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.