B.R.J.  What’s Hatching Spring 2007

                                                                        By Jim Holland, Shannon’s Fly and Tackle



                                    “What luck on the brook today, Sir?”

                                    I was asked on my way from the stream,

                                    As the moon peeped through the bushes

                                    And the grass began to gleam.


                                    “Luck has been with me today, Sir.”

                                      The sun shone bright and warm,

                                      Flies hatched out with the noontide

                                    And the air filled with their swarm.        


The banks were green with new grasses,

                                    Big ferns were unfolding their fronds,

                                    The trees bending over the water

                                    Waved new leaves under Spring’s magic wand.


                                    “Surely luck was with me today, Sir,

                                    I left my heart in the stream.

                                    My body is weary tonight, Sir,

                                    But I have lived the stuff of my dreams.”


                                                Excerpt from “Fisherman’s Luck” by Edward R. Hewitt from his book Telling on the Trout, published by Charles Scribner & Sons, NY, 1926.


With these words from one of the early masters of our sport we herald the arrival of spring. Hewitt spent many hours on rivers throughout the world but the Neversink in the Catskills was probably his favorite. He was an inventor and author; the Bivisible, an early caddis imitation, and the felt soled boot were among his creations.


With the American Shad due back in April, I know that Shannon’s Co-owner, Eric Hildebrant can’t wait to try out a new six weight bamboo fly rod from master builder Dennis Menscer of Little River Rods. Eric has been chasing shad for a long time and you can book a Delaware River trip with him by calling (908) 763-5713. When he isn’t in the shop or on the mighty Delaware, Eric’s favorite hatch is the Hendrickson (Ephemerella subvaria). Stop in and ask about his recommendations. This early season highlight usually gets going in mid-April. George, Eric and I would also like to introduce you to Vince Scancella our new store manager. He has over thirty years of experience tying and fishing all around our region. Get to know him, he’s terrific!  

On the side of conservation, we have some great news. The successful efforts to declare the Musconetcong River a “Wild and Scenic River” by act of Congress last year should be hailed by all who enjoy this precious natural resource. The Musconetcong Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, P.L. 109-452, was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 22, 2006. Special thanks to the Musconetcong Watershed Association and all of those who have helped to gain this important designation especially New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation and the municipalities in the watershed who almost unanimously supported this designation. More information can be found at the MWA’swebsite: www.musconetcong.org . This important watershed is home to some of New Jersey’s most scenic vistas providing habitats to many species of fish and wildlife from its start in Lake Hopatcong to its confluence with the Delaware at Riegelsville. The Musky has long been a recreational haven and a workhorse of industry. It is also the most heavily trout stocked stream in the state. To get a sense of the beauty of this river visit Hampton, birthplace of revolutionary war hero Daniel Morgan and Point Mountain Trout Conservation Area just upstream in Penwell.


April and May are a great time to be fly fishing. Opening Day is set for April 7th and look for area streams to be well stocked by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The weekend before Opening Day is the time to visit the Pequest Fish Hatchery for the annual Open House, Saturday March 31st and Sunday April 1st. This is a great way to get excited about the upcoming season. For more details, visit the Division’s website at:

www.State.nj.us/dep/fgw/index.htm . Later, on May 5th Cinco de Mayo, we will be having our Third Annual South Branch River Festival at Califon Island Park. We will have a Fishing Derby for the kids from 9am-12 noon. Food and prizes will make this a great day for everyone. Check our new and updated website www.shannonsflytackle.com for the latest information. We have a new calendar page that details programs that we are introducing including Allan Johnson’s Fly Casting Clinics at the Raritan Inn www.raritaninn.com as well as on stream clinics led by Eric and I along with our expert staff. By working with anglers on stream we hope to improve your catches and make the sport more enjoyable for everyone.


As for the fishing; look for a number of hatches to take center stage. Early on the peak of activity is most often in the afternoon. This is certainly true of the Baetis, Quill Gordon and Hendrickson Hatches. For the Baetis, use a Pheasant Tail nymph size 16-18 for the nymph, a WD40 or CDC Baetis Emerger for the emerger in sizes 16-18, a Blue Wing Olive or Blue Quill Dry will do for the dun and a small Rusty Spinner size 16-18 will help catch the last fish of the day. The Quill Gordon or Epeorus pleuralis is a bulky clinging nymph of fast clean water. Use a Hare’s Ear or Quill Gordon nymph size 10-12, a Hare’s Ear or Quill Gordon Wet in the same size for the emerger and the classic Quill Gordon Dry for the dun. Fish the dun in water below rapids. The Hendrickson Ephemerella subvaria prefers gentler waters of moderate current. Use a Pheasant Tail nymph size 12-14 in the morning and switch to a Hendrickson emerger or Wet fly in sizes 12-14 as the day moves into the early afternoon. They are clumsy and have difficulty hatching so the trout key on both the emerger and dun stage of this insect. The Rusty spinner size 12-14 will produce in the late afternoon and early evening as the “S” shaped adults prepare to lay their eggs by dropping them into the riffles.

As we move into May, the March Browns (Stenonema Vicarium) and Sulphurs (Ephemerella invaria and dorothea) get going; great evening fishing can be had. Fish the March Browns size 10-12 until about 5:30pm, they are a sporadic all day hatch but they are large and clumsy and the trout love them. Fishing the March Brown  nymphs in the morning along the sides of the stream with areas of good current is a sure winner and at about 10:30 am switch to a wet or emerger and either swim it as in the case with the March Brown Spider or let the Compara emerger simply float in the film. As evening approaches, fish the Sulphur Hatch first with an emerger pattern like the CDC Sulphur Emerger or Sulphur Sparkle Comparadun size 14-16. As the Duns appear switch to a Lemon Cahill, Sulphur or Light Cahill Parachute in sizes 14-16 for some splendid evening fishing. Note that the larger Invaria Sulphurs will often appear in the late afternoon so be prepared to fish for them anytime after 3pm but the more numerous Dorothea also known as the Pale Evening Dun will hatch towards dusk. At dusk, large squadrons of March Brown Spinners will rejoin the Sulphurs over the riffles. Later on in May, the Isonychia or Slate Drakes will appear as well as the Grey Fox (formerly Stenonema fuscum now Maccaffertium vicarium) which are slightly smaller and they behave very similarly to the March Brown. Because the Isonychia bicolor hatch from May through October, they are a very important insect in the trout’s diet and understanding this hatch is of crucial importance to the fly-fisher.


Between some of these great mayfly hatches, the caddis really is the number one hatch. The Grannom, Brachycentrus numerosus, is very abundant from the end of April through May. Simply use a Tan Elk Hair Caddis size 16 for this fly. The caddis is an interesting creature; they are present on more streams than the mayflies. Some of them are free living like the Rhyacophilidae but more build cases out of sand and debris and live inside. They look like tan or green worms outside of their homes which they periodically must vacate as they outgrow them. This phenomenon is known as nocturnal drift. Trout love to eat caddis in all stages of their life cycle. There are many standard caddis patterns; the Elk Hair Caddis is the most used as a dry but the Henryville Special developed in the flutter-wing wing style on the fabled upper reaches of Brodhead Creek is not to be underestimated especially when the Apple Caddis hatch in June. The emerging pupa swims to the surface and a good imitation is the classic soft hackle tied with Partridge or Grouse and using silk floss of orange, olive or especially yellow for the body in sizes 14-16. Caddis doesn’t have a pronounced tail structure so don’t worry about it. Fish them wet under the surface or just below the surface film. This fly is deadly when fished as the back section of a tandem with a Beadhead Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail size 12-14 as the lead fly. Adult caddis live in the streamside vegetation for a period of weeks and while some species deposit their eggs on the surface, others actually climb and swim to lay there eggs on the bottom. I always say that caddis are always coming and going from a trout’s perspective. 


Try some of our great rivers and find good hatches, whether the Musky, Black River, Pequest, Paulinskill, Big Flatbrook or the South Branch or perhaps a smaller stream whose location is your secret. Make time to enjoy the season and help others steward our precious natural resources for the next generation.  


Shannon’s Fly of the Month of May


The Lemon Cahill Spinner by Les Shannon


Wings: White Hackle points divided, semi-spent

Body: Lemon and White dubbing mixed (Lemon Yellow)

Hackle: Light Ginger (Light)

Thread: Yellow Uni-Thread 6/0

Tail: Bleached Elk Hair

Hook: Dry Fly Mustad 94840 size 12-16


Notes: This is a modification of Leonard Halladay’s famous Light Cahill first tied by Les or at least introduced to the public in 1980. The translucence of the angled wings seems to drive the trout crazy during a spinner fall. 

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