Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Got Toys?

As I pulled up in front of the house I could see the glossy print catalogue protruding from the over-stuffed mail box. The sight evoked a little of the long lost Christmas time excitement of my youth, and priority number one quickly became sitting down and examining every page of the catalogue. Like always, the good people of LL Bean did a great job, and my wish list grew exponentially. As I sat there thinking of the endless combinations of camping, hunting, fishing, and general outdoor gear I could use, and the many adventures I could embark on, my thoughts soon turned to the piles of gear I already own. The "toys" as my wife calls them.

As an avid outdoorsman, no doubt I've amassed quite a collection of equipment needed to properly participate in my chosen sport for the season. So much in fact that I've taken over, and dedicated a walk-in closet to the storage of my toys. And it doesnt all fit. Some lesser used gear has been sent to the attic, and some of my more frequently used, or seasonal gear often take up residence in the car for extended periods of time. My rubber wellingtons are almost always in the car, ready for use if I need them. Being prime trout fishing season my waders too, have found a seasonal home in the car. Should the urge to go fishing strike me, all I need do is grab a rod, and my vest, which to my wifes dismay, have taken up residence in the front hallway. You too, no doubt have quite a collection of gear, all of it dear to you, for every possible scenario the outdoors could throw at you.

In briefly running down my toys, I think the place to start is in the wingshooting category, as that's where I spend most of my efforts. Naturally, I've got a bit of a collection of smoothbores. Fortunately my wife stays more than arms length away from these, or I might have difficulty explaining why one needs dedicated grouse guns, as well as waterfowl guns, and clay shooting guns. I've also got every imaginable configuration available for carrying my game, shells, gps, and assorted equipment while hunting. As for shooting clothing I've got all my bases covered there too, with Blaze trimmed upland clothing, brush pants and chaps, sufficiently camouflaged waterfowl outfits, and even enough tweed, should I ever need it. I've got surprisingly little footwear, however, owning a pair of wellies, and a pair of upland type boots. Let's not forget some of the specialized toys needed for waterfowling; boats and decoys. Yeah, I've got a canoe, and a john boat, duck and goose decoys, and even a wing-spinning deke. And if you thought I couldn't possibly need anything else, add camo waders to the list.

My efforts in the big-game arena have allowed me to collect some major toys, too. Naturally I've got a rifle, but I actually spend more time in the deer woods with my bow, or muzzleloader. Yes, that's three toys right there. Then we get into clothing; warm weather camo, insulated/water-proof camo, wool camo, and camo I don't even know what I'll use it for. Backpacks and fanny packs(both plural), game calls, decoys(turkey), scents and lures(deer and bear), tree stands, and ground blinds too. Even a pair of dedicated camo wellies. I could go on, but you get the point.

Fishing hasn't been taken any less serious. Flyfishing in particular has been what has held the majority of my attention over the years. Though not the collection a serious fisherman would have, I've found three fly rods in my possession; a 3wt, 6wt, and a 9wt all get used every year. Of course this means the reels see action too, as does the different fly selection for each use. When not fly casting I break out my little spincaster, or if in the salt, one of my two surfcasters. But I'm thinking of up-grading my surfcasters, so there's growth potential there. Two pair of waders, and two pair of wading shoes are also part of my toy collection. Surprisingly, I've only one fishing vest, but don't worry, I've got my eye on one of those strap type vests, and a 4wt rod, both of which I think would be good additions to the toy box.

Truth is, I could go on. There's the camping gear, dog training gear, survival gear(which I've written about in the past), and the all important going to the beach gear. Why is the beach gear important? It keeps my wife happy.

**Special shameless note** Anyone reading this who works or owns any hunting or fishing related business who'd like their product reviewed in this blog should feel free to e-mail me. My standards are pretty high, but maybe I'll accept, use, and review any free stuff you've got to offer. This include vacation packages, too. **Shameless, right?**

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The True Value of "The Guys"

     Grouse season is a magical time of year. It's like Christmas, and summer vacation rolled up into one big package for adults. Thanksgiving falls during the season is an added bonus. It's during this time of year that we attend the highest of holy rituals; Grouse camp. It's at camp, over the years, that you realize the guys you share camp with, that shoot over your dog, and over whose dogs you get to shoot, that your friendship extends beyond hunting grouse.

     I've been lucky enough to shoot and enjoy camp with the same syndicate (a word I've lifted from the British shooting vernacular) for a dozen years now. And anyone who shares a camp in the fall knows that longevity is the sign of more than just sharing the same ethics, enthusiasm, and appreciation of the outdoors. Over time, camp becomes more important than,....well, camp. The hunting might be the reasoning we use when we talk to our spouses, but truth is the food, drink, new guns, bragging rights dogs, and all out ball breaking is really the main attraction. You all know this already, and this is turning into a really long introduction of what this post really is; a sandwich recipe. But it is the source of the recipe that makes me write all this. My good shooting buddy of many years, Bryan, recently sent me a link to what may be the best camp lunch EVER. And if grouse camp didn't morph into what it really is, and was just about the hunting, I might have never found out about this sandwich.

     So, I give to you, The Shooter's Sandwich.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Doldrums

     It's been a slow April around here, and if you're a regular follower of my blog, no doubt you've noticed. Fact is, April has pretty much sucked. Yeah, the weather is improving, and my weekend in Bermuda was nice, but everything I've been involved in, so far, has just illustrated shortcomings in my life. Fortunately, these shortcomings are temperary.

     The wind in Bermuda ruining my chance at bonefish was a disappointment, but it was only the start of the down swing. Last week I headed out to central Mass to do some trout fishing with my good friend George. We'd, at George's instance, headed to the Bondsville section of the Swift river. George has become absolutely obsessed with all things flyfishing in the last few years. His research indicated that this section of the river should hold fish. It did indeed hold fish, but the steep drop off, silty water, and brushy shoreline made casting to the few rising trout quite difficult. As a larger member of society, I'd add that the silty, soft bottom near the shoreline made the wading interesting too.

     After spending sufficient time getting frustrated in Bondsville, we decided to make the short trip north to the catch and release are of the Swift between the dam, and route 9. This section of the river is heavily fished, and heavily stocked, leading to George repeatedly referring to it as the "theme park section". Amazingly, upon our arrival we found only one car parked in the lot. This should have told us something. As it turned out, the river was a good 18" lower than I've ever seen it, and the clear water held very few fish. While we both found a few pockets and riffles holding fish, I failed to convince any of them to dine on what I was offering. George did a bit better, bringing two to hand.

     While not catching fish can be discouraging, other simpler activities have driven home other deficiencies in life as I know it right now. Today I took a short hike, just a couple miles looping through the woods, and up to the Blue Hills observatory. While a walk in the woods is always enjoyable, today I found my my head flooded with thoughts of hikes I took with Austin, my last dog, over the years. Couple this with the fact that today is a state holiday, so the picnic area and observation area popular with kids and their dogs was packed, and the doglessness of my life became pronounced.

     Fortunately I am certain that these troubling conditions will soon be a thing of the past. Every day I get closer to picking up my new pup, and I can't wait for the little lady to get here. My fishing troubles too, will pass. Like most things, time and effort make a difference. Being early in the season, I really shouldn't be too worried about a one lousy day on the river. Especially when I've got other days planned already.

     I've got a few things simmering. My turkey tags came in the mail, leaving me with a few things I'll need to do before setting forth. I'll be spending time on the practice range with my bow, as well as make new poles for my pop-up blind. I've got some plans to do a bit more hiking before the bugs make their appearance, and even bought a new backpack for these occasions. Perhaps I'll even get the chance to stuff my new pack with waders and flyfishing gear for a hike-in adventure somewhere.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Things You Should Check Out.

     Here are two things I think are pretty cool, and think you should check out. Take a look, and if you've got the time, or the money think about either getting involved, or making a small donation.

     Project Healing Waters Flyfishing is an organization that takes disabled active duty military, and veterans flyfishing. Started in 2005, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Project Healing Waters is dedicated to both the physical, and emotional rehabilitation of those wounded in service to their country. Regardless of ones beliefs, and opinions of our ongoing military actions around the globe, I think we all agree that the men and women who serve do so for a variety of reasons, and deserve a seem less reintegration into civilian life. Doing so after suffering a life changing injury makes this even more difficult. If time on the water can make a severely wounded vet forget, even for a little while, the sacrifice that's been made, then any donation is worth it. Hopefully the efforts of PHWFF will touch these vets, and the lessons learned on the water will translate into success off the water. Check them out;

     Florian Villa is a villa on St John, V. I. which hosts diving retreats for disabled veterans, called SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled SCUBA) as part of the Wounded Warriorr Project. They also make the villa available to the families of fallen firefighters. Florian Villa is owned by Scott Wahlen, who is a captain on the Boston Fire Dept and was a class mate of mine at the fire academy, and his wife Deborah Bernstein, who holds yoga retreats at the villa in addition to being the athor of two books; Yoga in America, and What is Yoga?. Check them out;

Bermuda Bones

     I learned a lot on my recent weekend in Bermuda. Not all of it was about Bone fishing. To be honest, not very much of it was about Bone fishing, but I think I've armed myself with enough info to be dangerous on my next trip. When asked what I learned on the trip, my first thought is of the various cocktails I now know I enjoy; Pina Coladas, Daquaris, and Yellow Birds all go down smooth. I even came across a Bermudian ale called Whale of a Tale Ale, which I rather liked. But, none of this has to do with fishing, so I'll move on.

       I knew Bremuda was a British colony, and I knew Britian has different property use laws, but I never put two and two together. Finding an area with both Bones, and access isn't easy. After several inquiries, it seemed as if I would be forced to pay big bucks to fish with the local flyfishing guide service, Jump Dem Bones.
     One gentleman suggested I try fishing Somerset Long Bay on the west end of the island, though he admitted he knew little about Bone fishing. He thought the area might be good, having seen people flycasting there several times in the past. I filed this info away, hoping it wouldn't be the best I got. It wasn't.

     On Saturday the wife and I took a stroll around the city of Hamilton. Fortunately, directly across the street from the bus depot is a tackle shop. Fly Bridge Tackle is located at 26 Church St, and it is there that Fly Bridge proprietor Eddie Cook filled in a few blanks about fishing Bermuda, and provided a spot to fish. While Eddie doesn't carry any flyfishing tackle, he does have just about everything else. Most importantly, local knowledge. And he's friendly too, as are most people on the island. If you're planning to go to Bermuda and wish to fish, pay Eddie a visit.

     Sunday I was eager to make my way to the area Eddie recommended. Just a bit over a mile away from our hotel, Whale Bone bay is a public access beach and park on the western side of St. George Parish. A short bus ride, and a slightly longer walk would get us there. I'd fish, while Junko relaxed and caught rays on the beach. It was not to be. Though the sun still shined, and the weather was warm, mother nature saw fit to bestow upon us a 25knot west wind. I wasn't fishing in that. Heart broken I set out on a path of recovery, wearing a well worn trail between the hot tub, and the bar. Fishing, or not; Bermuda doesn't suck.