Friday, March 9, 2018


Spotted Salamander

Early in the spring of 2011, informed by New Jersey Audubon Society, I drove at night into Warren County somewhere near Ghost Lake to meet NJ Division Fish & Wildlife biologist Kris Schantz and fellow protectors of spotted and blue spotted salamanders, crossing the road on their mating treks. It doesn't happen everywhere. Only certain places with the right sort of wetland and habitat otherwise, and NJDFW has this all mapped out.

I was interested in writing an article I never got around to doing, and I also had hopes that my son would join the volunteer timber rattlesnake team she supervises after he turned 16, though by now, seven years later, I'm not very clear on what they do. Matt's interests shifted to math, physics, and politics, though he kept on fishing (and even goes by himself or with friends sometimes).

Actually, Matt and I discovered a number of salamander species, including spotted, at Swartswood State Park in 2007, I believe it was; that venture by no specific involvement with or information from NJ Audubon. Summertime. They were under rocks. In rotten wood humus.

I got interested as Matt did, too, but we never got nearly so involved as was possible. Recently, on February 25th, I got a press release notice from Kathleen Sandt of the Delaware Watergap National Recreation Area, informing us that River Road between park headquarters and Hialeah Picnic Area will be closed some nights over the next few weeks so "amphibians" can cross. Those mild (50's) rainy nights. Primarily the amphibians are two, maybe three, salamander species. I think less common Jefferson salamanders, also. But we found some frogs and toads, a few, that night seven years ago.

And then I got a notice about some Park road closures after the recent snowstorm. We had 80 degrees, what was it, three weeks ago?   

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

News from Theodore Roosevelt's Inspiration

I get Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership articles sent to my inbox, and today's is worth sharing a little about. I'll leave the link at the end of what I have to say. Surprises me that the Bureau of Economic Analysis is tracking the outdoor sector of the economy for the first time, but the results aren't surprising to me: about two percent of the gross domestic product. More than 800 billion dollars is a lot of money, but I wouldn't expect any less of a nation that values its land and water as much as we do. It's a growing figure. The economy in general grew 2.8 percent in 2016, while the outdoor economy grew 3.8 percent.

Now what about the Trump Administration's response? Public lands continue to be a target, agencies managing the 640 million acres (which doesn't seem all that many) taking budget cuts. The infrastructure is a wreck, and little is getting done to maintain and improve it. According to TRCP, the President's infrastructure proposal is contingent upon expanding industrialization of public lands. If this land is my land and your land, our President seems glaringly un-American. To be frank with you, I think of the bodacious streamer fly I cast once into the Salmon River back in November 2015. Whatever possessed me to try it, and it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to guess what, I realized before I finished stripping it back the bad idea. It has a big fat red head, black body, and busy black marabou tail like a woman's dress. What was the communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union but a government directing industrialization?

I will always know that isn't my America.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Lot of Trout in the River but the Water Strong

Mike came over this morning to diagnose something wrong with Matt's car and replace clips on my trolling motor. The connections to the marine battery I wasn't perfectly clear about. Now Mike has work tomorrow. He phoned Autozone in Somerset to confirm rear brake parts availability, addressing the guy by first name, and then Matt and I rode over to buy rotors and pads. Mike will earn $60.00 installing them, but we get a $20.00 discount. If anyone else needs mechanical work done, Mike's good at it, and the price is right. Just contact me and I'll pass the information on.

Had been thinking of going to Tilcon Lake with the squareback canoe, but my job continues to take its toll. After getting in last night, I felt like going to bed, as if just doing the job and then eating and sleeping would be a sufficient life, but I think I can promise you I won't descend to that level. I never did work up anticipation carrying us on to Tilcon, which would have involved lifting that hundred-pound canoe and transporting it by a rather unstable dolly a long way from the car to the lake. More selection and organization of equipment, too, than fly fishing the South Branch Raritan required. Come to think of it, the bucket of live shiners might have been a dicey addition to the equation, considering that dolly jaunt.

I might have had us let jigs sink 30 to 35 feet at the end of at least one point. And we definitely would have trolled Phoebes on a slow motor setting. Salmon would have been an interesting pursuit this time of year. But otherwise, shiners, why not? I just wanted us to weight lines with 3/4-ounce slip sinkers and dangle shiners over the canoe side, trying depths from about 10 to 30 feet down. Tilcon is weedy near the shorelines and on flats and edging them where they extend outward. Submerged islands rise, also, but this is the time of year featuring the least weed mass. It still presents way too much of a mess to fish by retrieving lures without weedless rigging, but it's thin enough to lower shiners in-between those shafts of vegetation as tall as 20 feet, clearly visible through windowpane summer surface. Tilcon has some of the clearest water in the state. It would be interesting to see how weeds appear now, but with today's wind, we wouldn't be able to anyway. I'm sure we would have at least caught pickerel, though.

We got to the big hole in Califon early this afternoon, and soon I realized there was no way our zebra midge (on Matt's line), and pheasant tail nymph on mine was getting at the bottom. The current was too fast and strong after Thursday and Friday's nor'easter, although the water had cleared enough for trout to see the offerings. So we backtracked to Shannon's Fly Shop, and I bought tungsten putty to fix on our tippets, solving the problem, but although the football strike indicators dipped underwater on frequent occasion, I'm sure the nymphs caught bottom each time.

There's a lot of trout in the river, thanks to the state's stocking them in the fall, and Shannon's Fly Shop doing the same more recently. We were told fishing had been good before the storm. We did fish a deep fast run with a nice seam separating from fast water a turbulent pool, featured in the photograph above, although the seam and slower water isn't too visible in the image. I did notice that a thin--maybe six inches--and fluctuating strip right at the edge seemed to be slow water. I got my nymph there more and less, but the line and the float carried the nymph along pretty fast anyhow. We never found any really slow water otherwise, where trout might lie. I waded above the sluice, through a calm-surfaced stretch maybe deeper than four feet, current moving steadily. That's where I experienced my best moment of peace, a bird of some sort calling assertively in the distance as sun got pretty low.

It was kind of an odd day, not quite real for me until after visiting Shannon's, where we had a short chat with the guy (forget his name), and then after working our wrists awhile, because the job stress six days a week is an intense obstacle course that begins to feel like reality. Came to the river and what I was doing seemed quaint. I even wondered if my blog posts exist out there in cyberspace without relevance, though I know better in spite of the warp on my mind.

It would be laughable to assume a supermarket's operations are the extent of reality.

How much better it was driving for the credit union, but I don't fail to grasp that working very hard for little pay teaches me not only how hard it can be to earn what's needed; it teaches me a lot about hard work on the broad social scale supporting such privilege as fly fishing.