Saturday, January 9, 2016

Green Brook Trout and Excel Gas

Haven't been here since spring 1994, when I often caught trout to take home to my wife-to-be in North Plainfield, New Jersey, the two of us living on the second floor of a Victorian manor. The Green Brook is just above Scotch Plains and Route 22 here where I came to photograph it. As I walked in after parking, I thought of how long ago it was, and with hiking boots on the ground, the time seemed pretty distant. I found the place OK, but with some uncertainty as to quite how to get there. Now that I'm comfortably at home, oh, yeah, doesn't seem very long ago at all when I fished there and photographed it with my Pentax 35mm. That's why it's important to get outside and walk with ground under boots. How else clue into reality, basically?

The Green Brook hasn't enough springs feeding it to nourish wild trout, although it does roll down from the 300-foot hills named Watchung Mountains--enormous volcanoes millions of years ago. I stood on a ridge of basalt to get two of these photos, and could have used a wide angle of say 7mm, if any exist, since I could not get back any further with my 11-16mm zoom wide angle. That rock is ancient and persists in existence with a sort of bold indifference to our development. The region along busy Route 22 below is loaded with businesses of every description, but the brook has pretty good water quality at least where I stood. And below 22, in North Plainfield, I sighted largemouth bass. The Green Brook flows on to empty into the Raritan River.

I got on 22 West, heading home, dusk falling, and an old gas station sign caught my eye. Excel, a small-time outfit. I remembered always noticing it, but I could not quite place the station as being in operation nearly 22 years ago, or not. I thought maybe. Now the little building has a caved-in roof, is boarded up on the sides with wood that makes it look aged like a corpse, and the pavement is shattered. I felt it deeply, as I self-identified with the situation. I've always tried to excel in life, and in some things actually have. It's just my temperament. I refuse to feel entitled just because I have energy. I must make something of this, or get destroyed by my own excess.

Driving on, my 2007 Honda with 126,000 miles still smooth as a dream, I thought that could have been me. What the Excel station symbolizes. How ironic, if someone who desired to excel...ended up like that gas station in ruins.

North Plainfield was pivotal for my life. Patricia and I moved there in September 1993. I had just given up my commercial clamming business to begin the long, hard effort at readjusting to the broader society I had escaped, mostly to study and write, although the work in brine to harvest clams paid pretty well. We've since made it by the skin of our teeth. And that spring of 1994, I began fishing again, more than I had since my teens when I fished almost every day, sometimes in the morning before school. When we lived in North Plainfield, I knew there had to be a way if I was going to become anything but a miserable wreck. If we would succeed.

I've made persistent efforts at many things all these years. And I've fished all the years since I was eight, but after my teens, I could never quite get the spirit again of fishing, besides shellfishing. I renewed my fishing log in 1992, yet still wasn't quite there.

And then my son, Matt, four years old, persistently asked me to take him fishing, three, four times a week, and I obliged. Observing his complete value for fishing, his sudden mastery of the plastic worm....that's what made all the difference.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Trout: Water was not so Low; Water was Colder, too

No word of lakers today, besides John's mentioning desire to catch them, and my reply about nothing but lakers last January.

"If I knew that, I would have been out here more often."

Haven't seen John in three years or so, but he's been out here every year since we last spoke.

Just had enough time to check up on things by taking a long way around to work. Mike had fished for an hour, earlier, John told me. But besides the two of us there, one other guy we don't know fished the opposite point. John's rainbows came on Power Bait weighted with split shot, fished in close. And they say only recently stocked trout hit power bait. Even a few naturally reproduced lakers get caught on the stuff.

I think the water has yet to cool off before it gets anywhere near freezing. Remember that last year, the reservoir didn't freeze until February. It sustained brutal January temperatures as we caught lakers in weather as cold as 15 degrees in the early afternoon.

Don't think we caught too many. John's is a good catch. More often than not, we get skunked, unless it's October or late April, perhaps. Dave has proven an exception to that rule this season, and if he had been around during the years I fished here often, I either would have learned to fish closer in--or the fishing would have been better than it was, to equal the catches I've recently heard about.

Water was not so low. Water was colder, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Lake Trout Shore Catches Appearing

Thinking I was already sort of awake, weird dreams making me think about the meaning as I slept, for 10 or 15 minutes after I really did wake up, I felt drained of all motive, even as I began preparations by exerting painful will. My idea involved Matt, me and our dog Sadie at the reservoir by noon, and I had yet to phone Fred, but the clock had already turned past 10:30.

We managed to push out the front door at about 12:25. Fred told me not to expect to see him. Down I-78, but before exit 26, I said, "Matt, we need to get licenses. Do you have any cash?"

No. So I exited and turned back. Time wasting, we got to Behr's, and as expected, he doesn't sell licenses, but told us to buy on Matt's mobile. We got a dozen shiners and headed for the reservoir...where Matt still processed his license and we lost signal, of course. Something else I didn't think of, so we headed up to Route 22, where he completed his purchase and began to process mine. We got some notice that customer information can't be found. More time lost, we headed to Sportsman's Rendevous in Flemington. Almost there, it occurred to me they might be closed. Sure enough.

"This is proof of God's existence," I said. "We're so stupid, there must be greater intelligence in the universe." Neither of us had thought to check hours on the mobile. Now what? Efinger, many miles away? I thought of Wal-Mart. Matt phoned. Not the ideal place to do business, but relatively nearby. On the way, Fred phoned.

With about an hour to fish, we finally arrived at the reservoir, when we would have had four hours. No, we never gave up. Grating on the stomach and nerves, sure. But I never let it get to me outwardly, except I had a few more words of complaint than usual to share with Fred.

Spoke to a young man with a light rod and a fairly heavy Kastmaster, who had nailed a rainbow. Other than this, no fish. But the good news is that before Dave and his crew arrived--before Fred, and before my son and I--two lakers got caught on shiners.

I really didn't expect them this year, but just like last, maybe they're a comin' in with January. The weather has changed much for the better, with that sickening mildness and warmth fit for soft bellies finally driven south where it belongs. I can still feel chill on my face and it's entirely welcome. We northerners are industrious hard asses compared to the southern world, because we freeze.

Anyhow, we used the right bait. And as all of these outings turn out in the end--a good time for all. I drove home feeling great, and Matt was in fit shape too, hitting the buttons on his mobile as he prepares for a possible internship in the plasma physics lab at Princeton. I wish him all the best in his high endeavor, but he recognizes that the outdoors will challenge anyone, and if you persist, you'll always finish well. People think there's nothing to it. Until they try, which most don't do.