31 January 2012

Tuesday Redfish Fix

I was bumming around on the Drake's website & stumbled onto this little gem.

It was submitted in 2006 (pre-fly fishing film tour, I think...?) by Mikey Weir (Burl Productions); he of Soulfish & other great videos.

Redfish are awesome.


Into the Red Zone from 7 Weight on Vimeo.

30 January 2012

Confession of a Southern Wannabe

Time/Date: 2035, 30-Jan-12
Location: not the South

Today was a good day for receiving the mail, even though the repeated banging on the door caused Awesome the Dog a few freakouts.

All in the same day, I received my FFF membership package, the new Orvis catalogue (even though I requested not to be sent it; I work in an authorized Orvis fly shop), the new TFM redfish hoodie, and a cap from Southern Culture on the Fly.
My Southern apparel collection grew a bit today...
Some might ask, "Why would you get a redfish hoodie & a hat from some southern fly fishing e-mag? You're from Atlantic Canada."

An easy, and partly true, response would be, "I respect what they do & wish to support them."

But really, the whole truth is...I (not-so) secretly want to be a Southerner.

That's right.

I'm a southern wannabe.

This goes beyond my affinity for hot sauce & chicken wings, people, so why don't y'all just grab yourselves a tasty mint julep and set yourselves down & hear me out?

My main issue is this little tidbit right here.

It's called weather.

Here's the weather here at home for the next few days (note: I converted from Celsius for y'all):
Fredericton, NB
And now a few selected locales in my wannabe-adopted homeland:
Charleston, SC
New Orleans, LA
Islamorada, FL
What you don't see in the extended forecast for Fredericton is a stick-figure with a noose around his neck on Wednesday.

Then there's the whole fishing thing.

I'm not necessarily shitting on the fishing scene here in NB. I mean, it's alright. But the season opens April 15th (May 1st on lakes/ponds), and closes Oct.15th...or Nov. 30th on tidal water, if you're brave enough to handle it.

And if you break it down into some sort of spreadsheet-thingy (Table 1A), the scales tip a little more to fishing in the South.

Table 1A: Ummm, yeah...it isn't that bad here...
And it's not like I haven't been there before; heck, I even brought some reds to hand before some of your own have (you know who you are...):

It was only 3 days, and it left a serious impression on me.

I've been calling myself a semi-retired country gentleman for almost two years now...how much more epic would it be if I could replace 'country gentleman' with 'Southern gentleman?' That's almost worth the price of admission right there.

Other random positives about the south:
  • Open liquor laws: here in NB, get caught with open booze, it's a fine of over $85. From what I saw in NOLA, the police officers cheers you.
  • It appears the Antiques Roadshow comes through regularly. This would make my lovely girlfriend quite happy.
  • Going to see if Hazzard County really exists sounds far more appealing than visiting the Shivering Songs Festival (no offence to Shivering Songs, but 'shivering' doesn't sell me).
  • Barbecue is a way of life & state of mind. Here, barbecue ranges from common novelty (summer) to ordeal (winter).
  • My blossoming bass bug skills would be appreciated more there than here.
  • Running from a hurricane sounds more fun than sitting through a blizzard.
  • I could use being there as an excuse to listen to Willie Nelson more often.
So, my southern readers, I'd be properly honoured if y'all would consider harbouring a northern illegal alien...and his lovely girlfriend...and his adorable dog...and quite possibly a few other northern refugees that might pass through next winter....

This northerner wants to wage a war of aggression...against being cold, bored & fishless all winter...

And I even have the southern rock thing down...sort of...  Enjoy the track:

PS - Mom, Dad, I'm not really moving to the south. At least, not yet...

Plan. B - Faceless Fly Fishing

Last week I wrote my review of the screening of the IF4 in Dieppe, NB

If you recall, I was a little "meh" about the whole thing.

In one part of my review, I wrote about my disappointment of Faceless Fly Fishing's Plan B being skipped over, and wrote:

Note #4: If anyone from Faceless Fly Fishing happens to read this: I'd like to see the video you fine folks have worked so hard at shooting & editing. Let me know if/when you ever post the full version on your Vimeo page.

Well, someone from Faceless Fly Fishing did read my that & were very cool enough to send me a message saying they were disappointed we didn't get to see Plan B, and yes, they were going to put it on their vimeo page. They even told me the date, but swore me to secrecy.

Well, today is that date, and I'm very please to share with you their very awesome submission to the IF4 (ps - love the audio track in this):


Congrats to the great folks over at Faceless Fly Fishing for putting out a great short.

And thanks for taking it upon yourself to send me a note about the IF4 experience!

PS - their Canadian-ess did not factor into my decision of calling the video awesome. That's just a bonus.

25 January 2012

Back to School

If you have read my twitter feed in the past week or so, this will be old news. But for those of you who aren't in the twitter loop...

I'm going back to school.

No, not the time & money-sucking post-secondary academics that I already battled through...spent over $40K on...successfully completed, but a more enjoyable and artful return to academic life.

Study materials I can really get behind...
I'm talking about the FFF's CCI program.

FFF = Federation of Fly Fishers

CCI = Certified Casting Instructor

Successful completion of this intensive self-study program & exam will permit me to put all those letters after my name.

Funny enough, I don't put those other letters after my name very often. Really not sure why that is...

I've been in touch with a casting instructor already to discuss a few things (thanks, Dean!) & get a few tips, which was pretty awesome.

After talking to Rich via email, I pretty much decided attending the exam session being offered in March was f**king insanity overly optimistic. My timeline for this is, for the most part, my own, but I want to get it done sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately he doesn't have any tips (outside of schnapps) for nutting-up to go outside to practice casting in -25°C weather...

(Quick update: it was super-ass mild here the last couple days. This keeps up & I'll be using the city's outdoor rink in Officers' Square as a casting pond)

Unfortunately going back to school won't involve this...this time at least...

Enjoy some tunes:

23 January 2012

IF4 - A review

Time/Date: 1115 AST, 23-Jan-12
Location: My Kitchen, Fredericton, NB

On Friday, my lovely girlfriend & I traveled to Dieppe to attend a screening of the International Fly Fishing Film Festival (IF4), held at the community college.

Note #1: this is NOT the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T). Two separate entities.

Note #2: I'm seriously trying to not let the road conditions on the drive there (it was snowing) or the fact I ran out of windshield wiper fluid on the return trip (adding an hour to a typical one hour, forty-five minute trip) play a part in my review.

My honest review of the whole experience: meh.

That's right. Meh. M-E-H. Meh.

Note #3: This isn't meant to slag on the hosts of the IF4 screening, the Dieppe Fly Tying Club. I think they are a wonderful group of anglers that do tremendous work in the region. They host the annual Fly Fishing Forum each March, which is the best (read: only) fly fishing show in the area.

The show started with the IF4 preview/promo trailer, i.e., the videos you see when you go to the IF4 home page, and therefore, the trailers everyone has been seeing online for the past five months or more.

First thing I noticed (other than thinking, "Huh. I've watched these before.") was the video quality. Definitely not HD. Not even close. Think YouTube on 240p. Full-screen YouTube on 240p.

Then I noticed the audio quality. Think ear-splitting volume on speakers meant for a P.A. system.

Once we finished watching the promo video...we started watching it again.

The exact same promo trailer. It was on repeat. It was an ominous start to the evening.

After a few minutes of uncomfortable seat-shuffling by the 50 or so attendees, someone went to the DVD player and started skipping ahead to get to the actual videos. And we're off...so we thought.

Onto the screen popped the intro to Faceless Fly Fishing's Plan B...for about 25 seconds. Our DVD technician apparently didn't like that one, so he skipped it.

That's right. We didn't see it.

Note #4: If anyone from Faceless Fly Fishing happens to read this: I'd like to see the video you fine folks have worked so hard at shooting & editing. Let me know if/when you ever post the full version on your Vimeo page.

So then we moved onto the rest of the shorts & the features.

Some of them were really good (A Backyard In Nowhere, Chasing the Run).

Some of them were entertaining (Three Times Golden).

One was a sneak-peak for a television series (The Costa Rica Challenge), while some were essentially promos for lodges (The Cuba & the Guatemala videos).

Note #5: the Guatemalan video, Vela, had very similar footage to the video shot by Salty & Jon of my sailfish fly fishing adventure. I am NOT claiming plagiarism by any means, as I'm 99.9% sure the group shot their video months previous to us...and it looks like they were using the boat that Captain Tom now owns...I'm just stating the "ha-ha, I paid money to watch someone do what I already did" factor of it.

Note #6: with regards to The Costa Rica Challenge: an hour & a half with a tarpon...on a 14wt? Were you using 6x tippet? Not to call anyone out, but...I dunno, I'm definitely no expert, but it just seemed long to me...

A little over 2 hours later, our IF4 experience was over.

Door prizes? No.

Guest speaker(s)? None.

Giveaways? Nope.

Fifty-fifty draw? Uh-uh.

Back in the fall of 2010, a couple of us spoke about hosting either IF4 or F3T here in Fredericton last winter.

My first text message about it: the boys at BabZees Entertainment. You know, the guys who brought the Black Crowes and Our Lady Peace and GirlTalk to town. I figure if we were going to host an event, it was gonna be AN EVENT! Prizes, giveaways, speakers, exhibitor booths, beer, fun...

Unfortunately, the Dieppe screening felt half-assed to me; i.e., "It's eight dollars, grab a seat, watch the videos, and leave. Thank you."

When you tie in the four & a half hours of driving in less than ideal conditions, the whole experience measures as a "meh" at the most.

At least my lovely gf & I got a chance to eat at Arby's on the way out of town.

16 January 2012

Beginner Bass Bugs...

Time/Date: 2235 AST, 16-Jan-12
Location: My tying bench

I decided to plunk my ass at my tying bench to give myself a crash course in spinning deer hair for bass bugs...and try out my new Peak Rotary Vise in the process.

My lovely gf gave me a gift card to the bookstore for Christmas so I ordered up Bass Bug Basics by John M. Likakis to help speed the self-taught crash course up a little bit. If you're interested in tying bass bugs, it's definitely a handy resource to have on hand.

For my first tie, I decided on trying my hand at Tap's Bug, which was declared the "best bass bug ever" in the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Fly Rod & Reel magazine. You see step-by-step pics & instructions to tie the bug on Fy Rod & Reel Online here.

This is what the finished bug is supposed to look like (from the Fly Rod & Reel article):

And, after a few thread-snaps, a lot of trimming and minor cursing, this is what I ended up with:

I'm usually pretty critical of my tying...but realize bass aren't typically as critical & selective; if they're eating, they'll eat that. So I'm ok with this first effort. I'm not going to fish it; instead, I'm keeping it as a benchmark to measure up future bass bugs to. And yes, there will be many future bass bugs.

A few things to point out if you're going to start tying deer hair bass bugs:
  • make sure your tying scissors are sharp;
  • pick up some old-timey, flexible razor blades for trimming the deer hair. I found a package of Wilkinson Sword Classics at Shoppers Drug Mart. Ten double-sided blades = 20 razor blades for sculpting bass bugs; just snip 'em in half with a Leatherman or similar;
  • get a strong thread. I'm using UNI BigFly thread...and snapped it a few times while tying my first bug
  • be patient! I ended up cutting off my second bug of the night to start over due to trying to rush. Take your time & follow the steps;
  • be prepared to make a mess. I don't think I have ever done a recreational activity that makes a mess like this. If you're married, do NOT do this at the dining room table if your better half is within a three hours' drive radius of your home. Bass bugs are that perfect excuse to set up a personal tying area, far from any potential marital disputes.
  • In addition to the razor blades, other items that are handy to have are: rounded-tip tweezers (for pushing thread/knots along the hook shank) and a fine-toothed comb (for cleaning underfur from deer hair).
  • If you want to put on those rattling, googly doll eyes, you can pick up packages of 300 for cheap at craft shops. A drop of ZapAGap or similar cyanoacrylate adhesive will keep them on the bug through most battles with bronzebacks...or bucketmouths...
Once I improve spinning/packing/sculpting these bad boys, I'll post a few more.

Enjoy some music:


One of my favourite bands has reunited & is releasing an album.

I could go into a long, rambling tale of how, at age 21, one of their tracks "spoke to me."

Or a tale of how catching the lead singer as the show-stealing opening act for The Trews caused me to fail an advanced calculus exam the next day.

Or how the lead singer, headlining the opening night of FredRock 2010, came into the Lava Vodka Lounge (where I used to sling booze) the night before & really dug the vibe...and the vodka...and dug it enough to make a special request for a certain brand of vodka the night of his show.

But instead, I'm just going to play their (awesome) new track from their upcoming album.

12 January 2012

The Conservation (& Music) Post

Time/Date: 0930, 12-Jan-12
Location: My kitchen

RecycledFish Stewardship Tip - Accelerate Less
One of the prime tenants of hypermiling is “do not accelerate quickly or brake heavily.”

According to the folks at cleanmpg.com, accelerating quickly or braking heavily can reduce fuel economy as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town.

Here are three scenarios that you might encounter during your everyday drive and three suggestions on how you can reduce accelerating and braking.

Uphill leading to a stop light/sign: Travel as far up the hill as possible before stopping. Maintain a steady pace and attempt to crest the hill when the light is green. If there is a stop sign at the top of the hill, you have no choice. You have to stop. Unfortunately, accelerating from a dead stop facing uphill is one of the worst fuel efficiency situations that you will face. Often, there is a relatively level piece of ground at the top of a hill. Try to stop there if possible. If the hill is part of your regular commute, try a different route so that you can avoid the hill.

Downhill leading to a stop light/sign: Slow down well before the light. Coast on the downhill and try to time your descent so that you hit the intersection when the light is green. This will allow you to coast through the light without having to accelerate.  Even if you do have to brake on the intersection when the light is green.  This will allow you to coast through the light without having to accelerate.  Even if you do have to brake on the downhill, you have gravity on your side. You can continue to coast after applying the brakes.

Level ground leading to a stop light/sign: Continue to slow your vehicle before actually coming to a stop. Think of yourself as moving half the distance to the goal line and then half again. You can accomplish this both through braking and by coasting into your buffer.

Why it is important to the fish: All vehicles produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2) when they burn gasoline.

Why it is important to you: Burn less gas, burn less cash. I'll repeat that:


The 2000 RPM Challenge
For the current tank of gas in the High Plains Drifter, I have vowed to NOT drive over 2000RPM, to see how much more mileage I can crank out of it.

Some basic stats:
  • I filled up yesterday, 11-Jan-12 at 2:40PM; the truck was almost empty (~80L gas tank)
  • It took 78.751L of mid-grade gasoline...that's 20.803 US gallons
  • The total price was $96.00 
  • That's $1.219 per litre...that's $4.614 CDN per US gallon, or $4.531/gallon in US dollars
  • Driving normally, I drove 424.6km (263.8 miles) on the previous tank of gas
  • Approximate mileage calculation: 5.39km per litre, or 12.68 miles/gallon
  • 90% of my driving on the previous tank was in the city
(Note: the Canadian economy hasn't screeched to a halt with these gas prices or public health care...something to think about)

I will update this once I fill up again. I'm hoping it's not for a while.

Here's what I've noticed following the first afternoon of my 2000 RPM Challenge: Fredericton has some steep-ass hills, and it is friggin' hard to get up them at or under 2000 RPM. Also there's a lot of old blue-hairs that accelerate slower than I do.

Think about that: I'm trying to accelerate my (automatic transmission-driven) truck from a dead stop, on an uphill grade, at under 2000 RPM, and I'm accelerating faster than granny in a Toyota Corolla.

No wonder people develop ulcers & eye twitches from commuting to work every day.

I'm glad I don't work every day.

The Tweet
I was interviewed by our regional newscast on Friday because of this:

Long story short: I was waiting in my truck (not idling, btw) for my lovely gf, saw this dude walk around his van with buckets in hand, I assumed (correctly) that he was going to dump them down the storm drain, snapped a pic, tweeted it.

The tweet got shared a bunch of times, a city councillor sent the photo to the public works department, and the mayor weighed in.

The company told the reporter it was just water.

But, if it was just water, why did he have to rinse his buckets multiple times, dumping them down the storm drain each time?

The newscast was more about "the power of Twitter" than it was the actual incident (you can watch it here; the segment is at 7 minute-mark); and the reporter didn't want to dive into what the company did/didn't do for legal matters; in fact, they enlarged the photo & cropped out the company van on the newscast.

Few things the news left out that I felt were important: while the reporter stated I was an "avid fisherman," they didn't mention anything about me being a geologist that works partly in the field of hydrogeology. That's somewhat relevant, me thinks. They also left out that I'm Vice-President of the Nashwaak Watershed Association...though I did manage to get the Association's logo pictured in the background. But still, also somewhat relevant.

Instead, come off as an unshaven, festively-plump busy-body, lurking in a parking lot with a camera phone...who is an avid fisherman...

They also didn't quote my off-camera best quote ever:

"I'm not in the marble business, so I can't tell you exactly what they were dumping. But I'm pretty much in the water business, and I can tell you it wasn't clean f**king water."

Speaking of the Nashwaak Watershed Association....
Our man in the know is cranking out the new website & we're getting our new & updated social media presence ready to rock; expect a launch in the very near-future.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the organization, or becoming a member (it's only $10/year!!), please get in touch with me!

And now some music
I've mentioned Ross Neilsen a few times before on the blog. Like here. And here.

I'm a big fan of his hard-rocking, whisky-chugging, grinding dirty blues (and his other stuff, too).

Well, Ross is composing & recording a song a week in 2012.

That's right.

Fifty-two songs, written, composed, recorded, in 2012.

You can follow his progress on his website here.

And I'm really pleased to have his first track of his challenge below, enjoy!!

Year of Tears Tomorrow Never Comes (clips) by rossneilsen

Ross and some special guests are playing at Dolan's Pub (King Street) on January 18th as a fundraiser for his upcoming trip to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.

Details are in a FB event here.

Ross spoke CBC's Information Morning with Terry Seguin this morning (12-Jan-12) about the upcoming event, you can check it out here.

09 January 2012

The Guatemalan Chronicles - Video (Extended Version)

Jon from iFished.com just posted this dandy little video from our adventures. And he did one kick-ass job in editing it all.

Hope you enjoy it.


Mat "Treavors" :p

The Guatemalan Chronicles - Rest of the trip in pictures

Click here to see all posts in the Guatemalan Chronicles

I'm taking the lazy way out: the rest of my Guatemala trip will be displayed in the pictures below. I figure I've stretched this out for long enough.

I'll say it again, though: it was an awesome trip, from start to finish (minus the whole baggage kerfuffle at MEX).

Anyone who wants to do the sailfishing-in-Guatemala thing should definitely contact Captain Tom Boice (@panamaxsailfish) at Panamax Sailfishing.

And you couldn't have asked for a better crew to fish with than Jon from iFished.com and Salty from SoCal Salty, so if they organize another trip, just go!

Note that I took all of my pics on the trip with the Instagram app on my iPod. A few of my faves that have already been posted are included in this batch, too.

Captain Tom & the Que Vela! at sunrise
Jon at the helm
Volcanoes remain "cool" to me
Jon's sailfish...after it bit him
Damage from the sailfish "bite"
My rig, locked & loaded. Spent 1.5 hours at the ready on 1st day of fishing
Sailfish on Instagram = awesome

Salty drawing a crowd
Salty with another satisfied street merchant
Salty must have oozed "rich Yanqui" while out & about :P
Volcano & Lake Atitlan, Panajachel
Local fisherman on Lake Atitlan 
The previously mentioned 'Best Goddamned Coffee Shop Anywhere"
Mural on outside wall of Crossroads Cafe, Panajachel
The best friggin' hairstyle in Guatemala, bar none...
World-famous Latin American chicken buses...
...all pimped out
Salty is a fan of the harp, apparently
'da boyz, loitering in the central square in Antigua
Street musicians in Antigua
Antigua, Guatemala
and again...

Sinatra on tour? Nope, just Salty, lovin' life! (Jealous of that hat, btw)
A persistent seller of 'fine' handcrafted (&slightly used) flutes 
Pic of the dorado, via Salty's camera, which looked Instagram-y

And that's it, folks. Hopefully there will be another awesome adventure to drag out over three weeks of blog posts coming again soon!

Keep it real.


07 January 2012

Year in Review: Looking back at 11 for 11

Time/Date: 2020, 07-Jan-12
Location: My semi-organized tying bench/workshop

Note: this is a really long post. I'm not apologizing for it, though; 2011 was sort of a watershed year for my personal little movement, so there's a lot to go over.  Grab a coffee or a ginger ale or whatever suits your fancy, put some good background music on, and have at 'er. Sorry, no pictures, videos, music or anything in this one. 

Back in December of 2010, I wrote a post based on Thoughtwrestling's 11 for 11.

The idea was to do more (or less) of eleven (semi-)meaningful things to improve my quality of life. As everyone in the blogosphere has been pumping out year in review-type posts for the past 2 or so weeks, I figure I'd weigh in as well.

My 11 for 11 (actually, it was Fish More (& 10 other things for 2011)) were:
1. Fish more
2. Travel more
3. Walk more. Drive less.
4. Train myself to eat more fruit & veggies
5. Train Awesome to be an off-leash dog
6. Less bullshit
7. Read more meaningful material
8. Fish even more (i.e. and fish smarter)
9. Get my financial house in order
10. See more (local) live music
11. Help more.
11.a) Learn to say 'no' more

So...how do I grade myself?

1. Fish more & 8. Fish smarter
Seeing this is almost a pure fly fishing blog now, I'll be pretty detailed in this one.

Positives: On a pure 'time fishing' quantitative measure, I think I might have fished more hours but maybe a few less days.

Days where I used to work the night before at the bar, grab my gear, fish the dawn patrol & call it a day around lunchtime became a thing of the past. I started fishing bankers' hours in September: I would drop my gf off at school for 08:30, be on the water from 9:30-1530, then pick her up at school for 1630. I did that 16 outta 21 days.

Tournament fishing was introduced to me this year (once); planning on doing more of that. I even bought a boat for it!

I also managed to fish at least thrice in each month from April to December.

I definitely fished in more places: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Maine, Idaho, Mexico and Guatemala.

As for fishing smarter: yes, I'd concur I did that. I spent countless nights reading & researching numerous fisheries & techniques for almost all of the locations in fished. I still do that; I have two more fly-rodding-for-bass books in transit that I can't wait to dive into...

I'd say it paid off, as well: I landed 11 new species of fish in 2011. See? 11 for 11! Smallmouth bass, chinook salmon, bull trout, striped bass, northern pike, Atlantic salmon, northern pikeminnow, rainbow trout, (baby) tarpon, Indo-Pacific sailfish, and dorado (mahi-mahi) all came to hand in 2011.

Neutral: I've started fly tying, and am becoming somewhat comfortable with sitting at the vice, though I require more practice & a little more dedication to get off my ass & away from reading books, magazines, blogs, etc. and sit my ass down in front of my vise. And I have lots to learn.

Negatives: I skunked out on barracuda & snook (Mexico), largemouth bass (Guatemala), muskie (New Brunswick), striped bass (Maine), and the striper I did catch on a three-day trip to Nova Scotia that saw over 30 hours of fishing was only fourteen inches.
Overall grade: A

2. Travel more
Let's see:
4+ weeks in Senegal working with 4 days of touristy stuff tacked on after in London, UK;
3+ weeks working in Mexico;
2 stints of 4 weeks each working in Saskatchewan;
2+ weeks working in Northern British Columbia with 1 day fishing in Smithers & 2 days of fun in Vancouver;
4+ weeks working in Idaho, with fishing both during and an afternoon on the way outta Boise at the end;
1 week in Mexico for good friends' wedding, including a day offshore fishing & a morning sight-fishing for baby tarpon in the mangroves;
1 week in Guatemala fishing for sailfish and being a tourist.

Yeah, I'd say 'travel more' was covered.
Overall grade: A+

3. Walk more. Drive less.
Walk more: miserable fail.

But on the bright side, I did get a kick-ass new-to-me commuter bike right before Christmas that I WILL be riding in 2012.

Drive less: You could say that I did accomplish this, considering how much I was outta town traveling (refer to #2 Travel More above).
Overall grade: D

4. Train myself to eat more fruit & veggies.
Well, if fruit & veggies meant V8 juice, Vitamin Water & beef jerky...

...ah, f**k it...
(Though I am eating an apple right now, btw)
Overall grade: D

5. Train Awesome to be an off-leash dog
Jeebus, don't get me started on this. That fast little f**ker almost brought me to tears.

I still love him regardless, but these attempts may or may not continue into 2012.
Overall grade: F

6.  Less bullshit.
This was a pretty proud but subtle accomplishment of mine:
  • I cut down my RSS feed to about a dozen & a half feeds that I truly enjoy reading; 
  • I'm far more selective who gets into my Twitter feed;
  • I've hidden a substantial amount of people from appearing on my Facebook feed (if you fish & read this, you're probably safe from that culling);
  • I cut pouring over news articles & related idiot-filled comment sections by almost 98% (that's not a pure scientific number, but pretty damn close to it).
In addition, I've cut back substantially on what some refer to as "the booze." I can count how many times I've had more than 2 drinks in a sitting on my fingers...with the wedding trip to Mexico being totally exempt from that statistic.

This wasn't an overly-conscious decision; it's honestly just sorta lost its luster with me. Traditional margaritas-on-the-rocks, poolside at 10AM in Mexico notwithstanding. Less booze = more cash, too.
Overall grade: B+

7. Read more meaningful material.
Mixed feelings on this one. I read a lot this year. A LOT.

To put it into perspective, I have 46 archived titles on my Kindle app on my iPod. Those were all read in 2011. Multiply that by roughly a factor of 1.5 for books in paper-form I read as well.

So probably about 115 books consumed in 2011.

As for meaningful...well, that's the issue...who's to say what is meaningful?

Nobel-prize winners? Yup. A few of them. And they were boring as shit. Non-fiction books by Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod, Colin Wright, Steven Pressfield seemed meaningful to me, but as they're not as critically-acclaimed as, say, Mario Vargas Llosa, how do they measure up?

My original post stated, "but I want to read more classical and/or thoughtful literature."

Thing is, I find it hard to deal with "thoughtful" or "classical" literature back-to-back-to-back, all the time. That's why I break it up with historical fiction by Wilbur Smith, thoughtful but funny-as-hell stuff from Carl Hiaasen (my favourite) and non-fiction by anyone spouting anything useful and meaningful.

I read what I want, when I want. My list, my rules.
Overall grade: A

8. Fish even more.
Well-covered in the first section. Go read it again if you want. But I gave myself an A grade, in case you forgot.

9. Get my financial house in order.
This is another pretty proud accomplishment of mine:
  • Reduced my debt load by well over $22,000 in 2011;
  • Never missed a payment for anything, including my $660/month student loan payments;
  • Was never more than a day or two late for any payments (mostly due to travel schedule);
  • Killed one loan completely. It stood at ~$15,000 at the start of the year, including a final lump-sum payment of $9300 to put it to rest. This was a $596 monthly payment. Bonus: by paying it off early, I saved almost $250 in "insurance" fees (everybody at once, now: f**king banks);
  • One credit card is at $0, another is pretty close to $0 (and one is maxed to the tits, but in my defense, my client still owes me $5300, most of which is out-of-pocket expenses);
  • My half-assed attempts at travel hacking are working; the total cost of airfare for my Guatemala trip was under $400. And I still have 150K combined airline points to play with.
  • I have money in the bank...and an invoice to be paid to me is still outstanding...
  • My monthly expenses (rent, power, internet, mobile, student loans, insurance) now come in at under $1400. For a year, that's about $16,500 (once I kill off student loans, look the f**k out! FishBum4Life, yo!);
  • I'm cooking more at home to reduce excess spending.
That being said: I have a fly fishing magazine addiction, a fly fishing gear addiction, a travel addiction, and I still eat out too much. 

Plus, my coffee addiction is epic enough to be heralded in song. 

I'll take coffee from home, made with my espresso maker (thanks again, Chris & Sarah!) or my new Aeropress (thanks again, mom & dad!) and still end up drinking one or two coffee from a coffee shop while I'm out & about tooling around. How's that for a latte factor?
Overall grade: B+ (very proud of myself but recognize there's still a lot of room for improvement)

10. See more (local) live music.
I missed FredRock 2011 due to working away (sorry Mike & Nick).

I was too busy trying to catch Atlantic salmon to really take part in Harvest Jazz & Blues Fest...though I had one super-fun night out on the Saturday, watching Ross Nielsen rip it up late-night then heading to the rugby club for a 5AM kickoff of Canada vs. Japan (?) in the Rugby World Cup, in which a former teammate was playing for Canada. I'm old-school: I brought sunglasses with me, knowing what was in store.

I did catch The Stanfields, Bedouin Soundclash, Big Sugar, Wide Mouth Mason and a few others this year. My 'like' (not so much 'love' but really strong 'like') of reggae was reignited at the resort in Mexico, too.

I'm hoping to improve on this a lot in 2012.
Overall grade: C

11. Help more.
I don't think anyone can ever say they've "done enough" to help others; there's always room for improvement in charity...somehow...

Current memberships I hold are: the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Miramichi Salmon Association, the Miramichi Headwaters Salmon Federation, the Tarpon & Bonefish Trust, and the Nashwaak Watershed Association (I sit on the board of directors as vice-president for the Nashwaak Watershed Association).

I'm an online ambassador for Recycled Fish and on the mailing list for Stripers Forever, and I helped publicize the Atlantic Salmon Museum, including sponsoring a youngster for their summer camp.

Two-thirds of my wardrobe was donated to Community Living...though that was helping me reduce clutter more than it was an act of 'charity.'

In various auctions & fundraisers, I've spent almost $1000 in 2011, and donated over $700 to Kiva & Charity: Water

And I've picked up a metric shitload of garbage on riverbanks (that's a scientific measurement around these parts)

This isn't to brag. I've spent as much, or more space, detailing each of the other ten goals I had in 2011; that being said, do I feel good about it?

I'd say so...but there's always room for more...
Overall grade: B

11.a) Learn to say 'no' more.
In the original post, I wrote:
Some people don't understand "working for yourself" means I still have to work and it's not all fun times & lollipops. Whatever the reason, I won't be rude about it, and I'll probably provide alternative options & solutions, but I will have to say no. Yeah, I know, it sucks.

To be clear, this was not directed at anyone in particular.

But in 2010, I felt a lot of my time didn't feel like it was MY time (even though I did fish close to 70 days :p ).

To put it into perspective, the number of companies/clients/organizations that received time from me, either paid, unpaid, or rewarded with something awesome* was eleven. ELEVEN. I'm not talking a day here or there for them, either. Some of them included over 90 days out of town, others were 3 evenings or a couple afternoons a week a piece when in town, and so on & so forth.

* - rewarded with something awesome = like getting to see a lot of music...thanks again, Nick & Mike!!

My whole idea with this cutting clutter, expenses and unnecessary bullshit thing was, is, and always will be about time. My time. 

But what's the point of doing all that if I always had responsibilities to other people to give them my time?

So I cut things out:
  • no longer on the executive committee & managing the bar at the rugby club anymore...but I'm still a huge fan of going to watch them kick ass in their games;
  • not bartending at Lava anymore...but it still remains one of the best & favourite projects I've ever been involved with, and I wish nothing but the best of luck for them as they move forward. AND it's the only place I really like to go when I do go out;
  • not at the beck & call of four companies in the geological field anymore...but I kept the best company, who I really enjoy consulting for, and as I've cleared out my "client list" considerably, I'm able to do more (& better) work for them.
Am I awesome at saying no now? Not a frigging chance. 

Am I using all this newfound time & freedom to do productive things? Not even close.

But I'm trying, and I do have the ability to either be productive...or sit on my ass & procrastinate or read or tool around town & spend money needlessly on coffee...or fish from 9:30AM to 3:30PM for 16 out of 21 days

Everyone should try this segment 11.a) sometime. Trust me. It feels good once you look back on it.
Overall grade: B

So this is it. My look back on my 11 for 11 year in review.  A damn good year, if I do say so myself.

I haven't thought too far into 2012 yet. Tell you one thing: I am NOT doing 12 for 12. No effin' way. Too much mind-clutter involved in that shite. Just as long as I fish, walk/bike, pay off more debt, it'll be all good in my books.

All for now, thanks for reading. Best of luck to you & yours in 2012.


The best little coffee shop in Guatemala or...

...anywhere else, for that matter.

I know, that's a bold claim.

Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver held the "Best Coffee Shop" title (as bestowed by myself) for a long, long time. In fact, I almost shed a tear of joy when I returned there this summer for the first time since leaving in December of '08. It just tasted so good when it touched my lips...and I proceeded to spend approximately $35 in 33 hours drinking their coffee.

Jonnie Java's in Fredericton is my go-to roaster in town, and pulls the best espresso I've had since leaving the left coast.

Read's is my day-to-day spot for grabbing a quick coffee, or where I suggest to meet people. It's good, quick, inexpensive, and the staff are friendly.

Starbucks is a necessary evil; my beautiful girlfriend likes it. But it's uptown, and, for the uptown crowd who knows I like 'good' coffee, Starbucks is what comes to their mind ("It's more expensive than a Timmy's, so he must think it's good"). To be truthful, I don't mind it...but in Fredericton I'd rather have Jonnie Java's or Read's.

Tim Horton's tastes like it's filtered through dirty socks. And f**k their f**king drive-thrus. There's nothing I love to do more that to sit in traffic on one of several of our main streets behind twats blocking through-traffic while they're waiting to pull into the Tim's drive-thru. That's sarcasm, fyi...

But what of this best little coffee shop in Guatemala or anywhere else, for that matter?

It's called Crossroads Cafe.

It's in Panajachel, Guatemala.
Coffee Mike

It's owned by Coffee Mike and his family.

The coffee is delightful (it's actually award-winning).

Coffee Mike is extremely excitable.

In fact, you might even get concerned that a person as hyperactive as Coffee Mike is surrounded by several hundred pounds of coffee beans (roasted & unroasted).

The only thing better than the coffee is the atmosphere; if you don't have a smile on your face within 45 seconds of entering that place, have someone check your ABCs (not your alphabet...your airway, breathing & circulation, fools!).

Visiting Crossroads Cafe & meeting Coffee Mike was without a doubt one of my highlights of visiting Guatemala. I mean, it doesn't beat:
catching the sailfish on the fyrod...
or the sailfish on conventional tackle...
or the dorado...
or eating the dordao...
or eating pupusas...
or paying $30 USD for three nights at a hotel...
or getting my roommate the fridge magnet pictured on the left....

...but it was a definite highlight of my trip

To get to Crossroads Cafe, just fly to Guatemala, take a chicken bus to Panajachel, then use this map:

Conversely, once you get to Crossroads Cafe, this helpful sign on the outside wall will help you get anywhere else in the world:

Salty somehow brought out the reserved side of Coffee Mike in this photo:

I can't say the same for myself:

I brought a few pounds of beans back with me. It's was worth having Homeland Security break one of the bags open & jam a tag into the beans, then put the beans into a plastic bag that held dirty laundry...honest, it totally made my day when I finally received my bags two days after I got home and saw this in my coffee beans, mixed in with dirty laundry:
Anyway, long story short: it's worth visiting Coffee Mike & his family at Crossroads cafe in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Go for the coffee, stay for the entertainment.

Just don't ask Coffee Mike about fireworks...or go near him if he has any with him...

To see the archive of my Guatemala Chronicles, click here.