Monday, December 31, 2012

Round Valley Reservoir Personality Variations

Now it feels and looks like winter. But the arctic air mass will fade away by the weekend. I guess it's possible a couple of inches of ice will lure a few ice anglers out by then, certainly not here on Round Valley Reservoir. Don't even try elsewhere, I suppose, unless you're one of the experienced willing to crawl, spreading out their weight.

Round Valley's a different place every time I visit, or the same place but the personality has so many variations that each of 365 days is a new facet, ongoing, so that December 31st of any given year is unlike any December 31st past or to come. But what lacks is development. It's just shape shifting, not goal-directed actualization as is possible to a human being. Nevertheless, I could almost play Annie Dillard in the way she experienced Tinker Creek and get into all sorts of subtleties. I pass on the invitation because I'd rather walk on the gravel, breathe the air, put out a line, take some photographs, and read my book for the bulk of the time or write in a notebook on other ideas. But the wonder of the place certainly lights up my brain.

Caught a rainbow over 15 inches today. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ice Fishing with Tip-Ups and Jigging; First Ice, Best Ice: Reaction Strikes in Bright Light


Here's a piece on ice fishing published in The Fisherman last season. Lakes mentioned are in New Jersey.
First Ice, Best Ice

Reaction Strikes for Tip-Ups and Jigging



First ice, best ice—this is what so many descriptions of early ice fishing amount to for mysterious reasons that no one knows for certain, me included, although have an idea. It’s not a theory separated from practical success on “black ice,” ice newly formed, free of any snow or milky-white false layer. It’s an idea that works.


Very many years ago—I was 16—an older mentor and I had December ice in Princeton Township. We got out two or three times on a 4 acre pond for phenomenal largemouth fishing before snow covered clear ice—and the number of flags decreased by a ratio of 10:1. Curious the first day, but one or two more days of that contrast got us thinking hard.


We reviewed the conditions: the first days had been cloudless, the ice clear, water clear, and most interestingly, a number of bass had taken shiners, run off about five yards of line, and dropped them. We were sure these were not sunfish hitting large shiners, and we never had this happen on snow covered ice. Largemouths normally take a shiner under ice because they mean it, and they will strip a tip-up spool if you let them.


Why Cold Front Conditions are Best


I don’t remember which one of us had the illumination, but the idea seemed certain since the bass had been hitting shiners with highly reflective scales in brilliant sunlight through clear ice in very clear, fairly shallow (8 to 10 feet) water. Reaction strikes. Just like a bass slamming a high speed crankbait on a tough day in the summer. I wanted to believe this is true, but it’s a good supposition. You can count on it to frame your approach in December. By whatever cause, or combination of causes, bass and other gamefish tend to hit better just as the season starts. It may seem counterintuitive to pick a cloudless day and clear water shallows to go after largemouths, but these conditions tend to be best for black ice. It’s a good idea to pick a shallow lake like Musconetcong, Budd Lake, a pond with clear water, or otherwise a shallow, weedy flat like Hopatcong’s State Park area, and take along jigging rods with silvery spoons as well. Standing directly over fish on clear ice jigging might spook them, so if water in the five foot range is very clear, rely especially on tip-ups.


Fascination & Reaction


I don’t believe the classic cold front condition does the opposite of summer and turns bass on during winter. It’s clear to me that if a bass takes a shiner and drops it, the interest wasn’t to feed. Bass obviously feed less in winter; being cold blooded, they metabolically require less. And with high pressure and intense light, my guess is that in shallow habitat, like State Park, they tend to go into what weeds remain. In our relatively shallow Princeton Township pond, we fished the deepest water, over which we could begin to make out the bottom we set shiners a foot above. But bass travel about a pond even during winter. That’s plain to see as a tip-up spool spins. And a shiner flashing before them as they approach, reflecting abundant light, fascinates and incites them to strike.


It isn’t that under snow covered ice, bass, pickerel, or other gamefish have no way of sensing a shiner. It’s very dark under thick, snow covered ice, especially with an opaque false layer. But fishes’ lateral lines are extremely sensitive and allow them to directly target prey in darkness. So I ask how much sight has to do with arousing a strike even when fish are not actively feeding. It’s as if they are mesmerized by the sight of that baitfish emitting light from those scales—which normally serve as protection for schooling shiners, serving to confuse predators by so many random flashes of light. But here’s a single shiner sending a beacon that now serves the opposite of nature’s intention. The bass hits.


Large Shiners, Small Hooks


Use large, or even extra-large shiners if you can get them, for the obvious reason. The bigger the bait, the more it will swim and turn in the light, and the more light its scales will reflect. I’ve seen ice fishermen impale shiners on what looked to me like 2/0 hooks---those shiners pretty much stayed in place, straitjacketed by thickness and weight of metal. It’s not impossible to catch a fish that way. (Northern pike will hit dead bait in winter.) But it’s much less likely without active flashes. Size six straight shank, or circle hooks, are all you need. Go with “light wire” and play out a big fish. If you are targeting muskies, you will need to refer to other techniques, but for bass, pickerel, and northern pike—go light and let shiners work for you. Step light, too. Don’t come stomping to a tip-up. Especially under these conditions when fish are skittish, bait gets dropped.




Unless you are well seasoned ice fishing, 5 inches of clear, hard ice is a wise rule. Why? Ice thickness is not uniform on New Jersey lakes. We all have access to plenty information that will tell us a 250 pound man can stand safely on 3 inches of ice, but 3 inch thickness along shore does not mean it exists further out, perhaps an inch or two does.  Who wants to be a total greenhorn at this, poking about a frozen lake with a split bar to test hardwater that may kill him in a moment or two? If ice is relatively thin, you are an enthusiastic beginner, and snow is coming tomorrow—take a little advice. Don’t take this so seriously. Find a guide or wait until later in the season when ice is very thick and safe, get used to ice fishing, and at some other, safe opportunity try for reaction strikes. Someone I knew in high school died an awful death as a result of ice fishing—to fall through is serious.


Every year people across the northern tier of the nation die falling through, and I wonder what percentage could have lived if they simply wore a pair of ice spikes around their necks. By whatever cause, if you go though, fasten your fists around the grips, dig the spikes into ice, pull yourself out, and crawl away to thick ice. Otherwise, unless you can at least use your car keys to similar purpose (not as sure), try climbing out of ice water onto ice with wet hands. It may not be impossible, but certainly is unlikely. A throw rope that your fishing partner could toss to you would reduce your amount of crawling effort in such an extreme situation.


Ice fishing comprises some of the most rewarding outings I have all year. I love it when dawn greets zero degrees, and welcome colder to see even more steam rise from holes. Get out, brave a new world! And don’t doubt it—be safe.







Thursday, December 27, 2012

All the Analogies Fall Short: Round Valley Reservoir Trout Attempt

Tried at the launch. Had stopped at Efinger Sporting Goods, out of mealworms until Wednesday. So I put three small marshmallows on a size 1 hook. I imagine a trout would take marshmallows without the mealworm. Who knows?

It was worth it. Most of the hour, I sat in the car and wrote in a notebook. But just marching over to the dock, casting, crunching stones and gravel back to the car, getting out to check on the rod, breathing cold air, snapping a couple of photos and feeling the breeze was enough to clean out my interior and raise my mood. By turns, my moods are not stable like a boat, but wild like a bird of prey rises, dives, and grasps with intent that won't let go. Actually, there's nothing wilder in existence than a man's interior life. All the analogies fall short of this one. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Black is Best Ice Fishing

Here's a piece on what is typically the best sort of ice fishing opportunity I know of, written for my biweekly column with Recorder Newspapers just over a year ago. The only ice fishing I heard of last winter was two weekdays with ice barely more than two inches thick. Guys slithered out onto Budd Lake on their bellies, weilding hatchets to cut holes. This year, my prediction is that we will have safe ice sometime in January, when it will get colder rather than remaining like early spring all winter.

Black Ice is Best


          Another mild week after skim ice formed on ponds two consecutive cold mornings recently. Even that didn’t move my conviction that this is a mild winter. Typically we get about two months of ice thickening to at least a foot, sometimes twice this in northern, high elevations of the New Jersey. In 2008 we had no more than two weeks of marginally safe ice; to get no safe ice over winter’s course is very rare.

          For any first timers at ice fishing, paying heed to safety is a life requirement. I never recommend any newcomer go out on ice fewer than five inches thick—clear, hard ice, not refrozen. No one really wants to go out on a deep lake for the first time, poking ahead of himself nervously with a splitting bar, and no adequate knowledge about whether or not the ice he stands on will give way to water that would kill him in 10 minutes. Get a guide to show you how for as long as it takes until you feel comfortable and are knowledgable out there. It’s probably a foregone conclusion of your own that if you want to try this, you should find someone reliable to introduce you to it. Joining the Knee Deep Club of Lake Hopatcong may suffice.

          The larger lakes freeze unevenly. Well inside a cove—where pickerel and perch especially are caught—the ice may be quite safe. But walk towards the mouth of that cove, where winds have kept water open until it froze an inch the night before, and you’ll go through. Always, no matter how safe the ice, wear a pair of ice spikes available at many sporting goods shops. If you do go through, as unlikely as this is, the points can be jammed into ice so you can pull yourself out, then belly squirm away from the thin area.

          In my experience, there’s really no other outdoor pursuit like ice fishing. I have, many times, broken the thin ice of Barnegat Bay as I ploughed in bodily, wearing layered wetsuits for commercial clamming. Once I worked in the bay for five hours beginning at dawn with 10 degrees Fahrenheit and snow, ending at 17 degrees, 45 mph winds, and the wind 29 below, at least that’s the figure I heard on the radio. Clamming paid well during the 1980’s, and was more of an adventure than ice fishing. But ice fishing is serene, easier, yet plenty adventuresome. It allows you to get in touch with nature in quiet, leisurely ways, so long as not too many snowmobiles, quads, and power augers are nearby. Plenty of fish species are available in our region—pickerel, largemouth and smallmouth bass, muskies, northern pike, walleyes, trout species, channel catfish, hybrid stripers, and all manner of panfish including roving yellow perch in some waters.

          First ice is best ice—so long as it’s safe. The “black ice” we sometimes have before snow blocks sunlight reaching through clear water depths, often safely covering only two to 10 acre ponds that freeze first (and evenly) before that snow falls, is easy to cut with a splitting bar since it’s not thick as a vault door. But sunlight’s the secret to this fishing. Try to get out on a cloudless day, the kind of day that “isn’t good for fishing.” Fish water 10 feet deep or shallower, clear water among residual weeds preferably, bait tip-ups with live shiners, and try some chrome finished spoons using short jigging rods.

          Shiner scales serve their schooling behaviors. The flashes of reflected light confuse perceptions of predators. But when isolated on a hook beneath a tip-up device (these also available at many sporting goods stores), these light-reflecting shields do just the opposite, attracting gamefish like a beacon to zero in upon directly and hit. Silvery, chrome spoons like small Kastmasters do the same.

          I go for largemouth and pickerel when I have first ice opportunity, this ice which hasn’t been corrupted yet by melting and refreezing. These two species prowl relatively shallow water penetrated by needed light. So long as adequate fish holding depths are nearby (if any), and fairly thick residual vegetation is present if the pond or lake has any—hard cover like fallen trees in combination with weeds can be excellent—the irony is that fish will be skittish, off the feed, and even in the thickest of cover, but they will strike by aggressive reaction. I’ve experienced tip-up flags flying high, bass stripping off five or ten yards of line and dropping shiners, refusing to swallow. This happens no other time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Diabase, Basalt, Granite, Iron and Trout Fishing Round Valley Reservoir

Glorius afternoon, wild reservoir all to myself until I observed a distant, wetsuited wind surfer, and another angler came along and set up. No hits. Round Valley has over 2000 surface acres and the miles of shoreline implied are a lot for trout to range around. Bluebird skies like today's do wonders for mood, but tend to hinder trout from feeding. Months ahead of winter yet, I may catch some more before I start fishing bass again. I want to try shiners. Last winter, I witnessed a lake trout caught on a shiner. So far I've been using marshmallows and mealworms, which is the simplest approach. Sat and read Camus with coarse sand at my feet that appeared almost golden in the sunlight. 

Round Valley is known for diabase, stone related to basalt, and granite deposits exist also. Basalt has a lot of utility. It's broken into gravel, etc., and granite's ornamental value is evident in the colors you see in the wild, also. A lot of iron is present in rocks at Round Valley, the substance that to a large extent built New Jersey long before our period of hurricane recovery now. It's not all there for the getting. Just to experience the gravel and stones by touch through my boots and the rusty sight nourished my mood.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Carried Off by Sounds of the Road and Return to the Point of a Fish Hook

Weather felt right. Perhaps I just didn't have enough time to fish, 20 minutes. I looked 180 degrees to the right of this view photographed and remembered fishing for bass in May in a far corner of Round Valley.

The months since that time have been full of ideas and images for the three novels I've been working on. It feels like I've never had a bad day on the road for my job this entire six months, and I can think of only a few that weren't very pleasurable. Now I'm working on one novel to actually try and finish, rather than running around in a thousand directions at once.

I had plenty of time today to concentrate and get words on paper fished from the bottom depths, not only scattered to the winds and reflected light, or carried off by sounds of the road having become lingual phrases creatively transfigured by mental overdrive.

But I did take about a month's hiatus from actually typing this first novel I hope to finish, and finally realized I need a shot of ordinary reality to get started again. So if I get some time to fish Round Valley, catch trout, and possibly fish the canal for some of that ambulatory exercise I enjoy, expect posts to get more to the point of a fish hook.

Will there be ice in New Jersey this winter? If so, I plan to ice fish at least a couple of times. But my guess is that this winter will be another mild one. I was right last early December, but I was more certain then, too. Who knows.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, South Branch Raritan River, Neshanic River, Round Valley Reservoir, Subtle Portals to Places

Delaware and Raritan Canal in great shape--haven't seen it so clear in years. I may fish it this fall or winter after all. South Branch Raritan has perfect level, but I don't intend to try for trout here, or smallmouths. The little Neshanic River is also photographed. I once photographed a mink here where I stop on occasion for a breather.

Put out a line at Round Valley, nothing. I thought of what I wrote in a recent post about living as seamlessly as possible. Certainly, if seams are denials, repressions, complications, walls by which one refuses to get up and live, then living "seamlessly" is a nice suggestion. But the facts include that every situation is unique and bound to what it is, and to move into another occurence means passing through a change, which implies a limen, a seam. Be grateful reality is this way, because if things go wrong in one place, it's possible to go elsewhere and correct them.   

Delaware and Raritan Canal
South Branch Raritan
South Branch Raritan
Neshanic River (The way I shot it, resembles the canal)
Round Valley Reservoir
Round Valley Reservoir Angler

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Playful Pranks, Fun Element of Absurdity, Try, Try Again

 There's been an element of the absurd with me all my life, just as there has been with yours. Playful prankster as a kid and full of fun as an adult, I've never given up on celebrating life. Situations exist in which intense observation, rather than celebration, is needed. Life with a purpose is sure to raise eyebrows, so what I do is ignore or answer best I can, and when I'm not happy with my own results, I correct them. My father is the best example I've ever had. He's an organist and choir director who demands high artistic standards. Since I was a young boy, I've been trained at stopping, reflecting, trying again. And then doing this again, if necessary, multiple times until I get it right. Everyone on this planet is here together, but not everyone is perfectionist. The ones I would prefer not to associate with are those who might bellow that no one's perfect.

I want to live in a great, prospering, flourishing society, and I could use more adjectives to describe what will be, but don't want to weigh the words heavy. I never got very confused over self and society: no one can live without either.

I did mind my standing on a picnic table. That could be rude. But no one else was present besides my son, who knows his dad has tended to be slightly inappropriate sometimes, and I asked first, if you will, by minding what I was doing. What is it Jesus said, I forget, about going ahead and doing what you will if you know what you're doing? That statement made a very good impression on me as a youngster. Of course, even though Jesus spoke a very wise statement, he was crucified as a common criminal.

That's the Delaware Watergap in the background. Who would have thought a river would make it through that great mountain ridge wall? Impasses are meant--by definition--to be gotten through, around, or over.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Moving Much too Fast? Sure, I Want my Love to Last. Round Valley Reservoir and a Nice Rock.

Blessed relief at Round Valley. Must have moved at the speed of light or should that not be stressful? Didn't feel any stress--for what, weeks? Well, I recall feeling some in Giants stadium. But sitting on a boulder and reading Camus for an hour finally took that dreadful light out of me enough to be human again and ache a little, which feels good.

Put out a line, but knew I would catch nothing. The day I got the big rainbow, I felt the whole reservoir pregnant with possibility. Today I sat on the same rock and wrote, but the other day, the trout pulled the rod next to me right at the perfect time synchronous with what I was about to write, and did note after I caught the fish. I also cited the fish along with the ideas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ice Fishing New Jersey Trout: Time Can Encircle Forward Steps and a Lake is Always Rounded: It's the Nature of a Water Molecule: Air's Full of Them

I know, some lakes form elongated shape, but even these have edges rounded by water flow. Here's another of my column articles. It sketches some basics for anglers who want to catch trout this winter in New Jersey, and it relates grasp of ice fishing experience that will be of interest to ice fishermen and others alike.

New Jersey Winter Trout: Lakes and Ponds

          New Jersey’s Division of Fish & Wildlife began this winter’s trout stocking of lakes and ponds in the region November 19th, completing the mission November 21st. Morris County’s Mount Hope Pond and Speedwell lake; Little Swartswood Lake, Lake Aeroflex, Lake Ocquittunk, and Silver Lake in Sussex County; Hunterdon’s Amwell Lake; and Furnace Lake in Warren County have received rainbow trout 14 to 18 inches long.

          I recently spoke to Fred Matero, eager to fish Speedwell Lake in Morristown, an impoundment of the Whippany River with architecture left standing from about the time of the American Revolution. The size of the pickerel Fred has witnessed is outstanding. The lake is not loaded with them, but it’s heartening to know gamefish other than those stocked exist right at the edge of an urban setting. Take the trout home—they never make it through summers here—but leave the pickerel behind because they exist as resident fish that make the lake special.

          Any of the waters listed will harbor rainbows vulnerable to shore fishing. Perhaps most anglers use Berkeley Power Bait, which rainbows fall for easily, because the bait floats and the bright colors also create visibility. Use enough weight to place the bait in fairly deep water with about three feet of leader margin. Or you can try a marshmallow and mealworm on a size 6 hook this way, since a small marshmallow will float the bait. Some trout get caught on worms on the bottom, and weighted shiners allowed to swim on a long leader prove somewhat effective, perhaps small size best. Spinners hook a few also, but the water’s cold and if you can fish on a mild afternoon, it’s a good to let bait do the work, sit back and enjoy the weather or read a book. Open air does wonders for health and concentration.

          But the most interesting approach to lake and pond rainbows usually happens in January, February, and early March. Ice fisherman tend to catch the interest of anyone who sees them busy jigging through a hole, tending tip-ups, or sitting out on a lake on a fold out chair. The unusual extremity of weather exposure makes people wonder. But most of all, people seem to question what enjoyment exists in trying to catch fish in the dead of winter. Ice, of all things, seems counterintuitive to the freedom of casting a line and fishing currents, depths, or surf. I once got a magazine article assignment about ice fishing because, the editor told me, “I think you guys are friggin’ nuts and want to know something about it.”

           Most people aren’t drawn to a stark, frozen landscape to find serenity. Doing something very different than any activity in a controlled, heated environment provokes us to feel that others can speculate all they want about just why. It’s a good time; elevated feelings have their reasons. Going solitary or social, ice has its attractions. One of the things I like about my life is that time does not seem to steal it in the way I’ve heard others complain about this loss, and ice fishing slows and deepens experience of time uniquely. Nothing further removed from usual recreation exists--besides winter trail hiking, perhaps, or skiing a course-less, wilderness slope. Ice fishing is pursued in an environment that does not exist every winter, but when it does exist, it's as absolute as any other and stranger than most. What might astonish you is the levity you feel once you stand on frozen water. It’s impossible to know how ice awakens senses until you cut the hard stuff yourself. Ultimately, the mind centers experience in space so that time encircles you, rather than runs ahead dragging you with it.

          But if you never have tried ice fishing and want to find these things out, don’t venture onto ice alone unless you are absolutely familiar with the outdoors. No one wants to stand over water that would kill a human being in ten minutes of exposure, without knowing it’s safe or not. Find someone who knows who will take you. Guide services for hire exist.

          I first ice fished shortly after I turned 15. An older angler introduced me to a frozen pond near Plainsboro, N.J., before the vast farming acreages became McMansions. No sooner had we set a few tip-ups, I heard a thunderous crack and a deep, fluid grumbling sound, sort of like weaponry. I must have jumped three feet into the air, and Joe laughed out loud, me staring at him directly waiting for an answer.

          “The ice settles!” He said, and turned back to cutting more.

          I’ve ice fished ever since as if that first time showed me a different world. I keep going back because what I found is better than salt for sanity in a distracting world.       

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Giants Football, the Jets, Apollo Space Mission, and Round Valley Reservoir

Giants beat the New Orleans Saints, 14th birthday celebration for my son who played football this fall and high school next year. I remember the 1969 success of Joe Namath and the Jets enough to have never faltered in judging them my favorite team.

I sat down, looked at the field, and saw how a 747 would fit. I like jets more than giants as indelible symbols of civility and human achievement. What's a giant by comparison, unless his name is Orville Wright?

Jimi Hendrix wrote "Catch that Feeling," but the Jet's success in 1969 was more than a feeling. It was a wave that shot right up with the Apollo space mission.

When Joe Namath showed up on TV in panty hose, he sold something that keeps garbage collectors in business. At least nowadays visionaries think hard on what to do with dumps. 

The Meadowlands stadium--I can call it that--reminded me of Round Valley with the reservoir at center. That stadium placed in the reservoir, water surface would cover all, swallow everyone and everything like the sea takes the Flying Dutchman. 

So much for me and the Giants, besides that I got the rolling stones c.d. photographed at bottom as a handout.

Relationship Between Aristotle and Alexander the Great, Friendship, and the Delaware River as an Environment Basic to Cultures

The piece following this preface was originally published by Recorder Newspapers as an installment of my "Reel Time" column, revised somewhat for this post, and concerns walleye fishing. The original syndicated piece dealt with both Aristotle and Alexander, including the notion of environments as basic to cultures, exemplifying the Delaware River, which, incidentally, is essential to the history of the United States, as George Washington and his troops crossed the river near Trenton early in the morning of December 26th, 1776, marching into this present-day state capitol of New Jersey to turn the American Revolution in the rebel's favor. The winter Delaware River is what the article is about. That's an environment which implies weather commonly regarded inhospitable. Since the article makes a point about the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander the Great, I want to fill in some more about this.

Aristotle's the author of friendship. His writings on friendship testify to this so fully that I think of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Ode to Joy--and friendship--as Aristotelian. He learned much from his pupil, Alexander, a great mind in his own right.

I think Aristotle's concept of animal locomotion speaks well for his tutelage of Alexander, the greatest military genius the world has ever known, because Alexander moved upon other cultures, conquering them and becoming one of them himself, although he always remained his own individual character, important to remember for what I'll soon disclose.

Alexander conquered, but Aristotle was the prime mover. Without his mentor, Alexander couldn't have achieved what he accomplished. The historical facts involve these two giants together.

But what really happened to prompt Aristotle to say that he would not let philosophy be sinned against twice, recalling the execution of Socrates? When Alexander turned his forces against Athens--where Aristotle wrote and taught at his school, the Lyceum--his chief target may have been Aristotle, as if to conquer his teacher would be a triumph to relish. After all, Alexander had merely conquered nations and cultures. Perhaps he resented his status as protégé of the world's greatest mind. Could he conquer the greatest of what truly moves events?

In any event, Alexander understood that by moving against Athens, he would implicate his former mentor as head of the Lyceum, which he, Alexander, helped finance. Aristotle did not flee just to save his own skin. And he did not flee from Alexander, but the political elite Alexander played upon, who would have executed Aristotle for his association with the conqueror, benefactor of the school. Aristotle's chief concern was the safety of his own family, his wife and children.

So much is written, particularly with regard to women's liberation, about Aristotle's subjugation of women. To some he seems to have been a monster. Modern America has progressed a great deal from ancient Greek times. No Greek polis included women as citizens. But above all else, we could not have progressed to our current levels of emancipation without Aristotle's work in the background of the civilization America is part of.

Together he and his family left Athens. Aristotle's resentment against his former student Alexander was a trifle.

Delaware River is an Opportunity for Hardy Anglers

          This late in the season a relative few go fishing for recently stocked trout, but most have given up until April. So after November, I always feel I write mostly to entertain, although anyone taking a Sunday stroll or drive along the Delaware River near Bull’s Island, Philipsburg, or Belvidere, for examples, may be surprised to witness either a shore angler or boat fisherman. Very few brave the severe cold, but especially mild afternoons can stir excellent walleye fishing.

          Deep, slow pools serve as walleye spots until these fish spawn in March. But no creature wants to stay in one place unless they were to hibernate. Fish never hibernate. This is why winter river walleye anglers love mild evenings following an afternoon of the river’s absorbing sunlight, temperature of shallow water rising slightly. Something to anticipate for the joy awaiting.

          I have caught Delaware walleye in December, when I owned a boat sufficient for the requirements of comfort and safety, and have looked forward to doing the likes again as one of the most desirable fishing pursuits. It’s not really as simple as getting out there and conquering weather opposing you. Weather changes an individual. Especially by performing an activity with an objective—walleye fishing—the environment makes he or she more fit for life in general. Possibility expands which anyone encountering it couldn't have realized, until he or she goes out and achieves the potential.

          I like to think of the way Alexander the Great, the ancient Macedonian, conceived of conquering. Not nations really, but cultures. What he subdued modified who he was by his own choice and discipline. However, natural environments are at the root of cultures. Alexander could not possibly have known this fact as well as his mentor, Aristotle. An earlier Ionian philosopher, Thales, is credited as the first proto-scientist, but the enormous achievement of Aristotle regarding science has led to modern advances. We needed English philosopher Francis Bacon in the interim--at the dawn of the 17th century Scientific Revolution--to make modernity truly achievable. But Bacon sure had a task in Aristotle to overcome.

          Day to day, season to season: weather modifies any environment, each fluid, as another ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, spoke of rivers. No river stepped in a second time the same. I am myself of a disposition akin to high atmospheric sunlight—I love jet travel at 38,000 feet or higher—so it’s natural for me to desire an opposite, finding myself completely comfortable on a gray cold day in a small open boat.

          This is the same principle as applies to walleye. No creature wants to stay in the same place. No creature can. By definition, animals have the power of locomotion, as Aristotle described what animals do—move.

          Angling is about moves aligned with keen wherewithal. The fisherman has more to remember than his catch or lack of it. He learns how to find fish by various hand-spun experiments. Big smallmouth bass lurk in slow deep pools this time of year, along with walleye as large as 13 pounds, and possibly bigger—state record size. Typically, live shiners suffice, although smallmouth bass as large as four or five pounds have been caught on tube jigs.

          The idea is simple. Tube jigs have soft plastic appendages. Put the tube on a quarter to half-ounce stand-up jig head, and let it sit on the bottom of a hole. Slow current will move the appendages like something alive. Some anglers fish this way, letting the arrangement sit for a minute or more while waiting for the feel of a tick. If nothing happens--the usual state of affairs--they move the jig five to 10 feet and do this again. This can seem the epitome of boredom, but although the point is to hook into action, the wider experience is relaxed and contemplative in a way that engages natural substance. Experience that takes things in to engender health and mindfulness. It creates soul, a reality mistakenly thought to be a given, instead of self-made to some degree, as Alexander poured ingredients from each culture he conquered into the melting pot of his inwardness, making himself a complex personality. After all, something receptive must be present at birth in order to grow. 

          A bare quarter ounce jig-head with a shiner attached is effective for winter walleye, but some anglers swear by simply clamping on a medium to large tin split shot 18 inches above a size 6 plain shank hook. A hunk of tin or lead at a shiner’s mouth is not the most natural presentation of the bait, but does make it stay on bottom. Some holes are 30 feet deep or more and a split shot is insufficient to get the bait to bottom. Walleye take a bait that does get to them like trout, mouthing it by little tugs. If a jig head is used. set the hook immediately because the walleye may drop the lead weight, but using lighter split shot allows waiting as long as ten seconds for the shiner and hook to get deep into the mouth to ensure hooking the fish. If the intent is to release a fish that’s swallowed a hook, plain-shank size 6 hooks typically rust away and the gullet heals.

           If you get a glorious, mild, sunny afternoon, stick around into dusk and fish shallows near a deep hole with Rebel or Smithwick floater/diver plugs, or the Rapala Countdown. Even better, perhaps: Rapala Husky Jerk suspending jerkbaits or the likes. You can pause these lures in place. Slow retrieves really work, but especially fish the edges between current and slow water. The Countdown is a real winner because it can probe a little deeper by letting it sink. Sometimes half a dozen walleye over four pounds get caught before dark.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Volunteer Reptile Care, Aristotle Implies the Good of Environmentalism

Volunteer reptile care for N.J. Audubon was my idea--and a naturalist's--for my son. The notion coincided. If you've read earlier posts, you may know that Matt has been interested in and endeavoring with reptiles and amphibians from the age of four. Sigmund Freud famously wrote that children live in the unconscious of their parents. When I was a boy, I went into the local wilds alone and actually collected reptiles, amphibians, fish, and a variety of anthropods. Today in New Jersey, it's illegal to collect reptiles and amphibians. My son and I are on the side of the law. Our field trips involve observation and photography. But in 1970, I had at least 20 terrariums and aquariums in my parents' basement. Intensely interested in zoology and reading constantly at the age of nine--Aristotle most significantly--I aspired to study animals in captivity, as I phrased my idea, and attempted to produce a complex methodology of study. At that young age I did learn that I was not ready for that level of abstraction and procedure.
Originally, Matt spent time with the naturalist and the reptiles while I hiked the sanctuary or read as I waited. But for the past three years or so, Matt and I have been a team, taking weekend escapes for a half hour, sometimes an hour. This time has at least the value of all the week in between. Sometimes I go alone and it's just the same. Matt's busy with many activities in his teens now.

Friday, December 7, 2012

After Taking Photos, I Turned and Breathed, Alone at Round Valley Reservoir

Alone again at Round Valley, I could have been a thousand miles from civilization, hadn't I the notion lurking in the background of my mind about the reservoir's nature as an impoundment. But wonderful nature this is and I felt no subtraction at all. Surface calm like a sheet of ice, my steel weight penetrated surface tension with a simple plunk, dropped 20 feet or so by the inevitability of physical law, and I set the rod between stone upright to attend to photos and writing while I waited.

After taking photos, I turned and breathed as though the intake of my chest had a subtle equivalence to the distance of those hills, feeling the space between to be a presence.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Talking Heads, Eternal Love, Music of all Kinds and The Rainbow of Rock Music at Round Valley Reservoir

Couple of weeks ago, I pulled into my neighborhood to hear "This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)" by The Talking Heads as it played on the radio. Appreciating the artfulness, the melody reminded me of a girl I knew in high school. I walked inside my house and ordered from Amazon Speaking in Tongues by the Heads. For the past week on the road, I've been absorbed in the music, especially "Pull up the Roots."

Poet, statesman, and scientist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that he was God enough to descend to the daughters of men. Such apparently pompous language doesn't do well today, so the Heads seem to express the same notion in an oblique way. Baby likes the people playing suggests it. Women put the checks on men's God possession, which, without the community implied by children, would alienate a man from the earthly mortal he is, or move him to commit unjust acts. Adolph Hitler believed his mission was ordained by Jesus Christ.

That may be a strange way to interpret Goethe and the Heads. But what I really mean is Goethe wasn't being ironic, as if what he really felt was contempt for women, while being one with God was what mattered instead. He meant the whole of life, sex and divinity alike, are valuable. God allows rather than denies. But it can be taken another way and that's the twist I played with. The religious righteousness motivating some has led to the likes of the Nazis who wanted the people killing for a thousand years' glory of their Fuhrer. If any worshiped Hitler it was sick indeed. But isn't some other worship besides a lust for power?

I have to hear the Head's instrumentation as the vocals slur, partially producing novel lingual patterns, and certainly challenging rational faculty by interesting twists, rather than my getting much of anything by reading the lyrics on the web. The Heads are masters of driven beat and subtle percussion. Both techniques accompany youthful zest, impulse itself not being something to repress, but master by allowance. I have seen sophisticated dance in this music. "Pull up the Roots" features rising and falling tones--the crescendo of the refrain may be transcendent--that give the impression of wise, knowing restraint.

Whatever happens is fine with me if I do my best, which isn't to say I wouldn't like to see people do better. Whatever is finer than the place we live in is simply its imagined abstraction, implying the possibility of achievement. I breathe Round Valley air as I fish while otherwise reading Camus, and my lungs expand while I know that no division exists between this atmospheric dome and outer space. I feel astonished, as if I have taken my first breath of life. The dark side of the moon is a return because it is embraced by the planet I stand upon. I like dipping bait in this water of window pane clarity. I "still" fish like I did as a young boy.

I spend hours all week on the road absorbed in music. My first semester of college, I took a classical music class, and naturally felt interested intensely. Music had always been in my life, my father a musician. The professor was a wonderful man who told the class that a college education is necessary to understand how the world we live in works and has come to be. And then he looked directly into my eyes and said, "Unless you are a genius." This wasn't really news to me. I had been thinking very hard on what to do as my alternative to the conventional route of professionalism. In his notebooks, Camus remarks that a bookshelf is a university.

Musical appreciation, the professor explained, is itself at least a talent. I add that it is an interaction between form, energy, information; an activity which, of course, partakes in reality, since music heard is the fact, although music is not only received but enacted. I pointed out in a recent post that existence is eternal. But the orchestration of reality that a fine appreciation of music implies is limited as an event, a situation like any other. Pink Floyd is famous for pointing out in Dark Side of the Moon the senses are all life can be. This is not to depress, not in my experience, but remind the listener that everything does come down to the ordinary.

Otherwise, I might as well be the Voyager Space Probe, taking in information as well as letting it go, revolving observations and ideations like a wheel inside a wheel, which is absurd. I had a friend in the choir my father directed who absolutely loved the B-52's "Rock Lobster," similar to the Talking Heads, which he may have also appreciated. Euphony happens with another or others; it never really happens entirely alone. Love--whatever and whomever it's for--is a cosmic power felt, but not in essence an emotion. Evaluations, emotions about things, people, situations are bodily, while love moves the spirit beyond, before it must come back. Love is the unifying  power of existence, which human beings enact as if they are gods, whatever or whomever loved absolute, a yes to something eternal, which cannot be negated. 

Values certainly may seem to get negated because affirmations must always slip away as time overtakes the past. But the return, at least of the essence of people and things we love, is inevitable.   

I was not the greatest vocalist in my father's Episcopal choir, although I sang with passion and by rigorous criticism. My father had favorite performers. His artistic standards stood at the highest level in his profession, the choir world class. A boy two years my senior expressed artistic excellence as a soloist, which I didn't envy, but admired greatly. I always understood that my true asset as a chorister (for 13 years) was my head. If I used it primarily to sing, I certainly did also to understand my situation.

A woman with bows in her hair has no comparison: violin tones of a bow on strings tie indelible knots, just as physics theory suggests that the universe is a string vibration like music. Nothing is better than this.

To consider value, it's important to remember no known entity in the universe is as complex and powerful as the individual human brain. All the computers in the world are like Thomas Aquinas's naming his own work chaff by comparison to the brain: certainly computers prove worthwhile, but not better than man himself.

Round Valley all to myself today. I caught the 24-inch rainbow photographed.