Friday, October 24, 2014

Where the Small Bass, I Wonder

This skinny bass with a bad eye but a big mouth struck on my first cast. With wind, it was chilly, 54 degrees, although temperature warmed to 69 in the afternoon. If enough cloud cover justified using a black spinnerbait, enough sunlight struck water to prompt switching to a white-headed spinnerbait with a green and yellow soft plastic frog for a trailer and large Colorado blade. This lure tracked very slowly with the wind action, too slow, although it didn't take long to feel a jab and miss the short hit, yet two seconds later get slammed. I had the bass on, maybe a three-pounder, but lost it after a couple of throbbing seconds.

This pond makes me wonder what all the small bass inhabit. I've caught one nine-incher, a 13 1/2, a 14 and some, and all the rest have been two pounds to more than three-and-a-half. Doesn't it make sense that the number of smaller bass would exceed the larger? Lake Musconetcong is similar. Most of the bass have been 15 and 16 inches, if most of them get wiped out with the chemical eradication of weed habitat until the water chestnut problem is solved. If it is ever is solved. The pickerel averaged 20 inches and now prove all but absent.

We fished the lake for years and caught dozens of three-pound-plus pickerel about 23 inches long, thick bodied fish, and yet not one more than three-and-a-half pounds. No bass more than that weight, either, although I've heard of a number of seven-pounders caught in the thickest of summer vegetation. I hope I get a really big bass in this pond, meaning more than five pounds, but I think Round Valley Reservoir, where I landed one that big in May, is the likelier place for fish like this, even though average size there is a little under a foot long.

Guess these afterthoughts foreshadow the end of bass fishing this year, but I may get out a couple or a few more times this fall.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Round Valley Reservoir Trout: Looking Forward to a Long, Cold Season

Had to choose between coming to Round Valley and trout fishing, or visiting Ken Lockwood Gorge and photographing river scenes. Since rain fell fairly hard, I figured I better not miss out on the chance at catching a trout. Besides, the South Branch ran a little high, not very, and my photo opportunities might have been affected in the negative somewhat, and besides water perhaps running too high in relation to a boulder or two in the foreground, leaves have not yet reached peak color anyhow.

I stopped at Behr's Bait and Tackle in Lebanon and bought mealworms. Mr. Behr reported a four-pound and a six-pound rainbow weighed in from the reservoir at his shop this morning. He said plenty are being caught from shore, and this is the typical scenario this time of year, although when you occupy a spot and other anglers fish nearby, you don't usually see a lot of trout being caught as if it were Opening Day or a stocking day on a stream. You may see one or two, or a few, caught, and they average about 16 inches.

During the really hardcore season of December, January, February, and early March, you witness very few caught, although there are regulars who brave the cold and certainly catch some. They just may have to wait a total of 12 hours or more between fish, but there are guys who fish five, six hours a day, a couple or more times a week.

Round Valley is like deep wilderness in winter with few anglers and birders present. I often come and no one is there at all. That's nearly how it was today. I saw no one fishing in the Lot 2 area, but I did see a few cars drive into the lot above, and a Park Ranger drove by.

I've been blogging about this fishing for several years and nothing changes. No increase in visitors results, and it's really not so much my aim to draw others in, but tell a story that you, the reader, may appreciate. Particular points I make may have universal value, so it's more than a fishing report about the reservoir. And if you want to try for these unlikely trout, most of the anglers I've encountered have no qualm about seeing another or others. In fact, at this time of year, especially deep in winter, greetings and conversation are the norm, unlike spring and summer when you're just another person among many, everyone indifferent to one another, except we secret human beings who notice people because life is very much about being social. Leave the anti-social types to their delusions and avoid them, but that's not really how most people are, although people in a crowd are in fact less likely to approach each other, and Round Valley Recreation Area really does fill up when the weather warms.

Not a hit today. The usual, expected result of a sincere attempt.

It's October 23rd and leaves still haven't reached peak color. A mild summer, warm fall. What will winter be?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bass Hitting Spinnerbaits Under Windy Surface

This place seems to never want to let me down. It's not that I approached the pond feeling I would get skunked. Wind blew like a Halloween banshee out of the north, cold at 56 degrees and never milder all day, certainly very invigorating with the light rain jacket, but I really didn't feel nothing would happen, although I felt a skunker possible with so little day left.

Which way to go? I stood at pond's edge and chose between my right or left: back to the fallen tree again and relative shallows, or down where the wind blew against the bank. No, today didn't seem a day for sun-warmed shallows, obviously not. I sort of went with the assumption that wind carries baitfish and stacks it against the bank the wind pushes water against, not that I actually thought bluegills were getting pushed, but I did spot some baitfish in very thin water I took for killies.

Baitfish or not, bass get active in the fall under wind-churned surface any time of day, at least in my experience. I find that in the spring and summer, windy late mornings and afternoons tend not to produce. This nice bass well over two pounds slammed that black spinnerbait and immediately leapt. Not much later, I fought an even larger bass, lost it. Both were 10 to 15 feet out from the shore edge, only a couple of feet to about four feet deep. I did wonder if the first bass that struck about 10 feet out followed the spinnerbait or lurched from deeper water aside from the pulsing blade. Certainly the powerful vibration the Colorado blade produces is sensed from a distance. In any case, that bass overtook the lure very swiftly.

I may get out for bass one or two more times this fall.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pursuing John Insley Blair's Spirit: Blairstown, Hope, and White Township, New Jersey

Today my wife, Patricia, and I followed the Blair Trail as written about very thorougly in New Jersey Skylands Visitor magazine, beginning in Blairstown, following through Hope, passing the White Township Museum on CR 519, ending up near Belvidere, and back tracking to find the museum only open on the second Sundays of each month, among other hours, I think. John Insley Blair, 1802-1899, began his career in boyhood trapping muskrats and selling pelts. At 11, he was a store clerk, and he rose through many mercantile endeavors, achieving wealth and becoming a great NJ railroad magnate, pivotal for the nation's 19th century industrialization. Blairstown originally existed in 1760 as Smith's Mill, named after the hamlet's central feature, a grist mill just downstream of what is now the dam of Blair Lake. When J. I. Blair arrived in his late teens, it was called Butt's Bridge, with four homes and the mill; soon the name changed to Gravel Hill. To make a very long and amazing story short, the town became a thriving trading center largely through Blair's influence, and was named after him 175 years ago in 1889.

Blair Lake is private, by the way, and although you can enjoy the walkway, you have to turn back and not enter the area of private residences. I imagine some bass exist in the rather shallow water of good quality, and thought I sighted a very small largemouth in the creek. I was motivated not to fish today, but familiarize myself more with someone who made an enormous productive and financial achievement, influencing America's history more directly than he is famous for. We've often been to Blairstown. I once had the privilege of spending time in a campus auditorium at Blair Academy for a poetry festival. And we enjoy Mohican Outdoor Center and the Paulinskill River. We've eaten many meals at the Blairstown Inn, and often go to Dale Market. But today was different. The purpose was about as singular as the rails of J. I. Blair railroads were straight steel: get a little first hand familiarity with the spirit Blair left behind, just a little, but enough to feel better connected than reading can do, so long as a fair amount has been read in preparation, and we both read the magazine article with Highlands history in our background. Patricia once complained that it was a Sunday and the farmers market wasn't opened, but I appreciated Blairstown and Hope as just like ghost towns today and with the weather chilly. It left us all alone with this spirit we pursued.   
 Overlooks entrance to Blair Academy, grave yard to the right.

 There is a monument which resembles the Washington Memorial in miniature overlooking John Insley Blair's simple gravestone. The simple stone is symbolic of the simple, frugal life he led, always on target with his projects and not extravagant besides.
 After I paid my respects to John Blair, I photographed Patricia leaving the graveyard. The gate is almost immediately beyond the Blair Memorial.
 First Presbyterian Church (1840) and Dr. John C. Johnson House
 Blair Lake
 Arches with Waterworks to the right, insdie.
 First Hope Bank, Hope NJ
 Hope NJ
John Blair worked as a clerk in this building in 1813. He was 11. Hope, NJ.

For a more in-depth story, "The Blair Trail," access NJ Skylands Visitor by this link to the article: