Friday, September 28, 2012

Historical Influences and the Straight Line Through

Litton's Fishing Lines was a simple conception: fishing line as trope for written lines. And none of my written work is altogether separate from the rest; most of it can be described as literary apprentice work towards writing novels, which I set out to do at age 17, letting my ambition to be an outdoor writer and tourament pro go, even though I continued to fish tournaments well into my 18th year. (Nowadays, I realize I can fish tournaments again if I want to, and have been successfully published at outdoor writing again since 2005.)

Magazines and newspapers have specific expectations for stories, although the innovative conception within boundaries is a winner. I respect print publications greatly, and make sure to do my very best at delivering as promised within the appropriate limits of the expected. Even online blogging, as free form as this is, is limited because: 1. The title of the post determines web placement and visitations in turn, and the title must be honest in some respect or you break the social contract with readers and make yourself look like an ass. 2. Because there are limitless ways to appear online as a fool. In William Shakespeare's Mid-Summer's Night Dream, the poor carpenter or whatever transformed into a donkey, this is a visionary work--or as ordinarily put, Shakespeare on acid (he never needed the stuff)--the man transformed into donkey awakens to joy and didn't care what people thought, yet Shakespeare did care, of course. At least he did at work.

Litton's Fishing Lines is always at least implicitly about human history. History is tricky because--by influences of propaganda, delusion, and power lust--it's bull. I've already written about how fish are a central spiritual symbol worldwide, a sort of counterbalance to historical tendencies that lean in a wrong direction, as if California really would slide off the map. That's plate tectonics, not popular opinion used to sway people across the nation, while nothing of the sort has happened, if perhaps 10,000 years from now the continental plates will have shifted. 

I just guessed the number because it will be a long time from now in any case. But the British Civil War did happen quite suddenly compared to continental drift, and Isaac Walton, author of The Complete Angler, went fishing. By doing that, he found his own peace and wrote a classic. But taking the clue from Albert Camus who wrote "Was it Solitary or Solidary?" one does wonder if the spiritual powers of the presumably humble angler did not actually do Britain a lot of good, let alone the Anglican Church.

I will point out that John Locke's political philosophy--basic to the constitution of the United States--is ultimately derived from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Although Locke's genius is original, it is not original without the preponderant influence of this man who lived a mere 2400 years ago or so, not really a long time past, and could be honored as the grandfather of our nation. Aristotle is often considered to have invented modern common sense, and I wonder if Thomas Paine considered this, although I haven't read Paine thoroughly. 

When we think of the course of Western Civilization's history, we do not think of a twisted line, unless we are perverse in our attempt to be realistic (good luck if anyone can mark all the concrete events on the graph recorder of his mind). And although history is complex, it can be conceived as circular or even as a giant theater-round as if all of it is here and now and even accessible by very strange psychic conditions. Nevertheless, we like to think of a straight line. It cuts through all the crap.

More than any other philospher--a man or woman who sets the course of a civilization--Aristotle gave direction to the West from ancient Athens forward through the present. He is the father of logic and science. Even if scholars would take issue and point out that the Pre-Socratic philosophers issued logic, Aristotle exhibited more explicit exercise than any previous. Everyone since has paid deference to him. So I like to think that Western History is a straight line from Aristotle. But most of all, I like to think Aristotle was a man like me, and not preoccupied with making history too much.  If you are new to my posts, welcome to Litton's Fishing Lines.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

River Walleyes and Smallmouth Bass: Some of Us Play the Field that Einstein Tried to Explain

Catch Walleyes and Smallmouth Bass Now and on through Winter

Stream fishing is a spring and summer--especially summer--affair for me mostly; I love abundant summer life in, on, and about me, although I like the Delaware River best in November and December. The little I've fished it in these months has indelibly marked memory, ensuring that when I buy a boat, I will be there. The compelling desire to go out on a river in raw, wet, December weather would seem strange to land lubbers, but more than reminding me of cold Maine seas and my fascination with lobsters and lobstering, and the comforts that lobstermen generate within themselves under natural adversities--a church organist friend of my father works as lobsterman on the side and I'm sure he has stories--more than any stories I would hear, I feel the Delaware calling me back to experience what necessitates a response from deep within. Otherwise, I would turn and go home like any ordinary person who prides himself on not being nuts.
I haven't fished since Cape Henlopen and may not this weekend, since I'm working on my novel. I was up until 3:00 a.m. last night working, and never got tired on the road today. I drive for a living, awake before 8:00 each morning, always eager to go and often on little sleep since my writing projects are many, but driving as a job is not at all the same as driving to and from an outing or to pick up my son from football practice or Scouts or to drive to the theater or NYC. I wrote a post about Maddened Dinosaurs on a Highway and it's hyperbole, but not by much. So you have to fight the roars or you're a loser, and if I were that, I would be soon dead. It's a great stimulus to overcome all that resistance, breakthrough into real freedom, rock 'n roll. After all, who wants to drive a vehicle for a living, really? 

So here's my favorite line (featured in Litton's Lines) from Leonardo DaVinci: "If you can't do what you want, want what you do." As some say, "You gotta love it!" That's the same as what DaVinci wrote in simpler form. 
My piece begins with heavy snow, written for Recorder Newspapers just before the October storm last year. I added reference to another genius who wouldn't make it on a sport's page. Some of us play the field that Einstein tried to explain.

          With heavy snow on the way as I write, most anglers store away their rods and reels until Trout Opening Day next year. But at the very least, enjoy some news of cold weather local action, because fishing is good year round. If you won’t dare ice fish, you can read interesting accounts. But ice fishing is not the only form of fishing in our region through the winter, although the Delaware River usually freezes significantly in January and February, barring any attempt at walleyes and smallmouth bass. The Pequest River in Warren County, for example, usually remains completely open and relatively warmed by abundant limestone springs for trout anglers. So do many smaller wild trout streams.

          In my own experience, thoughts turn especially to the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and the Delaware River, in November. The River is a completely different fishing situation now than I had described at the end of August. The summer smorgasbord of forage is gone, and so are the shad fry gorged on as they passed through early in the fall enroute to the Atlantic.

          But plenty of resident forage species support walleyes and smallmouth bass through the winter when they don’t need to feed as furiously or frequently—but still do with persistent necessity. No fish species hibernates, nor do fish fatten up for the winter by feeding heavily earlier in the fall. That increased activity was a function of optimal temperature ranges for activity and metabolic economy, as well as forage preference. The simple fact about late fall and winter fishing is that fish continue to feed, just not as often, so an angler's approach is not so excited but has merit that easier times do not lend. The more appreciation an angler develops for seasons, the more he can understand human history as well. After all, the young genius, Arthur Rimbaud, referred to his poetic moods as seasons. Many fish can be caught in the cold and in large sizes—seasoned anglers know that the ratio of large smallmouth bass to smaller increases during the winter on the Delaware, for example.

          True, with greatly reduced, cold blooded metabolism, catch statistics fall—but no one but an angler himself decides if the fishing is good. Since I catch fish all year, I find fishing good in every month on the calendar. Goodness is a constant that trumps time itself. My advice is to move away from making goodness contingent on conditions.

           Fishing is especially productive for walleyes now, but I have caught smallmouth bass while wading the Delaware (carefully) in December. A small number of anglers catch them now through the winter so long as ice isn’t prohibitive. The surest approach is jigs tipped with live shiners, although 1/8th to 1/4-ounce tube jigs are effective especially for bass. When water temperatures fall into the mid 40’s or colder, allowing a tube jig to rest on rocky bottom for as long as a minute at a time can draw a smallmouth to take. The thin plastic tentacles move subtly in slow, deep current eddies where bass may be tempted. It’s slow going, but good exercise for mental concentration.

          Generally, walleyes also inhabit such deep pools, but tolerate more current flow. In December, I have caught them in steady, but not rapid, flow over rocky bottom. An amazing sight, a number of walleyes followed jigs tipped with shiners right to the side of the boat from 10-foot depth. Having finished a retrieve, I would whisk the bait up for the next cast with a walleye racing behind. Bass will never do this in cold water, not to my knowledge, but walleyes have a metabolism better suited to cold temperatures.

          If possible, get out on a mild, sunny day. In the late afternoon, try putting jigs and shiners aside and fish floater/diver plugs like Redfins, Rebels, or Rapalas—a great choice is the Rapala Husky Jerk because it suspends in the water rather than floats. On retrieve, it dives to about three or four feet. The retrieve should be stopped on occasion so that the plug pauses at that depth—just enough to provoke a hit sometimes. Fish these plugs along shallow current edges between steady flow and slack water where walleyes get frisky when water warms slightly. So long as deep, rocky water is nearby, walleyes will likely be too.

          Accept cold weather as a worthy challenge, and the whole angling dynamic compensates for the reduced pleasantries enjoyed in warm weather. You cannot find the pleasure of succeeding in a tough environment during the summer as you can from now through winter. This pleasure is a relatively rare treat which few people care to exercise the rigors of achieving. I think ultimately the point is to feel serene and at home on this earth, at least in our region where it does get cold. But the next best thing, if you opt to stay indoors, is to read about it and enjoy!



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cape Henlopen Fluke, Croakers, Kingfish, Blowfish

A weekend with the Scouts at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, and a charter trip aboard the Pirate King with the Angler's Fishing Center in Lewes. Never got tired after the Friday night drive until totally zonked after dinner Saturday, the croakers, kingfish, fluke, and a blowfish seemed cooked just right. I mixed in a variety of spices, individual to each aluminum pack of fillets, and seemed to cook them just long enough. Lots of parents along, the camp chores and conversation invigorating, the beach in easy walking distance a nice goodbye to summer as weather warmed very comfortably. A front came through around 2:00 a.m. with dramatic lightning, thunder, and heavy, dumping rain, but our tents proved protective, no one among all of us got wet. Leaving early in the morning at 56 degrees--my son had a football game--the drive back took us straight up Delaware Bay and River until crossing over to New Jersey at Scudders Mills. Fast, under four hours with a Diner stop for breakfast and conversation with my son, and without a trace of complication or tiredness, I felt the rush of a good, stable mood the entire way.

Had gone out to a reef with 30 to 40-foot depths in the 50-foot Pirate King. Fishing slow, we caught just enough fish to add to dinner. The boys used rental rods with reels and sinkers as large as eight ounces, standard. I couldn't feel bottom as directly with my two-ounce bank sinker, but able to cast far with my eight-foot Tica, got a good drift. We anchored in place, and from near a corner of the stern, I got that range, the boat not seeming to swing in place much. I knew the bait mulled along bottom with two ounces, Power Pro braid, and the quality graphite rod, but never hooked a really good fish, just some average croakers and a dogfish.

The ugly "orange monk" is an oyster cracker. You can see the powerful grinding plate back in the mouth it uses to break open clams and other shellfish to eat. I used to catch these little monsters by hand when treading clams in a wetsuit during winter, but carefully. To get a finger in the wrong place is to lose that finger gloved in wetsuit. A few seabass under keeper size came over the rail and went back the same way. Clam bait caught all the fish, although some jigs resorted to in desperation got cast before we tried trolling diamond jigs for blues.

Pool winner was an 18 inch fluke!