Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just not so Strenuous as was the Trip

"Immigrant Song" is printed nicely and secured to a wall of my study. I can't be brought up on any charge of treason, because America is not a Christian nation. I'll allude to this opening line that makes a joke of the highest crime--of course charge of treason can't apply to art in a free country--as my ditty of an essay comes to conclusion. As if led by a fiery manic Norse seaman, the oarsmen of ancient origin threshed their way to the Western shore of America. Heavy metal's maximum power of amplification. With whom that form of music began. Britain certainly hasn't found any cause to diss any member of Led Zeppelin, either. I've sometimes noticed the print there on my wall slightly to the left of my forward vision, and have wondered at how rock was derided by my parent's generation as cheap and immature. I'm 56 and I respond to this song--instrumentation and lyrics--as if ageless. Today, I thought of it because I had to stop. Just as one of the song's lines gives just that advice with electric fervor. I make ruins of my life. Over and over again. Always rebuilding.

I decide to go on a roll, always to gain a goal I know I need to attain, and though I don't tell anyone else, I do confide in others. They might read my handwritten journals after I'm dead and gone. If the best passages are transferred to print by a good editor who can read my handwriting, and who has the audacity to improve upon my errors within the context of meaning--as I've invited any to do-- more people will read than any in my family the immense stacks as they stand. Always I go out to stand my trials knowing that before any is over, there is the possibility I won't be here to recoup, but most likely, it will just take both a little R & R and the exercise of very strenuous effort to regain my focus. Just not so strenuous as was the trip.

Here it is only a day after the very long day I blogged about yesterday. After recent days on end fishing, blogging, photographing, doing other activities while sleeping irregularly and performing the hard tasks of my wage job to the expected level of competence and a little more than that. I'm happy to report that I'm fine.

Much of my life is not "held in abeyance" as poet Walt Whitman described suspense akin to depression but not the same as that, as Whitman seemed to know, though differently than I do, that depression is a failure of nerve, and nerve fails because of bad habit. Especially where I perform my job, though not always, my inner situation involves less abeyance of mind than deep inward engagement such as Danish existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard, fully committed himself to, calling this private activity "passionate inwardness." If any contradiction between the deepest inner reach and the immediate demand of a customer existed, I would be unable to perform the job I do very well. So it's not the same as "the dark place," featured in the terrific new movie, Get Out.

We all must dress, however, for the rigidly defined costume party or freak show our culture has become to some degree. As I write, there's a party across the street, and the mum sound of music and animated voices, no harshness in any of the tones, reminds me that America is still here, just as plenty of customers at work remind me every day. Martin Buber, 20th century Jewish prophet, wrote that anyone who comes to fully believe that society is the like of a freak show "has succumbed to demonology." Jared Loughner, who shot Congressional Representative Gabby Giffords in 2011, killing and injuring many others, hollered about the "freak show" in court. That statement of Buber about demonology, a sophisticated modern like us, strikes me as odd, but I know just enough about where he's coming from--a hugely broader and deeper perspective than his century--to respect those words he had published, despite their riling my humor a little, though with no respect whatsoever to Loughner.

Get Out serves as a powerful commentary on us today, but no one is slave, not in any circumstances, not even if bought and sold, in fact--unless a slave in his or her own mind. Resentment is always directed at a superior. It stimulates thought, but ultimately it is impotent if thought just digs a rut. A big rut got dug during the 1960's.

The transformation of Old Norse myth into modern paganism indeed targeted the West as, ultimately, its only goal--to conquer us. The "kids" of the 1960's and early 1970's called this "changing the world." I often drive past Ithaca, New York, on my way to fish the Salmon River. Thus far, always with my son. Ithaca is a hippy town, but instead of the modern shambles of religion in sex and drugs and rock and roll, I always think of ancient Greece. There is also Marathon and Syracuse on the way north. Three names of ancient Greek city-states. But mostly, I think about ancient Athens. And now the Spanish immigrants across the street begin to play guitar and sing and clap along. Beautifully.

Ancient Greeks were pagans, too. Not the same as Norsemen, but not Christians, Jews, Islamists, or any of the host from the East. Many, many years ago, I dated a Princeton University student. I once told her that when I die, I want to be reborn, right here on Earth. A devout Christian, she was alarmed, and she told me, no less by a very informed academic grasp but from a very oblique angle that struck me directly, that Aristotle was in hell, because he lived before he could have received Christ's redemption. Of course, she got this from the poet Dante. I don't think she got it from the musky fisherman of the same name on Lake Hopatcong, who probably avoids River Styx, a sector of the lake I like for pickerel. It was her response that hit me as so wildly relevant to me. Why did she bring up Aristotle to warn me about my desire? Besides, here I am. Some 2000 years after Christ. The young woman and I attended the same Episcopal Church.

Most of the hippies had no idea what they were doing, but Led Zeppelin did and does, only now, well, things are rather uncertain now, compared to the revolutionary fervor of David Bowie's Golden Years. Martin Buber wrote, "The distorted face of man is temporary," forecasting the future from not all that long ago.

The past is pagan, not the future. Hubris, as the wise Greeks knew, always fails. This is not to say outrageous arrogance is not inspired by an idea; it certainly is so, but something stronger refuses to budge or give in. Aristotle was pagan. But do you really think, if he were reborn today, he would be a pagan like so many hanging out in Ithaca, New York? After the Catholic Church basically used his works as its blueprint? When the dozens of his interests, many divided into individual works, serve as blueprint for the universities developed primarily within a Christian ethos?

Oh, drop out and turn on. Where did that lead? "The distorted face of man is temporary."

You can tell by earlier sentences: I feel a certain reverence for "Immigrant Song." Such mania is of course native to me. How else appreciate that song? But I've also performed, many years, as a vocal artist. Not rock 'n roll, but a wide range of vocal forms, including great masterpieces like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem. This work is immensely more powerful than any rock performance. And it is pure sublimation. Not raw. Mozart possessed native mania, but as a great artist, he disciplined that disease greatly.

My favorite line of "Immigrant Song" is the last. Peace and trust will win the day. But the wolf-like moaning of Led Zeppelin vocalists after their last word--losing--is like a twist on the Lyceum, the failed school of Aristotle. The Academy of Plato is the university of today. The Lyceum, however, despite it's folding, never really lost at all. Plato's otherworldliness is no prescription for life on earth, nor do Plato's works serve the structure of the schools in his name, as do the works of Aristotle. Lyceum means--wolf den.

Just a pet peeve of The Philosopher.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

As if She would Forgive Me

Up at 5:10 this morning to meet Noel Sell at 6:00, after getting up at 5:30 yesterday morning (27th) to fish with Mike, then going to my job to work hard eight hours, after posting. There was no way I would be late for Noel this morning. I arrived at 5:59. Took longer than expected. (Mike lives right around the corner and told me to call him anytime in lieu of his alarm.)

Warm out in the dark as I drove off with window down this morning.

We got on the big river and also unexpectedly, I felt disoriented. This wasn't exhaustion. There's never been a morning when I didn't wake up fresh to fish.

Many years ago, senior year of high school, I was at a party late. I didn't drink very much. Maybe equal to a six pack or two over five hours' time. Drinking age: 18. I enticed a girl away from the party to the swimming pool of some random residence. Repeatedly, she dove off the board, then I cannonballed off the board, and so on. She was top notch on the swim team. I didn't know how to dive. Suddenly, I remembered I had a State Federation Bass Tournament to fish. I looked at my waterproof watch. Exactly 3:00 a.m. This was in Lawrence Township, Mercer County. I had to be at Spruce Run Reservoir in three hours. Hunterdon County to the north.

So I let her go. I had worked on her all year and that was all. She refused to ever speak to me again. Bass? Instead of her?

Went home. Slept a little. Woke up OK. Drove an hour to Spruce Run Reservoir. Got there in plenty of time. But my assigned tournament partner smelled alcohol on my breath. The next eight hours did not go well....except for daydreaming about the girl. As if she would forgive me.

Ancillary to my thinking as I compose this essay, I've always remembered immediately approaching and driving my Ford Fairlane station wagon onto a bridge over the very river Noel and I fished this morning. This on the way to Spruce Run Reservoir that morning nearly 40 years ago. I must have remembered this moment a hundred times since then. And it's the only moment I have remembered of that drive, for as long as I can remember. Most of us sophisticated moderns do not believe in mysteries of the mind, but this to each our own demise. As Albert Einstein once emphasized, such mysteries are what life is all about. He said so most emphatically. That those who have no feeling for this are as good as dead. Why do I remember this moment? Over and over again. I don't know. But I fished with Noel this morning.

The obvious--sophisticated--response to my anecdote by route of explanation is to point out that I must have remembered the bridge because it spans a river. I fish. You can't know this, but that's not all it was. Depth psychologist Carl Jung called it numinosity, a word that Word underlines as misspelled. But Carl Jung was full of mystification, overly abstract ideation that obscures the depths as if they're too dangerous to see clearly. Most anyone will conjure glowing visions as if to make a cartoon caricature of the fact that word represents. The river as somewhere to fish was less of what I responded to in that moment.  

Here it is after midnight. During my eight-hour job shift in the Chef Studio today, I once surreptitiously whipped out my Handy Dandy Notebook (Blues Clues on TV was a temporary fascination for my young son he quickly outgrew.) I took the 3 x 5 out when I knew I was ahead of the work curve, and noted that tonight and tomorrow morning, I will finally get well rested again. Mostly tomorrow morning, since I'll be up to at least 3:00 a.m. working tonight. I don't punch "normal" hours as we say.

Noel fishes nearly every morning. I realized, when we had finished casting, that this is the first time I had applied my three-and-a-half foot spinning wand to a big river. I still didn't understand my disorientation, even so. To Noel, it seemed obvious. "I don't think I would do well on those little streams you fish."

I always need very specific relations to really understand my state. It was obvious to me I was on a big river and not used to fishing any of such size with my little rod, but not at all convincing as any cause to my understanding. Now that I'm not on that river, I understand my having been there in terms of spatial conception. Memory always helps sort things out for me. I sort of live after the fact. But then again, that's not the only way I live.

We caught one trout short of 12 in total, that numinous number of Christ's disciples. Noel and I both sang in the world-class Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton, Choir of Men and Boys 40 years ago. Touring and recording was heady activity, but when you really get down to it, all of that is meaningless without the teachings it is supposed to represent. Noel catches his limit, cleans the trout, packages them, and gives them away exactly as Christ suggested, but never because Christ said so. At best, Christ suggested practices in essence universal to all of us.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Zen and the Art of the Zoo: AT&T N. Branch Raritan Stretch Trout

Looks like I'm flying the Jersey Bird, but that had no conscious intent.

Mike and I got out for just a bit this morning at the Zoo and caught 15 rainbows. As we passed the U.S. Highway 202/206 Bridge, we noticed a trout fisherman getting out of his car, and I cringed because I wanted us to be first on the river, at least up above a little where it would matter for us. Not a minute later, I was pulling over onto an empty shoulder swath. Nice.

When I first awoke, the birds sang their brightest, just like May mornings I remember walking back there alone in remaining darkness for a limit of brown trout and walking out with them as the next guy walked in. Then I would clean the fish at home a few minutes later and begin cooking them as my wife and son got out of bed. 

By the time I responded to the third clock alarm signal this morning, the birds had quieted a bit, but plenty darkness remained. We began fishing in gloam as I missed a trout on the first cast, caught one on the second.

Back upstream towards the AT&T exit bridge I caught one after another, and I'm sure I would have caught at least five or six more, had I enough Mike's Garlic pink salmon eggs. We feared the river would remain high since the recent rain, but it came down even more than I had expected overnight, running pretty full but not fast, plenty clear. I came prepared with those bright eggs and they worked better in the low light despite water clarity. Just didn't come prepared enough, as I went through the jar 3/4 full, fast.

A fly fisherman a little upstream of that spot I quickly favored watched me toss a trout up on the bank. I had forgotten my stringer. "Was that a brown trout?"

"Rainbow. If it were a brown trout, it would have been a wild fish put back in the river. Some of those come down from Peapack Brook. Not many."

Browns haven't been stocked for years now.

His facial expression of assent in return felt friendly, but especially by catching trout after trout, losing at least half as many more during the fight---since hook-setting is tenuous---I felt the ambiguity of my situation. Fly fishing has an attitude hard to separate yourself from, if you do it. I know, since I do it, too.

Soon, Mike had felt enough frustration, satisfied he didn't get skunked, and decided to hang out with me and watch whatever it is I do that engages trout non-stop. "It looks like you're doing what I do," he said, amused.

"It's wherewithal," I said. I cast, hooked another.

Most of it is unconscious. But that only means without conscious vigilance, catch rate would register near zero, because effective unconscious response depends completely on conscious mindfulness improving habit and filling that reservoir. Teeming life inside me gives back rationally every time I'm on the water. And every minute of my life besides. Even when I'm a little dazed after going nonstop for a long time. Now, for example.

Mike noticed the fly fisherman looking every time my drag screeched. He muttered, "That guy's gonna go home and hang himself."

I wouldn't use a strike indicator. But maybe I should. My Brother Rick says I should. I just like keeping it simple, though it is true: you have to keep sharp on the line without a float indicating your nymph got hit. Never saw that happen today, but I freely recognize I caught all of my trout on bait.

Before I began writing this post, I checked my inbox. I had remarked to a friend about the salmon egg method. I found he had got back to me: "Anything works on stocked trout."

Well, yeah. Mike didn't get skunked this morning. But using the same bait, he obviously could tell you there's a difference in catches, and he's trying to figure out what that is. He might say he finds it weirdly elusive. The master of this method used to tell me it's all about drift. The salmon egg naturally rolling with the current. It's about much more than this.

I said to Mike, "Joe would laugh at me." Because Joe would have caught at least twice as many than me this morning. I'm good at it, but not the master he is.

At Califon, Mike had said, "How can one difference in hook measure, the color of the salmon egg, and two broken swivels for weight instead of a BB split shot make this much difference?"

"They make a difference, but it's a whole complex," I said. The way he looked back at me made me think of depth psychologist Carl Jung and his theory of psychological complexes. Psychological complexes may have nothing to do with the method, but I only say that because I haven't troubled to think about this. But the unconscious mind absolutely does have to do with success. Above all, that mind's transformation as awareness. Intuition. The better you learn to pick up on clues any fishing situation presents, just as any situation in life requires intelligence, the better attuned your whole being becomes at catching fish or productivity.

I guess people always thought Jon Stewart's "Moment of Zen" was just a joke. It never was only that. Jon graduated from Lawrence High School a year after I did, and his best friend was a good friend of mine, obsessed with Zen. We used to fish all the time. Dave would understand what I'm getting at. 

Phosphate run-off from recent rain. Lot of lawn fertilizing going on, but this river has good water quality in general. And by the way, Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I just now realize, died just some hours ago.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pequest River Trout: Wading for Connection

Second outing on the Pequest in all these years. Mike mentioned the river's flowing into the Delaware, shortly after Martin's Creek Power Plant briefly came into view not very distant. I told him I caught a striped bass at the mouth of the river, but that didn't count as a Pequest fish, even though the water it came from had Pequest freshness mixing in. That was late summer and the Pequest was very clear with its temperature strikingly cooler than the big river.

Now more than six years ago, I fly fished the Pequest Trout Conservation Area with my son in March, walking and wading far downstream and back. We used Zebra midges exclusively, confident in the choice by what I had read. Tiny. Size 22 I think they were. Where a pool began to pan out into a shallow tail, I watched a 14-inch rainbow lurch for the nymph and missed the very light take. Until today, that was all the fish action I'd had on the river, though I've had some familiarity with the river along U.S. 46 since my teens.

We came in hopes of a big one. First, we had to find a hole. At least it would seem the likelihood of finding a big trout depended on this, and today didn't change this assumption. This river flows shallow for the most part, and just about everywhere it is very difficult to wade with softball and basketball-size rounded rocks. We did stop well upstream where the river is considerably shorter in width, finding the river bed composition muddy by comparison, the flow much less choppy, much less broken to pieces by rocks. No holes found, we drove miles downward, and where we first stopped, did find deep water. It's really the only deep water we found today, and we covered a lot of ground.

Instead of plumbing the bottom of that pool, most of the trout took position to the rear where the pool panned out into shallows. We caught a number of trout, but the action kept halting and we would take another position, get hit, and then again nothing more. We got a tip from someone who fished downstream less than a hundred yards, tried the area he abandoned, caught a few, and then drove on in search of better. It wasn't a day for parking, locking up while making sure all valuables are concealed--though certainly everyone we met on the river today was worth the time exchanged--and walking and wading at length, though the very best of my stream trout memories are of these more difficult efforts. The best of all climbed the 1200-foot vertical elevation of Dunnfield Creek from its exit region into the Delaware River, to its source meadow atop Kittatiny Ridge. But on the other hand, it is hard to judge--on second thought--if this wonder of a solitary outing, some of it bushwhacking through thick forest understory growing between rocks in rattlesnake country where, had I got bit, no hope of getting out alive those many miles distant existed without cutting the wound open wide with my knife in an attempt to drain off some of the poison; it wasn't as simple as always keeping to the stream bed, sometimes impenetrably obscured, and yet it's  hard to judge if that hike really was as good as wading Stony Brook in Princeton Township at age 10 with friends and catching no trout at all. Those early days were all light and goodness. Dunnfield Creek possessed the very darkness of the Garden of Eden. That meadow high on the ridge virtually no one has ever seen.

Today pushed the envelope of possibility to the limit of where it could go, given an afternoon off from work circumscribed by hopes of a big one from some stocked hole, my black Labrador necessarily along with us, given that my wife expects this of me. Perhaps most of all, we needed to do some driving to get a wide perspective on the river, flanking it along stretches neither of us had seen.

We caught 15 trout between the two of us. They were difficulty gained. The best quality for me the wading, even though I backed off from attempting a couple of eddying pockets between sluices of current that looked just a little too shallow to hold much promise anyway. Not only were the rocks slickened by erosion; they hosted some algae slime, not offering difference by too wide a margin from gaining traction on ice. I waded assiduously, and did my best to keep my errant impulses in check, an effort trying me life-long, and I suppose my crazy urges will persist to the end. By the time we left, the control felt vital, complex, and very healthy, nerves in my feet fusing with synapses in my brain, assuring me that abstract levels I entertain have meaning physically linked to survival.

There was a moment Mike witnessed. Both of my boots slipped and for a moment it appeared I would plunge. My foot knew where to lodge.

I know them as adder's tongues, but nowadays they're mostly recognized as trout lilies.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bergen County, New Jersey, Striped Bass

We weren't the only skunked at DeKorte Park today, but another guy we spoke to caught an 18-incher, and two other guys caught two bass, one of them eight pounds. For the Meadowlands Flats, where the largest I've heard of caught was 12 pounds, that's a nice fish. The flats are so shallow that full exposure at low tide reveals mud and scattered Atlantic white cedar stumps. Creek channels hold the only water. They're the key to the fishing here. Outflows here and there along the Saw Mill Trail create strong currents where bass hold. All of the bass we've caught so far got hooked right in the current. Some of the pipes between upper and lower flats are small. Others larger. And the heaviest flow is a sluiceway bridged by a wooden walkway. On the upstream side, the water is very deep.

Fred met me and Matt at 7:00 a.m. and we arrived at the Flats after about an hour of easy driving, no traffic entanglements, easy going conversation on the way. Fred immediately judged dead high tide, no movement at the pipe in the first corner, and as we readied to carry our rods and tackle in, noticed something big chasing a herring or gizzard shad. I know it was forage something like that, because it leapt clear out of the water. A foot long. And the bass after that fish was big. We saw boils. No other big gamefish here in these former garbage dumps.

Fred was rigged up and cast for the fish to no avail. As I tied paddletails onto the four rods of my son and me, I said, "Is the water moving?"

"Yeah. The stuff on the surface by the pipe just moved, right when I looked up," Fred said.

Once that water starts coming down, it seems to fall very fast; all because of these drain-ways. We fished all the spots to the final breach below the sluiceway, fished these spots hard, but the best of it for me was sitting on basalt at the sluiceway and just letting stress get carried off by the breeze as I cast and cast, sun on my face, and the temperature a little chilly but not brisk.

My son fiddled with his damned mobile device. I never protested outwardly, but I hate those things and have never owned one. I'll keep my flip-phone as long as I can and use it little. The last thing I want in life is to give up my mind informed by my senses--such as those fairly long moments as I sat by the sluiceway--for a mind mediated by a bunch of bullshit.

I never can find the best information I need online anyway. I use public libraries and independent bookstores.

Fred got a hit. I got a hit. That's our striper action to report.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Peapack Brook Fast Action with Rainbow and Brown Trout

Jorge Hildago hasn't fished trout until this morning, besides trying some Power Bait in ponds. He hooked and fought a rainbow on his first cast. One of those fish you might not know whether to claim as a catch or not. He got the trout in, but as he lifted it with the rod, I stammered that you pull the fish ashore, since two-pound test line risks a knot break, or more likely, a weak hook connection pulls free. The hook pulled and the trout inches from Jorge's temporary possession dropped into inches of water at his feet. An arrangement with my son afforded Jorge's use of a three-and-a-half foot micro-light rod. A very auspicious initiation for him to this esoteric form of fishing trout streams. In fact, of all the people I have introduced to this method, Jorge has impressed me most. And he's the first, besides my son, with no stream trout fishing experience. He caught trout after trout.

In a moment, Jorge had another, and I told him after he caught a couple more rainbows that Peapack Brook hosts wild brown trout. "Maybe there's one in this pool," I said.

Minutes later, that's what he caught. By creek standards, a pretty good-size wild brown trout. On a salmon egg no less. Brown trout haven't been stocked in New Jersey for years now. We felt anxious to make sure this fish got back in the water quickly, so I didn't slow down for close-up photography. You can still see those spots. Nice and prominent.

Very nice early morning, not quite a couple of hours, and at least a dozen trout caught and released. Peapack Brook's water quality is known among other anglers I know to be of very high quality, but I pointed out to Jorge the brown algae growth on rocks while raising issue about the clean rocks of Dunnfield Creek in Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. That water is so pure it always gives me the impression it's entirely of spring water quality. The Creek descends 1200 feet through mountainous terrain from the top of Kittatiny Ridge. "I drink from that creek," I said. "People tell me not to, I'll get an amoeba, but every time I'm there, from age 17, I drink from it." To tell any fellow New Jersey resident I drink from a creek--in New Jersey--might be a little edgy, but I've told a lot of people. Maybe because I believe in this state's environment despite so much offense to it. So I serve myself, our region, and anyone who hears, because it's true: I've imbibed water from the Dunnfield Creek at least two dozen times, yet here I am, aged 56 without a trace of dysentery.

A great way to begin the day at 6:00 a.m. preparing to meet Jorge at 7:00. And then off to breakfast with my family thereafter as Jorge had left for his son's soccer game. And then to my job. Loved that today. I'm on to making marinades and I really like the creativity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Califon South Branch Raritan Rainbow Trout Rollick

This afternoon and early evening proved to be totally Mike's idea, since my plan to fish Beaver Brook in Clinton first, failed, and my notion about fishing the North Branch late never became desirable. I know I read about Beaver Brook in Clinton stocked, on the DFW site, and besides, a butcher at Shop Rite speaks well of the little creek, but though I knew where the stream runs in Clinton, we didn't find a place to park, get out, and walk. Better, because Mike showed me the way into town by turning left at Hoffman's Crossing. It's a beautiful drive and beautiful stream, and we found a lot of trout, though not at the first and third spots we tried, and a lot more at the fourth. Mike grew up in Califon. This is his favorite home water, formerly accessed by him on bicycle.

We both played handicap. I forgot to add a pinch of salt to each of my salmon egg jars and tell Mike to do the same. These rainbow trout just pull soft eggs off the hooks. And we lost some eggs casting. We caught about two dozen between the two of us, but could have easily caught double the amount.

For me, the big moment came when my rod tip yielded to an unusually heavy pull, and I leaned into something heavy that looked too fat, deep under the surface, to be a rainbow. Had I snagged a sucker, or had a big Shannon's brown taken my egg? It seemed a very long time before the fish came into view as a rainbow about 18 inches long, and my judgment concluded, very nice fish, and yet, though this is nothing to take away from the fish I had on, something deeper down in me, I realize, is trying to match my brother Rick. We use micro-light rods, or at least Rick used to, now fully acclimated to fly fishing if he would only get out and fish. Three-and-a-half feet and the lightest spinning blank I know. Two-pound test fluorocarbon. He caught a 25-inch rainbow fishing salmon eggs this way. He told me it was fat and weighed eight pounds.

This is a big order to fill. I may do it on a fly rod. My five-pounder last spring was big. But on my micro-light? Surely never, and that was the biggest rainbow--today's--I ever had on this rod. I fought the fish at least three minutes. At best, it streaked for the pool's tail race about 25 yards downstream, leaping clear out of the river as at it plummeted downward, and I was ready to start running with the fish on the rocks. Instead, it turned. I exerted no pressure--not on line like thread--but simply let the drag and the rod's bend from tip to butt do its work. I muttered to Mike, "Get the camera." And in less than half a minute, the situation began to look as if the fish was going to come to the gravel, but I never gave into feeling entitled during this fight, because I know a fish like the one I had on is a little too good to be true, the way things seem to go for me. Except for one thing. I had this fish on. Had fought it long. And before Mike lifted the camera as he reached for the power switch, I told myself in that private language just as good as the words I write, but not thought in words, because common language is too intrusive upon moments like this, that what I had is enough.

"I was just about to switch the camera on."

The trout was gone. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bedminster Pond Quick Check

Matt said he's seen a lot of cars stopped to fish here recently, and I told him I named Bedminster Pond as one of New Jersey's Top 10 for early largemouth in an article published last year in The Fisherman's big monthly edition. We were going to fish the neighborhood pond, anticipating at least a half dozen nice bass, likely twice as many, maybe one over three pounds, but Bedminster Police were talking to someone at length in clear view from where we would have fished, and we didn't want to be rude.

So I suggested we drive up the road and give Bedminster Pond a quick try. Matt first caught the little bass, then we tried another clearing, where a spinner I made from components during the 1970's quickly resulted in two bass for me. The second, which I didn't photograph, was about a pound. Then, as I snapped a cast forward, it caught on a branch behind me, snapped off, and we didn't find it. I made dozens of those spinners during my teens, though that one might have been the last of them I owned. I couldn't cast it more than 15 yards, but the lightweight body coupled with a size four C.P. Swing-style blade gave it great lift for a smooth, slow retrieve.

Matt missed a nice hit from a bass right at the surface on a Mepp's Aglia he had to retrieve pretty fast to keep it over shallow bottom. Seemed too fast. Pulled it away from that bass.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spruce Run Creek Trout Fishing and the Deeper Current

Until February 2016, I hardly knew Spruce Run Creek, besides it's grand entry into Spruce Run Reservoir, a spot I knew about for big brown trout during the fall seasons of the 1970's, but never got there until 2005, fishing for northern pike, trout no longer stocked in the reservoir to holdover and grow into trophies or otherwise avoid the intent of anglers. I used to pass the creek on my way north to the Delaware Water Gap from Mercer County during my teens, but have no memory of taking any notice until my young family moved into the region going on two decades ago. That February, on my way to a kayak shop to view the merchandise, I stopped at the creek at Schoolhouse Road and did a photo shoot.

This spring was going to be a sleeper, my getting out to fish trout infrequently and only with my two-weight fly rod, but instead, at the deep level I have a lot to thank Mike Maxwell for. (The Trout Assassin.) I met Mike very shortly after my family moved to Bedminster from nearby Chester in 1999. He was 20, and I believe that was either fall 1999 or spring 2000, at the U.S. Highway 202 Bridge over the North Branch Raritan. I happened on him fishing trout, as I readied to fish also, and conversation struck up as naturally as the setting. I was 38 or 39. About the age Mike is now. I learned very soon that he lives just around the corner in my neighborhood. We were the only two fishing that afternoon.

On another occasion at the same spot during the fall, I fished alone and filled a pocket with a limit catch of brook trout hardly a millimeter more than legal size, took them home, boiled them rather than fried them, and the meat was as tasty as lobster but more tender and the broth better than that of Mercenaria mercenaria. The Latin means money, but you can guess about the designation. This is a whole other can of worms, this story, yet appropriate to this afternoon. Money has everything to do with my fishing salmon eggs this spring, because without the need of mine to earn a little more money, I would have stuck to my fly rod.

We used those salmon eggs today and did rather well. As I was telling you, last spring, I caught a five-pound rainbow trout on my 6-weight fly rod, and I was headed upstream from thereon where no one can find me, flicking flies. But meanwhile, The Trout Assassin was fishing like he never has before in his life, me happening upon him as he smoked trout on his grill, or sat out on the porch in the sun as I drove into the neighborhood, the two of us catching up on each other's news as I stopped the car with the window down. Salmon eggs. And I remember thinking, "Well, this is what I've wanted to see for the last 20 years." Mike really committing to this purpose, or this folly as most people think, fishing.

Since January 2015, I've changed jobs three times. The previous job involved fly fishing. Had I stayed with it, that's of course what I would have done this spring, but working at a supermarket chef studio, I earn better pay as needed. Mind you, supermarket. The conventional sort. Food. Sales involved that might compare in a very broad way to stocked trout and the most effective, rather than most refined, way to catch them. Mike's Salmon Eggs, the most popular brand, are a long-time convention, though eclipsed in recent decades by crass Power Bait. Power Bait is some sticky mess that floats. All but useless for fishing the subtle nuances of currents. And though salmon eggs themselves are conventional, the method I've used from the age of 14 isn't. On the market today, you won't find an ultra-light spinning rod less than four-feet, four-inches long. Mine is three-and-a-half feet. Much better of a wisp than any you can buy today. I cast a weightless salmon egg a centimeter in diameter on a tiny size 14 hook. And I fished a three-and-a-half foot rod when I was 14, too. Built it from a rod blank and other components.

It's a very effective method and too much to describe in this post, but certainly easier ways to catch trout exist, though you won't catch as many as you can by really going light--and doing it well. If you want the easiest rainbow trout from a creek, go ahead and find a hole with a very slowly current where 150 trout have been dumped, weight your line with a big sinker, and let Power Bait float in front of the noses of those trout. Letting a salmon egg drop into view of those trout would be more effective anyway, but on this tackle I describe, fishing is more like the grace of an orchestral conductor and his baton, than like the stage engineer cranking the curtain up.

During those teenage years of mine, I wrote and got published a lot in outdoor magazines, but why--all these years since--I never reread any of these articles editors eagerly took is a deep mystery to me. Part of this mystery is easy to understand, however. I have a thick folder containing about three fourths of the total published, and I never wrote an article, not during those years, that a magazine or newspaper did not publish. This folder never got out of my wherewithal, though how a fourth of my articles got lost, I don't know. In fact, the article most crucial to me now--on this salmon egg method--came back my way contained in the entire magazine issue from an old high school friend about 10 years ago. He sent his copy to me by snail mail. I quit writing the articles at 18, convinced I would become a great novelist and looking down on outdoor writing as beneath lofty artistic ambition. (Self-contempt is unavoidably problematic, but this is a whole other bucket of fish.) I wrote those articles. And all these years since, or since sometime after I had distanced myself from them, I imagined I wrote them badly, compared to the great writer I had become while filling enough handwritten journals to comprise about 500 books.

So I never read a word of them. Easy to guess that's all it is. I thought they must have been badly done. I never read a word all those years. Until very recently, delighted to find they're good. Really good.

And the article my friend mailed me is central to why I am back out casting salmon eggs with Mike. Bait as light as a beadhead nymph.

Mike and I fished the North Branch Raritan Zoo for about an hour after Spruce Run Creek. Not many here today.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Belvidere, New Jersey, Visit

 Martin's Creek Power Plant on the Delaware River

For years, I've meant to take my wife to Belvidere, "beautiful place to see," in Italian. Matt and I fished there in the Delaware River at the mouth of the Pequest seven years or so ago, trying for stripers at night with live eels. I've felt obliquely familiar with the town since my teens, passing near it on the way to the Delaware Water Gap and back, and so naturally, my curiosity grew. Somehow or other I learned of Victorian homes, and I imagined there would be a nice downtown to walk.

The plan included driving from Milford to Reigelsville on CR 627 along the Delaware River, a drive I've never made, but time prohibited. We would have continued north through Philipsburg. We did take I-78 west to Philipsburg, got on CR 621 from U.S. Highway 22, and followed the river to Belvidere, a fairly long ride. I parked in the town's center and said, "It's not what I thought it would be." Patricia had asked me if there's a downtown to walk, and I said there was. Later, as we drove home, she asked had I lied. No. But I told her I should have been critical of my belief and said I didn't know.

As we stood in Belvidere, the Pequest River racing under a bridge, she made fun of the town with her typical dry wit, though I don't remember the words. We saw only about half a dozen Victorian homes. Most are early 20th century. But one of the Victorians, pink and very large, up on a hill, especially fascinated me. We were driving out after ice cream, after I went inside an antiques co-op that didn't offer much, but Early American Life magazine was interesting, though I didn't buy an issue. I turned around and drove down a dead-end street. A trail lead up to the house, but I not only judged it wasn't appropriate to walk on up; parking there in front of a couple homes would be too nosy also.

So we rode out to U.S. 46 and stopped at Hot Dog Johnny's. Patricia expressed confidence that we'll stop here again in May, since the powers-that-be where I work won't want to pay me time-and-a-half back to back, she figured, on Memorial Day weekend. She wants to return to Millbrook Village in Delaware Watergap National Recreation Area. The thought of really hiking up Van Campens Brook with my two-weight fly rod flickered in my mind. Last year, we visited Layton and the Little Flatbrook before arriving at Millbrook Village. I plainly judged that to fish the Little Flatbrook, you have to walk right up the middle of it between a lot of brush. Since I've begun working at Shop Rite nine months ago, one of the butchers and I have a running conversation on fly fishing New Jersey streams. He's talked about that Little Flatbrook a number of times. I knew last year that if I were ever to do this, it's not a trip to take my wife along. The butcher confirms my initial observation: you have walk straight up the middle of the stream, and it's tough casting.

There's so much worth doing, which the American hegemony of economic power concentrated among the super-wealthy won't allow so many of us to do, because we have to serve them just like slaves--paid peanuts as tokens of American freedom--with very little time off to pursue values a lot more worthwhile than Bread and Circuses. I refuse to be their victim. It is better to fight and die while refusing to submit as the voiceless sacrifice they might demand you be, than live as a victim. This doesn't mean I don't work, hard and efficiently. Just the opposite. What else do I go to my job for than to work? There's a lot I don't agree with. But I punch that clock. And within that time I agree to work, I do my best. It's my work. The very little I am limited to.

 Pequest River

Country Gate. A stage presentation of Into the Woods at one of the first venues I noticed as we drove into town, the play piqued interest. Not only do I know the book, the young man who sought adventure and freedom was moved by deep yearnings that must have been similar to what moved me to walk out of society to harvest clams commercially in wild bays, which I did for 13 years as if away on a very prolonged Jewish Kibbutz. I wasn't the only one, and that's the reason I can draw that comparison.

Trout Opening Day

It was tight. I couldn't find my leader wallet Thursday night, so that ruled out getting up for 8:00 a.m. starting time, since I spent the hour I would tie snell-hook leaders looking for that wallet. Took longer than an hour the next night to tie four leaders anyway. During that interim, I found snelling hooks--which I used to enjoy doing--impossible with my failing eyesight. Actually, I gave up snelling two or three years ago for this reason. Even wearing reading glasses that correct any problem reading--not using any right now--I can't judge leading the line through loops to get the knot. So now I just tie directly to the loop, which doesn't impart as direct a pull upon setting, but at least seems to make no difference.

We got to the Zoo nearly 11:00. That's what Fred's affectionately called the AT&T stretch. Or if he doesn't mean it that way, I do. I helped Matt get set up and let him cast and drift his glo-egg weighted by four snap swivels snapped onto a snap. A BB split shot would have been better for that high water. Had I remembered to bring any. I meandered around shooting photos.

"Hey, the spy from Field & Stream is photographing us!"

I let go a belly laugh and the guy laughed with me. All round, the scene had a good feeling that remained every bit as constant as the river current.

When I rejoined my son, he had missed two hits. I rigged up the same and soon caught a typical rainbow. Cool weather had no nip to it. It really felt very nice as I leaned against a tree trunk, leisurely pitching casts and keeping a tight drift, missing two hits before it began to feel repetitive and we quit.

No time for Peapack Brook and there didn't need to be. We went home to family comfort and reconnaissance; I cleaned the trout, and then drove off to my job.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Casting it Off on a Nice Day: Bass Pond Tour

Much needed break from burdensome responsibilities. Fred Matero and I arrived at Sunrise Lake in Washington Township I guess about 4:45, intending to fish it quickly if nothing doing. Fred has fished it before. "It gets hit hard." I began fishing there in 1995, and my son remarked late last summer that it's his favorite place. I took him there to fish when he was two; his very first fishing he doesn't remember, but he does remember much else. Haven't cast this three-acre pond for how many years I don't remember.

It's not in the photos.

I fished my favorite sloping flat hardest, but we left after a half hour, catching nothing, Fred missing a hit from a small bass on a Rapala floater. As yet I was all hyped up on those burdens and a little pissed they didn't get relieved, but maybe Fred didn't notice. He directed me to a neighborhood pond in Mendham I didn't know about. That's in the photo above. We fished there a quick 20 minutes or so, nothing happening at all, besides a kid on that bridge up above catching a sunfish on a fly rod. As we left for the next spot in Chester, a pond Fred had never seen, I said, "Don't bet on it." Some of my tension was gone, but it felt heavy to imagine getting skunked on this beautiful day, temperatures near 70; my only chance to get out and fish bass this early April. Precious time doesn't want the insult of failure, but when Fred said, "That's alright. It's good getting out," for a second I felt the same.

You never know if a really big bass is going to coincide with your lure in such little ponds. I've caught two of about 19 inches in Sunrise "Lake." But it is really easy--at least for me--to be a fool and almost expect the likes.

Almost. And even almost can be asking way too much. That's part of the reason I bring $3800.00 in camera equipment along on every outing. I got shots of Canada geese on Sunrise Lake, centered in colored striations on water--reflections from a boathouse--which, if I were to post any of them online, I really would be foolish. Google isn't going to snatch these. A fish might not come to me. But I see plenty else and capture some of what I see on pixels when I get a moment. This compensates.

This next pond of high tannic content is not high in bass content. Last I fished it, early in September 2015, I caught two 10-inchers. Today confirmed slow fishing. That's acid water, and there's bass in it, but not very many. And apparently not big. (Who knows.) I cast a spinner, let it sink. That way, I found no water deeper than about four feet. That not very promising for big bass, either, and yet our neighborhood pond's three or four acres average about two feet deep. Four feet at deepest. My son has caught three bass there over four pounds. One of them five. I caught one near four. And I've caught two or three dozen close to three pounds.

Fred caught two in Chester--largest about 13 inches--and I caught three, including one not much longer than my #9 Rapala. The other two nine and 10 inches. All of mine hit the Rapala on retrieve and they made me a little happy. Fred's took a Wacky Senko and he was happy to catch his first of the year.

We talked about work riding to Bernardsville. After Fred and I departed, I heard sweet birdsong--windows down--unlike I'd heard all day. That's when the outing finally came together and I knew it was all worthwhile at the deep level, relieved and fully happy at last.

Suddenly, a robin flew near my opened driver's window blasting a warning call. I felt the connection immediately. Like, thanks! Nothing startling to me, just resonance. But then I wondered. Was that bird telling me about something amiss coming?

It really is a strange life in these times of incompetence at the highest social levels. Take a job at the bottom and it's like Collective Soul, the rock band, croons about all that weight falling on a man--it brings me down!

Hell of a lot of megatons. Off ma shoulders--Goddamn! Alabama is no sweet home of mine, but I like that song's ending.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

South Wind Slabs

South Wind Slabs

          Pike fishing clued me into crappies. Something nice clobbered a large, dead shiner retrieved like a suspending jerkbait, which turned out to be a crappie of more than two pounds. I caught two more over a foot long in quick succession, and then paused to sum the situation. The corner at the northeastern terminus of Spruce Run Reservoir received a steady, warm wind from the south during an early April evening with water temperature having climbed into the 50’s.

          Big crappies turned out to be predictable over the years. With warm, southerly April winds, we counted on tasty fish fries after outings. The husky predators proved to be nothing to try and tease with little crappie jigs. They wanted big meals.

          Slab crappies longer than 17 inches and more than three pounds inhabit some waters, including Spruce Run and Manasquan reservoirs, lakes Hopatcong and Mercer. They move in pods of similar-sized fish, and although not as many slabs congregate together as smaller, the numbers may be plenty. Since the sun sets in the southwest and is warmest in the afternoon, its rays warm water to the northeast best. That southerly wind accompanying a warm front stirs shallows into a sort of soup that makes feeding opportune for gamefish forage.

          Large shiners live-lined weightless, besides a barrel swivel if you fish a leader, produce all the fish you want to catch, but shiners don’t serve as the only productive choice. A sixteenth-ounce jighead with a large wide-gap hook for a big plastic or synthetic bait works wonders. You can even take a paring knife and shave off some of the lead to retain hook size for slower descent and retrieve. With all the bulk of plastic or synthetic material displacing water, the presentation involves ability to retrieve at a modest pace, critical for crappies this time of year. A lengthy rod of six or 6 ½ feet allows further casts than shorter, and light or medium power, slow or fast action, suffices. Synthetics like 4-inch saltwater Gulp! Swimming Mullets, tube jigs, Keitechs, twister tail and paddle tail plastics of three or four inches all serve the purpose.

          Cast to downwind coves or shorelines of lakes and reservoirs with turbulent shallows of just a couple or a few feet to eight feet deep or more. Turbulence activates, since crappies have lateral line sensory receptors by which they respond to commotion at the surface. Also, sunlight on the water goes through the chop dispersed at crazy, random angles. This means a lot of light and shadow play goes on underneath and forage fish lose inhibition, since they sort of blend in with this disturbance and respond with less wariness with so much noise generated above.

          For comparison, imagine a perfectly calm surface with bright sun penetrating straight through. What forage fish will venture out to be seen in high definition? A sun-scoured aquatic environment is inactive compared to warming water in motion caused by a south wind, which gets the entire food chain accelerating into the new season. In some situations, waves crash against a muddy shoreline and discolor water, which gets pulled out and away from the bank for several yards or more, creating an edge of discolored water to fish carefully.

          Action picks up fast during spring and magic seems to strike by the wand of a rod, but you have to find the sweet spots. Lake Hopatcong is the best example of a lake with many coves. River Styx crappies come from main lake depths to shallows of four or five feet, responding to stirrings of the pre-spawn period in this huge cove the size of a small lake. Flooded timber shallows of Manasquan Reservoir find crappies suddenly present and turned on. Whole ranges of many lakes and reservoirs beckon with possibilities as the crappie population leaps from relatively inactive waiting, to feeding on baitfish among residual weeds to spur the growth of eggs for spawning by late April or so, but you’ll never find fish everywhere.

          Ranges of residual vegetation may be full of possible spots, although some reservoirs, like Spruce Run, have little weeds, submerged brush, docks or timber yet produce very large crappies. Since the acreage of a cove like Hopatcong’s River Styx is enough to ply for a very long day, break down the possibilities where many confront you. Fish docks or any submerged brush. Plenty of residual vegetation usually exists in combination with these targets, and structures with more than one kind of cover tend to hold more fish. Manasquan Reservoir has, instead of acres of vegetation, daunting fields of flooded timber. Get back in relative shallows downwind, especially where you find shallow edges of timber dropping into deep water. Search earnestly.

           The journey may involve running the electric motor and covering water to find pods bunched in spots you discover while on the move. Casting plastics on wide-gap jigs is a fish-finding method, although some anglers prefer bobbers with shiners hooked near the dorsal fin underneath, dropping the rig over tight spots and allowing a short wait before trying other timber or stumps. It all depends on what you’re best suited to: when crappies feed, they will hit.  

          They won’t be as eager to give chase as bass or pike. Striking jerkbaits on occasion especially in warmer water, slabs this early in the season better respond to fairly slow retrieves, but sluggish might not be the description of the fish’s mood. Sometimes a crappie gets caught and no more hit. Did a pod move on and out of range? Fan cast the areas near the catch site. Crappies in a pod cooperate and may vacate the area of a hookup, yet like all individual creatures—they compete. When a lure or shiner is presented within the sensory range of a group of predators, all involved may be alerted to try and take it before another does. This tension within a pod increases the likelihood of getting a hit, and fish have a short memory after being disturbed.

          Consider further fish competition. They may behave like fools for lures and bait, and when reluctant, may yet be provoked. Finesse the jig by subtle twitches to send a ripple of interest through a pod. Tube plastics have squid-like tentacles; twister tails undulate in the water, and paddle tails vibrate. Nevertheless, a regular retrieve does little to send a message to crappies’ senses, despite the fact that they’re aware of the lure. Forage fish pulsate by impulses of fright and flight, and that’s what you want to imitate. A plastic tube doesn’t really look like a minnow, but if you twitch it irregularly, giving it a life of quivering animation, you may impart just enough resemblance to forage and draw interest.

         It’s a special time of year to get out and fish for big ones. This is when everything begins again, and if you’re like me, mood begins to take ground like roots digging in, warmth on the wind a harbinger of greater happiness. Lots of slabs on the line let you know there’s life in the world willing to respond to efforts.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Is fishing a niche, or a universal contemplation? Maybe the tackle companies and outdoor media want us to think it's the former, because they do quite well with the status quo in that respect. The CEO of Bass Pro Shops is a major player with Goldman Sachs, from what I've heard. The rest of society seems to readily agree it's a niche, but many look down their noses on people with a passion to fish, so "unimportant" compared to the professional workplace and the world of social concerns that workplace implies.

I won't leap onto the high road and write the sort of sentences you may be familiar reading of my outing accounts, words a lot of readers would get lost on. I'll just say it's obvious to me fishing is only a niche as a sort of advertisement. Food is universal. We put most fish back, but you get the point. And where we go to fish. The outdoors is no niche interest more than planet. In a universe 13 billion light years wide, all of what it is inseparable between the most distant points. 


We need the rain, but it's interfering with plans a little. Had hoped to fish a pond with Mike Maxwell on Tuesday, but we figured--muddy. That's no way to get introduced. Looks like we might get there on the 12th. Too much later than that, and the weeds forbid much hope. I made a mental note of this place last fall, and I haven't forgotten. It's time. We just have to coordinate time off from work with clear water we hope is at least 50 degrees, but I did catch a bass Tuesday in the rain here in the neighborhood with water in the 40's. Not on live bait, either.

On the 5th, we may fish Pompton Lakes, but I need to look into how rain affects clarity there, since we have rain forecast two days in between now and then, not including tonight's. (Thunder.) Especially a concern, since the chief area to fish is the creek mouth, with northern pike spawning. Bass and pickerel elsewhere in the lake might attract our curiosity, also.

Hope to get to the Meadowlands with Fred soon, striped bass. School size for the most part, but a keeper size bass--to put back--is possible. I am deeply fascinated with that environment, and would like to do a photo-study of it in some breadth and detail. This will take time, and I don't have any in the foreseeable future, but if I find the time in a decade or so, I don't think my advanced age will stop me from getting my boots muddy and my knees wet. I've read two good books on the Meadowlands, though the titles and authors escape me at present. I hope to read them both again and more yet.

New Jersey is not short of amazing, geographically. Such little square mileage, compared to other states, and yet the environmental diversity in little space might be more varied than any other. Don't know. Would be interesting to find out. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Got One, Mike!

Hit a quarter-ounce white Rooster Tail. Right before I was about to lift for next cast. Reeled at pretty good clip, since it catches bottom a lot, this shallow pond.

Protected my camera inside my coat, rain.

That's my first fish since October 12th. Looks to me like it's all getting started. And that Rooster Tail feels about right for a deeper pond.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Round Valley Reservoir RVTA Trout Stocking

Round Valley Trout Association, with its client, Musky Trout Hatchery, of Asbury, New Jersey, by the Musconetcong River, stocked Round Valley Reservoir this morning with an as yet relatively small undisclosed number of big rainbow trout as large as four or five pounds, a hundred golden trout less than legal size, and 200 brown trout also less than legal size. The same number of browns got stocked last year. Last year's bear an RVTA6 jaw tag; this year's--RVTA7.

Especially the brown trout we want released, since the idea is to witness them grow to trophy sizes of eight pounds or more. The current state record brown trout of 21 pounds, six ounces got caught in the reservoir in 1995. Since then, brown trout's chief forage is missing. The alewife herring population is now virtually non-existent or altogether gone, due to the thinning out of the reservoir's fertility, as well as relative lack of weedbeds which herring depend upon for reproduction, apparently. However, at present the record low water level results in thick vegetation growth along shorelines. When the water comes back up, we hope in three to five years, accumulated vegetation in decay will spike the water fertility, such as happened in the early 1990's, conditions combined with the pumping of more fertile South Branch Raritan water into the reservoir. That water, reportedly, is no longer as fertile as was more than a decade ago, so our proposition is a iffy, although club members don't know of the exact difference in river fertility and what the difference will mean. If alewife herring get re-introduced, there may be another renaissance of trout fishing here, with trophy fish abundant for a few years. And these brown trout we've stocked now and last year, some of them will surely remain in the reservoir five years out.

Member turnout more than I had expected, as Musky Trout Hatchery's truck drove onto gravel at about 9:00 a.m., boats seemed to suddenly arrive from nowhere, since I hadn't noticed them coming from parts unknown on the reservoir. Naturally, the guys got on early and had fished for hours. Now four or five boats began serving a mission that benefits everyone who uses Round Valley Recreation Area, since a thriving fishery is at the heart of this crystal-clear water everyone admires. Some of the guys, including a boy about 11-years-old, carried nets of trout from the truck to the boats, which roared off powered by 9.9 horsepower. The motor power seemed a lot more than that this morning, as the force behind the effort is moved by a lot more moral motivation than the typical feeling about a little engine. A boat would disappear into distance very quickly as water-filled coolers in another got loaded with trout, and just as the two coolers had filled, another boat could be seen coming in at closing distance. A small crowd of onlookers developed, shooting pictures with mobile devices, but more than this; they really got a load through eyeballs.

Cold weather deterred no one. I wished at first I had brought my wool cap, but once action got underway, I never noticed the chill, driven hard into us all by a stiff breeze coming off the water from the east. I stepped into water over my hiking boots to get closer shots with my Nikon. Didn't care, and didn't feel it. Overcast sky, cold, wind. Instead of any disfavor, the conditions served the will behind the effort, overcoming any resistance of things all too settled in that clear water.