Sunday, April 30, 2023

04.30.23 Mother Nature turned the shower on...

     I can't complain. In fact I welcome the rain. Luckily I mowed the grass Thursday before it started. You can't be concerned about drought like conditions and then complain when the rivers up and you get wet. In my parts we've had 2.93" of rain in the last 48 hours and it seems it'll stick around today. 

     It's actually been a nice steady rain. Not like things have been recently, you know 45 to 115 degrees, no rain then 4 inches in an hour, this has been steady, steady enough for the ground and wells to catch up to it. Rivers off color a tad, turbidity about 7, which isn't all too bad and there's no trees coming

down the river. Been throwing black herring flies which I like in off color water, then I went to a bunch of different combos before just settling in with a popper. Can't thank Bunky enough for this shitty little starter wading stick he gave me last year. I can say since it's save my ass a bunch of times. I've been 

out daily, not doing the two a day thing as of late. Yesterday morning we had a funeral to attend, the sweet woman who we bought the house from passed away. We finally got to meet all 7 of her daughters that they raised in this house at the same time. Today it was just an AM outing before the rain started. 

We came upon something someone might want and it will be interesting how this return journey goes. I'll give it some time before I post it to avoid the scammers and liars. Let's say someone will be sick 

to their stomach when they realize that something isn't where it should be. Below are the numbers so I have them as a reference when I check back to this date in a few years. 


Saturday, April 29, 2023

04.29.23 Took an old friend fishing....

     It was two years ago this month that I met Joe Chiavarone, a.k.a. to me, "Delaware Joe", on the banks of the Delaware River in Trenton. Born and raised in the capitol city Joe had early connections to a guy you may know, Bob Popovics. They were on the same baseball teams growing up. Joe tells stories of how Popovic's was a monster of a baseball player even at a young age. But that's for another time. 

     I don't know what it's like to get old, but from what I see it sucks. There's things you can't do anymore, at least like you used to do, or have regrets over the things you didn't do, and then there's always every bump, bruise, ache and doctors visit's checkup to remind you you're starting to break down. But what older age can't do it is erase good memories and knowledge attained from years of doing just about anything. My dad is 76 and has a couple of big medical diagnosis going on but he's sharp as a tack and lights up when he talks about anything having to do with ironworking. My buddy Joe is about the same age, and he lights up when you talk with him about striped bass, striped bass 

fishing, and about striped bass fishing in the Delaware River.  Joe started fishing the Delaware, for real, in the late 1980's and that continued until 2015. He fished mostly at night due to his work as a radiology technician and daytime responsibilities at home. But there was day fishing also. Joe didn't chase big 

fish bites he just fished. He fished from April through the summer and caught the whole time through. I have seen his logs and one August night stands out to me. Him and his buddy putting over 50 bass in the boat. He can draw pictures of the river and every rock, cut, and seam that has existed for centuries. He reads the water like a parent reading the same old Dr. Seuss book to their children for the hundredth time. So much that they almost have it to memory. But a river is not like a book, it changes everyday, even so slightly, depending on the tide, time of day and water levels. You can see his eyes scan

the water and the data that is being generated from his eyes checking with the memory board that is in his brain. It's great to know someone who has so much knowledge and experience and is willing to share. 

     So on Friday is was a boys few hours out. I'd pick Joe up, we'd get a bite, stop by the river, and then go and check out some new spots I've been thinking of. It was first off to Ben's Deli in Morrisville for a couple of healthy sandwiches, a pork roll egg and cheese for him and a bacon egg and cheese for me. After a quick meal it was off to the river. I took him to a spot that I thought might be relatively easy to 

fish from and would have easy access with my truck getting into. Now this is Trenton, this is not the Upper Delaware in Hancock. So what that means is Joe didn't have to worry about slipping on Vaseline covered rocks but more trying not to get entangled in the garbage that was dumped or left by people

who fish these spots when the lights go out and the poaching can go undetected. The law doesn't come around these parts often so fish that are caught are kept, or they'll die by the time they are hoisted up and then dropped back down into the river. But back to Joe. Joe has it all. His tackle is serviceable and well 

used. He doesn't have all of the latest gear that "sharpies" have, no ZeeBass or Van Stahl reels, and no CTS, Century or Lamiglass rods. Just good old school tackle that has helped him land hundreds if not thousands of bass, from the Delaware River to the bays and beaches of the Jersey Shore. But we'll concentrate on just the Delaware. I watch Joe cover the water from top to bottom, going from Spooks to

a bucktail without a tap. You know when you take a kid fishing and you're just waiting for that fish to hit, any fish, "Just please God just one". I thought of that with each crank of his Shakespeare reel as his offerings covered the water in front of, alongside, across, and under every rock and seam he could cast to. I was really pulling for him and thought he deserved at least a blow-up for standing in a pile of garbage trying to catch one more striped bass. The day lasted four hours and timing was perfect because the much needed rain was starting to arrive. We took a drive down through Trenton where the current 

construction project is underway rebuilding the area known as "The Wall" where every Trenton fishermen has either fished or heard stories about. It is gone. No longer. But the memories remain. I was lucky enough to catch the The Wall, but came too late to the party to have fished "The Power Plant", which was being demolished when Theresa and I moved out West. So when I dropped Joe off he showed me just a fraction of the plugs, rods and reels he has readily available at the front of his garage. Just waiting for that call. It's go time.  I loved to see one of his plug bags. An old beat up canvas bag

that has seen it's nights and days of weather, like the owners hands. It's not embroidered, nothing fancy, just a paint stick with the proud name of the owner written across it. As I look at it I wonder, now he knows he has a long ass Italian name, was he going for just the first name and then added the last, and then ran out of room? I don't know but I love the imperfection of it. Near Joe's garage in a ready position is the war wagon. A very experienced 16 foot aluminum boat powered by a Evinrude motor I 

think Joe said is from the 1950's or 60's. He has said more than once to me, "I know if I could just get out there I could find the fish". I wouldn't doubt for a minute that he could. 

     I think it is so important for younger generations to engage, appreciate, and utilize the experience and knowledge of those that have done things before us. Not only is it fun to hear about things back in the day, but as much as things change, they remain the same. Fisherman are basically the same, the fish are the same, and the love of the game is the same, although for some, me included, it could be diagnosed as more of a mental disorder. 

Meeting Joe, April 19, 2021

     So they next time you see an old salt out there near the water stop and say hello, ask a question, and share a story. You never know what you may learn or what kind of relationship that may blossom from that chance interaction. It'll do you, and them, good. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

04.28.23 Started the day looking for spray....

and fished deep into the night thinking fishing would be alright. Hit my northern honey hole but there hasn't been any honey in the last two outings. Caught the outgoing with a few hours left looking for small bait spray along the sod and and rock banks. Found some good current and was hoping to find some fish feeing on YOY baits. That didn't happen so it was what it was. With the students wrapping up their semester yesterday it was a long day of support. Nursing school is brutal. I was there thirty years ago and now I'm here on the other side of the classroom. There's some trouble in Dodge that's reminding me of the movie Dead Poet's Society. Hopefully not more on that in the future. 

     So I might say good bye to my northern rivers. It seems by the word on the street that the once choked with bait and fish in the rivers and back bays has thinned out. Fish, even ones way up the rivers, have made the move to either join their friends for that long ride north up the Hudson or to locations east to the mouths where the bays meet the ocean. And as far as the ocean, aka out front, it's go time. 

     The other day when I was on my buddies boat I got frustrated trying to cast from the bow of his boat with my right (casting arm) the first thing the wind hit as it blew downriver. In big quartering wind short casts are okay, but the long ones can be dangerous. Figure this. You need a few backcasts to load your rod to make a 40-50 cast. You have the rod tip low as to hopefully reduce the air resistance. Remember you're throwing a large popper which isn't aerodynamic. As you move your cast behind you the wind grabs your fly and line dropping in more in line with your double-back-neck-head. When you proceed forward the fly either gets buried into your skull or whizzes past your ear at 120 mph. And then there's the retrieve. Your line got blown down the river further than you wanted to from the jump. Now it's caught up in the current and, well that's okay, but then you have to strip in the line to get ready for the next cast, number 87. As you go to load your rod you pick the fly out of the water and it comes at you like a bullet, ready to be imbedded into your forehead or eye socket. Fun times. 

     I have been using the Orvis Hydros Bank Shot line. The one that comes with a sink tip. I like it, but I haven't been able to work topwater flies all that good with it. In bit water it's great because it keeps the popper popping as you retrieve across and up. But for the softer water you need a floater, which I never use, ever. So I got an 11 wt floater to use with a series of 6-7 inch poppers. I added to the quiver a slider, as the herring, when chased, speed through the top of the water column when being chased, kind of like mullet do in the fall. It's great when I don't need the popping action but want to alert fish that there's a 

 party going on on top. My day ran later than I wanted it to and by days end my blood pressure was boiling and I was ready to throw in the towel. I needed a nap and I needed to fish. So thankfully Theresa had a plate of pierogis and a cold Guinness waiting for me when I got home. They both hit the spot. Then I got into the recliner about 930 and put on 20/20 on OWN to watch a good murder mystery that would put me to sleep. I had my alarm set for 11 and when it went off I was so tempted to go up to my warm wife and bed. This would be my third night in about five days of pulling the midnight shift. It has 

been a grind but that's what it is. The whole deal is this. Without a network of cell phone buddies that are out everyday and night you just don't know. That 30 hour bite a week or so ago could have went like a fart in the wind if I wasn't out there doing two a days around work and life. So this is the game, the hunt. 

     One thing about river fishing, it ain't easy, especially with a 9 foot tide. High water you're pinned to the banks. Low water you're either risking your life trying to get out to the current and "that rock" or you're putting your new waders to the test by navigating the mud and silt that lines the river trying new spots thinking there might be bait or fish there. Either way the madness continues. 

     I'm digging these 40 degree nights because it's keeping the water temps down in the normal ranges. That stupidly hot days we had a few weeks back had the river to 66 degrees which just messed up the whole thing. Add to that the drought like conditions and there you go. Luckily there was some water

in the river either from the rain or releases from the New York reservoirs. The problem is that water drops with each day but luckily we're getting some good rain this weekend. And that'll be in time for the next full moon which falls on May 5th. 

     My feet hurt. My knees hurt because I fell. My shoulder and arm hurts. My confidence is down. My feelings are hurt. I need to catch some fish soon. Things are always better when you're on the fish. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

04.26.23 Whoops I did it again...

     Just like the Braittany Spear's song said it. Yep, I did it again. Had a break between work sessions and was very excited to go. Couldn't wait to get there and then get on the water. As I turned from my truck I knew I didn't have my keys. I tried the skills I had the other night but to no avail. This time I couldn't see my keys and the flimsy hanger just couldn't get pressing the door button done. I had to call the professionals, AAA. They were there in 15 minutes and had me in in less than 5. 

     Then I gave it a shot on the very flat and softy tide outgoing. Not a tap. It was then off to work for the evening shift in the hospital. Fished after that late into the night without a fish to hand. 


Monday, April 24, 2023

04.24.23 Dela-'where' are the fish.....

      I realize now how lucky I have been to catch a single striped bass in the Delaware River. At least decent sized fish in the early to late spring. Later in the spring and early summer it's smaller fish that eat smaller flies like "normal fishing". Cast out, present some kind of decent fly, catch a fish. Or not.

      But before that it's pure torture. This is my 5th year fly fishing the Delaware. Don't care about smallmouths. I suck at snakehead fishing. I'm all about the striped bass. But this place will drive you to drink, get divorced, or at least piss off the wife, and then, well do it all over again. 

     I'll keep it brief. There is a difference between fly and spin fishing. There is a difference between plugs and flies. There is no comparison between a BB-loaded-up-lure and a 10 inch Squimpish fly. They just don't do the same thing. First a spin fisherman with an 11 ft. rod, or shorter on a boat, can cast literally 300 feet and cover water far and near rather quickly. Those ba-donka-donk lures crash down, and get a reaction strike or not, and then swim, better than a far reach reach fly cast, behind rocks and into drop-offs, and then slowly swam back to the angler. 

     So with my shoulder and elbow blown out from two months of throwing an 11 wt I give you this. I have a Orvis 12 wt Clearwater rod. Love it. I'm using the Orvis Bank Shot 11 wt line, it only comes up to 11 wt, and then either a large fly, Beauty Shop mop or non-aerodynamic popper. I wade up to my waist and then do my best, and lately the wind haas been a bitch, to present my fly 50 feet? with the current running left to right. Now it's not just getting the fly out there, now it haas to either get down, quick, or popped quicker, or you'll waste the cast. 

      I do that, say 100 times per outing, covering a section of the river which is like the square footage of a floor tile in a large restaurant. What am I doing? Yes, I may try to my left or right, or up or down river, but the window of opportunity to catch is stupidly low. Low water, the current is fast and swift. High water, you're pinned to the bank. Those scenarios aren't always a bad thing, but the amount of hours you have to put in for all things to line up is, well, as my wife puts it, stupid. 

     I hate fishing from a boat, well, actually I hate fishing in a river boat. Well, like a river boat in current. That goes for a drift boat in the Upper Delaware to a jet boat in the mid-Delaware. Actually I like it if you're fishing with no hooks. You can see the blow ups, or rises, or the flash behind a fly. Once you hook them, and you know what I'm talking about, it's a race rather than a fight, and more so for the fly angler. Hit a bank a tad downstream from a drift boat and nail that 22 inch brown that's a bank feeder or cast downstream to a 20 pound striped bass that waiting behind a rock and you'll know. 

     But there is something that a boat can give you, well me, something I don't always get to see. A new perspective. And yesterday I got the chance and I really liked it. When you spend you're hours looking out it's nice to spend a few looking in. Rather than standing in the water you're on top of it. All those rocks and seams you can only imagine what they may look like come alive when you pass over or around them. And then there's the fish, or not. 

     In this game a good angler needs mobility. You need to move. The fish are. They are either moving south to north to get their freak on or east to west with the wind and tide or following bait. Standing in one spot with a fly rod for hours, to me, although peaceful sometimes, seems futile, now.

     I saw what the difference topwater spin lures and fly rod poppers look like in a big river. While my popper looks nice, pops nice depending on the cast and current and retrieve, it is in no way, not even in the same class, as an 8 inch ba-donka-donk lure, which either the fish want to kill or eat. For my cute fly rodding part of the boat trip I had a few follows, one good blow-up, and the above fish that hit the popper as it hung off the boat behind us. Kind of like those March Brown fish you catch up in Junction Pool in Hancock. As for the spin fisherman I was with? Blow-ups. Follows. And a real fish. 100 foot cast side stream, not straight downstream, and then retrieved in a quartering way, and then ba-boom. It was a boat fish. No other way. And it came in quickly and went back after a quick picture. 

     So they say, or I say, "Boat fish don't count", mmmm, well in some waters if you want anything to count you have to leave that rock you've been standing on and get to where the fish are. It's that simple.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

04.20.23 Things are getting a little better....

     It hasn't been fun. It's been a grind. Well it's always fun looking back but not when you're going through the skunk run. It was two weeks before things got better for me. Basically three different rivers during that time with nothing to show for it. Mostly fishing solo so it's me talking to myself for hours. 

     It's been fishing around work, which is what most anglers do, but itss been busy as its go time for these kids finishing up finals and for one class their graduation and pinning ceremony. I like when they say, "Professor, you look tired, were you fishing all night?. It has been two a days with the fishing and finally things did get better. Found some bait and then found some fish. Sadly, because the way people and social media are these days, I can't take those nice landscape photos I've been doing for the last 14 years. Landscape photos these days are called "spot burn" images. I knew there was a problem when a guy came up to me and said, "I know every spot where you fish". Not only sad, but creepy. 

      I've had success with the "Shop of Horror Fly"made from the hair extension material I got from the beauty supply shop. I think it adds bulk and has a good profile. It's a little heavy, which is good, since it loads up the Bank Shot line on the 12 wt. It hasn't been gangbusters, and I wouldn't say it's "a bite" but

more hard work in not only planning times and tides but also picking runs and seams to find the fish. One thing about that wig/extensions material, it fouls up by the time you land a good fish so a pocket comb is needed to right it before you send it back out there. So my best fish has been a 40+ inch fish that had to go 25 pounds. Beautiful take as the fly hit the water and then, if I may say, played perfectly as she dropped down to behind each rock until I finally got the leader in my hand. Could have used a bud there with help for the landing because as soon as I reached for the lip she threw the barbless single fly hook. Luckily there was another smaller fish there which helped with the pain of the no-picture-of my -econd-largest-bass in that river. Really, who cares, I don't need proof, as I try to always keep it real. 

     So I switched over to topwater and have enjoyed covering a lot more water along with the visual tracking of a large popper is a hoot. This morning I made the perfect long cast and on my second strip as it cleared the top of a rock protruding from the water it was game on. This one was as just as good as the no-picture fish. I had this one on for about 4-5 minutes and when it was about 15 feet from me the line went limp. That one hurt and there was no conselation prize after, it was a one and done outing. On my way out I marked my spot so I know where to head into the water on a higher tide. Maybe I should 

have just put an X that marked the spot. When I got home I sat down at the vice and tied up another popper. This one will do well, maybe better, as I tied it on a Ahrex Bob Clouser 5/0 hook which gives plenty of room for a solid hood set. I had tied a lot of the flies this winter on Mustad 34007 and saw the light after Andrew Hamilton over at Orvis in Princeton suggest I move 

to a better wide-gap hook. He sent me in the right direction with that and also with the new waders. I've been in these Orvis Pro Zip Waders and the BOA boots for a month now and I can say I really like them. Comfortable, the right size, and easy on and off. I was so glued to bootfoot waders for the last 10 years because all of my fishing was on the sand or jetties. These are perfect for river fishing. Things 

around have settled in, except for the water levels in the rivers. I can't imagine what the Upper Delaware looks like now and then in a month or so. We had a heat blast week and then Mother Nature turned the fans on high for a few days and now it seems we are track for some "normal" spring weather. 

     The beach bite has started and the fish have moved from the back of the bays and rivers to a more "out front" or near out front position. Yes, some of the blown up river spots are still holding good fish but the participation in the numbers of anglers is astounding. It has really changed the way and where anglers fish. Someone who calls spot X home can now expect it to be crowded during the best times. Even though that person has been putting their time in and is dialed in waiting for it to get good, they find lines of anglers to the left and right. They leave as soon as the bite is over...sad but true.  

     While I have enjoyed finding a few big fish I could really use a day of numbers. Numbers meaning maybe more than two fish. It's like you're doing everything right and it would be nice to be rewarded, or at least confirmed, that you're in the right spot at the right time throwing the right fly and doing it right.

     It looks like perfect weather this Friday to Sunday so I can't imagine what the boat ramps and boat traffic on the bay will be. It'll look like an invasion. Sadly, those private, charter and party boats will continue to pick away at the 2015 year class, the best last recruitment year since 2011, and keeping those 28-38" fish. 

     And then in just about a month, May 15th, New Jersey's Bonus Tag Program will begin. From May 15th to December 31st anglers can take an additional striped bass from 24-28", if they applied for a tag or get one on their for-hire vessels, and remember for-hire doesn't mean commercial, but it should. So according to the data, and the hacks who support this program, in 2021, the reported Bonus Tag fish harvested was 6,457 fish with a weight of 41,867 pounds. That's puts New jersey at a 19.4% usage of the allotted "commercial" fishery, one that we don't have. So some would argue we do it better in New Jersey. We don't have a commercial fishery, only use 19.4% of our commercial quota, which maybe be transferred to another state if those a-holes at the ASMFC have their way, and we are leaving 81.6% of our quota out swimming and alive. 

But the problem remains that we are decimating the 28-38" fish, everyday, and this weekend the slaughter will continue for that "one for the table". Remember "Hey it's legal". Remember these days I tell ya as history does repeat itself.