Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hendricksons, Grannoms and Cold Clear Water

After spending time in SC visiting my daughter and the two little men, I returned this week to near perfect spring conditions on our New Jersey rivers.  At the Shannon's Beginners Fly Fishing Class yesterday I was talking to Tim Flagler, who has also been fishing the South Branch of the Raritan for many years, and we both agreed that the river is in the best early spring condition its been in many years.  This year the river rises after heavy rains, but recovers more slowly and levels out higher than it has in many years.  It also seems to be cleaner and very clear.  The there New Jersey rivers are much the same this year, perhaps the water table is recovering with regular rains and snow fall over the last few months.  Folks are complaining about how spring seems to be slow in coming, which is true, but for me it seems like its been more "normal" than it has been in many years.


Ok, so the hendrickson hatch is late this year, but the last week it has been the best we've seen in many years.  Yesterday afternoon while guiding one of the students, the hendrickson hatch was very good.  It was so good, the we could look down into the slow, clear water on the margins of the stream and see hundreds of hendrickson nymphs drifting by as they wiggled towards the water surface to hatch.  And hatch they did.  The dark mayflies drifted by on and off for several hours while the trout ignored them, which as an angler drives you crazy.  We kept hoping the trout would begin to rise so we could give the students the thrill of catching a fish on a dry fly, but it never happened.  Was it the cold water or some other unseen condition that kept the trout holding tight to he bottom?  We didn't even see fish flashing in the water column as they normally do when they feed on the ascending nymphs.  Dark Grannom caddis and some stoneflies were also on the water, and they too were ignored by the trout.

Dark Grannom
It was a very good day though.  Everyone caught fish and although it was cool and breezy, it was a beautiful day to be on the water initiating a few more folks to our wonderful sport.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tying the Hendo Hammer

Our friend John Collins sat down in front of Tim Flagler's video camera's recently and tied his Hendo Hammer.  This quill bodied parachute style fly is intended to mimic a hatching Hendrickson nymph.  You can imitate any of the other mayflies in your area with this fly just by changing the colors of the fly and the size of the hook. 


Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Another Easter to Remember

After Easter brunch this past Sunday, I headed to the South Branch to wet a line just as I have done on this holiday for many years.  Every time I fish on Easter I do it with my daughter Megan in mind.  You see, when she was ten years old, Vinnie and I took Megan fishing after Easter dinner to get both of us out of the house for a while so her younger brother and sister could nap.  We took her to a trout stocked pond in Sussex County and we had the whole place to ourselves.  That windless day in the fog and drizzle, while standing on the muddy bank of the pond, Megan caught seven good sized rainbow trout on a black woolley bugger.  I helped her cast the fly out and then she did the rest and giggled each time she hooked up. That afternoon and her big, dimpled smile is etched in my mind forever - I remember it as though it happened yesterday.  


This year I went alone except for the black woolley bugger in my vest from that day some twenty plus years ago.  That fly, along with one my daughter Leigh tied, and a few my son Matt tied, go along with me on every fishing trip.  The day was mostly sunny, cool and breezy with brief periods of calm.  The river was clear, cold and at a nice level for the 1st of April.  I started out fishing nymphs and after about an hour or so without a hit, I decided to tie on a black woolly bugger and see if the past would repeat itself.

As the afternoon moved on I started to see some dark grannoms in the air and a few blue-winged olives. When the breeze stopped for a few moments, quite a few little black stonefly females fluttered down from the tree branches and did their clumsy dance on the water surface as they attempted to drop their eggs.  I watched the bugs as they mostly drifted along untouched except for an occasional slashing take that was never repeated in the same location.  That is until a fish began rising steadily directly across the pool from me.

I quickly removed the tippet and the bugger from my leader, added a couple of sections to it and a 2 foot length of 6X, and tied on a #14 gray X-caddis.  After a couple of test casts to make sure my leader, tippet and the fly where landing on the water as they should, I made a cast to the rising fish.  My fly landed a foot above but wind blew just as it landed and moved my leader and the fly dragged.  After the fly drifted past the target, I picked it up, made a couple of false casts and with a reach cast dropped the fly  above the fish just after it had rose again.  That fly never had a chance with that winter hungry trout; it went maybe 3 inches before the fish grabbed it and I set the hook.  After a brief tussle, I netted the pretty brown you see above.

As it often happens, more stoneflies began to drop to the water and lay eggs as the sun started to move lower in the sky and with that more fish started to chase them on the surface.  I left the X-caddis on and over the next hour or so I took two more fish, rainbows, by immediately dropping my fly and skittering it over the area where a rise had just occurred.  If you have never taken trout by skittering a fly, when the conditions are right, give it try, the takes are nothing short of an explosion on the fly.

Sharpen your hooks.