Author Archives: geoffreyandmika

Dick Cheney I’m not

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It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about the whereabouts of your hunting buddies when a game bird flushes and offers you a shot. I am strict about hunter etiquette and safety in the field, and my perfect record on hunter safety is a testament to my adherence to hunter etiquette and safety. The fact that carelessness is an issue in hunting came to mind on a weekend grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera, my six-year-old Brittany. My hunting buddy Nick and his ten-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, Cocotte, accompanied Hera and me on our weekend grouse and woodcock hunt. We got into birds: four woodcock and several grouse, but succeeded in spectacularly missing when we got shots away at flushing birds. Continue reading

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Good luck in all weathers

 

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Mike and Maggie Mae on opening day of grouse season 2018.

“Good luck in all weathers,” Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote to me when he signed my copy of his memoir “Gunning for Upland Birds and Wildfowl.” I met him at his home in Rockliffe Park where he lived in the 1970s. His memoir is an account of his experiences hunting upland game birds and waterfowl in the Ottawa Valley and Quebec. Weather indeed is a significant factor in hunting. Weather conditions determine whether it is safe or worth to go hunting. Yes, the weather is but one of the factors that play into the vagaries of fortune in hunting, but I learned over the years what a significant role weather plays in successful hunting. Weather conditions over the summer of 2018 made for a rocky start to my upland season this year. Continue reading

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun

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“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun,” wrote Noel Coward in a comic song. This song came to mind as I went fishing Sunday afternoon on July 1st. I set out to try my luck at the Kars boat launch, but somehow wandered off course ending up at the Baxter Conservation Area. I turned back and stopped at a bridge over a creek that empties into the Rideau River, just outside Kars. I got out of the Jeep to check out the spot. I thought it might be a decent place to cast some lines for panfish. I found well-worn paths leading to the river’s edge and guessed that this must be a good spot for fishing. I carried my gear to the edge of the Rideau River and made my first cast. I brought my ABU Garcia combo—a light rod and spinning reel with 6 lb. test. I got a bite right away, only to have the fish swipe the bait. I used the worms left over from my previous fishing expedition the Friday before. The worms were dead; they did not survive the heat on the last outing. The dead worms did not stop the fish from biting. In short order, I landed several perch and pumpkinseed, most of which were too small to keep. I caught a few bluegills also, though none big enough for the pan. Sweat poured off me as I made repeated casts. It was oppressively hot, more than 40 C with the humidex.

The terrain at the river’s edge is entirely different from that on the open water and brought new challenges. I lost a couple of hooks and sinkers when the line tangled on vegetation. I hooked a nice fish only to have the line snap when the fish circled a weed bed. Presumably, there is a fish in this stretch of the Rideau River with a hook in its mouth and trailing fishing line with a sinker attached. I had a couple of tangles with the fishing line around the rod. They were so severe I had to cut the line and retie the hook, and put the sinker and slip bobber on anew. One time I lost the hook and sinker but retrieved the slip bobber with my landing net. I learned to take great care in landing a fish in such habitat. I did not have to cast far to find fish. The water is quite shallow and weeds quite thick. There were lily pads on the left side of the riverbank. By the time I ran out of worms, I had four nice pumpkinseeds in the cooler. I am getting the hang of pan fishing.

At home, I finally mastered filleting fish. I had a little difficulty with the previous patch of fish. I took the time to review some videos on YouTube on how to fillet fish. Viewing these videos proved very helpful. I am confident I can adequately fillet fish now. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, the tangled fishing line, and the loss of hooks and sinkers, I had a great time. I had one more bit of misfortune at home. I caught a lot of the action on the riverbank on my GoPro camera. I downloaded the raw footage from the camera to the computer, or so I thought. I hastily deleted the video footage from my GoPro, only to find that most of the footage had not downloaded. Note to self: next time do not be in such a hurry to delete the footage from the GoPro until you are sure it successfully downloaded to the computer! Despite the loss of the tackle and video footage, I look forward to my next fishing adventure.

Posted by Geoffrey

You don’t look like a librarian

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The catch is a mix of perch, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

I set out for another fishing expedition Friday morning, determined to avoid any more misfortune. I picked up my boat in good time and was on my way to the W.A. Taylor Conservation Area for some pan fishing on the Rideau River. The plan was to stop at Manotick Bait & Tackle to pick up worms, minnows and a couple of slip bobbers on the way to the river. Manotick Bait & Tackle opens at 7:00 am. I got to the bait shop at about 7:45 am and was greeted by a man seated in a pickup truck. He told me the bait shop was closed; that the owner would be there at 8:30. “So much for avoiding misfortune,” I thought. I noticed the pickup truck had logos for various fishing tackle and boat companies. While I waited for the owner of the bait shop to arrive, the man seated in his pickup truck told me he is friends with the owner and had come up from Seeley’s Bay to see him. As we waited for the bait shop owner to arrive, we chatted about fishing, life and the vagaries of fortune. Continue reading

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

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