Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We Might Find Our Way Again

Had the privilege to fish a private lake with Brian Cronk and Sam Kaplan this morning. Sam's parents live in the lake community. I was running a little late, but not so behind our scheduled meeting time of 5:15 that I felt the need to phone, and when I got to the dock area, Sam's canoe was just about to get unloaded from Brian's truck. I bought my second canoe--a Great Canadian fiberglass no longer manufactured--in February from a man north of Paramus, thanks to Craig's List. For $350.00, I probably made an investment that will last the rest of my life. This morning was it's Maiden Voyage for me, and I feel honored in the everyday way of getting out and living to put it on the water with a friend and new acquaintance. I try to cut through stereotypes when I write these posts, presently reminded that this is not as easy to do, as it is to get out and around, involving myself not only with pursuits that amount to shape-shifting purpose, but letting crap go, cutting down the signposts that clog veins and arteries trying to tell my heart where my blood should flow, as if everything is a maze that needs authority at every turn. As a matter of fact, my circulation system works quite naturally.

It's just the thing of using a low dose of a statin drug. No worries there.

Best of all this morning, the social quality. We fished in separate canoes, and we did get separated at least for half of the three hours out there, word back and forth when close, sometimes hollered when distant. I let very light breeze carry my craft off a ways after something was said about the bite dying under sunlight, and then felt deeply reminded of my 13 years on Long Beach Island, clamming the bays for a living. Before I could remind myself that I've suffered the tendency to think I lived that adventure chiefly in solitude, not memory of being alone but of complete release from any preoccupation and boundaries, day after day for years, word back and forth with a friend when we happened to work in our shorts during summer and wetsuits when chillier in that brine. Perhaps there was never a better way to socialize, because the bays brought nature, language, and personal presence together as nothing else could. To work feet in bay bottom and fight choppy brine up to your shoulders while collecting clams, this brings you home to this planet in a most directly involved way. That friend went on to earn a Psy.D at Rutgers University. He made this possible only through earnings as a clammer.

The man who sold me this second canoe warned me it's tippy, but at 13 feet long with a wide beam, I found not only does it stay put on the water; it maneuvers very subtly. We began by paddling towards the back of about 77 acres. Brian caught a bass close to 2 1/2 pounds on his first cast, once Sam positioned us to start. And though both Sam and Brian used Senko-type plastics rigged straight on worm hooks, not Wacky, I tied on a Pop-R surface plug. The water was dead calm, the day very young, light dim, and it all invited the possibility of bass or pickerel welling up from underneath, an opportunity I never want to miss.

Later, Brian told me, "Every new guy we bring out here heads for those pads." They're really shallow. I had a good-size pickerel on that plug, which got off, a fish striking in no more than a foot-and-a-half of water. I missed three other fish--two of them certainly pickerel--that didn't really commit to taking that plug.

By the time I gave up on the Pop-R and Wacky-rigged a Senko, Brian had four bass and Sam three. One of Brian's was three-and-a-half pounds, caught when we were separated by a couple of hundred yards, so I got no photo. I watched them fish. Fast. At first, I thought they were speed-worming. No. "They hit on the descent," Brian said. They were letting the worm fall, then twitching prodigiously and even reeling several yards or more to let the offering drop back.

Behind an island, the lake possesses a cove-like quality. My worm finally rigged straight on a worm hook, maybe I was set for business. Brian caught another bass, about three pounds. I drifted off about 75 yards, hooking a nice bass that played just a bit before the hook pulled. And then two casts later, thought I was into a fair-size bass, which proved to be a pickerel, boated, of about 21 inches. So I felt relieved, but I was feeling the bug now. Ready for more. Fish were hitting and I felt it was all just beginning. Someone in a kayak struck up conversation by asking if I kept any fish here. No. And not anywhere else, besides some of the walleye and hybrid stripers, for the most part. And he told me he runs off guys who do keep them, so I complimented him on confronting them directly about this. After all, it's a private lake and these others come on uninvited. We spoke for a few minutes at an interested clip, talking about how fishing refreshes us for out jobs, Hopatcong and wild trout streams, etc. He told me he lives on the lake, goes to work at 9:00 a.m., fishes every morning and does real well. Then soon I got word from Brian that we would try an area around the island, and as I paddled behind Sam's canoe, I felt I was leaving the honey hole behind, probably an illusion of my success.

This lake suffers profound eutrophification; there's talk of dredging, but I agree with Sam that it's probably best to let be. As is there's a lot of fish. Water stays off color. Muddy bottoms of course. And once I learned depths would register no more than about seven feet, I knew I was never bothering to set up the fish finder. I settled right into the lake as is.

But now, in our new territory, the sun was out, and I knew what this meant. And indeed, it was all over. Near the docks, we did confront cover near shore with two or three feet or more of water at the edges of brush, and Sam caught one more fish here. A crappie on his worm. I've written many articles for magazines that boast of my catching bass--really good-size bass by Jersey standards--during blazing hot afternoons. But the truth is, the hope for this is shorelines with depth and cover, especially woody or brushy cover. Boulders help, too, even for largemouths, and almost always there's some weeds. I've done it for years, but I felt a little uneasy today, because this is the second instance this year of lockjaw bass under sunlight. It is true. My son got a bass barely over two pounds in crystal-clear Lake Aeroflex under direct sun, and there I got an early evening three-and-a-half-pound bass with sun on the water beyond the shade the bass swam under, but I have a tendency of asserting "truths" too directly. In a way that falsifies truth for lack of details to clarify the matters.

At least the articles make clear where I catch those mid-day bass.

Another morning out on the quest, well aware it's not only my own. Life is a lot more than scene reduced to caricature of experience. Scene and screen sound alike, and the more we escape both of those surfaces to live real life rather than dally and doll out false references to how it really is, the closer we may come to finding our way again.

I've never been asked if I'm an outdoorsman, though I've been told I'm the number 1 guy in this respect for someone I know. I probably had no problem with the "identity" as a teen, but I resist getting cubby-holed, because it's not a particular ritual--like "outdoor activities"--which matters, but overturning the soil of experience so something fresh and natural gets exposed. Doesn't mean I'm some sort of gardener, either. Lol. Life is more than being some one thing against all else.

So much for identity politics. Thanks to Brian and Sam! I look forward to more!

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