Friday, January 20, 2017

Show Schedule

We are upon the Outdoor Sportsmen Show season. There are various shows going on over the next couple of months. Going to them is a great way to see the newest gear, go to seminars, and talk to outfitters and manufacturers.

I went to Marlboro Fly Fishing Show today. I managed to only spend about twenty dollars. I go to the shows because of the seminars. I bring some scrap paper and a pen. I jot down notes, usually of public access fishing spots. Here are some of the upcoming shows.

Marlboro Fly Fishing Show Jan 20-22

The show is going on this weekend. Although the show itself is not huge, I feel it is the best show around. By far they have the best seminars. During each hour, there are six seminars going on. Usually two of them will be "how to" while the other four are "Destination Theater" where a guide or lodge tells you about an exotic place. There is usually a fly tying demonstration and a casting demonstration each hour also. On top of all this, you can talk to many of the authors (and have them sign books) in the Authors Booth. Many expert fly tyers are there and will gladly talk to you also.

Today I went to four seminars. "Stripers on the Mirimichi" "Greater Yellowstone"," Washington Chinook and Steelhead". I also went to Lou Zambello's "Advanced Seasonal Tactics for Catching Trophy Brookies and Salmon". I learned a lot at that one.

New England Fishing and Outdoor Expo, Boxboro, MA  Jan 27-29

This is the most famous show in New England. It was formerly at the Worcester Centrum. This show is much more general than the fly fishing show. If you are into fishing and/or hunting you will find something that interests you.

 My friend Dave Pickering will be doing three shows there. Two on Saturday and one on Sunday. His shows are about "Targeting Large Carp, and the very popular  "Keeper Stripers and Large Blues from Shore and Boat". The nice thing about Dave's shows, they are different every year. Some guys do the same show every single year. Dave adds many new pictures and talks about what worked that year, not fifteen years ago. I am going up with him on Saturday.

My friend Clay, who started a guide service up in New Hampshire has a booth. He is guiding clients on ice fishing adventures. From what I have seen, they have been having a lot of fun and catching a lot of fish. Have you ever jigged up a lake trout? Me neither, but Clay has gotten a bunch of clients some decent fish. Check out his booth "Fish Nerds". Even if you don't have any interest in ice fishing, Clay is really funny and a stop at his booth will probably leave you smiling.

Springfield Sportsmen Show Feb 24-26

This large show is held at the Big E. There are a couple of buildings full of everything from garage doors (why, I don't know?) to many manufacturers and outfitters. There are some terrific deals on fishing gear. This show does not post their seminar schedule until close to the opening date. Although it is a long ride, I enjoy my stay here. Dave will also be doing his carp and striper shows here.

RISAA Show, Providence March 10-12

This is the annual Saltwater Show. It is huge. There isn't anything but saltwater gear, charter captains, and tackle shops. You can find some great deals. I have friends that buy all their saltwater leaders at the show. I really like going to this show since there is so much to see. If there is one gripe I have, it's the seminars. The majority of them are for boaters. There are a couple shore fisherman doing seminars (usually DJ Mueller is there). However since there is a lot more money in tuna fishing the Canyons than there is fluke fishing from a bridge, that is who they cater to. No worries, still a fun show with tons to see and buy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Progression of Learning to Ski

My ass headed back up the chair lift
Even though I act like a child more often than I should, I am a 42 year old man. I have never been a risk taker when it comes to adventure. I am active and I have a lot of hobbies. Although people that I work with think I'm crazy and a risk taker, they are pretty safe if common sense is used.

When I first decided to take up skiing, I made up my mind that I would not rush the learning curve. I want to do everything in my power to keep from getting hurt. I also want my progression to be steady. There was no way I was going to rush. I want to learn as fast as I can, but learning is more important to me than pushing the limits.

Hopefully, in a year, I won't be writing down every time I go skiing. Hopefully, like fishing, if I do something memorable, or try out a new place, I'll write about it. If there is nothing useful to write about, then there will be no need for a blog post. However, today was only my third time skiing. Since the few people that read this are adults, and I assume many don't know how to ski, it might be useful to read about how another adult is doing on the slopes. Although we all learn at different speeds, maybe reading my blog entries will help you to decide to take up the sport

Stardate 2017.19, Time 6:49 EST

Today was my first time using the lift. Before today, I had rode the Magic Carpets. The first day was on the small bunny hill. The second time was on the bigger slope. Today I went up what is known as the Monadnock Lift. This lift goes partway up the mountain to the beginner slopes. Even the smallest, easiest slope was five times longer than the bunny slope.

The first thing to learn was how to use a chair lift. Dave explained to me the concept of leaning forward when you get off. The first time I got off was, what I thought fairly easy. Dave said I had bad form. The second time getting off, I waited a second to long, and fell off. I realized what I did wrong before I landed. It was the only time I had any problems getting off the lift. Pop up off the seat quickly and lean forward. Seemed easy enough to get the hang of.

So, I get to the top of the slope for my first run. I tried to remember the stuff I had learned last time I went, two weeks ago. Less than a third of the way down, I couldn't turn and fell near the trees ( I was not going fast). I was not impressed with myself and still had 2/3 of the slope to ski down.. There is a steep section of this hill, that I had to negotiate. I did it in many, many turns. I certainly did not want to pick up any speed. Needless to say, it took me forever to get down the hill.

Much more importantly, I somehow developed a bad habit of the last two weeks of "leaning". Every time I would pick up speed or loose a little control, I'd lean "up mountain". This is the exact opposite of what you want to do. I could feel myself doing it over and over. I would try to correct it, but usually I'd turn my skis uphill to stop and then start again. I kept doing this until lunch. (Explanation- if you feel like you are going to fall, naturally you are going to try to fall uphill. It is a shorter distance to the ground, and you fall on your side, not your face. The problem with doing this is you are putting weight on your uphill ski. I didn't need anyone to explain to me what the "effect" of that was- you can't control the uphill ski, and your legs will not come together). We worked on this until lunch.

After lunch, Dave left me to ski with a friend for an hour. I was fine using the lift myself, and honestly, just needed to practice, be more willing to go faster, and stop leaning uphill. Soon after lunch, I stopped leaning. I only needed a couple of runs to fix that problem. My other problem was the steep section about halfway down. Until lunch, I had been cutting across the slope with so little drop, that I was coming to a complete stop. Dave said we would be on the slightly steeper beginner slope today, I told him that I would only consider it if I could make it through this steep section without stopping on one continuous run. After I got rid of the leaning I decided to put on my big boy pants and hit this slope a little faster and cut down it without stopping. It took me a couple runs, but I finally got through the whole slope without stopping.

Dave came back after an hour and I was doing everything right. His friend Russ, followed me down on a run, and amazingly thought I was doing great. We did a few more runs on that slope and Dave talked me into trying the next beginner slope. The truth was, I was ready for it. Dave was kind enough to lead, and did big wide turns to keep the speed slow. I followed. We made it down pretty easy. It was at this point that I realized something I had been doing wrong all day- I was back on my heels. Once I got up more on my toes, I was lighter, and my skis more maneuverable. We did this slope three or four more times, and each time I got better and better on it.

Dave asked me if I wanted to go to the other chair lift and do the easiest intermediate trail called Ralph's Run. I declined. Obviously, I haven't done it, but I think I could based on looking at it from the bottom. However, I was having fun, I was improving on every run. Even if I could have done that trail, it would have felt like working. I spent most of the day "working" on my form, and speed. For most of the day, while trying to fix my other mistakes I was practicing parallel skiing. I really wasn't doing a good job, and even my Wedge Christies had taken a step back.

Finally, on my last run of the day, everything clicked. My turns were not only better, but they were parallel, well at least half of them. I was really happy to have had a few actually perfect turns. By far my favorite part of the day was my last run. I was going "fast" with really good turns. It was awesome.

*Fast- As Dave says," fast is a relative term when skiing." The difference in my speed from my first run to an hour in was huge. At first I was creeping down the hill. When I decided to "put on my big boy pants" I was moving at a speed fast enough that I could make it down without stopping. On my last two runs, I went much faster than I had all day. My turns were smaller and tighter, not giant S shaped turns to really go slow. However, the kicker is, as fast as I thought I was going, I still had people blowing by me. Dave, who was gracefully gliding down the slope, had to wait for me a couple times to catch up.

I can turn. If I remember to stay off my heels, I should be able to keep transitioning to parallel skiing since I have so much more control over the skis. By far, the thing I have to work on most is feeling comfortable going a  little faster. Without feeling comfortable, I'm not going to be able to do intermediate trails unless I do giant slow S turns that keep me upright, but creep down the mountain.

Lastly, If I would have gotten off my heels earlier in the day and not leaned uphill, I think I could have accomplished a lot more today. Although today was not a setback, the progression could have been much greater had I just remembered what I learned two weeks ago. I would have been on the intermediate lift. On the bright side, even with all the mistakes I had to correct, the only two times I fell all day were on my first run, and getting off the chair lift once.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Birding Today

Red Headed Woodpecker
The choice was skiing or birding. Since we have had such warm weather the last few days, it made more sense to bird on a nice day than to ski in the slush.  I planned on doing a "big day" to see how many species I could see. On a winter big day, I usually hope for a around fifty. The plan was to start my day around sunrise. Getting up around 6:30 and being birding by 7:30 would give me enough sleep and enough sunlight.

I ended up leaving the house at 7:15 after sleeping later than I wanted. To compound my frustration, there was an obnoxious amount of traffic on I-295 that caused me to waste another thirty minutes. I probably would have avoided this traffic if I left at my scheduled time. By the time I got to my first birding location it was 8:45 ( Firehouse Pond, near Charleston Breachway)

I got lucky there. I saw four Northern Pintails, they were the first I'd seen this year. I was quite happy since they were the hardest duck for me to find last year not seeing any until three weeks ago. From there, my plan was to bird my way down to Watch Hill and take a walk at Napatree Point. At each location I had target birds.

When I go to a spot or "on a chase" I really hope for fifty percent success. I figure the bird is either there or it is not. Even if a target bird is where you want it to be, you still have to find it and identify it. This is easier when it is a duck because if it is on a pond you'll see it. Not so easy with little song birds. Looking for a rare songbird or one that has been reported is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Next I went to Ninigret NWR. The main target was a Lesser Black Backed Gull. There has been one there consistently the last few winters (native to Europe but seen somewhat regularly in the states). I saw it last year. I walked out to Grassy Point and "think" I saw it. It looks like the common Herring Gull but has yellow legs. I saw it in the water then it flew off. When it flew, I thought I saw yellow legs, but I couldn't be sure, so I'm not calling it.

From there I went to Burlingame Campground. A Red Headed Woodpecker has been living there for a year now. They are not native to New England. For some reason this guy has taken up residence at one of the campsites. I opened my car door, looked up and there it was. Easiest target bird ever. I then walked down to the water. I was hoping for some ducks but it was so windy the waves made it impossible to scope the water.

Wind! It was very breezy today. It made birding very difficult. The small birds stay hidden in the brush. Another problem is using the scope. In a strong wind, it moves enough so it can't focus on  far away birds. I had trouble with this at Moonstone Beach, Beavertail and Frigate Road.

From Burlingame, I went to Napatree. I hoped to see shorebirds. I knew the wind would be howling, but I hoped that shorebirds would be at the little tidal pond. I saw everything I hoped for. There weren't a lot of birds. I saw one or two of seven species including Ruddy Turnstone.

From Nap, I worked my way back north. I stopped at East Beach. I was sure I'd see Red Breasted Nuthatch, Yellow Rump and maybe a Hairy Woodpecker. I saw all three in big numbers a couple weeks ago. Even in the wind, I thought I could call out one or two. That was until I saw the hunter!
It turns out he was rabbit hunting. I don't have a problem with this. He had as much right to be there as me. I talked to him for a minute and he was a nice guy. He told me to feel free to keep birding. "As long as you're not a rabbit, you're safe" was his quote. I still decided to leave. He has gotten a rabbit, which meant he fired his gun. This scared all the birds. I didn't see a single songbird in a half hour. I wished him luck and drove away.

As you can see, between my late start, the wind, and hunters, the cards were stacked against me today. I went to a few more spots birding right up until dark. I saw a total of thirty two species, which quite honestly is pathetic for a full day of birding. Of those eighteen are new for the year bringing my Rhode Island total to 47.  There were a lot of easy birds I just didn't see such as turkey vulture. There were also a lot of easy target birds that were not around. There are always Surf Scooters at Beavertail but not today. As for the harder "chase" birds, I saw the woodpecker and pintail. I struck out with many more including the gull at Ninigret and three ocean species at Beavertail.

Lastly, I did see some birds that I just can't confirm. I got buzzed by a small hawk at Moonstone Beach. I'm sure it is a sharp shin, but I didn't get a good enough look. I saw crows, but didn't hear them so I don't know if they are American or fish crows. Also, at Trustom, there were a lot of ducks on the pond. I bet there were five species I could have added, but the damn wind.

You win some, you loose some. Other than the Red Headed Woodpecker and Northern Pintail, Mother Nature kicked my ass today!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Snowshoeing- better than the exercise bike

Some of us got to go skiing on perfect powder today... Others had to work. I was part of the latter group. However, I did not want to work all day then sit in the house all night. It is no secret that I struggle to keep my weight down (I love food). So I have been trying to do cardio and core almost every day this winter. The logic being, I have nothing better to do. Unfortunately, cardio has meant riding my nemesis, the exercise bike. When it is really cold, or worse, the sidewalks are covered in snow, I have fairly consistently been riding the dreaded bike.

Well not today my friends! He finally got measurable snow. Would  I prefer seventy and sunny? Yes. However, we must work with the cards dealt to us. So today right after work I went to Wrentham State Forest for an hour of snowshoeing. I packed my warm clothes, boots, and snowshoes with me this morning before work.There was still a lot of snow hanging on the pines so my walk was pretty. I moved kind of fast and built up a good sweat, which is surprising since it was 22 degrees. We are supposed to get a warm up turning everything to slush before it melts away. I'm going to try to get out tomorrow if it isn't raining too heavy. Hey, today was better than sitting at home all night

Friday, January 6, 2017

Snow Birds at Trustom

I had big plans for today. When I got done skiing yesterday, I came up with a route to go birding all day today. I was going to get up at the crack of dawn and see how many species I could see. It is a new year which means what was old hat a week ago is a new species for a new year list. I dare say, some of the more obsessed birders look forward to birding on New Years Day more than they do Christmas morning. Last year New Years Day fell on my day off. This year it was Sunday, and I always work Sundays. So needless to say, I was looking forward to starting my new list.

I have not checked the weather in a few days. Last I read it, today was supposed to be cold and sunny (high of 31). So I was quite surprised when I woke at 6:45 am to see a blanket of snow on my car with more coming down. I scratched my plans and put in a movie to watch. I checked the weather and the snow was supposed to stop around 11 am.

Considering there is only about nine hours of daylight right now, leaving the house at 11:30 meant I wasted almost half of it. Instead of driving from place to place, I decided to concentrate on Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. There are two reasons I chose to go there. There is a variety of habitat and a very busy bird feeder at the parking lot. Secondly, I could go for a hike. I planned on making at least one of my stops a place to get some exercise anyway.

At the bird feeder, I picked up my first ten species within seconds. There are always plenty of blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, and downy woodpeckers at the feeder. I put my waterproof boots on, grabbed my ski poles for walking sticks and went looking for birds.

I only ended up seeing 29 species for the day. I easily could have seen fifty if not for a wasted morning. However, I saw two species I did not see in Rhode Island in 2016. They were brown creeper and golden crowned kinglet. I never saw a creeper anywhere last year, so that was good news.

I did get some exercise. I walked the snow covered trails at a fast enough speed to sweat. I did all the trails, I guess they cover about two miles or so. It really didn't matter though, when I got home I rode the exercise bike (yuck).

If the weather is nice next Friday, I'm going birding again. There are still plenty of easy birds left (such as gulls, many ducks, and even robin) that I should be able to double my number. The smart play would be to chase the rarer birds and find the common ones as I go. Either way, I should probably check the weather Thursday night, that way I won't wake to a surprise of white.

Author's note. As of right now, the person that has seen the most species in Rhode Island is up to 94. Total number of species seen by all participants, 125.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Cheap Skiing

I went skiing for the second time toady. I went back up to Wachusett. When I went skiing the first time, I went through the growing pains that everyone must go through just to learn. I started walking a little way up the bunny hill and progressed to the top of  it. There was a lot of falling and getting back up. I knew going in there would be a lot of learning. I tried to keep patience and because I mentally prepared myself, I accepted there would be more failure than success. However, when you fall three runs in a row, it is impossible not to get frustrated. The only thing that really kept me from thinking the sport wasn't for me was watching others fall doing the exact same mistakes.

Near the end of the day, I could turn and I was going slightly faster. I didn't fall at all on my last six runs. When I left, I built up some confidence. For the next two weeks I have thought about skiing every day.

Today I got my chance to go again. The plan for today was to hopefully move from the smaller magic carpet hill to the bigger magic carpet hill. The good thing about that would mean a longer run. Even at my slower speed and working on turns it only takes a minute to come down the smaller hill. Without turning, its only a few seconds. Needless to say, I was eager to move up to the bigger hill.

On my first run on the small hill...I fell. It took me a couple of runs to get back to where I left off last time. Dave left me to practice for half an hour. In that time, I was getting better on each pass. The key to controlling your speed is turning. Before Dave left me I was still "surprised" when I made a turn. By the time he came back I finally felt if I wanted to turn right or left I could without being surprised  by it. We did a couple runs where I followed his track then had lunch.

After lunch we went to the bigger slope. It is at least twice as long. The carpet is twice as long also so each time I had to go back up took three or more minutes. Walking over to the hill, I knew I could do it. I finally have enough confidence that I believe my skis will do what I tell them.

Sure enough the first time down just felt like a longer version of what I had been doing. I could turn and control my speed. Dave had me working on trying to do more parallel skiing and less wedge skiing. For the most part, I was getting more parallel, but not quite there. I got more pointers, but mostly I kept working on carving on the edge of my ski.

The best news of the day was I only fell on that first run in the beginning of the day. I got to the point where I could weave in and around sitting snowboarders ( This wasn't me getting cocky. To get down the hill it impossible not to come across sitting snowboarders). I was watching others make the same mistakes I had made. Of course there were five year olds that were way better than I am. Still, I am very happy with the progress I have made.

Before I even started skiing, Dave had said I could probably take a chair lift my third time skiing. I thought he was crazy. Sixty minutes into my first day, I didn't think I'd make it to the top of the bunny hill. It turns out he is right. There was a beginner slope right next to the hill I was practicing on. I'm sure I can ski it. Maybe I might fall, but it just looks like a longer version on what I was doing. I do know I'm ready for the challenge. So unbelievably, he was right. I will be buying a lift ticket next time I go.

The price of a magic carpet ticket that I have bought these first two times is eighteen dollars. I think that's a hell of a deal for all day skiing. I'm done with the carpet and have graduated to the lift. Unfortunately, that means my new cost to ski just skyrocketed to $63. On top of that I need to buy a helmet. I didn't need one on the carpet hills. There wasn't any trees to hit and falling wasn't very fast or hard. So, I'll be investing in a helmet also.

Last author's note:

I am very happy in my progression on the learning curve. One thing that I am even happier about is I'm learning the right way. Each thing feels like a graduation. At first I learned about the wedge. Then I walked part way up the hill over and over just to ski (fall) back down. After that I got to take the carpet up to the top. I worked on turns until I felt comfortable. Then I kept working on them until I felt confident in them .Next I got to move up to the bigger carpet. Lastly I'm working on skidding to start going parallel.

Of course I have a couple things going for me. One, my friend Dave is a ski instructor. I recommend that anyone that wants to learn to ski should take lessons. Of course they are expensive, so if you have a friend that is a very good skier AND can communicate their skills, learning from them is much better than figuring out on your own. I wouldn't have wanted to learn on my own. There are way to many bad habits that can hinder you from improving or learning skills. I'm sure I'm still doing bad things such as leaning. But having a friend point them out each time makes you conscious of them.

Secondly, without question practice makes you better. We spent hours skiing. I spent a lot of time alone today working on turning. Dave came by every few runs to work on something new or tell me what I was doing wrong. In my two times I've gone I've seen a lot of people taking group lessons. After the lesson, some of them stay on the hill to practice. However, after the lesson was over more than half would be gone never to be seen again. I have no idea where they went. I know that after one lesson no one is getting on the lift (except seven year olds, because apparently they naturally can ski without instruction, where as adults take forever to learn. Bitter? maybe a little)

Anyway, I don't know where a lot of these people go. If they leave after the lesson and a couple runs they will never improve. On the other hand if someone goes up the lift after one lesson, I can imagine that is an exercise in frustration and they will hate it. So as I said, I'm glad to be graduating one step at a time.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Goals for 2017

I spent a lot of time trying to come up with new goals for 2017. I really didn't come up with many. Maybe I'll add some within the next few weeks.

I have two goals that I really want to accomplish. These are the most important to me. I'm not going to try to my break my record for number of birds species I can see. If that becomes a goal every year then it is no longer about the experience. Maybe I will see more, maybe less. I suspect the number of birds I see will coincide with the number of stripers around ( good fishing will mean less birding). Also I'm not going to try to accomplish things I can't control. I can't say I want to catch a bunch of fifteen pound blues. I can only catch them if they show up again.

1. Finish the mountains in New Hampshire over 4000 feet. I have six left that can be done in four hikes. They are Adams, Madison, Wildcats, Cabot, Carrigain. I had planned on saving Carrigain for last, but since Adams/Madison is harder, I'll use Carrigain, which isn't an easy one anyway, to get in better shape for Adams.

2. I don't want to break or loose anything this year. I also don't want to loose any money. This goal is going to take diligence the entire 365 to accomplish. As I brought up a couple of times I had money stolen out of my car. It was money DJ paid me back for paying his car insurance. Since then, I lock my doors every time I get out. I don't want to misplace any paychecks or loose a twenty falling out of my pocket.

As for things breaking, sometime it happens. Sometimes a camera will just stop working. If it is no fault of my own, I can deal with that. I don't want to have to replace something because of my own stupidity. An example of my own stupidity would be, when the money was stolen so was a small point and shoot. I had no choice but to replace it. I need a small camera for hiking and long walks fishing. I don't want to take my SLR near saltwater.  After I replaced it, I brought it with me fishing. I took a picture of a small blue. Instead of putting the camera back in my pocket I put it on my surf bag ( I was sitting next to it)... then forgot about it. When I picked up my bag to fish another spot, the camera fell, and I watched it bounce into the drink. So I replaced that camera.

I need to buy a new surf rod this spring. I asked for BPS gift certificates for Christmas to help cut the cost. Other than that rod, I am trying not to make any big expenses this year. I don't need any big camping supplies. I have all I need for birding and picture taking. I need to replace some fishing gear I lost during the season, but other than the rod, nothing expensive. I'd have quite a bit more money in the bank if I didn't loose or break money, cameras, and my rod. This year, I'd like to leave it in the bank.

3.  Continue to learn to ski. Hopefully next winter I will be taking the lift and feel comfortable on intermediate slopes. That said, I just want to enjoy skiing. I don't want to get injured and I'm not going to rush the learning curve. If I need to keep practicing my turns for two more times, then I will. This sport is too dangerous to get overconfident.

4. We are hoping to go on vacation to the Florida Keys in the late fall.If we go, I want to snorkel, get underwater pictures, and fish for tarpon at least once.

5. I'd still like to see a sea turtle and photograph a bull moose (two failed goals from 2016)

6. This one is actually going to happen because I bought tickets. I want to see Dropkick Murphys play "I'm shipping up to Boston". I'm not the biggest fan of theirs but listening to that song with a bunch of Bostonians around St. Patrick's Day must be incredible. It's on my life bucket list

7. Do a fifty mile bike ride. Just for no other reason, just to see if I can

8. If Don Henley comes to town I want to go to his concert. I can't see the Eagles without Glen, ( I did see them once in Foxboro). I want to see Don Henley one more time.

9. Go to New Hampshire as many times as I can (reoccurring goal)

10. Catch a Channel Catfish