Friday, February 8, 2013

Round Valley Reservoir Trout Fishing as Big Snow Arrives

Weather seemed gritty enough for trout to feed. I fished the hour just before the snow really began to fall, so I suppose barometric pressure fell, a good sign for action, but I had none. Another guy came down to fish just as I left. He carried two rods with four or five-inch Redfin floater/diver plugs and told me he's been catching especially brown trout on the retrieve. I've avoided buying shiners because of the inconvenience, but kept them in mind. I did catch a brown on marshmallow and mealworm last February, but I've heard more reports of browns on shiners.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ruddy Ducks, Loon, Bufflehead Ducks and Coots at Round Valley Reservoir

Spoke to a man with a monoscope, waiting for a loon to come up from a dive across Round Valley Reservoir. He insisted I scope on the ruddy ducks that caught my interest. A few years ago, I went birding with a naturalist I know with New Jersey Audubon at the Round Valley Pond (about 30 acres). We saw buffleheads, green winged teal and another specie I forget, but no ruddy ducks I remember. Ruddy ducks are small and I had mistaken the large flock for the coots that are typical here. Coots were across the acreage near a distant point. A few bufflehead ducks had departed from the ruddy flock, flashing their white wing bands like strobe lights. I asked the man if ruddy ducks dive, he said no, then asked his wife in the pick up. She had a field guide and confirmed that ruddy ducks are stiff tailed ducks that dive and use that tail as a rudder. We saw none of them dive over about 15 minutes' time.

Ruddy ducks are the cutest among the whole lot. They have tails that open and spread like turkeys' and make me think of a woman's dress. And they're small and vulnerable like Cornish game hens; the species name, ruddy, makes me think of a Tomboy. Silly sentiment, but it's there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Acadia Maine: Armed with a Paddle on Long Pond

A fun fish tale originally published in The Fisherman
Armed with a Paddle 

It’s not every day you get a chance to fish in Maine, but being prepared is important anywhere. So I had phoned months in advance to make sure we would get a canoe rental for Long Pond, a narrow lake stretching seven miles on Mount Desert Island with abundant smallmouth bass.

My wife, Patricia, our son, Matt, and I loaded rods, tackle, a portable graph recorder, drinks and sandwiches, and Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Patricia would spend most of the day in the 19th century instead of this gorgeous lake with rocks so clean and visible through clear water it seems no sediment has accumulated for a thousand years. We paddled persistently to mark shallow, flat depths on the graph for several hundred yards figuring that paddles served this single purpose of getting us on bass and within photo distance of a covy of loons, if you can refer to a few water birds by this name. We soon came to a pass where opposite shores merged close. Sure enough, drop-offs on either side to 17-foot depths were accompanied by large, jagged rocks.

I was into a 14-inch smallmouth on a Senko-type worm right away. Matt persisted with his nightcrawlers.

“It’s big!” He said. “But it’s a weird fight. Slow.”

I saw what would soon prove to be the culprit come into view. “It’s a snapping turtle,” I said.

I cut the line and the big snapper sank away.

Patricia said, “I wouldn’t want to see one bigger than that.”

Hooking snappers wasn’t new to me, and Matt had encountered plenty otherwise. Just to be sure we were done with this awakened mud monster—if any mud exists in Long Pond--I lifted anchor and we paddled away about 15 yards and anchored again to vantage the same drop-offs.

I cast the worm for all it was worth beyond the drop-off to my left way up in about three feet of water.


My excitement raced ahead to the question I had hoped would leap up—is this that five-pound-plus smallmouth I’ve wanted to catch? The bass had bulldozed the worm after no more than a second. With water that clear, I sight-measured the fish about ten seconds later—a good one, but no five-pounder. I figured about three-and-a-quarter pounds, and I was right on the mark.

Matt caught a small bass, and I remember shifting the lunch cooler to give myself foot room. Turning my head slightly to my right, I saw the slightest hint of shadow and motion in peripheral vision, something just barely irregular in relation to slight surface wave rhythm. I looked directly and the first thing I noticed was the size of the individual claws, but the first thing I thought—without words—was big, chuzzling snapping turtle beak about to embed its cutting edges in my naked thigh by a long neck. This was the turtle’s aim exactly—about eight inches from lake surface to my skin.

I remember how quick I had the paddle and thrust it into the front of that yawning space between carapace and plastron. Once, twice…it felt like a shovel breaking ground; the turtle went down. But even though I knew without contradiction that I had to use that paddle with uncompromised force, I did feel a quiet voice within me speak as I used it. The voice represented respect for creatures of any kind, yet didn’t diminish or hinder the force I pitted against the turtle because I knew the decision was me or it, and I struck hard enough to turn it back.  

“Who would think!?” Patricia said. “Why would a turtle go for a guy?”

“Better me than you.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pines Stand About Like Sentinels

Pines stand about like sentinels guarding the thin presence of winter life, reminding me of photosynthetic green that has already begun to emmerge in our garden two weeks ago in the form of tulip pokes. A month from now the mass of wild plant life will have begun to break forward, but for the time being, Round Valley Reservoir feels in part abandoned, a cold vacuum that hasn't yielded me a trout since January 3rd. Nevertheless, to crunch stone gravel underfoot with sunlit breeze on my cheeks creates a presence personal and enlivening that doesn't feel put out at all. A few vehicles came into the lot and they were the loneliest aspect, people sitting back in their seats and doing nothing.