Sunday, May 21, 2017

My Greatest Catch!

I had the ring for about a month before I figured out how I was going to propose.  It sat in its little black fuzzy box in a nondescript corner of the garage I knew Lupia would never find it in. I had some things to do before I popped the question.  I had to ask Lupita's mama for her daughter's hand, I had to make sure I had the correct size ring, I had to be sure Lupita got her nails done (her request), but the biggest trick was figuring out what to do to make the proposal memorable.  I mean I know that if I just pulled the ring out of the garage and asked her we'd both remember it.  What I wanted to figure out is how to WOW her!  This is the backstory.

To explain why I'm writing this, and why I'm writing this on my fishing blog I'll go back to Facebook on the day I did pop the question.  Lupita shares a lot on Facebook.  So on April 23, 2017 after I put the ring on her finger a flurry of pictures shot from her phone to Facebook. Tons of likes, loves, and comments of congratulations followed.  My former roommate, Eric's gratz comment asked how'd I do the deed?  How did I propose? Well, I knew we had pictures before and after, but not during the event until the photographer finished his edits.  I promised I'd tell the story once we received the photos from the photographer.  I chose my fishing blog for this story because Facebook lacks a good way to type and add pictures interspersed to tell a story.  On to the story...

You've read I had the ring.  The week before I proposed it was the wrong size.  Lupita's statement about making sure she had her nails done before I proposed popped into my head. I ordered a ring-gauge set off Amazon and measured her ring finger.  All the while I was apologizing for not having done anything about buying a ring but when I would I could make sure it was the right size.  Little did she know the wrong sized band with a princess cut diamond on top was not 30 feet from her in our garage.  I used a day off from work to do several things I needed to do and and two of those things were get the band changed to the right size, and ask Lupita's mama for permission to marry her daughter.

The day before my day off I figured out what I'd do.  I reached out to our ticket guy from the White Sox.  We had tickets for the game on the 23rd and I wanted to see what options I had to propose to her at the game and see how I could make it special.  He put me in touch with Martha Jo in the White Sox main office and I found they have a special plan for just this kind of event.  I made a donation to White Sox Charities and the all the pieces fell into place.

Right after I'd locked in the White Sox option I started texting with Lupita's sister, Irma. Initially I was trying to keep my plans secret so my messages were vague.  She knew and could arrange for mama to be accessible but I learned Irma was accompanying Lupita to a doctor appointment that next day; the day I had off to talk to her mama.  I had to let Irma in on my plan.  She was beyond excited and of course she kept our conversation in confidence.  

The next day worked out perfectly logistically.  I stopped at the jeweler with the gauge that fit Lupita's finger, they measured my gauge, confirmed its size, and took the ring to get the diamond put on the correct size.  The jeweler completed their work and I started off to Irma and Marco's house where mama lives.  I hadn't gone far when I received a text from Irma telling me Lupita had left the house after her appointment and was on her way to our house so the coast was clear for me to come talk to mama. Timing was working out perfectly.

My conversation with mama was nice and short.  I told her of my intentions and asked for her permission which she gave me happily.  I then filled her in on the details of my plan, showed her the ring, and asked her to keep my secret.  She assured me she would and even made the zipping her lips motion across her mouth.  I hugged her, Irma, and Marco and left the house to go do what I told Lupita I was going to do with my day off; go fishing!  (See, another reason this is on my fishing blog!)  Fishing was uneventful but relaxing compared to the stress of the earlier parts of my day.

That night Lupita and I went out to eat at a nice brewery-restaurant in downtown Palatine. Here's where I almost slipped up the first time.  We were talking and she mentioned seeing mama earlier in the day.  I knew she had because I saw mama after she did.  I mentioned the Sox game and how we got upgraded tickets.  Lupita's head turned like our dogs and said "What?"  (Think quickly, Jason)  "Oh yeah," I replied, "I got an email from the Sox that asked me to put in the games we'd be attending this season earlier in the spring.  They called me today and said we won upgraded tickets and a pre-game tour."  Lupita was excited but I couldn't tell if she was skeptical.  This was Tuesday and the game was the coming Sunday.  I had to keep it together for a few more days.  

Wednesday we received our official "tour" packet from the White Sox.  Our ticket upgrade was in there along with this schedule on White Sox letterhead and watermark.  Nice touch!  So now Lupita was realizing we were going to go in early and get on the field.  Plus when we looked up our seats she was extra excited because they were the best seats we've ever had to a Sox game.  

The next few days were uneventful but Lupita was really excited about the game on Sunday and our on-field experience to come.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I had vivid dreams I remembered.  This is unusual as I don't often remember my dreams.  All involved my childhood home.  

  1. Lupita and I were staying there and my father was alive in the first dream.  He told me how happy he was and how wonderful he thought Lupita was.  
  2. The second dream my mother was alive but seemed far away and somber; monochrome in color and tone.  I wasn't sure how to take this one.  
  3. Fortunately mom appeared in my third dream.  Lupita and I were helping her move out of the house as if the house was being sold. Mom came to us with a box of books from my childhood.  She had color in her cheeks and a smile on her face.  This was her blessing my decision to marry Lupita.  
I told Lupita about all these dreams but their gravity didn't click with her until later in the afternoon Sunday.

Gameday!  Sunday.  I had already moved the ring to my car which we'd be loading up to head to the game.  We stopped by Dave Overstreet's house to pick up him, his kids, and a friend of his oldest son.  We loaded the car and headed to tailgate.

Food and adult-beverages were enjoyed but the time flew. At 10 till noon Lupita and I started getting ready for our tour.  Lupita went to check her makeup and I snuck into my car and slipped the ring in the fuzzy box into my right-front pocket.

We said our goodbyes to Dave and the boys, then headed to the press entrance to the ballpark. We showed our tickets and met Martha Jo, my "partner" in this surprise.  She got us to the security area where we needed to go through the metal detector. I told Lupita to go first.  They had to poke through her purse then clear a metal detector.  

I put my keys, phone, wallet, and the ring in the fuzzy black box in my White Sox cap and put it on the table for security to look through.  The guard went right to the fuzzy black box and said "What's in this, we're going to have to,"  I raised my left hand to indicate he should stop talking.  With my right I gave Lupita a gentile shove through the metal detector.  I simultaneously told the security guard in a quiet whisper that we were with Martha Jo and that's an engagement ring.  He could look but BE DISCREET and DON'T RUIN THE SURPRISE!!!! The gravity of the situation along with his knowledge of what Martha Jo does with the White Sox main office hit his brain at the same time and he ushered me through the metal detector and told me with a knowing smile to have a good game.

One more stop at a desk to copy our drivers licenses before we were taken on the worlds most lousy tour we could be taken on but it was this way completely on purpose.  Next stop, the field.

The awe of looking up at the seats, and seeing the grass of the field, home plate, the baselines, it was awesome!  Lupita was stunned by the beauty and hugeness of it all.  This was the point of our "tour" where we would be encouraged to be all Paparazzi with our cell phones.  Anyone who knows Lupita knows this isn't a problem, rather a welcome invitation.  

Ok, I got in on the awe and excitement too!  I mean I've been a White Sox fan since I was a kid. Being able to get a goofy-smiling selfie with home plate in the background turned me in to a little kid again!  It seemed to take forever and no time at all before the photographers that were part of the "tour" package came.

The photographer and his assistant both had DSLR cameras with long lenses.  We were placed on the grass of the field when the photographer uttered the words, "Are you ready?"

This does two things.  A camera and these words make most any woman straighten up, check that they look good, and that they're ready to be photographed.  But to me this was the hi-sign, my queue to...

...drop to one knee, remove the fuzzy black box from my pocket, and say the words I'd been practicing the entire last week commuting to and from work.  I said in a clear, strong, voice, "Guadalupe Rodriguez, will you marry me?"

You can see by her reaction she wasn't expecting this.  Not that we didn't know we wanted to get married.  Just that she NEVER had a clue that the package, the "tour", Martha Jo, or any of this was a setup.  After being on my knee, with Lupita bending over slightly, covering her mouth not making a sound I stood up and wrapped my arms around her.

She was half-laughing, a little bit of crying, and I learned later trying to keep from throwing up on me from the nerves that popped in when she saw me take a knee.  I whispered in her ear, "You DO still want to marry me, right?"  "Yes!" she squeaked.  "Do you want me to put the ring on your finger?"  "YES!" She squeaked louder.

My dearest Lupita was absolutely gobsmacked!  My surprise was complete.  I had done what I wanted to do.  I wanted to make this moment something she'd never forget, doing something we both loved, in a place we enjoyed being together.  Martha Jo congratulated us and escorted us inside the park to the Magellan ticket holders area bar for a champagne toast.  

This was about the time that Lupita put all the pieces together.  The dreams, the tour.  "Who all knew," she asked me.  I told her about Irma, Marco, and mama.  I told her about Dave and how I'd told him to not tell the kids as kids have a way of blurting out stuff you told them in confidence.  She asked when Irma knew, and I told her.  She was amazed Irma didn't drop her poker face that next day when she accompanied Lupita to the doctor.  She was equally amazed that her mama knew for as long as she knew.  Lupita takes her mama to breakfast or lunch every Saturday before they do mama's and our grocery shopping for the week. Then Dave, well, she wasn't surprised Dave didn't let on but none of that mattered anymore. We were escorted to an elevator where we'd go to our upgraded seats.  

Third row seats one and two just at the edge of the foul ball netting directly in front of the visiting team's on-deck circle.  Obviously able to see a little way into the visitor's dugout.

We got a game ball from the security guard after I told him we got engaged on the field right before the game.  We got sunburned.  We got a White Sox victory against Cleveland who beat us in the first two games of this three game series. What we really got was to the next step in our lives together.  We got engaged, tied together via a promise, each to the one we love.

So that's the story.  You now know the planning, the setup, and the ultimate proposal.  My fishing blog about My Greatest Catch is complete.  I can't wait to blog the wedding!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hitting Familiar Water With An Old Friend

Dave and I have been friends over 30 years (I think)...We both fished as kids and rediscovered our love of the pastime as adults.  I haven't fished much since my divorce and the shuffling around of my life and my belongings.  Neither has Dave.  We were talking one evening and we both decided we needed to get out and fish.  Didn't care where but we both needed to feel the tug of a fish on the line.

I believe this was the Good Friday holiday.  We were both off work and a spot we used to fish when we lived in Naperville and Aurora respectively was calling to us.  We got our gear together and followed the siren song to this pond where I caught my first five pounder and where we've both caught some nice largemouth bass.

We settled into a spot and started the process of figuring out what the bass wanted to eat.  The water was murky from spring runoff so I started throwing crankbaits with chartreuse colors thinking they'd be easier to see in the water.  They were easier to see but all ran too deep and brought back weeds, not fish.  Almost on a whim I reached for a lure-type I was ahead of the curve on in my angling circles; a jointed swimbait. Specifically jointed bluegill.  I knew the bass in this pond got fat eating bluegill and figured if they weren't biting loud-colored lures, maybe they'd hit a big-ol bluegill.  They had before.  And they did again!

Rocking my amber lensed, polarized Cocoons fit overs I saw this bass through the glare of the sun on the water and got excited!  This is my first non-ice fishing catch of 2017 and I got it on the same jointed swimmer that I caught my first of 2015 on.  Pretty cool! 

Dave likes to find lures different from what other fishermen are using. That said he had a crazy-jointed swimbait too in a smaller, minnow pattern.  Using a reel up and let it die retrieve Dave hooked up with our second collective bass of the outing.

A nice, fat-bellied, pre-spawn bass came up for a picture.  One each, who will hook up next?

Me!  I got another on my bluegill swimmer.  My second around 2lbs.  Fun catching, but the action was a bit slower compared to years past for this pond.  Still, catching is catching.

Dave would get one more, and here it is.  Another fat-bellied bass.

All in all we had a good outing.  Good conversation, good company, and good catching.  It was a Good-Friday after all.  We talked on the drive back to Dave's house about fishing, catching, and ideas for the next outing.  I was thinking about writing a non-ice fishing blog and then time got away from me.  This is the first blog for open water season for 2017 for me.  I look forward to many more this season.  There's plenty of open water time left and I look forward to fishing it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

First Fish of 2017

Plans to fish happen organically for me.  A Facebook chat with fishing friends centered around the desire to fish a body of water back in my old stomping grounds.  I explained in the chat how to get sleds and gear to the water easily since I'd fished this lake before.  In our circles knowing key pieces of info often means you're going fishing. So plans were made quickly in the hours before bedtime Saturday night and the alarm went off way too early Sunday morning.  But it's amazing how quickly I popped out of bed knowing I was going ice fishing!

After getting on the ice last week, New Year's Eve I'd caught fish this ice season.  What I haven't done is catch my first fish of this calendar year. Hopefully we'd change that this outing.

Pondboy and I arrived to the spot within minutes of one another. Greetings were said, strategy discussed, gear loaded so we'd each only have to drag one thing and we headed to the ice.

Holes were drilled.  Actually Dan (Pondboy) drilled the holes.  I followed with the flasher.  I saw some marks on the bottom so I dropped a jig tipped with three white spikes down the hole.  I could tease the marks up but couldn't get them to bite.  About the time those marks lost interest I saw a weak green signal mid-column in 10 feet of water.  I reeled up to the mark and teased it into biting.  My first fish of 2017 is....

...a crappie!  A nice, thick-shouldered crappie for my first fish of 2017, not bad at all!  This lovely speck posed for a groggy early-morning photo with yours truly before heading back down the hole to swim and grow larger.  Now that the pressure is off and we got multiple marks at this depth we decided to set up the shelter because it was 15 degrees out and we were getting chilly.

Once we parked in the shelter Brim from the Facebook chat showed up dragging his sled.  We chatted for a few minutes before he drilled his own holes close to ours and set up his shelter. This is where we sit and catch a few small bluegills for longer than we'd care to admit until Dan decides to switch things up.  He bites off a marmooska jig and ties on a Hali spoon with a drop-chain.  Almost immediately he catches a much nicer bluegill.  

I had just purchased a similar style lure; a Lindy Perch Talker.  It's a chain with alternating gold plate, ball, plate, ball down to a drop chain and small treble hook. I put waxies on the trebles and dropped down my hole.  I teased a mark up and got it to hit, I set the hook and the fish pulled a little drag.  Dan was pumped at the thought of a larger fish.  He turned on his Pivot Head recording eyewear to get video of the catch.  It's a good thing he did as this is the best shot we have of a VERY nice crappie.

The hook let go at the hole and Dan got there just in time to see the big girl slip back down it.  Crud!  Oh well, I'm not one to get down about losing a fish.  I just became more focused on catching my next.  That said our bite died down and our marks became few, far between, and not interested in eating.

Fortunately Brim got his first fish of 2017 too before the bite turned off. Here's his first fish which also happens to be a crappie.

Brim decided to head home to projects he had queued up and Dan and I decided to head to the basin at the other end of this lake to see if anyone had told the fish over there they weren't supposed to bite right now.  We drilled and had mixed luck at the other basin.  Both of us caught small bluegills but I wasn't excited by the size of what we caught versus all the marks of small bluegills that filled my screen and started the walk back to the basin we started out in.

I started kicking open the holes we'd drilled earler while Dan drilled a few in 7 feet of water to see if we could get on any other bite.  I put my flasher's transducer in one of these holes and dropped down a green marmooska jig with three white spikes impaled on its hook. I saw a big mark separate from the bottom.  I teased it up and felt the peck of a bite and the bend in my rod as I set the hook.  Drag pulled and the fish ran several times.  This was the bite that settled a conversation Dan and I had been having earlier.

I guess there ARE bass in here too.  Dan helped me land this nice, thick backed largemouth, shot its picture, then I unhooked the Fiskas jig from the bony upper lip of this bass before releasing it back to the lake.

I cycled off the shallower holes back to the deeper ones and was playing with marks on my flasher.  Dan stayed shallow.

When I looked up at Dan he had his hands above his head.  His ultra-light jigging rod was bent in an upside down U.  I ran over to assist.  The fish ran one direction, then another pulling drag then POP....up came the jig, sans-bait, sans-fish.  I left Dan alone to re-bait his jig.  I walked back to my flasher hoping to set the hook on a monster from the deep.

A pretty little largemouth.  Fun but not what I had hoped for since the mark looked bigger than the fish.  Still, catching is catching.  I hope Dan hooks into a better fish.  Correction: I hope Dan hooks a better fish and hooks more than the front edge of the top lip so we can land it. Wait....Dan has his arms up over his head again....Jason for the assist!

That's a better fish and further proof that we have at least a breeding pair and a second year class bass in this lake we weren't sure had 'em.  After some pictures the bass was released and we both went back to jigging.  I'd get the last fish before we decided to call it quits for the day.

A good handful of crappie bookends the day nicely!  It's a great thing to have a multi-species day on the ice.  Pondboy even caught a bullhead from his seated bass-hole.  It means there is more than one forage base for each species.  It was clear these fish were getting enough to eat with their thick backs and varied but decent size.  

It has been a few years since I fished this lake.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  I'm pleased to say that the lake exceeded my expectations.  I would have liked for this to be less the Darkstar show and a more balanced fish tale but sometimes that's how things work out.  

The old saying goes "That's why it's called Fishing and not Catching".  We did a lot of fishing today.  We both did some catching today.   I guess that's what we  set out to do; go fishing.  And first fish of the year catching I did.  Here's to a great year fishing, and a better year catching!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

First Ice 2016-17 In More Ways Than One

To say the year and a half since I last penned a blog has been full of events would be an understatement.  I've had a great year and a half that sadly hasn't included very much fishing.  It HAS included me moving to Palatine, IL with my wonderful Lupita.  We've added a sweet pit-bull we call Otis to the household and settled into the beginning of our life together.  I've been doing a lot, just not a lot of fishing.

That's why I was looking forward to ice season coming around.  I knew that I'd at the very least be able to get out ice fishing.  Since my move most of my things have ended up in the garage as a direct transfer from my old storage unit.  I knew where my shelter was.  My spud bar and flasher were accessible, rods and reels checked out, I even ordered a pair of Mickey Mouse boots for the ice season to come.  

Well the ice season came.  My friends who took time off work around the Christmas holiday were getting out on safe ice most every day.  This made me get the itch with only one problem.  I don't know where my box of ice jigs got to.  

Fortunately I was completely unaware of the fact that when I moved I set down roots less than a half mile from a fantastic bait and tackle store!  I got waxies, spikes, jigs and plastics in no time and was ready to go.

Planning happened earlier in the week but honestly I've been prepping Lupita for ice fishing since the first time I took her open water fishing.  I just had to wait for the right time to get her hooked!  I wanted to go Friday night after work.  I know Lupita had expressed interest so I shot her a quick text that basically said wanna go ice fishing tonight after work?  This was her one-letter reply.

Still, that wasn't a no!  :)  But things didn't work out for Friday so we planned on fishing together Saturday; New Years Eve.

We had four to five hours before we were to pick up Lupita's mama for dinner and all our gear was ready.  I gave Lupita pointers on which of her boots to wear and general guidelines on clothing.  We loaded up and arrived at our destination.  The whole drive I explained ice fishing and answered her questions.  She felt comfortable enough (more on that later) to help pull sleds of gear to the shore, strap on Kahtoola micro spikes, and follow me out a few feet onto the ice.

Pita's HEY, I'M WALKING ON A LAKE selfie!

Pita loves shoes.  No surprise we've got a picture of her feet safely on ice.

I showed Pita how to spud for safe shore ice, drill a test hole to measure thickness, and then we walked out to where a spring was still bubbling up through the ice.  I drilled a test hole to flash for marks.

10-11 feet of water, I was marking fish on a narrow flasher cone setting on my FL-20.  Of course I had my ultra-light rod rigged up with a Fiskas Tungsten jig and an Aurora Lure Company Magic Maggie in red.  I dropped down and teased the mark up but it didn't eat.  No meat on the hook so I can't say I blame the fish.  We decided to set up here since I knew the pond and had a tip from Pondboy that he did well near that spring earlier in the week.

Setting up the underwater camera. (surprise photo)

Hey, there are bluegills!

Pita's "I'm sitting on a comfortable seat after walking around on a lake for the first time look."

And of course the in the dark shelter couple selfie.  Now let's fish!

I originally was going to have Pita use the camera on my FL-20 Double-Vision system and I'd use the flasher in another hole. That plan went out the window when it got dark. The spring stirred up the water a lot and all we could see on the camera were dots of whatnot moving around, not her jig and not fish.

I explained the basics she'd need to know about fishing with a flasher. Signal strength green to yellow to red.  That's the bottom, that's your jig. That line moving between the bottom and your jig is a fish.  See it come up to your jig?  You'll feel a tap when it....steals your waxie. That's ok.  I have 99 waxies at this point so we'll put another one on.  Also this is the first time Lupita's felt the tap of a fish biting a lure.  Now she'll get the next one.  Not before I catch the first one however.

It's not a big bluegill but you can see it got my whole jig, Magic Maggie, and a few spikes in it's mouth.  It felt good to catch, no matter the size. Soon Pita was ready to drop down the hole. She read the flasher, saw jig, saw fish, saw fish move toward jig, then reeled like mad when she felt the tap!  Not convention ice fishing form but it was effective.  I present to the world wide web Lupita's first ever ice fishing catch.

It was a wonderful moment punctuated by a lot of loud and joyful "YAYs", some clapping, and big smiles!  Pita was happy, I was happy, the fish...the fish may have been happy, I'm not sure. Pita admired the blue colors on the gills and the iridescent purple colors on the bluegill's back before she leaned forward and let the little swimmer go back down the hole.

We fished, talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company.  Lupita was very excited and happy with this new experience.  Now the only thing that made her uncomfortable was the shifting groaning of the building ice.  I explained it's below 32 degrees so the ice isn't going away from under our feet, rather it is growing and grinding together like the plates that make up the earth.  No phaser-sounds were heard today but audible groans and vibrations felt through our feet were slightly unnerving for Pita.  I told her if she came with me often she'd get as nonchalant as I am about the noises the ice makes.  

Now, I promised more about how comfortable Lupita initially felt.  In a word, she was terrified. She told me afterward the idea didn't make sense to her how it would be safe but she trusted that I knew how to keep her safe and that I wouldn't put her in any danger.  Once she took her first steps onto the ice she said she relaxed and it became more of an adventure than something to fear.  It became fun!  I knew it would (I was pretty sure it would, at least).

This was a fantastic New Years Eve 2016!  We spent it together on the ice, together at dinner, and then as we've both discovered since we aren't in our 20s anymore we fell asleep at 10PM. We only knew it was 2017 because someone in the neighborhood shoots off fireworks to punctuate special events.  My father used to light off a Cherry-Bomb or 1/4 Stick every year at midnight on NYE so I zonked back out quickly and had happy dreams of Lupita's first ice fishing experience.  I'm pretty confident it won't be her last. :)