Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Release

I haven't felt much like blogging lately.  So here's a few fish I have caught recently on their way back home.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Has Sprung a Leek

With spring, lots of new activities, and chores, arise faster than the daffodils.  For me, this always includes morel mushroom hunting (let's just say it's not my year) and digging up leeks.

Wild leeks, or ramps, are significantly smaller than the version you find in the grocery store but taste, at least three times, better and are extremely versatile.  My favorite recipe is always bacon and leek mac and cheese but I use them as a substitute for onions or scallions in most recipes this time of year.  

Another wild edible in abundance this time of year, to the dismay of most, are dandelions.  I stumbled across this stretch of a simile the other day from my angst-filled college years--

Boom. Sunshine explosion.
"Life is like dandelions.  Beautiful yellow cups that everyone hates.  People tug at its tap root, kick at its developing blossom, spray its leaves with poison.  At the end of its full week of life, they hate it even more.  A perfect cloud soft, bleach white sphere that only wishes more sunshine for each lawn.  If they only looked softly at the petals they would see its characters beauty.  But they rip, causing a slow ooze of milky blood to sticky up their hands.  Releasing a tacky smell that holds for a moment once inside you and leaves a bitter, acrid taste that binds to your throat.  Each autumn the flowers are forgotten under a golden red shower and they whither.  Spring comes and everyone hates them again.  A vibrantly defenseless explosion of light rashly hated and rashly forgotten. Each foot a truncheon on their persistence to lighten the world."

Brilliantly written, I know.  I suppose I was somewhat right back then.  Life is like dandelions in the sense that someone can come by at any time, pop your head off, and fry it up in some butter.  With a simple corn meal/flour batter and some sauteing you have got a great appetizer or side dish.

While we are on the topic of wild edibles, the local stream has been packed full of non-native trout again.  As the good ecologist I am, I went forth to help lower the numbers of fish and prevent the further spread of the invasive fish.  

Day old stocked trout are like confused children who had cruel parents their whole life.  Their parents tell the children how wonderful candy is, but they have to be very cautious what pieces they eat because some are poison.  The trout are dumped in the stream used to eating pelleted meal, and when a tasty mayfly bonbon or a minnow chocolate bar slips past them they hesitate.  They look at the sweet and turn away, then change their mind and return to inspect it again until it floats out of range or another more daring, or rebellious, child engulfs the treat.

I stood in the stream and watched the trout behave this way.  There was a pod of thirty or so fish that would chase anything that moved but would hesitate, turn around, hesitate and then decide if the the item was a food source.  It was an interesting show, especially when a black bunny leech confection was the potential toxicant.  After a few fish on the fly rod it was time to fill the stringer which was done in short work with a panther martin spinner which netted me my first brown trout.

I named him "dinner"
Apple and leek stuffed trout with a lemon caper butter

 As for the chores, I got the garden dug, and what a chore it was.  Digging, pulling out tree roots, dumping in peat moss and compost, mixing and leveling was done in the last two days.  I am attempting modified square foot gardening with the hopes of filling forty-eight square feet with over a hundred plants, as well as making an herb planter for the deck.  I'm sure more posts will come regarding my successes.  If someone is in need of some sod that has a small potential to actually revert back into grass, I am willing to part with the pile in the picture.

The dirt hole.

And this is the part of the blog post where I dump a bunch of photos that don't need a narrative.

Chomp Chomp
Nom nom

The release

Fat rock bass
Story of my life.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pick-me-up Pond

I have been trying to come up with a name for the pond a four minute walk from my house.  After spending the last three days hooking countless fish and missing even more on the hook set, I needed to go back to basics.  This pond never fails to produce, and although the fish in there seem to get no larger than thirteen inches, it is still good to know you haven't forgotten how to set the hook.  I actually caught the same fish twice from the same spot in less than five minutes so seems that they have started spawning.  I will leave them be for a the next month or so to make me some more trophies.  I hope I don't need a pick me up before then.

The fish aren't the only things making babies

Friday, April 13, 2012

On the Verge of an Overdose

I must be addicted.  That's the only way I can rationalize it.  I am addicted to being kicked, spit on, and down right disrespected... by carp.  In the last eight days I have spent over seven hours chasing those pursed lipped scum suckers.  I have had three fish eat my black bunny leech.   They suck it into their leathery chops, I set the hook and the dull hook fails to penetrate or they deftly spit out the fake or my poor excuse for a knot disintegrates into powder and I am left staring at a mud plume where a giant fish was seconds ago.  I have been so close to crossing off another item on the list.  All the hard monotonous work has been done and it is time to enjoy fighting the fish and bringing it to hand, and I just can't do it.

Tomorrow, I'm picking my teeth up.  I'm learning a new line to line knot, tying on a new leader, sharpening my hooks and attempting to completely erase the part of my memory that contains the steps to tying a clinch knot.  I am fairly positive the clinch knot is the only knot that has the ability to decrease the strength of your fishing line by 80 percent.

I'm starting to think fisherman bring their fish home to brag about and carp bring home my flies .

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Challenge: Catch a trout on the fly rod - COMPLETED

Opening day of Pennsylvania trout season, 2012.

Hoards of people were clogging the stream banks.  A dozen people crammed around every four foot deep hole a stocked trout could be swimming in.  Before the sun even showed the top of its head over the horizon, cans of beer were already being discarded into the bushes.  Gobs of brightly colored powerbait floated downstream, completely ignored by the hundreds of trout that eyed it from below.  Poachers snuck more than their days limit, packing their stringers full of any trout they caught or snagged.  Camp sites were illegally established and improperly cleaned up leaving mounds of trash and smoldering ashes around their foundations.  The trees were adorned with opening day ornaments from the errant casters.  The fish huddled together in pods whose numbers rapidly diminished, and they knew that even if they survived the day, they still would not live past the warmer water temperatures only two months away.

Every year it's the same scenario and after my first opening day last year, I didn't think I would attempt it again.  Yet, there I was at seven in the morning, an hour before the opening bell rang, sitting stream side at my claimed spot.   I chose the furthest point between the two parking areas in hopes that the other anglers would be too obese and too lazy to walk the half mile to find a fishing hole.  And it also had the advantage of being one of my lucky spots on the stream.  For the first forty-five minutes I was alone, but more and more anglers showed up until five of us would be casting into the same twenty square foot area.  The second eight AM came, our lures and bait and line and sinkers were thrown into the water at the unsuspecting fish.  I hooked the first fish out of the five anglers in only a few minutes after the season began on an inline spinner.  Being net-less, I fumbled with the fish with my hands in the forty something degree water until the trout found a way off my hook. 

I generally am happy with the first fish of the day.  The first fish means I am doing something correctly and I am almost guaranteed more fish if I replicate the conditions.  This feeling feels cheapened on opening day; at least for it does for me.  I knew these trout were put here and would eat nearly anything put in their view.  I knew where they were, what they wanted, and how to get them to commit.  It was catching fish in a nearly non-metaphorical barrel.   The Walmart version of trout.  But, I like Walmart, and I like fish, and I have little shame left from the time my mother and sisters dragged a thirteen year old me along to go bra shopping.  For them, not me.  So, I continued casting into the bargain bin hoping there was an amazing deal hidden at the bottom everyone else had overlooked and I continued to ignore the pins and needles in my hands.  Soon, that feeling was overwhelmed by, and probably a contributing factor to,  my lightheadedness.  I deemed it a bad idea to have vertigo while standing knee deep in a stream so I chose to go home and shove my frozen hands into my armpits for a painful fifteen minutes.  

After the dethawing, I tied a few new flies, checked that the air temperature had risen fifteen degrees, and headed back stream side to test the new ties.  I waded back to my spot just in time to see all the other anglers leaving with full stringers.  This left my back cast clear and the entire hole to drift through without worries of tangling someone else's line.  I found my casting rhythm pretty quickly and worked the hole until I saw a flash of silver and felt my fly stop.  I set the hook only to find the line snapped just above my knot.  Well, at least I knew the flies worked.  I tied on a new rabbit, metal, and lead amalgam and ensured my line wouldn't snap this time.  I had a few casts into the water and a few more short strikes until I finally hooked into my first trout on the fly rod.  This time I didn't feel so debased when I landed the fish.  Instead, I liked this feeling.  Tricking a trout on my own fly that I created only an hour ago added a lot more excitement to the catch.  I put my fish on my stringer, smiled, and waded back home to cross the first challenge off the list... and to make dinner.

Not my fish, but I assure you it looked just like this.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Schools

There's a whole lot of fishing advice on the internet - some advice is to help you catch more, larger fish, some advice is to keep you from making the same mistakes someone else has already made, some advice is designed to steer you away from someone's favorite spot, and some advice is just plain bad.  I will let you be the judge of the following tips I have picked up along the way.

  • Microwave your flies before use.  Humans prefer a warm meal and the same goes for a fish.  Throw your fly box in the microwave for a few minutes on high before you head out the door and your flies should be toasty all day long.  In a pinch you could dunk your flies in your coffee thermos for a few seconds.  The fish will eagerly respond to a warm meal.  Epoxy probably doesn't melt.

  • Name your bad flies after ex-girlfriends.  Because she is probably just as sloppy as your flies.

  • Always carry a gun.  When you tangle into the fish of a life time are you going to rely on your tangled tippet or the winning knot from Knot Wars?  I don't.  I count on 225 grain jacketed hollow point rounds traveling at 2400 feet per second to ensure I net my fish.  When the fish gets in range, "Choot em' Lizabeth!"
  • Tie some new catfish flies.  Skip buying the tanned rabbit and deer hides.  There are much cheaper materials on the side of every roadway.  Scrape off some opossum skin, lash it to a hook and toss it in.  I find specimens 3-5 days fresh work best.
  • Keep every fish you catch.  How else can you better prove your manliness to your family and friends than by bringing home fish that you can almost scrape an ounce of meat off of?  You can even cook your bait if nothing is biting that day. 
Minnow Fries