Toys, Tackle and Fish Stories

Another story thread I may have seemed to have dropped is that of my slowly simmering plans to do a little fishing this summer.

Back in my previous Gone Fishin’ post back in March I was revelling in the notion of the snow melting soon so that my brand new fishing permit and soon-to-be-mended rod would see some open water action.

Alas, things didn’t exactly work out as well as I’d hoped.

Of Old Equipment

The last time I’d used my fishing rod was a couple years ago and when I’d pulled it out of storage to evaluate it’s condition I had been quckly reminded that the tip had shattered and snapped off. Back in my last post I’d said that I’d ordered some replacement tips and was planning to fix it.

Not so quick.

The tips arrived and were fine, but the problem wasn’t so much the quality of new parts rather that the old rod was just generally brittle.

That particular rod had been equipment my folks had bought me back when I was just barely a teenager. Best case scenario, I was trying to repair a thirty-year-old fishing rod that was showing it’s age. And it turns out I was right. My attempt to replace the end was all but futile and the rod wasn’t up for even the stress of the repair, let alone some casting and (hopefully) catching.

Of New Equipment

Plan B turned into a research effort and eventually a shopping trip.

I won’t put too many details here because what I finally ended up buying (just this afternoon, in fact) was a compromise between quality and price, in that somewhere around the one hundred and fifty dollar mark I got myself a reasonably middle of the road setup that will let me toss a line out into the water a few times per year but not invest too much into a new rig.

It seems as though fishing equipment follows a similar rule as my rule for other sporting gear: for every hundred bucks you spend on something, you should spend roughly one hour per week using it. In other words, as I once told my university roomate, if you’re gonna spend two thousand dollars on a new bike, I would hope you spend about twenty hours per week with your feet on the pedals. (He didn’t.) Likewise, now that I’ve spent a hundred and fifty bucks on a new fishing rod, I should try and put it out into the water for an hour or two every week. (I’ll try.)

Have strung my new rod, I also had a long, hard look at my tackle box. That was deeply lacking as well. The remains of a distant-past spent along the river bank resulted in barely a half-dozen servicable lures and spoons, and at some point before I do any serious casting I’m going to need to refresh my collection of fishing hooks.

So, I’ll write it one more time before I actually work up the motivation to drive down towards the river and find a bit of sandbar to fish from: get ready summer, I’m going fishing… soon.

Backyard: Saturday (or, a list of rejected backyard blog topics)

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

After nearly a week of deeper restrictions that have left me (and most law-abiding residents of the city) without many places to go, I’ve turned that into an opportunity to enjoy my own backyard. Think of it less like a lockdown, and more like permission to do nothing but enjoy my own grass, trees, garden, and relaxing spaces.

If you’ve been following along for the week, I’ve posted a short list of reflective blog posts that haven’t done much for my Google search ranking, but certainly have helped me get a few things pried loose from my own brain.

Given another couple weeks, maybe I’d have stooped to writing about even more trivial topics, like these rejected titles and not-so-interesting daily blog ideas:

Backyard: Naps

Wherein I chronicled the joy of falling asleep on my new, hand-built patio couch under the shade of the pergola sail fluttering in the wind. It’s tough to see how I would have turned that into more than about a hundred words without a serious thesaurus.

Backyard: Chores

Having spent my Saturday morning tilling the garden, planting the potatoes, and dealing with even more weeds (gah!) this rejected blog post risked turning into a long list of all the things I need to get done, y’know, instead of writing blog posts.

Backyard: Chronology

As it turns out this idea was really only of interest to me as I sorted through fifteen years of photos of my own backyard and marvelled at how much my trees had grown since I’d planted them. Breaking news: trees grow!

Backyard: Music

As at least one of my neighbours always seems to be playing music, the distant and indistinct muffled tones of random streaming playlists wafts through the air. My music knowledge is average though, so guessing what songs were playing could have been an amusing blog game.

Backyard: Garbage

Imagine my slow-motion, hand-typed embarassment in reading a blog post listing all the weird objects my eight-month-old puppy has found in my I-thought-I-had-a-clean-yard backyard. A scandalous post idea, and obviously rejected. Photos redacted.

Backyard: Terrible Ideas

A tongue-in-cheek list of some deliberately bad blog ideas, loosely acknowledging the author’s commentary on how difficult it is to make writing about his own backyard interesting and how easy it would have been to veer that metaphorical wheelbarrow into a fence post …oh, wait.

Suburban Fire Craft (Part Two)

Back in early March I introduced my readers to my simmering big plans to upgrade my backyard fire pit set up.

For years we’ve not made campfires in our backyard a priority, mostly because we could go camping any time we wanted and evenings in the city were otherwise filled with social visits and travel. Backyard campfires were an occasional indulgence.

For half a decade we have had a small fire bowl which for basic purposes allowed us to have a small marshmallow-roasting fire in the backyard if we wanted, and I kept a bit of wood in the shed for a those handful of evenings a year when we kindled a flicker-filled gathering out our back door.

But the prospect of another summer of limited camping and sidelined travel plans… blah, blah, blah. You know the story. You’re all living it, too.

Since that post, I’ve made some purchases and done some setup work. Last night it all came together for an innagural (if small and simple) backyard cookout involving some sausages, marshmallows, and a beautiful evening watching the sunset beside some glowing coals.

First, I bought the family a new movable fire pit. It’s a much more elaborate setup than our old bowl, though. It’s a side-vented deep body steel fire pit, with a removable tray for charcoal burning, and two cast iron grill plate attachements. I can either cook on the grills directly, or it’s strong enough to hold a pan or a small dutch oven atop.

Second, I bought some cooking fuel in the form of both charcoal and smoking pellets. The tray insert allows us to have simple grilling fires which (unlike the gas grill we often use for backyard “barbecues”) is a more authentic cooking-over-fire option we now have.

Third, I stocked up on wood. Not only did my coworker chop down a bank of aging trees in her backyard and provide me with a few good chopping stumps and a truck full of logs, but I ordered a cubic meter of firewood from a local supplier, dried and ready for a summer of backyard fires.

Summer isn’t quite here, but I’m officially ready to tackle it with flame and iron… right in my own backyard.

Suburban Fire Craft (Part One)

I have been making big plans for how I’m going to spend another summer of limited travel and quasi-lockdown in my little suburban backyard.

See, for at least five years we’ve had a small fire bowl set up in our yard. It has served the purpose of gathering friends and family around some burning logs, roasting some marshmallows on warm summer evenings, and sipping cold beers under the autumn twinkle of a clear night and the glow of a warm backyard fire.

We even kindled it up this last New Years Eve, sipped hot chocolate in the winter chill and ceremonially burned our 2020 calendar. Good riddance!

But after five years, and yet another long cold winter in the harsh Canadian elements, our trusty portable firepit is probably due for a replacement.

I’m looking at this an an opportunity rather than a loss.

The current bowl is simple and meant to be nothing more than a safe way to have a small fire. We’ve cooked hot dogs or made s’mores with it, but anything more substantial would be pushing it’s functional limits. It’s just not meant to cook over, for example.

As a kind of “Saturday Projects” series, and as summer approaches, I’ve got a few big ideas about how I’m going to bring some of my wilderness adventure to my suburban backyard. First on the to-do list is a series I’m calling “suburban firecraft” where I’ll be upgrading my fire bowl situation with a new set-up that will allow us to build safe, useful, and (of course) legal bylaw-compliant fires right out our back door.

I’ll be figuring out a way to not only cook marshmallows, but make use of some of our cast iron to cook campfire meals and test out some recipes before we take them out to the wilderness.

How would you build a backyard fire pit: a portable fire bowl that can be moved and stored or a permanent fire pit?

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