My twelve-year-old son, Matt, spent the week at Mohican Outdoor Center and all about northern Sussex with New Jersey Audubon Society. As I've informed my readers fairly recently, he plans on becoming a herpetologist. Already, he has handled many species of snakes, all of these in New Jersey north and south, although he has made a capture attempt in North Carolina and caught over a hundred lizards of a variety of species one week in the Florida Keys.
He's also caught dozens upon dozens of frogs and toads of different varieties, as well as varieties of salamanders and lizards in New Jersey. He is not a collector and we don't believe in the practice. His digital SLR camera serves him well. Finally, he found his first timber rattlesnake, which he did not attempt to catch. He stumbled on it under a blueberry bush he intended to pick, the snake two feet in front of him. Coiled in strike position, tail rattlling, he backed off quick. Four feet in length, this was a hefty, thick bodied snake. I fully encourage his pursuits, but I do so cautiously because I know that innocent, endeavoring intentions sometimes startlingly meet with nemesis. No human endeavor whatsoever is exempt from this possibility, but by being aware--of possibility--we may prevent mishap, a lesson that many so-called realists may consider.
My wife and I having driven Matt to the compound a week ago stopped at the Paulinskill River, at the Firehouse near the Route 94 bridge in Blairstown. Under a tree where the fairly shallow flat deepened, I saw nearly a dozen small, nine to 10-inch rainbows; quick as lightning they dodged my presence. So I brought along our fly rods today, and light spinning rods and that tiny bucket with half a dozen killies for good measure--just in case we either encountered a bruiser smallmouth or deep hole.
We started at the Firehouse. Within a minute I had a small bass on, which jumped off, and soon after very much enjoyed the play of the one I photographed, which also took my Hare's Ear nymph, at least that's what I think it is. A few more minutes, another bass an inch or so longer. We never saw the trout, but I caught sunfish, a rock bass, a crappie, and lost several other bass and caught one more. We both tried for a 13-incher, never resorting to the killies. Had that been an 18-incher, I would have insisted my son take it even if he declined--then release it, of course. The larger bass was not without interest. But it was even more interested in the fruckus of my fly line than my nymph or the Muddler streamer I tried. I have a lot of skill to gain yet.
We drove eastward a couple miles, past the Paulina Dam and upstream. The heat had already begun to impress me as incredible, much hotter than the 97 degrees the other day on the South Branch. This at 2:00 in the afternoon. I don't know how hot, but definitely over a hundred. Never in all my years in New Jersey have we had such heat, summer after summer. We had a day that hit 106 last summer, many fairly close to this, and yesterday I got 104 for a full half on the road. I suppose it soared above last year's mark today. If temperatures keep climbing at the rate they have the past ten years, we're in for radical changes.
I've always loved heat. But by the time I was out another half hour above Paulina, I became fatigued, dizzy, and I actually wanted to drop and gulp the river water. My hair was soaked from perspiration! I must have lost a quart. And the river--supposedly full of wild browns--seemed at least 82 degrees. Bye, bye browns. And those rainbows I had seen must have high-tailed it for the nearest limestone spring.
I caught another bass. Matt persisted at trying to get a 12 incher to take, which would nose his nymph, then turn away. I'm sure he tried his speed-it-up trick to draw a strike, but that didn't work. The heat was too much. I wasn't clear on what I was doing anymore, so no way were we going to advance exploration. And with that water temperature, the trout were either dead, I suppose, or at spring vents. I've actually witnessed that on Mercer County's Stony Brook in summer.
So into the water we went! We swam and explored currents underwater for half an hour. The water did not feel cool in the least, but it refreshed me out of my heat exhaustion.