Au Revoir Arizona Fishing

13 Jan

Now that I’m settled in in New Jersey, I wanted to post some final thoughts on fishing in Arizona. Simply put, I hated living in Arizona. It is dry, dusty and damnably hot. Having placed myself in a situation where relocating was not possible, I was doomed to try to endure. The one saving grace was fishing. During the triple digit temperatures of the Arizona summer, you would have to be out the door by four o’clock in the morning. This gave you at least until ten or so when triple digit heat would radiate from the Sun. I do not write about my intense dislike with living in Arizona to simply air my gripes in cyber-space. rather, I write of my dislike only to highlight the manner in which fishing provided if not an escape, then at least a respite. I write to that another, who is disillusioned with the Valley Of The Sun, might discover these words and be led to explore fishing in the desert.

My first exposure to fishing in Arizona was through the Urban Lake System (now called the Community Fishing Program). Frankly, the lakes in this program were a God-send. They are easily accessible and extremely user friendly, even for the novice fisherman. They are regularly stocked with catfish in the summer and rainbow trout in the cooler winter months. If you are an Arizona resident or winter visitor, you owe it to yourself to get the necessary (and relatively inexpensive) fishing license and try out one of your local Urban Lakes. While many of the videos on my video page (see the tab above) show some of the Urban fishing, here is my most memorable catch, a huge catfish on a fly rod, yes, a fly rod, filmed at Red Mountain Lake in Mesa.

Simply put, I cannot recommend the Community Lakes system enough for any Arizona resident, or winter visitor.

While the Urban Lakes provided easy access fishing, the big waters provided the most beautiful experiences in spectacular natural environments. By the big waters I mean Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake and my “watery-mistress”, the Lower Salt River. Even if you do not fish, take a ride and enjoy the day hiking at one of these locations. Not sure if its worth the trip? Then check out my fishing videos and see some unbelievable scenery. So spectacular is the scenery and so profound is the experience of being at these locations, that in addition to fishing, I often filmed my martial arts videos in these environments. Here is one of my most memorable filmed my very last day on the Lower Salt River amongst one of the many wild horse herds that call the river home.

You can also use this link to access all of my kata videos, all have a description advised of the filming location. Check out a few and then get in your car and check out these big waters. http://senseijohn.me/kata-syllabus/

In the last few months of living in Arizona, I was exposed to a very unusual aspect of fishing. That is fly fishing for carp (both common and grass carp, or amur). You can find exciting fly fishing in almost any irrigation canal that is not posted otherwise but, I recommend you checkout SRP’s website for regulations and further details as ALL fishing is catch and release.

canal

In addition, you will find carp, and largemouth bass, at the lakes at ASU Research Center in Tempe, again, consult the local regulations.

carp

Checkout any of the articles in my Fishing Journals category prior to the date of this post and discover the therapeutic beauty of Arizona fishing.

And so, with this post, I say “Au revoir Arizona.” In the next article, I’ll look to what’s ahead as I prepare to once again fish New Jersey waters, both fresh and salt.

vulture-me

In the photo I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaffkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes). Or, you can also log in with my personal link (as of January, 2015)
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Sensei John

Sensei John

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor  As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.75 which includes mailing. To get your FFD sticker two-pack, simply go to e-bay and search “Fishing stickers-FlyFishing Dojo Logo blog” – do not bid more than the $1.75, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

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Merry Christmas, 2014

22 Dec

To all my readers, please accept my sincerest wishes for a joyous & peaceful, Christmas Season.

FFD logo stocking

FFD logo stocking

This Christmas is particularly special for me. In the ten years since I moved to Arizona, it is only the second one that I will spend with family in New Jersey. The thought of being there when my five year old grandson opens his presents paints a profound smile on my face.

Best of all, I have permanently relocated to, if not New Jersey, then the east coast.

santa fish

My very best wishes that we may embrace this Christmas with joy and hope. I’m even thinking of a white Christmas. To set the mood, please enjoy my Sanchin Kata with winter poems video.

I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

Salt River Wild Horses – An Unexpected Surpirise

23 Nov

November 7th I was at the Lower Salt River, Arizona. In anticipation of relocating back to my home state of New Jersey, I wanted to maximize my day. My plan was to film kata footage for my kata video library, fish (hopefully catching a few for photos for my fishing blog, see below) and generally enjoy one of my last days on the river. What I did not plan was a saikou, supreme experience.

On that day, I was blessed with a chance encounter with one of the herds of wild horses that call the river home. Readers of my fishing blog know that I have encountered the herds in the past. What makes this encounter different is that not only would it likely be my last encounter with the herd, but I was at the right place and right time to be able to perform one of my favorite kata with the herd. The kata was Seienchin Kata. The translation of the kanji (Japanese calligraphy) for Seienchin translates, inter alia, as “Calm in the storm, storm in the calm.”

As spontaneous as my choice of kata was, in retrospect, it turned out to be a great symbol of these difficult days of packing, arranging for rental of my home and relocating to a bit of uncertainty, the storm. Contrasting this is the calm of that day on the river; almost as if the “Natural Force” that I wrote about so much was telling me it will all work out. Noteworthy is that the Seienchin Kata makes characteristic use of of the “kiba-dache”, “Horse-riding stance”, a perfect kata to perform in the presence of a herd of wild horses.

Sensei John

Sensei John

CIMG5516  Please feel free to view my weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts at http://senseijohn.me

© Copyright 2014 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

September & October, 2014 Fishing Journal

2 Nov

September & October, 2014, Valley of the Sun. With many things on our personal agenda, including an upcoming relocation to New Jersey, we fished when we could and not as often as we would have liked. As of this writing, one of our team members has already relocated to New Jersey. Here’s a photo of her last bass in Arizona, a beauty caught at the Lower Salt River on October 3rd.

di last bass

PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest, AZ

With seriously decreased water flows, the key to success is finding deep, moving, well oxygenated water.

   salt-Sept   salt oct

Areas that previously had water may now be dry

Areas that previously had water may now be dry

Depending on the area you desire to fish, this can involve some degree of hiking. The results; however, are worth the hike.

  CIMG5462   CIMG5467

Notwithstanding the consistent low flows, I always consult the flow chart for the river before heading out the door. WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

CANYON LAKE, Tonto National Forest, AZ

   CIMG5470   CIMG5505

Our last visit to Canyon Lake was on September 30th. At the time, the fishing bridge at Boulder Recreation Area was still closed. We will attempt to verify the status of the bridge by the time of our next report.

URBAN LAKE FISHING:

Arizona Game and Fish will start stocking rainbow trout in mid-November.

Riverview Lake, Mesa

On Sunday, October 12th, 2014 saw major blooms of green algae in various locations on the lake.

riverview algae

From talking with other fisherman, it seems this phenomenon was relatively new. Our experience that day was that the algae seems to have hampered the bite. One small largemouth bass was caught.

   CIMG5487

 

vulture-me  In the photos I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

Until the next submission, I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

sunsu-cactus Please feel free to view my weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts at http://senseijohn.me

The Fly Fisherman & The Satori Fish

6 Oct

The following is my fly fishing inspired retelling of an infamous Zen tale. The traditional tale is known as “The Woodcutter and The Animal Satori.” To those who are not familiar with the term Satori, the name of the animal, Satori, is loosely defined as a Zen state of enlightenment. I call my tale “The Fly Fisherman and The Satori Fish.”

In a far-off land there lived a man. The man’s life was devoid of pleasure; save for one. He loved to escape the blandness of his existence by fly fishing. Once a week, he would escape the drive two hours to escape the city to fish “his” river. Although the beauty of the river provided him a respite from the bleak landscape in which he lived, the man fished many weeks without hooking a fish.
One day, the man had had enough. He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to take the long trip to the river. Despite his malaise, he again drove to the river. Once he arrived, he dutifully donned his waders and set up his fly fishing rod. To the end of his leader, he tied on his newest, fanciest dry fly. It was a fly pattern called a “Great Expectation”, size 14. He was about to cast when he noticed a beautiful silver streak in the water. The man could not believe his eyes. He blinked as if to clear both his vision and his mind. The silver streak remained and defined itself. The silver streak was in fact the mythical Satori Fish.
He focused his attention on the Satori Fish and began to cast. The Great Expectation gently kissed the surface of the water. The cast was perfect, the fly floated high on the water. Satori turned its gaze upward and with a swift, powerful stroke of its tail, swam towards the fly. His heart pounding in his chest, the man focused his attention and tensed his muscles. Surely Satori would be seduced to take the fly. Had man’s Great Expectation actually seduced Satori? No, instead of Satori engulfing the Great Expectation, Satori brushed it aside and swam downward. Satori was again laying peacefully at the bottom of the River.
“Damn”, cursed the man. “Surely, I must change my fly.” He checked his box of flies. Thinking that Satori could be tempted with a delicate, subsurface fly, he selected a fly tied in a pattern known as an “emerger.” He selected a size 16 “Emerging Intention.” Again the man cast upstream. He diligently watched the end of his line for the slightest indication of a strike. Again, the Satori Fish eluded his offering. His frustration heightened.
He cursed his luck. So many weeks and not even a hint of a fish within the river. Now, this magnificent silver fish spurned his offering. His desire to feel that magnificent silver Satori tugging at the end of his fly line heightened to a frenzy. He angrily dug into his fly box and tied on a larger, hopefully, more appetizing fly. This time he selected an “attractor” pattern. The fly was garish, brightly colored and multi-feathered. It was a size 10 “Temptress.” The worker imagined that Satori would attack the brightly colored “Temptress” out of instinct and a desire to protect its territory within the river. This time the man cast the fly across the river and retrieved it with a fast stripping action of his line. His mind was filled with a burning desire to hook Satori. He wanted nothing more from life this day than to hold the shimmering silver mass of Satori flesh within his hands. He would possess Satori. Once caught, he would keep the Satori fish. He would mount it as a magnificent possession on the wall of his dim home. He would possess Satori for all the rest of his days. The worker saw the Satori burst towards the “Temptress.” Instead of engulfing the fly, Satori merely swam past it. Satori turned and watched the man. By now, he had had enough. He was done. “To Hell with Satori.” Satori was not for him.
He walked out of the river and sat on the bank. He cut the “Temptress” off his leader and tied on an bland, simple fly, a # 12 “Bare Bones.” He cursed and put his rod down on the bank. He sat angrily on the river bank and realized that he was hungry. He had pursued Satori all morning without eating. He opened his pack and retrieved a thermos and a sandwich. “To Hell with Satori”, thought the worker. “I will eat my sandwich and go home.”
As the worker ate his meal, he noticed that the “Bare Bones” fly was in the river. As he was eating, he did not pay attention as he put his fly rod down and the fly fell into the current. It was drifting downstream, a few feet from the bank. The worker did not want the unattended fly to get tangled in the waters. He put down his sandwich and picked up the fly rod. Instantly he felt a tug. He cursed his luck for he was sure the fly was tangled. As the man sought to free the fly from the tangle, he noticed that the line was moving. He began to fight the weight at the end of the line. As he did so, the water erupted. A silver flash momentarily glistened in the sun light and disappeared into the river.
A few minutes later, the man was holding the Satori Fish gently in his hands. So as not to harm Satori, he held the fish gently just below the surface as he unhooked the fly from its jaw. Satori was free. It did not swim away. Satori remained gently cradled in the man’s hands. He smiled. He caressed the side of Satori as if it was the check of a lover. Satori gently swam from the man’s hands. Satori turned to face the man. For the briefest of moments, the man’s world stopped. No longer independent of Satori and nature, all was one; the man knew Satori and Satori knew the man. Each then turned; Satori to the depths of the river, and the man to his car. For the man the long ride home was, perhaps, not so long, to a not so bland city, to work at a not so boring job and life in a a not so bleak home.

vulture-me  Fishing in the strong sun of Arizona,  I’m always wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

Sensei John

Sensei John

Sensei John is available for guest speaking engagements. Please see the “GUEST SPEAKING” Page tab above for more information.

Follow FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, please send a friend request on Facebook; see our “Video & Media” Page for more information.

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sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life at http://senseijohn.me

August, 2014 Fishing Journal

8 Sep

August, 2014, Valley of the Sun. August proved to be cooler than normal. By “cooler” I mean that while temperatures did exceed 105 on some days, they never went over 110 as in prior years. Strange, but I’ll take it. Our fishing centered around the Lower Salt River and Canyon Lake. We also had two or three trips to the community lakes. Naturally, in retrospect, we would have liked to fish more days and on a larger variety of waters. I don’t think any fisherman would say that they were out on the water as many days as they would like. Well, here’s how our month went (and one really great day).
PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER
During the summer months the flows of the river tend to run high and remain somewhat consistent. August was different. Flows were slightly less than the same time in 2013. Additionally, flows varied quite a bit, sometimes quite drastic.

 

Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

salt-august

I don’t like to fish the river when flows have increased by more than 200 c.f.s. over a twenty-four hour period. I did; however, decide to “test the waters” on a day that the flows decreased significantly. Thursday, August 21st the flows significantly decreased.

8-21-flows

The weather forecast called for a forty percent chance of thunderstorms and much cloud cover. Curious as to the effect of the decreased flows and weather on fishing we headed out. We started at Coon Bluff Recreation Area. We stayed there three hours. On the first six casts, we hooked and released five largemouths. We even had a double.

bass-double

More fish followed. When the bite slowed, we hiked a few yards up and down the river. At each new location, the bite was on for the first dozen or so casts. Then we moved on. But, at all times we remained at Coon Bluff. The size of the bass varied from the micro to a decent size of sixteen inches or so.

bass-16   bass-rat-l-trap   bass-small

 

horse sign  We were also blessed on that day to catch a few glimpses of one of the wild horse herds that call the river home.

horses

The most productive lures proved to be rattle traps. As for flies the most productive was a # 12 red/white streamer with a # 16 bead head pink nymph as a trailer.

bass-flies-collage

All in all, it was one of the best days of fishing we’ve enjoyed so far this year.

I would love to commit time and energy into an informal study of the effect of the changing river flows on the largemouth bass population. Unfortunately, the need to earn a living limits the time that can be spent on the water. No-one that I know has the financial resources to fund such a project. I’m sure even if I did have such an acquaintance, their resources would be used for other endeavors. Hell, even the great author and outdoorsman, Ernest Hemingway bemoaned such matters.

“All the people I know with enough wealth to subsidize (a study of the marlin) are either busy studying how to get more wealth, or horses, or what is wrong with themselves with psychoanalysts, or horses, or how not to lose what wealth the have, or horses, or the moving picture business, or horses or all os these things together, and, possibly, horses.” (See Endnote # 1)

One benefit of fishing the river is that it is close to Saguaro Lake. On days where the river is less than productive, we often make a fast run to the lake to check on the bite.

saguaro

CANYON LAKE
As is the case with fishing in general, some days on Canyon Lake had better results than others. One particularly slow day, the only thing I hooked was a dragonfly. Yeah, that’s right, while fly fishing, my backcast hooked a dragonfly. I didn’t even feel the “hook-set,” I only noticed it when I cast forward and my fly line hung in the air, flying on its own.

drgonfly

There is one thing of interest for those readers that fish the Boulder Recreation Area.
August 12th fishing bridge was closed. That particular day was very windy & thunderstorms so, we weren’t sure if the closing was temporarily weather related. We fished that area again on August 19th and it was still closed. So, I wonder if it is closed due to a structural problem, like two years ago. As of this post, I am not aware of the status of the bridge. Here’s a few photos from a more successful day at the lake.

canyon bass collage-crankbait

hatch helicopter copy   In the photos I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor    As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.00 which includes mailing. To get your FFD sticker two-pack, simply go to e-bay and search “Fishing stickers-FlyFishing Dojo Logo blog” – do not bid more than the $1.25, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

Until the next submission, I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

ENDNOTES:

1. Ernest Hemingway from: Lyons, Nick, Hemingway On Fishing, (Nick Lyons Press, New York, NY, 2000) p. 119, originally published as “Out In The Stream: A Cuban Letter” in Esquire magazine, August, 1934.

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sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts at http://senseijohn.me

Catching A Specific Fish – Like An Asteroid Hitting The Earth

25 Aug

eath asteroid     I was recently watching a science themed show. The show discussed all the random factors that would have to come together for an asteroid to hit the Earth. The odds are all these random events coming perfectly together where staggering.

The show made me think about all the random decisions, factors and events that converge to put man and fish together at the exact moment in time so that man hooks fish. When you think about all the randomness that goes into hooking a specific fish, the odds are as staggering as an asteroid hitting the Earth.

For example, July 2nd, 2014 I hooked my largest catfish ever on a fly rod (video is below). Here is a list of all the random choices, decisions and factors that went into catching that one fish.

Before heading out to fish:

  • We woke-up later than normal therefore a trip to the big waters of the Lower Salt River or Canyon Lake was not feasible given our time allotment and weather;
  • weather forecast hot triple digit temperatures before noon;
  • our team member that beat cancer was still not one hundred percent and has difficulty on hot sunny mornings;
    the above considerations led to a decision to fish a a community lake (previously Urban Lake system);
  • the most likely candidate was Water Ranch Lake as we hadn’t fished there since our member finished chemotherapy and we needed video footage of this lake for a DVD project;
  • we began to get ready with this “plan” in mind;
    loading the truck the sun was already intense so we decided to change locations to Red Mountain Lake which offered more shade than Water Ranch Lake;
  • the plan was to walk once around the lake sight fishing and casting in locations that were previously productive and then call it a morning;

Once we arrived at Red Mountain Lake:

  • We tied on our most productive lures and flies and set out;
  • on the fly rod I chose a fly that I purchased for carp fishing but that was also productive for bass;
  • walking along the bank we fished the entire lake in about an hour and a half;
  • at this point, we were done fishing;
  • I stopped to talk to a fellow fisherman (who is heard in the video) and took a few moments to show him fly fishing. This took about ten minutes;
  • we continued to walk along the bank back to the truck;
  • about fifteen feet from where we would turn towards the parking lot, we spotted a huge cat fish right by the bank;
  • with all rods rigged, and the carp fly already tied on, I made a decision to try with the fly rod;
  • six or seven casts later, it was “Fish on!”

ALL of the above led up to that exact moment in time and place when our path crossed with that of the catfish. A different lake, a few minutes sooner or later, a different choice of lure and the hook-up would have never happened.

So, catching a specific fish is like an asteroid hitting the Earth. A series of random choices, events, decisions and factors that come together to put man and fish together under exactly the right circumstances.

In the video I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

Sensei John

Sensei John

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor  As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.00 which includes mailing. To get your FFD sticker two-pack, simply go to e-bay and search “Fishing stickers-FlyFishing Dojo Logo blog” – do not bid more than the $1.00, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

office-mug-shirt  Please feel free to “window shop” our unique logo products by clicking on the “SHOP” page tab above. In the photo is the FFD logo coffee mug and baseball shirt.

sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life at http://senseijohn.me

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