Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Casting Forward: Fishing Tales from the Texas Hill Country

 The perfect Christmas gift for the angler on your list, or the vet! (or both!)

I saw reviews of this in "Trout" and "Fly Fisherman" but didn't pay much attention. After all, it was about Texas, and I live in Minnesota. Then, I heard passages from the book read in Mending the Line Movie and I knew I had to read it. I'm glad I did. It's a beautifully written, thoughtful, and absorbing book. I'm not a veteran, but I've been a first responder of one sort or another all of my adult life (51 years now) so I am no stranger to PTSD. I get it. This book is beautiful.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

What's in My Bikefishing Bag?

The bike is a Cogburn CB4 fat-bike. I've covered that in the last week's post and many times before that. What else do I carry on my #bikefishing expeditions? As you can see from the photo above, a lot. So, some explanations:

First, I do not carry all of the above every time I go out. There's no reason I couldn't. The bike and my pack system are certainly capable. But the simple truth is why? You can only fish one rod at a time (for trout, anyway) and two are usually in my pack anyways. (plus, the "Tiny Tenkara" rod lives in my frame pack, even though it's probably the one I use least.) It is just always there if I need it unexpectedly.

Second: I always, ALWAYS, A-L-W-A-Y-S carry the "10 Essentials." They live in the frame pack with the Tiny Ten, or the Jandd Rack Pack on the Blackington Outpost rear rack. Waterproof paper map and analog magnetic compass, Sharp MORA sheath knife, Adventure Medical Kits first aid kit, augmented with several pairs of nitrile gloves, a malleable padded aluminum SAM Splint, and NOLS Wilderness Medicine Field Guide, spare rain jacket, high energy food. (Clif Bars and maple syrup packets), combination headlight/flashlight, Tacoma Mountain Rescue Storm (Survival) Kit with shelter, matches, fire starter, signal mirror, whistle, etc., SPOT-X satellite communications unit, cell phone (which also connects by Bluetooth to the SPOT-X and contains the TroutRoutes app. It's not in the photo because I was using it to take the picture.), helmet (The orange one is old. A new, tan one arrives on Wednesday.), tire pump, spare tire inner tube, bike repair multi-tools (Gerber Cool Tool and Planet Bike hex set), sunblock, bug repellent, polarized eye protection biking gloves, and floppy hat. I also carry a pair of wading slippers if I'm not using waders.

Third: Fishing stuff. Minnesota and Wisconsin fishing license, Redington Trailblazer Rod, reel, and a selection of flies in separate wet and dry fly boxes, Loon fly prep, Tenkara Adventure Outfitters/Badger Tenkara U.N.C. (Un-Named Creek) rod, Reyr Gear Tenkara rod (plus the previously mentioned Tiny Tenkara), Yonah Tenkara belt pack with Kebari and reliable dry flies, and spare level line and furled leaders, forceps, and clipper tool, and a Reyr Gear folding net. (Never have been able to get the thing back in the holster the way it came.)

I specifically sought out the Redington Trailblazer after a bad experience with a Cabela's/Bass Pro pack rod that broke its tip the very second time I cast it. The 9-foot Trailblazer breaks down into six sections and they fit into a two-foot-long rod tube that can either be carried on the side of my backpack or on the Outpost "Anything Cage" on the front fork, and it casts like a dream! I usually keep the Tenkara rods, and the Yonah Pack in the car all through trout season, and into panfish and smallmouth season.

I go back and forth between the Simms Flyweight pack and a Gander Mountain Realtree camo hunting pack. I sort of prefer the Gander pack because of the three zipper pockets accessible from the outside, although Simms pack has higher capacity. Both feature side pockets to carry rod tubes and/or water bottles and a sleeve and port for a hydration bladder and drinking tube. (The Cogburn also has a bottle cage under the downtube, two more available on the frame if the framepack is removed.)

I can also add Jandd Expedition panniers to carry my waders and boots, or a tent, sleeping bag and pad, and camping stuff if I want to go into the backcountry overnight, and am looking at an Old Man Mountain front rack to make that even more possible. Some other things you don't see in the photo; my Eagle Claw telescoping rod with a Daiwa Silvercast reel and Mepps trout spinners for if I want to "catch and eat" instead of  "catch and release," and my larger, wood handle/frame and soft rubber landing net, that I carry between the pack and my back.

So, there you have it; what I use and a bit about why I use it. It's a great combination that works really well for me.

Monday, September 04, 2023

In Search of Home Waters (From the eBike Generation blog)

     I haven't posted much of anything this summer, mostly because I have been working on this article for eBike Generation's blog (For pay!) and it has taken a lot of my free time to prepare. I hope you enjoy it, and if you are in the market for an e-bike for fishing or hunting access, I encourage you to check them out! (Link above, and in the sidebar.) You can expect more posts in the weeks to come.

In Search of Home Waters

By Hans Erdman

The creek was running clear, like flowing glass, as I dropped the Tenkara line with a bead-head nymph into the water. As I lifted the rod and the fly drew closer, I lost sight of it, a few feet beneath the bank I stood on. As I started to raise the rod to cast again, suddenly the line went tight. Fish on! The fish fought the rising, thrashing back and forth. I brought the pole to near vertical, reaching for the line, but the twisting fish swung it out of my reach. I tried again; the rod held back in one hand, while the other reached for the furled line with the fish on it. From my angle, on the top of the bank, at first I thought it might be a sucker or a chub, but as the fish finally came into view, I realized it was a trout, a pretty little Brook Trout that didn’t want to hold still long enough for me to get it off the hook and back in the water. I wet my hands, snapped the picture, released the hook, and let the brookie go back where it came from. I was happy. I’d found my Home Waters.

Two surgeries on my left foot over the course of the past two summers have given me the opportunity to do some reading that I might otherwise not have had the time or the chance to do. Of the many books that I read during my recovery, two of them stuck out in my mind, both of which centered on the topic of “Home Waters.” One of them, “Casting Forward,” by Steve Ramirez, I found out about when I saw the movie, “Mending the Line.” The other, aptly titled, “Home Waters,” by John N. Maclean, tells the tale of his family’s history and love for the river made famous in the short story and movie, “A River Runs Through It,” in which the author’s father, grandfather, and uncle were the principal characters.

Reading those books set me to thinking about just what are my “home waters?” I live in Minnesota, but I spend much of my time and do much of my fishing in northwestern Wisconsin. I’ve grown to love Superior, Chippewa, and particularly the Chequamegon National Forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the abundant opportunities they present for two of my favorite activities, mountain biking and flyfishing. (It was mountain biking that drew me to the Cable area of Wisconsin in the first place.) A few years ago, I bought a bicycle that was specifically designed for combining the two; the Cogburn Outdoors CB4 fat-bike. The Cogburn was one of the first fat-tired mountain bikes marketed specifically for the outdoor sportsmen and women as kind of a “human powered ATV.” Because of its versatility and its amazing ride, it has quickly become my favorite means of backcountry travel. The bike was designed to take the hunter, angler, or forager, farther, faster, in almost any terrain, on 4-inch-wide tires with twenty-two gears to get there. As my foot and ankle got progressively worse over the past few years, the Cogburn (and my other two bicycles) became increasingly important as my way to get back into the post-pandemic woods.

 Riding a bike in the forest, whether it’s on trails, fire lanes, or just forest roads, can be a relaxing, rewarding experience, just as fishing itself can be. The bicyclist can see, hear, and even smell things that escape the attention of a rider on an ATV, side-by-side, or, particularly, an enclosed car or truck. You can smell the sweet scent of the balsam and pines, hear the wind blowing through the trees, and the rushing of the roadside stream over the rocks, pause to watch a turtle or porcupine crossing the road, catch a glimpse of a doe and her fawn at the edge of the trees, or a racoon watching you from high up in a maple as you quietly pedal by. With the help of a phone app like TroutRoutes®, you can pick your water, navigate to the closest bridge, and hike or even ride a passible creekside trail to find places and pools that could hold that elusive twenty-inch Brook Trout or Rainbow you’ve maybe heard rumors about. Or sometimes you can find more. Sometimes, you can find home.

Finding home waters is a process of searching for something that “feels right.” Riding on the Superior and Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, public lands from which the water flows into Lake Superior, is different every time I ride there, and sometimes what feels right in June, just doesn’t make the cut in August. But if I venture to the same spot amid the flaming maples of early October, it all snaps into place again. Tenkara is like that as well. The Japanese-born style of reel less fly-fishing is often the perfect fit for the “bikefishing” that is my outdoor passion. I’m not the first person to take up bikefishing, I know, but when I discovered that I could take the Cogburn and a light fishing rod, either an ultralight spin casting rod, a collapsible Tenkara, or most recently a six-piece fly-fishing pack rod, deeper into the backcountry, it opened a path I’d never even thought of before. And, if I load on panniers, my solo tent and sleeping bag, I could easily stay out there for a day or two.

The Cogburn is not an e-bike, which is important because most of my riding takes place on National Forest trails where “motorized” vehicles (including e-bikes) are prohibited. I haven’t made the jump to an e-bike yet. As I approach 70-years old, I’m sure I eventually will, but for now, I am the power that drives the Cogburn. Another decided advantage to this is that a 35-pound fat-bike is a heck of a lot easier to maneuver or carry over and around the occasional downed log or protruding rock on the trail than a 65-pound e-bike. Forest Roads, fire lanes, snowmobile, and ski trails, and many hiking trails are now my paths to adventure, chasing rainbows, and bookies and browns. (And the occasional smallmouth bass.)

The search for Home Waters took me far from my real home, to the two previously mentioned National Forests, Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest, as well as to the Driftless Region of Southeast Minnesota with my daughter and two granddaughters who are both on their way to college this year. Names like Whiskey Creek, Kremer Lake, Root River, and the famous Whitewater River all rolled beneath my wheels, until I finally found myself back where I started, on the western, Chequamegon side of Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. On its eastern side, the Marengo River is home to a Trout Unlimited Great Lakes Project stream rehabilitation project and lies only a few pleasant miles from my favorite off the grid Forest Service campground. It’s a comfortable ride that also crosses more trout water at pretty Whiskey Creek. The North Country National Scenic Trail follows Spring Brook in the other direction from the campground, where I had one of my more memorable disappointments while bikefishing. The first time I explored that trail by bike, I happened upon a nice little pond that was probably part of Spring Brook at one time and where the fish were hitting the surface, slurping up small mayflies. I leaned my bike against a tree, pulled out my Badger Tenkara U.N.C. (Un-Named Creek) rod, and had just tied on the right fly but before I could even cast, a big black Labrador Retriever threw himself into the pond as only an enthusiastic Lab can. His owners were very apologetic but, obviously I wasn’t going to catch any fish in that pond that day.

On the other side of Chequamegon lies the White River, a popular and highly regarded Class One trout stream managed by the Wisconsin DNR. In between are several streams whose names reflect the distance they travel from the Porcupine Lake Wilderness Area, flowing northwards to larger streams that end up in Lake Superior. They are home to Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout. These waters can be accessed by foot, and outside of the Wilderness Area, by car or bike. In some places, it is possible to pedal into the creeks on old fire and logging lanes, somewhat overgrown, and unused. It is here that the fat-bike excels. The wide tires negotiate the varied terrain with ease, and the multiple gears make all but the steepest climbs almost easy. The trails and the streams are shaded, the ride, challenging enough to make it worthwhile, but not blowing your lungs out. And there are no crowds. In fact, no one at all. Just me, the creek, and a beautiful Brook Trout. I was back where my search began. I had found my Home Waters.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

"Mending the Line" Maybe the Next "A River Runs Through It".

My wife Ellen and I went to see "Mending the Line" on Sunday. This may or may not be the next "A River Runs Through It," but it is definitely a movie to see, especially if you're a vet, work with veterans, or volunteer with groups like Warriors and Quiet Waters, Project Healing Waters, Reels to Recovery, or any other organization that uses fishing to help veterans. We were more than slightly disappointed that we were the only two people in the theater.

I am not a veteran. My experiences with Post Traumatic Stress come from an adult lifetime in emergency medical services, search and rescue, and as a park ranger, particularly as a SAR dog handler in a couple of disaster situations back in the 1980s. But I have had friends, close friends, who were or are veterans of Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It may not be the same, but I believe it gives me some measure of understanding. I've had the nightmares. More importantly, I have a wife who took up fly fishing (with me) after completing chemotherapy for Lymphoma. I have seen first-hand the healing it has given her. It works.

Bryan Cox, Sinqua Walls, Perry Mattsfield and Wes Studi (who served in Viet Nam) are all exceptional. I've been a fan of Studi since "Last of the Mohicans" and as Lt. Joe Leaphorn on PBS's "Mystery." In Josh Caldwell's interview with Tom Rosenbauer on the Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast, Caldwell stated that Mattsfield was the only cast member who had fly fished before the movie was made. However, in an interview after it was released, Wes Studi commented he was going to continue fly fishing, and he intended to go back and actually catch a fish, and "maybe eat it."

The fishing scenes are beautifully filmed, and Livingston, Montana, shines as the place where the film was shot and takes place. My wife and I go on a fly fishing trip every Father's Day weekend, (We're heading to the Minnesota Arrowhead this year.) but after the movie she said next year we're going to Montana. No argument here!

The movie is rated "R" for rough language and combat violence, but it is excellent, beautiful and very moving. I would encourage all anglers to get out and see it.

There is another "Mending the Line" movie out there, also about a veteran. It is a documentary and can be found exclusively on Fishing TV Channel. It's the story of Frank Moore, a D-Day vet and Fly-Fishing Hall-of-Famer who goes back to France at age 90 to fish the streams he crossed as a soldier, finding healing in the process. I haven't watched it yet, but it's on my very short list.

Mending the Line

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

TroutRoutes' First Masterclass: E-Scouting with TroutRoutes PRO


TroutRoutes Masterclass

Join us as we host virtual Zoom based webinars with presenters ranging from TroutRoutes team members and ambassadors to trusted partners and industry professionals covering a range of topics with the overarching goal of helping to make you a better angler.
Join our Lead GIS Developer, Jeremy Gilbertson, for the very first TroutRoutes virtual masterclass on Tuesday, May 16th from 7:00-8:00 pm CDT. We will be going over how to make the most of your TroutRoutes PRO membership and how the TroutRoutes app can help make you a more successful angler. (

From Hans: I use TroutRoutes on pretty much every stream fishing trip I take. Coupled with the Garmin GPS on my bike, it is an invaluable asset to put me where the fish are likely to be. I am proud to be an ambassador for the app.

Friday, April 28, 2023

What is the Price You Pay to Get to the Backcountry?

 I read an interesting article from John M. at e-Bike Generation yesterday, so much so that it prompted me to write back to him with my thoughts. Here is what John said, and what I replied to him. Food for thought. (Reposted with permission.)

Top Hunting eBikes Cost More For A Reason… You Get An eBike That Won’t Let You Down In The Field!


We’re often asked why hunting eBikes costs more money than your typical electronic bike… or even a non-electric mountain bike.

When comparing hunting eBikes to non-electric bikes, the obvious answer is in the motor and battery system.

However, hunting eBikes are designed to take a beating.

They need to be tough, durable, well sealed up against water and able to last for many years.

Even if you hunt on flat ground, there will be rocks and tree roots across the ground. If a flimsy bicycle were to hit a rock while going fast, there’s a good chance the skinny tire will blow and the frame will bend out of shape.

Hunting eBikes will shrug off these types of impacts.

The fat, durable tires will not pop and leave you doing field repairs every time you hit the trails.

And, when you’re tired from a long (often cold) day of hunting, the powerful motor will do most of the heavy lifting for you… even if you’ve got a big buck on the back of your attached trailer.

When asked about pricing, we always say that you can get cheaper models if you want… even grab cheap bicycles from the local police auction!

The question is simple. Do you want the best gear (at affordable prices) or do you simply want the cheapest stuff you can find?

You can get a cheap pair of hiking boots (or even wear sandals while hunting…), but do you really want your feet to suffer?

Do you want to spend an amazing day out in the forest and/or mountains hunting, not cursing the junk that just broke down?

At the end of the day, it’s like anything in life.

You get what you pay for.

Sometimes you might luck out and buy something great for cheap… but most of the time, you are simply purchasing junk.

If you want top-quality hunting eBikes, then you’re in the right place.

Here at eBike Generation, we want our customers to be well-taken care of (and safe) while out on the trails… so we only carry great hunting eBike brands that meet and exceed your needs.

Here is my reply:

When I look at the prices of hunting (or in my case, backcountry angling) e-bikes, I remember that I ride a Cogburn CB4 fat-bike, a bike that was built specifically for sportsmen and women, which cost $2500 new, eight years ago. And I still ride it, because I am a backcountry fisherman, and my backcountry is specifically the Chequamegon-Nicolet and Superior National Forests in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Backcountry for me frequently means using trails that parallel or intersect the streams I want to fish. Non-motorized trails, and since the US Forest Service classifies e-bikes as "motorized," I can't legally use one to get where I'm going. Someday, when the Forest Service updates its rules to allow e-bikes I'll probably get one, maybe before. 

Pedal-powered fat-bikes like the Cogburn, and its short-lived replacement, the Salsa Blackborow (which had an MSRP of $3300) have pretty much gone the way of the Dodo, some of which was hastened by heavy competition from e-bike distributors. I believe there is place, if not a need for both in today's backcountry. I have to say, my Cogburn is my very favorite of the ten bikes I have owned since I started riding as an adult back in 1993. I have a custom mountain bike that I would never have ordered if the Cogburn had been available in 2012. I'll keep riding my CB4 as long as I'm able, and until the trails I ride are open to all bikes.

John is correct in that you do get what you pay for, although all bicycle prices have become very flexible with the vast majority of bike frames coming from overseas. Riders need to consider their needs when looking at bikes, whether they are e-bikes or pedal powered. If you're going to ride where e-bikes aren't allowed, then you need to get a non-electric bike. It's as simple as that. But, if you really want an e-bike, don't break the rules when you ride it! Become an advocate for the sport, with legislators, land managers, rule-makers. Forty years ago, mountain bikes were in much the same position as e-bikes are today. Today, to stop the use of e-bikes the very same folks who fought for the inclusion of mountain bikes are using the very same arguments and allying themselves with the same groups they fought against back in the day. We all need to be better ambassadors for accessibility.

One closing thought. The better the bike, the better the bike. You will have less problems if you buy the best bike you can afford, and you'll have the support or a reputable manufacturer and dealer. You won't find that in a discount or "big box" store.

Ride safe!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

We're Back! Get Ready for Stream Trout Season With New Maps from Namebini!

 Minnesota Stream Trout Season opens this Saturday, April 15th. It's been a LONG winter and I'm sure you are as anxious as we are to get out on the water. I've already highlighted Carl and Jade's "Fly Fishing Minnesota" book as an indispensable aid to chasing rainbows. (And Browns, Brookies and Steelhead) Just before the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo this year they published a companion volume, "Minnesota Fly Fishing Maps." It's an exceptional collection of maps you can use to get you where the trout are. Check it out and order from or your local fly fishing shop.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo 2023

 The beginning of stream trout season starts in a gym at Hamline University:

I will be there volunteering with TU and BHA.