Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Snow falls

Saturday October 29th, Penn State at home against Illinois. I had the tickets; we had the baby sitter lined up, our tailgating gear packed, and the bomber of Russian imperial stout I’d been saving since my birthday. Yes, at least one Saturday during the fall I forgo the opportunity to hunt to go cheer on Joe-Pa and his band of Big 10 soldiers. It’s not as though the two activities are entirely different. A long hike in from the car to sit high up in a tree stand freezing for a few hours, a long hike from the car to sit high up in Beaver Stadium freezing for a few hours, and in both cases heading back to the car without having shot a deer.
But then the damndest thing happened…10 inches of snow started dumping down on us. We never even made it to the game. We got a whopping 25 miles from home before making the executive decision to go no further. The wife and I returned to our snow covered homestead…and the cable went out, I couldn’t even watch the game on TV! Double burn.
So the day didn’t turn out quite as I planned, but as any outdoors person knows, adaptability is a virtue uncontested!  And as a blogger knows, you seek opportunity where ever it may be, even if it is your own back yard. I decided to make the best of my situation, I like snow, I just like it better when it doesn’t mess up my plans. After digging out the next morning I took the camera down to my home waters, the Tulpehocken Creek. It’s rare that I show up to the Tully without anything but my fly rod, but I figured the juxtaposition of fall colors with snow would make for some great photo ops. To my surprise even a half an hour of sun created quite a bit of melt off. The early morning fog seemed amplified by the combination of temps and moisture; I thought I still got away with some nice pictures.

...and yes, fish were rising on this beautiful morning! I had watched an angler pull in a nice sized rainbow, he said he caught it on a size 16 pheasant tail nymph....nice!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fly Guys, Fly Movies

Hey, it’s ok to steal content as long as you give your victims the acclamation they deserve!
I just couldn’t let this go without sharing it with the few people who stop by my little blog. Two local fly-fishing guides have begun posting videos of their fishing trips, most recently this one showcasing their last trip up to New York. Jake and Joe work the TCO Flyshop here in Reading PA and are a constant source of good information for this wannabe trout bum. I can also say if you, like me, spend half your work day going batty in your cubicle, you should take a sanity break and check out their blogs, some very cool fishing adventures had by these two. It’s great to know guys who truly immerse themselves in their craft

….that’s L-I-V-I-N my friends.

.: Early Morning Production: New York Weekend Tour 

All Things Fly  Fly Fishing for the Soul  TCO Fly Shop

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lessons Learned

Gamelands, evening of archery opener.

The Author enjoying a crisp October morning perched in a tree

I think there is a general consensus on deer hunting; many believe a truly seasoned hunter will pass on more deer than he shoots. There are some variations on this thought, some old timers might say “if you haven’t passed on a deer you haven’t hunted long enough.” You get the idea. Hunters mark their success in different ways. Ultimately, I think most are happy to fill the freezer, some don’t care if it’s a buck or a doe. Some only wish to fill the freezer with something carrying a trophy rack on its skull. Some just live for the thrill of the chase and even seeing a deer marks a successful outing.

These first two Saturdays of archery season have had me out in the bush three times. All three times having had close encounters with deer, specifically doe. For me, even getting within close proximity of a deer is an achievement. This is a creature with a thousand instincts I don’t have. It lives to avoid danger, and live another day. It displays unbelievable patience and caution. It moves without making a sound and miraculously blends in where ever it goes. Its senses are unbelievably effective, and while you might fool their eyes, and beat their ears, I defy anyone to get the best of a deer’s nose. So when I can blend in to my surroundings, and I can be silent enough in my stalk or stand, and play the wind well enough to get one move ahead of this animal, I feel more in tune with nature than most could imagine.

I did not shoot any of the doe. This morning I had a golden opportunity. I had seen two of them moseying towards my stand. Nibbling here and there, stopping, sniffing the breeze, looking around, and listening. Then taking a few more steps my way and repeating the process. Upon getting to within easy 15 or so yards, a “chip shot” for most archers, I realized the doe were in fact much younger than I’d first thought. Nearly full sized but very lean.  The first doe came right into my tree and offered me a perfect shot 3 times. If she survives rifle season, she’ll make for a nice harvest next year. I’m not starving; I didn’t need to take her. Being closer to and not seeing any sign of tailing bucks, I gave a quick “Hey there!” and she backed off right quick.

The two young doe. Photo courtesy of my cell phone!

Another hunter might have taken the shot, and with the season so new, may yet still. For my own part, I didn’t feel like it was my cup of tea. But that decision was mine and mine alone. I feel archery hunting for deer is one of the more calculated versions of hunting, and for those of you who don’t know, it is the first shift of all the deer hunting seasons. We set the tone for our fall & winter in those first few weeks when the woods belong to us. And every hunter takes the shots they will for whatever reasons they have. I’m no elitist, and I’m no trophy hunter, I respond to the situation as I see fit.

Every hunter, no matter their quarry, steps into the field prepared to accept the responsibility of taking the life of another living creature. This is the reality we all accept. All will appreciate that intimate moment in their own way, and hopefully we all arrive at that moment in the most ethical way, with respect for ourselves, the land, and most of all, the animal.

As stated earlier, many hunters have different ideas on what constitutes a “successful” hunt. Those series of moments in the field are what construct our memories of times well spent with our mother nature. Sometimes the experience boils down to that one moment, and sometimes it is not until  that “moment of truth,” that we learn why we are there, and what it means to us. The quiet introspection following a “successful” day in the bush or on the water is the true value of the experience.

I’m going to tell you folks, it is in those experiences, we are offered the truth about ourselves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

October Looms

As October fast approaches there are two things that come to mind.

The first being hunting season. I don’t get to put in nearly as much time in the field as I’d like. Essentially I have only Saturdays to experience the thrill of the hunt. Would I like to have more time? Absolutely. Maybe one day the fates will allow it, until then I’ll have to live for Saturday. Additional hunting days are sparse if they exist at all. It’s a hard thing to deal with, but something I wouldn’t expect everyone to understand. But when one is given the option to either sit in a cubicle all day, or spend his day in the woods, the choice for me is easy; unfortunately, it’s the option that often escapes me. The trailer in the title of this blog uses the phrase “the would be great outdoorsman,” for a reason. What can I say, when you’ve been out in the deer woods, or on the trout stream before the sun rises, and witness Mother Nature waking up on her own terms, it’s a hard thing to shake, and it can even drive you crazy.

So where would you rather be?

Where I spend 70% of my waking life. Yes, I did the math.

Where my head is most of the time...
A big part of hunting season is what you do every other day of the year. The preparation can be just as fun as the hunt itself. We scout, all year round. We hike the game lands in search of signs and clues. Trail cameras are a help, it’s always nice to know what lurks in the woods when you can't be there.

Two young bucks in velvet caught on my trail camera..

You also practice shooting. I take part in a winter shooting league that helps keep me stay sharp. E-Rock and I always enjoy a nice crisp morning of shooting to refine our craft. We had the opportunity to do so this past Saturday. Eric broke out the old recurve and did his best Robin Hood impersonation. I don’t care what you see on TV, those things are damn hard to key in with and to shoot consistently well, but sticking a deer with one will certainly make the highlight reel in Eric’s life.

E-rock firing off a shot, how cool is it that we got the flying arrow in the pic?!?!

I stick with the Matthews compound bow, not that I don’t have an affinity for more traditional weaponry, but it’s just so damn sexy. An interesting thing about archery is the amount of things that need to go right for it to go well. Your stance, your breathing, your draw back technique, your release technique, the light, the wind, the angle of the shot, the trajectory of the arrow….are you getting the point? Consistency is key. When sitting in a tree stand and a deer comes walking into you, buck fever, is a very real thing. The nervousness, the adrenaline, lack of focus, over all fever like symptoms…these things are not exactly conducive to making a good shot. The more instinctive your shooting becomes, the more at ease your mind will be, the straighter your arrow flies. Instinct comes from practice.

Would I ever take a shot this far off? Who knows, just nice to know I could.

It's all about technique people!

OK, so my long range shootin' has me 3/5 happy....need more practice for sure!

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more on the progression of hunting season as it actually happens, another thing comes along with October….the imbibing of fine Oktoberfest Brews! As many of you may well know, this would be great outdoorsman is also a connoisseur of fine spirits; whiskies, wines, porters, ales and such.

The nectar of the Gods! Fuel for the outdoorsman!

The roots of Oktoberfest go back to 1810. In October of that year Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese in Munich. All citizens were invited to the festivities. The following year another festival was held on the anniversary, more or less an agricultural festival and horse racing event, it was also a big party, and the party proceeded to get bigger over the last 200 years. Beers served at Oktoberfest must be brewed locally. The harvest time of year has brought a certain expectation of beers released in October. One of the best and one of my favorites is Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest. This Bavarian brewers operation is said to originate in the year 1410. Legend has it Prince Ludwig himself commissioned Joseph Pschorr, to be one of the few brew masters to develop a special beer for his wedding celebration. This brewery actually had a stake in the origins of one of the biggest celebrations in the world; to say they know what they’re doing is a huge understatement! I strongly recommend you all try some of this great fest bier this year, if you can’t find it, you might find some samplings of its sister company, Paulaner (sound more familiar?) or another ancient Bavarian specialty, Weihenstephaner Fest bier.
You may not all feel the kinship to a good brew like I do. You may not be able to tell the difference between an IPA and a pilsner, a lager and a wheat beer…but if you can’t sense the superiority of a Hacker-Pschorr to a Miller Lite, than my friends, I can’t help you!

In the opinion of this blogger, nothing beats an autumn morning of hunting followed by a cold Oktoberfest beer with a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Come on, Irene!

The Author's fallen grapes of Irene's wrath!

Well, everyone else weighed in on it, my turn. Obviously hurricanes are a very serious thing, while we here in Pennsylvania
rarely feel any effects, others peoples lives can be changed forever. From what I hear, some
people still haven’t been able to return home. This I don’t like to hear.
As most of you are well aware, I love fishing, fly fishing to be precise. Friday before the storm I took a few minutes on my way to work to check the flow of the Tulpehocken creek. She looked good, a nice even flow, rising trout, clear water, I thought “perfect!” I thought….the plan was to wet the line early Saturday morning and get some fishing in before the storm hit and the creek was blown out. Well, when I drove past later that day it seems the Army Corps of Engineers had opened the dam of Blue Marsh Lake…plans change so easily! Most likely in anticipation of the storm they decided to drop the lake a few feet to contain some of the storm water. They do this because if the Tully ran high full bore into the Schuylkill, parts of Pottstown would get a thorough cleaning a’ la mother nature. Once water levels hit a certain cfs they begin regulating the dam flow out of the lake, in the opinion of this blogger the lake was useless this year anyways, mucky mess.

Where am I going with this? Hang on, we’ll get there.

Immediately prior to Irene’s arrival the Tully was running at 1700 cfs, normal flow for this time of year? 250. Needless to say, she was running hard.
Early Sunday afternoon I inspected my home waters. It was a classic tale. The dam was letting out normally. Up stream of Rebers Bridge the creek was just as nice as it had been the day before. Below the bridge the Plum creek flows in, further down at the Papermill, Cacossing creek joins in the fun, this area of the Tully was completely busted.

Upstream of Reber's bridge was fine!

Cacoosing Creek coming to play...
Now here’s when we get to where we're going.

As I hung out at the red covered bridge up stream of Penn State Berks I saw something I truly did not expect. Mayfly activity and lots of it. Now pay attention, because this is where it gets neat, regardless of you interest, or lack there of, in entomology. Mayflies are an aquatic insect and serve as a large portion of a trout’s diet, certain species on the water is indicative of healthy Eco system. Mayflies are pretty remarkable little bugs, and a favorite pattern of many a dry fly fisherman. The eggs are laid in the water by the female. They hatch and the larva and nymphs will spend most of their lives under water, with some species the nymphs spend 1-2 years underwater before maturing. When the time comes some species will emerge to the surface as adults, some crawl out on the bank. This "not quite adult" phase has the fly drying its wings on the surface and then flying to nearby foliage to finish going through puberty, (layman’s terms). At one point the males will fly out over the water and do a happy dance to attract females. They begin swarming and the females join the party, most pair off, do the deed, and moments later eggs are laid in the water. Both males and females, from exhaustion, fall to the water dead or dying, for the trout, this means dinner time. The incredible thing is as adults, the mayfly only lives 1-3 days. They only mature and surface for the mating ritual.
But really, what better way to go? Your final act of life is knocking boots….I can only assume they all die happy.

Now let’s circle back, to my amazement at finding mayflies only hours after the end of a hurricane hit the area. Is this not truly a tale of David and Goliath? How could I see mature mayflies around the water with the creek flowing the way it was and the winds blowing the way they did? How did they ascend to the surface without being swept away? How did the adults, who only live a day or two, not get blown half way to Jersey? I was so intrigued, because despite all the odds being stacked against them, these flies, which have only a short time to get it right, made it, through a storm that caused so much damage in so many ways.

A storm battered Mayfly
Nature is funny that way, I think that’s one of the reasons I am so into being out doors, being close to these forces of nature. So many things happen in the natural world the everyday person doesn’t even see. We get so caught up in our jobs and our little world; we tend not to think of the cycle of life happening all around us. I worry so much about little numbers on my computer screen in my little cubicle at work…what about the little mayfly who told the odds to go pound sand?
A passerby on the trail might have seen just some bugs flying around, me…I gained a new perspective. The moral of the story? Well, I know what it is for me….how about you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

We begin a farewell serenade to summer. A fine time, but time for a change!

The author working a pool in the Schuylkill on a fine summer morning.

And so, as we enter the end of August, the summer's waning days begin. The heat will struggle to stay, but hopefully by mid to late September; we'll experience that old familiar chill in the air, the visible breath I long to see. I hold nothing against the summer season; it offers respite from the season before, as does every season. It allows for more evenings on the deck, it gives good ale the chance to be even more refreshing, and of course the bass fishing can be a blast! We had our first vacation as a family, a weekend in Ocean City MD, it could not have been without summer. But I say good bye to summer much easier than most. I welcome the fall. The Blog has officially begun; the autumn marks its inception, enjoy!