Sunday, June 18, 2017

Genes Useless without an Environment

I know four of my readers are not on Facebook (Hey, Lenny, what's up!? I will get back over there.), and I imagine maybe more aren't either. Other night, I reported: "Senior Awards Ceremony at Bernards High School tonight. Trish and I are very happy Matt won the Distinguished Math Student Award, the Chemistry Department Award, the Das Family Science Scholarship, and a President's Award for Academic Excellence."

Loads of celebration over this, and I pass it along because without Matt, this blog could not exist. He was a very bright young mind at Mendham Country Day School when, aged four, he insisted on fishing Sunrise Lake three, four times a week after I picked him up. A true subversive like all true anglers, nevertheless, Matt takes star academic honors, and part of the reason, undeniably, is because he fishes. That's the deepest secret about us subversives: a wild mind is more intelligent than a domicile. Matter of choice more than genes. Genes useless without an environment.

So instead of resenting the absurd world we live in today, just go out, take sunshine, and let it into this world dying for some light. The way the 5th Dimension's vocalist hits the word moon I will never forget, but man, the madness of the 60's is only upon us now, because back then, they really knew it was just that!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What May Become of a Promise?

Matt at Lake Musconetcong 2009

I posted last after midnight following the 14th on Mountain Lake. Ever since, I've kept reviewing in my mind what I wrote about promises, and I know better than to think I can promise you a full answer in this post. All of my posts are off the cuff, written in haste. Not out of any disrespect for my readers or for blogging, but because I believe blogs--web logs--are appropriately this and not a writer's most developed work. The very thought of using a Google gadget to present my best work feels absurd. But I write as well as I possibly can within this medium, and the limit I place on my time with it, without obsessively going back to improve on posts. I mostly let them be as faithful accounts of responses to events and ideas.

That most recent post features a disturbingly abrupt sentence transition. From the immense promise of Lake Musconetcong fulfilled, to "That's broken." I wrote the post just this way honestly, in light of how all of those five years of fishing the lake, many times each year with my son, came upon me whole out on Mountain Lake, but instead of my entering their memory, I let them go. Just like putting down a book. Because I know--again from experience--what it is to enter an enormous state of memory, an involvement I've learned is usually best to forego. It is, if things that need to get done in the present will get finished.

So now I pose it to you. What's the better faith perhaps? To indulgently dive into every mental state that issues from the depths, even if they imply your loved ones, or to have the mastery to let them go, knowing you're not God, but if you believe in the value of what you've done, their fulfilled promise will persist in your life, regardless of turning to present events instead of indulging past memory. Every new event is born out of past events anyway.

A clue is offered by two very wise men of the deep past, Socrates and Plato. When Matt and I fished Lake Musconetcong, the experiences were fully about the earthly beauty he and I engaged together. Except for two things. The church bell chime we heard at 6:00 p.m. almost every time out. And an ice cream truck jingle with resonance up in the hills. Our minds lifted over the present, reminded that everything is eerily eternal. I like to believe that Matt, even as a young boy, had an inkling of this. We always talked about the church bells and the ice cream truck jingle. He expressed his own feelings about this music. When he was three, I explained to him how existence must be eternal, since something cannot come from nothing, and many times he reviewed this idea with me.

Socrates believed earthly beauty reminds us of Eternal Forms in a Realm Beyond. To me, the affairs with Forms in this Realm Beyond have always seemed like a cartoon magazine. I guess for some of us, that's heaven, but even as a boy, cartoons offered me very little interest compared to books about real things here on earth. Socrates and Plato did not get the metaphysical description quite right. Besides, Plato expressed attitudes about life here on earth that always appall me. Rather than bodily life as any "prison," I assure my readers--if there is a Beyond I will awake to upon my death, I will gladly visit. But what I really want is to return here on earth, reborn. I don't mind spending another life as someone else, because a human being is a human being. Besides, if this will possibly be the case at all, something of me will remain.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nice Bass at Mountain Lake

I promised Mike we would catch some nice bass. I can make a promise like that because of experience. I've never come to Mountain Lake before. I've seen it from atop Jenny Jump Mountain in Warren County, where it sits below, a natural lake of 122 acres spring and stream fed, one of many other North Jersey Lakes I've fished and have not fished--all of which I have faith in.

That faith is something I don't seem to ultimately understand, something deeper than character and personality and underlying things themselves as if belonging to the will of events. These lakes just serve as my altars. But character and personality have a lot to do with receiving it--and going out to get it. Before the real action finally happened, Mike could have thought I was one cocky chump, because making a promise like that--for what the past seven hours had amounted to--was going to prove nothing but wrong. And I told Mike, he had quit fishing an hour ago and felt ready to go home, "You have resolve." I meant this absolutely. He was done. "I'm an impulsive idiot," I said without a trace of self-inflicted irony. My faith in the bass had never faded. (And what's that poking into my mind now? What my wife used to say of me. "God protects idiots and fools.")

I too said the lake must be bad...for some odd reason. Look at these weedlines, look at these overhangs, that fallen treetrunk submerged. Where are the bass? And Mike could tell you, every disparagement I uttered was answered in counterpoint by fishing anecdotes, some I probably spent 20 minutes telling. I told him about Lake Musconetcong because I did not really believe Mountain Lake is bad...the evidence kept telling us it is bad, and perhaps, if we were sophisticated moderns as we presumably should be and behaved with "proper" scientific and abysmally false attitude, we would accept the evidence, pass judgment, and lose faith. No. There's always more to discover. If I were a real scientist, why would I conclude upon any evidence, instead of looking for a new twist? At Lake Musconetcong, I told Mike, we caught one bass during all of the sunny hot afternoons we fished there, and that one nine inches. Presently we sat casting under sun and heat. But my son and I caught as many as 20 at that Morris and Sussex County impoundment during the hour-and-a-half around sunset.

Mike and I began in the relatively shallow southern corner, where I felt certain this was going to be tough fishing. Water clarity seemed a lot worse than really was. Soon I gave some relief to an earlier utterance about my preference for clear water, when I saw two-foot visibility, some aquatic vegetation under the squareback canoe. Heading east along the shoreline, we judged visibility at about three-and-a-half feet. Not bad, really. I had felt the initial let-down as no affront to my promise, but it didn't feel good, so working eastward, to see a little bass in thick weeds swipe at a damselfly got me going. I switched to a five-inch slow-sinking traditional worm sort of harnessed to a worm hook, abandoning a Senko, cast to another bass doing the same, and caught a seven-incher.

Even if my promise had failed, as the photo shows the first of bass fulfilling it, promises are made to be broken, and before we got into the serious action, I brooded on the likes of this as the sun had fallen behind the western ridge, thinking of years on Lake Musconetcong with my young son now soon to leave for Boston University, saying farewell to the immense promise Lake Musconetcong fulfilled for us, much less by size and weight than the bond of love between father and son that must in some way be eternal. That's gone. The promise is broken. And instead of feeling any crush of defeat, I simply accepted the truth. Life takes new turns. But there's more to the past than anyone alive can know. A man or woman--not a child--can know there is more through depths of nostalgia he or she finds bottomless. No matter how far the spirit may travel backward in time, there is no endpoint to the quality of resolution. Anyone who makes this journey either turns back to the present--or goes helplessly mad.

Fishing more quality weedlines, my only concern was the sharp drop-off. I catch plenty of big summer bass on sharp drops. At one point, I sighted a musky of about 32 inches come to the surface just yards in front of me. I cast a big Rat-L-Trap repeatedly, just in case, but out of vanity. At Tilcon Lake, for one example of drops, just about all you find is these. When I examined the Lake Survey Map Guide depiction of Mountain Lake, I judged the southern corner best--shallow (I was looking at eight to 12 feet) weeds. More and less flat. I changed my mind after coming upon the northern corner--similar, but the quality felt more appealing with pocket water.

At first, I was disgusted. Some guy in a bassboat--friendly--had just chopped a lot of weeds up with a high-power bow mount. He was skunked. We reported a few. We had come upon two quick bass--almost nine inches and almost 12 inches--where a stream enters. Very shallow.  Two feet at most. Some rocks. Gravel. I noticed water temperature fell from 82 to 80. Right where the stream enters, who knows how cool. But I cast there.

"Topwaters," I thought about this northern cove. But I continued directly to the western shore.

The western shore felt vaguely like a goal reached. Here darkness. Sun behind ridge; when I shot a photo of excellent overhang for my files, I thought shutter speed--pretty slow--might blur resolution. Actually, did not. But now I was myself in deep. Slowed way down. Once this darkness came over us, time itself slowed, as if without so much racing light, it didn't have to go anywhere. Mike's Rapala was racked on his hook keeper, rod set aside. But I fished with absorbed focus. I heard strange rumblings from across the lake and beyond in the woods. Finally I understood the clamor was rock music.

It felt like I fished in that shadow three hours. The ramp perhaps three hundred yards distant, I reached for my box of topwater plugs. At first, I reached for the 3/8th ounce Rebel Pop-R on which I caught my bass of nearly five pounds at Mount Hope Pond, 2011. Twinge of guilt. On one of my son's rods--Matt with me an hour before sunrise in the dark--instead of handing him that rod and telling him where to cast--I cast. That first cast: "Bloop, bloop, bloop--BAM!"

I passed on that plug with the ambiguous memory embedded on it, even though I felt--big plug, big bass. I looked left and saw the quarter-ounce Rebel Pop-R I was pretty sure is the one Matt gave me as part of a birthday or Christmas gift. These weedlines were associated with even steeper drop. I didn't fish them long. Against what I knew was Mike's wish, I clocked the electric onto its highest speed, and we headed back to the northern cove. That's what it is--structurally--more than corner, really. I felt possibility.

Soon, I saw nervous water. "That's a nice fish," I said. "Um, huh," Mike said. He's directly on point. Yeah, that's what it is.

How big, I couldn't tell for sure, but I thought three pounds. It was just a fleeting ripple, but I could tell something nice. Depth was marking eight feet, and I had to get the canoe in closer to the pockets and weedy mess a weedless frog would better suit, where I guess five or six feet of water fell below. When fishing otherwise, I cast weightless plastic worms--by habit alone--with much better accuracy than plugs. Third cast, the bass took that Rebel hard. "Mike, it's a big one, get the net." I didn't measure her. At least 18 inches, maybe almost 19. The Rebel was almost in the gullet. I had to use a hemostat to get it out, and cleanly.

Again, nervous water. This bass weighed two-and-half pounds, I'm sure. About 16 1/2 inches and fat. Further eastward, I caught a 15-incher, and then as we progressed further, carefully working those weeds--as Mike observed my function I suppose in close detail and I know with resolve--I said, "I think that was the 10-minute window." We fished another 10 minutes and then I said, "Let's go home." The day's promise--and it was that--fulfilled in 10 minutes' time after hours that seemed to almost fill years. I compared what had just had happened to fishing redfish on South Carolina inshore flats near Charleston. Sight fishing my son and I enjoyed. Sighting nervous water and casting to it. Today's fishing was more like Lake Musconetcong's--all topwater fishing--than Tilcon Lake's.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Little Variation between Plugs can Make All the Difference

Not long after David Jeon's amazing catch of a 22 1/2-inch smallmouth, I felt I better pack up and head to the river. First I planned on a solo trip last Thursday or Friday. Or I might have quickly amended plans and invited Mike, don't clearly remember at present though he's been in and out of this picture, and soon my son and I had plans for Saturday morning. Something came up in his life. So Sunday morning we'd go. He went to a party Saturday night, revised plan still in place--we would also canoe a stretch--but my gut told me, "He's not coming home." Sure enough, I woke up at 8:00 Sunday morning instead of 4:00, my wife telling me, "If your alarm had gone off, I was going to shut it off for you before you would have got up." 

This morning I got up at 8:10, snatching 20 minutes after the alarm first sounded, because weirdly I woke up first around 4:00. "That counts for a power nap," I told myself, preparing to load up and go, and it did. But when I got to the river, I took one cast with the little topwater plug I had tied on Saturday night for very early Sunday morning, and saw myself acting like a complete fool, because sun was already high and it felt near 90 degrees. Tied on an X-Rap and began an arduous quest upriver, having first fished thoroughly the set of connected pools near where I parked. I thought of trout, but this was no trout environment in the heat and that warming water.

I stubbornly kept to that X-Rap, knowing that in my book, it's a lure for cool water. I've witnessed Noel Sell catch smallmouths in the river in July on little jerkbaits, but in my fanciful way, I chalk his success up to the far corners of the world he finds these specially crafted lures at very high prices, knowing that there's surely more truth to the success of these subtly different plugs than fancy anyway. I've seen a little variation make all the difference in catches one too many times.

It really felt like I was out for hours. I had to see a Chinese tailor to refit my dress pants, an appointment I could not miss since we're down to the wire on my son's high school graduation. Had left my flip phone in my car. Don't bother with a "mobile device." Haven't worn a watch in many years. I barreled on to my favorite spot and realized I was only fooling myself about the pre and post-summer X-Rap. I had seen a buck smallmouth guarding a bed, but regardless, I declared that the situation called for my summer favorite. I tied on a Senko-style worm, and third cast, caught that nice 13-incher photographed. I tried to tease another with three more casts, then marched back, casting only once as I kept on trudging, telling myself if it's 11:00 when I get seated, I'm OK. Not sure I was OK.

It was 10:36.

Before I met with the tailor, I stood on the bathroom scale. For the first time since 1993, I'm under 200 pounds. The tailor laughed it off. So did I. Have lost too much weight. He can't refit the pants.

If you look sharp, you can see the engineer's cabin of a freight train. I've wanted to get a shot of a train coming onto this bridge for the past eight years, but need to situate further downstream to get a clean shot.

My steady companion.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fish Sense and More Report yet

Recently divulging some reports, I didn't mention Mike Maxwell's five-and-a-half pound largemouth, because we want to keep the pond secret, so it didn't occur to me to mention the catch. Nor the 20 bass my son caught at the same pond he fished with a friend for the first time, bass as large as two pounds. The friend's first time fishing, he caught four as large as two-and-a-half pounds. Matt got so excited he phoned me at work. A bass he swore was at least six pounds rolled over his spinnerbait.

"The biggest I've ever seen!"

Tucked away in Jersey.

And I never forget Art Scheck's book A Fishing Life is Hard Work. Scheck, who became editor of Fly Fisherman magazine, spent much of his life in Jersey. Some of his life in Vermont, where he claims to have faced an encounter with a largemouth of perhaps 16 pounds. He did some walking and poking around. Out of the way. And that he found.

And here in our beloved state of outrageous taxes. He fished with his wife, who caught a pickerel larger than the current world record set in Georgia. Together, they decided to set the fish free, rather than claim its bounty.

A high school friend, many years ago, naively spoke of a 36-inch pickerel caught when and where he lived in the Pinelands. That could have beaten the Georgia record, too, perhaps. I'm not saying it really happened. I don't even really know if Scheck is pulling my leg as a reader, but he certainly knows none of his readers can tell.

Even I don't have time to poke around as is possible. And I make time. If you can't do what's possible, you can't possibly find what is possible to do.

Poke around as is necessary to really sink into things worth discovery. Art Scheck named the chapter about that bass "A Beatific Vision." To some ears, this simply means it's bullshit. To others, it means Scheck alludes (by way of Dante Alighieri, poet of heaven....but also hell; hell would satisfy the first type of reader) to the fact that he discovered much more than a bass. I would say that maybe more than 99.9% of really good anglers are not on the really rare fish. Maybe fish sense requires, among many trials and tribulations of varying kind, a deep grasp of literature, because great books are not for dust, but fruits of wilderness. They survive civilizations, all of which rust. We're cramped with things "on the program." On the beaten path.

I am really impressed with what I've seen bass fisherman Steve Vullo do. Multiple lunkers--one outing--from Spruce Run Reservoir in cold weather, Spruce Run an acreage so pounded with lures that if there were more snags out there yet, you could make a fortune as a scuba diver there. I know something of how he does it, as fish sense, but I don't know where in that reservoir, and, out of respect, would never ask him.

I'm impressed with Ken Beam, too. That man catches big bass, pickerel, pike, hybrids, walleyes, time and time again. I see lots of big ones on NJ, but again, there are very, very few really special fish in this state. And they are special because rarely get discovered. I'm sure that in fact, some never do get discovered. The bones cover by muck, and maybe some paleontologist a million years from now would find the fossil remains. Does a state record bass exist? (Largemouth and smallmouth.) Who would say it isn't likely?

For years, I've been impressed by Dante. Dante Dimarco, this is. Lake Hopatcong musky fisherman. No one else has caught more big muskies--to my knowledge--in this state.

By Mike's raging headache, we canceled on Spruce Run Reservoir. Later, we fished the neighborhood pond. Matt's caught a number of bass here recently as large as close to three pounds, but just one or two on occasion. Mike caught a nice one recently. You all know I could come up with a more colorful name. And I could print the pond's name as something a doctor might name in general, but I call it something quaintly American out of respect and pity. Compassion and affection. Love. And forbiddance. Anyone who would try to fish this pond, would discover for his or herself. It's never recovered from the fish kill I reported on after the severe winter, but of course, I said it would recover--why not, its natural state invites reproduction--and we see evidence now that it is recovering.

Mike practiced with his casting rod. A weighted worm. I fished an X-Rap. It's June. Really? So let's say, early May. Or early October, since maybe these bass are spawned out--but water now and for days running is too cold for spawning. Climate change a misnomer? there is no climate? Just a joke, but things are really screwed up, compared to when I was kid and felt spiritual comfort in regular climatic developments.

So I used the X-Rap, not a worm. That name, X-Rap, is ambiguous to my ear. The X is a place I know in Manahawkin Bay, symbolizing the mind's deepest faculty, but there lies the most dreadful knowledge, with respect to other human beings who cannot know as much. Or save themselves.

Caught a bunch of bass. Not one over 11 inches, but this goes to show they've reproduced, most of the bass six or seven inches long. Now the questions: 1. Will the population really re-establish? Looks like it. It's to expect. 2. And this is interesting. When it does, will they average two pounds, as they did before the Crash? For years, they averaged 10, 11 inches. A thriving number of them. I don't know why they got big, and they got big by large number of them. Maybe there's a cycle. Just like the cycle of civilizations rising--and falling--because they are too shallow. Because individual human beings who presume to lead make mistakes that leave civilizations sunken like primordial swamplands, ruined. They get a new name, when they rise again.

Severe winter caused the fish kill. Severe summer could cause another sort. Not in a pond with enough depth.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Some Reports

Might as well hit the keys while heat's in the head. I've got great news of catches recently, beginning with Laurie Murphy's Lake Hopatcong report. Lots of hybrids on live herring 20 feet down, and just as she broke the news, reports had begun to come of surface catches at night. This evening, I opened an email from Jim Stabile containing a recent blog post from Ken Beam. Love Ken's blog! The guy really writes straight out of outdoor passion. They fished the lake all night and caught hybrids as large as six or seven pounds, walleyes that look just as big. And then, I opened an email message from Fred Matero. And a photo--27 inches! The pickerel he caught on a Senko. Brian Cronk and I have been on Messenger for at least a couple of weeks, trying to work out a trip to Lake Wawayanda....for BIG pickerel. All these years since my teens, I wrote Fred, I've edged the proximity of guys who have caught a lot of pickerel over 26 inches. Brian caught one just shy of 30. I never have caught one over 24 1/4, but a lot up to this mark.

Well, Brian and I haven't worked schedules and time off. But no one can say we don't try.

I spoke to my wife about the night fishing on the lake. Wrote Jim that I've followed this action for several years or more, and that last year I decided I might put my squareback on the lake. I bought the Black Diamond headlamp. Have the surface plugs....err, I really should pick up a few Zara Spooks. Not wise to go out without those. And this fishing is meant for baitcasting gear, so Mike Maxwell is better prepared than I am in this respect. A seven-foot spinning rod will do. Might.

Trish said, "Go any night." Had told her I just need to get back here by 2:30 a.m. Who knows. My life is a balancing act. You can tell by the way I usually write.

And a canoe. On Hopatcong. Mine's a big bear. But I'm reluctant to cross over with it and an electric. I don't know if any hybrids and walleyes are in the coves we can reasonably access, but probably. Or sometimes.

Here's some news that gets me dizzy. David Jeon commented on a post of mine, curious about what spots I might divulge within the limits of my circumspection. We emailed. He related news of fishing the Delaware around the Lambertville Whitewater, doing well for walleyes, smallmouths, stripers. This real good to hear, because growing up, I loved this range of the river. So I suggested the South Branch around Neshanic for smallmouths. (About a week ago, we wrote.) The other night, he writes again. With a photo attached. He went for trout.

On a spinner attached to four-pound test, at Neshanic he caught a 22 1/2-inch smallmouth bass! 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A World Next Door

Peapack-Gladstone are the connected town centers immediately west of Bedminster-Far Hills, yet like so many places, a world away despite seeming close proximity by road. More goes on here in regards to outdoor restaurant space, and instead of a Jeep dealership, there's a very upscale sports car outfit. But like Bedminster, a river runs through Peapack-Gladstone, although smaller than the North Branch Raritan and flowing into the larger of these two streams, technically not a river at all, but a brook. Peapack Brook. Flowing a little stronger than many who pass over and by the water may notice at all. 

And chilly. We wore no waders and felt the brisk entry. My son parked his Volvo in a municipal lot just above the stream; I got out with my camera to have a look around. Trout rising repeatedly below, I immediately doubted the nymph tied on Matt's tippet, garden worm imitation on mine. Once we got down to the streambed, I noticed a very few mayflies in the air, but felt sure those trout rose for some smaller insect. Sadie the black Labrador marched ahead and right into the deeper water with the fish, but I knew those slippery shadows would position in minutes...though not necessarily hitting. I felt success all but completely unlikely. 

I let Matt soak that nymph over and over while I took my pleasure shooting many photos. And then I went under the low bridge, casting in the dark, tempting nothing in deep shadow, emerging out on the other side and trying a run below. When I turned back after a while, Sadie stood looking directly my way at attention, and Matt was just emerging from darkness. Heavy evening shadow had sunken into the scene, giving the sight a sort of awesome moody feel. Without pause, I stepped forward towards my family.

I said, "Let's go to the dam. We might catch one or two before it gets too dark."

Besides a spot just off U.S. Highway 206, so far the dam is the only Peapack Brook spot I know. As of this April. Where we fished today is the first either of us have seen this part of town, let alone Peapack Brook. Matt had never seen the dam, and as we clambered out of the stream valley here in Gladstone to the roadway above and got walking to the car, lightning illumined clouds beyond.

Driving the mile or so back to Peapack, I felt the lightning storm might beat us, but we got to the spot, dusk deep. As we walked towards the bridge, I said, "The moon is out!" Gesturing by lifting my right arm as I spoke, at that moment a Jersey Transit train blared nearby, and I thought the space between the train and the entry to the brook might be too tight to pass. We found no train coming, just lots of them stationed a hundred yards or so westward on divergent tracks.

Matt insisted I cast first. I lay in several loops and then told him I didn't feel right. There's existed this tension between us--mostly on my side of the relationship--about fishing privileges since he was a little boy. I try not to get selfish just because I approach a spot dead-on. I try to let him go first. Would he please go dabble the worm fly off the dam? That's really all he had to do, if any trout would hit. His rod got tangled, so we used my two weight. I had no doubt trout were present, but I called over to him above the sound of falling water, "This fishing is tougher than catching steelhead on the Salmon River!"

That's because we don't know what the hell we're doing with fly rods.

He got a hit. He must have presented that fake worm three dozen times, but one of those casts resulted in his setting the hook and having to extricate the fly from a tree branch. Lightning no longer flashed. Darkness had thickened further. Just as we decided to leave, a Jersey Transit horn alerted that road crossing nobody but people on foot seem to use, and bound for Summit--I suppose--the gray-silver passenger load rumbled quickly above and by us.