Archive for October, 2009

Good Gear – The Seiko Monster

Posted in Gear, Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 31, 2009 by stflyfisher

I’ll admit I’m a watchie.  I get the watchie genome from my Dad, and only discovered this mechanized-kronos addiction in the middle-aging of my life.  Dear old Dad, you see, kept showing up in retirement visits, wrist-clad with different timepieces – chronometers, hoitey-toitey dress watches, dive watches, sport watches – and they appealed to me…

One day I found this thing called ebay, and I might have well been a drunk living next door to a tavern, because over a few years I built a timepiece collection (true watchies would never call it a watch collection) of some 11 watches – err, timepieces.  It started with a basic Seiko design – the Seiko 5 (also recommended as a great, inexpensive, all-round beater watch) – and soon carried over to others in the Seiko brand, most notably the vaunted “monster” – a dive version of the Seiko 5 on steroids…

thepurists.com_seiko

Seiko monster steel - WEC Extreme Cage-fighting certified (pic courtesy of thepruists.com)

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this diver watch.  I don’t scuba and I don’t snorkel, so why would I purchase such a mass of ticking steel? I tried to ignore it, but the watch grew on me.  I took a liking to its bullet-proof looks.  Could it be, I wondered, the “uber” fly fishing watch, if there were ever such a thing?  Eventually, I broke down and bought the orange monster, and after giving it a thorough field test for the past year, I contend this is a great fly fishing watch. Follow with me to find out why…

All monsters  feature, first and foremost, a screw-down crown for deep dive water-resistance – in this case good for 200 meters.  While it’s doubtful you’ll ever truly need 200 meters of water resistance while fishing (you could wear it scuba diving at the bottom of Seneca Lake – the deepest of the Finger Lakes at 600+ feet – looking for that Orvis Helios you dropped overboard), it is a nice feature that assures a huge margin of safety for any type of immersion that might be encountered – streamside or surfside.

skx781_feature

Here fishie, fishie, fishie...

In addition to water-tightness, the heart of the monster beats to the tune of the legendary Seiko automatic 7S26 movement.  For the watchie newbies out there, an automatic movement never needs winding as long as the watch is worn.  Movement of the wrist causes the cams in the watch to move and in effect, wind the watch.  The 7S26 boasts a power reserve of over 42 hours, meaning the watch can continue to function without motion for just shy of 2 days. Some automatic movements offer features referred to as hand-winding, meaning the watch can also be mechanically wound (i.e., you can wind it by hand every day, never wind it, and the watch still ticks away).  Some also off a “hacking’ feature, meaning that pulling the crown outward stops the movement for time synchronization.  The monster offers neither of these, but then again, these features come at a serious price adder.

Deep in the monster’s steel-encased chest cavity, the 7S26 ticks away at a relatively slow 21,600 bph (beats per hour), a pulse that won’t get you the precision of the Omega on the hoitey-toitey Orvis and Hardy flyguy upstream of you, but one that is surprisingly accurate for its price; from +8 – +12 seconds a week to under +5 seconds a week after break-in, according to some reports I’ve read.  Some inaccuracy is very desirable for a fly fishing watch when you think about it, i.e., “gee honey, I couldn’t have been late for the opera – my watch said it was 9 pm, the time we agreed I’d leave the river”).

Where you really want this watch to shine is in its ability to withstand abuse, and it’s in this department that the monster really roars.  The 7S26 automatic uses Seiko’s patented Diashock shock protection which is based on the ingenious use of a soft plastic spacer ring in the movement and a relatively low mass rotor.  In combination with a massive steel case, this provides a great deal of additional shock resistance to the watch.  Bang it up while wading the boulder-studded pocket water of the West Branch of New York’s Ausable River, and you’re assured you won’t be late for happy hour at the local tavern.

the 7S26 movement - get your moter running...

The big heart of the monster - the automatic 7S26 movement - get your motor running...

The orange monster face is fishing-cool, and not coincidentally has been tested to show best under water (monsters also exist in black, blue, yellow, and most recently, red).  The monster’s watch case is 41.5 mm across and 12.5 mm thick, adding to its big, visible, and rugged looks.  The three hands and hour markers are filled with Lumibrite…

Lumibrite at work in low light conditions...

Lumibrite at work in lower light conditions (courtesy of John B. Holbrook II)...

What you'd see while fishing for those big nocturnal browns...

What you'd see while fishing for those big nocturnal browns...

Other monster features that make it a must-have in your fly fishing arsenal are a Hardlex (mineral) crystal, quickset day and date display, and a uni-directional bezel with minute marks.  My orange monster is equipped with the black ribbed Seiko dive watch band.  Besides its comfort and great looks, I found this band offers less opportunity to scratch that nice fly rod you might be cradling in your arm.

Orange monster with optional black rubber dive band...

But I’d suggest buying the monster with the standard solid-link brushed stainless steel bracelet that is both incredibly sturdy and heavy enough to balance the hefty watch it holds.  It is a very secure bracelet, featuring a two-button folding case with safety and a wet-suit extension clasp for those who fish and dive.

MonsterOpenDiversExtension

Monster bracelet with security clasp and wet suit diver extension - courtesy of pmwf.com

After taking delivery of your new fly fishing companion, hop on over to one of the many watch stores on the internet and purchase the soft rubber Seiko dive strap.  Change out the watch bands for fishing use, knowing you have a beautiful stainless steel bracelet for formal occasions.

The price of this watch is very affordable at $100 – $150 online.  You’ll find a lot of these watches on ebay auction.  There are other automatic divers out there with similar features, but there’s nothing like having a monster by your side…

Tight lines…

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A Look Back – A Look Ahead…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports on October 28, 2009 by stflyfisher

I spent Saturday at Nazareth College in Rochester, visiting the collegiate dadre, soaking up the mild weather and the last of the fall colors.  I was back home Saturday night, and after going into work on Sunday and then doing some “leaf-plowing” at the expansive STFF homestead, I decided the time had come to see if the bass were in the mood to eat.  Pondward I headed…

PA250063

A nice westerly breeze made for a good drift along the far shallow shore...

The pond water was on the cool side for bass at 52 degrees, so I shed the popper and tied on a rust-colored, unweighted wooley bugger, and paddled out to the shallow end of the pond and let a westerly breeze push me  parallel to the shore like a slow rolling trolling motor.  Casting the bugger to the sunny shallows, I let it drift along, barely stripping it.  It wasn’t long before I picked up some bass – little and feisty and fat.  I continued the drifting cycle and as the sun started to set, the bass got a little more aggressive.  I caught a half dozen 12 inchers – and lost one big guy that fought like a drunken sailor at first and then woke up and zipped up and down the shoreline before the hook pulled.  Considering the pond temperature, the bass were indeed, still in the mood…

PA250064

Pond-side maple - late to shed its gold...

The first two days of the week have been on the warm side – tugging at the hearts of the STFF staff as they toil away in corporate ivory towers.  Last night the rains started.  The rest of the week looks very wet and cooler – spelling “possibilities” if you’ve got your eyes on the Finger Lake tribs…

curwx_600x405

Ugggleeee...

Fall Creek has more water in it as a result of some rain last week…

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Fall Creek is finally filling up...

We’ll cross our fingers that we get enough rain and some cold to send a strong signal to the landlocks and browns – “come on up”…

Tight lines…

 

Choconut Creek

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on October 23, 2009 by stflyfisher

Pioneer Joseph Addison established a farm on the banks of Choconut Creek in 1811.  Back then it is said that Mr. Addison could shoot deer from the porch of his farmhouse to provide meat for his family and the trout were so plentiful in the creek that he could wade in and catch them with his bare hands.

Joseph Addison House, as it appears now, close to 200 years old...

Joseph Addison's farmhouse, as it appears now, close to 200 years old (pic courtesy of 1811 Addison House B&B)

Historic Addison House stands proud with years, now a restored bed and breakfast inn, and Choconut Creek still flows the same 40 circuitous miles through hemlock-wooded gorges, valleys thick with hardwoods and across farmland that has been tilled for nearly two centuries.  The creek passes by modern-day Vestal, once the site of Iroquoian longhouses, on its destination to the Susquehanna River.

The Addison House and farm (http://www.1811addison.com/index.htm)

The Addison House and farm (http://www.1811addison.com/index.htm)

The unusual name of the creek is of Native American Indian origin; “Choconut” is a corruption of the Nanticoke word “tschochnot” meaning “place of tamaracks”.  A second interpretation is derived from the word “chugnut” which was the name of a small Indian tribe living under the protection of the Iroquois. The “chugnut” established villages on opposite sides of the Susquehanna River at the mouths of Choconut Creek and its northern sister-stream, Nanticoke Creek.  The Continental Army made it their mission to destroy these settlements since the Iroquios supported the British during the Revolutionary War, and this paved the way for the first European settlers, who came by way of New York and Connecticut in 1806 and built homes along the Choconut.  One among those new arrivals described this area of Pennsylvania as follows:

“The country is, as respects the surface, what is generally called a ridgy or rolling surface – very few of the hills too steep for cultivation, and their summits equally fertile with any other part. In the hollows or valleys there are delightful clear streams, a proportion of  which are large enough for any kind of water-works, and they abound with trout and other kinds of fish. I think it is the best watered country in my knowledge.”

In some ways, the area surrounding Choconut Creek has not changed much since the pioneer days.  There are still plenty of deer, bear, turkey, and even a few bobcat roaming the rural hills and valleys.  Coyote have taken the place of wolves, one of which treed a neighbor of Joseph Addison.  But it’s the creek that’s of interest here, and my research shows it may not be quite what it was when old Joe Addison waded its spring-fed waters.

The stream is classified as a warm water fishery by the Soil and Water Commission, but the commission also reported in 2001 that native populations of Brook and Brown trout can be seen in the Choconut Creek and many of its tributaries.  Indeed, some earlier posts in this blog prove that brookies are resident in at least one of the creek’s tributaries.

NoName Brook - Choconut Creek trib...

NoName Brook - a Choconut Creek tributary.

Flyfishers are aware that mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies are indicators of good water quality. At several creekside stops on a recent fall outing, caddis could be seen in abundance along with a few mayflies.  Their presence on the Choconut is encouraging…

A nice run by a roadside bridge...

A nice rocky run by a roadside bridge...

Also encouraging was stream structure – from pools with some depth…

The head of a deeper pool on the Choconut...

The head of a deeper pool on the Choconut...

to well-shaded runs…

Shade that brookies like...

The kind of shade that brookies like...

and long pools with nice flows.

Upper Choconut pool - not far from old Joe's place...

Upper Choconut Creek pool - not far from Addisn House...

But noticeably missing in all the places I checked were trout.  As much as I looked, with polarized sunglasses I might add, I could not find a one.  Could old Joe’s accounts of brook trout heaven in his backyard be accurate?  The landscape has not changed much from the days of old, or has it?

After much thought and more research on the matter, I contend that Joseph Addison was, in fact, not sipping whiskey when he made his claims of a creek stacked with brook trout.  When he first settled his piece of heaven, every inch of the hills and valleys were dense with hardwood and fir.  The hemlock shaded the ground, preserving the snow pack deep into late spring, and kept groundwater and the flows of the brooks and creeks cool during the heat of the summer.

The history of the Catskills is testament to the deforestation that changed that region from a haven for brook trout, to a fishery for brown and rainbow trout – “invasive” species if I dare say so.  In this historic mountain forestland, hemlocks 4 feet in diameter were once commonplace in what can best be described as an ancient climax forest, deep in duff with topsoil intact, covering the mountains like a huge sponge that retained cool water and absorbed the shock of heavy rains.  The white pines were claimed first for ship’s masts in the early colonial days and then the great hemlocks were felled and bark-stripped to feed the leather-tanning industry.  By the 1880’s, the effect was a bare mountainous landscape covered only in scrap, slashing, and broken trees.

As the Catskills went, so, most likely, did the Choconut Valley.  Just north of the place were leather tanning factories that fed a burgeoning shoe industry in Endicott, NY.  And beyond that, the farms blossomed to feed a growing America.

Choconut Creek flowing through pasture...

Choconut Creek flowing through pasture...

While the upper stretches of Choconut Creek may hold a few brookies or browns – and even a few small creek trophies that have the place all to themselves – the creek is indeed a shadow of the fishery it once was in the days of “old Joe”.  The best measure of what it could be can be found just up the road in Jones Park.  There, as previously posted, the hemlocks and hardwoods have been left alone to do their job.  The result, in mere puddles in the fall, is clear to anyone who wants to look.  At least there, Joseph Addison’s claim lives on…

Tight lines…

Weekend Wrap – Further into Fall

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 19, 2009 by stflyfisher

The Southern Tier of New York is officially on the downhill slide for the better known bright colors of autumn as the sugar and red maples begin shedding over the next few weeks.  There’s still more to the show, however.  The silver maples down by the rivers and the hillside aspens are turning golden, and the oaks will soon begin changing over to their rustoleum reds and browns.

As daytime highs and lows continue to drop and the rains (and snows) increase in frequency, the Finger Lakes tributary fishing should heat up.  I considered fishing Fall Creek this weekend, but with water levels stable, couldn’t justify the 45 minute trip for a so-so shot at early arriving landlocks or browns.

Fall Creek - steady eddie, not good for fishing...

Fall Creek - steady eddie, not good for fishing...

Sunday was supposed to be a repeat of Saturday weather-wise – cold, rainy, and snowy.  Instead, the day turned out to be borderline Indian summer – with late afternoon temps in the mid to high 50’s and lots of sun.  After church and some family stuff it was too late in the afternoon for a shot at Cayuta Creek, so I ended up doing a little more exploration for brook trout.  I headed south on Rt. 267, crossing into Pennsylvania, and checked out a few upstream sections of Choconut Creek.  I plan on doing a post in the near future on this local little creek with big potential.

Choconut Creek

Choconut Creek

On the drive back home I couldn’t resist paying a visit to Noname Brook in Jones Park.  The brookies were there and I’m happy to report the brook was a tad more rambunctious from our recent rain.  Caddis were quite abundant, as were some size 18 – 20 mayflies dancing in the sunny areas of the woods.  I hiked the “yellow” trail back to the parking area and took my time to bask in the late afternoon sun.  With the exception of the always-clothed hemlocks and white pines, the trees in the gorge are mostly bare now.  The crunch of autumn leaves beneath my feet reminded me that it won’t be long before the white stuff blankets the woods for its deep winter sleep…

Tight lines…

The End of Fall?

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing on October 16, 2009 by stflyfisher

The trouble started last night.  Snow – the way too early Indian summer party crasher of weather events – began falling.  The result was a winter wonderland outside the STFF mansion this morning…

While the weather outside is frightening...

Oh the weather outside is frightening...

The cold temps of late, and the rain and snow have, in my opinion, put the KIBASH on bass fishing, at least for us feather fishers.  Alas, in every cloud there’s a silver lining: the thought of fishing Fall Creek below the falls has been working on me.

The weather picture for the weekend is looking like overcast, cold, rain, and snow…

Wet and cold weekend ahead...

Wet and cold weekend ahead...

This could start an early run of landlocked salmon and browns from Cayuga Lake.  The number of fish in the creek in the fall is small, but nice fish are a possibility.  We’ll see what happens…

Tight lines…

Jones Park and Noname Brook

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2009 by stflyfisher

Tucked away in the southern part of Vestal is Jones Park, 330 acres of hardwood and fir forest bought in 1968, and one of the smartest investments a town government has ever made.  The park has a host of well marked trails for hikers, naturalists, and mountain bikers, but what brings me to this wooded paradise every fall is the little brook that rambles through its hilly terrain.

The brook is one of those no-name trickles, a faint line of blue on a topo map that twists and turns through the park and terminates with Choconut Creek, a tributary to the Susquehanna River.  This brook acts like a big burly creek early in the spring, laden with snow-melt.  By late summer, however, it is low and gin clear but still running cold as it slips through deep gorges ringed with fern, moss, and hemlock.

A lifeline of cold spring water...

A lifeline of cold spring water...

For the non-observant, Noname Brook appears lifeless, even dead in some places.  Indeed, as I hiked into the park this past weekend I have to admit I was a little concerned about its condition, especially given the wet summer we’ve had.

Dry creek-bed, but then an oasis of water...

Dry creek-bed, but then an oasis of water...

On my last visit the brook was a skinny but continuous trickle – now it could only be described as a series of disconnected pools.

Signs of hope - the dimple of a fish?

Signs of hope - the dimple of a fish?

But in these cold pools, trickles, and runs, life takes its stand.  Hiking heavy-footed, I first noticed the dimples of small fish darting for cover.  Stalking up to each pool more carefully, I soon discovered that each of these tiny water worlds were teeming with life…

Stairstep Pools

Stairstep Pools

Hemlocks stand guard...

Hemlocks stand guard.

As I continued my hike upstream, I found deep gorges where time and water have done their work: this little brook has much to be proud of….

Bedrock Gorge...

Bedrock Gorge...

According to Nick Karas, author of “Brook Trout” (a great read, by the way, for brookie fanatics), “temperature is the single most important factor in determining distribution of brook trout over their range”.  When I checked the temp of these shallow pools, I was impressed with the cold…

Home

Home

Standing atop a bank above a gorge, I could survey a nice pool without casting shadows.  In the gin-clear water, I found them – slim athletic forms that held in the current – a good dozen or so…

Brookies

Look carefully, as I did, and you'll see little brook trout

These 2 – 3″ trout were not the big shots of the brook, either.  I scouted enough pools to find a few brook trout in the 4″ – 8″ range.  The better fish were ultra spooky – testament to the “they don’t grow big by being stupid” rule.  Many would vanish before the eyes – slithering into rock crevices, hiding under piles of surface leaves, or scooting under tree root overhangs.

I left Jones Park that afternoon excited with my scouting results and as fulfilled with my trip as if I had caught a dozen big browns on one of the local Catskill rivers.  But then again, brook trout, according to Nick Karass, “are members of an ancient order of fishes that had its beginnings more than 100 million years ago in the Oligocene Epoch”.  Who could bet against such genetics.

The preface of “Brook Trout” begins with an account of a local Indian legend, old Jesse Logan, of the Cornplanter Reservation in Warren County, Pennsylvania, the last (in 1928) of the Shikellemus tribe:

“Once long, long ago, when Manitou visited the land of the Iroquios to lead his lost children back to the Happy Hunting Ground in the Far East, He grew weak with hunger and cold on this long quest.  Toward night He stopped beside a pool in the Seneca country (New York) which was overshadowed with colossal white pines and hemlocks.  Noticing that it was full of handsome trout, as black as ebony, he reached in His hand and easily caught the largest of the superb fish.  Looking at it he was struck by its beauty and agile grace, and decided to control His hunger and let it live, so He dropped it back in the deep pool.

“The trout went its way, but instantly its sides took on a silvery hue where the fingers of the Great Spirit had held it, and all of its kind became marked with the same silvery sheen and many colored spots and halos, as a token of their being handled by the kindly Manitou.  For that reason, the Seneca Indians and others of the Six Nations would not eat brook trout.  Brook trout were sacred to the highest instincts of their race.  But what the redmen spared,” said Logan, “white men destroyed by the millions.”

There is no doubt the brook trout has faced many man-made challenges above and beyond just surviving a year in a tiny brook in the woods.  Overfishing, acid rain, introduction of non-native competition, and loss of habitat have all had their way.  But it is encouraging to witness Mother Nature’s remarkable resilience in a little corner of paradise, so close to home.  Manitou may just be smiling…

Weekend Wrap – Peak Week

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 12, 2009 by stflyfisher

It’s peak week for fall colors here in the southern tier of New York…

Pierce Hill Pond with a background splash of color...

Pierce Hill Pond with a background splash of color...

The weekend was beautiful with cold evening temperatures followed by sunny days that hit the mid 50’s.  River and stream conditions were mixed – the big rivers were still high and murky while the headwaters were fishable.  Water temps are dropping.  The backyard pond was discernibly quiet, though I was able to rouse a few bass on topwater flies during a short paddle Saturday evening.

This fisherman considered another jaunt to Cayuta Creek, but a perfect storm of family stuff – car problem, dadre home from college, fall baseball for sadre #2, church pumpkin sale for sadre #1, and a madre and dadre shopping extravaganza all combined on several fronts to keep you-know-who at home for the most part.  I made the best of it, as fly fishermen are so damned good at doing, and managed to take a trip to a favorite little park not far from the STFF palace grounds.  I’ll be putting a post up about it this week, but here’s a preview shot…

Jones Park

Jones Park

It’s a chilly 27 degrees this bleary-eyed morning and more and more I’m reminded of potential trib fishing trips for steelhead and browns and the long-awaited trip for blues and stripers in the salt.

Tight lines…