Last weekend was the 10th annual Orvis Game Fair at Sandannona in Millbrook, NY. Orvis Sandonona Shooting Grounds is the oldest permitted shooting preserve in the United States. These grounds have a lot of history on them and it is a special treat to visit every year. The last two years have witnessed warm beginnings to the autumn, as you would expect this delay of cool weather and rain adversely impacts the fall Trout fishing season.
This year a group of us grabbed a few campsites at the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park off of the Taconic State Parkway. The park is over fourteen thousand acres and features two bodies of water, Canopus Lake and Pelton Pond. The location was perfectly situated between the West Branch of the Croton and Dutchess County rivers. Our logic was that we needed to focus on the tail waters of the Croton watershed due to the low level drought.
The West Branch of the Croton below Boyd’s Corner was fishable, however mostly warm water species were hitting and flows were low. Mark had a swing and a miss out of the reservoir by a Brown Trout. The freestone streams of Dutchess County were all the lowest I have seen them over the past five years. They are still fishable for Smallmouth Bass when they are very low. I even managed to find a few Trout in one deep and cool pool.
The fall is at its peak here in the Skylands region of New Jersey. Farm country is humming with the annual rituals of harvest season apple picking, fall foliage, hard cider, wine tastings, craft beers and of course what we do here, Trout fishing. After a long summer hiatus and a hard skunking up on the Salmon River we are back in New Jersey and loving the weather.
After an aborted spring stocking season, New Jersey Fish and Wildlife revved up the stocking program with a strong fall stocking of catchable Rainbow Trout. Many of the local streams still have resident Trout due to the unseasonably cool summer and lower than normal interest in Trout fishing for the 2014 season.
Mark and I decided it was time to get out there and hone in our casting skills while prepping for Pheasant season which kicks off on November 8th at daylight. The MKFF crew plans on doing a fall Cast and Blast series about exploring the fallowed fields and the streams that wind through them this fall.
The primary hatches expected in New Jersey streams have passed as the weather has consistently cooled. Sunday night provided us with our first full frost throughout the county. This does not mean the Trout are not biting, what works has changed but they are still eating. Midges, Woolly Buggers, Egg Patterns and midges are all good choices for the Trout.
Water flows are still coming up from their summer nadir therefore a good rain in the middle of the week helps fishing on the weekend. Fortunately, the weather pattern seems to be cooperating.
Pheasant season in New Jersey opens on November 8th 2014 and intermittently continues through mid February with a brief intermission for regular Shotgun season. Personally, my shotgun skills have gotten a little rusty in the off season as I have not found much time to practice shooting. This fall weekend made for the perfect opportunity to try out the thrower.
This coming weekend, The Rockport Pheasant Farm is having an open house at their Hazen Road location in Hackettstown. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife will be opening the doors of the Pheasant farm for tours on Saturday October 25, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The mid Hudson Valley has become a popular destination for urban dwellers from New York City to spend their weekends. The region is relatively close to New York and accessible via the Metro North railway. Its character consists of forests, farmland, small streams, medium sized cities and towns, the same scenery common to northwest New Jersey. This all seems very appealing for a mini adventure under two hours away.
Originating as a trickle through private farmland in Dutchess County, this stream works its way through forests and fields until meeting up with the cities of Poughkeepsie and Wappinger Falls until joining the Hudson River. While not offering as much public assess as is available in the nearby Esopus Creek, Wappinger Creek offers a quintessential Hudson Valley Fly Fishing experience.
Spending the summers in Wurtsboro, NY and currently residing in Warren County, New Jersey this is the type of fishery I have become accustomed to. As opposed to my vacation on the Green River, not ever inch of water holds a Trout here on the East Coast. To locate fish you find road bridges, deep undercut banks, deep runs and rock structure. The wide open fields and Gin clear water leave Trout exposed to the threat of predation by a Eagle, Hawk or Great Blue Heron (#GBH).
Mark and I had a limited time window to conduct our initial exploration of Wappinger Creek, the plan was to locate Orvis Sandanona and meet Kris and Claire on sight for the Country Sporting Weekend. Mark quickly occupied the pool under a bridge and hit it with his spinner. I tied on my Black Slumpbuster and flicked it upstream under the bridge. With this pattern I like to cast up stream, dead drift down and retrieve in two-inch strips when it nears the end of the run. You need to pay careful attention and look for a strike; the Trout will attack when you least expect it and the Slumpbuster will still be upstream of your position.
Orvis Game Fair and Country Sporting Weekend
MKFF attended this event and show last year; we decided it was worthwhile to spend a few hours at the event again. The Orvis Fair is quite the high-end event, $30K+ custom shotguns are not rare here and antique firearms are for sale everywhere. The fair also features popular favorites of mine such as Scotch Tasting, Wine Tasting and a Cigar bar. The Land Rover driving school is a highlight; it is always interesting when a $100K automobile is balanced on two wheels.
The purpose of the event is to showcase the country field sports that we all enjoy including Fly Fishing and Wingshooting. There are over 70 high-end sporting vendors showing their wares along with countless demonstrations of field sport skills. Compared to some of the Fly Fishing events and demonstrations on the western part of America; this event, located near New England, is influenced by Scottish and English field sport culture.
The oldest section of the reservoir system that feeds ever-thirsty New York City is also a tail water suburban fishery. Construction on this multi part reservoir began in 1837 with an aqueduct north of the mouth of the Croton River. Not only was the main stem of the Croton dammed, the tributaries to the Croton were dammed as well. This conflagration of dams, aqueducts and rerouted watercourses now suffers from the impact of suburbanization combined with aging infrastructure. That being said, the watershed has some high quality Trout fishing opportunities.
We selected the East Branch Special Regulation Area to wet our lines. The reservoir area is a fine example of public works architecture at a time when the Government had less debt and more imagination. The East Branch tail water begins at a huge fountain referred to as “The Bubble.” A large jet of cool aerated water descends down a rock-lined sleuth past the reservoir’s overflow. The special regulation area begins after the reservoir overflow, though I did not see any signs, apparently fishing is prohibited up the sleuth beyond the overflow.
The previous night we had camped through over one inch of rain, a stellar fishing day was not on the menu. Approaching the reservoir, the smell of fresh rain and detritus was overwhelming. The river was cloudy, despite its status as tail water. I suspect the build up of phosphates in the East Branch Reservoir degrades the quality.
A well-worn trail off of Sodom Road provides access to the East Branch, like many suburban woods there is litter all over from disrespectful residents and the local migrant laborers who leverage the stream as a meat fishery. Placing the negatives aside, the stream is similar to other freestone fisheries in the area and conditions improve once a diversionary water sleuth feeds the East Branch.
“Fly Fishing the Croton Watershed,” created by Trout Unlimited provides every detail you need to prospect the Croton Watershed. The tail water is clearly a nymph and streamer section of water. The aforementioned book indicated that a red or brown bugger would be productive due to the prevalence of crawfish in the stream. Combining this tidbit of information along with my early success yesterday, I tied on a Brown Slumpbuster and used the same dead drift and retrieve tactic.
Fishing was nonexistent until we hiked down past the first bend. Once the water cleared, courtesy to the Bog Brook feeder sleuth, out came a lively Rainbow Trout. The pool held a few picky Trout. Walking down the long pool further and I reeled in a Perch!
As the Sunday afternoon wore on and the fishing not exactly hot we decided to call it for the day. Just wanted to throw in a shout out for Portofino’s Pizza where we watched the Giants get shut out and had delicious Calzones. All told we had a great time in the Hudson Valley Fly Fishing, exploring, and hanging out at the Orvis Fair.
New Jersey Fall Turkey Season was open from Saturday October 27th through November 3rd2012. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy also known as “Superstorm” Sandy, reared its ugly head and made landfall in perfect synchronicity. Sandy destroyed countless homes, farms and businesses in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Fortunately, in Frelinghuysen Township, adverse impacts were limited to downed trees, closed roads, roof damage and two weeks without power.
Enough about the return of the dark ages, to the most populated urbanized area on Earth. I am going to tell you a story of how despite narrowly missing entire flocks of Turkey with my truck all summer, NOT a single of these giant flying birds exist. At least that is, on the Moose Knuckle Proving Grounds. Up in Vermont during October, they were everywhere on the Post Mills’ Airport runway.
The Turkey is North America’s largest ground nesting bird. Experts estimate, when the Pilgrims arrived here, there may have been as many as ten million gobblers waddling around. The colonists, market hunters, settlers and immigrants rapidly populating the United States, brought the large and tasty bird to near extinction. The species’ nadir occurred around 1920, with roughly thirty thousand birds left ranging the continent. Aggressive conservation efforts, led by state fish and game departments, have now resulted in the Turkey expanding beyond its native range. There now are more than 5.5 million Turkey’s roaming North America’s forests, farm fields and suburbs. Facts and figures for this paragraph from Jim Sterba’s book, “Nature Wars,” we will be reviewing in a later blog entry.
Oftentimes, Fly Fishing is about getting out there in Gods Country. The same applies for Hunting. When Turkey hunting, the hunter attempts to call in the turkey, becoming one with his/her quarry. In the fall season, the sportsman is focused on ambushing the Turkey. They will be called in, although it is not mating season and the bird is less susceptible to courtship. Mark and I were quickly overcome by the cold, sitting and waiting, you need to dress as if its at least 40 degrees colder than it actually is. The hunter has to appear invisible and keep silent when pursuing the elusive gobbler. The animal has keen sight and exceptional hearing.
Reviewing my words, I break out into a laugh, I once had an altercation with a Tom Turkey on route to Montclair State University. The vicious creature was blocking the Valley Road entrance after an exceptionally long commute on 46. No matter what we did, this cantankerous avian critter just jutted out its left wing and menacingly danced across the street. Finally, commencing a violent pecking on another student’s car. I drove straight at it, Tom yielded and the battle was won, the war continues.
Unfortunately, after hours of sitting, propped against one of Sandy’s numerous deadfalls on the Proving Grounds, Mark and I were unable to score a Turkey for Thanksgiving. This being 2012, the solution was a short trip to the ShopRite. In the spring, I will purchase more appropriate gear and make my way back in the woods for another round.
The next weekend, while Bow Hunting, Zombo had a Turkey resting under the treestand for over an hour.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and be thankful that America is so great you don’t have to hunt a Turkey to eat one today!
Saturday was a busy day! The Kuhn and Stracco campaign for Frelinghuysen Township Committee kicked the day off with an early morning strategy session, followed by the full deployment of yard signs throughout the community. Remember, the election is 15 days away, be sure and vote for your sportsman’s issues. More info on our campaign for Frelinghuysen Township Committee can be found at www.electkuhn.com.
Fall Trout Season
MKFF set out to hook into a few Trout the State of New Jersey dropped into our local streams in the beginning of October. Unfortunately, the result was a painful skunking. The day was salvaged with the Nick’s 206 Lobster and Steamer Special.
Fall Bass Fishing In New Jersey Lakes
Mark purchased a new fish finder that was on sale at Amazon.com. The Humminbird 140C Fishin’ Buddy 3.5-Inch Waterproof Fishfinder now replaces Dave’s famous fish finder that we are pretty sure can’t find a fish if its’ circuit boards depended on it. After some minor adjustments to sensitivity settings, the thing was chirping away.
In the fall lake environment, Bass activity is temperature dependent. Many, if not most lakes have flipped at this point; effectively equalizing the ambient air temperature and water temperature. Initially we weren’t even detecting fish, we relied on the fish finder and found the warmer waters and drop offs.
Following significant success with worm rig outs, we switched off to Rapalas. I used a fluorescent yellow and green, jointed model. Mark used a silver, non-jointed; success rate was roughly similar though he hooked more Crappie and Sunfish.
As the daylight ends prematurely these days; the sun goes down and it gets cold, unfortunately we had to wrap it up after two and a half hours of fishing.
Back To The Campaign Trail
On the national scale, be sure to investigate the candidate’s stances on gun rights, fishing and hunting. Further, evaluate their stance on the Sportsmen’s Bill.
If you are a resident of Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey or know someone who is, I kindly request your vote for Kuhn and Stracco on Tuesday November 6, 2012. The polling location is the Johnsonburg Town Hall and it is open from 6AM to 8PM. More info here.