February 28, 2013

White Perch Winter

The fifth hour on the ice led us into conversations I could never have imagined. Ice fishing has a way of helping to bond friends, cold beer doesn't hurt either. Sitting in a 7 ft. x 7 ft. popup shack is more entertaining than one would imagine who's never been. A flag can and will pop up at any moment, so dozing off isn't a valid option. And being in such close proximity keeps it lively. If you're on a semi-trafficked lake, other fisherman will be sure to holler "flag!" from across the lake should they see no activity from your camp after 60 seconds of a tip-up rising - it's the neighborly Maine way.

Tending traps keeps a guy fairly busy. If one particular spot shows more promising fishing than another, we drill holes closer to that area. Should a certain depth be more successful, we'll adjust our other lines. Hooked bait also has a way of disappearing via tricky fish and fishing with an empty hook produces few fish. If nothing is working - we'll adjust everything. If that doesn't produce fish, we drink more. I can't say that tends to help us haul in large fish, but the cold at least stay at bay.

Today we throw out 10 traps and test lake depth with a sounder, hovering our shiners 2 feet off bottom. Our goal is to find a perch school or a hungry trout. Before an hour's time, we enjoy a nice fight with a handsome white perch. Hoping this single catch is a promise of future activity, I drill an additional hole nearby and move my farthest trap to it. Within the afternoon, we release three white perch as well as haul in three keepers. As we head home for a small fish fry, I anxiously describe my famous recipe to our fishing party. Perhaps I'll share it with you soon... Cheers!

Cold-weather fishing setup

L.L. Bean plaid


Satisfaction of completing setup


Changing out the shiners mid-afternoon


Maine winter

Freshly scooped out auger hole

Our third flag of the day rocks gently back and forth as a perch waits

Today's catch

February 26, 2013

Bald Eagle

I'll uncommonly begin by stating that I own a copyright on each of the below photographs. If you're interested in purchasing one (without a BWP watermark) e-mail me at rhonbell@gmail.com.

Few things embody the quintessential American spirit like a Bald Eagle. Most folks haven't had the rare opportunity to be up close and personal with the iconic bird in the wild. In fact, I've had very few myself. It's a moment worth one-thousand words and, in my case, 350 photos. With full realization the Bald Eagle needs little introduction, I'll skip the descriptive portion where I deem them resilient, powerful and beautiful creatures.

We counted our catch as we tossed around the idea of heading home. Cumulatively, we had 11 perch in the bucket. The hour was 10AM. We'd woken and arrived way too early. The coffee dried up hours ago, along with my energy. Luckily, we had found a few schools of white perch and chased flags all morning. One thing was different about this morning; we had a unique visitor. For 90 minutes we held the attention of a Bald Eagle as he sat comfortably and eyed our future fillets from 20 yards.  Taking to the air occasionally, he'd choose a new landing spot as if it would convince us to offer a free meal. To be honest, I wasn't sure if it was legal - so we withheld. We all left feeling lucky to have sat in such good company. Enjoy the below photos and feel free to share this post with friends!

February 19, 2013

Four Feet of Snow

Nearly four feet of fresh powder-like snow dropped as a result of a strong New England storm last weekend. Snow plows kept to the centerline, leaving one lane roads across the countryside. Vehicles were in the ditches of nearly every road. Blowing snow and freezing temperatures left many without power. In blizzard conditions, there is only action to take - go fishing.
Loading my pack basket into my truck with 5 traps, manual auger, ice shack, and a few cold drinks - I set it next to my bait bucket and headed off into the whiteout. Visibility was near zero, but I wanted to test the methodology that fish didn't feed during/after snowstorms and fed before storms hit. I like to experiment and I believe that's how all fisherman learn.
Five solid hours into the afternoon - the fish made their vote clear. Their choice was the opposite of mine. They stayed home. An early bite caused a flag to rise, but the bait was still intact and kicking. Back through the snow drifts I went to my ice shack. With the writing on the wall and my book nearing completion, I made the command decision to go home and brew a late afternoon coffee. After all, I deserved it.
With the shack torn down and two of five traps packed away, a lonely orange flag rose. A decent sized White Perch laid waiting below 12" of thick ice - lunch. We snagged a few photos with the camera, but kept it in hiding to avoid the moisture. A whiteout doesn't make for spectacular photos. On the other hand, black coffee never accompanied such a good fish fry. Until next time...



February 14, 2013

Kershaw Funxion EMT Knife Review

Kershaw is a unique company with differentiated design elements from the competitive market. I've incorporated a Kershaw into my survival kit and thought I'd highlight it today. The Funxion EMT is a multi-use blade with a gentlemen's approach - serving multiple functions with great looks (not necessary, but welcome). It's design makes it an ideal accompaniment for many outdoor situations. Let's take a quick look...

 The smooth-finished gunmetal accent adds a high quality detail to a sharp blade. A non-slip handle insert makes for exacting grip in less-than-ideal conditions - such as cold wet hand when ice fishing.
 I'm a fan of half-serrated blades. Materials otherwise tough for cutting are made easy. Gimping is a bit shallow on the top side of the blade, but well-formed and still easily-handled.

As mentioned, a gentlemen's blade. The finish does look nice when pocketed. Note that the deep-pocket clip can and will sit deeper.

A foldout carabineer serves dual-purposes. Easily attaching to gear, a sharp blade sits ready for use. However, the open and locked carabineer doubles as a safety lock, disabling deployment of the blade. Precisely what you want during carry. Otherwise you or gear can get injured.
 The thumbstud on Kershaw knives seems misplaced to me. I prefer the rear (ambidextrous) flipper. It's much faster and easier to use. With a simple finger flick, the blade blazes open before your eyes can process the action.

A light push on the black liner lock will unlock the blade and allow closure. This equates to reassurance during open blade use without fear of it folding onto your hand.

Let's focus on the glass-breaker tip. It's a small detail, but imagine coming across a car accident and needing to take the time to stop and think about how to extract the door-locked victim. Grab your Kershaw. With a $59 retail and endless uses, whether you're mending ice fishing traps or fixing a survival kit - you're covered.

February 12, 2013

Fixing the Fences

Fixing the fences isn't the way I'd planned to spend my Saturday afternoon but, I got the call. To be a matter of fact, I've never done any actual "fixing" so I suppose I should call it "walking the fences". I guess I like to refer to it otherwise because it makes me sound more handy when people ask my plans for the day, perhaps more manly.

I've come to know our neighbor quite well. He's an old-time farmer soon to turn 80 and not much for cold weather without pressing need. He offered months back to pay me for checking on his extensive farmland throughout winter (while the cattle are kept near the head of the pasture) but we outright refused. It's the neighborly deed and I accept any excuse to be outdoors.

Essentially the task at hand is ensuring the miles of fencing are still intact. Should high winds knock over a dead tree and it land on the wire - my neighborly duty is to help chop up the tree and mend the fence. With a couple feet of fresh snow expected, I thought it a perfect day to bring out my Stormy Kromer Mackinaw coat. A quality wool jacket that stands warm against wind and weather is welcome on any winter day.

An old trail led to the first back field. Its heavy tree cover protected us from the thick snow. The snowfall picked up significantly as we entered the open pasture. Casco led us faithfully throughout the day, breaking trail from field to field.
Pausing before testing out a new Stormy Kromer Mackinaw coat.
The Kromer offers a unique twist on the popular red and black check pattern. I would suggest the striping offers something fresh, but it's been American made since 1903.
Man's best friend - always close at hand.
Large buttons are easily accessibly with gloved hands. The thick jacket provides amazing warmth out in the Maine winter and a true heritage appeal that every outdoorsman craves.
Trail mate
Hand warming pockets.
Fresh powder.
Fence posts made from the land.
Mad Bomber keeping the ears warm.
Visibility lessens to less than 3/10 of a mile as the far side of the field disappears.
Wool has always been my favorite for any activity that brings you to the field. Simply the best option for maintaining body warmth and tough enough to handle rough daily use.
Heading for home.
Visit Stormy Kromer to choose size and color options.
26oz. of virgin-wool warmth await.

February 7, 2013

Filson Tin Cloth Duffle

Backwoods Plaid has provided a great opportunity for me to connect with some amazing companies and historic brands; something I never could have imagined when all this began. I love the outdoors and desire the best from my gear. At times, quality comes with price, but without that price - you are often left with inferior products. Those are the ends to which Filson claims its tagline: "Might as Well Have the Best." Filson shouldn't need any introduction if you've been following along over the last year (if not, see here).

Today, I'm sharing the most utilized item I've purchased from Filson, and as a bonus, it's American made. The Tin Cloth Medium Duffle has paddled 20+ miles with me, it's flown hours in a bush plane, it's been kicked around in both snow and sand. It's shed evening downpours beside my tent and tested winds in the back of my pickup truck from one tip of Maine to the other (and Maine's a long state). Honestly, I'd buy another one.

Filson is known for their famous duffle bags and this isn't even one of the fancy models (although one would be nice). It's just a tough piece of gear that stands the test of time. The heavy brass zipper is seemingly snag proof. The leather zipper pull adds a touch of class to the ruggedness of the water-resistant Tin Cloth. The pockets on either end provide quick access to gear on-the-go. It's simply an ideal outdoorsman's bag that can be quickly wiped clean after each trip out in the woods.

You can find your own Tin Cloth Duffle here. Tell 'em you heard it here.