My Pure Joy From Fishing

Not five minutes after presenting my fly in the water a nice crappie hit it and I had my first fish of the day. About ten minutes later my son had his first one as well.

Getting back into fishing I have also gotten back into fly tying. I tied my first flies this week in probably over 35+ years. I tied basic orange-bodied Zebra Midge. I have had many victories and my share of disappointments in life but I actually felt a sense of pure joy going from bare hook to landed fish with something I had built. Even better was the fact that my son quickly switched to one of my files after I caught my fish and landed his.

We fished a little bit longer and then he turned and said "Dad these flies really work; can we go home and tie some more? I want to tie my own."

Hey this is my pure joy from fishing.

 

Why Your Own Kayak is Wonderful

They toss the hunk of plastic off the trailer and point you towards the path down to the river.  You grab a paddle off the pile and grab one of the kayaks laying there and you are off.  Another kayak outing with a rental you hope won't ruin the trip. 

We have all used the rental kayaks.  They are fine and that is what got us into kayaking in the first place.  They are typically all molded plastic, with one or both of the foot braces broken off or just molded into the kayak.  We definitely enjoyed the experience in spite of the kayak.  With your own you can enjoy the kayak and the experience.  

Okay now I have my own kayak.  For Christmas the big family purchases were kayaks for the three of us.  Before this we were renters, now we are owners.  

There is something really special about having a brand new kayak. The ability to truly customize the fit for you is just wonderful.  From the way the real seat hugs your body, to the foot braces, a kayak that fits you is huge.  The feeling of being more connected to your kayak increases the experience.   You feel like you are working with your kayak not against it.  

There is the cost thing.  If you are trying to prove the cost vs. renting then you probably won't be able justify the purchase.  But if you compare renting with the ability to go where you want, the comfort and enjoyment of a perfect fit, and higher quality boat performance then purchasing is the way to go. I truly believe that if you own something you will use it and go much more often.   

Most rental places will transport you and your kayak up the river for a small fee so the transportation is covered.  This eliminates the need for two vehicles on a river trip with one at the start and one left at the termination point.  

If you want a kayak that you can custom fit to your body, have the freedom to go where you want when you want, and take your kayaking to a much more enjoyable level, go out a buy your own; they're wonderful.

8 Benefits to Fishing Local

Fishing local is wonderful and here are eight benefits that I think are valuable:

1.    Fishing local allows you to get out at a moments notice

On the spur of the moment you can get out fishing. After work, after school, or when you have a few hours on the weekend you can get a line wet.  Before family hockey my son and I can get out to Oak Grove Park in Centerville, Ohio, first thing in the morning and be back by 10:00 am.

2.    Fishing local is a great value and not a big investment

You have the gear so all it costs you is time and maybe a few bucks for live bait. There are no big travel costs, weekend commitments, or hotels.  Less time packing and more time fishing.

3.   Fishing local is a great way to get kids exciting about fishing

Not only can you get out quickly but you can get also home quickly.  For a kid to love something they need to know that they have a say, or you can figure out, when they’ve had enough.   Staying too long is a huge risk. 1/2 hour spent enjoying fishing for a kid is epic.  You want the kids to leave happy not dreading the outing.

4.   Fishing local gives you a chance to try out new gear

You got the new rod, or reel so now what?  Do you want to fumble around with the new gear on that once in a lifetime trip or at a local spot?    Get familiar with the gear in a relaxed manner.  There is really nothing to lose on the local waters so give yourself time to learn and set up the rod and reel or try out the new lures or bait. As you probably know those local spots well you can try new lures and bait and have prior experience to compare your results to.

Does the new spinner bait really work?  Do you like how the reel works? How about that rod?  Do you find yourself saying, “I should try that new top water bait?”  On the local water is the time to experiment and get familiar with your gear.

5.   Fishing local lets you support local fishing shops for bait and tackle

The folks at the local tackle store really know where the fishing’s great, what the fish are hitting and can even let you in on new local spots.  If these shops go the way of local bookstores we will all lose these valuable resources.  From bait to repair services and local information, there are numerous ways to support the local shop. Last time I checked you can't buy live bait on-line.

6.   Fishing local helps bring others into the sport

Everyone is looking for ideas on new things to do either by themselves, or with the family. Next time someone asks you in the office what to do this weekend; point them to a local fishing spot. You probably have a couple of closed reels and rods in the garage that you can even loan them. A couple of dozen night crawlers and they are good to go.

7.   Fishing local lets you meet new people

Fishing brings out the best in people. In a weird way it's almost like the collective we against the fish. I know it’s easy for me to strike up a conversation about how the fishing is when I come across someone at my local park.  Nothing gets a kid excited or feeling proud when he lands that fish with someone watching.

8.   Fishing local lets you really master a location

Fishing the spot over and over really let's you master the location. Why are guides successful, they fish the same bodies of water over and over. Fishing the same spot lets you see how the fish and the location change.  There is a place for the challenge of finding success on a new body of water but there is also the great feeling of repeated success at a familiar spot.  Keep in mind that local spot can be a local pond or an equally wonderful stream.

Hopefully these eight benefits hit a cord with you and will get you thinking about fishing local.  I’m sure you can think of other benefits so please share your thoughts below.

EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival

The EPCOT International Food and Wine festival is a great non-kid outing. My wife and I come down to Orlando every year for this annual event.  

The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival runs a little over seven weeks (2015) and is an event that features food, wine and drink in 30 booths including local fares from Florida. The food selections are in small appetizer sizes with each booth / country featuring 3 - 4 specialties. The booths are set up around the Seven Seas Lagoon allowing you to eat and drink "around the world".

 

They also have concerts each night with some well known bands from the past that are free with your admission at the American Gardens Theatre at the American Adventure. In addition to the food and bands there are food and wine related seminars and VIP events. If you are a Disney VISA card holder there are also events exclusively for you. All in all a great event and highly recommended.

Disney knows how to market for increased attendance. The timing of the event is well planned as typically parents are not going to take their kids out of school in the Fall to vacation at Disney so this festival allows Disney to promote attendance in an otherwise slow period. Similar to the Disney Marathon being the first weekend in January after the Holiday rush. I think EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is a great way to try new foods and wine at a relatively inexpensive price (at least by Disney standards).

What we like to do is try and go over at use this as dinner during the week days and lunch on the weekends. The weekends tend to get crowded and the lines at each booth can be long. I would say picking up a "guide book" is essential. As there are only two ways to go around the World Showcase and you tend to start eating and drinking from that end and are quickly full before making it all the way. What we do is alternate by day as to which Country / side we start with. This year we came down on Thursday morning and enjoyed relatively light crowds Thursday and Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were busy as this was the last weekend of the Festival. Also this year the attendance was high as people came down to hit the last weekend of Food & Wine and the first week of the Osborne Light show at the Studios. This being the last year of the Osborne lights that won’t be an issue going forward.

We also fly down and back mid week so you can get pretty good deals on airfare. We stay on property and take advantage of Disney transportation both from the airport and while at Walt Disney World. This also eliminates any issues with drinking and driving if you do enjoy the drink a little too much.

That section of Epcot (World Showcase) opens everyday at 11:00 am so a great way to have lunch as well. The early hours are typically much less crowded and easier to navigate.

I would also recommend coming early to middle of the Food and Wine Festival run. We are here on the last weekend and while the lines were short and managable on Thursday and Friday, the lines were extremely long on Saturady and Sunday.

There are other events surrpounding the festival outside of just the food and wine. This year annual Passholders can get a limited edition commerative port wine glass on your third visit to the park. There are also limited events avaiable to Disney VISA cardholders as well.

If you want to really be efficient I would book the Boardwalk or Yacht and Beach Club resorts for your stay. These access EPCOT through the back International Gateway entrance. Not only is this entrance much less crowded but it brings you into the park between France and England; right in the heart of Food and Wine. Also don't forget to get your fastpasses for your favorite EPCOT attractions. The Futureworld section of EPCOT opens early depending on if there are extra magic hours but generally no latter tan 9:00 am. You can come enjoy future world and then at 11:00 head over to World Showcase. A great way to spend a day. I highly recommend the EPCOT International Food & Wine festival.

Picture of Guide Book Picture of some of the food Pictures of some of the food booths

White Water Rafting in Ohiopyle PA

Well, I went white water rafting for the 2nd and 3rd times in the last 3 months in my life. This was the first time on a natural river. 

Searching for a location that was challenging and close to home directed us to Ohiopyle PA and the Lower Youghiogheny River. Not to spoil the ending but it was awesome. Folks on the East Coast always hear about West Virginia or the Ocoee River as hotbeds of white water rafting but this location was great. It's about 75 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.  This area is rather remote and there are not a lot of lodging options.

Hotel - Lodging

key
key

We opted to stay at the Summit Inn. A historic hotel that was nice and definitely old school. The hotel was quiet and the food was awesome. The only issue we had was that wifi is only available in the lobby so no in-room surfing. All in all a great location and wonderful hotel. The staff was very professional, helpful and made the stay for my son and I enjoyable.  The hotel is also pet friendly. Check with the hotel but I believe they allow up to one 50 lb. dog / pet in your room.

Rafting Company

White_Water_Adventures
White_Water_Adventures

The rafting company we selected was the White Water Adventurers. There are five companies that service the river and all are about the same in price and offerings. We selected the mid-level difficulty trip which was the Lower Youghiogheny River trip. There is an upper river trip which is extremely tame and family friendly. One of the guides joked that he thought sections of that river went up hill.

Logistics

The trips go off at designated times during the day as you are in a group of rafts with a group of guides. All the rafting companies share a parking lot and transportation from the lot to the river entry point. The lot is about 5 minutes outside of the small town of Ohiopyle. The times of the trips are staggered so that each company can use the busses and entry point before the next crew shows up.

You need to make reservations either on-line or at the store in town, They were not able to accept reservations or payment at the check in booth on the lot. We reserved the Friday 10:30 am trip and arrived early for check in and only waited a few minutes. There are changing rooms and rest rooms to use while you wait and after you return from your trip. Showers are there as well.

At 10:30 am we received a brief safety demonstration and got our personal flotation devices and helmets on and boarded the bus.

After the 5-10 minute bus trip to the river's entrance in town we received a more thorough briefing, our paddles and raft assignments. As it was only my son and I, we were paired up with another family to fill out our raft. Each raft has up to 6 people (maybe 7 with a guide).

After you're briefing and assignment you carry your raft about 200 - 300 yards down into the water and load up. After everyone is loaded you paddle across the river for instructions on navigating the first set of rapids. And then you are off.Depending on the water level there are two options for the guides. If it is low or normal (which it was for us) then there are 4-5 guides in kayaks and rubber kayaks (duckies) that float with you and guide you down the river. If the river is high then there is a guide in each raft. There is also a guide in the all important lunch raft.

This trip has level III and IV rapids and was challenging for us.  Essentially on the river you have rapids and calm eddies after each section, so you get in a cadence of congregating in an eddy for instructions and directions on navigating the next rapids.  Everyone goes through the rapids and then regroups for the next rapids and directions.  There are also 3 sections along the river where the calm area is longer and you can get out and swim. Cold, cold cold but you actually work up a sweat so it does feel good.

After the first rapids they take your picture going through and have them available for purchase when you get back to the parking area.The guides were excellent, patient and knowledgeable about the river and white water rafting. The first day (Friday we had 6 rafts and the second day Sunday we had 16 rafts). As you can imagine for the guides it amounted to herding cats getting all 16 rafts down the river safely. On the Sunday trip we had 1 raft of inexperienced rafters /swimmers that abandoned after the entrance rapids. After the first rapids I don't think you can abandon as you get further into the state park and really can't turn back. On the second day we actually overturned the entire raft and all of us where catapulted into the water quickly. Without warning we were all in the water which was a little scary. Once I located my son I was fine, but did bounce along the rocks for some time. Another raft rescued us and we regrouped and remounted our raft.

Nose and Toes up — is a key mantra and important. The water is fast and the risk of getting your feet stuck on a bottom rock or log is real. The only way to avoid that is to not try and stand up and to float down river feet first until someone can rescue you.Our trip lasted a little over 4 hours on Friday (30 min stopped for lunch) and 4.5 hours on Sunday.

You will paddle and you will get wet. You're in a rubber raft with water coming over the top as you go through the rapids and waves. Depending on your experience level, and the ability of your boat mates to row together, you may dump in the water.

Tips

  • Try and have an even number in your raft.  Even numbers seem to make it easier for balancing and rowing.
  • If you want a special sandwich or something for lunch pack it your self and give it the Lunch Raft guide and they will put it in the cooler and distribute it when you get the lunch spot. That's what we did and worked out well for my son and his new braces.
  • Go during the week if possible even in the summer as you have few rafts and flow of your group is better
  • The weekend trip was busy and we did wait longer between each rapid for the group to regroup and start again.

Summary

All and all a great experience and wonderful active time. Highly Recommend it.

Preseason games are great outings

baseball game with batter swinging at a pitch.
baseball game with batter swinging at a pitch.

Sports preseason  games are great outings for friends and families. In the US the four major sports have preseason or exhibition games. These games are typically not as well attended as the regular season games and are great opportunities to experience a fun day out.

  • There are fewer people at preseason games then regular season games so parking, concessions, and dare I say the restrooms, are not nearly as crowded.
  • Usually the best seats are held by season ticket holders. Season ticket holders don't attend all the preseason games so there are great seats available. All the major sports have authorized reseller programs for season ticket holders so you don't have to resort to "Mr. Need tickets" on the street corner.
  • You get to see a mix of established veteran players along with the future stars that will be playing in the league in the future.
  • For baseball you can also turn it into a vacation as baseball's preseason is in Arizona and Florida. Great places to visit in the February - March timeframe.
  • The baseball preseason or spring training stadiums are also much smaller than the major league parks so you can really get awesome views of your favorite teams.

Here is Central Ohio my family and I went over to Columbus for the last Blue Jackets game and had a great time. The entertainment district around the area didn't have the usual crowds so we were able to get a table for dinner at Ted's Montana Grill after 10 minute wait. A great way to get ready for the game.

We picked up great seats 3 rows off the ice which were great. My wife was even able to get a great shot of Mr. Carrie Underwood to send off to her country music loving mother!

When you start thinking that those awesome seats are out of reach for you and your family think again, exhibition games for your favorite teams may be the answer.