Misfortune does not play favourites

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With my new found enthusiasm for fishing, I went to the edge of the Rideau River by the railway bridge off Old Riverside this afternoon to try my luck. I walk past this bridge daily when I take Hera for a run by the river. I often see people fishing there and the day before I met a young man fishing with a bait casting rod and reel. He told me this is a good spot for pike and bass. He was fishing for pike but just caught a big bass. He told me this spot is good for jigging. I checked out videos on YouTube to learn the technique in jigging for bass. It looked quite straightforward, and I was eager to give it a go. I got to the river at about 4:30 pm. When I got there I found a group of young men with lines in the water. “It must be a good spot,” I thought. There was room for all of us, and I found a spot to cast.

I tried a crayfish jig on a bass hook first. I tried out the technique of jigging while reeling in the jig. The river bed is randy and rocky at this stretch. The jig got caught on the bottom after one cast, and I feared I would lose it; but I reeled the jig in successfully with a little gentle tugging. As the young men cast their lines from their spot next to me, suddenly one young man had his fishing rod snap in two pieces. One of his friends retrieved the front half of his fishing rod from the river. The young men examined the fishing rod to see if it had broken or just come apart. A short while later they took their leave. They had not caught anything. Once they departed, I moved over to the spot they vacated.

I continued casting with the crayfish jig and as I reeled it in on one cast it got caught on a branch on a downed tree resting in the river. I had hip waders on so I strode into the river far enough to grab the tree trunk and move the downed tree closer. I picked up the branch with my crayfish lure caught on it and found a jig someone lost to the same tree next to my crayfish lure. I retrieved both jigs and felt some relief: “At least I won’t come empty handed today.” I switched from the crayfish jig to a jig designed for pike. I cast the new jig and found a tangle in the line on my spinning reel. I reeled in the jig, then played out the line from my reel until I reached the tangle in the line. I cut the line behind the tangle and rethreaded the line through my fishing rod. This was a delicate and tricky operation but I completed it successfuly. While I worked on clearing the snag, a boat with two young men aboard came into view. They asked how I made out and I told them I just cleared a tangle in my line. They replied sardonically that they had the same luck.

They cast some lines from their boat in the area adjacent to where I continued casting. They did not catch anything and neither did I. Eventually, they motored toward Hunt Club Road. I decided I would move to the ruin of the old marina on the other side of the railway bridge and see if I would have better luck. I stood on the edge of the concrete dock at the marina and cast for a while. I tried both the crayfish and the pike jigs. No fish bit. I saw the two young men casting from their boat on both sides of the river. It did not look like they had any luck either. At 6:15 pm they roared past me on their way to Mooney’s Bay I expect. They waved as they drove past. I decided to call it an afternoon, packed my gear and walked back to the car.

I did not catch any fish but I got in some practice in casting and jigging for bass and pike. I cleared a tangle in my reel without too much trouble. What impressed me, however, I realized that misfortune is not picking on me. She strikes with impunity and capriciously; no one is spared. Fishing is not so different from hunting in a way. You expend the effort in the pursuit of your quarry with no guarantee that you will find said quarry. The major difference between fishing and hunting is that fishing allows you the option of catch and release. There is no going back when you kill a game bird or animal. I hope yet I will get the hang of fishing as spring turns into summer. For my next fishing expedition I will focus on panfish. Jigging for crappie, perch and sunfish is enough of a challenge for now.

Posted by Geoffrey

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O crappie day

 

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One good tern deserves another.

 

I am not a competent boatman. It may be that I have so little experience operating motor boats or I lack the aptitude for operating outboard moters. It may be a combination of the two issues. I got a painful reminder this morning while out for a solo fishing expedition on the Rideau River between Manotick and Kemptville. Buoyed by the successful outing with Doug and his son Landon last weekend–we caught lots of panfish, perch, sunfish and a white crappie and had are really good time–I had high hopes for my fishing trip this morning. I stopped by Sail Ottawa earlier in the week to shop for tackle to fish for crappie. I needed a bigger tacklebox before I left Sail.

 

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My new tacklebox after shopping at Sail.

 

While at Sail I looked over some fish finders. I remember seeing one in action several years ago when I went fishing with a neighbour on the Greater Rideau Lake. While I typically like the old ways when it comes to fishing and hunting, I thought I might give it a try. I checked out various brands of portable fishfinders online and found the Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder with Portable Kit to my liking. Even better, Canadian Tire had them on sale! I paid for the Garmin fish finder online and picked it up at Canadian Tire the next day. Mika helped me assemble the kit–I am not very good at assembling gadgets that come in kits. I looked up tutorials on YouTube to learn how to operate the new fish finder. One aspect I like about the Garmin fish finder I bought is it has a GPS also. The only thing about the new fish finder I found iffy was the suction cup mount for the transducer. Though I viewed a video on how to mount the transducer on the transom of a boat, I wondered just how reliable such a mount could be.

 

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My Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder with Portable Kit.

 

I decided my fishing expedition this morning would be more prospecting than fishing. I intended to try out the new fish finder in hopes of finding good fishing spots for future outings with Doug and his boys. Crappie were my secondary objective; I had high hopes I could find a school of crappie using the fish finder and catch a few with the new tackle. I searched thoroughly for information on the ecology and habits of crappie, and tactics for successfully fishing for them. I found plenty of videos on YouTube featuring seasoned fishermen offering tips on crappie fishing. I found reports on the main range of crappie in Ontario waters, and the stretch of the Rideau River I fished this morning looked good. I was keyed up and set to go. Still, in the back of my mind, the nagging thought “what could possibly go wrong” lingered. My preparations were so careful this time, “surely everything will go smoothly this time,” I mused confidently.

I picked up my boat at at about 7:30 am and stopped on the way to the W.P. Taylor Conservation Area to add more fuel to the gas tank for the outboard motor. I arrived at the boat launch in good time and as I hoped it was nowhere near as busy as last weekend. I loaded my gear into the boat and carefully attached the transducer for the Garmin fish finder to the transom. I got the boat into the water easily enough. I spoke briefly with an elderly gentleman fishing from the dock. He is visiting his son and grandchildren. He is from Waterloo. On board the outboard motor roared to life without any trouble. I set out for the spot where Doug, his son Landon and I got into panfish the weekend before. I turned on the fish finder and it worked. Everything was going fine, then things abruptly went off the rails.

As I noted in the opening paragraph, I do not have a wealth of experience operating motorboats. I cannot explain what happened but suspect I got something wrong in trying to set the outboard motor for shallow running. Suddenly, the outboard motor tipped up with the propeller almost out of the water and the bow pointing up high out of the water. “This is not right,” I thought with a note of alarm. I hit the kill switch and as the boat drifted adjusted the outboard motor. It took some doing, and my inexperience was not an asset. Eventually I got the outboard motor sorted out. It started with one pull and when I put it in gear the boat moved forward with the bow level on the water. “Great,” I thought, then I heard the sickening “clunk” of something caught in the propeller. I hit the kill switch and to my horror saw the transducer somehow came unfastened and got caught in the propeller. Upon closer examination the transducer survived but the mount and suction cup were torn off and lost.

There I sat on the Rideau River, my prospecting mission over before it started. Rather than give up and return to shore I decided to proceed with my effort to find and maybe catch some crappie. I motored on to the lee side of an island in the channel. There were brush piles and stumps in weed beds. It looked worth a try. Jigging with a bobber, I hoped, might land me a crappie. Turns out my optimism was misplaced. My first cast at the edge of a weed bed ended with my jig, artificial bait and leader taking up permanent residence on the river bottom. Fine, I picked up the anchors and moved to the spot where I caught several panfish with Doug and Landon the previous weekend. I replaced the bait, jig and leader and tried my luck a while. Nothing took the bait.

While I was out on the river I motored up to the other side of the Highway 416 bridge as I heard this is a good spot for pike and walleye fishing. It may be but the area is a fairly broad expanse. I anchored in what looked a likely spot as any and cast a few lines using a Black Fury lure. All I caught was weeds. After a while I moved back close to the spot where I jigged unsuccessfully for crappie. This time I had a few bites. I think it was sunfish or perch. Nothing took the bait. I decided to call it a morning at 11:00 am.

On the way back to shore I came upon a pair of terns perched on a buoy. The birds posed for me and I got some nice photos of them. I recovered the boat without incident and safely returned it to the garage where I store it. In the end, it was more a crappy day than a day of crappie fishing for me. I had a mishap with my new fish finder and did not catch any fish. In spite of today’s misfortune, I remain determined to try again. The challenge now is finding a way to safely mount the transducer to the transom. That and see if someone more seasoned in operating motor boats can give me basic instruction in the technique.

Posted by Geoffrey

The fishing expedition that was!

 

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Doug, his son Landon and the author after a morning of fishing on the Rideau River.

Set out this morning as planned for a second fishing expedition with Doug and his young sons. There was a slight change of plans as Doug’s younger son, Tristan, was due at a birthday party he did not want to pass up. This time the fishing expedition consisted of myself, Doug and his older son, Landon. I loaded my gear into the Jeep and left to retrieve my boat from the garage I rent shortly after 7:00 am. I was due to pick up Doug and Landon at 8:00 am. I had time to stop and grab a coffee and doughnut at Tim Hortons on the way to the garage. This time I made sure to notify the owner of the garage I would be coming for the boat this morning. When I arrived at the garage, happily, the driveway was not blocked by a parked car, as was the case the last time I came to retrieve the boat. I hitched the boat trailer to my Jeep and installed the new trailer lock.

I arrived in good time, about fifteen minutes early. Doug and Landon were still getting ready for our fishing trip. Tristan showed me a Lego vehicle he assembled the night before and told me of the birthday party he would attend later that day. I gave Doug some ground venison I brought for him. I still have plenty left from last season’s buck, more than enough to share with friends. We loaded Doug’s and Landon’s fishing gear into the car and were on our way shortly after 8:00 am. Our destination was the W. A. Taylor Conservation Area on the Rideau River, not far from Manotick. There is a boat launch and parking lot among the amenities at the conservation area. In addition, from what I found in searching online, this stretch of the Rideau offers good fishing for small fish, yellow perch, sunfish and crappie. These species of fish are easier to catch than the larger game fish such as pike and walleye. I thought it would be fun for Landon to catch a few perch, sunfish or crappie for this outing.

We stopped on the drive to the conservation area at a bait shop where Doug bought two containers of worms. It was on the way which was handy. When we arrived at the conservation area and found it is busy this time of year. There were several vehicles with boat trailers parked already and we waited as two men launched Seadoos ahead of us. The boat launch is concrete and angled, making it much easier to launch and recover boats. Doug and I had the boat in the water in no time. With our gear and everyone on board in their lifejackets–no one rides in my boats without a life jacket on–Doug started the outboard motor. It quickly sputtered out and refused to turnover despite repeated pulls. Dread welled up initially until I noticed the gas line had disconnected from the gas tank somehow. Doug reconnected the gas line to the tank and this time the outboard motor roared to life.

 

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Doug and Landon at the helm as we motored to our fishing ground.

I asked Doug to handle the outboard motor. This way he could supervise and Landon could have a turn driving the boat too. We sped along the river toward Kemptville and stopped at the tip of an island. We anchored the boat and tried our luck with worms as bait in a weedy shallow. Nothing took the bait and we thought it must be too shallow and weedy for the fish we sought. We pulled up the anchors and moved to the other side of the island to a deeper and less weedy stretch of the river. Here we caught a couple of small perch and sunfish. Some of the fish were so small we did not notice we hooked them until we reeled in our lines.

Once more we pulled up the anchors and moved into deeper water where there were few weeds. Doug and I cast a few lines with lures, hoping to have a pike or walleye strike, but nothing obliged us. I caught a small crappie when I switched to a worm on a hook. We turned back and went to the island where we started; only this time we anchored a little farther from shore. I tried jigging with a worm on a hook in the water just off the boat and quickly hooked a sunfish. I released the sunfish after unhooking it. Surprisingly, as my unbaited hook dangled in the water, another sunfish bit and was caught. Doug, Landon and I then had lots of action jigging for small fish in this spot. Landon caught some nice sunfish. Doug caught some sunfish and perch and I caught a nice crappie.

 

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Landon with a sunfish he caught.

 

 

 

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Landon and a nice sunfish.

 

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The authour with a crappie.

 

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The author with his new Ugly Stik and Shakespeare spinning reel.

 

Things went smoothly as we fished until late in the morning. Still, I found using a spinning reel as tricky as ever. I swear, my hands feel like hooves when I try to cast and reel in the line with a spinning reel. I had a few snags–nothing I could not sort out on the spot, luckily. I think I should probably try a spincast or baitcast reel in place of a spinning reel. When we were finished for the day, Landon drove the boat back to the launch.

 

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Landon driving the boat back to shore at the end of a good morning of fishing on the Rideau River.

Recovering the boat went without any difficulty and on shore we spoke to a man who told us there is good fishing for pike and walleye in the stretch of the river just beyond the Highway 416 bridge. We noted this for our next expedition. Doug decided taking the boys individually works well. It is easier when he can focus his attention on one of his boys at a time when we are out fishing. Next time we head out on the Rideau for some fishing we will bring Tristan and alternate between Landon and Tristan as the season progresses. We had a very good day on the river and I look forward to more fishing expeditions this summer.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

 

 

The fishing expedition that wasn’t.

 

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Three young men fishing on the Rideau River.

I had such high hopes for the outing I planned with my friend and hunting buddy Doug and his boys Landon and Tristan. It is Victoria Day weekend and a fishing expedition was on the agenda for Sunday morning. The week before, I met up with another of my hunting buddies, Omer, to take the blind frame off my John boat. This would make the boat better for fishing. Initially, I thought we would take the boat on the Rideau River, launching at Mooney’s Bay, and trying our luck on a stretch of the river near Hunt Club Road. There are walleye, pike, bass and sucker in these waters. Though bass season is not open, I hoped we might get into walleye and sucker. However, given that Landon is six and his brother Tristan is five, I thought it might be better if we took them to a spot where we could get into small fish like perch, sunfish, crappie and catfish. I expect the boys would have more fun catching small fish. Shirley’s Bay on the Ottawa River seemed a good choice; but jeez, how the best laid plans went off the rails this Sunday morning. Continue reading

Hunting is easy.

 

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Jason at the wheel of his ATV with his chainsaw in the trailer.

 

Got out with Jason yesterday to the farm near Spencerville where we gun for woodcock and grouse and hunt deer. We promised Val, the owner; we would clear downed trees from the trails that run through the wooded areas on the property. We make a point of treating our gracious hostess with courtesy and respect and help out where we can assist in the management of her property. We do this to express our gratitude for access to her property for hunting. The weather was warm and sunny, and we made it ahead of bug season. We brought Jason’s ATV and chainsaw to carry out our plan. We got to the farm late in the morning; we took our dogs for an early morning run before heading to the farm. We toured the trails, riding on Jason’s ATV with the trailer in tow, and checked on three of our ladder stands. They are all in order. The mineral salt blocks we set out last year are gone, so we made a note to return and put fresh ones out. Yes, success in hunting involves a great deal more than grabbing your shotgun or rifle and heading to the fields and marshes come hunting season. Jason and I keep busy year round preparing for the fall hunting seasons we enjoy.

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Jason with my ladder stand in the background.

We got to work clearing the downed trees. It proved nowhere as big a job than I imagined. Still, we took our time and made sure we observed due safety. Jason took care in checking his chainsaw ensuring the chain was installed correctly before proceeding.

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The trails cut through prime woodcock cover.

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Trail with downed trees slated for removal.

Jason got to work with his chainsaw, cutting downed trees as needed and in short order we cleared the trails.

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Jason firing up his chainsaw.

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Jason cutting a downed tree for removal from the trail.

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Geoffrey is not afraid of hard work. He can stand an photograph it all day if necessary.

With the trails cleared, we stopped in to see Val, our gracious hostess, whom we found had prepared a hearty lunch for us. We dined on BBQ chicken, roasted potato, coleslaw, salad, bread and fruit salad with ice cream for dessert and had a nice visit with Val.

We took our leave and drove back to Ottawa. On the drive home, we discussed how well everything went and how quickly we completed clearing the downed trees from the trails. We chatted enthusiastically about the season ahead and decided to install a ladder stand, currently not in use, we have in September. We got back to Jason’s house, and then things took a dramatic turn. Jason summed up what happened in this post on his Facebook page:

 

Accidents happen & this time we got lucky… NO INJURY! Here’s what happened… After a successful trip to our deer spot in Spencerville cutting downed trees for the owner Val, Geoff & I were putting the atv back into the garage & the yarding wheel collapsed, causing the tongue of my atv trailer to smash through the garage door!

Geoff & I went & got a new yarding wheel and with my brother Maurice’s help we took it apart & bent it all back into shape & reassembled.

Dad & Mom came by to see the successful repair tested & were impressed.

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Doubling up the yarding wheel on the ATV trailer.

 

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Garage door good as new after repairs effected by Jason and his brother Maurice.

 

One thing I learned over the years is that hunting is not without its dramas, no matter how carefully you prepare for a hunt and how carefully you conduct yourself. As Jason said, “Accidents happen & this time we got lucky… NO INJURY!” Today’s adventure goes to show that hunting is great fun, but it requires a lot of effort and is not without risk. It is anything but easy.

Posted by Geoffrey

 

No doe tag, no problem

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Fran with the six point buck she shot on Remembrance Day 2017.

I took up whitetail deer hunting in earnest in 2011, and every following season I learn more about the sport and become more proficient as a deer hunter. I hunt with a “Gang of Four.” There are four of us in our cadre of deer hunters: myself, my friend and hunting buddy Omer and my friends and hunting buddies Jason and his wife, Fran. Jason is a seasoned deer hunter, and under his tutelage, I shot my first deer, a nice little doe, in the 2012 rifle season. One of the first things I learned from Jason is that you make certain to enter the antlerless deer draw every spring. Antlerless deer tags, or doe tags, are doled out by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources by lottery every year. The advantage of having a doe tag is that you are licensed to harvest any deer you see while hunting. Having a doe tag increases the odds you will bag a deer, so I make sure I enter the draw every year. I was disappointed when I was unsuccessful this season, so much so, I considered not hunting. Jason firmly reminded me that one does not get a deer sitting at home and not having a doe tag does not mean you will not see a buck. I heeded his words, but in the back of my mind remained pessimistic. As fortune proved, Jason got to tell me “I told you so.”

Continue reading

Hera has a taste for grouse

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Nick and Cocotte after a good day of upland gunning.

Yesterday I took delivery of my 2017 Jeep Patriot High Altitude. I traded in my aging Tucson for the newer vehicle. Just before I left to pick up the new vehicle I checked Facebook and found a message from one of my hunting buddies, Nick, whom I had not seen for three years as he was posted to the Canadian Consulate in New York City all this time. He is back in Ottawa now and contacted me, asking if we could go hunting this morning. I was happy to hear he still has his dog, Cocotte, a German Shorthaired Pointer who is nine years old now. I met Nick at a dog park when Cocotte was a puppy, the same age as my beloved Juno. Cocotte is Nick’s first hunting dog while Juno was my third so I offered to help with her training. We trained our puppies together and hunted them successfully as they grew into young gun dogs until my Juno was felled by cancer at four years old. I happily agreed to take them hunting, they were the first passengers in my new wheels.

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My 2017 Jeep Patriot.

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