Winter Fishing

by Ben Samann, General Manager

As many of you know, I kinda like fishing. Kinda. In the spring, I go fly fishing for sunfish. In the summer, I cruise the lake for bass. In the fall, it’s muskie. A few times a year, I head to Bermuda to catch pathetically small fish off the dock. All told, I probably put in a few hundred hours a year fishing.

But now, it’s happened. Fishing is over, for a few months at least. I just got back from Bermuda, and the lake is frozen. Ice fishing holds little charm for me, so it’s time to hang my hat, and my fishing rods.

What do I do all winter? Aside from work, playing with Toby and Daisy, and getting to play with my aquariums? I keep myself excited by keeping my fishing gear in top shape. Come spring, I can grab it and go.

Here are the things I do annually, and if you like fishing, you should too:

Tackle box:

  • Empty and clean your tackle box – take out everything in there, and rinse the box. Make sure to let it air dry. Depending on the style of box, you may need a soft toothbrush to get into the corners.
  • Now that all your stuff is out of the tackle box, sort through it. Empty spools of line? Bits of plastic? Lures that were stuck in the same tire you caught? Throw out stuff you don’t need, wash the rest. Let it all air dry, then sort it back into the box.

Reel care:

  • Take a close look at each reel, give it a few spins and really get a feel for how it’s working.
  • Lube ’em up – go to a quiet room, and really listen and feel it. The mechanism should be smooth and quiet. If it’s not, pick up some reel oil (I use the pen type, which lets you carefully put single drops where you need them). Sometimes it’s internal, sometimes it’s in the top, or bottom, or wherever.
  • Rinse them off – use warm water, and maybe a drop of soap, to rinse off any grime.
  • Check your line – After a season out in the sun, the first 100′ of line are probably worse for wear. Strip that off, cut the line, then use a nail knot or similar to put new line on. (Tip: you will rarely need more than 100′ of line, and usually a lot less than that. You can spool a cheap “backing” line onto your reel for the bulk of it, and top it off with a premium line.)
  • Rods, nets, pliers, and other tools:
  • These mostly need a rinse and an inspection. Pliers may need a drop of oil if they’re a bit rusty

Lures:

The most important thing: sort. Everyone has way more lures than they use, so really look at the lures you used this year, and toss the rest in a drawer.

  • I do a lot of different types of fishing, so I end up with a few tackle boxes. Why keep my carp rigs in my bass tackle box if I don’t even have my rods with me?
  • Check the hooks – A good sharp hook is the key to a lot of fishing. I buy hooks in bulk, and keep a close eye on rust, bent hooks, or even lures that came with cheap hooks. Saltwater destroys hooks and split rings, so I tend to replace these at least once a year, depending on use.
  • Pick up a small diamond hook sharpener and give a quick once over to every hook. I use a fly tying vise to secure the hooks, but you don’t need one. I test my hooks on my thumb nail – a sharp hook should scratch your nail with almost no pressure.

Important note: be careful when throwing out hooks. I use empty plastic bottles to keep them from puncturing the bag or getting jammed in someone’s finger. 

Other stuff: 

There are lots of other things I do to keep myself excited. I research new techniques I want to try, consult lake charts to find contours I might not know about, and keep an eye out for sales on common supplies (those people who have come out with me know all about my obsession with whacky rigs – I usually find the bait for 30% off in the winter).

One thing I’ve learned over the years, and enjoy forgetting – you don’t need every lure in the books. You need the stuff you enjoy using. There are always countless lures to be found that look good, and my wall of lures attests to how few I use – the ones on the wall don’t usually end up in a tackle box. But… look! that lure looks really good!

That’s about it.

 

You can follow Ben’s exploits on Instagram @BenSamann.


The Wines of Mount Julian

Dinner at Mount Julian is always about turning a meal into an incredible experience.  So far this summer, we have talked about the atmosphere, the history, and the food, and how those all play a role in writing the story of each individual meal.  What we haven’t explored is the wine and how it plays a role in the night.  Now it is time to take a trip downstairs to Mount Julian’s wine cellar with our GM Ben, who does all of the wine pairings himself.

 

As I’ve learned this summer, a good wine pairing makes all the difference.  As Ben says, “a great pairing starts with two separate items – a food and a wine – and turns them into one.  The wine mellows out, the food becomes richer, and things just… work”.  It’s amazing to watch as guests try the wine, try the food, and then try the wine again.  Their eyes widen and their faces are taken over with excitement as the wine and the food intermingle to create something even better than either the wine or the food could be on their own.  It’s the closest thing to magic that I’ve witnessed.  When Ben walks into the kitchen and asks for a sample of the food for the night, glass of wine in hand, I know that something exciting is about to happen. But like any good magician, Ben doesn’t share his secrets lightly.  After a little convincing, though, I got to the bottom of the wine story.

 

Ben’s background with wine really begins with an enjoyment of the stuff.  For Ben, it’s not about memorizing details such as what grape comes from what region and which year was better than others.  Just like Mount Julian, wine is all about the story.  Ben loves what he refers to as the chase, which involves tasting wines against each other, with food, without food, and soaking up each experience to compile a working knowledge of what kind of wine goes best with which food.  He “never gets sick of driving around, stopping in on winemakers, and tasting their newest creations”.  It’s an adventure that leads to lots of exciting wines on the menu at Mount Julian.

 

When deciding on which wines to order, Ben has some favoured staples from Prince Edward County mixed with some international choices.  Other than that, though, he bases his wine orders on the season.  As he explained to me, he is currently “working off the wines [he] picked in the spring for the summery flavours and heat. Lighter wines to go with fresh fruity dishes, cold soups, and similar”.  As summer begins to roll into fall, with some of the trees already starting to lose their leaves, he is looking ahead to fuller bodied wines to accompany stewed meats, root vegetables, and rich sauces.  A lot of these pairings will come from warmer climates like Australia and California.  I have been trying to understand what Ben looks for in a wine, and it really comes down to the wines with stories.  Ben explained that he looks for smaller wineries and passionate winemakers, as they produce wines that never fail to be interesting.  He often shares stories of how he “find[s] a great wine one year, [buys] enough to regret it shortly thereafter… and a year later, regret[s] that [he] didn’t buy more”.  These stories are always shared as the wine is being poured, and never fail to make the wine more interesting and more exciting.

 

One of the most interesting questions to ask wine enthusiasts is what their favourite wine is.  When asked, Ben simply stated that “it depends on the day, the food, who I’m with, the season, what else I’ve had, and my mood.  In the winter, with a braised beef with Viamede double smoked bacon, root vegetables, and a mushroom demi-glace, I’ll reach for that Californian Shiraz I’d normally shirk.  In the summer, feet dangling off a dock, I’ll take a Viognier spritzer.  There’s no shame in that!”

 

There are so many stories pouring out of the Mount Julian wine cellar.  Each wine adds a new patch to the patchwork of stories that blankets a night at Mount Julian, and there is no experience quite like it.  The only thing left to do is to see for yourself!