Wednesday, May 22, 2013
"Catch any?" I said.
"Not yet," he whipped out a cast. I watched as the surface erupted on the weedless frog and he battled a 23 inch pickerel.
So Surprise Lake it is.
This salad-like scene is the narrow, 25 acre lake in Watchung Reservation, Union County. If you put it on your plate, you might have very healthy results. That's a joke of course. I wouldn't want to try lily pad and the stringy weeds that attached to my inset hook Chompers in my stomach.
I reeled the worm right over weed mats and while a couple of small pickerel threw their bodies against it, I really didn't get a hit. I don't mean to discourage. This lake has some fish in it. I had only about 40 minutes to fish and must have walked only half the pond's length. The angler I spoke to told me the other end has more open water, but the bite is on the end we fished. Nonetheless, I would have been interested in plumbing slightly deeper, open water with the worm.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I was aware that fly fishing can get complicated. I also need to bring along reading glasses to tie these flies on. It felt good walking out, as it had as I approached the spot where I caught the brown. And I was glad I caught one.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Thursday and Friday evenings at sunset, riding my bicycle along the river, North Branch Raritan that runs through town, I stopped at a stretch to view whatever was happening. Thursday lots of browns were rising; no one was around. I was impressed enough to tell my son later. Friday, I was utterly astonished. I've never seen anything like it in all my life. As many as 10 trout rose together in a section of the stretch in one moment.
Having planned the Tilcon and Lake Musconetcong outing, I changed nothing, only added that maybe Sunday evening we would fly fish. Matt was exhausted from yesterday's long day. We had awakened early to do a three hour Scout service project, then departed for places northward after returning home and gearing up. As things unwound, he had an essay to write for school and couldn't fly fish this evening. I went alone.
Sulfates rose from stream bottom as I waded and roll casted, the water on my thighs. Nothing much else was rising but the river with today's rain, a stain darkened the water and I wondered if I'd encounter anything. So I went downstream and tried some fast water. Nothing happening in relation to my size 10 brown caddis, or otherwise; I set my rod and took in the whole environment, drawn to some flowers I haven't looked up in Newcomb's Wild Flower Guide. I photographed them and heard the wicked cries of night hawks overhead. If you've never heard their piercing cries, you'll notice when you do. Night hawks are not true hawks, but members of the swift family, which only feed on insects. But watching their sleek profiles cut the sky above was marvelous. They sound like miniature dragons. You would think a giant dragonfly with a sharp bill like a swordfish's was pointed at prey.
I returned to my rod and camera bag to move back upstream when a trout rose. I false casted, listening to a Carolina wren, beautiful. Soon I missed a hit, casted again, and a brown broke off. I tied on another caddis. Soon I hooked a small fish I thought was a little smallmouth bass, no, a chub, no, a baby rainbow. Rainbow? How could rainbows reproduce here? I took a closer look. Brown.
I've heard lots of stories I've always been skeptical of. I'm certain browns reproduce in the South Branch at Long Valley because I've caught the same little ones, and the literature on wild browns and native brook trout in the Claremont section just above is established. But this catch this evening is certain evidence that browns do reproduce in this river at Bedminster, which I've come upon no such established literature about. Long Valley is at much higher elevation. At least Chester to the east of Long Valley is 600 feet, and Schooleys Mountain that shadows Long Valley from which the South Branch flows must be well over 1000. The figure I have for our house's elevation in Bedminster is 81 feet above sea level, and the river flows somewhat beneath this level. No six inch trout is stocked by the state or anyone else I know of, and if any were, they wouldn't have the wild color hue.
I saw more rises, casted and spooked the trout even with water stained. I'm no artist with a fly rod, at least not yet. Plenty claim fly fishing is an art, but then I'm a real hack, or really a novice. I haven't done much of it, but I'm excited about this river within walking distance. Giving up on this fast water, I walked back upriver and found a section where a few rose. In another 15 minutes or so as it really got dark, I caught two regular 11 and 12 inch browns and missed two solid hits. These two I quickly released, vaguely thinking that maybe since they had undergone the struggle, they would be less likely to get caught and taken home, more likely to reproduce.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
I told Matt Tilcon Lake would be interesting, which it proved to be especially because he lost a bass much larger than this 19 incher he photographed. We both got a view of it before it dove into thick vegetation and pulled the hook. I think 22 inches.
I had planned on Lake Musconetcong months ahead, and a week or so ago saw the opportunity to fish Tilcon in the afternoon before taking a boat out. We usually fish Musconetcong near sunset. I was surprised that thick vegetation is back. With this, clear water. At first I was a little disappointed because I had wanted to troll with the electric. But once we got out there, it felt good being back on the old lake again. I didn't see any water chestnuts, the invasive vegetation that apparently was a reason for all the noxious chemicals dumped into the lake to kill everything in 2010. You'd think my emotional response on seeing weeds would have been pure elation, the way I had rued what was done and written about it too. But I got a little used to it; Steve Slota and I did pretty well in May 2011, and I was interested in how the fishing would be without the weeds this year and whether or not water clarity would have returned without vegetation to filter it. Likely it needed the greenery to restore its wild and more pristine quality.
Today it was freezing out there. Well, in the 50's somewhere. The water felt very warm. I had no thermometer, but I guess it was about 68. We missed a lot of hits and a number of pickerel followed without striking as they often do with cooling water. One of those did hit my son's Bouhlia Bait at boatside and cleanly severed the 15 pound fluorocarbon leader. It did that in one fell swoop. Matt hardly even felt the fish on at all, just astonishment at an enormous blast and no lure. I saw it floating a few yards away and retrieved it back on a treble. We fished nothing but topwaters.
Usually we stay into night, see the stars overhead as we row back. It was too cold. Pickerel were only following in and as dusk neared, action abandoned us, and both of us kept lowering towards the point of beginning to shiver. I said to Matt, "On a 90 degree August evening, they'll hit as it gets dark."
They'll hit like they mean it and I hope we'll be there.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Had little over half an hour to fish, tried Round Valley Pond first without a hit. Water's clearer than last year because suspended algae and other particles that obscure a more fertile water than the reservoir haven't grown due to chillier weather. I missed a hit in the reservoir, then caught this single bass on the next cast, which may have been the same fish, on eight inch Chompers worm. Now that it's May 17th, I have two more days inside the region of the park that closes on Memorial Day, but can still fish a few spots I know thereafter, and perhaps this year with the colder water, I'll catch bass into June. Knock on wood, but I see little harm naming the possibility. Who knows, there's the slight chance I'll show up on Memorial Day weekend too, but we have plans to fly fish the Flatbrook and investigate some lakes in the Ridge & Valley region one of those days. I love Round Valley this time of year. It is so much more positive and inviting than during the cold season. I had fished it for over four months all winter and the edges of the other two seasons, and it was awesome, but in a very lonesome way. As often as not, I never saw anyone else during an entire outing. More than anything else, cold weather does not draw a warm spirit out into the environment from within the way a warm, sunny day does. I was fully aware of the range of my sight--even more so than now with warm weather--but it was like seeing from the head more than feeling with the body. Today I actually desired to swim in the Pond. With the stones gleaming in the sun on the bottom, I could almost feel them as I would barefooted, but that's not allowed. You have to use the swimming beach and only Memorial Day and after until Labor Day.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Finally caught some fish after going skunked since that big bass, besides a seven inch white perch fishing stripers on the Hudson. I tried Round Valley Monday and yesterday. On Monday it was 52 degrees at 2:00 pm, way too cold for reservoir bass and not a hit in the pond either. Yesterday I went to Beher's and bought shiners to try for brown trout. Sky was overcast with light showers and I hoped this would hold out. But once I got to the reservoir, skies cleared. I put a shiner down 20 to 30 feet deep twice, two spots in Ranger Cove, having noticed a bass fisherman catch one on a minnow plug after telling me he had caught three. So bass are active. I tried live lining shiners and had a pickerel cut off. But I spotted a smallmouth bass--the largest I've ever seen--six pounds to my estimate. The notion that I had just the right bait to tempt a hit wasn't convincing. I figured this bass would ignore persistent offering and did.
Today I pitched a bright blue Chompers worm to the sunny sides of Mount Hope shadow lines--and well outside in the sun too, which is where I caught both bass associated with fallen timber. (Could have been under the logs, but the logs were about eight inches in diameter.) The idea behind fishing the shadow line by placing a worm in the sunlight near the shadow edge is that sunlight highlights the worm, particularly if brightly colored. Bass in shade rush out and take.
I had to persist like a pro today. My last bass, 14 inches, I caught on my last cast. But I was up for fishing hard. Some days energy fits like hand in glove and whatever means are at my disposal are used well with an effortless feeling. I was a little critical of my pitching. Every cast or pitch counts. I fished some real sticks and getting the worm right on the spot can make all the difference. But those pitches and casts that didn't fall right I just as soon ignored and tried again.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I had this trip in mind ever since I read an article in The Fisherman by Milt Rosko several years ago about the amazing Hudson River striper fishing near Kingston in May. My wife came along with our black Labrador, Sadie. She enjoyed being on the river enough to suggest we do it again. I had offered that she try and fish, but she says she wants to try fly fishing, so maybe first things first.
It's not the charter Captain's fault all I caught was a seven inch white perch by dipping a bloodworm. We marked dozens or hundreds of bass and for everyone around, also marking stripers, the bite was very slow. We fished both live and cut herring on bottom, weighted by six to eight ounce bank sinkers, in 20 to 27 feet of water for four hours total, trying three different spots. I lost a striper of about 25 pounds at boatside; it took a live herring. Two other hits on cut herring were significant, one of these I know was a striper by the trout-like, tentative feel as the fish ran with the bait.
Saw a nice striper about 25 pounds caught by trolling with downriggers.
At least we had action. The fish I had on put up a long, dogged fight. It did not want to come in and was big enough to have that chance of the hook pulling on its side. I would have released it anyhow. Hudson stripers eat tomcods that are full of PCBs. The bass have been in the river only a month or so, but long enough that I don't care for me or my family to follow the State of New York's suggestion that I eat four half pound servings per month. Besides, these bass are probably not spawned out yet.
I asked our Captain what he thought about the striper population. He said from a Hudson River perspective, it's on the rise. From what I've gathered, the Hudson River is the second largest striped bass nursery, next to Chesapeake Bay. But I couldn't find a percentage comparison--Chesapeake Bay is a very large place compared to the Hudson, although there's tidal flow all the way to Troy at a certain dam, I don't recall the name.
Fishing in general for stripers on the Hudson will be good until June. Some are even caught from shore, but a boat or a charter Captain greatly advantages.