Category Archives: Seasons

Proceed.

(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.

Camera 360

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…..

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishing, Florida, Places, Saltwater, Seasons, Spring

Merry Christmas…..

…from Neil @ Fly & Gin. I hope you all had a wonderful day, and got as much cool fishing swag as I did.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Seasons

The Elements.

One of the things that keeps you fishing in your mind, even when you are away from the water, is that it is, indeed, a weather game.

My own fascination and connection to weather is probably a result of my becoming a pilot about ten years ago. When you fly frequently, as I once did and will do again, the weather plays a significant roll in your everyday life. Cold fronts, warm snaps, density altitude and visibility, wind direction and speed, winds aloft, humidity, precipitation, sky conditions. In a matter of seconds, every day, you dissect all of this and more, often in no less than a few minutes, and determine if you’ll  be able to safely fly an airplane at a given moment. This occurs even on days when you know for a fact you won’t fly. Other things to do, work, away from home, whatever the case, you still wake up, observe the elements in a snapshot, and decide if you’d like to go flying. It becomes instinct, second nature, old hat, routine. And even though I’ve been grounded more than I’d like as of late, this is still something I do every day without having to remind myself.

The fisherman is no different. The analysis is for a distinctly different purpose, and the relationship between the activity and the weather is only slightly comparable, but for me, the one constant is my general dislike for wind. I can’t, or won’t, do the things I love to do when the wind is up. It used to be that a windy day scrubbed a trip in an airplane. Now, and more frequently, it keeps me off the water. The two-week blow of winds ranging from 15 to 25mph I’m experiencing at the time of this writing is such an event. I’m grounded.

Yes, you can go fishing in blustery conditions. With a conventional rod and reel, you can still cast a heavy lure or sinker a good distance into the wind. And shooting-head fly lines and a little technique can keep the fly-rodder battling the breeze too, but I just don’t like it. I’ve learned how to cast in a moderate winds – using more of a sidearm, whipping cast instead of a traditional, over-the-shoulder delivery – and I’ve taken my share of flies-travelling at the speed of light- to the back of the legs, a few dings in the skull, and one that imbedded itself painfully in the flesh above my left elbow, which means that if it had missed, I would have cast a fly with the rod in my right hand and with the line passing my left arm. Spooky.

I never went flying on rainy days, or the gloomy ones with the low cloud cover – or ceiling, if you’re talking to pilots. But these are good days for fishing. For the casual fisherman, the weekend guy, the day tripper that keeps the tackle stores in business, the only weather in which to fish is the good kind. Sunny summer days, shorts and flip flops. I like this. This is how I tend to see fly fishing. My favorite images of the sport are never the old guy in the rain slicker casting on a small Pennsylvania stream in a downpour. It’s always the guy in shorts, bright blue sky, a Caribbean-clear water. Those low-draft skiffs with the poling platforms. Bonefish and all that. But the truth is, I’ve yet to fish any lower latitudes, and my fishing is more frequently jeans and boots, which makes my favored view of fly fishing the sad result of all those multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. I do get the summers here, casting into a rip while waist deep in the ocean, and it’s almost the most fun you can have with almost all of your clothes off. But rainy, gloomy days remain some of best fishing you’ll find. Hatches are bigger and more frequent, bringing the trout to the surface, and bass and pike will be more likely to roam and hunt. You are more likely to find yourself alone on the water. The casual fisherman doesn’t fish in this weather. That may mean that he’s smarter than me; it may just mean I am a little more intense about fishing than he is, I’m not sure. But I’m grateful for the solitude, and the lack of boundaries that are implanted when you’re respectfully fishing around others. Selfish, perhaps, but the only form of fishing that isn’t selfish is the kind that feeds a starving person, and I still sleep ok at night.

A slow rain is therapeutic. On a still, foggy day, the light rain on the surface seems to have a logical pattern and rhythm. It can lull you in to a kind of catatonic state if you let it. You cast your line, and then begin watching the surface, and before you know it, you’re gone. Watching the concentric circles and hearing the patter on your rain coat, and almost nothing else. Then, slowly, you remember that you’ve read all those books and spent all this money, and now you had better try to catch a fish to justify it all. And, because you made it out here in this miserable weather, you probably will. Then you’ll pat yourself on the back, just for being there. Because, by god, you take your fishing seriously, and so on.  Fishing in crappy weather supposedly says something about your dedication. When you do come across someone else on the same water as you with a stiff breeze of cold air and some miserable drizzle, you look at each other with the same knowing glance. Yeah, we’re both out of our minds.

There was no snow here this year. Probably just as well. I’d have gone fishing, for sure. I’ve been ice fishing once, and found it wasn’t my cup of tea. Standing on several feet of frozen St. Lawrence River, the United States to my right, and Canada to my left, wearing a full-body coast guard jumpsuit and shaking frozen chunks of beer from cans into my mouth. We had fun, caught a pike and a buzz, and I’m glad I had the experience. But there is a reason I’ve never done it again. Too much standing around, and it’s damned cold up there, even with a military issue warm-suit. A quiet, snowy day casting to trout on a yet-to-be frozen lake, however, is a unique challenge. Sluggish fish, deep water nymphing and cold water on your fly line. Ice in the guides, as they say. It’s fun, because you can leave whenever you want, and because it’s simply harder to catch fish. It’s good for a fisherman to be challenged.

The excitement of those first few warm days of the year are the best. The first carp and bass sighted in shallow water and the first flounder taken in the bays. It’s the seasonal starting gun; the call for guys like me to go fishing. A lot. Less layers, no gloves, released from winters grip in a t-shirt and shorts. We’re there now. We’ve had those first few days and the fish are in their spring time cruise. In a few months it will be a lot of beach fishing in sweltering heat. This is always hit or miss, and tidal position and timing become more important. We’ll catch Bluefish that break the surface by the hundreds, drag in angry flounder and listen to the tackle shop complaints of the 18 inch keeper limit, cook and eat with bare feet in the sand and cast big ugly poppers from the shores of ponds and lakes. Fall will move in, and we’ll all say it came late this year. The fishing in local freshwater will be at it’s best and we’ll be preparing for the fall run of striped bass, and will have come full circle again. Before we know it, we’ll be locked up indoors or casting from a snowy bank, and encouraging spring to hurry up and get here. We should be careful what we wish for. I wish this damn wind would stop…..

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishing, Seasons

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….

 

Leave a comment

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

Trout Season – The Good, the Bad, & The Ugly.

 

The opening weekend of trout season on my local waters was wet and cold, windy and gloomy. If there were any anglers out, I couldn’t say, I was holed up. But, I found my way there as soon as the weather cleared. I chose Sunday for it’s sun, warmth, and lack of wind, and found a handful of anglers at Newton Pond, on both boat and bank. The boats had motors. That was a surprise. They aren’t allowed on this pond, according to the sign post on the gate.

The pond was in character – clear and unruffled -but was showing signs of a rough weekend. Trout season had been open for one week, and the number of fisherman who had visited had left a trail of trash and debris behind them. I’d been fishing here, almost always in solitude, since late last summer without the jarring sight of coffee cups, styrofoam worm containers and Strike King spinner packages strewn all over the banks.

This is a catch-to-take fishery. The state prefer you keep the fish, as they won’t live through the hot summer months, and most of the fisherman here now are interested in keeping a fish or six to eat. This is confirmed by the freshly filleted trout carcass near the trash heap. What are we to make of this? That people show up with a rod and reel to catch fish to eat, and yet litter the banks and the pond itself with all manners of garbage? Ignorance? Stupidity? Both?

No matter. I packed out what I could, and I wasn’t prepared to let a few slobs interrupt my personal opening day for trout.

 

I found the small cobblestone boat ramp unoccupied, and began casting from there. The action was not fast, but the clear water provided some great opportunities to cast to cruising fish. Casting a fly to fish you can see is just about as fun as it gets. There’s the added layer of anticipation, and a more active roll in the catch. You get to see it all happen, right in front of you.

You spot a trout, about 15 yards away, just beneath the surface. He is moving slowly, deliberately, from your right side to your left. You don’t want to make more than one false cast if you don’t have to; your line in the air above the water may spook him. You want to cast the fly ahead, and above him. You want room to work the line and animate the fly, and hope the trout thinks you are as good a puppeteer as you think you are.

You make your cast.

The line hits the water gently. The fish doesn’t spook. You begin to work the fly towards you, never taking your eye off the fish. He stops and hovers just few inches below the surface, and rotates a few degrees to get a look at the object swimming nearby. You know he’s seen it. You don’t know for sure if you should give it another twitch, or let it hang there in the water column. The wrong move may scare the fish. The right one will catch him. It’s just a few seconds, but it feels like a long time. You’re thinking “Eat it. Eat it!”, but he keeps staring at it as if mesmerized. You give another twitch, just enough to trigger the trout’s instict to eat and survive, and he lurches forward with one stiff kick of his tail. You feel the line go tight in your hand, and you pull it back, and raise the rod tip. Trout season has officially begun…..

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Trout

SITREP

New Year fishing has been unsatisfactorily quiet thus far. Between the sudden cold snap, many high-wind days, and the business of life, January and most of February have not seen anything approaching my usual level of fishing expeditions. None the less, the last few days have seen warm afternoons approaching 60 degrees, and late night rains; good conditions for fresh water fishing locally. All indications are that we will see an early start to the fishing season this year. A warm fall followed by a mild winter, and what looks to be an approaching sudden spring.

Yesterday, on a warm afternoon, I took the opportunity to grab a rod and do some scouting at one of my favorite freshwater locations; Trap Pond. What I found was encouraging. There are lots of bait fish in the shallows. Huge numbers of fish. The surface was alive with rising bait and pan fish, and the splashes of breaching predators can be heard over your shoulder at any given time. Casting into some favorite honey holes was producing a strike on just about every tug of the fly, but almost no takes, indicating that; even with my smallest sized popper on the line, the striking fish were simply to small to take it.

I saw some incredible boils – hundreds of baitfish being chased by some predator or another until they break the surface in a thrashing frenzy of foam and chaos. There were no big fish to be caught, perhaps because of the sheer volume of bait, and thus, competition for my fly. The ever-cooperative Bluegills prevented a catch-less day, but I would have preferred an early spring bass or pickerel.

The warm afternoon, which required only a t-shirt and left me shedding layers, was suddenly interrupted as a wind picked up and the tall pines sounded their alarms. A storm was approaching. The surface became more active with feeding fish as a cloud cover rolled over, and thunder could be heard in the distance. I chose to call it a day. I hadn’t made it through the woods and back to my truck before the rain started, and by the time I got home, some 35 minutes later, we were sitting in full-on torrential rain conditions, thunder and lightning, and mild flooding.

I hadn’t been the only fisherman on the water, but I was the first to leave, and I’m glad I did, as I was the only fly fisherman, and in a lightning storm, one does not want to be the guy with the tallest poll.

On another note -the Division of Fish and Wildlife has announced a trout stocking of two nearby ponds with approximately 300 pounds of rainbow trout for the upcoming season, which begins at 7 a.m. March 3rd. The fish are said to have an average size of 11 to 13 inches, with some significantly larger fish in the mix. Re-stocking of the ponds will take place again on March 15. In the northern part of our state, six streams will receive thousands of fish for that season, which opens April 7th.

I’ve never fished the local ponds during opening day of trout season. I’ll be there, camera in hand, as I hear it’s a ridiculous sight to see, with all the fisherman from all over showing up to grab a few take-home trout. These are waters I fish regularly, and usually in relative quiet; the only angler around. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

Hope your early year fishing has been more productive and regular than mine, but I do remain hopeful for an excellent season ahead. All indicators are there.

2 Comments

Filed under Bluegill, Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Trout, Winter

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.

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Ocean, Places, Scenery, Seasons, Winter