Ice Breaking And Fishing

For the second weekend in a row, Darrell and I decided to get the boat out and head to a local lake. On Good Friday we found the river leading into the lake to be nice and open, but we came to a stop as we approached the lake and thick ice stalled our entry. After some warm temperatures, rain, and wind, we thought it was worth checking in again this weekend to see if anymore of the lake was open.

Higher water levels and increased flow greeted us at the launch, causing us to be somewhat optimistic about the lake conditions. Another boat trailer in the parking lot made us smile and left us hoping things had changed.

As the gas motor roared to life, Darrell guided Luma (our boat) upstream, and I found myself waiting for the moment when the river would give way to the lake and we could speed through open water.

fishing

Not exactly the open water I was hoping for.

What we actually found was that the wall of ice continued to hang on, and the other boater was just enjoying the beautiful day out on the water, without the chance of getting any further. After a nice conversation, the other boater decided to head in and we decided to try some ice breaking (or snow mo boating, as a friend calls it).

Unlike last weekend, Luma was able to break several trails in the ice, but we always got stuck just short of the area we were attempting to reach. There was open water ahead, where I could see geese splashing about, but the ice just wouldn’t let us get there.

We fished wherever we were able to clear a path, though suckers were the only fish we saw (some rather large ones that I definitely tried to target). Darrell was able to break ice into chunks and then use the boat to push it over to the shore. He cleared a lot of water, giving us a fair bit of room to cast.

ice

It’s good to see the ice break up.

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We managed to clear some open water.

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Casting around chunks of ice takes some patience, especially if you snag one!

The lake appeared to be calling to many people on this beautiful day. Two groups of kayakers paddled out, hoping to find open water. Some of them took advantage of the paths we had cleared, and everyone voiced their hope that the lake would be open next weekend.

The sunshine and perfect weather made for a lovely day on the lake, even if we couldn’t get all the way out. Watching the suckers, I couldn’t help but marvel once more over their amazing eyesight as they darted away every time my lure came near them. I just enjoyed the act of casting and dreamed about finding sunfish and rock bass when the ice finally moves out. It will be even better when bass open at the end of June!

Waiting for the ice to leave can be a slow process, but it helps to have a little ice breaker when you really need to get your fishing fix.

Gear Review: ThermaCELL Heated Insoles

Winter in Ontario means you have to brave cold temperatures. Even spring and fall can bring frigid temperatures that leave a person wishing they could hibernate in a warm house until summer. Enjoying the outdoors is a challenge if you find yourself shivering and struggling to stay warm. As soon as my extremities get cold, particularly my feet, I’m done for the day and need to head indoors.

In the past few years I’ve solved my cold feet problem by wearing an incredible pair of winter boots rated to -100 C. Those boots keep me warm on the coldest days, but I find them bulky to wear when doing my outside chores, and they’re too warm for those milder winter days. A perfect solution to combating the variable winter temperatures is a pair of ThermaCELL Heated Insoles.

thermacell

Head to thermacell.com to pick up your own pair.

When I received a pair of these insoles to review, I couldn’t wait to open the package and get them into my boots. Unfortunately, they arrived after our deep freeze of -30C finally ended, so I didn’t get to test them in the coldest weather, but I’ve worn them enough to know that I’ll be happy to have them for the next deep freeze.

ThermaCELL insoles come in five sizes, covering a women’s size 4.5 up to a men’s size 14, and can be trimmed for a perfect fit, though I found mine worked just fine right out of the box. There is a battery in the heel of the insole that runs a regulated heater under the ball of your foot. The Original version comes with a rechargable battery built right into the insoles, while the ProFLEX version has a removeable, rechargeable battery. The benefit to the ProFLEX version is that you don’t need to remove the actual insole from your boot to charge it, just remove the battery. That said, I received the Original version and found it was quite simple to remove the insoles whenever I needed to charge them.

Both products come with a remote to regulate the heat. With three heat settings (no heat, medium, and high heat), it’s like being able to add and remove pairs of socks, without having to take your boots off. I tested my insoles out while mucking stalls and started with the medium heat setting. After getting warmed up, I was able to push a button and turn the heat off when I no longer needed it. After I finished mucking stalls I headed to the chicken coop and spent some time watching the hens play around in their pens. My barn boots provide little protection from the cold and when my feet started to get chilly, another push of a button warmed them right back up.

ThermaCELL heated insoles would be a great product to use while ice fishing. Keep the heat off while walking out to your fishing spot, but turn the heat on once you’re set up and not moving around so much. As a biologist, I spend a lot of time doing field work and I don’t get to chose the weather. These insoles will be a great addition to my field gear and help keep my feet warm on cold days.

Another bonus is that I found these insoles to be quite comfortable. I left them in my boots on warmer days just because they made my feet feel better.

These insoles are not a cheap purchase for many of us, but I feel they are worth the expense. Comfy, warm feet on a cold day makes the day much more enjoyable and bearable.

Until March 31st, 2015, you can get a great deal on these insoles by purchasing them from thermacell.com and using the code HEAT15 at checkout. This code provides free shipping and a $20 discount. As well, the Original insoles come with a free car charger during this promotion. If you’re thinking about purchasing this product, now is the time!

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Disclaimer – This review is my opinion and I received the ThermaCELL Heated Insoles for free in exchange for giving said opinion. I have no association with ThermaCELL and was not reimbursed or paid for this review.

Book Review: Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies by Robert Montgomery

fish, frogs, and fireflies

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

There are many wonderful books written about the outdoors. Whether a book takes the form of a “how-to”, follows a long and interesting story, or provides history of a beloved past time, there is sure to be a genre to fits everyone’s needs. To me, there is always a need for collections of short stories and essays about the outdoors. It’s a simple way of sharing ideas, swapping fish tales, and making points. These are the types of books I’ve been looking for more frequently, as I find they fit into the time I have available for reading, and they tend to bring up more emotions than a book focusing on a single subject.

When I saw Teeg Stouffer, founder of Recycled Fish (an awesome stewardship organization you should know about), was giving away a copy of Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies – Growing up with Nature, I immediately put my name in for a chance to win it. Luck proved to be on my side and the book arrived in my mailbox a short while later. To be honest, I asked Teeg to sign the book for Darrell, because I planned to give it to Darrell for his birthday, which I did, but I happened to read the book before he had a chance!

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies is a collection of short stories and essays by Robert Montgomery and a host of other authors (including Teeg). While the stories cover a range of topics, they all have something to with nature. Most of the stories boil down to life lessons learned thanks to interaction with nature, and why that connection is so vitally important.

This book sat on my nightstand for a few days and I looked forward to going to bed each night so I could read a few more stories and let my mind drift through my wonderful memories that have their place in the outdoors.

Some of the stories are lessons on how to introduce others to the joy of the outdoors. They provide interesting insight into the variety of ways you can pique someone’s interest and hopefully start them on their path of enjoying nature. The story, The Ichtymammalia Question, really stands out for me in this context. I won’t ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself, but I will ask, do you know how to classify a mermaid?

Other essays discuss the need for conservation (not preservation), and discuss how we value the natural world, and if it’s possible to put a price on it. What Is a Trout Stream Worth? will get you thinking about the problems we face in trying to promote the values of the natural, and some of the discussion points that can be brought up.

Robert Montgomery has a knack for inserting humour into an otherwise somber tale, sharing the sad moments from a life outdoors, and how they were turned into valuable life lessons. He also shares the fun and joyful moments, the observations that make long-lasting memories and cause people to smile at their remembrance.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, and anyone who is looking for a reason to spend more time outdoors. Read some of the stories to a child and give them a reason to go outside. Use it as a tool to teach respect for the natural world. Leave it around the house and hope that someone else will decided to pick it up and get hooked on one of the stories. Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies is published by NorLightsPress. You can buy a copy of the book here.

Disclaimer – This review is my opinion and I received this book for free as part of a contest. I have no association with NorLightsPress or Robert Montgomery and was not reimbursed or paid for this review.

Snow Hiking And Colourful Feathers At Harrison Park

For the past couple of months we have experienced record-setting cold temperatures, frigid wind chills, and a steady accumulation of snow. While winter can be an enjoyable season, this year’s weather has made it anything but. Ice fishing outings have involved a lot less moving around and far more time in the hut. And though I enjoy spending time with the horses and chickens, survival instincts have ruled as my visits become shorter and more geared towards keeping everybody warm, including myself.

When yesterday warmed up to -8C, and the sun shone like a summer’s day, Darrell and I decided it was high time we escape the confines of four walls and take a trip to somewhere we could do a little hiking.

Harrison park

Taking a walk through the forest at Harrison Park.

Our destination of choice was Harrison Park in Owen Sound. We’ve been there many times in the past, but our exploring was usually limited to the Harrison Park Inn Restaurant, where we would stop for some battered mushrooms after a day of fishing. This time we brought the dogs and our winter boots, hoping to enjoy the beautiful day. Since we arrived around lunch, we made our usual stop at the restaurant before hitting the trails. The dogs begged for a mushroom but had to settle for carrots.

As we got ourselves organized, vehicles full of children and toboggans pulled into the parking lot, with their young occupants racing towards one of the best toboggan hills I’ve seen in recent years. Some older kids decided to skip the hill in favour of scaling the valley wall and sliding back down in the deep, powdery snow, often tangling up with those that had descended before them. People arrived with snowshoes, heading for the path least-traveled, having some fun with the deeper snow. Laughter, smiles, and rosy cheeks were everywhere.

We set out with the dogs along the portion of the Bruce Trail that passes through the park. Jack and Molly pulled at their leashes, eager to investigate new smells and make new friends. Other visitors had created some side trails, so we took advantage and explored more of the forest. Standing up higher we found a beautiful view of the Sydenham River. The river was nearly frozen over, but the sunshine was working its magic and melting the ice, causing large chunks to break off and go crashing downstream.

Sydenham River

The Sydenham River

I managed to stay upright for most of the hike, until I tripped over a log on the descent and went bodysurfing through the fluffy snow. It was too nice of a day to care about it, so I laughed and righted myself, as Darrell tried hard to get his laughter under control while keeping the dogs from jumping on top of me.

The snowmobile trail travels through the park and we spent a few minutes watching some incredible machines pass by us. We now live in a great area for snowmobiling, and you can be sure a couple of those toys are going on our wishlist.

We walked through the park and I got my first glimpse of where the campsites are located, with Darrell pointing out the sites that his family had preferred over the years. It’s really quite a nice spot with lots of matures trees and a naturalized area following along the little creek.

A cacophony of screeching grabbed my attention and Darrell told me there was a little area set aside for geese, swans, and ducks. And oh yeah, there were pheasants. Had I seen the pheasants? No, of course I hadn’t; why hadn’t he mentioned them before? I love birds!

Harrison Park

Look at those colours!

Owen Sound

This Lady Amherst’s Pheasant was stunning.

Harrison Park

This Reeves’s Pheasant was super neat. Not only does he have amazing colours, but he was curious as could be, coming up the wire and chattering away. He didn’t seem perturbed in the least.

Since the dogs were not allowed within the bird sanctuary, we had to take turns walking through, but wow, it was worth it. The pheasants were beautiful. So many different colours, so much variation – I could have spent the entire day observing them.

We concluded our day with a walk down the Freedom Trail, a nice pathway that follows the river and provides some exceptional views.

Owen Sound

The Freedom Trail

Owen Sound

A perfect day.

Owen Sound

There’s nothing like a walk through the trees.

Harrison Park proved to be the perfect destination on a lovely winter day. I can’t wait to go back.