Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wader Advice

John's old waders: before the leaks got intolerable.
Photograph courtesy of Pete Howard
While trying to be brief, I left out some information that would help readers who do not have waders.  The explanations are footnoted in red, below.

In a recent post, I described the joy of buying new boot foot waders (1) from The Beaverkill Angler in Roscoe, New York.  Part of the description was an observation that these waders were more expensive than a pair purchased 25 years ago.

After spending time in these Orvis Encounter waders on recent fishing trips, I know more about my purchase.  And I now realize the waders cost more for reasons beyond price changes over the decades.

These new waders are breathable (2).  When fishing larger streams in humid summer weather, this will make fishing less of a steam bath. 

They have a capacious front pocket, large enough to hold several items.  The pocket has openings on both sides, like the openings on a hoodie sweat shirt.  On a recent trip in cooler weather, having a place to tuck the hands and get them warm was very welcome.

Despite learning more about these features, most of my other comments and advice about purchasing waders remains the same.  They are worth repeating, in case you are buying or asking someone to buy waders for a holiday gift. 

To avoid waders filling and sinking the angler, make sure the pair has belt loops, and, if possible, a belt (3).  The Encounter waders have belt loops and a belt.  Based on a quick survey of prices online, a wader belt can cost between $9.00 and $24.00.  Keep that cost in mind when weighing the comparative prices of waders.

If possible, shop for waders at a store with a big selection.  There’s a lot variation in fit even among waders labeled the same size. 

Think about where you will be doing most of your fishing.  For example, my friend Pete fishes for steelhead in the winter.  He is considering insulated waders, rather than waders where the angler provides insulation with extra clothing.

If you do not buy insulated waders, consider buying a pair that are a bit larger.  This provides room for an extra sweater, wool shirt or parka in colder weather.  In fact, if you have cold weather gear, take it along while shopping and see how the waders feel when you are wearing it.

And finally: read the directions.  In my haste to wade leak free, I did not closely read the information in the labels.  I missed that the waders were breathable and that there are special care instructions for breathable material.

Waders are a means to the end of enjoying fishing.  Even in December, there’s plenty of places to enjoy trout fishing.  Many states have streams where fishing is permitted year ‘round.  If there’s a warm, or less cold, day and if holiday preparations are under control, time astream might be just the thing for it!

(1) A "boot foot wader" includes both the wader and the boots.  "Stocking foot waders" include the wader and no boots.  An angler buys wading shoes in addition to the waders.  This allows the angler to choose a sole that provides the most stability depending on where he or she will wade. 
(2) A witty friend asked "So, the new waders breathe underwater - sort of like fish, eh?"  I think the breathable material is something like Gore-Tex.  I should go back and read the instructions to see what the material is.
(3) A wader belt is located about halfway between one's shoulders and waist.  It is a belt but is in a different position than a belt on a pair of pants.  If a person has a wader belt and falls, they will get some water in the top of the waders, but the waders are not likely to fill from the feet up to the top and drown a person. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bicoastal Oaks

The 2018 fall foliage season was a bust.
Many friends on each coast - - and points in between - - said colors were muted or the leaves just turned brown and dropped.
Even at the height of fall foliage season in October, this view in Washington County, New York was underwhelming.

Oak trees, however, saved this disappointing fall foliage season. 
Before this year, I thought that, if fall foliage was a television series, that the moment the oaks appeared it would be a great time to get food and drink in the kitchen.  So many oak leaves are brown and leathery.
Without the brighter leaves of other species, there are less distractions from the great qualities of oaks. 
Before going much further, one of the foremost qualities of oaks, according to my friend John Graham, a Forester for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Cortland, NY, is the number of different, sometimes almost wacky varieties.  “There are,” John explained, “over 600 species of oak worldwide and over 90 in the United States.”  In New York, red and white oaks are common.  The South is home to the majestic live oak.  The West coast is home to the: California black oak; coast live oak; valley oak; and canyon oak. 
A few weeks ago, Dorothy and I were driving to meet our friends Jack and Nancy.  Along the way, in the fading daylight, we saw red oak leaves spiraling to the ground.  Oak leaves tend to be long and narrow.  Their bottom edge is swept back like a fighter plane wing.  In calm air, an oak leaf spirals down rather than waft or parachute down, as does a maple leaf. 
Painting by J. Rowen
Even though so many oak trees go almost the entire winter with tough drab leaves, some oaks at this time of year have unexpectedly bright colors.  The brightness intensifies when the tree is in direct morning sunlight, as was the case in this photo of an oak after a recent sunrise.

Once oak leaves - - or any other leaves - - hit the ground, the first concern for most people is managing them.  Low-cut grassy yards are a tradition - - and a requirement for those who live in tick or snake country.  Leaves must be removed or mulched, or they will smother the grass.
As the photograph below, from my friend Ken Relation, shows, dealing with leaves can be a long task.  Of raking, my friend Steve Jaffe says “It doesn't matter where the leaves get placed. It seems we are at the intersection of the four winds. They just keep coming from all directions.”

Photograph by Kenneth Relation
During the fall, there’s a lot of pressure to get all the work done before the snow flies or the temperatures drop.  But if you have a minute to look at the leaves on the ground, you will see a great variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

The round lobes on these oak leaves are a good clue that they came from a white oak.
While researching this post, I spoke to my friend Jennifer Tiara, a landscape architect at the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS).  When she heard about Ken’s and Steve’s situation, she said, “I feel like your friends as I have 3 large oak trees in the backyard and have leaves and acorns dropping all over the place.” “But the colors are changing,” she continued, “and to see the bright yellows and reds and purples from the Chinese pistache, maples, purple leaf plum and oaks - - it’s a great time of year in northern California.”

John explained that trees have smaller leaves at the top and larger at the bottom.  “Leaves that are lower in the tree,” he said, “are larger to maximize the area to catch sunlight and sustain the tree.” 
"Some people think the smaller size makes it easier for the leaf to avoid overheating,” he said, “Others think the smaller size allows sunlight to pass through to the lower leaves."

Some Westerners have less of a leaf problem than others.  Jennifer said the coast live oak and canyon oak keep their leaves year-round.
The canyon oak keeps its leaves year 'round.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Wind and Waves: A Long Island Nor'easter!

Although a Nor‘easter is a storm not as well-known as its cousins the hurricane, typhoon and tornado, it can still pack a wallop. 

In fact, according to Montauk’s Greg Donohue, who wears the hat of Director of Erosion Control to protect the Montauk Lighthouse, that 1991 storm immortalized in Sebastian Junger’s book, The Perfect Storm and the movie of the same name was a Nor‘easter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) website defines a Nor’easter as “a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast.”  “These storms,” the website continues, “may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April.”

The NWS website goes on to explain that

Nor’easters usually develop in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey, within 100 miles east or west of the East Coast. These storms progress generally northeastward and typically attain maximum intensity near New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. They nearly always bring precipitation in the form of heavy rain or snow, as well as winds of gale force, rough seas, and, occasionally, coastal flooding to the affected regions.

A recent family visit to Long Island put me in the path of a particularly strong Nor’easter on Saturday October 27, 2018.

The Calm Before the Storm

Thanks to modern weather forecasting techniques, meteorologists can see a storm coming well in advance.  On Friday, October 26th, while all the television stations were working themselves into a lather about the storm, the weather and water on Long Island was calm.

In the Springs neighborhood on the South Fork, the main sign of the impending storm was that a contractor for a Town government was working overtime to complete work to place protective large boulders along a vulnerable causeway.

The following photograph shows a place where large equipment has been placing stone to protect the second of two causeways on Gerard Drive.  But notice that the water in the photo is flat and deceptively calm.

Hitting the Fan
On television in the days before a storm, it seems the news and weather people draw morbid energy from the impending disaster.  But in the case of this Nor’easter, their concern was warranted.
Saturday morning arrived with a roaring at my mother’s house.  The sound came from wind in the trees and high waves in the bay five minutes from her house. 

Out in the open, the rain was heavy, and the wind was the strongest I can recall.
On a reconnaissance trip to check the progress of the storm, large waves were breaking on the protective rocks along the first causeway on Gerard Drive.
But on the second causeway, the score was “Gardiners Bay 2, causeway 1”.  The causeway was still there but it was covered by big waves and the Town Highway Department was soon out with cones and a truck to close the road.  Having the Highway Department watching the roads and protecting motorists was most appreciated.
During past Long Island Nor’easters, and hurricanes, many places lost power because trees knocked down power lines.  Since Hurricane Sandy, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and PSEG Long Island have been better about cutting limbs and trees that could fall on power lines and cut service.  During this Nor’easter, the lights in my mother’s neighborhood flickered twice, but stayed on for the entire storm.  Thanks, LIPA and PSEG!
The Day After
On Sunday, the weather was sunny with a slight breeze.  As the photos below show, the raging waves of Saturday had changed to calmer rolling ones.
The Town had closed Gerard Drive.  But in my mother’s neighborhood the main evidence of the storm included big puddles and downed tree limbs and leaf clusters.
During a walk on the beach, I looked out and saw something sticking from the water that initially looked like the dorsal fin of a large shark. 
The large something was moving slowly along the beach.  When a wave came along, it moved tantalizingly closer to the beach - - but then bobbed back out.
Since it was low tide, I decided to wade in and get the object.  While the beach in this place shelves off gradually, the object was, of course, in deeper water than I thought.  I pulled it in and discovered it was a kayak.
The kayak looked like a shark fin because its stern was full of sand and rocks.  Pulling the kayak to shore was an arduous process, reminding me of that saying, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You’ll get dirty and the pig likes it.”
I got the kayak onto the beach and away from the water’s edge.  Perhaps the owner will spot it there, or someone else who likes boating will adopt it.
Also, while walking the beach, I saw some colored things bouncing in the water, in a way that was reminiscent of bouncing lottery balls during the nightly drawing.  
I went into the water; the “colored things” turned out to be 10 golf balls. 
The Town reopened Gerard Drive and life has gone back to normal in my mother’s neighborhood.  Elsewhere on Long Island, people were not as lucky.  A road segment collapsed in Orient Beach State Park and there was big flooding in Freeport on the South Shore.
I used to think a Nor’easter was just a storm.  But after this experience, I will never again think, “Oh, it’s just a Nor’easter.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The 100th Post

Sunflowers at the garden: August, 2018

This is the 100th post in this blog about the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes coasts.

The number “100” should inspire eloquence and insight.

Instead, it caused writer’s block.

Then on a trip to the Catskills, I realized that food, culture and fishing are happening along the shores of our oceans and Great Lakes - - regardless of whether or not I was writing.

So, I started writing and here is the latest. 


This post was partly delayed by the preparation for my retirement from the New York State Department of Transportation in late January, 2018, after nearly 40 years of service. 

My career in State government had ups and downs.  But since 2003, I worked in the Office of Transportation Maintenance and that was one of the best jobs anyone could have.  In working with environmental stewardship, vegetation management and rest areas, I had the honor of working with some of the best professionals in the nation in these fields. 

Many assignments led to friendships and we have stayed in contact ever since.  Thanks to all for the great success, learning and fun of work the last few years! 

After retiring, I spent much time, trying to reduce the clutter at home.  Here’s my desk after hours of hacking away at the clutter and papers.

 Since I took this photo, it’s a mess again.  But I will keep trying for neatness.


My wife Dorothy and I started trout season at the Capital District Fly Fisher’s excellent casting clinic.  Friends at the Pasadena Casting Club also provided lots of help.  But then, leaky waders and severe allergies kept me off the water.

The fishless streak ended in June, when my friend Joe took me, Mark, Carl and Mike on a Lake George fishing trip.  We caught bass, rock bass and pan fish steadily throughout the day.  Near a Lake George island, there were so many small bass rising to eat surface insects that it looked as if it was raining. 

For my retirement, co-workers got me a gift certificate from the Beaverkill Angler in Roscoe, New York - - in the heart of Catskill trout fishing. 

When Pete and I fished the Battenkill in April, a wader leg filledwith cold water.  After two patching attempts, I decided to use the gift certificate to buy waders.

Carl discovered the Beaverkill Angler, said it was a neat place and he was right!  At the store, Evan and Oleh used their selection of rental waders to help me find the right fit.  The final choice were Orvis Encounter boot foot waders, with felt bottoms.  These were more expensive than the last pair of boot foot waders bought 25 years ago but they have safe, useful features such as a built-in belt to keep the waders from flooding and front pockets to keep the hands warm. 

As with clothes, stated and actual sizes can be different.  Having help and service was important to make sure these waders will be comfortable and functional during long days on the water. 

The Monday that I bought the waders was hot and muggy.  But fished my favorite Catskill stream, the Willowemoc, anyway.  On the Willowemoc, I caught my first Catskill trout and my largest trout ever - - a 17-inch brown trout that took a large Hare’s Ear nymph one St. Patrick’s Day afternoon.

At 3 PM, the stream was amazingly cool, cooler than similar-sized streams were in June.   

And . . . fish were rising all over!  Oleh said Blue-winged Olive flies were hatching.  I fished a tiny Blue-winged Olive emerger that my friend Dennis tied. 

Five minutes later, a trout took the fly.  After releasing this small (six to nine inches) but feisty fish, another larger fish (10 to 12 inches) hit.  By this time, Dennis’ fly looked bedraggled, but I kept casting it.

First fish caught and released
Second fish caught and released

An hour later, a big fish hit.  The rod bent, the reel buzzed as the fish took line and the fish zig-zagged across the pool.  Mark, an angler nearby, offered to net the fish and called out that it was big, 17 inches long.  But before Mark got to it,  the fish broke off, taking the fly with it.

This surprising good luck is a reminder that it’s always a great idea to fish - - even when the conditions may not seem to be right. 

The Garden

The score at the garden is: weeds 6, John 4.  After no weeding during two trips, weeds were as tall as the tomato plants.  Weeds and animals finished the eggplant, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, many carrots, chard and all but five cornstalks.


But tomato plants were so productive that 80 plum tomatoes became sauce.  As this photo from Lotfi and Halimah shows, there is a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes.  Three peppers were harvested, the sunflowers went wild and some fennel may reach edible size.

copyright Lotfi 2018

The tomatoes may have been productive because I put down GARD’N Paper, a thick brown paper weed barrier, before planting the tomatoes.  The barrier has a useful life of four to six weeks, which enabled the tomatoes to grow above the weeds.

Family and Friends

The help of family and friends has been the reason for any success of this blog.  Dorothy and daughter Lily enjoy exploring and many blog posts were inspired by trips they suggested.

Friends have offered many blog ideas and photographs.  Thank you, Dennis, Erika, Lotfi, Seth and Steve for your generosity in sharing photographs!  Thanks, too, to Bill and Tammy for sharing news about Great Lakes happenings.

Many authors and experts helped make posts accurate.  Airline staff explained why things happen a certain way when traveling.  Researchers and government workers provided information to enlarge our enjoyment of everything from lightning bugs to the sweet corn which is now arriving in markets and at farm stands.