Thursday, August 10, 2017

Last Lady II Charter: Beautiful Day

Long awaited charter trip with New Jersey Federated Sportsmen's News writers aboard the Lucky Lady II this morning and early afternoon. We sailed out of Neptune through the Shark River, out the inlet and northward to fish rocks between about 72 and 86 feet deep. Seas remained pretty calm, and I think generally we had no problem keeping contact with bottom using three-ounce bucktails and bank sinkers, although Oliver Shapiro remarked to me, when drift speed did pick up near the end of our fishing, that he was dropping six ounces.

I have a bad habit, not by any means awful, of carrying in too much stuff. I even had a third cooler just large enough to carry three Brooklyn Lagers with ice packs. I drank only one of them, offering the others, but they came back home with me. That beer hit the spot...after drinking five or six coffees and feeling as jittery as a silverside. My nerves stayed settled for the rest of the fishing. I also brought three rods and never set up my Trevala jigging rod with the Penn Squall 60 I had bracketed on to the reel seat, as if I would do battle with a mahi or yellowfin tuna. But the little St. Croix I use for bass did handle a Deadly Dick deftly, and though no Boston mackerel hit the metal, those fish were around; at least eight of them got caught inadvertently when jigs and/or bait/or teasers got reeled towards the rail. I feel it's always better to at least employ an idea, than it is to think an idea and have no means to implement the notion.

So I never really felt bad about that third rod and reel. Just a little burdened hauling all my stuff off the boat and back to my car. I guess it's as if a piece of equipment on standby is always loaded with potential, so long as know-how accompanies it. (I was a little uncertain about remembering how to operate that big reel.)

John Toth caught the leading fish, a 23-inch fluke. Plenty of other fluke got caught, including maybe nine or 10 keepers among the dozen of us fishing. I guess as many keeper seabass went home, also, including mine of about 15 inches. A few cocktail bluefish cut through the upper water column to intersect baits, as I mentioned of the mackerel, and more southern sea robins--brown coloration--got caught than the typical florid northern species. I caught a couple of squirrel hakes about 10 inches long. Brown slimy fish tossed back.

It's a funny thing about fluke 16, 17 inches long. I caught three that size, and seeing these fish appear in the greenish water as I reeled them closer to the rail was sort of an act of now-you-see-it, now-you-don't. My truest evaluation bestowed value on these fish. You could say: Well, after all, they went back to grow big. But that's not all the feeling amounted to. I don't fish because governmental agency monitors population and size statistics amounting to a fishery. I fish because I'm part of the system of life and desire to participate. I've always felt convinced aesthetics are really prior to economics (food). Just offhand I think of the early Christians who died for an idea. I'd say that's because it was beautiful to them.

And there's the flipside. The awful reduction of a living creature to a non-value--because not meeting governmental size limit to take home.

Finally, on our final drift, the very last fish--I think--besides one more of Oliver's many mackerel. I felt a chomp on the end of my sensitive Power Pro braid line I knew was a nice fish and almost certainly a fluke, since I'm experienced at the likes from many keepers of about 18 inches. I gave that fish some slack by extending my rod by use of my right arm, and after two seconds or so, set the hook...into undoubtedly a nice one.

I always think of a tambourine. The way a fluke shakes its head. An unmistakable clicking bounce. Truly unmistakable if you get fully in touch. The seabass sent tight vibes up the line too, but not quite the same.

Twenty-two inches. My family ate a fine dinner.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Hybrid Bass Attempt

Mike Maxwell and his friend Phillipe got on hybrid stripers in Spruce Run Reservoir little more than a week ago, dropped herring among them, and began hooking up. I happened on the two of them with Phillipe's trailered boat in front of Mike's house as I came home from work, and my hopes for this Lake Hopatcong trip with my family rose. But you know how it is, if you fish hybrids in the summer. Not the same as May or October, not when it comes down to catch expectancy. I know guys like Zach Merchant on Spruce Run, and Ed Mackin on Lake Hopatcong, score frequently. Guys with thorough knowledge of fish movements in these waters, highly skilled with sophisticated techniques. They put in the time and the effort necessary to achieve results that would graph a little exponentially during the slow summer season.

Laurie at Dow's Boat Rentals told me the hybrids have been moving along the shelf from Bonaparte Point to Sharp's Rock across the lake from her Nolan's Point station. Someone or other had action inside Davis Cove the other day, hybrids actually boiling the surface, a situation reminiscent of springtime, although I've never seen hybrids go on the jump during the earlier season. We started there and worked our way to Sharp's, having fished the Pickerel Point area thoroughly, something having grabbed one of Matt's herring. I should have made sure my fish finder was charged; apparently, it got inadvertently turned on, and so we had some but very limited use of it. My mistake was to forget to disengage the power terminals from the battery stored with the unit.

The day had already worn on well, when by a sort of inevitable motivation I decided we go try the ledge, where at least I caught a smallmouth a year ago, and also a six-pound walleye last October. We drifted this small range of that edge across the lake from where hybrids have been moving recently--out beyond the drop-off, on that drop, and in a ways--for more than an hour, Matt catching a nice-size yellow perch we took home for part of our dinner afterwards, that on a live herring, but also a pumpkinseed on chicken liver, both of these fish from the shallower side of the ledge; all the while we made sure not to weight baits too deeply, as the lake stratifies without oxygen deeper than about 25 feet. The water temperature at the surface, however, ranged between 74 and 76.

Well, rather than stay on that edge, I had Bonaparte Point prominently in mind, because just west of this spot I have marked a lot of hybrids in the past. So we got at least 20 minutes fishing that area and the point thoroughly before the sun touched down and we motored back. By that time, Patricia was well into reading a John Grisham novel, having read Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936 by Edward Sorel cover to cover, all during this afternoon on the water.

Cliff's Homemade Ice Cream is a busy place, and listed among the top 33 American ice cream joints by the Huffington Post.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lush Closure on Famous Bedminster Pond

Showers and thunderstorms in the forecast for today, I put rain gear in the trunk, along with essentials, and got to bed before I would be too tired this morning. Matt and I had purchased nonresident NY fishing licenses for the day, and after I awoke and after Trish filled me in--heavy rain and flooding--that's what I rued. They're only $10.00 for a day, so the state of New York really does offer a they have to, as sales slipped when license fees increased too much...and I dismissed the issue as a friendly contribution to the state's fisheries on our part. What the hell, the DECALS site must state somewhere the fee is nonrefundable.

I already had the hunch. A good reason to have waited on purchasing and printing licenses at the last possible minute, but the way my family operates on the fly, we might have forgotten. And then we would have had to drive to whatever that town's named way up in the hills...and have hoped the resort there still sells licenses. Now that Trish and Matt own mobile devices, this would have made making connections easier, but I won't go into that.

The hunch. I forget specifically. Something moved me to have a good look at the framed photo in our living room--Trish and Matt underneath a big sign for Port Jervis Diner, where we always eat after our Barryville river floats--and that made me feel sure, as I've felt for the past three years...sure that moment framed for generations to come is of our last moments at Port Jervis Diner, and Barryville is a thing of our past as well.

I mentioned my feeling to Trish yesterday. I was wrong, of course, she said. But it's just how events unfold. I can always feel this. That is, if I happen to be in touch, which I'm not always--I thought the drive to the shore yesterday would be a breeze--but I seem to usually know in advance an outcome. It's just that a hunch is never knowledge. You never know an outcome until you have it.

Helps to be prepared. They say so in Boy Scouts. And if Baden-Powell came up with the notion, it's probably a very good one to heed.

I'm happy Trish did not take disappointment deeply. She loves Barryville trips. "Can we go tomorrow and Hopatchcong (she affectionately mispronounces the lake's name) on Wednesday?"

"The river may be more than muddy. Flooded." Besides, I indicated, there in Barryville, it's not so near its sources as to possibly crest after rain stops.

(We've caught smallmouths in the muddied river, but not the really flooded.) Judging the downpours and the current level of the North Branch Raritan as any rough gauge to judge the greater river, that Wild & Scenic stretch is flooded. So now she says she'll get a Wednesday off near her birthday. She wants to be on the river up there. And at the Diner thereafter. Hopatcong will patch us up in the meantime.

What a luscious wet day. I wanted to fish at least a little, after going to the Bookworm as a family in Bernardsville, directly across Claremont Road from Saint Bernard's Episcopal Church, the roadway crossing over a possible trout stream (I examined the brook and it might be), the name of the road having suggested to me the famous Claremont stretch of the South Branch Raritan River, which I've fly fished and blogged about. Saint Bernard struggled with philosopher Peter Abelard, against the philosopher's analytical approach to knowledge, and emphasized Lectio Divina, or the apprehension of "The Living Word." In other words, direct and unabridged presence of spirit; a power which is no small matter. Bernard cooled his lust by ice baths, and frankly, I'm reminded of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, imploring, in the song "Whole Lot of Love," the subject's need of cooling. Wild juxtaposition this may seem, it's really no joke. To take too much of this presence is to fall as heavily as tungsten, much less lead.

After wonderful experience at the bookstore, we ate at the Bernardsville Café, the portabella pillia or whatever that is I ate, delicious. I had bought a biography of Leonardo Da Vinci's younger years. Recently, I told a friend Leonardo was just a farm boy who went to the city, interested in becoming an artist. Da Vinci means "from the Vinci," and the Vinci is no place of distinction at all...except now that Leonardo came from the fields. True to my ruthless self-criticisms, I positively lust for the author of this book to correct my blithe, fairy tale assumptions about this genius. As if this monumental figure were every bit as naïve as my rural teenage moods, my singing "Sarah Smile" by Hall & Oates to abandoned pre-dawn twilight while pedaling miles in perfect go fishing, of course. He came to the city as an artistic greenhorn at age 20. By what foolishness--I guess--that I've gathered.

And I had to buy To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway. Haven't read that one. And the harsh realism--minus the story's content involving criminality--seems appropriate to me now. The job I hold. Read the first three pages there in Bernardsville. Not least is the biography about The American Visionary, John Quincy Adams, "a sadly underrated character." This I must read, I told myself, and placed the book back on the shelf with the absolute precision of prayer. I never over extend my means. I know the book. I know the spirit. And the latter awaits me.

I wanted to fish a little, but, rod in hand, I came upon police presence at the neighborhood pond quite contrary to my innocent desire, and I did not want to make company with any questionable scene, so I turned back, gathered my wallet and car keys, drove to the famous Bedminster Pond with little light left to get some photographs....and that's all I expected. The open water you see in the photo opening these lines I write is an illusion. Its actual space hardly extends 15 feet from shore and there the water is too shallow to hold fish. Inches. Wall to wall weed cover. (Almost, that is.) A sort of living likeness to some Jurassic Swamp now fundamentally providing for Exxon's profit.

Very nice over there. You've got to love a swampy pond. Especially if you live in a society driven by fossil fuel and presided over by some logical outcome or other of Middle East involvement. After all, the dancing step of Fred Astaire, while he sang "That's Entertainment," depended upon spoils to have had the mainstream reach Hollywood still enjoys today. I walked in lush humid wetness, got in my car, parked at home, and walked back over to our pond. No one present. I fished. And 20 minutes later, finished. Quite dark. No bass lunged for my spinnerbait, despite this exquisite spring-like spell of precipitation's closure. 

Beach Day

Sometimes a foregone assumption is no better than a kite on a calm day. It's supposed to fly, but just doesn't. I figured we would roll straight down the Parkway to Island Beach State Park smooth as one of those fast European hydroplanes, but about a half mile from the entry from Route 440, traffic began to slow.

Somewhere down the line--heavy traffic all the way--a sign informed us Island Beach State Park was full. No admittance. "I think Chris Christy's vacation advertised Island Beach," Trish said. No doubt, the coverage IBSP got from that escapade spelled out the Park loud and clear. Whatever the case, it was Sunday, and though I expected few incoming visitors and many leaving the beaches at weekend's finish, we could have slipped Bob Marley's "Exodus" into the player for appropriate celebration.

So we drove through the thick of Seaside to catch sights of commercial grabs, while we discussed Matt's possible employment next summer, which of course, he's in charge of. The young man defended his position against his skeptical mother very well. And northward though Ortley Beach and Lavalette we drove highway 35 into Point Pleasant, where I wanted us to at least walk along Manasquan Inlet, and possibly fluke fish. I spoke to a guy in the know, and it was evident action might pick up in a couple of hours with incoming tide. An assumption further evidenced by talking to yet another savvy guy on down towards the rocks. No use fishing.

We rode out of Pt. Pleasant back towards IBSP. Who knows. It probably opened in the meantime, I thought. Soon some electronic sign or other--my wife saw it, not me--informed us the Park was open. We stopped at Surf Taco for food to carry onto the beach.

I leapt into the surf--not Matt with a recovering ankle--and strode and swam well out there with the breakers, riding a few. The brine felt warmish and full of life. That's not to say I saw any fish. The quality of stuff, sense, and feeling intermixed offered that uncanny promise anyone can receive who opens himself to it. But instead of total self-immersion, I felt a little removed--just a little--and knew there was no hope of getting as fully into this ocean as I always felt during my 13 years living by the beach. No real disappointment. I accepted as much as I could take, feeling thrilled to be 56 and as alive as an adolescent. Nothing foolish about that.

Trish doesn't swim and I don't recall her ever going out into the surf beyond the edge.

I read a few pages of Anders Halverson, An Entirely Synthetic Fish, about stockers. Rainbow trout ultimately from California's McCloud River. And then I told Matt it would be a miracle if I caught a fluke, proceeding to catch a striped bass instead on the first cast, a less likely catch than a fluke in August New Jersey surf. Hit a killiefish bought at the Hook House in Tom's River on the way in. That's the first true striped bass I've caught on my five-and-a-half foot medium power St. Croix and six-pound test monofilament. I had simply tied on a plain shank size 6 hook and crimped a split shot up the line a bit.

Snapper blues provided some fun, too. They really made cut bait of killies.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Night Romps

Very early yesterday morning, from 1:00 a.m. until after two, my son and I tried topwaters for bass at that secret pond where he and his friend keep catching them over five pounds. He caught a 13 or 14-incher; I caught three 11 and 12 inches. These cool night temperatures. At least temps hung somewhere in the 70's when we fished, though night fishing bass seems better suited to mugginess. Wind wrangled treetops, but the way the two-acre pond is situated sort of like the bottom of a bowl, the surface remained calm. It was nice and Matt wants to get me out there again.

And then late yesterday afternoon and well into the night, as a family we spent five-and-a-half hours at Morristown Memorial Hospital's ER. I had checked my BP at work and got 210/139. I felt alarmed. I know that's enough to cause a stroke. Maybe. Doctors have told me so. Eight years ago, I went to the ER where they recorded my BP at 260 over something or other. I had to stay a night or two. I don't quite remember how long I stayed, but they ran extensive testing, concluded my BP had been about 200 or higher for about six months...and one of the doctors openly wondered at the fact that I didn't suffer a stroke. (Well, we outdoor people know nature keeps us healthy.) So I left work early yesterday, not the way I wanted to end this work week and begin today for a week's vacation. Writing this post helps set me straight for this well deserved time away from the job, and come to terms with the fact that I needed to head to the hospital, not stay the rest of my shift. Had I instead told my regular physician--who I hope to see Wednesday, will phone him tomorrow--that I got that BP reading and stayed at work instead of going to the ER to get stabilized, he would have rightly thought me a fool.

I never really thought twice.

Of course, the plan was to finish my shift at 9:00. But anyone who sticks to a plan, instead of creating a new plan when needed, ends with nothing. If a new plan is needed, but the original is followed, the original will fail. That's true for business and fishing alike. Gratefully, our vacation plans remain in place as we intended, besides this plan to see my doctor on Wednesday.