PROSPECTing

PROSPECTing . . .

Welcome to Brooklyn . . . really! (photo taken 05 15 2012)

The exploration of a pond can be a lot of fun when the body of water has a shoreline full of narrows and declivities where fish can cruise, hide, and challenge one’s casting. I like to approach this kind of deconstructed angling with a variation of prospecting as described by its most eloquent contemporary proponent, John Gierach. He devotes an entire chapter to “Prospecting” in his first published angling book, Fly Fishing the High Country; a minor classic that I seem to read at least once a year. While Gierach refers more broadly to the search for and exploration of new wilderness waters, his process can be applied, using maps and the soles of one’s shoes, to the microcosm of a single pond’s perimeter.

One of the best, perhaps the best, of New York City’s warm water destinations is the lake situated near the southern end of Prospect Park. Designed by Olmsted and Vaux, the same team who created Central Park, Prospect’s lake appears rougher around the edges, shaded by mature trees, with ample waterfowl and fishing opportunities for those willing to drag their gear onto the subway.

One of the potential drawbacks of urban angling is the logistics of carrying fishing equipment to and from the water. Tenkara has, for me, eliminated this concern. Before I left my West Village home to catch the Q train to Brooklyn, I first grabbed a reclosable sandwich bag and filled it with my assembled gear: fly box, spool of level line and tippet, and my two personal extra essentials, forceps for more humane hook release and a microtrash container.

PROSPECTing tenkara gear. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

Weighed down with almost a half pound of fishing gear, I ventured out into a gray morning. The rush hour commute was made easy and even more importantly, unobtrusive, by the single little bag of gear nestled in the right front pocket of my cargo shorts. No stares or questions from the other commuters. I was just another man on the train. Dressed down, yes, but just a man. And I even had a free hand to hold a to-go cup of coffee.

The morning mist had turned heavier and steadier in the outer borough. The scene inside the park, still in view of Parkside and Ocean Avenues, consisted of a giant rinsed salad. There was a steady breeze to give it all rustle and the jade surface of the lake a little ripple. Best of all for me, given my purpose, was no one else in sight. The real advantage of city fishing during inclement weather is the removal of the unwanted wildcard: individuals and crowds who use the park for purposes other than angling. When the lakeside is devoid of children playing, mothers calling, and old duffers drinking, the fish are much less spooked and casting is far less stressful. I don’t have to watch my back for “stick ’em up!” or potentially litigious passersby who could get hooked by a backcast.

I kneeled on a lush hummock, knotted on a size 10 Black Woolly Bugger, which was to be my one and only tenkara code streamer for the day. The pattern’s size and silhouette fit my estimation of what would look best from a fish’s point of view, considering the overcast white sky. A largemouth bass concurred after a few casts. Tiny, yet feisty, my first Brooklyn fish caught on tenkara took its cue from my most recent book; it was a small fry.

That’s one small fry for a tenkara angler. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

The fishing, and catching, continued from that encounter. The prospecting approach had me probing little coves, casting along the edges of cattails, and bending below overhanging branches. Tenkara, specifically the level line, allowed me to achieve these feats of fishing with much more accuracy and gentility than a 5-weight matched with floating fly line could.

Working a Woolly Bugger in the rain. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

There was also much to hear and see on the sidelines. Red-winged blackbirds sounded their rusty gate calls. Mallard ducks mumbled around me. One large swan visited when I paused to tie on a fresh tippet. The bird dipped its head below the waterline as it foraged, and then flashed me a look after it had finished; a look as if to say: “There are some fish down there.” I targeted the edge of some nearby abandoned bluegill beds and was in fact rewarded with a largemouth bass that made an athletic corkscrew leap above the lake.

Prospecting, swan style. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

Brooklyn Largemouth Bass. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

Another highlight I found along the bank was clusters of yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus: the wild iris that Henry David Thoreau admired so well in Walden. The middle of May marks the peak blooming period of this flower in the New York region and, on a day as overcast as this one was, the brilliant petals glowed, containing, it seemed, all of the bright light energy of the sun.

Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus. (photo taken 05 15 2012)

Once the rain turned up a notch after the noon hour, the bite declined, eventually ending. Sustained shivers started to shimmy up and down my back. Even the birds silenced. The only sound was the sizzle of the rain impacting on the lake and my mind’s voice encouraging departure. The afternoon was young, but seven fish caught and numerous near misses had given my first tenkara adventure in Brooklyn a solid B . . .

. . . for Bluegill.

(photo taken 05 15 2012)

– rPs 05 15 2012

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2 Comments »

  1. Nice gill for a city pond.

    • Thank you for the thumbs up, howsmallatrout. The larger bluegills have since retreated to deeper water, but black crappies are still in tenkara range after dark.

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