Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fly Fishing Adventures in Algoma Country

Photo from Lake Shore Resort Salzburger Hof taken by Amy Moore 
Editors Note: Chris was part of a group of bloggers travelling on a FAM trip to Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma Country this is the story of the second half of our trip. You can find the first story right here Learning How to Fly Fish

Due North 

We left our hotel in Sault Ste Marie and headed north to meet up with our guides and check in to our resort. Lake Shore Resort Salzburger Hof is a beautiful resort located in Batchawana Bay on the shores of Lake Superior, we stayed in a 3 bedroom cottage with a million dollar view. The resort offers onsite dining at the Salzburger Hof Dining Lounge which offers authentic German-Austrian cuisine and is listed in "Where to Eat in Canada" They are renowned for their schnitzel but everything looked good enough to eat I also thought it had a great atmosphere too as we all shared laughs and had fun.

When we met up with Brad and Joe, from Soo North Fly Shop they had been scouting different fishing locations. It was only 9am and they had checked 5 different spots, and due to the high water levels it was a tough to find the right place. They finally settled on the Agawa River and I couldn't have been happier with their choice. We stopped off to grab our prepared lunches from The Voyageurs' Lodge and Cookhouse they had prepared us some delicious sandwiches and packed butter tart's that brought tears of joy to my eyes.

 We arrived at the mouth of a hiking trail just off of the Trans Canada Highway we all piled out of the Caravan (Tour Bus) and grabbed our stuff from the back of Brads car. It would appear the mosquitoes were there waiting for us. It was so cute how the mosquitoes dive bombed our eyeballs when we would lease expect it. I was armed with cigars and deet repellent for the mosquitoes and I was not afraid to use them.

Group Shot of us! (minus Dima) Taken By Travis Ball
We were a lot quicker at putting on our gear the second time and in no time we were walking along the ditch and under the bridge, Dylan and I followed Brad to what we hoped would be our little fishing honey hole. As the others in the group followed Joe to the other side. The water had a beautiful reddish tinge, likely stained from the falling of leaves over the years. Not an uncommon site when enjoying the wilderness, I paused to figure out my path to the water, the rocks made it a bit tricky. After making my way to the edge I waded in to the river up to my knees and started to cast. The weather was a little different on this day, as Brad set me up with a fly called an "Egg Sucking Leech", The name just screams beauty.

Count Your Lucky Cigars

Dylan Lowe doing a fine job keeping the tip up
As I explained how the cigars are more for luck then anything, I offered Dylan one and he accepted. We enjoyed our peaceful and serene surroundings until the sounds of nature were interrupted by a splash in the river as a fish jumped out of the water. Dylan's rod bent, and his expression changed to one of pure excitement, one I no doubt wore the previous day, as the silver fish jumped again. He was able to land a beautiful 16 inch Speckled Trout. I had never seen colors so beautiful on a fish before. 

Photo taken from Agawa Bridge By Dima Zemsky

After the excitement died down, our spirits were higher than ever and we began to joke a bit and tell stories, the type of things that make fishing fun. One of my favorite moments was when I was listening to the river as it made its way through and around my legs and I had a tug on the rod, I set the hook (At least I thought I did) and with a spectacular jump...  it spit the hook. Saddened by the events I carried on with hope of more fun to come..

 Brad called to us from upstream and pointed to the sky and announced "Eagles" as they gracefully soared above us, moments later I was startled by a monster Steel Head leaping from the water, Brad had hooked into it. He played with it for a minute and started walking towards me and says to me "here you go" as he handed me the rod, I responded "Are you sure?" He shoved the rod into my hands and said "It's my job" "Alright, No pressure" I mumbled as I began to reel in slack. It leaped one final time in slow motion and for one second I forgot what I was doing "Whoa! Beautiful" I said, Brad noticed my lack of attention and firmly said "keep the tip of the rod up!" I did just that after I snapped out of my `Real Man Travels Fishing Show` Daydream and brought that fish in to the net. What a battle it was! We had smiles all around with proof of my lucky cigar.

Real Man Fishing photo taken By Dylan Lowe

Fortunately my luck did not stop there as I was watching the line float down stream I felt a tug on the line and the rod bent so I set the hook and buckled up for a wild ride, this fish had a lot of energy it put on a spectacular show as it darted downstream with the familiar whizzing noise wailing only to jump out of the water 4 times!!!  I held my breath every time it jumped praying that the hook was set properly. I was so relieved and excited when we were able to get the fish in the net. My Happiness turned to confusion briefly when Brad wanted me to do a pose for the photo. Don't get me wrong Brad was a Great guide and a heck of a fisherman but not once did he strike me as a photography choreographer. I went along with it and I  have no regrets, It was a great shot.

Proud to be from Onatrio in this shot!

It really was a dream come true to catch that many fish on my first Fly Fishing trip, the dreams I have now are of the fish I have yet to catch on my next fly fishing adventure.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Chimay Rouge

*The lads from Real Man Travels are at Toronto's Festival of Beer this weekend. Send us a Tweet to let us know you're there.  

Since my visit to Brewery Ommegang I have developed a fascination for Belgian beers. I’ve been scouring LCBOs (Ontario’s sole proprietor of liquor, and one of only two outlets authorized to sell beer) in search of these unique brews. Finding some of the more publicized Belgian and Belgian-style beers has proven quite a task; as while the LCBO is the regulating body for beer, each store has a different selection based on its size and the community it serves.

One brand that seems synonymous with Belgium’s Trappist brewing tradition is Chimay; and Chimay’s pride and joy is their Premiere ale (or Rouge or Red Cap, depending on who you ask).

Good beers and good views go hand in hand.
Chimay celebrated their 150th anniversary last year and has a great story, making it a really cool party and conversation beer. You hear those proud tradition claims a lot in the beer industry, but Chimay is one of few that stick this close to their roots and original recipe - though they have a bit of an unfair advantage. That’s because Chimay is, and always has been, brewed by monks in a monastery in the Belgian countryside. No jokes. I suppose when you live a devoted and solitary lifestyle, keeping your brewing traditions alive is a little easier. I’m sure celibacy, relative sobriety and other monk-ish customs don’t hurt either.

One of the things that make Trappist beers so incredible is that the profits from the beers are used strictly to maintain the monasteries that brew the beer. For breweries like Chimay, whose international beer brings in much more that just what is required to upkeep brew kettles, stables and halls, all the excess profits are used to support charities and fund good works. A brewery that makes an incredibly delicious beer and has a sincere dedication to faith, tradition and charity - you can’t go wrong.

Belgians are crazy for ales, in fact, it’s pretty much all they do. And they do them nothing like the ales we’ve become accustomed to in North America. For example, Trappist beers are usually bottle conditioned, meaning they go through a second or third fermentation in the bottle, allowing them to carbonated naturally as opposed to being force carbonated by adding CO2. This also gives Trappist beers a cloudy appearance.
Rouge is considered a dubbel, which, at 7% ABV, is on the milder side as Trappist brews go. To go stronger, look for a tripel or even the non-traditional quadrupel.

Chimay Rouge is a deliciously delicate beer. Everyone agrees you should drink this beer from a glass, and not chilled, just cool, to experience all the flavours. One sniff and you’ll be hit by fruit and the first sip will confirm it on your pallet. Definitely a brew to be savoured and enjoyed; after all, it’s 150 years in the making.

Life goal #1: find my way to Belgium and visit this monastery. They even have beer cheese!

User the LCBO Product Search to find Chimay at an LCBO near you. Drink responsibly, and enjoy the good life.

Scott F, (@SFRealManTravel) formally of the Ontario-focussed travel blog http://ontarioisms.wordpress.com/, is passionate about all things that make up a good life. Beer, friends, travel, sports, food, beer... he believes that the good life does not come to you, you must pursue it and make it conscious. Scott is in the process of returning to blogging and will be sure to stop by Real Man Travels whenever possible.  

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Cooperstown, NY - Brewery Ommegang

a Scott F post

After a few days in New York City catching the sites and sipping on Brooklyn Lager and Brown Ale, we took the scenic route back towards Ontario that brought us through Cooperstown, NY. Home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown is the definition of a quaint little American town.

After checking into the Landmark Inn, a remarkably clean and comfortable bed and breakfast in the heart of town (the manliest B&B in town, of course), we strolled down the road to the main street looking for a bite to eat. We found our way to The Pit at the Tunnicliff Inn, lured in by the promise of $15 steak and crab and a selection of local libations. The highlights of the meal were two beers they had on tap, both from Brewery Ommegang, which just so happened to be 15 minutes down the road in the rolling hills of Cooperstown.

After visiting Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard the next day and picking up some of their famed sweet hard cider we meandered our way towards the brewery. Situated, appropriately, on a former hop plantation (evidently New York was once a hot bed of hop production), Brewery Ommegang’s facilities feel about as far from the United States as one can get.

And the beer is distinctly non-American as well. Brewed using traditional Belgian methods, Ommegang beers fuse carefully chosen hops with a variety of other spices (from Coriander to orange peel to grains of paradise!) to create some of the most unique and flavourful beers I’ve ever experienced. I can hear all the country boys out there saying “I don’t want no fancy herb concoctions in ma’ beer buoy!” but fear not my fair-weather friend. Ommegang balances these flavours masterfully so that they all enhance the hop profile without overpowering or even being utterly discernible on the tongue.

With six staple beers in arsenal along with a variety of seasonals and a selection from their parent company lead by the fantastic Belgian ale, Duvel; the variety achieved while staying within one category (Belgian-style ales), is almost mind blowing.

Two clear standouts from the collection that sat particularly well with my pallet were their Rare Vos and Hennepin. Rare Vos, an amber ale at 6.5% ABV, was one of those beers that makes you turn the bottle, stare at the label and say “wow” after your first sip (you’ve done it, and seen it done). You get a slight orange citrus taste but the spice and hop notes are what make this beer one of a kind. Hennepin, otherwise known as “that beer I’d choose with my final meal on death row,” is an exceptional ‘farmhouse ale,’ 7.7% ABV, that again features a complex spice mix that achieves an exceptional balance and mouth feel. It’s hoppy, refreshing, and completely delicious.

I'm always impressed when brewers push the envelope with their beer marketing and packaging. Brewery Ommegang has gone to exceptional lengths to provide a unique story for each of their brews; ranging on topics from brewers on stilts to pigeon races. Check out ommegang.com to read all of the engaging stories. The stories are supported by beautiful packaging and labels. 

Speaking with the guides at the brewery we found out that Brewery Ommegang was pushing out beer at capacity in the Northeast United States which likely means we won’t see the beers at the LCBO or Beer Store anytime soon. If you find yourself in upstate New York, though, Brewery Ommegang, and the beautiful town of Cooperstown in which it resides, are definitely worth a visit and a savour.

And for HBO fans, don’t miss their Game of Thrones-themed beer Iron Throne, and their just announced follow up Take the Black Stout.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The 19th Hole: Silence Says Everything

Have you ever been asked what you and your friend talked about during your 4 hour round of golf, only to pause, think for a moment, and only to be able to respond with “Nothing, really”? Don’t worry it, it means you’re one of the lucky ones.

Golf is one of those activities where you can spend hours with someone, say nothing, and still walk away feeling that you spent great quality time with them. Perhaps that’s why it has become a staple of father-son time and male bonding. Recently I ventured north to spend a weekend catching up with an old friend, one I had not seen in 6 months, and golf was on the agenda.

Justin and I met in high school, and while I can’t remember exactly how we started hanging out, I can tell you that I count him as best friend and a brother. Justin moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario with his girlfriend Catherine after college to finish a degree in electrical engineering from Lakehead University. Thanks to Facebook and texts we have remained close, talking a few times a week about life, football and golf. When we finally set a date for my trip north, Justin started planning a weekend full of golf. About a week before my flight I started getting texts from him with weather updates and tee times; I could tell he was as excited as I was. The excitement culminated with a final text that read “36 holes on Saturday. Pack rain gear.”

Golf, however wasn't the highlight of this trip. That’s because there’s no course I've played that trumps a weekend with an old friend. What the golf did provide was hours of quality 1 on 1 time where no words needed to be spoken. I like to think of it as time well wasted. Sure there were more important things to do - stories that could have been told, projects he could probably use an extra set of hands with - but on a golf course silence says everything.

Anyone with good golfing buddies knows exactly what I’m talking about. Real friends can spend 4 hours together without forcing a conversation. Sure we chat: “nice shot”, “tough break”, and a whole lot of razzing that is not quotable on a family friendly blog, but nothing is really “said.”

There are very few activities in life that can slow the hands of time like golf. So far fishing is the closest I've found. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy doing both with my dad. Busy days and all of life’s little problems fade away between swings of a club and casts of a line. Activities like this keep me sane even when surrounded by chaos, and are always most enjoyable when shared with close family and friends. Who better to share silence with than the ones you love.

For more from the 19th Hole, click Here

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Learning How to Fly Fish in the St. Mary's Rapids - Sault Sainte Marie

Editors Note: Chris was part of a group of bloggers travelling on a FAM trip to Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma Country. The other bloggers Amy Moore, Travis Ball, Dylan Lowe and Dima Zemsky took amazing photos on our trip, you should really check them out

Go Explore Sault Sainte Marie

Just recently I was lucky enough to visit Sault Ste. Marie. What a place! It is home to a great mix of different things that I love, Wilderness, fresh air, spectacular fishing and pizza (40 Pizza Places!!)   There is a population of around 75,000 people, but it doesn't feel like it at all. Thanks to it's quiet streets and kind people, The Sault (pronounced "Soo") is a city with a small town feel. Another tug on my heart strings is the Wildfires exhibit at the Canadian Bush Plane Museum kids of all ages will love this place.

If you are looking for  places to stay or eat I enjoyed my stay at The Travelodge City Centre whose recently updated rooms are perfect for relaxing after a long hard day of exploring or fishing.

We dined at The Docks Riverfront Grill which has great food and it is situated along St. Mary's River.  Another place that is definitely worth visiting is Aurora's West Side, which is famous for its pizza and home made pasta, and the cheesecake was great too! I thought it was a great idea that they sold their home made pasta if you wished to take it home to make your own pasta specialties.

To top it all off, The Soo is home to and surrounded by some of the best fly and bait fishing found on this earth.

An Adventure of a Lifetime

Using the technique Brad demonstrated.    Photo By Amy Moore from Everything Everywhere

As an avid bait fisherman I've always looked at fly fishing as "upper class fishing" meaning that it appeared to cost too much and take a long time to learn the art. I was happy to learn that fly fishing as a hobby is actually quite affordable. If you aren't sure that fly fishing is for you, I recommend to get a guide like we did they will take good care of you and hopefully you too will feel the rush and excitement of  fighting a monster Steel Head as it takes off downstream.

When we met our guides, Brad Hodkinson and Joe Nelson, from the Soo North Fly Shop they explained and demonstrated the techniques of casting. Then safely let us practice casting with the fly rod using the "1 oclock , 11 oclock" casting method.

When we started to put on our waders we found out it was kind of tricky. Some of us (Amy) wore too many clothes and ended up having trouble getting the waders on. Brad and Joe had seen this trouble before and helped her out, or really helped her in. It was quite funny.

Note: Wearing the waders does takes some getting used to as they are tight in all the wrong places.

We were all suited up crossing the walking bridge over to Whitefish Island and following winding paths to get to the stunning St. Mary`s Rapids which is right on the US/Canada border and it hosts a beautiful view of the International Bridges.

Reflections of the St. Mary`s Rapids

Colorful Rocks, Crystal clear water, Blue Sky and Fishing = heaven

We slowly made our way into the crystal clear water, the colorful stones covering the bottom made it a bit tricky to maneuver. Out of the corner of my eye a couple of shimmering shadows darted away from us out in to the rapids and around the big rocks.

It is a different feeling crossing a river, I felt alive and excited as I waded my way against the current to a tiny island. Joe helped us assemble our rods and in no time we were getting our lines wet. I still had no idea what to do or expect if I hooked into a Steel Head, so when Joe would come and check on me every so often, I would ask him a few "what if" questions on what to do. He basically said when the bobber goes under I should set my hook, sounded like fishing to me!

I looked at the blue sky and, with a laugh, I recalled declaring to the group that 'I would kiss the first fish I caught' earlier during our walk, The smile faded when my bobber went under and It felt like a fish but it was not putting up much of a fight. After a few minutes I landed my first fish. Excitement shifted to disappointment when I got my first good look at it. Sure it was a fish, but there was no way I was ever going to kiss a sucker.

Relieved that the first fish was out of the way, I refocused and patiently watched the pink bobber as it floated down stream. It surprised me when the pink bobber went under so quickly and the line went whizzing off the reel, I tried to stop it and I felt a very familiar pop as the line went limp. I hung my head in shame thinking that was 'my' fish. Joe came over and offered some tips like 'keep the rod tip up' and ' if the fish wants to run let it' "we'll chase it down river" he said. I was happy for the hints.

Well what could I say, my pride was damaged but the rush of the water running around my feet brought a sense of calm to the moment. Have you ever been in such deep thought that you are totally immersed in a moment? It was in a moment like that  I would have my shot at redemption. While I relaxed in the ankle deep water and thought of all of the good things in my life... `Wham!!`. The pink bobber went under, I set the hook, and the fish took off. "Got One" I yelled to Joe. The fish jumped and my rod bent. The line was making a 'whizzing' noise as it came off the reel

My adrenaline kicked in, I knew this was my shot to patch up my pride. I kept the rod tip up as it took more line and in a split second the line had become wrapped around a rather large rock. `Oh No! What now!?` I said. Fearing the worst knowing that it would haunt my dreams to leave empty handed now. That wasn't the case this time, and with Joe's words of wisdom, I was able to get the line off the rock and we headed for calmer waters to fight the energetic fish. 

The fight lasted almost another 10 minutes and I enjoyed every second of it. When that beautiful fish finally landed in the net I was filled up with pure joy. I celebrated with my normal evil laugh that only comes out when I have good luck and catch a good one. It felt like I was on top of the world and as promised I kissed the fish, and released her for another day.

Sneaking in a smooch!  Photo by Travis Ball from Flashpacker HQ

Soon after that we gathered up our gear and headed back to civilization, we snacked on licorice and reflected on the day, It had been a good one. St. Mary's Rapids will now be forever with me as the place where I was taught how to Fly Fish and where I caught my first Steel Head.

 Ontario is a wonderful place to explore and Sault Sainte Marie is the place to be If you have ever wanted to go fly fishing.