Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reflections for 2009 The Good Bad and Ugly

Well here we are. 2009 is just about over, and what a year it has been. If I could sum it up with one word it would have to be "Hysteria" (behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess). Emotional excess being the key part of that definition. For me emotions ran wild during 2009.
It started with some ice fishing in January. I was working over 70 hours a week and pulling double shifts. I would go in at 4:00 A.M. work til 4:00 P.M. go ice fish for a couple hours and work til midnight and do it all over again the next day. It was tiresome but I am always told by older and wiser people "your young, you can do it." Well I did it until I was permenantly laid off in February.

I took up fly tying in the winter to add another weapon to my fishing arsenal. Talk about getting addicted. I learned to tie from Jac Ford who guides on the PM (Pere Marquette) as well as Montana. This is one heck of a guide who isn't afraid to share his knowledge with anyone. He is a great teacher and I was thankful to learn from someone like him.

Then came the spring and I was on the road all the time. I was chasing spring steelie's (steelhead) and getting ready for the trout opener. Well the trout opener came in April and started off just like years past. WET! It always seems to rain when the opener gets here but oh well you just have to put on your big boy drawers or for you ladies reading, big girl panties and play the hand your dealt. I had a guy come up that wanted to catch his first brook trout so I was on a mission. After letting the rain subside we got after it and by the grace of God he got it.
Hunting for trout continued throughout the summer. I had a buddy Art who was able to go with me and man it was a blast. I caught a nice trophy brown trout one June evening that came in at just shy of 22 inches. What a great time. We had a newbie (someone new to the game) along who didn't believe that fish got that big in this small a stream. Well we proved it to him as Art also caught a nice 19 inch brown before dark.
I was able to get my wife her first pair of waders so she could get out and see what makes me tick. The day we went the water was gin clear and low. This makes for some tough fishing. We gave it a shot and only had a couple hours before we had to go get our son so we moved at a brisk pace. At the last bend we were going to be able to fish I told her to cast under the the log and "Fish On!" Her first brown came to net and was sent back to catch another day.

Then we took our vacation up to Burt Lake. We go the same time every year. The hexagenia limbata (hex hatch, big mayfly) happens at this time and there is nothing better than seeing those things. Except if your fishing for something other than trout. We fished for some walleye and pike and managed to catch enough for some tasty dinners. I didn't get the big pike this year. That honor went to my wife.

Well summer went on and fall was here before I knew it. September first I was in the field for some early goose action. That week was total chaos. We hunted all over the state. This is when I hooked up with UNJ. We filmed non stop for the two week period and got no sleep. I wrote down that I got about 18 hours in that first week. Whew! We had a great time and got a lot of new people out in the field. All I can say is a good time was had by all.

Then came the early doe season. I was able to have my compadre (n. Chiefly Southwestern U.S.A close friend or associate; a companion.) Art along to video my first ever doe harvest on camera. What a great feeling that was and to be able to have a great friend along for the ride was even better. (You can check it out at http://www.upnorthjournal.com/ Episode 5) It was his first time running a camera and he did a great job. Maybe next time he will turn it on sooner when I tell him I hear deer coming!

Then we segway into October and the start of archery deer and duck season. I was fortunate enough to take a ten point with my bow. This was the first one taken with my bow and it was a rush. I thought I missed him when he acted as if he wasn't shot but he only went 15 yards before he piled up. Then came the worst duck season I have ever had. It seemed as though the ducks we hunted day one we were still hunting at the end of the season. They all were schooled (educated) at the game we were playing and let me tell ya they all seemed to have Ivy League degrees for sure. All but 3 days in the field the UNJ crew and I had someone either new, a youngster or cameras over our shoulder. Let me tell ya we put in our time. I also had my ten year anniversary opening weekend of duck season and well ya guessed it, I kinda lost focus. On my anniversary. Yeah not a wise move at all.
November came and with it came the opening of Michigan's gun season for deer. I was able to harvest another buck and video'd it myself. It was quick and let me tell ya I still don't remember hitting the record button. That was something I will remember forever. Stay tuned to see if it makes the cut for one of our episodes. I also was able to take my son Drake out for his first ever deer hunt. At 2 years old. That was by far my most memorable hunt. We saw some deer but decided not to shoot and just enjoy watching them. I don't know that I will ever top that hunt.

Thanksgiving came and with it came the bombshell that rocked my world.

I left the following day to chase some chromers with fellow UNJ crew members Mike, Mikey and Jurgens. We had a great time until my ride home. That is when I got the voice mail. My wife told me she left me and we were thru. Yes folks I came home and the realization had hit me that the message was true. I am sure that there was a lot of thought that wnet into her decission and can understand some of her points. It doesn't help but at least we can talk about it. 10 years about to go down the drain with only having 2 possible fights. What an eye opener. The saying is true though people. "You don't know what you got, til it's gone." Let me tell ya it was a hard month after. A lot of thinking time for sure. She is a great person, a person I hope not to lose. Only time will tell.

Christmas came and I was able to have my daughter up from Illinois to celebrate this joyous holiday. Well I wished the circumstances would have been better but the family time was great. Then came another blow when I had to explain her grandfather had passed away. We talked and I let her know he is in a better place. We celebrated on the 26th and my sister Jaime was able to come over. My sister Jodi and her family came and so did Angela and Drake. It turned out to be a pretty good day. I enjoyed that as much or more than anything else this year.

Well as I look back at the year there were a bunch of high's and some low's. If you have learned anything from me and my life this year, I sincerely hope that you remember to never take anything for granted because you might wake up and not have it anymore. I hope you have seen that I am a real person with real emotions who doesn't hide how I truly am or feel. I am an open book. I try to give an insight as to what goes on in lives of people who do this and some sacrifices that are made. It can be a tough task and we sometimes loose sight of trying to keep family time and outdoors time in balance. We all have choices to make.

So there you have it, a view in my rear view mirror from this past year. I am looking forward to a lot of cool things that are gonna happen in the first quarter of this year. I am also looking forward to working on my personal life as well as my outdoor life. I am pumped up about the opportunities that I will have this year. I can say this that thru all of this I have learned that I have some great friends and have surrounded myself with good people that have been there in the good times but also in my hard times and for that I am thankful.

So until next time, be safe, appreciate what you have and get into the great outdoors.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So I Got Interviewed

So I am sitting in my family room and thinking about my chores when all of the sudden I have someone show up and ask about doing an interview. I was stunned. Me? Are you sure? "Well you are Chico? Right?". "Uh yeah actually I am." So next thing I know we are sitting down and I am being interviewed. So here it is.

Chris - "So Chico how did you get that name anyways?"

Chico - "Well I actually got it from a friend of mine when I was about 16, and it just stuck with me. My mother doesn't even call me by my real name. So if I hear my real name I know that it is someone who really doesn't know me."

Chris - "How did you get started hunting and fishing?"

Chico - "Well I had a step dad who kinda started me but it wasn't until I was old enough to drive that I really got into it. The freedom of going when I wanted to and not when someone else wanted to made it easier. I learned how to duck hunt on my own and man was that tough. I remember when I went out for my first early goose season, man was my calling horrible. I was trying to learn but I didn't learn quick enough. I went out by myself and the first flight that came my way I started to call the birds didn't flare but didn't come for a closer look either. Then I hear from a group down in the section next to me start yelling and telling me to stop calling and that I was horrible. Man did I feel lower than an ants you know to the ground. I remember that and that is why I will never tell someone they are bad unless they ask. I won't say they suck but I will try to lessen the blow a bit."

Chris - "So you were self taught in hunting and fishing?"

Chico - "I had a little help along the way with some things but for the most part, yeah pretty much."

Chris - "So what is your favorite game to hunt?"

Chico - " Well I do not like to be labeled with deer, duck, goose, upland etc. I would like to think I am not a one trick pony. I am a sportsman and I hunt it all. It provides food and that is the main reason I do it. The adrenaline rush is another. I do love waterfowling just because of the interaction that goes on with the waterfowl but the hunters as well. I would say waterfowl."

Chris - "Would you label yourself a trophy hunter?"

Chico - "I said I do not like labels. I can't eat horns if that's what your asking."

Chris - "What types of fish do you fish for?"

Chico - "I have a passion for trout fishing. There is just something about it. I love to be in the stream and not in a boat. Something about trying to hunt these fish. It is awesome. I say I do that most of the time but I still like to fish for walleye, pike, panfish, salmon and steelhead. I will be trying fly fishing for carp this year. They say it is the freshwater bone fish."

Chris - "So man, your season never really ends then. Does it?"

Chico - "No not at all. In fact I am planning to be out this weekend ice fishing and maybe trying to get after some coyotes. The season is never over if you have the passion. There is the prep season and then the actual hunting season and then when that is over, you start the prep season all over. I laugh when I hear people say the season is over because it never is, they just aren't looking at it the right way."

Chris - "How did you get started doing this?"

Chico - "This interview? Listen to your question brother, you started it."

Chris - "No I mean getting involved in the outdoor industry. I guess."

Chico - "Oh I got ya. I met a cool cat from IL. Who had invited me to a campout in Holly, MI. I met some of my brothers from Up North Journal and we talked after quite a bit and the rest is history. I have met a lot of cool people since. Can I give a shout out to them?"

Chris - "Uh yeah sure."

Chico - "What's up Mikey, Mike, Jurgens, Matt, Red, Kenster man forget it the whole family at UNJ, Snort, WV, Ron man everyone at http://www.talkhunting.com/ . Make sure you have that link when printed if ya could."

Chris - "Yeah, sure. Anyways what is your take on photos of game?"

Chico - "Not sure where your leading me."

Chris - "I mean whats your thoughts on the way game is portrayed after it's been harvested?"

Chico - "Well what your saying in reality is what is the right and wrong way. I'll say this about that. I do not personally take a picture with an open body cavity. That's just me. Is it wrong? Who am I to judge. I do however like to have my pics authentic. When I say that I mean the deer may have blood on it. I will try to tuck the tongue in but if it falls out well, it falls out. I am not going to take it to a local car wash hose it down and try to make it look like it is still alive because it's not. I go with the philosophy right wrong or indifferent that to each there own. If you don't like my pic well don't look at it. If you don't like my video don't watch it. I mean I am not going to show the worst side but c'mon it is what it is. So is there a right way? Yeah, the way you do it. Is there a wrong way? Yeah I guess it depends on who doesn't like it. Ask them they are always quick to point out things that are wrong. I call them cookie cutters."

Chris - "Cookie cutter's? Can you explain?"

Chico - "Yeah they are the people that loose sight of their own thoughts and views because they want to appeal to the masses. They may not agree with the masses but they sure don't want to go against the grain. You know, be different and true to themselves. What they actually believe in and how they personally feel. They start to drink the Kool Aid so to speak. I wish people would just do what they believe in and not do something just because they think others will like it."

Chris - "Okay then, so my last question for you is, if there is one thing you could change right now what would it be?"

Chico - "Right now the thing I would change would be that I wouldn't be going through......"

"Thanks Greeny." "So the Cowboys are in another slump in December and we'll be back after this to tell you how they aren't gonna change that anytime soon. Sports Center will be back after this."

So now I am awake and realize I was just interviewed by none other than myself Chris "Chico" Lopez. Now you have a sense of what I really think!

So until next time, be safe, appreciate what you have and get into the great outdoors.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Trip of First's

It started out as an innocent trip to get fellow Up North Journal members out for a new kind of fishing experience. I had planned to take Mike and Mikey on their first ever steelhead fishing trip on one the best steelhead rivers in Michigan. What happened over the course of this weekend will stay with me for the rest of my life.
It was Friday and we were set to meet at my house. Dave shows up first and is a little antsy as it is, but as the time went on as we were waiting for Mike and Mikey he really got fidgety. The Mike's made it finally and we realized we were going to have to take two trucks up to our destination. It wasn't what we wanted as we were all looking forward to the usual jokes and ribbing that always happens when we are together. Oh well off we went.

We arrive at the cabin and unload our gear. The boys check out the cabin and get geared up for our evening on the stream. It was really a great night for fishing. A temp hovering at about 42 degrees and very little wind to speak of. I helped get the boys rigged up and watched the action unfold. There is nothing better than getting to watch people do something that they have never done before. Seeing them concentrate so hard and want to learn all they can is an awesome experience. The fishing was slow.

I grabbed my rod and started to do my thing. I was aggressively fishing this area with spinners and spoons. I like to be different and try different techniques and not be so cookie cutter as I see with a lot of people. (That's a whole other blog, but look for it shortly) I make a cast then then rod snapped down toward the water. Tight line and bent rod with a silver torpedo on the end. Man it doesn't get much better than this. I played this one for a bit and walked up the stream toward it. I knew there is a boulder in the vicinity where it was and wanted to keep it away as much as possible. Then just like clock work snap! All done, but man was it a rush.

We fished into darkness and then decided to call it quits so we could go laugh back at the cabin. Man did we. I do not think that I laughed so much in my life, ever. We carried on until the wee hours of the morning. When I finally awoke my chest hurt from laughing so much. It kinda felt like you do when you are in a smoke filled bar and wake up the following morning. For those of you who do not do this, let's just say it hurts.

We packed our gear up and leave to hit the stream. We fished until dark and called it a great experience we were able to share together. No fish landed but a great time was had by all. A very enjoyable trip to say the least. I was glad that I was able to get Mike and Mikey out for their first time and pass on some tips and pointers to make them successful in the future. It doesn't matter how many fish you catch or take home, it matters how great the memories you make while doing it.

Let's say I have a lot of great memories from this trip. Then came the ride home and a first for me....

So until next time, be safe, appreciate what you have and get into the great outdoors.