Feb 27, 2012

Warmer Then Normal Winter Equals Bigger Fish

There are advantages to the warmer winter that we have been experiencing here in Connecticut according to CT DEEP.  The warmer temps and no snow means that the waters are warmer then normal and the fish in the hatchery are more active through the winter giving DEEP Staff opportunity to feed more often making for larger fish to stock this spring.  It also means the streams are getting stocked earlier then normal with over 12,000 fish stocked already.  Normally we don't see a stocking of the Trout Management Areas (TMA) until early March.  All this is good news for those of use looking to take advantage of the weather and get some fishing in.  Most of the lakes and streams here in CT that have trout are closed to fishing from the end of February until opening day, which is the third Saturday in April.  We are fortunate enough to have many trout fishing waters open year round and with the lack of winter there is good fishing to be had by all.  I feel bad for the hard water ice fisherman, but I am excited to get out on the open water and maybe hook into one of these extra fat stockies.

Here is a video clip from Channel 3 WFSB from their report on the recent trout stocking.

Reminder:  There is still time to get in on the PTO Sharing the Passion giveaway.  Check it out here:  http://passinthruoutdoors.blogspot.com/2012/02/pto-celebrates-two-years-of-blogging.html

Feb 23, 2012

Backyard Bird Count Results

Well my family and I participated in the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count this past weekend where we observed and counted birds in our yard and at local parks.  We did out best to identify every bird we observed and recorded them and submitted our numbers through the GBBC website.

Our friend Whitey - Dark-eyed Junco Feb 2012
 As of 4pm February 22 the GBBC list the results of the submitted counts as follows:

Statistics from 2012
Total Checklists Submitted:
Total Species Observed:
Total Individual Birds Counted:

There are many different counting methods depending on where and how you are counting.  For example when counting at a feeder you only report the largest number of a species seen at the same time, not the total number seen during that period.  Now if you are out on a hike, then you can count the total number seen on that hike.  These methods are meant to reduce the number of duplicate birds counted.   Pretty staggering numbers for sure.

Downy Woodpecker Feb 2012

We observed the following species in our backyard at our feeders:
Northern Cardinal
Dark-eyed Junco
Carolina Wren
White-breasted Nuthatch
Black Capped Chicakdee
Tufted Titmouse
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated sparrow

There were a total 23 species recorded representing a total of 214 birds counted in my town alone.  There were 148 specifies recorded representing a total of 103,899 birds counted in the state of Connecticut as of 4pm February 22.

A Pair of Tufted Titmice obviously in a disagreement - Feb 2012

I try to sit and enjoy the birds in my yard on a regular basis but by participating in this counting event forced us to do it for multiple days in a row and we learned plenty, had plenty of laughs and shared the beauty that mother nature provides with each other. Definitely  a success.

Counting and observing birds doesn't stop with the Great Backyard Bird Count.  There are numerous opportunities to count birds and report your sightings year round by participating in Project FeederwatchNestwatch or eBird.  So get involved by getting out and enjoy the beauty of mother nature and help scientists by counting and reporting birds today.

Feb 21, 2012

Sharing the Passion Giveaway Reminder

There is still plenty of time to get in on PTO's blogging anniversary giveaway

First of the 2012 draw to be bottled - looks tasty

The sap has been running and we have been busy boiling and bottling some CT Pure Maple Syrup - 17 gallons of it so far.  It has been running at just over 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup and the evaporator does about 30 gallons of sap an hour.  1100 gallons of sap collected to date and that equals about 37 hours of boiling time.  Then it has to be finished on the stove, filtered and then bottled.  Truly a labor of love.  Tasty stuff that you can enjoy by participating in the giveaway contest.

My buddy Ray has provided me with some great items for the giveaway as well to include handmade grunt call, slate turkey call with striker, a pen and even a cutting board.  Depending on the level of participation in the contest I will giveaway all four items away or keep one or two for a future contest and let the winners chose their item.

I've been busy at the tying bench knocking off all the rust so I can ensure the winner of the flies gets some quality fish catching creations.  Ok, I can't guarantee they will catch fish, but I can promise I have caught fish on the flies I will tie and I am NOT  that good of a fly fisherman yet.  So if they worked for me, they should work for you.

Remember the rules:  Click here for original post: 

  • First, you must have a blog or be willing to write a guest blog for Passinthru Outdoors.  Your blog post should include "Sharing the Passion" in the title and must be about a time you shared your outdoor passion with someone new or when someone shared their outdoor passion with you and should be posted to your blog.
  • You must mention and link to Passinthru Outdoors in your blog post.
  • You must comment on my original post in the comment section.  Include a link to your Sharing the Passion blog post and also let me know what items you are interested in.
  • If you don't have a blog and want to email me your submission please feel free to do so and I will post it on my blog. 
  • You will get an extra entry or two if you tweet and/or post on your facebook about PTO and this giveaway.  Make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your facebook page and tweet.
  • Entries must be submitted by Midnight on February 29th. Winners will be selected by random drawing.

Feb 16, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count is underway

Are you ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) ?  The GBBC starts tomorrow and is being held Feb 17 - 20 so check out their website and download your regional checklists and  get involved by getting out and counting birds.

The GBBC is even having random drawings for some great prizes for those that participate and submit bird count checklists.

For more information and to participate visit:  http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc

Feb 14, 2012

PTO Celebrates two years of blogging with a giveaway

I was so busy getting prepared for our annual little game dinner get together this past week that I forgot all about Passinthru Outdoors turning two.  It is hard to believe that my little venture into blogging is still going and it is because of all my followers.  Without all of you to amuse me by reading my drivel, I'm not sure this would have lasted six months.  What started out being a way to put thoughts to paper has turned in to sharing my passion for the outdoors with folks that have the same passions for the outdoors.  I've been fortunate enough to find and read many great outdoor blogs that are as entertaining as they are instructional.

So to my followers and fellow outdoor bloggers you deserve a big thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to read my posts and share your passions with me.  I know that the the future of our outdoor pursuits are stronger then ever and will continue to survive thanks to everyone here.

Now on to the giveaway.  PTO is all about sharing the passion and I have been fortunate enough to share my passions with so many, but even more fortunate to have others share their passions with me.  So for PTO's birthday giveaway I decided to share not just my passions, but those of my friends.

To start with I will be giving away some pure Connecticut made maple syrup which I will personally help in making.  My friend Bubba is someone I regularly share my outdoors passions with and I have been fortunate that he has shared his passion for making syrup with me.  You must have passion to spend the long days and busy weekends making this tasty liquid gold and he most certainly does.  You can read about his passion and his setup in my "The Sap is Really Flowing -  A sign of Spring" blog post from 2011.

Another one of my hunting and fishing buddies also has a passion for woodworking and Ray has been nice enough to share his passion and creations with me.  I've been on the receiving end of hand made pens, turkey and deer calls, Christmas ornaments and kitchen gadgets all made by hand by Ray.  As you can tell from the pictures he has knack for wood working.  I'm hoping to give away a pen and a spatula (my favorite one is on the left in the picture above).  I promise it will be useful and a work of art.

The next item for the give away are some hand tied flies tied with care by me - most likely they will be wooly buggers which are by far my favorite fly and one that will catch fish every time.  I've heard it said many times that there is no wrong way to fish a bugger and believe I've tried and they always catch fish.   Fly fishing and Fly tying are fairly new passions for me and something I have enjoyed sharing with my friends and family.  I'm not sure what it is about fly fishing, but I always come off the water completely relaxed and feeling incredible and it doesn't matter if I catch a fish or not.  I've been fishing since I was kid, mostly bait and lures so fishing is nothing new to me, but fly fishing has re-connected me to fishing in a totally different way that I just can't explain yet. 

So with the giveaway items listed, here are the details for getting in on the giveaway.
  • First, you must have a blog or be willing to write a guest blog for Passinthru Outdoors.  Your post should include "Sharing the Passion" in the title and must be about a time you shared your outdoor passion with someone new or when someone shared their outdoor passion with you.
  • You must mention and link to Passinthru Outdoors in your blog post.
  • You must comment on this post in the comment section below.  Include a link to your Sharing the Passion blog post and also let me know what items you are interested in.
  • If you don't have a blog and want to email me your submission please feel free to do so and I will post it on my blog. 
  • You will get an extra entry or two if you tweet and/or post on your facebook about PTO and this giveaway.  Make sure you leave a comment here with a link to your facebook page and tweet.
  • Entries must be submitted by Midnight on February 29th. Winners will be selected by random drawing.

    Feb 6, 2012

    CFFA Fly Fishing Expo Review

    This past Saturday was the annual Connecticut Fly Fisherman's Association's annual Fly Fishing expo and Banquet held in South Windsor, CT.  The CFFA Expo is a small local fly fishing expo that offers up vendors from the local fly fishing shops, local guides, Local Fly tiers, product reps as well as some great guest speakers.  All that good fly fishing fun and knowledge in one room for a general admission price of one US American dollar, this is a dollar menu worth ordering from.

    Steve O and JT - JT's Fly Shop
    JT and Steve O from my local fly shop - JT's Fly Shop - had a presence at the show and it is always good to support the local business as much as you can.  These guys have been a huge resource to me offering up free fly fishign and tying classes, answering all my crazy questions and of course willing to order up anything I need anytime.  JT's is a throw back to those mom and pop shops that understood what customers and customer service meant and to them you are not just a customer, but one of their fishing buddies.  I made sure to stick around and help them break down and load up after the show just to say thanks for everything they've done for me.

    Loren explaining staying in contact with your flies
    The featured guest speaker was Loren Williams from Fly Guy's Guide Service.  Loren is a guide with over 35 years of fly fishing experience, a member of the Fly Fishing Team USA and a coach of the US Youth Fly Fishing Team where he has fished and coached all over the world.  Loren is also an experienced Fly Tier, and was introduced to Team USA in the summer of 2005 when he was selected as  its first official fly tier for the 2005 FIPS-Mouche WFFC in Lycksele, Sweden.  So when a chance to hear someone with Loren's fly fishing credentials speak, you take it and I was glad I did.

    Loren's presentation was on nymphing tricks but started out with a story that took place during a world competition across the pond where he watched a young girl with her fly rod in tow enter this pond and feverishly work to entice those big trout to bite her fly.  Watching this young lady brought Loren back to a time when he would sit there himself as a young boy trying to trick a bluegill or bass to bite.  Much of this enticing was related to making weird movements, starts and stops, twitches, hard splashing, anything you could do to make the fish take notice. I'm sure many of you that have fished as a kid can related to this, I know I did.  This led to the basic concept of Loren's presentation which was to think outside of the box from the typical dead drift presentation of nymph fishing.  Obviously when dry fly fishing, getting that perfect drag free realistic drift is important, when nymph fishing is it as important?  Loren's experience shows that there are many cases where that perfect natural nymph drift is not going to get the job done and something needs to happen to induce the fish to strike your fly - not new news for many, but it was a gentle reminder for us as fisherman to think out of the box.  Many time when mending the line to get that perfect nymph drift we get concerned about fly movement, but is it really an issue?  When nymphs are drifting along they are doing all kinds of crazy movements thanks to the different water dynamics they are drifting through.  They could be tumbling along the bottom, rising and lowering along the way or even shifting from side to side.

    Loren's table was always busy
    Loren discussed how under certain conditions and times that trout react to the splash of something hitting the water and immediately move to take whatever made the splash.   This is common when trout are hanging along banks or under trees waiting for bugs to drop into the water or fishing faster shallow water where the fish have to react quicker. Because of this immediate reaction to something hitting the water, you need to be ready to set the hook and that may require that you cast differently and more importantly stop your cast differently so you are ready for the quick take.   I've experienced this when casting buggers along a bank where the fish violently took the bugger as it hit the water only for me to be day dreaming and miss the hook up or not get a solid hook up.  Loren discussed a technique he learned from one of his coaches that was created just for these scenarios which basically involved setting the hook immediately or close to it just after your flies hit the water - cast, settle, set was how he described it.  Another technique he discussed had to do with setting the hook as your flies enter the spot you believe a fish to be.  That's right, setting the hook without feeling or seeing a take.  This hook set works to elicit a reaction strike from the fish.  This technique would be used many times after a few passes through with no takes and it worked. Interesting concepts  for sure and Loren said that using these techniques had increased their hookup rate greatly. 

    One of the questions I have for my fly fishing readers is, have you ever incorporated any motion purposely to try and elicit a strike?  I know I have done so when fishing buggers and it included some slight lifting and dropping of the rod tip when drifting a bugger along, or a few twitches of the rod tip to make it dart or the old Leisenring Lift which was found to entice the fish to take the nymph as it was swept up to the surface like a natural nymph would. 

    Loren took the time to answer everyone's questions and he even offered up some casting demonstrations out in the parking lot.  Lorean also turned me on Cortland's new Bicolor Mono sighter  material.  It looks very similar to the Jan Siman Bicolor sighter material that I'm using now, but the real test will come on the water when I get to test each of them in the same conditions and make my own determination.  I have already scrapped all my solid color mono sighters for the bicolor material as it just seems to work well under every condition.  I've found some claims on the web that the Jan Siman material is brighter then the Cortland material but is it enough to force me to stay with a product that is imported and only carried by a few places?  We will see.

    I also got to check out the offerings from Fishpond as I am in the market for a new fly fishing vest.  As I continue to collect more and more gear, my current fishing vest isn't cutting it.  Not so much for the storage options, but comfort.  The Fishpond offerings are very comfortable, offer plenty of space and organization as well as adjust-ability.  One look at their offerings like this Wasatch Tech Pack and you realize just how far we come from your grandfather's fly fishing vest.

    I'm always looking at fly boxes and and constantly re organizing and trying to find the right fit.  Of course what I should concentrate on is carrying just one box and a small one at that, but like my dad always says - you can't use it if you don't have it.  It's hard to beat these little Grey's GS Fly boxes as they are durable and come at a very nice price point, but I think I might have found a winner in Umpqua Pro Guide Fly Boxes.  The lids were extremely secure and rumor is they are waterproof.  Being as vertically challenged as I am, everything gets wet when I fish so if they are truly waterproof that would be a huge plus alone for me.  Some included little magnetic sections for those pesky tiny flies. 

    One last bright spot from the expo was getting a chance to meet the folks from Mill River Fly Rods and to  look over their offerings of fly fishing rods and reels.  Mill River is a small local company located in Wallingford,Connecticut whose company mission is to offer up high quality fly fishing rods and reels at affordable prices.  They offer up a nice range of fresh water rods and reels that felt nice, looked good and to be of high quality and were definitely an affordable price.  The only true test of any rod is to get out on the water and fish it and I would definitely be willing to give their rods a try and just might do so.  It sure would be nice to have a small local business provide me with the tools to catch some fish.

    These little expos and shows don't get the big draw and press that the regional shows do, but they are worth the visit for sure and a great way to find and support the local businesses in your area so make sure to visit one.

    Feb 4, 2012

    Shed Hunting Seasons Begins

    If you peruse the local hunting forums you should start seeing posts where a lucky hunter has found some antler sheds or trailcam pictures of bucks that have lost their racks or part of them.  These are sure signs that the Shed Hunting season has begun.

    For those not familiar with Shed Hunting, in simple terms it is hunting for dropped antlers from bucks that have made it through the past hunting season.  There are many hunters and non hunters that enjoy the shed hunting season.  Some folks will use sheds to decorate their homes or for use in making some unique items like knifes or pens and for the hunter it is a way to get a jump on the upcoming hunting season by learning about what bucks might have made it through the year and might just be around come opening day.  Not only is a great way to spend some time in the outdoors, but who wouldn't get excited about finding a big old bucks head gear.

    Shed hunting can be extremely challenging and frustrating, like finding a needle in a haystack frustrating.  Around my neck of the woods, our forest floors are covered in downed trees and limbs from the two storms we had this past fall making it even harder to pick out those little treasures.  Shed hunting is more then just walking along aimlessly, while you enjoy the bright sun and warming days.  It takes a plan of attack as well as retraining your body and eyes to ensure you are moving slow enough and looking not only in the right place but for the right things.  Make a plan of attack and move slowly.  Train yourself to look at the forest floor and not like you are watching birds or still hunting for that buck. Scan the ground at your feet and out in front of you.

    I'm no shed hunting expert and there are numerous articles and websites devoted to shed hunting written by folks with much more experience then me, but here are a few things to think about before running out and hunting for your first shed.

    • Knowing when the bucks have started to shed in your area is important.  It doesn't make much sense to go traipsing through the woods disturbing the deer looking for something that isn't there yet.  For the most part late February is a good time to start around our area.

    • Understand your targets winter habits.  For many animals their feeding habits have changed and may change as snow piles up or melts away.  The need to concserve body eneregy force them to change their patterns, move less and find warm safe places to rest.  Southern facing hill sides are the perfect place during the winter months so make sure to check these out.  Also, as far as food goes, if the mast crop was light and there is no snow, look to fields for grasses to feed on.
    • Have a plan and move slow.  The slower the better.  Take time to stop and look around you. Train your eyes to look at the ground.  Look at the ground at your feet and in a small radius out in front of you.  Stop often and look for that little piece of bone glistening in the sun or a color that just seems different or out of place.  Use binoculars if need be to pick out that object that caught your eye.
    • Deer run and jump and many times this might cause enough jarring where an antler falls off so pay special attention to obstacles that deer may have had to jump over like fences leaving a field or a creek, or things they had to duck under like low hanging brush and trees.
    • Make sure to not only check in standing pines, but even under that lone pine.  I have seen deer sign around and under that lone pine, especially one on a southern facing slope.  Don't know what attracts them, but it is something to keep your eye on.

    I spent Sunday afternoon looking for sheds on a piece of State Land near my house.  I wasn't successful in finding any sheds, but I did find a skeleton of a dead deer and was able to put my searching and investigative skills together as I tried to find the many pieces of bone that make up a deer.  I was able to find everything but the upper jaw and a front leg.  Some pieces were as far as 125 yards away from the main skeleton, but I found them.  What really had me thinking was that this skeleton lay just 20 feet from where I field dressed my 6 point buck from this past gun season.  I couldn't help but wonder if my gut pile was cause for attracting the predators that might have taken this animal or at least made sure to put the animal to use.  Either way it was an interesting find.

    Weather you are a big buck hunter or not, shed hunting offers plenty of fun for everyone and it is a great way to spend some family time in the great outdoors.  So get out and HUNT!

    Additional Links related to Shed Hunting.

    21 Shed Hunting Tips: http://www.trophyhuntingobsession.com/21-shed-hunting-tips/
    Shed hunting from Deer & Deer Hunting: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/biology/shedhunting_asportallitsown
    Let Shed Hunting Begin from bowhunting.com: http://www.bowhunting.com/blog/post/Let-Shed-Hunting-Season-Begin!.aspx