Backcasts archive: Through July 27, 2007


Blog calendar: July 27 | July 26 | July 25 | July 24 | July 23

posted July 27, 2007

New veggie material for fishing rods, huh? But does it improve eyesight?

What's up, doc?

Fishing rods made from carrots, that's what's up.

You heard right, Bugs.

A Scottish company has joined a Las Vegas firm to make fishing rods from carrots, according to the Providence Journal.

Carrot Stix, the veggie-based fishing rods, won the best-in-show award at the recent American Sportfishing Association's international trade show.

The carrot-orange rods are lighter than graphite, but have more stretch to land larger fish, according to David Hepworth, a director of CelluComp, the Scottish firm that developed Curran, the new material made from vegetables.

CelluComp developed a process to extract "nano-cellulose" – material with fibers that are submicroscopic – from plants.

The material starts out looking like soup, then it becomes mushy, and after it is processed, it resembles Play-Doh, said Eric Whale, another director of the Scottish company.

"The fibers are very strong, tough and elastic," he said. "Then we combine them with resins that we can use to make products."

Most top-of-the-line fishing-rod manufacturers use graphite, also called carbon fiber, in rods. But some anglers still prefer the feel and fighting capabilities of fiberglass, a heavier material that isn't as stiff and brittle as graphite, the Providence Journal reports from Las Vegas.

Curran, said Hepworth, "is lighter than carbon fiber, and it has a similar stiffness, but it stretches further before it fails. It allows you to build rods that have the strength and toughness of glass rods with the weight of carbon rods.

"In the case of a bass rod, that's obviously a huge advantage because a heavy fish is going to give a lot of curvature to the rod. We use a computer to design the rods to ensure there are no points for stress to develop so it creates a more even fishing rod."

When they hit the market, the Carrot Stix spinning and casting rods – 30 percent carbon, 70 percent Curran – probably will cost between $300 and $350 each. CelluComp already has used the new material to develop its own brand of fly rods, called Just Cast, in Great Britain.

E21, the American company in this collaboration, is applying the same technology in an attempt to develop golf-club shafts that would reduce tendinitis and drive a golf ball farther and straighter than conventional materials would, according to the Journal.


posted July 26, 2007

Sunscreen and jellyfish shield? Look at my tan! And I'm protected from stings!

Do you have thick skin? Are you feeling brave?

Then step right up and feel the sting of a jellyfish.

Come on now, it won't hurt. Especially considering you'll be protected by sunscreen with a UV rating that wards off harmful sunlight and shields water lovers from the zap of jellyfish.

It's all rather like that old "Saturday Night Live" skit: New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping! … For the greatest shine you ever tasted!

But apparently it's all true.

Norwegian researchers want bold, non-hairy humans to bare their arms and offer them up to jellyfish, in the name of science, the Associated Press reports out of Oslo.

Testing this revolutionary new cream, the University of Oslo wants volunteers to be burned by jellyfish tentacles on both arms – one with ordinary sun block, the other with anti-jellyfish sun lotion.

"You're supposed to get burned. If you're not, then the tests have been a waste of time,'' said Torgrim Andersen, spokesman for the university's biology department.

Volunteers aren't exactly lining up.

As of yesterday, only five people had registered for today's scheduled test, according to the AP. But Andersen said he was optimistic about getting a team of more than 10 people.

"There's been a lot of interest in us doing this," he said.

Volunteers must be aged 18 or older, have hair-free inner arms, which means they get stung easier. Asthmatics, pregnant women or people with allergies or skin diseases will not be accepted, Andersen said.

The compensation? Three bottles of anti-jellyfish sunscreen, of course – provided by the sponsor of the trial, the Norwegian sun cream company AC-SunCare.

Here's a sure-fire solution to your volunteer woes, guys: Add a few more key benefits to the lotion.

OK, so it shields us from sunlight and jellyfish. Make it a shark repellent and a compressed-air dispenser. We'll be able to fill up our inflatables without worries, even in shark-infested waters.


posted July 25, 2007

Woy, Woy! Rusty found safe 2,000 miles from home Down Under

The sixty-four-dollar question is how Rusty wound up so far his Australian home after vanishing two months ago. But the good news is he has been found safe … thanks to modern technology.

The 8-year-old poodle-Maltese mix was identified this week by a microchip located under his skin, the Associated Press reports today out of Sydney.

Rusty was scheduled to be flown home tomorrow after being sent to a pound in Darwin, Australia's northernmost city, according to Aussie media.

"I can't believe I'll see my little fellow again," Shirley Lowry, who has made several appeals in local media for her pet's return, told Australian Associated Press.

Rusty disappeared in May while Lowry was inside a shop in the east coast town of Woy Woy, located 25 miles north of Sydney.

How the dog reached tropical Darwin remains a mystery, although the condition of Rusty's paws suggests the dog did not walk, according to the AP.

As the benefits of chips spread to pet owners, we here at Backcasts have a very strong feeling we'll be hearing many more of these feel-good stories in the future. But we promise only to highlight those with minimum requirements of 2,000 miles in distance traveled and/or two months from lost to found.

"It just goes to show the value of having your dog micro-chipped," Lowry said.

Amen, Shirley, and we're quite certain Rusty would give at least two paws up.

Also found: Countless dead baitfish, though no one claims to have lost them

Now here's a real dead herring for you, and, fore, golfers say it's so distracting they'll have to take their swings elsewhere.

A mass fish kill in Maine's Sanford Cove has resulted in piles of malodorous herring stretching for hundreds of yards of shoreline, the Associated Press reports from Roque Bluffs, Maine.

The stinky situation has forced residents of this coastal community to shut their homes tight and hurt business for the local links.

"We're not used to this," said Vicki Kelley, whose parents own a golf course across the road from the cove. "It makes you want to move."

Her mother, Lucille Sinford, concurred.

"Yesterday, our golfers started leaving," Sinford said. "We never have an odor off the clam flats. It's always been so clean."

One family whose house overlooks the cove erected plastic owls on the roof to scare off the hordes of gulls, according to the AP.

The fish started washing ashore a week ago, and the Maine Marine Patrol is investigating the cause of death.

But not everyone has been entirely displeased by the mess.

Lobstermen who use herring as bait have showed up to load handfuls of free feed into buckets.

Darrell Richards, who lives on the cove just east of the Sinfords, said a fisherman friend picked up 45 buckets on Sunday afternoon. With bait going for $10 a bucket, that's $450 saved &$150 if you can put up with the smell.


posted July 24, 2007

Scallywag smugglers go to scaly lengths

Chalk one up for the border police in southwest China for taking a bite out of crime yesterday, after recovering 270 crocodiles from a suspicious vessel on a border river, the Associated Press reports from Beijing.

Xinhua News Agency said the seizure was the largest this year in Guangxi region, where police noticed the boat trying to land on the Chinese side of the Beilun River along the country's boundary with Vietnam.

Xinhua reported four people carried bags off the boat, but they jumped into the river and swam away after seeing the police.

The state news agency said police found that the bags and other sacks on the boat contained 270 crocodiles, which are on China's wildlife protection list.

Xinhua quoted the border police as saying the crocodiles eventually were destined for underground leather factories to be made into shoes and bags. Instead, the reptiles now will be sent to zoos.

Considering 25 illegally captured crocodiles were discovered by police during the first six months of 2007 in the Guangxi region, Sunday's tally is a statistic croc fans can really sink their teeth into. Drumroll, please.


posted July 23, 2007

Snake rattles boy. Never fear, Zoey the Chihuahua is here

If Vegas bookmakers took bets on a rattlesnake vs. a Chihuahua, the safe money would be on the serpent.

But the house would be in the hole on this one, because Zoey, a 5-pound pooch, fended off a rattler from her owners' 1-year-old grandson, the Associated Press reports out of Masonville, Colo.

As his grandfather tells it, Booker West was splashing his hands in a birdbath in his grandparents' backyard here when the snake slithered up to the toddler, rattled and lunged. But it was Zoey that took the bites after jumping into the strike zone.

"She got in between Booker and the snake, and that's when I heard her yipe,'' said Monty Long, the boy's granddad.

Zoey dog required treatment and for a time it appeared she might not survive the bites she suffered earlier this month, according to the AP. Now she prances about.

"These little, bitty dogs, they just don't really get credit,'' Booker's grandma Denise Long told the Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald.

Not anymore, granny, not anymore. Hear, hear, Backcasts is giving BIG kudos to your tiny bowwow.

All that's missing now, Zoey, is the little, bitty cape with an S on it.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site.

    He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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