Thursday, May 30, 2013

Has it really been over a year?

That's crazy to me.

Makes sense though.  I did virtually no fishing in the last year.  Plenty of shooting and a couple (unsuccessful) hunting trips but never anything that motivated me to update on here. 

A quick update on my personal life over the past year, in case anyone who was reading before is interested:

  • Got promoted to Supervisor at my job.  I absolutely love it.  I feel like I help other people work rather than working myself now.  Also, going from a mostly-commission check to salary has been marvelous and given the wife and I enough financial piece of mind that we...
  • Bought a house!  A beautiful 4BR on a cul de sac in a small town outside of Peoria.  Fenced in yard, two car garage, retired neighbors, the works.  I couldn't be happier about the purchase.
  • After waaaay too much research, I ended the Quest for the Holy Handgun and bought a Glock 22.  Why a G22?  It came highly recommended from family members and friends in the military and law enforcement (and it was $100 cheaper than its 9mm brother).  Unfortunately, I purchased it in January and haven't been able to give it a good testing since the price of ammo has been outrageous since the Sandy Hook tragedy and subsequent push for stricter gun control.  Took $70 to stock the two magazines I have with hollow points just for home defense. 
  • My uncle passed away last August due to complications during a surgery.  He was an awesome man who truly loved the outdoors and I both cherish the conversations we had and wish we had more of them. :(
  •  I had my own scare last fall and had surgery to have a tumor removed.  Thankfully it was benign and I haven't had any issues since.  However, the surgery really opened my eyes in that...
  • When I weighed in for the surgery I clocked in at an even 500 pounds.  I am ashamed that I let myself get that far and it is very hard for me to admit that I let it happen.  Man that's a downer.  But there's good news...
  • Since October, I have lost 59lbs!  I've done so on many different dietary and workout plans over the past 8 months.  As of right now I've been doing a powerlifting-type routine (Starting Strength) at the gym for about a month and will be working in running starting tomorrow.  I've gotten quite a bit stronger and have noticed significant muscle gain.  It took me a long time and I ignored a lot of good advice both from people in person and blog friends but the death of my uncle and my weight at time of surgery were enough to make me realize that I don't want to die before I'm a senior citizen. 

All of this leads to the following:  I miss blogging and I really want to get back to it.  However, being an outdoorsman is such a small part of my life right now that it doesn't warrant regular updates. 

It's time for a fresh start.

 I present for your consideration: A Man's Life

What is that you may ask?  Well, ideally it will be exactly as it sounds:  a chronicling of the goings-on in a man's life.  This man's life in particular.

What to expect:

  1. Regular updates on my weight loss, lifting, and (if all goes according to plan) running progress.  This is one of the main reasons I feel the need to blog again.  Not only could a blog be a very handy workout log, I feel blogging about my progress as an outdoorsman allowed me to meet some awesome people and open a few doors, but I believe it helped me advance from an absolutely beginner to actually knowing some things.  I want to share my journey and leave a record of it. Something I can look back on and be proud of.
  2. Personal updates.  The kind of thing that I wanted to put on here but was afraid it wasn't outdoorsy enough.  Updates on the lives of my wife and I as we progress in our careers and start our family.  Experiences in general, like the test run post on A Man's Life that noone saw where I changed my brakes on my own for the first time a year and then some ago.  You know, this one.
  3. Pro-2nd Amendment commentary.  I suppose the occasional un-gun related political post will pop in there from time to time (From a mostly-libertarian point of view.), but firearms are most definitely my soapbox issue. 
  4. Reviews on things that I am mostly unqualified to review.  Workout routines, weird shoes, guns, books, movies, tabletop RPGs, tv shows.  Anything that stands out as particularly awesome or horrible.
  5. Sports commentary from time to time.  Mostly football and UFC, as it seems that's all I end up watching nowadays.
  6. Some outdoorsy updates assuming I work it back into my life.  I want to.  If you're still reading this blog then you know what to expect there.
  7. Possibly some fiction?  I've toyed with this in the past and actually have over 20k words written out for a story I've been working on forever.  Not sure about this one though.  If I do decide to put that out there, I'd probably start a different blog.
  8. Whatever else I feel like writing.
 So there you have it. If you enjoyed my writings awhile back or you stumbled across the blog, feel free to check it out.  I will have my starting fitness post up tomorrow and as long as everything works out I should have the new site somewhat revamped eventually.

If it doesn't work out... Life goes on.

One thing is for certain: this is the last post for Intro to the Outdoors.  RIP IttO.  We had a good run.

See you at the new place.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's not you, it's me.

Hmmm...  How to put this.

Mike just recently called me out for falling off the face of the Bloggerverse.  I felt the need to give you guys a post in explanation for my lack of blogging.  This is something I've been considering for the past couple weeks, his post was just a catalyst to get me moving.

It definitely isn't due to a lack of activity.  I've been fishing quite a few times since last fall (even got mentioned in a couple of Pre-China posts over at Lunker Hunt), have bought a fly tying kit and tied a few flies, had at least 10 trips to the range shooting things.  So why the absence?

First and foremost, I fell off the weight loss wagon and gained back anything I had lost and then some.  I could make lots of excuses for why but the bottom line is I failed to keep the willpower to keep going.  I promised you guys I'd post regularly and ask for help when I needed it and I failed to do so and have been ashamed of it.

Secondly, my wife and I moved to a different town in central IL about 20 miles away and it was a hell of a time packing everything at the old place, moving to the new place, cleaning the old place, dealing with the old cheapskate landlord, etc.  (You never really realize how much crap you have until you move.  Our second bedroom is still full of packed boxes even though we've been moved for a month.)

And finally (and probably most importantly), I haven't done anything of note as far as the outdoor goes.  I have a couple dozen past posts where I've caught a  bunch of small bass and bluegill, there are only so many ways you can spin that.  As far as guns, I still just have a 12ga shotgun and a .22 rifle.  While its just as fun the 30th time you make a milk jug explode with a slug, its not the most riveting read.  Every person who has ever owned a fly vice has tied a wooly bugger.  Now, that isn't to say that nothing is happening in my life, just nothing particularly exciting in the realm of the outdoors.  If I had hooked into a 5lb largemouth or bought a new gun, you better believe I would have updated.  I blog for myself first and foremost but I don't get entertainment out of writing about my average day outdoors I suppose.

I started this blog initially to learn how to bass fish.  Now I feel mildly competent in bass fishing, along with fly fishing and shooting.  Seeing as how I feel like I have a basic idea of what I'm doing, what I'm doing is no different than 95% of outdoorsmen out there.

So that leaves me at a bit of a mental impasse.  I enjoy blogging in general and love the outdoor blogging community but (short of lucking into a monster fish or coming into a bunch of cash for a gun) don't generally have alot to blog about outdoorswise.

From my point of view, I have at least three options with this in mind:

  1. Leave the blog as it has been and update when something extraordinary happens.
  2. Just delete the blog and move on.
  3. Start a new blog that isn't centered on the outdoors but rather my life in general, with fishing and shooting being a proportional part of it, but also featuring my other hobbies (tabletop gaming, video games, literature, etc) my weight loss, perhaps some political thoughts, and just whats happening in my life.  I realize that wouldn't be entertaining to some but...
So, I've got some thinking to do.  I don't know when I'll make a decision but I'll be sure to let you all know when I do. 

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Happy Birfday OBN!

    The Outdoor Blogger Network celebrated its first anniversary this week.

    If you're not familiar with OBN, get out from under the rock.  :)  The next time you have roughly 47 hours of free time, try clicking through the OBN Blog directory, you'll find a boatload of different outdoor blogs to keep your attention.  If you're a blogger and aren't a part of the directory, get on it.  They have regular blogging tips and weekly review giveaways, where you win a product in return for an honest review.  (Like my review on Sufix Superline, remember?)

    OBN is a great community for those of us who choose to write about the great outdoors and I'm hopeful for many more years of outdoor bloggy goodness.

    Weigh-in 10/23

    I lied.  No weigh-in because I've been treading water at the same weight for the past two weeks.

    However, my employer offers biometric screenings every six months.  We just had ours and I thought I'd share my results.

    Well, not all my results.  Luckily, most of my tests came back totally positive.  The one I wanted to share was my total cholesterol.  It's dropped 23 points in the past half year!   I don't know if thats especially awesome but it feels like a big change so I'm running with it.

    The only bad things on my report were my HDL levels (which were just barely on the bad side) and my blood pressure went from 120/80 last time to 144/90 (Which apparently indicates I have hypertension.  Awesome.  I'll have to see the doctor on that one.)

    So there you go, even tho I've stalled on the weight loss front for the moment, its invigorating to see that Ive dropped my cholesterol levels significantly since last time.  Things are still moving in a healthy direction.

    I've been in a bit of a slump the past couple weeks.  I've had a hard time at work and, combined with the colder weather, it has put a damper on my weight loss efforts.  I really need to separate crappy days at work from the rest of my day and not let it affect my motivation to go work out.  That's hard for me.  (And that's hard for me to admit.)  Nothing to it but to do it I suppose.

    Hope you all are doing well.

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    ALWAYS talk to strangers

    If you're a regular reader of mine, you know that for the past several weeks, I've been getting anonymous tips on different places to go fish around Peoria, IL.

    Well the anonymous tipster invited me out to do some fishing.  So, without having any information other than a codename to call him by and a location, I headed out yesterday morning to take advantage of one of the few days off I have that will still be fishable this year.

    Troy ended up being a pretty cool dude.  He's an avid fly fisherman, gave me quite a few flies to restock my almost bare fly box, and was happy to put me in position to catch the most fish all day.  Anybody willing to do all that earns my gratitude and trust. 

    I've been asked to keep our location on the downlow but when we got to where we were going, we basically drifted smallish streamers under Thingamabobbers just a few feet from shore and it was only a few casts before I was able to scratch another goal off my list for the year.

    A few casts later, yet another elusive smallie.

    And so it went at this first spot, four smallmouth bass in a row.  Keep in mind that I might have caught 4 smallmouth bass in my entire life up to that point, the last being when I was 7 or 8 years old. 

    After the fourth smallie, my indicator shot down again.  Only this time whatever it was on the other side didn't really move when I set the hook.  It sat there for a second and then started steadily stripping off line till he was about 30 yards out.  At that point, he'd let me reel him in until I could just see my leader and then "zeeeeeeeee" out another 10 yards or so.  This is the game we played for quite some time:

    Action pictures courtesy of Troy.
     Finally, after 10 minutes or so, I was able to beach the monstrosity.

    The biggest fish I've caught on the fly so far.

    Caught another smallmouth shortly thereafter and then the bite died off so we moved along, casting as we went.  I'll let the rest of the pictures tell the rest of my story.
    I don't know how I managed to take this picture upside down but whatevs yo.  I ended up with  9 total smallmouth of similar size.
    First common carp on the fly!
    Second common carp on the fly!  This one booked it off the bat, almost took me into my backing.
    Troy caught a couple smallmouth, a grass carp about the size of mine and two catfish.  

    So there you have it.  If someone you've never met anonymously offers to take you fishing, you better take them up on it.  

    Thanks again to Troy, I appreciate the flies, the location, and all the tips you gave me.  I'm up for it again anytime.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    I need to set up an anonymous tip hotline.

    I've been getting anonymous tips over the past few weeks with different fishing locations around central IL.  The last one paid off with a couple bass the day I got my new fly rod so I figured to try out the other couple locations I was made aware of.  The one I visited yesterday is a public lake in Brimfield, IL.  The commenter had said that he and a friend hit up this pond and caught 100+ bluegills, a nice crappie and several small bass.  Sounded like a hell of a time to me so I packed up and headed out.

    My first intention was to get some use with the Pflueger reel and Sufix braid that OBN provided me with to review.  I tied on a flourocarbon leader, bullet weight, and 7.5" black and purple Culprit worm.  On my second cast, I had a hit in some reeds along the shore.  Felt like a decent fish.  He thrashed once, got tangled in a reed and then my leader snapped. 

    I took the time to tie on another leader, weight, and hook and got to casting again.  Not a dozen casts later I had broken off again.   I'm gonna spool up some mono and give the Pflueger reel another chance before passing judgement on it, though I'm much more impressed with it than the line.

    I had only two worm hooks going in and I foolishly didn't pick any up before heading out so it was time to switch to the fly rod.  I tied on a smallish popper and (anticipating the bluegills) a dropper rig with some kind of nymph thing with shiny copper wire that I was given.  For anyone who isn't familiar, a dropper rig is when you tie about 1 1/2ft of tippet onto the hook of the popper and tie on a smaller fly that doesn't float.  The idea being that if you attract fish that are too small to eat the popper, they'll eat the dropper fly.

    It worked like a charm.  I had a quite a few swirls at the popper and a few even drug it down but didn't get the whole thing in their mouths.  However, every once in awhile I'd see the popper shoot under, would set the hook and it was fish on.  It's like combining the simplicity of bobber fishing with the fun of fly casting.

    There were fisherpeople every 30 yards or so along the bank, bobbers bobbing along or poles propped up on Y-sticks.  I gave the usual nod and "Any luck?" as I passed each one.  No luck to be had, with only one guy with a little bluegill in his fishtrap.

    The fishing definitely wasn't as good as had been indicated by my commentor (I blame the varying temperature here lately) but I was getting hits just about every 3rd cast or so.  I missed alot of the hooksets, leading me to believe the fish were too small to eat even my tiny dropper fly.  The seven bluegill I brought to hand were nearly identical to this:

    Better than what all the bait fisherman were catching

    Eventually, something drilled the popper under and was putting up a good fight when I set the hook.  I was convinced I had a bass on the line.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled this guy out of the water:

    My first crappie that didn't involve a bobber or tube jig.

    That makes four species on the fly rod this year: Largemouth, Bluegill, Trout (At the Hooked on Fishing event), and Crappie.  At least I accomplished one goal that I set for myself.  (Don't think I'll be setting goals next year, it makes doing outdoorsy stuff feel like work.)

    After the crappie, I worked along the side of the lake with no shoreline trees to get hung up on.  I caught a couple of the 7 bluegill, missed a few more hooksets and had a few fish fight their way off the line.  A good way to spend a couple hours on a day off. 

    I realized my fly box is getting pretty bare just in time for fall.  I have a bunch of dry flies, a couple poppers, that nymph, and two woolly buggers.  I think I might have to invest in a vise and tying equipment in the next couple months to replenish and keep myself sane over the winter months.  Any suggestions as to a relatively inexpensive setup?

    Review: Sufix 832 Advanced Superline

    Awhile back, I was picked via random drawing to review the new Sufix  832 Advanced Superline braid for the Outdoor Blogger Network

    It has taken me too long (way too long, sorry OBN and Sufix) to finally come to a conclusion.  The reason it's taken so long is I kept trying to give the Superline a chance to really impress me, thinking that using it with topwater or carp fishing on the bottom or any of half a dozen other presentations would let the line shine.  Unfortunately, it never really did.

    I selected the high-visibility lime green option, visions of line-watching Senko-fishing dancing in my head.  The problem with fishing with a high-visibility mini rope is it's just as high visibility to the fish. 

    Therefore, it's highly recommended that you attach a flourocarbon leader to the end of the braid.  The biggest things braid has going for it are:

    • Strength:  Even the weakest braid is several times stronger than mono or flouro of the same diameter.  This really appealed to me because more often than not I'm snagged on something.  I figured that with 40lb braid (same diameter of 10lb mono), I could pull any snag up to and including old tires out of the water, saving my lures and the time it takes to retie.
    • It floats:  This, combined with the high visibility supposedly make braid a perfect candidate for fishing soft plastics, giving you a good indicator if a fish has grabbed your bait and made off with it without tugging on your rod.  The buoyancy also makes braid a good topwater line.
    • It doesn't stretch:  Mono stretches, which some anglers say causes poor hooksets.
    However, having to use a flourocarbon leader negates two of the three advantages of using braid.  the strength of your setup is lowered to whatever poundage flouro you use (plus you have to tie another knot to connect the two, adding another point of weakness to your setup.). 

    I found myself getting snagged and snapping the line somewhere along the leader, which would usually require that I cut the braid, cut a new leader, tie the leader to the braid, and then tie on a new lure.  Compared to using mono or flouro, where you just tie on a new lure, it's not a very time efficient way to do things.  There were a couple times I was using a topwater lure and could tie the braid directly to the lure.  When I would snag in these cases, it was nice to be able to drag the snag out most of the time.  If you can't though, you'll probably have to cut your line.  (Or risk having sharp hooks flying at your face at roughly the speed of sound.)

    Also, flourocarbon sinks.  I don't know how much this depletes the advantage of being able to see your line since I was never able to "see" a bite.  The only fish I caught on this line were caught after "feeling" the bite.

    This may or may not have anything to do with the line itself but I've only experienced it with the Sufix Superline.  The line seems to... catch on the eyelets of my pole.  So my cast will get halfway to where I want it, will catch and PLOP! into the water, leaving six inches or so of line dangling and tangled between my second and third or third and fourth eyelets.  I have to take a second to fix that so any bite I may have noticed on the fall is long gone.  I'll be spooling up the Pflueger reel that I was using with the Sufix line with regular mono and using it a few times before reviewing the reel itself so I'll come back and edit this if I find out it was a problem with the reel or pole and not the line.

    So all in all I don't think I can recommend Sufix Superline, especially not for beginning anglers.  The advantages gained are not worth the hassle of having to tie on a leader and deal with the casting issues I've dealt with.  The only reason I'd recommend this line to family, friend, or some guy in the fishing line aisle is if they're using it strictly for topwater presentations.  Even then, a heavier monofilament line will do the trick so... why bother?  I really wanted to be impressed with this product and write a glowing review but in the end I was pretty disappointed.  Stick with mono and save yourself some grief.

    Disclaimer: I was given the Superline free of charge to try out and give an honest opinion.  I received no other compensation.  All opinions are my own and not influenced by the makers of Sufix (obviously).