Friday, August 23, 2013

Life's Lessons

         I have learned a couple of things in my life; first, never attempt to pee in a bottle while in a car, someone always ends up pissed on. Second, never go fly fishing in the dark or you’ll end be up the creek, literally, without a paddle or even a canoe for that matter. I attempted the latter yesterday and of course I failed. I picked a wide open spot just so I wouldn’t hang any trees but that wasn’t the reason for my failed attempt. I couldn’t see shit. Fly fishing relies on keeping an eye on your line/fly and I never once saw either after leaving the light of the car. Casting requires you to watch the line and obviously that didn’t work so I spent most of the time untangling it. Walking in a river in the dark was another challenge all together. I was constantly stumbling and falling over the big river rocks. Finally after an hour of slinging a stick hoping for a good cast, praying not to trip over the next big rock, and already soaking wet I decided to pack it in. Defeated but not broken I plan to make another trip in the dark, maybe after a few years when I have earned my black belt in fly fishing. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Woods to Water

Disclaimer: I am not by any means a professional fly fisher nor do I actually know what I’m doing. So if you are a seasoned vet at the sport bear in mind that I am new to this.         
From the woods to the water I go.  My yearly fly fishing expedition (more like a few hours in a river) was here and I was ready. I headed down to the river around 8:30 in the A.M. and after a few practice casts in the water (harder than on the lawn) I had my rhythm down. There are multiple cast types and techniques but I stuck the only one I knew. I was doing well and felt good working my way up stream. I was casting in the general vicinity I wanted to and getting out a good amount of line versus the coiled handfuls at my feet that usually happens every year. This year was different for a couple of reasons; one, I had practiced and studied the cast, which areas to fish, and habits of the trout. Second, I usually bring a regular fishing rod and reel as my back up for when I get frustrated after twenty minutes of bad casting and hang-ups in trees but not this year, I only had my fly rod. I was in a wider part of the river that never went past my knees but wasn’t catching fish despite my descent casts. I decided to move spots so I worked my way back down stream climbed in my car with wet waders and moved on.
I made my next spot after a few minutes on some back roads and it looked even more promising than the last. I headed down the bank and into the water. The water here was deeper, up to my waist in some spots, cool and flowing through a tunnel of older trees that hung over the river leaving a skylight about a third the width of the river and closed off completely in some spots. There was a light fog coming off the surface as the day was warming up. It was perfect for trout. At least by what I read it was supposed to be. I moved to one side of the bank and fished towards the other while working my way down stream towards a riffle in the river that stretched from one bank to the other. I fished past the riffle into a few pools below but again, no fish. A little aggravated but not beaten I headed back towards the car to move again. When I climbed out and up the bank I was greeted by two older gentlemen, Pat and Jack. These two men were decked out in the best gear; proper waders, vest with all the dangly necessities one needs to catch trout, expensive rods and fancy hats. Looking at me, I’m sure they could tell right away that I was a newbie with my old hunting waders, small shoulder pouch with very minimal stuff, old rod, and no fancy hat, but they didn’t look down on me. They chatted me up for about ten minutes and were even kind enough to give me some flies that Pat said, “Worked last week.” I thanked them and headed to my next preplanned spot.
I spotted my first fish at the third spot of the day. It was a small trout (brown maybe?) sitting a few inches below the water hanging in a small pool. He sat there for a bit laughing at me as I tried to get a fly in front of him. He seemed uninterested and darted off after a few, well placed, casts. At least I knew there is at least one fish in there. I moved down stream and around a bend working the deeper water on the far bank. I spotted a large rock at the bottom of a riffle just out of the bend and nestled behind the rock was the silhouette of a fish. Here was my chance. I placed my fly right in front of the rock with such a perfect cast it would have made Pat and Jack proud. The fly, actually an ant, floated over the rock and dipped down right in front of the fish then BAM! I should say that right before the fish I was calm and steady then after he hit the line, which I was quick enough to set the hook, I lost all coolness and fumbled around trying to work the rod and line. In my excitement I completely forgot everything I read on how to work the fish but I somehow manage to land him.  He was a beautiful brown trout about eight inches. I admired him for a brief moment then released him. I stood there with the biggest grin and sense of success for a minute before coming too and realized there is more fish to catch. I fished for another hour or so but didn’t catch anything but wasn’t disappointed.

 I finally got my first trout and my first fish on a fly rod so I can check that one off my list but I’m not ready to put down the fly rod for another year. I plan to head out a few more times this summer and some in the fall. Hopefully I’ll bag a few more fish and get some photos. I also have decided that I need a fancy hat, which I’m sure will help to catch fish and keep the sun off my ears and nose so if you’d like to contribute to my Fancy Fishing Hat Foundation I will  gladly  accept any and all donations, if not at least keep reading.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Quick Hike

As of lately I have been a nut for night photography, not that you couldn’t tell. So I have been itching to get into some dark place where the sky would produce as many stars as possible. A few weeks ago I had my chance. We had a snap of cooler weather meaning it was dropping into the low seventies at night. I decided on a Friday I would head down to a back pack trail and do a quick overnighter around a 5-6 mile loop stopping halfway to camp and take some photos in an open field that would give me a clear shot of the sky.
The tall pines at the beginning of the trail.
 I got off work right at five and jumped in the car to head south. The computer said it was an hour and half trip to the trail head so I guessed to be on the trail by seven. I stopped in this little town for gas and food where the people are the typical Appalachian type with some younger folk mixed in due to a technical college in town. The old rustic mining town is nestled in a few foothills and surrounded by forest. You know the picturesque village with a town square that they used to hang horse thieves in. The kind of place you might hear a banjo play and can pick up a jar of white lightening with your hamburger at McDonald’s. With names like Jim Bob, Smokey Pete, and Bubba there are never a shortage of characters. After gas and snacks I made my way out of the booming metropolis northeast stopping just outside the edge of town for water. I have been to this trail several times, each time stopping at this “watering hole” to fill up my bottles for the hike. On the side of a large hill, there are no REAL mountains in Ohio, is a large cement wall maybe ten-twelve feet high and in the middle of the wall is three pipes about two inches in diameter. Pouring from the pipes is some of the freshest, cleanest, coldest water I have ever had. Someone at some point in time had tapped into this spring and made it an easy access to fill up jugs and bottles. I have met some interesting people there as well. One fine gentleman who had a beard that would make the Duck Dynasty guys proud was complaining to me how they wouldn’t let him sell milk jugs filled with the water on the street corner or at least I think that’s what he was spitting out through the few teeth he had left. Walking back to the car I noticed he had about thirty full jugs and about thirty more to go. This time was less eventful but still produced a kindly old man who just simply nodded and said hello.
Trail net
By the time I finally got on the trail and was hiking away it was close to eight and night was just over the next hill. I moved fast down the trail trying to make it to the open field before I had to hike with a head lamp. I usually hike fairly quickly because I carry a light load but this night I was moving double the speed. Now if you have ever hiked in Ohio or anywhere on the east coast during the late spring to the beginning of fall and especially in mid-summer then you know that spiders love the open space of a trail. They will build not small, but expansive “trail nets” across the trail that could literally stop a small animal and because the lines are so thin and it was creeping dark time I saw none of them until I was in it. After an hour of hustling down the trail through overgrown brush and spider webs I came to a huge clearing that leads up to a road and I was positive that once I reach the road, turned left to get back on the trail the field will be just up a little and down into a valley. Thirty minutes later and no field, just past nine by this point, I decided I’d better call it a night. I parked my stuff on a flat spot next to a ridge line with some rocks jetting out on one side of the trail and a smooth slope on the other.
 It had rained a few days prior making the wood a little wet and building a fire a real job but I got it going and worked on cleaning up the previous camper’s trash. I piled some wood by the fire to dry out then moved on to setting up the tent. After my camp chores and a well deserved oatmeal cream pie I hiked a little on the trail looking for an open spot in the canopy, actually an impenetrable fortress, of trees. It was so thick it probably would protect someone form a missile attack but was horrible if you wanted to photograph some stars. I was so set on making the open field I never once looked up to make sure I stopped somewhere with a least a slight view of the sky. I spent the next few minutes cussing and aggravated that the purpose of this trip was lost and I wouldn’t get the night shots I wanted. I gave in and sat by the fire to pout. A few minutes later, after being hypnotized by the fire, I had forgotten why I was upset. I broke out the camera to shoot some fire photos and ended up making my way down the trail just a few steps further than before and found a small window looking straight at a sky full of bright stars. I took a few shots and decided to call it a night.

View from my little window
The next day I was up and packed by seven. Having hiked about four miles the day before I knew I wouldn’t have long to go to reach the trailhead, plus a light rain, more spider webs to barrel through, and back to my normal pace helped slow me down enough to enjoy the scenery. I made it to the car never finding that field but with a handful of descent photos and a good hike in. A quick stop for a hot coffee in a small burg and I headed home.

"Really, the only thing a psychiatrist can do that a good (fishing) guide can't is write prescriptions."
                                                                               -John Gierach

Monday, August 12, 2013

I promised you that I have a lot to write about throughout August and trust me I will, but for now I wanted to put up some pics I found on an old SD card I had laying around.
 This first pic was from a three day, 25 mile canoe trip my friend Chris and I took down the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania a few years ago. We camped two nights on islands and this pic was the last night, or dusk I should say, looking down river after setting up camp.

 These two go together; they are from my first mountain bike trip a few years ago with Nick in Brown County State Park Indiana. It was late April and the temp dropped below freezing the first night. That's me huddled in my sleeping bag the next morning.

 A couple of injured pics; first, my hands after a day at the climbing gym working out hard. The other was me getting stitches in my chin after busting it on my car fender while changing the brakes.

Like I said, I do have a lot to write but for now some pics to get you by. You'll be hearing from me soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Peen it Out

WOW! It has been awhile. What can I say? I have been busy. I have been hiking biking, working, building a mountain bike trail, collecting wild black berries, reading, playing volleyball and softball, and even golfing among the other thousand things I have been up too. I have been working on my photography skills but no pictures to post about… yet. Don’t fret though August 10-12 is suppose to be prime time for the Perseids meteors.
Every year I make an attempt to fly fish that usually ends poorly. Fly fishing is a very difficult from tying the flies to the line to casting, catching and bringing in the fish. It literally is an art form that I just havent mastered or have even come close. This year will be different. I have been studying up and practicing my casting. I read up on the fishing reports for the Mad River just down the road and it said the report is good after a few rains last week. So I gathered up my gear and was going through it when I ran into a little problem. My reel was missing a rivet and was allowing a piece to swing freely (sorry didn’t to think to take a picture first). I needed to fix it. A small screw and nut wouldn’t work because it wouldn’t allow the reel to run without the line snagging on the nut so I needed a rivet. With no small rivet in sight I had to make my own…

Now this is where I pause to say, “Let me show you something, I think, every man should know;”

You know what this?
Ok so it’s a hammer but it has a proper name; ball-peen hammer. And you use it to “peen” rivets, hence the name. Now the flat part I have used a million times to hammer a nail but never have I “peened” a rivet. Until now. The round part is used to “mushroom” out a small piece of metal, in my case a small tack nail, pulling the other end tight and making a rivet.  And this is my end result;
Not pretty but it works well. I finished and thought to myself, “Yea I could have gotten a real rivet and worked on it, practiced and polished it, but I was proud of the work I did and it fixed the piece I needed to fix.”
I know this post is short but I just wanted to share a bit of knowledge and give you a heads up that I haven’t forgotten about you. I have plenty to write about including my yearly fly fish attempt but no time to write so when I get a few minutes I’ll be posting more, I promise. Until next time…. Gotta go.

“I was awfully happy, not because life was so good, but because it was my life, and I was in it.”                         -Scott Spencer