“Walk On, don’t look back, don’t ask questions, don’t you try to understand.” John Hiatt
Egg Gobbling Bows
Late autumn in New Jersey opens up a wide world of outdoor sports for our densely populated state. The state dumps over fifty thousand breeder Trout into our small stream and rivers. Not to mention the holdovers which have been particularly good since the rebooted stocking began in earnest last fall. The local holes are teaming with eager Rainbow Trout that have been feeding actively since the spring or are former brood stock set loose. These Bows have a particular affinity for juicy eggs or imitation fly eggs.
The two rivers we at MKFF frequent the most are the Paulinskill and The Flatbrook, these two watercourses situationally exist in the last frontier of New Jersey. A land still graced with farm fields and forests within an hour of Manhattan. These two freestone streams, typical of of the mid-Atlantic region both flowing into the Delaware River, offer a surreal retreat from the Megalopolis.
If you confine your fishing to the best of day, ten AM to two PM and then take a lunch, you will be pleasantly surprised out here. The weather has been unseasonably warm, I suspect due to a congregation of factors (El Nino) and two brutal winters in a row. Needless to say, the recommendation is to tie on a size eight or ten egg fly, add some weight, tie on an indicator and locate some pools. The Bow’s are fattening up for a winter that may never come and gorging themselves on eggs.
If there ever was a better time to invest in a snowmobile, the winter of 2014-2015 was that time! The current cooling weather pattern which settled in on us around summer/fall of 2013 has continued in its full glory allowing for copious amounts of winter sports! In my life, Ice Fishing started as and has always been a hobby for winter with little or no usable snow. This winter has featured continuous snowfall; therefore I do not believe I have even gone out ice fishing on a single occasion, excepting for Ice Fish and Chips!
As a quick update on ice fishing in the winter of 2015, Zach Boynton has caught a few Northern Pike, his girlfriend caught a large Brown Trout and Chris Woodhead purchased a gasoline auger. That has been the extent of my ice fishing discussion this year.
This blog is a comprehensive overview of all the winter fun had by the Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing Rod, Gun and Snowmobile club. There should be an upcoming final Ice Fishing blog on these pages shortly. For your fishing entertainment I have tucked in a picture of Mark’s massive Chain Pickerel caught through the ice as any blog is not complete without at least one fish pic.
New Jersey suffered back to back hurricanes, Irene in 2011and Sandy in 2012, combined these storms did extensive ecological damage on the forests and streams of northwest New Jersey. The winter of 2012/ 2013 was snowless and 2013/ 2014 the blow downs made it near impossible to navigate a snowmobile in the forests. In 2014 we enjoyed a white Thanksgiving, at that moment I resolved to get back into snowmobiling for 2015. Call the return to snowmobiling a New Year’s Resolution!
The first step for the resurgence of snowmobiling at the MKFF proving grounds was driven by a January 23rd snowstorm, also my 31st birthday! We woke up to a fresh clean blanket of snow across all of the fields at the Lazy K Ranch and the MKFF Proving Grounds. I had been working on clearing trails before this storm, after the storm it became a little more difficult, however, not too difficult that the New Holland Workmaster and my Stihl Chainsaw could not blaze through the mess.
Brenton, dad and I used to maintain a hare scramble track through the woodlot on Old Barn Acres (MKFF Proving Grounds). The track winds a challenging course through the limestone outcroppings, swamps, ledges and forests common in our area of Frelinghuysen Township. Over the years the track has evolved and several features were added but the general principle of a strenuous trail through rugged and wooded terrain remains.
The trail, henceforth referred to as SnoMax, with its tight features lends itself well to vintage and smaller sleds, the type of machine where you have to lean in and become part of the chassis to make it go and dowhat you want it to. A vintage sled takes skill to ride, which is what we like! SnoMax features one small table top, a rhythm section, one ditch jump, a ledge climb and countless hairpin turns mixed with dodgy high speed straightaways.
This summer, the SnoMax will be expanded with the help of heavy equipment, the features enhanced, the brush cleared wider and various other improvements will be made. With these augmentations and the help of a cooling climate in 2015/2016 the MKFF RAGSC will host a vintage snowmobile timed hare scramble.
Tug Hill is home to a very active snow sports community. Sometimes, it is refreshing to leave my home state where everyone but me curses the winter and go somewhere that the season is embraced with a passion. Depending on the snowmobile club in the area, there are 24-7 grooming operations on major trails. The gas stations pump ethanol free gasoline for snowmobiles and a restaurant or bar will not survive without access to the snowmobile trail network.
The Edge Hotel
Nick initially approached me about a 2015 snowmobile adventure back over Thanksgiving weekend when we received our first snowfall of winter 2014/2015. At that time I was anticipating a return to “normal” New Jersey winters which do not amount to much snow, only mud. I was also anticipating getting the Lazy K Ranch lodge construction project kicked off early, the January 23rd snow event quickly dampened those expectations. With the lodge on hold, Nick informed me that he had found accommodations that meet the needs of snowmobilers. He showed me some pictures and we booked at The Edge Hotel in Lyons Falls, New York.
Driving into The Edge’s parking you will understand that this is a place built for snowmobilers by snowmobilers and managed by people who ride snowmobiles. The hotel is coupled with a bar called Boondock’s, there are vintage snowmobiles and SUVs decorating the roof! The bar crowd is lively and arrives largely by snowmobile, in fact; the trail goes right through the parking lot. The hotel has a snowmobile loading ramp set for three sizes of pick-up trucks, I consider this a new must have for any new lodge construction. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable while the main lobby is decorated as an Adirondack style lodge. The staff is friendly and breakfast is free in the morning, allowing you to get on the trail quickly!
No, Winter Sports!, story is complete without the breakdown or adventures of being lost. You could own a brand new sled or be driving something from the 1980s, it does not matter, they are machines designed to operate at peak performance, you ride them and they breakdown! The 1997 Yamaha Ovation, which I have run continuously since the late 1990’s was functioning perfect all year. However, about ten miles into the town of Brantingham, NY, a horrible noise started to erupt from inside the engine compartment. A screeching, bearing disintegrating howl poured out from under the cowling.
No sooner had the howl started; it calmed down for a minute after I shut off the sled and restarted. Maybe the belt was cold? Nope! As I piloted across the soft snow at about thirty miles per hour all of the sudden, an extreme howl and loss of significant engine power. I quickly pulled to the sled and shut down; this ride just became a recovery operation.
Two hours passed, with Nick and Rob’s help, the Ovation was in the back of my GMC, I rented a sled at the Flat Rock Inn and we planned a ride for rest of the day. The four hour tour which took almost eight hours, in the dark….we will save that story for another day.
The Montague Inn
The Montague Inn located in Lowville, NY is the site that recorded a snowfall total in the United States, 77 inches in a 24 hour period from a single storm. In addition, the New York State Seasonal Snowfall record of 466.9 inches in the winter of 1976/1977 was set in this very town. A localized architectural feature is second floor entry ways for people’s homes. It goes without say that this place is an excellent snowmobiling bar and restaurant. Heavy snows, friendly people and a business that is OPEN to snowmobilers, day or night. Walk right in and there is a huge helmet rack for your gear. Saddle up at the bar; enjoy a delicious local brew and one of the many reasonably priced daily specials.
White To Brown
This brings us to the end of this tale of a white and wondrous winter. As I type my closing thoughts, I am staring out the window at a brown nightmare, 45 degrees and mud everywhere, not yet warm enough for daffodils. The mud season has commenced, so has maple sugar season. Trout fishing is a mere 23 days out, to pass the time we will be working on boiling down maple sap to make maple syrup.
Last week, I turned 30; it is a point in life that I never believed would occur, especially looking back to the college years when I was eagerly awaiting my 21st birthday. These days, 30 years is indicative of actual adulthood. Much like boiling a frog, the number creeps up slowly and all of the sudden its there.
Be that as it may, up to this point I have had a great run and I am going to hammer down for an even better decade to follow it up. In the last ten years, I learned to fly fish, went pheasant hunting for the first time, bought a piece of land, graduated from Business School, landed a job I enjoy, won my first municipal election, travelled around the USA, met countless new friends and shared quality time with my family.
Anyway, my brother, father and the crew assembled in Park City, Utah to celebrate this milestone with me. Park City is one of my favorite places in the world: great skiing, fly-fishing, good bars and friendly people. There is no better way to spend your birthday than with family, friends and doing the sports you love.
30th Birthday Party
The actual date was Thursday, January 23rd. Like the adult that I now am, I worked and attended a township budget meeting. Another indicator of turning 30 is that you don’t need to go out on your birthday. We saved all the energy for the Friday evening plane ride out to Salt Lake and the bars in Park City. Adding fuel to the fire, we arrived just prior to the last night of the Sundance Film Festival. This was to be a multi-night event of whiskey-fueled entertainment.
Saturday we skied the Canyons. It was Nicole’s official first time skiing. Due to the previous evening’s festivities, it took the crew a while to get moving. Once up and about, I gave skiing a whirl, something I have not done since my college days. To my excitement, skiing is much like riding a bike; it is not something that is easily forgotten. After ten runs, Nicole and Mark had had enough and Brandon had a pitcher of hoppy goodness waiting at the warming station. I would have preferred to ski more but I was out voted. We went home, made delicious baked Ziti and headed out to Main Street for the last day of the film festival.
Sunday we switched up and skied Park City Mountain Resort. It was another clear, warm January day. I set Nicole up on some nice groomers off of King Con lift and gave some quick pointers. As Brenton said, “What’s the difference between a ski instructor and a student; one day.” After finishing up at Park City, Brenton drove us out to Dutch John for the second part of the festivities.
Green River Float
Brenton presented me with a guided fishing trip with Doug Robert’s Old Moe Guide Service as a gift for the big three zero. On Sunday evening, we packed up the Yukon XLT, hitched up to the Clacka, and proceeded to drive the three plus hours out to Dutch John. Due to the change of management at Spring Creek Guest Ranch, we were unable to stay at our normal location. Instead we camped out at the Shire Lite Units at Flaming Gorge Recreation Services (The old Conoco at the corner of UT 191 and South Boulevard).
For breakfast we met up with Rachel, AJ and their family at the breakfast counter. You may recall Rachel, AJ and family from our summer adventures at Spring Creek Guest Ranch. We have been out to Dutch John so many times now, you develop a core group of people you drop in and say hello to.
Doug arrived at the agreed time, 9AM, to get out on the water, however, we were not yet finished with breakfast. A “large” crowd during the offseason is unexpected in this remote part of the USA, so we weren’t too worried about a later start time. We finally finished eating around 10AM and drove over to the Flaming Gorge Dam boat launch. Father and I hopped in the boat with Doug; Brenton piloted the Clacka for Mark and Tall Boy (Matt). Doug’s boat launched first, followed by Brenton and AJ’s Hyde boat pulled up the rear.
Tale of Two Boats
Immediately upon getting the boat in the water, I cast out the egg pattern with thingamabobber rigged up. Doug was readying a nymph rig for father; suddenly my indicator was sucked under the water. I pulled back and set the hook, line tore off of the reel until I regained control. The fight was on! The fish flashed its broad side to us; a crisp red line crossed it laterally, indicating it was a Rainbow. As I coerced the bow to come toward the boat, its size became apparent. As all things in life, the moment was ephemeral. As fast as this fish hit, as hard as it fought, it unbuttoned from the hook as Doug was reaching for the net. I remain unable to break the 20-inch Trout mark on Utah’s Green River.
After this boat ramp excitement, we pushed off, amped for a day of fishing, notwithstanding the cold and slight snowfall. The takes were subtle and required an eagle eye on the indicator even going as far as to follow your egg pattern in the water by eye. The hungry Trout rose slowly to the egg pattern if you placed the indicator a tad out of the fast water. Becoming familiar with the slow takes and action required to set the hook resulted in consistent Trout to the boat.
The fishing tapered off around the lunch hour and we pulled aside for some delicious chicken sandwiches. A thing to keep in mind while winter drift boat fishing, there is no such thing as too many clothes. The wind kicks up hard, especially in the bottom of the A section.
Pushing down the Green about half an hour behind us was the second part of the group. Every now and again we glanced back and viewed the Clacka about a hole behind us. This was Mark’s maiden voyage on a drift boat; he has been regaled with tales of Utah’s Green river but never fished it himself. Reports of moderate success flowed from the boat though not fishing the egg pattern worked as a handicap.
As anticipated, while the day wound down, the wind intensity picked up. Even so, at the bottom of the A section, it always pays to keep your hook in the water. Big fish reside in these parts and as they say, “Can’t catch a fish if your hook is not in the water.” Sure enough, as we drifted Catwalk Shoals, the action heated up. Father put his largest German Brown and Rainbow on the board for the day!
Bluebird Final Day
The last full day is always the most fun, after getting all the rust off my winter sports skill set; I only had one day left! The team had partied, skied, fished, partied some more and now the epic time was drawing to a close. Mark, Brandon and Nicole opted to take the Yukon out to Antelope Island. This freed Brenton, father and myself to spend the whole day snowboarding on the mountain!
We hit most of the groomers at Park City that I like and even got into some trees. The snow conditions remained the same as previous week so the only available coverage was a bit icy in the shade and all right in the sun. Dad was able to do a few mogul runs. Thus far this year Utah’s snow cover was at 60% +/- of normal (they have since received snow). Anyway, for the sake of better fishing this summer, I hope they get some substantial snowfall in February.
We concluded the sporting lifestyle birthday with dinner and beers at Red Rocks Brewery in New Park by our condo. The next day we boarded the plane and flew uneventfully, and unwillingly, back to New Jersey.