Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Preserving the Future - for anyone and everyone

(Sorry folks - this has the makings of a long post)

Kristine at Outdoor Blogger Summit has issued one of the OBS challenges - write about how you help defend and preserve the Outdoors. (If you have an outdoor related blog and are not familiar with OBS, click on the badge alongside my post. I think you'll like what you find). I decided to accept her challenge, and have been thinking about the direction I want take for the past few days.

Most of us in the Outdoor blogging community write about personal experiences in the outdoors. Some incorporate more of their personal "this is my life" into their blogs - Bayou Woman comes to mind. In preparation for writing this piece, I just re-read my initial post on this blog from September 08. I was unsure where the blog would take me at the time, and I'm still just as unsure. The only continuity throughout the blog posting is that they revolve around water and fishing.

Water - no, CLEAN water - is the crux of all life. Clean water supports amazing biodiversity. One of my favorite places on earth is at the camp I've been going to (when I get the chance) for the past 25 years on Kettle Ck. in north-central PA. The main stem of the creek is now a very popular trout fishery reliant primarily on stocking efforts to keep its pools full of trout and the dirt roads that parallel the stream full of angler's vehicles. It is nestled among the steep, rocky mountains in Clinton County and, while the deer population is currently low (a topic for a different blog), there are deer, turkey and bear throughout the hills and valleys. I've seen hellbenders (the largest North American amphibians) twice in the creek. There are Timber Rattlesnake dens in the laurel thickets. My favorite part of the ecosystem, however, is not the main section of stream or its residents. I love the tributaries. Nearly every one of the tribs feeding into Kettle Creek is a wild trout stream. Unstocked, small-to-tiny rivulets that are home to abundant, spooky, small wild, native brook trout. Streams you can step across. Streams where there is NEVER the possibility of an unobstructed 30' cast - too many blowdowns and overhanging trees and limbs. Most of the people I fish with at camp just shake their heads when I tell them where I'm going. In years of fishing these tribs, I have landed ONE wild brookie in excess of 10". Most are 7" or less. If you measureteh success of your fishing by the size of your fish, you would NEVER fish these streams. They are not selective feeders - usually. If you can get a cast on the water without spooking them, they're yours. They are just absolutely beautiful fish, and they can only tolerate and survive in the cleanest, coldest, purest waters. I think that's why I love brookies and cutthroat so much - they thrive in the most beautiful places on earth..

A few miles downstream from the cabin, the effects of man's interference rears its ugly head. Coal mine drainage. Two streams are literally colored orange from mine acidified waters, and they pour into the Kettle from opposite sides. Nothing lives below this junction. The orange rocks signify death for anything that would try to survive in it's acidic waters.

Within this one valley are dozens of streams full of brook trout that have been native to the area as long as there have been trout, a well managed trout stream that caters to the legions of people who simply want to catch and eat some trout in a pretty setting, and a section of stream that was once alive, and has been killed.

So what does this have to do with preserving the future? Well, in this one valley, you can see what was, what is, and what happens when no one cares, and greed takes over. Anyone with any appreciation of nature - on any level - can see the effects of not caring simply by driving up the road. Sometimes it takes a visual and personal reminder of what can happen when we all take our eye off the ball for people to sit up and pay attention. When I drive along this road, it reminds not to take anything that I appreciate for granted.

I don't do as much as I could to help preserve and protect the natural assets of our land. I do belong to, and support, many of the agencies whose mission is to do just that - Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, RMEF, Pheasants Forever. In a small way, my dues and meager donations help to purchase land to preserve. We are adamant in our house about recycling - reducing the amount of land used for the purpose of landfills while more efficiently utilizing the products already in existence by re-using them. While my effort alone is negligible, I firmly believe that recycling is a simple way everyone can have a positive impact on our ecosystems, with the cumulative affect from the masses having a huge impact on our land. I DO try to clean up streams and lakes whenever I'm out - not to prove a point that I'm saving the world, but because I hate to see garbage when I'm fishing. It just looks like hell.

Will these little gestures make a difference in the world?? On their own, no. But I do one thing that I believe has a great impact on the future of our ecosystems - I try to introduce the outdoors to young people and anyone who has not taken the time to appreciate what we have outdoors. Certainly, I do this with my 12 year old son so he might someday feel the same as I do about the wild things. I love seeing the joy on a persons face when they catch their first fish, whether they are 3 or 30. If I can instill the passion that I possess about fishing and the outdoors onto others, I believe I can make an impact. If these people eventually drive up the Kettle Creek Valley in their own worlds, see the negative impacts of man's disregard for nature, see what can be if we take care of and nurture our environments, I believe they will vow to not let the abuse of our natural worlds continue. Then I will have made a difference.

Sorry forthe rambling - I just re-read the post agian and realize that I spent 8 paragraphs trying to say what could have been said in 4 words - Take A Kid Fishing.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

A perfect evening

Yesterday - Friday June 12 -turned out to be a nearly perfect day. Weather was good - a little on the cool side, but missing all the weather elements I hate - no downpours, no horrendous winds, no scorching sun. One of the guys I work with - Jesse - had dropped his boat in the pond over lunch - he was coming back the next morning to get a load of 'gills for his pond. We fished for about a half hour over lunch to "scout" for him. Gills were plentiful on small grubs. I mentioned that I might come back in the evening, and he said to take the boat if I did.

My wife Stacy called at work and suggested we grab a pizza and go to the pond for the evening. Now, she goes along with me quite a bit in the spring, but rarely is she the one who suggests we go fishing. She likes to fish, but it has to be perfect conditions -no bugs, not too hot or cold, not much wind, and the fish have to be biting. That's a pretty tall order of circumstances to fill for one outing. Well, the everything came together last evening.

Stacy with one of the crappies.

I usually fish these ponds from shore, but having a Ranger to tool around with the trolling motor was a nice change of pace. Plenty of room for me, Stacy, and Joey. Joey didn't feel like fishing - he took a few casts and caught a few fish, but mostly he just watched us and read. No problem. We started fishing with 1/16 oz. jigheads and dark 2" grubs, and never looked back. Stacy started catching a fish on just about every cast. If she didn't land one, she had a hit on probably 90% of her casts. Same with me, even though I was experimenting with different baits. One interesting aspect of the evenings catch - very few largemouth, and none of any size. a few of them are still guarding nests, but most have moved off beds. The most interesting catch stat, in reviewing the evenings tally, was that we caught about 20 walleye. Most were the small ones - 8" - 10" - but 4 were around 15". We both fished UL outfits with 4 pound test, making every catch fun!

Another small walleye from the pond

The end of the evening showed a tally of an uncountable number of bluegills, around 20 walleye, 8-10 crappie, 2 pretty nice rainbow trout, and the catfish shown, that Stacy caught in the first 15 minutes. I'm not really sure what it weighed, but it was all her UL gear could handle. Some of the guys have told me they caught cats over 10 from here, but this is the biggest one I've seen personally from this pond. She got it on a 2" Yamamoto grub and fought it like a pro. Fittingly, it slapped me with it's tail when I put back in the water.

Stacy's catfish (She doesn't like to hold these)

No bugs, no wind, lots of hungry fish. I LOVE days like that on the water. The thing is, you have to spend a lot of time when it's NOT like that before you finally run into the great days. We had a blast fishing together as a family, and nothing beats that.

A contented son enjoying the evening

Picture Perfect

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Got 'em all - over lunch!!

I haven't been out to my ponds recently - been on the road for work, and when I've been home, it seems like the grass is two feet tall and calling my name. I did walk across the street to my subdivision pond on Sunday evening with my new 2 weight flyrod. I was quickly reminded that a 2 wt. is a specialty rod - not very effective in the wind or if you need to make a cast over 30'. Luckily, the 'gils were close, with a few crappie mixed in, too. It doesn't take much to put a GOOD bend in a 2 wt. rod!

Anyway, over lunch today I got out to the ponds I've been writing about . Weather is cool and a little overcast. The pond was as clear as I've ever seen it - easily 4 feet of visibility. Maybe the loads of rain we've had all spring washed the usual crud out the overflow?? Gills were shallow, and I saw more than a handful of largemouth cruising the banks, right on the edge of where the water was too deep to see bottom. [This always seems to be a "magical" area, whether its 1 foot down or 10 feet - wherever you can no longer see bottom seems to be a zone where fish cruise. Try it in your water!] I caught a few 'gills right off the bat near the overflow. I went to the end of the pond where the deeper water comes up quickly to a mud flat, and caught 4 small walleyes in 5 casts with a Beetle Spin. Cool . Still, I was seeing more fish than I was catching. It was time to quit fooling around. Out came the Cubby Mini-Mite and the weighted bobber. (NOTE - the rod I had along was a 4-1/2' UL spinning rod)

I've extolled the virtues of the Mini-Mite / weighted bobber combo in the past, but it never ceases to amaze me. I fished a brown Mini-mite about 4' under the bobber and, after I found the depth they were holding at, caught fish constantly. I got about a dozen gills, 4 crappie, 4 largemouth - 3 small, 1 about 14" - , a 17" very healthy rainbow trout, and, on my last cast, a channel cat that I weighed at 6 pounds, 2 ounces. The rainbow came from about 6' of water; the cat was 4' down over 15' of water. Everything else was in 4' - 6' of water.

When I fish these little jigs, I use a simple technique: cast out and let the jig settle under the bobber. If there is any wave action, I'll often just let it sit and let the waves impart the action to the jig. Then, reel in about a foot of line fairly quickly - you want the jig to rise toward the surface on the retrieve of the line. then - stop. let the jig "swim" back down. Let it sit for a few seconds - 4 or 5. Repeat. Practice in shallow water where you can watch the action of the jig based on the retrieve you make. I PROMISE you it works.

I got all 6 available species of fish - bluegill, walleye, largemouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, and channel cat - in my pond over lunch today. I'll take that over the usual diner food any day!

(Of course, I left my camera at home. I REALLY need to get another camera and throw it in my car, just for these occasions)


Monday, June 8, 2009

Outdoor Bloggers Summit

Those of you who are followers of this blog AND observant will notice that I 've added the Outdoor Bloggers Summit badge alongside my posts. Actually, many of you are already affiliated with Outdoor Blogger Summit - shame on me for taking so long. The site - - is a wealth of information and links to other great outdoor related blogs, as well as a great resource for all bloggers.

I've never been one to "jump in" first - I always sit back and see what happens to those who are the jumpers. Also, I believe I tried once before to post a link to the site but, because I'm a computer illiterate, it didn't work. (Obviously, both of the preceding comments are lame attempts made to cover up the fact that I should have linked to OBS long ago.)

I look forward to being a part of this group - if you write an outdoor related blog and are not aware of OBS, do yourself a favor and click on the link. You'll be glad you did.