2018 Duck Opener

Arrival at the Kerry Club was unimpressive. As I passed the Ingomar Packing Company ponds, I was surprised that there were zero ducks. When I reached the Kerry Club, I could see a limited number of ducks on the ponds, but not as many as I would normally expect.

Once in camp, I began to look around and I could see some birds working. It was mid-day, too early to arrive at any conclusions about duck numbers.

Other hunters began to arrive about the same time as me. Enthusiasm was high.

Everybody let their labs loose and it was mayhem. My Airstream was in sad shape after a long off-season, but a quick clean-up put it into acceptable shape.

The traditional dinner was excellent with surf and turf with all the trimmings. Parking was at a premium. Camp was about as crowded as I’ve seen it.

Here are some shots from Friday.

 

Being in the “senior” group, I laid myself to rest at 9:00 PM. The younger group was still going strong.

Not a sound could be heard at 5:00 AM when I turned on the Airstream lights, but it wasn’t long before the camp came to life and several more hunters drove up ready for the hunt.

The walk to blind 4 was pleasant. Most of the other hunters rode ATVs so Lola and I were about the last to settle in. My partner, Tom Billingsley, was working so I had the blind to myself. I took my time.

Just after shooting time I snapped this photo of the horizon. As you can see, Lola was ready. She’ll be 12 in January.

IMG_6298 Lola waits at sunrise reset

As is the norm, the ponds were void of ducks by the time everybody was in place, but it wasn’t long before birds poured in, mostly teal and shovelers, but there also quite a few pintail.

My first shot was at a drake pintail. I missed on the first shot, but hit him on the second. He started down, but I lost track of him in the mix. Lola hadn’t seen him.

Bad start. I unhooked Lola and climbed out of the blind, heading in the right direction. After the water cleared of birds, I had no idea where the drake had disappeared. Rather than search, I opted to head back to the blind. Didn’t want to ruin everybody’s hunt.

After my first screw-up, I proceeded to miss the next eight shots at teal. They were humming, but the problem was me, I knew I was aiming and that never works.

Finally I got my sighting figured out and knocked down a teal. Lola made the retrieve.

From that point on, my shooting was better. I passed on a boat-load of teal while trying to get a good shot at pintail. Finally I dropped a drake sprig dead and Lola made the retrieve.

Next I knocked down a green-wing that was a swimmer. I turned Lola loose. She was within inches of the bird, but could not catch up with it. After she turned the corner into some tules, I followed but lost sight of the action. Last year she would have retrieved this bird, but I wasn’t sure where it went and I didn’t want to stay out of the blind, so I called her off and she reluctantly returned to the blind with me, birdless. The fact that she was willing to give up was a sign of her age.

As the morning wore on it was mindful of other Kerry Club openers that went down in a similar way. There was the debate about whether to shoot pintail first or last. There was the amazing difficulty of hitting shot-at teal that never slowed down. There was the worry of shooting a spoony by mistake.

I got my second sprig, my sixth bird. It was getting late as we began the wait for a seventh bird. As sun rose higher, Lola was finished and so was I.

We closed out one shy of a limit. As we neared camp, Bob Smallman drove his ATV out to give us a lift. It was hot and the ride was appreciated.

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The sunrise was complete as I chased after Lola and a swimmer teal that we never found.

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Lola with a drake pintail.

Opening day hunts are a small portion of a duck season. Unlike most other duck hunt  days, they are generally predictable. The emotions, the ducks and the shooting.

 

 

Gobbler Flock

After finishing my hike this morning, I pulled out of the parking lot and ran smack into a large flock of turkey’s. I pulled my binoculars out and examined the group. They were all gobblers and many of them were very old with long beards.

I had only my cell phone for picture taking so I did the best I could. Most of them are in this photo.

Gobbler flock cropped

I counted at least 24 gobblers in this flock.

Ranch Road Oct 6, 2018

In no particular order. Yesterday’s photos.

 

A Week At the Lake House

The Lake House has been appropriately broken in by our family group. It was chaotic.

The house is designed for about four people, but can hold six. Eight is too much and that’s what we attempted to do on our first week at the house.

Linda and I decided we needed to spend a week at the house by ourselves – a’ la carte. Not sure what we expected to find out. That’s why we did it.

For me it was an easy week of checking off projects, fishing and relaxing. For Linda, it was a struggle. We came out OK, but the last couple days got testy. Our disagreements grew more frequent, but they never reached the level of a full-out argument.

Right off the bat I had a successful transfer of various equipment from the Bay Area to Almanor. The lawn mower, unused at home, made a quick adjustment to the high country.

On work-day one, Tuesday, we got the heater and AC checked out. Everything appeared to be in order, so that was a big relief. We also verified that the thermostat has a WiFi interface that will work nicely once we get our system implemented.

The wooden swing which had sat in our side yard, at home for several years, fit in nicely to the lake front and we enjoyed the up close view of the lake while sitting in the shade of one of our big yellow pines.

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A group of deer passed through during the early hours and stopped next to the new swing as if to say, “What is this?”

On day two, Wednesday, a major milestone was accomplished when we got our internet connection with Digital Path, a company out of Chico. So far, we are impressed with their service. Now we plan to hook up a couple Aps that will allow us to monitor the situation while we’re away – including the aforementioned thermostat.

On day three, Thursday, I managed to hit the creek and catch my first trout of the trip, a fourteen-inch brown. Only one, but that was a start.

In the afternoon, I spent time surveying a vacant lot in Hamilton Branch – property owned by my father. With the help of one of the neighbors, one corner was clearly extablished.  That’s progress.

The lot needs to be cleared to meet the county fire standards. Since it’s nearly an acre in size and is overgrown with brush, the project will take a while.

On day four,  Friday, I hit the creek early again and broke off a nice rainbow.

I had spent most of my time fishing from one location and there were a lot of fish in front of me. I cast to fish much of the time, but after a while, I began to cast randomly as the fish I could see seemed to be impossible to catch.

One fish in particular spent most of its time right in front of me and it was quite large. I can’t say how many times I thought about that fish, but it never moved. Eventually, I forgot about it.

Then one of my random casts landed in front of the big fish. I was amazed when it suddenly turned and swallowed my fly. My strike indicator went down an I pulled up in disbelief. The big rainbow was on.

This turned out to be the largest trout of the year, a nice rainbow. The fish pealed out a bunch of line, which ended up working in my favor. The big trout tired itself out running up and down the creek and never threatened to break my 5X tippet, which was vulnerable.

In the end, I pulled the fish up against the shore and a friendly gentleman held it there so I could get a photo before releasing the fish.

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This was definitely the fish of the year. Not sure exactly how big he was, but he was definitely big enough.

After catching the best fish of the summer, I packed up and headed home not needing to fish any more that day.

At home, I was hoping to resolve some WiFi issues with my handyman.

The WiFi installation was painless. Not only that, but we laid the groundwork for installation of other Aps that will make living in two homes easier. It was a good day.

Later, I got in a fairly long hike, burning up some calories.

Saturday morning I returned to the creek, looking for another fish, but the best I could do was a small rainbow. In general, fishing was slow the entire trip, except for one special moment.

Another trip to the lot resulted in some valuable discussions with the neighbors and I became satisfied that I knew all the corner locations. This accomplished a major goal for the trip.

During my drive home, I noticed smoke on the horizon to the west of Chester – looked like an uncontrolled fire. After arriving home, Linda and I heard airplanes overhead. Four Cal Fire planes were circling overhead in preparation for picking up water to fight the fire.

I photographed them in action.

Sunday fishing was enjoyable, but unremarkable, except that there were hundreds of trout in the estuary – few of them doing anything. I didn’t see a single fish caught.

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to pull our dock up away from the lake where it will remain until spring. I hooked the dock up to my truck using 100 feet of cable. After failing on my first attempt, I revised the system a bit and managed to pull the dock out like a train. It was a sight to see.

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With the lake level dropping rapidly, I concluded that it was time to pull the dock for this season.

Sunday evening Linda and I enjoyed a nice dinner out at Plumas Pines. We were ready to go home. (I could have stayed.)

It was a fruitful and enjoyable week. The Lake House is a success.

Looks like I won’t be back until November when the Devil’s Garden and Bass Hill muzzleloader seasons open. That should be interesting.

 

 

An Amazing Summer

Fall has arrived and there’s a lot to look forward to, but this past summer has been an exciting ride.

From the start, I knew that the summer held two fishing trips to Alaska – my first two Alaska fishing trips ever.

What I didn’t know is that I’d also have leg surgery and then purchase a house on Lake Almanor, a dream I’ve had for many years. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get Linda to go along with the idea.

The fishing trips were great and I’m almost completely healed from surgery. I’m grateful for my good fortune. The house at Almanor is the most exciting event of all.

It was mid-June when Linda and I decided to look at lake-front properties on Almanor. Our agent showed us just about every house on the lake under $1.3 million dollars. I concluded that in order to afford a home, it would have to be under a million.

We had most of that in the bank, some anticipated income and a home equity line of credit of our primary residence. We made a $950,000 offer on a house listed for $1,050,000 and they countered at $975,000. We accepted the counter and began inspections.

The house was nice, but had its flaws and as the inspections continued we began to have our doubts. Not only was the house in poor condition, but a western exposure and a steep incline to the water discouraged Linda.

We decided to exercise our right to withdraw.

Another house came on the market. The price was over our limit, but I told Linda we could figure out how to afford it. I knew in my guts that the house would sell quickly and I didn’t want to experience the pain of failing to make a solid offer and losing out on this rare find. After much debate, we made an offer and it was accepted.

I was ecstatic about our luck in finding this house. We could afford to buy it, but could we afford to own it? We closed escrow on about August 1. After consulting with my accountant and attorney, I decided to consider several options for owning the property and holding title.

My accountant believed that I should make the house a rental and take advantage of the two weeks per year that I could stay in the house. This option would be best if we wanted to get the most out of our money. But, I wanted to be able to stay in the house a couple months out of the year – not two weeks.

My attorney suggested creating an LLC, but he wasn’t sure about our ability to make the house a rental and also gain more time on site.  An LLC could be a  partnership, but the house would still end up being a rental – limiting personal use.

There was a posible Trust situation that would allow Linda and I to use the property as much as we wanted, but we would have to committ the property for our life time. I decided not to look further into that idea.

Another option would be to find a partner, get some of our money back and have somebody who would share in the expenses. I’ve been in many partnerships, but never on a vacation home. Ultimately, Linda and I have chosen the partnership route. We haven’t closed the deal, but it looks like we have found our partner. I’m happy with this plan and financially it is definitely a good option. We are in the process of creating a parthership agreement that defines how the property will be shared.

The view from the Lake House

This panoramic shot shows the back of the house, the deck where we spend time, the back lawn and the key feature – Lake Almanor.