Category Archives: Scenery

Catching Up.

 

Could it really be three weeks since I last posted here? I frown on other regular writers when they do that. But perhaps I can be forgiven. Things have been hurried, real life has been engaging, and I forgot the amount of work that spring requires.

Beach Trash

After Trout season was in bloom, I’d landed some nice freshwater fish, and was content to do some other things. The Henbit, after all, had arrived. This purple flower shows up on roadsides and turns the local fields purple each spring, and it’s always a solid bet that, with the arrival of the Henbit, the first flounder in the back bays will be caught. And so it was this year, on schedule.  The spring striper run was fair, and the fish are lingering with the warmer temperatures. That’s what I hear, anyway. When I shelved the fly rod and took out my beach rods last week, I caught absolutely nothing. Instead, I used up my time by collecting a stack of Mylar balloons off of the beach, and one large trash bag that had washed ashore that made me cross my fingers and hope I would find trash in it, and not something more gruesome. If the crime shows my girlfriend watches are any indication, one of these is going to be stuffed with a guy with a questionable background and some recognizable tattoos. Any day now….

 

Roadside Henbit

 

 

Praying Mantis Hatch

Yes, spring is all around and in full swing. Along with the appearance of the usual plants, I’ve almost tripped over a couple of turtles, and the other day, I had the rare opportunity to watch a Praying Mantis hatch in my back yard. I was just in the right place at the right time. The new-born mantis are almost tan in color at birth, but are very recognizable by the all the familiar atributes; the “praying” appendages, the large eyes. They emerge from what is called an ootheca, basically a frothy mess that an adult mantis deposits, in this case, in my shrubs. This hardens, and protects the growing young until they emerge.

So, in the mad dash between stringing up salt water rods one morning, and then grabbing my fly rod the next day, and with intervals of playing nature photographer, and the annual dusting off of the lawn mower, rakes and water hoses, there just hasn’t been a lot of time for fishing and writing. I caught a nice bass the other day on a brief local trip. He bit an olive and brown woolly bugger and was cruising shallow water. Carp are appearing in the shallows, too. On an impromptu trip out to Las Vegas last week to visit my girlfriend’s family and celebrate her birthday, the chance to fish did not arise, but I did sneak off to Bass Pro and pick up some flies and tying material for the coming saltwater expeditions. Crab imitations, shrimp and baitfish, and my old favorites, the Clouser. I think I’m ready to go. Time to catch some fish….

 

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Filed under Bass, Carp, Clouser, Fishing, Flounder, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Saltwater, Scenery, Seasons, Spring, Striped Bass, Sussex County Ponds

Beyond Fishing – Cape Henlopen

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.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ocean, Places, Scenery, Seasons, Winter

On Salt.

Fishing Fenwick Beach last Friday.

The Beach at Fenwick Island.

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

My 11-foot surf rod.

Homemade Bucktail lures.

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.

My rig of choice for the surf.

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

My beach rods, and the ever-present Hopkins lure.

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.

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Filed under Bluefish, Fiberglass Rods, Fishing, Fishy Water, Gear, Ocean, Places, Rods, Saltwater, Scenery, Striped Bass, Surf Fishing

Dawn Patrol.

Theres no escaping it; winter is creeping in, but is doing so under the cover of darkness when most are asleep, and therefore blissfully unaware. With a scattered few exceptions, the days continue to reach unseasonably warm temperatures. But here on the water, just before 6 a.m, steam rises from the mirrored surface and the fly line freezes fast against the guides. I’m alone here, as I expected. Even in summer, this water isn’t the crowded type. But now, in December, the quiet of the morning is almost unnerving; the still of the clear water reflecting the rising sun, the trees, but none of the disturbances that give away feeding fish.

At this time of year, the angler that prefers to sleep late can still be rewarded. The fish tend to wait until the afternoon, when the water temperature is increased by a degree or so, to feed. The rules of summer, with early morning angling taking precedence,  are not in effect, although it still seems that dusk provides action.

I ruin the glassy water with an opening cast, cursing my lost gloves and frozen fingers, and begin to search the deeper channels for bass or a holdover trout. Instead, after an hour without any signs of life, I feel a soft pull on the line. I set the hook, and bring in a savior of winter; the Calico Bass.

“Savior of Winter” is a pleasant name for a fish that has many ugly names that it does not deserve. I call it a savior for the simple reason that; even after a pond, lake or river has iced over, this fish will still be available and active for fisherman to catch, all the way through the winter months. They do not strike hard, nor do they put up a gallant fight, but they are handsome with their specked tail and silvery-green flanks. Locally, and in the majority of the states, this fish lives under the ugly name of Black Crappie, pronounced “croppie”. Elsewhere, they are known as strawberry bass, papermouth, speck, or speckled bass, but the good people of New England got it right when they called this fish calico bass, a poetic, respectful name for a fish so worthy, and so generous as to keep me fishing in winter.

The sun is climbing higher now, and the day is becoming warmer, and I’m beginning to shed layers of clothing with every passing hour. It’s turning into a beautiful fall or winter day, it doesn’t matter which; clear skies and warmer than one would expect after spending the dawn hours trying to fish with your hands in your pockets. In the late morning sun, the scenery and the calico bass have made for some beautiful time on the water.

 

Neil D. Parry

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Filed under Calico Bass, Crappie, Fall, Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Scenery, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds

20 Ponds. – Tussock

While recently browsing the fishing section of the DNREC website, I came across a listing of state owned public ponds, and it was only then that I discovered that there are twenty of them in my county alone, and I’d only fished three of them. Water is everywhere in Sussex county, with the bays, tributaries, rivers, and of course, the big pond we call the Atlantic, so my oversight can perhaps only be explained by an abundance of good locations near home; the ocean alone enough to keep me fishing without visiting the same couple of locations every other day. But twenty is a nice round number, and Sussex is not a big county, so like Mallory’s mountain, I’ll fish them all because they are there.

While I’d take note of where I’d been and fully intended to visit all of them, I must stress that this was not a gonzo fishing operation aimed at high fish body-counts or a reason to claim I’d “fished ’em all”. It would simply take me to new places that have been right under my nose the entire time, as fishing often does. If the fish wanted to contribute by willingly taking a fly from a stranger now and again, that would be fine, but having not known that some of these  ponds even existed, let alone that they have fish in them, made me feel lazy and dumb about my surroundings. It is also an excuse to write about local waters from the perspective of the bank fisherman. I find that most fishing information left online or in books in regards to my local area begins by assuming the reader owned a boat. But what if you don’t?

Finding each pond on Google maps was easy enough, and I found that several were scattered around the lower third of Delaware in clusters; some mill-ponds, some man-made, others the remnants of when this neck of the woods was blanketed in Cypress Swamp. I was going fishing in the morning, and I had the day, so I marked a couple of ponds I could fish for a few hours each, and I’d see what I could see.

After a wrong turn that left me staring at an empty cul-de-sac, I found my way into the empty parking lot of Tussock Pond. It was unseasonably warm, and I was down to a long sleeved t-shirt before I finished rigging up.

According to my reading, Tussock had suffered from fluctuating water levels and this had contributed to a lower-than-average growth among fish. 400 largemouth bass fingerlings were introduced to the water on 2007 in an effort to boost the population, but the pond lost so much water in the fall of the same year that these efforts were probably hampered. The information trail goes cold here, but the pond and it’s waterline certainly looked very healthy to me, so the only thing to do is go fish it as well as you can, and see what it produces. This is not the best way to go into the fishing of a new water; with ‘below average’ stamped neatly on your expectations, but you also may think you can prove that theory wrong; at least by your own standards.

Most of the shoreline here is thick with brush, so good opportunities for casting a fly rod are slim. Working from the boat ramp wasn’t too difficult, especially with the nearby trees now bare and the leaves under my feet, but the area I could cover was small, and didn’t look promising. I searched it with a woolly anyway, feeling for bass, and finding none. I could see an open stretch of bank across the water; probably a good 40 feet of blue sky bookended by trees. Some stumps protruded from the still water before it. I reeled in and started my walk to the opposite side, which took me along a country road, where I stopped and leaned on a guard rail and made lazy casts to the far side of a rocky spillway, it’s very working existence confirming that water levels had returned to good health.

As I continued on, along the edge of a farm field and towards my spot, a noisy Dehavilland Twin Otter took of from nearby Kent Airport, and clawed it’s way into the air. I’d noted the airport on my map, and new it to be a small grass strip. Such an airplane, out in the countryside and operating from a grass strip, led me to surmise that it was for a sky diving operation. At least, I knew he wasn’t dusting crops.

There had been an optical illusion form the boat ramp on the other side of the pond. Those stumps weren’t nearly as close as they had appeared, but the bank was indeed clear of obstruction and I liked the view.

I tied on a small Clouser and began to send long casts out to the stumps; letting the fly sink and then beginning a swimming retrieve. If the bass were home, they weren’t interested, and I began to cast out to other water, or up along the bank, but the stumps were just classic bass cover and I returned the fly there with every third cast or so. Nothing came of it.

When I’m not catching fish where I thought I might, I tend to do one of three things: I change my fly, though I try to do this as little as possible, for the sake of my leader, and my sanity. I might move. Or, I’ll choose to take a moment to just sit and watch.

Moving wasn’t going to happen. I’d found my preffered spot on the shoreline, from where I could work the most water, and I was happy there. So I watched.

The sun was directly in my eyes, but not too high in the sky, and if I crouched and put the tree line between us I could watch the shady part of the water off to my left. The water lay as still and flat as tightly tucked sheets with the litter of fall motionless on it’s surface. Woolies and Clousers hadn’t produced any fish from the deeper water, and I knew there was a population of bluegill and reader sunfish here, although both are said to live with the bass in the ‘below’ average numbers’ category. So I tied on an Adams parachute, a favorite of mine for bluegill, and sent it softly into the shady water. The fly sat up on the dutifully, drunk on floatant, and before it’s concentric circles had dissipated, it was snatched angrily by a scrappy bluegill.

I thanked him for playing, then lowered him back to the water, as over my shoulder, parachutes, – red, blue, yellow – , drifted lazily from the sky.

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Filed under Adams, Bluegill, Clouser, Fall, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Places, Scenery, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Woolly Bugger

Fall, Winter, Baseball, Fishing, and the promise of the Sweet Season….

The fishing is not yet over in my neck of the woods, and nor will it be completely over, but the writing is on the wall, the view from my back porch expanding as the leaves settle to the lawn, and the slow fishing and icy lake shores are definitely around the proverbial bend. That bush was a brilliant green just a month ago, and Thanksgiving plans are being made as I write. The alarm bells of nature and time are ringing.

So, it’s time to consider preparations for Spring, when baseball season and fishing season will come to life along with everything else. I’ll be organizing my tying desk, stocking up on materials, and filing fly boxes for next season while I keep abreast of the Philadelphia Phillies off-season moves. The birds and the striped bass are moving south, the foxes digging in. I’m thinking about that trip to Utah in March to chase rainbow trout with an old friend.

We are all, in our own way, preparing for the sweet season ahead.

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Filed under Baseball, Fall, Fishing, Fly Boxes, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Gear, Scenery, Seasons, Winter