A puzzle…That’s what is!

I remember a couple of decades ago; (I’m old enough, trust me.) There was a commercial on the radio that offered to teach you a foreign language. The trick they used was to take words you know, and spell it out alphabetically it produced a phonetic, ready-made phrase to help you pick up the new language in a short amount of time. Some of you may remember this, but if not, the phrase they used in the advertisement was; “S-O-C-K-S; which means- That’s what it is!” Makes sense, right?

I disagree… Here’s why. Over the course of the past couple of decades, I have been engaged- happily, in wedded bliss. No joke. I am the luckiest man in the world. Believe it. In this happy arrangement, I have had to relearn to perform some domestic chores. Of the options presented; laundry, seemed an easy choice. I thought this, because in my previous single world, the process was simple. Throw all of the dirty clothes into the washer with some detergent; transfer the same articles into the drying device, then stuff the completed product into the drawer spaces available. Simple right? Sure, sometimes things that were originally white changed…shades, if not out right colors. A cleaver marketing ploy, I thought.  The clothing people could have capitalized on idea big time.. “Do you find white t-shirts to be boring? Just wait, after ten washings it will change to pink.”

After completing my first load, I awaited my evaluation with a casual eagerness born from confidence in my simple, stream-lined, efficient procedure. I was, once again, wrong. The critique, however, seemed unfair, because of my simple, stream-lined efficient procedure, endless- running from improper folding creases in dress shirts,  to mixing towels and knit-sweaters, and worst of all, a lack of fondness for the color pink. I was secretly impressed that I achieved this after only one washing, a personal best.  S-O-C-K-S, That’s what it is!

In my former world, there were basically only two types of socks. Long black ones- for dressing up; and the long white ones for everything else. Back then separating the socks was a simple process. I even remember quoting the commercial as I folded my socks; proud of my bilingual skills after listening to the commercial only a hundred times. (I was confident that with only a few more “commercial” lessons, I would get the inflection right.) My new brides sock allotment, however, came with more colors than I believed possible. Why, I never knew that there were so many colors. I guess I can blame the small 16 crayon set for that.

When we were organizing our drawers, I snuck a quick peek, and was shocked!  There black ones, and white ones; I already knew what those were for. But there were also blue ones, and brown ones, and tan ones- with brown stitching… not to be confused with the tan ones with a slight indention running down the middle, back and sides; or the other pair that had a lighter shade of brown stitching, and whose pattern ran in a nearly identical direction… but not quite. Or the half-size white ones with the pink toe; not to be confused with the half-whites with the lighter shade of pink toe, that had a “box-ier” shape in the aforementioned toe area .

For the first several years it seemed that each pair of socks was custom-made, an art piece, perhaps. I began envisioning a Picasso like sock-maker whose subtle touch could only be done twice, once for each sock; never to be created again.

“Now this is my pair of Mona Lisa’s.” She would say. “They look almost like my Mona Gina’s, but not quite.” Masterpieces- no doubt. The sock-Picasso out did himself. However, even the most utilitarian sock could not avoid scrutiny “You fool, these two blue socks aren’t even the same shade of blue!” She would shriek at me lovingly.

“There are shades of blue?” I would foolishly ask. “I thought there was just blue.”

S-o-c-k-s: That’s what they are it is… A puzzle.

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#3 When it Rains… An Urban Grizzly Bait Shop Post

 

idiots in the rain“Hey, how’s the fishing, Don?” The Grizz boomed by way of greeting him.  Don came through a downpour so heavy it sounded as if they were inside a drum.

“The two best times to fish… Don began. Are when it’s raining, and when it ain’t.” He grinned, then continued. I heard that as a boy, and waited all these years to use it today.” He finished, reaching for his mug to pour a coffee.

“I bet.” The Grizz smiled back. Holding his mug toward Don, indicating that he wanted a refill.

“I limited out this morning near the cellar.” Don began, in response to The Grizz as he poured coffee into The Grizz’s mug.

“Ambushed ’em, huh?” The Grizz interrupted.

Don with his brows raised, nodded his agreement, then added. “Nearly swamped my boat doing it. That ol’ bilge pump was squirting a rooster tail like one of them jet ski’s ripping across the lake. He paused, giving a half laugh, before continuing. I was looking at the lake map and saw what looked like a draw; you know, like a small valley?” He asked, making sure The Grizz understood, but not waiting for a response. This draw works its way gradually to higher elevation where the water temperature raises slowly, instead of fast like at the drop offs the rest of the way around. I guess we could call it the stairway.” He finished more than a little smug at not only his joke, but also his ability to figure things out.

The Grizz had a brief thought. He told me that for a reason, I better offer up something in return. I can start by keeping his secret.

“Wow!  The Grizz began. That is as cleaver as it gets. I’ll keep that nugget under my hat.” The Grizz ended as Don nodded his appreciation.  The Grizz furrowed his brow, then asked. “Do you have those fish with you?” Don smiled and said, “Yeah, they’re in my cooler eagerly waiting their turn to jump in my batter before hitting the grease. Why do you ask?”

The Grizz told him about the billboard idea that Rocky had discussed with him a few days ago.

“Man!  Don began after hearing the plan. It’s a good thing you won all that money. Do you know how much those things cost?” He asked.

The Grizz screwed up his face as he thought about it for a moment. “A few thousand, maybe. $10,000 tops.” He answered.

“That will cover the monthly rent if you go that route. Try about $300,000 to own one. Don said.

“Seriously? The Grizz asked, more than a little shocked, which caused his little piggy eyes to bug out to their maximum, before he regaining his composure to ask a follow-up question. “How do you know this? I thought you were just a fish bum?” The Grizz asked with a teasing tone.

Don shrugged the questions off with a smile before giving an answer. “My brother is in advertising. I hear things at the family shin-digs…especially things that have big numbers attached to them. He said before asking. “Are you sure you want to go that route? I kinda thought this was just a hobby for you now that you are retired from teaching.”

The Grizz nodded his understanding. Then answered. “You never really “stop teaching” when you are a teacher. It’s kind of like saying if you stop fishing for the day, you are no longer a fisherman. I think that for both of them, you just have to wait for the next opportunity to get the job done.” He finished. Don thought about it for a moment, then answered. “That’s a bit deeper than my little brain can handle, but if you’re interested I can have my brother swing over and hook you up.” The Grizz nodded his understanding. Then said; “You go grab your cooler, and I’ll get my camera, and we’ll get some shots to put up on the new billboard I’m buying.”

As they were taking the pictures, the rain eased up to sprinkles, and Rocky pulled in to the lot, his late-model dirty Ford Explorer splashing through the new mud holes. The Grizz could hear talking as Rocky and some other folk approached the farm.

“Hey Dad, Rocky said by way of introduction. This is Jason’s’ dad, Todd.” The Grizz extended his hand in greeting. “Hello, nice to meet you, Todd. Hello Jason. He added, then directing his attention to the container Jason held in his hands. What have you got for us today, sir?” Jason extended the container to The Grizz and said happily; “Twenty worms, Mr. Grizz.”

“When the rain started, I could hardly keep up with him. Todd began, He said; ‘I got go get the worms for Mr. Grizz, like Rocky showed me. They come out easy in the rain.’ So we put on our rain gear, and went splashing around the driveway picking up worms as we went. Thank you, guys. I really appreciate you involving Jason in your project.” He said.

“We’re glad to have him on the team; Rocky said sincerely, he’s a really good worker. Can I get you a coffee?” He asked as he moved to fill a fresh coffee mug he pulled from the cabinet over the sink. The side of the mug said. “Urban Grizzly” and had a logo Rocky had made up on his hand-held game player and had presented him on father’s day many years ago. Gosh, I couldn’t have been much older than Jason! Were does the time go?

“Thank you.” Todd said, taking the mug and smiling at the logo. Then looking at the cooler of walleye, said “Whoa, someone got lucky!”

Don smiled, and said. “Luck was part of it for sure, then nodding at Jason’s container of worms. Lucky I got to use a couple of the worms that Jason brought in.” He winked and smiled at Jason who beamed shyly. “It made all the difference.” He finished.

“Wow! Todd said proudly. That’s awesome.”

“It’s true. Don continued. “That young man wrangles the best worms around.”

The Grizz reached into the cooler, and pulled out a red pop for Jason, and pulled a dollar from his pocket. “Here you go, sir. He said, offering them to Jason who suddenly remembered his part of the transaction was incomplete. “Oh, I have to put them in the box first, Mr. Grizz.” Jason grabbed his worm container walked around the other side of the big table were the guys did their work (gabbing) then he dumped the worms into the box Rocky had set up for him. Having completed his task, Jason was ready to accept payment for his duties. They all looked out the side window as the rain picked up. Jason got the cap off of his pop and took a swig, as his dad sipped his brew. “Yup, The Grizz said. When it rains, it pours.” Don grinned before asking. “Is that for the good or the bad?” The Grizz looked around him and smiled back at Don before saying. “I see no bad here.”kids fishing in the rain

 

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An Urban Grizzly Bait Shop Post- Red Pop.

live bait vending picThe Grizz pulled up to the farm later on in the morning, and saw the little boy who came the day before hanging outside the farm with a red pop in his hand. What was the boy’s name?

“Hey, buddy…” The Grizz asked. Whatcha drinking?”

“A red pop.” Jason answered.

Having heard his dad’s truck pull up, and hearing voices; Rocky popped his head out of the farm.

“Hey Dad, He started. This is Jason, or new worm wrangler.” He finished smiling down on Jason.

“He looks like a fine addition to the team.” The Grizz said proudly.

Rocky smiled down from the farm, and said. “When I talked to his mother yesterday, I suggested he swing by this weekend after it rains, and the worms come out of their holes. But Jason was eager to start working.”

Wrangling worms after a rain is a nifty trick that I am glad the kid still remembers. What a great son I have! “I can’t blame a man for wanting to get a job done. He complimented. How many did he round-up?” The Grizz asked curiously.

“A dozen!” Rocky answered.

“A dozen?!?! The Grizz answered in mock shock. It looks like we have a real worker here.” Sixty cents plus a red pop. Not bad. I remember my first official job working at a grape vineyard for two cents a pound. The pride I felt when I made myself a cold sloppy job sandwich for my lunch was incredible. Then when I got paid… I thought that working was the best thing ever! I wonder if Jason will have that feeling? When he looked at Jason’s beaming face he had his answer.

“Hey Dad, Rocky began as they watched Jason marching in circles to an unheard beat. I was thinking about advertising the business. I might have an idea using some technology ideas that could be useful. What do you think?” He asked.

“I like advertising. The Grizz began, then added. What are your thoughts?”

“Well, I like the idea of keeping the business part small and simple, Rocky began. but what if we loaded up on advertising, by letting the customer be part of it.”

“Interesting.” The Grizz said curiously, then added. How do we do that?”

“Well, you have the vending machine plaza that runs 24/7; Rocky began; building it slowly, knowing his father liked to be part of the thought process. What if you had a billboard, that not only said; “Urban Grizzly Bait Plaza”, but also had some customer pictures on it.”

“Interesting. The Grizz said again. It’s true that people like to see themselves, but to see themselves fishing. Pictures that they are proud of. That rascal is playing me again. What is his angle? Let’s see.   Aren’t those billboards expensive? Then you have to update them every few months, i don’t know…It could get expensive.” The Grizz finished, going in the opposite direction.

“They have those digital billboards now, Dad. Rocky began. “The ones where the pictures just scroll through the list. We could advertise a website were folks could send their pictures, then all we have to do is load them up, and let them scroll.” Rocky finished simply.

The Grizz furrowed his brow in thought. So the customer catches the fish, takes a picture of the fish, sends us the photo, all from bait that they purchased here? Well done, Rocky! But I better not leap on it yet. It’s best to warm slowly. “ I think you might have something there, Son. So how would you get the pictures on the board? He asked innocently.

“Well Dad, I think most of the cost would be up front…” After an enlightening discussion about how loading pictures onto a digital billboard from a website would all work, The Grizz complimented his son.

“Well done, Rocky! I think you are on to something big.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“When do you think you could get this done?” The Grizz asked.

” All said and done… Rocky paused, wrinkling his brow in thought. No more than a month installed, I suppose.” He answered.

“Get that going, and pass on the charges to me, please.” The Grizz said.

“Will do, Dad.” Rocky responded humbly.

“Hey, Son?” The Grizz called.

“Yeah, Dad?” Rocky answered.

“Get us both a red pop out of the cooler. The Grizz said in prideful thought. That was good work.”

Smiling as he moved toward the farm, Rocky responded. “You got it, Dad.”Red pop pic

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Mugs- An Urban Grizzly Bait Shop Post.

The Grizz sat inside the converted gas station…Actually, an old run down gas station located on about an acre patch of bare dirt with sparse weeds growing in odd clumps. a place they called the farm, to inventory the vending machine items, and with a bacon flavored pencil between his teeth was making a needs list to comparison shop with a supplier who was coming in later. The coffee pot was finishing up as his son, Rocky, came into the farm.

“Hey, Son.” The Grizz said, by way of greeting him.

“Hey, Pop.” Rocky replied, reaching for his mug. “Looks like I’m just in time; You ready for a brew?” He asked.

The wall mounts, hooks, and shelving that formerly displayed automotive items like quarts of oil, windshield washer fluid, and the like was still in place from when the farm was still a gas station/convenience store. Most likely, it had not changed from when it was first installed when the building went up more than a couple of decades ago. When The Grizz moved in, the first items to come in with him was the coffee pot, and a personalized heavy ceramic blue mug on the side of which was written “The Grizz”. He sat the pot next to the sink, and hung his mug on the hook nearest the pot within arms reach on the former automotive display. Other mugs would follow, and hang on the wall near his own, including his sons’.

“Sure, thank you. I need to bag these walleye rigs before the machine starts rejecting bills. There guys out there yet?” The Grizz asked.

“There’s a few, the morning rush is winding down a bit.” Rocky answered. The front door swung open and greetings were exchanged as Ed, and Don came in, both friends of The Grizz, and Rocky. They occasionally helped the father/son team with odd jobs to get things done, the way friends do. They were good guys who held similar interest, who tried to be helpful, and kept the conversation mostly fun.

Since his dad had won the powerball jackpot a few years ago, Rocky had become adept at determining whose relationship was sincere, or whose was based on his dad’s good fortune. Rocky had them pegged as a couple of the good guys.  They took their mugs from the wall and poured a cup.

“How’s the fishing this morning?” The Grizz asked nonchalantly, while his eyes read them with concern.

“Slow.” Don responded. Knowing that everyone was referring to the big walleye the lake is famous for.

Ed nodded his head in agreement, then added. “This hot weather has shut them down.”

The weather had been in the 90’s for over a week, and it had made fishing for lakes big walleye difficult.

“Anyone at the cellar?” Rocky asked, referring to one of the lakes deeper areas where cooler waters lay deep.

“There were a few out there, all telling the same story. Don said. They are hugging the bottom…”

“Sulking.” Ed said, ending the sentence.

“Well, the weather should break this weekend. The Grizz stated. Maybe a little rain will cheer them up, and make them hungry again.” Everyone nodded in understanding, and agreement.

“The bluegill are doing okay, if you get out there early enough.” Don threw in.

“The Grizz raised his eyebrows and nodded in confirmation. “I do like me some bluegill. Then added. How are you set for tickets?”

Ed read that right away, and took it to mean “Did you give those who volunteered information a voucher for free bait” The Grizz liked to reward those who provided good, solid information with a treat. And The Grizz often bragged that his bait was so good, that if you didn’t catch anything with it, you could take it home and eat it. Though he didn’t believe anyone ever did.

“I have a few left, I’ll probably need more for the weekend.” He replied.

“Me too.” Don threw in.

The sound of a diesel engine could be heard pulling into the lot, and it was shut down. Shortly afterward, the door to the farm opened and man in a supplier uniform walked in.

“Howdy,” he said while looking at his clipboard. “I’m looking for The Grizz.”

“Uh-oh!” Don said warningly. “He’s in uniform, I bet he has that warrant for your arrest.” He finished teasingly to the amusement of those gathered.

“Nope, sorry.” The supplier said. “Wrong uniform; I’m here to talk fishing supplies.”

The Grizz shook his hand, while laughing appreciatively. “Can I get you a coffee?” He asked.

“Sure.” the supplier said.

As The Grizz was pouring a coffee in a styrofoam cup; a boy from the neighborhood walked into the farm. The Grizz gave Rocky a look with a nod toward the boy that read; “You got this one.” and delivered the coffee cup to the supplier.

“Hey, what can I do for you, sir.” Rocky said to the boy who looked to be about six or seven.

“I want to work here.” The boy said simply.

“You do!” Rocky said. “Well it’s your lucky day, because we are looking to hire someone just like you.” He said with enthusiasm to the now smiling boy; drawing the attention of those in the farm.

“Do you know how to catch worms? He asked the boy. The boy shook his head no.

“Would you like to learn?” Rocky asked. The boy nodded enthusiastically.

Rocky grabbed a shovel as he walked out the door, with the little boy following describing where worms lived, and how to find them.

Ed, and Don finished up bagging the rigs while The Grizz conducted his business with the supplier; then rinsed out their mugs and hung them up on their hook, before heading out for the lake again.

A while later, Rocky had come back to the farm with his shovel, as his dad was organizing the inventory.

“How did the worm hunt go.” The Grizz asked warmly… remembering a conversation the two had just the other day about how they could get the neighborhood kids involved in the business by purchasing the worms that they find. They could have a box on the farm specifically for those worms, which would be donated to kids who want to go fishing. He hated taking money from the kids, and thought this was a way to give back to the community, but also mentor the children as well.

“Pretty good. Rocky started. I found his place around the block, and talked to his mother about his wanting to work for us. We had a pretty good laugh, until I told them I’d pay him a nickel per worm. Then she seemed grateful for the gesture. I have a box we can use right here.” Rocky said reaching for the box.

The Grizz smiled warmly at his son, and said. “Throw in a red pop every time as a bonus. and we will call it a deal.” He said proudly. Then added. “Can you closed up the farm when you are done for the day? He asked. I got to go to the other end of town to see about the other building. We might be able to lock up both sides of the only boat launch on this end of the lake.”

“Awesome!” Rocky replied. Then added. “Yeah, I will shut it down when I’m done. There isn’t much left to do, I should be done within the hour.” He finished.

“Then I’ll see you at dinner! The Grizz said. “Love ya, son.

“Love you too, Dad.” As the door closed behind him.

As he did a last sweep of the farm ensuring that everything was put away; Rocky looked up at the wall of mugs. At that moment he and realized that the only mugs that hung on the wall were those who were in their circle. Those worthy of a hook. Interesting.

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A Visit From the Past.

One of my uncles came to me in my dreams last night. I’ve reflected on it a couple of times today. It’s been a really good day. Uncle Pete has been dead for several years now. It’s been a long time, and I miss him.

He didn’t drop off any hot fishing tips, or anything. We were at his garage in town, working on a cub-cadet tractor. It seemed the fuel tank had been knocked out-of-place, and needed to be reattached. We engaged in some light banter during the work, while he smoked his cigarette, and cleaned his fingernails with his pocket knife. All typical Uncle Pete stuff.

I found it nice to be in his presence again. Nice isn’t the word. My vocabulary is too limited. His tone of voice was…comforting. It gives me hope. I am glad he came by for a visit.  Maybe next time we’ll go fishing again.

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Walking On Water.

Bluegill-cicles! Anna Hill Photo

Bluegill-cicles!
Anna Hill Photo

I would not call myself the scourge of the lake an infection maybe, by any means. But I sure put a small dent in the blue gill population last weekend. I was fortunate enough to have two solid days of fishing laid out in front of me after stuffing the other resposibilities in the over-stuffed closet, and since it was the middle of January, it meant ice fishing, and I would be walking slipping on the water.
Since, it was the first trip of the season I had forgotten how cold winter could be on the wind-swept ice, duh. Therefore, I only put on some of my warm, winter gear; grabbed most of my fishing gear, and took off for the ice looking for adventure, and fresh fish. All the while, leaving my portable fishing shanty in the warm, insulated garage… Right next to the portable heater.
Over the years, I have developed a technique…several techniques, of how to maximize my catch while on the ice. I will offer up only one two today. Not because I am hoarding the others, and don’t want to share; but instead, because the others don’t work. I have found that cursing yelling at the hole in frustration does nothing little to lure the fish out of the hole.
What I do is travel down the hill on a red sled to my favorite fishing area on the ice and drill a couple of holes, using my handy-dandy ice auger. Then I fish them, one after the other, quite thoroughly. When I say thoroughly, I mean for hours at a time I drop the lure with a wax worm bait to the bottom of the lake, and jig it about for 5-10 seconds, and let it rest for 10-20 seconds, while watching my blaze orange strike indicator. If there are no strikes indicated, I wind the handle of my fishing reel 1 turn, and continue the process again; watching the strike indicator closely for any movement. I use a strike indicator that is very sensitive, because while using an underwater camera a couple of season’s I observed many times; several species of panfish take the bait lightly in their mouth, is if trying to feel if they could detect a hook in the bait before taking it only to spit it out ungratfuly. The fish would do this very quickly. The strike indicator definitely increased the number of fish I took, however, because if there is even the slightest twitch I slowly lift the rod in a consistent, continuous motion, often times pulling the line hand over hand until the fish pops out of the ice with a shocked and bewildered expression. Many times when laying the fish on the ice the fish will simply flop off the hook on it’s own because it was never completely set in the first place, and after releasing the pressure on the rod then the hook would fall out of the fishes mouth.  Then you hear the fish cursing you.
Typically if the holes are producing I will hang out until it slows, sometimes to long. If I am staring at the indicator so long that it begins to look like a bright orange praying mantis about to tell me to go home and get my hat and gloves strike, then I know it is time to drill a few more holes nearby. At that point I set up a route like a postal worker checking mailboxes; spending a few minutes at each hole before moving on to the next, looking for that tasty school of fish. Then, when I find them, well… those are good times. It definitely makes the hours sitting on the ice freezing my digits off worth it.Gills and rod

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The Snow is HERE!!!

Bluegill-cicles! Anna Hill Photo

Bluegill-cicles!
Anna Hill Photo

Now is the time to dig out the ice fishing gear, get it all shined up and ready for action.  Ice fishing season is just around the corner!!!

Gills and rod  Am I the only one excited???

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One of My Life’s Personal Mysteries…

has just been solved. Since the middle eighties I have walked around, not all the time, but occasionally, wondering what in the world a “Polly-gag” was. You know what I am talking about. Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. For years, I thought there was a level of romantic love that was beyond my measly comprehension because I failed to decode what in the wide world of sports a polly-gag was; and WHY is it giving of sparks!!!

Well, technology has come to the rescue with the Shazam app on my wife cell phone, and I needn’t wonder anymore. It’s, “powder keg”, not polly-gag. I am such a dufus. If I could have those years back… I would put more time into figuring out the mystery of who Jane Weaver is, and how she could get me through the night.

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The King Fisher

While camping at a favorite vacation spot, I stealthily rowed the boat closer to a known Bass hang out. The boat; an ancient vessel, was about 14 feet long, constructed of iron and cinder blocks, painted green, and had several leaks. The boat had its’ own smell. I am reminded of the boat on those rainy mornings when the worms are flooded out of their houses. It is an intoxicating aroma, especially to fishermen who know that the smell means that fish may be biting. Because of this I renamed the boat, “Rainy Mornings”, It sounds poetic, but maintains the grimy, icky essence that is fishing.

Falling into steady rowing rhythm as the hinges creaked in the oar wells, I continually checked my progress, trying to paddle as direct a route as possible to the hotspot. Such was my focus that I nearly jumped out of my seat when a bird “buzzed” the boat squawking like an old man shooing the neighbor kids off his lawn. Annoyed by the interruption, I shook my head and continued to coax the bow gently closer to a patch of lily pads that marked the spot, and provided cover for a hungry monster bass that I knew lay in residence.

I imagined the bass lurking near the edge of the pads waiting to ambush anything that came along, whether it be a frog, worm or crayfish. From the rumors I heard during check in the morning before something with feathers or fur could easily find its way onto the monsters menu. Then suddenly, the bird again swooped down between the boat deck and the lily pads. I assumed he was screaming for me to get off his lake. I could feel the element of surprise leaking away as the bird shrieked by once more. His last sortie over the bow afforded me a chance to identify the bird as a “Kingfisher.”

When I worked the spot the night before, the strikes that the bass made felt like lightning hitting the fishing rod. However, each time the fish struck I over reacted, and would try to set the hook in a similar manner to pull starting a 10 horse lawn tractor. I would then breath deeply in my disappointment, and try to remember to let the bass take the worm for a bit longer before setting the hook. This seemed easy,  until the fishing rod launches from your hand like a rocket when the bass strikes again.

Thus defeated, I rowed the boat back to the dock to consider my options. Staring into the campfire, I reflected upon what I was doing wrong, and began to think about what I could do differently. I reasoned that a different method of fishing, and perhaps a smaller bait profile might sink the hook in the finned beast. It was then, that I remembered that brought my fly rod with an assortment of fresh tied woolly buggers.

The woolly bugger is a classic leech imitation that I found to be successful on the lake in the past. So, this morning, I made sure to load my fly rod, and woolly buggers into the boat before releasing the hook-shaped anchor and paddling to my destination. Letting the boat drift closer to the hot spot I carefully set the oars in place, and picked up the 5- weight, medium action, Greenstick fly rod. Knowing I only had one or two cast at the pads before the fish would discover that he was being hunted, I remained as quiet as possible as the kingfisher made a pass every couple of minutes, turning my attitude sour, with the knowledge that he was spoiling the hole.

“Nutty bird!” I grumbled to myself, as it made another howling pass. Judging the distance to be within my acceptable casting range, I let out about ten feet of line and began false casting toward the lily pads. After the third cast, I let the bugger fly and watched it drop with a plop just past the lily pad I was aiming for. I slowly pulled in line with my left hand, while holding the slack line against the rod with my right index finger. This enabled me to have a drag in place if a fish made a strike when I wasn’t expecting it. As the woolly bugger, with its undulating marabou tail, swam past the pad I marked events began to unfold. I could feel a couple of light taps on the line, before the fish made the decision to take the bait. When the line went taut, I set the hook into a nice 10 inch bass that came flying out of the water like all good bass do. He wasn’t the biggest fish in the lake, and certainly not the monster of legend, but he fought a strong fight all the way to the bow where I took his photo in the net before unhooking, and releasing him.

As I took the snapshot, the Kingfisher whizzed by adding his two-cents. I could only shrug and shake my head at the noise. Annoyed, but not deflated; I thought that a few more cast toward the lily pads might earn more rewards, so I fired a few false cast I let the line fly go.  I wish I had braced myself for what happened next. As the wooly bugger sped to its destination, the Kingfisher chose that moment to put an end to the intrusion of his lake, and swooped down on the woolly bugger, and snatched it up with his beak! The bird then used the aerobatics of a jet fighter as tension was put on the line causing his flight pattern to become somewhat erratic until the slack line was used up, thereby dropping the flopping, angry bird into the water. I had heard the mythical stories of catching a small fish and while retrieving, have a much bigger fish intercept it, thereby turning an ordinary fishing trip into a fantastic story. Assuming this is what I had stumbled into, I had made a mental note to take a picture of the angry, annoying bird in my net when I landed him. This was to be used as evidence to show my skeptical friends.

This was forgotten when the biggest bass I had ever seen flew out of the water with the Kingfisher in its mouth! I watched as the fish returned to the water, but could not help noticing the line that was still attached to the bird. I quickly grabbed the rod and braced my feet against the side of the boat as the line streaked off the water like a fast burning fuse. The rod immediately bent double, and as line disappeared off of the spool I tried to keep up with it. Feeling the big fish start to tow the boat out into deeper water, I realized I had two options; lose the line, or lose the rod; because by now it was clear to me that the fish was running the show.  I held on excitedly, taking note that this would probably be the biggest fish I would ever be connected to, and waited for the line to run out, which it eventually did, emitting a slight “pop”.

As the boat gently bobbed about over the small ripple of waves which were produced by the light spring winds, I replayed the events over in my mind, and decided to paddle over to where the Kingfisher hit the water. It was easy to find, because there were feathers floating all over the surface. I netted as many as I could find, and as I pulled in the last few I spoke aloud, “Who’s the Kingfisher now? You nutty bird.”

Walking back up to the camp site upon returning to the dock, a fisherman asked how the fishing was.  I pointed to the anchor with my handful of feathers, and with a  smile on my face said. “I need to make a bigger fly!”

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The Evolution of “The Trip”

The short version of the story is that I rode the “Tail of the Dragon”, and it was AWE-SOME!!!!!!!

And I have the pictures to prove it.

Urbangrizzly making his first pass on the "Tail of the Dragon."

Urbangrizzly making his first pass on the “Tail of the Dragon.”

Someone asked me once;

“How has the yearly fishing trip my father-in-law, and I take evolved over time?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  What began as a shared adventure with my family, and in-laws to Yellowstone National Park morphed into a Montana fly-fishing trip with my father-in-law for several years after.

Then, during one of these fly-fishing trips, while driving on the twisty, mountain roads from one fishing location to another, my father-in-law; A.K.A. Trout-Master Jim, and I discussed the benefits of replacing the van with motorcycles on the next years trip.  The next year we did just that. And it was exciting!  

We rode from Michigan to Montana along U.S. 2, then dropped south through Billings, Montana.  From there, we rode the Bear-Tooth Pass, The Chief Joseph Highway, and 14A in Wyoming. Along the way, we fished many famous trout-streams. We were right, it was fun, and exciting! In fact, it was so much fun that when planning this years trip to the Smoky Mountains, and the infamous “Tail of the Dragon” we decided to leave the fishing gear at home.

It was a difficult, but good choice. We spent lots of time on the motorcycles, riding the “Tail”-  4 times, the “Cherohala Skyway”, and discovering lots of Americana along the way. We rode along the Cheoah River on the “Hellbender 28” in the rain. The fog that developed when the cool rain met the rivers warm surface was so thick that it was easy to imagine a dragon living beneath the rivers cloud-covered surface.

The folks we encountered around the “Dragon” were awesome. Everybody was in great spirits…not like that. More like enthusiastic, happy to be there. Like the feeling of being 10 years old again, and riding a newly discovered path on your pedal bike- imagining what it would all be like when you’re older; rolling your big bike through the sweet turn of one of the Dragon’s many switchbacks, and discovering that your childhood hopes matched the reality of the present.

Dragon pass #2 with Jim

The second pass with Dragon-Master Jim. The rain on the road really held our attention.

So how has,”The Trip”, changed? Most recently; since riding his vintage 1980’s, V65 Magna through the Dragon’s curves; Trout-Master Jim has become Dragon-Master Jim. And apparently, we don’t take fishing equipment on fishing trips anymore.  But the one thing that hasn’t changed, is the adventure we seek.

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Fishing the Arctic Vortex.

In the hours leading up to the Arctic Vortex that locked up the Mid-west for several days, I found myself on the lake catching a bunch of bluegill.

Coincidence?

probably.

Image

Nevertheless, here are some tips for the next time an Arctic Vortex is in the forecast, and maybe you can find yourself limiting out in bluegill two hours time.

Tip #1. Drill lots of holes in the areas you plan to fish before you begin fishing.  This allows you to fish the holes in a circuit.  Bluegill move around in schools seeking food, and shelter from predator fish.  If one hole does not produce fish, then move on to the next hole.  It may produce later on.

Tip #2. Use a counting system.  If you are not receiving a nibble within the first minute or two, it may be a sign that you are not fishing  at the fishes comfortable level.  Wind your reel up one turn, and count again.  Repeat until you find fish, or your bait is out of water.  The counting is a method designed to help you keep track of how long you have been sitting at a hole.  Outside the sport of ice fishing, counting is rarely used.  In fact, you can use this as a tip for the children you take out to the lake; and who may ask the question, “Why do we need to count anyway?”  Now you can tell them.

Tip #3.  Once you find the level where the fish are biting, then don’t use the reel when retrieving the fish.  Pull the line up hand-over-hand, remove the fish, check the bait, and drop the line back down the hole.  The bait will rest where the fish are.  Hopefully you will catch more.

Tip #4.  Use a bucket to sit on when fishing instead of a comfortable camping chair.  The reasons are simple.  You will have a better posture from which you can better set the hook.  Also, the bucket is faster to prepare for travel when you want to move to a fresh hole.  Finally, you will acquire the desirable look of a gritty ice fisher who has braced himself against the harsh wind, which is always in fashion.

Tip #5.  Leave the shanties in the garage.  As a man-cave, the shanty makes perfect sense, but If you are moving around and fishing different holes, then speed is of the essence.  If the shanty is a station on your fishing circuit furnished with a heater, then you are an awesome planner, worthy of respect, and highly sought after as a fishing partner.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find fishing success the next time an Arctic Vortex is in the weather forecast.

Tight lines-

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Ice Fishing Lessons Learned

Bluegill-cicles! Anna Hill Photo

Bluegill-cicles!
Anna Hill Photo

A couple of years ago my dear, sweet, lovely wife bought me some ice fishing jigs from the website, Bentleyfishing.com, which held a lot of promise.  Except, of course, for the promise of good ice.  Nevertheless, whenever an opportunity came to be at the lake, the ice was too thin to venture out on.

As Christmas break 2013 approached and the temperatures dropped, hopes began to rise for a chance to sneak in some ice fishing.  In preparation, I had purchased some wax worms and a new Nils auger from the local candy store, known as Cabela’s.  My goal with the auger was to attach it to my 18 volt drill and spin holes in the ice as fast as a NASCAR tire changer.  When I expressed those thoughts to my father-in-law, he suggested we make a bit that would join the drill and auger together.  My father-in-law, Trout-Master Jim, does MacGyver work on the side; when he is not trout-mastering, of course.

T.M.J. led me to the garage where all manner of presses, Bridgeport milling machines, hammers, and other vices hung about waiting for the skilled operator to put them to good use.  Watching the master metal worker operate his machines was very fascinating.  He took chunks of metal and whittled them down into the form he wanted, slapped them on the auger and sent me on my way.  I make it sound easy, but I wouldn’t be able to recreate what Trout-Master Jim did if I had two life times.

Returning to the lake I began punching holes into the ice as quickly as I could.  I then rigged two ice fishing rods with Bentley Jigs; one pure white jig with a Swarovski crystal, and the other a three-hooked beast called the Tarantula.  The first thing I learned about the tarantula was that the hooks were very sharp.  In fact, while baiting the Tarantula I quickly found myself engaged in an intense game of Cat’s Cradle.  I was winning the game until I began baiting the second hook.  As I baited it up, my other fingers worked to keep the two remaining hooks from tangling with the hook I was working on, until I felt the sting of the final hook as it sank so deeply into my finger that I feared pulling out bone, gristle, and other assorted innards when I removed it.  I quickly learned that a steady hand is needed to bait these hooks.

Every outing during the 2013 Christmas Break produced fish, some with the white jig, and many more with the Tarantula.  There was one outing in particular in which I caught my legal limit of Bluegill’s in 2 hours.  There were times when I was catching 3+ fish per minute.Gills and rod

When the fishing is easy like this, you can fool yourself into believing that you have more to do with catching fish than dropping a line down a hole.  This can have lasting, and sometimes irreversible effects on an angler.  Symptoms include an inflated ego, a swelled head, and lack of desire to attend family functions, because the angler claims to have found the “secret to catching fish.”  That is until the next time the angler goes out fishing and gets skunked.  Then like a shot of penicillin, the inflated head, and swelled ego go away.  Perhaps the ultimate lesson to learn after a great day of fishing is to immediately retire from the sport and write a How-to-book.

– The End

Limited Out at 25. Shannon Hill Photo

Limited Out at 25.
Shannon Hill Photo

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“But, Did You Catch Anything?” In response to a readers question.

IceFishing 1-20-12

IceFishing 1-20-12 (Photo credit: DenSmith (old – dennisbsa))

I don’t remember if it was Patrick F. McManus, or John Gustafson from “Grumpy, Old Men” who said, “When you are not catching fish, your stories tend to revolve around the scenery, and what a beautiful day it was. But when the fish ARE biting… Well, then, it’s all about the fight.” Perhaps it was neither who said it, maybe it came from my own pool of wisdom… It was probably Pat, or John.  But in reference to your question. I drilled about 8-10 holes in the lake that day- after 2 holes with an 8-inch auger with dull blades, and 6-inches of ice on the lake surface, I would lay on the ice and do my, “fish out of water routine”, until I had sufficient oxygen levels to continue.  After the first two holes, I fished each hole for 20 minutes a piece, catching 2-3 fish within the first 15 minutes. I did this until boredom set in, and decided that new holes needed to be drilled, and remembered that the best fishing occurred within the first two minutes of dropping the bait down the hole.This is based on observations in which I would watch what the little rascals were doing underwater with a video camera. When the bait dropped, they would swim madly from out of nowhere like an outfielder chasing a pop-fly.So, like I said, I would drill 2 holes. Lay on the ice sucking air like a fish out of water, repeat, until I had 8-10 holes. I say 8-10, because delirium MUST have set in causing me to drill several more holes I had forgotten about. Then, I would drop the baited hooks down the hole.  Once the bait was dropped I would give a 2 minute count, then move to the next hole if I did not get a strike. I am sure the professionals on Poland’s Professional Ice Fishing Team have a shorter name for this technique, but I called it “maddness I could not escape.” I caught about a dozen pan fish that day, and released some of the smaller ones. (Those worth less than a bite.) But… the sky was clear, crisp, and bright. Children were playing on the ice, and somewhere a happy dog barked, as leaf-less trees swayed gently in the breeze.  It was a beautiful day!
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…The Tastiest of Baits.

Isborr

Isborr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Challenges are lurking behind every endeavor, even for the person trying to get some ice-fishing time in.  Now days, just getting the frigid temperatures necessary to freeze the lake surface seems impossible.  Then coordinating the freeze with time off work seems a logistical nightmare. I remember when Old-Man Winter would freeze the ice in November, and it would stay that way until March.  That was before the Global Warming came along.  Now, it seems we can’t get good ice.

 

Global warming ubx

Global warming ubx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The last time we had a good freeze was a couple of years ago.  Since then, there was no ice hockey, the local ice fishing contest was cancelled,  there wasn’t even enough snow to host a snowball fight.   It was too warm!  It was very frustrating because at the end of the last good ice fishing season my dear, sweet, lovely wife had bought me a gift in the form of ice fishing jigs.  Fancy ones, with the sparkly crystals embedded near the hook.  The flashing crystal is meant to drive those curious panfish to madness with wonder, and hunger. Enough so, hopefully, to compel them take the bait.  There was this one jig in the bunch called the, Tarantula, that had hooks ALL over the place.  Scary looking!  It makes you think it will just reach out and snatch a fish for even swimming near it.  Heck!  Just trying to bait the thing up looked like an exercise in self-mutilation. I couldn’t wait to try it out.  It didn’t happen, however, because the global warming swooped in and took the ice away for the season.

 

Recently, the weatherman rolled his weather-dice, and made big predictions for snow, cold and the first promise of “fishable ice” this season.

 

“You have to hurry,”  He said.   “Because next week the temperatures would shoot back up to 50 degrees and the ice would go away.”

 

The weatherman began sounding like one of those commercials where they are selling their stuff at low, low prices.  It was annoying.  Regardless, I couldn’t wait to get to the lake!  It seemed that the work day would never end, but when it did I was on my way to my favorite fishing spot.

 

Heading out on the road I had reminded myself that with cold, and snow comes slippery roads, and before I knew it, what looked like a promising head start on the highway soon degraded to a crawl.  You can only imagine my disappointment as the vehicles in front of me ground to a halt, and the neighboring lanes of traffic began stacking up like blocks on a Tetris board, whittling away the head start down to a late night arrival.

 

Tetris

Tetris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Now when the weatherman says “fishable ice” I can only assume that he means that the water will be hard.  I have never fished with him, so I don’t know how he comes to a determination. But when I say, “fishable ice”, I mean that it has to successfully pass a series of test I have created to ensure the joy and safety of the fishing experience.  It goes something like this… Sometime in November, the lake freezes and I chuck rocks at it to see if I can smash holes in the surface.  After that is done, I step out on its surface a foot or two off of shore to see if the ice will hold me.   After that is done, I go inside to dry off and change into fresh clothes because I have broken through what is termed, “Thin Ice”.  After that is done, I sip coffee, while standing guard by the picture window; watching the lake, waiting for the neighbors to congregate on the lakes surface.  When they do, then I know its safe to go ice fishing.

 

Ice Fishing in Katonah NY

Ice Fishing in Katonah NY (Photo credit: sonjalovas)

 

During a recent neighborhood gathering I overheard a conversation in which one neighbor admitted to another that watching me break through the “thin ice” is part of their test before letting their children on the ice.

 

Ice Skating, The Pond at Bryant Park, NYC

Ice Skating, The Pond at Bryant Park, NYC (Photo credit: Holly Ford Brown)

 

My family enjoys the fish I occasionally bring in.  And because of this I try to justify my ice fishing urges to my hardcore, fly-fishing buddies by saying that the “nymphs” I use are very authentic, fight down to the taste.  They only shake their heads in sadness, and disgust as they deliberate whether or not they should revoke my seat at fly-fishermen’s table at the local coffee shop.

 

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop (Photo credit: dailylifeofmojo)

 

While it is true that big risk often produces big rewards, so too can they produce big disasters.  Human nature has proven that temptation will compel us to go for the bait almost every time.  Maybe it is not just the bait itself we are after, but instead, the challenge of getting the bait without getting caught. Perhaps challenge truly is, the tastiest of baits.

 

worms

worms (Photo credit: Wahj)

 

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A Christmas Surprise!

During the 2012 Christmas break I received an unexpected, and very exciting surprise gift from my college-aged nephew, Matthew.  It all happened the second day of the family gathering.  You know the one.  The one where your mother-in-law works her fingers to the bone cooking restaurant grade feasts; with snacks on every table, and drinks cooling outside the sliding glass door in “nature’s refrigerator.”  There were also babies to hug and hold, laughter to be shared, good memories to reflect on, and secrets to revealed.  And this year the secrets were about ME!!!  So, to make a long story short…

About a year ago, I had thought that creating a T-shirt logo with “Urban Grizzly Gear” would be fun to make, and had promptly done so.  I then, equally as promptly, added a link to my blog site, thinking I may let it sit there for a little while before posting any advertising.  Once again, I promptly forgot about it.  That is, until I saw Matthew standing in the doorway wearing one of my first, “Cafe-Press”, designs with a big grin on his face.  He got me!  And now the secret was officially out.

Beware the bear!

The first “Urban Grizzly” T-shirt sale.

While it is true that Matthew’s purchase was the first.  Don’t be the last to get your “Urban Grizzly Fishing Gear”  I have sizes from the smallest cub, to the adult sized bears to suit your Grizzly needs.  I have shirts for your canine pets, clocks, I even have bumper-stickers and gift boxes, too.

Now, I must say, that after the initial shock; I couldn’t help but notice that the emblem on Matthew’s t-shirt was pleasing to the eye, and the t-shirt seemed durable enough to withstand the rigors of an Urban Grizzly, college student.

Thank you, Matthew, for your support.

Let your bear roam free!

Shannon- The Urban Grizzly

 

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