Friday, December 30, 2022

12.30.22 I might have found the answer....

      I may have found the answer for my quest in the best wading staff for me. I could be like the cool kids, well old men and women, and just hit click and order one of those fancy and expensive models. But I did my homework and not only found a possible solution, but a great fly fishing blog as well.

     Domenik Swentosky founded Troutbitten, HERE, in 2014. He is from Central PA and fishes the Penns Creek, Little J, and Spring and Fishing Creeks. Not only does he run the site/blog/podcast and You Tube channels, he also guides on those rivers. If you're a trout guy this is a great, I mean really great site. 

     I have enjoyed watching the monthly ratings about the Top 100 Fly Fishing Blogs (worldwide) flucuate month to month. There's some big guns up at the top and I've discussed how a lot of that content is not orignal to the poster, but linked to another source. And sometimes the bigguns link the same content to each of their own pages. I am sure the online blogger/content poster at each company is reviewed on how many posts they post, irregardless of where the content is generated or linked from. 

     You see, content, no matter where is comes from, (begged, borrowed, or stolen), drives readers which means clicks which means higher ratings and hopefully generates more income. What I have

also come to learn is the importance of social media and business. I knew it, but I really didn't understadn it. SEO, RSS, and stuff over my head means something. Take for instance MidCurrent, ranked #1 in fly fishing blogs to follow in 2023. Just look at the sheer numbers of followers,

Facebook nearly 18,000, Twitter 18,000, and Instagram 11,500 followers. That means a lot of clicks each day, which probably leads to revenue, and their #1 ranking. So when I look at Troutbitten, again worlds apart from my blog, he comes in at #20, and he too has a big following. And then 

there's me. Just an average angler who writes about fly fishing, mostly salt water, and mostly about striped bass. No other blog details things like nursing, buying trucks, home projects, the kids, the holidays, sinking various boats, and being cash strapped at time. But maybe that's my jam. If you 

look at my numbers, there is no Twitter, Instagram, or You Tube, just 41 Facebook followers which is probably, me, Leif, my mom, and maybe some of her friends down in the 55 and over place in Bradenton, Florida. With that, it's amazing I come in at #26 worldwide. Enough about that. I can say I'll never break #20, unless I quit my job and go into full influencer and production mode. I'm good. 

     Swentosky made a post a few years back about wading staffs and I read it and really liked what he said. He came up with a DIY'd set up, which cost him much less than the pre-rigged offerings from the big manufacturers. Now you know me, I'm rough on everything and always find a way to ding it up or snap it in half. I would surely do the same with an over $200 Simms wading staff. You can read his post HERE

     He prefers the staffs made by Trekology, you get two for $42 on Amazon. If you click on the link on his site he gets a little cash. Interestingly, his site is really, really good when it comes to 

monetizing, he offers swag, has a donation buttom, and is linked up with Amazon as a partner. Smart dude. I'm sure clicks on his You Tube Channel also brings in a few dollars as well. 

    He couples his staff to be secured with a Gear Keeper retractor, $24, that he attaches to his wading belt, for me it would hang off my stripping basket belt, something I need to repalce as one of my plastic latches is broken. It's always great having your stripping basket click off and fall to your knees mid cast or when your fishing from the jetties. But that's me of course. 

     Domenik also shares tips on how he customized the set up. If you look at all of the types out there and the reviews there's really not one that satiates all of our wading safely needs. So this really answers the call. And the Trekology, is locking, so no more separation or elongation when you find that mud dump or crevice in the bottom of the river. If you do the math for about $65 you'll have one set up with a staff as a backup. Sounds like a plan to me, so thanks Domenik, and great job over at Troutbitten. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

12.29.22 Just had to go...

     The above popped up on my FB feed this morning and it got me thinking. If I caught a fish 6 years ago why not today? With spring like air temps, decent water temps @44 degrees, and the top of the tide when the sun was highest and brightest, for December, I thought I'd give it a shot.

     I was dreaming of those December bass guys talk about, maybe a holdover or two in one of the northern rivers before theseason closes for the bays and rivers Decmeber 31st, two days away. 

     So I made the drive north and treated myself to some nasty Wendy's before gearing up and heading out. All was well until I went to put on my waders. When I was home I brought them up from the basement and dropped them out the front door of the house as to not dust off any sand in 

the house. I made a mental note, "Do not forget them". Well you know what meant, looks like I would be fishing in my painting sweats and shoes. It didn't matter. I stayed dry and fished for and hour and a half on the top of the tide and the start of the drop. In the main river it was clean and clear but the tribs were choked with snow and ice pack. Didn't see any bait or fish for that matter. The worst part, besides the Wendy's, was the 3 hour drive to fish for 90 mins. I forgot how miserable the Turnpike can be even midday. 

      Earlier in the day I was on the vice working on trying to build a fly and then maybe do the impossible- tie two flies that looked alike, or even better yet, get into a run and banging multiple flies out, like the real tyers do. Again, I tie a fly and then critique the hell out of it. I like this one though, would have liked it better on a 6/0 rather than a 5/0 hook. The eyes, which I glued on smaller tab eyes as to not gunk up the fly with glue, should have sat further 

back on the fly. Taper wasn't bad, but the peacock herl kinda stopped mid-back of the fly. What I do like is the length, coming in over 9 inches. It has a mono extension, which doesn't show at all, and that sits inside nicely. I went to a thin mono, maybe 20 pounds, and although it was harder to tie on it moves and lends in nicely. I used a lighter to burn a ball at the end to prevent the bucktail from slipping off. And I like the color combinations. The picture on the ruler is coming off of a fresh bath so it's kind of matted down. This one will get eaten in the spring. 

     So of course when I got home the waders were where I left them. On the firewood cart behind the snowblower and under the Christmas wreath. I may keep them in my truck because Sunday looks like a day that may be calling. It's hard to resist a New Year's Day bass, although the lack of anglers out and reports doesn't lend me to believe there's anything going on on the beach these days. 


12.29.22 Who knew....


     Of course you don't know until you know. Earlier this year as Bunky flew the coop he gave me an old fashioned wading stick. When he did I was, "What do I need that for?". Well I put it to good use and it saved me a bunch of times from going out to deep or falling into the river. Again, these Delaware rocks, and concrete and debris, are big and slippery and at very different depths. I came to learn quickly how valuable a wading staff is. 

     This is the old school kind. It used to have the built in compass so you could find your way out of the woods, or can call 911 as you float down the river and tell them what your bearing is. It's also the good type, the one where, if it gets stuck, and you pull up it elongates, disconnects, and you fall in when it collapsed with your downward weight. Fun times.

     I wanted to see what manufacturers out there made a solid wading staff, of course they all do. A quick Google search confirmed that. Remember back in the day when there was one, or maybe a few, of the same product duplicated. Not in todays world. Everyone makes everything and everyone sells everyone's else's things. Basically, I think it's called drop ship. I'll pick on Orvis. Let's say they offer a X product. X product's maker makes it and may or not sell it themselves. They have retailers that sell it in the store, either their own or say like a fly shop. They may also offer it through their own online store. Now in this day and age, a manufacturer or fly shop may offer competing products for sale. What they do is, they offer it, they sell it, then they get it shipped from, wherever to the consumer who bought it. You see it all over the place, and even places like Facebook Marketplace, where "dealers" move products they have never acually owned. Ok, enough of that. 

     Of course the wading staffs offered today go from just about $30 all the way to over $250. All of the big guns offer them. What I need is the following, needs to be strong, the right height, comfortable with a hardy grip that lasts, carry pouch to attach to my stripping basket belt, something that attaches the staff to the carrying pouch, and most importantly one that has a locking mechanism. That's my wish list. 

     Now I'm just feeling these out, mostly from reading the specs and reading reviews, so I think I'm in between the following,

Few things I learned. The original maker of quality staffs. Made in NY, USA. Great warranty and repair, yes you pay for it, program. Concerns- how the staff attaches to the carry pouch. Dette's Flies is a an authorized delaer and has them for $160

     Simms offers the Pro Wading Staff. They sell them for $220. Supposedly worth it, however, big drawback, the staff attaches to the ouch via a zinger type device, and I haven't seen how it actually attach and works. 

     Patagonia offers the above for $159. It has a mesh carry pouch. I watched a video on it, adjustable height, locking mechanism, very narrow staff, but supposedly very strong. 

     Orvis offers their Riptide Wading Staff. Few things, neoprene pouch, don't know how easy it is getting it in and out, I like the old school leather fixed sized pouch. Looks like it has a solid retractable lanyard. But the collpased size is 18 inches, that's pretty long to hang down your leg. Cost is $149

    Adventik off of Amazon. Price is $36. After reading reviews it sounds like there is no lanyard to connect the staff to the pouch or person. There is one to connect the pouch to yourself, like a vest or something, so you'd have to DIY it somehow. 

     So after a quick review, I'm leaning to FolStaf. American made, stand by their product, love the pouch. I might just wait until after The Fly Fishing Show to pull the trigger. More to follow. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

12.28.22 Fishing 2022 recap....

      I'll look back at fly fishing in 2022 as a win, for the most part. I think I learned more this year then I have in years past. Yes, I may have caught more fish in year's past but I think that what happened in 2022 will set me up for more success going forward. I hope to cash in on things learned in the 2023 season. 

     Early on my goal was to learn more about New Jersey striped bass in the bays and rivers. I learned more, but again didn't necessarily catch more. My early goal before the year started was to catch fish in a selection of rivers to the north and south of where I usually fish. I scored in the Hackensack, Navesink, Shark, Delaware and Manasquan but was blanked in the Passaic, Shrewsbury, Raritan, and Toms Rivers. A lot of that had to do with living out on the Delaware River now and working in Newark. Any succsses I had along the Jersey Shore and those waters was either by coincidence, becasue I had a reason to be down there, or by committing the time of travel and fishing to get lucky and find some fish. 

     There is no doubt that I am really loving river fishing for striped bass. And not boat river fishing, but old school wading. Tides, don't forget the Delaware has a 9 foot tide, and wind, and finding spots, and slippery rocks, and rebar and concrete, with no room for a backcast all add to the challenges of river fishing. Not all of those spots bring those challenges. Some, like say the Navesink, doesn't have the backcast problem, but does present an access problem. And when I say access, it's the ability to get to where the fish are. They are not always at your feet, they tend to be out in or near the channel. You can remember how I was going to beat them at their own game by launching the S.S. Archer last spring....and you remember how that went. 

      I brought out my ladder on several outings in various spots and it really did help. People tend to like rush to fish when they get there, for me lugging a little extra gear, like a ladder, can really pay off. Now I can't take credit for this move as I had seen it from the anglers up in New England and in the tropics when fly anglers sit on the flats looking to sight cast. I can't tell you how many spin anglers looked at me sideways when they saw me with a ladder, but then it made sense to them. 

     My love affair with the Delaware gets deeper each month I live out here. I am still a beginner in this game. The Delaware is across the street from my house. It is to my left or right everytime I leave my driveway. When I get up in the morning or night I look at my window and can see it depending on the foliage cover during that season. I think my love of rivers began when I started fly fishing for trout in 1992, the Jersey rivers to the north and then the Upper Delaware a few years later. I loved trying to get my fly behind that rock, in that tail out, or under the branch on the other side of the river. This Delaware is all of that, plus more. Big tides, big currents, very touchy when it comes to rising levels and water quality depending on the weather, homeless guys sleeping in the shadows, rocks so slick you thought they were covered with vasoline, and concrete and rebar to sharp it'll beat up or slice your waders with a gently graze. And with all of that, striped bass that are here and gone looking to eat and spawn. Some stay later than others but it's the ones that are present in the big and cold water that I want. There's nothing like being down there in the middle of the night trying to catch a tide and timing the rising water while perched on a slippery rock. Those are the nights. 

     The Delaware is like other spots. Yes, you can get a tip and run down and maybe catch a fish, but to be really honed in you have to put your time in, and that's usually where anglers give up. People fish when they can, days off, no kids, wifes or husbands permission, if the fish are there or not. But to be dialed in means you are thinking, and think you know, about it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, especially if you are in the hunt of migratory striped bass. I did get a chance to expand things a 

little by hitting Atlantic City when "AC is Bangin'", but of course "You should have been here before first light", to have witnessed mostly big fish caught on eels. I also finally fished Cape May and the waters of the Delware Bay where a guy told me "The fish are all too big", meaning they were 


larger than the 28-38" slot size limit. Bait and plugs is what they eat there in the normal off color water of the bay. As spring turned to summer I tried a few different things. I had seen and learned about snakeheads in the Delaware and tributaries so I spent a lot, I mean a lot of time pursuing them. I might be the worst snakehead-fly-fisherman there is. Saw about a dozen, maybe had three good 

follows and shots, but the rest of the time I was hot, sweaty, muddy, eaten alive and pissed off. But hey, that's fishing. I also spent a lot of time in a kayak, which I loathe. Trying to maintain balance and casting while nearly parallel with the water is tough. It's all top water, so I stripped more floating flies then I ever have in my life without a fish all year. Now my kayak is just a simple 10 footer, nothing special and not outfitted for a real fisherman, but at least it got me out of the dense brush and onto the water. 

     I also got my feet wet in a jet boat this summer. It came after the spring and it was a good learning experience to being able to actually seen down into the river and it's depths and holds, and how they change with the tides, was really cool. It's a reaaly goo way to access other spots to get out and walk and wade, again my favorite. It's peaceful on the bigger water as you are above the boulders cut by the glaciers, and combat boating and fishing on the lower water when everything is exposed by the tides. Fun stuff, but I have to admit I'm a little boat-gun-shy in the new waters. This year both boats will be out and about. 

     I had my Jones Brother's boat out once in the fall after emptying the checkbook at Mercer Marine.  It was good, caught some fish, felt her out a bit, but I just wished I had the cash to send her down to Donnie Jones in North Carolina for a complete overhaul. I am hoping one day to do just that. It would be like getting her back all brandy new when Jim purchased her in 1997. 

     The summer and fishing on the beach was slow this year. It was more fluke than bass on crab flies. I went out with the ladder looking for beaches that were void of beachgoers and swimmers to find those bass lurking on the sand bars and in the troughs. Saw a few, had a few shots, no fish to hand. It was during this summer that I lost my dear friend Al. As you know I spent a lot of time with Al on the beach, and in his house when his wife Evelyn would allow, lol. When I lived in Ocean 

Township and then Red Bank we spent more time together. By the time I moved from Red Bank to Titusville Al had hung up his waders and stopped fishing. They moved to North Carolina and passed within 17 hours of each other in July. I miss Al, but have went on to meet another really cool guy out this way. I've come to call him Delaware Joe, another guy who has a problem when it comes to striped bass and fishing. It's always nice to grab a bite and and a beer and 

spend time with him and listening to his stories and some advice on his experience fishing the Delaware. A lot of that was at night in his 14 foot aluminum boat, and several of his logs show 50+ fish outings. He also gave the boat a once over and tried to help me figure some things out. 

     The fall, well, you know how that went. If fly fisherman were looking for a repeat of fall 2021 then they weren't disapointed as 2022 was totally different. There was an early run of big, I mean big, fish, followed by a solid bay bite of the elusive 28-38 inch fish, then an all out siphoning of bait from the bays and rivers, which led to blitz conditions along most of the Jersey Shore. The mullet "run", well that sucked as it has for a bunch of years now outside of a day or two where schoolie bass worked to choke them down. Long gone are the days of solid keeper sized plus fish on the mullet for days. And of course weather always plays into that, and usually shuts them down. 

     Between no fish on the beach, teaching and then almost stroking out I didn't put a ton of time in in October. It was later that month where the big fish on bunker started to show. It was really a boat fishery by then, but there were times when they did come in and fly fisherman who had the time to 

be out there on the beach, with a little hlep with their cell-phone-friends, got into them. And you know how I feel about blitz fishing, hate it and love it. Hate to see and be in it, but love to find it when all alone, and happy to pick one out of the chaos if I can. On November 4th, just as things started to show on 

the beach Theresa and I stumbled upon an all out blitz of big fish while hitting a retirement party in Long Branch. We just happened to stop at Pullman, which will soon be under the sand once again. I grabbed the above shot of a guy with his wife and baby after just being in the right place at the right time. Of course, I had no gear with me, oh well. 

     By the second week of November things started to really heat up on the beaches. The first call I got was from Andrew Hamilton on November 14th, "Just get here". This fall, boat, surfcasters, and fly rodders reported "the best fall run ever". Now that's a little tunnel vision, yes it happened, here in New Jersey, but the rest of the East Coast had been sucking wind the entire fall. But we did have it 

good and Leif and his son enjoyed great days while they lasted. The day it went off (above) I was on a plane heading to New Orleans for a work convention. Then it was Thanksgiving, and then it was game over, or so I thought. 

     So a few days into December I finally found what I was looking for. Bass blitzing on peanuts that were basically at your feet. While it was fun to be on the beach to see it, and fish it, what I'll remember that day it working my way out onto the deconstructed groin at Marine Place and fishing in some sketchy spots. Marine Place is now a mound of rocks, with more of a mine field of boulders 

surrounding it. There's not one flat one out there but the bass were pinning the peanuts against them and even chasing them in and around the rocks with the ebb and flow of the tide. I had had to wade my way out there and I was glad I did. After that it was a few bass up north before I started the quit countdown which was made easy by the bomb cyclone and air tmperatures down into the single digits. 

     Two things I, well maybe three, that I'll remember about this year and are proud of. First, I know, that stupid fish again, yes, that stupid fish (above). When I tell you how much time, like over the last three years, and how many casts, like 100,000, it took to be in the right spot at the time, and then land that fish, you'd just shake your head and let me post it up again. And I have thank Joe, not Delaware Joe, but another Joe I fish with for being there and getting a great shot for me to have as proof, and to torture readers over and over again. That fish was one head turn into the current from being broken off, it was that perfect of a fight and landing if I say so myself. 

     Second. The viewing tanks. I came up with the idea, found the materials, and made it happen, and it worked. Never have I had so much fun watching a striped bass after it has been caught and unhooked. I don't care if they are big or small, they just chill out waiting for the release 

back into the water after a portriat session. As I write this I have been in contact with some plastics manufacturers to get more materials to tweak the prototypes I have. I may even see about getting them produced for retail sale. Anglers, of course the catch and release ones, love this, especially the drift boat guides who want to get away from the grip and grins with wild fish. 

     Third. Lastly I'd have to say the last takeway from 2022 is my fly tying. So here's a few things. I'll never tie like the greats...forget it. I remember this spring sitting in on a Jason Taylor Master's of The Fly episode. I was in front of my vice looking to do a tie along, within five minutes I was behind and done. So I just can't. But just because I can't bang out a Popovic's, Warshauer, or Whalley looking fly doesn't mean I can't tie and catch fish. Look at that hot mess know what, that got eaten buy a huge river fish that straightened the there. But I woked at it and by March 1st I had about, maybe 20 flies to go get some. The mess below, I caught a bunch of 30+ inch fish in the Navesink before who 

knows what happened to it. Of course I have to thank Steve Farrar who reached out to me after he saw me struggling at the vice and invited me over and gave me some pointers. Steve's big thing, "Do fish have beaks?", like a bird, meaning flies shouldn't have beaks either, but some of mine still do. 

I also have to tip my hat to anyone who can really tie a good Beast Fleye, but I just can't. Either my mono extensions are too think or pointed in the wrong direction or the tapers are wrong or I don't know what, I can't stand them, and can't stand looking at them, my own ties of course. I can't tell you how many of these messes caught fish though. I guess they were horried and just wanted them to go away so they eat them.

     But every now and then the squirel finds a nut. And, I found them through the early spring. Not perfect by any stretch, but fishy, and flies that I could look at when I fished them and tell what I did wrong and needed to change. What is also cool about fly tying this year was that one of my three  

most memorable fish came on flies tied by three different people. Blitz-O-Ween in 2014 was on a Andrew Warshauer fly (above), that November 2018 boat fish was on a Jim Matson fly (below) and my river tank this year was caught on a fly I tied.....that was pretty cool. It was a quick 10 minute fly 

I called the "McNasty". Before I went I knew I running short of night time flies, so I ran down inot the basement and banged it out, and a few hours later I was craddling that fish, yes that fish, like a proud poppa.

      So all in all this year was a good year. As I sit here today the bomb cyclone is past us and we are starting to warm up. It's supposed to hit 55-60 this weekend so there might be the need to get out for the first time after the New Year. I am predciting BIG things for 2023, bigger fish, better flies, more time out on the water (I've already warned Theresa), and fishing new locations with a return to one of my favorite places of all, Martha's Vineyard.