Saturday, May 7, 2016

Trout at the Zoo

Thought of fishing the neighborhood pond tomorrow evening, and then changed my mind during a Facebook exchange with a friend, looked over my shoulder, and grabbed my St. Croix already rigged with a spinnerbait. I knocked the bass out using this one just a couple of weeks ago.

I could have turned around and come home, reminded by the looks that the pond has since weeded in. I could have then rigged up with a weightless Chompers rigged with an inset hook, but why not a little folly to remind me of how good fishing can be? Besides, I began casting actually thinking a bass would loom up behind and hammer the lure down. Just the matter of dodging algae would bring a quick result. I can't remember getting skunked at this pond since 1999.

Did get a follow. A big wake behind the spinner's wake. Also spooked a few. One of them, a big one, reacted to my Power Pro braid line nearly running across its back as I retrieved. The fish hung right at calm surface.

I woke at 4:30 this a.m. and went trout fishing on the Lamington, where a 14-inch rainbow hit my Muddler Minnow stripped across the surface and creating a V-wake. I quickly released the trout. Making a presence at the surface seemed the only thing to do with the water muddied, though not thoroughly muddied, but I tried one more option by tying on a big, bodacious streamer with a red head of fuzz I could hardly cast--wind resistant. The tapered leader just didn't want to lay out straightly, but that fly drew three strikes before I had to soon leave for work, including the roll from a rainbow that had to be 18 inches.

After pedaling my bike to the Bedminster dog park this afternoon to meet my wife and friends, I stopped at the Zoo on the return loop. Here, the North Branch is in much better shape than was the Lamington at dawn. Quite a few trout got caught; I learned by posing the question.

At least it used to be AT&T World Headquarters. I'm not perfectly clear on whether or not the AT&T facility, which the Zoo appropriately fronts, remains so, but global communications it is, and a springtime menagerie of participants of all racial descents and many national colors got named by a good friend not after any zoo in particular, so let's just say the peculiar word that prefixes the study of animals, including the apex predator who uses reason and not only sense, includes the both of us and our fishing here quite a bit--with a full cognizance of the company's significance.

AT&T, I applaud you. I've heard bells ringing all my life. The memory never fades of how a telephone used to sound off, and I never dreamed that one day, I would walk into the Bell Labs facility at Murray Hill, New Jersey, employed as a temp, and not only--but especially--stand in awe of a statue of the inventor. And besides this unforgettable moment, be introduced for the first time to email in May 1994.

Of course, it's all useless if there's nothing worth saying.

And did you think anthropology trumps zoology, as if the human species is excluded from the latter? It's the Garden State that reminds me of a line from Pink Floyd's "Dogs," on the Animals album, about reaping the harvest you've sown.    

Friday, May 6, 2016

Capoolong Creek Photo Shoot

Came to Pittstown to photograph the Capoolong Creek, bringing my two-weight fly rod and vest just in case, and even my St. Croix with a spinnerbait for any bass pond encountered, if time. I did find a public pond so small I didn't feel motivated to fish.

As the morning before work unfolded, I just managed to do photo sessions in two places along the creek, the second requiring waders. Experimenting with both manual aperture and shutter settings together, I found out that it's easier to overexpose a shot than get the right balance. Once you do that, it's really no use in Lightroom. These shots featured I did in Aperture Priority, an easier setting.

At the second area of the stream I came to, someone trout fished and caught one as I passed him by again to go suit up in waders. Got my tripod, too, as I like to shoot at slow shutter speeds and narrow apertures both for allowing moving water surface to blur, giving that flow appearance, and better depth of field. Increased depth of field means the range of focus extends further into the picture so that objects at a distance get captured crisply. Even with today's overcast, at about noontime, necessary shutter speed at f22 closed at a quarter second, and that's too quick to create the effects I hoped for.

Always feels good to be out there, once I do something practical that involves bodily intelligence. Birdsong invited my musical sense, as if a reminder less of the environment's need of our respect, than my need to spend time in nature.

I got to work on time.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Small River Smallmouth Bass Trophy Quest

Small River Smallmouths Can Rattle Your Thumb

Trophy Quest

          They’ll shake your hand loose from the rod handle if you don’t hold on. If you haven’t tried little rivers some anglers drive over while trailering their boats, you may be amazed at the size of the big bass, clapping their gills to celebrate leaps. Rare enough to dream about more than attain, lunkers don’t symbolize an impossible Holy Grail, not if you care to catch one and do the footwork. In between the lordly females and the little bass eager to slam soft plastic offerings, good-size bronzebacks anywhere from a pound-and-a-half to three pounds can represent milestones along the way.

          A river is like a living example of philosophy. All it asks is appreciation for what offered, perhaps not bass as big as lurking in the depths of a favorite reservoir, yet unmistakably, stream bass fit an environment of boulders and eddies, fast water leading into slow stretches and 10-foot holes.  Smallmouths should be released to remain wild. I caught one over four pounds in a stream I can cast clear across at a 45-degree angle by a flick of the wrist, and I’m convinced bigger exist, because my son spotted one. Besides, he caught another bass almost as large as mine on the same afternoon.

          Stories take some time to grow into as your own. If you want to catch big stream smallmouths, you should get acquainted not only with one river, but a number of them in your region. Less find certain spots, than learn how to catch the feeling of where flow leads. Become familiar with rivers, easier then to locate fish not because you know where to look, but because your senses attune to the rivers’ lead.

         Go with basics. Soft plastics known as the popular lure for stream bass, this shows for good reason. Floater/divers such as Rapalas and Rebels will catch some fish, but I never use these hard-bodied plugs from late May until September, because I’ve given them a try and have found them more effective from mid-September through October when bass’s diets shift from an opportunistic summer smorgasbord to soft-rayed forage fish. And in-line spinners shimmer more than produce during the summer months when most of the stream smallmouth fishing happens. Second to soft plastics, streamer flies and nymph patterns prove very productive with a fly rod.

          Tube plastics without lead jigheads to get caught between rock crevices—just a size 1 plain shank hook—can catch bass sun-up to sunset. Mid-afternoons on hot days come alive with average steam bass. To catch a mid-day lunker may require stimulating weather, since these old-timers choose movements selectively, making appearances early and late, but bass of a half-pound to a pound or more, fiercely pugnacious, don’t shy of conditions that largemouths in lakes and ponds respond to a lot slower.

          Before the invention of tubes, my favorite three-inch Mr. Twisters caught scores. The trick? To position a size 2 plain shank hook just right so the lure rode straight on steady retrieve. Naturally, light-power spinning rods accompanied, six-pound test monofilament limp and lean. In recent years, my favoritism shifted to Senko-type worms, and rather than cast the smaller three or four-inch selections, I go with full-sized five-inch worms that cast a mile. Even small bass strike eagerly.

          Especially with low water during drought conditions, long casts from a lure make important marks. Slow stretches hold bass shooting 20 feet to grab a worm, but if you get too close before the presentation sails in to alert fish first, they’ll dash in the opposite direction.

          Preferring slow stretches to the many other stream features, some favorites are no more than four feet deep and productive in two to three-foot rocky ranges of flat shale, under which bass stalk if not actively on the prowl. Don’t get stuck on sight fishing. Cast among rocks and bass dart out, take the plastic and dash back for cover. Give the fish no more than a few seconds before hook setting. Don’t gut-hook and complicate release. Deep holes may hold the largest bass, but not always. The biggest my son caught came from a pocket between rocks and riffles about three feet deep, this spot’s diameter not larger than a car hood.

          This bass’s residence? Evidence from many sources, including the snorkeling of my son and me, suggests that stream bass migrate between various spots on a small river or stream. We swam several holes repeatedly, which held many bass one day, none the next. This doesn’t prove anything but stands as some evidence. A particular lair may have more value to an angler’s sentiment than catch rate, although certain places on a river tend to be better than others. We have favorites, but don’t let complacency undercut faith in the big picture.         

Sunday, May 1, 2016

iBass360 Spruce Run Reservoir Outing

Smallmouth bass spawn when temperatures in the shallows reach and sustain a temperature of about 59 degrees. This morning, I arrived at Spruce Run Reservoir at 6:15 to find Eric Evans had got there just ahead of me, other iBass360 members already launched, some coming in after us. A chilly morning, I really should have worn my winter jacket, because for the first few hours with a slight breeze, I felt pretty miserable. And the water registered 57 degrees. Here it is May as I write this, and Spruce Run is a fairly turbid reservoir, which means it warms quickly, especially since it's not especially deep as is Round Valley.

As we scooted off, I felt interest pique as Eric asked where I thought we should try, because I felt sure of a spot we had discovered last summer, lots of rock, deep water nearby, and an extensive flat with rock and gravel bottom where surely smallmouths will spawn or have so, as water temperature is said to have fallen. I thought little of largemouths all week before this event. The foregone conclusion just sort of sat in my stomach that we would encounter smallmouths. And my hunch did not involve the flat itself little, but the slope just to the side and in front of it.

We approached by fishing an entire length of shoreline down to the flat for not a hit. I felt lost out there. Any of you who follow this blog know I haven't fished much this year, and until I caught a smallmouth--on that flat itself--a couple of times I thought of my older mentor back from during my teens, an outdoorsman who is wholly just that and principled as the most conservative individual I've ever known. I wondered about myself, all I espouse in writing, sitting there out-of-sorts while I tried to fish with sincerity, and it seemed as if this man would never be the way I plied the water out-of-touch with my own practice.

Eric fished what to me seemed an awfully heavy jig for shallow water, a quarter ounce. I noticed he fished it really slow, right on bottom of course, and a minute later the Keitech lured a nice smallmouth he lost boat side. Now his approach made sense, but I persisted with my weightless worm, though I had tried half-a-dozen other lures. The ways to catch bass limitless, often someone else's method seems odd until you catch a glimmer of the beauty.

In 10 more minutes' time, Eric boated two smallmouths of 14 or 15 inches, and all of this action, including the bass he lost, happened right where I suggested we go. He lost yet another smallmouth that sort of sluggishly leapt off. And before we abandoned Valhalla for an early lunch with the rest of the team, he caught a largemouth of about two pounds the same way up on the flat in about three feet of water.

We beached the boat just after Eric asked would I like to fish more after lunch. Yes. And that's when I came fully back to myself, the weather having moderated, for one thing, my clothing more suitable, unpreparedness a mistake you should never make.

I caught nothing more and we tried a lot of new spots that looked promising; some fish marked on the graph, too. Just about all of the dozen-and-a-half of us fishing had caught bass, the largest five-and-a-half pounds, a largemouth, another over four pounds, some smallmouths and largemouths near three pounds. And another boat of two not in the club we had first met back at the flat had caught 17 between the two of them.

Spruce Run is a vibrant fishery, but man, it does get pounded.

Before we quit at 3:00, Eric motored us back to the flat and that sloping edge, to catch one more largemouth of about two pounds the same way, with the same Keitech, up on the flat. I fished a heavy jig and Keitech some, too. But during this last half hour, I felt determined to hook a bass on a Storm Hot-N-Tot, a crankbait I've done well with on the Delaware. I didn't burn the lure; I kept retrieves moderate and switched them up with pauses and tics, trying to make manufactured plastic come alive.