Thursday, October 12, 2017

Musconetcong Watershed Association Awarded by the NJ Region of American Water Resources Association

A press release worth sharing. Congratulations Musconetcong Watershed Association!

MWA to receive AWRA award for Hughesville Dam removal

Lambertville, NJ  On Friday October 6th, the Musconetcong Watershed Association (Asbury, NJ) received the 2017 Excellence in Water Resources Protection and Planning Award from the NJ region of the American Water Resources Association (NJAWRA) in recognition for the Hughesville Dam Removal.  Nominated by engineering partners, Princeton Hydro, this award recognized the Musconetcong Watershed Association’s ability to utilize partnerships to complete this major restoration project as well as uphold NJAWRA’s mission of “advancing water resources research, planning, development, management and education.”

The Hughesville Dam was an approximately 15 feet high and 125 feet long concrete dam that once provided power to the Riegel Paper Company.  Through the Musconetcong River Restoration Partnership, which included the dam owner, International Process Plants and partners like NJ Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others, the Musconetcong Watershed Association was able to secure support and funding to remove this obsolete dam last fall.

Dam removals facilitate migratory fish passage and remove outdated structures which can pose safety hazards and flooding risks.  A testimony to the project’s success was the return of migratory fish this year, including the American Shad.  The Musconetcong River is 42 miles long and flows through parts of Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey, and is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River.

The Musconetcong Watershed Association is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of the Musconetcong River and its watershed, including its natural and cultural resources.

Thank you,

Karen Doerfer

Communications & Administrative Coordinator

Musconetcong Watershed Association

10 Maple Avenue

P.O. Box 113

Asbury, NJ 08802


Tuesday, October 10, 2017


I revised and finished an article for New Jersey Federated Sportsmen's Clubs News very early Monday morning. This organization I deeply respect, not for conservatism per se, but for the grounded quality I find in relation to both fact and story material. The editor, Oliver Shapiro, is first rate. When he's improved sentences of mine, I've endured without complaint. He knows the publication through and through, and so he commits the right tweaks to keep its communication finely tuned to the readership. His vigilance never flags.

I sent him the article, on lake trout, by email at about the usual time. With very few--if any--exceptions, always after midnight the second Monday of the month. Then I went downstairs to settle into reading an issue of Fly Fisherman. I read a few sentences when something clicked, so I came back upstairs to write this piece for Litton's Lines I work on now with the intention of keeping it in Drafts. Something important had triggered in my mind, but I will post about my trout fishing later on Monday first.

Here we go.

I could have contacted fisheries biologist Sean Crouse of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife for the News article on lake trout. Could have asked him about why lake trout seem to come in close at Round Valley during the severest cold, even though--by late December--that reservoir is plenty cold, and lakers like 50-degree water anyway. (Even with average late December weather, that water surely isn't much warmer than when under weather extremely cold.) Is there something I'm missing, I could ask. And of course, his authority on the page would help, right?

As a Round Valley Trout Association member, I met Mr. Crouse in March. He was enthusiastic about a question I submitted to him before the meeting, but as the presentation began after we spoke and throughout, I felt uneasy. The relationship between authority and club didn't seem right, even though many members asked further questions after he finished speaking. This wasn't an issue of silence among the public, but the uneven balance of attitude between state and public I observe is normal, as such events have unfolded since the day the Constitution was ratified, but certainly not the only normal way for public and a state official to interact. For me personally, and I would italicize "personally," if that didn't give undue emphasis, considering that my real concern here is impersonal, but nevertheless, for me personally, I felt as if putting the official on a pedestal would ultimately disrespect us both. And as a matter of fact, I asked whether or not barred sunfish are present in the reservoir, in such a direct manner that Mr. Crouse felt compelled to (impulsively, humanly) utter the Latin name for the species, a moment which could have been awkward, but because of it's timing and quick attentive regard for me, when our eyes met with an electrified flash of mutual recognition, it felt uncannily perfect. I did not know and do not remember that Latin name, but at age 9, I was obsessed with zoology, and my mother had the intention of my learning Latin that year (1970) for the purpose of my pursuing science. I did not learn Latin, and though I did feel a little overwhelmed at this prospect that never came about, I thought about it a lot, and took interest in a "Latin" course during 7th grade I felt was too slow and too much by rote to follow. It was just some adjunct of some other "period."

I emailed Mr. Crouse almost immediately after the meeting. He had sent me a pdf of the presentation, and I asked if I could use a particular photo from it for my blog. No answer came. So I confronted him on this by forwarding the email message, telling him it's no loss to me if I can't use the photo, but if I can use it, that's a simple plus. Could I. He replied and told me he had to seek approval. I could have shot back and told him not to trouble himself, but I guess I was stymied. He wrote in that same email that he would get back to me.

That's what the state is for the most part, in my humble opinion. Trouble.

Since Mr. Crouse never got back to me about that photo, if I were to email for information to stack up the import of my article on lakers, I might expect no reply, but I could phone him. One of my readers often does, and they talk fishing at length. I suspect this wouldn't be so easy for me. That's an irony. If you were to get in my shoes and feel what went between Sean and I, when I asked about the sunfish, you could understand. Other guys for whom the state seems normal as an authority have no problem speaking to him informally on the phone.

There's another consideration. Not that I should presume of an authority not knowing something and claiming that he does, when I have no such evidence, but simply to acknowledge my preemptive refusal to ask, when the state of affairs is as I have outlined. You guys and gals read my posts. So you know that when I don't know something, I'm not afraid to say so. Why should authority be any different? Aren't we each human beings who don't know everything? We certainly know very, very little; no matter how great the genius any of us possesses--very little, compared to what is. So it's never contrary to the (true) pride of any representative of any organization--I certainly presume--to admit of not knowing.

I don't know what other factors might be involved in why lake trout prefer to come in close to shore during periods of severe cold. I don't even know if this proposition is true. In the article I only say I have some evidence it is true. But I don't need a state official's authority to beef up the text. Especially since the particular official I have in mind has already gone against his own word in relation to me.

The greatest--in my opinion--philosopher of all time, Aristotle, wrote very simple words: "To know is not enough." But what can this mean? Many things. And for one, the sand flies back in the face of any man who "needs" to know in order to presumably keep face, when he does not know, but feels and behaves as if he should. This is not to say such a man might not advance to knowing better, and this is not to say this might not be a good thing. Only to say that it's perfectly OK if he does not know, right now, and he shouldn't feel awkward about that; he shouldn't have to look over his shoulder to an agency that might make demands unwarranted by the facts of life. It's not to demand humility of officials who rightly should take proud stances, but simply to discriminate between an authentic willingness of an official to engage and keep a true dialogue, and, on the other hand, an evasion. This latter state of affairs is one of cowering and flight from responsibility. It's completely beside the point, if Mr. Crouse's time is limited. So is mine. But as I say, I  will respond to everyone who comments on this blog. I actually do so, unless it's spam. I felt at the Round Valley Trout Association discussion as if the state "didn't have enough time" for us, so to speak, when RVTA is the prime voice of stakeholders in the fishery. The discussion did not probe indepth, in my opinion, particularly on the issue of whether or not stocking herring is a good idea after the structural work on the reservoir is completed and water levels rise. That's something members wanted to do. Me included. Anyone can judge--by common sense--that untold tons of vegetation growing in along shorelines, with the water level drastically lowered, will produce some fertility, which these herring might live on for awhile, and yet the issue was given short shrift as Crouse moved the discussion along. Surely he knew this was a prime concern of ours.

That attitude I mentioned. I find in the public, everywhere, awe before authority. But individuals forget that they have authority of their own, which should come first.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Get Away Outing to Pohandusing Brook

Near Belvidere

I promised some Americana and captured just a little of that on camera. Leaving Bedminter in steady rain, stopping at Shannon's Fly Shop in Califon on the way over to State Highway 31 while perusing an issue of The Drake, I came to infer valuable info on how to go about a certain essay. Hope for this sort of thing is more precious in itself than practical, but I never forget appearing in Salmon and Steelhead Journal as a 2016 finalist for the Brookwood Press Writing Award. Yours truly may make it yet, and if not, well, a life well-lived never depends on outside recognition.

Getting to Pohandusing Brook proved more time consuming than I had prepared for the venture one way or the other. My mapping--I don't use GPS--was frivolous and yet sufficient. I found some access near CR 519, but here the stream seemed too little, so I went through Belvidere and found a promising stretch.

I parked near industrial fencing and a No Trespassing sign, but outside that fence....well. (Actually, nothing forbids anyone.) You don't go to strange new places, emphasis on strange for this snippet of thought, unless you have a little of the explorer in you. The sort of explorer who can deal with strangers, if they decide to confront him. As I got my stuff together--I fully enjoyed tying on leader, tippet, and a little worm imitation--I imagined my brother David doing this (he's bragged about "guiding" me on the Farmington River in CT)--and that was a no brainer. Nothing against him, but he never would get near this place. I had already entertained the company of a State Police officer, having pulled over on a wide shoulder to review my maps. I never saw the flashing lights until he smiled and turned back to his unit. I had simply looked up--my window down in the heat--and in a confidently pleasant and matter-of-fact way, greeted him.

Despite the forecast I noted last night, I had felt rain would be no problem, and it was no problem at all, until the very end of my outing, which I'll soon relate. I ambled through brush and into little Pohandusing Brook, soon dabbling my fly near a little undercut, way too shallow I observed once I got close. The water didn't feel very chilly, my never having put on my chest waders, and I even wondered if it were at or above 68 degrees, the temperature that divides fishing for trout or leaving them be, if you value clean release. The weather was so muggy and warm I took off my rain jacket to leave it behind for the time being, figuring I'd wade and hike upstream with Sadie the Black Labrador for at least half a mile. I never got more than about an eighth of a mile before I saw the stream runs though a backyard, a nice bridge over the water connecting the property.

So much for my dream of getting well and good into a little stream. In the meantime, I had found a nice pool and caught a couple of dace. On closer examination, I found it's about two-and-a-half feet deep, certainly enough water to hold brown trout, especially with the nice undercut into thick tree roots. I saw no browns. And so I was thinking. Surely no one fishes the Pohandusing Brook. But the state has designated it a wild trout steam with reproducing brown trout, and I don't doubt but a tiny bit they're in there. After my blowout at this nice hole I photographed, I was fully bent on looking for more, and who knows, elsewhere in this state I'm surely to do so.

I felt very satisfied. Creeks and I go way, way back. I would enjoy exploring dozens in New Jersey, had I the time. It was time to leave and I had sunk deep enough into experience that it didn't feel ridiculous, and I imagined that after I judged Buckhorn Creek useless, I might have time to try Peapack Brook near home for a few minutes before heavy dusk.

I got to where I had parked my car, and noticed the fence gate was now open, a truck with headlights on facing in my direction, a driver inside. I leisurely packed up, only very slightly nervous and staying that way, refusing to feel awkward. I guess the guy stared with the sort of stony eyes we all know about, that mindless indecision of the captive of our modern demise of ideology, the sort of zombie Dagny in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged shot dead, but before I got in view of this situation, I was thinking in a celebratory way about how all of us share this planet, regardless of us parceling it out on mathematical terms that amount to money and private ownership. But more than this. I'm not against private ownership and fancy myself a believer in laizze faire capitalism, but there has to be some way to overcome the mindless (bad!) aspect of greed for benevolence towards one another based on such facts as the air we breathe, water we drink and wade, and soil we stand on.

By everything I deduced, I trespassed against no one today. I drove off having already forgotten the open gate and truck. Best part of the day was fishing the Pohandusing.

I did find Buckhorn and some access, where I quickly judged the creek too little. I hung a right, found some water that looked kind of interesting; no access here. So I found a pullover, looked at my map, but as I drove off, noticed my gas was dangerously low, so I never took the trouble to find the right turn I needed, bent on getting to Philipsburg and eventually Peapack Brook, but when I got to State Highway 57, I turned left, looking at little creeks as I passed by and coming upon a larger bridge, as I hoped to see. This turned out to be the familiar Pohatcong, but I saw--after stopping and getting out to look--only fishless water, me not willing to wade and look with sun very low. I found gas, turned right on Rt. 31 at Washington while listening to the Grateful Dead. I've meant to listen to Bach's Concertos for One and Two Harpsicords (I habitually hear classical), but today I heard Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Dead, and the Outlaws.

There were moments approaching an experience I well know referred to in "Box of Rain," on the Dead's American Beauty album. I listened to this album alone among Dead tracks today. Any of you over 35 who read this blog might relate to this sort of evaluation of life as something not just airy fairy, but psychologically factual. A dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago.

It's not Deja Vu. Much better than that.

I hung a left and saw stretches of the Musconetcong River--to be stocked tomorrow. I have never before seen these before I got to Changewater. That road took my to Point Mountain, when I knew I had borne northeast, instead of southeast, so it took me longer to get to Peapack. But I had cut new territory. I did get to Peapack Brook before heavy dusk, but the water ran high, off color (visibility about a foot), and full of leaves and twigs. I knew this meant a skunker, but I tried thoroughly the hole where Jorge caught a wild brown on a salmon egg in April. The effort helped bond me with my two-weight fly rod.

Not much of a day in terms of fishing, but there's never a time away that doesn't incentivize me for more to come. I thought I should have waded upstream the Pohatcong while I was there. (All the time and gas it takes to return!) But I wouldn't have had much time. I got to thinking about trying the Peapack again.

Above all, I got away from the grist mill of the almighty buck. That might seem an ironic thing for a believer in laizze faire capitalism to say, and I guess it is ironic, but then again, I think the dollar--ultimately--is the only way it's possible to get away from the grind. Can you imagine any other, besides going vagrant? Anyone who would choose that course of action, anyhow, would find his or herself in quite a grind for sure. If the world is too much with you--as I felt it's too much with me as I parked at home not very long ago--that feeling at least implies the possibility of earning one's way free and clear of a daily drudge. But this eventuality means, of course, it's paid for. I certainly never want to be the sort of guy who expects others to pay my way.
Residential scene near where I fished the Pohandusing

 I caught two striped dace at....

Best spot I fished

 The residence with bridge over the Pohandusing

Sunlight broke through, touching mountains south and east of Belvidere

South of Belvidere. (Belvidere means "beautiful place," perhaps a sort of vain romanticism you might expect as simplified by limelight, but real beauty does exist hereabouts in both ragged edges and soft-toned mists out and away from hyper-real images designed to titillate, obsess, and empty your wallet.)

Bizarre Weather

Nothing bizarre about this little tornado.

Not once in my life--until tonight--have I called weather this. All my life, I've paid keen attention to weather. Blizzard, hurricane, tornado, 96 degrees early in April, all this and much more I've appreciated first hand, no instance of weather whatsoever have I stooped to name bizarre. I have too much respect for and understanding of this planet.

But this October is really abnormal. It's not actually climbed above 90 this October, not this year, only in late September and for at least two days then, other days near that figure, but days on end have reached the 80's or near this range--71 degrees out right now near midnight--and 70's, including mid-70's, are forecast all the way through the 22nd!

Mid and late August was the weirdest of summer weather, also worth mention. It felt like October. In other words, the weather is acting like a badly led government, not a natural system.

So. What about my plans for Hopatcong? Well, Landolfi didn't phone me. We have an understanding of the likes--or he should by now, too. Especially since he's the one who doesn't get back to me. He must have read the forecast before I read it. So the point is completely moot, other than to say we're not going and that's the simplest way of his saying so. I've called him a kite in a tornado and I've featured a photo of him falling on ice. He knows I get on his case. But no else gets him out fishing as I do, and no one else offers appreciations for this as he does, either. Which I don't simply take, but listen to and remember for hopes of life getting better. Honestly, he can really use some fishing, instead of baiting the hornets tearing around his brain at a million miles per hour. The implication such a statement bears for potential talent is ultimately more complimentary than disparaging by far. That's something most people don't understand.

So the forecast for tomorrow. Heavy rain all day. Oliver Round and I fished some nine hours through steady rain in November on Lake Hopatcong, and neither of us--soaked through our raingear upper body and lower--had any complaint. Temperatures, as I recall, never got above about 52. I would, of course, fish Lake Hopatcong in rain at 75. Might not catch any walleye or hybrids, though.

Oliver and I got walleye and hybrid.

I emailed Oliver last night, asking about a Musconetcong River tributary. Hances Brook, he told me. Got home tonight and on the computer for info, deciding as I booted up that what I need is another tributary, so I can fill Oliver in on one he hasn't fly fished--but might yet. Or at least between the two of us, we will have Hances Brook and...I'll get to the names in a moment...down.

I selected New Jersey Wild Trout Streams as my search. A Google Maps guide really does help. I'm headed to the Belvidere Region. Buckhorn Creek and Pophandusing Brook. Brown trout. Not tribs of the Pequest, but Delaware. If I can't find access, there's Hances Brook to the south, and another nameless I found on the map to scout first. Maybe a road sign will inform me of the name.

The Musconetcong River has 19 Trout Production tributaries, but by the Google Map information, none of these are classified, which can make things feel interesting at ground level where life matters most.