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.
Today is the last day of September, we are now two weeks into the autumn of 2015. Temperatures have been steadily cooling though holding higher than I can anecdotally recall in the last two autumn fishing seasons. The fall fishing extravaganza leaped off to a strong start as the water temperatures steadily cooled and our H2O residing quarry again became more active.
This weekend the majority of the MKFF crew is headed up to Pulaski, New York to check out the early Salmon run then Mark and Zach will be heading down to Sanibel Island for an extended fishing adventure. I will not be fishing due to my college roommate’s wedding; therefore this is an appropriate point to provide you with an update on New Jersey fishing for the first few weeks of fall.
Black River WMA
Pheasant Hunting Season and the Cast and Blasts which mark November are now less than two months away. I dusted off the old JC Higgins 16 gauge side by side along with the Remington 12 gauge and headed down to the Black River WMA range. Both firearms performed well, presenting my shoulder with the swift kick of an old gun while consistently delivering a load to the target. Next on the agenda is to attempt and gunsmith my Savage Model 220B with some parts that are now available online.
The Jersey Shore
The salt water community is abuzz with the looming biannual arrival of the Striped Bass to the New Jersey shore. It is still a bit early for the main event however we headed down to Avon by the Sea to evaluate what could be pulled out from the beach. Initially I was going to try to fish with some spin gear but the guys over at Orvis NYC convinced me to try a few softy minnows in the surf. The plan worked with me landing a few one pound Blue Fish and Jack Crevalle in the morning. Mark pulled in a nice Sea Robin and Star Gazer, however I could not convince him to measure the Star Gazer in an attempt at the MKFF Salt contest. We wrapped up over at Sandy Hook where a few keep able size Fluke were caught from the beach.
Orvis Game Fair
Continuing the fall adventures, Mark and I met in Morristown on Sunday after fishing the shore all day Saturday to head up to Millbrook, NY for the annual Orvis Game Fair. The Game Fair, which we have reported on in 2012 and 2014, is a sporting lifestyle fair geared for the family. This year they had few more distilleries, which are popping up, in the Hudson Valley thanks to New York State’s updated liquor laws. The event has expanded every year that we have attended and is a great way to spend the first weekend of fall.
My other favorite part of the Orvis Game Fair is fishing Wappingers Creek, a local stream in Dutchess County New York. Wappingers Creek stretches 41.7 miles from Thomson Pond to New Hamburg, NY, emptying into the Hudson River. The northern stretches of the creek hold Trout while the southern stretches are more of a Smallmouth fishery.
After leaving the Orvis Game Fair, we stopped at The Roadhouse in Pleasant Valley, NY. This is an excellent upstate New York bar. This establishment is a jewel, a true treasure including a main floor with a list, pool table, dartboard, cold beer and delicious beer. This is not a yuppie bar, the bartenders are friendly, the food delicious and reasonably priced!
New Jersey’s fall Trout stocking is scheduled to commence between October 13th and 21st , this year they will be placing 20,000 Trout, between 14” and 22”, in 16 streams throughout the state. Our club is also planning on stocking our private pond with Tiger Trout for the winter. After the Trout season dies down, Saturday November 7th will be opening day of Pheasant season in New Jersey. This is in addition to the fall archery season that begins in October and then the December firearms season for deer.
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.
Two weekends ago, the MKFF crew saddled up in the old FJ riding up to Orvis Sandanona Grounds in Millbrook, NY. The Sandanona Shooting Grounds is the oldest permitted shotgun range in the United States; it was built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. We like to keep our readers apprised of trade shows and other industry developments; the 6th annual Orvis Game Fair and Country Sporting Weekend presented an excellent opportunity to explore the fishing and wing shooting community in more depth.
Wing Shooting Training
Orvis hosts a world renowned wing shooting school at their flagship store in Manchester, Vermont and the Sandanona Grounds. Visitors were able to experience an abbreviated version of a lesson. There were two stations with instructors; they assisted students with shooting form and tactics.
Generally, when test driving a brand new Land Rover, you are not expecting a very advanced or technical course. I figured, we would go over a few bumps and roll over a log or two. The MKFF crew was pleasantly surprised, the off road course and training was borderline “expert level.” There are several pictures in the gallery for you to browse through, I’m pretty sure we had multiple wheels of the ground in a few places on the course.
An Orvis event would not be complete without Fly Fishing. Complimentary casting lessons were available for the revelers. Further, check out the Striped Bass one of the exhibitors had preserved caught off of Chelsea Pier.
The event was geared towards the upscale shooting and hunting community; this segment representing the Sandanona Ground’s target market. Several Orvis affiliated Fly Fishing Lodges were represented with their guide staff. We met up with and immediately took a liking to the Glendorn Lodge in Pennsylvania. Mark and I were promised that they could hook us into a Walleye on the Fly this spring! We may have to take them up on their offer in the spring.