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 My baseball cap is getting pretty worn and battered, not to mention sun-bleached. It’s a golden rule of clothing that just as a piece starts to get really comfortably, then that is the point at which it develops a hole, splits or otherwise starts to fall to bits. Mine will last a while yet mind you, although if I was in the market for a replacement I’d get one of these fish hats from Ben at Arizona Wanderings. Last year I bought one of his K C Badger t-shirts and its always bought me luck (and a trout) when I’ve worn it fishing.

On the subject of sartorial items, recently discovered on the internet, that I’d quite like are Auxiliary Outside Projects t-shirts, deigned by Anthony Oram, who’s interviewed here.

Though, given the current fiscal position at Boot Hall I might only be able to stretch to one of their patches.

Sew-on patches are something I’ve been giving a bit of thought to lately, because I’d like the womble bag to have a slightly less military surplus look.

Another vendor of outdoor-themed patches is Miscellaneous Adventures. The general “honours” patch is OK, and there is also a cycle one that I can’t find just now, but the one I really like is the woodland woodcarving one. Not sure I can justify the costs of going on a course to get one though.

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Everyone, I’m sure, expects to be brassic during January, but here we are cresting into March and I still have no money.

(To be honest I expect this to be the status quo here at Boot Hall for the foreseeable future.)

If I did have any money I’d head over to Vintage Hiking Depot to make a few purchases.

My VHD T-Shirt is one of my favourite bits of clothing and when I bought it a complimentary VHD sticker was enclosed.

Rather than just slap it on anywhere, I put the sticker, with a couple of others, in a “safe place”. It is the nature of such “safe place”s that they are near impossible to locate within 24 hours.

Or maybe that only applies if, like me, you are an idiot.

Whether you are an idiot or not, I recommend that you get over to the Vintage Hiking Depot sire to have a gander at the merch.

I may have to order another VHD sticker as I’ve now found a really good place to put it. The trouble is there are 2 other stickers in my “safe place” and I‘d need to replace them too. Grrr.

You will notice that I keep my blog roll small.

I won’t bore you with the rationale behind that, but it’s interesting to note that two of the sites I link to have recently received trial down-filled clothing from Uniqlo. Here and Here.

Like Paul Kirtley I’ve seen the adds on the London Underground and have wondered whether the gear was any good.

Now I’m wondering where’s my trial garment!

Last year the fishing closed season passed with a numbing slowness. This year it hasn’t felt the same. I think the reason for this is that the back end of last season was pretty hopeless. The rivers were so high with all the rain we had and were almost entirely unfishable.

I went fishing only a handful of times in the first three months of 2013

and indeed can only recall two of those trips . One was in mid-February and because of either rain or snow it had been a month since I’d travelled to the river. The mundanities of life had also got in the way of this, as had a rather extended physical impediment (I couldn’t walk properly and wonky legs are not a good idea at the water-side).

But at last the opportunity to go was clear of obstacles even if the weather looked decidedly shakey. The day dawned and though it was somewhat soggy I had plenty of appropriate clothing.

I had recently received an angling T-shirt and since it had been accompanied by a note hoping it would bring me luck, that too seemed to be appropriate clothing.

So I set off early, not as early as I’d initially planned, because I decided to delay whilst I waited to see just how the weather was going to shape up. Until I realised that it wasn’t and set off anyway cold, but optimistic.

Clomping along to the bankside I spotted a penny in the grass. Another portent of luck surely? I picked it up and slipped it in my pocket. It had been drizzling all the way there, so the first thing I did was get all Ray Mears and use a poncho and a stick to rig up a waterproof covering for my gear to stop it getting sodden.

I fished through the drizzle and then through the snow that replaced it. I’ve never been fishing whilst it was snowing before and to be honest it wasn’t too bad. Quite atmospheric. Certainly better than the drizzle. I caught five fish all bar one a good size for the stretch.

There was no wind and so no wind-chill, which meant I could fish without gloves (always preferable), but nevertheless I began to notice that my core temperature was dropping.

At this point I realised that I was probably in the fringe area of angling where it starts to merge into the hinterlands of mental illness and so, somewhat reluctantly, set off home.

The second trip that sticks in my mind was actually the last day of the season. After leaving work early I made for the river nearest to home.

Last year I hadn’t noticed any other anglers about, but this year there were a few. No doubt they hoped that as it hadn’t rained for a spell the river might be low enough to provide a last chance of a fish.

Arriving at around four I planned to fish on till it got dark. It was pretty cold and the water was running high and fast, so I was not hopeful.

I had one bite.

I missed it.

It was freezing.

I wanted to give up.

But it was the last day of the season.

A quick root around in my bag produced a very small bottle of brandy that I’d bought in a chav-haunted convenience store on the way home from my last trip. It had warmed me up then and did so again as I took a nip from time to time. Dusk was falling and I was staring dumbly at the vermillion tip of my float, that had just begin to glow in the half-light and was pondering how as light fades some colours appear for a short while to become more intense.

At this point I looked up.

Through the open woodland on the opposite bank I saw a white shape. At no more than six feet off the ground a barn owl was heading straight towards me. Halfway across the water it banked to my right, rising slightly to hover over a patch of rough grass and dead nettle stalks a few yards down the footpath. It hung there as I stared mesmerised and continued to do as it flew off and away across the fields, rapidly, but at the same time somehow, in slow motion.

This was a magical encounter with amazing creature that flew and hovered in complete silence and it seemed to be a good omen to mark the end of the season.

So after one last cast with my body warmed with a last nip and my soul cheered by a sublime avian encounter I packed up and made for home.

As I say unlike last year this closed season has flown by. As swiftly and as silently as that owl in fact.

But now, with really just a matter of hours till I head off once more to the water, I feel the excitement surging within me and I can only hope for some of last season’s magic and madness.

The weather though may make it tend towards the latter

Around six months ago I did a post on T-shirts. In it I mentioned the Streatham Fishing Club T-shirts. They are now available in a wide range of colours.

I think the club is something of a virtual one, since ownership of a Tee confers membership.

Please be assured that I have no connection with them other than loving the design, but for that reason I recommend you buy one. I also suspect that wearing one will increase your fishing catch.

And I can’t help but think that there should be some coded greeting should you bump into someone else wearing one.

Little Boots likes a TV programme called Adventure Time. I hate it. It has no redeeming features as far as I’m concerned. But that is the nature of things. Parents and children like different things. You can’t force children to adopt your view on things, but often you can nurture something that is within us all.

So I’m pleased to say, that there has been a definite swing towards the outdoors and adventure here at Boot Hall over the last few weeks.

This has been spurred by a number of things. Firstly by cubs scouts and starting to learn about maps, then allied to that watching Chief Scout Bear Grylls on TV clambering over and through stuff and making shelters out of sticks. Add to those the strong impact made by a programme on Parkour (or free-running) and we have a dynamic group of ingredients.

As a result in the last week and a half we had a six mile yomp that Little Boots had planned followed by an outing to the woods with a friend. Trees were climbed (although snow boots are not the best footwear for this), badger holes examined and discussed, this shelter was built, soup was consumed (tasting better outside than it ever could indoors), and a very complicated game was acted out, involving orcs, tribes and pine cone hand grenades.

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Even a subsequent trip to a nearby city to buy better hiking/climbing shoes became an explosion of fun as every wall and piece of street furniture was examined for its potential as a scaleable obstacle.

Whilst LB has always been encouraged to do things in the open air, be that gardening, fishing, or exploring it’s nice to see it bearing fruit as I know some parents struggle to get their kids to engage with the Real World.

Not that I pretend to have all (or indeed many) of the answers, and I still actively seek out ideas and pursuits that will promote a deep love of the outdoors. As such this post on The Big Outdoors is great, as are many others on that blog, and I welcome the National Trust’s Outdoor Nation movement/scheme, even if the site is a bit dull and worthy (and feels like it states the obvious quite a lot).

Meanwhile Little Boots has plans – I just hope we can do them justice.

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There’s always a small judder of excitement on receiving a parcel through the post and this probably explains a good deal about the success of eBay/Amazon because, even when you have paid for the item enclosed, it still seems like a present.

This raises a notch when the package comes from overseas. Consequently I was delighted recently when a parcel from the United States was delivered. Inside was a T-shirt (available here) from a site called  Arizona Wandering, which is run by a great guy called Ben.

It’s nice to have something a bit unique and as with the T shirt from Vintage Hiking Depot I mentioned while back I may be the only person (at the moment) with one, on this side of the Atlantic.

Of course it’s not all about exclusivity, it still has to have good design quality. In this case both are more than good, they’re great. Added to that the trout is by an artist by the name of KC Badger – a fact that itself pleases me for reasons I’m not entirely clear about.

However Little Boots who has yet to catch a “Spotty Herbert” is less enamoured and clearly feels it is some kind of T-shirt-based taunt.