jade!

Buy it at:

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Batteries and the Backcountry

There is an interesting conversation going on, on the Fatbike Hunters Facebook page about e-bike battery life not being all that it's advertised to be. Of course, I had to insert my 2-cents worth about my Cogburn getting 20 miles on a good breakfast, but it got me thinking. How dependent have we become on battery-powered devices in our backcountry pursuits?

Admittedly, I am hardly e-free. I have a Garmin Edge Explorer GPS for my bikes, and I have a bracket on the Cogburn for my cell phone when I am using Trout Routes, (for whom I am also an Ambassador). I also have an older Garmin Etrex 30 that I use while snowshoeing/skiing or hiking, and I have onX-Hunt and onX-Backcountry and a couple other navigation apps on my phone when I'm doing something other than fishing or cycling, as well as Garmin Connect, which tracks any physical activity I engage in, and Ride With GPS app for cycling, that is always adding more and functionality to it's service. But I am going into the backcountry, I also have a topographic map on waterproof paper and a magnetic (analog) compass with me, because all of the aforementioned devices and apps rely on batteries and electronics. Also, in the winter, batteries loose power a lot faster when it's below freezing.

I've ridden a 65-pound bike, my Bianchi Volpe or my old Novara Safari, both 30-ish pound touring bikes with fully loaded panniers. Steep hills are no fun, even less so if you have to dismount and push. Every e-bike I have checked out starts at 65-pounds, unloaded, I assume, except for the battery which I am told weigh from 10 pounds to over 20 for the new, super heavy-duty models. It's one thing if the battery dies on my GPS. I can always stuff it in my pack and pull out the map and compass. If the battery dies on an e-bike, you don't really have that option. You're riding 65-plus pounds of dead weight. I don't even want to think about having to push 70 pounds of wide tires on a snow-covered trail.

So, that is one of the variety of reasons I haven't made the jump to an e-bike yet. I know I probably will eventually, but for now my Cogburn, my Volpe, and I are doing just fine. I will weigh (pun intended) the advantages when the time comes. All of my apps and I can get along just fine, as long as I include in my "10 Essentials" spare batteries, (my headlamp. GPS, and flashlight all use the same AA batteries.) a map, and a compass.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

National Hunting and Fishing Day, September 24, 2022!

 And I AM going fishing, leg boot and all!

Saturday, September 10, 2022

My Best Fishing Buddy(ies) Seven Week Summer, Part 3

In this last segment of “My Seven Week Summer” I’m going to talk about the part in the middle, fishing with my granddaughters, Sophie, and Anna.

Sophie is my most frequent, and favorite “fishing buddy.” (Other than Gramma Ellen, of course.) I taught her to fish when she was five years old. We would have started at four, like her big sister Natasha, but at that age she was more interested in playing with the worms than fishing with them. Tasha still fishes, but it isn’t a passion with her like it is with Sophie. A few years ago, Sophie really picked up on fishing, year-round. She bought an ice auger and a clamshell shelter with money from her first job and took up ice fishing. In spring, she bought a fishing kayak, and added kayak angling to her skill set. She loves catching panfish and bass and is even up to the challenge of an occasional trout when fishing with Grandpa. She hasn’t taken to fly fishing yet, but I am hopeful that someday that magic will happen.

Weather permitting, I try to start the regulation fishing season each year with Sophie. (Weather also plays a huge factor in Stream Trout Season, which opens a month earlier. Many are the years I’ve gotten rained or snowed out.) So, it was important this year, given the upcoming surgery, that I make that happen. Weather doesn’t seem to effect Sophie’s fishing drive. A couple years ago we went out in the driving rain for several hours. The young woman is the most determined angler I personally know.

We were going to fish at one of Sophie’s favorite lakes, her in her kayak, and me from my solo canoe, but when we got there, it was just too windy. We cast around from the shore and the dock with no luck, so we traveled over to a nearby trout lake, and had an exciting time.

Over the winter, I had received a replacement for my Redington 2 wt. rod, and this was my first chance to try it out. Similarly, my 40-year-old collapsible ultralight pack rods have both seen better days, so I had bought a new Eagle Claw spin casting pack rod, primarily for use when I’m fishing with Sophie. This would be my first opportunity to try them both out. Ironically, the rod meant for panfish, the Eagle Claw/Daiwa combo, brought in my first rainbow trout since moving to Minnesota in 1988, on a Mepps trout spinner, and my Redington Classic Trout rod pulled in bluegills, a crappie, and a small smallmouth bass on an #16 Elk Hair Caddis dry fly. The Redington, 7’6” rod is designed and purchased for the type of woodland streams I favor in Wisconsin. It's a light, nimble, and very responsive fishing rod. I love the way it handles. It gives a very precise delivery over shorter casting distances but wasn’t really the best choice for the open lake we were fishing. The Eagle Claw with the Daiwa Silvercast reel performed exactly as anticipated, and even better, ending the “trout drought” I’ve experienced since moving to the Walleye State.

As my seven-week purgatory was drawing to an end, I reached out to Sophie (and her mother) about hitting the water one more time, the last weekend before I went into the mandatory week of pre-surgery self-isolation. Our other daughter was visiting that Sunday, and I asked if her daughter Anna might want to join us. She called Anna and the quick answer was “Yes!”

Anna is exactly one month younger than Sophie. By her own admission, Anna had been fishing a couple of times with her brothers when they lived in Oklahoma, but never caught anything. I had watched Sophie coach her young cousin from the other side of the family to catch his very first fish, much as I had with her, years earlier. I hoped she would do the same with Anna, and I was right, she did. Sophie showed Anna what lure or bait to use, coached her on casting and got just as excited as Anna when she caught her first fish, a small bass. We fished, went, and had Mexican food for lunch, and fished some more. At the end of the day, Sophie caught fourteen fish, Anna six, and Grandpa fourteen as well. (Cabela’s RLS 9’, 5 wt., on an Elk Hair Caddis dry fly) Sophie got a new fishing buddy, and I got enjoy the interaction between these two young women who hadn’t even seen each other since they were about two-years-old. It was the best possible way to end my Seven Week Summer and Fishing Season. Hopefully next year, we will have more opportunities to go fishing together.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Full Circle: Seven Week Summer, Part 2

I am reading a very interesting, well-written novel based on a true story, “Full Circle” by April Conrad. I bought it at the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo this past spring, and yet, I am only partway through it. Not because of its length or disinterest, but because parts of it are really difficult for me. You see, Full Circle is about a fly fisherman who has Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma… for the second time. Six years ago this month, my wife Ellen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We were very fortunate because it was caught early. But from that moment where she got off the phone with her doctor, came down the hall, and told her brother (who was visiting us at the time, and had lost his wife to breast cancer) and I, “Well, I have cancer,” everything in our world changed, just as it did for Dean, the main character in Full Circle.

Cancer is insidious. There probably isn’t an adult in this country whose life hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way, shape, or form. Ellen’s mother died of lymphoma. Her oldest brother went through chemo and radiation for lymphoma two times. That was the reality that was staring us in the face when we met the oncologist for the first time. But as I said, we were fortunate, blessed. Everyone in our church was praying for her. Our best friends, elders in our former church, and their son-in-law pastor, were praying for us. In a chance encounter at a public event in Duluth, we ran into some old friends from the first church we belonged to in Minnesota who were stalwart and faithful prayer warriors, and right there in Canal Park, they prayed for Ellen. I don’t care what you believe or don’t believe. I know what I believe, and I know what Ellen believes. Prayer works. Six months after beginning chemotherapy, Ellen was declared in remission. Now, five and a half years after that, she remains cancer free.

Several years ago, when the National Trout Center was still in operation in Preston, Minnesota, they offered an “Intro to Fly Fishing” class. Ellen and our oldest daughter had taken part in a “How to Cast” session at Great Waters earlier in the year. She had been commenting on how she thought flyfishing might be an effective way to put chemo and cancer behind her, so we traveled down to Preston, and in the course of an afternoon Ellen was “hooked.” She used my first fly rod, which I received as a gift when I graduated from high school, that weekend. Shortly after that, we went to Cabela’s and I got her a fly rod and reel of her own. The following Mother’s Day added waders, wading boots, a net, and a fishing vest. Yet, although she confessed to enjoying the stress-reducing relaxation that flyfishing produced, she considered herself more of a photographer than an angler. However, that may have changed at least a bit on Father’s Day weekend of this year. For a Father’s Day present, knowing that I would be undergoing reconstructive foot surgery in July, Ellen arranged for a guided fishing trip with Carl Hansel of Namebini Guide Service on the Bois Brule River in northwest Wisconsin. She caught trout, I caught trout, we fished from a canoe (and renewed our love of canoeing that had been dormant since we moved to Minnesota). We ran rapids in the dark and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It was so good that we have already rented a cabin and started making arrangements for another trip, this time in the Minnesota Arrowhead for next spring.

I think that either flyfishing has moved up, or photography has moved down a bit in Ellen’s priorities. So much so, that on the last weekend before my surgery, we took a “pre-surgery, self-isolation fishing trip” to Carlton County where Ellen grew up, and I don’t think she ever took her camera out of its case. What pictures we took, we took with our phones. We fished the Moose Horn River that Ellen used to wade in as a child and Bob Lake where she learned to swim. We caught some fish, not a lot, but we each got a few. More importantly, it was a wonderful time we got to spend together as husband and wife, as anglers, as best friends, and realizing what a blessing of God that we have been given in being together, just like Dean and his wife in “Full Circle.”

Monday, July 11, 2022

My Seven Week Summer


This is the year my foot is getting fixed. Without going into all the morbid details, after years of injuries, my left foot collapsed, so bad that without orthotics, I'm walking on my ankle joint. When I was told I had to get it repaired, or else, that gave me seven weeks to do summer and trout season. Saturday was the last day of that. Weather permitting, I may sneak one more Saturday in while I'm in pre-surgery self-isolation, provided I fish where people aren't. It's also the summer my "trout drought" ended. Here is what works, what doesn't, and what I did in "My Seven Week Summer:"

Opening Weekend: The Trout Drought is Broken 

Knowing that I would have very little chance this summer to fish with my favorite fishing buddy, my granddaughter Sophie, my daughter (her mother) and I agreed that weather permitting, we would fish the opener. We started at Ann Lake, near Chanhassen, where we had hoped to launch Sophie’s fishing kayak and my solo canoe, but conditions were just too windy. We stowed the boats, grabbed a quick lunch, and went to Courthouse Lake in Chaska. I had been using my Badger Tenkara UNC (Un-Named Creek) rod for the few casts that I made at Ann Lake, but over the winter I received a new ReyrGear Tenkara rod and was anxious to try it out. On my very first cast with it, I caught a palm-sized bluegill or pumpkinseed as Sophie calls them and landed a few more before changing rods.

Much of the fishing I did back in New York before we moved to Minnesota, was done on ultralight, backpacking-type fishing tackle, and I’ve got some nice bass and panfish on ultralight here in Minnesota. But we’ve been here for almost 35 years now, and my ultralight equipment is even older than that, so also over the winter, I invested in a collapsible Eagle Claw ultralight fishing rod and Daiwa ultralight reel, primarily to use when I’m fishing with Sophie. On my very first cast with this rod as well, I hooked something. I thought it was a bass, or good-sized crappie, which fought my reeling it in, and then it jumped out of the water the first time and I realized that it was more than likely a rainbow trout. I was able to get it in the net, get the Mepps Trout spinner out of its jaw, take its picture and return it to the lake. We both bought a few more fish, but first and foremost in my mind was that the “trout drought” that I’ve experienced since moving to Minnesota, was over.

Friday, April 29, 2022


 (Apologies for not continuing my "what works" posts, but the weather in MinneSNOWta has not been conducive to stream fishing. We keep hoping!)

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has consistently been a leading voice within the hunting, angling and conservation community for managing motorized vehicle use on our public lands responsibly and with wildlife in mind. As motorized bicycles, commonly known as “e-bikes,” have grown in popularity, BHA has actively engaged with land managers, decision makers and conservation partners who will help shape how future e-bike use on public lands is planned and managed.     

A recent decision by the U.S. Forest Service on e-bike use in national forests and grasslands has some good and some bad components. Where does BHA stand? 

First, here’s a breakdown of what this recent Forest Service decision means: 

What we like: 

  • E-bikes are categorized as motorized vehicles – something for which BHA has strongly advocated. 
  • It establishes new guidance for reclassifying non-motorized trails to incorporate e-bikes and combining mechanized vehicles and e-bikes on single trails where user conflicts are likely to exist. 
  • It establishes polices for avoiding impacts to fish and wildlife habitat. 
  • E-bikes on national forests and grasslands will now be limited to 750-watt motors and 28 miles per hour. 
  • Allowances for game retrieval using e-bikes will remain. 
  • It requires that development of any new trails and routes be contingent upon additional funding for administration and maintenance. 

What we remain concerned about: 

  • Illegal user-created routes are not adequately addressed. This remains one of the most concerning issues for state wildlife management agencies as they address impacts to ungulate populations in particular. Guidance should address unauthorized user-created routes more directly, as well as concerning trends over the years from some in the biking community to leverage these into authorized use. 
  • Monitoring and enforcement policies are conspicuously lacking in this guidance for establishing priorities for investing resources to monitor impacts on national forests and grasslands, in addition to enforcing illegal use. 
  • This guidance creates a new specific e-bike only trail category. We are concerned that user conflicts and advocacy from the well-organized conventional mountain biking community will drive pressure for establishing new, separate-use trails under this category instead of combining uses on existing trails. 

BHA has been engaged in decisions regarding the management of e-bikes at both the local and national level. E-bikes, while offering a way to see parts of the backcountry that might otherwise not be accessible to many, are also known to cause major distress to wildlife and offer an ease of access to the backcountry that removes its wildness. The bikes make it easier for people to go deeper into the woods, which has an effect on animals such as deer and elk and their habitat.  

BHA believes e-bikes should be kept in zones designated for them, which this Forest Service guidance addresses. However, the difficulty of enforcing e-bike rules, identifying e-bikes at a distance, and allowing e-bikes to be officially accepted in national forests and grasslands is a problem that will cause more conflict between humans and wildlife and impact our wild public lands and waters.  

While improvements could be made, we are glad to see the U.S. Forest Service proactively develop guidance to better direct the use of e-bikes on public lands. We are hopeful that the Interior Department will follow the U.S. Forest Service’s lead and proactively help safeguard critical wildlife habitat and migratory corridors from ongoing motorized intrusions caused by the existing rules, which allow e-bikes anywhere traditional bicycles are allowed.  


It looks like my Cogburn fat-bike just got a new lease on life. Most of my backcountry bikefishing is done on non-motorized Forest Service trails in MN/WI. This should be a wake-up call for the ebike community, policy is made by those who show up. 25-30 years ago hikers and equestrians used these same arguments against mountain bikes. Now they’re allies. Is there a group advocating for e-bikes? Did they have a seat at the Forest Service table? There are some good things in these rules but they are still pretty exclusionary. What is the next step, after Unity?

I think too, that the e-bike industry has let it's community down. They're so busy being competitive that they fail to see the need to be cooperative. I've been a BHA member for over a decade, and on their Facebook group, the discussion is hot and heavy the opposite direction. I don't happen to agree with their position on this, but most of them, even those who use mountain bikes aren't old enough to remember the battles that took place to even allow MTBs on public lands. Today, mountain bikes have an advocacy organization, IMBA, and the industry recognizes that they are stronger together than separate. I would include the manufacturers in the group that couldn't/didn't find the time to respond, react, or engage when the Forest Service asked for input. Sadly, the results are what they are. Most National Forests have Hunter Walking Trails that are wide enough for, and used by hunters (Duh!), hikers, skiers, snowshoers, mountain bikers, and others. They should be open to e-bikes as well, but they aren't. They never showed up.

I’m 67 years old, have a bum left knee, ankle, and foot from various incidents since 7th grade forwards. Around 1993, I discovered mountain bikes and my outdoor world changed. I could go places faster, farther, deeper into the backcountry than my already damaged leg would previously allow. Along came the fat-bike. I’ve never been into motorized, it's just the way I came up in the Adirondack backcountry. The fat-bike was my ATV. I had a Pugsley, then QBP introduced the Cogburn, and it was love at first ride. Sadly, it was a short ride. Driven by whatever marketing factors do so, the Cogburn vanished from Q’s lineup after only three years. I kept mine; it is my primary bike these days.

Now there's the e-bike, and I admit that I’m intrigued, because I am going to have ankle replacement surgery later this summer. An e-bike may be in my future sooner than later. I really don't relish being relegated to the status of a second-class citizen, particularly by the agency I wish I had worked for as my career, and the organization I have belonged to and supported for over a decade. Accepting that "it is what it is" doesn't necessarily mean I'm happy about it.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

What Works for Me - Part 1

The Cogburn at Little Isabella

The summer of 2021 was interesting in a number of aspects, particularly as a self-described backcountry fly-fisherman. A moderately mild winter was followed by a very warm and dry July, during which a major wildfire closed down the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and much of the Superior National Forest. Before that happened, we were able to take one trip to our favorite Superior campground, Little Isabella River National Forest Campground near Isabella. The overly warm conditions made it difficult to “test” some new, and/or revised equipment. In addition, my brand-new 2 wt. fly rod’s test run was cut short when I threw it into the car during a sudden thunderstorm and broke the tip-off. But more on that another time.

Several things continue to work well for me; primary among those were my Badger/TAO Tenkara fly rod, the Trout Routes smartphone app, and my trusty Cogburn Outdoors CB4 fat bike. In addition, I lost my 2007 Jeep Liberty to a very large deer while traveling at 65 mph on my way to work in late June, and replaced it with a 2016 Subaru Forester; our seventh Subaru. My Cabela’s RLS fly rod continues to serve me well, and my good old Eagle Claw 7.5 foot continued its many years of service after the similarly sized, previously mentioned Redington Trout Classic rod was broken.

Tenkara Adventure Outfitters (TAO) bought out Badger Tenkara several years ago and continues to provide the same great Tenkara rods and related gear and to support those of us who own equipment bought from the original manufacturer. My Badger Tenkara UNC (Un-Named Creek) rod has been my primary lake/pond fishing pole for about five years, and it is a lot of fun. It’s 8.5-foot length is good on most of the small streams I tend to fish, as well as from shore or in a canoe on a lake or pond. I have caught numerous panfish, bass, and some perch with it, although trout have managed to elude my fly. It is very easy and quick to deploy, and I carry it and a small Tenkara pocket pack with flies, leader/tippet, and spare line with me most of the time during trout season. I have enjoyed using it so much that I have purchased two additional Tenkara rods, one of which arrived over the winter. I will post more about them when I have a chance to evaluate them at Wisconsin Tenkara Trout Camp in June.

I am not necessarily a big fan of electronics in fishing, although like most people I have a smartphone with several different map applications and it. One of these that I have found virtually (pun intended) indispensable is the Trout Routes App. I met the developer, Zach Pope, at the last Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo before the Covid pandemic hit, and the application was just in its early stages. I was impressed with it enough to buy an iPhone when it came time to replace/upgrade my cell phone because initially, the app was designed for iPhones. Over the past four years, Trout Routes capabilities and coverage have increased significantly with new states and streams being added on a regular basis. You can bring up any designated trout stream in any of the 23 states currently covered (and that number keeps increasing) and find topography, access points, easements, public lands, and more. You can download the streams you will be fishing into your phone for off-the-grid access, and most recently you can also find stream reports and state-by-state regulations, including restrictions or specifics on a given stream. As part of the 10 essentials, I always carry a paper map and compass with me, but when I go stream fishing, Trout Routes is always on my belt.

Finally, let me once again sing the accolades of my now-discontinued Cogburn CB4 fat bike. No, it is not an e-bike, but many of the trails are used to access streams on the Chequamegon, Superior, and Chippewa National Forests do not allow motorized vehicles, and electric-assist bicycles are considered motorized under that definition. I have no doubt that my next bicycle will be an e-bike (I’m leaning toward a Bakcou Flatlander, but we’ll see.) but for now, I’m perfectly content to pedal along on the 4-inch-wide tires of my Cogburn. Its sturdy construction, solid rims, and tubed tires make it truly a human-powered All-Terrain Vehicle. I have it set up with my Garman Edge Explorer 1000 GPS and my iPhone on the handlebars to use the above-mentioned Trout Routes app when Bikefishing. It’s been working very well.

I am going to make a concerted effort to post to this blog more frequently this season. Minnesota stream trout season opens two weeks from yesterday, and I was speaking with some representatives from MN DNR Fisheries about some interesting prospects in Pine and Carlton counties here in Minnesota, and as I mentioned I will be going to the Wisconsin Tenkara Trout Camp the first week of June. Additionally, my wonderful, beautiful, fantastic, fly fishing wife has booked us for a guided trout fishing excursion on the Bois Brule River in northwest Wisconsin in mid-June. So at least for a few months, there should be plenty of material, including reviews of my new Tenkara rods, my replacement Redington fly rod, and some other neat stuff I think you’ll enjoy. Hopefully, I’ll figure out how to have the time to write about it.

Tight lines and clear waters!


Mentioned in this blog:

Trout Routes:

Tenkara Adventure Outfitters:

BakCou Hunting e-Bikes: