Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Return to Hoth

With the alarm set at 2:50am, I awoke and prepared myself before driving to Chul's place.  After unloading my gear into his truck, we headed north toward snowbow country.  Having only 2 hours of sleep I was in zombie mode but was filled with anticipation.  Fearing the weather might have closed down the 395 we had postponed the trip one day.  Those fears were unwarranted as local guiding service reported an epic day on the water so we decided to head up.
After the disappointing breakfast at Jack's, I made it a point to ask some of my fellow fly fishermen on breakfast recommendations around town.  Most pointed me to the Village Cafe so we tried it.  As with the last time we were to forego a proper lunch on the water and so we ordered a heavy meal.  I would try the chicken fired steak and Chul order the pork chop special.  The meal was much better than our previous trip.  With bellies full, we rigged up at the parking lot thinking it would be too cold at the parking lot on the water.
Within half an hour or so we were trekking in the snow.  The snow was crunchy and packed but we would still fall in a foot or so deep in some areas despite the aid of our snowshoes.  It was not long before I hooked up on my first fish but came unglued.  And then another after moving up a few yards.  That too came unglued.  Originally I thought these fish were 12 inch class fish as they look smaller in the water but after looking at some of the fish we caught later in the day I believe these two were most likely in the 14 inch range plus or minus an inch. 
Chul was the first to land a fish.  A solid fish.  It could have been a disaster.  As I came up to it with the net from behind, the fish surged past me to the right.  The leader now scraping me right shoulder.  Normally moving out of the way is not a problem but while wading in moderate speed high shin deep water with a soft soil all the while in snowshoes, mobility is not that easy.  No worries though as the fish was landed shortly thereafter.
I would lose another fish before finally hooking up on mine.  I did not lose any fish from break offs each one simply spit out the hook.  We would fish a few holes further upstream, the glory hole and the last whole we fished last time (where we took three fish).  No fish were taken this time though.  I believe these holes were thoroughly worked over by the group of four that were ahead of us.  With that we quit for the day and headed back to our truck.
We had originally planned headed home after dinner but after some serious consideration and knowing a new storm was on the way by week's end, it did not take long for us to come to the conclusion we should spend the night and fish the next day.  Having only packed for a day trip, we headed to the store to stock up on some supplies before making it to a motel.
As tired as I was, snowshoeing all day with little to no sleep, I had a hard time sleeping.  Or should I say staying asleep.  I awoke around 2:20am to use the head and couldn't go back to sleep.  Chul awoke a couple hours later.  This is same time he normally awakens for work.  After hours of waiting for some place to open for breakfast we headed out.  The original plan was hit up Mahogany Meats for a breakfast burrito (another recommendation ) but they did not open until 7:00 so we headed across the street back to Village Cafe.  They too did not open until the same time.  We had 40 minutes to kill so we headed to Schat's for some bread and pastries.  We ordered something to hold us over and waited for the restaurants to open for a proper breakfast.  As with the day before we needed a proper meal to sustain us throughout the day and a chocolate croissant would not be sufficient to carry us until dinner.  At 7 we headed to Mahogany's but they were still not open.  Not wanting to wait any longer we headed to Village.  This time I would try the pork chile verde, something I was debating the day before.  It was quite good better than the chicken fried steak.
We did not suit up at the restaurant as we did the day prior as it was warmer than we had anticipated.  Yesterday The sun made it quite warm we actually were shedding layers.  Despite being warm we could still see our breath throughout the day.  It was supposed to be cloudy this day so the thought was it would be colder and feel more like Hoth.  With that in mind we packed extra layers in a waterproof Patagonia bag I borrowed from my buddy Joel the day prior to this trip.  Got a parking ticket in the process.  I hate beach cities.  
The day was colder than the last but the fishing hot.  I would end up coming unglued on four more fish, one small (12-13 inches) and the others legit.  One of which was in the 20 plus class who gave me a nice couple runs and a jump.  I know how I lost that one.  I was being foolish for some reason.  Maybe lack of sleep or just being to impatient or just frustrated from losing all the others.  I discussed via text my plight with Luc and he made some suggestions on fighting these fish.  Always good to hear what he has to say so I'll remember those words for the next time.
I did manage one for the day to hand quite early but it was a dink for this water.  The fish was a Lower O sized fish.  Nothing to get excited about here.  Chul did quite well and managed his share.  The fish were smaller this day than the last but all pretty.  We left earlier this time as we needed to get back home at a reasonable hour.  After coming unglued on three at one hole I knew it was not my day and time to head back.  We picked up sandwiches at Mahogany's and headed for the long trip home.  On the way home we got stuck behind a wide-load convoy after Kramer Junction.  I checked for alternative route to bypass it.  I found one through Silver Lakes.  This had to be the least direct route to get to the 15.  Who the hell designed this place?  After navigating through we made it on the freeway.  I joked we made it on the freeway and we'll still going to get stuck behind that convoy.  Sure enough when we reached the 395 the convoy was ahead of us.  Luckily the CHP allowed cars to pass it this time since the freeway has multiple lane.  Lost seven most in the 17 plus range.  Not a bad trip all in all if only I didn't muck it up.  Will be back.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snowmobiles, Snowshoes, Showbows. Fishing on Planet Hoth.

Had my alarm set for 1:40am to make sure I made it to Chul's house by 2:30am.  Arriving on time we made our way up north to the eastside in another attempt at snowbows.  After a disappointing breakfast in Bishop,  we drove up to meet our guide, "Two Bug" Doug Dolan at 9:30 on the water.  Having arrived before us we received a text from him stating it was -20 degrees at the entrance.
As we drove up the truck registered at its coldest -11 degrees.  By the time we made our way to the water it was 0 degrees.  We were told snow was 4-5 feet deep which meant snowshoes were required at a minimum and snowmobiles for access for the upper stretches.
After a quick tutorial on driving the snowmobiles, we set off to the river. 
Our first hole we noticed ice floating downstream which was not a good sign.  This was precisely what we feared prior to coming here.  With temps near 0 degrees, we noticed our flyline becoming impossible to cast.  The cause?  Our entire leader and fly line froze solid.  It was so cold even putting the lines back in the water and shaking it did nothing to deice the setup.  Our guide, was biting the ice off the rig.  He said that was a first.
As you can see from the picture above we gave up on biting all the ice and with mini icebergs coming our way we moved downstream where geothermal water was entering the river.    We would melt the ice off the rig with the warmer water further down.
With the sun now stronger and the air warming, it was not long before I managed my first fish of the day.  It was still "cold" (it was cold all day) so the fish was somewhat lethargic, luckily as the guides on the flyrod froze solid.  So now I had no line coming in or out of the rod.  I managed to pull the fish into Doug's net though bamboo cane style.  Had this girl made any serious runs I certainly would have lost her.
Hours past and Doug worked hard for us and we were trying desperately to get Chul his fish.  He was not without his chances.  At one run he lost two.  One from over aggressively setting his hook Bassmasters style and another by breaking the leader by yanking of a beast's mouth when it jumped.  The second could have easily been a 7 or more pounder. On the first the indicator was floating around with the fish still attached.  Doug rerigged with a heavy weight and heavy beadhead nymph then proceeded to cast to the indicator to wrap the fly around the bobber.  Once we pulled it in though the fish had already broke lose.
Time past without another hook up until on our last hole of the day, Chul finally landed his first snowbow of the day.  Then Doug had me give this run a few casts and within no time I was on my second hen of the day, the biggest landed (Chul's lost fish was the biggest seen and hooked) among the two of us.  Doug estimated it in the 4-5 pound range.  Chul was up again and in no time he was on.  After a brief fight he broke the leader at he connection point.  Like before we could see the indicator floating around moving as the fish cruised deep up and down in the pool.  Again Doug rerigged and casted to the bobber but this time the fish remained hooked.  Chul now had a second chance at this guy.  Turned out to be another male nicely purplish colored.  Doug estimated it to be in the 4ish range.
We were really please with our guide Doug.  He was knowledgeable, patient, friendly and generous.  We booked a half day on the water.  When Chul asked him later in the day, knowing our time was nearly up, "What time is our trip over?" Doug simply responded "When we fish all these upcoming holes."  The hours he added equated nearly to a full day trip despite us paying only half day rates.  We also didn't take a lunch so he very worked hard for us.  I know he really wanted to get Chul on a fish.  Even at the last hole when Chul finally landed one, we continued fishing and told me I'm up now.  After I managed a fish he had Chul go again.  I for sure thought he was going to end the day after I landed mine. We definitely appreciated his effort and tipped him such.
When the day was through I removed my waders at the truck.  I didn't want to wait til we made it down the mountain as my toes were freezing all day.  I had layered up perfectly for the most part with the exception of my fingers (I left my full finger gloves in my truck when I arrived at Chul's) and my toes.  Strange I thought as I was wearing expedition weight socks.  I asked and none of the others had cold toes but me through the day.  I thought to myself maybe perhaps I was mistaken I didn't put on expedition weight socks.  Once I removed my waders, I noticed why.  My left sock was soaking wet.  I had a leak in my waders.  Luckily with this cold I didn't get frostbite.  I dried my foot and changed socks and jumped in the truck placed my foot in front of the vents and tried to warm my toes with the hot air.  Looks like I'm in need of new Simms, looks like these bad boys are toast.  He's served me over a decade and a half of hard use.  I certainly got my money's worth. I learned next time in conditions like these, I better check for leaks prior to the trip.  Also not to forget my full finger gloves for when not fishing.  Fortunately as any good guide, Doug brought spares. In addition, as recommended by famed guide Kelly Galloup, I'll also bring a small towel for drying hands after touching fish or getting your hands wet.  I won't make those mistakes again.  After dinner in Bishop we decided to forgo staying the night only to leave the next morning.  So we suicide ran it back home for the 6 hour drive.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Went Out. No Luck.

Finally we were able to make it out afield this season for some quail and duck hunting.  It proved fruitless though.  The first day I decided to check out an old quail spot that I've left alone for years due to the drought.  The area has completely changed, brush is now sparse and looks more gambels terrain than valley quail.  There were a number of jackrabbits which makes sense.
We gave up on the quail and started our way north.  With only a few hours of light, we checked some new areas.  We did find raft of mixed ducks in a pond but we were running out of light to make a stalk.  In the same area we did find at least five cow elk grazing which was nice to see.
The next day we were hard pressed to find any waterfowl.  After hours of searching we did find a trio of ringnecks.  I put a stalk on them and managed a shot after they took flight.  The shot managed to drop one to the water.  As it struggled swimming I decided to place an insurance shot at him before I sent the dog after him.  Once the spread hit though all the sudden he decided to muster all his strength and amazingly took flight.  Once I reloaded he was far out of range.  I eyed him as long as I could hoping he'd realize he should be dead but managed to fly out of sight miles away.  Seemed to epitomized the whole trip but it wasn't complete bust though as I was able to see my friend Dave before he moves away for retirement.  He was also kind enough to give me quite a bit of venison meat he managed this season.  So at least I came home with some quality game meat.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Spanish Style Chorizo-Potato Stew with Dove

Spanish Chorizo sliced half inch thick
Potato, cubed
Lentils (optional)
Smoked Paprika
Green Chili, deseeded and cubed
Garlic, chopped
Onion, chopped
Chard, chopped
Bay Leaf
Flat Leaf Parsely, chopped
Chicken Stock
Olive Oil

Debone the breast of dove.  In hot stock pan brown dove in olive oil (don't cook through) and set aside for later.  Lower heat and add chopped onion until translucent then add chorizo.  Once sausage is browned add garlic, chili, bay leaf and thyme after one minute add potatoes, lentils and paprika.  Add stock, cover and simmer until potato and lentils have soften.  Add chard until wilted and place dove into the stew to finish cooking.  Taste and season accordingly.  Ladle stew in a bowl placing the doves atop, sprinkle flat leaf parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Giving MVL A Go

Tuesday was the trout opener at Mission Viejo Lake which was postponed several months due to golden algae bloom.  The day was a perfect day for tout fishing, cool and overcast.  I recently picked up a new full sink line on his recommendation after fishing with Luc at Canyon Lake and wanted to try it out.  I figured most of these trout would still be acclimatizing to the new water and would be in shallows so I brought my 5 weight and a slower sinking line.  I'm glad I did as all the fish were in less than a few feet of water.
It took us a while but we found the pods.  They were still finicky and I only managed one trout two and a half pound 15 inch trout and a five pound catfish.  Unfortunately my fishing buddy came home with the skunk.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Consolation Prize

Took the old man down south in the hopes finding some roosters.   While we found none I did meet a new hunting buddy while checking out a field.  We ended up hunting together for the morning and managed to flush one hen pheasant.  It was a pleasure hunting with him and he's an excellent source of local information.  He's been hunting these fields for over thirty years so I'm glad I ran into him. 

The field we hunted was a half plowed barley or rye (I'm guessing).  It was pretty thick and tall.  Good cover for these birds.  Unfortunately no roosters were present at this time.  Afterwards Chuck, our new hunting companion, called it quits.  So we tried a couple alfalfa fields but with no success.  Kaiser did get birdy and managed a point but no bird was kicked up.  Might have refused to be steady and ran on him or could have been old scent.  We'll never know.

After giving up on roosters we turned our attention to doves.  In the process we managed to flush a covey of gambels while driving around.  We were unable to pursue them though as they flushed into thick cover.  Although the abundance of track was a good sign for the season and I may have to concentrate on quail for the rest of this year.  We did manage to find a decent number of doves and took home four before calling it a trip.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fall Bass Fishing At Canyon Lake Using Sinking Lines Deep

I received a rather late text on Saturday from my buddy Luc asking me if I wanted to fish Sunday.  Popper fishing is over and the morning would be fishing full sinking lines deep in up to 35 feet of water.  I missed my opportunity this summer to fish the topwater as the day Luc called me I already had a trout trip planned.
I finally got the call back.  Unlike summer fishing, we could fish later in the morning and I did not need to be at Luc's until 6am.  Fishing was fair and we both managed a handful of bass.  We missed a fair amount and had several pop the hook out.  This was due to the fact that with a fast full sinking line and several tens of feet of line out in the water, keeping the line taut is not easy.  Luc did manage a 4.5 pound catfish towards the end of the morning before we called it quits around 10am.  All in all not fantastic day but not a terrible day either.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Additions to the Film Library

I wrote about Rainer Joesch some time ago when he made his first movie about hunting Cape Buffalo in the mountains of Tanzania (that post can be found here).  Since then he has made three more movies regarding the subject of buffalo hunting.  They have been out for some time but I finally picked up a two of the three.  I would have purchased part two but the retailer did not have it in stock.  I also picked up an Ivan Carter film as well, Sunset in Botwana.
I've watched the two Rainer Joesch films so far and they like his previous film are amazing.  Most hunting films are, I'll admit, pretty lame.  Joesch's film are not.  They are filmed documentary style and the focus is not the kill shot, like in most films, but rather the whole hunting experience. When I have the time I'll do a full review of each film.  Stay tuned.  Check out the trailer for Part One:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X v. Pro Ears Pro 300

Recently I've upgraded my previous ear protection from a Pro Ears Pro 300 to a MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X.  Sordins can be seen on the heads of special operation operators around the world, hunters, competition shooters and other industry professionals who need to protect their hearing.
Unlike the Pro Ears, the MSA Sordin is completely weatherproof which is one of the main reasons for the upgrade.  I can wear these anytime in any weather environment whether at a training session, USPSA match, in the duck blind and not worry about the electronics being damaged.
For added comfort I've upgraded to gel earmuff seals.  I've worn these several times now each time through three rounds of skeet.  Though I'd admit those session were somewhat brief only about 1.5 hours with the muffs on my ears but I never noticed them or experienced any discomfort.  I've not had the opportunity to wear these any longer than that since I've not shot any USPSA matches, nor have taken any firearms course which require all morning or in the later case all day wearing of ear pros in sometime now.  I guess I'll have to really put them to the test in the duck blind this season.
In contrast I have worn my Ear Pros all morning, most recently on my last dove hunt and all day while taking a training course.  They are comfortable but you do notice them after a few hours.  The muffs are foam padded and leather lined.  The leather tends to get hot and sweaty after some time.  The battery compartments are easily accessible by simply flipping down the foam flap within the muff.  Each ear (in this model) requires rather difficult (or should I say more difficult) to find N sized battery.  The electronics of each muff run independently so it requires 4 batteries are required to run the system.
Only two commonly used AAA batteries are all that is need for the Sordins.  They are housed on one side of the muff, the compartment is accessible from a steal knurled nut.  Placing and removing batteries is more difficult in this unit.  It is recommended by some to carry some sort of rod such as a chopstick or plastic rod so easily remove worn batteries but with a manufacture claim of 300 hour battery life that may only be a minor issue.  Although during those times when I do not shot for an extended periods, when battery leakage is a concern, having an easily accessible battery compartment like the Pro Ears is a plus.
The Sordins are used by military elite units that require communication gear to execute their precise missions.  With that in mind there is a 3.5mm aux input for attaching radio equipment but for civilian applications this can be used to hook up your iphone or mp3 player or whatever you wish to listen to when in use.  A male to male cable connection is provided.
Three buttons are located on the opposite muff containing the battery compartment.  The outer buttons are for the volume control and the middle is the power switch.  Volume and power controls both ears muffs. One significant feature is the automatic shutoff after 4 hours of no button input especially helpful if you have a tendency to forget to shut off your unit or it is accidentally bumped on while in a field bag.
Microphones are fully waterproof.  Within the muffs, the circuit boards are also lacquered for added waterproof protection.
In contrast the Pro Ears have independent volume control on each ear via a dial.  You'll feel a positive click when you turn the dial on.  There is no auto shutoff in case you forget or accidentally turn the unit on.  The microphone is not waterproof so time in foul weather is not suggested.
Both hearing protection are great units.  Like all things both have their benefits and drawbacks.  For the MSA Sordin:  The muffs are thinner, it is waterproof, it has a 5 year warranty, 300 to 600 hour battery life (sources vary, European sites claim 600 hours) with only two commonly used batteries, comfortable (particularly with optional gel cups installed), Made in Sweden.

Drawbacks of the Sordin:  Low (perhaps misleading) NRR rating of 18db (although this article addresses this concern here), batteries are not easily removed or placed in the compartment, the sound is limited to 82 dB(A) equivalent sound level but can not be increased.

For the Pro Ears:  Good NRR rating of 26, amplifies sound sub 70db 8 times, 300 hour battery life,  three year warranty, Made in the USA.

Drawbacks of the Pro Ears:  Requires four not so easy to find N sized batteries (CR123 versions are available but even those batteries still are not necessarily available everywhere), each ear has independent controls that turn in opposite directions (so you may actually leave on side on thinking it is off), not waterproof.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Phoenix G10 Watch Strap

Phoenix is the original manufacturer of  British military watch straps and are original issue to the British Ministry of Defense (MoD).  These straps are currently on the wrists of British servicemen in Afghanistan and various hot zones around the globe.  Because they have a NATO Stock Number (NSN) they are often referred to as NATO Straps.  But the MoD name of these straps are called Strap, Wrist Watch but known colloquially as G10 which refers the G1098 store. Each platoon/troop/company/squadron has a G10 store which act as like local stores, these were items of equipment that might reasonably be expected to be replaced locally, i.e. binoculars, watches,sleeping bags, etc.  Items that were lost were replaced by the serviceman completing an applicable form indicating that the cost of the lost item would be deducted from his next pay. 
Unlike the most NATO straps available online are cheap imports from China, Phoenix straps are made in the UK to military specs.  The original MoD specs can be found here.  While the color for MoD spec is grey, Phoenix also produces various other colors. Hardware is made of stainless steel and the one piece (no spring loaded bar) buckle is etched with the Phoenix name.
The strap is tightly woven nylon and less likely to fraying.  Unlike cheaper imports that stitch all joints, buckle and loops, Phoenix straps are securely heat-welded into position.  Also the end of each strap and holes are also heat-sealed.  The straps are also free from additives which may act as an irritant to the wrist under humid or extreme conditions.
I had purchased these straps in an attempt to revitalize an old watch I have left idle for too many years.  In this case the Omega Seamaster Chronograph 1948 London Olympic.   Originally I thought this Regimental Bond version would go great with it.  I thought the red stripe would complement the red Omega logo and red chrono hands well.  Sadly I don't think it does.  I'm not quite sure of this combo.
Then I tried the Bond version.  This is the strap color used in the newest Bond film.  It think its better but I'm not quite sold on it.
I purchased these straps from England from Gas Gas Bones who is currently running a buy 3 get 1 free deal and I received this black strap as my complimentary band.  Ironically, to my disappointment, I think it's the one that looks the best.  The OEM strap for this watch is a black rubber band.  I wanted the watch to have a "new" or "fresh" look in the hopes it would motivate me to return this timepiece on my wrist.  With the same color, I'm not sure it will.
Olive was never intended for this Omega, in fact I was considering it for my Sinn 856UTC but it may actually work on this watch. 
The olive on my intended watch, the Sinn 856UTC.