Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"A river without friends is doomed to oblivion."

Lee Wulff was quoted as saying that........

I understand that anywhere you go or anything you do, especially on the intertubes, you may find some detractors and those who may dislike your methods, etc., etc., etc.  The “spot burn” issue has taken root in many of the various fishing forums most everyplace you turn, but it seems more intense when you get to more populous areas like New Jersey, New York, & Pennsylvania.  There may be those who find my wee posts on the Loyalsock Creek (and certain tribs) fine and there may those who get bent that I even dare mentioned the stream at all. 
You can't please everyone, but someone suggested that I have been "spot burning" the Loyalsock Creek in my posts on it.  If you think talking about a section of river from Lycoming County to well above World’s End State Park, which covers a 30+ mile swath, is a spot "burn", then I will always guilty of it.  There is a line between sharing some very general information of a notably stocked stream and spoon feeding spots via GPS coordinates or on a Google Maps site and broadcasting it out there to everyone.  Plus, I’m sure there are quite a few websites out there that will take you directly to the honey hole of those beloved wild trout streams right down to the very boulder you should hide behind to make your presentation.
I think a lot of people get a little bit too caught up in the Gierach Zen in this neck of the woods (East Coast)………“The idea is to fish obscure headwater creeks in hopes of eventually sniffing out an underappreciated little trout creek down an un-marked dirt road.  Why is another question?  I suppose it’s partly for the fishing itself and partly to satisfy your curiosity, but mostly to sustain the belief that such things are still out there to find for those willing to look.” All very true and well put, but the reality of the matter here is that Gierach is talking about backpacking the wild cutthroat streams in the isolation of the CO wilderness while we’re pulling off the highway or county road to fish widely known NJ/PA streams.  Others yet, do venture further into the woods to fish for those very pretty native brookies. 
Photo courtesy of JTD.
The prevailing fear is that my postings and praisings of the Loyalsock Creek will turn it into a destination.   “I have no problem with you guys loving the place - just don't turn it into Penn's or the Salmon River, please”.  If the Sock becomes the Salmon River (Pulaski, NY – I gather) then I want my cut of the $$$$ for promotion.  If it were the case towns like Hillsgrove would be doing a lot better than they are, the Hillsgrove Country Store would be able to advertise in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, again, and their fly bins would be hard to keep full because every Orvis & Simms Cowboy from a 200 mile radius would be flocking to it to get the latest localized patterns.  
Photo credit:  Tim Geist

Instead, the bins are skinny because no one is stopping by to buy flies.  In fact, it's quite hard to keep the place open.  It is a true piece of Americana that has been lost elsewhere.  It truly is THE GENERAL STORE that we've all read about and not the Sandwich & Coffee spots that reside underneath "General Store" signs nowadays.  Bacon (fresh off the hog), Butter, Eggs, Milk, Candy, Shotguns, Knives, Crossbows, Bait, Fishing Gear, Gas, & the Post Office are contained within. 

Photo credit: Tim Geist
If the Sock were a Penns/Salmon River, then the Hillsgrove Hotel may very well just have to dust off those pillows and actually function as a “Hotel” rather than just a local watering hole that sells $1.25 mugs of Lager and the Yuengling banner that hangs out front, that says “Welcome Fishermen” can stay out for a few weeks longer rather than right around opening day only to be replaced by "Welcome Hunters" for the rest of the year.  The talk around the bar may get back to the hatches and the day’s catches rather than a town being split into two camps of pro-gas and non-fracking.  Maybe the bar pies can come back.  I may be able to re-up on my tshirt collection.  After eight years, the Hillsgrove Hotel shirt is getting a little tired. Maybe the hotel will have finally changed owners after being on the market for 3-4 years, handicap access could be put in, the outside gets a proper facelift, and brand new sign put out front. 
Photo credit: Tim Geist
At any rate, my question here is where is the fine line between the "spot burn" and highlighting the real threat to the whole region???  What's worse?? 

A few extra likeminded fishermen on the stream??  


The recently approved draw of 750,000 gallons per day from the Loyalsock for hydrofracking purposes?? 

One may say, “I don't quite get how two wrongs make a right here (fracking and spot burning)”.  Yes, my dinky little blog here will not stem the tide of the fracking hordes descending upon the area like  ravenous locusts, and it has been said that, “I don't see the reason to single out one river in the region as an example, no matter how enthusiastic you are about the place - all the anglers you can find will not have more input than the local residents and landowners and the drilling companies have that scene well sorted long ago”.   Why mention it??  Anyone reading this in PA (Hey New Yorkers!! You're in the crosshairs bigtime.) can insert their own favorite “River X” here and a similar threat applies.  Penns, Little Fishing Creek, Little J, Yellow Breeches, the Wanna, the Waxen, the Tulp, and every mile of the 10,000 or so of trout waters in PA (5,000 miles of which are trout production waters) is facing Death in a chess match like Max Van Sydow in the Ingmar Bergman classic, The Seventh Seal , trying to buy time, which is fading into memory. 

Conversely, isn’t it just as wrong to say……well, in the future don’t even mention the stream anywhere.  What’s out there already is out there and let it settle to the bottom like silt, because it “protects the resource”.   Leave it be so I can fish it in peace until it can’t be fished anymore because the drilling companies have had the fate of the region “well sorted long ago”??

This can go back and forth for days, I gather, but at the end of the day, I’m passionate about the Sock as anyone else that has taken a bit of the Sock home in their boots.  I’ve never described how great or not the fishing may be.  I never suggest flies or even fishing methods, for that matter.  The vids, pics, and blogging are just documentation on how much a 30+ mile stretch of river has an impact on me.  Everyone else, I would think, has their own special stretch of river that is similar.  You may say tomato and I tomato.  I can show everyone a mere snippet of a 30 mile stretch in vid, pic, and/or text form. 

The rest is up to you. 

This is how I roll. 

If there are folks who don’t like it, and think I have Gilmore/Landis/Meck-ed the Sock, well I will just have to respectfully disagree and leave it at that. 

Photo credit: Tim Geist
Cheers & tight lines. 

The 2011 Bug Week Video from Rise Form Studios.

No dilly-dallying from Rise Form Studios here, cats & kittens.  It's only been a few weeks and the BUG WEEK video is already up on the RFS site.  In true Michael McAwful fashion he side kicks us Bruce Lee style right in the grill piece with some great footage of a great week at Camp Kavanaugh.  The browns seemed to want nothing to do with the Green Drakes.  So in response to all the gals getting their hair weaved with hackle, "World Class Dude" John Kavanaugh takes it one step further. 

It's great to see my friends all get in to some fish.  Even legendary Catskills Tyer, Dave Brandt gets in on the act.  I will have to make it next year and join in the shennanigans. 

Enough banter here.......

Click here for the video. 


Monday, June 13, 2011

June lull.

Things have been a wee bit quiet on the Double Haul front, as of late.  Sure, there's been fishing, but a lack of filming has taken hold.  I really think the blown out Loyalsock had a lot to do with it.  Pennsylvania, this year, has been a rough one for me.  Between the freeze, the rains, and then the heat, it has been a really slow start.  This year seems to be a New Jersey year for me, when in the past, it wasn't so.  Maybe I am getting better with my New Jersey game after all.  In the past few years, I've had some really good teachers, so maybe it's working for me. 

Behind the works there are some cool little developments going on, that Double Haul will be a part of, indirectly.  There's a quite a bit of swag out there and it's being repped pretty well by you out there and I thank you for it.  We still have a bit of long sleeves to contend with, but you learn as you go, right?  The one thing that keeps it honest is that we're not "world beaters" and don't really intend to be.  It's just a dinky blog from New Jersey, after all.  We're certainly not telling anyone how to fish or the gear to use.  Heck, it's wet wading season, so wear what you will.  Also, it very important to keep a cooler in the ol' trunk.  Nothing says friend more than having an ice cold barley pop for the fishing victory........well, of course, if you have room for it, some bottled water isn't such a bad idea.  Remember:  This is only if you can fit it in.

It doesn't make you a bad person, if you can't.

Along the way, it's really about helping our buds out, whether they're home grown in NJ, Kenosha, Lehighton, Brooklyn, Boise, Colorado Springs, Long Island, or where have you.  It is about new fishing spots, at the end of the day.  Over the cold barley pop (or water) is where the next adventures are discussed.  This is also another reason why we did a shirt and sticker run right off the bat.  You folks are taking us places where we have yet to be, if at all.  This does keep things at a purely underground level.  Yes, the Internet is of great help and gets things out to a wider group of folks, but it seems that the ones who "get it" have enthusiastically jumped in full tilt.  That's very humbling and I owe you all a barley pop at some point.  

Thanks for tuning in.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fly Tying Video to check out and try it for yourself. JC's Electric Caddis (The Redux).

Good friend, great fishermen, & intense fly tyer John Collins has teamed up with Mike McAuliffe of Rise Form Studio to redux one of my favorite, not to mention that of many trout, steelhead, & salmon.....JC's Electric Caddis.

If you don't know it or have seen this for the 1st time.....TRY IT!!  The beauty of this fly is in the versatility of being able to changing up the colors to give it a different look.  With the availability of different wire & tube colors, nowadays, you can come up with some very nifty variations on the theme, like all the hot Steelhead Candy colors you can think of(hint-hint). 

So, please take some time and check out this fly tyed by the man himself......or else the "Jungle Cat" will pounce on you, fool!!

Allow my to introduce to you.............JC's Electric Caddis in HD

If you are interested in any other flies John Collins ties and want to give them a whirl on your local streams, he has an array of flies available for purchase at MyFlies.com

You won't be disappointed. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To photo, to phone, or to fish?

One of the cooler things about fly fishing, I think, are the photographers out there who document trips and such.  In this day and age of social networking, I think everyone has their own personal "fish porn" page.  Only within the past year or so, have I been comfy with bringing my non waterproof point and shoot Canon out on the streams.  The only device I leave behind is the digital leash of a cell phone.  As much as it would be neat to upload the latest rainbow trout I've caught in Musconetcong in real time, I'd rather not.  The closest I get to the water with a phone is usually post trip where I rile up my friend's thirst with a pic of myself, streamside, with an icy cold barley pop of some sorts.

Of course, some of us "have" to bring their digital leash into the stream because there may be lil' ones involved at the homefront and God forbid the little guy takes a handlebar to his grill piece because older sister wasn't paying attention while she was pedaling along with the latest Dora the Explorer song in her head and you, my friend, weren't there on the other end when it happened to get that MMS pic from wifey of your teary eyed toddler. 

On the other hand, that cellphone of yours may provide you some luck as it did to my friend John Parise.  In the middle of fishing the Big Flatbrook near Branchville, NJ he gets an MMS pic from his buddy who had just caught a huge ass striper a few moments before.  While that exchange goes on with his right hand, the left hand is just holding the rod while the caddis pattern drifts very slowly into some very trouty water and then.............WOOOOOOSH!!!!

To get back on topic, I really like photography and it does seem to go hand in hand with fly fishing. The subject matter is quite limitless, but I really would be torn as to what I want to do when out on the stream, especially one where I've never have been, like the Loyalsock.  Do I fish it hard??  Or do it photo it hard??  I find myself doing that on a much smaller scale doing things for this blog and taking pics for my album on Facebook.  So, I have to give a lot of credit to my photographer friends who also fly fish.  My head would explode at the decision of taking stellar pics of someone landing a brute brown during a hatch or jumping right into the hatch and possibly landing a similar brute of a brown.  

As mentioned before, it's good to have a few professional photographers as friends.  They not only make you look like you know what you're doing, the also can shed "new light" on things that you'd normally blow off or not notice at all.  So, to have Tim Geist, whose work has been featured in The Drake, along on the Loyalsock trip was a complete thrill. 
I could geek out and drool over every bit of camera gear he had  (he wasn't joking when he told me he was bring 500lbs of camera gear) and get tips on shooting with my Canon 40D, which I have to mess around with more, before being comfy enough to bring it on a stream, which means I probably won't be fishing.  The choices......arrrrgh!  Tim has managed to capture the essence of Uncle Vin's cabin in such a way that I haven't seen.  I knew he would have a field day taking photo of the contents within and out of the cabin, but the things he chose are very cool. 

He has started an album about the Loyalsock on his dot.com website at T.C. Geist Photography.   Please check it out. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sock it to 'em.

Lately, things have been been a bit askew a far as planning trips & getting some footage in on the streams.  April's theme was certainly the rain which put a damper.....no kidding on the "damp" part of it.....on things.  Even the Loyalsock Trout Jam was a wash. 

Tim Geist , Steve Fogel, Erik Schroeder, & Kyle Majikas were on hand for the weekend.  It had rained a bunch a day or two before we arrived, but we decided to take a chance and see if by Saturday (April 30th) it would calm down enough to see some action.  Most of the time beforehand was spent on the smaller tribs of the Loyalsock, such as the Hoagland Branch.  A normally more calmer stream was also ripping along pretty well. 
Photo: Tim Geist

Things did look promising on the tribs on Saturday afternoon after a morning spent cruising the state roads in the Loyalsock State Forest trying to get to another trib called Rock Run.  We never made it there because the road had washed away, so we doubled back to try the Hoagland Branch, yet again.  The warm springtime air above the stream was alive with small caddis, midges, olives, & the 1st signs of Hendricksons.  It brightened the day as well as giving us some hopes of seeing some fish look up as documented by Tim's photos.

Photos: Tim Geist
As the evening approached, we headed out to our home pool and the Hendricksons were out en masse.  The flow of the Loyalsock from Wednesday evening till the hatch had dropped from 6ft down to just below 4ft.  As we watched the hatch roll down the "Sock", it seems that we were the only ones watching it on the stream.  Not one trout was looking up.  No boils. No sips. Not a stir anywhere.  As the last of the hatch rose from the stream, we all looked at each other and I proclaimed that what we just saw was "Fly Fishing Blue Balls".  A beautiful thick hatch, great temps, clearing water, and one big fat Нет / Nyet like they would say in Russia. 

Photo: Tim Geist

With that observation we headed back to camp and proceeded to catch an epic barley pop hatch.


Monday, April 11, 2011

So here it is........

This section of the Musky didn't get stocked.  Shhhhhhhhh. 

It's April and with this coming weekend we'll have completed the cycle of "opening days" with the rest of Pennsylvania waters being open.  I had to work, so I couldn't make it out for the circus.  Not so much that I wanted to be out there amongst the catch-n-kill crowd, but rather walk around the streams armed with a DSLR & a 50mm lens to take in this frenzy.  I also wanted to know if folks were playing fair or not in a recently designated Year Round Conversation Area, that was known for getting picked over by the bait boys when it was a Seasonal Conservation Area.  In the past there was an EasyUp tent camp setup complete with tables, chairs, cutting board, and a small portable propane powered grill awaiting the full stringers of Eau de Pellet Truite a la Pequest Hatchery to show.  The gear that these folks use was always something to behold, too.  We live in a "put & take" state, so what does one expect??  Others would say, "oh they're just stockies, who cares?".  That is not the point, really. 

It is a losing prospect to change attitudes about the trout we have in New Jersey when the number of CO's  (Conservation Officers) are too little for the area that has to be covered.  Also, when you have only two small sections of rivers that are designated "Conservation Areas" versus the rest of the fishable trout water this state has.  Things like that just shows us that we will always be a "put & take" state.  Even more basic than all of that is the fact that hatchery fish taste like SHIT!  I really don't get that appeal of pellet trout, but this opening day hoopla is all for getting folks to buy their fishing licenses year in and year out.  Nothing else.

Before I diverted to this, I mentioned I had to work, so I couldn't make the morning session, but I got to fish the TCA before the hordes showed up during the week.  The Musky has been flowing around the +/- 400cfs range, as of late, which makes it a very gnarly wade for many, which may be it's only defense against opening day shennanigans.  Outside of ramping up my fishing, I was also doing some recon work for getting my long time friend and ex-bandmate Erik on a fish or few.  I got out last Monday on a quick solo trip which yielded the 1st signs of Caddis in the air and fun stocked brookie action.  Also, got out on Friday with Mike Nutto & John Heaney.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Ides of March

On his way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 BC, Caesar visited with a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." Julius Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators. 

It is now the last day of March and I'm glad that it's over, but is it??  We are looking at yet another rain/snow/winter mix of some sort.  The Roman Senate here is being played by Mother Nature herself, with rain, snow, cold temps, ice, then warm temps, wind, fast stream flows, & etc. being all co-conspirators.  It seems that everyone of my fishing pals have been scratching their heads of late.  It's been a very rough winter/spring transition, indeed.  One day you see Olives coming off of a calm Pennsy spring creek on a warmish day, but they aren't looking up.  Then, of course, the unofficial "spring" or "better fishing is yet to come" bug seems to be the Stonefly.

As exciting as it is to see these living fossils taking flight, we're just not seeing these trout take them subsurface.  All this food and no takers.  Seems to be a midge game, but sometimes, that's not even the ticket.  Just a frustrating month on the streams and I haven't gotten deep into the weather portion of it all. 

For all the complaining we tend to do, as fishermen, we tend to forget that this wacky weather & rough conditions are necessary.  Lest we forget how miserable last year was with the brutal summer which lasted deep into the fall with no rain.  It, totally, messed with the trout and thus gave us a lack luster fall, unless you went and chased Steelhead up on the Salmon River.  Plus, having been out as much as you could between January and now, we're better positioned to have really great days out on the water by the time the fair weather fishermen  & 4 season openers (NY State, Early PA, NJ, & the rest of PA) hit us all.  All of this epic winter, epic freeze, epic thaw, epic frustration should be worth it all soon. Sure, it would have been nice to have had a more productive winter/spring, but sometimes it just goes that way.  It can make for a great story come the end of the year. 

The 1st trout I got this year, fittingly, adorns this site.  A great story, thus far.  It really hasn't been bad, just not what most have been expecting for this time of year. 

I am seeing many mutual friends picking up the phone and getting together to fish more, which is cool.  Fishing, is for the most part a solitary thing, I know, but I've always liked getting a few friends out on the stream or meeting out at a spot just to get the line wet for a few hours. Trips like this are good intell on spots you may have overlooked. 

Also, this year, I have been slowly getting my old tenor sax player out on the water more.  Erik Schroeder has been to a few fly fishing shows and I have been showing him how to twist up a few simple patterns.  So, I had to get him out on the stream and did so this past weekend.  It all started as any other sort of near all day fishing excursion would start.
At least, I think, every good day out should start this way.  Even if it is way to early to fish at 6:30am, I do believe, if you have the time, you take time out and start your day at a place like Gronsky's Milk House in High Bridge, NJ and sit for breakfast.  This may just stem from all I have heard from old timers on down about their "opening day" experiences with the really early morning starts at the breakfast table.  Other than the day out with uncles, dads, & grandpas, it seems the biggest memory was always the breakfast, itself.

Since, I'm still a newb, at 5 or so years with a fly rod in hand, I can say I come from zero fishing tradition.  So, to hear the stories throughout the years, I have kind of taken that and applied it to my own experience.  Why not treat every fishing day with the excitement of "opening day"??  Why is just reserved for one day??  You, sadly, tend to hear, in some folks, that this pretty much died off as a childhood memory.  As a result, I guess a Uncle Hooli "tradition" is pretty much going to involve really early starts for breakfast and at the end the day, it will be capped off with a few barley pops.

So for Erik's innaugural day out on the stream, we started as such at Gronsky's and proceeded to the stream.  The flows were high, but not totally unfishable.  I was Erik's guide for the most part.  It was pretty cool to put down the rod and try and get someone up to speed by teaching someone what I've been taught by, ironically, the 1st three pictured above.  Ideally, it would've been great to have Erik on a fish on the 1st go, but with the flows and temps the way they were, it would be more beneficial to at least get him into the wheelhouse and get the cast placement right, the drift right (or close), to get him to set the hook on any indicator movement.  The meat & potatoes of winter/spring fly fishing.  The rest will fall into place as spring moves along and the more he joins us for breakfast, beers, and streamside wisdom.  Fortunately enough, Erik, was a captive audience to one John Heaney.

It was good timing as the build up of frustration was building in Erik and myself.  A new look and new perspective from someone more experienced than I was needed.  Without really getting into it because it deserve it's own post John Heaney, as many will tell you around these parts, is very passionate about his trout, their environment, fly fishing, and sharing his stories & knowledge about the streams of the area to a friendly ear.  I really enjoy running into Heaney on the streams.  It's always a huge treat to see a bear of man get near giddy talking about these trout.  I swear, he knows them on a 1st name basis.  To watch him work a pool is also fun and a clinic, at the same time. 

So I knew we were in good hands when we went back downstream to where I started Erik off.  It's a piece of water that is called the "Holy Water", which is a Heaney story that I may have to pry out of him for the blog.  Many potentially bad days on that stream were salvaged just by getting a drift or two in the Holy Water. We were in for a treat watching Heaney give us a lesson on how to fish the Holy Water. There were questions on whether or that section was even stocked at all and when Heaney proclaimed, "there's no way they stocked this" when from the bottom of the Holy Water surfaced a nice sized wild brown trout. 

The natural reaction here is to shake your head and just laugh.  I knew it would happen.  If there are trout in a particular run, Heaney will flush 'em out.  Of course, there's a lesson involved here.  Mr. Heaney just exposed to me what I may have done wrong in that run, as he pulled out 4 total in a matter of a few minutes from that swift water.  With that brief lesson Erik was newly inspired to hit the water again. 

At the end of the day, we came back to the van and I apologized that I couldn't get him in to trout, but Erik didn't seem to mind that.  I think those few moments on the stream with someone like John Heaney made the world of difference.  Erik will be on the stream again, very soon.