Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Current Conditions - The Fishing is Good Locally

Yesterday morning I returned from my trip to visit my grandsons in South Carolina and after unpacking and mowing the lawn for the first time this year, I set out for the South Branch to get some time on the water before going back to work today.   When I got to the river the skies were dark, spitting rain with a stiff breeze making things interesting.  The river was up a little and clear and trout rose randomly but with purpose.  I scanned the water surface and saw caddis shucks drifting along in the film.  When the wind calmed I noticed downed caddis, grannoms and apple caddis, struggling to become airborne.  They skittered along the surface in circles and zig-zags, but they went ignored.  Trout still rose, but not to the adults scrambling haplessly.

I had been fishing an adult caddis as I observed the caddis activity and rising fish.  I dead-drifted it, skittered it, and skated the fly just as the naturals were doing.  Then the light went on.  The fish weren't rising aggressively, they were rising quickly and taking their prey without much of a commotion....they were taking the pupae in the film just before they broke free of their nymphal shuck.  I tied on a size #17 (TMC102Y) Iris Caddis and dropped the fly just above a fish after it rose.  The fly drifted a foot or so and then was sipped in with confidence.  After a brief battle I netted a nice 13 inch rainbow.

The rain continued to fall, the fish kept rising here and there, and every good cast and drift over a working fish resulted in a take.  I missed a few, hooked and landed more than a few, all on the one fly.  And I didn't see another angler the whole time....in New Jersey!

Now that the Hendrickson hatch is finished around here, caddis will be the main course on the surface for the next week or two.   In the Catksills, the rivers are still quite high, but with any luck they will recede in the next week or so just in time for the Hendricksons/Red Quills, Dark and Light Grannoms, Blue Quills and early black and brown stoneflies.   Time will tell.

My two grandsons, Bryson 2 (left) and Henley 5 years old.  Yes, Bryson is almost as big as his older brother and full of confidence.  The binkie is his cape; he thinks he's a super hero, and I have the head bumps and bruises to prove it. Henley is full of energy and a soccer kid, loves it.  They get along great despite being very different from each other.  They both like to fish, so we'll have them casting a fly in a few short years.

Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Shannon's Beginner Fly Fishing Class - April 27

Shannon's Fly & Tackle Shop in Califon New Jersey will be offering their beginner fly fishing class on Saturday April 27, 2019.  The class is a one day affair that starts at 8:00AM and goes to 4:00PM or so.  The morning session we'll be covering equipment, essential knots, basics on hatches and flies, casting, wading & safety with the focus on fly fishing for trout and their environment. Following a grilled lunch, students will hit the water with our guides for a few hours of on the water instruction.

The event will be held on Shannon's club waters at the Raritan Inn. The cost is $200.00 per person and $375.00 for couples and two person family groups. 

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Tying the Half Pint Midge

In this video Tim ties the Half Pint Midge, which was created by Aaron Freed of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, MT.  The fly is similar to the Zebra Midge, but with flash and a dubbed collar. I've fished it for a few years, and I find it works quite well tied in dark brown with gold wire rib in addition to the standard black shown here.  Tie some up!

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Dawn of a New Season

As winter turns to spring, the early morning sun bounces off our pond and shines in on the bedroom ceiling.  In the reflected light, dull shadows of rising water vapor dance through the rectangles, yet when I look directly at the pond, the vapor is all but invisible.  On the hill above the pond, daffodils push through the carpet of decaying leaves, their bright yellow blooms undisturbed by the deer that come for a drink.  These are my annual clues that our beloved spring hatches are waiting in the wings.

Over the last few weeks the little black stoneflies have been hatching in good numbers in our region.  They range in size from #18's to #12.  On bright days the females can be seen skittering across the water surface as they use the surface tension to pull their egg sac off the end of their abdomen.  If you are lucky, you may even see an egg-laden female crawiling on riverside stones or bridges. The white egg cluster sits under the end of the wing over the end of the abdomen, which has turned a bright red color on the dorsal side. When the trout are hitting the skittering females, tie on a dark caddis dry or stonefly pattern and gently pull it across the surface where the trout have shown themselves.  Often the trout will nail it in a violent take - don't use a light tippet for this exercise.

Our rivers have also been chock full of the bright orange, free-living chimarra caddis larva.  These larvae are a true size #18, and the trout are fully aware that they are available to them.  Fish a small orange caddis larvae behind a larger nymph for the next couple of weeks to "match" this now abundant trout food.

Chimarra caddis larva imitation

The first mayfly hatch of the season, the Blue-winged Olives, started to hatch a few weeks ago and will continue through most of this month.  Typically, these insects hatch best on warm, overcast days for a few hours at the warmest part of the day.   We've seen good numbers hatching on some days, and on others they're making themselves scarce.  We prefer to fish a low riding imitation - an Improved Sparkle Emerger - in sizes #18-22.  On Saturday there was a decent hatch on the PA limestone creek I was fishing in the late morning and we took a few nice browns on top. Once the wind kicked up, the hatch and the fish disappeared for the rest of the day.

Blue-winged Olive Improved Sparkle Emerger

Wild brown taken on the Sparkle Emerger

Soon we should start to see the Hendrickson's and Red Quills hatching here in New Jersey.  They usually start around April 10-12th and continue for a week to two with the peak lasting 4-5 days.  With any luck the rivers will stay clear and we'll have a good, fishable hatch this year - our recent stream samples have yielded good numbers of maturing hendrickson nymphs. 

Opening Day of trout season in New Jersey is this Saturday.  It used to be a big deal for us but now that we fish all year 'round its just another day we can fish if we are so inclined to brave the crowds.   

Blue moon

Sharpen your hooks!                      

Friday, March 22, 2019

March Fly Tying Madness This Sunday at the Pequest Hatchery

The Rahway River Trout Unlimited chapter hosts this annual event to benefit Casting For Recovery, Wounded Warriors, and Project Healing Waters. This year's event will once again be held at the Pequest Trout Hatchery's education building on Sunday, March 24th @9am.  All 10 NJTU chapters as well as CFR and PHW members will be on hand to tie flies to donate to these excellent organizations. RRTU will prepare lunch and have gift bags for all and raffle drawings every fifteen minutes throughout the day. Come out and work off those winter blues and get your tying game on for a great cause!
Some excellent prizes this year, breakfast and lunch provided, and you don't have to be a TU member to participate , just tie some flies and donate them to our friends at Casting for Recovery, Project Healing Waters and TU veteran program.
The Pequest Trout Hatchery is located at 605 Pequest Rd, Oxford, NJ 07863

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Baby Orca


Monday, March 11, 2019

A Little Fishing - Fish On, Fish Off

Isn't it amazing how I've been pumping out blog posts lately?  It's been a few interesting months, and since the fishing has been a wash-out out more often than not, life kind of takes over before you know it.

Recently I managed to get out on the water and fish for a few hours.  I met Stephen Sautner, the author, on the Musconetcong River and had a great time despite not catching a damn thing.  The river was clear but a little high and quite cold - 36 degrees F.  The air wasn't much better at about 41 degrees F with a light breeze.  I was warm and comfortable except my toes.  It seems no matter what I wear on my feet to keep them "warm", the cold water always manages to win the battle of temperature rights.  The good thing is that I didn't notice until I got out of the water and started back to the car.

Stephen was fishing Tankara for the very first time, and I was fishing with a traditional set-up. If you aren't familiar with Tenkara style fishing, it's essentially a long limber, telescoping rod (13 feet long in Stephen's case), to which a long length of line (10' to 12') is attached to the tip.  To the end of the line a length of tippet material is attached and a fly or two.  On this occasion, Stephen had two flies tied to the tippet - an egg pattern and a zebra midge along with some split shot.  

All was going well until Stephen hooked a fish and suddenly realized that its a whole new ball game fishing without a reel.  The rod was bent deep into the butt and the fish ran back and forth and with the help of the swift currents pretty much did what it wanted.  He played the fish well - a bona fide trial by fire - and when he lifted the rod to bring the fish in to land it, the rod and the fish had other ideas. Since Stephen didn't have a net, he was left to land it by hand. He came close once or twice to grabbing the line with the rod high over his head, but the soft tip of the rod allowed it to rotate from the pressure and the line jumped all over the place just out of his reach. He also tried to back up to find softer water near the bank, but the overhead branches wouldn't allow it with the long rod held high. 

After a short while, what looked to be a respectable rainbow, managed to free itself. Perhaps this was a reminder that Stephen's first book, "Fish On, Fish Off", has innumerable chapters for all anglers. 

Over the next hour, Stephen hooked two more fish, both of which were long-distance releases.  They weren't on the line long enough for him to again try to land them, but I suspect if they were, he'd have figured it out.  He did say he enjoyed fishing Tenkara and looked forward to the learning curve of fly fishing with a fixed line and no reel.

Sharpen your hooks...and use a net! : )

* Stephen Sautner is the author of "Fish On, Fish Off", and more recently "A Cast in the Woods"