Saturday, April 7, 2012

Opening Day Early Morning Trout Fishing among Hills Catching Plenty Trout

We fished for about an hour-and-a-half this morning, all to hold my son's interest. Instead of fishing our local river, the North Branch Raritan flowing through our hometown, Bedminster, we rode out to Lambertville, stopped in Stockton to get coffee (Matt asleep), and over the Wickecheoke Creek State Highway 29 bridge, turned right and headed up CR 519 to Locatong Creek.

Sunny and chilly, I had noticed ice formations on the hood of my car loading up earlier, but no matter, the air calm and slowly warming, above all streams in perfect shape invited us in. I think perhaps next year we'll fish for hours because my son felt impressed by our success. We haven't done so well on the North Branch Opening Day, and I really want to wander around these hills again.

Maybe not as interesting as those to the north, these lower ranges of the Highlands, if technically they aren't that--I'm not certain--are part of my exploration, or reorientation since I spent a lot of time here between Lambertville and Milford in my teens. Once I got my driver's license, I used to drive my dad's BWM four speed around tight, rolling turns up here a lot, up there from the vantage of Lawrence, and catch hundreds of trout.

Not much further north, the Pohatcong rushes to the Delaware and the Musconetcong River just above. But my brother Rick discovered the Pohatcong and must have caught close to a thousand trout between himself and his friend Dennis. With those two streams you know you're in the Highlands.

So three trout for Matt and 17 for his dad, 20 total, and enough for a great dinner tonight and more in the freezer, although we did not take two limits. I was just too tired to fix a late breakfast. I really need to get to bed early before getting up early. Matt called his little 9 1/2-incher too small and put it back.

Plenty trout will be in the streams this spring, but very, very few holdover in these Hunterdon County streams and these very few that do apparently remain dependent on a very few groundwater seepages or springs during summer. I've seen it happen in Stony Brook, Mercer County with spring water five inches deep in a little backwater off the main flow. Three trout in August with their dorsal fins virtualy out of the water.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hiking New Jersey Highlands, Photographing Plants, Fishing for Pickerel and Bass

We visited a copperhead den we discovered on our own last summer, and won't divulge the location because in this day and age we discourage collecting. We photograph what we find and let go on its way. Climbing the steep trail, I recalled a couple of months of frequently hiking a dozen or so Kittatiny Ridge trails in my late 30's. Then I viscerally remembered what it was like to hike in my teens and 20's. When I hiked 150 miles or so of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina at age 23, the shape this beat me into by completion really amazed me. I remember having filled my pack with food at a crossroads and just blowing by day hikers without packs at two or three times their walking speed, hiking 20 miles a day with ease among peaks 5000 to more than 6800 feet. I was a clam treader then, earning my living by selling to the wholesale market and had to struggle for each clam by more and less jogging backwards for four or five hours a day, but this didn't beat hiking with a heavy pack among the highest mountains of the Eastern United States for getting in shape. At age 38 I felt as if I had lost the world by comparison. But at 51 I no longer feel directly what it was like in my 20's, but for a number of years now I don't have a difficult time climbing a steep trail. I just bear down, persistently breathe in a controlled way, and keep my awareness centered low at my diaphragm where it helps generate the will to overcome the rising altitude. I am steady on my feet and I never complain.

When I've been up in the mountains awhile--even for an hour so long with intense interests exercised--I am elevated to reason beyond stresses amounting to coercive forces which distort people's (mine too) being and tend to make us less than fully human. My being a writer, you might suppose that I should hike into the mountains a lot with pen and notebook to catch that reason, but this isn't the point. Writing always implies a certain amount of volume--it's a way of making a world in words--while this mountain awareness is lean. I haven't much desire to assert it beyond ascending the next ridge and taking keen interest in observations; it has happiness in a lightness of being. I think environmentalism is, above all, the reasoned experience of environments rather than political dealings, although this of course includes environments in which politics are practiced.

We visited a large vernal pool. I actually did expect to see frogs. We did not, but plenty of eggs are ready to hatch. We saw a pair of wood ducks, very exciting for me, but for Matt they stirred only ascenting indifference, since he keeps his focus on reptiles and amphibians (and fish for the catching). 

Without snakes about, I took intense interest in emmerging plants and related this to my son. "I'm not into plants," Matt said.

"I was the same at your age," I said. "As you grow old, your mind expands."


"Yeah." I smiled broadly.

A book I purchased over the winter at Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary's New Jersey Audubon Society nature center where Matt and I volunteer care for reptiles, Hiking the Jersey Highlands by George Pettty, is one I need to read and have meant to read for months now. I really began to fall in love with this whole region last year. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has been special for my hiking since age 17 and many times since, but now I want to know everything about all the Highlands and Ridge.

We hiked out, went to the Jefferson Diner, real cool place. Calamari for me, cheeseburger for Matt, good conversation, and then off to Ryker Lake by a roundabout route on roadways and through towns I've never visited.

Matt caught a bass; I caught three pickerel in under an hour. We missed a couple of others. One of them had struck explosively at the surface, this despite heavy wind (whitecaps on a 30-acre lake) from the northwest under cloudless sky, temperatures somewhere in the 50's. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spruce Run Reservoir Bass Fishing March to May from Shore

This early in the season we catch bass (no smallmouths yet) incidentally on shiners fished for pike. Most have been about 17 inches, the one I caught today photographed a little shorter. Catches frequent enough that we think of them, we get bass at the end and along the jetty at Spruce Run Creek's mouth, and in Back Brook Cove (or is it Black Brook?). I once used chest waders to catch a 17-inch largemouth in 38-degree wind with some snow showers. My son's largest measured 20 1/8 inches at the end of March 2008.

Back to Spruce Run with my son, Steve Slota and his son Tom showed up half an hour later. Funny how things go. As much as one has "a wide grasp of existence," to quote my post two days ago, things can turn on a dime to make yours feel tenuous. But the wider the grasp, the less likely it is for you to get put out, depressed, defeated. It's an attitude before nature which assumes matter is fundamental and implies conceptuality ranging beyond human productions. The manmade is just rearranged elements of nature, so in order to be creative, a grasp of metaphysically given nature is necessary to change anything. And for fishing, the more you're attuned to this big picture, the less any part of it will seem to determine you. But any of us has bad days. 

As we turned into the lot two days ago it felt just like coming home. Year eight including 2005. First pike trip of the season. I told Matt, "Mom's right about traditions, although we do need to find new places too."

Today it felt like we're wrapping it up, moving on, not to return. So many places I've fallen in love with I've walked away from. Usually I don't remember them much either, although when I was younger I relished memory a lot more. I like the wonder of the new, my curiosity about what will happen draws me into something like Spruce Run became for us--a place to touch base in the spring with the kids having a good time. Catching some nice fish too. That especially kept us returning and I know Steve wants to catch a pike. Matt, Tom, another friend of Matt's, me--we've caught them all along. But the fish will still be there if we move on.

The kids are growing up, the bass still here and I'm sure we just missed the pike somehow tonight. Matt got a small bass deep into dusk and had lost another close to two pounds right at his feet.   

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spruce Run Reservoir Fishing: The Tax Man!

 West on 78, passing the Anandale exit (but that was Anandale VA cited by Steely Dan; I knew someone at Lynchburg College from Alexandria & familiar with the band's roots in that area), approaching Route 31 I remembered listening to the Beatles, 2007, having just caught some nice pike at Van Syckle, and every time since as I've returned I hear in my head Lennon's refrain lines as if taking on the role of governments. I love how he levels.

We felt great just as we got to the parking lot. We've done this since 2005 in the spring. But today I even put nightcrawlers out on two rods to just let them sit. In recent years, usually we catch at least one brown trout, have caught a channel catfish. Nothing today. Speaking of the Husky Jerk in yesterday's post, that's what I used last evening and got one hit that just didn't seem all that deliberate when I let the lure pause. Whatever took tried to take it away, but not with enough of a mouth around it for me to get the hooks in. My son fished that Storm Thunderstick I mentioned in the Passaic River post. Nothing.

"The cold front shut it down," someone told me. But it was very mild yesterday. And pike hit Husky Jerks with water in the low 40's sometimes. I saw some baitfish leap at the surface--that's not real cold water. The warm water season is here. My other blog. Maybe dormant now, but plenty of posts.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Snakes in New Jersey and Waiting for Warmer Weather

Already out before my son got up, I asked him to step outside and see what he thinks. It's too cold. Matt's an amazing observer, catcher, and photographer of snakes and we hoped for more today. In New Jersey he's observed, caught, photographed and let go many snakes of ten species. If I knew him when I was a boy, I would have been more than amazed. I went after snakes too, but never had the opportunity Matt does. And this is 2012 when kids supposedly have abandoned the real world for the virtual.
Matt's not a protected boy who only catches snakes (and lizards--in New Jersey, hundreds in Florida) and goes fishing. He plays a range of computer games. His interests at school include baseball and football, social interests implied by this, yet he's smoothly immune to falling under anti-academic stereotypes while getting absolutely no flack from others for being a nature boy, as I was marginalized growing up until I began drinking beer and actually did put anyone under the table who challenged. Matt won't need to do this.

So give up on your moanings about how kids don't go outdoors anymore and just do it!

Guess what? It's not just a free country. It's a free world. All you have to do is choose that freedom.

So a couple of mountains and Ryker Lake wait until we try again Friday. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Largemouth Bass Striking Spinnerbaits with Gusto!

I went out in the rain to see if I could finally hook a good bass over three pounds. My neighborhood pond has for the past couple years been yielding loads of bass about two pounds, but none larger. Interests me that a pond's bass population can alter over time in size. It used to be we caught loads from nine to 12 inches, and a 14-incher was the exception. We did catch some over three pounds, and four years ago my son caught a five-pounder and two others over four. I can't account for the shift to larger-size bass, but I am wondering if I'm going to hook a real lunker at all in the pond this year beyond whatever took that Senko a couple weeks ago and tore off on a run. I can't be absolutely certain that bass was any bigger, since a two-pounder sometimes feels much larger at first.

For the first five or ten minutes today I couldn't buy a hit. I began to think that had I brought along a Husky Jerk suspending minnow plug to work it slow, I might catch one. I have done so here in cold water before, but then I thought it didn't matter. I was interested in whether or not bass would respond in a warm water way. I began to think my claim about two weeks ago that we've already reached the warm water season beyond the early season fluctations with real cold water was bogus. It never really got out of the low 40's yesterday, and now it's in the low 50's or so.

Then I got a jolt way out in the middle.

The pond is shallow. It's about three, maybe four feet out there. But I know from experience these fish orient to very shallow water around the edges as well as deeper, and even to the edge between where the difference may be a foot of depth.

In little over a half hour total I caught eight bass on the 3/8th-ounce black Colorado blade spinnerbait, two of these just over two pounds, the rest of them close to two pounds. I usually just grab a lure or two and go, the pond in close walking distance, and the irony today is that the spinnerbait I previously used has a larger blade commanding a slower retrieve you'd think would be appropriate today. But what the hell; I got the bass chasing. All of these bass struck out in the middle. Certainly they were not rolling over spinnerbait wakes at the surface, but they were pouncing on that lure for sure. This was not true cold water fishing at all.