Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ignorant of the Natural World

Told my wife I would get up minutes before first light, fish two hours, clean the fish, and get a little sleep before spending my day off from work at various tasks. Then we would go out and see a movie after she got home from work, as we will, but so far, the day hasn't gone as planned. Got up before first light, but contrary to expectation, I wasn't the first there at my local river. Three cars had parked. I soon positioned riverside with Sadie the black Lab, who is mellow in old age, but stupidly I had rigged my 3 1/2-foot microlight rod with two leaders. Naturally, they had tangled. On the spur of the moment back home, I decided I "wouldn't need" my headlamp. Sheer stupidity, that. Presently, as I cut line with my teeth, I remembered that I hadn't made the coffee, so most likely, the coffee pot was boiling out stovetop, and I made a mental note to phone my wife. An arduous process of tying a new leader in the semi-dark felt frustrating, but of course, I had to get this right. Amazing how you can focus with all your feeble intent on a simple action--as mosquitos tear at your skin--and finally look up to see that night had become day during the interval between discovering the problem and solving it.

Those mosquitos didn't seem very out of place, because it was so warm I could have just worn a T-shirt. Sickly temperatures for this time of year. Leaves show some signs of color, at least. I didn't bother snapping a photo, but those leaves are nowhere near the depth and range of color they should be by now. This coming Sunday I have off--most likely--and Brian Cronk and I have been messaging about fishing the Hopatcong drops. It's supposed to turn sharply cooler, so water temperature isn't likely to be above 70, a temperature that is just insane for mid-October, but will it really get down into the low 60's so there's appreciable lake turnover by Sunday? My fish sense tells me I will relate more bad news on this blog that evening, so I'm kind of hoping we schedule for the 28th...if I get that Sunday off.

I guess New Jersey is the new South Carolina. Recent years have been all too warm, and it gets worse. Ninety-degree days in November? Is this really impossible in our future? Here come the tupelo trees and palm fronds. And how many more Category 4 hurricanes will bear down on our coasts in the next 10 years. People care about the economy, right? So why destroy it, time and again, by emitting undo megatons of carbon?

Here it is fall, and I was wondering if the trout wouldn't hit--no one there caught anything while I was present--because it's too warm. I've fished these fall stockers very little over the years, and mostly by fly fishing. I decided to try the salmon egg method on them, the first time I've done this besides back when the trout stocked in the fall were small, and I caught lots of those on three occasions. I was disappointed this morning, but I heard bird song of various species; I saw a bunch of nice trout, and in general I got outdoors and enjoyed the dawn of new day, in spite of the sort of sick feel of inappropriate warmth. Having fished for about 20 minutes, I sped back home to get that coffee pot off the stove, fearing it had...overheated.

No, I was wise. I had taken it off the burner before I left.

As I drove, I thought again of the oddity of people who pursue stocked trout, as I sometimes think about the peculiar social situation, me among it in my own microlight way, and yet when I recall one of my favorite waters from my teenage years, Stony Brook in Mercer County, I always think first of the smallmouth bass, not the trout. (Stocked trout only.) For the most part, I had those bronzebacks--many, many dozens of them--all to myself. I fished with my brother Rick a lot, my brother David some, my friend Steve Rosso, but I best remember outings alone after school and on weekends or over the summer. I used to walk and wade at length and catch bass after bass on three-inch Mister Twister grubs on plain shank size 2 hooks. Strong, lean wild fish. No crowds flocking for them at all. Of course not.

And we know why. The media mentality and the ignorance of people all too beholden to the media, in regards to the actual world they live in, is here to stay. At least for a while yet. By and large, no fishermen knew about the smallmouth bass in Stony Brook. If most freshwater fishermen in New Jersey pursue stocked trout, I can say almost for a certainty that some of them possess but little inkling that fish other than what the state puts in exist, besides some sunfish. You might second guess that and correct me: no, that's the population at large who don't fish. But I've talked to people who know a bass here and there gets caught, but who otherwise have no idea whatsoever of the healthy resident populations existing here in this state. I have been fooled, too, though in a different way, because I was thinking of a mud-bottomed river ecology with regard to the possibility of smallmouth bass in a certain Morris County stream. (I won't get into certain follies from my young years.) Oliver Round put a wager on me regarding this judgement of mine, and later gathered information to contradict my opinion. I also didn't know that stream hosted wild browns upstream, until Oliver showed me the steady fly fishing. There's a whole lot more involved in knowing the real world than what the internet and TV can provide. Newspapers and other media faithfully report on trout stocking, and crowds of people obediently respond, as if this media effect is what fishing is all about.

That's just how any society is. By and large ignorant of the natural world. And we all would well agree--just as well that crowds don't go after the wild fish. They never will.

Besides, if you think posting information like this is detrimental to fish populations, think again. Who has read this far into this post, but few of you. And if you're intelligent enough to have come this far, you're wise to the conservation of these fish anyhow.