Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Copper Harbor fish story: Ride the Keweenaw 2013

Fishing rush...Copper Harbor

This story is "based" on fact.

We shove off.

The boat creaks gently on the glassy water.  Breath frosty and smokey as it drifts off our faces.  Smiles as the warm sun paints our backs.  Cold fingers and minnows sentenced to horrifying adventures deep in Lake Superior.

We fly over the broken bones of the lake bottom.  Clear as gin the water acts as a giant magnifying glass as we hover over jet black drop offs and rocky shelves of granite, copper and Canadian shield.

The water is so cold we can feel it seeping through the hull of the boat and into the soles of our feet.

I take another cast and wonder about the stick we jammed into the drain hole in the boat as a substitute for the plug........

Row, row row your boat
Calm seas, complacent sentinels 

The Splake are running in the Harbor.  That is a special time for fisherman, when the big voracious salmonoids are active and open for business.  A mix between a Brook Trout and a Lake Trout, the fish are perhaps the best tasting fish in the Lake (perhaps a matter of opinion).


Time to go riding.

At some point the fish are turned off, and the sun is high in the sky and the trails are dry.

Fishing gear is shoved into the back of the truck, the minnow bucket placed in a shady spot for the evening.

Leaky waders are substituted for bike shoes and body armor and legs of thrown over machines of choice.

The Line Up
I found a lot of folks questioning heading to Copper Harbor this Memorial Day due to the extremely late spring the northland is having.

I have never questioned going to Copper Harbor.  To me the Harbor is not just a place to go Mountain Bike.  It is a place to explore and to experience and if the riding is not up to perfect, then the fishing is, or the Sea Kayaking, or the kiting, or the hiking or the berry picking etc.

For me lately it has been the fishing.  I have always heard about the Splake run but have generally missed it due to timing.  This year when I was talking to Aaron before my arrival he mentioned that the Splake had been delayed due to the cold water and later spring and I was stoked.  I was finally heading up to the Keweenaw when the Splake were in force.  I packed up every rod I had.

Best Spring Conditions I have ever had in the Harbor this year
There are people that like to fish, and there are folks that LIKE to fish.  Aaron Rogers LIKES to fish and so do I.  Almost every trip I take to CH, Aaron and I, or some other CH locals get together for a fishing mission.  It might be a Brook Trout lake in the interior, a stream or river of the Lake Superior itself.  Really the fishing adventures are limitless up there.

This visit however was purely focused on Splake in the Harbor.  I have to admit, both Aaron and I threw down.  Late nights working and socializing were followed by early mornings in the boat or off the shore searching for Splake.

Aaron and I both put a lot of time into working for Mountain Biking in our region.

Time lost to ourselves and our families and when I come to the Harbor, we make it a point to take back some of that time, to hang out as friends and to just be hanging out.  No doubt plenty of talking about Mountain Biking and Trails, happens, but I am truly thankful for the time we can spend fishing in silence, thinking mainly about the next cast and if there is a fish cruising there.

We threw everything we had at them.  Fly Rods, spinning rods, spoons, Rapala's, minnows, Streamers, Woolly Buggers, you name it.


One day we showed up at a stream flowing into the harbor and all we could see were fish rising and jumping out of the water.  You could see finned backs rising and falling, but they wanted nothing we tossed at them.  The most frustrating of all fishing experiences.  When you can see them, see they are feeding but can't match what it is and walk away empty handed.


But then there is always the riding.  The majority of trails were dry.  Plenty of mud to be found for sure, but certainly not game changing.  Tacky, firm and packed and re-tweaked since last fall, the trails were a dream after being shut out so effectively here in Duluth by rain and cold temps this spring.

Mountain Bike Geezer on the Scene!
Eventually the masses came and Aaron was engulfed in the Ride the Keweenaw Festival.  Time was short and so far we had one Splake and a myriad of Brookies to show for our efforts, but I personally had yet to catch a Splake.

Finally on Saturday after 7 laps on the trails, my body beaten and my head a buzzing, I decided to give my luck another shot.  The big party was that night so I only had a small window of time...  I hopped into the car and headed to the easiest spot to access Splake.  It was the circus spot.  The spot where all the locals were congregated rods in hand.  Aaron and I had avoided this spot, because of the lack of solitude it offered and the high amount of competition it fostered.

For me however the time was short and in my mind all I wanted to do was chill out up to my chest in cold Lake Superior water to ease my aching bones (I cratered twice on Danimal) have a beer and have a line in the water.  Red neck paradise.

It being Memorial Day weekend it was busy.  I waded across from most of the other fisherman and assumed my place in the line up.  Cracked a KBC and tossed out a minnow into the current.  My mind wandered to what Memorial Day meant to me.

That meant thinking about my Grandfather and his military career which was extensive.  He died a Colonel but was promoted to General shortly after.  A General and yet a wicked fisherman, in fact a RABID fisherman.

Grandpa "Bucks" Rapala
Thinking of that I rattled around in my fishing box and came up with a lure that I had inherited when Buck, passed away.  I have marveled over it before.  It is an original Rapala which is cool in itself, but the best part about it, is that it is so gnarled, so beaten and has so many tooth marks on it that you can see its history of success quite literally written all over it.  It even looks as though the eye of the lure was at one point blown out and my grandfather has fixed it.  There is an old yarn line end still affixed to it from some rattle trap trolling situation he most likely used it for.

I smiled at the feel of that old thing and decided to tie it on for Gramps.  To remember him.  Why not, nothing else has worked.   Beer in hand I gently let the lure slide down the current towards the big lake.  Playing out the line lazily, every so often giving it a jerk.  Swilling my beer and feeling the summer sun and just generally rejoicing in the setting of the Harbor.

Get ready for another kind of Copper Harbor ride!!
BAM!  Fish on.  Shit!  Beer in hand.....solid fish, strong fish!

Throw open the drag, any is too much and this baby is heading for Canada!  Cant toss the beer as I am nowhere near shore!!  Finally I shove it in my chest pocket and can feel it running down my waders.  No matter, the game is afoot and the rod is heaving.

Patiently I play the fish but as it comes closer I realize I have no net and the size of the fish is significant enough that launching it up on shore is not an option.  Luckily the peanut gallery has seen the situation and another angler helps me out.

Wow. Adrenaline and happiness all mixed into one.  I decided to call it quits while I was ahead, plus there was a party starting and I was not going to miss that!  BBQ and getting "Brickfaced" with Brickside Brewery Beer, what a night, good music, killer people....

And Fish smell on my hands!  What is NOT to like about that weekend?

Ride the Keweenaw BBQ

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ride the Keweenaw 2013!

Back in the Harbor

Its always good to be back in the Harbor!  Trails are open and ripping in Houghton and CH.

 Come on UP!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What a difference a year makes! 2013, the Non- season

May 12th 2012
This photo was taken a week earlier, last year........we have yet to even venture out on the trails this season and the leaves have yet to even bud on most trees.

Pent up energy to say the least!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 COGGS Gala Raises $19,000!

Candyland:  Spirit Mountain, Duluth MN
Great job COGGS!

Every year COGGS puts on a Formal Gala and a silent auction.  This year the funds raised over last year were nearly double!

Amazing work COGGS!  Glad to be a part of that!  Now if we could just get the weather to cooperate so we can spend it.......

Friday, May 17, 2013

2nd Annual Duluth Mayors ride: Bikes are getting bigger in the Zenith City

Big tires and big dreams in the city by the lake

Getting lessons from the master
 This was the second annual Mayor's ride here in Duluth.  Last year was a good year, but this seasons ride illustrated where Duluth cycling is going in the future.  The ride which started as usual at the City Hall ended at Valentini's on London Road and was concluded with lunch and speakers.  The place was packed.
Congressman Oberstar killing it on the road

Its news worthy.  Duluth is behind bikes
There are some big dreams for Duluth as a cycling city.  Certainly most folks who read this blog know about the Single Track that is coming, and coming soon.  However it was really inspiring to hear about the transportation advances as well.  As most Duluth cycling advocates would tell you, there are some sketchy places to ride your bike in our city.  I was especially happy to hear that there is going to be an addition to the Lake Walk path that will be reaching west.

People are always asking about how "scary" it is to ride a mountain bike.  I aways laugh and relate to them that the most scared I have ever, ever been has been on a road bike, in traffic and in Duluth.  A classic example was actually when Eric Peterson and I were knocked over by the plow on Grand Avenue this winter!

Its been a long time coming, but there is no doubt that rolling on two wheels is improving in D-town.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Close but no Cigar: Wait for the Trails to dry 2013!!!

Dont do this to your trails!

I try extremely hard NOT to be the preachy advocate.  However, when the trails are muddy, the trails are muddy and riding, walking or dancing on them is not to happen.

So spread the word, things are drying out, but they are not even close to dry enough so please stay off the trails and let them heal up so when they are dry, we can have rock star riding versus rutted out chunder.......

If you have the jones, head south.  The MORC trails look to be open.  Cuyuna is open as are other southern tier trails, so go check em out and see amazing things the other clubs are up to.

Oh yeah, FYI. tire width (Wider) and low PSI does not mean you can ride wet trails!

Monday, May 06, 2013

1st Ever Lester River Kayak Race 2013


One reason I love Duluth is the fact there are a whole host of adventurous activities that go on "IN" the city limits.  Ice Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, XC skiing, Hiking, Climbing and of course Whitewater Kayaking.....yup whitewater kayaking.

Talk to any hard core kayaker in the area and they will tell you that the city itself hosts some amazing steep creeking, and when the water is up the paddlers are charging.

So it was really cool to hear that some of the more veteran paddlers decided to hold a Steep Creek race on the Lester River.  Not your typical race, this course had multiple 20 foot plus drops, some technical rapids and even the "flat water" would challenge most neophyte paddlers.

Zimny and Decker and the crew did it right.  Permits, insurance, safety boaters and even a last minute course change signaled that this was not a bunch of rookies looking to shred the gnar.  These guys were dialed and it showed.  With 19 racers heading down what can only be called an "extreme" course they ended the day with zero trips to the hospital and no trips to the morgue.

As a photographer it was a dream.  You could not have a more scenic river and a more interesting subject matter.

Thanks to the paddling crew for the awesome event and congrats for pulling it off.  If I were a jealous man, I would say I am most jealous of the folks that were able to paddle that stuff as I will NEVER be in that crowd!

That said, though what a cool crew, the whitewater gang gets huge props in my book.  They play hard, throw down on the river, party hard and hang tight....

Busted nose

Nate Heydt goes Swooooshhhhhhh!

Yup, look closely.  There is a kayaker under there.
If you swim, you drink....out of your river bootie! Ross Herr and Chris Baer getting their stomachs ready.
Thumping the deeps...just another Dtown urban paddling gem

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Love the one your with (Duluth, MN): Homegrown Music Festival 2013

At some point, you turn around and stand your ground.  You dig in.  Entrench.  Bear your teeth and and get your hair up.  No more running, no more wandering no more wondering.

Not sure if this comes with age or with mentality or upbringing but I am seeing it happen here.  People in my town, taking stands and making their town become the place the want it to be.

The Homegrown Music Festival is a prime example of that.  What an amazing event and what an amazing success story after 15 years of ups and downs organizationally.

I have been a some part of the Festival over the past 14 years and have watched its success from a far.  However color me impressed last night when after a late business meeting on trails and dinner with a long lost friend (in town for the festival) I stumbled over to Grandma's Sports Garden to see Charlie Parr and saw a line, literally blocks long down the street.  Then it hit me.  This baby is off the ground and flying and man, that is so freaking cool.

Good job, great work and congrats to all the folks who have brought Homegrown to Duluth after 15 years!