Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Favorite Outdoor Thing to Do During Each Month of the Year (mostly free)

I came up with the idea to figure out my favorite places for each month, not as a blog post, but just to see if I could. I decided to share my favorite places in case anyone else was interested in checking any of these places out.

January- Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge

Sachuest is my favorite place to go for a winter hike. Deer are always visible. There is also a good chance to see an owl. I go there multiple times each winter. The photo ops of the deer, coastline and ducks are pretty good.

February- Snowshoeing

My favorite thing to do in February is go to outdoor shows. since I am keeping this as "free" things I'll say snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is just an excuse to get outside during the long winter. I love ice fishing. Snowshoeing has one thing ice fishing doesn't, it keeps you warm. Snowshoeing is pretty strenuous exercise. You will build up a sweat no matter how cold it is.

March- Race Point
You will probably see a seal on the beach if you walk
to the Race from the parking area

This is a new favorite destination since 2016 was the first year I have ever been there. The main attraction is seeing whales from shore. You get closer to them on a whale watching boat. But, there is something special seeing them without paying someone to take you to them with two hundred people you don't know. Seeing them alone from shore is just more wild, more surreal.

April- Trout fishing in Plymouth, MA or the Cape

I look forward to my daytrips to fish the trout ponds down the Cape or Plymouth. Trout are stocked everywhere, including a half mile from my house. It's more fun to catch them in the kettle ponds. Places like Fearings and Russell Sawmill are pretty settings to catch fish. Also, the state stocks the hell out of these ponds, so you can get big numbers of fish. Of course trout are stocked all spring. I choose April as the month I most enjoy this trip. In May, there is too much going on and I forget about the trips to the Cape. Although I also take these trips in March, the water is still really cold and fishing isn't nearly as good.

May- Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

If I took a non-birder to Plum Island in May, even they would not get bored. There are so many colorful birds. So many species migrate through this area. I'm only going a couple times this May.
Common Yellowthroat at Parker NWR
The reasons, I'm starting to detest the 3 hour round trip drive, and I'm doing a Rhode Island Big Year.Plum Island is great for birding any season, but the spring migration is something special

June- Prudence Island

I enjoy taking the ferry to Prudence during the summer. I choose June to go the most because there is a "lull" in my fun activities. Prudence is beautiful. I snorkel there and eat a raw little neck or two. The quiet roads are perfect for exploring by bike.

July- New Hampshire

I go to New Hampshire as often as I can, so I love going there during any month, not just July. I can't say enough about how great the state is. The mountain views, waterfalls, and mountain lakes in the Whites are awesome. I used to spend a lot of time in the lakes region catching smallmouth also. When I'm not there, I miss it.

August- The mudflats at Charlestown Breachway

In Ninigret Pond behind the Charlestown Breachway are some large mudflats. Thousands of returning shorebirds going south stop there to rest. There is nothing like being on those flats. I get to walk barefoot through the mud. I can get wet in the canals around the flats. The birds are easy to see and the other birders are really friendly. There is a good chance of seeing a Peregrine falcon blow another bird out of the sky while hunting

There is never a bad time to think about albies
September- Duh, Albies

Any day off in mid-September means I will be in Narragansett looking for false albacore. If the bay anchovies are around, then there is the chance to catch albies, blues, and stripers in the same day. The weather is usually perfect in September. Fishing from dawn until after dark goes by way too quickly

October- Foliage

I try to spend more time in October just looking at the leaves. Laurie and I take a trip to New Hampshire to see the peak if good weather coincides with our days off. One year we went up, it was snowing on Oct 3, so we monitor the weather report now. Even when I'm not in NH, I try to enjoy the last few weeks of color, since the next six months will be dull.

My other option, and the one I choose on days off are trips to the ocean to catch migrating blues and stripers. I try to go for walks after work looking at the leaves on local trails. On days off, Surf fishing!

November- Museum of Fine Art

The MFA is free (donations accepted) on Wednesday nights throughout the year. I love the MFA, but I'm not wasting a day off during the warmer months. The place is not just an "art gallery". It is loaded with history such as mummies, Greek shields, and swords and much more. The MFA is one place we should all cherish.

December- Christmas stuff

Call it the Christmas Season or the Holiday Season, I don't care. I really try to enjoy the holidays. Without them, I'm sure I'd be dwelling on the fact it is dark at 4:30 pm. I try to go to a Church Bazaar and LaSallette. Although not free, going to Holiday Concerts, Sturbridge Village and other things I have written about the last two Decembers is more fun than opening presents.

Honorable Mention

Concord, MA

During any warmer month, Concord is awesome. There is so much to see that an out of stater could
easily plan a week vacation there. The Revolutionary War started in Lexington/Concord. Much of the battlefield has been preserved. There is a "Battle Road" and the North Bridge where shots were exchanged. The Concord Museum is terrific. Many authors lived in Concord including Emerson, Alcott, Thoreau, Hawthorne. Their houses are open for tours. Great Meadows NWR is a great place to see wildlife. There are two man made ponds that support all kinds of turtles, snakes, birds, etc. Concord is my favorite town in MA

Cape Cod Baseball League

During the summer the CCBL hosts college kids in a great summer league. Most towns on the Cape have a league. We go to the games in Wareham, because they are closest to us. You want to feel like a character in Field of Dreams, go to a game


You could make a case for just about any town on the Cape. For example, Hyannis has a ton of stuff to do. The thing that Provincetown doesn't have is the crazy Cape traffic.

It would be hard to spend a day in P-town and have it be free. However Commercial Street is a great place. There is tons of shops and art studios. More importantly to me, lots of food. Laurie and I went last year and drank pina coladas on an outdoor deck while eating key lime pie. Also, P-town has the best bike trail I have ever been on. It goes up and over hundred foot sand dunes.

Block Island
Provincelands BikePath

Block Island is awesome. I didn't make it part of the list because the ferry is so expensive. Once there, you can have a great day without even spending money. The beaches are beautiful, the fishing is amazing, there are two lighthouses and the scenery is spectacular

Friday, February 10, 2017

Opening Night at the Wizard of Oz

Crappy phone picture
I haven't done much lately. The last time I went skiing a couple weeks ago, I hurt myself. I slipped a disk in my neck. Since then I have been trying to heal. I've had this injury before. The slipped disk pinches nerves which can lead to a lot of pain. This particular time, the pain hasn't been too bad. However, I'd like to get better soon, so I haven't done much in the way of excitement in a couple weeks. Also, my skiing days are over...I retired

Needless to say, I was looking forward to our plans tonight. We bought tickets to see the Wizard of Oz at the Stadium Theater in Woonsocket. I only bought the tickets a couple weeks ago so we didn't get the best seats. Our tickets were in the 16th row. They cost $21 a piece with a four dollar service charge. For twenty five dollars we were entertained for almost three hours.

The play was like the movie so I won't give you the details because I'm sure everyone reading this has seen the Wizard of Oz. The acting was terrific. The girl that played Dorothy was unbelievable. She had a great singing voice also. Although it was classified as a play, there were a bunch of musical numbers. I thought I'd get bored, but they were quite entertaining. They were the same songs as in the movie such as "We're off to see the Wizard" and "Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!" The show was awesome. I spent the entire night smiling because of how much fun I was having.

Tonight was opening night. The play runs this weekend and next. There are two price levels for seats $21, and $26. There is ample parking in the lots and streets around the Stadium Theater. Show time is at 7:30 pm. I highly recommend going. For tickets and info here is the link

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Finally a Good Day Birding

Two Tundra Swans on the island
Normally going birding is my plan for days off  in the winter that I don't have anything scheduled such as a fishing show. The two times I've gone in 2017 were so bad, I really haven't wanted to go since. I had Thursday and Friday off from work. I had so little motivation,  I went to two movies of Thursday. So Friday I decided I better go birding.

There was a Tufted Duck in Providence that was reported on Thursday. I had never seen one so I decided I should go look for it. Ironically, the spot it was seen was five houses away from my boss's house.  I drove down there. There was a guy that I run across a couple times a year (Don H) there. He has seen the duck mixed in with a bunch of Scaup. After a few minutes I saw it in my scope. It was a little smaller than the Scaup with a black back. The species is named because it has a small  feather hanging off the back of the head.

Besides seeing the lifer Tufted Duck, in the flock of Greater Scaup were Lesser Scaup, this was a first for the year. Across the bay was a  Bald Eagle, another first of the year (FOY) but more importantly, just awesome.

After I left Providence I drove down to Trustom. I saw the recorded  Tundra Swans.  Tundra Swans  seem to go to Trustom almost every year, why I don't know. While watching it, a Mute Swan beat the hell out of one of the Tundras. Not my favorite thing to watch. Other ducks included American Widgeon, Blue Wing Teal, both Scaup, and one of my favorites, Northern Pintails. Two rare species were also on the pond, Redheads and Eurasian Widgeon.  I saw the Redheads. I counted six, which is four more than I had ever seen before.  While at Trustom I also came across the popular song birds.

All in all, I saw four rarer species for our area. I got a lifer in the Tufted Duck. It was a fun day.
There were a lot of ducks on the pond yesterday

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Who does the ordering for Sporting Goods Stores?

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend that just went to Bass Pro Shops. He went for about five different things, but only walked out of there with two. Have you ever been to BPS? The store is immense. It is two stories. Almost the entire downstairs is filled with fishing gear. How is it even possible that they do not carry what an angler could want?

Unfortunately, my friend is absolutely right. I have put a list together of things I needed (restocking my lost gear, not things I wanted on a whim). I'll be lucky to walk out of there with half the stuff. How is this possible? First off, as the name implies, it caters to bass fishing, specifically largemouth bass. There is no doubt that if you can't catch fish with what they carry, then you suck as a largemouth fisherman.

However, largemouth are not the most important fish in the northeast. For freshwater, trout rival the bass but truthfully the seven lined bass rule New England. Yes, stripers. BPS carries four or five aisles of saltwater gear. However, it is not the right stuff. This leads me to believe whoever orders their gear is not a local, maybe not even a fisherman. Examples? My friend went in for Daiwa Salt Pro Minnows. This is by far the hottest plug out there. He could not find it in the best fish catching color (white). They do not carry Rebel Jumpin Minnoows. Again, this plug is super effective. An example I thought of was the Sebile swimmer. They have a bunch in non-fish catching colors such as gold. Almost every angler at the Cape Cod Canal has a Sebile in silver, they didn't get it from BPS. There are many other things I really could write, but I must move on.

I'm not trying to bash Bass Pro, I go there as little as possible because they sponsor bow fishing tournaments. Other retail stores are just s bad. Cabelas in Berlin, is worse. The store is less than half the size of Bass Pro. I can never find any gear I want there and usually end up buying it online. You would think Cabelas would carry Cabelas gear. Not completely so. I wanted to buy some Cabelas saltwater jig heads one day. They don't even carry them because of space limitations.

Walmart is even worse. Of course I don't expect an aisle or two to compare to a outdoor store. However, it would be nice if they carried "the right gear" Look at there section on spinners. Would you buy any of their Roostertails. They have the least effective colors I have ever seen. I can only assume they order them based on how pretty they are.

Lastly, look at how much gear we have to buy online because sporting goods stores do not even carry it. As my friend said, "Why doesn't Bass Pro carry treble hooks and hardware?" It's true, you can't buy any replacement trebles, screw eyes, or split rings there or anywhere but online. The hottest soft plastic bait for saltwater are Cocahoes. Other than Quaker Lane good luck finding them at your local tackle shop (Buy them direct from H&H Lures, Queen cocahoes are the 4 inch ones).

I have not run out of examples, I could go on (bucktail jigs, saltwater jigheads, carp gear)
Seriously, who does the ordering for these places?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Spite (sticking to my values)

View from Middle Sugarloaf
This is another of those opinion posts. After you read it, you may think I'm an idiot. That is okay, it's your right. There are a few things I have taken a stand on. By taking a stand, you could say that I spited myself because I did not affect any change. That is okay, because it meant I did not sacrifice my values.

1. After the Red Sox unceremoniously dumped Terry Francona after the 2011 season, I decided not to watch any games for 2012. I stuck with this. I never turned on NESN for an entire year. This was my way of protesting the way Francona was treated. It was not that I loved Francona, it was how he was treated. Francona is the best manager the Red Sox have ever had. They left him out in the cold. Worse than that, they spread rumors he was addicted to pain killers so he couldn't get another manger job for a year. I was actually disgusted by the ownership's handling of the situation.

You are probably thinking, that 2012 was a disaster so it was no big deal to skip the year. It is true the Bobby Valentine experiment was awful, but they were still in first place as late as June... not that I saw it.

For the record, I have not gone to or had the desire to go to a game since then.

2.  Last year New Hampshire Fish and Game decided to charge $10 more on their fishing licenses for 2016. This included non-resident licenses. I am a non-resident so this clearly affects me. I wrote the Department a two page letter explaining how this ten dollar increase was unfair. I gave multiple reasons. I think if you live at a lake house for the summer then going from fifty three dollars to sixty three is fine. I explained  that many people don't buy a license and enforcement should be stepped up to increase revenue.

I believe it hurts the average guy that gets up to the Granite state a couple weekends a year. How can they justify paying all that for a license for a few weekends. I politely told NH Fish and Game that I would not be buying a license in 2016. I explained that buy not buying the license, they would need me to buy one for the next six years to make up for that lost revenue. I then gave them a word problem telling them if even one hundred people decide not to buy a license because of the cost increase, they are out five thousand dollars. So be it.

I stuck to my guns and did not fish in New Hampshire all year. You are probably thinking I spited myself over ten bucks. Nope instead of fishing roadside ponds in the evenings I hiked out to small mountains with views. Two of them were Mt Avalon and Middle Sugarloaf. Instead of fishing, I just hiked and didn't miss it.

I will probably not buy a NH fishing license again this year. Yes, out of spite, but truthfully I enjoy hiking as much as fishing. I want them to feel the lost revenue.

3. Laurie and I  are going to Utah for vacation in September.. Utah is probably the most beautiful

Bryce Canyon, UTAH
state in the country. There are red rock canyons, mountains, waterfalls, everything. There are five national parks.

The problem is the Utah politicians are assholes. They are not typical Republicans (Republican values- lower taxes, less entitlements, pro life, etc...) These guys, Rob Bishop and Jason Chavez, especially are OWNED by big oil and fossil fuel. If they had their way they would give all of Utah's public lands to the highest bidder. They do not want any public land to be public. What I don't understand about this is hunting is considered a Republican pursuit. Yet, these guys don't want any public land left for Utah hunters either. Bishop and Chavez (and I am not making this up) do not consider tourism jobs worthy. They do not believe tourist bring money into Utah's economy. One quote I read "They come with twenty dollars in their back pocket and they leave with it still there" Think of how insane that is. These idiots do not think about motels, campgrounds, rental car companies, flights, clothing, white water rafting, guided hunts and fishing trips, on and on bring money into their state. Many outdoor industries are so fed up they are considering moving out of state. I've read many comments of adventurers boycotting the state also.

So my dilemma becomes, do I let politics ruin my vacation plans?  Do I "sell out" to Rob Bishop and Chavez?  The answers are no, and not really. I decided  I will still go on our vacation to Utah. I still want to see the jaw dropping scenery. However, I will spend as little money in the state as possible. We are flying into Vegas instead of Salt Lake, which means we will be getting our rental car from Vegas also. There is a Walmart in the Nevada suburbs where we will get the food and supplies for ten days. We do not cook meat on vacation. Instead we make meals on a stove such as pasta, stove top, and rice. This way we do not have to worry about using a cooler.
Landscape Arch,
 Arches National Park, UTAH

With food, flight, and rental car out of the way, the only other major expense is lodging. We are spending many nights at National Park campgrounds.I certainly do not mind giving my money to the Parks Service.  Some of the other nights we will be doing "dispersed camping " (FREE) on national monument lands. I bet we spend only one night in a motel,

Of course we will have to buy gasoline for the rental car. We will probably buy a burger for lunch here and there. However, I am so against giving Utah my money, I will do my best to leave with the "twenty in my back pocket" . It is not the good people of Utah I want to hurt, I love small towns and community. However, if they are going to vote for the Bishops and Chavez of the world, I'm going to do my best to keep my money (sales tax, rental tax, etc...) out of the Utah government! I care about this so much that we changed our last night before the flight from a motel in St George, UT to a motel in Vegas.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How is it possible not to have any hobbies?

This is one of those winter opinion pieces that I write because, quite frankly, I have too much time to think. I have a lot of discussions with one of my friends on a variety of topics. In a lot of ways we have the exact same opinion. There isn't any debate. Usually we can't figure out why humans do certain things.

One subject that came up was hobbies, actually people that don't have any. My dad for example, really didn't like to do anything. His favorite thing was to sit around the house and watch television. Of course my mom dragged him on day trips, but he never would go on his own. When I was growing up, he would take me fishing, but he would sit in the car and read the newspaper. I was telling this story to my friend. He relayed a story of a retired person that he knew that just sat around on the couch all day, not even watching tv, just because he couldn't think of anything to do.

WHAT!!! The amount of things to do on this planet is endless. How is it possible not to be interested in something. Yes, of course we all have days where we can't think of something to do. I have this problem a lot in the summer if I didn't make plans before my day off. If I wake up without a plan, that's when I lollygag and end up wasting half the day. What I don't comprehend is not having an actual hobby or a passion. For me, it is especially hard to understand, because I lust life.

Of course I have a ridiculous amount of hobbies. I consider each species I fish for as a different hobby. Why? Because if I trout fish three days in a row, I feel I'm taking time away from stripers or vice-versa. Also, you need different equipment for different fish.

Quite honestly, I don't have enough time to do all my favorite things. More importantly, I sure as hell don't have the money to do everything I'd like. Just off the top of my head my favorite things to do (as you have read about exploits anyway) include:

Fishing for carp, trout, stripers, blues, albies. I'll go fishing for largemouth bass, sea bass, and try for weird fish such as lake trout, salmon, shad, and bowfin. I hike to four thousand foot mountains in New Hampshire. I also go to mountain lakes, waterfalls, and smaller mountains with views. I love going to plays, fireworks, movies, and concerts. Clearly, I spend a lot of time in the woods or on the beach birding. If I were rich I'd be travelling all over the west, but since I'm not, I'll settle for a vacation a year. One of my favorite things to do is photograph animals. Other hobbies of mine include making my own gear, tying my own flies, organizing and cataloging my equipment and reading. When I was a kid I collected baseball, football, and basketball cards. I also wrote letters to my favorite athletes and actors asking for their autograph.I did this for years and I have hundreds. I also used to go to all high school football and basketball games and took my son to them.

Here is the thing, it doesn't matter what I enjoy doing. There are literally million of things I am not interested in doing that others are passionate about. I have absolutely no interest in owning or riding  a motorcycle. I do not possess the skills to fix up old cars. I really don't want a stamp or coin collection. However, these  hobbies along with many others have huge followings. I have a friend that is more passionate about brewing his own beer than he is about drinking it. The point is there is so much out there.

I know some of you are thinking "mind your own business". You are probably right, everyone has the right to go through life the way they want. I just believe we are here for such a short amount of time and there is so much to see and do, it is a waste of a life to go through it bored. Like I said, I lust life. I will never do everything and see everything I want. I'll never feel like I caught enough stripers. But if my life ended tomorrow, no regrets, because I sure as hell tried to!

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.