Category Archives: Pickerel

The Last Fish of the Year.

New Years Day, and the wind is gusting upwards of 20mph, which does not bode well for the fly caster. None the less, knowing my chances of getting out on the water tomorrow, after I’ve gone twelve rounds with the impending festivities that lie ahead, I went to the water anyway. I could use the practice while I can still feel my legs.


The wind did make my casting life a little more difficult, and it was the icy cold kind of wind that slips up your sleeve, but when the gusts would let up, and I could find a second to feel the sun, it was another unseasonably warm day, especially for the last day of the year. The water was capped and frothing from being whipped up by the westerlies, but most of the fish were indifferent. The Bass stayed out of sight, and eventually out of mind, but my Zap Bug was in the water only briefly before the little bluegills started eating it at regular intervals. This is not abnormal,not surprising. The surprises of the day were that the Calico were nowhere to be found. They are usually abundant here, and it was them I was fishing for. Also of surprise was that I was also catching a good number of Golden Shiners, basically a big minnow, but to describe it like that does it a disservice. It glitters in a silvery gold, it’s red dorsal fin in stark contrast, and it fights a lot harder than calico, bluegill, and sometimes, even bass. I only learned this now, having caught a grand total of one of these fish in all my time fishing here, and today, I find five. They are a heavily schooling fish, and I can only assume the school was in shallows and therefore in reach of my cast; an unusual phenomenon here, but a welcome one.



I hadn’t set out to have a day of reflection; a mental log book of a fisherman’s year, but thats the way it goes sometimes. I thought of all the memories made on the water this year, all those willing fish. The Bluefish blitzes off of Fenwick Island over summer, where we reeled them in one after the other. The big flounder I caught from the beach at the state park. The countless bass, pickerel, bluegill, and calico from my local grounds. The occasional trout from Newtons Pond. No Striped Bass, so far. They are late. But this is another reason for optimism for the coming year, as if a fisherman approaching spring needs such a thing. My bet is that the striper will arrive early on in the new year, and if I’m right, it could be a January to remember. I plan on spending some parts of that month knee -deep in trout streams, too. So much ahead.



As the afternoon drew to a close, all too early as we often complain at this time of year, a final tug on the line produced a tiny calico, among the smallest I’ve seen. I admired him briefly, let him know he would never be a big fish if he let clumsy fisherman like me catch him so easily, and sent him back to the deep. And that is how the reliable calico, savior of winter, become the last fish of this fisherman’s year.


My Best wishes for a Happy New Year!!

-Neil @ Fly & Gin




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Filed under Bluefish, Bluegill, Calico Bass, Crappie, Fishing, Fishy Water, Flounder, Fly, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Seasons, Striped Bass, Sussex County Ponds, Winter

Bass, Pickerel, Woolies and Perspective.


It’s another gloomy afternoon in light rain, and it’s a little cold and theres a breeze, but I have no complaints because fish don’t seem to care, and I have the afternoon to fish, and the water to myself, and it’s all about perspective.

I have been finding both bass and pickerel in deep water on the local grounds; pickerel in greater numbers, as they don’t mind the cooled water temperatures as much as the finicky bass. While I’ve caught several of both on a small collection of streamers this fall, the go-to fly has been the Woolly Bugger, and by significant margin. I’ve found a preference in these tan and olive colored ones; heavy from lead wiring around the hook shank and it’s bead head, and with an abundance of underwater animation provided by the light, stone-colored hackle. From the banks, I cast these into area I know to be deeper water, and let them sink before beginning a retrieve that is varied in depth and speed until I determine what the fish are looking for a on a chosen day. I don’t believe there really is a wrong way to fish a woolly, but finding the right way in a given situation is usually rewarded with plenty of strikes, even in the dwindling months of the year. Deeper water has been the preference of late, to the point that I’m allowing the woolly to sink to the lake bed before starting my retrieve.


Bass and pickerel tend to go after the same style and types of flies, but the bass are gentle on the fly, and the pickerel, with it’s rows of sharp teeth, is quite the opposite. There are more durable choices of fly when it comes to pickerel, but all the best ones: Woollies, Mickey Finns, muddlers and Spey types, can all be completely mangled in the capable jaws of a pickerel, as demonstrated in the picture above and the one below; a ‘before-and-after’ view of pickerel fishing with a woolly bugger.

I caught the fish, and he was a fine pickerel, full of fight and about fifteen inches long, and I can re-tie the fly. It’s all about perspective…..



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Filed under Fall, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Pickerel, Woolly Bugger

Toothy Critter 2

If you follow along, you may recall my encounters with popper smashing Pickeral on my local grounds. This morning, I caught up to one of these toothy critters while casting from my perch upon a spillway. With overcast skies and variable winds, and a litter of golden, red and brown leaves floating down onto the lake surface, I opted to fish deep with streamers.  This fellow bit a stone colored, copper head wooly bugger.

After carefully removing the fly, he thrashed back to deeper water with a strong flick of his tail. Until next time, fella. And thanks for not biting me, too.

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Filed under Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Freshwater, Pickerel, Uncategorized

Good Problems.

The biggest dilemma that confronts me on a daily basis is the decision on where to fish, and for what.

In a world of economic woes, high unemployment and a touch of civil unrest, this dilemma should be filed under “A Good Problem to Have”.

My home state is frequently snubbed, or at least not mentioned, as a quality fishing ground, but quite erroneously so. It’s true that I don’t have any Blue Ribbon trout streams within a days drive, and the states to the north tend to get the bulk of the saltwater game fish that pass off-shore during migration, but I tend to be the type to prefer the case of good liquor over the bottle of great liquor.

I live on a tidal creek that floods or falls when the tides of the Atlantic Ocean traverse the inland bays.  Here, I can fish for a wide variety of saltwater species from flounder and bluefish to perch and croaker, to the migratory striped bass that if, had you’d read certain fishing books, you’d think never swim south of New Jersey.

By boat, you can drift the Indian River Inlet, or Massey’s Ditch, or explore the hundreds of sandbars, coves, creeks and canals that make up the Rehoboth and Indian River bays.

By land, I can drive my 4×4 onto the soft sand of picturesque coastal beaches, and, with a surf rod, or a fly rod, cast for all mid-Atlantic inshore species. The majority of the coastline here is without a significant sandbar as with other east coast beaches. This denies you the simplicity of tossing some meat onto a sandbar and waiting for fish to bite, and encourages the

dedicated fisherman to learn to read the water, fishing rips and eddies, and learning to identify good water, and a good place to toss a fly.

Close to home, when I want to approach freshwater species, I have panfish, bass, pickeral, perch , carp and trout within twenty minutes drive, and in a range of settings, each with it’s own mood and character. A little further away, I can find wooded trout streams, some designated for fly fisherman only, where rainbow and brown trout appear in deep pools.

A wide variety of species, a variety of water and endless, year-round opportunities to catch fish. Yet, my state and it’s significant number of fisherman remain largely ignored.

If it sounds as if I have a chip on my shoulder, you may have a point. But it’s not without reason. Orvis has a fly fishing application that reports from Belize and Brazil, but not Delaware. The aforementioned book, and several like it,  ignore this state as they write their way down the striper coast. And yes, naturally, I’d complain just as loud if my local grounds were suddenly fished out by shoulder-to-shoulder fisherman in designer shirts an $400 sunglasses. So, perhaps I should take some solace in the fact that the fertile waters of home remain below the radar. Instead, I’ll continue to wake early, go out to the garage, stare at the saltwater and freshwater rods and flies, and wonder….

“Where will I fish today”?

A good problem to have.

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Filed under Bluefish, Bluegill, Books, Carp, Crappie, Croaker, Fishing, Fishy Water, Flounder, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Places, Striped Bass, White Perch

Toothy Critter.

On a crisp October day with a stiff, variable wind, I’m atop a spillway hunting Largemouth Bass. The Action on surface poppers, my favorite of all the bass baits, appears to be slowing as the lake collects Fall’s leaves and other debris. But, having fashioned some cork and deer hair into new poppers at my tying desk, I’m eager to see if my latest concoctions can draw a strike.

Like many bass waters, there are also Chain Pickerel haunting the hollow logs and weed beds where I toss my bugs and streamers. On the occasion that they choose to take a fly I intended for a bass, there is no mistaking them. They strike with a suddenness and ferocity that the largemouth cannot quite match, and their sharp teeth can lay waste to a fly. It’s because of this, and other telling clues, that I know I’ve been hit by a pickerel, even when I don’t land the fish.

I shared a photograph in this space just last week; a black popper, small enough to take Sunfish, but excellent at luring bass, that I was swimming beneath the surface before my line was violently yanked at my feet, and, just as quickly, released, to lay limp on the surface.  A brief inspection at the smashed fly confirmed my suspicion. I had found a pickerel.

The following day, while fishing a red streamer around the same location, I had again been yanked, but this time only to retrieve a frayed and spliced line, absent my newly tied Red Squirrel.

Days passed, and I fished other waters for trout, unsuccessfully. A day of poor weather here and there allowed me time in the garage, where I replaced my lost flies, including a selection of newly tied poppers of all sizes and descriptions, some designed for pan fish, others for bass and trout.

I returned to the spillway yesterday morning, eager to launch a black deer hair popper to the far bank, to fish around a fallen branch where I believed I would find rising bass. My cast was slightly short, but I let the bait sit until the concentric circles dissipated, and longer. After what passed as a satisfactory period of time, I gave the bug a quick tug, causing the cupped nose to gurgle, and again, let it rest. I repeated this process across the front of the spillway as I retrieved the bait slowly to my feet, where it met with the jaws of a pickerel. This time, I saw the offending fish. It was surprisingly small, but moved like a torpedo and was gone as soon as I was able to process it’s explosive arrival.

I put the headless bug in the streamer box instead of the bug box. I located a wire leader.

On a crisp October day with a stiff, variable wind, I’m atop a spillway hunting Pickerel…….

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Filed under Bluegill, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Poppers