Friday, March 10, 2017

A Welcome Return to the Headwaters

This winter season continues to be difficult for small stream fishing with water levels still low, a real lack of snow, and constant temperature and weather changes. Winter isn't supposed to be great fishing, but the last few winters have fished so well I've forgotten what its like to have an "off season."

So, with great excitement, I chose a day with what appeared to be cooperative weather, and just after a rain for some increased flows, to hit a wonderful headwaters stream that I've been wanting to scout for a couple of seasons now. Not only was it beautiful, but it delivered, too.

This was a typical stream for the Catskills or parts of PA, but I wasn't in the Catskills, or PA. I was pleasantly surprised and constantly in awe of the beauty in this small gorge.

The first quarter of a mile or so yielded nothing, and then two more anglers came along. That was disappointing because they knew the stream and were moving fast. There was no way to stay ahead of them. The good part of that was, I noticed, that these guys skipped huge sections of small water and went straight for the big pools and the waterfall pools. 

As I moved up stream fishing the smaller water, I began to get a few nibbles - and then a fish of enough size to take the fly struck. It was a nice little wild brown, and it hit on the retrieve... much like a streamer would act... and not so different from recent winter days when I saw the browns chasing bait-fish rather than eating insects.

Once I had the technique for the day down, I began to find more fish, carefully fishing between bigger pools and in the smaller runs. It was a successful strategy for the day, and it returned my confidence after a couple of skunked days earlier this winter. That almost never happens, and I'd be lying if I had said it didn't hurt my pride just a little bit...

And of course, soon those skunked memories were fading, as I was releasing fish from my net and feeling somehow both relaxed and excited at the same time.

There were some nice spots where log jams created good features for the fish... and I was rewarded in those spots. 

I came to a bend leading to a set of waterfalls and worked my way around.

There were some nice spots in between, in which a more enterprising angler willing to take a little more risk could surely find some less worked-over water.

These images speak for themselves, what more can I add?

I found this rainbow which must have swum up from a long way below...

Eventually the stream flattened out, and the time came to turn around and head back from where I had walked in.

I stopped to photograph the sheath I got for my knife quickly...

And lingering on the way back, took some more photos while enjoying the sunshine and the moss.

The light faded, as it always seems to do, and I walked the last bit back to the car.

There's something nice about seeing my trusty Subaru Outback always waiting for me when I return.

And with dinner that night, after surviving the traffic back to the city, I enjoyed some good beer and reflected on the day. Success.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wishing for More Winter on the Trail

Winter is problematic for many fishermen, especially when the weather is all over the place. As of recent, most of my higher elevation Tenkara streams have been snowed in or iced over, with most of the beautiful days yielding freezing water temps and dripping icicles along the trail.

Sometimes, I enjoy walking the streams during these times and simply not fishing. In fact, I often wish for winter to come so I can enjoy these snowy days.

There are beautiful sights all around, and the silence is captivating. The last few seasons have been mild, and we need more snow.

The only sound beyond the silence is the water, flowing over and under ice-formations and under the cover of snow. It doesn't hurt to bring a rod along, but usually the fish are semi-dormant in these circumstances, and its more fun to observe than to cast a line or fight the conditions on the chance of one lucky (or determined) strike.

Other times, I prefer to hike outright, with no focus on rivers whatsoever. Winter hiking is glorious for this... the trail, padded with snow makes for faster and easier movement over the rocks and roots which would threaten ankles and reduce your speed during the other seasons. There is less stress on your joints, and if you choose nice days, the weather isn't a deterrent at all. 

Feeling like it might be my last shot at some local winter hiking, I headed out to Mohonk preserve to put some miles behind me, and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Now before you get too excited of these wonderful photos of small streams here, and go looking for Mohonk on google maps for your next fishing trip... keep in mind this ridge is ultra-poisoned by acid rain. Not a fish can survive up here, and believe my, I've tested it out just to be sure.

It doesn't stop me from hoping for a better future, but it will be many years still until the acid balance in the water is back to where it needs to be for healthy fish populations. The soil cover here is considerably thinner than the ADK, and we all know that story already...

Mohonk preserve is a unique place, and looks more like the southwest than the northeast in many ways. It tends to attract a crowd but there are trails less travelled if you are looking for some solo time.

There are frequent lookout points for great views, many of which are dominated by layers of rock forming picture-perfect cliffs. This area is the premier climbing destination for the East coast of the USA, and for good reason.

This set of foothills and the ridge is called the "Shawangunks," which is a name derived from the Dutch pronunciation of the Native American language name. The history of the naming is actually quite complicated, and too long to reproduce here. 

The ridge is essentially the eastern-most ridge of the Appalachian mountains in the area, and is part of the same rock formation running from the Kittatiny ridge in NJ up to the Catskills, which you can see in the photo, below.

However, the landscape here is nothing like the Catskills; with exposed cliffs more prevalent, a less dense forest, and many small evergreen trees that make the area look like a northeast version of Joshua Tree, CA.

There were many people out on the trail on this holiday weekend, but it wasn't too crowded. It was an interesting mix of people - it always is up there. I really like that.

I ran into a dreadlocked-dog named Marley...

And then, after seeing a women's hiking group at this trail junction...

... I turned around and noticed a tourist group more suited for 5th avenue than a mile into a snowy trail.

But it was good to see everyone out having a great time.

The snow was not very deep, and by the end of the warm & sunny day it was all granular and beginning to melt out.

I moved quickly on this terrain, but mostly because of the micro-spikes I was wearing on my boots. They are necessary for safe and effective winter hiking, and many people were slipping and falling without them. Make sure you use them if you hit the snowy trails.

As I neared the end of the loop, I noticed someone had made this funny-looking snow creature, and I stopped to photograph it in the long shadows of the winter afternoon.

I called it a day just a little early, enjoying my drive south with less traffic, and was happy to have some nice beer waiting for me at home.

I've been trying to expand my horizons a bit since I'm no longer working in wine, and I'm learning quickly about craft beers at the moment.

Hazy beer seems to finally be more popular, not so far off from what's happening in the natural wine scene these days either.

Barrier reminds me a little bit of the Other Half brewery, which is local to Brooklyn, NY. Next time I take a trip down there I'll post some photos for all to see. I hope you take some time to enjoy the snow this winter and get out on the trails!