A Tippet for Toothy Fish

It’s fall and big fish with big teeth are beginning to get active. For fly fishers and hardware throwers alike here is a simple – yet effective –  means for constructing a tippet that will withstand the rigors of pike, muskie, pickerel, bluefish, specks and other fish with major molars – or incisors or whatever.

First you will need a few tools. A good pair of hemostats, a pair of diagonals or wire cutters with cutters at the tip of the tool, a pair of needle nose pliers, and a pair of serrated scissors. If you don’t already have them in your tool box a trip to the hardware store may be in order. As long as you are going to the hardware store, a hammer, anvil, acetylene torch, concrete mixer, a box of 16d nails, and a grinder can be purchased as well. You won’t need them for this project, but didn’t you really want that stuff ? Oh what the heck; throw in the arc welder and a string of Christmas lights.

The next item you will need is the actual leader material itself. My favorite is Rio Wire Bite. This is great stuff but it’s a bit on the pricey side. Don’t expect your nippers to cut it. That’s what the serrated scissors are for. Any knotable coated wire will work, and this tippet method will help you save a few bucks. 

Then you will need some snaps such as those found at the end of a snap swivel. Whether you use the type shown or the all wire snaps is a matter of personal preference.

Now to begin the construction, liberate the snap from the swivel using the diagonals. Carefully cut the wire of the swivel allowing the snap to come free. The snaps can also be purchased separate from the swivel.

Then cut about two feet of the desired tippet material, (24 inches or 61 cm or 0.0003291569 nautical miles) from the spool.

At one end tie a Non-Slip Mono Loop or Perfection Loop. This will enable you to use the loop to loop method to connect the tippet to the leader. At the other end you can attach the snap to the wire by using an improved clinch knot or a figure 8 knot. You may need the needle nose pliers or hemostats to pull the knots tight. Be sure to lubricate the knots before pulling them tight.

The snap will move some but that is okay. It gives more action to the fly and field tests (well actually lake tests) have shown that its effectiveness is not diminished. In fact, it seems to impart more action into the large flies used. Changing flies is simply a matter of opening the snap, removing the fly, replacing it with another fly, and closing the snap. With the Rio Wire Bite, you can tie on individual flies, much as you would with monofilament, but I don’t see the need for it with a leader like this.

An advantage of this over a crimped leader or tippet is that the loop or knot at the snap is not as likely to pick up “lake salad” as a crimp will be.

This tippet can also be attached to the business end of a rod throwing plugs and it works just fine.

Tie up a bunch while sitting in front of the TV before going fishing. Make them in various lengths and test strengths of wire. Then you will have a supply when you are ready to go fishing.

There are some comments from a couple of contributors to the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide that I feel are worth noting:

Ed Jaworowski wrote:

I’ve made numerous trips to northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan for pike, and taken them as well in Alaska, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador. The leaders you recommend are fine, but here’s another approach. You only need a pair of sharp cutters. Connect the mono to the knottable/tieable wire with an overhand knot in the wire, and a uni-knot in mono. I thoroughly dislike a perfection loop in the wire. The uni-knot connection is much smaller, neater, catches grass and junk a lot less. To the fly, a simple figure 8 works fine. Obviously, a snap on the end has great advantage for changing flies, and I generally use snaps now. But this method is quick, and you can rig up with just a spool of wire and the diagonal cutters in seconds. I’ve taken easily 5-600 pike, many 36-44″ and never had a failure. I’ve also used it for many bluefish, which are far stronger and tougher than any pike.

Ed

Bob Clouser wrote:
The leader I use is three foot of 30 lb. Maxima and a 14 inch of 20 to 30 pound bite wire with a snap and swivel.

 

I like Ed’s idea of “overhand knot in the wire, and a uni-knot in mono. ”  More research is required – I guess I have to go fishing again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Family Grand Slam

This past weekend I accomplished something that isn’t all that uncommon. I caught a wild brook trout, a wild rainbow trout, and a wild brown trout, in the same county. Granted they were two different streams that provided the fish, but they were all wild. It was the “Pennsylvania Wild Trout Grand Slam” so to speak. The only native that was missing was the Lake Trout, Salvelinus namaycush. As I released the wild brown back into the environment where he was spawned, it got me thinking, how hard would it be to catch all the members of other families in the same county, or watershed or some other geographically defined area? Which county or waterbody would you go to?

To catch three of the four trout in Pennsylvania the answer to the question is relatively easy. Go anywhere there is a stocked stream and you are likely to fulfill the goal. If the brook, brown and rainbows are to be wild, the question gets a little more difficult. To catch all four Erie County – and by extension Lake Erie is probably the best bet, though I have yet to hear of a brook trout coming from Lake Erie.

Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush

Brook Trout Salvelinus fontinalis

Brown Trout Salmo trutta

Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss

Excluding lakers, the counties where I would go to catch the other three wild trout would be Cumberland, Westmoreland, Franklin and Somerset.

What about the other families of fish?  Where would you go to catch all the members of the sunfish family Centrarchidae?  There are 30 species of sunfishes found in North America. To be sure, not all of them live in Pennsylvania. So I have abbreviated the list, to just those that are common in the Keystone State.

Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus

White Crappie Pomoxis annularis

Rock Bass Ambloplites rupestris

Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides

Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu

Green Sunfish Lepomis cyanellus

Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus

Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus

Pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus

Longear Sunfish Lepomis megalotis

Redbreast Sunfish Lepomis auritus

It might not be possible to find all of the species in one county or one drainage, but the two counties I would consider would be Huntingdon, at Lake Raystown, or Tioga with Cowanesque, Hammond and Hills Creek lakes leading the likely places. The Susquehanna River below Sunbury is also considered.

The perch family, Percidae might be the easiest list to fill. Three species are that you have to consider in this category: walleye, yellow perch, and sauger.

Walleye Sander vitreus

Yellow Perch Perca flavescens

Sauger Sander canadensis

I’ll leave out the other members of the family Percidae which includes the darters. I suspect I would have to go to somewhere in the Ohio River drainage to catch all of them. The Allegheny River on the Westmoreland / Allegheny County line would be a good place to start, or even a little farther upstream where the Kiskiminetas enters the Allegheny in Armstrong County.

The family Moronidae includes Striped Bass, White Bass and White Perch. This could be a tough one as their natural ranges do not overlap.

Striped Bass Morone saxatilis

White Bass Morone chrysops

White Perch Morone Americana

I would be inclined to go to the Delaware River for these.

For shad the lower Susquehanna or the Delaware River would have to be the choice

Shad, the members of the family Clupeidae, are difficult to find in Pennsylvania. The lower Susquehanna River in Lancaster or York county would be my choice to find the two prevalent species, though I wouldn’t rule out the Delaware River.

American Shad Alosa sapidissima

Hickory Shad Alosa mediocris

The pike family might be the most difficult grand slam to achieve in Pennsylvania.

Last but not least, and probably the hardest to catch all four species is the family Esocidae – the Pike Family. This family includes:

 

 

Grass or Redfin Pickerel Esox americanus

Chain Pickerel Esox niger

Northern Pike Esox Lucius

Muskellunge Esox masquinongy

I would probably go to northwestern Pennsylvania for this quest. The French Creek drainage would be a good starting point. Also the Allegheny Reservoir (a.k.a. Kinzua Lake) is a likely starting point. I would also consider Tioga County, though finding a northern pike there may be a bit problematic.

I have not included any of the minnow family, or suckers, drum or other fish that may from time to time show up such as Pacific salmon.

I am curious about your thoughts on this. And by the way, all the species mentioned can be caught on a fly. A “Fish Family Grand Slam on a Fly” or a “Fish Family Grand Slam on the Same Fly”; now there is a challenge.

The Civilian Conservation Corps – CCC – Part 4 of 4

Pepper Hill

On Wednesday, October 19, 1938 the Lock Haven Express weather report stated, “Rain tonight and probably Thursday morning, colder on Thursday, and in central and west portions tonight.” The paper noted it had been 80o F. the day before.[i] The same paper reported that two small fires had occurred the day before, one near Haneyville and the other in Paddys Run. The Harrisburg Telegraph was predicting temperatures near 78o F with rain to follow.[ii]  The fall of 1938 was dry. While spring rainfalls had been near normal, the summer and fall proved much drier with precipitation 2 inches below normal.[iii] A killing frost had hit the northcentral part of the state on October 7 followed by higher than normal temperatures. The forest was tinder dry.

On the morning of October 18, 1938 a series of fires broke out near Lick Run and Jerry Run in Cameron County. The fires burned throughout the day and men from camp S-132 at Hunts Run were detailed to fight the fires. Additional men who had returned to camp from their regular duties were sent out to work the night shift after eating dinner. They returned to camp at 5:30 a.m. the following morning.

Along the First Fork of Sinnemahoning Creek, about four miles upstream from its confluence with Sinnemahoning Creek, at a place called Pepper Hill an arsonist had set fires on the west side of the valley. Truck driver, George Poloski was dispatched to check on the report of a wildfire in the area. At noon Poloski phoned District Forester Charles Baer to report the fires and returned to camp S-132 to eat and pick up the fire crews.

Two crews were dispatched from camp S-132. Both crews had been on the fire line all night and had only a few hours sleep when they were dispatched to the blaze. Crew 1 had 25 enrollees and was led by foreman Adolph Kammarath. Crew 2 had 22 men and was led by foreman Gilbert Mohney. The 49 men were exhausted from the previous night’s fire duty.

When the crews arrived on the fire scene they found four separate fires. A decision was made to attack the smallest fire. The terrain where the fire is located is some of the steepest to be found in Pennsylvania. Crew 2 under Foreman Mohney began building a fire line on the right flank of the fire, while others in the crew began backfiring. The going was tough and in 45 minutes only 200 feet of fire line had been constructed. The crew was instructed to move to the top of the mountain and construct a downhill line. As the crew proceeded to the top of the mountain the men became separated with some men stopping to rest while others moved on. At about 3:30 p.m. the crew noticed that the wind had shifted and the backfire they had set below had jumped their fire line and was burning toward them. The fire assumed the shape of a horseshoe. The fire burned on the panic stricken crew’s left and right as well as behind them.

Some sought shelter in the rocks. Others raced toward the summit in an effort to get away from the fire. The flames caught the men. In all the fire claimed eight lives. Foreman Gilbert Mohney, 38 of Ridgway, Basil Bogush, 19 of Conemaugh, John Boring, 19 of Johnstown, Howard May, 18 of Erie, and Andrew Stephanic 18, of Twin Rocks all perished at the scene of the fire. Ross Hollobaugh 18 of Rimersburg died the next day at Renovo Hospital. Stephen Jacofsky 17 of Johnstown died the next day at the hospital in St. Marys. George Vogel who was believed to be from New Kensington died November 2, in Renovo.

Over twenty others were injured in the fire, many requiring hospitalization. Peter Damico was severely burned, transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. and eventually returned to duty at camp S-132. Enrollees Kiliany and Gaydos were credited with leading many of the crew to safety.

In an ironic twist of fate rain began to fall about the same time the men were trapped and the 134 acre fire was extinguished, not through the efforts of the firefighters but rather by the heavy rain that fell that night.[iv]

In the days that followed federal, state and county officials began an investigation into how the fire started and how and why the men were trapped. Initial reports found in the press had the size of the fire at 800 acres, names were misspelled, and the hometowns were somewhat disorganized. George Wirt was the P.D.F. & W. investigator but the main investigation was conducted by federal and county officials. Cameron County District Attorney Edwin Tompkins would lead the county’s investigation. On October 22, 1938, three days after the fire Tompkins stated that “improper supervision” led to the deaths.[v] Tompkins said he would convene an inquest into the deaths and he “would subpoena everybody with the slightest connection with the case.”[vi] The C.C.C. investigation was under the direction of Colonel C.D. King, Commander of the Indiana District of the C.C.C. which covered Cameron County. Captain Alton Miller, Sub-district Commander and Lieutenant Rodman Hayes Cameron Camp Commander were the C.C.C. officials on site for the investigation.

On Monday, October 23, 1938 a mass was celebrated at St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church for the seven dead. At the Hyner Camp, the flag was lowered to half-staff and taps was played in remembrance of their fallen comrades.[vii] Robert Fechner, Director of the C.C.C. sent condolences to the families of the deceased.[viii]

On October 31, 1938, District Attorney Tompkins began an inquest into the Pepper Hill Fire. The inquest was expected to last three days. Tompkins was concerned that the fire was arson caused and that improper supervision had led to the deaths.[x] The testimony began with parents of four of the deceased in attendance.

Early testimony of the witnesses indicated that they did not believe the fire could have started from others burning in the area, and trains and discarded smoking materials were also ruled out as sources of ignition.[xi]

On November 2, 1938 Earl Getz, supervisor of camp S-132, testified that “the youths had received some experience fighting fires in September.” When Getz was further questioned about how much training the men had received he refused to answer, stating that the information was in the records turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that was conducting its own investigation. Lieutenant Rodman M. Haynes, reserve officer at the camp admitted that the book C.C.C. Safety Regulations Relating to Forest Fire Fighters, had not been issued at the camp until two days after the fatal fire. He also testified that no other regulations or information concerning the fighting of forest fires had been posted at the camp.[xii]

Later testimony from the C.C.C. men reported they had worked on roads all day of October 18 and then had been on a fire through the night. They had gotten only six hours of rest before they were dispatched to the Pepper Hill Fire.[xiii] As testimony went on, survivor enrollees testified about the conditions they faced, how they escaped and tellingly that they had not received any classroom instruction in firefighting.[xiv] The testimony in the Coroner’s Inquest concluded on November 10, 1938.

On November 12, 1938 the coroner’s jury of “experienced woodsmen” decided after hearing nine days of testimony that the fire’s cause was incendiary and set by “some person or persons unknown. The jury also found camp officials guilty of “laxity and negligence” and recommended that any officer in charge of the camp be reprimanded and disciplined in accordance with army regulations.[xv]

Though Tompkins’ inquest was closed the Pepper Hill Fire would have long-lasting ramifications in the C.C.C. and in forest fire fighting.

The CCC Declines

The Civilian Conservation Corps had passed its high water mark. Enrollments were down, largely in part to an improving economy. War in Asia, the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Europe were beginning to drive the economy. On January 18, 1939, Robert Fechner asked Congress to make the C.C.C. a permanent part of the federal government.[xvi] Congressman May of Kentucky, Chairman of the House Military Committee suggested giving the C.C.C. enrollees military training.[xvii] Director Fechner was quoted in the press as opposing military training in the C.C.C.[xviii]

In January of 1939, Robert Fechner made a proposal that the C.C.C. become a permanent agency of the Federal government. His proposal asked for permanent civil service status for the enrollees to continue the work they had been doing. Fechner’s proposal met with resistance from Congress, much as the same proposal from Roosevelt had a couple of years earlier.[xix] Fechner was, however opposed to compulsory military training of the C.C.C. He said, “I do not believe there is any need or justification for compulsory military training or military training of any character as the term is usually understood in the CCC.”[xx]

Not only was enrollment dropping due to increased jobs in the private sector but other problems began to crop up in the C.C.C. The Federal Security Agency (FSA) was created by Roosevelt to consolidate several offices and boards under one director. The C.C.C. lost its status as an independent organization. Fechner was furious and considered resigning.[xxi] Despite the changes the agency moved on.

It was still a dangerous place to work. On February 13, 1939 Captain Edward Jelens, a C.C.C. supervisor at Renovo died from injuries he received in an automobile accident on January 21st.  Five enrollees from the camp at the Gettysburg battlefield were injured when their truck overturned on June 8, 1939.[xxii]

In another incident, First Lieutenant Crenson E. Davis, commander of Camp S-116 near Clearfield disappeared on February 1, 1939 when he went to Clearfield to cash payroll checks. The 26 year-old was initially feared to be the victim of bandits.[xxiii] On March 8, 1939, Davis was arrested in Texas when he tried to enlist as a private in the Army under an assumed name.[xxiv]

As projects were completed camps began to move and shift. Enrollees were transferred to other camps as the camps were phased out. On May 12, 1939, Company 2328 at SCS-6 at Shelocta began to disassemble their buildings and move them to a new site near Homer City.[xxv] Maryland was unable to fill its quota of enrollees and Pennsylvanians were used.[xxvi]

On June 15, 1939, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that civilians, rather than Army officers would now be in charge of the C.C.C. camps.[xxvii] In early July Roosevelt announced that Paul V. McNutt would head the FSA.[xxviii]  Later in the month it was announced that Pennsylvania would be allowed to furnish 6,042 enrollees of who 344 would be war veterans.[xxix]

In July of 1939 work was progressing on what was to become known as the Wayside Rest Memorial. The project, two miles east of Emporium on route PA 120 was to be a memorial to the eight C.C.C. men who had lost their lives as a result of the Pepper Hill Fire. The memorial was conceived by Father Paul Giegerich, chaplain of the C.C.C. district. Each enrollee and officer was asked for a small contribution to the project, often just a nickel or dime. C.C.C. enrollees and officers from across the state contributed to make the project a reality.[xxx] On October 19, 1939, one year to the day after the Pepper Hill Fire, the Wayside Rest Memorial was dedicated.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland starting the war in Europe. The C.C.C. which had been in decline because of a lack of enrollees was further hampered by a lack of manpower, as American industry was roused out of its deep slumber of The Depression and jobs became plentiful.

Another blow to the viability of the C.C.C. came on December 31, 1939 when Robert Fechner died at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. where he had been for the past five weeks after suffering a heart attack.[xxxi]

The CCC would continue until 1942. As the demands for men and materials for World War II increased, the CCC became an anachronism and funding for the program was eliminated as the world went to war.

[i] The Express, Lock Haven, PA, October 19, 1938

[ii] The Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, PA, October 19, 1938

[iii] NOAA, National Climatic Data Center, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/

[iv] Schultz, Michael, Pepper Hill: A Tragedy, Wildland Firefighter, February, 2001, along with multiple other references including Ely, Warren, in Forest Fire Warden News, 1981, and multiple press accounts by UPI, AP, and INS.

[v] Bradford Evening Star and The Bradford Daily Record, Bradford, PA, October 22, 1938

[vi] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, October 22, 1938

[vii] The Express, Lock Haven, PA, October 25, 1938

[viii] Warren Times Mirror, Warren, PA, October 27, 1938

[ix] Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, PA, October 29, 1938

[x] Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, PA, October 31, 1938

[xi] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, November 1, 1938

[xii] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, November 2, 1938

[xiii] The Express, Lock Haven, PA, November 8, 1938

[xiv] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, November 10, 1938

[xv] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, November 14, 1938

[xvi] The Evening News, Harrisburg, PA, January 19, 1939

[xvii] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, January 21, 1939

[xviii] The Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh, PA, March 4, 1939

[xix] The Evening News, Harrisburg, PA, January 19, 1939

[xx] The Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh, PA, March 4, 1939

[xxi] History of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Its Lasting Legacy, Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy, Inc., Edinburg, VA, 2010

[xxii] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, June 8, 1939

[xxiii] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, February 2, 1939

[xxiv] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, March 8, 1939

[xxv] The Indiana Gazette, Indiana, PA, May 20, 1939

[xxvi] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, March 28, 1939

[xxvii] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, June 16, 1939

[xxviii] The Evening Sun, Hanover, PA, July 11, 1939

[xxix] The Gettysburg Times, Gettysburg, PA, June 24, 1939

[xxx] The Kane Republican, Kane, PA, July 21, 1939

[xxxi] The Evening News, Harrisburg, PA, January 1, 1940