by Jerry Vovcsko
Even though the weather has been anything but cooperative in New England, there's still plenty to do while we're waiting for things to warm up. New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are offering a series of outdoor adventure talks in April that will feature fishing, birds of prey, and a film festival. Topics include taking your fly fishing to the next level on April 2, New Hampshire raptors April 10, and an introduction to kayak fishing April 23. The midweek talks will be held at Fish and Game's headquarters in Concord. They are free, open to the public, and start at 7 p.m. Registration is not required.
Then there's the Reel Paddling Film Festival at Concord's Red River Theatres April 16 which will take viewers on a hair-raising ride down the rapids. The film festival is cosponsored by Fish and Game and Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Tickets can be purchased at the theater and are $10 for students and $12 for others.
"Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands. "
A pretty capable wordsmith by the name of Henry Longfellow wrote that poem, The Village Smithy. Back in the day, when I was a fresh-faced, callow fourth grade student, we had to memorize such classic verse as The Smithy and, by golly, daunting as it seemed to go about stashing eight stanzas in our reluctant memory banks, with continued practice we discovered we could manage to get it done. Nowadays, of course, some seventy-five years later, I consider it a success if I can recall where I last put the car keys and whether or not I had already taken my blood pressure pills. Sure, those good-old-days weren't all problem free and smooth sailing but there was a lot of useful lessons that served us well over the years.
As a long time angler I've picked up – and also discarded - plenty of hot tips and ostensibly "cutting-edge techniques" over the years. Among the discards were most of those sure-thing lures promoted –and marketed – on those nifty TV commercials served up on the plethora of Saturday morning outdoor/fishing shows by one fast-talking "expert" or other. The battery-operated, robot type lures went into the mental trash can pretty much upon first-sight. Besides being illegal in most places, they just seemed too stupid to take seriously (although, to be fair, some of that robot technology eventually morphed into such modern delights as the housewife's friend, the look-ma-no-hands, Roomba vacuum cleaner.)
But there were other Old School methods and tools that came along for my decades-long ride as an enthusiastic, often hapless but always willing to learn, amateur angler. And high on the list of tools I still employ after seventy-some years on the water, are the Jitterbug, the Hula Popper, the Helin Flatfish and the Hawaiian Wiggler. Anyone with a hankering to pursue and land black bass, both large and small mouth, pickerel, walleyes and other freshwater species, might do well to add some of these Old Timers to the tackle box. They're not all currently in production but a quick glance over on eBay will find them available at surprisingly reasonable prices.
The Jitterbug is perhaps the most effective topwater bass lure ever designed and if the lake or pond you're fishing holds a population of largemouths, this lure will draw smashing hits, especially in the hours between dusk and dark.
It acts like a mouse or other small creature that's fallen into the water and struggles to swim to shore. And if pike or pickerel should be the target species, a killer technique is to cast and then let the lure sit unmoving for a full minute or more, and then twitch it before starting the retrieve. Often, the hit is immediate and explosive.
The Hula Popper has a concave face that stirs things up on the surface with a popping sound when worked properly along the surface. It's especially effective fished near and around docks, pilings or stumps.
Late in the day, where a shadow forms back under a dock, the Hula Popper will consistently draw strikes from lurking largemouths. And if fished around the edges of weedbeds, pickerel can't seem to resist ambushing it.
I first laid eyes on the Hawaiian Wiggler when I was about ten years old and used to read Outdoor Life magazines under the covers by flashlight.
I thought the Wiggler was the absolute cat's whiskers and when I finally laid hands on one found it to be a go-to lure when weedless action was needed. The rubbery skirt kept the hook from snagging weeds but allowed hungry bass to hook up with little effort.
And no other lure that I've ever fished felt like the vibrating dynamo that is the Helin Flatfish. Orange and black or frog-color design are the classic bass configuration. When I fish Cape Cod ponds I locate the drop-off line where the shallows fall away to ten feet or so and drift along while working the flatfish midway down the line.
The action drives bass crazy and I've caught the same five pound bass I just released two or three times of an evening; can't do too much better than that when it comes to selecting a bass bait.
There are others that I use from time to time, but these four are old favorites and they're always in my tackle box when I head out to do a little fishing. That's not to say that modern lure technologies aren't equally effective – I've fished with some of those holographic Japanese swimming plugs and there's no question but that they're attractive to the fish. But as they say, Dance with the one that brung you, and I've been doing the foxtrot with these old favorites for so long I can't quit ‘em. Sometimes, Old School is the best way to go.
March Madness is full under way right now and my Alma Mater (UMass) didn't make it out of the first round. Upsets were the flavor of the day and such powerhouses as Duke, Syracuse and previously undefeated Wichita State got bounced even before achieving Sweet Sixteen status. It should be a spectacular Final Four and, hey, can you believe that Major League baseball season already opened – in Australia, no less? Looks like 2014 promises to be a year to remember in the World of Sports…and the stripers will soon be on their way north. Ya gotta love it.