Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bass Tip: Weightless Worms, Sticks

Bass in the Sticks

By Bruce Edward Litton

          Inspired by Oliver Shapiro’s book Fishing New Jersey: A Guide for Freshwater Anglers, I came to 18-acre Mount Hope Pond in Morris County. After weeks of virtually always catching one or two largemouths better than 2 ½ pounds, I decided to cross over the little spillway to try the western side. There I passed a fellow angler, asking him how the fishing went.

          “Just a little sunfish,” he said.

          “If you get back in the sticks and pitch plastic worms, you can catch bass,” I said.

          “Only early and late,” he said. His face suggested a tense air of authority.

          “I always come at noon,” I said, “and get them every time.”

          “Ah,” he dismissed me, “I’ll get them in Florida and avoid the ticks.”

          This happened years ago, and yet represents a perennial attitude that ensures bass will always be around for the sport. I sometimes see, while out fishing, ecology and economy merge. The bass on the ecological end of the spectrum, the attitudes of anglers on the economic side. Who among anglers wants to make difficult efforts—you can even get bedridden as a result---unless the kind who enjoys the rewards of a challenge? He can always brush off the ticks abundant in nature, from protective clothing he buys.

          Here in New Jersey rewards can be quite substantial. Since that day mentioned, I’ve caught dozens of bass better than three pounds, quite a few over four, one five, and all of this action in particular from May 1st on through August by a deadly method. I will be specific about the approach in several ways, as if each is different, but all of the variances involve traditional-style plastic worms rigged weightless. Senko-type plastics, all the rage now, sink twice as fast and so in my opinion prove relatively ineffective.

          In the sticks, I use a 3/0 worm hook buried in the plastic, but instead of using a fluorocarbon leader—which sinks—I suggest 15-pound test monofilament, which doesn’t. In any case, consider a microswivel too much weight to connect the leader to 15-pound test quality braid. Use that braid, because its low diameter allows efficient pitches and casts. (Line test any less isn’t enough to pull a big bass out of thick cover.) Tie leader and braid by uni-to-uni splice, and employ a rod of at least medium power, which I’ve always found sufficient. Five-and-a-half feet is ideal for tight situations, and such a spinning rod also favors accuracy, since the tip is closer to the wrist than longer rods that cast farther.

          The exception is lake or reservoir fishing from a boat. Since it’s a good idea to keep the boat at some distance from the target if the water is clear, a seven-foot rod may be a better idea, although accuracy counts anywhere you can get a sense for exactly where a bass might be.

          Two things to keep in mind, and then a third will be discussed. The amount of brush in the water, as well as fallen treetrunks, stumps, and overhangs varies from place to place. I fish five ponds of 12 to 25 acres with some variety of these characteristics and they all differ. I also fish Lake Hopatcong, which adds docks to the equation. Docks are not quite the same as natural wood structure, but close. The second factor just as important as wood in the water is the shadowline on sunny days. Unless you’re fishing a shoreline with the sun directly on it and no brush overhanging water close enough to create shadow, cast the worm into the sunlit water at shadow’s edge. Bass hiding in the shade see the worm in high definition and easily swim to take the slow-sinking, alluring offering.

          Thirdly, as early as May weeds have already grown pretty dense. In fact, some ponds notorious for weeding-in already have become forbidding. But for our purposes, consider clear water and weeds growing up from the bottom as deep as 12 feet combined with sticks. Baitfish and other forage use this nutrient-dense cover as habitat, and you can bet big female bass will inhabit the same.

          Combinations of sticks and weeds prove very good. They add relationships between shadow and light, and you can find a spot to rely on for as long as the sun’s out. At least some of the time. If action ceases after a few visits, maybe wait a couple of years and try again. Nature is a relationship. Put too much pressure on one part—it will give, but not in your direction. Respect the spot, leave it alone, and when you return later, it may once again respond to your wishes.

          Bass live as acutely sensitive creatures in other ways than feeling put upon by lure after lure coming their way and experiencing the disorientation of getting hooked. Water temperatures remain optimal into early June and even later in deep reservoirs; spinnerbaits and plugs can be effective all day, although subtle plastics certainly work too, and I use these more natural-seeming offerings most frequently. By sometime later in June, however, people who fish bass generally believe the game gets played early or late—otherwise forget it. My experience begs to differ, because the record shows results. Contrary to popular belief, I catch bass in the afternoons all the way through August, a month that can present tough bass fishing but not always. I mentioned sensitivity, why?

          The key is to understand the metabolism of cold-blooded creatures. Optimal water temps for bass in the middle 70’s mean they’re most physically active at these levels. But as water temperatures climb into the 80’s, while chases after fish forage do slow, bass burn the most calories. Rather than shoot around lakes like rockets, they slow down to conserve as many calories as possible. And yet something about them must be moving at fever pitch with metabolic rate at top speed.

          Think of all the forage in the water during summer. Much more than winter. Subaquatic insects, nematodes, amphibians, reptiles, leeches. Much of this forage is very easy prey, and bass simply flex jaws to suck in a passing leech, for one example. You can bet they do. All day. In sunlit heat or clouds and rain, summer bass have a real need for calories easily gained. With all this opportunity, you can also be sure that with this metabolic overdrive, their senses are more sensitive and alert than ever to whatever tidbit happens by.

         Pitch a bass a nice big but very slow-sinking, easy-to-get seven or eight-inch plastic worm, and the likelihood is very good the fish takes. To do it right, eschew twister-tails, don’t even buy worms with fluttery fluke-tails; just straight worms with no frills but garlic scent work for me. Summer bass hover about so hyper-alert there’s no need to attract them with a lot of nonsense; save the flash for other times. I use a thin-bodied worm, but the length suggests a nice addition for those needed calories.

         You don’t have to fish before breakfast or after dinner to catch bass from June onwards.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Genes Useless without an Environment

I know four of my readers are not on Facebook (Hey, Lenny, what's up!? I will get back over there.), and I imagine maybe more aren't either. Other night, I reported: "Senior Awards Ceremony at Bernards High School tonight. Trish and I are very happy Matt won the Distinguished Math Student Award, the Chemistry Department Award, the Das Family Science Scholarship, and a President's Award for Academic Excellence."

Loads of celebration over this, and I pass it along because without Matt, this blog could not exist. He was a very bright young mind at Mendham Country Day School when, aged four, he insisted on fishing Sunrise Lake three, four times a week after I picked him up. A true subversive like all true anglers, nevertheless, Matt takes star academic honors, and part of the reason, undeniably, is because he fishes. That's the deepest secret about us subversives: a wild mind is more intelligent than a domicile. Matter of choice more than genes. Genes useless without an environment.

So instead of resenting the absurd world we live in today, just go out, take sunshine, and let it into this world dying for some light. The way the 5th Dimension's vocalist hits the word moon I will never forget, but man, the madness of the 60's is only upon us now, because back then, they really knew it was just that!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What May Become of a Promise?

Matt at Lake Musconetcong 2009

I posted last after midnight following the 14th on Mountain Lake. Ever since, I've kept reviewing in my mind what I wrote about promises, and I know better than to think I can promise you a full answer in this post. All of my posts are off the cuff, written in haste. Not out of any disrespect for my readers or for blogging, but because I believe blogs--web logs--are appropriately this and not a writer's most developed work. The very thought of using a Google gadget to present my best work feels absurd. But I write as well as I possibly can within this medium, and the limit I place on my time with it, without obsessively going back to improve on posts. I mostly let them be as faithful accounts of responses to events and ideas.

That most recent post features a disturbingly abrupt sentence transition. From the immense promise of Lake Musconetcong fulfilled, to "That's broken." I wrote the post just this way honestly, in light of how all of those five years of fishing the lake, many times each year with my son, came upon me whole out on Mountain Lake, but instead of my entering their memory, I let them go. Just like putting down a book. Because I know--again from experience--what it is to enter an enormous state of memory, an involvement I've learned is usually best to forego. It is, if things that need to get done in the present will get finished.

So now I pose it to you. What's the better faith perhaps? To indulgently dive into every mental state that issues from the depths, even if they imply your loved ones, or to have the mastery to let them go, knowing you're not God, but if you believe in the value of what you've done, their fulfilled promise will persist in your life, regardless of turning to present events instead of indulging past memory. Every new event is born out of past events anyway.

A clue is offered by two very wise men of the deep past, Socrates and Plato. When Matt and I fished Lake Musconetcong, the experiences were fully about the earthly beauty he and I engaged together. Except for two things. The church bell chime we heard at 6:00 p.m. almost every time out. And an ice cream truck jingle with resonance up in the hills. Our minds lifted over the present, reminded that everything is eerily eternal. I like to believe that Matt, even as a young boy, had an inkling of this. We always talked about the church bells and the ice cream truck jingle. He expressed his own feelings about this music. When he was three, I explained to him how existence must be eternal, since something cannot come from nothing, and many times he reviewed this idea with me.

Socrates believed earthly beauty reminds us of Eternal Forms in a Realm Beyond. To me, the affairs with Forms in this Realm Beyond have always seemed like a cartoon magazine. I guess for some of us, that's heaven, but even as a boy, cartoons offered me very little interest compared to books about real things here on earth. Socrates and Plato did not get the metaphysical description quite right. Besides, Plato expressed attitudes about life here on earth that always appall me. Rather than bodily life as any "prison," I assure my readers--if there is a Beyond I will awake to upon my death, I will gladly visit. But what I really want is to return here on earth, reborn. I don't mind spending another life as someone else, because a human being is a human being. Besides, if this will possibly be the case at all, something of me will remain.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nice Bass at Mountain Lake

I promised Mike we would catch some nice bass. I can make a promise like that because of experience. I've never come to Mountain Lake before. I've seen it from atop Jenny Jump Mountain in Warren County, where it sits below, a natural lake of 122 acres spring and stream fed, one of many other North Jersey Lakes I've fished and have not fished--all of which I have faith in.

That faith is something I don't seem to ultimately understand, something deeper than character and personality and underlying things themselves as if belonging to the will of events. These lakes just serve as my altars. But character and personality have a lot to do with receiving it--and going out to get it. Before the real action finally happened, Mike could have thought I was one cocky chump, because making a promise like that--for what the past seven hours had amounted to--was going to prove nothing but wrong. And I told Mike, he had quit fishing an hour ago and felt ready to go home, "You have resolve." I meant this absolutely. He was done. "I'm an impulsive idiot," I said without a trace of self-inflicted irony. My faith in the bass had never faded. (And what's that poking into my mind now? What my wife used to say of me. "God protects idiots and fools.")

I too said the lake must be bad...for some odd reason. Look at these weedlines, look at these overhangs, that fallen treetrunk submerged. Where are the bass? And Mike could tell you, every disparagement I uttered was answered in counterpoint by fishing anecdotes, some I probably spent 20 minutes telling. I told him about Lake Musconetcong because I did not really believe Mountain Lake is bad...the evidence kept telling us it is bad, and perhaps, if we were sophisticated moderns as we presumably should be and behaved with "proper" scientific and abysmally false attitude, we would accept the evidence, pass judgment, and lose faith. No. There's always more to discover. If I were a real scientist, why would I conclude upon any evidence, instead of looking for a new twist? At Lake Musconetcong, I told Mike, we caught one bass during all of the sunny hot afternoons we fished there, and that one nine inches. Presently we sat casting under sun and heat. But my son and I caught as many as 20 at that Morris and Sussex County impoundment during the hour-and-a-half around sunset.

Mike and I began in the relatively shallow southern corner, where I felt certain this was going to be tough fishing. Water clarity seemed a lot worse than really was. Soon I gave some relief to an earlier utterance about my preference for clear water, when I saw two-foot visibility, some aquatic vegetation under the squareback canoe. Heading east along the shoreline, we judged visibility at about three-and-a-half feet. Not bad, really. I had felt the initial let-down as no affront to my promise, but it didn't feel good, so working eastward, to see a little bass in thick weeds swipe at a damselfly got me going. I switched to a five-inch slow-sinking traditional worm sort of harnessed to a worm hook, abandoning a Senko, cast to another bass doing the same, and caught a seven-incher.

Even if my promise had failed, as the photo shows the first of bass fulfilling it, promises are made to be broken, and before we got into the serious action, I brooded on the likes of this as the sun had fallen behind the western ridge, thinking of years on Lake Musconetcong with my young son now soon to leave for Boston University, saying farewell to the immense promise Lake Musconetcong fulfilled for us, much less by size and weight than the bond of love between father and son that must in some way be eternal. That's gone. The promise is broken. And instead of feeling any crush of defeat, I simply accepted the truth. Life takes new turns. But there's more to the past than anyone alive can know. A man or woman--not a child--can know there is more through depths of nostalgia he or she finds bottomless. No matter how far the spirit may travel backward in time, there is no endpoint to the quality of resolution. Anyone who makes this journey either turns back to the present--or goes helplessly mad.

Fishing more quality weedlines, my only concern was the sharp drop-off. I catch plenty of big summer bass on sharp drops. At one point, I sighted a musky of about 32 inches come to the surface just yards in front of me. I cast a big Rat-L-Trap repeatedly, just in case, but out of vanity. At Tilcon Lake, for one example of drops, just about all you find is these. When I examined the Lake Survey Map Guide depiction of Mountain Lake, I judged the southern corner best--shallow (I was looking at eight to 12 feet) weeds. More and less flat. I changed my mind after coming upon the northern corner--similar, but the quality felt more appealing with pocket water.

At first, I was disgusted. Some guy in a bassboat--friendly--had just chopped a lot of weeds up with a high-power bow mount. He was skunked. We reported a few. We had come upon two quick bass--almost nine inches and almost 12 inches--where a stream enters. Very shallow.  Two feet at most. Some rocks. Gravel. I noticed water temperature fell from 82 to 80. Right where the stream enters, who knows how cool. But I cast there.

"Topwaters," I thought about this northern cove. But I continued directly to the western shore.

The western shore felt vaguely like a goal reached. Here darkness. Sun behind ridge; when I shot a photo of excellent overhang for my files, I thought shutter speed--pretty slow--might blur resolution. Actually, did not. But now I was myself in deep. Slowed way down. Once this darkness came over us, time itself slowed, as if without so much racing light, it didn't have to go anywhere. Mike's Rapala was racked on his hook keeper, rod set aside. But I fished with absorbed focus. I heard strange rumblings from across the lake and beyond in the woods. Finally I understood the clamor was rock music.

It felt like I fished in that shadow three hours. The ramp perhaps three hundred yards distant, I reached for my box of topwater plugs. At first, I reached for the 3/8th ounce Rebel Pop-R on which I caught my bass of nearly five pounds at Mount Hope Pond, 2011. Twinge of guilt. On one of my son's rods--Matt with me an hour before sunrise in the dark--instead of handing him that rod and telling him where to cast--I cast. That first cast: "Bloop, bloop, bloop--BAM!"

I passed on that plug with the ambiguous memory embedded on it, even though I felt--big plug, big bass. I looked left and saw the quarter-ounce Rebel Pop-R I was pretty sure is the one Matt gave me as part of a birthday or Christmas gift. These weedlines were associated with even steeper drop. I didn't fish them long. Against what I knew was Mike's wish, I clocked the electric onto its highest speed, and we headed back to the northern cove. That's what it is--structurally--more than corner, really. I felt possibility.

Soon, I saw nervous water. "That's a nice fish," I said. "Um, huh," Mike said. He's directly on point. Yeah, that's what it is.

How big, I couldn't tell for sure, but I thought three pounds. It was just a fleeting ripple, but I could tell something nice. Depth was marking eight feet, and I had to get the canoe in closer to the pockets and weedy mess a weedless frog would better suit, where I guess five or six feet of water fell below. When fishing otherwise, I cast weightless plastic worms--by habit alone--with much better accuracy than plugs. Third cast, the bass took that Rebel hard. "Mike, it's a big one, get the net." I didn't measure her. At least 18 inches, maybe almost 19. The Rebel was almost in the gullet. I had to use a hemostat to get it out, and cleanly.

Again, nervous water. This bass weighed two-and-half pounds, I'm sure. About 16 1/2 inches and fat. Further eastward, I caught a 15-incher, and then as we progressed further, carefully working those weeds--as Mike observed my function I suppose in close detail and I know with resolve--I said, "I think that was the 10-minute window." We fished another 10 minutes and then I said, "Let's go home." The day's promise--and it was that--fulfilled in 10 minutes' time after hours that seemed to almost fill years. I compared what had just had happened to fishing redfish on South Carolina inshore flats near Charleston. Sight fishing my son and I enjoyed. Sighting nervous water and casting to it. Today's fishing was more like Lake Musconetcong's--all topwater fishing--than Tilcon Lake's.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Little Variation between Plugs can Make All the Difference

Not long after David Jeon's amazing catch of a 22 1/2-inch smallmouth, I felt I better pack up and head to the river. First I planned on a solo trip last Thursday or Friday. Or I might have quickly amended plans and invited Mike, don't clearly remember at present though he's been in and out of this picture, and soon my son and I had plans for Saturday morning. Something came up in his life. So Sunday morning we'd go. He went to a party Saturday night, revised plan still in place--we would also canoe a stretch--but my gut told me, "He's not coming home." Sure enough, I woke up at 8:00 Sunday morning instead of 4:00, my wife telling me, "If your alarm had gone off, I was going to shut it off for you before you would have got up." 

This morning I got up at 8:10, snatching 20 minutes after the alarm first sounded, because weirdly I woke up first around 4:00. "That counts for a power nap," I told myself, preparing to load up and go, and it did. But when I got to the river, I took one cast with the little topwater plug I had tied on Saturday night for very early Sunday morning, and saw myself acting like a complete fool, because sun was already high and it felt near 90 degrees. Tied on an X-Rap and began an arduous quest upriver, having first fished thoroughly the set of connected pools near where I parked. I thought of trout, but this was no trout environment in the heat and that warming water.

I stubbornly kept to that X-Rap, knowing that in my book, it's a lure for cool water. I've witnessed Noel Sell catch smallmouths in the river in July on little jerkbaits, but in my fanciful way, I chalk his success up to the far corners of the world he finds these specially crafted lures at very high prices, knowing that there's surely more truth to the success of these subtly different plugs than fancy anyway. I've seen a little variation make all the difference in catches one too many times.

It really felt like I was out for hours. I had to see a Chinese tailor to refit my dress pants, an appointment I could not miss since we're down to the wire on my son's high school graduation. Had left my flip phone in my car. Don't bother with a "mobile device." Haven't worn a watch in many years. I barreled on to my favorite spot and realized I was only fooling myself about the pre and post-summer X-Rap. I had seen a buck smallmouth guarding a bed, but regardless, I declared that the situation called for my summer favorite. I tied on a Senko-style worm, and third cast, caught that nice 13-incher photographed. I tried to tease another with three more casts, then marched back, casting only once as I kept on trudging, telling myself if it's 11:00 when I get seated, I'm OK. Not sure I was OK.

It was 10:36.

Before I met with the tailor, I stood on the bathroom scale. For the first time since 1993, I'm under 200 pounds. The tailor laughed it off. So did I. Have lost too much weight. He can't refit the pants.

If you look sharp, you can see the engineer's cabin of a freight train. I've wanted to get a shot of a train coming onto this bridge for the past eight years, but need to situate further downstream to get a clean shot.

My steady companion.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fish Sense and More Report yet

Recently divulging some reports, I didn't mention Mike Maxwell's five-and-a-half pound largemouth, because we want to keep the pond secret, so it didn't occur to me to mention the catch. Nor the 20 bass my son caught at the same pond he fished with a friend for the first time, bass as large as two pounds. The friend's first time fishing, he caught four as large as two-and-a-half pounds. Matt got so excited he phoned me at work. A bass he swore was at least six pounds rolled over his spinnerbait.

"The biggest I've ever seen!"

Tucked away in Jersey.

And I never forget Art Scheck's book A Fishing Life is Hard Work. Scheck, who became editor of Fly Fisherman magazine, spent much of his life in Jersey. Some of his life in Vermont, where he claims to have faced an encounter with a largemouth of perhaps 16 pounds. He did some walking and poking around. Out of the way. And that he found.

And here in our beloved state of outrageous taxes. He fished with his wife, who caught a pickerel larger than the current world record set in Georgia. Together, they decided to set the fish free, rather than claim its bounty.

A high school friend, many years ago, naively spoke of a 36-inch pickerel caught when and where he lived in the Pinelands. That could have beaten the Georgia record, too, perhaps. I'm not saying it really happened. I don't even really know if Scheck is pulling my leg as a reader, but he certainly knows none of his readers can tell.

Even I don't have time to poke around as is possible. And I make time. If you can't do what's possible, you can't possibly find what is possible to do.

Poke around as is necessary to really sink into things worth discovery. Art Scheck named the chapter about that bass "A Beatific Vision." To some ears, this simply means it's bullshit. To others, it means Scheck alludes (by way of Dante Alighieri, poet of heaven....but also hell; hell would satisfy the first type of reader) to the fact that he discovered much more than a bass. I would say that maybe more than 99.9% of really good anglers are not on the really rare fish. Maybe fish sense requires, among many trials and tribulations of varying kind, a deep grasp of literature, because great books are not for dust, but fruits of wilderness. They survive civilizations, all of which rust. We're cramped with things "on the program." On the beaten path.

I am really impressed with what I've seen bass fisherman Steve Vullo do. Multiple lunkers--one outing--from Spruce Run Reservoir in cold weather, Spruce Run an acreage so pounded with lures that if there were more snags out there yet, you could make a fortune as a scuba diver there. I know something of how he does it, as fish sense, but I don't know where in that reservoir, and, out of respect, would never ask him.

I'm impressed with Ken Beam, too. That man catches big bass, pickerel, pike, hybrids, walleyes, time and time again. I see lots of big ones on NJ, but again, there are very, very few really special fish in this state. And they are special because rarely get discovered. I'm sure that in fact, some never do get discovered. The bones cover by muck, and maybe some paleontologist a million years from now would find the fossil remains. Does a state record bass exist? (Largemouth and smallmouth.) Who would say it isn't likely?

For years, I've been impressed by Dante. Dante Dimarco, this is. Lake Hopatcong musky fisherman. No one else has caught more big muskies--to my knowledge--in this state.

By Mike's raging headache, we canceled on Spruce Run Reservoir. Later, we fished the neighborhood pond. Matt's caught a number of bass here recently as large as close to three pounds, but just one or two on occasion. Mike caught a nice one recently. You all know I could come up with a more colorful name. And I could print the pond's name as something a doctor might name in general, but I call it something quaintly American out of respect and pity. Compassion and affection. Love. And forbiddance. Anyone who would try to fish this pond, would discover for his or herself. It's never recovered from the fish kill I reported on after the severe winter, but of course, I said it would recover--why not, its natural state invites reproduction--and we see evidence now that it is recovering.

Mike practiced with his casting rod. A weighted worm. I fished an X-Rap. It's June. Really? So let's say, early May. Or early October, since maybe these bass are spawned out--but water now and for days running is too cold for spawning. Climate change a misnomer? there is no climate? Just a joke, but things are really screwed up, compared to when I was kid and felt spiritual comfort in regular climatic developments.

So I used the X-Rap, not a worm. That name, X-Rap, is ambiguous to my ear. The X is a place I know in Manahawkin Bay, symbolizing the mind's deepest faculty, but there lies the most dreadful knowledge, with respect to other human beings who cannot know as much. Or save themselves.

Caught a bunch of bass. Not one over 11 inches, but this goes to show they've reproduced, most of the bass six or seven inches long. Now the questions: 1. Will the population really re-establish? Looks like it. It's to expect. 2. And this is interesting. When it does, will they average two pounds, as they did before the Crash? For years, they averaged 10, 11 inches. A thriving number of them. I don't know why they got big, and they got big by large number of them. Maybe there's a cycle. Just like the cycle of civilizations rising--and falling--because they are too shallow. Because individual human beings who presume to lead make mistakes that leave civilizations sunken like primordial swamplands, ruined. They get a new name, when they rise again.

Severe winter caused the fish kill. Severe summer could cause another sort. Not in a pond with enough depth.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Some Reports

Might as well hit the keys while heat's in the head. I've got great news of catches recently, beginning with Laurie Murphy's Lake Hopatcong report. Lots of hybrids on live herring 20 feet down, and just as she broke the news, reports had begun to come of surface catches at night. This evening, I opened an email from Jim Stabile containing a recent blog post from Ken Beam. Love Ken's blog! The guy really writes straight out of outdoor passion. They fished the lake all night and caught hybrids as large as six or seven pounds, walleyes that look just as big. And then, I opened an email message from Fred Matero. And a photo--27 inches! The pickerel he caught on a Senko. Brian Cronk and I have been on Messenger for at least a couple of weeks, trying to work out a trip to Lake Wawayanda....for BIG pickerel. All these years since my teens, I wrote Fred, I've edged the proximity of guys who have caught a lot of pickerel over 26 inches. Brian caught one just shy of 30. I never have caught one over 24 1/4, but a lot up to this mark.

Well, Brian and I haven't worked schedules and time off. But no one can say we don't try.

I spoke to my wife about the night fishing on the lake. Wrote Jim that I've followed this action for several years or more, and that last year I decided I might put my squareback on the lake. I bought the Black Diamond headlamp. Have the surface plugs....err, I really should pick up a few Zara Spooks. Not wise to go out without those. And this fishing is meant for baitcasting gear, so Mike Maxwell is better prepared than I am in this respect. A seven-foot spinning rod will do. Might.

Trish said, "Go any night." Had told her I just need to get back here by 2:30 a.m. Who knows. My life is a balancing act. You can tell by the way I usually write.

And a canoe. On Hopatcong. Mine's a big bear. But I'm reluctant to cross over with it and an electric. I don't know if any hybrids and walleyes are in the coves we can reasonably access, but probably. Or sometimes.

Here's some news that gets me dizzy. David Jeon commented on a post of mine, curious about what spots I might divulge within the limits of my circumspection. We emailed. He related news of fishing the Delaware around the Lambertville Whitewater, doing well for walleyes, smallmouths, stripers. This real good to hear, because growing up, I loved this range of the river. So I suggested the South Branch around Neshanic for smallmouths. (About a week ago, we wrote.) The other night, he writes again. With a photo attached. He went for trout.

On a spinner attached to four-pound test, at Neshanic he caught a 22 1/2-inch smallmouth bass! 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A World Next Door

Peapack-Gladstone are the connected town centers immediately west of Bedminster-Far Hills, yet like so many places, a world away despite seeming close proximity by road. More goes on here in regards to outdoor restaurant space, and instead of a Jeep dealership, there's a very upscale sports car outfit. But like Bedminster, a river runs through Peapack-Gladstone, although smaller than the North Branch Raritan and flowing into the larger of these two streams, technically not a river at all, but a brook. Peapack Brook. Flowing a little stronger than many who pass over and by the water may notice at all. 

And chilly. We wore no waders and felt the brisk entry. My son parked his Volvo in a municipal lot just above the stream; I got out with my camera to have a look around. Trout rising repeatedly below, I immediately doubted the nymph tied on Matt's tippet, garden worm imitation on mine. Once we got down to the streambed, I noticed a very few mayflies in the air, but felt sure those trout rose for some smaller insect. Sadie the black Labrador marched ahead and right into the deeper water with the fish, but I knew those slippery shadows would position in minutes...though not necessarily hitting. I felt success all but completely unlikely. 

I let Matt soak that nymph over and over while I took my pleasure shooting many photos. And then I went under the low bridge, casting in the dark, tempting nothing in deep shadow, emerging out on the other side and trying a run below. When I turned back after a while, Sadie stood looking directly my way at attention, and Matt was just emerging from darkness. Heavy evening shadow had sunken into the scene, giving the sight a sort of awesome moody feel. Without pause, I stepped forward towards my family.

I said, "Let's go to the dam. We might catch one or two before it gets too dark."

Besides a spot just off U.S. Highway 206, so far the dam is the only Peapack Brook spot I know. As of this April. Where we fished today is the first either of us have seen this part of town, let alone Peapack Brook. Matt had never seen the dam, and as we clambered out of the stream valley here in Gladstone to the roadway above and got walking to the car, lightning illumined clouds beyond.

Driving the mile or so back to Peapack, I felt the lightning storm might beat us, but we got to the spot, dusk deep. As we walked towards the bridge, I said, "The moon is out!" Gesturing by lifting my right arm as I spoke, at that moment a Jersey Transit train blared nearby, and I thought the space between the train and the entry to the brook might be too tight to pass. We found no train coming, just lots of them stationed a hundred yards or so westward on divergent tracks.

Matt insisted I cast first. I lay in several loops and then told him I didn't feel right. There's existed this tension between us--mostly on my side of the relationship--about fishing privileges since he was a little boy. I try not to get selfish just because I approach a spot dead-on. I try to let him go first. Would he please go dabble the worm fly off the dam? That's really all he had to do, if any trout would hit. His rod got tangled, so we used my two weight. I had no doubt trout were present, but I called over to him above the sound of falling water, "This fishing is tougher than catching steelhead on the Salmon River!"

That's because we don't know what the hell we're doing with fly rods.

He got a hit. He must have presented that fake worm three dozen times, but one of those casts resulted in his setting the hook and having to extricate the fly from a tree branch. Lightning no longer flashed. Darkness had thickened further. Just as we decided to leave, a Jersey Transit horn alerted that road crossing nobody but people on foot seem to use, and bound for Summit--I suppose--the gray-silver passenger load rumbled quickly above and by us. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What's Lost and What Wins

Yesterday, someone I know who works in the kitchen mentioned the Raritan River flooded in South Bound Brook. After that, I lusted greatly to get out the next morning to attempt striped bass. They move up and feed when water is high, but I feared it's too late in May for any showing. Maybe that's the case.

Before work again today, Matt and I rode through Manville, over the Wilhousky Street Bridge, and out past Zarephath to pull over along the canal near the Island Farm Weir. The river was plenty high, and after some walking, we found one other guy fishing along the concrete. Since I had seen Facebook postings of almost shoulder-to-shoulder conditions early in the month, I knew--on a Saturday--this didn't bode well for stripers present.

I've fished here at least once before, when the river was low, so I knew about the snags out there. The water's not very deep. I lost an expensive Bomber, tied on a large paddletail shad. After we fished nearly an hour, Matt snagged his Bomber and let me break it off by pulling 40-pound test Power Pro. Here it is many hours later, and I've never really felt the loss of more than $20.00 in lures I'll surely replace eventually. Guess that's more than a fourth of my take home pay today, but that doesn't matter. It would go without saying that to impose the petty order of "the real world" on...the world real enough it doesn't really need any "order"...would betray a lack of faith. And rationality. What's lost is gone.

But the morning Matt and I shared will remain with us always.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bass Tip for Shoreline Shallows: Catch Summer Largemouths all Day

Trees hanging over a shoreline with steeply dropping depths are ideal for shadowline fishing.

Shadowline Bass

By Bruce Litton

Breaking the rules feels good when results justify. Here in the Northeast, by sometime in June most of us who catch largemouths start talking about early and late, but this isn’t the only time of day to fish after the post-spawn period we’re in the midst of now. Sunrise and sunset only marks the time when we may think we need to be on the water to catch bass once weather really heats up, but May is the month to begin tweaking tactics, anticipating when bass slow in summer. They don’t stop eating.

Like a lot of things, it’s a half-truth that summer bass can’t be caught during the day. Once the May and early June post-spawn adjustment period starts settling into the first summer dog days, bass slow their pace, but their metabolic processes race. The higher the water temperature, the more calories burned, so it may seem odd they don’t swim about at top speed, and yet their sensory alertness is on the increase now, which doesn’t necessarily mean bass get motivated to lunge and strike a plug or spinnerbait, but does mean they eat a lot. What they eat should concern us.

Rather than burn more calories by going on the chase after fish forage, once water temperatures move beyond the high end of optimal—somewhere in the 70’s—bass begin to take whatever easy meal drops their way. Maybe a tadpole, a grasshopper or leech. Bass even feed on nematodes and subaquatic insect larva. Why not easily flex those vacuum jaws? Alert to the copious critters in warm water, contrary to popular wisdom, bass feed all day during summer, and I’ve caught plenty at high noon with temperatures in the middle 90’s by fishing the edge between shadow and sunlight.

For years I’ve begun my approach to summer the first week in May, pitchin’ and castin’ weightless plastic worms. I look for sticks, brush, timber in the water often where branches surround me, too. On the banks of ponds and small lakes from 12 to 40 acres. Bank fishing lets me take stealthy approaches to bass lairs, although I’ve enjoyed plenty of success at the shadowline in lakes as large as 2685 acres from a boat. Since May means bass guard beds, I try to ignore the bucks I notice, and look for deeper water. I like a sunny afternoon best because it creates that edge I mentioned.

Inches beyond the line between sunlit water and shade, this target zone I call the shadowline is more important than sticks—not all lakes and ponds feature wood in the water—but if shaded brush combines with emerging weeds, all the better. Depth may be three to 12 feet. Females—the bigger bass—spawn quickly and let the bucks—worthy of being left alone—guard the newly arrived bass in shallows. Females hang further out, as if they can’t quite forget their young. From now on through July, you’ll find plenty in these semi-shallows, and even though August can get especially tough in the middle of the day, many afternoon catches happen in these spots.

I suggest forgetting the use of Senkos for the shadowline method. They sink twice as fast as slim traditional-type worms. If you target cover, use a 2/0 worm hook and bury the point in a seven to eight-inch worm. Rig an 18-inch, 15-pound test monofilament leader and tie it to 15-pound test quality braid by a uni-to-uni splice. Otherwise, scale down to a size 2 plain shank if you fish spots without cover. Even a micro swivel is too much weight, and fluorocarbon sinks while mono doesn’t. Twister-tail worms I find too “noisy.” Bass may respond best to a quiet, slow approach.

Pitch or cast that worm to the sunlit side of the shadowline; a bass in the shade sees in high definition a tantalizingly slow-sinking treat accessible by an easy swim. You can catch plenty if you don’t care to fish before breakfast or after dinner. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Balance Sheet

I felt tempted to fish bass today in the rain, but stuck to catching up on things, writing an article on fishing the Florida Keys the biggest task. It's written for people on a budget, and its genius is my wife, Patricia's. She hatched the idea of vacationing in the Keys independently, researched the possibility, and came up with a plan we could afford. We went twice. The second venture involved 10 or 11 days. Those were the Glory Days. 2007 and 2012, when I worked for a credit union. In my current job, I can't hope for as much vacation time as 2012 required, not for a long time perhaps. I've worked there almost a year, and I don't yet know what hopes for more vacation than a week out of a year I might eventually have. I haven't felt incentive to look into the issue.

Having planned on fishing Lake Hopatcong again today, I anticipated my friend's desire to fish a sunny day, suggesting we try in late September. I wouldn't have thought of this without the rain. So the big springtime thrust of fishing experiences comes to a close, yesterday a success especially because it proved not to be too much. Now I know I can fish weekends, even though I have to report to my job both Saturday and Sunday all summer, but I won't overdo this, as there's too much I have to get done.

Often when I focus on tasks here at home, a mood comes over me as a reminder that it's less what anyone does that matters, and more who he or she is in this world. The essence of my contemplating the circular aspect of Lake Hopatcong Sunday, related in the post I finished very early yesterday morning. To confuse particular achievements as who you really are, as if the value responses they confer--even if only your own--add up to your own value, is to forget reality no one can create, and which, in terms of achievement, only demands of anyone that he or she be aware and embrace what is sensed. An affirmation which discloses the self as much as it reveals the world, obviously because both are inextricable.

I remember a book from the 70's. Think the 70's, not 60's. Culture of Narcissism. And look at America today. Or the global culture. At least in the 70's people admitted this disorder.

Often I write an article, feel proud of it. In fact, it's well done. I have skill with words I've achieved. And then, it all disintegrates in my mind; comes to me like this: a farce. Right words, right order--doesn't matter. Because taken as a whole, any article I write is a particular assertion and so undercut as false by this deeper reality that doesn't need any sort of explication.

So what is the issue here? Words. And sense. Both are facts. It's not as if the verbal mind hasn't--in fact--needs. As my words come undone, the problem might not be any inherent falsehood regarding their assertion, but a lack of balance in my life in need of sense to compensate for struggles to achieve. I work to make money. Both as a writer and a supermarket worker. My family needs income. But I do this in a larger societal context, and I also do this in a larger biographical context. I'm well aware it seems as if I attempted too much as a young man, so I can find some agreement with the conservative line that we get what we deserve in life.

It's easy to see that agreement, but the struggle itself is a wrestling match with the Devil. Just what is it that I have got and deserve? This is the question that value judgment common among conservatives never ventures to answer. I haven't answered this question myself, either. I try. I doubt a conservative mind would have this courage.

This I know. There is rationality and a real world. Even a little of this in that supermarket where I work. What I earn is up to me. Correct? Obviously, I need to get ahead. And then I can rebalance with sense, as I put it.

So the years ahead, these will be interesting in this respect, to see what becomes of me. But it never will be about me, as much as about this world of reason and sense I touched upon. On Lake Hopatcong with my son Sunday morning.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Matter of Tuning In

Endurance tests this spring have brought me to some pretty scary edges, but today passed without becoming a trial. Here it is 1:43 a.m. as I begin writing, and I awoke at 4:15. a.m. I got Matt up 15 minutes later. As events turned out, I misjudged our point of departure from Bedminster; too much blue gathering in the sky made me think Dow's Boat Rentals would probably open a lot earlier than last I had read advertised. When we got there at 5:30, we found this was the case, but I felt no qualm, and we still got across the lake just as the sun broke over the trees to the east. We fished nearly four-and-a-half hours. Once home, I napped for an hour before going to work for a long shift.

Our first trolling pass through the belly of our favorite cove yielded nothing, and I feared a repetition of the barren fishing Mike and I experienced at the beginning of the month. I turned the boat about to pass in the opposite direction, gained about 50 yards and felt a nip (which shot me into electrical alertness), then a yank (the Rapala X-Rap then continued to run freely), and then a slam like someone who can bench press 450 arm wrestling me. The hybrid stripped 15-pound test braid from the reel before suddenly coming free, at which instant--the boat hadn't come to a halt--the rod in the holder braced to the transom bent low, line peeling from the spool. I caught this bass, photographed above.

Two nights ago I came upon a couple of Finesse Sinking Rapalas while shopping. Curiosity piqued, and I bought them. Last year, Brian Cronk had one X-Rap with him, on which he caught eight hybrids before I got a tap on a Rapala #9 Floater. On an X-Rap I caught a hybrid the same size as my first, and then a couple of passes yielded nothing, so I switched to the Finesse, quickly caught two more bass about the same size, and told my son he better switch.

We caught five altogether. Matt also caught a yellow perch way back in a distant cove we expected to find thriving with life, but it was as dead as December. Or worse. I guess the sudden chill chased the bass, crappie, pickerel into the thick of vegetation with no inclination to take chase. We caught some hybrids there last year, too, but found none of them today.

More trolling passes in our favorite cove mid-morning resulted in nothing but further practice. So we edged out a little deeper, anchored, and cast live herring weighted with split shots, imagining that the hybrids could have dropped back a little deeper. By comparison to anchoring and fishing bait slowly, trolling is a very active engagement. Today I felt a little high. My fourth year at it, I'm not about to draw comparisons to lake veterans, but it's like anything else requiring active skill. You know when you're doing it right--more or less--and that ups your feeling. But as I let herring swim on their own and nudged them along from time to time, my consciousness sank to a much deeper level, broadening not only within my mind, but through my senses. It was all about what I saw and heard. It was about a few conversational points with my son, too. I took in a very wide scope, pleased that from just this spot I could see how many square miles of lake I'm not sure, but the visage isn't square at all; it's circular, and I felt a peculiar paradox of large open area that seemed at the same time contained like any of the many ponds I fish. I contemplated this whole scene. Perhaps it seemed small because I could see the whole of it, given that the lake turns to the left, continues to the northeast, and continues to the southwest, but there are distinct landmarks that produce the illusion of the self-contained bowl of water you can see from this cove. I became aware that for once in how many months I can't even recall, some of my sanity returned.

Without circles, there isn't any of that. But there are vicious circles too. I work long shifts six days a week with loud music playing constantly. Even the songs I like: I'm 56 years old. Steely Dan is pretty long ago. Maybe one in 10. One in 20? Is a "good" song. When I began working there, I wasn't sure I would be able to take it. It's not that I don't appreciate music. Just the opposite. Well, you survive. But it is has objective effects.

This morning was a reminder that a real and rational world exists. It's just the matter of tuning in.

As we left Dow's Boat Rentals, sunlight illumined most of the elevation across the lake, though we crossed the lake with the sun just below the trees behind us.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trolling for those Odd Fish We Call Hybrids

Pain above my left knee, the rest of me isn't hurting from the heat and sun, but we sure got fried on Spruce Run Reservoir today. Our primary intent was to run Mike's used three-and-a-half-horsepower Nissan on my squareback canoe, and it pushed the boat pretty well, but Mike got soaked in the bow, so I cut below half throttle or else accumulated a lot of water inside the shell.

Headed for one of the back coves. I cut the engine to fix tangled lines. It started on the first pull, but died after running 50 feet. It quickly became evident this might be a problem, so I pointed us back towards the ramp, developing a big broken blister on right index finger. We got back after short starts and stops the entire way. And just in case, we had my Minn Kota 55 transom mount. Got that from the car as Mike pulled off the outboard, and then we were back on the water.

Heading for that same back cove, my favorite as well as Mike's, I hooked something on a big Rat-L-Trap trolled probably not even 10 feet deep in 50 feet of water. Looked like a little hybrid bass at first but proved to be a rainbow trout. A recruit from Spruce Run Creek, we imagined, since that stream enters this comparatively huge range of water closer to where I caught this fish than Mulhockaway Creek. No trout get stocked in the reservoir. Mike snapped the photo and I tossed the fish back.

About trout. I never forget the glory days. I never was part--besides winning a B.A.S.S. chapter bass tournament here in 1978--but I gazed on the trout on the wall of Dan's Sport Shop on Route 31 in front of the reservoir with great admiration, never to forget these mounts and the shop that must have gone out-of-business 20 years ago or longer. In The New Jersey Fisherman I read about 15-pound brown trout caught in the area of Spruce Run Creek's entry during the fall, and stories of 10-pound browns--likewise--running up from the reservoir well upstream in little Mulhockaway Creek. The state stocked Spruce Run Reservoir with trout, but already by 1977, northern pike had achieved a mighty presence, as Herb Hepler's state record 30 pound, 2 ounce pike got caught that year. I'll never forget these stories.

Just stories. What good are stories, compared to facts you can squander by use of an Excel spreadsheet? But everyone knows--at heart--why stories are good. It's more important to ask: why facts. Because when you really get down to it, facts are completely meaningless--without stories.

Back in that cove I won't offer directions to, I longed to stop the boat, toss anchor, and bass fish. Eric Evans of iBass360 and I have caught a lot of bass--smallmouth and largemouth--among the shallow rocks I contemplated today. But today was about trolling for these odd fish we call hybrids. A cross between the ocean-going but anadromous striped bass and the freshwater while bass, the two species so closely related they result in hybrid striped bass when crossed in hatcheries. Annually, little ones maybe six or seven inches long get stocked by the state in the reservoir with the expectation that they will grow to legal 16-inch size and larger. A few of them reach 10 pounds or more, though they average about two pounds, yet many over six pounds get caught. My family has eaten both striped bass and hybrids my son and I have caught, and back in March, I purchased a whole white bass from Shop Rite to serve for dinner. This way we would complete the triad. (I know white bass exist in Texas, but not in New Jersey.) It's just that after I began cooking late that night, my wife fell asleep and didn't care to join us, so Matt and I had a feast.

That strip of sand is the popular swimming beach. Sand trucked in.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Democracy, Individual Freedom, and Hitting the Holes

I digress. Get off the program. (Do you remember when "Get with the program" suggested we all stick to the beaten path?) I went back through some old posts before I opened this tab. Clear, well-defined writing that never loses sight of the definite subject in plain view for anyone to comprehend, and I assure you I'm proud of these posts. If not for ordinary reality well represented, anything extraordinary is doomed to failure. Every working man knows this, which is probably why so many are angry these days. I believe I made just this point in another way recently. The post, "Nothing without Feet on the Floorboards."

I got so caught up in other ideas writing last night's post, I forgot to make the point that since I have an ambition to write a book-length essay on fishing, I need to practice. I need to ferret out every advantage I can, because getting such a book published is very difficult. So Litton's Fishing Lines is experimental. From the beginning, it's about writing as much as it's about fishing, which is why I chose the word lines in the title. Writers form sentences in lines. Poets form phrases in lines. I spare my blog readers. I don't begin to experiment as much as I do in my handwritten journals.

I mentioned democracy last night. That's not only about people who fish stocked trout, but also people I work with as a wage earner myself. At age 15, I shot straight up in bed one night, suffering a terrible nightmare. I dreamed that because of my association with my fishing mentor, who to me was just an older friend, but he was a mentor, in fact, because of this association with a fry cook, I would find myself stuck in the working class as an older man. I told myself it just couldn't be. I was the son of a world-renowned musician, solidly middle class, advantaged in so many ways. I persuaded myself enough that it was just a dream to go back to sleep, but I knew better than to think that's all it might be.

A God-fearing young lad would have made damn sure to get that college degree. But as I wrote in the first paragraph, I get off the program. I don't blame my former mentor one iota. I went off the grid to discover the source of all that makes the grid and anything else. And I don't find my job a nightmare. At least, not any longer. But making it livable in a positive way involves sticking tenaciously to the program. To those tasks I not only must do; they are the reason I go to that workplace. I made my mind up about doing tasks before I applied there.

I knew, this afternoon: I have to advance a point about my belief in democracy. I try to dig deeper than any ideological rallying behind a collective nationalism. National freedom from foreign imposition is important to me, just as the political freedom to get involved in decisions that affect society locally or nationally is also, but I believe most in individual freedom. I think not only of my own potential and the difficult effort to articulate a complex vision of life. I think of the rest of us in a confused age of distraction also and never give up the hope that so much resigned cynicism will pass away as new possibilities for everyone become manifest.

I've made this clear. I want to write books. I'll add that I want to get paid, too. I've had dreams of far-off fishing destinations for many years. But as I've told Fred Matero, what would life amount to, if not for hitting the holes? The local waters familiar to both of us.

Coming Books

I may change the Coming Books notice, since I've my doubts they'll become available so soon. The book about the salmon egg method I began three weeks before Opening Day, but of course with all this fishing and my job, haven't got much done. As related in the recent Spruce Run Creek post, I had read some of my first published fishing articles, and this book--which I conceived more than a decade ago--confronted me as something I must do.

Walking Sadie minutes ago, I realized my first article published in The New Jersey Fisherman was the perfect choice of subject--early season largemouth bass--because I met my fishing mentor two years prior at just that sort of fishing. He was no writing mentor. More like the opposite--a fair trade, since he not only taught me a great deal about fishing; he got me motivated to fish even more than I had been fishing.

I paid a Devil's Bargain. Ernest Hemingway and Jim Harrison were just about the only great literary writers also anglers. Today's literary community seems especially detached from the outdoor writing community, and my welding of both pursuits is an unlikely proposition. When I began fishing as an eight-year-old, at first with a friend and his father, that's when I learned about literary classics. My mother eagerly introduced me to Izaak Walton, 17th century author of The Compleat Angler, the most bestselling book of all time besides the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. She introduced me to Walton's book as a classic perhaps on that day I first went fishing. The qualification went straight to my brain. I fished Little Shabakunk Creek regularly that year, and I remember--yet aged eight--walking in on my parents to tell them about how I took fishing seriously, and yet without confusing the objective order of greater and lesser values.

My father comes from strong West Virginia mountain people. I never met my grandfather on his side, but my great-great grandfather came from somewhere deep in the farming wilderness before seeking the modern adventure. I can't say Dad's not anything like a farmer, but he is a world-class musician. So growing up, I understood our lives depended on music, since that's how Dad got paid. But of course, more than that; to grow up steeped in sacred and classical music was to develop a great understanding of art's value. Not only music. My mother was a chemist for Esso, now Exxon, but she minored in English. So when I laid claim to fishing that day, we all understood I did not place the value above genius.

Caught in the Devil's Bargain of having invested my life in the outdoors, while all the while struggling to create art, I think of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock." She implied that we're all caught in the Devil's Bargain, and the way out is to get back to the Garden. So this problem I have is very ironic, in light of Joni's prescription. The Bargain I made took me all the way back. From fishing 250 days a year in my teens, to clamming commercially, which paid so well I often didn't have to labor much. Most of what that adventure was about wasn't beach bumming or even studying, though I studied a great deal. It was about going as deep into nature as I possibly could.

Maybe Joni was sly. Maybe she dreamt of a future when some fisherman would catch us all in the Devil's Bargain. But I've never believed in "back to nature." I always understood; I was trying to conquer nature itself. "Nature, to be conquered, must be obeyed." I studied Francis Bacon in not every detail, but seriously. Bacon was one of the very greatest. The father of the modern age. He challenged Aristotle and won the battle that led to modern science. As the result of this science, we have entered a new geological epoch. The Anthropocene. Nature is conquered enough already for us to have begun reshaping the planet. What is yet to be seen is beyond imagination.

A book on fishing salmon eggs may seem beneath what I can really do, and it is. But everything is interrelated as one effort affirms another, and I can't help but feel I believe in people who come out and fish trout in the spring. Democracy gets a lot of lip service. Why it's so threatened now can only be the result of false belief in it, if we assume the standard of belief is equal to practice. So what I am doing with this book is more than just explaining how to catch trout with salmon eggs. Centuries of scholars have pondered what it was Walton really did. I am not Walton, but what I'm doing with my book on salmon egg fishing is more than just explanation. Nevertheless, I'm free to say more in America than Walton felt free to say in his 17th century England.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Follow Up

When I publish a post like this with a title that will rank a thousand pages back, and I don't post it on Facebook, it's for myself and my regular readers. That last post raised an angry stir from one quarter. Mike and I laughed it off, though we both hope we can repair ill feeling coming from elsewhere. A trusted friend from more than a decade ago told me that if my writing--she was sure I would eventually incite controversy--polarizes, so long as I am on the right side with my friends, it pays off, because controversy stirs interest and profit.

I won't go into details. I just want to comment on one word that does bug me about that post, though I won't go into edit function and change it. Significant.

Honestly. One hundred percent honestly. I am very proud of the writing I have got published. That's significant. And I've worked damn hard and continue to work damn hard to get these articles published. All of the magazines I write for are significant. Of course they are. Anyone who would doubt this, when these magazines sell, is a fool. But I am a complicated individual. I just emailed my father two nights ago, relating how my mother told me in 1999, when we were coin shopping for our collections, "Don't do any psychological tests on your son." Matt was with us, six months old. She wasn't joking. I wrote Dad, "My journals test me. Anyone who will read them will be tested for sure."

When I wrote about getting published significantly last night, I didn't see the brush against condescension myself, nor feel it at all: it's a matter of context. To forget what that word means is to invite no less than insanity. To gain the broader issue of the post is to realize: maybe the reason I didn't see or feel condescension--is because it simply is not there. No one in his right mind would believe Ernest Hemingway's best work was published in Field & Stream, not that I have been published in this magazine; I have not, but if I'm not mistaken, Hemingway was so. Gathering from what I've read, both Hemingway and Zane Grey remained very proud of their fishing articles. I would guess so. Partly because I know: no matter how I finish in life--or after I am dead--I will always be proud of my fishing articles. And I will always remember where I first got published. On fishing early season largemouth bass.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bedminster New Jersey's Super-Centrality: Meaning Rainbow Warrior

March 28th seems a long time ago; ever since then, feels like I've fished non-stop: for the fun of it, for the friendship, for the wider fraternity, and for the fuel to power my writing. Readers of this blog are privy to a tip of a very complex and complicated iceberg, and most of what is underneath may never see the light of day, but there's hope that some future editor will pick and choose the best of what I've written by pen. And in the meantime, I have my ambition to get significantly published, not only before I blast off the face of the earth, though most people would say pass away, but significantly published before I will officially retire--no one knows whether or not I'll reach this goal. The effort hurts like hell sometimes, because I invest so much hope--energy, value, effort, and time. Without the vigilance of this attempt, my life would go out to the trash with the bad vegetables at the supermarket.

I think of Jim Morrison and his writing. Not because he was any great writer, but partly because he might have been, had he not fallen into a glut of celebrity. I discovered Morrison in the fall of 1980, long after all of my friends had become familiar with his Doors rock band without clueing me in, perusing the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive in a Manahawkin, New Jersey, shop. I lived alone on Long Beach Island, harvesting clams self-employed while studying literature, mysticism, and philosophy. I learned within five minutes or so--without embarrassing myself before the shop proprietor, not interested in actually buying the book--that Morrison was serious about becoming a poet and very much influenced by Aldous Huxley and William Blake. At the time, both of these writers were two of my favorites as it just so happened I stumbled upon Morrison. Morrison would have named the band The Doors of Perception, a line of William Blake and title of the very influential work by Aldous Huxley, the book I had finished reading a day or two before coming upon the Morrison biography, but I believe it was the band's guitarist Robby Krieger who insisted the awkward wordiness for a popular act needed to get cut.   

Mike is like a lot of us who fish: clued into myriad details of rock culture. But of all the performers and acts, Morrison is most significant to him, as Morrison is also to me. Of all these recent trips, going back to Round Valley Reservoir in February, I've played music as we have traveled here and there hundreds of miles only twice. Conversation fills the time instead. Now three months since I played Ambrosia's "I Keep Holding on," it seems like last week. Mike had never heard the song. Coming home from the Pequest, about halfway back, I put on the Grateful Dead album, "American Beauty." Mike hadn't heard these cuts either. I told him "Box of Rain" was one the most influential pieces for me during my teens.

As a former choral artist, I'm familiar with music of long tradition: from hymns, chants of the Middle Ages, 17th and 18th century anthems, to many great masterpieces such as Handel's Coronation Anthem #1 and Mozart's Requiem. A huge repertoire in total. Difficult to reconcile differences between sacred and classical works taken together, against a complicated plethora of popular modern forms and particular numbers, I suffered a hell of a lot of conflict because I neither rejected high forms nor popular. By fits and starts I would assert the value of classical and sacred against the popular, but as I aged, all this wealth of contradiction in my consciousness began to settle where it belongs. Space within me large enough to hold it all together.

I could have played Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Shake for Me" a week ago. Last May, that was my theme song for the hybrid striped bass trolling pursuit. No fish shakes like a hybrid striper hitting a trolled plug. And a big one will pull on forward with the power of a cable winch.

Fishing is absurd compared to the grand stability of serious art forms, but this is the very clue to fishing's value. The highest art achieves immortality: Moby Dick remains with us, for example. But Ralph Waldo Emerson understood that the past is a dust bin, despite the presence of spirit captured millennia ago capable of life yet today. This begs the question. Assuming such life long after death is possible--to realize life of ancient Athens, for example--how?

Another favorite of Jim Morrison was Friedrich Nietzsche. I have grown to hate this philosopher. If he were reduced to working in a supermarket for low wage, as I am, he would not implore his readers to let many of us be slaves--he meant slaves literally, in the 19th century--so that the upper crust, our 1% today, can be happy. Every time I hear that phrase "upper crust" or think of it, a joke from choir camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina, 1971, is lurking not far behind. About caked excrement in the pants of a na├»ve journeyman. It's not that I hate the rich, it's that I hate their folly, their unwitting going along with ideas they are not conscious of, and refuse to become conscious of; Nietzsche's notion of exceptions, for a particular example. I used to believe--trenchantly--that I was one of the exceptions, but I've grown up enough to at least hope to believe in democracy. Really so. And yet, Nietzsche understood that the only to way generate such power as to realize spirit of any age, and especially of the future--is to unify with nature. "Remain true to the Earth!"

I'm also a birder. And as a birder, I know delicacies having a fish on a hook can't conjure. But I also know birding is less involved with equipment and bodily acts such as the difficulties of wading, fighting fish, removing hooks, etc. Fishing is more involved in nature than any other outdoor activity, perhaps. Obviously. It has to do with food. That's also a plus, I realize, for my supermarket job. Nothing is more basic to economics than food. Nothing is more basic to ecology, either. And nothing--actually--is more basic to philosophy and art. Franz Kafka wrote The Hunger Artist. But no starving artist can escape the implication of that denial--food itself.

Mike told me a Califon tale today. During the 1930's, a grocer in town sold a loaf of stale bread; presumably this was an innocent mistake. The buyer discovered the staleness at home around lunchtime, stormed back to town and beat the grocer to death.

Food is at the root of passion. This must be why so many chefs bear a Napoleon complex.

Mike showed me more of the South Branch Raritan River today I'd never before seen. And more of Califon culture. Only some 15 miles from Bedminster, Califon is another world. Bedminster, of course Bedminster is all over the news now. This "little" town is actually rather large, considering the wealth contained. We live in "The Hills," and these condos and townhouses are not in the least run down or occupied by miscreants, but they're not as expensive as the traditional estates elsewhere throughout the Township. We're just about right in the middle of the former Supercontinent Pangaea. I had already committed hopes to writing an epic poem, vaguely modeled on William Carlos William's "Paterson," which I named "Crossroads," when I learned of this Bedminster Super-Centrality about 12 years ago. Having conceived the poem a year or two before it crystalized distinctly at the foot of Passaic River Falls in Paterson on a New Jersey Audubon geological outing, it must owe some its inspiration to Allen Ginsberg, also. About a year before "Crossroads" came to me, I contemplated a photo of Ginsberg standing on the walkway over Passaic River Falls with his mother, looking into the camera lens with an expression of greeting. I have not written this poem, but I hope to write it. Califon people we encountered weren't miscreants either. We drove by quite a few standing about where the river is dammed in town, gazing on us with the sort of open curiosity you may find in many rural places, rather than the implied contempt of urban disregard. One older man chatted with us at our most upstream destination, where any further, according to this man, involves a club membership fee of $3000.00 annually. He spoke ebulliently, with very local feeling I simply gave up on, not out of any dislike, but knowing I wouldn't have the patience to try and connect, though Mike continued talking without my sort of difficulty. (William Carlos Williams might shame me for copping out, since he was all about American idiom, and that, of course, is very wide ranging.)

As my time this morning came near closing, Mike's friend Jesse showed up. I've heard a lot about Jesse's fly fishing, and soon he showed me his RS-2 and Rainbow Warrior dual presentation, keeping pace with my salmon eggs. He's good. For a beginner--real good. The man studies fly fishing constantly. Mike and I caught only rainbows. Jesse caught his first brook trout, of around 14 inches or so--and how it wound up in Califon, don't know; the state hasn't stocked any brook trout for years, and I've heard nothing of Shannon's Fly Shop stocking but browns, tigers, and rainbows. And Jesse caught one of the tigers of 12 or 13 inches. I really like his self-tied Rainbow Warrior especially.

Looks like a psychedelic zebra midge.

"Size 20 is best," Jesse said.

All told, between the three of us today, we caught 75 trout. 
 We fished two spots in High Bridge, and we caught trout at all spots.