Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

Sunday, June 27, 2010

7 Waterways in 6 Days

Last week Marilyn and I headed out on a six day fish-a-thon.  This was a work trip for me but a vacation from work for Marilyn.  Connecticut was our destination, but we also stopped by Pennsylvania waters on the way.  Plans included a visit with Rich Zaleski (one of my outdoor-writing mentors) of Fishing Facts and In-Fisherman fame.  Plus I was conducting interviews and shooting images for future magazine articles.  When it was all done, we had cast lines in Lakeville Lake, Husatonic River, Lake Lillinonah and Connecticut River in CT, plus Sayers Lake, Delaware River and Tom's Creek in PA.

One way to summarize such a fast-paced trip is simply identify the best experiences.  So here we go...

Best Achievement: Marilyn caught more trout than on any fishing trip before.

Biggest Disappointment: Smallmouth bass fishing in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  With both an evening and morning wading session, we caught exactly one 11" smallie.

Best Lake For Numbers: Lakeville Lake in northwest CT. A small, deep natural lake loaded with fish.  With Rich Zaleski as our guide, we caught respectable largemouth, hefty pickerel, plump perch, big bluegills and even a rainbow trout.

Biggest Fish That Got Away: On the Connecticut River, a northern pike in the 40-inch-range cut a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader while positioning the fish at boat side for a landing photo.

Biggest Surprise: The tidal section of Connecticut River south of Hartford.  An exciting northern pike fishery plus an unexpected crappie population, in addition to beautiful shoreline scenery minus the industrial complexes common to the lower Delaware.  Thanks to pro guide Blaine Anderson for getting us on this amazing river.

Greatest Growth: Connecticut Outfitters in Wethersfield, just south of Hartford.  Under ownership of Gary Brummett for just seven years, this bait and tackle shop features some of the most innovative ideas in the tackle retail business that I've seen since doing store reviews for FTR.  Gary is a man with a plan and this economy has not stopped him.

Hottest Lures: Drop-shotting 4" worms for bass, pickerel and panfish; Hot Pink 9" soft jerkbaits for pike; Road Runner spin-jig tipped with a shiner for crappies.

No fishing trip is complete without my restaurant guide...

Worst Place to Eat: The Family Buffet on Rt. 99 in Connecticut.  Of the dozens of offerings, not a single entree or side dish was worthy of consuming...I went in hungry and left hungry.

Best Place to Eat: Plyler's Buffet at the Brookville exit of I-80 in PA.  Outstanding home-cooked food choices prepared perfectly.  Thinking about Plyler's is making me hungry!  Fortunately, it's only a little over an hour's drive from home, so I don't have to wait for another visit to Connecticut to stop by at this restaurant.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

From Creek To River

The invitations had gone out in April from Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau to four outdoor writers who specialize in kayak fishing to come test the waters of French Creek.  Jeff Little, Chris Gorsuch, Juan Veruete and Walt Young -- all had heard of French Creek, but none had paddled it. 

I was coordinating their visit, acting as host, driver, grip, go-for -- anything to make their trip enjoyable and productive.  Back in early spring I was concerned whether there would be enough water in French Creek come June due to the late winter drought -- and I crossed my fingers for rain in April and May.  Won't do that again.  Rain came, and it kept coming.  Each time the Creek dropped to a decent fishing level, more rain - right up to days before our guests arrived. Their first view of French Creek was a high, muddy and dropping stream flow - three negatives in terms of having quality smallmouth bass catches.  

Our four guests geared up with individual attack plans to find and catch smallmouth on two different six-mile floats over two days.  Although each angler caught some smallmouth, it was tough fishing -- not what we had hoped for.  But that's fishing.  By Saturday evening, the water was clearing somewhat and the level beginning to stabilize in both French Creek as well as the Allegheny River. While Walt and Juan stayed to fish the Allegheny with Dale Black, Jeff and Chris had to make the drive back home late Saturday night.

Normally Dale, who specializes this time of year in fishing soft plastic stick worms called Dingers, would be all over the river bass.  But their day started slow...until Walt started firing his Little Big O crankbait.  With fish after fish coming aboard on his line, it didn't take the others long to switch from plastic to cranks.  By day's end, the trio had landed and release just over 70 smallmouth, with 1/2 dozen between 17 and 19 inches.  Plus they caught several walleye - which stayed for dinner.

Where was I when all the action was happening?  I had started out with them at Franklin, caught a couple smallies on spinnerbaits, then decided I needed a nap.  I ran down to East Sandy, dropped an anchor and promptly fell asleep in my boat for the entire afternoon.  Eventually the trio caught up with me, just in time for a picture with some of the larger bass before the fish were returned to the river.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Over 40 Years In The Making

Last week four Sharon High School huntin' & fishin' buddies got together for an Outdoor Reunion.  Gary Paddock, Terry DeMaria, Bob Davis and yours truly had not been in one place at the same time since graduation day in June of 1968. 

Back in the day, we roamed the open lands and waterways of Mercer County on various hunting, fishing and camping adventures.  Our resulting escapades were the foundations for many of my early writings in regional outdoor magazines.  From close calls with firearms to encounters with possible ghostly spirits at Big Bend, if someone would suggest my stories could not possibly be true, I simply told them "I lived it." 

But for our 2010 reunion, we decided to leave the guns and poltergeists at home, and stick solely with fishing. Concluding that arthritic joints and other aliments among some of us might hamper a kayak float on the Shenango River, Terry suggested we go trout fishing on Neshannock Creek.  Terry guaranteed us there were plenty of left-over stocked trout in the stream as the result of relatively light fishing pressure due to poor weekend weather since opening day.  He was proved correct, as everyone caught rainbows and browns on fathead minnows and red worms - no fancy flies and spinners for us. 

I would like to claim my 15-inch brown was the largest trout of the day, but no one took a picture of it!  Without photographic evidence for all to see, there would likely be challenges from this "where's the proof" group!