The Legend of Candock Charlie

Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide (retired), founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

Many people think of New Jersey only in terms of beaches, big cities, and tidy farms that provide the delicious fresh produce that gives NJ its nickname, The Garden State. These individuals would find it hard to believe that you could exit one of the myriad highways that crisscross New Jersey and find extensive tracts of wild lands just a mile or two down a county road.  Such places do exist, however. Finding them takes only a bit of exploring.

If you know the right spots you can drop a canoe into a tiny creek at a county road bridge and, with sufficient persistence and determination, bushwhack your way into a network of swamps and shallow lakes that are home to myriad fish, birds, and other wildlife. If not for the distant sound of road traffic and the occasional fly-over of an aircraft, you could be deep in a trackless wilderness. This is fertile ground for the imagination, and gave rise to the Legend of Candock Charlie.

He is a rapacious predator thought to be the unnatural spawn of a playful breeding experiment carried out by the Jersey Devil himself, in which a Snapping Turtle was crossed with a giant Chain Pickerel. Candock Charlie is named for the thick stands of yellow-flowered pond lilies that are a dominant feature of his habitat. He hibernates during the winter, burrowing deep into the mucky bottom of the lakes and ponds in his home range. He is very secretive, and his excellent natural camouflage makes him invisible to most humans. This protects him from those who enjoy “monster hunting.” A few gifted people can sometimes pick him up momentarily in their peripheral vision, but as soon as they try to focus on him he blends into the environment without a trace.

When Candocks sprout in shallow, swampy lakes each spring, sending up their tough, fleshy green leaves and round yellow flowers, the thick cover they provide allows Charlie to move about more freely and to employ his preferred strategy of hunting from ambush. He feeds on a wide variety of wildlife, including his relatives. Thankfully he does not seem to have acquired a taste for human flesh, at least not yet.  Anglers and bird-watchers often spot his large wake moving through the Candocks as he hunts, and sometimes there will be an explosive splash. Those who witness these phenomena will assume they are caused by beaver, muskrat, or large fish.  Sometimes they are very wrong.

Since Charlie is one-of-a-kind, and there are no females of his species available for breeding, he often back-crosses with both sides of his family tree. This results in some particularly large and cantankerous Snapping Turtles and Pickerel.

It takes a lot of forage to keep a monster like Charlie fed. When food becomes scarce he will sometimes travel by night during the dark of the moon, venturing boldly out of the swamps and into larger lakes and farm ponds. So, if you’re fishing or bird-watching in New Jersey and see a big wake cutting through the water, or hear a heavy splash back among the reeds, beware! You just might have had a close encounter with Candock Charlie.

You Shoulda Been Here in June – SW Montana 2021

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

There is a common saying in the angling world: “You Should Have Been Here Yesterday”. The implication is that had you been fishing here yesterday, the catching would have been good, but not so much today. Well SW Montana has been unexpectedly a bit like that in 2021. The Western drought has received a lot of attention in the media and deservedly so. It is turning out to be an exceptionally dry year. And that has had both positive and will have negative impacts on angling here in SW Montana. From my perspective as a local angler here in Bozeman, Montana March through June 2021 has actually been a period of exceptional fishing on several counts. Spring warmed up a bit early in March awakening rivers from their winter slumber. April and May remained relatively mild and the rivers showed off excellent midge, caddis and streamer fishing well into early May. For the most part flows were normal for spring time.  More importantly, springtime is usually uncrowded as not too many visiting anglers are around.

Things started to get a bit different as the end of May rolled around. Runoff got off to a slow start and although the big rivers indeed got bigger and dirtier it didn’t really last long nor did they generate anywhere near their normal volume. Some rivers like the Beaverhead and Ruby, buffered by reservoirs never really experienced any high, dirty water. The Yellowstone, Madison and Big Hole provided seasonably excellent conditions for the annual Salmon Fly hatch with lower water that wasn’t pushing into the bankside willows. Small headwater streams like the Upper Ruby came into shape by mid-June, where typically it was the July 4th weekend before they would be fishable. Insect hatches that typically occurred when flow and clarity conditions were marginal were now occurring in lower, crystal clear waters. The other positive in June was nighttime air temperatures. March through June, night time air temperatures in the high plains can fall below freezing, but typically are in the 40s and low 50s. These temperatures bode well for trout streams as they cool considerably overnight.

Continue reading → You Shoulda Been Here in June – SW Montana 2021

Line of Sight – Part 3 of 3

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

In Part I of this article I took cheap shots at the established, accomplished, noble-blooded practitioners of strike indicator fishing; then I described how I personally use an alternative “watch the line” method in Part II. Now I’ll wrap it up with some summary comparisons.

The best anglers are adept at both, of course, although we’ll each have our individual preferences.

And I admit that, as with anything, this “line of sight” strike detection method does have limitations. Distance to the fly can render it less effective (although if the fly is still upstream of you, odd line behavior is much more odd, and the distance is also decreasing every second). Chop on the surface can make the line impossible to see. Use of stealth line colors can aggravate those problems (although I’ve lately been using a “moss green” floating line and have still done quite well in calmer tail-outs and pools).

There’s at least one definite and noteworthy advantage to using indicators as compared to this “line of sight” approach: The line from fly to indicator is straight. A strike cannot help but be noticed, and if the indicator is drifting freely, the fly is likely to be drifting freely as well. In numerous scenarios including lake fishing and complex interceding currents, it’s difficult to present the fly any other way.  This is a key upside and a powerful case for the float, I agree.

Continue reading → Line of Sight – Part 3 of 3