Thursday, July 19, 2018

Beware of Giant Hogweed

The DEP sent me an email about a dangerous plant I didn't know about, nor do I recall ever seeing it, and the photograph inside the pdf I've linked to shows a plant resembling common Queen Anne's Lace, though it does appear a little different.

The sap of Giant Hogweed on the skin can cause severe burns, once that skin is exposed to sun. And it can cause blindness if it gets in your eyes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's Summer, but the Hybrids were BIG!

Laurie Murphy:

The Dominic Sarinelli Memorial Hybrid Striper Contest, held over the weekend by The Knee Deep Club, had 63 entries, with some real nice fish taking the top 6 places. Mike Truglio took 1st place with a hefty 9 lb 8 oz fish, winning $630 for his efforts. Second place went to Tom Focciola with an 8 lb 10 oz fish, taking home $300 and Frank Sarinelli placed 3rd, winning $204 with a 8 lb 3 oz beauty. $20 gift cards from The Jefferson Diner, went to Ray Sarinelli with his Hybrid weighing 8 lbs, Saige Bruzaud with a 7 lb 12 oz, and Eddie Mackin with a 7 lb 5 oz Hybrid. Other notable catches over the weekend included Trevor Nilsen with a 4 lb 4 oz pickerel, John O’Neill with a walleye weighing 5 lb 7 oz and Rob Gaydos , also with a walleye, weighing 6 lb 3 oz.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Slow During Summer

Good thing Matt and I didn't have Tilcon Lake in our plans today. Thunderstorms moved in from I-95 northward at about 2 pm and continued until about 6. We got out the door at 6:40 pm for Round Valley, my entire family, where conditions for fishing seemed good, but I just never seem to hang any fish from shore after Memorial Day. Not in the pond, either, which fishes better through the ice, than through a summer day, including the Magic Hour, when Matt and I gave it a pretty good try.

Matt did catch a small largemouth in my favorite corner of the reservoir.

Round Valley Dam Project News

Grouting work begins later this year. For now and the foreseeable future, the reservoir level at 374 feet will be maintained, but drawdown to 360 will begin next year. The reservoir reached the record low level of 359.48 on November 29, 2016. The previous record low was 361.05, set on November 28, 1982. Full capacity is 385 (above sea level).


Low water here makes for some very interesting photography. Shoreline fishermen did exceptionally well for rainbows in the fall of 2016, too. My hope is that so much vegetation decomposing under water after the reservoir fills, when the work is done, serves to significantly raise that water's fertility. That will mean more baitfish. And who knows, maybe Round Valley Trout Association and the state can work things out so alewife herring get stocked, and those herring thrive and reproduce for at least a few years before fertility gets scarce again.

Round Valley Reservoir is a renaissance at its best. I've been told there've been years before when trophy trout were sparse, then water level fell, rose again, and it was a boomtown situation again for trout fishermen. And then that fertility thinned out again.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Some News

What the necessity for a power plant on the Wild & Scenic Musconetcong River would be, I don't know, but it clearly seems to me high time we move to solar energy, when I consider the disgusting effect on the clean water 2000 gallons of waste per day would incur. Tom Johnson's article offers more information:

Jim Stabile recently reported on the coming of an International Fly Tying Symposium in Parsippany this fall. I thought I would pass this news along, since this is really a very big deal happening here in New Jersey. He also reports on successful boat inspections by conservation officers, and a fishing day camp for kids run by Andover Hunt & Fish.

I can just imagine the marvelous time the kids are having.

Here's the link to Stabile's Column:
True to my interest in New Jersey dam removals, I wrote earlier this year on the removal of the Columbia Dam on the Paulinskill River, but I came around to that mention in a sort of roundabout way, as I had set as an objective this summer fishing Columbia Lake. Fred Matero knew before I did, and informed me, that the dam is coming down. Here's a DEP press release on the dam removal and the benefits we stand to gain:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Life Asks of Us

Matt's last fish of the outing. This 27 1/2-inch carp got too close to his Senko. Earlier in the afternoon, a carp showed curiosity, trailing Matt's Senko. 

The theme of an outing always seems to arise unexpectedly, and yet it emerges in a way undeniably distinct; not as something limited to my head or my guest's, but shared between us, participated in by both of us, and finally completed as a fulfilled affirmation we might call happiness, but always happiness in a certain way, as compared to other times we might remember. But every outing includes something of the happiness of the other outings before, rarely so much at the beginning of them, but always as they finish.

You've got to make that finish. If you don't feel happy by the end, you quit before you got there.

Today we drove a total of at least two-and-a-half hours "out of our way" to fetch the Great Canadian canoe. and later bring it back from North Branch Raritan River. On the way up, Matt and I were not very conversant. We spoke, but I don't remember what about, and it was little. Ah, I do remember pointing out how bright the sky. Not a cloud to be seen. "This would be a tough day on Tilcon," I said.

As things seemed for the first couple of hours on the river, it was going to be a tough day here, too. Temperature at 92, I really didn't feel any bothersome heat, even without sunblock, but the light on water a little too off-color for my preference seemed to have the bass hunkered down. We floated nearly a mile, having fished three favorite stretches hard for not one hit, before I saw a great splash at the tail end of a very shallow stretch that got me wondering. Canoe easing into casting range, I swished my Senko into the zone, felt a strong take, took up slack and set the hook into a good fish that got my drag screeching before the hook pulled. Matt had cast short by comparison, and within a second, we saw his line racing upstream as he began to take up slack. And then the big smallmouth was on. By a miracle of sheer aggression, this fish I had hooked simply snatched Matt's offering hardly a moment after it got off. In about a foot of water. We nearly had to walk the canoe here. 

The 17-incher contorting in plain view, I said, "Loosen your drag." 

"It's alright."

No it wasn't. Three seconds later, Matt's line broke.

We began catching bass in very shallow stretches. I never noticed when some clouds moved in overhead, but by the end of the outing, the sun was partly obscured. The change in conditions high above might have helped. On one occasion, Matt simply pitched the Senko about five yards so it touched down right at the edge of a very shallow weedline. Another big smallmouth darted out, took the worm, and then Matt was onto a rare second chance with a 17-incher. The line never broke, but the hook pulled free.

We had begun noticing wildlife. A yearling deer with tail up, darting along the edge between water and rocks. A groundhog on a tree branch. Small beaver swimming against a bank. The baby watersnake I photographed in Matt's hand. (I held the canoe as waded to catch it.) I saw a bald eagle, and nearing the end of the three-mile water trek, we both felt awed by a great blue heron rookery, about two dozen of the pterodactyl-like birds suddenly in flight. That's when I knew for certain this trip had a lot to do with other species than the fish we sought. To get back into wilds as we did, away from homes and businesses, on river stretches virtually inaccessible by foot, and despite this distance from things ordinary, to yet not see any of the creatures inhabiting the ecosystem might be to miss out on an invitation, and in any case, today a small number of the animals living back there made themselves available to us, even though, of course, none cared to come our way but went the opposite. Irrelevant, though. Life reciprocates life. And especially the herons connected us to a larger world of seemingly effortless flight. 

I know water was relatively clear last summer when we paddled these miles, catching 17 bass, but I think the river level was higher, too. I don't remember walking the canoe nearly as much as we did today; a fairly arduous process or in any such event, to complain once would be like throwing a wrench into a machine needed to get us to where we would feel good about the whole day, and we managed not to feel like mere cogs as we worked our way to finish. If I recall rightly, and maybe Jorge can correct me, last September on the South Branch we floated a mile-and-a-half in about two hours--using an anchor frequently--without having to get out of the canoe once. We were on this other connecting river at least five-and-a-half hours today, and we passed up some pretty good water towards the end so as not to get off the river all that late, sun nearly setting as time had the event settling anyway.

We caught 11 bass. Six of those were Matt's, including three largemouths. I caught five smallmouths, and the 15 or 16-incher I lost just felt real good on the line, taking some of that as I played it awhile, drag ratcheting. We started by using the regular five-inch Senkos, but I got a bad feeling about this state of affairs and switched to slender six-inch Chompers, one of the worms I used shorter than that with the head cut off. Matt experimented a lot, as he had recently on Tilcon.

That was Matt's first carp. We had encountered some in two previous stretches, and he wished there was some way to access the second spot by foot with his friends to fish just this species. He hooked the big fish near a tree in the water, and I feared it was going to get lost in branches, yet he steered the hard fighter out on six-pound test--that drag seemed perfectly set--as I backed the canoe onto shore and we got out to complete the contest. How many pounds, I don't know, but over seven. 

Even had he caught one of those 17-inch smallmouths, or both, they wouldn't be the proud catch this carp remains.

Back to Mine Hill with the canoe, 40 minutes or so away, we conversed freely on philosophical topics. I had started the lengthy and spirited discussion with the confession of an extremely vital vision, last summer, of Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin streaking down from heaven fast as lightning to join me, the three of us sharing in some of the most divine laughter I've ever known. Matt said that such visions generate religion, and I said, "Yes! Poetry and religion come from that madness."

Matt said quietly, "It's not really madness."

Matt and Boston University is a contest and we have yet to know results, but I feel especially proud of his eagerness to measure well when it comes to discussing ideas that might have less to do with a job's demands, than with what life asks of us.


One of my bass, caught below Bedminster Airport fairly close to one of the stretches, the Trump ban on airspace now lifted here.

Matt moved his carp away from submerged branches.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Snags Growing Out Below Full Reservoir Level

Reservoir water level fell below the 1982 record low on November 4, 2016. Level had been dropping since 2014, falling sharply during the severe 2016 drought. Level is still pretty low, and trees grow where water covered. Wood thickens quickly. Some of the trunks are about three inches wide

Went over to crowded Round Valley with my family this evening, carefully augmenting my collection of photos and doing a little bass fishing, though I caught none. Matt's fishing license got mangled and he failed to get a duplicate printed, since he seems to be shut out of opportunity to do that by whatever algorithm. He has to figure out how to get a replacement tomorrow, or else he doesn't fish freshwater in New Jersey for the rest of the year.

The simple and rational thing to do is print a few copies in the first place, put the extras where you know they are, and then forget about them. If you need one later, take it.

Like so much else, I told him so. Some people spend their entire lives forming sensible habits. (But at least they eventually do.)

Polar Cub planned, when we came upon the place on U.S. 22, we felt astonished to see cars awaiting to enter backed up on the highway, though we weren't deterred. Had another hot fudge Sunday. Also had one of those at Home Plate near Merrill Creek on Father's Day.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Better Week at the Big Lake

Laurie Murphy:

Lots of  fish made their way to the scale this past week. We have Jim Welsh with a 2 lb 5 oz Smallmouth, along with several walleye in the 3 lb range and lots of perch and crappie. Jerry Freeman landed a 4 lb 4 oz pickerel, along with Jake Bozik with a 3 lb 10 oz pickerel and several rock bass weighing 1 lb. Lou Marcucci, fishing with herring,  had himself a 4 lb 7 oz Smallmouth along with a 3l Largemouth weighing 3 lb 9 oz.  Bryan Dunn’s Largemouth weighed in at 5 lb 2 oz and Hunter Good’s Hybrid Striped Bass was 7 lb 7 oz.  The Knee Deep Club's Hybrid Striped Bass contest takes place on Sat, July 14th, starting at 5 AM to Noon on Sun, July 15th.  Cash prizes will be awarded for the three heaviest Hybrids weighed in and $20 gift certificates will go to 4th, 5th and 6th places. We will be open early at 5 AM on Sat for bait and boat rentals for the contest.  Entries can be taken up to 8 AM on Saturday, the day of the contest. Have a great week...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Let a Rod Bend, not Me

Hooked about 25 feet deep during the heat of the day. What was it, a hundred out there? Quarter-ounce, think it was, bullet sinker. Teeth got the worm.

The important thing to remember is that an outing always ends well, so long as you're earnest. Before I set my alarm to get up the next morning and pack out with my son, I had spent some three hours or more in preparation, including my attempt at fixing the tip of my new Lew's Speed Stick, off center. I blew it, as I feared I might. The aluminum oxide ring broke, but I borrowed a rod I gave Matt long ago, seven feet and huskier than my St. Croix for wrestling bass from weeds. The rod now in need of repair wasn't close to a quarter of the cause of the black mood, and I won't bore you with further details, but after I was up in the morning and arranging stuff out the door, I knew the ill feeling wasn't going away easily.

The ride up to Tilcon was very rough. Not the road, except that last unpaved road with foot-deep potholes. The cauldron of turmoil. A sensible man might have given up, but time and again I find myself disclaiming sensibility in my writing...except I knew full and well that given a couple of hours on the water, I would at least begin to be OK. And before outing's end, I would be fully well. If I were to have given up knowing this, the sin would have been blacker than anything I had yet felt.

Regarding other people who give up, they're entitled to the compromises they choose. I refuse to bend.

So I showed Matt what we had to do. He doubted we could do it. He's nineteen. Played football for years. I'm supposed to be an older man now, but every time I see myself photographed, I'm astonished, because I am much younger than that within. And this inner youthfulness manifests itself as some pretty strong physical capability, but I don't want to boast too much. Last visit at this lake really was treacherous with my three herniated disks. A popular phrase reads: Be careful what you wish for.

The path goes downhill fairly steep at first, cuts a hard right, evens out more and less, and then plummets down a vertical elevation of, I think, 30 feet at least, to lakeside. I told Matt we would take the canoe down first, and I refused to offer any more empathy for how he felt than to clearly acknowledge his feeling, and in turn, I encouraged our effort. I can't say it was very difficult to do, but Matt was afraid getting it back up might be...what? Too hard? I offered some words to the effect of an answer to his question, which he answered in turn, "We'll have to," and I gave him a wry smile. I knew it wouldn't be too hard.

The canoe only weighs a hundred pounds or so, and we've both backpacked. And so much for dollies after our last time here.

We were drenched with perspiration as we paddled beyond weeds before I lowered the electric motor. Air felt very heavy. Very. It felt big. My graph unit's thermometer was reading 92 degrees, after it came down from 98, though I don't know if it can read the air temp correctly. It stayed at 92, and I tested the water, which didn't feel that hot. When we left that quiet corner and got out in the breeze, the temp read 87 and stayed there. 

So we fished deep and thoroughly, sunlight intense. An hour or so into the trip, I caught a n 18 or 19-inch pickerel from about 25 feet down. When I noticed Matt had retied to fish his worm weightless, I had been thinking the same and retied my line, catching a pound-and-a-half bass on the first cast of my next arrangement. That pickerel was going to be the deepest catch of the day.

It was back at the flats where we left off last time that things began to get interesting, in terms of catches. The electric hadn't gotten much power to push us there. At first the battery gave full power (after I had charged it), so I know it's not a problem with the motor. I need a new battery. I caught a few bass in 10 and 12 feet of water, sun behind clouds for the most part, thunderstorms skirting us over the course of hours: east, west, north and south. Matt missed a couple of good hits back in the mess of weeds crowding the lake's surface, on a weedless frog. He began to fish with dogged persistence, switching his presentations out with fascination for each lure he tried.

I had just caught my fourth bass when I heard what sounded like the horn of my Honda. I'm always a little nervous far back in my mind on these outings, because vandalism and robbery can happen. "Just when the bite begins," I said, as we motored off our promising flats. I told Matt we wouldn't return, not with the lack of power from the battery. 

Nothing was amiss with my car, and a couple had just begun building a fire nearby by the water, waving to us in a friendly manner, me waving back.

We fished some of the back of the lake as sun was now very low, as it set, and as dusk got very deep. I caught a two-pounder, then I caught one about two-and-a-half pounds, both largemouths, the larger after Matt caught one two pounds or so on a topwater plug. A 3//8th-ounce Rebel Pop-R. "I wish for once you would catch one larger!" I said. Mine wasn't quite playing its resistance as another bass three pounds or better as we expect here, but as a pretty nice bass.

And there he was. Fishing like he would fish all night. I almost felt like staying on the water into complete darkness, which it was as we loaded the canoe on top of the Honda. That son of mine who had asked me if we could leave early, so he could go to some random field with friends and set off fireworks bought near Easton. The hell. 

"That wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be," he said after we hauled the canoe up the slopes. To me, it never felt but the slightest fraction as difficult as the black mood plaguing me as we arrived.

 I may look like an old man, but I can climb my way out of Tilcon quarry.

Matt seems to have fallen out of the canoe, Pardon him, Stephen's State Park.

Matt finally caught a bass, pretty nice, at sundown. Only bass on a topwater plug for us yet at Tilcon.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Quiet to the North of Bedminster

I looked forward to Laurie's report this week, hoping to see some big bass weight from the derby, but oh well. This report seems like that of a classic summer slowdown, but that is a big largemouth she writes of. Laurie Murphy:

Somewhat on the quieter side this past week, but we have still seen several nice fish make their way to the scale. Tom Sarnacki weighed in with quite a nice Largemouth at 5 pounds 12 ounces and Jim Mohoney had his weighed in at 3 lbs 10 ounces. Ryan Gilfillan had a smallmouth weighing 2 lbs 5 ounces and Dan McErlean had several nice Hybids in the 8 pound range caught on herring. Crappie, perch and pickerel also being caught. Have  a great week !

Monday, June 25, 2018

Very Nice River Getaway

Being there was better than being here now. It's 9:31 a.m., and since returning home, we've unloaded, and I've edited my images.  Have to be at work at 1:00 p.m. and the routine feels sort of stupid after breaking it. I got up just after 3:45, and I'm not tired. Matt was up 15 minutes later, and he's napping now, having got to sleep later than I did. None of this morning was difficult, besides the first three or four minutes of getting up.

We drove out to Neshanic in the dark, getting on the river not very long after first light. No canoe this time, we waded my favorite stretch, beginning with topwater plugs, each of us catching an average stream bass pretty quickly. I hooked a better fish and had it on for a couple of seconds, then got hit when I pitched the plug back where the smallmouth had turned, missing this smaller bass. We cast some wide slow eddies before I got a feeling about the head of the hole where current plays with the surface. It was very calm out there, maybe 68 degrees, and the water felt about the same temperature. We wore wading boots and shorts. I forced a cast to make my little eighth-ounce plug touch down neaer the top of the roils and a bass almost immediately sliced into the offering. I was on.

"Nice one!" I announced. The drag ratcheted as the bass curved away and down into the deep hole, maybe eight feet deep. For maybe several seconds I watched the line rise and felt the fish coming up as I made sure I had a tight line for the leap. Glorious. The smallmouth appeared to be just about three pounds as it contorted wildly, throwing the hooks.

We switched to Senkos. Meanwhile, the river had risen five or six inches as water must be getting pumped out of Spruce Run Reservoir. We noticed how badly off color that water was and resolved to leave just as the sun came up. I never do well on this river when fishing dingy water, but the topwater plugs worked before too much light got on the water.

We drove to the North Branch. A spot where Matt sighted a 20-inch smallmouth that followed his worm the other day while he fished with a friend. Here the water was a little too off-color for the way I like it, but we fished very persistently. Matt hooked and lost a smallmouth he estimated as 16 inches. Later he crossed the river and fished a very slow pool, catching three small largemouths. I had missed a few hits that must have been small bass when I saw a rise and put my worm right on it, got hit, missed that, then pitched back to the same place, got hit and played the 13-inch largemouth photographed below.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


"I'm not a bassman at all," I claimed in the Providence post. Huh. It talks about reservoirs and big bass and how I could catch one. Days later, I catch a seven-and-a-half-pounder at Merrill Creek Reservoir, and feel stunned and sort of wondering why I feel that way. For more reason than the preceding post, but it is true that this blog is a process that involves the real world.

Shortly after I caught that lunker, I felt converted, even though I had forgotten all about the Providence post written shortly previous. No bassman at all? I caught some kind of answer to the contrary of what I had asserted.

You can see the quizzical look of an unconscious poker face on the Merrill Creek post where I'm holding the fish. None of the photos my son got of me show me breaking out in much of a smile, at least not loose and relaxed, I was so dumb-founded. The poker face wasn't intended as such, but later I thought I look as if I'm answering back to the bass community who might have doubts about my prowess stuck on little three-and-a-half pounders, but better than that. It reflects back on me. My body language is saying, "I didn't mean to fool you about my denial, but I went ahead and did anyway."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bass Derby Open to All Comers


Remember that the Knee Deep’s Bass contest is this weekend on Sunday, June 24th. Speaking of Bass, a couple nice smallmouth made their way to the scale this week with John Moran catching a 3 lb 7 oz fish and Max Hughen weighing in his 3 lb 4 oz smallmouth. Several nice largemouth were also caught, along with yellow perch and crappie.  Codey Youkon, while casting a keitech custom worm, landed his 6 pound walleye fishing in Great Cove. We are open 7 days a week, from 5:30 AM to 7 PM, but will be open at 5 AM on Sunday for the contest. Entries can be taken up until 8 AM that morning. Have a great week !!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

North Jersey Outdoor Recreation

As a boy, Matt found 10 of New Jersey's 16 snake species in the wild, a couple of lizard species, a number of turtle species including the rare bog turtle, and numerous salamander, frog, and toad species. Not to mention out-of-state reptile and amphibian finds. I awakened a deep desire to reconnect him with this passion, and today, about a month after I thought of going, we gave it a try, but he couldn't quite remember where the Delaware Watergap National Recreation Area spot for salamanders exists that New Jersey Audubon led him to about six years ago. Lots of salamanders. He photographed many. One of the species he found we're uncertain about as to its identity, so I particularly wanted to encounter some of these. His best guess about where: Van Campens Glen. So I suggested we bring fly rods, too. We found a spot he thought might have been the place, but the ground was too dry and we found nothing, so I doubt this is where, but maybe the spot has changed.

Meanwhile, we fished a large deep pool beneath a waterfall. Very thoroughly using various beadhead nymphs. With and without small split shot. Another fly angler showed up, who told us he regularly catches 8- to 10-inch wild  browns there, his biggest 13 inches, some wild rainbows too. I invited him to fish with us, but he wanted to go on upstream to a larger waterfall. I kind of wanted to see him in action, but I fish a waterfall pool on the upper North Branch that never fails to at least yield a hit from a wild brown. We got no hits today. And we later figured these two pools of Van Campen's Brook get a lot of pressure. Today a weekday, in the middle of the afternoon someone else showed up to fly fish. You can just imagine how many times the trout in these pools get caught and how reluctant to hit flies they become.

We stopped at my favorite Delaware River spot on the way out. Poxono Island. We basked in the sunny heat a few minutes and that felt good. We didn't fish at I-80 bridge, either, where we've caught a lot of smallmouths wading in the past. Maybe it was hunger that drove us on. We took 94 "into town," finding farm fields instead, but curving through Hainesburg with no deli or stores along that short tour of a hamlet I was seeing for the first time, passing a bridge over the Paulinskill where the river looks very inviting...we drove on. Dales Market in Blairstown served us an Italian hoagie, trail mix nuts, M&M's to add to the nuts and raisins, and a coke and green tea.

When we pulled up to our favorite smallmouth spot--big ones here--and finished eating, I walked down, glanced at the water, and it informed me we were probably there to give our respects. Not because anything specific was amiss about the river's condition. It was just an impression I got. A glance like that always seems to tell me everything. We fished about 20 minutes and Matt caught a little nine-inch smallmouth.

On the way to Saffin Pond--the plan was to fish sundown there--we talked about a possible part of the day's plan we had let go. My idea was to hike up the ridge and check the copperhead den. Get photographs. We haven't been there for five years or so, and I would like to get back, but we began to realize the full area deserves more time and exploration. Neither of us could remember searching the wetlands for salamanders, years ago. There were so many varieties of frogs. We observed these instead that day a year or two before I began blogging in 2011. So maybe next summer we'll spend an entire afternoon up there.

We got to Saffin Pond as light was climbing towards the tops of trees to the east. Matt caught a largemouth a foot long. I caught four largemouths, lost another. I measured my largest: 18 3/8ths inches. All on weightless worms. Three of the bass hugged tight to wood in the water near the bank where depth gathers pretty quick. I spotted a pocket in sparse shallow weeds to catch the biggest. Another pocket yielded a small one of about a pound. All released of course.

Monday, June 18, 2018

23 1/4-Inch Merrill Creek Reservoir Largemouth Bass From Shore

Most magazines take first-use rights, so well after a better photograph, in which the bass looks bigger, clears the legalities, I'll post that photo here.

My wife had never visited Merrill Creek Reservoir, so I offered her the opportunity, along with our son after he got off work today. We left Bedminster around 6:30 p.m.. It was too late for a hike, but we sat down on a nice "beach," as a passerby called it. I sized up the situation. To our right, sparse flooded timber, apparently open water in front of us. I reasoned that bass will frequent virtually any shoreline, and this stretch in front of us really wasn't bad with that wood in the water nearby. I cast my weightless Chompers far as I could and imagined it sinking through 20-foot depth, sunlit up top, nice and dark below, and then I propped my rod and reel on my camera bag, bail opened, lay back on the gravelly sand, closed my eyes and enjoyed sun on my skin.

Pretty soon, prompted by how it felt odd to be under gravity's power, I had a sort of weird vision about how mass and gravitation might "really" work. I started mumbling to my son, who had decided to lay back next to me, my son who knows everything physics, of course, as a physics major, this a Golden Opportunity for him to condescend to his dad. He didn't convince me about energy as the fundamental reality. "But energy has being," I said. I had seen gravitation in my mind's eye--a force--as merely following form. Stuff did not just glom together here to form this planet, on which I so perfectly lay back to take in the sun. The form preceded the existence. I was thinking that form sort of drew the stuff here. That would be gravitation, but only in the literal sense. I was really thinking of space itself as somehow formal. But "space" makes no sense without things, which to my mind begs a question about what space might be, not in terms of things like this planet, which has not existed here forever, but instead in terms of information that somehow precedes what comes about and gets established as reality. To put it simply doesn't explain anything, but of course, this planet never could have come into being, unless it possibly could come into being, before it actually did....

I didn't get further into it with Matt. After about 10 minutes of feeling really good about sandy gravel on the back of my head as implying gravity and certainly more than that somehow or other, I lazily sat up, reached to check my line, and for a moment was a little confused, because it seemed tight. Yeah, I had sized up the situation as possibly yielding a bass, but we came here to show Matt's mother the place, not actually get a fish on, and to have just walked up to the first spot we came upon at a 660-acre reservoir, 210 feet deep, that just isn't likely to yield fish.

I stood and found a fish was on for certain, made sure that hook was set, and felt that whatever this fish was, are there carp in Merrill Creek Reservoir? carp do hit plastic worms, it was pretty big, and now it was rising to leap, and when a largemouth came completely out, "eight pounds" flashed in my mind. I loosened the Penn's drag a little, because this bass was going to run, and it eventually did, once it saw the shore. Before it got near, it leapt once more, seeming almost as fat as long, and I was astonished a fish as overweight as it looked could clear the surface.

Hook secure, though, I subdued it, and Matt grasped the lower jaw not by thumb and forefinger, but with all four fingers and thumb curled underneath. She measured 23 1/4 inches with a fat belly, so correct me if I might be off a little about the weight, but I judged seven-and-a-half pounds. That secured hook actually caught on the upper lip, so I'm very sure this bass took the worm off bottom in the dark, after that worm sat there on bottom for about 10 minutes. And it must have hit about the moment I decided to get up and check my rod.

Sun ducked under the trees and we soon left. The gate closes at sunset.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Just bought a Lew's Speed Stick

Just bought a Lew's Speed Stick (spinning) and Ardent Bolt spinning reel. Lew's Speed Stick I seem to remember from way back when I constantly read Bassmaster magazine as a teen, so I identified with the offer on Ebay immediately. As fortune would have it, I spent the next half hour scrolling down lists of specs on other rods, and felt convinced nothing else would serve better, and though I was tempted to spend some more on a St. Croix bass rod, since St. Croix is my favorite brand and gives me a lofty feeling, I just couldn't deny Lew's, not after somehow or other riveting upon the brand so many years ago.

It's medium-heavy. Seven feet. The other day on Tilcon, I horsed a nice bass from weeds and felt the near-breaking point of my medium power St. Croix. I've owned this rod since 2000 and there's no way I will let it break. So I need Lew's. At least I think this one is heavy enough. It's rated up to 14 pound test, which isn't really much; I'm using 15-pound Power Pro on my St. Croix, and that's why it almost broke. I want #20 on my Lew's, and for all I really know, it may break, but I've muscled a lot of good bass on my lighter rod, so I feel halfway confident the Lew's will work out.

Tilcon Lake is just too weedy and the possibility of a really big bass is just too great.

I own an offshore jigging rod with a light tip--I was warned against its pier use when I tried it there--and can you believe that rod is rated up to #100?

If Lew's breaks, I'll up the ante. But I'm thinking of a very extreme situation that will never happen, I guess. We shall see..

Friday, June 15, 2018

Something I Don't Want to Lose

More than a year ago, On the Water magazine did a great job of combining this GoPro shot I got of a Round Valley Reservoir brown trout with a shot I took in the Ken Lockwood Gorge, by using Aperture-Priority mode on a DSLR to blur fast-moving water. The finished product looks as if a giant brown turns for a lure in a pool immediately below that blur effect.

So I went online again to look at GoPro options, found a Hero 3 Silver like my old device for $69.00, found low prices for underwater housing and extension tube, and balked before buying. I went outside, sat down, and thought it over. For one thing, I had decided earlier in the day I discovered it lost that it was the worst investment I've made with money earned by writing. $325.00 plus whatever I paid for accessories, and after six years, I've got two still shots from it published, which isn't really bad at all, considering how limited space is in magazines; it's just that cost/benefit doesn't work in this respect.

I decided it does in more personal ways. I couldn't escape the fact that just a handful of family footage I've taken is really valuable. If I were to shoot endless videos, we would never hit play for most of them. I also simply want to see a really good shot of a largemouth bass taken through Tilcon Lake's clear water.

Before I came back in minutes ago, I decided the least I can do is clean up the back seat area of my Honda. I looked there very thoroughly, but maybe not just enough. I resolved to pull myself out of bed early tomorrow. Then I sat down here, pulled my lap top over, and felt interrupted for a second. One of my telltale hunches. I looked over the armrest of the sofa I'm sitting against. No, nothing down there, as I had checked a dozen times. But wait a minute. What if...I reached underneath the sofa edge, and felt a familiar feeling, the foam-plastic grip of my GoPro extension tube.

It's here complete.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Latest Report


Fishing with herring this week, Jim Welsh had a nice variety of fish, with several pickerel in the 3 to 4 pound range, some walleye at around 3 pounds, crappie, white and yellow perch and a Hybrid Striper weighing just over 8 pounds, along with several smaller ones.  Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass are also hitting, with that season opening back up on Friday, June 15th. With Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to take your Dad fishing . The  Knee Deep Club’s  Bass tournament is set for Sunday,  June 24th, and following that is the summer Hybrid Striped Bass contest, held this year in memory of Dominic Sarinelli, on July 14th & 15th. Mark your calendars now… Have a great week

*** I have my dates wrong…Bass Season opens back up on Saturday, June 16th , not on Friday the 15th. Thank You

Buzzbait and Worm Action for Bass and Pickerel

My old habit involved preparing the night before for the day's fishing but things don't necessarily go south for entirely bad reasons. I got up this morning, though, and just couldn't find energy to really want to fish today, but I consigned myself to loading each item, along with the help of Matt, and even as I turned the ignition key shortly after 12:30 p.m., I generally rued the loss of my GoPro as we packed out from a recent Hopatcong outing. Two years ago I got footage of a largemouth, and though the still shots didn't come out well, clear water Tilcon Lake really makes the malformed images striking. Naturally, I wanted to try again. Suppose I will, once I buy another.

Once everything was in motion, headed up U.S. 206, my nasty state lifted and I felt all this would be worthwhile. About 40 minutes later, we got to my friend's house where I'm hiding my stash from the condo association and loaded that stuff on top of the Honda for the world to regard. We got to Tilcon, and I found that one of the cart tires I had just inflated back in Bedminster was about 30 % deflated. So, what will happen when we would load 250 pounds or more of canoe and accessories?

If you've ever heard a tire rupture clean and the air hiss, you would think no cobra can do it better.

The good tire.

The bad tire had simply coughed out. In the middle of discussing the apparent need of loading back up and trying the back of the lake, where the walk in is fewer yards but very, very steep, I asked Matt if he could just carry the 70-pound marine battery the two football fields' distance. I would carry a load, and then we would try the deflated wheels for the canoe with light stuff in it.

The wheels got us there. We had positioned the cart near the rear, so Matt had a lot of weight in front to carry. He had gum surgery yesterday. Warned about heavy lifting causing blood pressure to rise.

No matter. I'm his father after all, so my advice is pretty good.

I pushed us away from the bank with a paddle, clicked on the electric, and found the battery was low. It's not just my stressful job, I was explaining to my son, it's an entire shift of my habits. I told him I can't wait until I'm deep into writing the trout book. I had worked for about six months on a 24-page essay I hope to get published in one of the world's top literary journals, and although I toggled between that and many other writing projects, that big essay was always there to get involved in by forgetting everything else. The feeling of compensation for a gutsy hard day working in the supermarket was exquisite, and the same sort of feeling accompanies writing about trout.

You don't consciously intend to overlook well-established habits, such as charging the battery two days ahead of schedule; they just get forgotten along a way that's become less deliberate.

I ruled out pressing back to the rear of the lake. "With this headwind, we might never paddle home," I said. Trolling speed for elusive Atlantic salmon was too slow, as we approached a spot only some 900 yards distant from base, but I caught the bluegill photographed above out over water 32 feet deep distant from relative shallows, on a Phoebe.

Force of habit: We fished one of our two favorite spots hard, me using worms. I tried a 12-inch Mann's Jelly Worm, having taken advice from an article in On the Water magazine, and after 20 minutes of focused fishing, I switched to Chompers eight inch. I had said, "I can't quite feel I'm fully in earnest." How could I be after seven years of nothing but Chompers and Senko-type worms?

I had given the big worm a shot. The habitual choice was no hit with anything, either.

"Looks like rain," I said. It kept on looking like rain, and after we moved around a tight corner and over the 10-foot depths of a weedy flat, I finally got the day's first good idea, thanks to my son. Water temperature was 71. Almost perfectly optimal for largemouth bass. Low bunchy clouds overhead looked as if they passed over us at silent movie speed. I voiced the situation, "Wind is really blowing."

Matt was throwing a spinnerbait. You could tell the wind was blowing by how far he could cast in a certain direction, if not by any other means. "Might be good...for a buzzbait…" The way he said this tentatively emphasized value in the possibility. As if a buzzbait might cause some special change in the way things really are.

"How many buzzbaits did you bring?" I had forgotten my topwater case. Nothing was more stupid than that omission.


"Pass one on."

Big and black. On the fifth cast, I had a pickerel on that came off.

It's not just a chemical reaction. Brain science is way too immature to really know what it talks about, if it says serotonin, or whatever other neurotransmitter, functions only in an individual brain, unrelated to objective possibilities in the environment that brain inhabits. There's a whole ecology between a good human brain and natural environment. But I always make this distinction: I didn't know we were on to something. But I did know that hundreds of other times I've felt like I felt after I lost that pickerel...those hundreds of other times led to gain. Some people just don't have brain chemical spikes like I enjoy. "Some are born to sweet delight/Some are born to the endless night." And that's a legal quote. Jim Morrison stole it from William Blake. I take it from Blake. My fish sense lit up. Here we go.

"Maybe back in those shallows," Matt said. He put on a yellow buzzbait just a little smaller. We moved 10 yards inward. Soon I caught a chunky 14-inch largemouth. Minutes later, Matt wailed a cast--you don't actually hear the line peel, you imagine that part--to a weedline, and something huge exploded on that buzzbait. I heard the POW! without seeing it just then, but even when I looked, water flew wildly about as if a hippopotamus got stocked along with those half-real salmon. Missed that one, but he soon caught a pickerel. And then something pretty big slurped his lure, not getting hooked, and one second later, another slurp. I was onto a good fish. The bass would have taped out at nearly 19 inches, but I didn't have Matt photograph it by use of my wide-angle lens, so maybe that's about how big it looks in the picture below, instead of five inches longer. Looks about 18 to me, but it was longer than that.

Matt was talking about all the acreage around us, but my fish sense was already sagging. If that's manic-depressive, it sure is prophetic, because we fished those buzzbaits all over about five acres, or so it seemed, before the sun came out 20 minutes after all the action had faded. That's something else I notice time and time again. Fish seem to sense what's coming and behave accordingly. Seems to us absurd for them to fear the sun, but not to them.

And then we lost a couple of hours or more, just not getting it right, trying another favorite spot completely barren, trying a shoreline downwind of that. We went back to the edge of that five-acre flat, anchored, and I felt like slowing way down. I remembered Lake Hopatcong years ago and how rewarding fishing live bait. I was fishing a Chompers. A bass took after fifteen minutes or so. The flat is so full of thick vegetation, and the bass like to get in so thick you might not get them out. I set the hook and felt powerful muscular pulsation, then I felt so much weed mass I couldn't budge the bunch. Finally the weight gave, but with no bass on the line. I caught a pickerel while working that worm very slowly through the weeds. Then I caught the weedy bass photographed below. That too I couldn't budge where it had got to; I couldn't budge it before my St. Croix almost broke. Action seemed to slow; I felt possibility in another sort of cove between two weed edges. We eased over to it, and I had a big bass on right away, line catching on weeds, and during the disturbance of that connection made suddenly and jarringly irregular, that bass got off.

Matt almost caught a pickerel on a Jitterbug. Neither of us have ever caught a fish on that lure.

We got off the lake about 45 minutes after the sun went behind hills, well into dusk, and the cart with the flat tires kept working its way to the square back of the canoe and past the edge of the canoe's total length. We had to haul the thing out. Matt kept remembering football practice, he told me later. My participation involved compressing very bad discs in my lower back, a certifiably insane exercise, and I wondered, without any solemn emotion, if financially the best bet was to leave the canoe there and say the hell with it. I won't be due for back surgery.

The clock is swinging its way towards 3:00 a.m. now, and my back feels as if it's OK, so, as I felt when I committed myself, I think that haul was no mad exercise. We went to my friend's house, pulled the bear steeply uphill into dark woods, my headlamp essential, the intense light provoking no one to fling open a window a fire a pump-action shotgun at its source, and after all was done, we got home at 11:00 p.m. sharp.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Brown Trout Growing Fast in Round Valley Reservoir

Scrolling down and reading through Round Valley Trout Association's website, I noticed a number of brown trout catches at the reservoir, fish between 20 and 25.5 inches long, all of them with RVTA6 jaw tags, which means these browns were among the 200 11- and 12-inch fish released by the club in conjunction with the Musky Trout Hatchery during March 2016. The accounts show some astonishing growth, and yet what's even more interesting to me is the range in size. Makes me wonder. I don't know how the size diverges that much, except for the obvious reason. Some trout manage to eat more and perhaps at temperatures more suitable for growth.

Link to the RVTA site:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Millstone River's Fishery

Here's a link to an excellent article by NJ state fisheries biologist Sean Crouse. The Millstone River is very compelling, and electroshock fishing sure brings some mystery to light, but far from all of it. Also today, Fred Matero informed me that the drawdown of Columbia Lake related to the demolition of Columbia Dam is underway now. 

Friday, June 8, 2018



Saturday, June 9th is a free fishing day…No license is required to fish in the State of NJ,  a perfect time to grab a friend and head on out to fish . Fishing has been good here on Lake Hopatcong with a wide variety of fish hitting this past week. Sabrina Mackin had her limit of crappie, fishing with small jigs and fatheads, the largest hitting the scales at 1 lb 14 oz. Jim Macoluso had a pickerel weighing 3 lb 2 oz.  Several trout have been caught on live herring also, along with some hybrid stripers in the 5 and 6 pound range. Largemouth and smallmouth bass season will open again on June 15 th, and they have already started to hit pretty good. Knee Deep’s bass contest takes place on Sunday, June 24th with cash prizes for the 3 heaviest fish. Night time action is still going strong, usually lasting into July. Have a great week !!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Expected Rising Rainbow Trout

Matt told me today or last night that twice recently he checked on the local river (North Branch Raritan) at Miller Lane, witnessing rising rainbow trout at sundown. Since he couldn't get off work by 3:30 as we assumed he would when we made plans, we didn't go to Tilcon Lake, but over here to Matt's spot instead, fly casting.

We got there almost two hours before sundown, any trout ignoring our dry flies, so I switched to a worm fly, then to a beadhead black stonefly size 12, because I wanted to get down near bottom fast and stay there. I'm pretty sure I had a trout on, because whatever I hooked moved, though it is possible that was a sunken stick. I never felt the pulsation of a fish. Whatever it was that got hooked moved aside, then came off.

We saw a couple of trout make splash rises, but they never came up in the great numbers Matt had seen. Nor did we see much of a hatch. Had we seen a definite hatch, we would have seen trout come up for the bugs.

Water remains very chilly. Trout fishing should be good--sometimes--for awhile yet.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Round Valley Wind and Fish

My Sunday off, Matt had to work at noon. After we had breakfast in Chester as a family, I spent part of the afternoon getting a relay for my car's air conditioner. Not available in Somerville, me misled to Hillsborough and finally dealing with a couple of good people at Autozone Bound Brook, it took awhile, but my family got to Round Valley Reservoir after 6:00, feeling as if enjoying a late October day, chilly wind building water up in Ranger Cove.

I focused on two corners where whatever stuff carried by wave action would go no further. I used the same worm I recently caught my Mount Hope Pond bass on. Matt began with a 5/8th-ounce buzzbait, catching a little rock bass. I've never before seen such a little fish smack such a big lure and get caught. He switched to a spinnerbait, and in the meantime, I caught a rock bass almost 10 inches long on that worm, and then a little largemouth of about seven inches.

We walked further back to the next corner where I've caught bass before. When the reservoir was full. Matt cast from a point existing as an edge between wave action and quiet water of the cove-like corner, catching an 11-inch smallmouth bass. I stood and cast far downwind from him, catching another big rock bass, and then a largemouth of about nine inches. Matt walked down to face the wind with me and missed a hit.

I had the sense the fish were pretty active and vulnerable to a variety of lures, compared to when the typical blue skies and calm surface makes them scarce.


Pending State Record Atlantic Salmon

Caught at Lake Aeroflex two days ago. Here's the FB link to Andover Bait & Hunt where it got weighted in. Looks about eight pounds.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Night time Striper and Walleye action has picked up in the past week, with herring starting to spawn. We have a large selection of bombers and zara spooks for you to choose from, along with  Badonka donks, and the knuckleheads for this type of fishing.  Also hitting on herring, some Hybrid Striped Bass making their way to the scale this week included Mike Truglio with his largest weighing in at 6 lb 15 oz, and Richie King with a 7 lb 7 oz fish. Mike Rastiello weighed in a white cat at 3 lb 14 oz caught on a herring. Seeing perch and crappie also, hitting smaller herring, along with some pickerel taking Mepps spinners casting along the weedlines. Have a great week !!!

Providence: That's Another Big Idea to Name a Place

My second-biggest Mount Hope Pond bass, caught during a 2013 lunch break. The very biggest weighed maybe an ounce or two more, about 4-9 or 4-10, but I caught it when first light was just breaking and the photos didn't come out very well.

I got out my handwritten fishing log, confirming that 2014 was the last I visited Mount Hope, reviewing shortly all the outings, and beginning to think on the value I place on this pond and region, realizing that, actually, limited to so many lunch breaks of about half-an-hour--though I noticed one gave me an hour-and-a-half--my fishing here seemed almost superficial, compared to what it can be. I keep a "Notes" margin in the notebook I use for this fishing log going back to 1975, and noticed one day I "wasn't right," probably rattled by work, but in spite of tight time and business casual clothing, though I wore hiking boots, I really did realize a lot of value.

During one lunch break, I not only remembered myself at age 17; involving total commitment to fishing I exercised at that age, in some sense I became the person I had been, this a literal impossibility, but we all have an inkling of what it is to re-experience events amounting to who we have been, a matter of existing for a little while within the interior space of former self as more than memory of past time. That was a very healthy span of moments during which I regained lasting vitality. Fishing can seem a stupid pursuit. So you catch a fat fish like that in the photo above. Big deal. And besides, what have you really done, besides disturb the peace of that creature you've chosen to dominate? Wonders never cease, and every angler I know is fascinated in getting close, not only to nature in general, but specifically in getting close to fish, because they are worthy, magnificent creatures to behold. Only the worst of us, those who don't deserve the title angler, treat catches with disrespect. And yet there's a whole lot more to angling than methods and fish. As the contemplative practice angling is, there's no limit to the potential of realization, and this vitality I mention of my getting in touch with some five years ago is still with me, not only because I once was, in fact, 17, but because at 52 I tapped back into that age. This isn't to confuse ages 17, 52, and 57, but to cite the fact that health and energy have a lot to do with personal identity as an actual dynamic you can only engage through concrete practice, specific practice you value deeply through a long biographical history of experience.

Good reason to go fishing alone sometimes. And persistently, as I did at Mount Hope. Because with someone else or others along, you can't get as in touch with yourself.

After this recent Mount Hope venture and getting out that log, which resulted in a chain reaction of thinking, I thought of people financially well-off, people fishing from nice bass boats, fishing reservoirs and lakes full of bass over five pounds. Even here in Jersey, Steve Vullo scores bass that big consistently, and as for this matter of owning a boat and avoiding mosquitos or at least ticks, I own a nice squareback canoe and can fish most of the spots Vullo attends. That is, if the condo association doesn't crack down when I bring my canoe back home after its temporary asylum from their scrutiny.

So why Mount Hope? Come on, the place is for losers, right? Oh, there's some nice bass, no one might dispute photo evidence, but not as nice as bass you can see Vullo catches on All I have to do is...make the effort. That's what I was writing about in the previous post, effort, and I can take my own words to Manasquan Reservoir, and then...I can catch bass like Steve does. (With a whole lot more trial and effort ahead of that effort, because Steve seems to catch them like no one else.)

Hopeless romantic, here we go again. Why don't I just create a Facebook site so people can post fish pictures and do away with all my words, since most fishermen around here never read my words.

I worship that place. Mount Hope. And it's not just the pond. That town and region. The Mount Hope Historical Park too. There's ultimately something downright weird about all this, or, there is when I shoot straight to the bottom of the issue, where nothing but a great unknown is met to create mythological overtone. At least one of the mine shafts at the Historical Park drops more than 2000 feet straight down to bedrock. If you read the post about our hike there and the full day, you might agree there's something weird at least about that outing: At the least, the post is a very entertaining read that might make you wonder if Jim Morrison was along for the ride. Got to keep on riding, because the Roadhouse is never reached unless it is spiritual more than movie setting, and a most specifically pertinent line to that post I linked you to is spoken by Morrison on An American Prayer. That outing actually did happen. Of course it did; there are the photos, some of them I shot, but what I mean by actuality suggests the spiritual dimension of that day as a whole lot more than imagined. My "random" choice of the Winston c.d., which the post briefly discusses--the post is an understated piece of writing for sure--before the events of that trip culminated with my shooting the photo of the screech owl, this so-called random or merely personally selective choice of a c.d. foreshadowing the screech owl shot could not possibly have occurred without meaning visiting us from above; at least, this is my firm opinion, confirmed likewise by many other events over the course of my life. And besides, at Mount Hope Historical Park, before we hit the road and I got the Winston out to play, I shot a photo of a bird house in which a screech owl could have comfortably fit. A foreshadow even further back than the music I selected.

Is Jim Morrison dead? Remember the Renaissance of the Doors? At least here on the East Coast, the Renaissance of the Doors began late in 1980. Radio announcers on WMMR Philadelphia and etc. promoted the event, which persisted as a sort of underground cultural phenomenon for at least three or four years, I think, accompanied by what might impress us today as a very strange question: Is Jim Morrison dead? Of course he's dead. Physically.

It's too weird to say more. But the post I linked you to does say a lot more without any of this direct address I indulge in this present post. The linked-to post is an account that leaves the reader to his own inference. And it's a very sad and dangerous affair that people today let the mind go to titillate their trivial pleasure by teasing information of random sorts.

I'm just not a straight bassman. I'm not a bassman at all. I leave that designation to social circles I don't include myself among, which is no bad reflection on iBass360, or on Steve; just the opposite, since I can better respect others when I distinguish my own differences.

I can hit a target, though. The theme of casting in my last post. And no one can develop certain casting skills while sitting or standing in any boat. They require that you get in among sticks from shore. But I'm just not all about targeting bass or targeting other fish. Fishing for me is peace. Not targets and war. I like to fill out experience with meaning, and to be quite frank, the edge of a fallen branch where I want my worm to penetrate the surface isn't a "target." Sure, I see it by aid of abstract discrimination to get the worm exactly where I want it to go, but to overuse "target" as an aggressive attitude is completely contrary to the Zen this practice of mine always seems to begin amounting to. In Zen archery you shoot blind. You don't aim for the target, and yet, if you become a Master, you're more accurate than any warrior.

Mount Hope. What a symbol. There's even a bridge on the Rhode Island coast near Providence called the Mount Hope Bridge. Odd. No mountains nearby. Is it a seacoast ridge or other? Mount Hope Bay near Narragansett Bay.

Providence. That's another big idea to name a place.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mount Hope Pond Revisted

Bass are hard to catch at Mount Hope Pond. They always have been. As my son and I set out along the western shore today, eventually working almost all the way into the back from the front of the pond near the swimming beach, this was first time I've been up there at the 18-acre pond since 2014, I think. I told Matt to expect two hits per hour on average, and today we went a little under par, but I am fully convinced the fish are there in completely comparable numbers to when I discovered this pond in 2011. We sighted about as many as used to be normal. I also told him that the few bass caught usually measure 16, 17, 18 inches, but the single fish I caught today was more like 13 inches, though I hooked another a lot bigger.

This fishing means getting back into the sticks. Not only that; it means getting stuck by them. It also calls on accurate pitching and casting. I physically showed Matt what this demands by parting brush, standing on a sloping and uneven bank from which I could have taken a dunk, and pitching the worm, never quite working out how I might set the hook, should a bass have taken it, and yet staying open to the thought. You do not want to break your rod on a branch, at least not if that rod is an expensive St. Croix like mine. Matt got the idea right away, went through the thick, sighted a five-pounder, pitched, watched the bass vacuum his eight-inch Chompers worm into its maw and just as quickly force it back out.

I've seen only one bass that big here over the course of some two dozen or more visits, but I bet a few six and seven-pound fish exist that may never get caught. I've caught a couple, four-and-a-half pounds and almost five, but don't get your hopes up if you're thinking of traveling I-80 and getting there. Mount Hope Pond is the best symbol I have of the sort of hope I live on, but it's tough, solitary, and with rewards infrequent yet a little outsized, it demands that hard effort to achieve, which most of us don't care for, but is dependable.

That's no slight against my friends. So many of you who read these accounts. I would be lost without you, and yet I go my own way. An angler always finds a way because he exercises his own judgment. That never means I don't confer with others'.

I doubt but very few others, however, catch bass here. Let alone any over five pounds. Who wants to get back into his car, scratched, and covered by mosquito bites, risking the infection of his comfortable vehicle by the dozen or so ticks crawling all over his clothes? It takes an unusual character to enjoy this kind of fishing. The sort used to nature's difficulty lifelong. The mosquitos bothered me little, a mysterious immunity that clearly seems to have to do with my habit of being out there among them, but when I finally took a good look at my son after hearing his complaints, my first thought was that maybe I had a medical emergency on my hands. His arms, his neck, were pocked all over by swollen welts, and yet he wanted to keep fishing. After the encounter with a true lunker. He knows how to judge size.

I blogged persistently about the fishing here. When especially the post I link to began racking up big visitation numbers--more than 1270 have visited this single post, out of more than a dozen others on the pond--I felt afflicted by awful guilt. I related this feeling to a friend. He couldn't have quite understood how it felt. I had spot-burned my own best secret. Fishing seemed to get worse and this state of affairs just added to the "wrong" I had done, but as the years moved relentlessly on, I began to come back around to where I began with this blog, my feeling that information never really hurts. Ignorance hurts. And I began to feel a deep longing to come back up here and see if I am right.

My feeling grew that Mount Hope had persevered. Even though I hadn't been back up there to gain any hard evidence, I've plenty of evidence from many sources stored in my brain. Even as a teenager, when I began writing about where to catch fish and getting these articles published, I learned right off the bat that despite big feature titles spelling out where to go, very few people--if anybody--takes the advice by feet and hands. This is not at all to discount practical pointers, but the entertainment value of writing ranks foremost along with aesthetic value, and above all else, by formalizing information, it becomes part of the culture we all share. Knowledge doesn't trivialize. That awful disparaging sense of overfamiliarity is an illusion, not knowledge. It's caricature, not character. A bad mental habit of sloth, inaction, and the wrong assumptions about freedom. (You are not anybody's slave, nor are you under the lock of any institution or job.) Ultimately, my pieces protect and serve Mount Hope Pond. They celebrate, mythologize, and cite the value of this place.

The bass are still there. Out of 1279 visitations of that post linked alone, it's possible a few bass were caught and released as the result. Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe some people have taken my advice and fully enjoyed themselves. Is that wrong, of course not. Since when do anglers have an attitude like radical environmentalists against the human species? Whatever is the case, bass are here.

I haven't reread this post linked to, but by how I remember it, I wasn't as good as I am now of telling it like it is. I probably wrote about the need to get back in the sticks, but a reader glosses over that and just thinks I'm telling him to follow a trail into the woods. Catching bass consistently here is hard to do.

That said, yeah, there may a few of you who, like me, find it relatively easy to make an effort and cast and pitch with an ever-growing sum of accuracy. One thing for sure: Do not tell me the craft of the cast is limited to fly fishing.

Mount Hope Pond's west side is pocked all over by schist. Wear hiking boots if you come here and rely on steady feet.

Part the brush and get into position.