Category Archives: Sussex County Ponds

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

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…..

 

 

 

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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.

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

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

Give ’em Green.

Walking through the woods on a thick layer of crunching brown leaves last week, in the dying light of a rather unproductive afternoon of fishing, I came across two men at the make-shift boat ramp, red faced and soaked to the waist, attempting to remove their small Jon boat from the lake. It was particularly cold, but I was dry and well layered, and had been fishing from the shore in the lee of a small stand of woods that had kept me comfortable. These two exhausted looking gentleman had been skating across the lakes surface, in direct contact with the elements, and now were standing in lake water looking ever more as if they were about to croak. I walked down to the boat ramp and grabbed a free line and helped muscle the boat toward the waiting trailer. Without a word, one of the men, his beard collecting ice crystals, waded out of the water and around me, and into the truck. He lurched the trailer from the drink, and the boat transitioned from vessel to cargo.

The man climbed out from the truck and smiled at me, offering his hand, which was icy to the touch. Catching his breath, he thanked me for helping, and then looked at me with wide eyes, and said. “Chartreuse. It’s Chartreuse this  year. Bass, Crappie, whatever. Try Chartreuse”.

Of course, I knew what he meant. He had noticed my fly rod and the brown and olive colored woolly in the hook keeper. He was a spinning reel fisherman, but this was his home water, and he knew what the fish were biting at any given time, fly or Rapala, it didn’t matter. The way he relayed that information, though, made me think perhaps he didn’t give it away very often or very easily.

The next day, I once again found myself with time to fish. I considered my options, and decided that I’d go back to that same lake, and try some form of chartreuse fly on the frozen man’s advice. I looked in my fly boxes, and realized I didn’t even have anything in that color, other than a couple of poppers that weren’t the best choice for winter fishing when the fish are low and slow. With the truck warming up in the driveway, I sat down at my vice and very quickly tied up some flies; the kind I though might be of use. A small woolly worm, and a couple of my own creations I like to call zap bugs. Simple affairs; some pearl and chartreuse chenille wrapped around a size 8 hook, and tail tipped with a small, but sturdy piece of hackle. I find that, if tied well, this fly can stay on the surface and be fished dry, or can be retrieved and fished as a small streamer. In fact, I’ve often found that the transition from floating to the diving and swimming action it produces when retrieved is when most of the strikes take place.

I had ignored chartreuse, as the search of my fly boxes proved. I’d been relying on more natural colors of browns and olives, and the occasional white in my tying and fishing. Complacency.

I would soon learn that this was an oversight, as I went on to catch enough fish to lose count of, and four species; Bluegill, Calico Bass, Largemouth Bass and a Golden Shiner, a big minnow I’d never taken on a fly rod before.

Not big fish, but fish none the less, and that’s the point in the end. For a dark, cold day in late december, this was a treat.

The moral of this tale? Don’t forget to change something when what you’re doing isn’t working; advice I knew, yet foolishly neglected. If your local freshwater isn’t giving up fish, chartreuse and white with a sparkle have been the ticket for me. You can tie up flies in any number of ways with any number of materials and have a good day catching fish.

Oh, and always help a man with his boat……

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Filed under Bluegill, Bug, Calico Bass, Crappie, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Places, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Winter, Woolly Bugger

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

Horsey & The Northern River Otter.

Fishing Horsey Pond requires a boat as far as I can tell. Boat ramp fishing is hampered by overhanging trees and the rest of the shoreline appears to be either a part of somebody’s private back yard, or is lined with dense forest. I walked over two entry points and  never found an area from which I could fish, which was disappointing because Horsey has been described to me as one of the more dense populations of largemouth bass in the area. I didn’t get to survey for myself.

Those little sets of eyes looking back at me belong to two of three Northern River Otters that lingered around the boat ramp as I watched, and as they watched me. I took them as a bad sign for fishing off the boat ramp, but a good sign that they lived here at all. They would duck and then surface a few feet away, and stare some more, but they soon went back to focus mainly on chasing each other; Otters being among the animals that share the human species’ capacity to do things just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Sometimes, even when the fishing is non-existant, I still see something I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t, at least try, to go fishing.

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Filed under Fishy Water, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Places, Sussex County Ponds, Wildlife