Sunday, December 31, 2023

12.31.23 What a year 2023 has been....

     Another year. Getting older. Soon I'll be turning 56. I feel like I'm 80. I'm sure if and when I turn 80 I'll feel like I'm 160. Early New Year's resolution....get healthier. Health is wealth. But money helps. 

     I do these year end reviews from time to time. 2023 was a good year. I made it through and had some happy and fishy times along the way. The blog has been good this year. A look below and I can see in the past 15 years this has been my 4 th busiest in the amount of posts at 294. It's funny how I can look at the years and align them to things going on in my life. Like let's say, 2015, when Theresa and I got together, posts down to 26....I do that in a month now. Or 2018, when I finished up becoming a Nurse Practitioner, only 79. Yes, life does get in the way of fly fishing, and vice versa. And in the world wide ranking, HERE


of fly fishing blogs this one comes in at #24. I think the best it's ever come was 23. I would like to come in under 20, it just sounds better. Soon the number of people who have checked us out here will crest 1,000,000. That's individual or new viewers, not daily. 

     So a quick recap. I did my best fly tying in early 2023. I can thank Squimpish for that. I dabbled in some other materials and patterns but these did me very well through the year. I learned a lot by beating these up and have several take aways. I realize now how important hook choice is. More on that to come. March came in and I caught my first bass on March 9th. I fished a lot this 

year and have my wife and my work schedule to thank for that. Did I mention I have to thank my wife again? Well I do. On March 20th I revisited the S.S. Archer. My great idea of a vessel to get 

me in and around the various rivers I like to fish. It was a year earlier I capsized it in the Navesink. I had planned on coming up with ways to stabilize it. In the end I gave it away. More to come on that. On May 1st we opened up the house in Cape May and I had a chance to fish there a few times

between the day trips and day drinking and nights at the Washington Street Mall. They get good fish down there but that shitty off color water just turns me off. But this year I will fight through it. It was in late May that I had my best day of the year. It was a 20+ fish day. It was that good. It 

was also in late May Theresa and I joined the Walker family spreading Al and Evelyn's ashes out at sea. To say I miss Al would be an understatement. He was a huge part of my fishing life. 

     This year I took more photos of bass in the tanks to date. I love doing it. This winter I am going to buy another acrylic sheet and build two new ones as the scratches drive me nuts and the sizing

good be better. The tank even got some play in Fly Fishermen magazine this fall. That was cool. I didn't travel much for fishing this year. I spent a few days with Leif up on the East Branch of the Delaware. Fishing was tough due to the super low water but some fish were caught, but fun was had.

In July I made my way down to the beach and during the few summer trips I had it was almost all fluke and no striped bass. I love fishing those crab flies and trying to pop up a bass before the beach

crowds show up. It was during that month I had the pleasure of bringing the two Joe's down to the Shady Rest to meet up with Bob and have some lunch. I was like the third person on a date. Then

it was off to Hilton Head where Neil and I hired guide Mark Nutting for a half a day in brutally hot conditions. I managed to land a few redfish which I feel rival my love for striped bass. In Sept. I 

caught a few days of the few days of a mullet run and caught a few fish. While that was good, it makes me sad remembering how good our mullet runs were. But things change. It was an 

opportunity to tie up and fish some Snake Fly's, probably my most favorite to tie up and fish. It was also in September we went out to visit Laura and have a dumpster party. I went through of Jim's "stuff" and did the best helping her decide what should stay or go. Now we just have fond 

memories of the Pulse Disc and of Jim Matson. Man I miss that guy. I wish I had more times with him down in the laboratory. I would have learned so much. My jet boat had a visit to Mercer 

Marine and she is all tuned up and ready for 2024. That I am really looking forward to. Not fishing out of it as much as having greater access to spots in the rivers I fish. October started off slow but started to pick up as big bass on big bunker started to hit the beaches. While I hate fishing with spin

guys, for the above reason, I was glad to be there with Marc as he caught a few beauties which made for some great pics. Oh yeah, I caught nothing. Before the months end I hit New Jersey's only nude beach and as the sun arrived I made this image of a guy displaying his morning wood. 

That's a memory I could do without. In early November things started to heat up on the beach. It was a "You had to be here" type of season. It was all about blitzing bass on peanut  and 

and adult bunker. I had a great time the day of the Fly Tying Symposium. It started in Edison and finished up at The Shady Rest. It was the interaction between Levi and Bob that made my day.

Before the end of the month I found two days of great fishing in the afternoon after slow mornings of driving, stopping fishing, and then moving along. One of those days I was able to fish from the 

in bigger water which is my favorite way to fish. By the end of the month I started making the rounds down into Ocean County. I seemed to always be a few hours or a day late. My best luck were the days I caught it right in Long Branch and Avon. It 

It was in Long Branch where I almost throw my first sandy punches. I had returned into the water a over slot sized bass that was laying on the beach. It was sitting there all alone. Well that didn't go  well when the demented angler came back and tried to explain why he left the fish there. 

I started off December on a north Jersey river where I found one to eat. Two weeks later I found a bunch that were on the sand eels. It was good to catch more than one for once in awhile. It was off 

to Florida for Christmas and then as soon as I returned on the 26th it was off to much needed trip to the beach to get my last touch of a striped bass for the year. looking back I would say I had a great

year fishing, maybe not catching. when I did get into those few blitzes I spent an equal amount of time taking pictures as I did fishing, so my catches could have been up. As far as good bass? That happened more for me in the spring than in the fall. Predictions for 2024? Well, let's just say it's going to be a year of big bass for me. I intend to catch at least one 50 inch bass, several above 40 inches, bunches in the thirties, and a ton in the 20's. Delusional? Maybe. But that's my plan. As far as the blog? There's some thoughts in my head of doing a podcast, the thought makes me ill. There are 10,000 podcasts out there. You Tube Channel? 20,000 of those. Maybe I should just stay put and do what I think I do best. We'll see. A monthly one hour podcast? How bad can that be?

     I WILL be heading back to Martha's Vineyard this year. It has been far too long. My last trip was in 2021. I missed not going the last two years. Hopefully my buds will make the trip so I don't

don't have to....well you know, like see above. There will also be a return trip to Hilton Head where hopefully it's not hot like at the equator and there's a good new or full moon tide. I also hope to spend some time out at out friends house on the North Shore of Long Island. I had spent a night on the beach there this year and dug what I saw of the Long Island Sound and Smithtown Bay. 

     So that's a wrap. Good year. Blessed. Thankful and Grateful. Looking forward to the shows and tying up in the colder months before the opener March 1st, which is 61 days away. Oh yes, another prediction, I am going to really aggravate my wife off this year in regards to fishing. Early mornings, mornings, afternoons, evening, nights, late nights and all nighters. All around a busy schedule of work and family things. So, Theresa, I apologize now for the whole entire year, well, there's no striped bass fishing in January or February, at least in New Jersey. More to come on that. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

12.30.23 One last time while in the neighborhood...

     I had to run down to Monmouth County, so, why not. Three hours into the outgoing, WSW wind at 12, air temps above 50 degrees, word that some fish are still around, although early and later I hear are better times.

     I'm glad I got there when I did because that swell, and shorebreak, well, wasn't swell for this angler, but the surfers were out in force and had a good time. Any earlier and I surely would have been knocked over. 

     The thing that stood out to me as I walked and casted were the drastic changes to the beach after last weeks big blow. That's part of the reason why the surfers were so happy. Tons of sand has been pulled off the beaches and deposited onto sand bars just off the tips of the groins. I spoke with one surfer who gave me the low down on sand bars, waves, and surfing. There were tons of them out from Deal down to Belmar. 

     As far as fishing. No one home for me although there are fish still being caught from Sandy Hook down to ISBP, and surprisingly way south down to Cape May. You have to work and read the water and the beaches to find places that may hold fish. Spin fisherman have the added advantage of being able to cast Ava's or rubber sand eels about 300 feet which puts them over the sand bars the surfers are floating over. On the beach the troughs are gone, filled in by the sand as the beaches become lower and the waves travel up the beach scarps higher. You will see even more drastic changes by March. When beaches are replenished, sorry "nourished", they are higher as the pumped sand is deposited, and the waves have to cut into them and pull sand out, and that takes time, along with Mother Nature. Now they are nearly flat and the waves roll in and way up the beach and the sand gets pulled out. Creating a gently sloping, and boring, beach to fish. Basically the beach scarps are gone, at least where I was. 

     What is a beach scarp? What is a fore-shore? A berm? Trough? Sandbar? Most of us know these terms or have heard of them. But some of us, like myself, often use words that we don't know the correct meaning of. So beach scarp? I use it all the time. I may come off like I know what I'm talking about. So I did research and dug it to see if I was using the corrects words to discuss the location I was talking about. If you would like to learn more I would direct you to an article titled, "Morphodynamic Evolution of Post-Nourished Beach Scarps in Low Energy to Micro-Tidal Environment". That would be 

found in The Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. All you'd have to do is plug is some numbers from you're local beach into the formulas above and then you'll know. Ok, that article was way above my intelligence level. So I looked something more fitting for my K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple stupid) mental capacity of understanding. 

     When we talk about reading the water we look for things like sand bars, cuts, bowls and troughs. You can read structure below the water by watching how the water travels over, around and through those subsurface structures. Scouting out locations on low tides can be a helpful way to learn more about the water you fish. But what about from the low to high tide levels on the beach, that's where beach scarps come in. 

     When they talk about beach scarps a lot of the literature talks about it in regards to beach erosion, and pzrticlulary on "nourished beaches", because that is where you see the quickest and greatest changes to the beach landscape. A beach scarp;

     In a perfect fly fishing world a beach scarp would run down the beach in a vertical angle down into a trough, which would then lead into bowls and then into a cut out in between sand bars. (When you walk the beach the higher you are the deeper the water is in front of you.) That creates places for baitfish and predators to lie in wait as food moves through, around and along those structures with the current, or, move themselves with the current to root around for food or escape on a dropping tide. The waters you

fish, at least those with tides and current should look like a highway map. Many ways to get to and from one place to another. For bass, that's to come in and chew and screw. Waves breaking on the beach disorient bait or dislodge them from beach scarp, things such as crabs, sand eels, and clams. I find places like Island Beach State Park (above) to have the best, well consistent, beach structure. And that is primarily due to the fact that is controlled by Mother Nature, and not man, well men, like Frank Pallone and the Army Corp of Engineers. Okay, I won't start. 

     Beach erosion is a normal occurrence. Sand comes and goes. Sand shoals up and pockets are formed depending on the strength of the tides, wind, weather, and time of year. Our normal littoral current from south to north during the summer with a prevailing south wind shoals up inlets and groins on the south side, creating pockets on the north sides. In the fall when the wind switches to the north and northwest sand movement is reversed. 

     Below is a photo of the beach scarp following some beach nourishment. You can see how the ebb and flow of the tides cuts into the "new" beach. At some elevations the water travels up further, in 

others it hits a wall, a berm, of sand creating a mini-cliff. And the below photo shows how severe those beach scarps can become during a prolonged period of big weather, tides, or moon phases. While these 

examples may be severe, well not really, they can help illustrate where a beach berm is. In the below illustration it shows beach berms. A beach berm is the horizontal ledge that is formed along the beach

that occurs during high tides. It can be generally found when you hit the beach and see that line of flotsam, garbage, and fishing lures that get deposited as the tidal waters run up the beach scarp. In a normal run of a few days outside of weather or a moon tide that level, and formation of a beach berm, remains generally consistent. 

     So to get out of that wormhole. Water comes into the beach during a tide, which is the vertical rising and lowering of water. That water energy can be increased by waves affected by moon phases, wind, weather and the structures it moves over, around, and alongside. But it comes over the bar, into a trough, up the beach scarp, loses force at the beach berm (where it leaves that $60 plug), and then retreats down the scarp, into the trough, hits the bowls, sweeps along the groins, back over the bars, or through the cuts and back into the ocean. 

      Now, last thing. Have you ever been throwing flies when the bigger waves are rolling in and the wave that is exiting the beach hits the one that is coming into you, and possibly crashing into your stripping basket? Well there's names for them as well. If the crest of both waves hit each other, that is called constructive interference. If the crest of one hits the trough of another wave that's called destructive interference. If it's total chaos, like a washing machine, that's mixed interference. Bet you didn't know that, well either did I until I looked it up. I can thank Roger Williams University Introduction to Oceanography for that gem. 

     Now below is Roseld. You can see how far up the beach the water comes. You can also see how far out the sand goes. We actually lost rocks during and after the storm. Not lost like they're gone, but the sand has been washed out and has shoaled up both sides. I saw that on the three groins I fished. 

    Along side them the sand created a gently sloping beach, which tells you it just goes out gradually into the ocean. You can look at the groin height to see how much sand has been lost. Tall groins without pockets really aren't all that fun or productive to fish. Fish don't like having their bellies rub along the sand and I couldn't find any kind of trough that might hold a fish. 

     A quick glance at the condos on Roseld had me thinking, well dreaming of good times. I can see the pocket that used to be there, the metal bulkhead that protected the property, and the contour of the rocks

that made their way north back to the Deal Casino. Soon those buried wooden pilings will start to show themselves, that's unless Frankie boy gets another 35 million dollars to pump Deal. And we all know he has friends there that he has to keep happy. Beach season is only six months away. 

     As I walked I found that Christmas tree someone had stuck in the sand. Many of the shell ornaments are gone including the one I made for Ryan. Maybe it was returned to the sea during the storms and big tides we have had as of late. I was actually going to grab it for my own tree at home. 

     I was going to make a left on the beach and call it a day but it was too nice to leave. I had zero confidence I was going to catch but I stayed anyway. It was hard to get to fishy water past the breakers that came in sets every 8 seconds. It was walk down and high tail it up before they hit. I jumped up on

the rocks one last time for 2023. Surely, this was it for me. There were some birds working pretty good out a ways and two party boats were out there looking and stopping. I could hear the horn hit when it 

was time to drop or reel in. They stayed put and worked the waters out in front of Elberon, Deal and Asbury Park. The Golden Eagle had stated on their website that Thursday was to be the last trip for the year but after today they extended it and will make Sunday a wrap. While I stood there casting and basically watching the surfers they were on the bass, as they reported later in the afternoon.