Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pipes and Iron

© By Albert A Rasch

Just a small catch-up post for some of my friends that are outside of the Outdoor Bloggers Summit. As I sit here and think about it, it strikes me that many of my fellow Bloggers who aren't yet members of OBS, think that they don't actually belong in the "Outdoor" category. Well I am going to invite each and every one of you personally. If I think you belong, then by golly, you probably do! You just haven't realized it yet! Or you just don't know about OBS. So expect an email from me soon!

My Argentine friend Pablo Gonzalez, El Aprendiz Herrero is not only an accomplished bladesmith, but a pipe smoking aficionado too. He has wanted to know which were some of my favorite pipes. I thought I would share my favorites, not only with him, but with you also.

For those of you who don't know too much about pipes, the long stemmed one is a church warden. Also known as a "reading pipe," because the long stem allowed one to view a book without the bowl in the way. This one was made by Tim West. Tim West is an American pipe carver who makes many unique freehand pipes. This one is a pretty conservative though. It is the pipe I most frequently use at home.

The other two are Danish Stanwell pipes. The dark one is a #30 "Barok," and the lighter one is a #62 "Legend." I consider these my traveling pipes. Relatively lightweight, they're great when you're driving down the road.

Now, this calabash is probably my show off piece. Filled with a mild, sweet, blend, nothing says, "Country Gentleman," or "Squire," like a calabash. I find that when you really have nothing intelligent to say, or perhaps some boorish company is troubling you, the mere use of the calabash will immediately stop anyone from actually hearing what you are saying. You can say pretty much whatever you want. Make fun of their kids, insult their intelligence, anything. When you are done you put the calabash behind your back, rock back and forth on your heels, and profoundly expostulate, "And that, my dear, simple, friends is why the Theory of Relativity is being superseded by Quantum String Theory." Trust me, it works.

I also have a really nice Randy Wiley pipe. Wiley has been carving pipes for well over thirty years here in the USA. I got this one many years ago but truth be told, I haven't smoked it yet. I got it because I liked the shape! The bowl is humongous, but the pipe fits very well in the hand.

I have another dozen or so pipes that I have picked up over the years, but they are smoked when the mood for that particular pipe strikes me!

I've got one more thing to share with everyone. I've mentioned it a few times, that I'm somewhat of an amateur metal worker. I do a little on the lathe, a bit on the milling machine, and a little at the forge and on the anvil.

My favorite in terms of taking something and really working to get it to be something, is forge and anvil work. With the mill and lathe, you usually know what the results should be, down to the thousandth of an inch. Not the forge, no sir. The metal and fire tell you what they will or won't do. At least they do with me. On the other hand, my buddy Todd Hill at Primitive Point not only makes the metal dance, but it will whistle a tune simultaneously.

This is the one and only utensil I ever made that actually came out! Not pretty, but I really like the way it came out. I made a nice set of tent pegs once, the recipient thought they were the best thing ever. Made out of #3 rebar, I cut it to 14 inch lengths, squared it on the anvil, folded the last inch and a half over, beat that until it was round, and levered 3/4 of an inch from the folded over end up a bit for the rope to hook onto. I also forged a point on it and quenched it in oil. Came out pretty good.

Well another weekend is now half over, hopefully tomorrow we'll have some fishing tales to tell!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Madness is This? Making Boilies.

© By Albert A Rasch

"And yet again, I have come to another conclusion of less than earth shattering proportions."


What the hell is a boilie? Sounds like something you get on your butt from humping a ruck to low. Just in case you’re not sure what “humping a ruck” means, it is a military expression relating to carrying a fully loaded rucksack, over an interminable distance, for an endless period of time, and of course, for no apparent reason.

But I digress.

Some time ago Bubby caught himself a 21 lbs carp out of an apartment complex’s retention pond. As you might imagine, a thirty-one inch long fish is a trophy no matter what kind. Recently, with the move to the suburbs we have found new ways to continue our outdoor adventures. Bubby in particular has found an extensive series of lakes, ponds, and water courses, to entertain himself with.

I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the nation, but in Florida we have a superabundance of ponds and lakes. It seems that no matter where you go there are any number of bodies of water, both minuscule and horizon busting, waiting to be fished.

As I have mentioned in several posts, we have moved to an apartment complex, within a planned community development area. Within walking distance, there are at least seven ponds or lakes. Bream, catfish, largemouth bass, carp, and assorted other fish prowl the sometimes inch deep shallows, to depths that would tax a deep diver.

There’s lily pad cover, cattails, sandy shorelines and concrete seawalls, along with strips and whole lawns of St. Augustine grass right up to (and sometimes growing in) the water. Most of the time those also have a house attached to the other end of the grass. Makes it tough on the backcast when flyfishing. I once snagged a blue hair and dumped her halfway in the lake before I realized what I had done.

Bubby’s been instrumental in searching for and fishing the myriad lakes in the area. We would have no idea where they were if it wasn't for him. The lakes have names now: The Bass Lake, where he caught I don’t know how many bass. Gar pond which has a gar in it. Go figure. The latest is The Catfish Lake where Bubby caught up with an eighteen incher. I wasn’t there so I couldn’t get any pics. Christmas may have a surprise in store for The Boo though!

Then there’s the Carp Lake with the monsters we’ve been trying catch for the last week or so. As it so happens, it is right off of Main Street, and it’s an exceptionally large lake. I’m guessing that it might have been a phosphate mine or a limestone quarry.

Almost crystal clear, it holds an abundant variety of plants, mollusks, bird life, and fish. Not to mention a good number of alligators too. Bubby’s pulled a number of smaller largemouth bass from it by fishing the edges with his secret-weapon, bream-patterned lures. Though lately I’ve seen him using a fire tiger pattern with similar success.

What he hasn’t managed yet, is to catch the lunker carp that frequently tail in the shallows. You would think that a shoal of redfish were in the lake the way the fins stick left and right out of the water. He caught the original on a piece of bread, molded around the hook. He has tried mightily to repeat the experience, but it just hasn’t worked out for him the way he has wanted.

In the hopes of helping him out, I have been doing a substantial amount of research on carp fishing in general, and carp bait making in specific. And yet again, I have come to another conclusion of less than earth shattering proportions. In the USA, we will make a club for anything, and brag about it too! Therefore, Bubby and I are joining the Carp Anglers Group. I don’t know why, it seemed like the right thing to do at the moment.

As with anything we do, or in this case import, a whole market has developed around it. You would think that carp fishing is going to be the next “Bass Masters” thing. The truth is they already have tournaments for them. Anyway, there are any number of tricks and techniques to catching carp. Obviously many of them come from Europe where carp fishing is an “olde and honoured” tradition. My favorite is the “hair rig,” which I think might be the bomb for those finicky sheephead that gather around pilings. Hell, I’ve already modified that rig to suit my purposes, but that’s another story altogether. There are special unhooking mats to protect the carp as they are landed and de-hooked. There are hooks designed for carp, especially in France. Carp specific rods and rod holders.

Well, we got plenty of fishing rods and reels so they’ll have to do. I'm not about to get into some kind of Euro-Angler thing. Get involved in something like that and the next thing you know you're wearing a beret, growing a goatee, spouting beatnik poetry, and trying to live a Bohemian life.

Having said that, I did find something worth appropriating. Boilies.

A boilie is basically a boiled ball of dough, hence the name boilie. Get it? They are comercially made in Europe in a bewildering arry of flavors, colors, and sizes. Plenty of people make there own, and there are as many different recipes as there are people.

Having given the “boilie” recipes their due consideration, I decided to do what I do best: Improvise!

A fifty pound sack of Sweet Feed is about eight bucks, a five pound bag of flour is two bucks, and the eggs were already in the fridge. I figured that budgetarily speaking it was a wise decision as opposed to going with an established recipe.

My mix is the following:
Four pounds of Sweet Feed
Four eggs
And about half a cup of flour
Water as needed

Find a place to work where you won’t get your head cracked open by an irate wife. There is nothing that ticks a wife off more than a man doing stuff that she:
  1. Doesn’t understand
  2. Understands but doesn’t care because you’re in the kitchen.
  3. Figures it is yet another phase you’re going through

To begin with, wet down the sweetfeed the night before. This will allow the pellets to break down into particles.

Mix in the beaten eggs.

Start mixing in the flour.

What you are looking for is a doughy mix that doesn’t crumble, but not so damp that it’s too pasty or sticky.

Now the hard part… Pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into balls approximately half an inch in diameter. After an hour or so your hands will be aching. They'll get sore between the thumb and forefinger. Which reminds me. Go to the bathroom before you start, hard to operate a zipper without the use of your thumbs.

Now in Europe, they have ball makers. You can make as many balls as you want with it. As a matter of fact you can get them to make really big balls if you need them. I don't know though... looks to me they don't sell 'em in France.

Anyway, after you have filled up a couple of bowls, or your hands hurt so much that you swear you'll try to kick my rear the day you set eyes on me, put a good sized pot of water on the stove and get it boiling. Gather up a good sized slotted spoon or one of those flat spoon things with a million holes in it. Even better would be a colander that fits in the pot.

Drop as many of the boilies in as you dare. Remember the water is boiling. It'll burn you, and bad too. give the boilies a couple of minutes, scoop them out and set them on a towel to drain. After a couple or three batches, the water will foam up and spill over the pot, thereby making a huge mess you'll have to clean up.

Once you have them all boiled, put them out to dry.

Someplace breezy would be fine, but if all you have is the widow sill that'll do too. This toughens up the outside of the boilie. I leave mine out for a day or so, put them in a plastic container, and store them in the fridge.

The only thing I don't know is if these will work. They should, but I haven't seen a recipe quite like this one. All the good stuff is there so I'm hoping that the carp appreciate all the hard work I have put into this.

Next time we'll discuss rigs, and how to use boilies. With some luck, Bubby and I will have caught something to show you too!

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...