Saturday, January 29, 2022

01.29.22 Hopefully that was it for the snow....

      If you could wish for a day for a snow storm a late Friday night is just about perfect. People don't have to commute to work for the most part and when it snows overnight you can wake up and get to work during the warmest part of the day. It snowed pretty good across the northeast last night and in Mercer County we got about 8-10 inches. The shore got hit harder, 21 inches in Bayville and 12 inches in Cape May. I'm not sure how The Fly Fishing Show fared with the storm, but I hope those that made it had a good show.

     Snow in the mountainous region of our state is good for the health off the lakes and rivers. When it melts away it raises water levels, brings nutrients from the soil to the water, and in the Delaware its effects the salinity which is important for spawning striped bass. 

     I took some screenshots from two locations near me. Later this week we re expected to see temperatures into the 50's which will surely met away the snow, so we'll compare and see what it does to the rivers. The Delaware is low, down near Trenton, and I assume the same for the Upper Delaware Rivers. The Delaware at Trenton is running about 6,500 cfs and Lambertville is less than half a foot. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

01.28.22 Day one of The Fly Fishing Show....


     Alrighty, here we go. So first, if you asked how my show was, I would say great. There's a line that is said to people going to a Grateful Dead show, or even The Fly Fishing Show, and that is, "Have a great show". And what that means is one hopes that you get from the show what you want or need, and everyone has a different need. Now there is no doubt that the season opening Edison show was under a watchful eye. Hey, after Marlborough was rescheduled everyone wondered what would this weekend would bring and would it be a good kickoff to the season.  Well, about the show in general. I got there at 945 and could have been done by 1030, but that was me and my show. First thing, about the admission, $18 at the door, ok. I thought I would save some time and effort at the door by ordering my ticket online, well if you do that you then pay a service fee and tax, which brings you up over $22. In years past there was a long line at the door, today, I walked in, paid my $18 and was the floor. 

     Let talk about the crowds just get it out of the way. I was surprised how many people were actually there when I was.  Probably more people working there in some capacity than attendees. With the said a lot of the people that were there came for a reason or reasons, and like me, hit the few vendors hard and often and spent some good money. While, in my opinion, the destination booths, the artwork, 

the pickles, the tattoo booth (very cool) and car and truck accessory displays related to fly fishing are nice to browse through, I was on a mission and needed acquire materials to tie flys for striped bass.

     This year is the "Year of the River" for me, that is where you will find me, and early on, the river herring are what its all about. I needed to get materials to tie herring flies. I needed saddles in a few colors, body material, and some eyes. When I got in, the first booth I saw to my left was Keogh. There was some guys pulling saddles from the bins with a purpose, and the 3 for $80 or 5 for $125 show special was something a lot of people couldn't pass up, including me. Ok, check that off. Below is a Ben Whalley tied fly that I am using to tie something that will match the hatch of alewives or bluebacks making their way up the various rivers in about 6 weeks. 

     For some body material I went over to talk with David Nelson about his Squimpish Flies, like I do every year. Last year I picked up some of his boutique blends, which are still on my fly tying desk, but this year went with his squimpish hair. A quick look and $20 later I had two packs and I was gone. Then I saw my bud Brad

Buzzi. He had a crowd around his booth every time I passed or looked over. He was the bucktail-go-to- guy at the show. He was pimping tails and other fly tying materials, tools and equipment. I scored three really nice tails, one in a pale purple that reminded me of the color that Joe Phiefer dyes and ties with. 

     There's nothing like shopping in person for materials, especially saddles and tails. Brad had a few hundred or so to pick through and he ended your purchase by brushing the tails out, and usually commenting on how and why that tail that you picked was a good one. 

     The next booth that had a steady stream most of the morning was Andrew Moy's Tightlines Fly Fishing, from his shop here in New Jersey, probably the last solid full service shop in the Garden State. From them I was able to get some deer belly hair, some imitation jungle cock, and some eyes. 

     Joe Calcevechia's Saltwater Custom Flies booth was a great place to stop and pick up some flys to fish or for inspiration and he was another that had materials to pick up and check off your list. 

     It was good to see George Daniel there, who was rumored to have cancelled, and he put on a casting clinic for those that wanted to improve their game, or who stopped by to watch while browsing the booths on the floor.  That dude is serious, and from what I hear seriously good. 

Next I saw author Tim Camissa demonstrate his fly tying skills as one of the featured tyers. 

     Now what kept me around was the 12 o'clock presentation in Room B of the Destination Room. New England Guide Abbie Shuster was scheduled to present "Fly Fishing Martha's Vineyard". I killed  almost 90 minutes circling the floor several times only to find an empty room when I got there at 1155. I was disappointed because for nearly the last 10 years I have been going to MV each June in my quest to sight fish for striped bass on the flats. 

     So, yes, it was a smaller show. Most of the big name manufacturers and guides and personalities weren't there. But, like I said I came and got what I needed, and was happy when I left around 1230. Three hours, which could have been cut in half since there was a no-show show, was plenty and I find no need for a multi-day pass. But the best part of my day, was seeing fly fisherman and author  Rich Murphy. I just love this guy. In years past, and in blog posts past, I have shared on how

important his book "Fly Fishing for Striped Bass" is for both the veteran or new striped bass fly angler. While Rich's voice is low, and he is fighting his body at times, he is a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to talk and share what he knows. I have stood both at his booth and bellied up to the bar with him in years past, always trying to follow along and keep up. He is another one of my favorite nutty professors, kind of like Jim Matson was, just in a different way and from a different dimension. So as I talked with Rich and he went through his various flies and how he came too build them, such as the below "Quarter Moon Special", which uses an everyday swivel, long before the articulated shanks came around, I felt like a kid talking to that baseball player before the game started.  

     I stepped back from Rich when someone new would come up to his table. I would listen to the question and then his answer, which at times was to soft in volume and way too deep. 

    In Chapter 4 of his book you can see a picture of Rich, beaming with his love of the game and most likely in the process of working on this book, again, which is timeless and a must have. 

     So before I left I had to thank him again and tell him how much I loved his book. He was gracious and humble. Then I noticed he had the same book that I had purchased on his table left, but on the right side was another book, same title but a little more fancy and came with a hard insert type cover. He said that was from "a special run" of 250 

copies, and that was his personal copy, never numbered and never signed. I said good-bye and turned away and then thought how much I wanted it while I walked around. But I went back, and he told he would sell it to me, and that was it, done deal. I don't know how many more years Rich will be doing the shows, but I am so glad to have 

met and spent time with him over the years. A true gentlemen and another man I greatly admire in this sport. Before I left I grabbed a selfie of the two of us, and realized that I missed the moment when he signed the book, but that was okay. He struggled to look up the the camera, and I appreciate his effort in doing so. 

     So that's it in a nutshell. Above is the stuff I scored from the show, I don't know if I have ever spent over $200 at TFFS, but today I did and left happy doing so. So, it is what it is. Yes, these past few years 
have been tough with Covid and this weekend we are readying ourselves for a potential serious winter storm. But, with that, what will become of TFFS? Are the usual players, some bigger than others, now used to not doing the shows for the last two years, or having the expenditures of the shows, and ready to slowly just bow out? Maybe, the show can be better, even if it is smaller. Maybe going more local for each venue in each region might be better? More local tyers, more local personalities and talent, presentations that are more locally focused with more usable information for "the average angler". People would pay $25 a day if it was like that, in my opinion. I'm not going to Kamchatka, but I may go to Montauk, or Staten Island, or, um, Keansburg. Remember there are no more shops, the show is a 

great place to be able to see and feel and buy and then go and do locally what you learned and bought.
     There also has to be a desire from the "management" to grow the sport, and that can be done by getting kids and first timers involved, targeting the transitional angler, from salt to fresh or fresh to salt, and loading the floor with resources that local anglers can and will support. It can't all be, mostly okay, all about the money, and that goes out to the fly fishing clubs as well, it can't be just about the raffles. Maybe the brunt of the monies need to come from the attendees, and not the vendors that bring them in, or the talent that does the presentations and demonstrations. They need to be given X and be willing to pay for Y to get in. Just because you killed it profit-wise in the past doesn't mean it will work in the future. Different times, different people- and yes a lot of our legends and role models are getting older and moving along to better pastures so you better be ready to include the new generations of talent, different venue- and yes please go back to Somerset at all costs, that it might be time to re-evaluate it all. 
     I hate to see TFFS do badly and I hope it continues on for years. During tough times is a great time to pause and think about how it should go forward. After these past two years, the big guns are, the attendees are, and after this weekend in Edison and after the shows in Atlanta, Denver, Pleasanton, Lancaster and Marlborough, the fly fishing industry will as well. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

01.26.22 I think, well pray, we are heading in the right direction.....

      Well today was the winter meeting of the ASMFC. Let me preface this by saying I am no way an expert or even close to fully understanding striped bass management. Today was the meeting, and in between patients I followed Ross Squire's update on the 1@32" Pledge Facebook page. 

     What I can say from the meeting, Tom Fote scares me as he represents New Jersey and, in my opinion, is not a friend of conservation minded anglers, Maryland's 18" minimum size for harvesting striped bass is a joke, and, it appears the board may be, or are flirting with, knowing they have the duty to help save the striped bass. 

     This meeting focused on the recreational side, as commercial releases, according to the data, only accounts for 8% of mortality, while recreational is 48%. You can believe that or not, but those are the numbers that have been established and are used. The meeting started and then these slides stuck out which address ocean and Chesapeake Bay fisheries. 

          Again, to me, it appears the plan is looking to rebuild SSB by 2029, they just have to figure out how to do it. I don t think there are plans for multi-state regulations, each state does and will continue to justify their "data". In New Jersey we have a recreational fishery which includes the slot Bonus Tag Option because we don't have a commercial fishery, while some other states do. 

     The below slides dealt with reducing recreational mortality, which has been addressed by establishing then use of circle hooks when using bait, which eliminated snag and drop fishing. And then there was the 28 - <38" one fish limit that was put into the regulations. But they talked about protecting spawning fish, and the below slides show that.

          So are we looking at catch and release only, closed seasons, either for two weeks or one per two waves, for certain bodies of water? Is Raritan Bay going to part of that plan protecting the spawning bass? What about the Chesapeake system? What about Maryland's 18 inch fish? 

     It is interesting and timely with my earlier post from today. Have striped bass become more of a bay and river fishery then out in the ocean? Are we seeing the "bulk" of the striped bass pre-spawn outside of their natal rivers, and during the fall migration, in those same spots? And is regards to recreational mortality, are those boat or shore/beach anglers, because the fishery has become primarily a boat fishery.

     I believe the board votes on things, it then goes out for public comment, then the back door deals and lobbying occurs, then the board votes and it becomes a regulation, determined by each state, or not. Again, don't go by me, but this is my very early take-a-way from the meeting. 

     Could we be closer to gamefish status? Closer to coast wide regulations? Closer to a moratorium? Or  down continue to kick the can and aren't any closer to improving striped bass numbers. I will ask this, can it be argued that the elimination of snag and drop fishing, and a hard 28- < 38 " size limit has helped protect the largest breeding female bass we have left? I sure hope so, now what's next. 

01.26.22 It's going to be a fun year.....

      So things change. Jobs, friends, where you live, and where you fish. I have, for years, been stuck in the Monmouth County beach mindset. It was kinda easy because I loved there. Jetty Country is home and there's no where else I'd rather be. Well, that could be good, but I have realized a few things. Stripers also change. They change where they vacation, live, and hunt for food. That has been evident for a couple of years now. Call it a change in migration pattern, change in water quality in the bays and rivers, change in where the bait is migrating or staging before the migration, and then there's good old beach replenishment.

     The Raritan Bay this year was, well, ridiculous. Almost too good. Now I never really got into it good. Lack of opportunities, went out front instead of out back, and then the boat crapping out during a solo session November 24th, just as the gettin' got good. We had a few days just before things broke open, or more accurately, word got out. "The back" was on fire. Peanuts and then adult bunker seemed to be stuck in their tracks and didn't move, and the striped bass didn't have to either. 

After a few cold-snap days the beaches kinda lit up from Sandy Hook down to the IBSP, and then down near Brigantine starting around Thanksgiving. However, the bulk of the fish stayed in the bay almost until the third week in December, by then most boat guys, and its mostly is a boat fishery, had had enough and pulled their boats. 

     So what to do? I'm not saying I'm giving up on the beaches and rocks. I love it there, especially when its snotty, but, its not my neighborhood anymore, and there is no doubt that another round of beach replenishment has re-killed the ecosystem. The stretches that have not been touched by man are more productive then those that we have destroyed, better underwater life, better structure, better water on different tides, and just a nice place for forage and predators to hang. Now that's not saying that Sandy Hook has been and would be on fire while Deal is dead, its just that Sandy Hook may be better, if the fish are around. And lately, they just don't seem too want to hang along the Jersey beaches. And I am not talking about blitz fishing. That doesn't count, it's fun, but it doesn't count. 

     So my new gig in Newark has shifted where I may be on any given day. The days vary, hours vary, and location varies depending if it is on campus or in the hospital. And on other days I am in my office in Pennington, close to the Delaware. That said, Monmouth and Ocean Counties are in the other direction. I live in Mercer, pass through Middlesex, Union, Essex and am near Hudson and Bergen Counties, and you know what, it may not make the fly fishing magazines, but there 

are a ton of places to fish, not all fly fishing, for striped bass. So I have made it a point before and after work to scout out new places to fish, which, may be more productive than pounding the usual haunts like Monmouth County beaches over and over. And you know what, the bass are there, the bait is there. It doesn't matter if you're fishing in the states largest city, or next to a dump, or near the Turnpike or in an industrial area or a shithole, bass seek thermal refuge or comfort and food. And if you're talking spawning, or natal waters, then they are there to do that also . There is controversy about that too. Some say it only happens in the Delaware River, others say it happens in the Maurice, Navesink, and Raritan Rivers. 

     So when scouting, say above Exit 9 on the Turnpike, you have to ask yourself as few questions. Number 1, access. Is there a place to legally fish? Can I fish it realistically from foot? A lot of these rivers are sink-to-your-thighs mud dumps, and if you can't wade past the concrete walls, bushes and obstructions you won't even be able to cast. Number two, safety. Am I going to get jacked up fishing a tide at 2am in a shady part of town? It happens, or your truck gets busted in because bad guys are always on the prowl. Three, time of year and tides and schedule. This isn't go down and fish any tide because you have some time before or after work. You need the right tide at the right time, when you can actually go, or else it will be for nothing. Fish move with the tides, coming up onto the flats or staying within the channels. Four, the moons! Mark them down, even more so if you are fishing somewhere other than the beach. 

     Those November and December fish are still here in good numbers, in my opinion, they all don't leave. Yes the Raritan Bay at Keansburg is 32 degrees as is the Delaware River, but there are channels and holes where they winter over, or maybe they go up from the Rairtan and New York Bays to the 150 foot depths of the Hudson. Not every striped bass has to travel. If I am a Hudson fish, sexually mature, and gorged myself from T-day to X-Mass, do I ned to take my fat-ass self to Virginia for two months only to come back to Poughkeepsie to get laid in April? I don't think so. And most rivers have a holdover population, smaller fish, so that is what you see, and catch, in the early spring days when the waters warm up and they need to eat following a winter of slow metabolism and "hibernation". 

     So I am excited about this year. What will it mean? Who knows? But my goals for this year include a few things, 
  • Mid winter walleye on the fly
  • A lot of striped bass from different locations on the Delaware River
  • A fish from each of the following rivers, Delaware, Raritan, Rahway, Passaic, Hackensack, Navesink, Shrewsbury, Shark River, Manasquan River, Toms River, and something down in the Cape May back bays or harbor
  • Yep, hate to say it, but get up on my kayak, not fish fish from always, but just a way to sneak out and over to a better spot. The Navesink is a good example where a kayak can make the difference. 
      I also will be breaking out some new things, one fly in particular, something cool for catch and release, access to a new sled, and more video if my ADHD can allow me wrap my head around the shooting and post production. 

Counting down the days till walleye. Don't forget The Fly Fishing Show opens tomorrow and this weekends weather is looking spotty. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

01.24.21 Sad day for the Baltimore City Fire Department....

      Around 6 am the Baltimore City Fire Department was dispatched for a fire in a vacant three story brick middle of the row. The image above shows conditions shortly after the arrival of Engine 14. They were met with a tremendous amount of fire showing from all three floors. Shortly after they made their way inside an interior collapse occurred. They were heavily entrapped in the collapse and after they were freed and transported word came out that three had died and one remained in critical condition. 

RIP Paul Butrim (Truck 23), Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo, (Engine 14) and prayers for John McMaster.