Friday, March 11, 2016

Amateur Radio Goes Fly Fishing

With every day looking more and more like spring I have had fly-fishing on my mind lately, and with that in mind I decided it was time that I check out the conditions on the Bow river down at McKinnon Flats located approximately 35 kilometers southeast of Calgary.
 Because the winter gate is closed at the top of the switchback leading down in to the river valley until April, I planned on leaving my truck at the at the top of the switchback and hiking in from there.
Not only would I be checking on the conditions of the river, but I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take my portable HF rig and its companion vertical antenna along. I figured that once I had a look at the river I could hike up to a high vantage point that I have worked HF from in the past that overlooks the river valley with distant views to the east and to the south as well as commanding views of the Rockies on the western horizon 120 kilometers away.

Once I backed off my driveway and pulled on to highway 1, I knew I was in for a beautiful sunrise as the skies were clear to the east and the light breaking on the horizon looked wonderful. Of course I always think that as morning is my favorite time of day and the earlier the better.
I had left home earlier than I needed to as I planned on stopping in Chestermere to have something to eat at Tim Horton's on the lake. I also knew that I would find several regulars already at a table with whom I would join to discuss what was making news in the morning paper. After an hour of discussion on how to save the planet and maybe get rid of all the politicians to achieve that, we had a good laugh and at that point I excused myself as I had to get rolling but promised to fall in the door again soon.

I had just got underway once more as the sun broke over the horizon, and now I wished that I hadn't spent the extra time bantering back and forth with the guys at Tim's, as I knew that I would be missing out on that most magical time of the day, with the sun slowly climbing above the horizon illuminating the river valley driving the shadows of night away and burning off the mist blanketing the valley in the early morning light.

Twenty minutes later I arrived at the wintergate at the top of the switchback that takes you down to McKinnon Flats. After parking my truck I grabbed my pack that was already loaded with the gear I would take with me and headed out.
The morning was stunning with mist still hanging like a blanket over the valley in the early morning light. The river shimmering  in the distance from the sun's rays kissing the surface of the water, created thousands of pinpoints of light caught by my camera when I looked at my first capture of the day on the LCD.
As I made my way along the ridges overlooking the river valley, I watched a family of muledeer on the nearby slopes who were unconcerned by my presence as they continued to graze although on occasion they would stop long enough to watch me, making sure that I was not a threat as I made my way along just above them.
With the milder than normal temperatures we had experienced in February, the ice on the river was gone other that along the edges, and conditions were favorable for wading the river making me wish that I had brought my fishing gear to see if I could entice a rainbow to the fly. It is still early to be on the river, but I plan on returning with my fishing gear soon to clear some of the cobwebs from my mind collected over the winter, as nothing does this better that standing in a trout stream with a fly-rod in hand trying to fool a trout in to taking your presentation.

After making numerous stops to shoot photos, I finally arrived at the location where I planned on setting up my 10-60 meter antenna that was loaded in my pack. Along with the antenna I also had my Yaesu FT-897D transceiver with me, and the other necessary gear required to set up for operating my portable HF station once it was operational.
Once I had emptied my pack and began to set up my HF antenna, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the frost was sufficiently out of the ground  making it a simple task to insert the spike at the bottom of the mast into the ground. The same went for the guy-line anchors that support the mast assembly with the tap-coil and telescopic whip assembly.
I had picked a place for the antenna to stand that was close to a flat-topped sandstone boulder that I planned on using for my operating position, and I soon had the radio set up and ready to go with the coax connected between the radio and the antenna.

Before too long I was on 40 meters and with favourable conditions I soon made my first contact. After an hour spent on 40 meters and the stations that I contacted in the log, I made the necessary adjustments to the tap-coil allowing for the switch to 17 meters. Once in a while I would see something of interest for my camera and I would move from playing radio to playing photographer.
Regardless it was a fun day with the bands in good condition allowing me to make numerous contacts on 17 and 40 meters with my Yaesu FT-897D equipped with 2 NiMH battery packs located in the battery compartment at the bottom of the transceiver.
I love this very compact all-mode rig that has the look and build of a military transceiver that you would expect to see being used on the battlefield for tactical communications.
I like the fact that it has its own self-contained batteries making this rig very portable, yet it is capable of decent power out at 20 watts on internal batteries.
If more power is required, a external power source like my compact 30 caliber power-can will kick it up to 100 watts out if required.
Its a rare day that the bands are that poor that I cannot make contacts with the radio running on its internal batteries with 20 watts out, and besides the rig will run for hours on its two internal batteries.
I should mention if your not familiar with the FT-897D, that only one battery of the two that resides in the battery compartment is used at one time.
When the first battery is depleted, a flip of the battery selector switch located in the top lid of the rig allows you to switch to the second battery.
The front of the rig indicates which battery you are operating on, the A or the B battery.
Another plus is the fact that when the 897 is being run on the internal batteries, the current required to operate this rig at 20 watts through the internal battery circuitry is less than if the rig is connected to an external battery, and this is so even when the 897 is set for 20 watts out on external power.
For some reason not many hams who own the FT-D897D are aware of this fact, as most hams with this rig did not purchase the optional battery packs with charger.
The charger is very cool as it allows for charging from either a 12 volt or 110 volt source.
So all in all this is a very desirable self-contained rig if you want to operate from the back-country or on field day.
 I will not be parting with this rig anytime soon as Yaesu recently discontinued the FT-897D, and no other Amateur Radio Manufacturer builds a transceiver that is capable of running on internal batteries with a military type build such as that of the FT-897D.
I can see this very desirable transceiver with its ruggedized build and internal battery capability holding its value for years to come.

After several hours of playing radio with contacts made across Canada and the US, and with the sun now high in the sky I decided it was time I packed up my gear and  made my way back to the trailhead to reclaim my truck and maybe go for a cup of tea and a bite to eat.  All in all I had spent a pleasant morning playing ham radio and casting a fly line in my mind. The next time I returned I promised myself that I would be packing my fly rod.

Note....all photos expand


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