It was one of those strange early spring days today where the weather isn't sure if it wants to merge into the next season. A little sun, which was warm when it showed itself, low clouds that increased in density as the day progressed, and lots of gusty winds. The air also couldn't choose a season, remaining mostly cool so as not to get our hopes up too much as to when the first major hatches will begin in earnest.
After a great brunch with family and friends at the local Inn, I went home, changed and gathered my gear before heading down to the South Branch of the Raritan River. The water level was good, clarity very good, and the temperature about 45-46 F. There were a few small little black caddis about, a few dark grannoms, and plenty of tiny black midges skittering about the slack water along the stream edge. I walked upstream from where I parked and found a favorite hole at the bottom of a long riffle that was without an angler anywhere in sight.
After setting up my leader for fishing a single nymph, I got to work drifting a #14 Walt's Worm through the deeper runs and along the far bank. After making a number of drifts and adjustments to the amount of weight on my leader, I finally got the drift right for the fly I was fishing. There's no set formula to finding the correct amount of weight; it's all feel and experience, trial and error. And what's right for one run or pool or pocket, may not be right when you get to the next. It's all about the drift - the depth and the speed; it has to be right and feel right.
And of course it is about results. I managed to take a bunch of freshly stocked rainbows, some smallish, and two that were 13-14 inches long that found hard. The first two took the Walt's Worm, the rest I took on a #12 brown and yellow LaFontaine Sparkle Pupa.
After about two hours, I decided to call it a day. I had caught fish, and my right arm was freezing! I had stopped fishing for a bit to seine the run above the pool I was fishing to see what nymphs and other aquatic life was active. I seined a few shallow spots, but didn't find much, so I went deeper and submerged my arm almost up to my shoulder. Bugs before comfort I guess, and I was fine when I first went back to fishing, but the wind on my arm started to chill my whole body. If fishing were better, I likely would have stayed warm just from the excitement, but not today.
It was a good day. Caught fish, and found a load of bugs in the deeper water. Tons of scuds, mayfly nymphs, caddis larva and a few crane fly larva. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Hendricksons should start hatching by next weekend. Maybe by Friday - that is, in New Jersey.
Sharpen your hooks.