Ohio’s Saugeye

“They are on the move” the man said to me, as we passed in the isle lined with displays of jigs and crankbaits. “Are you talking about the saugeye?” I asked. “Yep, they are cruising the banks just below the dam,” he replied. “Want to show me exactly where that is?” I asked. “Hah!” was his answer. So I left the small bait shop found two miles from the “secret location”, with information that was already obvious. The increase in angler population lining up along the spillway and for two miles in various locations downriver of the dam, exposed where the saugeye were offering some action.

Wading rivers and other tributaries in Ohio, especially in northern Ohio along Lake Erie, is the preferred technique to catch steelhead and walleye. Further south, the saugeye is a hybrid that is hatched and stocked by the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife. The saugeye offers thousands of anglers the opportunity to fish for a “migrating” type of fish similar to the fish noted above, by wading and casting and as summer approaches, switch to the reservoirs.

Here They Are
Saugeye are adaptable as most hybrids. Any human-assisted species does not have a native wish of habitat, but instead, what or where they are introduced becomes their home. The saugeye has characteristics of both parent species. The saugeye prefers to run the tailwaters and tributaries of reservoirs similar to the walleye in the spring. The saugeye also thrives in lakes and reservoirs comparable to the sauger that inhabits the Ohio River.

Alum Creek, located in central Ohio, is the home of Ohio’s state record saugeye – 12.84 pounds, 28 ¾ inches. Buckeye and Indian Lakes provide the saugeye angler with fine opportunities for a catch anytime of the year. In the Eastern third of the state, Tappan and Piedmont Lakes is the preferred fishery for saugeye. The Muskingum River, which travels south over half the state’s length, is a favorite for saugeye all seasons.

The rip-rap that lines the dam’s spillways attracts saugeye early in the year and will hold fish on into early summer. Once the water warms to late spring to summer temperatures, the saugeye will disperse into the lakes. The saugeye is a fish that prefers structure as a place to hang out and to ambush its feed. To prove its adaptability, the saugeye will survive and thrive in most waters found in Ohio.

Lure Of Affection
Selecting the proper lure for saugeye is not a tough task. Since the saugeye feeds on many of the same forage fish that bass do, selecting bass-catching lures will do the trick. But, in the spring, jigs tipped with minnows are the desired setup. Fishing jigs along the rip-rap areas directly below a dam will catch most saugeye.

If spring rains have stirred the water giving it a muddy or heavily stained color, fish a jig across the bottom. Especially when fishing a tailwater directly below a dam, which is almost always muddy in the spring, focus your bait to the bottom. The muddier the water, the closer to the bottom the saugeye will be. As the spring progresses and the tailwaters stabilize, begin to tip jigs with nightcrawlers or switch to a worm harness style rigging.

Lake fishing in the spring for saugeye should be concentrated to old roadbeds and other underwater structures. The original creek channel of the lake will be the center of most saugeye action until the water begins to warm. Bouncing worm tipped jigs along these areas will produce some action. If the water is stained or remains muddy, choose a black action-tailed type lure for success. Concentrate the presentation of a black or dark colored jig to the shallower areas of the lake or river, the muddier the water, the shallower the saugeye will be.

As spring progresses to summer, saugeye will spread out in a lake. They will search out structure similar to the bass. This characteristic provides results for the angler who offers crankbaits. Casting small crankbaits, less than three inches, imitates the shad, which is the preferred feed during this time. When the temperatures begin to hit and remain in the summer temperatures of over 70°, trolling a worm harness with forward spinners through lakes and reservoirs (similar to walleye trolling) produce saugeye action.

It’s not a secret that saugeye fishing is gaining recognition by Ohio anglers. Either by talking with fellow anglers at the local bait shop or experimentally jigging and casting on your own, the chances of saugeye success is good in the buckeye state. Just as its parents, the walleye and sauger, the saugeye’s popularity comes from the exciting fishing and fillets that it provides in many of Ohio’s waters.

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Keep the LIFE in Life Jacket

The water’s surface was not glass-like, but the waves were negotiable for our 14’ aluminum fishing boat. I turned our craft away from the shoreline we had been following and headed out across the open section of Salt Fork Lake. The fishing action had slowed down to almost nothing, so to move to another area of the lake with different type of fish habitat seemed like a good decision.

The three of us; my wife, a friend, and I, were willing to try one more spot before calling it a day and heading back to the boat ramp. While we were traversing the open section of the lake, it seemed like boats were coming out of nowhere. Many of them were pleasure boats cruising towards the buoys marked, “No Wake”. We were on the calm side of the no wake zone where I thought the lake crossing would be a safe one for our modest boat.

Then I saw it coming. A black ski boat speeding our way and not slowing down. I told my partners to look at the idiot in the black boat, could he not read the “No Wake” lettered on the buoys? The boat continued coming, I felt like running on the water to get out of its way. At the last second, the ski boat swerved away and created a huge wake just in front of my little ship. The bow of my boat dove into the hole created by the ski boat like a nose-diving duck. The three of us knew that we were in serious trouble and began grabbing what we thought was important and didn’t want to end up on the bottom of the lake. And then the boat rolled over.

A fact from ODNR’s Division of Watercraft – Among the 16 Ohioans who died in boating-related accidents on state waterways in 2010, none were wearing a life jacket when the accidents occurred, according to the Division of Watercraft. Investigations typically conclude that most boating-related accidents are preventable and that boaters increase their chances of survival when properly wearing an approved life jacket.

Ohio law requires that a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket of the correct size and type be worn by any person less than 10 years of age while aboard any vessel less than 18 feet in length while it is underway. The approved life jacket should be worn by any person regardless of age who is riding in a personal watercraft and by any person regardless of age who is being towed behind a boat for any reason such as tubing and waterskiing.

The three of us were clinging to the capsized boat, waving my arm trying to get another boaters attention. I could see the ski boat that caused us to flip and the driver looked at me as he drove away while laughing. Oh, if I could have gotten my hands on him. We were pulled from the water and our boat pulled to shore to flip it right side up by a courteous pleasure boater and his friends. Once back to the boat ramp, angry, but happy no one drowned, we assessed the value of the tackle and other items that were lost and would never be retrieved. Although, the most valuable items we had in the boat that day were not lost – the three life jackets we were wearing that I still have today.

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Casting Away Breast Cancer

I had just arrived back to the house on my bike when my parents pulled in the driveway. It was 1970 and I was five years-old. I had been visiting a cousin the next lane up from ours on the rural route, when my aunt told me my father had called and it was time for me to head home. I parked my bike and greeted mom and dad as they exited the car. Instead of the usual cheery hug and kiss on the cheek, mom insisted we join my siblings in the house for a family meeting. A few days prior, mom had discovered a small lump in her right breast while applying antiperspirant. As mom and dad sat at the table, explaining to us kids what mom’s test results revealed, my attention was fixed on the tears in both of their eyes. My stare soon became blurry with tears of my own. Not that I understood what breast cancer was, but the fact that my parents reaction told me it was a serious matter. It scared us all.

During her stay in the hospital after her radical mastectomy, I was not permitted to visit her long because of my young age. At home, I searched for the best looking pears lying under mom’s favorite pear tree to send her as a gift. Mom and I spent many hours together outside when I was a young boy. Picking the harvest from the fruit trees in our yard provided several life lessons taught by mom and I enjoyed the time with her. The pears I sent to her in the hospital were filled with more than sweet juices and tender fruit flesh, but love and hope from home where her sons and one year-old daughter craved her return.

After the shock of the discovery and removal of mom’s cancer had subsided to a smaller degree, our focus switched to getting her better. Dad stretched an extra clothesline which provided some therapy for mom as she was forced to reach higher to fasten the laundry. The care she received at the hospital was wonderful and the surgery went as planned. Mastectomies in the early 70s took much more than they do today, but the mental trauma is the same. What was she to do if the cancer had spread? How would dad get along raising three young kids and two older children if she didn’t survive? What if, what if, what if?

During the months after her surgery she gained strength in her arm and side. She also gained confidence the cancer was gone and gone forever. What haunted her was the thought of, what would the outcome have been if she ignored the lump? Then and today, many women who first discover the first signs of breast cancer, deny the possibility of what it could be. And in the most devastating cases, when they do make the call to their doctor, it’s too late.

The years following mom’s cancer experience, she was going full force with mothering and marital duties. We kids had even reached a point where we could even giggle when mom made little jokes about adjusting or looking for her “falsey” (her foam breast prosthesis) after bathing. Her strength she shown was a great lesson of dedication to her family and doing everything in her power to be present for us. As a hospital employee years later, she was an inspiration to women dealing with breast cancer. Mom is now 82 years-old and doing more than most women two-thirds her age. She’s continuously impressed with the advancements of breast cancer awareness and treatment. As an avid fly fisherman, I’ve encouraged mom to join me on a pond occasionally to cast a fly. She does and enjoys the exercise and the time with her children in the natural setting which gives her much comfort – physically and mentally.

A wonderful program that introduces breast cancer patients to the many benefits of fly fishing is growing across the nation and the world. According to the program’s website, “Casting for Recovery” is a national non-profit support and educational program for women who have or have had breast cancer. The program provides an opportunity for women whose lives have been deeply affected by the disease to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn fly-fishing, “a sport for life.” Just as importantly, the program offers an opportunity to meet new friends and have fun. The weekend retreats incorporate counseling, educational services and the sport of fly-fishing to promote mental and physical healing. Founded in 1996, Casting for Recovery has been offering free retreats across the country. The program relies on local volunteers and organizations to support our community based retreats.

The retreats provide an avenue for social support and group interactions, reducing the feeling of isolation many survivors might have. The dynamics of fly fishing provide a healing connection to the natural world, relieving everyday stressors and promoting a sense of calm. Fly fishing techniques provide a gentle exercise for joint and soft tissue mobility. The retreats offer a forum for women with similar experiences to meet, learn a new skill and gain a respite from their everyday concerns.

For more information: Call 1-888-553-3500, or visit them on the web at www.castingforrecovery.org

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Really Doing Earth Day

Spring cleaning – oh the fun. The annual ritual of dragging out everything both hiding and obvious from the garage is a task which usually includes a few surprises. From lost tools, pieces (or entire collection of parts) of unfinished projects or even evidence of a small critter’s visit are revealed. All things that are easily handled and reorganized if need be. It seems each year there is one or two items needing special attention in either recycling or disposed of properly by proper technicians. I always find the contrast between the amounts of outdoor adventuring gear hanging and stored about the garage, and the remnant paint can or half-filled garbage bag containing plastic containers – which were intended to be delivered to a recycle facility but never made it, interesting.

While I worked away at this year’s early spring gutting of the garage, more than the ordinary couple of recyclables appeared. As I took a break from the beloved occasion, I became focused on the “junk” just compiled on the workbench. I began to think of how large a pile it would be if every homeowner on earth would contribute their recyclable and chemically dangerous items to one location – Mount Junkmore it could be titled. Earth Day this year is recognized on April 22nd. But, I know it’s said often, but we (Earth’s caretakers) should recognize the subject every day.

As with my garage cleaning, many communities across the globe conduct special events to give old Mother Earth a hand on Earth Day. Some of these people go one better than that. They maintain scheduled clean up days throughout the year. Imagine that, or maybe you don’t have to, because you are one of these people or part of a group which realize more than once a year our home planet needs our help. You don’t need a cool looking patch sewn on your jacket or have a plaque hanging on your wall to be considered an Earth Day doer. By simply starting in your garage, shed, or around the yard, a little contribution to keeping our planet healthy can be achieved.

When my son was five, we took a long walk on the beach. We would stop occasionally to inspect a few shells or other marine life forms or their signs left behind, and also to pick out any trash rolling in and out in the surf’s edge and depositing it in a garbage can along our way. About an hour into our walk my son stopped, turned around and looked back towards our place of stay. “Oh no Dad, look how far we came,” he said. I took the opportunity to utilize the walk as a life lesson regarding reaching a goal. I explained if we would have begun the walk with strained eyes laboring to see the distant destination, our turning around point, the trip would seem big. But if we only concentrated on the next step, we would be there before we knew it. Today, I use that same lesson when speaking to children about picking up one or two pieces of trash against their yard fence or along their sidewalk. One piece at a time adds to a great big result.

Lead by example. Begin in the neighborhood. Include kids and adults and keep it simple but fun. Take a plastic grocery bag along on your next walk. It weighs nearly nothing but can carry some weight against Earth clutter. Just consider the stopping, stooping, and picking up of trash additional exercise. Encourage co-workers also by leading by example. Pointing out to a co-worker what crazy amounts of trash exist around and about your work environment can spark a productive conversation or even better, a planned day of cleaning it up.

Maybe the most important place to encourage fellow Earthlings to cherish a clean planet is at the retail market. Grocery or retail stores are filled with good choices these days regarding recyclable products, Earth Friendly status packaging, and awareness of the enormous impact we humans are having on Earth. Again, consider a few recycled items each visit to the store to take that “one step at a time” approach to reaching a realistic goal of moderate Earth Day awareness.

While unloading my couple paint cans and old mower battery at our county’s recycling center, a sparked a conversation with the guy unloading his collection beside me. He informed how he was surprised how much junk, especially long-term damaging to the environment items he had stashed around his property. Since he considered himself an organizational fanatic and clean freak (title confirmed by his wife), he wondered how the two boxes of “stuff” accumulated.

As I was driving home and thinking about going fishing once home, I approached two boys on bicycles. One stopped quickly and jumped off his bike. It appeared something was wrong, that was until I saw him gather two discarded soda cans and add them to a bag strapped to his bike. There was nothing wrong after all. He was right on – one stop at a time.

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Little RV, Big Fun

The RVing industry has struggled through the last few years – a reflection of the times. Although dedicated RVers continue to cruise the highways and byways via plush, well equipped motorhomes and larger towables, a new category has begun to gain momentum in RVing world. Ultralight camping units capable of being towed by small automobiles are getting much attention, on the road and in the campground. Basically a tent-type shelter attached to a small trailer, which provides easy towing and comfortable camping.

The lightweight characteristics of these little campers, from 500 to 1000 pounds, create towing possibilities for nearly anyone with a car. No special towing packages or heavy-duty vehicles needed to put you on the road to camping adventures. Once at the campground, these tent campers open up and are ready for action in only minutes. Different from traditional pop up campers, the lightweights do not have a hard top, but instead a sturdy tent cover and pole system that provides rain-shedding comfort and a touch of sleeping under the stars feeling at the same time. Most ultralight tent trailers utilize similar systems with ease of use and back to basics camping all in one package. Storage underneath bench seats, strong bunks with mattresses, screened windows, dry floors, and several optional features provide fun and relaxed camping for the entire family.

For those who prefer to be away from a busy campground, ultralight tent campers offer perfect lodging needs in the outback. The loyal tent camper will even find the ultralight tent camper acceptable in the ‘real’ camping community. For anglers, an ultralight offers comfortable sleeping quarters, but also the ability to quickly move on to more productive waters if the current fishing hole becomes inactive. Many times, a rainy season will hinder tent camping for most, but the dry trailer box will keep the camping enthusiast camping – no matter what the season.

Finding time to camp has become a problem for RVers similar to other recreationalists in today’s culture. The ultralights provide an answer to that problem with the ease of keeping the little trailer packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just add a box of food to the stocked camper and away you go. No more, “by the time we get everything together, it’ll be too late to go” excuse.
Storing an ultralight is as simple as storing a larger lawn/utility cart in the garage. Most ultralight tent campers are capable of being stored in an upward position, taking up less space in the garage intended for the car. Neighborhoods that restrict RVs stored in the driveway, may accept an ultralight as a utility trailer temporarily parked in the drive.

The adventures of RVing are heading upward because of ultralights and the simple camping they bring. The focus is turning back to the original intention of recreational camping and that is to get away from the daily routine and/or spend some quality time with friends and family surrounded by the pleasures of nature. A big camping rig has its treasures for sure, but the draw to ultralight tent campers is looking like the next big thing in the RVing industry. Getting green and leaving a low carbon footprint has been a goal for campers for decades. Ultralight tent trailers are just the ticket to bringing more folks outside and also to provide an alternative to those who have parked their big rigs.

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Choosing the Correct Fishing Line

If the fish kept going in the direction it was headed, it would surely imbed itself in the heavy vegetation growing around the partly-submerged log. I pulled back on the rod just to the point that I thought the line would be near breaking. As the fish swam right where I thought it would, I grew impatient and attempted to stop the bass from burying itself in the cover of weeds. Stupid mistake. Not for trying to whoa him up, but for not bringing the reel with the correct fishing line for the situation. Snap! And the bass was free once more to rule his underwater kingdom until the rod-whipping knight returned with the proper line for the specific battle.

Not long ago, the selection of fishing line was pretty simple; pick a line rated to hold the intended species of gamefish the angler was pursuing. As fishing tackle has evolved, so has fishing line. I remember in the early eighties seeing Stren’s new colored line. I, and every other young angler I knew, just had to have a spool or two of the purple wonder line. It was, and still is, a great accomplishment in the fishing tackle industry leading to many innovations by many line manufacturers. The problem today is to choose the line that is perfect for your fishing situation; a task that can be quite a quest.

    Line Styles and Uses

For the average fisherman the most used line is monofilament, it’s less expensive than the superlines and simple to use. Monofilament line is used for many species of fish and is sufficient to a wide array of lures and baits. Monofilament line is easily wound on reels which make it the choice of lines to keep a small spool in your tackle box/bag for an emergency re-spooling line.

Monofilament has come along way since its creation, especially in the strength category. Strength is the first and most asked specification when discussed by anglers. Depending on the target species, ten pound test line is the all-around strength selection. Ten pound test line can handle a fish weighing more than ten pounds, that is, if the fish is fought correctly. Keep the rod tip up to disperse the stress of the pulling fish to the rod’s line guides to prevent line breakage during landing.

Sometimes the product catches just as many anglers as it does fish. Colored line does have advantages such as matching the water color of the angler’s destination. A clear-blue fluorescent line is my preferred line for I can see the line above the water and the fish cannot see the line underwater. This is especially an advantage when fishing public waters where the resident fish see lines attached to lures often, spooking the fish into not taking the angler’s bait and educating that fish to be reluctant to follow or ambush the next angler’s presentation. Green colored line is ideal for water loaded with vegetation or stained water from recent rains. Gold colored line is the choice for when maximum visibility and strike detection is necessary. If you’re not sure of the conditions of the preferred fishing location, then choose a clear color to keep things simple. A clear colored line offers the angler the possibility to attempt several species and lure presentations with good odds of success.

When fishing water that demands longer casts to reach target areas, then fluorocarbon line is the answer. The primary reason is the visibility it gives the angler and then disappears when underwater, increasing the chances of a strike from a spooky fish. Berkley introduced Vanish Transition™, a fluorocarbon line that is extremely visible when exposed to sunlight, but completely invisible when underwater. This is important for finesse fishing for unenthusiastic fish. Seeing a light fish strike is possible with this line because of its “hi-vis” color.

Braided lines are just that; braided strands of material that make up a superline. The advantage of the braided line is the superior strength and sensitivity in a small diameter line. Another advantage is the line doesn’t stretch like other types. Braided lines provide a super strong, thin line for presenting a lure to hesitant fish lurking in cover. Cover that provides a secluded hideout that is tough to penetrate without a tough lure and superline.

When choosing a fishing destination, don’t forget to consider what line would fit the situation. The choices are many, but the primary desires of line are; strength, sensitivity, and visibility. Pick the line that will deliver these elements and the results will end up in your hands, and that is the bottom line.

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Wayne National Forest Programs

Following is a news release from the managers of the Wayne National Forest:

Educational Program Features Amphibians

Nelsonville, OH – (March 24, 2011) Come and join Wayne National Forest Saturday, April 2nd at the Wayne National Forest Headquarters and explore the amazing world of amphibians.

Learn all about frogs, salamanders and their habitats! Did you know amphibians drink and breathe through their skin and that toads blink to help them swallow? Discover these amazing creatures and how they have adapted to their world! There will be three sessions starting at 10am, Noon and 2pm. Each class will last about an hour.

Bring your kids and enjoy this free fun-filled educational program that’s designed for kids’ preschool to 5th grade. Space is limited to 15 seats per session, so please pre-register by calling (740)753-0101.

Due to the length of the program, visitors are asked to remain on the office grounds during the program.

The Wayne National Forest features its Wild Weekend Discovery Series during the first Saturday of every month. Get your Smokey card punched each time you participate, on your 6th visit receive a patch!

Here’s a list of other educational programs that are being offered by the Forest:

May 7th – Birds
June 4th – Pollination
July 2nd – Butterflies
Aug 6th – Fungus
Sept 3rd – Trees
Oct 1st – Bats

The WNF Headquarters and educational facilities are located south of Nelsonville on OH 33.

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A Boat Assists in Catching More Than Only Fish

Many fishermen know what benefits are to be had when fishing from a boat. A fisherman can maneuver through waters that are not accessible by walking the shoreline. A fisherman can cover more water surface and fish habitat than a bank fisherman can. With the ability to move from spot to spot in little time, incase the fish stop biting at a particular location, a youngster will not become bored.

A boat can provide many opportunities to improve a fisherman’s catch; it can also provide many non-fishing benefits for the occupants within. A watercraft, no matter if it’s a 10-foot aluminum jon boat or a 20-foot fiberglass bass boat, is an instrument that can provide a means to reconnect with family and friends.

The busy lives that we lead today leave little time for focusing one-on-one with people that are the most important to us. Many of my childhood memories take me back to times spent fishing with my father in his 12 aluminum v-bottom boat. I believe the reason that the times that we shared in that boat come to mind first, is because of the quality conversations that we shared. Sitting in the vessel, concentrated on the fishing also gave us the time to talk without any daily interruptions except for reeling in fish.

Many times my older brother and I both would go with dad, which led to some interesting discussions. While in the boat out on the water, brother and I would let down our invisible guards against each other and laugh, talk, and act like brothers should. After a few hours back at home, after fishing with dad in the silver boat, brother and I would slowly slide back to our rituals of slapping each other on the head while calling each other ridiculous names. But the time we spent together on the water, we were one happy unit – a father and his sons.

As my brother and I grew older and we gained additional responsibilities, the available time we had to fish with dad in his boat grew smaller. Dad continued to share stories, advice, on both fishing and life, with other children. My nephews were treated to the pure enjoyment of fishing from a boat with grandpa. Once back home from the fishing excursion, my nephews would share some new information that grandpa had enlightened them with while contained in the little silver boat. Some stories were true but unbelievable and some were, well, fish stories.

Dad’s desire to share his love for the water and fishing was not limited to only family. A family of the Mennonite religion, which included several children, moved onto the property next to ours. The Mennonite children were attracted to my father and his good-humored character as any child would. After several invitations by dad to take the kids fishing, the father of the Mennonite children finally agreed to let them go. There were four boys that were very close in age. For safety reasons, only two could go at a time. From the first trip to the water with dad and his fishing boat, the four brothers squabbled about who would go next. The combination of my father’s kindness and concern for children being introduced to his beloved sport of fishing, and the excitement that the v-bottom boat provided on the water, broke the barrier of the difference in ways and beliefs of life.

Sitting in the boat, they were all equal. You see, my father was a leg amputee, the boat gave dad the chance to slow people down if only for a couple of hours and converse about the qualities of life which were passing most of us by unnoticed.

My father has since passed and my brother still has his boat. I have fished from a boat since dad taught me to. But what dad also taught me, was that a boat on the water was much more than a means to catch more fish, but a way to enhance or renew a connection with family or introduce a neighbor kid to one of nature’s finest pleasures.

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Backpacking Comfortably

Finding time to escape the daily grind to recharge the soul’s batteries takes some dedication. One of the attractions to backpacking is the closeness the activity provides those wanting to connect with the natural world. The factor that repels many would-be backpackers is the surrender of comfort. Blisters popping up on feet and shoulders are visioned for some who have experienced an ill-equipped pack trip on the trail. But for others who regularly take to the path with pack on the back, do so with affection – and comfortably.

Proper planning is the key to any successful journey and especially so when the daily needs are carried on the back. Location is the first element to consider when planning. For first time backpackers, selecting a trail that fits their skill and physical levels is important. Most backpack trips gone wrong happened on terrain with accents, descents, or natural obstacles that turned out to be too much. Keeping in mind the ages of the participants and physical abilities will lead to a happy group both when moving and during breaks when nature provides the show everyone came for.

Proper trail selection includes not only the geographical ups and downs, but also parking facilities at the trailhead, condition of overnight campsite, and what, if any, supporting commerce and the nearest health care source in case of emergency. Of course the intent is to spend time away from daily trials, but it’s good to have a doctor not too far away if needed. Planning the trip on a topographical map will provide accurate details about varying elevations. A comfortable camp will not happen if the day is spent trudging in pain up an unexpected incline. In other words, don’t bite off too much trail than you can walk.

When selecting a trail, whether a state, national, or private property, inquire with the managing personnel about specifics of not only the trail’s contour, condition, and challenges, but also things like drinking water availability, shelters, and permits. Knowing as much about the trail will lead to only packing what is needed and to leave needless gear at home for a later jaunt. Each trail has a personality which should be approached differently when planning. Thorough preparation eliminates surprises and headaches that lead to foot and back pain, or worse, lost interest in returning for more backpacking action.

Keeping the trip comfortable also depends on gear selection and use, which is decided well before departing the trailhead. The goal for nearly every backpacking trip is to go as lightweight as possible. There are those who go ultra light or don’t go at all, but going ultra light takes serious planning derived from packing experience. The key is to go as light as possible without giving up quality and durability. This must be achieved to arrive at a comfy camp at the end of day. From boots to packs and food supplies to bedding, consider what is really worth the extra weight and what isn’t.

Dressing for the occasion is critical in the backpacking culture, not for fashion but for performance. A quality made, well-fitting boot is priority; the foundation to the trip’s comfort level. Sore feet only exaggerate the pain as it moves up the body, making it difficult to enjoy any part of the trip. Since you’ll be carrying a load on your back, no matter the weight, a boot with abundant ankle support is crucial. Maneuvering around and over rocks and logs, crossing streams, and climbing slopes is better completed with secure footwear.

Depending on the season, pants designed for the trip’s topography and conditions are next in line of clothing significance. The design to handle multiple events is zip-off legged pants, which go from long pants to shorts in a few seconds. These are perfect when dealing with elements such as cool mornings and warm days and when wading small streams or wandering through knee-high foliage.

Dressing for comfort while backpacking is a bit different than when hiking. Keeping cool or warm while exerting energy to walk yourself and pack onward is a constant task. The objective is to maintain a stable temperature. Stopping intermittently to add a shirt or remove a jacket in reaction to the course is common. Rehydrating will also help the body to maintain a steady temp, as will layering in sufficient clothing layers – not too many though. Wearing a base layer shirt made that wicks away moisture and provides proper ventilation is worth the extra cost. A lightweight, breathable material windbreaker is a good coverall, especially if rain showers are in the forecast.

Backpacks come in many styles, designs, and weights, and are the building that sets on the foundation. Three elements should be fulfilled; fitting to individual’s size, balance of pack when loaded, and this article’s theme, comfort. A small teenager toting his gear in an adult-sized pack will likely lead to overloading and a disgruntled kid. Select a pack that is balanced to body height and weight. An internal-framed pack fits the body snuggly, where as an external pack straps on with ventilation space between pack and back. An internal pack is more stable when the going gets rough because of the tighter fit. An external pack is slightly less balanced, but it is easier to load and access gear.

Narrowing down the ideal backpacking tent is simple – buy the best you can afford. The reason is this; if during a two-day trip and it rains for one and a half days, more time than expected will be spent snuggled into the fabric lodge. Also, set up and tear down your tent a few times at home. Arriving at a backcountry campsite near or after dark can escalate to a headache of setting up tent. Be sure poles and stakes are as lightweight as possible and in good shape.

Settling into a sleeping bag after hours of roaming the trail is pleasurable as well as satisfying. Doing so in an ill-performing bag is not. Sleeping bags designed for backpacking are durable, lightweight, and compress to a packable size. Also consider a lightweight sleeping pad to provide a comfort zone. Some believe a pad is an unneeded extra, but for a decent night’s sleep, it’s best to include one.

Gourmet meals on the trail don’t have to be peanut sandwiches, but a backpack loaded with multiple cooking gear is even worse. Freeze dried foods fit well in a pack and easy on the back. Add a few strips of beef jerky to ensure a low-fat, high energy snack to keep the body fueled for the demanding trip. Focus on drinking water throughout the trip, toss in a few packets of water-flavoring powder for fun if you must, but keep the water clean. Packing gallons of water needed to maintain health and comfort is not feasible. A microfilter will handle water filtration duties of lake or stream water, even developed spring wells located along established trails should be run through a filter. There is no comfort in spending hours hiding off the trail, battling diarrhea.

Keeping the pack’s side pockets stocked with compass, GPS unit, maps, guidebooks, headlight, rain jacket, and first-aid kit will provide rapid access. At home, pack the pack in a few different arrangements to see what works best. Think about possible scenarios, both comfortable and uncomfortable, to ensure all gear is placed in the pack according to priority and frequent use. If an extra pound can be handled, add a camera, as the experience should be documented regardless. If the trip is a comfortable one, goal achieved, if not, reflect on the excursion to see where you can improve, and then, get packing.

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Tackling Tackle Tune-up

A couple of years ago, my son and I visited an outdoor gear store under the sweats of spring fever. I walked around the store for what seemed like only minutes, before Rob brought it to my attention that we had been cruising the aisles for over two hours, and without a break he added. We weren’t alone. Ant-like trails of outdoors enthusiasts marched the aisles in search of new gear or simply struggling to wake from a bout with cabin fever. The late-winter season change brings about the opportunity for recharging the tackle box or bag with a fresh supply of lures and other goodies. Gear manufacturers also take advantage of this opportunity – and catch their share of anglers in the process.

I cannot get over the amount of technical advancements that lure manufacturers continuously come up with. I was embarrassed of the ingredients inside my tackle box, after observing the tackle proudly displayed on the racks, and I knew I had to re-supply my angling arsenal. From glowing plastic salamanders to a line of near-natural baits that supposedly outfishes live bait, but doesn’t smell if left in the truck cab for a day or two – if it catches fish (or claims to), it’s for sale.

Upon returning home and sending my son to get a foot massage from his mom, I headed for my tackle bag. A smile induced by half embarrassment and half humiliation spread across my face as I opened the bag. Among the small nests of used fishing line and split open Slim Jim wrappers, were some of the most beat up, odd shaped, and melted together artificial lures that I believe has ever been dumped into a trash can. I even went as far as swishing the existing trash around in the can, concealing my dilapidated old lures so no one would see them.

I made a list of the inventory that I needed to complete my overhaul of the tackle bag and with my birthday coming up, I slipped a copy into my wife’s purse. So until then, I thought I would clean, adjust, and repair the remaining gear that didn’t make the trip to the “big can” with the tackle bag ghosts added prior. I thought I would share a few ideas on sprucing up your fishing gear for the next season’s action.

Checking and renewing used lures can save a buck or two and reduce lost fish.

If the tackle bag or box itself is salvageable, it needs a good cleaning. Dump out the entire contents and wash the inside of the box with water and dish soap mixture. Once dry, review if you had previously had things organized the best possible way. Most tackle box catastrophes happen when an angler is onto fish. In a hurry to retie a lure or re-bait a hook, other gear gets tossed into other things. A better job of organizing gear may lead to less “spring cleaning” next spring.

If a lure has rusty hooks, either replace the hooks or the lure itself. Thousands of fish are still swimming today because of neglected hook maintenance. Safety is also a reason to keep hooks rust free. In case you hook yourself instead of the state record fish, then a clean hook will cause the least damage. Along with new lures and hooks, reload the terminal tackle compartment with a fresh supply of a variety of sinkers, swivels, and leaders.

The rod and reel are the team that does the work, but receives the least maintenance attention. Look the reel over for missing parts or loose screws. Tighten all screws and inspect the surfaces that the line travels over. If these surfaces are scratched or displays excessive wear, replace the parts or replace the reel – the abrasive surfaces will ruin line in only a few casts.

A key to a lengthy reel life is lubrication. Reeling in line coated with micro particles of sand and dirt, will accumulate in the reel housing in a short time. Unscrew the cover, or remove the spool, and strip off the line to expose the gears and bearings. A small tube of reel grease, found in the rod and reel isle of most stores, can then be applied to the metal workings. Don’t over grease, add a small amount to the gears and then crank the handle a few times to pull the lubricant in. If you over apply, the excess grease will gather dirt, causing the reel to jam later. Be sure to add new line before reassembling.

Rod maintenance is not a big task, but one that is important. The main component of the rod to examine is the line guides. Any line-destroying rough spot on the guide can be unnoticed by simply looking. Use a piece of tissue or cotton to swap around the inside of the guide. If the cotton or tissue sticks to any abrasion, replace the guide, or replace the rod if it is an inexpensive model. If the guides look fine, then wash the entire rod to remove any build up of dirt. Examine the reel mounting clamp and bolt. After several trips, the reel clamp will become loose and let the reel wobble during cranking, causing unnecessary tension on the reel gears.

A few minutes spent on tuning and cleaning fishing gear, will save hours of frustration during the busy fishing season. Time better spent on casting and retrieving a collection of new and updated lures recently bought or received as birthday gifts.

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