Saturday, August 11, 2012

Whitesides Mountain Rock Climbing, Alamuchy Mountain State Park, Copperhead Snake, Thought of Largemouth Bass and Pickerel Fishing

 Hiking the mountains was much easier even than April and May hikes this year. Plain easy, in fact. No, I haven't been exercising strenuously, although I swam laps three days in a row this week, which adjusted energy much more than built muscle. This is the key--energy--not muscle. I'm a little overweight, not obese, but I could improve my muscle/fat ratio. 

We visited our secret copperhead den. We tell no one where it is.

"I have a bad feeling about this," I said.

We approached.

"Me too," My son said.

"I think they boogied out of here after we caught them last summer."

The place looked as dead as abandoned copper mines in the general area, or as dead as a patch of Bull Run Battlefield as it might have appeared months after the fighting.

In April, we found none; the last visit of last summer we found 16. We did find one today, and the photograph does little to help you. But we didn't care to drag the copperhead out with the snake stick. Let them be awhile. Besides, we have caught and released so many snakes that the initial curiosities are surpassed.

Afterwards, we ate at Gyro Bobs in Stanhope. I love this place on 206 in New Jersey. As we walked up, so much dynamite was going off in the quarry nearby it sounded like a fireworks show in the middle of the afternoon. The owner is Greek born, so I profoundly identify with this stop we have made before and will again. Cash and checks only.

Whitesides Mountain nearby challenged Matt for some climbing, but without equipment, he couldn't do a whole lot. He wants to do more rappelling here. Matt is fearless of heights, or almost so. He did say that when he first rappelled, it frightened him a little as he seemed almost to free-fall. But compared to Matt, I was paralyzed by heights as a boy, although I got up in some high places and managed to do my best in trees, Bowman's Tower, the Fire Tower at Apple Pie Hill, and at age 17, a friend and I actually scaled a 300 foot cliff from the top down without ropes--at the Devil's Tea Table near Raven Rock and the Delaware River. That face is not perfectly vertical, but close. We didn't even know if we would find hand and foot holds. It got hairy once. 

The Whitesides Mountain face is awesome, just the outer front of a giant, stone outcropping about 200 feet high that looked more like schist than basalt, although I did not examine it, having other interests in mind. Basalt is dark grey. We met climbers who did have ropes, and the first thing I asked is whether or not they had come upon snakes. Yeah, ribbon snake. I have to tell you, scrambling up the ravine to the top did not feel strenuous for me, but having reunited with my wife below, I chugged water forgetting everything else absolutely. Heaven. Sometimes water absolutely surpasses for pleasure any other beverage possible.

Jefferson Lake nearby is a very cool place, but shore fishing is worse than limited: if you want to take a few casts at the launch, go ahead. In the future, we'll put a boat on.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunset Largemouth Bass on Spinnerbait

The bass struggled in place. The rod moved it slowly towards the bank by gentle, firm pulls, and just as I was about to swing the fish onto the grass, an eruptive thrashing welled water up with great intention as the head suddenly exploded rebelliously, shaking with lightning intensity, the spinnerbait thrown like a rock at my face. Never mistake a bass for a willess subject. They are powerfully vital with an awareness that if any intellect were present, it would throw thoughts of challenge our way. They do seem to enjoy the fight.

I fished maybe 15 minutes after sunset, the local pond, releasing four bass, all caught on a spinnerbait with what I feel is too slow an action. It cannot be retrieved at a moderate speed, only slowly, and even then it nearly buzzes the surface. But the swirl of one of these bass was so dramatic, I thought I had hooked a three-and-a-half pounder. 

Thank you, Twins and Fins, for the comment--great online name, kids and fish as perennial as weather. Maybe we will cross currents. 

Thanks also Mackenzie for your recent comment on fly fishing smallmouth bass. I've got to get over to the North Branch again and do some soon. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Small River, Stream Smallmouth Bass on Plastic Baits

Last I stream fished smallmouth bass, I tried plastics for ten minutes after shiners ran out and turned away despising these imitations. Today I fished the South Branch Raritan under an hour with five-inch Senko-type worms to catch three bass, miss too many hits, and suffer the sting of a good bass breaking the line at the knot just after catching the 14-plus- inch bass I photographed.

Senko worms are an old standby. They cast a mile--that's an advantage. But the disadvantage for long casts is the bow in the line the current quickly creates. Even if you set almost immediately--and quick sets prevent gut hooking--chances are high that you will just pull the worm out of an opened mouth, the bass reacting to tension too loose to drive the hook.

Stepping into a wild space really lets you know you have brittle nerves if you happen to be stressed out. I had spent most of the day unaware of my condition until I stepped onto gravel and rocks and had a difficult time at it. Honestly, even after hiking well upstream, slogging against strong current in my sneakers, sneaking through thick aquatic vegetation and algae thigh deep and wondering if a snapping turtle would claw out ahead of me, nature did not restore me to normal today. But while marching back to meet a schedule felt very stressful, the good-size stream bass I caught did make it feel worthwhile. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jigging Smallmouth Bass with Berkeley Gulp Leeches, and Rebel Pop-R Surface Plug

I've never enjoyed fishing a jig so much as I did for a half hour along a stretch of Delaware River today at Barryville, NY. Current moved along the east bank, shallows to the west side. We didn't get much more fishing than these moments with jigs tapping rocks, hits missed, and five smallmouth bass for me and some for Steve Slota, his son Tom, and wife Donna. Wind flowed from the south and paddling was hard. We made for the Zane Grey Museum area with thunder in the air, phoned Cedar Rapids Rentals, and called it a day as a downpour drove some of us into the museum to observe the writer's preserved legend.

Back at Cedar Rapids, the boys swam for a long time, and Steve caught a smallmouth on a Rebel Pop-R that would weigh about 3 1/2 pounds. We didn't judge the storm well because this was a joint family venture, not one of a few daring outdoorsmen willing to risk whatever would happen. The storm isolated as predicted, the real line of storms has come in the evening. At the Salmon River I twitched a Wacky rigged Senko-type worm through a similar V current at the tail of a stretch to catch my biggest bass of our efforts a month ago. Steve did the same with the topwater plug. I caught a couple of big red breasted sunfish, and lost a few more bass on the jig with Berkeley Gulp leeches while wading a stretch part of the time the boys swam, a rocky range where I have waded many times before to catch some bass.

Part of the reason I enjoyed jigging so much, apart from fast action, involved efforts flustered. I suppose I would have caught at least 20 bass today. After awhile, they might have seemed to come all too easily. On these annual ventures we normally stay on the river until 6:00, getting at least eight hours of fishing.