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).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Remember that BPS employee Dustin?

The one who helped me pick out a new fly setup?

He knows his sh*t.

Weigh-in 10/4

AKA:  Never doubt Tony edition.

Remember how I gained 5lbs last week?  Well Tony from Snug Harbor Bay took me to school, basically saying its impossible to gain 5lbs of fat in a week and not to get discouraged.  Well I got back on the wagon diet wise and got a couple workouts in and lost the 5lbs again!

Tony runs a weekly post on Snug Harbor called Tony's Tips.  He lost 80+ lbs in his senior year of high school the right way and has been giving tips for the past few months, they've been invaluable when I get discouraged or don't understand something.  Go check it out along with Paul's Healthy Outdoorsman site if you wanna get serious about weight loss.  Both have helped me out considerably.

Anybody else losing out there?

Oh yeah!  We live in a duplex and a guy moved in a couple weeks ago.  I had my first conversation with him and he works a few days a week at my gym.  Weird huh?  It'll be cool to see someone I know down there once in awhile.

If this kid didn't have a girlfriend before...

... he will now.

"Jeremiah reported the animal’s breath smelled like “dead rabbits.""

"Jeremiah told his parents he starting swinging his hunting knife in an attempt to get the animal to leave. He cut it, but not deeply, and the animal knocked him backwards again. Jeremiah hit it in the ribs again and let go of his knife."

That's pretty damn manly.  Got a few scratches on his face, a shredded hat and jacket to mark the occasion. 
Man, it'd be nice if IL hunters could carry a concealed gun to protect themselves, rather than a hunting knife and a shot to the ribs...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quest for the Holy Handgun: PPK

Does the thought of an ultra-concealable pocket pistol appeal to you?  Do you think the ability to have a pistol with you at all times is worth the tradeoff in firepower?  Do you take your vodka martinis shaken, not stirred?  Then I present the PPK, From Walther With Love.

Any bets on how many cheesy 007 references I can work in here.
The Walther PP was released in 1929 and developed a huge following.  Two years later, demand for a smaller, more concealable pistol led to the release of the PPK, which is basically a scaled down version.

During WWII, the PPK was issued to German police and Nazi soldiers.  (According to Wikipedia, Hitler actually shot and killed himself with a PPK chambered in .32ACP.)  However, the gun's biggest claim to fame, as I already alluded to, is that it served James Bond as an everyday carry gun from early in his career up until the Pierce Brosnan movies.

"Suck it Trebec!"

Ian Fleming actually originally wrote Bond to carry a Beretta in .25ACP until a firearms expert from Scotland (last name Boothroyd) wrote Fleming and said the cartridge was woefully underpowered, and no self respecting secret agent would carry a gun chambered in it.  Fleming made up the character Q and had him set Bond up with a PPK in .32ACP, and named him Major Boothroyd in thanks.

When every man wants to be you, it only makes sense that every man wants to carry your gun.  The PPK has soared in popularity over the past 50+ years, and has inspired quite a few lookalikes (including the CZ-82 we looked at a few weeks back by way of the Russian Makarov pistol) and proven itself as a great concealed carry option.  Let's break it down a little bit and look at the details.

Reliability: Do a search on PPK reliability and you'll find a mixed bag.  It seems that Smith & Wesson has taken over manufacture of PPKs in recent years and reliability has fallen off a bit, sometimes requiring a person to shoot their gun a bit, identify the issues, and send it to a S&W gunsmith to straighten out any issues.  However, it's much easier to find negative things than positive, especially secondhand from the internet.  In any case, all reports seem to agree that the earlier German/French made models are more reliable.  Doesn't seem to be a huge issue and this also isn't a gun that you'd be out shooting tens of thousands of rounds through due to it's size so reliability shouldn't be an issue.

Capacity:  The standard magazine for a PPK in .380ACP is 7 rounds.   Yeesh.  Then again, when you're buying this gun, you're not buying a gun to carry with you into Kandahar.  You buy this gun to stick in your pocket or inside your jacket in case some crackhead corners you in the parking lot.  Still, if you look at modern pocket guns, you can regularly get 7-8 rounds of 9mm, which is a much more powerful cartridge.  Modern guns in .380 still run around 7-8 rounds but are much smaller and more concealable.  The PPK's capacity doesn't impress.

Price:  The PPK can regularly be had for around $500 new.  This puts it roughly $200 above similar pistols (pocket .380s such as the Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec p38t) and right on par with many of the full sized service pistols with over double the capacity in a more effective caliber.  Couple that with the fact that .380 is still pretty expensive from the "Obama Scare of '08" (Basically everybody bought as much ammo as they could, assuming that the Democrats in power would implement crazy gun laws, raising the cost of everything, especially .380, which had blown up in popularity because of the likes of the aforementioned LCP and p38t.).  .380 usually runs about 1/3rd more expensive than 9mm, so you'll have to fork over more cash to get a bunch of practice ammo to get proficient with it.  the PPK certainly isn't a budget option.  However,  one of those guns inspired by the PPK is called the Bersa Thunder, is almost an exact copy, has some good reviews, and can be had for $200-250.  So anyone looking for a PPKish gun on a budget should check them out.

PPK for tightwads.

Caliber:  The .380ACP round is regarded by most as the bare minimum for self defense. The muzzle energy is only about 1/3rd of the 9mm Parabellum round but most self defense loadings in the cartridge will penetrate around the FBI recommended 12" and achieve full expansion.

I certainly wouldn't want that ripping through my midsection.
The .380ACP round isn't the best option out there but if things were to get bad, it'd be better than throwing punches.

Carryability:  One of the PPK's greatest strengths.  It is on the upper side of "pocket pistol" size but would definitely conceal very easily in just about any other position, be it inside waist band, outside waist band, shoulder carry, jacket pocket, etc.  Outside of modern pocket pistols/derringers that slide easily into a jeans pocket, this is as good as it gets.

Looks:  When I look at other pistols, I give them points for looking like a PPK.  Enough said.

Unless they look like this one.

Customizability:  No accessory rail kind of limits your options here.  This isn't a gun you load flashlights, lasers, and a red dot on.  There are custom grips, you can always DuraKote it a different color, and there are different internal modifications you can make.  Plus you can always gold plate it. Other than that, not a whole lot going on.

History/Track Record:  If it's good enough for Hitler...  Um...  Er...  Seriously though, forgoing any bias against it for being carried by the Nazis, the PP series has been used in combat by a couple dozen different militaries and police departments.  The track record is there to back it up.

So how do I feel about it?  It's an awesome piece of history and for me personally the cool factor is off the charts but I can't justify the extra cost.  If I were looking for a pocket gun, I'd look first to the modern pocket 9mm guns that cost half as much, use a much more powerful round, and have just as good capacity (if not better in some cases).  Like the Kel-Tec p11:

10 round magazine, three times the muzzle energy, half the cost.
Also, you might have noticed that I left out the PROs and CONs.  I feel like alot of this is subjective and contextual.  For example, there's no way you can compare the PPK to the Glock 17 in terms of capacity, because they're made for different things.  Also, what may be a PRO for me could be a CON for you so I guess I just prefer to lay it all out there, compare it to similar guns and then give my overall opinion on it.  Then you can tell me how you think it matches up.  Sound good?  Sound terrible?  Let me know.