Monday, October 15, 2018

Relaxed Beside an Island, Ordinary Life Seems Absurd

Every fall, I manage to get out on Lake Hopatcong and fish the drop-offs, but even worse than last fall, the warmth had kept the lake from turning over and the trees from changing color. For longer than a week, I was aware of cooler weather forecast, and I hoped it would make a significant difference, because with temperatures in the 70's and 80's, I knew fish would be suspended over drop-offs at best. Mark Licht and I met at Dow's Boat Rentals just after 6:00 a.m., and instead of temperatures in the mid-30's as forecast, they hovered around 40, but of course that's a lot better than the 71-degree reading I noticed at first light on Wednesday.

Brian Cronk was supposed to come, but he phoned me Saturday night, telling me a friend of his had shot a bear and he had to help in the morning. Brian and I have tried to get out and fish together since early June. We're jinxed. Instead, I would meet his UPS driver. I found Mark to be great company. Brian and I have planned on fishing Lake Wawayanda for what seems an eternity now, me interested in going Old School and fishing live shiners for big pickerel common there, Brian wanting Atlantic salmon usually referred to as landlocked salmon here. It so happened that when Mark and I got off the lake, a man and his wife of foreign description were busy cleaning a good-size pickerel, so I went across the dock and joined them for a moment, admiring a limit catch of pickerel that seemed to range from 18 to maybe 22 inches. I know of one angler who claims he prefers eating pickerel to walleye, a radical dissent from the usual derision about these pike family members, just because of Y bones in their backs. In any case, and I've tried pickerel and they're good, this moment before Mark and departed to go home seemed portentous to the fishing Brian and I will do yet, and it's good to be reminded that deep drop-offs in October are not the only possibility on Lake Hopatcong.

"The motor is quiet!" Mark spoke above the hum as we motored away from Dow's. He has a large center-console, but wanted to try from one of Laurie Murphy's boats. He told me fishing for him is about the big picture, not just the narrow limitation, as he described it, of keeping eyesight glued to the linear form casts create. He takes the environment in, and I said it's the same for me. Readers of this blog know I take great liberties, perhaps less so at description of environments I fish, than of rendering accounts of complex ideational moods these places inspire in me. I haven't written any posts recently true to what I've called grand affirmation, not since the Tilcon Lake posts, keeping instead to more conventional accounts of the fishing, but perhaps by the time I finish writing this one, I will have written material that Lenny Matera and Fred Matero--two best friends with nearly identical last names--say they can't understand.

Mark and I began fishing a mid-lake drop, finding suspended fish stacked over 38 feet of water, but instead of fishing them right off the bat, I put a marker buoy in the water, and then with the words of Jimmy Welsh at the shop in mind, "I've been catching them 20 feet deep," we anchored in 14 feet of water to the side of that buoy set near the drop-off's deep end. Jimmy had also said, "Striper fishing sucks," mentioning smallmouth bass this deep instead. Well, maybe a walleye would take a live herring.

We set our baits 14 to 25 feet deep, and soon Mark hooked the first walleye he's ever caught. Sun had barely reached the horizon. Later Jimmy would weigh this fish at four pounds, seven ounces. Five minutes later I caught a two-and-three-quarter-pound walleye. And then besides my catching a one-pound (or so) walleye an hour later, nothing else hit and so we went after those fish near the buoy.

There must have been hundreds of stripers under the boat and around the boat. We tried to catch them for a solid two or three hours. The lake almost dead calm, we had no trouble putting herring and also chicken livers on their noses. We jigged. I rode a Binsky bladebait through the school repeatedly. Not one hit. Later, I would discuss this with Laurie, and she said it happens all the time, "And then, like last week, someone will catch 40 or 50 of them." Seems like you can always depend on largemouth bass. Just put a proper lure in a bass's lair, and you'll catch some, as Mark and I did on this trip, but these hybrid stripers seem downright weird regarding feeding habits.

We had to give up, or else we wouldn't use our dozen nightcrawlers. And this is when the trip got to feeling especially good, or at least it did for me. With the electric, I pushed the boat at a pretty good clip up to an island where my son and I have fished for more than a decade. We used ultralights to catch all sorts of panfish and bass. Mark also used a heavier rod and Senko to catch a bass and lose a pickerel at the boat. I set three lines out deep for walleye, and eventually, Mark caught a walleye a little bigger than the larger of my two.

But best of all, whatever you want to call it--psychological resistance, habitual responses, suppression, all the big words for a simple problem--the tension, which doing a hard job day after day builds as a defense to doing anything amiss, gave way. I had first uttered some words to Mark I forget now, but a moment's reflection on them was pleasing to me for their spontaneity and grace. So much is written against language, among spiritual circles of the Eastern variety, as if talk is a hindrance to Zen and what not, but nothing could be further from the truth on this outing. Once I had spoken a few times, words devoid of mannerism and more intelligent than anything typical, the bottom dropped out under my tendency to suppress natural flow to get the job done, and I was free. For at least an hour before we left as 1:00 pm approached, I lived purely in the moment, completely accepting the mess we made of the boat and the sort of helter-skelter character of dipping many lines. And upon reflecting on it for a moment, ordinary life seemed so absurd and a waste of energy and life, as if the whole problem with society is that we don't let go.

Most of the fish we marked were at 17 feet, but sometimes the graph was almost full of fish icons across the screen. Some fish did mark as deep as 31 feet, so the lake is turning over, but not any deeper than that as of yesterday.
All these years fishing herring, this had never happened, but it happened a second time after I shot this photo.

Mid-October normally features peak fall colors. So far, there's barely any change from summertime.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ignorant of the Natural World

Told my wife I would get up minutes before first light, fish two hours, clean the fish, and get a little sleep before spending my day off from work at various tasks. Then we would go out and see a movie after she got home from work, as we will, but so far, the day hasn't gone as planned. Got up before first light, but contrary to expectation, I wasn't the first there at my local river. Three cars had parked. I soon positioned riverside with Sadie the black Lab, who is mellow in old age, but stupidly I had rigged my 3 1/2-foot microlight rod with two leaders. Naturally, they had tangled. On the spur of the moment back home, I decided I "wouldn't need" my headlamp. Sheer stupidity, that. Presently, as I cut line with my teeth, I remembered that I hadn't made the coffee, so most likely, the coffee pot was boiling out stovetop, and I made a mental note to phone my wife. An arduous process of tying a new leader in the semi-dark felt frustrating, but of course, I had to get this right. Amazing how you can focus with all your feeble intent on a simple action--as mosquitos tear at your skin--and finally look up to see that night had become day during the interval between discovering the problem and solving it.

Those mosquitos didn't seem very out of place, because it was so warm I could have just worn a T-shirt. Sickly temperatures for this time of year. Leaves show some signs of color, at least. I didn't bother snapping a photo, but those leaves are nowhere near the depth and range of color they should be by now. This coming Sunday I have off--most likely--and Brian Cronk and I have been messaging about fishing the Hopatcong drops. It's supposed to turn sharply cooler, so water temperature isn't likely to be above 70, a temperature that is just insane for mid-October, but will it really get down into the low 60's so there's appreciable lake turnover by Sunday? My fish sense tells me I will relate more bad news on this blog that evening, so I'm kind of hoping we schedule for the 28th...if I get that Sunday off.

I guess New Jersey is the new South Carolina. Recent years have been all too warm, and it gets worse. Ninety-degree days in November? Is this really impossible in our future? Here come the tupelo trees and palm fronds. And how many more Category 4 hurricanes will bear down on our coasts in the next 10 years. People care about the economy, right? So why destroy it, time and again, by emitting undo megatons of carbon?

Here it is fall, and I was wondering if the trout wouldn't hit--no one there caught anything while I was present--because it's too warm. I've fished these fall stockers very little over the years, and mostly by fly fishing. I decided to try the salmon egg method on them, the first time I've done this besides back when the trout stocked in the fall were small, and I caught lots of those on three occasions. I was disappointed this morning, but I heard bird song of various species; I saw a bunch of nice trout, and in general I got outdoors and enjoyed the dawn of new day, in spite of the sort of sick feel of inappropriate warmth. Having fished for about 20 minutes, I sped back home to get that coffee pot off the stove, fearing it had...overheated.

No, I was wise. I had taken it off the burner before I left.

As I drove, I thought again of the oddity of people who pursue stocked trout, as I sometimes think about the peculiar social situation, me among it in my own microlight way, and yet when I recall one of my favorite waters from my teenage years, Stony Brook in Mercer County, I always think first of the smallmouth bass, not the trout. (Stocked trout only.) For the most part, I had those bronzebacks--many, many dozens of them--all to myself. I fished with my brother Rick a lot, my brother David some, my friend Steve Rosso, but I best remember outings alone after school and on weekends or over the summer. I used to walk and wade at length and catch bass after bass on three-inch Mister Twister grubs on plain shank size 2 hooks. Strong, lean wild fish. No crowds flocking for them at all. Of course not.

And we know why. The media mentality and the ignorance of people all too beholden to the media, in regards to the actual world they live in, is here to stay. At least for a while yet. By and large, no fishermen knew about the smallmouth bass in Stony Brook. If most freshwater fishermen in New Jersey pursue stocked trout, I can say almost for a certainty that some of them possess but little inkling that fish other than what the state puts in exist, besides some sunfish. You might second guess that and correct me: no, that's the population at large who don't fish. But I've talked to people who know a bass here and there gets caught, but who otherwise have no idea whatsoever of the healthy resident populations existing here in this state. I have been fooled, too, though in a different way, because I was thinking of a mud-bottomed river ecology with regard to the possibility of smallmouth bass in a certain Morris County stream. (I won't get into certain follies from my young years.) Oliver Round put a wager on me regarding this judgement of mine, and later gathered information to contradict my opinion. I also didn't know that stream hosted wild browns upstream, until Oliver showed me the steady fly fishing. There's a whole lot more involved in knowing the real world than what the internet and TV can provide. Newspapers and other media faithfully report on trout stocking, and crowds of people obediently respond, as if this media effect is what fishing is all about.

That's just how any society is. By and large ignorant of the natural world. And we all would well agree--just as well that crowds don't go after the wild fish. They never will.

Besides, if you think posting information like this is detrimental to fish populations, think again. Who has read this far into this post, but few of you. And if you're intelligent enough to have come this far, you're wise to the conservation of these fish anyhow.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Nice Largemouth South Branch Raritan

Killies left over from the time of my "Rough" post, the Island Beach State Park outing my wife and I took on September 16th, have survived very well even without use of my aerator, although three of the largest did die when I was keeping the bucket indoors about two weeks ago. Cooler weather and keeping that bucket on the porch was perfect.

So very late this afternoon I finally went to the South Branch Raritan, to my favorite stretch alone except for our black Lab Sadie, and found the river running very high but not very off-color, visibility a little better than two feet.

I had to check the depths where I often catch bass, the killie rigged with a medium split shot, though I was all but certain nothing was going to hit there, because the current was strong. Two drifts, the split shot clipping bottom, were enough. I aimed a cast downstream to the edge between current and slow water, an edge not very well defined, but the cast veered left to put the killie into the slow water. I let it sink a moment and then began a slow retrieve, feeling a firm pick-up within a couple of seconds, letting the fish take for another two seconds, and then setting the size 6 plain shank hook into a nice fish.

Not only did I forget my new Rapala digital scale; I forgot to set drag to accommodate six-pound test instead of 15-pound braid, just as I forgot last October when Mike Maxwell witnessed a big smallmouth snap my line of the same test. This time the fish didn't threaten a heavy run so fast, and I was on that drag, loosening it.

This fish wasn't nearly as big as the one I lost last year, but it was a nice largemouth, the largest of this species I've caught in any of these small New Jersey rivers, 16 inches, and though there are bigger largemouths in the rivers, you don't very often even come upon small ones. Before I left after sundown, I had caught additionally three regular-size smallmouths of nine to about 10 1/2 inches, all these fish hitting along edges between that heavy current and where it slows against shallow water.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Deep Drop-Offs: October Top to Bottom

Deep Drop-Offs: October Top to Bottom

Lakes and reservoirs with enhanced fisheries offer anglers the possibility of catching multiple species from a single anchored position, thanks to New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and organizations like the Knee Deep Club and Round Valley Trout Association. In October, many steep drop-off’s hold largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch and pickerel among rocks and weeds as shallow as a foot or two, perhaps crappie in mid-column depths, and walleyes, hybrid striped bass, and in some reservoirs, trout, 20 to 45 feet down. Classic grand slam catches of various species take laurels among many angling circles, but it’s possible to do three or four better, if you include channel catfish as factor 8. Sunfish don’t amount to nothing, either, and a variety of colorful species inhabit our waters. If you succeed in lifting a painter’s panoply of all sorts of gamefish over the gunnel, an outing can feel like a dream, fulfilling the sort of action making fishing feel easy for a while. Hitting it just right, especially after mid-October, isn’t all that difficult to do, once you’re clued into the right spots.

Anchor Mid-Point

As a general rule, setting anchor in 15 to 20 feet of water allows you to fish herring weighted by ¾-ounce slip sinkers on bottom with two rods per man, while fishing shallows with the likes of Senkos, spinners, jigs, or nightcrawlers. Perch and sunfish provide plenty of action if you use what my son used to call his “secret weapon.” Under Matt’s influence, I deeply succumbed to using nightcrawlers, contrary to my typical preference for artificials. They teach me a lot about nature’s rewards. When offering a nightcrawler, if a bass awaits nearby, sunnies or perch scatter and let the aggressive predator have the bait. I’ve caught October largemouths on several or more consecutive casts without a tap from panfish. You can also jig 10 to 15-foot depths and score crappies in some situations.

When Round Valley Reservoir fills again, rip-rap will produce. Weight rigs for trout 15 to 30 feet down, and catch smallmouths and largemouths situating among shallow rocks. Merrill Creek Reservoir may offer similar opportunities. Spruce Run Reservoir (northern pike possible) has rocky drops with hybrids possibly on the deep end. Greenwood Lake and Monksville Reservoir have sharp drops, walleyes and bass. Is a musky an impossible factor 9? Of course not.

Finding the spot is everything. If you don’t own a boat, Dow’s Boat Rentals at Lake Hopatcong will accommodate you. If you’re not familiar with the structure of the lake or reservoir you intend to fish, go to NJ Division Fish & Wildlife Lake Survey Maps online, buy the same in book form or purchase a Fishing Guide Map of the lake or reservoir in question. You’ll see deep drop-offs holding fish designated by close contour lines. A fish finder will possibly help you pin-point schools of hybrids or walleye pods, although especially walleyes may hug so close to bottom that they don’t mark on the graph. Chiefly, use the sounder to orient where to anchor and set bait deep.

Deep Drop-Offs and Oxygen

An all-around figure for walleyes and hybrids is about 35 feet deep, but experimentation yields results. By using multiple rods, you can set bait up and down a drop-off from 20 feet to the bottom edge. In my experience, the bottom edge is key, and I like to spread herring apart by 15 yards or so, casting so the sinker drops where I know the slope ends. Don’t worry about getting this exactly right. Experience will teach you, because walleyes and hybrids will take your generous offers, even if they have to swim a few yards from that edge we only suppose they like to follow closely.

By October’s third week, Lake Hopatcong usually isn’t entirely turned over with oxygen re-established in the deepest depths of greater than 40 feet or so. By noticing how deep fish mark on the graph, you get an idea of how far that oxygen has penetrated. Far from cove and shoreline protection, out on the main lake, Nolan’s Point and the Ledge, for examples, take greater wind action and may feature oxygen deeper than other spots. When you first set herring, let them be for 5 or 10 minutes, and then reel back at moderate speed so as not to force them off hooks. See if they’re alive. If so, you’re good to let them bait your quarry a long while. If the spot is new to you, try to determine if bottom is rocky by graph indication or by feeling rocks while retrieving the sinker on bottom. That’s hazardous and you may get snagged, but this will tell you the spot is fishy. Rock is better than mud. And any sort of snag usually means additional cover.

Worthy of mention, a hybrid striped bass revolution has occurred in recent years, many anglers switching from live herring to chicken livers. In my opinion, this is about as close to the definition of revolution fishing can come, since the difference between a super-lively (but delicate) herring, and a piece of dead bait from the innards of a bird is divergent, but the new method, involving chumming with liver cat food, is very productive. For our purposes of anchoring in one spot to access both shallows and depths, chicken livers are problematic, not best right on bottom. You would have to use slip floats, and that is doable, though less so with heavy chop. Part of the beauty, however, of letting a herring do its thing on a 4 or 5-foot leader anchored deep by a slip sinker is simpler focus on fishing. Frequently looking at reel spools with bails open to spot any movement is easier than the demand on attention a bobber inevitably compels. Line either rapidly leaping from the spool (hybrid striper), or slowly unwinding towards the pick-up guide (walleye), may feel more thrilling than noticing the same associated with the drag of a slip float out there.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Pickerel

As mentioned earlier, October largemouth and smallmouth bass often inhabit very shallow depths of as little as 1 or 2 feet. Fifteen feet is about maximum, pickerel sometimes in the mix. Rocky shallows top side of the best drop-offs are great for both bass species this time of year, especially with some weeds associated. Water is cooling quickly and bass like a sharp incline into depths as they begin orientation for the cold water season.

Especially if you can find a large, undercut, flat-topped boulder—cast a jig, weightless Wacky rigged Senko, or a nightcrawler inflated by a worm blower and impaled on a size 6 plain shank hook, weighted by a split shot. Right on top, slowly pulled over the edge so it drops as close to the rock as possible. If any bass is waiting in shadow to ambush something highlighted outside, it will likely pounce. Some lakes have huge boulders with 10 feet of water or more directly in front of them. We’ve caught bass after bass in situations like this.

Walleye, Hybrid and Trout Rigs

Walleye and hybrid rigs are simple: 6-pound test monofilament, size 8 treble hook through a herring’s nostrils, 4- or 5-foot leader of same test tied to a small barrel swivel, ¾-ounce steel egg sinker allowed to slip on the mainline. Whether a rod is fast action, slow action, moderate, 5 feet or 7 feet, this matters little, though you will get a longer cast with a longer rod and better accuracy from shorter. We use medium power. Set the herring; let it swim wildly on the leader. Tangles happen less often than not, but if you want to spend the money, fluorocarbon mainline sinks and gets out of the way of that herring. Braid line does tangle much easier than monofilament or fluorocarbon. I don't recommend use of braid for this kind of fishing.

For trout, use single shank size 6 hooks, same rig otherwise, although leaders as long as 10 feet by use of longer rods may prove effective on suspending trout. Marshmallow and mealworms, Power Bait and shiners produce.

Don’t wait to set the hook, once you notice line moving. Line passing through an egg sinker can get caught around an obstruction or gut hook, if you don’t tighten up and set immediately. The herring wear each treble hook like a crown. Single shank hooks placed through nostrils turn awkwardly against the bait’s head. Usually, walleyes or hybrid stripers get hooked near the outside of the mouth, but have a pair of plyers or a hemostat handy for a walleye that gets hooked in the back of the mouth.

High Winds and Interesting Results

If you double anchor, you can beat wind swinging the boat side to side. We simply use a single 10-pound mushroom anchor. If windy, a long length of rope allows the anchor hold. Even with the boat moving left and right, the herring lines manage not to tangle, but for some, this might feel nerve wracking.

Some of our best catches have accompanied high winds. Motoring from one spot to another, we’ve noticed everyone else fishing out of the blow. Asking them about catches, unhappy reports came. Gamefish like a lot of commotion in the fall, rough surface overhead just right. Brave it, and you might do especially well.

Bass and pickerel get caught on crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and traditional plastic worms in addition to jigs, Senkos or nightcrawlers, possible choices too many to mention, but my son and I, friends besides, like keeping it simple. Whether you fish lures or nightcrawlers, catching bass and pickerel, perch, sunfish, and crappie while keeping an eye on lines out for deep denizens makes fishing more interesting, particularly when a good-size bass rivals big walleyes and hybrids down below.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Work Hard, Fish Hard

Caught in a quandary between the job I hold, and possibly a new opportunity, I take the chance to reflect just a little as this pertains to fishing. At present, a company in Summit wants me to take an online interview involving webcam use, so I tried a practice question and felt appalled at speaking into a screen. If they allowed written response, you might agree I might do well, but my point would be that even though I would be advantaged, because practiced at words on a screen, I would be able to follow through with the promise. I let this interview go, I'm not doing it, because even though I might not interview in person as well as some do, I've done it before and can do it now, even if my cynicism has increased greatly facing such scrutiny since I was younger and more sincere.

That might read: Bruce doesn't really want a new job. And perhaps this is true. When Oliver and I waded Mulhockaway Creek Friday morning, I noticed that my stamina and energy on a streambed is better, now that I'm almost 58, than it was three and five years ago. A couple of North Branch Raritan posts relate my self-doubt as I had aged, feeling the stress of exertion as I walked and waded. Three years ago, I lost about 60 pounds, but this was just the beginning. Actually, I went from 266 all the way down to 192 last summer, now up to 210. (Last summer I was on a lower dose of a certain medication.) At 210, I'm not terribly overweight, over six feet tall, but now its the exercise I get on the job I notice saliently. Upper body musculature has returned. I carry heavy stuff. I feel muscle in my upper back and deltoid region working as I carry out tasks during the day. I walk here and there throughout the supermarket gathering items to prep and from the kitchen. I'm always on my feet.

The difference is big. I remember the shape Affinity left me in after sitting in a car most of the day for about 13 years. At the country club, I sat too. That left me in terrible shape to take on the supermarket, and I pushed like all hell. Now it all goes a lot easier. A major stumbling block for me, considering a new job with those regular hours, increased vacation time, holidays off, and maybe interaction with more intelligent people--important to me--is the loss of exercise. If I am to take a mailroom job, I'll be on my feet some of the time. These jobs typically require ability to lift 50 pounds, and I see lifting as one of the opportunities, not a drawback. But the customer service I see as a possibility will require even more sitting.

I'm not certain, either, that a corporate environment will offer that intelligence I seek. Where I used to work, it took more than 10 years before I became friends with the Security Officer, an intelligent man about 10 years younger than me. We share the photography passion and still connect often on Facebook. It's true that I settled into connections with people from all sorts of departments and branches sooner than that, relating perfectly well with people on all status levels, and by the time I got laid off, I had developed into a dignified older man who could have taken on responsibility at a much higher level than I occupied, but not only is convincing anyone else without paperwork--a suitable degree--all but out of the question...I did try to get a position with Business Development...the cultural atmosphere today, as it was three years ago, maybe not as badly then, is distracted and uncertain, cynical and indifferent, which is not to say conversations characterized by verve and focus never happened where I worked, they happened often, but to say that the bottom line is broken everywhere. Trust at the fundamental level of competence is missing. Without this, the balance sheet itself is a blur.

Companies of all sorts depend first and foremost on the people who comprise them. Without a firm gut--I'm always writing about my fish sense--the bottom line ultimately cannot hold.

For a large part, I can't complain about my customers at the supermarket. My boss, who I work with a couple of hours each day, suddenly treats me with kindness, as if the spirit has informed him I might go elsewhere. What the specialty counter would do without me, I don't like to consider, because it would be awful to leave it in the lurch just as my boss finally seems to realize I do the work, do it well, and am not a bad guy. I'm friends with a man in seafood who has the best workingman's ethic I've ever come upon. Many other people there I like, and yet anyone who reads my blog can tell I should be doing better than wage work, corporate office or not. That's a story too long to relate, one I've struggled to understand for decades, enough to know that I will die knowing I could spend many lifetimes and still not grasp the answer altogether. (The post I will link to explains a little.) Suffice it to say that I live the writer's life. By and large, writers hold day jobs and appreciate the privilege of getting published when and where they can.

More vacation time, weekends off, holidays off, would advantage my time to fish and with friends, but I was particularly impressed with my wading performance Friday. I used to think 60 was old age. I wondered if I could still wade streams in my mid-60's. My guess, especially if I stay in the position I'm in now--I should be able at 70 or older. Work hard, play hard.

I've gone into edit function to add a remark. Many years ago, Bob Marley wrote that one day the bottom will drop out. Perhaps I'm profoundly old school and just don't get it, as if today's man is doing just fine, thank you--and we will pass on you and hire a young guy. But biologically, it's a fact that a diaphragm supports the lungs and deepest speech, just as the bottom of the gut has neural connections involved with intuition and certain judgment. Perhaps when the bottom drops out, the men of the mind will be needed again, as Ray Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451. I just hope the nuclear power plants are prepared to shut down without melting down and killing all of us, if this becomes essential to survival.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fly Fishing Mulhockaway Creek

Down and immediately around the corner, Mulhockaway Creek empties into Spruce Run Reservoir.

I phoned Oliver Round Thursday afternoon about the possibility of high water; we decided we would arrive at the Mulhockaway Friday morning just after first light as planned, hoping the water would come down enough for any trout to see our flies. As the morning turned out, I got there right at first light, shortly after 6:00 a.m., and enjoyed writing in the notebook I keep in my car until Oliver's arrival 25 minutes later. He had ventured the idea of us bringing spinning rods and spinners, just in case the hole near the reservoir we read about were to be fishable. I told him that flood events like this result in browns running. Whether or not they move into the creek prior to spawning this early in the fall, I don't know. My feeling is that it doesn't happen until about November. A number of really big brown trout--supposedly born and bred in this creek--have been caught in the reservoir during recent years, as big as 10 pounds.

We found the creek running high but pretty clear, visibility better than two feet. This is our first time fishing here, and we didn't expect to find the creek as large as it is. I felt very pleased at our discovering a number of deep holes, and fairly near the tailout of one them as we quickly progressed downstream, I caught a nine-inch rainbow trout while fishing a beadhead Wooly Bugger/#16 beadhead Pheasant Tail dropper arrangement under a strike indicator. That must be a holdover from spring stocking, unless wild browns get all the word and rainbows reproduce, too, silently overlooked. Why rainbows reproduce in some New Jersey wild trout streams, but not others, I don't understand.

We had to get to the reservoir quickly, because I had to be at work at 1:00 pm. Rather than getting to the reservoir itself, we fished about a hundred yards of widened slow water, most of this shallow, but down closer to the reservoir itself, it does deepen. On the way down to position himself to fly cast this deeper water, something pulled on Oliver's Wooly Bugger. I tried a Mepp's spinner in that deeper water, just to be sure.

On the way back up, we hit the holes, but took no strikes in return. The Mulhockaway is widely known for its wild browns, but I wasn't surprised they weren't evident to us, not after some experience these past five years fishing them here and there. But Oliver and I--more than five years ago--have caught them elsewhere. I had to remind him of one occasion when we did pretty well, and now another, on the North Branch Raritan headwaters, comes to mind. We caught a few there, too, and that's not doing badly in New Jersey.

Friday, September 28, 2018

She's Thinking of an Ice Season Ahead

With a low turnout for Knee Deeps Hybrid Striped Bass Contest, the fish did not cooperate as well. Lots of smaller fish, and only 4 making the board. Jack Dziduch, with a 4 lb 4oz Hybrid took 1st place. Second went to Ryan Gilfillan with a 4 pounder, Tom Sarnacki took 3rd with a 2 lb 12 oz, and 4th place went to Lou Marcucci with a 2 lb 5 oz Hybrid.  Hopefully a better turnout  with contestants and fish for next year !!!  The last contest of the year will be for walleye on Oct 6th from 5AM until noon on Sunday  Oct 7th. We will be open early for the contest weekend.  With the five foot drawdown being done this year, there will be a lake wide cleanup being held on Nov 3rd. If you are interested in helping remove debris from the lake, please check out The Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s website for more info. Even an hour of your time would be greatly appreciated…Several walleye have made their way to the scales this week in the 4 pound range, along with pickerel  some nice crappies, and lots of white perch.  Also being weighed in was a nice smallmouth at 3 lb 4 oz, caught by Robert Glinka. We will remain open until November sometime with boat rentals, and are always stocked with bait & tackle. Hoping for a good ice season...

Laurie Murphy