Lurking in the Deep – Mysteries, Rocks, and at times – BIG FISH

You never know what that next cast to deep waters might bring!

  • The mystery and secrets of deep waters can offer a line-stretching surprise.
  • Fish “on the rise” can solve our doubt for the presence of fish – they are usually there.
  • A priceless reward can happen every now and then. Enjoy that moment!
You never know what may be lurking in the deep! During a small window in the winter weather, this giant rainbow provided the ultimate angler reward in a small, thawed creek mouth.

By Wade Robertson

The statement has been made that we know more about the galaxy than we do our Earth’s oceans. Though that statement may or may not be true, it does bring up some interesting points.

The water of any depth shrouds in mystery what lies there or lives there. The Challenger Deep, a spot in the Mariana Trench, is 36,070 feet deep, offering such crushing pressures so intense, it escapes our ability to truly comprehend. Yet, in this lightless world, life exists, some of it huge, mankind can only guess what unknown creatures flourish there. The fact is, we simply don’t know.

Even our areas lakes and streams are shrouded in mystery for fishermen. In fact, it’s the mystery of fishing that often makes it so intriguing. It’s hard for a trout fisherman to approach a great looking, deep hole in even the smallest streams without wondering just what lurks there, out of sight, in the swirling depths or beneath the tangled brush pile. Brown trout especially are shy and the bigger, smarter ones are especially difficult to catch. Rainbow trout, though foolish when small, can become just as shy and can survive in heavily fished streams with impunity. Lakes are vast and deeper, and who knows, for instance, how humungous the biggest muskellunge or pike is in the Kinzua Reservoir? I’m sure their length and girth would take our breath away if we could see these finned patriarchs, or even more exciting, catch one.

It’s frustrating to fish a good stretch of trout water without a hit. In the past I used to, in my arrogance, think there were very few fish in the stream. However, over the years I’ve been humbled when a fly hatch begins and the stream I believed barren suddenly filled with rising trout, 50 or more in a quarter-mile on the upper Genesee River. Now, when I fail to catch fish, I know there’s something I’m doing wrong or the trout simply aren’t feeding. Usually, I’m missing something.

Every now and then though, circumstances combine and you see or hook a fish you’ve dreamed about. Landing these leviathans is difficult and the old saying, the big ones get away, is only too true in so many cases. Not only do the larger fish have harder mouths, have more weight and have more frightening power, but their very size also causes many angler’s brains to turn into scrambled eggs, and they forget everything they’ve learned about fighting fish and simply panic.

An angler wants that huge fish so badly only one thought comes to mind, blocking all other common sense and reason. Get it in! Get it in the net, haul it on the beach, lift it over the bank! Of course, this sort of thinking, this reaction, usually has disastrous results. The line snaps or the hooks pull out or straighten. Big fish can turn your knees to jelly, your brain to mush and even make you tremble.

The raindrops came, February showers hard enough to melt snow and raise the creeks. One of those small weather windows where things warm up briefly and if you’re quick, you can get a day or 2 in fishing.

I awoke at six and despite being determined to fish the night before, the bed was exceedingly comfortable and warm. Did I really want to get up, dress, drive some distance and fish with the temperature in the low 30’s on the off chance the streams had risen enough to bring fish upstream? It took a while for me to finally decide to do so, you can’t catch anything lying in bed!

When I arrived at the pull-off, there were no signs of other fishermen in the snow. I walked about 200 yards to the stream and then to the biggest, deepest hole. If there were fish anywhere, it’d be here.

I started with a spinner, then switched to a small minnow bait. My hands were freezing already. A long cast angling downstream and a hit! I snapped the ultralight rod upward and gasped when a huge white belly showed, then thrashed violently, doubling my rod over. What in the world?!

Look for high suppleness in your fishing line, it is desirable, it allows for less memory and a more natural presentation with light and micro-light baits.

A wide silver and red side flashed, a giant rainbow! The fish was incredibly powerful and for over 10 minutes I could only hold on, lightening the drag and dreading those violent quick dashes that could effortlessly snap the 4-pound test line.

Next, the fish angled upstream until it drew abreast of me. I could see her clearly, she was huge. A powerful dash upstream toward a sunken tree. I raised the rod high and pulled upward. Surprisingly, she stopped, bulldogged deep and moved downstream again. After 20 minutes I was a nervous wreck, but she was tiring, finally. Then the torture of working her to the net. She’s at my boots, then flops wildly, thrashes, and she runs back out. Ten times this happens, my heart in my mouth, but things held and I never tried to stop her. Finally, I lead her into the net, the damaged rim cracks from her weight, she flops out and I desperately trap her against the bank with net and boots, frantically hook a finger under a gill and heave her up and onto the bank.

I simply stare, exhausted and unbelieving, what a rainbow! Was this a dream? No, it was real, there would be no waking up in disappointment. I was deliriously happy, couldn’t believe her size, and that I’d actually caught this prize. What a priceless gift from above. Thank you, thank you!

Born to Fish, a True Story

  • Do we have to go in Mom? Please, can I stay on the dock?
  • A reference book on North American Fish made me an 8-year-old “whizz-kid.” That was fun!
  • Fishing bonded me with my mom, dad and so many other family members, and their friends too, from a very young age.
At 3-years-old here, I learned to love fishing from my earliest days, before a medical condition took away some of my leg mobility. I never wanted to leave the dock! Still don’t.

By Wade Robertson

Mom and I were taking a ride last week. Elsie Robertson is 94 years old and still pretty sharp.

Somehow the subject of fishing came up – perhaps this is unavoidable if you talk to me for any length of time, and we were reminiscing about family vacations. I can just remember Mom dragging me off of the dock during a week-long vacation on Chautauqua Lake. I was fishing for sunfish, though I was barely old enough to hold a miniature pole. I’d been fishing since daylight, was being roasted by the sun and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Mom feared I had sunstroke and knew I must be starving, but I resisted, almost violently, to being taken inside. Mom literally had to wrap me up in her arms and haul my kicking, writhing body inside, accompanied, of course, by my yells and crying protests.

Once food and drink were set in front of me, I realized I was, in fact, exceedingly hungry and had a headache from the blazing sun. I even fell asleep for my usual nap. Once I awoke, back out I went. There were fish out there and I was determined to find them.

Mom laughed at the memory and told me every time we drove by a stream, pond or lake, I’d always say the same thing; “Should-a brung my rod.” Mom would turn and rebuke me. “Should have brought your rod! How many times do I have to tell you that?”

I’d grin and smile, but habits are hard to break.

“Do you think I was born a fishing fanatic Mom?” I asked her.

Mom didn’t even hesitate before answering. “Yes”, she answered. The fascination had always been there, easily noticeable from my earliest years. Dad bought me a reference book on North American fish as soon as I could read and I pretty much memorized it in a week or two. That knowledge would come in handy in many surprising ways.

Soon after this, my grandfather and his cronies returned from an early fishing trip to Quebec. Jim McKittrick had caught a large fish on a spoon and no one knew what it was. Pop Hayes told his friends that his 8-year-old grandson would be able to identify the mystery fish, and they laughed at him. He insisted I could and upon their arrival home immediately called Mom. It was early on a Saturday. She smiled at me when she understood the situation and quickly drove me down to investigate. Mom had watched me sit for hours going through that fish field guide, page by page, totally engrossed.

When we arrived Pop stood confidently with his friends, his smoking pipe in hand, grinning. He fully expected me to recognize the unknown fish while his friends were just as confident that I couldn’t. How could an 8-year-old recognize a fish that none of them, the grown men, has ever seen either?

I jumped from the car and ran over to the waiting trucks filled with anticipation. I knew they’d have pike, bass and walleyes, maybe even a lake trout. The big chests were filled with fish and ice, covered with heavy canvass tarps in the truck beds.

Pop waved me to his side and savoring the moment introduced me to all his friends, most of whom I already knew. Pop, always the showman, loved to embellish any situation and this was too good an opportunity to miss. He elaborated on their trip and finally got around to describing how Jim hooked this large fish while trolling, and how well it fought.

By now, his impatient friends were barely able to restrain themselves. Could the kid identify the fish or not? There were some knowing smiles over Pop’s antics, but they knew him well and were attempting to be patient.

Having set the stage, Pop began filling his pipe. Jim snorted, threw his arms up and led me to his truck, pulling the heavy tarp off 1 of the chests and opening it. Inside, on top was a large-scaled, silver fish with a small head, a chub-like mouth and a large eye. The fish was around 30-inches long.

More than six decades later, the streams and lakes still beckon to my immediate focus. I learned to love the outdoors at a very early age and I extend extra efforts now to help youngsters and their families find a way to discover the fun of fishing.

Pop’s eye was fixed upon me and I saw a split-second shadow of concern flicker in them. His reputation was at stake here, he’d played the showman, trusting in my fascination with fish and the knowledge that I’d acquired. On occasion, I’d recited to him the many facts I’d learned about different species and quizzed him about his experiences. He was impressed with what I already knew, but had he overplayed his hand? I immediately felt the weight of that trust and his faith in me, we were both on the spot and the pressure was on. Did I know?

“What is it?” Jim asked, glancing first at Pop Hayes and then back at me.

Pop was standing there confidently, smoking his pipe, apparently without a care in the world. The others all involuntarily stepped forward staring intently. I certainly was anxious, but needlessly. I knew at a glance what it was. The fish looked exactly like the picture in the book, came from the waters the map showed it inhabited.

I looked proudly up and answered with surety. “That’s a huge whitefish, maybe a record!”

Pop burst out laughing! He was filled with pride and vindication, shaking my hand, patting me proudly. One or two men were skeptical and asked if I was positive. I described the large scales, small head, shape of the dorsal fin and mouth; further informing these fishermen that whitefish was excellent eating as well. They were noted for their white flakey fillets, not fishy at all. They were commercially netted in the spring and their smoked fillets were sold in many fish shops, a delicacy.

When I confidently challenged them to come inside the house and check the encyclopedia no one any longer doubted me.

Suddenly, I became the whizz-kid. Even more questions were asked of me, all of which I answered. Everyone was impressed. Grandad looked down on me beaming, and suddenly there was a special bond between us that never diminished. The story spread all over town and for months afterward, people would ask if I was the kid who knew so much about fish.

“Yes, sir. Yes, Mam.” I’d reply. It was flattering for a young boy to be so noticed.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder if that knowledge wasn’t born within me and the book simply refreshed what I already somehow knew before coming to earth. I honestly believe that may be true.

Cleaning your Rifle, it’s Essential…Why and How

When all things go right, it starts with a clean barrel.

  • Preventive maintenance allows repeatability in performance
  • How to remove copper bullet build-up from the rifled barrel
  • How to maintain the bolt…it’s important!

By Wade Robertson

Hunting season is over and now is the time to make sure your firearms are properly taken care of. Here, I’m getting ready to give my .223 a thorough cleaning. Wire brush the bore, oil it, wipe down all metal parts and check your screws are still tight. A little time spent now can save serious problems down the road. 

Well, another deer season has come and gone. You will in all likelihood be putting the rifle in the cabinet for another year where it will sit primarily forgotten. During this time, it’s essential to make sure rust or corrosion isn’t eating away at your rifle, it’s time to clean your rifle properly.

The bore determines the accuracy of your rifle and should have particular attention paid to it to prevent any issues. Even though today’s gunpowders and primers are non-corrosive, it’s wise to treat the barrel with loving care. Let’s call this our preventative maintenance schedule.

You may be wondering why you should pay special attention to the bore of your rifle. Let’s take a second to think about what takes place every time you pull the trigger.

You squeeze and the firing pin falls, striking the primer. The primer is powerful for its size and explodes into the relatively small space of the powder-filled case. The powder is instantly heated to a high temperature and begins to burn very, very rapidly, creating high-temperature gas.  The gas pressure builds to around 50,000 pounds per square inch. The only thing movable is the bullet, so the high-pressure gas propels the projectile down the rifled barrel at approximately 3,000 feet per second. The velocity varies depending on the caliber and bullet weight.

The amount of heat and friction generated during those brief milliseconds between pulling the trigger, the powder burning and the bullet exiting the barrel is absolutely tremendous. Everything is perfectly safe of course since the metal composition and chamber/barrel thickness has been explicitly designed to withstand precisely that amount of thermal stress and more. However, as you may have surmised, some things definitely get dirty during this brief spurt of extreme forces.

The high-temperature powder gas leaves a dark residue inside the chamber where small amounts of gas have made their way around the neck of the bullet case. In the bore itself, the bullet has been driven to slide along into the rifling and accelerated down the barrel under the tremendous pressure as mentioned. Some of the copper jacket of the bullet is stripped off onto the lands and grooves of the barrel along with the red hot powder gas residue. Each and every shot adds to these deposits.

Additionally, any tiny irregularities or rough spots in the barrel will strip off more of the copper jacket, the build-up faster can affect the uniformity of your barrel. After several shots, depending on the caliber and the particular firearm, accuracy will begin to drop off. Luckily a wire brush and a suitable powder/copper solvent will help remove this fouling.

However, shooting is only one of the ways we can dirty our rifles.  Since we are continually handling or carrying them, sometimes in miserable weather, we can’t ignore what exposing them to heavy rain or wet snow can do.  Simply bringing your firearm inside from the cold into your home or camp will cause water vapor to condense on both the inside and outside of the metal. This isn’t any different than being outside in the rain, the end result is that your firearm’s wet. It’s essential to be aware of this and take care of the rifle once it has warmed up, don’t sit the firearm in a corner and forget about it.

Merely handling the metal parts of the forearm leaves fingerprints and the tiny deposits of salt, or whatever else is on our fingers, and unless the metal is well-oiled rust can form. Always wipe your metal parts down with an oily cloth after handling.

In short, always pay attention to your firearms and take the steps necessary to prevent moisture or corrosion from harming them. I have even seen rifles rust in a gun safe that happened to be against a cool outside wall allowing the safe to collect moisture inside it. That is a serious situation that should always be addressed immediately.

Having your rifle bore clean and your bolt free from gummy residue, allowed me to bag this heavy-tine 8-point buck in single-digit temperatures. Proper maintenance is essential when Mother Nature throws nasty weather your way. Never heavily oil the interior of your bolt, keep it clean and free of residue. 

At the very least you should always thoroughly clean your firearms before putting them away for the winter.   First, remove the bolt from your rifle and inspect it. Clean the bolt face with a toothbrush and wipe the entire bolt body clean with an oily cloth. Do not squirt oil down the firing pin hole or apply it heavily where the oil can make its way inside the bolt. Oil build-up inside the bolt and around the firing pin spring could cause your rifle to misfire during cold temperatures. The excess oil thickens to become like sludge. This is a more common occurrence than you might think and has cost more than 1 person a nice buck!

If your bolt becomes wet or damp inside you need to disassemble, dry, and very lightly oil it. Use a Teflon type, very light lubricant on the firing pin spring to ensure that extreme cold will not cause a misfire. If you have an older firearm from your youth, or dad’s old rifle, and suddenly decide to use it for old times’ sake, you’d be wise to pull the bolt apart and clean it. I can almost guarantee there will be substantial thickened oil and sludge inside the bolt just waiting to cool, harden and prevent the firing pin from falling hard enough to fire the bullet.

Now that you have cleaned up the bolt, it’s time to clear your rifle barrel. I begin by dipping the proper caliber brush in copper and powder solvent and wire brushing the barrel thoroughly. Next, run cloth patches saturated with solvent through the bore to remove the loosened fouling. When the patches come out clean, you’re finished. You may have to wire brush a second time.

Finish by running a patch covered with gun oil down the bore two times, this will protect your bore from rust and oxidation until next year.

A badly fouled barrel may need to be wire-brushed multiple times and require multiple patches to return it to a clean state. Occasionally you may have to purchase a stronger solvent especially designed for stubborn fouling and copper build-up. Keep at it until your patch comes out without turning gray or black.

I seldom remove the barreled action from the stock. However, if your rifle has been soaked in the rain or immersed in water, it may be necessary to do so. Water may collect around the recoil lug, under or around the action, in the trigger assembly and other areas. Water dries very slowly in such tight spaces and severe rusting, even pitting, can occur in these situations.

Composite stocks can simply be dried off and set aside in a warm area to dry before oiling your barreled action and reassembling. Wooden stocks may need to sit for several days if soaked.  Examine your wood stocks very carefully once the barreled action has been removed. Many times you’ll find the wood hasn’t been sealed with stock finish around the barrel, action and magazine well. This is very common with older guns.  I highly recommend sealing any untreated wood with two coats of varnish or stock finish. It’s also important to remove the recoil pad and seal the end grain with two coats of finish if needed. The end grain of the stock is very absorbent and might even require a third coat if the wood is light and porous. When fully dry, replace the pad. Once the stock is sealed, the wood will become much more stable and is far more likely to hold its zero from one year to another.

Don’t forget to oil your rifle sling swivels as well, they can get squeaky if you don’t keep them lubricated.

Once you have finished cleaning and oiling your firearm you can safely place it in the gun cabinet until next year. When fall rolls around in 2020, you’ll be able to remove it without any nasty surprises. It’ll be in great working condition and that, I may add, is a good thing.