Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Round Valley Reservoir with Fred and Mike for Trout

Third time out to Round Valley this fall, a major curtailment on my habit of
showing up two, three times a week from October through April, and then through May for bass. I can never get enough of this place, so last week I really struggled with my desire to go, finally settling on the work I had to get done instead. Was that a good decision? Definitely. Times exist when, if I don't throw anchor, sort of dive overboard, and get deep into writing especially--lots of chores scattered around it besides--I would otherwise lose my hold on plans and the best I can do with the means I have at staying reasonably happy. But I've experienced at Round Valley life so well fulfilled it's felt enough. Funny thing is, no matter how good you are accepting what you have, time always takes it away. That's the secret of ambition: you can be plenty happy as things are, it's just that life won't let it be. And while plenty of people at least seem stable compared to me, by virtue of my moods as changing as the weather, I am driven all the more to achieve, since every day is new one.

So I got down beyond the Ranger boat dock before Fred arrived, noticing Mike's Volvo as I drove in. He had set up on one of the points, and as I arranged three rods, Fred drove in. Since Fred talked about going around the bend, I agreed, since my favorite spot had a couple of anglers fishing it. Fred had seen a couple of lakers caught where we soon departed to, last winter.

First, I walked off and spoke to Mike for five or 10 minutes as Fred geared up. Part of the reason I was so intent on going last week involved upping the chances of seeing Mike. Well, he hasn't let up a bit. He's caught 30 so far this season, and gets out a lot, as always. He fished shiners today and had missed a hit. (When Fred and I left, he had missed another.)

Fred and I walked some 300 yards to set up where the shore steepens fairly dramatically. He mentioned he once caught a smallmouth here fishing from his boat, sometime back when the water level was more and less normal. Now it's down some 15 feet, revealing some amazing structure as one of the photos shows.

Three rods each, one of mine is the noodle rod I'll never use for steelhead again, since my son and I are into fly fishing for them, but I sure am glad I have it for Round Valley. Casts amaze me. So smooth it's as if the rod's made of butter; that light power, super-slow action catapults a rig forever. And I said to Fred I'll never forget the nine-pound, three-ounce steelhead I caught on a noodle rod, happened to be supplied by guide Eric Geary, and I certainly won't. What an amazing fight, and every bit as authentic as with a fly rod. It's just that when you move on, so you do. We could--logically--move on from 7-weight traditional fly casting to spey casting.

We sat on rocks and stood on gravel and talked about all sorts of things. Two hours went by swiftly. I broke the news that it was time to go, as we agreed on two hours. So much to get done. We may be back late in December. I have an 8 x 10 photo for Mike of him holding a nice laker I meant to bring today, but forgot. But first thing Mike did: he thanked me profusely for featuring him in my recent The Fisherman story.

"My buddy Joe calls and says, 'Mike! You're famous!"

Fred baits at the drop.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lamington River Restorations Strike Groundwater

My photo files of the Lamington lack, though I have a number of 35mm prints I don't care to scan. This photo shot looking upstream from Cowperthwaite Road's green iron bridge, April 2011. I've also learned from Andy's Facebook site that Urbani Fisheries has surveyed the partially washed out dam in this photo for removal. The far edge of the dam is to the left in this photo.

My coworker, Joe, stopped to have an excited chat with me about the amazing restoration of a mile stretch of the Lamington River. Joe and I have been rangering on golf courses since April, and whenever we appropriately can, we've been talking fly fishing, especially for trout. You can tell by my blog that I don't have much experience at fly fishing, but I sure want a lot more. And though no one can have all he desires, he may achieve some. Once and awhile, I'd see Joe rove in the cart close to the river and take a peek. I spotted a 16-inch smallmouth bass from one of the cart bridges, and lots of enormous carp, but Joe's consistent spiel was despairing, as if he would never again fly fish New Jersey, only Colorado.

"I've never spotted a trout in this river," he said of the flow through two of the courses.

Today, what a reversal. "Do you know about the restoration they're doing back there!?" I've been working off the courses since September, so he wasn't sure I had any knowledge of it. "They dug a hole 10 feet deep and released a groundwater flow!"

"Yeah, I ran into Jim Holland at Shannon's in October. I suggested that they drill for spring water release into the river. Jim said they probably have a well permit and a springhouse might be a good idea, but he also mentioned they'll dig deep enough for possible groundwater releases," I said.

Holland writes the fly fishing column for The Black River Journal, a NJ Highlands publication, and is very well-known on the fly fishing scene hereabouts.

The famous Urbani Fisheries of Bozeman, Montana, along with other organizations, I think, carry out this amazing restoration effort. I read in one of the magazines a year ago or so about sensationally effective stream restorations in Montana, and although I knew a little about restorations of the Musconetcong River, I never dreamed I would be so privileged as to see some happen right here in Bedminster.

The Lamington stretch flows through guarded private property. Only a few can access the coming results directly, and yet this work serves as a fine example of what can be done, given the funds. A couple of years ago, I interviewed Brian Cowden, at the time in a top NJ Trout Unlimited position. We want to take out the 35-foot Warren Glen Dam on the Musconetcong, thus improve river quality greatly, but where will the millions needed come from?

Overall, the Lamington River is quickly improving as this work progresses. Cooler water here is no negative influence on the river below, and some trout may migrate in both directions. Since brown trout are expected to reproduce, some offspring will spread out up and down the river. This seems inevitable, given that a growing population will seek space. I was told by Joe Urbani that the state has already designated this one-mile length of the river Trout Production Water. Formerly, only the water above for some length had TP designation. Further up, the Black River, at least near the Cooper Mill in Chester, is not TP designated. The Black River becomes the Lamington River some distance below Hacklebarney State Park. It's named the Black because of a high degree of tannic acid giving the water the tone of black tea, which the river loses as tributaries feed the flow and tannic acid disperses in sediment and sort of gets filtered out by friction with the bank and river bottom.

The river used to be shallow and fishless for the most part through the courses, and now it looks completely natural with deep pools and riffles leading in where mayflies and the like will flourish, runs with seams and eddies aside of them that just beg for drifting flies. As witness to an amazing transformation, I say never think that because we are technological beings, we necessarily destroy the environment. The folks from Bozeman are living proof that technology can be used to greatly improve and enhance the environment.