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.