Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Excitement You Never Forget

Haven't fished since October 31st. My brother Rick and I would have gone tomorrow, but the prospect of surf casting for stripers in pretty serious cold does not feel right with most of the catches three miles out and further. He fished them a few days ago in the surf and didn't get a hit.

Like last Wednesday, rivers and streams are high after rain, but I wouldn't have fished a week ago anyhow, nor tomorrow, besides the surf. Too much writing to do, which I'm enjoying a great deal. You see the announcement on the page about coming books. Whether or not a publisher takes the book on trout fishing I'm finally working on again, I enjoy writing it so much that I actually feel that if no cares to publish it, it will still have been fully worthwhile. It's as if I can't lose. As a case in point, the novelist Barbara Kingsolver is probably more introverted than I am. As a matter of fact, I took a personality test the other night for the fun of it, and I scored 65% introverted, 35% extraverted. I've thought for years that I'm ambiverted, and this balance of percentages shows this is pretty much the case, anyway. But about Kingsolver, she said in an interview that she would have written all of her novels just for the joy of writing, and then stuffed them in drawers, as if never to be read by anyone else.

I figure if no one will publish my book, I'll figure out how to publish it online, but I really do want a good commercial publisher to take it. The trick is not to invest too much hope in this, in case it never happens. And besides, the best writing, though it addresses readers through every word and punctuation mark, is written on the level of language, not as an expediency with designs solely to cash in. So every move this writer takes is redeemed by the fact that it's for the joy of it. That feeling does want to reach out. It's just that nay saying can't ruin the work.

I got word from Fred Matero tonight, in answer to my suggestion that we swing over to Round Valley maybe sometime in December. He's up for it. I never forget the last lake trout I lost. I'm assuming it was a laker. They come in when it gets really cold. A few of them. That afternoon early in January, think it was, wasn't so cold, but it was winter, and I had cast a really big shiner way out there by use of an 11-foot noodle rod with great range. Fishing bottom can seem a bore, but once line starts moving in a world shut down by the season that keeps most people indoors, you feel excitement you never forget.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Crouching for Trout

Told myself recently today would be a day for catching up. No fishing. Ha! I finished a query I needed to write at 1:30 pm, after spending more than an hour-and-a-half before this at cleaning up my laptop. As my reward for good work done, I rode out to Scherman-Hoffman Preserve and signed myself in for some Passaic River fly fishing. I was notified I had to be out by 4:45, this at 3:12, so I briskly hiked directly to my favorite pool.

I got fully absorbed in the fishing right away, crouching with my Simms-covered seat in the water, but I caught no trout. I caught a silver shiner, the same species I use as bait, amazed at the three-incher's gumption at striking a size 16 beadhead. Soon I hooked something else small that got off, and then later caught a five-inch chub that fought like it might have been a little brown or rainbow, both species reproducing here in the big river's headwaters.

I can dig this sort of fishing. The particularity by use of my little six-foot, two-weight TFO involves plenty of reward for developing skills, which have paid off in the past, even though, so far, none of the trout have measured more than nine inches long. I have spotted them in this Bernardsville flow about a foot long in the past.

New Jersey offers a lot of opportunity for wild and native trout. It's no wonder they don't get much pressure, given the size of most of them, and relatively sparse populations for the most part, but I like the feel and I will be back, connecting at least to my own practice at gaining on some success.

On the way home, I swung over to the North Branch Raritan at AT&T, fishing persistently, wading across the river and upstream after fishing by the exit bridge, getting a beadhead deep in a nice pool with strong and deep current leading into it. I felt a nice trout had to lurk there, and I kept trying to get a hit, feeling as if maybe I could do this for a hundred years and nothing would happen, but who knows.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Dingman's Falls Re-opens October 31st

I've always wanted to walk this trail....

Great news!  Please join us if you are able.

Release Date:  October 30, 2018

Contact(s):  Kathleen Sandt, Public Affairs Specialist

                      Kathleen_Sandt@nps.gov; (570) 426-2472

It’s No Trick!  Dingmans Falls Re-opens on October 31

Bushkill, PA- The employees at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are excited to announce that the Dingmans Falls boardwalk trail will re-open to the public at 1 pm on Wednesday, October 31.  The popular visitor destination and local favorite was hit hard by damages from back-to-back winter storms in March 2018 and as a result was closed for the spring and summer while work crews made repairs.  

Superintendent Sula Jacobs, who has been on the job at the park for just under two months, was briefed on the storm damages and the work to be done before she accepted the position and seeing it through is one of her top priorities.  “When I got here, I toured the site and was told that the trail would re-open in the spring,” said Jacobs.  “I am thrilled that our dedicated team- both on the ground and behind the scenes- was able to get the work done sooner than expected and with no injuries or further negative impacts to the environment. And we are all thrilled to be able to welcome the public back to one of their favorite places, and one of ours.”   Dingmans Falls Visitor Center will re-open as usual in the spring.  The lower portion of Johnny Bee Road, the Dingmans Falls Access Road, and the main parking area will remain open until the first significant snowfall. Once the roads are closed for the winter, the trail will remain open and accessible by foot.

The devastating storms uprooted and snapped hundreds of trees along the access road, parking area, and trail.  The downed trees crushed, twisted, and lifted boardwalks, stairs, railings and bridges and damaged structures on the grounds.  Work completed at the site includes:

·         Repairs to the boardwalk trail including replacement of approximately 130 feet of new decking; 

·         repair and replacement of two staircases leading to the upper observation area;

·         repair and replacement of 80 feet of railing including railing on 2 bridges;

·         precision removal of more than 500 trees from the site, including the access roads and parking lot;

·         removal of 10 trees from structures on the grounds;

·         repair of restroom roofs and vents.

“Dingmans Falls is one of the jewels of the park, and of the region, and was a top priority for the park’s trail crew over the past few months,” said William Tagye, Roads and Trails Supervisor for the park.  “In addition to repairing damages from the winter storms, the crew has also made some other improvements along the trail that will allow visitors to have a better and safer visit to the falls while making the trail itself more sustainable into the future.”  For example, new surface treatments were used to provide better traction on areas of the boardwalk trail that tend to get slippery in the damp shady environment and drainage improvements were made in areas where water runoff or ponding on the trail was an issue. 

While the majority of storm-damaged trails and facilities have re-opened, there is still a lot of work to be done at the few sites that remain closed.  These areas sustained a great deal of environmental and/or infrastructure damage and the work there is more complex.   

·         Tree removal is scheduled to begin shortly at George W. Childs Park where hundreds of trees fell in tangled masses onto boardwalks, bridges, fences, historic structures, and observation platforms.  Sequoia Tree Service of Dingmans Ferry, PA was awarded the contract for that phase of the project.  Tree removal is expected to be completed by the end of the year.  Planning, design, and environmental compliance work is also underway.  At this time there is no estimated opening date. 

·         Adams Creek will remain closed indefinitely. 

·         Hornbecks Creek/Indian Ladders Trail and Conashaugh Trail will remain closed until work there can be completed.   

·         Work on a re-route and repairs to the lower portion of the trail at Van Campens Glen in NJ is set to begin during the summer of 2019. 

For updates on trail openings and closures visit our website at www.nps.gov/dewa; call the information desk at (570) 426-2452, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; or follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.  


Kathleen Sandt

Public Affairs Specialist

National Park Service

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

(O) 570-426-2472

(C) 570-234-9144

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Kittatiny Ridge Frames a Good Mood

On Millbrook Road, accessed by first navigating a series of roads new to my travels, we approached Kittatiny Ridge. Trish and I got a very clear look at the face of it. The walls of schist or whatever looked smaller in the distance than they are, but still appeared prominently, distinctly off-white like marble. I said, "Matt and I climbed that ridge from the bottom when he was seven-years-old." The vertical elevation from the start of the Mount Tammany trail to the summit is 1200 feet. I think the Rattlesnake Ridge trail Matt and I climbed is about the same ascent. At the top, there's a pathway no more than four feet wide between a gigantic boulder face, and an edge over which distance drops about 900 feet to treetops and rocks. I felt very nervous walking that. My young son showed no fear at all, once standing right at the edge and looking down as frankly as had he looked at a floor. I was stunned.

Further on Millbrook Road today, views from the ridgetop felt thrilling. And after the last view passes, descent is steep and swift, Millbrook Village appearing on the right quickly. No event held by the park service today, we came to hike further up along Van Campens Brook, further than we had walked several years or more ago. I slung my camera bag on my left shoulder and carried my two-weight TFO fly rod with my right hand. We did work our way further up the Donkey Hollow Trail, but I remember last time somehow finding a trail that follows the brook closely. This time that wasn't evident. I did manage to fish the spot photographed not long after we left the village, and also cut off the trail far upstream, making sure moss on stones I braced my boots against didn't slide under them as I worked my way downhill to the water. This second spot was a nice hole, bottom four or five feet deep perfectly visible, but I felt as if I had imposed on the fish there, fish I suspect are present but had dodged me and my bead-head nymph.

Later, when I unloaded gear into the trunk, a man a little older than me came up and asked had I caught any. We launched into an informative chat about the fishing, his experience and success a lot more than mine up there. "You have to approach them with stealth."

"I did feel I imposed on them," I said. "Do you crouch?"

"Oh, yeah." And he said he wears camo. He kept mentioning the trout's weakness for bead-head nymphs, that they like the reflective gold surface on the tungsten. He wasn't fishing today, but he's done quite a lot up there.

The hike wasn't for the fishing. It was for my wife. And mainly, we came up here for that hike and for dinner at Walpack Inn. As events proved out, Walpack Inn was the main reason, but before we parked among hundreds of other vehicles and carried books into the restaurant, anticipating a wait, we visited Roy Bridge again, where I didn't fish, but did perform a productive photo shoot.

The view of the ridge as we traveled back on State Park 615 to the restaurant felt grand. Green tone recently gave way to yellow on the rusty side of the color spectrum, I could tell. Down here in Bedminster, the color tone is still predominantly green. We got a table without waiting. I felt utterly amazed, as we were led to it, at the size of this place. Where do the dozens of employees come from? It must be 45 minutes to the nearest gas station. Maybe that's hyperbole, since Layton isn't far, but Layton is a hamlet. Despite a lot full of vehicles, getting a table was no problem, the place is so big, and the food was fantastic. I had prime rib, Trish a strip steak. Each of us got baked potato with sour cream and horseradish. Doc Joe's (think it is) Hard Apple Cider is so fresh it reminds me of a Class 1 trout stream like my favorite Dunnfield Creek. The apple pie with ice cream was a huge serving for each of us. And as we ate, aside from us, a huge picture window admitted a full view of Kittatiny Ridge whenever we turned to admire the mountain.

We took a walk behind the building towards the ridge before we left. It's certainly not the highest mountain on the east coast, but to deny it if you haven't taken its challenge is cheap. And if you were to deny it and then take it's challenge, it might not be safe...



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Boats Coming Out Soon

Not much going on here this past week…We had hoped to be able to rent boats into November sometime, but with the earlier start to the 5 foot drawdown, it has affected us more than it usually does. We are unable to keep our docks in the water, which means the boats have to be pulled sooner than we thought.  We will still be open with bait and tackle for some time, but please call to check on our hours. (973) 663 - 3826. We will be stocked and ready to go for ice fishing season.  Thank you for your support for 2018 , a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all. It will be here before you know it !!! Have a great week...

Laurie Murphy

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Savage Summer Flushed Clean

As we departed our cars for the river, Pat asked if I expected us to catch any. I said, "I would be surprised if we didn't." Such is my belief in this river and the stretches we fished, but if reality never checked my presumptions, I would get all too full of myself very quickly. We found the South Branch running high but very clear. So clear and cold my first impression told me the bass weren't going to come easily. Pretty soon, I figured they weren't going to come at all, but part of the game involves narrowing down where those fish might be, in spite of their refusal to let you know for sure.

The edges and shallows where bass struck last I was here weeks ago were empty. No hits, and by wading these areas, we sighted nothing but a little smallmouth about five inches long. Pat waded across the river and examined the edge on the other side, the first of any of my parties, including myself, to do this. He sighted a carp about three feet long and nothing else but rocky ledges and bottom. Eventually, I crossed the river and though I distinctly saw bottom five and six feet deep, no fish made themselves evident at all. My conclusion that the bass must be down in about eight feet of water hugging bottom felt all the more certain. The current moved powerfully through these depths, but right at bottom it doesn't move much. We probed that bottom repeatedly, but nothing was interested.

Cold and clean, the water gave us no doubt fall has settled in. Trout water, but bass will still hit sometimes. Today we fished the middle of the afternoon under sun and clouds, but a lot of sun. Last November, I came here with Steve Slota at daybreak, frost crunching under boots, and I caught a smallmouth about a foot long on my second cast. The magic hour early or late makes a difference. It is possible water somewhat off color that morning did too, although I'm more under the impression that the clarity it has now would be even better for catching bass.

There was an impressionistic feel to the place. I've never before experienced it like this. Seurat could have filled a canvas with dots as if things weren't quite real in the hard-edged ordinary sense, and yet every time I looked down through that clear water at bottom--whether soft, gravelly, or rocky--I felt nature had flushed the savage life of summer clean, as if all that is left are the elements without the waste life inevitably leaves behind.

We drove downstream where trout got stocked weeks ago and fished salmon eggs for whatever still awaits in the currents. Not a hit. But I got absorbed by use of my three-and-a-half foot wand, not doing any more magic than controlling the drift. That's a matter of allowing the egg to ride with the current near bottom, while keeping monofilament nylon fairly tight so a strike can be detected and hook set. Pat was into it, also. I thought of springtime ahead, and I realized that perhaps the most beautiful thing about fishing in April, before trees green and confirm the fact of spring's presence really here, is the expectation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What a Try for Trout

Plan was to wake up, pack up, go trout fishing. I didn't care to go at all, and instead of making myself do it, I respected our mutual endeavor and gave myself a break, rather than put the kibosh on what I always want to go well.

Sure enough, by early afternoon while I continued to struggle with an essay I will submit to a high-end fishing magazine, and felt frustrated over losing time to query yet another, I began to feel like going. Trish and I had plans to go over to the Lamington for a photo shoot as the sun would get low, but I had plenty of time to scoot over to the local AT&T stretch and dip some salmon eggs.

I got over there, reached to open the door, and realized I had left the salmon eggs in the fridge. "Goddamnit!" I drove home, fetched them, and soon worked the current under the exit bridge, polarizers revealing very nice depth, though I sighted no trout hugging bottom as I began a process of covering water swiftly. I knew there was no point of continuing to cast when I didn't feel this would yield anything, but not only do I trust my fish sense very tightly, I plainly saw no fish. I imagined there might be a few camouflaged, but I had my doubts. Finally, I settled on the fast water below the entry.

Standing in front of four foot depths, I realized I needed to add a couple of barrel swivels to my snap to get the egg near bottom. First, I took the safety pin holding swivels off my vest, clumsily emptying the prong of all eight or nine swivels onto the leaves at my feet, recovering only two of them, but I got them on the snap...in the process losing my leader and hook. So next, I got involved in the frustration of tying a new leader by the use of my bad eyes. Those size 14 hooks and ultra-thin two pound test are not easy for me now. After long minutes of intense frustration--all I wanted to do was come and have an easy go at this--I found that somehow I had broken off the hook I had tied to the fluorocarbon. So I tried again, and this time I completely screwed up on the loop knot, finding--after I tied a second loop on a leader that was about three feet long, not half that length as I had misjudged it--that I had indeed tied a successful loop in the first place, which was about a foot from the hook. So there I was with two loops, and when I tried to break the leader so it would measure about a foot long, I destroyed that first loop I had tied. Finally, I ended up with a leader attached to my snap about four inches long. Absurd. But it would have to do. I had had it. Battering off defeat, I thought very hard on making a new leader wallet, because there is no way I'm going to have trouble like this in the spring. It popped into mind that there's probably no reason to trouble over making my own wallet. I owned a wallet I made during my teens until I lost it a couple of years ago, but nowadays of course, I could just check on what's for sale online. I got a cast in, the swivels took the egg near bottom, and then when I made the second cast, the rig got caught in branches hanging pretty high over the current I hadn't noticed. I broke off and said the hell with it.

I haven't felt frustration as I did this afternoon since my teens. A burning kind of frustration. But I got my head together before I marched entirely off the premises with that resolve to buy a leader wallet. At least I know now I need one this spring. Yup. Had I driven all the way to the South Branch to have this sort of trouble, it would have sucked a lot worse. I got home and immediately ordered a 10-leaf leader wallet from Amazon. Then Trish, me, and Sadie went for that, successful, photo shoot.

After we got home the whole afternoon felt very invigorating.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Relaxed Beside an Island, Ordinary Life Seems Absurd

Every fall, I manage to get out on Lake Hopatcong and fish the drop-offs, but even worse than last fall, the warmth had kept the lake from turning over and the trees from changing color. For longer than a week, I was aware of cooler weather forecast, and I hoped it would make a significant difference, because with temperatures in the 70's and 80's, I knew fish would be suspended over drop-offs at best. Mark Licht and I met at Dow's Boat Rentals just after 6:00 a.m., and instead of temperatures in the mid-30's as forecast, they hovered around 40, but of course that's a lot better than the 71-degree reading I noticed at first light on Wednesday.

Brian Cronk was supposed to come, but he phoned me Saturday night, telling me a friend of his had shot a bear and he had to help in the morning. Brian and I have tried to get out and fish together since early June. We're jinxed. Instead, I would meet his UPS driver. I found Mark to be great company. Brian and I have planned on fishing Lake Wawayanda for what seems an eternity now, me interested in going Old School and fishing live shiners for big pickerel common there, Brian wanting Atlantic salmon usually referred to as landlocked salmon here. It so happened that when Mark and I got off the lake, a man and his wife of foreign description were busy cleaning a good-size pickerel, so I went across the dock and joined them for a moment, admiring a limit catch of pickerel that seemed to range from 18 to maybe 22 inches. I know of one angler who claims he prefers eating pickerel to walleye, a radical dissent from the usual derision about these pike family members, just because of Y bones in their backs. In any case, and I've tried pickerel and they're good, this moment before Mark and I departed to go home seemed portentous to the fishing Brian and I will do yet, and it's good to be reminded that deep drop-offs in October are not the only possibility on Lake Hopatcong.

"The motor is quiet!" Mark spoke above the hum as we motored away from Dow's. He has a large center-console, but wanted to try from one of Laurie Murphy's boats. He told me fishing for him is about the big picture, not just the narrow limitation, as he described it, of keeping eyesight glued to the linear form casts create. He takes the environment in, and I said it's the same for me. Readers of this blog know I take great liberties, perhaps less so at description of environments I fish, than of rendering accounts of complex ideational moods these places inspire in me. I haven't written any posts recently true to what I've called grand affirmation, not since the Tilcon Lake posts, keeping instead to more conventional accounts of the fishing, but perhaps by the time I finish writing this one, I will have written material that Lenny Matera and Fred Matero--each other's best friend with nearly identical last names--say they can't understand.

Mark and I began fishing a mid-lake drop, finding suspended fish stacked over 38 feet of water, but instead of fishing them right off the bat, I put a marker buoy in the water, and then with the words of Jimmy Welsh at the shop in mind, "I've been catching them 20 feet deep," we anchored in 14 feet of water to the side of that buoy set near the drop-off's deep end. Jimmy had also said, "Striper fishing sucks," mentioning smallmouth bass this deep instead. Well, maybe a walleye would take a live herring.

We set our baits 14 to 25 feet deep, and soon Mark hooked the first walleye he's ever caught. Sun had barely reached the horizon. Later Jimmy would weigh this fish at four pounds, seven ounces. Five minutes later I caught a two-and-three-quarter-pound walleye. And then besides my catching a one-pound (or so) walleye an hour later, nothing else hit and so we went after those fish near the buoy.

There must have been hundreds of stripers under the boat and around the boat. We tried to catch them for a solid two or three hours. The lake almost dead calm, we had no trouble putting herring and also chicken livers on their noses. We jigged. I rode a Binsky bladebait through the school repeatedly. Not one hit. Later, I would discuss this with Laurie, and she said it happens all the time, "And then, like last week, someone will catch 40 or 50 of them." Seems like you can always depend on largemouth bass. Just put a proper lure in a bass's lair, and you'll catch some, as Mark and I did on this trip, but these hybrid stripers seem downright weird regarding feeding habits.

We had to give up, or else we wouldn't use our dozen nightcrawlers. And this is when the trip got to feeling especially good, or at least it did for me. With the electric, I pushed the boat at a pretty good clip up to an island where my son and I have fished for more than a decade. We used ultralights to catch all sorts of panfish and bass. Mark also used a heavier rod and Senko to catch a bass and lose a pickerel at the boat. I set three lines out deep for walleye, and eventually, Mark caught a walleye a little bigger than the larger of my two.

But best of all, whatever you want to call it--psychological resistance, habitual responses, suppression, all the big words for a simple problem--the tension, which doing a hard job day after day builds as a defense to doing anything amiss, gave way. I had first uttered some words to Mark I forget now, but a moment's reflection on them was pleasing to me for their spontaneity and grace. So much is written against language, among spiritual circles of the Eastern variety, as if talk is a hindrance to Zen and what not, but nothing could be further from the truth on this outing. Once I had spoken a few times, words devoid of mannerism and more intelligent than anything typical, the bottom dropped out under my tendency to suppress natural flow to get the job done, and I was free. For at least an hour before we left as 1:00 pm approached, I lived purely in the moment, completely accepting the mess we made of the boat and the sort of helter-skelter character of dipping many lines. And upon reflecting on it for a moment, ordinary life seemed so absurd and a waste of energy and life, as if the whole problem with society is that we don't let go.

Most of the fish we marked were at 17 feet, but sometimes the graph was almost full of fish icons across the screen. Some fish did mark as deep as 31 feet, so the lake is turning over, but not any deeper than that as of yesterday.
All these years fishing herring, this had never happened, but it happened a second time after I shot this photo.

Mid-October normally features peak fall colors. So far, there's barely any change from summertime.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ignorant of the Natural World

Told my wife I would get up minutes before first light, fish two hours, clean the fish, and get a little sleep before spending my day off from work at various tasks. Then we would go out and see a movie after she got home from work, as we will, but so far, the day hasn't gone as planned. Got up before first light, but contrary to expectation, I wasn't the first there at my local river. Three cars had parked. I soon positioned riverside with Sadie the black Lab, who is mellow in old age, but stupidly I had rigged my 3 1/2-foot microlight rod with two leaders. Naturally, they had tangled. On the spur of the moment back home, I decided I "wouldn't need" my headlamp. Sheer stupidity, that. Presently, as I cut line with my teeth, I remembered that I hadn't made the coffee, so most likely, the coffee pot was boiling out stovetop, and I made a mental note to phone my wife. An arduous process of tying a new leader in the semi-dark felt frustrating, but of course, I had to get this right. Amazing how you can focus with all your feeble intent on a simple action--as mosquitos tear at your skin--and finally look up to see that night had become day during the interval between discovering the problem and solving it.

Those mosquitos didn't seem very out of place, because it was so warm I could have just worn a T-shirt. Sickly temperatures for this time of year. Leaves show some signs of color, at least. I didn't bother snapping a photo, but those leaves are nowhere near the depth and range of color they should be by now. This coming Sunday I have off--most likely--and Brian Cronk and I have been messaging about fishing the Hopatcong drops. It's supposed to turn sharply cooler, so water temperature isn't likely to be above 70, a temperature that is just insane for mid-October, but will it really get down into the low 60's so there's appreciable lake turnover by Sunday? My fish sense tells me I will relate more bad news on this blog that evening, so I'm kind of hoping we schedule for the 28th...if I get that Sunday off.

I guess New Jersey is the new South Carolina. Recent years have been all too warm, and it gets worse. Ninety-degree days in November? Is this really impossible in our future? Here come the tupelo trees and palm fronds. And how many more Category 4 hurricanes will bear down on our coasts in the next 10 years. People care about the economy, right? So why destroy it, time and again, by emitting undo megatons of carbon?

Here it is fall, and I was wondering if the trout wouldn't hit--no one there caught anything while I was present--because it's too warm. I've fished these fall stockers very little over the years, and mostly by fly fishing. I decided to try the salmon egg method on them, the first time I've done this besides back when the trout stocked in the fall were small, and I caught lots of those on three occasions. I was disappointed this morning, but I heard bird song of various species; I saw a bunch of nice trout, and in general I got outdoors and enjoyed the dawn of new day, in spite of the sort of sick feel of inappropriate warmth. Having fished for about 20 minutes, I sped back home to get that coffee pot off the stove, fearing it had...overheated.

No, I was wise. I had taken it off the burner before I left.

As I drove, I thought again of the oddity of people who pursue stocked trout, as I sometimes think about the peculiar social situation, me among it in my own microlight way, and yet when I recall one of my favorite waters from my teenage years, Stony Brook in Mercer County, I always think first of the smallmouth bass, not the trout. (Stocked trout only.) For the most part, I had those bronzebacks--many, many dozens of them--all to myself. I fished with my brother Rick a lot, my brother David some, my friend Steve Rosso, but I best remember outings alone after school and on weekends or over the summer. I used to walk and wade at length and catch bass after bass on three-inch Mister Twister grubs on plain shank size 2 hooks. Strong, lean wild fish. No crowds flocking for them at all. Of course not.

And we know why. The media mentality and the ignorance of people all too beholden to the media, in regards to the actual world they live in, is here to stay. At least for a while yet. By and large, no fishermen knew about the smallmouth bass in Stony Brook. If most freshwater fishermen in New Jersey pursue stocked trout, I can say almost for a certainty that some of them possess but little inkling that fish other than what the state puts in exist, besides some sunfish. You might second guess that and correct me: no, that's the population at large who don't fish. But I've talked to people who know a bass here and there gets caught, but who otherwise have no idea whatsoever of the healthy resident populations existing here in this state. I have been fooled, too, though in a different way, because I was thinking of a mud-bottomed river ecology with regard to the possibility of smallmouth bass in a certain Morris County stream. (I won't get into certain follies from my young years.) Oliver Round put a wager on me regarding this judgement of mine, and later gathered information to contradict my opinion. I also didn't know that stream hosted wild browns upstream, until Oliver showed me the steady fly fishing. There's a whole lot more involved in knowing the real world than what the internet and TV can provide. Newspapers and other media faithfully report on trout stocking, and crowds of people obediently respond, as if this media effect is what fishing is all about.

That's just how any society is. By and large ignorant of the natural world. And we all would well agree--just as well that crowds don't go after the wild fish. They never will.

Besides, if you think posting information like this is detrimental to fish populations, think again. Who has read this far into this post, but few of you. And if you're intelligent enough to have come this far, you're wise to the conservation of these fish anyhow.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Nice Largemouth South Branch Raritan

Killies left over from the time of my "Rough" post, the Island Beach State Park outing my wife and I took on September 16th, have survived very well even without use of my aerator, although three of the largest did die when I was keeping the bucket indoors about two weeks ago. Cooler weather and keeping that bucket on the porch was perfect.

So very late this afternoon I finally went to the South Branch Raritan, to my favorite stretch alone except for our black Lab Sadie, and found the river running very high but not very off-color, visibility a little better than two feet.

I had to check the depths where I often catch bass, the killie rigged with a medium split shot, though I was all but certain nothing was going to hit there, because the current was strong. Two drifts, the split shot clipping bottom, were enough. I aimed a cast downstream to the edge between current and slow water, an edge not very well defined, but the cast veered left to put the killie into the slow water. I let it sink a moment and then began a slow retrieve, feeling a firm pick-up within a couple of seconds, letting the fish take for another two seconds, and then setting the size 6 plain shank hook into a nice fish.

Not only did I forget my new Rapala digital scale; I forgot to set drag to accommodate six-pound test instead of 15-pound braid, just as I forgot last October when Mike Maxwell witnessed a big smallmouth snap my line of the same test. This time the fish didn't threaten a heavy run so fast, and I was on that drag, loosening it.

This fish wasn't nearly as big as the one I lost last year, but it was a nice largemouth, the largest of this species I've caught in any of these small New Jersey rivers, 16 inches, and though there are bigger largemouths in the rivers, you don't very often even come upon small ones. Before I left after sundown, I had caught additionally three regular-size smallmouths of nine to about 10 1/2 inches, all these fish hitting along edges between that heavy current and where it slows against shallow water.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Deep Drop-Offs: October Top to Bottom

Deep Drop-Offs: October Top to Bottom

Lakes and reservoirs with enhanced fisheries offer anglers the possibility of catching multiple species from a single anchored position, thanks to New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and organizations like the Knee Deep Club and Round Valley Trout Association. In October, many steep drop-off’s hold largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch and pickerel among rocks and weeds as shallow as a foot or two, perhaps crappie in mid-column depths, and walleyes, hybrid striped bass, and in some reservoirs, trout, 20 to 45 feet down. Classic grand slam catches of various species take laurels among many angling circles, but it’s possible to do three or four better, if you include channel catfish as factor 8. Sunfish don’t amount to nothing, either, and a variety of colorful species inhabit our waters. If you succeed in lifting a painter’s panoply of all sorts of gamefish over the gunnel, an outing can feel like a dream, fulfilling the sort of action making fishing feel easy for a while. Hitting it just right, especially after mid-October, isn’t all that difficult to do, once you’re clued into the right spots.

Anchor Mid-Point

As a general rule, setting anchor in 15 to 20 feet of water allows you to fish herring weighted by ¾-ounce slip sinkers on bottom with two rods per man, while fishing shallows with the likes of Senkos, spinners, jigs, or nightcrawlers. Perch and sunfish provide plenty of action if you use what my son used to call his “secret weapon.” Under Matt’s influence, I deeply succumbed to using nightcrawlers, contrary to my typical preference for artificials. They teach me a lot about nature’s rewards. When offering a nightcrawler, if a bass awaits nearby, sunnies or perch scatter and let the aggressive predator have the bait. I’ve caught October largemouths on several or more consecutive casts without a tap from panfish. You can also jig 10 to 15-foot depths and score crappies in some situations.

When Round Valley Reservoir fills again, rip-rap will produce. Weight rigs for trout 15 to 30 feet down, and catch smallmouths and largemouths situating among shallow rocks. Merrill Creek Reservoir may offer similar opportunities. Spruce Run Reservoir (northern pike possible) has rocky drops with hybrids possibly on the deep end. Greenwood Lake and Monksville Reservoir have sharp drops, walleyes and bass. Is a musky an impossible factor 9? Of course not.

Finding the spot is everything. If you don’t own a boat, Dow’s Boat Rentals at Lake Hopatcong will accommodate you. If you’re not familiar with the structure of the lake or reservoir you intend to fish, go to NJ Division Fish & Wildlife Lake Survey Maps online, buy the same in book form or purchase a Fishing Guide Map of the lake or reservoir in question. You’ll see deep drop-offs holding fish designated by close contour lines. A fish finder will possibly help you pin-point schools of hybrids or walleye pods, although especially walleyes may hug so close to bottom that they don’t mark on the graph. Chiefly, use the sounder to orient where to anchor and set bait deep.

Deep Drop-Offs and Oxygen

An all-around figure for walleyes and hybrids is about 35 feet deep, but experimentation yields results. By using multiple rods, you can set bait up and down a drop-off from 20 feet to the bottom edge. In my experience, the bottom edge is key, and I like to spread herring apart by 15 yards or so, casting so the sinker drops where I know the slope ends. Don’t worry about getting this exactly right. Experience will teach you, because walleyes and hybrids will take your generous offers, even if they have to swim a few yards from that edge we only suppose they like to follow closely.

By October’s third week, Lake Hopatcong usually isn’t entirely turned over with oxygen re-established in the deepest depths of greater than 40 feet or so. By noticing how deep fish mark on the graph, you get an idea of how far that oxygen has penetrated. Far from cove and shoreline protection, out on the main lake, Nolan’s Point and the Ledge, for examples, take greater wind action and may feature oxygen deeper than other spots. When you first set herring, let them be for 5 or 10 minutes, and then reel back at moderate speed so as not to force them off hooks. See if they’re alive. If so, you’re good to let them bait your quarry a long while. If the spot is new to you, try to determine if bottom is rocky by graph indication or by feeling rocks while retrieving the sinker on bottom. That’s hazardous and you may get snagged, but this will tell you the spot is fishy. Rock is better than mud. And any sort of snag usually means additional cover.

Worthy of mention, a hybrid striped bass revolution has occurred in recent years, many anglers switching from live herring to chicken livers. In my opinion, this is about as close to the definition of revolution fishing can come, since the difference between a super-lively (but delicate) herring, and a piece of dead bait from the innards of a bird is divergent, but the new method, involving chumming with liver cat food, is very productive. For our purposes of anchoring in one spot to access both shallows and depths, chicken livers are problematic, not best right on bottom. You would have to use slip floats, and that is doable, though less so with heavy chop. Part of the beauty, however, of letting a herring do its thing on a 4 or 5-foot leader anchored deep by a slip sinker is simpler focus on fishing. Frequently looking at reel spools with bails open to spot any movement is easier than the demand on attention a bobber inevitably compels. Line either rapidly leaping from the spool (hybrid striper), or slowly unwinding towards the pick-up guide (walleye), may feel more thrilling than noticing the same associated with the drag of a slip float out there.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Pickerel

As mentioned earlier, October largemouth and smallmouth bass often inhabit very shallow depths of as little as 1 or 2 feet. Fifteen feet is about maximum, pickerel sometimes in the mix. Rocky shallows top side of the best drop-offs are great for both bass species this time of year, especially with some weeds associated. Water is cooling quickly and bass like a sharp incline into depths as they begin orientation for the cold water season.

Especially if you can find a large, undercut, flat-topped boulder—cast a jig, weightless Wacky rigged Senko, or a nightcrawler inflated by a worm blower and impaled on a size 6 plain shank hook, weighted by a split shot. Right on top, slowly pulled over the edge so it drops as close to the rock as possible. If any bass is waiting in shadow to ambush something highlighted outside, it will likely pounce. Some lakes have huge boulders with 10 feet of water or more directly in front of them. We’ve caught bass after bass in situations like this.

Walleye, Hybrid and Trout Rigs

Walleye and hybrid rigs are simple: 6-pound test monofilament, size 8 treble hook through a herring’s nostrils, 4- or 5-foot leader of same test tied to a small barrel swivel, ¾-ounce steel egg sinker allowed to slip on the mainline. Whether a rod is fast action, slow action, moderate, 5 feet or 7 feet, this matters little, though you will get a longer cast with a longer rod and better accuracy from shorter. We use medium power. Set the herring; let it swim wildly on the leader. Tangles happen less often than not, but if you want to spend the money, fluorocarbon mainline sinks and gets out of the way of that herring. Braid line does tangle much easier than monofilament or fluorocarbon. I don't recommend use of braid for this kind of fishing.

For trout, use single shank size 6 hooks, same rig otherwise, although leaders as long as 10 feet by use of longer rods may prove effective on suspending trout. Marshmallow and mealworms, Power Bait and shiners produce.

Don’t wait to set the hook, once you notice line moving. Line passing through an egg sinker can get caught around an obstruction or gut hook, if you don’t tighten up and set immediately. The herring wear each treble hook like a crown. Single shank hooks placed through nostrils turn awkwardly against the bait’s head. Usually, walleyes or hybrid stripers get hooked near the outside of the mouth, but have a pair of plyers or a hemostat handy for a walleye that gets hooked in the back of the mouth.

High Winds and Interesting Results

If you double anchor, you can beat wind swinging the boat side to side. We simply use a single 10-pound mushroom anchor. If windy, a long length of rope allows the anchor hold. Even with the boat moving left and right, the herring lines manage not to tangle, but for some, this might feel nerve wracking.

Some of our best catches have accompanied high winds. Motoring from one spot to another, we’ve noticed everyone else fishing out of the blow. Asking them about catches, unhappy reports came. Gamefish like a lot of commotion in the fall, rough surface overhead just right. Brave it, and you might do especially well.

Bass and pickerel get caught on crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and traditional plastic worms in addition to jigs, Senkos or nightcrawlers, possible choices too many to mention, but my son and I, friends besides, like keeping it simple. Whether you fish lures or nightcrawlers, catching bass and pickerel, perch, sunfish, and crappie while keeping an eye on lines out for deep denizens makes fishing more interesting, particularly when a good-size bass rivals big walleyes and hybrids down below. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Work Hard, Fish Hard

Caught in a quandary between the job I hold, and possibly a new opportunity, I take the chance to reflect just a little as this pertains to fishing. At present, a company in Summit wants me to take an online interview involving webcam use, so I tried a practice question and felt appalled at speaking into a screen. If they allowed written response, you might agree I might do well, but my point would be that even though I would be advantaged, because practiced at words on a screen, I would be able to follow through with the promise. I let this interview go, I'm not doing it, because even though I might not interview in person as well as some do, I've done it before and can do it now, even if my cynicism has increased greatly facing such scrutiny since I was younger and more sincere.

That might read: Bruce doesn't really want a new job. And perhaps this is true. When Oliver and I waded Mulhockaway Creek Friday morning, I noticed that my stamina and energy on a streambed is better, now that I'm almost 58, than it was three and five years ago. A couple of North Branch Raritan posts relate my self-doubt as I had aged, feeling the stress of exertion as I walked and waded. Three years ago, I lost about 60 pounds, but this was just the beginning. Actually, I went from 266 all the way down to 192 last summer, now up to 210. (Last summer I was on a lower dose of a certain medication.) At 210, I'm not terribly overweight, over six feet tall, but now its the exercise I get on the job I notice saliently. Upper body musculature has returned. I carry heavy stuff. I feel muscle in my upper back and deltoid region working as I carry out tasks during the day. I walk here and there throughout the supermarket gathering items to prep and from the kitchen. I'm always on my feet.

The difference is big. I remember the shape Affinity left me in after sitting in a car most of the day for about 13 years. At the country club, I sat too. That left me in terrible shape to take on the supermarket, and I pushed like all hell. Now it all goes a lot easier. A major stumbling block for me, considering a new job with those regular hours, increased vacation time, holidays off, and maybe interaction with more intelligent people--important to me--is the loss of exercise. If I am to take a mailroom job, I'll be on my feet some of the time. These jobs typically require ability to lift 50 pounds, and I see lifting as one of the opportunities, not a drawback. But the customer service I see as a possibility will require even more sitting.

I'm not certain, either, that a corporate environment will offer that intelligence I seek. Where I used to work, it took more than 10 years before I became friends with the Security Officer, an intelligent man about 10 years younger than me. We share the photography passion and still connect often on Facebook. It's true that I settled into connections with people from all sorts of departments and branches sooner than that, relating perfectly well with people on all status levels, and by the time I got laid off, I had developed into a dignified older man who could have taken on responsibility at a much higher level than I occupied, but not only is convincing anyone else without paperwork--a suitable degree--all but out of the question...I did try to get a position with Business Development...the cultural atmosphere today, as it was three years ago, maybe not as badly then, is distracted and uncertain, cynical and indifferent, which is not to say conversations characterized by verve and focus never happened where I worked, they happened often, but to say that the bottom line is broken everywhere. Trust at the fundamental level of competence is missing. Without this, the balance sheet itself is a blur.

Companies of all sorts depend first and foremost on the people who comprise them. Without a firm gut--I'm always writing about my fish sense--the bottom line ultimately cannot hold.

For a large part, I can't complain about my customers at the supermarket. My boss, who I work with a couple of hours each day, suddenly treats me with kindness, as if the spirit has informed him I might go elsewhere. What the specialty counter would do without me, I don't like to consider, because it would be awful to leave it in the lurch just as my boss finally seems to realize I do the work, do it well, and am not a bad guy. I'm friends with a man in seafood who has the best workingman's ethic I've ever come upon. Many other people there I like, and yet anyone who reads my blog can tell I should be doing better than wage work, corporate office or not. That's a story too long to relate, one I've struggled to understand for decades, enough to know that I will die knowing I could spend many lifetimes and still not grasp the answer altogether. (The post I will link to explains a little.) Suffice it to say that I live the writer's life. By and large, writers hold day jobs and appreciate the privilege of getting published when and where they can.

More vacation time, weekends off, holidays off, would advantage my time to fish and with friends, but I was particularly impressed with my wading performance Friday. I used to think 60 was old age. I wondered if I could still wade streams in my mid-60's. My guess, especially if I stay in the position I'm in now--I should be able at 70 or older. Work hard, play hard.

I've gone into edit function to add a remark. Many years ago, Bob Marley wrote that one day the bottom will drop out. Perhaps I'm profoundly old school and just don't get it, as if today's man is doing just fine, thank you--and we will pass on you and hire a young guy. But biologically, it's a fact that a diaphragm supports the lungs and deepest speech, just as the bottom of the gut has neural connections involved with intuition and certain judgment. Perhaps when the bottom drops out, the men of the mind will be needed again, as Ray Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451. I just hope the nuclear power plants are prepared to shut down without melting down and killing all of us, if this becomes essential to survival.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fly Fishing Mulhockaway Creek

Down and immediately around the corner, Mulhockaway Creek empties into Spruce Run Reservoir.

I phoned Oliver Round Thursday afternoon about the possibility of high water; we decided we would arrive at the Mulhockaway Friday morning just after first light as planned, hoping the water would come down enough for any trout to see our flies. As the morning turned out, I got there right at first light, shortly after 6:00 a.m., and enjoyed writing in the notebook I keep in my car until Oliver's arrival 25 minutes later. He had ventured the idea of us bringing spinning rods and spinners, just in case the hole near the reservoir we read about were to be fishable. I told him that flood events like this result in browns running. Whether or not they move into the creek prior to spawning this early in the fall, I don't know. My feeling is that it doesn't happen until about November. A number of really big brown trout--supposedly born and bred in this creek--have been caught in the reservoir during recent years, as big as 10 pounds.

We found the creek running high but pretty clear, visibility better than two feet. This is our first time fishing here, and we didn't expect to find the creek as large as it is. I felt very pleased at our discovering a number of deep holes, and fairly near the tailout of one them as we quickly progressed downstream, I caught a nine-inch rainbow trout while fishing a beadhead Wooly Bugger/#16 beadhead Pheasant Tail dropper arrangement under a strike indicator. That must be a holdover from spring stocking, unless wild browns get all the word and rainbows reproduce, too, silently overlooked. Why rainbows reproduce in some New Jersey wild trout streams, but not others, I don't understand.

We had to get to the reservoir quickly, because I had to be at work at 1:00 pm. Rather than getting to the reservoir itself, we fished about a hundred yards of widened slow water, most of this shallow, but down closer to the reservoir itself, it does deepen. On the way down to position himself to fly cast this deeper water, something pulled on Oliver's Wooly Bugger. I tried a Mepp's spinner in that deeper water, just to be sure.

On the way back up, we hit the holes, but took no strikes in return. The Mulhockaway is widely known for its wild browns, but I wasn't surprised they weren't evident to us, not after some experience these past five years fishing them here and there. But Oliver and I--more than five years ago--have caught them elsewhere. I had to remind him of one occasion when we did pretty well, and now another, on the North Branch Raritan headwaters, comes to mind. We caught a few there, too, and that's not doing badly in New Jersey.

Friday, September 28, 2018

She's Thinking of an Ice Season Ahead

With a low turnout for Knee Deeps Hybrid Striped Bass Contest, the fish did not cooperate as well. Lots of smaller fish, and only 4 making the board. Jack Dziduch, with a 4 lb 4oz Hybrid took 1st place. Second went to Ryan Gilfillan with a 4 pounder, Tom Sarnacki took 3rd with a 2 lb 12 oz, and 4th place went to Lou Marcucci with a 2 lb 5 oz Hybrid.  Hopefully a better turnout  with contestants and fish for next year !!!  The last contest of the year will be for walleye on Oct 6th from 5AM until noon on Sunday  Oct 7th. We will be open early for the contest weekend.  With the five foot drawdown being done this year, there will be a lake wide cleanup being held on Nov 3rd. If you are interested in helping remove debris from the lake, please check out The Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s website for more info. Even an hour of your time would be greatly appreciated…Several walleye have made their way to the scales this week in the 4 pound range, along with pickerel  some nice crappies, and lots of white perch.  Also being weighed in was a nice smallmouth at 3 lb 4 oz, caught by Robert Glinka. We will remain open until November sometime with boat rentals, and are always stocked with bait & tackle. Hoping for a good ice season...

Laurie Murphy

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Number of Really Big Smallmouths this Year

Another four-pound, eight-ounce smallmouth. Jealous. Laurie Murphy's report:

Just a reminder that The Knee Deep Club’s  Hybrid Striped Bass contest is  being held this weekend Sept. 22nd & 23rd. Stripers here have been hitting on chicken livers and herring. We have both available here at the shop and will be open at 5 AM for the contest. Entries are accepted up until 8 AM on Saturday. Gary Gurevich of Randolph NJ, fished with live bait and herring and had a variety of fish that kept him busy for most of the day. Jake Cerami, along with his friend Trevor Nilesen, caught pickerel and bass on their outing, the largest being 3 lbs 5oz. Jack Dziduch, fishing with his son casting small jigs and Rapala rippin raps, landed his 4 lb 8z smallmouth out of shallow water. Maquire Bruce - Lockhart (age 9) , landed a smallmouth also, weighing in around 3 pounds.  Although the lake drawdown begins this coming week, we will still have boats available thru November sometime, depending on the weather. We’ll be stocked up with plenty of Rapala ice jigs for the fall jigging season. We also have new Bomber colors in stock. Have a great week...

Monday, September 17, 2018


Island Beach State Park with my wife yesterday was a nice time, but instead of fishing much, we relaxed and talked and I read a story about trout fishing a little unnamed river in the Rockies, one of many stories collected in The Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told, edited by Lamar Underwood, published by Lyon's Press. We made our usual stop at Murphy's Hook House for a bucketful of killies, and then soon after buying some burgers to take into the park, found the beach crowded, the surf pretty rough. I cast killies weighted by a 3/4-ounce steel slip sinker using my seven-foot Speed Stick, the rig holding bottom OK, but nothing biting. Towards sunset I tried again, finding the surf had calmed down considerably, and soon watching the guy next to me reel in a foot-long blue. I had just lost a killie to the tell-tale tapping of a snapper blue, only the head remaining. The other guy used peanut bunker heavily weighted.

I gave that better surf a good try, but never got another hit.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Some Big Fish Brought in from Hopatcong

Laurie Murphy:

Finally, with some cooler water temps after all the rain, lots of nice fish are starting to be caught. Hybrid Stripers are starting to hit on liver, fishing off of Chestnut Point, with fish in the 4 to 6 pound fish. Still using herring tho, Jim Welsh made his way to the scales with a Hybrid weighing 9 lbs 4 oz,  and several walleye in the 3 and 4 pound range, also catching lots of crappie, catfish and white perch. Lou Marcucci had a mixed bag of fish, his largest, a walleye weighing 6 lb 2 oz. Jack Dziduch, casting a small Rapala rippin rap, caught his 4 lb 8 oz smallmouth in shallower water.  We are open 7 days a week, from 6 AM to 6:30 PM. With the lake drawdown beginning at the end of the month, we will still have boats in the water until Nov sometime. We are well stocked with whatever you need to fish.  Have a great week...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Latest on RVR Project

Work on the Round Valley Reservoir dams scheduled to begin this summer is delayed until October. Current water level will be maintained for now. Here's a link to the project update:


Friday, September 7, 2018

If You are On Fish--It Works

So Fred and I managed to get out and fish, despite worries that schedules would not coincide. When we learned they would, Fred suggested Spruce Run Reservoir as a possible destination. I emailed him about the "23- to 25-inch largemouth bass" Phillipe Rochat lost back near the power lines earlier this summer. When we got to the area, I didn't feel the mystical aura as Phillipe's story had impressed me, but the clouds were keeping the newly risen sun in check, the air was heavy but not too warm, and everything about our situation resolved itself in a certain sum I felt comfortable with: Summer fishing was definitely not over, no sign of transition to fall as of this morning.

Fred began fishing a Senko; I fished a 3/8th-ounce Rebel Pop-R. Using the electric, we rounded a bend into a cove (I checked the name of that cove and depths on a map, but don't have that map handy now), and just as I was beginning to feel that for whatever reason my plug was ineffective despite calm surface, Fred hooked and caught his first bass, weighing it by use of his Berkeley grip scale at one pound, 10 ounces. I started casting my Chompers weightless on the five-and-a-half-foot St. Croix.

We came upon evidence of some wood in the water, some of that wood breaking surface, and I winged a cast to it, missing my opportunity to knock wood by about three or four inches. Line began moving off to the left, I reeled to gather slack and set the hook. Nice bass, hooked in about four feet of water. I asked Fred if his scale is accurate, telling him I have a Rapala scale. I didn't think to mention that I intend to check the accuracy against a five-pound bag of sugar or the like. It was big-headed skinny bass, not quite 18 inches, perhaps, but definitely close to that length if not that long, and the scale put the fish at two pounds, 13 ounces. The fish had a big gaping mouth and I would have thought it weighed three pounds, but now I remind myself that I caught a 19-incher a couple of summers ago I felt convinced would weigh no more than three pounds. After catching the fat 23 1/4-inch largemouth at Merrill Creek Reservoir in June, I want to keep my new scale handy, so long as it does weigh accurately. By the length and girth conversion tables I've read, my guess about that fishes' weight seems spot on. Seven-and-a-half pounds. But while talking to Mike Maxwell shortly after I made the catch, and getting the opinion from elsewhere that the fish might have been pushing eight, I said, "I don't want to catch an eight-pound bass and not know I caught it!" I'm satisfied with believing it wasn't that big, but have my scale hereon.

We continued to the back of the cove and up the other side and on back towards Mulhockaway Creek. Fred missed two or three hits and caught a smallish bass. Soon he caught another nice one I photographed. Later, we tried another cove and before we got discouraged by too-shallow water, I had caught a smallmouth on my first cast, Fred pointing out that we cast towards the bank from two-foot depths under the boat. I stuck my rod tip to bottom, finding it gravelly, which helps a little to explain the catch.

Somehow or other, this morning out seemed to go by fast. We had to use the facilities in the launch area after about four hours of fishing, and just as someone else was getting off the reservoir with two five-pound hybrid bass, he offered us his leftover herring, four of them, and told us where to try. My fish sense really woke up where some rocks protruded from shore and a sort of hole like a basin 15 feet deep existed only 20 or 30 yards from shore. By other accounts I got before Fred and I went out, the hybrids are out suspended over main lake depths, but I felt that for whatever reason, fish were in pretty close here. Fred still has to figure out how to read fish on his graph, but the fish alarm was going off, and though we weren't sure what tripped it off, the underlying resonance of that fish sense in my brain rather than a mere electronic unit made this spot interesting to me. It's not that I capitulate to certain belief when I feel this way; I just let it be for whatever and however it is.

Guys on this reservoir are really going whole-hog when it comes to equipment, spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on lead-core line tackle and the like, but I like my simple lake Hopatcong tactic: A size 10 treble hook hooked through the herring's nostrils with no other attachments to the line. No weight, nothing. Just cast the herring out and let it swim. Obviously, you have to be on fish for this work, and if you are on fish--it works.

It fought like a hybrid. I lost it almost boatside but never saw the fish. It was no crappie. It could have been a smallmouth, I guess. It could have weighed two, maybe two-and-a-half pounds. Not a big hybrid, but we left the reservoir with me feeling that if we had a bucket full of herring, maybe we would have done very well.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

My Facebook Friend is Still Typing

Awoke early this morning and drove my son and his mother to the train station, where they got onboard, heading for Boston where Matt is now a Sophomore at Boston University. So as it concerns us, and I mean readers included, the summer of 2018 has come to a finish line, though this doesn't mean the summer fishing is quite over yet altogether, but now I turn to friends to fish. I sent a number of emails out over the past couple of days. Fred's already responded, as has Jorge, and then Fred followed up on a reply, so unexpectedly, it looks like we're on for Friday. Fred and I have been all but totally jinxed for time off coincided, so I was planning on a solo venture to a favorite South Branch spot, either at first light or near sunset Friday, the vision of that 17-incher throwing the topwater plug back in June as compelling as life itself. So perhaps I should make the effort to get up before work someday and give that bass another offer.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing Fred and possibly a nice bass or two. (I expect to hear from Lenny about this on Monday.)

A friend has been typing a comment on my Facebook page for at least the last 20 minutes. I don't expect to reply as long, lol. I would type for hours this post, because I could easily say as much, but tonight I would have preferred my spiel to issue over beers with a friend. Anyway, the less a blog is a lonely and isolated venture of one individual, the better, because the web represents the world community, and though no community can possibly exist, except for the individual (that's what's written on Soren Kierkegaard's tombstone, "the individual," but if you don't know who he is, he expected as much), no individual exists without others, either; elementary, and yet maybe we happen to stare into screens at the loss of opportunity...to connect, but it will be real good to hear from Lenny by staring into mine.

The point is, I don't write and post photos here as an egomaniac or boast. I use my name in the blog's title, but I've never believed a name is foul language. Lenny's disagreement on this point is a jest invited every time, and it ramps up the share numbers, because without a little wrangling between readers, we're only wrangling with fish, and they're dumb compared to us.

My Facebook friend is still typing. It's unbelievable.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Hosted by Musconetcong Watershed Association

Press release:

Photo care of MWA

Contact: Karen Doerfer, Communications Coordinator, Musconetcong Watershed Association, karen@musconetcong.org, (908) 537-7060


The Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes to Hackettstown, NJ: Join the Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) when they host the Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour sponsored by National Park Service at Centenary University on Sunday, September 9th from 10 am to 2 pm.  This year, the tour celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 

Northwestern New Jersey has three National Wild and Scenic Rivers: the Musconetcong, the Lower Delaware (Harmony Township to Trenton), and the Middle Delaware (Delaware Water Gap National Park).  A panel of speakers will discuss river conservation issues and recreational opportunities on these rivers.

Featured at the tour event at Centenary, is the film River Connections.  This film interviews local residents and MWA Executive Director Alan Hunt discussing the benefits of the Musconetcong’s most recent dam removal and the return of the American shad to the River.  The festival is a natural extension of the MWA’s work to inspire people to protect and conserve the river, its watershed, and the region’s cultural and historic resources. 

“This is the first time the Wild and Scenic Film Festival is coming to our region.  We are proud to have a film featured in it and that we are able to offer free admission through the generosity of sponsor,” said Hunt. “We want to inspire people to visit and protect these national treasures that are right in our backyard – that is what the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is all about.”

The Musconetcong River is a Partnership Wild & Scenic River and is managed by local governments and non-government organizations through the Musconetcong River Management Council.  MWA serves on this Council and was instrumental in supporting Congress’s 2006 designation of the Musconetcong as a National Wild and Scenic River. 

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a collection of films from the annual festival held the third week of January in Nevada City, CA which is now in its 16th year!  Wild & Scenic focuses on films which speak to the environmental concerns and celebrations of our planet.

“Films featured at Wild & Scenic showcase frontline activism and stunning cinematography,” says On Tour Manager, Johan Ehde. “Our changing Earth is at the forefront of conversations nationally and globally.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative that individuals propel the groundswell of the environmental movement.  Collectively, we CAN make a difference!”

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival was started by the watershed advocacy group, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) in 2003.  The festival’s namesake is in celebration of SYRCL’s landmark victory to receive “Wild & Scenic” status for 39 miles of the South Yuba River in 1999.  The 5-day event features over 150 award-winning films and welcomes over 100 guest speakers, celebrities, and activists who bring a human face to the environmental movement.  The home festival kicks-off the international tour to over 170 communities around the globe, allowing SYRCL to share their success as an environmental group with other organizations.  The festival is building a network of grassroots organizations connected by a common goal of using film to inspire activism.  With the support of National Partners:  Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, CLIF Bar, EarthJustice, Klean Kanteen, Peak Design, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the festival can reach an even larger audience.

The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) 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.


Date and Time:  Doors open at 10 am and shows start at 11 am

Venue Name and Address: Centenary University, Sitnik Theature, 400 Jefferson St, Hackettstown, NJ 07840

Ticket Prices: FREE! But please register here: https://goo.gl/NrwcgE