Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Catfish are Biting

Finally arriving home on Thursday, my first encounter was with a snot nosed Custom’s agent standing in the exit area just outside the airplanes door. About 150 steps out of the jet way I suddenly remembered where my Japanese tea I had bought in Narita was, still in the overhead compartment. Passing a “too young to have a uniform on” Custom’s guy who was giving a family grief because he could, I approached from behind tapping him on his shoulder and asked if it was OK to re-enter the plane to retrieve my stuff. His first words were Okay, which was all I needed to hear as my next steps were against the flow of people. Just as fast came a “Hey get back here, where do you think I am going?” Looking him straight in the eye my response was, “Look, I asked you a question and YOU said OK, what do you think that meant?” He decided to lecture me on coming up from behind and tapping him on the shoulder then, which I replied, stay on topic, why did you say it was OK then? Obviously frustrated by his immature authority, he finally gave me the right procedure, which I kindly thanked him and as I walk away told him to take a deep breath! Immigration is always fun as they are pretty good at asking a few well placed questions. Traveling with my beloved Packer Hat, he asked if I was from Wisconsin which prompted a quick Yes Sir! Where was the next question; Eleva! And where was that? South of Eau Claire. I am sure he was a fellow Cheesehead as we are always curious.

The weekend was pretty much spent readjusting to the time. Jetlag is a real problem as one’s schedule has shifted 13 hours. Once in China it takes a few days to stop getting up at 3:00 in the morning as well the same issue when you get home. There are many theories as to how an minimize the effects, vitamin C, lots of water, stay up as long as you can, however I think the best way is to have a few stiff drinks before you go to bed. I slept well on Thursday night, Friday I was up from 2:00 – 4:00 AM, and Saturday night was a good 13 hours. Slept like a baby last night as I am heading for a customer supplier event in Ft. Collins Colorado on Wednesday. One nice thing about flying into Denver is both the mountains and they have a Bass Pro Shop near the airport. The store is much larger than the Cabela’s near me and is a must stop. The word is that Bass Pro was going to build a large store at the Mall of America, in Bloomington MN but I am sure the recession had put a damper on that plan. Word is with the improving economy, it finally might get built. Although there is plenty of competition in the Twin Cities area, a Bass Pro would be a welcome destination and would provide a better variety of brands to choose from. We’ll see.

Not having the energy or the will to load the boat up and drive an hour north, my plan was to get away for a couple of hours and fish the river. My neighbor Brian Holcomb has a nice dock with a bench seat in the shade, just perfect for a relaxing evening. One thing about fishing the river is one never knows what you will catch. Targeting catfish on my last trip, all we caught were carp and suckers. On Sunday night it was a catfish slaughter! Fishing with crawlers, I decided to try a small freshwater circle hook. Originally bought for bobbering walleyes, I had not had the chance to try them. Circle hooks are unique in the way their point is facing the hook shaft. They work as the hook is dragged out of the fish’s throat and rotates when it comes to the edge of the mouth, resulting in the classic “corner of the mouth” hook set. This is the preferred hook for fishing halibut as the fish will swallow the bait. As the line tightens up the hook is dragged out and I have yet to see one that is not hooked as stated. This results in a 100% safe hook out and release, assuring the survival of the fish. The key for success with circle hooks is to NOT set the hook rather simply tighten the line. Simply reeling in the line is adequate to get a great hook set. Catfish are notorious for swallowing the bait so I was anxious to try them. A glob of crawlers and 5 minutes saw my first tap. Instinct took over and I set the hook on a nice 15 inch channel cat. Unfortunately it was hooked deep……1 for the frying pan. Deciding that didn’t work and determined to prove the hook’s effectiveness, all future strikes would be met with a simple reeling in the line technique. Rebaiting and 5 minutes later another opportunity presented itself. This time a simple few turns on the reel handle and the fight was one. This time it worked, hooked in the side of the mouth guaranteed a successful release of another 15 inch channel. For the next hour and a half the method proved effective as at least 10 catfish, all hooked in the corner, were either released or became part of my dinner later that night. The top picture is my largest catfish, about a 20 inch channel. I have included a picture of circle hook as you can see its unusual shape, and of course leave you with the moon rising over the river, something I never get tired of. Next weekend I will be busy with helping my sister-in-law move however Charlie is coming for his annual visit. We will be at Mille Lacs doing a little lead lining. My report will be a few days late however hopefully it should be worth it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quick Post from Hong Kong

Having arrived in Hong Kong, we are keeping our fingers crossed that our flight in the morning will leave on time.  The hotel slid a report under the desk warning of the pending tropical storm due to hit about the exact time we are to take off.  The last few hours it has moved more west, which will work in our favor.  Although Hong Kong is now controlled by the Chinese, they still allow a full access to the Internet.  In celebration of getting back to some sense of freedom, an update was appropriate!  Keep your fingers crossed my flight doesn't get cancelled and soon I will be drinking a beer at the Tokyo airport.  I leave you with a picture of the eels available for dinner from the restaurant we were at on Thursday night. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pigging Out in China

Well as I had heard, China's censorship has blocked Fishin'' With Dave or any Blogspot address from the common people of China!   Apparently the Chinese government is worried about the political slant of walleye fishing in Minnesota, go figure.  Checking on http://www.youtube.com/, this too enjoys the proverbial, website not available.  There is a way through my work desktop however that connection is incredibly slow and impossible to utilize. Today I am in Dong Guan, Guangdong, China, north of Hong Kong at one of my closest manufacturing partners.  They are a Taiwanese company and can link their Internet through the home office in Taipei.  Because Taiwan has no restrictions on web surfing the blog is coming in clear and fast.  This allows me to post an update from this far away place. 

A great topic and one of the things I always look forward is the food in China.  Our first real restaurant was in Wuxi, a city west of Shanghai.  Chinese food can differ greatly based on geography.  In the US Chinese food is usually Cantonese style (chow mien, egg foo young, moo goo gai pan) or the spicer Sichuan style if you like it hotter.  Cantonese foods have their origin in the south of China, north of Hong Kong.  In China their are subtle differences that transforms a variety of foods into completely different dishes.  In Wuxi the sauces are darker and sweeter than in in Shenzhen.  All items are served family style and often are put on a large Lazy Susan to eliminate reaching over the table.  Appetizers include bamboo spouts, dried fish, pickled vegetables and chicken feet, pictured here.  Most of the chicken feet (a very popular dish) in China comes from the United States.  I have previously wrote about growing up in Eleva where the chicken processing plant was the main industry in town.  Digging through barrels of entrails to pluck chicken livers for catfish bait, we encountered thousands of chicken feet, cut cleanly off and headed for the rendering plant.  Today those feet are cleaned, packed and sent to China where they remain very popular.  I have tried them and although they have a nice flavor, it is like eating pure gristle.  As they say, when in Rome............

In more fancier restaurants, one can often pick your own food which are swimming, crawling, or walking around.  It almost has the feel of walking into a pet store.  This trip saw everything from Ring Neck Pheasants to turtles.  It is kind of interesting to look at and of course you are assured that your main dish is extremely fresh.   Breakfast in the hotel's is usually served buffet style with a cook assigned to create omelets and eggs to your liking.  Often it is a mixture of traditional cereals, breads, bacon (called smoke meat), rather bland sausage with a good variety of fresh fruits, mainly watermelon, banana's, and oranges, with some exotics like Dragon Fruit, Lychee, and Longan.  The picture on the right is Longans for sale at a grocery store next to the hotel.  They are almost grape like with a hard skin that needs to be peeled off to get to the translucent fruit inside.  Mixed in with the traditional American style breakfast food are more unusual Chinese dishes.  Dim Sum (a number of small individually dough wrapped foods), smoked fish, porridge, steamed vegetables can be present however this dish caught my eye.  If you look closely at the small sign explaining the dish in English it says "Mouth watering and authentic drug".  What the hell is that!  The best that we can deduce is the mouth watering part is the chopped green vegetable and the authentic drug is the strips of mushrooms mixed into the dish.  Mushrooms have been known to have medicinal properties in China, but then again who knows! 

Tonight we will go back to the restaurant we visited last night.  It serves Taiwanese food, somewhat different than the surrounding area.  Last night we had cold squid with pickled red onions, salt pork with vegetables, a spicy chicken dish (the chicken was mostly bones as my comments were translated to the cook, he sent a new dish with more meat!), squid balls (no, not what you are thinking), bamboo shoots with mayonnaise, fried oysters, fried rice, and plenty of Tsing Tao beer.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tokyo With Love!

Bored out of my mind, I decided to fire up my computer on the plane and write my week’s post from 40,000 feet. We are just over Alaska on our way to Narita (Tokyo) hoping we catch our connecting flight to Shanghai. I told my friend Jeff King to wave as we go by! The trip started off delayed as one of the engines on our 747 didn’t start. Being assured this was a normal situation, it would take 10 minutes and we would be off. A half hour later the pilot announced they switched a wrong valve and now that needed to be rectified. An hour later we were assured of taking off in 15 minutes but not to worry……..they’ll pour the coals to the engines and what is suppose to take 12 hours will now be 11 so we will only be about 45 minutes late. Well in Narita one doesn’t just get off the plane in a secure area and get on board your next international flight, you go through security again. I am not sure I understand the logic, but the same restrictions apply, no liquids over 3 ounces per container. Anything brought on board from Minneapolis better be empty or it goes in the garbage. I suspect they will hold our plane as Shanghai is a final destination meaning it won’t be turned around till the next morning (we arrive at 8:20 Tuesday evening) so it can be late.

I am on a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, the work horse of overseas air travel. These were the money makers for Northwest Orient, who basically owned the routes from the US to Japan and points from there. Now that Delta has acquired Northwest, they have spruced them since my last trip to China in 2008. New leather seats, upgrades to the overhead storage, and the projection TV’s have their colors in sync for once. Although not totally full, its close as these birds will hold about 400 passengers. When I first started flying to China, all drinks were free for the first couple of years however that stopped about 2004. Now that Delta is in charge, beer and wine are back on the complimentary list. We will get 2 meals and a snack before us land. Because the flight has a substantial amount of Japanese passengers, our meals usually consist of a teriyaki based main course with shrimp cocktail, rice, and green tea. I loaded up with Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and the nut mix from the Sky Club. At this point we have been in the air about 7 hours. Being 11:00 Minneapolis time I fight the urge to fall asleep as my theory is to stay awake till we get to our final destination. Being up for at least 24 hours usually helps me fall asleep the first night. I watched the first movie, Invictus, with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It was pretty good. The next one is Dear John, which prompted me to write, if you know what I mean.

As far as fishing this week, I didn’t have much time to do anything. On Saturday we ran to my sister-in-laws to help her look for a car. It turned out to be a pretty funny situation as we spent at least 3 hours at a Ford dealership in Onalaska, Wisconsin test driving a Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, and a Cadillac SRX. Looking for a crossover SUV the Ford was the best, even giving the Caddy a run for its money. Unfortunately for the salesman he had little inventory and had sort of discounted us. While waiting in their customer lounge I noticed an ad in the paper for Brenengen Ford in Sparta, they had advertised 17 new and used Edge’s in stock. Closing at 4:00 we took off arriving with about 15 minutes to look. Well that’s about how long it took to find a fabulous 2009 model with all the bells and whistles for about $8000 less than we were quoted just a hour ago. To top it off they gave her double what the other store would give for her old car. It is amazing what 20 miles and a different dealership can make. Sunday saw me tying up the loose ends around the house, mowing, tilled the garden, finished my planting, and packing. Fishing remains strong, however and it has been announced that Mille Lacs will move the slot size you can keep by 2” upward. It will go from having to release all fish under 18 to under 20 inches, sure just when I leave!

I am in Tokyo right now as my flight to Shanghai is delayed for an hour.  I have taken 2 pictures, one of the greatest beer machine in all the world.  It tilts your glass then fills it down the side.  About 3/4 full the glass tips up and another nozzle fills it with foam to finish it off with a great head.  The second is me in my travel garb.....aka my Green Bay Packer Hat.  People the world over recognize this as I have already got a thumbs up here at the Narita Airport.  I hope to post from China however friends say that my site is blocked in China.  We'll see.  It's 5:00 in the morning Minneapolis time and I have to go.  Later!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer's Flying By!

Summer seems like it's whizzing by at 150 mph.  It's as though trying to get out fishing is almost work these days.  My landscape project is sort of in a holding pattern until I get my design done from the local nursery.  Having had to replant my sweet corn as I think I burned it with starter fertilizer, it almost made the "Knee High by The Fourth" requirement.  My raspberries have almost come and gone, and the two whitetail bucks have made a smorgasbord out of the majority of plants that have been growing in the garden.  I have been enjoying fresh blueberries as I beat the birds to them.  With over 2 inches of rain the last 3 weeks, my John Deere has been racking up the hours as well.  With all that is going on I got a hair up my you know what and bought a motorcycle.  A lot of us used to ride when we where young, then either stuck with it or abandoned it for "safer" activities.  I had always wanted to get into it as I enjoy the outdoors, understand the risks, and have lived past those crazy years!  Near the house was a 2007 Honda VLX600 Shadow for sale.  It had 325 miles on it and it looked like a good bike to get re-established again, so I bought it.  Lacking a motorcycle endorsement, I did get my permit and plan on taking a riders course next month.  It's one of those things, if it becomes enjoyable I can always move up and if not, it will cost me little.

Sunday saw me back up on Mille Lacs with my friend Tom and his friend from Colorado Springs.  The wind was set up to blow exactly like the direction last week be by the time we got set up it had died.  We fished Sherman's again and picked up a few before heading to the 7-Mile Flat.  I don't remember marking so many fish and catching so few.  We did try bobber fishing for a while and caught a few over the slot but nothing really big.  My other friend, Tom and his son Cory were parked on a deep reef I suggested as we headed over to see how they were doing.  Corks were going down left and right but they were pretty small.  My guests were ready to leave a little early so I dropped them off at the landing and headed back to the reef.  Having caught a few more fish, the bugs descended on us like the plague and we headed out early.  Ending up with a couple of meals worth of fish we did ok.  A few days later I learned that my friend John had done real well on a flat just north of us.  Because I had 3 in the boat it was a little tougher to make the right presentation.   Hopefully the bite continues for another week.  Here is Tom with one of his larger walleyes. 

Next week I have the pleasure of returning to China for 10 days of business meetings.  It is extremely hot and humid this time of year and frankly I do not look forward to it,  however these things must be done.  It is a 22 hour flight to Shanghai with our return flight out of Hong Kong.  I should have stories of my adventures as there is always something interesting a half a world away!