3.04.2015

100,000 miles worth of memories

This morning marks 100,000 miles on my Nissan Frontier and man have there been some amazing miles memories on that thing.

I am not sure why but I have always felt a certain connection to most of my vehicles. They tend to be my worst enemies or a great friend.

This truck made me think for a long time to figure out what our relationship was going to be. It took me a few years to understand it's personality. Past vehicles have been clear wild children or temperamental a-holes or cocky over achievers.

This truck was different. It wasn't really anything for a long time. It was just...there. It didn't do anything exciting but it wasn't boring. It never really fought me and never really asked a whole lot in return.

About a year ago, I finally figured it out. This truck is loyal - it's calm, wise, and ready to go when I am. It takes its job seriously to make sure that I get to where I need to be or want to go. It keeps my family safe when we all travel together. It doesn't do it with a lot of flash or drama. It doesn't ask for recognition. It just goes.
First day home

Before this truck, I came from a temperamental wild child that loved to play hard and go fast but it was always in need of attention. After my wife I were married, I knew a family was inevitable and that car just wasn't ready for that job. When I traded her in for this truck, I found myself wanting it to be everything my old car was at the same time as being everything that it actually was. Fast forward five years later and I realize that it never was going to be that...it was just going to be what it is.

And I love that.

This truck has seen me through some major milestones in life - most notably, the day that my wife and I drove our first child home from the hospital. I can't believe how nervous I was driving him. He seemed so fragile and I was terrified that I might break him. Every bump I hit, I cringed. Every time I hit the throttle or applied the brake, I hoped for the smoothest reaction from the truck. I have never driven under the speed limit intentionally. On that day, I think the closest I came to hitting the speed limit was ten miles an hour under. To this day, it still takes its role seriously as a child transporter.

It has been there when I needed it to get somewhere fast. Back in 2013, you may remember my story about the scariest moment of my life. On that day, more than ever, I needed that truck to tap into into it's inner racecar and get me to the hospital to be with my wife and son who had just been in an accident. Despite being loaded to the max with two kayaks, a passenger, and more fishing gear than I care to admit, it got be there faster than I ever thought possible.

It's also taken me on so many adventures like a marathon drive in the middle of winter to the southern stretches of Florida and then to the smokey mountains and back home through a blizzard of epic proportions just so I could fish the ocean and a tiny mountain stream.

There are so many more memories that I could write about, but if you scroll through this blog, you can read about many of them. Others are between my truck, myself, and those that shared them with us.

Truth be told, I have never had any one vehicle for as long as I have had this truck. While it's personality isn't exciting, I know I can trust it. I know it will be there. This milestone isn't the marking of the end. Instead, it's the mark of many more to come.


Let's do this

3.02.2015

Fishing a tiny sliver of open water on Lake Michigan

With Chicago having the coldest February in 140 years, trying to find open water on Lake Michigan has proven much more difficult than normal. With the bitter cold, it takes a magic combination of industry and the right winds to blow some of the ice pack off shore just enough to get a kayak in there. 

I have been dying to get out on the big lake but between a lack of time and that magic combination, it just hasn't happened. Sure, there are a few spots on some local rivers but most are either shoulder to shoulder or too damn small to get any sort of kayak in there. The one big river spot is more than a 12 mile round trip pedal and generally only results in a bunch of tiny bass. 

I wanted bigger. I wanted a salmon or a steelhead or a brown trout. Milwaukee was my initial plan throughout the week but that hope dwindled more and more as each day passed. Various webcams, Facebook groups and pics, kept showing ice everywhere. It was awful. I had one trick up my sleeve in Indiana but I really didn't have a lot of hope for it after a bit of research. I needed a ton of south wind for a few days but never really got it. Sure, it was south/southwest for a couple days before Sunday but it wasn't very strong. 

Still, I decided to take an exploratory drive to see if I could get lucky. Without a lot of faith, my head wasn't really in the game so I grabbed my crate filled with tackle, loaded the kayak in the truck, and off I went on my 1 hour gamble. 

The constant snow during the entire drive gave me both hope and doubt. On one hand, I have always done extremely well out there on over cast days and snowy days. On the other hand, it was a reminder that it was still winter and still cold. 

As I pulled up to the spot, I was extremely happy to see some open water. It wasn't a lot but it was enough to get in there. I suited up and took a quick walk to figure out how I was going to get the kayak down to the water. The beach was covered with at least of a foot of ice/snow and getting down to it meant dropping the kayak down a 6 foot wall of icy boulders. I found one area that had some slope to it and a small chute that was just wide enough for the kayak to slide down. 

Once I got it down - which wasn't nearly as easy as I thought it would be - I wondered how in the world I was going to get it back up there. Oh well...I'm here now; let's worry about that part later. 

As I started rigging, I realized that I grabbed mostly the wrong tackle. Almost everything I had was for bass with the exception of my king salmon crank baits. The problem with those is that they dive to 12 feet and the deepest spot in this little patch of open water was 8 feet. Luckily, I had my Biovex Mid Runner crankbaits that hit about 5' on the cast so I started off with one of those. I went with meshback shad since I have had quite a bit of luck on that color combo before. 

It didn't take long to feel a tug on the end of the line. As a matter of fact, in the 3 hours that I was actually out there, I felt a LOT of tugs. The problem is that almost every one of those tugs was not a fish that I was going for. Even worse, none of those were even "legal" catches in the fact that the hooks were outside of the mouth. How is that possible? Well, this place was loaded with gizzard shad. Thousands upon thousands of them if I had to guess. While they put a good fight, they only eat plankton so actually trying to "legally" catch them is nearly impossible.  In other words, I couldn't stop snagging these fish. They were everywhere. Almost every cast resulted in my bumping into three of them. Most came unhooked before reaching the kayak and the ones that did make it were unhooked with a set of pliers without ever taking them out of the water. The only legally caught fish was one extremely small coho who was too small for Kayak War points so he went on his way without a photo. I have almost no doubt that there were more coho in the area but I just couldn't keep a lure free from the side of a shad long enough to get any of them on the line.  

I had grown tired of hooking shad so I decided to tackle my challenge of getting my kayak up that icy boulder wall. With a ratchet strap on the front end of the kayak, a few breaks to catch my breath, and a couple of adjustments, I had gotten it up there. I have to admit, I sort of missed my outback on the ascend up the bank. That extra 40 pounds on the pro angler was definitely noticeable. 

In conclusion, thanks for reading the longest story about not really catching any fish! I suppose in hind sight, I could have given you a warning at the beginning of the story but that wouldn't be any fun. 

Since I don't have a "I didn't catch any fish so here's a picture of the sunset" pictures, I'll leave you with this one. Twenty feet to left is the start of the ice that spreads well into Lake Michigan. About 80 yards to my right, is the frozen beach. The entire area I had to fish was about the size of a football field. Crazy what a desperate kayak angler will do to scratch an itch. 



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