Here Be…Speckled Trout

I’m heading to Choctawhatchee Bay, or if you prefer, Destin, Fl for five days of sun, sand and seafood. The area is reknown for its redfish and speckled trout, so if I’m lucky, I’ll get into some sort of piscatorial trouble in-between meals with the in-laws. In fact, I went up to Kensico today to practice casting with my new 8wt broke-in the 8wt GL-H2O  with L2A large arbor reel from the Fly Shop. It packs power, first cast, 60 feet. It was sensitive, stripping in a woolly bugger I felt a little tiny “bump” which produced the biggest perch of my life, he was easily 1.5 lbs.  Though I’ll admit I was hoping for a smallie to really test the rod. I should’ve went to Cross River, oh well.

So! Choctawhatchee Bay used to be known as Santa Rosa bay, was mapped by the Spanish originally in 1700 or so… The “resort” were staying at has both bayfront and beachfront, so there should be plenty of opportunity for a little of this…

Woollen Dreams

For the first time this summer we had the windows wide open all last night. The crisp cool fresh air seemed to signal the arrival of my favorite season. I woke in the middle of the night and pulled out a comforter…but kept the windows open. Such weather gets me thinking about wool. Yeah, I know you agree, it’s never too late to think about your autumn/winter gear. I never found a good wool coat last year, I started looking too late and ended up with a chain store monstrosity. I’m a bit inspired by Mark McNairy’s new approach for Woolrich Woolen Mills (Daiki Suzuki  of Engineered Garments is out).

 

via Jake Davis

 

Probably the Portland Collection by Pendleton Woolen Mills will be easier on the wallet, I’m digging this…seems well-fitted.

Check out the full lookbook here. I’m definitely going to stop by In God We Trust in Greenpoint to try it on. See below, the collection has a nice little backstory…

Storm Preparations

UPDATE** ORIGINAL POST BELOW UPDATE

I took a look at the CFs on the major Croton streams to see how they were flowing after Tropical Storm Irene. Since the DEP controls water levels, I was thinking they were releasing a lot of water from the reservoirs into the outlets. That combined with the runoff, I expected it to be high…but not this high. Pretty dramatic differences.

– East Branch (Croton River just below dam): median CF = 63, right now, CF =2460 , gauge height, 7′ 3″ and falling
– Croton Falls Outlet (Croton River West Branch): median CF = 70, right now, CF = 430, gauge height, 6′ 6″ and falling
– Amawalk Outlet (Muscoot River): median CF = 19, right now, CF = 241, gauge height, 10′ 6″ and rising
– Titicus Outlet: median CF = 12, right now, CF = 2,180, gauge height, 8′ 7″ and peaking
– West Branch Outlet: median CF = 32, right now, 846, gauge height, 4’1″ and rising
– Cross River (in Ward Pound Ridge): median CF = 4, right now, 825, gauge height, 6′ 2″ and falling

The EB is 39X normal flow.  TO is 181x normal flow, but Cross River takes the prize at 206X normal flow!! 😮

Seeing how Cross River has the only native brook trout population in the area, that’s quite worrying. On the other hand, the buildup of silt on all the rivers should be lower after the flooding, right?

For the heck of it–looked at the Esopus Creek up in the Catskills: median CF = 261, right now, CF =59,900, gauge height, 16′ 9″ but earlier was 21′. The Esopus is 229X its normal flow…I’d say that’s got to be a flood.

…I can’t begin to imagine the damage.

ORIGINAL POST:

Wondering what a Category 3 might look like if it hit New York? Here is a vintage WPA film covering the great 1938 September hurricane, “Shock Troops of Disaster: The Story of the New England Hurricane.”

So with Hurricane Irene mozying up the coast, I really had just one thought in mind, “damn, what’s going to happen to the Amawalk?” The Croton Watershed, home to my three favorite trout streams, the East Branch, West Branch, and Amawalk, have had significant hurricane damage in the past. Even a casual nor’easter can cause erosion and treefall on these delicate riparian corridors. Naturally, I took Friday to join my fellow Gowanus Noodler, Daniel, to fish the east branch, the west and close the evening on the Amawalk. Just above the trestle bridge I had located a nice rising brown in a riffle and he took a copperish larvae under a dropper but wiggled off. Later at the West Branch Croton Falls Outlet,we noticed the water was up and fast–perhaps the DEP decided it would be a good idea to release some water ahead of the storm? There were some big trout holding under logs near the Route 22 bridge, but they wouldn’t be enticed–they were gorging on the larvae and bugs suddenly released from foam patches that had literally been hanging around all summer. It seemed the anglers down in “frustration pool” were doing no better.

CFO presented extremely challenging circumstances. It was frustrating to be unable to “match the hatch.” After an hour of beating the pool mercilessly, I just waded out into the middle and WOW, there were tons of bugs in the bubble line, many dead, but I counted at least 6 different kinds of bugs. In that case, I realized it would be impossible to determine exactly what the trout were eating. Though I had a few rises to a small caddis, no takes. I tried nymphing but had little response.

Daniel decided to stay and work the pool, but I bugged out for the Amawalk, which was luckily still at its usual flow. This old river has had mills on it since the 1800s, and the evidence remains, old dams, rock walls, the sunken forms of basements to cabins long since disintegrated. Brothers Falls Dam was glowing in the late day sun.

In a lovely setting sun, I began to watch a long glide come alive with rising trout. They were taking what looked to be termites and blue winged olives. I didn’t have a termite pattern and my caddis was refused twice, so I tied on the BWO and let it dead drift toward the lip. SLURP! A violent take and I had a lovely wild brown on. 12″, good for the Amawalk unless you’re night fishing, but wilds are muscular and sleek and he surged upstream twice and did a jump when he was close in. The sky was gold and pink, perhaps signaling the impending storm.

The pool slowly began to calm–the hatch only lasted about an hour. One more cast and another good-sized brown took my BWO and broke me off as he dove for cover. What a day, but I did have a restless sleep, I’m seriously worried about the hurricane’s affect on the rivers. Looks like the TU might have some work ahead of itself. Trout Unlimited often do streambank work, restoring damaged local waters–the Croton chapter is lovingly referred to as the “Rock Rollers,” and the twenty plus years of work is evident all through the watershed.

Now as the fist bands of showers descend on Brooklyn, I’m quite happy I live on Clinton HILL. The car is parked as high up as I could get it on Clinton Ave. Two of my fellow noodlers live near Red Hook, an evacuation area. Man, can you imagine if the Gowanus overflows? Yuck, but at least it might get “cleaned” out. Well, there’s ice in the fridge, candles at the ready…just need to nip out for batteries, and ground beef. I think Hurricane Irene deserves a good stew, just in case the power goes out, we’ll have something that can last a couple days in the cooler. After making the stew, we’ll tape up the windows and take the garden furniture in.  We’ll settle in and ride out the storm with cocktails and scrabble. Be safe everyone.

Pressure Rising, Time to Act

I read that Gov. Cuomo (NY) recently signed a bill to keep the striped bass fishery in the Hudson commercial-free for the next few years, an extension really of an existing law. Well, goody, but with the rate at which we keep dumping raw sewage into the Hudson, it won’t fricking matter if the Striped Bass can pass through unmolested because they’ll be poisoned anyway.

Yes, my back is up. My hackles are raised. I’m sick and tired of our ridiculous excuses for being such lousy stewards of our planet’s natural resources. I want serious change and I’m hatching a plan to get more involved. Meanwhile, the emotions I experience as a conservationist and angler swing like a pendulum. When I watch with admiration and excitement, the marvelous tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys, my pulse quickens, my blood pressure rises.

 

We’re lucky to have the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust doing everything they can to protect this incredible fish. Of course, the reason tarpon (affectionately known as ‘poon) can survive to great size and offer an amazing fly fishing experience, is the fact that it doesn’t suit America’s palate. However, tuna, is another story…and while the bluefin is on every hot restaurant menu, the fact that it is as endangered as the white rhino seems to evade us, and so I despair, and my blood pressure rises once again, but not in a good way.

 

The End of the Line is terrifying right? Mitsubishi among others, just doesn’t give a f*ck. With the big picture being so goddamned scary I’ve become a proponent of “chunking.” That is, breaking it down into small pictures and doable deeds. For my first deed, I’m going to start eating sustainably (I can afford it). And I’m done eating all big predator fishes, tuna, cod, etc. I won’t support a commercial fishery for them. I may even avoid rockfish, though that fishery has recovered somewhat. If you want to eat sustainable seafood in NY, consider David Burke’s Fishtail–his company runs its own fishing boat, allowing greater control over their ingredients. Fishtail is on Fish2Fork’s list with a blue rating (blue=good). Meanwhile, you can avoid AquaGrill, which serves endangered Altantic Cod and has a red rating (red=poor).

O.K, what else? I’m going to keep talking about this stuff. deadbait was started as place to practice writing, now I’m going to make it my platform to give voice to my beliefs. I’ve added a conservation category to my blog so I can actively write about these issues. I’m also going to try some freelance conservation writing. Three, I’m going to get more involved in protecting my homewaters. I’m a member of NY’s TU, but I plan on volunteering not just donating. There you have it, three simple things to lower my blood pressure and be part of the solution instead of the problem. Now, I’m ready for my first ‘poon!

Film Craft V

I bumped into Brooklyn-based writer, Steven Rinella,  and host of The Wild Within the other day and had to tell him how much I enjoyed his show. I mean, not many TV hosts have the skills to break down an entire Moose that they have stalked and shot in ten minutes of onscreen footage…or climb a highway underpass to retrieve pigeon eggs and serve ’em up over a campfire for dinner. This man, is authentic, the real-deal–a hunter, trapper and writer who tells it as it is.

The Wild Within “Everybody eats bacon, but nobody wants to stab the pig.”

 

Lately, along with my fishing habits, I’ve been thinking about “authenticity” in television and advertising and while I’m happy the ad-guys are at-least “on-trend”, I can’t help but think that the underdog artisan, the hunter-gatherer, the farmer, the mechanic, their voices aren’t often heard from in mainstream media. So, I figured it was time for another installment of my Film CRAFT series, where I feature American artisans keeping the spirit of “handmade” alive and well.

Rancourt Shoes  “They are second, third generation hand-sewers.”

 

Sea Bags  “Sailed all over the world, recycled in Maine.”

 

Dry Fly Distilling  “Our objective…was to get out and enjoy life.”

 

Liberty Vintage  “Our can-do American spirit is being lost.”

 

Best Made Co. “You put an axe in someone’s hand and they feel empowered.”

 

This last video is actually a full half hour high production value, branded documentary by Bombay Sapphire, called The Culture of Quality: The Artisan’s Journey. I’ve written about the role of branded documentaries before, and on my marketing blog, but just a reminder–the goal here is to market the product using authentic, real stories–not fictional ones, like in most story-based advertising. Product claims aren’t shouted–rather, product benefits and brand equities are placed alongside the real stories of people who use the product, fit the brand image or have similar missions, are often the subject matter. The Culture of Quality features interviews with some of the people behind bespoke brands, Barking Irons, DS&Durga, and Vosges Chocolates, as well some excellent drink preparations and gin history. It ends with a mixology contest featuring the storied gin. Damn, I’m thirsty!

 

Is Cuomo Set to Sign an Anti-Fracking Bill?

Recently, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo has moved to allow for more natural gas drilling under the process known as hydraulic-fracking or “fracking” for short. Many NY conservation groups are asking for an extended period of review and comment period of the DEC’s proposed policy. Cuomo, ever the politician, has already stalled the review once after Chesapeake Energy caused an accident that sent 100K gallons of fracking solution into a PA creek in April.

Cuomo wants the jobs (and the campaign donations) without alienating conservationists, who like myself want a ban outright, such as NJ has done. However, something interesting has just happened in Albany that suggests Cuomo is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Two days ago, Gov.  Cuomo announced he is set to sign a bill to protect NY’s water basins, creating a permitting process to withdraw water over 100K gallons a day. It covers the state’s lakes, rivers and streams from Lake Erie to the Croton Watershed and complies with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. To read the press release, go here.

“The new law is designed to foster responsible conservation practices and economic growth while protecting water bodies and wildlife habitats. The permitting process will ensure a continued water supply to existing municipal, agricultural and industrial users, and will help identify areas that could support new water-dependent businesses. Specifically, the law requires approval before operating or proposing a system with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons or more per day of surface and groundwater.”

This is a significant step in protecting our water supply, especially if the DEC is to regulate the permitting process. While it was setup to protect our water supply, it has a valuable side effect that could protect NY state from hydrofracking. How? A typical fracking process uses between 3 and 9 million gallons of water and sometimes even more. That water must come from somewhere, either its local or shipped in. If its water drawn from NY state, then under the new law, it’ll need to be regulated and permitted. If NY state puts limits on the amount and timing of withdrawals, then effectively, NY state can regulate just how often and how much hydrofracking is done by controlling water withdrawal levels, all this, without ever having to step foot on a fracking site. If the DEC requires testing of local withdrawals, and withdrawals are done anywhere near a fracking site, then the government should effectively be able to correlate water quality with the fracking process.

I know, that’s a lot of “ifs”, but its a clear way to exploit the bill to the benefit of conservationists, local municipalities, and anti-fracking organizations and communities.

The fracking process creates immense pressures that drives thousands of gallons of fracking solution back to the surface collected in pits protected by a liner. Clearly, runoff is quite possible, especially if the liquid is returning to the surface–it’s not just blowing out at the top, but being forced right into the seams, cracks and ground closer to the surface. Because the fracking chemical solution is considered intellectual property, gas companies do not need to share the chemical cocktail they are injecting into the earth. Halliburton has released the details of chemicals in three of it’s solutions, but not the concentrations.

Here’s what a fracking site looks like. You can see the conditions of the runoff pit and the blowback of fracking solution and brine.

In this Post Standard Feb. 2010 video, Sharon Daggat of Pulteney, NY is worried that the runoff from the process of fracking by Chesapeake Energy will contaminate her well and kill her vineyard at Keuka Lake.

Here’s another way the DEC could use the Bill to test the water at actual fracking sites. I’m not certain the state tests fracking wastewater currently, but the collection process of runoff water from fracking could be considered a “withdrawal” if it exceeds 100k gallons. That wastewater would then be subject to testing. The downside is that there’s an incentive to the natural gas companies to do illegal dumping to avoid the testing. Once the solution is in the earth, the question is, is it now part of the water supply or is it company property? Marcellus Drilling News has also suggested that the DEC could use the law to “slow” the expansion of fracking down by taking their time to issue permits. It’s an interesting thought that Cuomo may be using the water withdrawal bill to set-up a get-out-of-jail free card with conservationists if he does ultimately lift the moratorium on fracking in NY. Hopefully, with or without the governor, conservationists will be able to exploit the new law for all its worth.

Rainy Day Reading

Tropical depressions make me depressed. I normally love the rain. Being rained-in on a lazy Sunday with blueberry pancakes (thank you babe), a frisky cat (thank you Ninja), the interwebs and many good books to read, usually makes me happy. But I’m itching to get outside, rain or shine. …Its just water. damnit I need to fish.

Meanwhile, I’ve had the fortune to finish, continue and start on several books today. Yes, I often read several books at once, I’m a serial reader, voracious, the more esoteric the book, the better. Typically, my reading list is all over the place too…

How about THE PLANTATION SOUTH by Katherine Jones, on, yes, life on plantations in the ante-bellum south? Not exactly, snuggle up on the couch material, but its excellent research for my book, accounting for all walks of life on the plantations from North Carolina to Texas, captured in letters from visits by Yankees to international dignitaries to school teachers. One of the best– a letter describing a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia by a first-time buyer, his disgust at the slavemonger, but not himself of course.

I just completed Ray Bergman’s classic TROUT. Bergman’s tome is the first, and frankly, last word in fly fishing for trou. Written over sixty years ago, I experience its lessons everytime I’m on the water. Nothing in the world is new…except 100% graphite fly rods, and the fact that its simply not possible to catch the lunker trout he caught in his day in some of the rivers he describes (thank you mankind’s little gift…global warming and pollution). Yet every lessons still applies.

Starting tonight, TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE, by Solomon Northup. This unfortunate NY freeman born in 1808, was kidnapped into slavery while visiting Washington, DC in 1841 and forced into life as a slave for 12 years on a Louisiana cotton plantation. More research, of the terrifying, wake up in the middle of the night with shakes, sort. I have every intention to visit Charleston, NC in the fall to conduct research and I won’t lie…I’m nervous. Yankees have always felt “uncomfortable” walking in the southern shadows of their ancestors. My great, great, great, great grandparents, Joseph and Maria Sherman were Charleston slaves who were freed upon emancipation. One of these days, I’m going to do a series of posts on my genealogy…the stories there!

And then there’s Frank Daignault’s STRIPER SURF. I finally bought this book after years of lollygagging, and consumed it in less than a day. Now I’m dreaming of picking up my salt fly fishing outfit (my birthday present to me) as soon as possible because in two weeks the missus and I are going to be in Fort Walton, Florida… No, there are no stripers down there, but snook will make nice practice before the fall run in October.

Hmmm, I’m starting to see the symptoms of becoming a curmudgeony blogger or becoming a curmudgeony fly fisherman…guessing at what you might be thinking as I write. Will have to let that go.

Maybe He Ought to Fish More Often…

Oh yeah. He does it. Now…if he can just get the economy in order… I find the concentrated activity of fly fishing helps the unconscious mind untangle tough problems.


MSNBC mistakenly reported Obama received a fly rod for his 50th, when in fact it was two years ago on his 48th. Guess the morons at NBC didn’t have any real reporting to do on…oh, say…the economy.

Obama joins a lineage of president anglers, including Carter, Bush Snr., Roosevelt, Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower, Cleveland and Coolidge.

If Obama would get out and fish more often, perhaps his abysmal conservation record might improve too. I mean seriously, come on… when we’re looking for ways to create jobs, it starts with protecting your own back yard. How is cutting National Parks budgets saving jobs?

Can You Fish the Seine?

Why yes, apparently you can. It is 1700+ km of quite lovely river and some of it famously meanders through Paris.

*I know*, in the middle of the anxiety of a potential double-dip recession, you ask, how can this guy be planning a trip to France? Well, to Paris in October actually, and we are doing it on points baby! Points!

Naturally, we intend to hit Colette, the amazing flea markets, and the catacombs. But I had to ask my wife, nonchalantly, “do you suppose they let people fly-fish in the Seine?”

Really, not an unusual question. After all, during our trip to Istanbul I was surprised to learn you could rent a pole and fish the Galata Bridge in the heart of the city. So fly fishing in or near Paris, why not? Apparently, the Celtic pre-Roman Parisii tribe that originally settled the area did so to establish a FISHING village. Today, the major fishing tributaries upstream from Paris are the Aube and the Haute-Marne, which have trout and grayling…grayling! Below Paris the Oise flows into the Seine, and there are several interesting tributaries at its headwaters near the Belgian border.

Don’t believe me… excuse the french techno, but the pictures don’t lie.

 

The only problem is the season closes in mid-September for trout, but apparently there are still dry fly opportunities for grayling in rivers classified “2nd category” or coarse fish rivers. I can tell this is going to take some research as I don’t speak a lick of French…and some heavy reasoning with the missus, probably involving a trip to Louis Vuitton or something or other…

 

**UPDATE** I’m pretty sure I won’t make it to France before the season closes. Cest la vie.