Casting Call

Our recent camping trip north of the city opened the door for a few good opportunities to toss a line into the lake. I brought along my new fishing rod, rigged it up for the ready, and leaned it against an out of the way tree in case the mood or moment struck.

Our campsite was a sixty-second walk to the shoreline, and on a good choice of visit I often found empty a small wooden dock protruded five meters out into the murky lake water.

On a less-good choice of visit I found the dock occupied and myself instead needing to trudge through the spongy layer of grasses and mosses growing from the loamy sand to find a spot clear enough to edge up to the waterside to be able to cast out without tangling my line in the vegetation.

Conversation Starter

It also turns out that a fishing rod is something of a lakeside invitation to chat.

Strolling to the shore, invariably someone would comment on the potential for a catch. “How’s it looking?” someone would call out. “It might be a little hot for them out there right now.” Someone else would add, noting the 30C heat still lingering from the day.

And “Any luck?” not just someone but everyone would ask as I strolled back to camp empty-handed after an hour of tossing my lure into the water.

As it turns out the most inviting pose a guy can take (by far) when visiting the lake is to sit by oneself at the end of a narrow dock, dangling one’s feet over the end, holding a fishing rod with a line threading outward into the water. This must project some magnetic signal to other campers inviting them to wander up, sit down and chat.

I found myself playing host to all manner of random characters telling me their tales as I sat holding court with my fishing rod patiently dangling outwards.


At the end maybe the weather was too hot or I was too impatient or perhaps my small collection of lures was not in agreement with the fish swimming through the murky lake water that weekend.

I didn’t catch so much more than a few clumps of weedy grass.

I did however catch a moment of peace, and a few curious stories.

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.

Ten Hunks of Meat for Any Occasion That Cook Great on Cast Iron

Apologies to my vegetarian friends out there, but this one is for the omnivores in my audience. Never was I so convinced of the superiority of cast iron as part of my cooking contraptions than after I’ve plated some perfectly seared meat.

Hopefully these ten classics will inspire you to oil up a pan.

1. Beef Steaks. The pride of my homeland, a thick cut of Alberta grain-fed beef, peppered and grilled on a scorching hot pan to seal in the juices, cooked medium rare and sauced with a warm and sweet hickory glaze.

2. Hamburgers. In the summer I revert to the barbecue, but on those winter days a searing hot pan is a worthy replacement to grill up a patty or three, slipped into a bun and stacked high with all the fixings.

3. Lamb Chops. Seasoned simply and then pan seared in a bit of olive oil until a mouthwatering crust forms.

4. Fried Chicken. Buttermilk soaked and breaded, dropped into a bath of hot oil and fried up golden, and then served with biscuits (also cooked in cast iron!)

5. Salmon Steaks. Pink and thick, fried flaky on the outside, soft and tender under a butter fried crust, dashed with fresh lemon juice then sprinkled with dill from the garden.

6. Chicken Parmesan. The crisp cheesy breading browned to a crunchy finish around a chicken breast is almost good enough to eat without the sauce and pasta, but why would you.

7. Wings. Whether you like them spicy, crispy or saucy, properly deep frying a batch of chicken wings in a cast iron pot of oil can’t be matched by takeout.

8. Braised Roast. A hot cast iron pan can sear the sides to a gorgeous and delicious brown then finished in the same pan for a tender meal.

9. Schnitzel. Pounded thin chops, breaded and spiced, then shallow pan fried to a crispy finish with homemade potato salad on the side.

10. Fresh Caught Fish. Those lakes and rivers are calling, and over a campfire or just a kitchen stove, a fresh fish in a scorching hot cast iron pan is almost iconic as a fried egg.

People like lists. I like people. So I’m giving the people what they like. I ran a blog for 16 years and one of the most popular posts ever on that blog was a list of “100 things” that I’d compiled and posted. I’m trying to recreate something similar over the next couple months for the cast iron guy blog. This post will eventually form part of that mega list.

Gone Fishin’ (Part Zero)

A lot of my story-posts begin with “back when I was a kid” because back when I was a kid we did a lot of things that were low-cost, time-burning ways to entertain kids in the local wilderness, a lifestyle that appeals more and more to me as I get a bit older.

So it should be no surprise to say that back when I was kid we frequently went fishing…

… and I’ve been thinking about that lately.

As an adult I’ve let this once-hobby lapse a little bit.

Well, a lot, to be honest.

In fact, it’s been three years since I bought myself a sports fishing license, a permit to drop a hook for non-protected fish species within the provincial rivers and lakes (excluding National Parks!) I haven’t made it a priority.

Also, as my wife reminded me when I told her that I was planning on putting a little more time and effort into fishing this upcoming season, the last time I went out I broke the tip off my fishing rod. So, technically, I’ve had no license nor a functional fishing rod.

This morning I changed that narrative and dropped some money on my fishing plans making it all official.

First, fishing Licenses for the 21/22 season went on sale at 9am, and I’m now legal to fish in the province of Alberta, from pulling a pike from the mud-hued river that is a thirty minute walk from my front door to snagging a rainbow trout from any deep lake in the foothills of the rocky mountains.

Second, a fishing rod repair kit should be arriving via Amazon Prime delivery by Saturday afternoon and I can spend a few minutes (or maybe hours) making sure my old equipment is closer to prime condition for some spring and summer angling.

More camping. More outdoors. More rivers and lakes. Less computer screens. As much as I’ve enjoyed this past winter, spring can’t come soon enough.

Now if I manage to catch anything, I suppose the biggest question will be what’s the best cast iron pan for frying up some fresh fish, huh?