Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Unwinding Road

Some time in the woods alone is what I needed to recharge a little today.
There are times when you simply need time to yourself.  Today was one of those days for me.  I have been battling pneumonia and needed some wilderness prescription.  Because of the pneumonia I wasn't going to be able to push myself so I picked a short trek along a trail I know well. 
This lookout has been a regular destination of mine for many years.
 The plan was to simply take a short snowshoe trek and then enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a snack while enjoying the view from a rocky escarpment.  I left my car and deliberately set a slow pace to test myself a little.  I stopped frequently and let my senses expand and take in what I can.  The moisture from the melting snow, the cracking of the tree branches as they adjust to changing temperatures and the flitting of the birds through the undergrowth. 
An old blow down made an ideal table and the snow shoes made a great seat.

When I made my destination I set about packing down an area where I could sit and take in my surroundings.  One misplaced step meant I was standing in snow up to my crotch and required that I work my way out of the hole.  My hot chocolate tasted great and I loved the time I had to unwind.  Quiet time like this has always been a way for me to recharge a little and I really needed it today.
It doesn't get much better than this.

This MSR Whisperlite has been my go to stove for more than 15years now.

The twisted grain on this old pine caught my eye.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Random Games

This entry was originally published in the Kings County Record on March 17, 2015.  It was heavily influenced by the enjoyment I got from watching more than 60 kids playing simple games with simple toys.  It demonstrated that kids still know how to have fun and that computers and i-pods and the like haven't completely ruined their imaginations.  A huge thanks to the staff at Atlantic Community Church for organizing "Super Kids."
Random games are a wonder aren't they?  Have you ever thought "Who the heck thought to put a rope through two golf balls and throw them at a ladder?"  Maybe you question the mental state of the person who first threw a lawn dart.  Recently I have been helping out at the Atlantic Community Church with their "SuperKids" program and it is amazing how entertaining and how much of a workout small random games can be.

For a number of Wednesdays now the super kids at "SuperKids" have been engaged in random games.  These games include props from beach balls to rubber chickens and we have been able to engage up to 40 kids at a time.  Now, I admit, these games may not engage an overly serious adult, but if you can embrace the inner child you have lurking deep down inside, these games will get you laughing and exercising.

Next time you and your friends are hanging out and having some social drinks, why not blow up a couple of balloons, place some glow sticks inside them, turn out the lights and see how many long you can keep hitting the balloon up in the air.  With the right mind set this game can be very fun and requires very little investment in equipment or materials to play.

That game didn't interest you, then this summer when you're enjoying the beach, take a couple of rubber chickens from the "Dollar Store" and have chicken races.  I know rubber chickens can't actually run, but if you put the chicken between your knees and race your buddy 50m down the beach without dropping the chicken.  I bet before you get half way, you'll be wondering why it's so difficult while laughing so hard you can't keep your knees pinched together to hold the chicken.

Seriously, how bored do you have to be to think of the multitude of card games that exist?  How do you think of a game like volleyball, which I love by the way? When you put people on the banks of river, how long is it before someone picks up a rock and throws it, but who threw the first stone?  I've killed a lot of time, and likely threw out my shoulder a couple of times skipping stones but I find it almost therapeutic.

I know, I'm asking more questions here than I'm answering but it is a sense of curiosity that likely led to a great deal of these games.  Some games were derived out of a necessity.  I would even hazard a guess that lawn darts may have been derived from a need to practice spear throwing by a hunting tribe or clan.

 I don't think I have ever invented a game but after "SuperKids" tonight I have decided to challenge myself to create a game.  Since I like being outdoors I am going to create a new game outside for winter time.  It might be a race to see who can stack snowballs to a certain height from ten feet away.  Hey I think I just invented a new game.  Now I challenge you to get outside and invent your own game.  Don't do it alone though, engage your friends to help you.  I like solitaire but I love 45s.

Monday, March 16, 2015

One of my faves - FALL RUN by Todd Moen

I don't normally share someone else's stuff but I couldn't resist here. This is one of my favorite fly fishing videos to date.  I love how they talk about team work and simply fishing for the joy of being on the water.  The river backdrop reminds me of one of the rivers I love to fish so I can easily picture myself chasing trout in that same situation.  I can't say though I've ever chased a fish that big and envy them for that.    I've watched other videos by Todd and I love them all.  Let's be honest....right now in eastern Canada (where we are under more than 100cm of snow and fishing season is less than a month away) all of us anglers are itching to get out from under this snow and pursue our own fish of choice.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fly Tying Fun

It is now March and that means fishing season is right around the corner.  With the winter we've been having, cabin fever is likely in full force.  To help calm the summer time shakes I recently organized an event where local anglers could come out and socialize while possibly filling their fly box.  I've never before tied my own flies and so I thought it would be a great way for me to learn while we could all share fish stories.
Participants listen in while Robin Doull explains and demonstrates some tricks to tying on  the big screen.
 There was a fair turnout for the first, of what we hope will be regular, fly tying event.  I am fortunate enough to know a few people who are more than capable of tying fishing flies and I brought in three guys to help lead the evening's conversations.  With some capable mentors and a number of eager participants, it wasn't long until hackles and hooks met.
A first time fly tyer tries his hand while getting some direction.
Since this was the first evening the intent was to start with something easy.  "Wooly Buggers" were the fly we started with and by the end of the evening there was lots of examples kicking around.  I can't attest to the quality or style of the flies but as someone who tied his first fly that night, I'm certain that those in my position probably felt some level of pride.  To take raw materials and create, what some would consider, a piece of art that looks like an actual bait fish, nymph, mosquito, or other bug, is very rewarding.

Even if you are not an angler, you would likely appreciate the art of fly tying.  The fishing flies can readily relate the creator's mood and personality.  If you want to tie a bright colorful fly, there is no lack of chenille, or feathers to choose from.  If you want it to be flashy, there are shimmering threads and wires to help with that.  If you're in a dark place, there are shades of blacks, blues and grays that can be tied together in combination with various dark threads or simply use one color.  This can be especially easy to do if you're not worried about whether or not a fish would take your bait.

Ahhh.  The fish, when you add the elusive trout or salmon to the mix, that is what separates the true artist from the hacks like me.  I tied a greenish "Wooly Bugger" pattern that I have caught trout with, in the past.  This fishing season I will now have a new challenge; to catch a trout using my own "Wooly Bugger".  This will likely test my fishing skills and patience greatly as I don't think my fly is nearly as presentable as the ones I've used in the past.  When you have to worry about how the fly will present itself in the water that is when fly tying becomes the art of imitating nature.

I learned a great deal through my first wander into fly tying and maybe the biggest thing to remember is that it is not all about the fish.  Patience, an eye for detail, observation skills, and creativity are also a huge part of angling.  You need patience while tying the flies as working on small hooks is not something that is best done quickly.  You need patience while trying to present that same fly over a school of trout while fighting those same flies that are biting you.  Observing the feeding habits of the fish you're pursuing is as important on the stream as making sure you don't prick your finger on that small hook you're tying the fly onto. 

If you think you might like to learn some of these life/angling skills check out the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's website or give them a call. 
A small fly pattern created by Chris McKnight.  Only his second fly. He tied his first earlier in the evening.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Midland Ice Caves

One of the best things about a long winter is that towards the end, the warmer days tend to be excellent for outdoor adventure.  Today our family took advantage of a warm day to get outside and play in the snow and on the ice.  The Midland Ice caves have been receiving a great deal of media attention lately and that led to my wife wanting to visit them for the first time.

We loaded the kids and the dog into the van and headed from Sussex Corner towards Norton and in 25minutes we were starting up the well beaten and hardened trail towards the ice caves.  The first part of the hike was all up hill and the kids needed to stop a couple of times before we made the forested portion of the trail.  There were a large number of people enjoying the weather and trail with us.  This is normal for this trail we guessed because there was a large snow packed trail the whole way to the caves.  There was no need for snow shoes and we even saw some kids wearing sneakers.

The kids loved playing in the cave and worked hard to get to the top section of the cave and slide back towards the bottom.  The large crowd was full of people who were visiting the cave for the first time and lots of joyful discussion was had.  This indicated to me that everyone was loving the day and location.

Here is my quick video of the short adventure.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Good Day Gone Awry

There are times when one moment of weakness can ruin an otherwise great day.  That happened to me the other day.  My wife and I took the kids for a snowshoe trek.  It was a beautiful day and the winter time temp was a glorious -7C and when the sun shone on your back you could readily feel it.  We were all laughing and having a good time.

Then it happened.

My plan was to have a nice little fire and snacks along with some hot chocolate.  I thought the kids would love to have hot chocolate made over a fire.  The idea had the kids excited and when I quickly got a fire going, it was looking promising.  The excitement translated to no patience and the kids started bickering with one another.  My fire fell deeper than I anticipated and my pot tilted, spilling some water.  What was once a promising start, quickly turned to a disaster in the making.  Now I was losing my patience too.

The kids decided they wanted to forgo the hot chocolate and instead have it at their grand parents.  They then decided it would be good to ignore their mother and me when I tried to back her up.  This set me off and I lost it.  I hollered at both the kids and insisted they stand in front of me while I verbally disciplined them.

What was a great day and relatively warm for winter, quickly turned to a cold day.  The rest of the hike out I felt as big the downey woodpecker I saw flitting through a stand of poplars.  I knew I had over reacted but I also didn't think I could apologize without undermining my own authority.  I pulled my toque down and weathered the storm.

By the time the hot chocolate was done I think all the hollering was forgotten.