Monday, May 26, 2014

Bluefish and Fishing Dogs

The bluefish are back in northern waters.

Bluefish have voracious appetites and travel in schools or packs, where the fish are about the same size.  The bluefish that are reachable in spring for anglers casting from the beach are typically “cocktail blues,” about one to three pounds.  Occasionally, a spring surfcaster will take a larger fish, 15 plus pounds, which are nicknamed “gorillas.”

On Memorial Day, I was on an eastern Long Island beach, at day break.  There was no wind - - and no bugs!  A few other people were fishing but everyone was intent and giving each other enough room.

When you fish in waters with bluefish, the first rule is to always have a steel leader.  If you forget this rule, the bluefish will remind you and break off a lure with their teeth that are as sharp as Hoffritz or Sabatier cutlery.

The cost of forgetting this Memorial Day was a small Kastmaster lure, a silver spoon with a treble hook.  I was happy to hook a fish and then aggravated when it broke itself off.

Next to me, a gentleman reeled in three cocktail blues.  His friend down the beach also caught a few fish. 

One of the three cocktail blues ~ Cheers!

One of the main reasons I was on the beach was that I read an article in The East Hampton Star by Russell Drumm.  The article started with snapping turtles and ended with people catching stripers and blues.  When I am on the eastern end of Long Island, from the Shinnecock Canal, east to Montauk, whenever I read Russell Drumm before fishing, I always have something exciting happen. 

Before closing, I wish to digress to dogs in the field.  Two weeks ago, I met Ray Coppinger, a serious canine scientist who just wrote fishing dogs, a book filled with high concept humor about fishing dogs.  In person, Ray is one of the great raconteurs and conversationalists of the age.

When I was on the beach, one of the anglers had a dog.  Most of the time, the dog sat and watched.  But when someone landed a fish, the dog started running around, barking and getting ready to get tangled up in the fish, line and hooks.  After witnessing this behavior, I realized Ray has done readers and anglers a great service.  He has created a world where none of the dogs make a racket or a nuisance of themselves.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Trillium and Violets

From coast to coast, spring wildflowers are gracing yards and wild places.

My most spectacular wildflower sighting of this season was last week, along the New York State Thruway.  From Rochester, to east of Utica, on the south side of the highway, are large patches of drooping trillium - - with white and pink petals.

It was a delight to see so many rare wildflowers on public display, but my favorite spring wildflowers are violets.  When we were growing up in southern Indiana, my mother used to take my sister and me for rides on the back roads to look at the violets.  We would get out of the car and roam the roadside.  One of the best places for violets was next to a limestone wall surrounding an old cemetery.

Years later, after returning to New York, we moved to a rural home.  My wife Dorothy and daughter Lily enjoyed picking and arranging spring wildflower bouquets.  Then as now, the variety of violets they chose from was considerable.  For a few weeks, round-leaved yellow violets grow along two forest paths. 

Although this species has stopped blooming, we have plenty of common violets.  They come in all colors: many different shades of violet, white flowers and white flowers streaked with violet. 

Mountain violet from California
Photograph courtesy of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Betty (Potts) Randall
According to Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, “there are 24 species of violets native to California.”  While we New Yorkers would love to see our West Coast neighbors for a spring visit, they need not fly cross country just for a spring wildflower fix.

In addition to being varied and beautiful, violets are hardy.  After the flowers fall off, I have dug up the plants and spread mulch.  By the following spring, the mulch is depleted and tired looking but the violets are back, bright in all their many colors.