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: