Grand Slam in The Bronx

Grand Slam in The Bronx . . .

Welcome to The Bronx! (photo taken 09 11 2012)

Just one of the five boroughs of New York City is situated on the mainland of the United States. The Bronx holds this distinction as well as a somewhat checkered reputation. Crime reports often vie for headlines beside the successes of its favorite sons: the New York Yankees.

The borough has its more quiet, bucolic, and unspoiled corners out of the media spotlight. Of these, Van Cortlandt Park is perhaps The Bronx at its best: 1,146 acres of green space, including the nation’s first public golf course and a freshwater lake that sustains black crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.

I paid two visits to the park this September. A leisurely ride to the end of the 1 train’s line leaves one off at 242nd Street. From there I hiked in about five minutes under a canopy of sweetgum and oak trees, through a short wetland trail, to the western shore of Van Cortlandt Lake. Fed by Tibbett’s Brook, a meandering flow full of lily pads, the lake was formed when this waterway was dammed by Frederick Van Cortlandt, son of Jacobus Van Cortlandt, in 1699. The surrounding park, once a mix of uncut forest and grain fields, was sold by the family to the City of New York in 1888. The fields became parade grounds, a public golf course opened in 1895, and the lake, long and narrow, remained a prominent geographical fixture for surrounding trails popular with cross-country runners.

The sign points the way . . . (photo taken 09 25 2012)

This month I fished the lake’s edges and discovered the joys of tenkara in the lily pads. Casting a fly-tipped tenkara level line provides much greater accuracy and fewer snags (and lost patterns) than a conventional fly rod matched with floating fly line. The reason, as I perceive it, is that a long rod and short line offers more control and less room for error than a short rod and long line. The spaces between the pads are usually tight and overhanging tree cover is often present. Tenkara threads the eye of this needle with a combination of less line, less extraneous motion.

As I fished, I could tell I was on the right path here. I spotted a great blue heron, a green heron, a great egret, and a kingfisher all at work. My feathers were bound to a hook, but in the presence of these well-preened anglers, I knew fish had to be present.

The end result of my exploration and experimentation drew me back to baseball. As the Bronx Bombers continued to race the Baltimore Orioles for sole possession of first place in the eastern division of the American League, I enjoyed my own fall classic in the form of an angling version of the grand slam – a four species outing – including:

Black Crappie . . .

(photo taken 09 25 2012)

Bluegill . . .

(photo taken 09 25 2012)

Largemouth Bass . . .

(photo taken 09 25 2012)

. . . and Yellow Perch. To my frustration, just as with the golden shiner at Harlem Meer earlier in the year, I failed to seal the deal with a photo of the perch. Fish photography, while angling solo, remains a challenge for this tenkara advocate. I admit I still need work on the second leg of the “Catch, Photo, and Release” tripod, but I have covered the four bases, the four game fish of Van Cortlandt Lake, thanks, in large part, to tenkara.

An egret urban angler. (photo taken 09 25 2012)

– rPs 09 29 2012

Postscript: To learn more about the history and ecology of Van Cortlandt Park, visit the website of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy by following this link:

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