Black River Journal

Fall/Winter 2007 - by Jim Holland

"No angler merely watches nature in a passive way. He enters into its very existence.”- John Bailey, Reflections On The Waters Edge

The winter season marks the end and the beginning of our season, yet it has always impressed me with its silent starkness and sullen sky. The winter reminds me that the rhythm of the seasons are inescapable. I think anyone who enjoys the outdoors has some sense of this fact; that there is a world outside, one that isn’t beholden to us but runs instead according to its own rules.

Rivers certainly fall into this category. With parts of the Musconetcong River declared “Wild and Scenic” recently, efforts have been underway to attempt a restoration of historic flows along the “Musky”. Once, mills and the Morris Canal were important components of the local economy. However, with the passage of time many of these mill dams have become a liability, trapping sediments and warming water to dangerous levels in summer. Dams also require maintenance and with their utility essentially diminished a movement has been afoot to remove some of these structures and restore the original aquatic habitats so long buried under silt. A consortium of groups including the Musconetcong Watershed Association, NJDEP, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited (TU) recently partnered to remove the Groendyke Dam in Hackettstown. The dam is set for removal over the next few months. According to Brian Cowden, member of the New Jersey Trout Unlimited State Council, the removal will recreate historic habitats, cool summer low flows, increase dissolved oxygen and generally improve water quality. It is hoped that our state fish, the Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis will find this area of the Musky much more to its liking.   

Also of note, is the momentum being generated by TU’s “Trout in the Classroom” program. Participating schools will receive a coldwater tank and trout eggs to be raised. Upon maturity, the little trout are stocked in waters approved by Pat Hamilton, Senior Coldwater Fisheries Biologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Classes make a visit to the Division’s Pequest Trout Hatchery in Oxford, New Jersey for a tour and to fish in the fabled instruction pond. For those interested, please contact Brian Cowden, New Jersey TU State Council TIC Coordinator at (201) 230-3383 or online at

Recently, I had the opportunity along with other Trout Unlimited volunteers from the Ken Lockwood Chapter to electroshock a portion of the South Branch of the Raritan with Senior Fisheries Biologist, Shawn Crouse of the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Freshwater Laboratory in Lebanon. Up in Long Valley in the well known Claremont Tract we sampled native Brook Trout, Wild Brown Trout and a host of other lesser known species including the Redfin Pickerel, Tessellated Darter, Longnose and Blacknosed Dace, and Slimy Sculpin. The river is in pretty good shape based on our sampling. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and knowledge of Shawn and his staff; we really were made to feel welcome and that our contributions made with net and bucket was important. There certainly is more to a trout stream than just the trout! Join a local TU chapter and attend a meeting. It’s great to be involved! 

When we aren’t tying flies on Sunday morning around the shop and by the way, my partners Eric Hildebrant and George Cassa hold these sessions beginning sometime in November, we’re out trying to grab a day from Old Man Winter. Water temperatures and weather are the key. Forty degrees or so is fine for trout fishing as long as you dress in layers. Gone are the prolific mayfly and caddis hatches of the warmer months but aquatic shrimp such as scuds are in the river year round along with the immature nymphs and larvae of the former species. Grey Scuds in sizes 14-16 fished as the trailing end of a tandem tied with a Black Hare’s Ear Beadhead size 14-16 are a good option for the season. Small midges are also on the water year round. I like fishing small Brassies, a great midge larva imitation in red or copper size 18-22. Also, trout will hit big streamers in the winter as well. I’ve caught many fish on Woolly Buggers in Brown or Black size 6-10 drifted slow and deep. Muddler Minnows size 6-10 shouldn’t be neglected either. Finally, downsize those nymphs the Hare’s Ear, Prince and Pheasant Tail in sizes 14-20. You may be pleasantly surprised! Shannon’s stocked back in September reintroducing our old friend “Bubba” and the state has generously stocked numbers of large two year old trout in our local rivers. These fourteen to sixteen inch fish along with some true eighteen to twenty one inch surplus brood stock will keep rods bent all winter long. We want to thank our co-sponsor, GBW Insurance of Flanders, NJ who teamed up with us to produce our Fall Fishing Contest. Special thanks to Glenn Tippey, who also happens to be the president of the North Jersey Chapter of Trout Unlimited for making the event such a success! Mike Pennucci and Austin Tobin caught and released the two trophy “Bubbas”! In the process both claimed some great prizes including a Scott E2 fly rod and a Temple Fork Outfitters Project Healing Waters Fly rod a portion of the proceeds TFO donates to a program designed to help injured veterans of the Iraq War.

We want to wish everyone a joyous and safe holiday season. We’ll have the coffee on and we’ll be either tying flies or trying to coax a trout from its winter slumber.  We have some events such as a book signing by famed author Charlie Meck Saturday, April 19th so check our website: under our news or calendar page for details. Remember we offer free on stream instruction with tackle purchase.-JH

Fly of the Month: Grey Scud

Thread: Grey

Hook: Mustad C49S size 12-18 or comparable scud/ emerger hook

Rib: Clear Mono

Back: Clear or Grey Scud-back with Pear Flashabou underneath

Tail: Grey Hackle fibers or Grey Marabou

Body: Hare’s Mask or Haretron Dubbing

Antennae: Grey Hackle fibers or Grey Marabou  


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