Saturday, January 30, 2016

Remembering the 1970's and Fishing as an Eternal Verity

I've understood winter as a time to reflect and read since my teens, so it's no wonder I've been posting stories more than accounts. Having missed out on the ice fishing, because I got caught up in other things, Round Valley Reservoir yet awaits laker fishing, specifically. Even more to the point--from shore. I might catch rainbows instead.

I like to get into the technicalities of the game and see how these lead to natural effects, how a creature of nature responds as the focal point of an ecosystem, me included in that particular system in which I participate. It all begins at home. After all, ecology and economics share the same prefix, and the word economics originates in ancient Greece, oikonomia, meaning the organization and management of the household. I pick up on facts like this from reading. In an uncanny way, they're native to me, just as a Litton's Lines post on Ancient Greece and Round Valley Reservoir relates a wildly weird experience I had there. Broad and sunlit, mind you.

When I'm at home arranging tackle for an outing, I always seem to start by thinking concretely on just what to gather, sort, and prepare. I do all that sort of piecemeal while clues tend to lead on to how I can fish, like little things. I find the spinnerbait stinger hooks that got lost for a year and don't need an awkward bluefish hook in the place of one of them. On and on it goes, and I start to remember other things, like the 17-inch bass caught the previous year on a certain black custom quarter-ounce Colorado-bladed job. Before long, I'm in a deep reverie, enjoying some theme or other about the outing or many of them.

That's why, once and awhile, I post themes rather than accounts, and why my accounts themselves tend to be thematic. More than how-to, where-to, tactics and patterns--why we fish matters. None of us would have done it in the first place, unless we had a basic desire to feel what it's about. And then, once we inevitably got frustrated at the difficulty, we began to piece out how to do it. But this led on for each of us who kept at it.

The more we get into it, the more we desire to experience. And if this isn't personal experience, fishing's becoming meaningless, rather than becoming more of a story.

So that's my lead and I'm going to try and keep this post reasonably short, since after all, it's only a blog through which I'm writing.

Back in the day, those world-famous 1970's when 75% or more of high school seniors smoked pot much more openly than they seem to smoke the stuff today, when rock 'n roll was in it's heyday--arguably, '70's music is better than '60's, but not as good as classical--when the weather always seemed warm and sunny--if you're my age, I bet that's how you remember it--when everyone was usually in a good mood, and if not that, in a great mood...the 70's were a time when a few friends and I--besides all this other stuff--fished the early season for largemouth bass.

Typically, it began in late February on the bottom. At least I used to crawl a Johnson Beetle Spin so slowly on gravel I noticed the second hand of my watch seem to turn at about the speed of the handle of my Penn 716. I don't recall anyone else trying this technique. It probably required too much patience. Whether or not, I do know I came up with it. Next, we got them in the mid-column with water warming a little, in between the bottom and the shallows, reeling in-line spinners slow to moderately. I think all of us fished this way. But I made my own out of knock-off CP Swing components that worked just as well. Size 6. So did an older mentor, who showed me how to do this. Brunswick Sports and Hardware in Trenton near the Lawrence Township line sold the parts, or was it Andy's Sports Shop in Trenton? Most likely, old Andy had the equipment. I'm certain now, because my mentor hated Brunswick Sports and Hardware.

Finally, when bass barely nudged into the shallows, we got them by slightly twitching 2 1/2-inch Rebel Minnows on the surface.

Why do this, when so much partying went on? I remember just once, one afternoon I hit Baker's Basin high. It was sacrilege. I really don't say this ironically, because the guilt felt palpable. We, the immoral majority who broke the law, had our ways and means of sharing the sacrament of mother nature, the bones we burned to offer togetherness.

Who knows, perhaps we released the wrath of great spirits, who would have preferred we engage other arts instead. After all, at least the spirit of great works remains with us, and to ignore this fact doesn't make them go away.

Fishing, for one of its qualities, was a way to preserve purity. I knew whatever insights I momentarily gleaned by looking askance as we got into the Dead, these insights rarely, if ever, amounted to anything, because forgotten. I never fully gave into the counter culture, as a few of my friends did and still offer everything up in smoke.

Fishing was much more important. Again, for one thing, because it was unambiguously real. I bet anyone who smokes that stuff is uncertain of reality sometimes when on it. I remember two incidents, one on an island during a calm night of camping on a lake, another in a cabin by a pond, when reality felt more certain and positive than usual, and yet so many times we teens fell prey to confusions about what deeper levels of mind informed us, while the ability to stop action and consider had got let loose like a tape we couldn't stop and rewind. And then we felt as if missing something important, since stuff happening to us we couldn't control didn't seem right for good reason. I guess adults exist who have come to terms with pot and have learned how to let control go, but I've come to good terms with life without the stuff, so it's pretty much a non-issue for me.

I fished all the time during my teens, and avoided those who smoked all the time. I gave up my closest friend--who later came back--because he went too far into the haze. The rest of us teenaged fools and pseudo-intellectual Honor Society types, after freshman year in college when I dropped out to begin in the shellfishing business, it took me three troubled years of conflict with friends to finally write them off as full of---

Is the mind's standard reality or not? If not, it can be all sorts of things, whether you smoke pot or not. Things all of which amount to social prejudices of one sort or another.

So were the '70's Purple Haze or clear sunlight? If I wrote sunshine, you might think of the code designation. I remember the sunlight.

Nevertheless, I make a confession. I honor the Dead. God save the child who rings the Liberty Bell. Robert Hunter's "Franklin's Tower" stems from his passionate love of history, which says a lot for the power of the human mind under duress of agents that destroy it. Ultimately, we can't blame the drugs as the agents. They're chosen in the context of a broader cultural power structure.

Go away and fish. You stand outside it all, looking in on the whole world of folly.

Here's the link to that Round Valley post:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Delaware River's Deepest Depth: A Bass and Walleye Nexus

He's very much all grown up now, but this doesn't seem long ago, when Matt and I rode to Barryville, NY, in November, Narrowsburg further upstream in the back of my mind. I learned of the 113-foot depths during my teens, the deepest of the river, at least the deepest above the tide line at Trenton, and I suspect deeper than any depths of the river below and the Delaware Bay, without knowing for a fact. I studied a map, since I had a fascination for maps and places designated. Naturally, I wanted to go to Narrowsburg sometime.

Modern life or postmodern life or post-postmodern life, whatever you want to call it now, isn't much different than the 1970's when I fished constantly. Call it a "Space Oddity" if you want; there's no doubt that with the demon speed of modern transportation and the angelic lace of the limelight, the modern mind is abstracted in space compared to just little more than a century ago with people much more connected to the land and water. Anyone can contradict me on the difference between now and the '70's by citing the abject fascination with electronic devices. There's no doubt we're even more in our heads as a result, and less reading of newspapers and books means the quality of mind is changed, since reading print on paper is a different experience and closer to nature. Or you could say viewing and reading electronic screens is closer to atomic energy levels in nature, as if we're trying to dig worm holes in the fabric of time to other places.

I got away from my habit of fishing at the age of 18. Just after I had dreamed of becoming a tournament bass pro at 16, I became utterly enthralled with literature, which had seemed very unlikely, because until my junior or senior high school year, I hated English classes, at least those besides journalism, which I liked because I was getting published in magazines on fishing at 16. I did like composition class, 11th grade, the first step to what some may see as my demise, because keeping a personal journal was required.

I got hooked. Like a drug more addictive than nicotine. Soon I read every book I could grab. And many years later, I now have about 100,000 pages of these journals I've handwritten.

Fishing? I kept fishing. As Eric Evans has observed, I never lost the passion. But the serious habit--about 250 days on the water each year--fell by the wayside. Matt got me back at it with fervor in 2004. Steve Slota had turned us on to Barryville in June that year, the two of us and his son Tom, and Matt, catching dozens of smallmouths up to three pounds as we floated down in a vinyl raft. Steve also caught a walleye on a Rapala Countdown. We camped at Cedar Rapids, at the time owned by a woman I've become acquainted with and Steve knows from way back. I'm having a senior moment and forget her name. She runs another place in Barryville now.

So late in November, I had one of my rare inspirations, and I guess I say rare only because modern life or whatever it is, is so contrary. I get inspirations like this all the time. And even though I gave up fishing recreationally so much, I became a commercial shellfisherman at 19, as hard core outdoors as you can get, which involved working in bay brine January and February wearing wetsuits.

Did I get the idea to drive Matt to Barryville and try to catch walleye, or wasn't it premonition, because I'm not moved by "ideas" in some form like dead, encrypted information. Maybe I'm moved by ideas in the Platonic or Hegelian sense, great affective wholes in the way the Bible speaks of a man being commanded to act. Well, I only behaved as if commanded when I utterly gave way to manic episodes during my youth and seemingly survived them only by miracle. I always consider, judge, emend, choose.

This is a blog post, so I probably can't say so much and keep your interest. Perhaps I will write a longer, subtler version of this post and submit it to a literary journal. 

Unfortunately, Matt got skunked on this adventure northward into New York, but I caught a pickerel, two nice smallmouths and a largemouth in Barryville, before we took the leap and rode all the way up to Narrowsburg. It's like a lake, the river wide and rounded. One boat had fishermen in it working a distant shoreline. They were sort of silhouetted in dim light with haze on the water and clouds overhead. We caught nothing in Narrowsburg, plying a shoreline, but it was like feeling great weight of water, and of course I didn't fail to tell my son how deep.

A sort of homecoming. In my teens, I had wondered about this place. Wanted to go, of course. And in November 2004, it was all beginning again.    

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Photo Outing Found Trout Round Valley After Big Snow

Alarm went off at 7:15 and I felt wretched exhaustion and set it for 8:45, hoping sunlight on the Clinton Mill would balance the red. As often happens, I get manic in the head and insomniac when I go to sleep at night, ideas competing with my wish to sleep. Before I finally zoned out sometime well after midnight, I hoped to awake energetic, as sometimes a little manic bout punches energy level enough to wake up ready to go.

Not this morning. But by 8:45, I was OK, except I decided to forego the fishing tackle for Round Valley Reservoir and hit the road immediately, scooping up my camera, tripod, and leashing Sadie the black Lab. On the way, I worried about light perhaps not being right. You can see it is, but there's some bad white balance that resulted in blue snow you can see if you look for it. I can correct that. The "kit lens" has pretty deep color tone, but I may buy the much more expensive 17-55mm yet. I Don't think the photo quite does it, but the camera is a D7100, top of the DX format line.

After a dozen shots or so, I headed up Route 31 looking for a kayak outfitter I never found, so I have to wait yet to buy cartop racks. But I drove into Glen Gardner, turning around at Hot Rod Hot Dogs, and marveling at the size of the mountain with a rock face in front of me. Some of the houses along the way are beat up and kind of appealing, a feeling of honest ruin and letting it all go. I guess some things have to rot, and though I wouldn't live in ramshackle house, I would hate to live in a country where every house is prim.

I drove to Round Valley and shot photos, left, got the idea of walking to a low-water peninsula to photograph it, and turned the Honda Civic back. So I got a good trudge in deep snow with Sadie and got more photos, that peninsula shot worth it all the way. And then I walked along the water, most of the way in refrozen, boot-resistant snow, to one of two guys fishing trout.

He had two rainbows, each about 17 inches, caught on shiners. He told me some lakers got caught just before the snowstorm slammed us. I drove up here on Tuesday, and the main park entrance was closed. It must have opened yesterday, since boot marks on the trail were old, but this guy was the first out to that point, judging by his.

I may get out and fish trout here soon.
 Used my Tokina 11-16mm

Nikkor 70-200mm f/4, 1.4 Nikkor Extender, 1.3 camera crop function

Monday, January 25, 2016

Taking it all Out to Budd Lake

The year after we met, Patricia, who became my wife, and I, moved onto the second floor of a Victorian manor in North Plainfield, New Jersey. That winter of 1993-1994 was the coldest on record. We paid through the 12-foot ceilings for heating.

I read in The Fisherman about ice fishing on Round Valley Reservoir, but never joined in. During a move that August to Chester, New Jersey, I came close to throwing out my tip-ups. I had trout fished that spring, but compared to previous life as a commercial clammer, I was not connected to the land and water, and I almost tossed aside something essential to me.

Once established in Chester, I went through dozens of jobs before I began waiting tables for Larison's Turkey Farm. Patricia called the restaurant "Turkey Central." We married in 1997 shortly before I began working there. Larison's had been a landmark for six or seven decades. I think it is that long. I once sat down to dinner with Mr. Larison and a couple of others. He was 97, but the place went out of business just after I quit in 1999.

I felt like Benjamin Franklin stepped out of existence.

The bald eagle became the national symbol, not the wild turkey that Franklin suggested, but the wild turkey is one whacky bird that symbolizes the Great Thanksgiving Feast of Friends, the social cluster jam that can incentivize capitalism from the ground up, not from the high venture command that levels the field for everyone but vultures. The crowds were steady at Larison's and the work reliable. Fun too, that place was a riot.

But before I began working at Larison's, during January 1997, I ice fished Little Swartswood Lake with a friend's son. The friend had also shellfished with me behind Long Beach Island. My passion for ice fishing surged. All these years later, I remember this with crisp focus. 

The next weekend I began ice fishing Budd Lake. For three winters, most of my fishing was solitary, and the best I remember of these outings was a frigid, 15-degree afternoon when I encountered a loneliness that would have been unbelievable to me growing up.

I not only faced it without depression, I relished it as the very essence distilled of my struggling life. It took a few seasons before I felt this at its best, and the vibrant social scene at Larison's didn't cheat the experience. I had worked hundreds of jobs since I began taking them in 1987, along with shellfishing sporadically until 1993. Most of them temping, I had a dozen agencies, so all told, I'd say I worked close to 300 jobs in about a decade. I was conscientiousness and a hard worker, if I could be. Sometimes I was so self-divided hard work wasn't possible, yet conscience remained.

In essence, I'm a writer, not a workin' man. Clearly at odds with the expected, I'm nevertheless the most persistent man I've known. Besides, on that issue of work, I've never met anyone else who has worked as many different jobs. After that decade--I was ice fishing Budd Lake with a friend by this time--I found a job I could accept long term and stayed with it for 13 years. But I've had the goal of success as a writer from the age of 16. Nothing has stopped me.

Budd Lake could have been the moon. It was beautiful. I can't tell you how precious physical light really is. And ice stepped on. I was like an astronaut from a spacecraft I not only manned alone, but built alone. The spacecraft of my unknown life, which I know well enough to have done it successfully.
Me in 1997