I was hoping to report the days fishing in this space, as it happened. A foolish idea in hindsight. When I have the time and space and the comfort of home, I look forward to recounting the last few days. The fishing has been, by all accounts, very slow. That, and a day full of less then optimal weather conditions did not, however, dampen the spirits of my fellow anglers and their respective guides. Tarpon have been sighted, dramatically so, but not caught. Red fish and snook have not been so lucky, but have been returned safely to the warm Florida waters. We are having a damn good time.
Category Archives: Places
(It’s been quiet around here. This blog tends to roll with the seasons, and looking at the slow rain outside, I realize we’ve only just emerged from a long, cold winter. When the ponds and creeks were frozen over, and the saltwater catch slowed to nothing, I took time to do many things other than fishing, including starting a business and working on some other projects. Now, despite the weather, spring is here and the fishing is good, and only looks to get better. Thanks for sticking around – Neil)
I decided this year to spare you the “Spring has Sprung” post. Although a staple of fishing blogs, being the seminal season for anglers, even I was tired of the concept. Yes, the Osprey’s arrived, the Henbit bloomed and the horseshoe crabs have appeared. It’s all quite wonderful, but time isn’t in abundance as it once was. So down to business, it is…..
Striped bass, bluefish and flounder are all being caught in keeper sizes and numbers along the beaches here in southern DE. The reports from the trout waters up north have all been positive, although the shad have not yet shown in big numbers. I’ve been capitalizing on all the above, but it’s the warm, clear waters of Florida that are calling me now.
I’m 24 hours from boarding a plane bound for the gulf coast, and Boca Grande. I am participating in a catch & release tournament – a charitable benefit in pursuit of redfish, trout, snook, and tarpon. Gear is being prepped as best as can be by an angler stepping into somewhat unfamiliar waters.
The particular brand of jitters I’m experiencing is a combination of several undeniable truths:
Travel – I like traveling, do it as often as I can, enjoy flying (for the most part), and am not the kind to bitch about a 3 hour hop to sunshine and blue water. That said, any time I travel, the 48 hours before departure are always a quiet meditation – running checklists of gear, clothing, identification, flight numbers and departure times.
Fishing with a guide – I’ve never done it. Although I’m expecting to be assigned a helpful, professional guide who understands I’m in town for charity and fun, you never know. I also have no idea if this guide will think I cast like a slob and should probably never be allowed near a fly rod. I think this comes from having never had a formal lesson in fly casting. As a self taught angler, I’m always self conscious that what I’m doing looks like hell to a trained professional. I also don’t want to sink a 1/0 hook into his boat. Or him, for that matter.
Tarpon – Redfish and snook excite the hell out of me. To be truthful, those two species are the ones that I’m most anxious to chase, but let’s face it. I’m the minority. Most of these guys want to hook into a 150lb tarpon. Don’t get me wrong – so do I. But I fear I’m improperly armed. I’m heading down with an 8wt and a 6wt. A 150lb fish sounds like 10wt game to me. Also, it’s tarpon. A legendary, revered target of fly anglers. If I do get a shot at one, I really don’t want to screw it up.
Despite by grumblings, I remain optimistic and excited. Not long now, it;s good fishing, cool drinks and pleasant accommodations. Did I mention I was invited, and therefore expenses are covered? That helps, too.
I’ll be reporting back on these pages every evening. My posts may be short until I can return home and soak in the experience to the degree required to get a decent account on paper.
Good to see you again. Let’s go fishing…..
In the early days of a new year, I find myself making lists of things to do. Not the usual promises of gym routines and minimal alcohol intake, the kind that are designed to be broken, but the fishing kind. My home waters will obviously be well worked in 2012; that’s a given. But where else would I like to go? Costa Rica, of course. Bonefish in Hawaii. Chile, Argentina, The Bahamas. Yeah, right.
I’d love to do all that, and while out of pure stubbornness, I’ll never rule any of it out, I’m talking realistic goals I can pick off like like swatting flies. The kind of trips that, assuming good health and no cracked limbs, there is no reasonable excuse not to complete.
In the next week or so, I will make the short two hour drive north to wander the White Clay Creek in search of brown and rainbow trout.
The White Clay meanders into northern Delaware from the south-east corner of Pennsylvania, and is the biggest reason I have for considering a purchase of a Pennsylvania fishing license. I wouldn’t think twice, except that the PA license is a full $50 more than my DE license, due to non-residency and the significant difference in the sizes of our states. There are of course, other great reasons to hold a PA license. I’d like to fish the Spring, Beaver and Allegheny creeks, too. But the White Clay is the closest stretch of good trout water, and when scouting upstream, I’d prefer to not be halted by the invisible state line that renders my DE license worthless and my fishing illegal.
The White Clay is stocked every year by both the state, and the White Clay Fly Fishers Club. It is also home to some large holdover trout from previous seasons, and sees a spring run of shad every year. It’s truly year-round water, and I plan to make much more use of it this year than in years past. Thankfully, family is nearby, making it an easy place to stay and fish.
While on the topic of licensing in other states, my third license of the year will be purchased from the good people of Maryland, so that I can fish a stream that truly excites me. The Big Gunpowder River starts in Pennsylvania and tumbles through Maryland into the Chesapeake Bay. The upstream Prettyboy Reservoir Dam releases 55 degree water all year long, creating a fertile, east coast, Blue Ribbon trout water populated predominantly by browns, but with some rainbow and brook trout in the mix. While the brown trout population has been naturally sustaining for decades, there is some stocking of rainbow in the lower catch and release section of the river.
These waters made some news in fly fishing circles this year when The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Board of Public Works renamed the Gunpowder South Trail the Lefty Kreh Fishing Trail in honor of the Maryland native, and ambassador to our sport.
Fishing reports have been good all winter, and I’d like to get there sooner than later. In the meantime, I read Backwater Angler and Knee Deep; locals on the Gunpowder who share more advice and information than anybody has to.
Most of the stream consists of long pools divided by short riffles, tree lined banks and beautiful scenery, is a few hours form home, and I’ve never caught a brown trout. I can’t wait to try.
I looked at the date yesterday and almost fell out of my chair. It may be a cliche, but it’s truly amazing how time will fly. Blink, and January will be over.
Fair enough, because February will find me in Lancaster, Pa for my first Fly Fishing Show. I’m looking forward to viewing all the latest tackle and materials, meeting some of the guys who write the books I’ve read and who designed the flies I disgrace by attempting to tie, (Mr. Clouser, Mr. Kreh, how are you?) and learning as much as I can. There are demonstrations and clinics on everything from casting and tying flies and knots. As if that were not enough, the International Fly Fishing Film Festival will be there, screening several films over the two days. With films based around our sport getting better, prettier and more interesting every year, this may well be the highlight for me.
Well, that gets me through February. More to come, no doubt….
The New Year has not allowed for foolishness thus far. The wind has been up every day, or at least it feels that way, and the real cold is here now, too. The kind of cold that can make you downright angry between your car and the grocery store.
I did get down to my favorite secluded kayak dock on Trap Pond last week, and again to the brackish canal that cuts a demarcation between the towns of Dewey and Rehoboth just the other day; a trip that was made memorable by my casting into a steadily falling snow, but an absence of fish. It was picturesque, beautiful. But it was also frigid and uneventful. The absence of fishing, even for a short amount of time, leaves room and time for other things. I layered up and took a walk through nearby Cape Henlopen State Park.
A bustling tourist beach all summer long, crammed with fisherman, swimmers, cyclists and hikers, the park remains ghostly quiet in the winter. The preserved remains of WWII era infrastructure is still here from when this land was in military hands. Observations towers, bunkers and mothballed artillery can be found amongst the sand dunes and in space made for trailside attractions, and they all add to the haunting ambience of the park in winter. Yet, it remains a comforting place. You can stand there within three hours of four major cities, atop a sand dune, and see nothing but trees in one direction, and open ocean in the other. It comes as no surprise that such a place becomes a haven for the remaining visible wildlife of winter.
The park also has a long fishing pier. I used to come here on occasion and go fishing at night. Something I think I’m less likely to do now, but still recall fondly. The comraderie between the hardy fisherman on this pier long after dark on a cold night is a thing of legend, and having experienced in first-hand more than once, I can safely say that most of it is true. On this day, however, there were no fisherman to be found at dusk, but the pier is still as good a place in the state to watch a spectacular winter sunset.
Local news reports that, under an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the nearby Indian River power plant will be retiring it’s three most ancient generating units; dinosaurs that drink copious amounts of bay water for the purposes of cooling. They will rely on only the remaining generator, which is equipped with a self contained cooling system, requiring significantly less water top operate.
According DNREC officials, the reduced water intake at the plant should have a significant effect on crab and fish populations.
“The decrease in water intake is expected to save an estimated 300,000 blue crabs and Atlantic croaker, 40,000 winter flounder, 1.6 million bay anchovy and 60,000 Atlantic menhaden, said John R. DeFriece, program manager for DNREC’s Discharge Permits Program.”
I had absolutely no idea that the power plant was a massive fish eating machine, but now we know, and things are clearly improving. If there are 1.6 million bait fish for striped bass and blue fish, and an additional 40,000 winter flounder to chase, the locals will surely approve.
Long before I ever picked up a fly rod, I was, and continue to be, a beach fisherman. I spend most of my time with a fly rod now, in salt and fresh water, but I still like to dust off my old spinning gear and go out in search of bluefish, striped bass, and the smaller fish, spot, croaker and kings. I did just that on Friday, and I struck out without a catch, but that’s probably because I used one lure, didn’t try very hard and only stayed a short time, most of which was spent taking pictures. One can say a lot or a little about fishing the beach, but I imagine that most will agree it’s among the most beautiful places to stand a wave a stick.
A guest post over at The Functioning Fishaholics, written by Josh Mann of Something’s Fishy, attempts to take some of the mystery and intimidation out of surf fishing by correctly pointing out the path of least resistance for the newcomer: Simple bait rigs and smaller fish. Josh writes of catching spot and croaker from piers and beaches, and I’m happy to find a fisherman who enjoys that, because more often than not, I hear fisherman talk about catching these fish as if it wasn’t worth the bother. One guy in a bait shop, upon hearing me recount my morning spent catching croaker and spot so frequently that I never put the rod in it’s sand spike, actually looked at me, shook his head, and said “Well, I guess that’s cool if you like catching bait”.
I feel bad for that guy. He’s missing all the fun, and it’s a pretty safe bet he doesn’t like fishing very much anymore. But he’s not alone. There are many like him, all casting 4oz sinkers and bleeding meat into the deep and then staring at the rod tip for hours. When they catch skates and small sharks, they curse them for not being a trophy bluefish or striper. Josh points out that this should be part of the fun; never knowing whats on the end of the line, but knowing the possibilities are not limited to the two or three species you know are there. It strikes me as a sort of arrogance; throwing bait into a pond the size of the Atlantic and then being upset that what bit it wasn’t what you wanted to bite it. It would be like sticking your hand into a sack of M&M’s and being pissed off because you came out with a yellow one.
When I purchased my first surf rod, I just assumed I needed a behemoth 11 foot rod like everyone else, and so I have one. It’s in my garage, collecting dust. I hardly ever use it. I think it made three
trips to the surf this year. These rods work fine further south where there is an outer sand bar and bait casters need to get the bait into it’s vicinity, but on my local beaches, where there is no outer bar and the waves break right onto the beach, it’s simply overkill. This makes complete sense to me, but I still almost never see anyone else using anything less than ten feet of surf rod. Then, most people on the beach wind up and cast so hard and far that you’d think they were told that, in order to catch a fish, you have to get the bait beyond the three mile limit and into international waters. The truth is, the fish are usually hanging out just beyond the breakers, where the food is being kicked up and swirled around and funneled to waiting fish. On my beaches, that means they are very close to the beach. It does not compute, at first, that the fish are actually swimming in the smae places you do when you go swimming.
Time on the water and the catching lots of fish taught me exactly what I’d need to fish my beach. My surf equipment today consists of three rods. Two are identical 7-1/2′ medium/heavy action surf rods, the third an 8′ heavy action surf rod capable of throwing up to 4oz of lure or sinker. On a brief outing like the most recent, I’ll take one of my identical rods, tie on a Hopkins lure, and walk the beach, as Josh describes, looking for breaking bluefish to cast to. If I’m spending considerably more time, I’ll take all three rods. One will be rigged with the Hopkins. It’s twin will be rigged with a top-and-bottom rig with floating hooks. I’ll tip these hooks with an artificial bloodworm called Fishbites, and cast just beyond the breakers. This rod and bait will catch all kinds of fish. using this system I’ve reeled in striped bass, bluefish, kingfish, croaker and spot, just to name a few. It’s a system I’ve tested again and again against many others, and it works very well.
The eight foot rod will hold one of two things, depending on the day, and my mood. I’ll either construct a fish-finder rig tipped with some form of cut bait like bunker, herring or mullet; or I will use it’s strong backbone to cast heavier lures, such as a 3oz bucktail, a simple, yet very effective lure I love so much I learned to paint, and tie them myself, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that I’d like to tie flies, and learn to fly fish.
With this simple setup I have all my bases covered. While bait rods rest in sand spikes, I can watch them from nearby as I cast a lure into the sea. I can catch
little fish and big fish, and it’s actually easier to pack, transport, and fish these three rods than it is to use a lone eleven or twelve foot rod. Most importantly, while the big rod guys are not catching fish because nothing the size of compact car swam by and ate an entire bunker fish bait, I’m catching fish frequently, because I’m willing, and happy, to go after smaller fish. Theres a a lesson to be learned there, I think.
Thanks to Josh and the Fishaholics for a good read and the sound advice to the novice. I’m glad to see a fellow surf fisherman that appreciates the little fish, and knows they helped him land those big stripers he catches today. For more, check out Josh’s blog for the beginning surf fisherman.