Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

Fly fishing fruitlessly in mangroves

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?