Year’s End, Prospect
Prospect Park Lake
Brooklyn, 12 29 2014
Vapor Trails imbued with sunlight fill a blue sky on some December days. One last one above the temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit beckoned me to follow through on one final item of outstanding tenkara fishing business: Taking my Tenkara USA Yamame rod for a test around Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn . . . Of course. I had to go there at least once in 2014. Completion of mission vital to my own authority added a pinch of incentive as well. Prospect Park had not seen my traditional tapered line all season. The Bronx, Manhattan, as well as Queens have all been noted as has fishing the Hudson’s New York Bight’s salt adjacent to Staten Island. Four, not all five, boroughs in total, the count found wanting a major one of New York City’s destinations: Prospect Park Lake.
The omission appears even odder considering Brooklyn’s coolwater lake has the highest notoriety for catch and release bass fishing. For nine months of 2014, I have fished hard, in and around town in between serving as a guide to new gear at an urban fly shop. My first catch of a bass happened as early as the final week of winter in March. Trips in between then and now included meeting the saltwater papio of O’ahu, Hawaii. I had been to Brooklyn a bunch of times for friends and culture. Time then to go fishing there as well at the eleventh-and-a-half hour of the year.
One of my own pioneering tenkara trips took place along a portion of Prospect Park Lake’s asymmetric circumference. The lake has over a span of years drawn me and several of my companions together in search of fish on the fly. Earliest spring and fullest summer have been experienced, never winter.
The cold day squeezed between Christmas and the New Year began bright and breezy, qualities that made the prospects look challenging in all ways but my own confidence. I knew, just knew, some kind of fishing would present itself if I maintained the kind of endurance and mental focus I must exhibit to complete a cross country run along a bright and breezy Hudson River waterfront.
Conditions lakeside enforced an immediate variation on my use of line. My traditional tapered lines were set aside in deference to Level Line attached to a much longer tippet of finer 6X. Unfocused invisibility can be seen as obvious given cold lake water’s clear visibility. Water temps in the high thirties Fahrenheit discourage green plant life, and the recent season’s remains now rest brown and settled. Prospect Park’s water and its column become a more translucent body skirted by shores of cattails, trees limbs, and stone and mortar wall.
Large nymphs work to lure fish during the cold season. Leaf litter offers ample residences for the dobsonfly among others. Whether it be a Kebari americana like The Prince, Zug Bug, your own variation on the theme, or the all-inclusive Woolly Bugger, unweighted or beaded patterns are effective. More important may be presentation. Some strip in a nymph when stillwater fly fishing. Fair the approach may be, as well as a Leisenring Lift customized to your speed theory, or a sustained swimming action that takes advantage of an unweighted fly pattern’s buoyancy . . .
The Undulating Microtug
I grinned when the technique met a take. Connection to a fish had first to endure several persistent hours of casting in and around some brisk breaths of air off the water. Coldweather tenkara this was. No topwater action was on deck. The kebari patterns were a dice roll that occupied my mind: Olive Dobsonfly, The Prince, Zug Bug, and my own Grey Wet Wool Nymph described in my second book, Small Fry: The Lure of the Little. Sizes ranged between 6 and 10.
(12 29 2014)
What changed during the day was the wind. Air and lake calmed during the last hour of daylight. I finished with an Olive Woolly Bugger tied by steelheader Stephen Kasperovich of Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He is adept also when angling for yellow perch, the fish that turned my fading prospects at Prospect into a grand form of fishing finale.
His pattern uses a very soft chenille body matched with an undulating saddle hackle. Several seconds after I began to swim the Olive Woolly Bugger, a fish met the fly and connected. Several runs of ten feet and head shakes bent the Yamame and played me before I lifted a perch in net from the water.
(Olive Woolly Bugger by Stephen Kasperovich)
Perca flavescens has been encountered before both at Harlem Meer and Van Cortlandt Park Lake during late August and September. The species is a popular quarry for ice fishers, making its presence and activity understandable on the calm end of this cold day. Several more perch followed, although not in a metronomic fashion one might associate with a large school. Each fish had to be worked, had to be coaxed, into striking. The hinge of the entire experience was again a willingness to put full thought into full motion forward. Full cast and retrieve with a focus on the fly at the end of the Level Line. Any slow swimming retrieve using wrist action combined with a lift can take tenkara fishing into catching. The other factor may well be that I found a spot holding some fish at prime time: the short span of minutes that can make up a wintertime bite.
Yellow Perch in Net
Bird life communed on and around the lake. American coot, Fulica americana, plied the calm water and called at dusk in the manner of gas passing out of either end. Strange, mildly humorous, a sound like belching farts almost quite nearly contradicts the bird’s conservative plumage, which may bring to mind a solemn clergy’s robes.
Bird in View
The day’s final sunlit moments brought a final yank transmitted down to the grip of my Yamame. The strategy of the competitor changed. Now a tight, circular fight, at net’s end my heavier opponent turned out to be a very round bluegill dressed in a pale purple sheen with olive details and black chain link bars twisted and reminiscent of the double helix. Bluegills can be a rare encounter after the spawning bed period. Even small waters may find a bluegill population strangely reticent despite a circumscribed space. I felt more than pleased to call this fish my final catch and release of the year.
The Final Fish
Red skies at sunset reminded me of a poem from my collection of poetry, museum of buildings: poems –
Across the bridge I’m crossing
Lay the city bathed in sunset.
At the end of this “last day of December” the trees rather that the tower blocks were tinted.
(12 29 2014)
Farewell, Tenkara Fishing, 2014
The Year’s End
– rPs 12 30 2014