08/17/14 7:00am
08/17/2014 7:00 AM

As a university instructor and professor, I’ve spent a lifetime teaching students the fine points of math, science and history. While teaching in schools can be challenging at times, it doesn’t compare with the teaching that guides and skippers do on a daily basis when sports step out of their cars or cabins to “go fishin.”

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07/27/14 7:00am
07/27/2014 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The new bike path along River Road in Calverton.

When taking to the road this summer, be prepared for car trouble. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Midsummer is vacation time for a lot of us. Local beaches are starting to draw crowds, local restaurants are starting to fill up with “touristas” from points west, and angling is about to settle into the doldrums unless you’re one of those lucky enough to have friends who go offshore. So we travel, often with the trusty family camper, pickup, or sedan, machines we’ve probably taken for granted most of the year.  (more…)

06/15/14 9:00am
06/15/2014 9:00 AM
Liam Hansen of Wading River fishes with his father Mark on the town's floating dock during the 15th annual Riverhead Snapper Tournament in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Liam Hansen of Wading River fishes with his father Mark on the town’s floating dock during the 15th annual Riverhead Snapper Tournament in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

During the run up to Fathers’ Day, outdoor publications fill up with stories and pieces like “Take a Boy Hunting (Fishing)” or republish old chestnuts such as the “The Old Man and the Boy” tales from Field & Stream. Often essays or short stories deal with the coming of age of a young man and border on fantasy: an adolescent winds up either catching the salmon of a lifetime on the Margaree River (Cape Breton) on an heirloom Hardy Bros. bamboo fly rod or shoots his first pheasant and subsequently receives granddad’s priceless Parker DHE 20-gauge side-by-side.  (more…)

05/25/14 9:00am
05/25/2014 9:00 AM
A tackle box. (Credit: Flickr/Viewoftheworld)

A tackle box. (Credit: Flickr/Viewoftheworld)

A few weeks ago we got a call from an editor to write a piece on scup, our favorite saltwater panfish, maybe our favorite fish, period. But the angle our friend wanted was not the typical one, e.g. porgies in the spring, porgies in the Peconics, etc. No, this was to be all about porgies on ultralight tackle.

What is really meant by “ultralight” tackle? What, in fact, distinguishes “ultralight” tackle from “light” tackle or “heavy” tackle, for that matter?  (more…)

04/13/14 8:05am
04/13/2014 8:05 AM

WaterBottles

In our throwaway world, early spring can be depressing.

When we travel the highways of the Northeast, the snow-covered winter trash emerges in ugly profusion as the snow recedes. Where trash containers are ample, where pickups are frequent, as is the case in many interstate rest areas, you hardly notice the stuff. Where some officials closed rest areas and pulled collection bins out of parking areas along Route 81, by contrast, the scene resembles a Mumbai dumping area from Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”  (more…)

08/12/12 4:00am
08/12/2012 4:00 AM

We were going to a restaurant the other night with old friends who trialed field dogs with us over the years and asked for directions. One of them pulled out pen and paper and said, “Here, I’ll draw you a map!” It was a fine document and got us there without difficulty.

Here was an “aha” moment; this sequence is now quite unusual because mapmaking is a lost art for many outdoors persons. In a world of Google Earth, GPS, On Star and computerized voices like Siri, it’s no wonder that the need to sketch or read a detailed map appears old-fashioned, even irrelevant. This observation applies, I suppose, as long as technology works for you. However, if you have no laptop, if you are in an area where wireless signals are poor or non-existent, e.g., some wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park or roads through the mountains of Pennsylvania, then what?

Also, because computer technology from the very beginning was only as good as the early programmers, (i.e., “garbage in equals garbage out”) and because much of today’s software is written by wonks who haven’t a clue about local details, some really crazy situations arise when technology goes awry or androids make decisions for you. Several seasons back, a couple of friends from northern New England with no knowledge of Long Island wanted to get to a trial in Calverton with their horses and set out confidently, using their GPS. Somehow they tracked all the way west to the New York Thruway and the Major Deegan Expressway, then wound up on the Cross Bronx Expressway just in time for Friday evening rush hour — a nightmare!

Our north country home up against the Canadian border lies on a road, Jones Road, which ends next to our house, but there is a track through the woods going north, an old military trail once intended for border protection and later used by bootleggers and locals to get to Canada. It emerges a couple of miles north onto an east-west country road, but the track is really for ATVs or hikers. Still, every so often, we’ll see someone come crashing out of the woods in a 4×4 pickup, looking somewhat dazed. Inevitably, this is a pilgrim following a GPS or a Google Map that clearly shows “Jones Road Extension.”

Live and learn.

The best maps give an overall picture, showing not only roads and landmarks, but accurate distances, too. Looking for a field trial, a hunting camp, or a restaurant — it’s all the same; you’ve got to be precise about how far you’ve come and where you turn. The same holds true for sailors and anglers reading nautical charts. It’s well and good for a skipper to punch in numbers and get precisely onto some patch of bottom or some little wreck where the fish were yesterday. But, we’re spoiled to the point where we have a hard time figuring out new waters for which there is only scant information.

If you rented a livery skiff from the Lorias 40 years back, Captain Marty’s would supply you with a simple map showing shorelines, islands, reefs and buoys. Given the layout and some numbers (like distances from points or time of travel at cruising speed) you could pretty well get to the desirable areas, even if there were no other boats fishing there. If you had a depth recorder, great; otherwise, you dropped a sinker overboard on a fixed line and checked both depth and, by bumping the sinker, the type of bottom. Often you could pick out features on shorelines directly fore and aft as well as off both stern and bow. The intersection of the two lines gave you a triangulated position that you could note. If you needed to drift a bit, you carried a couple of marker buoys — empty plastic milk jugs and heavy sinkers on lines wrapped around the jugs. Toss one overboard and you had the spot marked perfectly (at least until the tide ran so fast that the jug submerged). This also served nicely to mark where a body of bottom hugging flounder might be feeding so you could drift over the hot spot repeatedly. No GPS or Loran numbers required.

This “lost art” itself, like mapmaking, can still come in handy when you find yourself in some little embayment in a borrowed skiff a thousand miles away from home and you want to catch your supper as we did on Cape Breton Island some 20 years back. The winter flounder there were extraordinary, too! Similarly, locating a deep spring in a mountain pond you’ve never fished before usually requires a tip or two, a homemade map, and the skills of triangulation.

If you can make and read simple maps and find your way around new areas, you shouldn’t need to ask yourself, “Where am I?” Or answer, “I dunno!”