Thursday, March 10, 2016

2 Guys, 2 Broken Rods, 2 Ravines - Reflecting on a New Jersey Late-Winter's Day.

I have a growing list of small streams to scout in New Jersey this year, and so I headed out to check some out with Sugi, who is kind of new to Tenkara. I figured the first one would be ideal given that it has just the right gradient and all the makings of a perfect wild trout stream, and that he'd be "reeling them in" in no time...

However, as we all know, things aren't always as good as they appear in this beautiful ravine... at least not every time. It was a cold day but the sun was strong. The ice was just beginning to melt off and the water was both very high, and freezing cold. That was the first sign that things weren't going to go as planned on this day.

After seeing some absolutely perfect water on the walk down, we started fishing some likely pools and plunges. I was in a good mood and with good company. But my mood went just a little bit south after catching nothing, as well as getting no hits, pool after pool. 

Even after staying really low, moving slowly and being sure to watch our rod's shadows, we still had nothing to show for it other than a broken rod section from an odd snag. At this point I was rather disappointed given where things had gone. I decided not to fight it and just enjoy the scenery. I spooled my line and gladly accepted Sugi's call for a lunch break.

I was particularly happy about the idea of having some home made Onigiri (rice balls) that Sugi had generously brought along to share. The Nori he had for wrapping them was extremely good, although harder to work with than the stuff I have bought on occasion. It didn't matter if it tore a bit, the taste was excellent.

To my absolute delight, he also pulled out some home made Tamago (slices of slightly-sweet cooked egg mixture) as well as some Japanese sausage. Suddenly the lack of trout seemed less stupid and I began to formulate a plan for the rest of the day.

I decided the best move would be to change locations and find a stream that didn't flow out of a pond that was melting out at the moment. I figured just a few more degrees and a tiny bit less flow would put us on the fish. I decided we'd hit the next closest spot from my list, which is a well known area that was severely damaged from an epic and historic stalled-storm not too many years ago.

This ravine is a beautiful place, and had some spots to park and grill along a small dirt road that wound part of the way along the stream. Speaking of which, this stream is very small. It runs fast and roars down the hill quickly, often seemingly forced between impossibly-narrow walls of rock that can barely contain its energy.

I found a small wild brook trout in this pool almost right away, and I watched as he wagged his head in the crystal clear water, being pulled to the surface by my small stream rod. However, he had the upper hand and threw my barbless hook as I allowed some slack in the line by mistake.

Exploring farther up it was clear that the storm had scoured the banks of this ravine and washed out so many of the places that create safe havens for wild trout. It appears that work has already begun to repair some of the damage, and I have read that a large scale project has been approved and may or may not have already begun at this point. 

Additionally, travel along the stream is almost impossible, as witnessed when a rod cracked during a hard fall. At least bones remained in tact! That made 2 broken rod sections in one day. Ouch. Talk about bad luck. A copperhead snake slithered ahead of me and I remarked to myself "what the &@$%!" but nobody was there to hear it. The snake sure didn't care. Nature is pretty cool.

The fishing is so difficult and the damage so obvious on this stream that I probably will not return here for at least a decade, if at all. The stream needs no additional pressure from me. But even so, the new plantings and smaller bushes that have taken hold, after the proud evergreens that used to protect and shade these plunge-pools were ripped clean from the earth by the storm, made it almost impossible to get more than 1-2 seconds of either guided or dead drift, if any drift at all.

I stowed the rod and walked the stream in awe of its raw power and beauty, which was almost in complete contrast to its size and location. But that's what makes these places magical. We must do our best to protect them and help them recover when either human impact OR natural disaster may be at fault. Possibly, with a little bit of care, investment of time and funds, as well as some luck, this very spot could once again bring joy and fishing success to a younger generation... It reminds me that the things we do in this life affect the lives of those who come after us. Always a good thing to keep in mind.


  1. That pool under the little fall there looks very fish-able.

    1. Yeah there were fishable spots all day, and sadly all that were absent were the fish :)

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