Friday, July 31, 2015

Electric Brook Schooley's Mountain Park Morris County Parks Hike as an Electrician gets in Touch

We got to Morris County Park Commission Schooley's Mountain Park and found the trail leading beyond the chapel closed. At least that's what a rather unauthoritative sign says. No clue as to why. People like to be informed, and it gives us hope there's enough thought involved to solve a problem. Our hope is that the commission will soon repair whatever about the trail needs fixing. I really want to take my wife down to the Electric Brook Falls so we both can see them for the first time, and I can do some photography I really look forward to. The overlook beyond the falls seems interesting too.

Diverted, we found a trail down near the South Branch Raritan and enjoyed a little hike, including some mildly arduous climbing. Rocks slippery and tricky where I set up my tripod, I enjoyed positioning the camera, making sure I didn't goof up, and tending to Sadie our black Lab, who enjoyed the water and got pissed off when I moved the camera and tripod close.

All summer we've been trying to get up here on an evening after work. We finally have--but the falls elude us yet.

Instead of Patricia's favorite Old Mill Inn on the way back from Long Valley and into Chester Township, we ate at Roccos in Bedminster outside with Sadie. We didn't want to leave Sadie in the car, not even with windows down. Rather hot. Patricia ordered a huge clam pasta meal, and I pointed out that the clams with brown markings are Floridian Indian River clams. I harvested Indian River clams commercially during the winters of 1984 and 1985.

I got home and found one of my old clamming buddies had emailed with his phone number. "Call me tonight if you can." Turns out there's a reunion tomorrow, boating and fishing Long Beach Island. Not all of us will be on board, but quite a number. He apologized for short notice, but I'm just glad we got in touch. Next time we'll figure it out ahead of time. Have to work my job tomorrow.

He's an electrician.

Way back when, how long ago I'm not sure, an Electric Company functioned back in the woods, to give the brook it's namesake. And once upon a time, Barnegat Bay, Little Harbor, Great Bay yielded millions and millions of quickly reproducing clams. Don't we know it. Fertilizer, etc., has eliminated the ecology, clams gone.

Odd thing is, Barry lived across the street from me until after second grade in Lawrence Township some 60 miles from Long Beach Island. After my third summer treading clams, I lived alone on several bayfront acres, renting. Few of us treaded into the fall. On a foggy October morning, I heard and recognized Barry's voice as I worked in the water.

"Barry," I said. I couldn't see him.

A long pause. "Bruce Litton?"


"What are you doing here?"

Trish doesn't want Sadie to leave us and run with the coyotes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Found Smallmouth Bass in a Small New Jersey Pond, Largemouths on Weightless Texas Rigs too

I started in the back, almost passed this water up, since it looked hopelessly shallow, mud bottomed, with scattered weed patches. First time here, I didn't know where to begin, sighted rip-rap along the dam in the distance--the pond about eight acres--which looked promising, as did a shoreline. I cast for 10 minutes, had a small bass take my Chompers, probably about eight inches, not interesting, and then I walked back to the lot, got in my car hoping I could drive to the swimming area and that shoreline, found the roadway off limits, so I walked.

Once I got there, I knew I should have brought one of the extra spools loaded with Power Pro. Didn't know what a bad omen this was, but I did know any big bass could threaten a break among trunks and branches. I eased my way down a fairly steep bank, propped myself against a trunk with my left arm, and pitched ahead before I would stand at water's edge--just as I always did at Mt. Hope Pond.

Immediately--a take. Line tightened, I reared back. No hold. I pitched again, bass took, miss on the set. Once again a take, and this time I had a small one on that got off. Auspicious. I proceeded to water's edge and cast along the edge, proud of my accuracy. I get the worm flush against cover, rigged Texas style weightless, but without Power Pro and just six-pound test, this is really dicey. I need the 15-pound braid.

I mounted back to the roadway, and found an open space with a very steep 15 feet of bank to descend, and instead of making an effort, I simply pitched down. A take! Missed. Another missed, and then on the third pitch--or drop--I saw a really good bass rise from three feet of depth and swoop on the worm. I set and the line popped. Bad knot.

This is not how an experienced angler fishes! You get a little out of the loop and you're vulnerable to error.

To begin with, not thinking of the alternative spool was really stupid.

I marched on down the road to a swimming beach not in use, with picnic tables. On the second cast, I had a take and felt that familiar weight of a really good bass running with the worm before I set--and missed it!

All riled up now, I cast further along the shoreline, one step at a time, beginning with casts close to me. I seldom work the Chompers all the back by slow stop and go retrieve, since hits usually come on descent. I cast progressively longer, so I don't spoil potentially good water in between me and the furthest I can reach.

Done, I worked my way back to the dam, finding that the rip-rap ends at shallow water's edge. The area worthless, I cast a few times to be sure, and went back to where I missed the big bass. This time, I hooked up in the same spot. The fight powerful, I felt sure the bass would go 3 1/2, but proved to weigh about a pound less than that.

Now I felt good. All the scolding for mistakes fully worthwhile, bliss healed the chaos, and I positioned for more. My furthest target resulted in a missed hit, but I repeatedly cast to an overhanging bush a little closer to me. It looked too good. Finally, I hooked up and caught another 2 1/2-pounder.

I went back to the trails leading down the high, steep embankment, intending to fish these areas thoroughly. They yielded a 13-inch smallmouth bass, and another largemouth a little less than a pound, and sure enough, I lost a largemouth of about a pound to submerged brush. Funny seeing a bass leap when your line is tangled in mess of sticks. I tried opening the bail to let it swim out, but though it took line, I couldn't get the bass back through and had to snap off my Chompers.

This 12-acre pond is the smallest I know of in New Jersey with smallmouths. I will keep it secret, because I don't want to step on anyone's toes who might treasure this place as his own. It's pretty far from where I live and I may never return.

I had traveled north to see about buying pool cue rods for the Avon Pier in North Carolina. Stand up rods, they're called. For king mackerel and cobia, sharks and barracuda...sailfish.

What a good time fishing this evening. Hot and humid as I like it. My hair soaked, my shirt. When you reach my age, you're not so limber as to just slide down a steep, rocky bank and dance on boulders near a dam. But I overcame inhibitions and really got into it. 

 That's a thick trunk to the right. One of the spots made a better photo, really classic bass habitat, but I'm saving the shot for the magazines.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Virginia Civil War Trails, Gettysburg, Make Me Wonder about Robert E. Lee

We took a back way down into Virginia at the edge of the Shenandoah Mountains, Interstate 66 from Interstate 81, to U.S. 533, I think it is, to State Highway 231, finally merging onto U.S. Highway 29, well down on Piedmont Plain, though the Blue Ridge remains in view to the west.

We had connected onto I-81 more or less in Harrisburg, PA, abandoning Interstate 78, which backwards more than 100 miles forms a crossroads in our hometown of Bedminster, NJ, with Interstate 287. We skirted Gettysburg, and then in Maryland, just before crossing the Potomac River, Antietam. Virginia is the Civil War state beyond compare with more than 2000 military incidents on record. We noticed that Highway 533 seems designated--at least in parts--a Civil War Trail. In Virginia, many roadways are so or at least are associated, and if you're interested, this link can provide more information than I will:

533 connected to Highway 29 in Virginia's smallest town, Madison, with 210 residents last on record in the year 2000. Nevertheless, this historical landmark of a village serves as the seat of Madison County, named after President James Madison, who owned property on the Rapidan River.

The first thing I noticed about Highway 29 is the namesake--The Seminole Trail. That raised an eyebrow, since our tires rolled through Virginia, not Florida. So once we got to our motel room, I Googled information. The best I can report is that U.S. 29 originated as a Cherokee trail, just as U.S. 206 in NJ originated as a Lenape trail. Escaped slaves headed south, rather than the typical north, to join with Seminole Indians in Florida, never to be found out. The best I could judge from the information, runaway slaves did indeed join with Seminoles, but I'm very familiar with Highway 29 leading southwest to Lynchburg, where I went to school for a semester at Lynchburg College. Why slaves would move in a somewhat westerly direction towards Florida beats me. The Virginia General Assembly named the highway The Seminole Trail in 1928--leaving no record of why. So it is a mystery.

To come down from Jersey through Washington DC would have been a way to follow history, too, but I always used to take that approach, and by what my Father told me, the beltway is a traffic mess these days.

Best of all, the way we came these recent days passed within a very few miles of Gettysburg. I've made the battlefield's acquaintance before, and just to see the name of the town on an exit and come close aroused positive affinity. And judging by the way the terrain moves in against the mountains, forming a sort of pass from Virginia up to Gettysburg, I wouldn't be surprised if the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee took more and less the same route we did today. Feel free to tell me if they did. I'm very interested in history, but for now I'm just going to leave it at this guess.
Potato field and Shenandoah Mountains
We found a place to park. I shot some photos, and studied the stream, Hughes River, from the bridge--lots of minnows, small suckers, one smallmouth. Matt went down to the river and walked upstream a way.
Tastee Freez is a southern chain immortalized in Cheech & Chong's 1970's yellow album, this example we found in the town of Madison.