Saturday, October 28, 2017

An American Fishery

To think of life as if it were a plotted novel is unrealistic, given the reality we each traverse--wild, chaotic, a plethora of unknown influences from which we turn to stories in a hopeless attempt to impart order on an existence which just is. If any of us were to strip from mind anything and everything comprising sense and meaning, we would confront an irreducible primary impossible to designate, and yet by an inexplicable miracle, absorb the fact that existence is. And if we were not to then proceed, naming this and that thing, we would certainly go quite insane. First principle: existence exists, which implies particularity, since nothing stands out--exists--except in a certain way. Already, we're interpreting reality and beginning to make up a story.

Problem is, things happen to us, regardless of how we attempt to have life our own way. I haven't yet written a successful novel, though I have one perhaps in the making, but given time and security to finish a plot that works, a novelist--I suppose--is afforded a luxury life can't offer, and his readers in turn: a self-contained story that works just so, even though the best novels allow interpretative takes upon the work of literature which may be potentially infinite, as philosopher Jean Paul Sarte, for example, noted.

Art in any form can fuel the mind with power to produce purpose and order in life, a function that works subconsciously more than at the conscious level. Not one of us is without personal preferences for art, because without formal images giving meaning to our desires, they could have no identity and direction. This "hopeless" life we each live gains an edge on chaos, though order attained will always slip under our feet as if something elusive cheats an entitled dessert. I still learn lessons about limitation. I can't control my life to degrees I often desire, but I am sometimes happily surprised.

Last night, I got home from work exhausted, and with what proved to be more than two hours of preparation yet for the day with Jorge on Lake Hopatcong. The alarm would be set for 4:45. I mentioned my destination offhand to my wife. Lake Hopatcong with a friend. She looked at me with surprise and told me she was going to Manhattan. Manhattan! Why didn't she tell me. My jealousy put her off a little.

"You don't communicate."

Well, she hadn't, either. I turned quickly to loading my car with what I had as yet prepared, and felt my energy gather just as quickly. It would be a good day on the lake.

Jorge had told me where he worked in April, but I confess a forgetful mind. For some reason more subconscious than known, I wanted to ask him again. He works in Manhattan. I've written in a previous post about my wife's plans--hopes more than plans, I think--for she and I to move to Manhattan when I retire. A studio apartment. I always think that if I were to earn the money, almost impossible, I would buy a boat, dock it on the Hudson, and besides pleasure cruises--fish, of course. Good striped bass, bluefish, some fluke pretty nearby. Great way to hang out with friends. Not to lose the main idea, of course not. The culture. Plays, Comedy acts. Museums. These seem to be Trish's big three. I think more of philosophical, literary, and photography organizations. I might not be the best mind to entertain, but maybe I can hold my own. Manhattan is a big city with powerful minds more than matching it. They make it work on all levels but the natural.

Lake Hopatcong was the typical fishery today, regarding what we caught: two walleye, five or six crappies, a perch, bluegills, a bullhead catfish, and a white perch. Kind of slow fishing, but involving enough action to pique interest and form some indelible memories. Jorge had never seen a walleye. The first we caught, mine, was small at little over a pound and quickly released. His was about three pounds, also released. His biggest crappie was a nice fish, regarding this smaller species. Catches accompany celebration because we manage to haul something to ourselves which matters. Always a struggle to some degree. Fishing is addictive not because it results in boons that grace the table, though it can and in very special ways--walleye is hard to find on the market, and you'll never find crappie, to the best of my knowledge. Fishing is addictive because there's no escaping the fact on a deep level that fish have food value. What we do is as ancient as the formation of our own species. Built-in.

After we came back in to Dow's Boat Rentals, Jorge clarified an issue about renting boats. For five dollars, he can waive the Boater's Safety certificate. So he may bring his sons out fishing, now that he has some first-hand lake familiarity, knows some spots. We anchored on four total. We were unloading the boat when he invited me for a coffee, if I knew somewhere to go after packing it all in.

"Sure. Jefferson Diner is a great place."

He treated me to lunch--a sandwich platter for him and a dozen steamed clams for me--and we hung out for more than an hour, conversing nonstop. Then we parted. He for Union County, me for Somerset County. On the drive down I-287, it occurred to me lunch was a little like Manhattan. Another level. A higher level. But a level impossible without the ground at our feet or the water under a hull. "Nothing without Feet on the Floorboards," as I named a post from early May this year. In another essay, I wrote about how outdoor experience replenishes life to meet opportunities later for higher levels with interest and zest.

There might be plenty to praise about a life lived at high levels, but there's no getting there for anyone--it's a privilege--without earning it, although this sort of effort always implies people holding up the structure like a foundation. I dislike people above who don't recognize the importance of people below, and I have in mind particularly a philosopher from the 19th century I will denounce in the next paragraph. I've always been a heady individual, but nothing else has compensated as valuably as getting back into fishing with my son more than a decade ago. It hasn't been easy for me as a wage earner to learn what low paid work is all about, since I come from a highly professional family, but it's just my preference that I wouldn't trade the knowledge I've gained for the B.A. I never completed.

Friedrich Nietzsche, that philosopher from the late 19th century, seemed to possess little more respect for the likes of me than to call us slaves. We live so the best can be happy, according to Nietzsche, not to pursue our own happiness. I don't presently think of a more un-American thinker than this German.

If my wife and I move to Manhattan, and today was auspicious in this way I mentioned of art affecting the subconscious mind and helping to organize life, I will not forget this post, nor will I reject the life I've lived as a wage earner, as if I should instead resent it in a rabid way similar to so much of Nietzsche's ranting.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Magic Hour

This evening resonated with the previous, as cloud cover continued eastward and sun came out, although by the time I had noticed after waking from a long nap yesterday, I knew it was too late to capture light reflected from the AT&T entry bridge over the North Branch Raritan River. Sun just about on the horizon. Today, I got home from work after getting up just after 5:00 a.m. for a long shift, and saw I might have time to make it. As a matter of fact, I had about three minutes, got four or five careful shots, and then cast a little worm imitation on my two-weight TFO fly rod.

 The river is low and very clear. Not a very prospective goal for anyone who wants to do better than spook fish. But the fact that I couldn't see any trout was at least a little in my favor. Shadows growing underwater. I tried a few spots, crouched low, giving each a couple of dozen casts or more, figuring that the longer I stayed there still and quiet, the more chance any trout would lose inhibition. Or come back to a holding position. Some of this water is about four feet deep. There has to be at least a few trout in this stocked stretch known as the Zoo. The moniker gives away its popularity as a fishing hole for people captivated by the passion. Places like this usually get stocked heaviest.

While I fished, I noticed the reflection of colored limbs in front of me. I've posted one of the results of my observation. The moment of grasping that I had other shots to compose--at least of this spectacle--was the inchoate movement towards what my Magic Hour became. When I set the rod aside, I felt freed. No. That's not to say I prefer photography to fishing. I tend to think preferences are more self-delusion than truthful. Anyone will discover he or she has a whole panoply of values, if he or she lets go of fixating on just a few.

For a half of my time total, the latter half, I felt exhilarated, well aware that I not only had felt exhausted after little sleep last night and 10 hours on the job; I was exhausted, but it felt real good to have gone into overdrive by exerting will to go and tread about the river in the first place, getting low and gritty now, becoming fully present by impromptu positioning of my tripod-mounted camera among lethal rocks in the near-dark. I experimented with the High Dynamic Range function of my Nikon D7100, and various aperture and manual settings for a number of subjects. I even got into one more hairy position that required careful effort negotiating a slope, only to find it too dark to read the Mode Dial of my camera. And too dark for this camera to focus from the best I could reasonably do.

Results I did get are interesting. I don't offer more for you to see because I'm still in a conservative phase, keeping my shots as if they'll get published. Keeping most of them as if a few of many might.

Beside that chilling river running through town, I had become aware of feeling for a moment the way I used to feel on New York's Salmon River in November. And then I knew that if not for the sudden cooler weather, I wouldn't have enjoyed this evening to today's degree. I felt as if I met fall for the first time this year, and it's almost November. The morning glories in my family's garden bloomed floridly. I noticed upon coming back home. The clouds and some light rain--and surely the cooler temperatures--kept them from closing before noon. Soon a hard freeze will kill them; this is as should be, and yet I wistfully want to see them blooming in November. Abnormally as this may happen, it will be amazing if this event comes true.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Roy Bridge

Took a personal day from work and rode up to the Valley & Ridge with my wife, stopping at Buck Hill Brewery and Restaurant near Blairstown for lunch, taking the road out of Blairstown to Millbrook Village--where we spoke to a number of people in early American costume--and driving onward to Buttermilk Falls where I engaged photography I found peculiarly difficult, though a few pictures might be good. Would be best to shoot here after rain for more waterfall effect. As you may infer from my photo of the Big Flatbrook, water is low everywhere. Except for the South Branch below Spruce Run Reservoir getting pumped out.

I found a spot to fish with my six-weight unexpectedly. I had thought it was immediately off NPS 615, but I found it off that road leading way back to the Falls. Water was so clear that four- or five-foot depths were laid bare to light and any trout must have hidden under whatever rocks. The Big Flatbrook stocked with 1710 trout on Thursday the 12th, there surely are a few in this hole, but a thorough casting practice yielded none, and we drove on to my favorite spot at Roy Bridge.

Here the situation was different. The run with six-foot depth underneath did not flow well enough to support my confidence, but I saw a riser in the riffle leading in. That fish began to make some commotion, and by the time I got into casting position, I side-armed a cast (with Wooly Bugger attached) that worked beautifully, emphasis on cast to suggest this sort of success, getting that olive Bugger directly in front of a trout with its back exposed, the water about two or three inches deep. I soon saw that's about all it is for now. Four or five inches in front of that trout, the Bugger couldn't be ignored, and the trout seemed to strike, but I reared back on nothing, and the Bugger got snagged high up in a tree. Before I could snap it off, prepared to go back to our Civic and retie, the trout darted by me--rainbow about 14 inches--and on down into that run I mentioned.

I tried the run again thoroughly, then moved up to the area of Roy Bridge itself. I cast to a few intermittent risers, though nothing seemed to be hatching--I'm no expert at hatches--but I did not go back to the car for my vest and dry flies. The water had virtually no flow, dead calm, and I guess the subconscious inference of just letting a dry fly be on a stationary surface dissuaded me from trying, though now I think a little more involvement--or had I more time to get involved--could have at least piqued interest. I did see just a few bugs over the water of about size 10.

Instead, I was stripping a weightless, olive-shaded streamer with a little red on its nose, and though the water is deep here, I figured that as a few trout were coming up, weightless would work. If it would work. It didn't. My time was limited. But I certainly got some casting in, and above all, witnessed trout present.