Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall, 2012 Italy Trip

The highlight of my fall was a trip to Italy.  My brother, Gary, had worked hard to set up a tour of Venice, Rome, and Cinque Terre.  We left in mid-Oct. and met up in Venice. I'll give you the approximate cost of things so you can see how expensive or reasonable a trip like this can be.

We arrived ahead of Gary and Jane and proceeded to take a train ride to the Venice train station and then hop on a water taxi to Rialto Bridge.  Then we had to hike over a few blocks and down several streets to find our Hotel, Casa Cosmo  (  ($600 E for 4 days)

This was the alley our hotel was located in.  It didn't look inviting but we opened our room on the third floor to find a clean but spartan room.

Gary was suppose to arrive by 1:00 pm but his connections were changed when he flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago.  Having missed his flight out, he was now scheduled to arrive close to 10:00 pm.  So having some time to kill we went out to explore the area around Calle di Mezzo.  Venice is surrounded by a large grand canal and tons of tiny canals with little walk-over bridges.

We had pasta for dinner at a small place and then came back to rest.  The owner had left and put a sign in the window for Gary.  I opened my 3rd floor window and crashed at 9:00 pm (who know what time it was to our bodies). At 10:00 pm I could hear tiny wheels coming down our tiny alley.  "Buonasera", Gary and Jane.  We opened the locked door and gave them their room key.  There are only 6 rooms and the owners live out on Lido Island.  After they unpacked, we went out with them to find something for them to eat.  We went across the Rialto Bridge and found a small shop to eat.

Next day it was off to St. Mark's Square.  It was only a short walk and no cars or traffic to deal with.  Lots of people were in the square and we waited in line to enter the church.  I got stopped because I had a backpack on and got separated from the group.

We went to the Fish Market to see the fresh vegetables and fresh fish.  Wow what a sight.

We took a water taxi around the whole city.  It was nice to get a feel for the ancient city.  We had 4 gelatos for the day.  What a great way to end our first full day in Italy.

Next day we left for Murano Island to see the glass blowing area.  I found David Penso and watched his style of glass bead making.  It was neat to see the glass shops and displays.

We saw a wedding party coming over the bridge and stopped for our gelato break. 

Then it was back on the water taxi to Burano to see the lace shops.

We met a group of Virgina Tech students studying in Europe for one year and followed them around the island. Nice to talk to some Americans for a spell.

Finally we used up our time in Venice and had to take the water taxi to the train station for our tickets on the "fast train" to Rome.  It was $80 euros but it was traveling 250 kmh!  We got to Rome around 1:20 and walked the two blocks to Hotel Maryelen (  ($400 E for 3 days)Then it was off to see the Colosseum, the Forum, and some of the ruins.  Rome is noisy, busy, and full of people.

We walked blocks and blocks and just explored.  We always found a gelato shop near by.

Next day we walked to the Vatican City.  We bought our tickets ($30 E) and followed along in a huge crowd.  It was impressive but crowded.

Next day we visited Partheon, Spanish Steps,  Trevi Fountain and some plaza.  We walked all over the city and never took the bus.

Last day in Rome we got our train tickets (77 E) to La Spezia .  It was a regular train and it was nice to watch the county side pass by. There we got on a smaller train (1.8 E)to the Cinque Terre area.  Around 1:30 we arrived in Manarola and met our host at the end of the tunnel.  We wheeled our luggage up a long ramp street to our bay-side apartments. We had Baluardo # 1 and 2.

It was nice to have a kitchen area that had a seaview window and three small terraces.  The view was worth the $600 E for the 6 days.  We were up above the bay and could see the Ligurian Sea and hear it through our bedroom door.

Manarola is the second smallest of the five  Cinque Terre towns.  The town is built up on the high mountain valley right against the sea.

After we unpacked, we walked down to have a Shrimp seafood bow tie pasta dinner ($34 E for two).  It was a nice outside patio.  There are 4 places to eat so we will eat in a different place every night.  A stop at The Coop (grocery store) to get milk, cereal, yogurt, cheese, bread, juice and pesto for $13 E.

The mudslides and rain has the famous lower hiking trails between the towns closed.  This was a major disappointment to us.  Checking the maps of the Cinque Terre area showed that some of the longer, upper paths were open.

We packed water and rain jackets and started hiking the upper trails. We hiked from Manarola to Corniglia.  The trails were narrow and traveled through the vineyards and across the valleys.  Sometimes we could see the sea and sometimes were were in the woods.

It took us 4 hours to hike to the next town.  We had pizza and beer and went down the 400 steps to the train station for a quick ride back to Manarola.  Next day we got $25 E all day boat pass and went to Porto Venere.  I swam in the bay there.  Salt water helps you float.  Then we took a boat ride around the three island before head back up the coast.  It was nice to see the landscape and towns from the sea.  First up we hit Riomaggiore, then Manarola, Corniglia (doesn't have a port), Vernazza, and last Monterosso.
The boat pass allowed us to get on and off where ever we wanted. We had a double gelato and then took the train back to Manarola for $1.8 E.  It was easy to use the local train to get somewhere and hike back or vise versa.

The boat loading was a little tricky with the waves and wind rocking the boat up and down.

We found a real Sicilian pastry shop run by the Connelli Brothers.  This one was filled with real ricotta cheese. The brothers were a hoot and very entertaining.

We got back and headed up to terrace for a sip of local white wine.

As we wind down our trip to Italy, we had a dinner at one of our favor stops.  The seafood pasta was superb.

After packing up, we left Manarola and took the train to Genoa. We had a nice stop near the airport where we stayed at the Marina Place Resort. The marina had some huge boats from several counties.  I think they leave their big boats here and then fly down to use them.

The room was very nice with a great breakfast buffett.  The bathroom had two toilets but I wasn't sure how to use the one on the left! :-)

The glass door shower was huge and it was very nice to end the trip in a relaxing place.  The next morning we flew out at 12:00pm so we could take our time getting ready.  A taxi ($2 E) dropped us off at the Genoa airport and we flew home after a wonderful trip.

If you travel to Italy, please consider Venice and Cinque Terre as possible destinations.  These places offer a wide range of activities. So, Ciao!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer MI Shots

Ok, I've been lacking in my posts.  Somehow life got in the way.  It has been a busy, fun summer.  Here are some random summer shots with a few quips.

First trip out to South Fox Island Lighthouse to trim the property and check for damage.  Everything was in great shape. 

Donald, Phil, Drew, John, and John were the work crew for this trip.  We mowed grass and pulled small trees that were invading the footpaths.
The new dingy with a hard bottom works great getting us from the anchored boat to the shore.
Phil mowing the grass around the property.
John trimming back the brush.
The Islander done for the day with the dingy on back.  We put in and out of Northport, MI.

The Fox Island Lighthouse Association (FILA) puts up a summer booth at many of the Traverse City area festivals.  Suttons Bay was one festival where we did some "friend raising".
I took this picture of a young girl catching her first steelhead off the Manistee Pier in late July.  She was so excited.
Watching a barge come in the channel was a sight to watch.  The fishing boats had to move out of the way.
Daughter, Molly, and Joey from Louisiana came up for their annual kayak trip down the Manistee River.
This is just our warm up.  We also hit the Jordan River . 
 The Jordan River kayak trip was a Stauffer Family affair.  We had 7 people going down the river and shooting the tubes.
You have to pick which tube you are going through and both are fast water.
A fun day on the Jordan River.
Kenny (Louisiana) has his first salmon on!  He is using a fly rod and has his hands full of action from the fish.
I am holding Kenny's and my fish.  We both caught salmon using a black leech fly.
Kenny riding the Kaleva Grasshopper!  One of the Manistee Cultural Stops!
Making a pig of our selves.  Seven scoops of ice cream at House of Flavors.
 There you have it!  Some shots of summer in Michigan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Walleye Opening?!?

It was nice to receive a message from Chris that our spring fishing trip was going to be closer to home.  Every year we head to Canada or the UP to fish for walleyes.  Chris suggested the Hodenpyle Pond of the Manistee River for this year's trip.  It is only 22 miles from my house and I have always wanted to try fishing there.

Hodenpyle Pond is an interesting piece of water.  There are lots of stumps to watch out for.  I started packing.  Since we were camping and fishing, that meant I had to make two trips to the Pond.  First I made the 22 mile trip hauling my fiberglass Scamp trailer.

Then I returned home and got my 16' fishing boat. Chris brought his boat hauling RV trailer from Interlocken and Mikey-Pikey came up from Grand Rapids.  Pike and Walleye season opened so we we ready to go fishing.

Chris got the fire started using his own method of various sizes of timber.  Yes, it was a little cool this time of the year and a campfire is one of the traditions.

We should have noticed that we were the only people going out fishing.  Everyone else was snug inside their trailers.  This was our first time so we scouted around all day looking for some spots to fish.

Pre-spawn "catch and release" smallmouth bass fishing was pretty hot!    About this time, I was glad to have my lined jeans on!  We were tossing deep-diving minnow plugs.

This was my favorite lure.  I liked it so much, that I left it stuck in an underwater stump to mark my favorite fishing spot.  We would troll or drift along and cast out to likely spots.

I told you it was Walleye and Pike opening.  Well, here is one of the pike.  I didn't use steel leaders but I was ready to add one if a pike inhaled one of my lures and cut my line.

Another smallmouth bass.  We wanted to get some Walleyes!  We tried everything that would go down deep where the walleyes stayed.  No luck.

Chris brought some sausage, burgers, and other stuff for the grill, which was luck for us because we weren't getting any walleyes to eat!  We had a few beers around the campfire and planned our strategy for the next day.

After we got up and out the next day we tried the stumps that were closer to west side near M-37.

I got 4 pike and 12 smallmouth bass but nothing to take pictures off.  Mikey switched over to Chris's boat so I was fishing by myself.  We share Mikey back and forth as we think he is a jinks to us.  Not really. But  the next day, Wow, did I catch fish!

Mikey-Pikey was trolling with Chris across the lake.  When he got back to the dock, he was grinning ear to ear.  I knew something was up.

Mikey caught the only keeper walleye on the trip.   He is now Master Walleye King of Hodenpyle Pond for 2012.  Chris managed to come in second place in the walleye division.

Soon, it was time to pack up for home.  It was interesting to watch Chris stow his fishing boat inside his RV trailer.

Chris cut out the back of the RV to make a ramp and installed a power winch up front to pull his boat up inside his RV trailer and a hand winch to crank up the back door ramp.  Pretty clever.  Of course he removed a lot of stuff from inside to make room and added a extra plywood floor.  Not fancy, but very functionable!

See how close the boat fits inside.  Check out the back door in the next shot.

This makes a great camping/fishing RV!   OK, another Fish Camp over and plans are under way for the next one.  I got a call that my cousin, Tim, from NJ was coming over and his old college roomate, Stan, from VA.  With the river blown out it should be an interesting fish camp coming up.  Stay tuned!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bonefishing the Flats

Well, I always wanted to try fishing the flats for bonefish.  The bonefish is a wary, fast, powerful fish that loves to take long runs.  Just what I like. I have caught the elusive Manistee Bonefish in the spring and have wanted to try the saltwater species.

Last year I just missed out on a December Bonefish trip to Belize.  This year, when Bill called from PA to inquire about a trip to the Bahamas for March, I started packing.

This is what I took for my 6 day trip.  Inside I have my 8wt, packrod with a large arbor reel, my wading shoes, a hip tackle box, 3 boxes of bonefish flies, nylon zip-off pants, nylon fishing shirt, fishing hat and couple pair of shorts and a few t-shirts.  You don't need much in the Bahamas.

I kept reading about bonefish flies and heard names like: Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, Sili Charlies, and Mantis Shrimp.   The big name tiers suggested  1/3 lead eyes, 1/3 small dumbell eyes, and 1/3 bead-chain eyes.  So I tied a huge assortment to be ready for anything.

A 9' to 10' leader with a 12 # tippet was recommended since the Andros Island bonefish are larger than the Belize bonefish.  Ok, I bought 2 leaders and tied 2 more.

Bill called and said Annie wanted to come along.....then their son, Chris, wanted to come and go diving.  Now we had 2 cabins reserved and a $800 room discount!  The date was set for the second full week of March.  We decided to share a guide for 3 day and fish out front of the cabins for the other 3 days we will be there.

Check out this place, South Hope Bay Fishing Lodge on Andros Island.

I decided to drive over to PA and visit my son, daughter-in-law and my 2 year old grandson before and after the trip.  This will be my last break before spring.  The steelhead fishing had already started before I left and there was 6" of snow on the ground.

I went to my son's work place in PA and watched him set up his maple sugar project.

This is the evaporator that Ryan build to boil the tree sap to make the syrup.  It usually takes 40 gallons to get 1 gallon of syrup, but this year the sugar content was high in the first run and he was running 28-30 gallons to 1 gallon of syrup.

This was one traditional style of collecting the sap.

This was Ryan's method of tapping 14 trees into one 5 gallon bucket. He will be presenting Maple Madness later this month.

After a nice visit with family and friends, we arrived in Nassau.  I was afraid of getting too many luggage fees so I left my 2 piece 8 wt rod in my car and only took one pack rod.  My luggage fee was $25 to Nassau.  Next we boarded a small plane to for a short hop over to Andros Island.

Two seats on one side and one seat on the other side and about 20-30 passengers on this plane.  Two flights a day; AM and PM ... $100 cash for round trip.

We arrived and our luggage was  unloaded.  Now how do we get to the lodge?  No problem, Mon!  Reverend "Charlie" will take you.  We thought we were going to be picked up but it was such a short trip and 3-4 drivers waiting with their taxis to take you anywhere you wanted to go. 

This was the main lodge, dining area, lounge, and game room.  But first, a tropical drink at the outdoor bar.  Did I mention all-inclusive drinks for the 6 days?????

We got a tour of the buildings and then unpacked our luggage.  This is a low-key place, very friendly staff from all over the place and no TV!

This is the view from in front of the main lodge.  You can see the diving station storage at the end of the dock.  The diving boat picks you up here and goes out to the reef or wrecks.

The cabins were very simple but clean and comfortable. We didn't spent much time here.  We were up at 7:00 AM for breakfast and out with our guide at 7:45 to fish until 4:00 PM.  We road in the truck pulling his boat to the launch area on Fresh Creek.  It was only a 15 minute ride and we were ready to fish.

The first trip out we had windy conditions and some overcast clouds which made sighting the bonefish very difficult.  Bone Fish Jeff would call out "Fish, 11:00 O' clock, 25 yards."  We would cast at 12:00 O'Clock and the fly would fall to 9:00 O'Clock.  After a couple of hours of waiting and trying, I had my first bonefish on. 2 to 3  long strips, pause, 2 to 3 long strips, pause.  You don't raise your rod to set the hook, you strip strike.  After a few misses, you catch on.


The fish were running small as the larger fish hadn't come in yet.  You never know when you schedule your trip how the fish and weather conditons will be.  You take your chances and fish when you can.  These fish fight hard and make several long hard runs before you can bring them in.  We fished from the boat so we were barefoot so we could tell if we were standing on the extra line at our feet.

I couldn't enlarge this picture but this was the average size for this trip.  I caught 8 bonefish my first time out at this sport.

After we got back in, Bill and I would wade along the beach and fish.  Timing wasn't good for fish here.   The cooler spring weather kept the fish away from our beach.  It was fun anyway.

This is a shot of our cabins.  Right in front is the beach.

The grounds were well kept and we had simple but clean rooms.  What more do you need?

This is our dinner, consisting of soup,  several salads, steak, fish, potatoes, veggies, and dessert.  Our Bohemian cook made different local dishes also.

Many of the support staff ate with us we got to know all th other diners also.  Very relaxed and you lingered over dinner to talk with other guests.

The next day was windy and overcast again.  We usually fished in shallow water and tried to spot moving or feeding fish.  The second day was hard fishing.  We worked our tails off and moved around but I only got 3 nice bonefish that day.

Another late afternoon waiting for the Conch Fritters and the veggie and cheese platters.

Bone Fish Jeff always tried to keep the wind at our back and pole us into a good position.  It was a great idea to share a guide as you got tired after 20 minutes of balancing up front looking for fish.  We switched around and after each fish caught.  You needed a break to drink liquids and rest your legs.

A couple of times when it was rough, we would anchor and Bill and I would blind cast to good looking areas.  We actually caught quite a few fish this way.  If the sun was out, we could see them, but sometimes we couldn't.

This was how we wanted the water to look!  But there wasn't much dark bottom here.

After three days of having a guide, Bill and I  fished two more days on the beach in front of the lodge.  We walked down around the point and found Davis Creek.

This is where you have to wade across Davis Creek to reach the beach to fish.  Gary and Bill waded across with water up to waist.  I decided to walk out on the coral point.

The waves and wind were coming from the right and there was a nice drift line straight off this point.  I carefully waded out to my waist and started casting.   I was eying the dark spot in the above picture.   I had two fish on but lost them due to slow hook set.  Finally a hit and a good strip strike.  A long fast run to my backing told me to crank down the drag on this one.  The fish made several good runs and actually circled me twice.  .....a shark?  A few minutes later I gained more line and saw an nice 6+ # bonefish with thick head and shoulders.  I held him up for my friends to confirm my catch.  Then I slowly released the bonefish to fight another day.  This was the highlight of the trip for me.  To catch a decent bonefish on a fly I tied and to do it unguided and wet wading along the surf and in front of my friends.  I had only used two or three flies the whole trip.  "What do you mean, Bill.  You didn't get a picture!"

Back to the bar, the youngsters were busy.  "I'll have a Mike's Black Monkey or  maybe an Erin Go-Braless".  It was near St. Patrick's Day anyway.

Our week was over and we ate our last meals in Paradise.

The ski taxi took us to Nassau and then on to Philadelphia.  I said go bye to Bill. Anne, & Chris and paid a visit to two former students of mine.  Then off to stop by my grandson for some playtime before I headed back to Michigan.

This was another thing to mark off my Bucket List.  I think I'll do some more bonefishing next year.  It was a great trip.   If you decide to go, let me know I have a ton of bonefish flies!