Fishing Gear of 2015

I often get comments on my Youtube videos asking about my fishing gear. So I’ve decided to give you a run-down of the rods and reels in my arsenal this year.

I’ll start with a photo of them, and then fill you in on the details of each one.

rods and reels

From left to right:

1. Shakespeare Micro Underspin Rod and Reel Combo.  This is a great rod for the kids, but I enjoy using it as well.  The underspin reel is like a spincast reel but has a lever instead of a button. This makes it work more similar to a spinning reel than a spincast. The 4′ 6″ ultra-light rod is great for battling even the smallest of fish.

2. This is an aging ultra-light rod (not sure of the make and model at the moment, although I might give it a closer inspection later) with a Zebco 202 spincast reel. It seems that Zebco used the 202 model number on a wide variety of reels. Some of those were very low quality, others were not so bad. This reel is in the not-so-bad category. It has a smooth drag and casts great.

3. This is a Shakespeare Contender spinning reel on a Shakespeare Excursion spinning rod. The reel had been part of a combo but the rod fell victim to a car door and had to be replaced. For small fish, this is my favorite rig. I spool it with 4 lb test monofilament line and it allows long, smooth casts. It’s pure joy to use.

4. This spinning rod is a hand-me-down rod from my older brother. It is about 7 feet in length but was longer before it also feel victim to a car door. I added a new tip and it still works great even if the tip is a bit stiffer than it should be. The reel is a Quantum Optix size 20 spinning reel.

5. This is a Zebco 7-foot Hawg Seeker Spinning Combo that a buddy of mine picked up for me at a garage sale. My son Landry uses this rig when we are targeting catfish.

6. This rod is a 7-foot Zebco Catfish Fighter. I’ve had it for several years and am very pleased. It is not an expensive rod, but it seems to be great quality for the price. The reel is an old Shakespeare that came from a Shakespeare/Ugly Stick combo. I managed to break the original rod pulling it off a snag, so I replaced it with the Catfish Fighter.

7. Last, but not least, is my 9-foot Zebco Catfish Fighter with a Okuma Avenger ABF 50 Bait Feeder Reel. This is my best catfish rig. The extra length adds 30 to 50 feet of distance to my casts vs the 7-foot version. I’d like to say I’ve battled lots of 30-pound flathead catfish with this rig, but I cannot. The largest I’ve caught to date with it is 10 pounds. This summer seems like the perfect time to change that. 🙂

Raising Meat Rabbits: One Year Later

Even though I have produced several videos on the topic of raising meat rabbits, somehow I’ve managed to wait an entire year before finally writing my first blog post about them.

Somewhere around the beginning of May 2014, I purchased two meat rabbits, a buck and a doe, from a friend of ours.   We received them just after they had been weaned from their mother at about six weeks of age.   I started them out in a small wooden hutch I got at my local Agway.  A few weeks later when it was time to separate them I built a wooden hutch for the buck and left the doe in the hutch I purchased.  Later on, I built a larger hutch for the doe to give her more space to move around.

The first problem I had was that I didn’t know what breed the rabbits were.  Even after a visit to the rabbit barn of the local fair and doing search on-line, I couldn’t find a rabbit that completely matched.  A few weeks after posting a video on YouTube asking for help identifying the breed, somebody suggested that they were Broken Black New Zealands.   A quick Google search confirmed that this was correct – the photos matched perfectly.

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Our doe had her first little of kits (baby rabbits) near the end of November.  I was a little pessimistic that everything would go well.  For one thing, I had talked to others who had problems with mothers cannibalizing or rejecting their offspring.  I had also read that a person wanting rabbits for reproduction should purchase quality breeding stock, not just some rabbits destined for the auction as mine were.   Yet the doe did remarkably well.   On day 27 after she had been bred, I placed a nest box into the cage, and she immediately went to work preparing it for her kits.  On day 31, five healthy baby rabbits were born.

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Out of that first litter, I kept a doe to increase my production and butchered the other four at 10 weeks.    On January 30th she had a second litter of 13 kits.  One of the kits didn’t thrive and died after about two weeks, but the others did well.  This is in spite of the fact that we had a cold February with many days below freezing and many nights below O degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter the rabbits were kept in 30×30 metal cages located in a non-insulated shed.  I recorded a video showing my set-up.

I’ll be sharing more about my rabbits in the future.  In the meantime, check out the videos and ask any questions you have.

The Scenic View at Tower Road

Early this week I decided to take a detour at the top of the mountain and see the fall colors from the look-out on Tower road.  I wasn’t disappointed.  To get there, turn off route 30 at the Mountain House and head north on Augwick road toward Cowens Gap Start Park.  About a mile back you’ll see a dirt road bear off to the right, which is Tower Rd.  Take that road and travel about a mile and half to reach the lookout.  Just before you arrive, you’ll come to a fork in the road – you can go either way because it is just a loop at the end.    About halfway around the circle, park on the side of the road and walk to the edge of the cliff to catch a nice view.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad – a Review

Diesel EngineI was looking for a interesting place to visit with my wife to celebrate her birthday when I ran across the website for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  I liked what I saw, but it took me a few days to decide which tickets to purchase.    The cheapest option was the standard coach class tickets, but there were several upgrades available. Premium coach presumably gives you more spacious seating, but perhaps there are other differences that I’m not aware of.  The parlor car gives you access to alcoholic beverages, and first class includes a meal aboard the train.   There are a handful of menu choices available for first class passengers, but the selection is made at the time of reservation.  I finally decide to go the frugal route and get standard coach tickets.

Steam EnginOur visit was on Sept 27, 2014.  By coincidence, this was during the during the annual Steel Wheels festival in Cumberland, which added a few more sights to our experience.  As part of this event, there was a steam engine that puffed back and forth across the bridge near the station in Cumberland, giving good opportunities for picture-taking.  Also, Amtrak had an exhibit train on-site that visitors could walk through. The exhibits inside showed the history of Amtrak and also gave glimpses of the inside of a modern Amtrak train.  Lastly, there was an old caboose that you could explore as well.

The WMSR train leaves for Frostburg at 11:30, but when I called to purchase the tickets  I was told to be there at 10:45.  My advice:  follow our example and get there at 10 AM.  By 10:45, the lines are getting long and the place is very crowded.  If you get there early, you can walk right up the counter and get your ticket, and the spend the extra time walking around or visiting shops at Canal Place.

Canal PlaceThose of us with coach class tickets were free to sit in any available seat on any of the coach cars, with the exception of one car which was reserved by a church group.  There were double bench seats on either side of the aisle. Being accustomed to coach seats on a plane, I was afraid the seating would be cramped, but it was not.  There was plenty of leg room.  We also found the cars to be clean and in good repair. The seats are reversible so you can face toward the front or rear of the train just by moving the backrest.  This is especially handy if you have a group of four and prefer to face each other.  If you want the best view, sit on the right side of the train as you’re facing the front ready to depart the Cumberland station.

Snack BarDuring the trip, we were allowed roam freely among the coach class cars.  In one of the cars there was a snack bar with a variety of items to eat and drink.  This included hot dogs, cold sandwiches, chips, and candy bars.  A small selection of gifts were also available, all of which are also available at the gift shop at the Cumberland station.

SceneryThe windows were clear enough to take decent photographs, but for better shots you could venture to a small picture-taking car at the front of the coach class section.  This car had no seats, but had grab bars and open windows to allow for clear photographs.  You could also get good photographs by standing in the area between the cars.

Upon arrive at Frostburg, we exited the train and has some time to explore a few shops or grab a bite to eat.  To get to main street, you had to climb up the ridge using a long series of steps.  Partway up was a good place to stop and watch the steam engine being turned on the turntable to prepare for the return trip to Cumberland.

All in all, we were very pleased with the trip.

7C’s Lodging in Flintstone, MD – a review

7C Lodging 9Cozy, Convenient, Comfortable, Clean, Classic, Country, Cabins.  Those are the seven words referenced by the name “7C’s Lodging“. I stumbled on the website for this property when I was searching for a place to stay near Cumberland, MD.  My wife and I were schedule to ride the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and I found that the nearby hotels in Cumberland were either expensive, had poor reviews, or some of both.  So I expanded my search to surrounding areas, and I found 7C’s lodging.

7C Lodging 12The cabins are located in the very small town of Flintstone, MD.  It is conveniently located just a few hundred yards off of interstate 68.  It is about 15 miles from Cumberland and about 5 miles from Rocky Gap State park.

7C Lodging 7I booked our stay online, trusting that the photographs on the website were an accurate representation of the accommodations. As it turns out, the photos didn’t do justice.   We stepped into cabin #12 and were greeted by a faint “new home” smell.  This cabin couldn’t have been built very long ago.  Everything looked brand new.  There wasn’t a speck of dirt anywhere.  The handcrafted wood furniture showed no signs of use.

7C KitchenThe room was an L-shape, with the bathroom taking up one corner.   The main room included a comfortable king-sized bed and a kitchen area that included a table, sink, microwave, and a small refrigerator.

A TV was mounted high on the wall where it can be comfortably viewed from the bed.  Wi-Fi Internet was also available, although the signal was a little weak. 7C Lodging 3 This was somewhat understandable because cabin #12 was the one farthest away from the office, and I was attempting to use the internet sitting on the bed which was against the far wall. It was fast enough to browse websites, but not enough to stream videos.  The signal improved by moving to the kitchen area, which was the side closer to the rest of the cabins.

There were several other cabins on the property as well, and also several locations with sewer hookups that presumably are sites for future cabins.  Cabin #12 was actually one-half of a duplex cabin, the only one of those on the property.  All the rest were single cabins.

7C Lodging 5Other than the weak Wi-Fi, a very minor issue, the only other complaint I’d have is that noise did carry through the wall from the other side of the cabin.  Not enough that you could eavesdrop on conversations, but enough that you could hear people coughing or a loud TV.   My suggestion to the owners would be to keep that in mind if/when they build more duplex cabins.    Some kind of sound barrier would be useful.

All-in-all, 7C’s lodging lives up to its name.  We were very pleased with our decision.  It is very nice place to stay at a reasonable price.

Landry hauls in a big catfish

Last Friday Elijah, Landry and I decided to take the boat out on the Juniata to see if we could catch a stringer full of panfish.  Of course, while we were out there, we’d stay a while after dark and see if there were any catfish around.  As it turned out, the bluegill and rock bass were not cooperative.  The bite was slow and the fist were mostly too small to be worth taking home.

Once it got dark, our bad luck continued with a number of dinky bullhead catfish.  Then Landry’s rod bent over.  By the time he got it up to the boat several minutes later, we knew it was a good fish.  It turned out to be a 25.5 inch channel catfish, probably 7 or 8 pounds. After years of fishing the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River, my personal best catfish there is still just 24 inches, so Landry did pretty well for his second time out for catfish on that river.

Camden’s First Catfish @ Dam 5 on the Upper Potomac

Last Friday morning I took Landry and Camden down to Dam 5 on the upper Potomac River.  The goal was to give Camden the opportunity to catch his first channel catfish.  As usual, I had my camera on the tripod with the goal of making a video to remember it all by.   On the first goal, we were successful.  After pulling in a couple of very small catfish of 6 and 8 inches, he landed one about 18 inches long.  Not huge, but decent for this section of river and by far the largest fish he had every pulled in.

However, all the video I captured had a major problem.  I had the  audio levels adjusted improperly on my new wireless mic, and all of the sound had severe clipping and distortion.  Thankfully, I didn’t discover that problem until last night, so at least the disappointment didn’t diminish my ability to enjoy our camp-out on Friday evening.

Nevertheless, I’m still seething about the whole thing.  I’m hoping I can throw together some clips, put some background music and narration to it, and have something to post here in the coming days. It won’t be as good as it should have been, but hopefully it will be something to remember it by.  The most important thing is that the boys had a blast. Landry caught a couple of nice catfish as well.

EDIT:  Here’s the result of my efforts to make a video without including the recorded audio.

Camping Along the Juniata River

We had a great time this weekend tent camping along the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River near the town of Hopewell.   Landry, Camden, and I had camped at the same location for a night last year, but this time the whole family went.  We were also joined by Seth & Jennifer Elliot and their family.  My only complaint was that it wasn’t long enough.

We got there in time for some hot dogs over the fire on Friday afternoon, and then some of us took a canoe upstream to my favorite fishing spot.  Landry and I did the majority of the fishing.  Between the two of us we pulled in about 25 bluegill in an hour or two.  That made for a great bedtime snack after we got back to the campsite.

We headed for home after breakfast the next morning.