Happy National Dog Day!

Thanks to Twitter, I discovered that today is National Dog Day. It is hard to imagine life without a dog. Before we brought Jack home, I went without a canine companion for a few months and it was awful. I enjoy coming home to these happy faces, and I love including them in our adventures.

Jack is our Australian shepherd. He is one of the smartest dogs I have ever met. When you talk to him, you can see him trying to piece things together. I swear he always knows exactly what I am asking him to do – sometimes he does it, often he chooses to ignore it. He will not make eye contact if he does not want to do something. If I tell him that Darrell should be home shortly, he will park himself at the sliding door and watch the driveway until he sees the truck. Jack also happens to be sneaky, athletic, afraid of thunderstorms, great with cats, and a total suck. He was like a magnet up in Owen Sound last weekend, with several people wanting to look at him, pat him, and talk about him. Jack loves fishing, but more than anything, he loves Darrell.

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One of my favorite pictures. We took him for a walk and he started running all over the place, taking the giant logs in stride.

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The cats love to cuddle with Jack.

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He is always watching something.

Molly is a setter mixed with border collie and any number of other breeds. We adopted her at six months old, from a single parent family that loved her very much, but did not have the space or finances to look after her. I was warned that she had been abused as a young puppy, and to this day you can still see her hesitate around some people. She loves children. While Jack is the dog that runs away from kids and prefers to play with other dogs, Molly is the one that pulls us towards kids and sits patiently while they pet her. Fishing is a tolerable activity as far as Molly is concerned, but jumping out of the boat and getting wet is even better. Chasing birds is what she lives for, and walking in a straight line is not for her. When she is unsure about something, Molly runs to me and won`t leave my side.

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Molly is never far from Jack.

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It is impossible for me to sit down without having Molly come over. I love her for it.

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If reincarnation is real, I want to be this happy dog in a second life.

So Happy National Dog Day to our pooches. Maybe they will get a treat with dinner.

Please share some stories about your dogs!

Opening Weekend At The Salmon Spectacular

The opening weekend of the 2014 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular was an adventure for Darrell and I. It began on Friday night, with the mad rush of packing the boat and making sure we had everything we would need for us and the two dogs. Having a boat big enough to store all the gear in was a nice change, but it also represented a learning opportunity in trying to figure out where everything should go. I left that in the hands of the master packer, as Darrell manages to pack things with a Tetris-like precision.

Never before have I willingly jumped out of bed to a 2AM alarm, but somehow I was up and ready to go first thing Saturday morning. The dogs were too sleepy to even ask for breakfast.

We arrived at Georgian Shores Marina in Owen Sound around 5AM and quickly got the boat in the water. Boats were already lining up at the ramp, waiting for their chance to launch. One angler I spoke to was down from Thunder Bay to fish the derby with family. It just goes to show what a reach this event has.

If I had to choose one word to describe Saturday morning, it would be “fog”. Lots and lots of fog. It was so dense that it was easier to hear a boat near you than to see it. By using the compass, fish finder, GPS, and Navionics app on my phone, Darrell was able to keep us on course and out of trouble. I was nervous as heck.

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So foggy.

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I’m always glad to have a capable captain when I don’t feel comfortable driving.

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Jack found his favorite spot.

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And Molly found her favorite spot.

We spent much of that morning getting used to fishing out of the boat; figuring out how she handled, working out a routine for putting down the kicker motor, getting used to the electric down riggers (I never want to go back to manual riggers), and learning how to work around the dogs.

We didn’t catch any fish that morning, but we marked several and got used to being back out in the big water. We heard jubilant shouts travelling through the fog, so we assumed other boats were having some luck.

Puling lines, we ran back in for lunch and enjoyed the convenience of having a slip in the marina. There’s something to be said for being able to dock the boat and have a nap. I also enjoyed having a real bathroom available to use, instead of having to use the porta potties at the big tent (although they are kept remarkably clean).

The wind had picked up through the afternoon, creating a very choppy lake. In the 12ft tinny, we would not have gone back out, but in the big boat, it seemed worth it. The boat handled the waves just fine; my head and stomach did not. We were only out for about an hour before one of the dogs had been sick and I was leaning over the side of the boat as a precaution. I haven’t been sea sick in some time, but I sure suffered on that trip. Seeing no other choice, Darrell took us back in and I spent the rest of the night sleeping.

salmon spectacular

Sunday was a much nicer morning.

My Sunday morning started early when I woke up at 2AM. Waking up on my own boat was thrilling experience, but the lingering effects from the day before reminded me to move slowly. We got organized and were out fishing by 3AM. The morning was a beautiful one with clear visibility and just a bit of a chill. With far fewer boats on the water, we took advantage of the space to work a highly productive area. Again, we marked a lot of fish, but we couldn’t convince them to bite. We changed lures, worked different trolling speeds, and tried different directions. Nothing. Once the rest of the flotilla showed up around 6AM, we decided to troll further out and see what we could find.

With the sun up and in 140 FOW, we changed our setups once again. This time, it worked. Darrell’s rod started pounding like I’d never seen it go before. Resisting the urge to jump out of my chair, I let him grab it. For a couple of minutes he fought the fish, even having it peel some line, then I heard the “Ugh!”. The fish threw the hooks and was gone. Too bad, because it sure put on a show like a nice big fish.

After seeing a salmon feeding on the surface, I changed my setup and used a planer board. It seemed like a decent idea, but the fish didn’t agree, so I switched back to the rig I had down when Darrell hooked his fish. The big flashy dodger I had down seemed to bring the fish in, but they preferred chomping on Darrell’s orange spoon. Now in 200 FOW, Darrell’s rod once again fired, and I didn’t hesitate to leap for it. A rainbow trout was my reward. It was nice to christen the boat with a fish, and I loved all the fighting room I had. After a quick picture, I released the fish since it wasn’t near big enough to make the leaderboard.

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Love these little guys.

Our weekend ended a little while later as we pulled the boat out and headed for home. The dogs had adjusted well to life on the boat and were experts at jumping in and out of it. I enjoyed having the cuddy to lock them in when we were getting gas or loading the boat.

We spoke to several other anglers who found the fishing to be slow. It often seems that way during this derby. The locals mentioned that the fishing had been on fire last week, but that the fish seem to know when the derby starts and they get tight-lipped. With that many lines in the water, it’s easy to see why. Nonetheless, everyone we spoke to enjoyed being part of the event. We all like being out there and wasting gas money. It makes it that much more enjoyable when you actually figure it out and get into some fish.

We’re back home for a few days, but I can’t wait to get back up there. If you haven’t yet bought yourself a ticket, there’s still time to do so, just get it the day before you plan to fish. The Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular is a blast.

Summer Vacation Bass

Getting away for a few days is a tricky task around here. It’s difficult to find a sitter for horses, cats, and dogs, and difficult to drag ourselves away from the grind of daily life. It had been two years since Darrell and I were able to go away on a vacation. That was far too long, so when we were able to piece together a few days last month, we jumped at the chance to ditch our responsibilities and head up north for some camping and a whole lot of fishing.

We chose to visit two lakes that we had spent some time at in the past. These lakes are up in the Killarney area and have very little traffic. One lake has no cottages, the other has only a few, and we were able to camp in between the two, allowing us to fish each one without moving camp.

Having gone to work on the Friday, we got a later departure than originally planned, and arrived at the lakes just as the last rays of sun were disappearing behind the pine trees. Since it was the weekend, several of the cottagers had beat us to the small parking lot where they would leave their cars and pick-up their boats. There was nowhere for us to park, so we had to drive up an old logging trail to get to a clearing where we could stop for the night and sleep in the truck. The poor old truck was bouncing all over the place, scraping off of trees, climbing over boulders, and leaning to the side. Not for the first time, I was thankful for having 4×4.

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Sights like this are even more enjoyable on vacation.

I awoke to a melody of bird songs the following morning and had to go for a walk over reindeer lichen and ripening blueberries before I found Darrell coming back from an early excursion. The truck rumbled back down the logging trail and into a open area where we set up the tent and stowed the boat trailer.

Having wheeled the boat down the lane to the smaller lake, we paused a moment to enjoy the soft, sweet smell of the pines, the continuing melody of the birds, the circus of northern leopard frogs leaping at our feet, and purple blooms of the pickerelweed.

The small lake held a healthy population of largemouth bass, and a ridiculously abundant population of baitfish. Every little bay was crammed with massive schools of bait. We were looking forward to doing some frog fishing in the slop using our Scum Frogs, but the bass wanted nothing to do that. They were deeper. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and a wacky-rigged senko were able to trigger some bites. I even pulled out the fly rod out and had a few take a streamer. Darrell had the most luck pitching a texas-rigged creature bait.

The baitfish weren't small.

The baitfish weren’t small.

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First fish of the trip.

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We saw bigger ones, even lost a couple of them, but the smaller ones were the only ones really willing to play.

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Another largie.

After a day and a half in the smaller lake, we dragged the boat back up the lane and put it into the big lake.

The bigger lake was the scene of some epic smallmouth bass fishing a few years back, but try as we might, we couldn’t seem to find anything but the little ones. I simplified and starting tossing out a curly-tailed grub. It caught me a lot of fish, but still nothing of size.

Working around one of the islands, I cast out a chatterbait and reeled back at a quick pace. Smash! First big fish of the trip and I watched a beautiful smallie jump out of the water. The net-man was a little slow, and after playing her close to the boat, all I got was a splash of water as she threw the hooks and disappeared.

With my adrenaline pumping, I had to focus on slowing down my retrieve so I could keep the lure in the water. A few minutes later I pulled in another smallie and this time it made it into the boat for quick pic and then was released. Darrell maneuvered the boat back to the beginning of that drift, and we started casting at a patch of lily pads. Fish after fish came off of that patch, each bigger than the last. My face was sore from grinning, and Darrell couldn’t stop laughing. We visited this spot a few more times before the end of our trip.

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Darrell definitely caught the most beautiful fish of the trip. This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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Oh yeah!

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Another great one. Not the biggest ever, but still a lot of fun.

Over the course of four days we caught several fish, saw some breathtaking scenery, explored new areas, observed an amazing variety of bird species, and even saw a wolf. We also caught up on a lot of missed sleep since the mosquitoes chased us to the tent before dark. After dark there were enough of them to carry us away.

On that final morning I found myself getting grumpy at the thought of having to leave such a perfect area. How could anyone want to leave two beautiful lakes and all that amazing wilderness? We had one final fish around the lake and managed to pull a couple more in before we had to load the boat on the trailer.

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Slightly smaller, but always appreciated.

smallmouth bass

This one nailed my jig the moment it hit the water.

On our last visit to this area, we had some fun getting the boat out of the lake. This was no different. We may have had a smaller boat this time, but the launch had filled in with even more sediment. I’m always happy to have Darrell around in moments like this. He seems to know how to solve them.

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The truck sank into the mud pretty quickly.

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Darrell brought the boat over, needing to push-pole it for the last bit.

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Then he lifted the boat onto the trailer, winched it in, and drove out. All in all, pretty painless.

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Two happy and exhausted anglers.

As usual, I felt like crying as we pulled back out onto the road. I really hate leaving this place. Even though I’ve only been up there a few times, it surprisingly feels like home. There’s always a part of me left up there.

The glum mood finally dissipated as I thought about returning to all of my animals. I scrolled through the fish pictures and felt a smile return to my face. As vacations go, I’d say this was a successful one.

Getting Ready For The 2014 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular

We’ve been counting down the months, weeks, and now days, until the 2014 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular gets started. Heck, our whole goal for the new boat has been to get her ready for Owen Sound.

This year’s event runs from August 22nd to August 31st and promises to be as much fun as always. With a floating village on the water, and a full schedule of entertainment under the big tent, this is an event worth attending.

I love the camaraderie at this derby. Everyone is eager to ask how you’re doing, and whether or not you’re catching anything, there’s a smile and some positive words. To be honest, we rarely catch anything up there, yet we return year after year. The last few years have been fished out of our 12-foot tinny, and although we’ve stayed out in some pretty rough water, we’ve often been stuck on shore when the wind really kicks up. This year we have a bigger boat and are looking to get even more time with our lines in the water.

Darrell was in Owen Sound yesterday taking care of some errands, and took a few pictures that show just how close the start of the derby is.

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Looking towards the harbour.

Owen Sound

This view represents my first memory of the derby. I’ll never forget standing in that spot and seeing really rough water that I didn’t want to go out on.

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It’s coming!

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The truck is there with the big tent.

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The big prize is already there.

If you haven’t got your tickets yet, hurry up and buy them. You need to purchase them at least one day in advance of fishing the derby.

Even if you don’t plan on fishing, come on out for the fun, the food (two big fish fries), and the entertainment. There are draw prizes every night, and some big draw prizes for the end of the event.

I look forward to getting out on the water as much as possible, and I hope to see you there!