The Black River Journal September - October 2005

Fall is a time of transition in our region. Summer lingers into September but the mood shifts quickly as we move through October. Great migrations of fish, songbirds, raptors and waterfowl herald the coming of winter when many of our most recognizable species head south. Stop by the NJ Audubonís 276 acre Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary located in Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, and Harding Township. Itís a great place to hike or bird watch and the members are very knowledgeable and friendly. Contact them at (908) 766-5787 or online at On September 10th, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge will host its Fall Festival. Look for displays, demonstrations and guided nature walks. Many state and local conservation organizations will be in attendance and refreshments will be served. For more information call (973) 425-1222 or reach them online at The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife will be stocking the major rivers of Northern New Jersey and the lakes of Southern New Jersey beginning in the first week of October but there are plenty of holdover fish to challenge the angler. Native Brook Trout and Wild Brown Trout will take on their fall spawning colors, a sight not to be missed. Finally, we are concluding our Year of the Trout celebration here in Califon with an additional trout stocking including a resumption of the Bubba contest and the Harvest Festival in October. We will stock a large tagged trout named Bubba. If you catch and release the fish and bring proof such as the tag number and a picture, the first angler will win a custom JP Ross fly rod. Check or for more information.

Fall is also a time of abundance on our streams. As the water cools mayfly and caddis activity increases. The streams are also less crowded and the weather is often excellent. Look for some substantial hatches beginning around Labor Day. Ken Lockwood Gorge located just south of Califon is an excellent place to enjoy some prime fall action. It is literally a gorge with steep mountain sides and abundant tree cover providing the trout a safe haven throughout the year. Two species of Isonychia, the well known Bicolor and the lesser known but important Harperi will be active through September. These insects favor the rocky tumbling waters that the Gorge provides. Use a Dun Variant, Mahogany Dun, or Adams in sizes 10-14 for this hatch. The Skar Iso Emerger is an excellent choice for the emerging insect. The major difference between the two insects has to do with hatching behavior. The Bicolor often hatches by crawling to the edges of the stream and hatching out of the water. The Harperi nymphs will hatch from the stream in the more traditional manner and will also linger into the first week of October. Charles Wetzelís famous White Gloved Howdy was tied to imitate the Isonychia spinner. We use Les Shannonís Iso Spinner or John Collinsí Parachute Turkey Biot Iso.  The Royal Wulf is another effective pattern. The Prince nymph is an excellent attractor nymph that mimics the natural. The Isonychia nymph is a fast swimmer, so donít be afraid to aggressively swim this nymph. I use a short two-three inch retrieve. Sometimes, Iíll also work the nymph slowly across the bottom.  Thatís the way it is with fly fishing, if something doesnít work donít be afraid to try another tactic.

The second major hatch beginning around Labor Day is the Whitefly which is also composed of two species: Ephoron Leukon and Album. This hatch usually starts with the Album best imitated by using a Blond Wulf size 12-14. The Leukons are pure white and are larger size 10-12 while the Album is a more creamy yellow. Try a White Wulf or the venerable White Miller for this hatch. Art Flickís Cream Variant is a good choice for the spinner of both species. On many bodies of water these hatches are profuse and on the South Branch and the Musconetcong it is certainly a major hatch.

Fall fly fishing is often associated with excellent hatches of Blue Winged Olives. This is certainly the case in our area with several Baetis species including Cingulatus, Interclaris, Vagans, and Levitans. These are all multi-brood hatches meaning that they hatch several times over the course of the season. Look for action to begin in the afternoon and continue into the early evening. Small Pheasant Tail nymphs and Baetis or Olive Emergers in sizes 16-20 will cover the nymph stage for these species and Blue Winged Olives will work well as a Dun for the Cingulatus and Interclaris. Try a small Adams or Blue Quill for the Vagans and Levitans hatches in sizes 16-20. In October, Iím never without a selection of Caddis flies usually Elk Hair or Flutter wing Caddis in Tan or Brown size 14-20. Look for the Great Autumn Sedge (Pycnopsyche Lepida Guttifer). They are very large and can be imitated by an Orange Stimulator size 8-10. The other pattern I enjoy tremendous success with is the Pale Evening Dun in size16-18. The Dark Blue Quill (Paraleptophlebia Dibilis) hatches well in October. If I want to catch Native Brookies in their spawning colors then this fly will do the trick.

Minnow and aquatic shrimp populations are at their densest in the fall. Trout feed extensively on these species especially after the first fall rains raise river levels. Streamers are extremely effective including the traditional favorites, Grey Ghost, Black Nosed Dace, Muddler Minnow and Mickey Finn. Iím partial to a fly of my own called the Centennial Ghost a modification of a trolling fly used in Maine. We also like the Ken Lockwood Streamer and Bob Jacklinís South Branch Chub. These flies should be sized anywhere from 8 to 12. Try a Tan or Grey Scud size 14-18 for the shrimp and fish this fly slow and deep in areas of submerged wood or vegetation. If you feel snagged and it moves, hold on. Big trout love shrimp! Iím including another of Art Flickís patterns this time around, the Cream Variant. His New Streamside Guide is essential. Special thanks to my friend Sal DiFranco for showing me just how effective this pattern can be.


Fly of the Month:  Cream Variant (Art Flick)

Wings: none

Body:  cream or white quill

Hackle: Large regular cream

Tail: cream cockís barbs, long (from the webby part of the saddle, usually the base)

Thread: Light Cahill 6/0 Uni-thread

Hook: Mustad 94845 size 10-14

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