Category Archives: Reviews

Ernest Hemingway — The Nick Adams Stories

Between 1925 and 1933, Ernest Hemingway published sixteen stories about a character he called Nick Adams. Appearing in various collections and arranged in no particular time sequence, the narratives appeared disconnected and incomplete. In 1972, after Hemingway’s death, the stories were collected, arranged in the chronological order of Adams’ life, and augmented with eight unpublished fragments found after Hemingway’s death. From this reorganization emerged a coherent picture of Nick’s life from his boyhood in upper Michigan through his adult experiences. Nick Adams’ life runs parallel to Hemingway’s life.

I’d like to give credit to the person who wrote that, but no name was given. Pretty much sums up this collection of short stories.

From high school through college I read about a half dozen books by Hemingway. I also recall reading Big Two-Hearted River. Since college, I haven’t read anything by Hemingway.

Last year, just for the hell of it, I did a search on Big Two-Hearted River and found it online. Over the years I’ve lost the interest and ability to read novels. Virtually every book I’ve bought in the last twenty years has been collections of short stories. I knew there were other Nick Adams stories out there and a search got me to The Nick Adams Stories. A hint to my oldest daughter before Christmas resulted in getting the book.

While studying art in college I did a lot of reading on early 20th Century artists and writers. One of my other favorite writers from that time was Gertrude Stein. I like the short, clipped sentences used by both of them and at times it’s hard to tell the two apart. There’s something I find appealing in such direct sentences.

I was disappointed when I got to the end of The Nick Adams Stories. I wanted more. I know the other Hemingway books I’ve read are basically the same Adams character with a different name, but I’m not up for reading a novel. Especially one I’ve read before, even if it was 35 years ago. I wanted more of these short, tight little stories.

I’m sure this book is old news to many, but then, like me, there are probably others out there over 50 that may not know about all of the Nick Adams stories. I’m sure there are some kids out there that know even less than me. To those, I highly recommend you go read these stories.

teach_a_man_to_fish

Introducing Quill Gordon’s Story Time

I like to read well written short stories about the outdoors. The specific topic is unimportant, as long as it is well written. My bookshelf is stuffed with books of short story collections either by individual writers or a collection of writers writing about specific types of outdoor adventures.

If you go looking for stories like this in any of the half dozen or more outdoor magazines that focus on Illinois, you’ll be looking in vain. Those magazines will be filled with product reviews and how-to’s that are peppered with the dropped names of advertisers in the magazines. I understand this, you have to pay the bills somehow. Plus they cater to the majority of outdoorsmen that find a well written story, as I was once told, too flowery for them.

The problem is that the product reviews and how-to’s get boring really fast. Still more gear you probably don’t need. Still another article on how to vertically jig a ledge in 30 feet of water or how to best maintain your deer stand. After you read one of those once, there’s no reason to go read a similar one in another magazine and there’s really no reason to read one again the next year.

Because of my penchant for the well written story, I’ve whittled down my magazine subscriptions to just one, Gray’s Sporting Journal. Of the printed magazines, Gray’s is hard to beat for it’s quality writing.

Luckily there’s the internet. Over the years I’ve found numerous good outdoor writers that only appear online. With the increase in blogging over the last few years, it takes some searching, but you can find some truly incredible writing by authors that appear nowhere else.

A couple of years ago I came across Quill Gordon and his blog The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond. Quill Gordon, the pen name for one Ken Hall, produces some of the best outdoor related short stories that I’ve found on the internet. Quill/Ken is the caretaker of a fishing camp somewhere in Vermont that he calls The Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society. His short stories are filled with characters that visit the camp during the fishing season, as well as some of the local characters that live around there year round.

Like any good yarn told over a few beers, there’s a thin line between fact and fiction. You know you’re being told a story, you know it’s beyond belief, but it’s being told so well that at the end, you sit there scratching your head, laughing and thinking, well, maybe.

That’s the way Quill, I mean Ken, writes.

And now he’s writing new stories and rewriting archived stories for new uses. He’s recently started releasing his short stories for the Kindle and Nook e-readers. I highly recommend that if you like good story telling regardless of the subject matter, you should check these out.

You can find the details for his e-reader releases on his blog.

The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond

If nothing else, bookmark his blog, subscribe to it in your favorite feed and go back into his archives now and then.

It will be time well spent.

Dear Cabela’s — No More Boots from You!

The best wading boots I’ve ever owned were a pair of Cabela’s boots that I vaguely remember being called Guidewear. They had all leather uppers and rubber soles that weren’t lugs, but a soft rubber pretty much guaranteed to not slip. I put them through hell for two years before they wore out. When I went to purchase another pair of them, they had quit making them. At least the rubber soled version. All they had were the felt bottom version.

Felt is worthless around here. To get to the river you have to eventually walk on mud. Felt on mud is like walking on the slickest ice imaginable, out of the question.

Since then I’ve been trying different types of Cabela’s wading boots with varying degrees of success.

Back in April of 2011 I wrote about how a two year old pair of Cabela’s Guidewear wading boots bit the dust, These were similar to what I had used years earlier. Only problem was, I no longer had the budget for them and I had to get newer cheaper ones, I put up a post about what ensued from there.

Dear Cabela’s

In March of 2012, those boots had all but disintegrated and I documented that pretty well too.

Dear Cabela’s — Your Wading Boot Suck

Within a few days of putting up that post, the boots had self destructed completely.

Almost immediately I was contacted by Cabela’s customer service. They wanted to send me a pair of their latest greatest Gold Medal Wading Boots to try out. For free. Free is hard to turn down and I promised I would put up a review after I put them through their paces.

Six months later and they’re looking like I put them through a meat grinder, at least the bottoms. They are no longer useable and at the moment, I can’t replace them. Luckily they’re self destruction coincided with the end of the fishing season. Would be nice to get out a few more times, but I may have to give up on that idea. Unless I fall back on the old Simms boots I still have laying around. Ugly, but still useable.

So without further delay, here’s the review of the Gold Medal Wading Boots.

First, the details:

Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots

• Wading boots that double as hikers
• Removable EVA insoles and 1/4″-EVA footbed liners
• Hard-rubber cleat receptacles
• Microscreen drains rapidly release water
• Waterproof, full-grain nubuck uppers

Extend your footwear options to accommodate a range of ground surfaces without having to invest in multiple pairs of wading boots. The hard-rubber cleat receptacles are compatible with both steel and carbide tipped cleats to double your ground-gripping options. EVA insoles and 1/4″-EVA footbed liners remove to make room for stockingfoot waders, or leave them in place for an added layer of warmth while feet are submerged in a cool stream. Dual-density rubber outsoles provide traction over a wide range of wading and trail conditions. Microscreen drains rapidly release water, while simultaneously blocking unwanted pebbles and sand from entering. Waterproof, full-grain nubuck uppers. Imported.

On March 23rd, they arrived on my doorstep.

Out of the box, they looked pretty good.

I knew right off the bat a couple of things were going to be an issue.

There was no way I would ever use these as hiking boots. After they had been marinating in the Fox River for a number of hours, there would always be some kind of layer of rubber or neoprene between my feet and the boots. I have no clue what’s in the Fox at any given time and I didn’t want to find out if the flesh on my feet would get eaten away by something I was wading in.

I would also never use cleats. I don’t understand the idea of screwing sharp objects into the bottoms of your boots, then applying nearly 200 lbs. of downward pressure to them on a regular basis. I would imagine it’s only a matter of time till it’s like walking on a bed of nails.

Before I got them wet, I tried them on while only wearing my usual pair of socks. I left both the insole and bed liner in the boots and they fit and felt well. I could see using them as a pair of hiking boots, but that’s not why I needed them.

Next I put on my waders. I wear a pair of socks like those pictured above. Over that I put on a relatively thick pair of socks made of merino wool, then slip on the waders. I wound up taking out the bed liner, the boots were a little too snug with them in place. They felt good.

Another issue became apparent. They don’t work with built in gravel guards. The boots don’t come up high enough. As soon as I started walking the guards crept over the top of the boots in the back. For the next six months I had to put up with rocks, gravel and sand getting in the boots. They might work with gravel guards that you just wrap around, but I don’t use those. It’s just two more things for me to lose.

As the little tag on the boots said…

For some this might work. I just needed wading boots.

I then proceeded to put them through hell for the next six months with over 75 wading trips. The soles, without adding cleats, did a decent job in keeping me from slipping. But then, this is the Fox River, not some clear mountain stream. I could see doing a bit of sliding on bigger rock structures. For the Fox, I’ve had better, but these did alright. The uppers are just stiff enough to keep my ankles protected from twists and turns and the boots are light enough that wearing them for extended periods of time was not a problem.

In October they started to fall apart. I had noticed a month earlier that the layer of rubber between the boot and the sole wasn’t looking too good. My feet were noticing this too.

It also felt like the rubber was getting compressed by that nearly constant 200 lbs. of pressure I was putting on them while I walked. Why I refrain from screwing things in the bottom of my boots also became apparent. I could feel the rubber nubs on the bottom of the boots pressing against the bottoms of my feet. I have no doubt the screws would have come up into the boot and I’d be getting stabbed in the feet by the points.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, the sole started pulling away from the boot rendering them now useless.

It’s too bad. The upper part of the boot is holding up really well. Much better than the last pair of boots I had bought from Cabela’s. I would like to recommend that another supplier of shoelaces be found. I kept cutting and patching these together every time they broke, rather than replacing them, just to see how they wound up at the end of the year. There has to be better shoelaces that can be supplied with wading boots.

So, would I buy and use these boots again?

No, too many issues for me.

Can I recommend them to others?

Well, maybe.

I think you have to look at your own wading and walking habits. Maybe someone who only wears these in crystal clear streams may not have the same issues. Once they dry out, maybe wearing them for a hike won’t bother you. Marinating them in a semi-urban river like the Fox and then putting them close to your feet? I wouldn’t do it.

They definitely don’t work with built in gravel guards. I do know a few anglers that use the separate gravel guards, that might work from what I’ve seen, if they don’t get lost first. It’s also just a bit too much fussing for me.

I would hate to think that based on my review of the Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots that they would be rejected outright by others. They didn’t work for me on the river I fish the most. I think someone with different wading habits and a different locale needs to give these boots a try and do a review.

I think that would be a much fairer approach.

If you think these boots might work for you, go here:

Cabela’s Gold Medal Wading Boots

Bamboo — The Last few Pictures

Got the rod out to a pond and a creek for the last couple of days I got to use it.

Skunked it on the pond, but fishing was a bit difficult that day anyway.

Now to sit down and write something semi-coherent about the rod and the experience. The rod was a pleasure to use. Fly fishing? I have issues with it.

For some fly fishing may be a way to achieve nirvana, a method of fishing that lets you enter into some mystical state where you become one with your surroundings. Heaven knows enough have written about such things.

It may be an extremely efficient way to cast flies and hope a fish may appear remotely interested.

But to me a fly rod is a tool and in this case, kind of like trying to split logs with a hatchet.

But I digress…

____________

The Outdoor Blogger Network teamed up with Fall River Flyrods, Montana Fly Company and RIO Products this spring to put together a rig consisting of an 8ft, 2-piece, 5wt “South Fork” bamboo rod, Madison reel, and double taper, floating line to be fished by 15 far-flung anglers over the course of the season. One of those 15 anglers will own the rod, reel, and line when all is said and done, along with an accompanying journal in which all 15 anglers will record their thoughts and experiences during their time with the rod. With a first season like that, the story of this brand new rod is off to a very good start.

I’m Psychic… Who Knew

Since the day I heard back in March that I won the opportunity to use and write about the bamboo fly rod from Fall River Flyrods, the Madison reel from Montana Fly Company and the fly line from Rio Products, I’ve joked that I was going to break this rod. Not intentionally of course, but I know my history with rods.

Who knew that on the evening of August 9th my prediction would come true.

I think it’s going to need more than a BandAid…

When fishing the Fox River for smallies I use spinning gear and usually have about 15 to 20 feet of line out, letting a lure drift around in the current. I move the rod around a bit to pick apart every nook and cranny, ever tiny current break that might be holding a fish.

Smallies being what they are, the ultimate fresh water predator, it’s not unusual to have them hit right at your feet with no more than a few feet of line out. The hits are sudden and violent and the runs are intense. On a good day, I go home with a sore hand and wrist from fishing this way.

I use medium light spinning gear with a very fast action. I also only use braided line, which doesn’t stretch. To compensate for that, I keep the drag set relatively loose. The tip and loose drag are enough to cushion the blow of these short, sudden and violent hits.

I was doing the same thing with the fly rod on Thursday night.

With about an eight foot leader and another foot of line out, I was dragging something through the water in and out of a current seam. A pool of line was at my feet. I had the line cinched with my finger at the grip.

This I believe was the problem, no drag.

The hit was sudden and violent and my initial reaction was to give a quick hard snap back to set the hook.

And then I heard another snap.

That couldn’t be good.

The rods tip alone wasn’t enough to cushion the blow. Having the line cinched down and giving a quick hard snap back didn’t help. There was nowhere else for the end of the rod to go but… snap.

I knew better, but in the moment, I didn’t.

Sorry about this Mr. Zicha. No matter how much care in handling this rod that I took, I can’t control the actions of an aggressive predator. They don’t care what you’re rod is made of or how outstanding it’s craftsmanship.

They are there to humiliate all.

I do know this, no more short drifts at the end of a cast with about nine feet of line out…

I don’t think the twisty ties will hold for long.

_____

The Outdoor Blogger Network teamed up with Fall River Flyrods, Montana Fly Company and RIO Products this spring to put together a rig consisting of an 8ft, 2-piece, 5wt “South Fork” bamboo rod, Madison reel, and double taper, floating line to be fished by 15 far-flung anglers over the course of the season. One of those 15 anglers will own the rod, reel, and line when all is said and done, along with an accompanying journal in which all 15 anglers will record their thoughts and experiences during their time with the rod. With a first season like that, the story of this brand new rod is off to a very good start.