Thursday, July 21, 2011

Singing The Blues

Stony Brook Harbor with a view towards West Meadow Creek
There are many reasons for one to sing the blues, especially when it comes to fishing.  The spring run-off might be too high, heat and dry weather may cause stream levels to dip too low, or the the fish just didn't want to bite.  I was singing the blues a few weeks back when I decided to try out my Hera rod and some new salt water flies I had just tied only to have my rod tip snap after a few casts.  Well I just received a replacement tip for my Hera rod but elected to use my spin rod on several recent trips down to harbor for some saltwater action.  Stony Brook Harbor is a great place to do some fishing.  With it's tidal creeks and shallow channels it's a productive nursery for bait fish.  Where you have bait fish you are sure to have predators come and go with the tide. I did not think much would be going on a hot July afternoon at 4:30pm down at the dock but I thought I would just cast a bucktail a little to get my line wet.  Then I started to sing the blues...big time.  This time singing the blues was a good thing because it meant....Bluefish! (specifically cocktail blues 15-22").

First Bluefish of the season.
It's been a while since I last caught a blue, probably because I spend so much time chasing trout, but I had almost forgotten what great fighters they are.  After only a half hour I managed to land 7 of them ranging from 15-20".  Despite the heat and humidity it was a lot of fun.  So for the last few days the tide has been right and I have gone down to the dock after work and landed a bunch more.

Some thrash so violently they kind of make a mess of their jaws.
All were released safely to fight another day and I hope to meet up with some of them again someday when they get up to the 10-15lb range.  As anglers, no matter where, when, and what we fish for there will always be sad tales to tell about how nature conspired against us to prevent the fish from biting or how the big one got away but this is not one of those tales.  If I ever have to sing the blues again, this is the way to do it!


Monday, July 18, 2011

I Couldn't Resist

Amawalk Outlet-Muscoot River
 This past weekend I was making a solo day trip upstate to visit a friend who was home preparing for his wedding at the end of the month.  We decided to hang out for a few hours and he wanted a little Tenkara demonstration to determine if he would like it or not.  There is a nice size pond in his parents backyard filled with largemouth bass and bluegill and we figured it would be ideal.  His step dad even told me of a neighbor who has a rather large pond on his property that he stocked years ago with lake trout, man would I love a crack at them!  Anyway, I knew my trip would take me within a couple of miles of my last trip to Amawalk Outlet and the Muscoot River.  This was more than I could resist and I wanted to take another crack at that large brown I lost at the end of June.  The pool was an excellent one and I figured there was a good chance he would still be there.  When I arrived I was greeted by a white-tailed doe standing in my path about 25 ft from my jeep.  She didn't seemed too concerned by my presence as I was busy putting on my wading boots.  I kept a sideways glance on her but only turned my head for a split second and then she was gone without a sound or any kind of sign of her presence.  I have always been amazed at the "ghost-like" qualities of how deer move through the woods.  One second there, the next gone without a trace.  I thought it was a good beginning to the day.  The stream was running a little lower and clearer since my last visit but still looked to be in great shape.  I worked a little up and down stream of the pool and unfortunately failed to find that brown again.  However I did managed to get a few smaller trout including the guy below.

I thought this guy looked a little familiar.  There is a nice line of red spots running in an almost perfect line along his lateral surface.  Sure enough when I checked a photo from the last trip I had an identical fish.  I had caught this guy in the exact same spot also.

Brown trout from last trip

Brown trout from this trip
I took him on a Killer Bug and had several LDR's from this section of stream as well.  Even though I didn't catch that big brown I did get another surprise.  I caught almost a dozen bluegill.  I have never caught a bluegill in a stream before.  All of them were taken with two different sakasa kebari.  The first fly was my latest experiment the Coxing Kill Kebari and the other was another excellent kebari called the Blue Poison Sakasa Kebari.

Blue Poison Sakasa Kebari
This was a fly I swapped for from fellow Tenkara angler Karel Lansky.  Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the this fly in action as I went back to the jeep an accidentally left the camera there before I went back to the stream.  Suffice to say, the bluegills could not get enough of this beautiful little fly. I look forward to using this fly again and get a nice picture of it hanging from some trouts jaw.  As with most trips, there was no disappointment at not meeting that one particular brown trout again. Time on any stream with the sights and sounds of wood frogs, deer, birds, flowers, running water, buzzing insects and trout can only help me to reset my mental clock and appreciate what are the most important things in life. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fly Tying Simplicity

A #10 Royal Sakasa Kebari and Pheasant & orange tied without a vise
As I have grown older I have tried to simplify many activities in my life.  This is one reason I have become so enamored with Tenkara.  Tenkara consists of not much more than a rod, line, and fly. Although I still go fishing using other methods such as using spin rods and bait, Tenkara has become my dominant and preferred method for spending a morning or evening out on the water. Before I made my first cast with a Tenkara rod I had become fully obsessed with the art of tying flies.  To me, this hobby is on par with the enjoyment I get while fishing.  But if one is not careful, the cost and acquisition of materials can get out of hand.  This in turn could lead to a mild but enjoyable form of chaos.  I wrote a post awhile back on creating a simplified fly tying kit that one could easily place in a pocket for a road trip or sit on the couch and tie without the effort involved in dragging out vises or rummaging through bins of materials.  If done slowly, I can produce quality flies with the small pin vise included in my kit.  Everything I need fits into an Altoids tin.  But after reading a recent thread on the Tenkara USA forum I have decided to take the simplicity of this kit one step further.  For centuries there were no fly tying vises.  I have read that many tiers of north country flies in the past and even a number of Tenkara anglers in Japan today tie flies without the aid of a vise.  Granted some of these flies may be larger in size and that helps in holding the hook but with a little practise (and some hand cramping) small well tied flies can be produced also.  Pictured above are my first two attempts at tying without a vise of any kind.  Despite the fact they took me longer than usual to produce I think they came out pretty good.  They are size #10 Mustad nymph hooks.  This is a little bigger than the size #12 and #14 hooks I am accustomed to but I have no doubt that they will catch fish.  Do I plan on giving up my vise?  Not on your life, but its nice to know in a pinch or just for the fun of it I can tie a good fly with nothing more than a bobbin, thread, hook, and a feather.  I also viewed tying like this as a challenge that may in the end improve my ability to tie.  I hope to tackle smaller and more complex flies in this manner in the future and plan to post results when I get a chance.     

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Coxing Kill Kebari

Coxing Kill Kebari
 It's been a while since I have had some time to play at the vise. In many ways that's a good thing.  For one, it probably means I'm fishing more, which has been the case.  There has been family and work obligations and a vacation thrown in for good measure.  In addition, I have been tying a number of flies for the purpose of making a few extra dollars.  This has been a blessing and a curse to some extent.  I very much enjoy tying flies for other anglers but the limited time I have for tying flies does not leave very much time for new fly experimentation.  However, I did manage to spend and hour the other night playing around with some ideas floating around in the melon on top of my shoulders.  I called this fly the Coxing Kill Kebari (or CK Kebari).  I named it after one of my favorite streams to hike along. 

Split Rock on the Coxing Kill, Mohonk Preserve
Strangley enough you can not fish on this stream because it flows through a state park and a private preserve for the majority of it's length.  It's highest contributing source of water begins at the southern end of Lake Minnewaska (Minnewaska State Park Preserve) and continues to flow several miles through The Mohonk Preserve on it's way to Roundout Creek and then eventually the Hudson River.  I love the solitude of walking along it's banks and observing all of the flora and fauna that surround it.  I have had encounters with turkey's, grouse, deer, and black bears.  The stream itself has an abundance of aquatic life including salamanders, frogs, insects, and the occasional tiny brook trout.  The fact that the Coxing kill has fish is unusual due to the makeup of most streams in the Shawangunks.  Most bodies of water on this ridge are naturally acidic and can not support fish.  This probably accounts for why the few trout that are present are so small.  Despite their diminutive size they are still beautiful to watch in their small pools going about their business.  Over all the Coxing Kill (kill is a dutch word for stream) is an idyllic place to take a stream side stroll.  To me, this fly seems like something these little brookies would eagerly snap up.  It reminds me of a olive or greenish caddis pupa, which are present on many of the area streams. Below is the recipe for this fly if anyone is interested in it.

Coxing Kill Kebari
Hook: #12 Mustad C49S
Thread: Pearsall's silk, olive
Collar: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: several raps of light green vinyl rib

Alina and Bella in Indian Echo Caverns, Hummelstown, PA

I also thought I'd thrown a few vacation pictures in with this post for family who may be checking in on the blog from time to time.  This trip was a very fun and pleasant distraction from the usual hustle and bustle of the work week, I didn't even mind not fishing!

One of the cavern's features, crystal "lake"

Factory workers hard at work in Hershey

This is pretty much how we all felt by the end of the trip

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One That Will Haunt Me

Amawalk Outlet-Muscoot River
Well it's been a little while since my last post.  The family and I have been on vacation enjoying time with one another and relaxing.  Claudia and I took the girls to PA for a kid oriented trip.  We had a great time visiting Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster and Chocolate World in Hershey.  Then we spent a few days just relaxing at home by the pool.  I even managed to spend most of my birthday fishing a small stream in Westchester County just north of NYC.  The Amawalk Outlet-Muscoot River is a small stream that runs almost three miles between two reservoir's that are part of NYC's water supply system.  This stream gets some stockings during the spring but has a well established population of wild browns and some brookies.

One of the most productive pools for the day
I fished roughly 300 yards of the stream but only seemed to come away with any fish in a section about 20 yards long.  I had been there most of the morning without a nibble and was becoming dejected until I reached this one promising looking pool.  Two or three casts with my Tenkara Iwana and WHAM!  I thought my rod was done for sure but it held. for several heart pound minutes I shifted and maneuvered to keep it close then I got a view of him.  Now I know there are bigger trout out there and other anglers have landed bigger ones but this guy was 16-17" and would have been, for me, a personal best for a trout.  The key words being....would have been.  I had the line with one hand and was within inches of grabbing him with the other when...Snap!  And just that quick he was gone.  I spent the next hour in a fruitless effort trying to catch him again.  To add insult to injury he sped off with the only olive Bubble Kebari I had brought with me.  I managed to have a good time despite the loss and brought a number of 8-10" browns to hand.  It was just nice to be out on the stream but for days I have not been able to shake myself of the sight of that large brown speeding back off into the depths of that pool.  I guess it gives me a goal to reach for the next time I return.

A little Brown taken on a #12 green Brassie Sakasa Kebari

 The last couple of fish were taken on one of my favorite flies a #12 Royal Sakasa Kebari including this 10" brown that put up a great fight.

The pool where I caught most of the trout.