Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Off the Road and onto the Trail in New York

Rob had to go to a graduation so I took a quick break from the road back in New York. It was nice to return to daily hot showers and running water, but I wanted to keep on sleeping in my hammock. It really is that comfortable.

Rob took the train back to NY and we fished a local stream for a bit, but the action wasn't that amazing... it was still extremely cold with very high water levels. The next day we hiked Breakneck Ridge, one of my favorite hikes along the Hudson. 

The hike is basically a scramble the whole way, starting with a killer set of 4-5 rock faces and then a nice leisurely ridge traverse section before descending back to the road.

There are incredible views the whole way, and I was psyched for Rob to get to see it on such a perfect day. His photos are mixed with mine in this post since I did a bad job of documenting the day, mostly due to overly focusing on the scrambling.

We had ideal hiking weather... cool, sunny, breezy, with a few clouds to throw shadows on the river.

Along the ridge we found a vernal pool with a seemingly endless number of tadpoles in it.

Even though the hike is a real challenge, its more than worth it for those with no fear of heights and the will to put in the effort.

The following day we packed up and headed up to the Catskills for a campout along the Neversink with friends. Full report to follow in the next post. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

We are the Rain

The last few weeks have been all about the rain. Many of the photos I've posted have given no clue to the reality that Rob and I have been living... its been raining most of the trip so far. (I don't take my camera out in the heavy rain too often.) When one lives outside in the rain for this long, one must become the rain.

Even though the skies have been unloading, we have slept dry in our hammocks and a cheap sil-nylon tarp has kept us sheltered for cooking and downtime. And just because we didn't love the rain doesn't mean the trout didn't... they definitely did!

Water was high after a few days of repetitive wet weather, but not high enough to deter us or the fish. In fact, while the fishing slowed a bit in the main stem, the tributaries just exploded with life, and it was a welcome discovery.

Luckily for us, the rain was coming in spurts most days, instead of steady rain all day long we at least had some moments of clear skies - once in a while the sun would peak out from a sucker hole to make us feel better.

The forest clearly loved all this rain - spring wild flowers were blooming abundantly, and I've never seen as much Trillium anywhere as I saw here.

We spent some time driving down dirt roads leading to small tributaries, walking between the wet branches and dodging the early poison ivy shoots, which were now making their new presence known on the forest floor.

Sometimes we were joyful in the rain, other times less so...  but each break in the rain brought smiles and some new photos.

During one of these breaks, Rob's friend Tim landed two fish in a row that would have each been fish of a lifetime for anyone in a stream like this. The fact that he got both of those fish in one run was pretty mind-boggling. I have to admit I was a tiny bit jealous... but I was also really happy to see Tim land those fish. He surely deserved them.

The fish above was legitimately 12". The fish below was about 14". That is not a mini-net, its a standard fly fishing net... and check out the tail!! The photos prove it... these large mid-Appalachian brookies are  the real deal. It was relatively simple to find 8-10 inch fish, but this was another level. Amazing.

We ate well during the week, keeping a few stocked rainbows to eat, but leaving all the brookies alone. Tim had brought some amazing steaks and some mushrooms, to which we added some greens. Prepared over the fire on an iron skillet, this surely was one of the best meals of the trip so far.

In the mornings the rain would usually return, but it always brought some form of beauty along with it.

We saw spider web cups in the fields, wet with morning dew and fresh misty rain. The jack in the pulpits came up after the Trillium.

The rain also brought us plenty of beautiful wild brook trout...

... red efts and other salamanders...

....pheasant back mushrooms...

... and of course, what we've all been waiting for... MORELS!

We knew that we were in the right area to hunt, and had spent some time the first few days looking under the appropriate trees, but it took a few extra days of rain, and then the first warm/sunny interruption in the rain to help them pop.

And pop they did...

...again and again again. Woohooo!

Focusing on the right trees with the right exposure of light at the right times of the day we were able to find quite a large haul our first day, and then more in the day following.

We had to toss many of the "rules" of morel hunting out the window as those rules had been holding us back from finding the mushrooms. Once we had our own system down of when, where and how to look, the success rate was almost unbelievable. It must be a bumper year for them right now.

The excitement was, at times, hard to contain.

I also came across a much rarer and more unique fungus along the way... one which invades arthropods/insects and evokes thoughts of the "Alien" movies... which must have based the idea of the alien infection and "birth" on this family of fungi.

The mycelium takes root in the insect and begins to turn the innards into sugars/food for the fungus - at which point the fungus takes over the insect's brain, encourages it to walk out on a limb in the open where it can release its spores; and then sprouts the visible mushroom/fungus, killing the host and turning it into a statue of sorts. I am not sure if its Cordyceps, Gibellula, or another related "alien" fungus... more research is necessary... it was extremely cool to find. If you know more about this, please feel free to write a comment about it, below!

And right below that log on the river I picked up a nice trout, too!

 I have so much more to post, but for now, that's all the time I have. More to follow soon.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tenkara Across America 2017 Begins.... in Maryland Brook Trout Forest

Its been a crazy first week on the road... the freedom of living a life of car camping and sleeping in the forest, meeting up with others along the way; and of course, sampling the local breweries and BBQ joints has been both liberating and exciting. Needless to say, there's also some serious adjustment involved when it comes to daily life... and so far we've been enjoying every minute of it. 

Home has mostly been a Dutchware Gear Chameleon Hammock with appropriate quilts and tarp for the cold & rainy weather. We fished a few streams on the way to our first camping area, but for me the most memorable day so far was the second day in one of Maryland's many "brook trout forests."

After a backcountry breakfast of champions, we drove just a few miles from our campsite to what can only be called a picture perfect wild brookie stream. Game on.

Because the sun was so bright, we had to work somewhat carefully to avoid spooking fish. The good news was that they were holding relatively low in the cold spring water and we did a fine job of finding fish most of the day.

Rob crosses the stream holding a beer... expertly done, and great practice for our more serious stream crossings coming later in the season out west.

I was in awe of this place, but I wasn't letting the natural beauty distract me much... there were plenty of beautiful brook trout to present to, and only so many hours in the day.

Plunge after plunge and riffle after riffle, we drifted kebari (and admittedly even some small bead head flies) to willing wild trout left and right.

Taking a lunch break, rob made a wind screen for his alcohol stove to make some coffee. We carried everything we needed and nothing we didn't...

 ...traveling light on the river is great, but having some space for lunch and a few other items is key. 

Truthfully, I could have made due with nothing more than the rod and some flies this day, hunger be damned... because it was one of the most fun and beautiful days on the stream I've had in well over a year.

The fish were cooperating too, which is always nice!

Every bend yielded another picturesque run or little bathtub to marvel at, as we approached to make our presentations.

 Holes like the one below are why we had to bust out some beads... the fish just weren't coming up for a manipulated fly fished in the Tenkara style here. It happens to everyone sometimes, and, well... sometimes you also know there's a "trophy brook trout" down there and you have to do what it takes if you want that fish.

I got that fish. Too bad the photo is washed out in the bright light.

Standard wet wading gear "hard at work" in USA:

Is this not a stream that we've all dreamed of in our wildest small-stream dreams?

Sometimes its hard to focus as I let my attention drift from the fishing to the beautiful surroundings...

We found many fossil-laden rocks along the banks and there was plenty to observe in them by focusing on the small details... shells, mini sand dollars, and more.

The wildflowers were out in force, and while a gentle green carpet had begun to coat the forest floor,  we were a bit early for the mushrooms we were also hoping to find on that day.

As the shadows became long and the angle of the light changed, alerting us that the final hours of light were at hand, we found a few more nice spots to fish before turning around.

Rob caught what I considered to be the fish of the day at the last run here.

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk out as well, taking in the scenery from new angles and with the altered perspective of a hiker rather than a fisherman.

There was some kind of old trail and bits of old road that intermingled along the edge of the stream, which made the walk out easier than expected.

 Back at the campsite, we filled the snowpeak fireplace grill with wood charcoal, loading on top of it a few choice menu items that we could not wait to devour in haste.

After dinner we tied flies (and admittedly some bead heads too) and prepared for incoming rainy weather, as well as another week of Tenkara fishing in Maryland's brook trout forests.