Black River Journal

Spring 2008 - by Jim Holland

"It is the constant –or inconstant – change, the infinite variety in fly fishing that binds us fast. It is impossible to grow weary of a sport that is never the same on any two days of the year. – Theodore Gordon, 1914"

I have learned to enjoy every season on the water, from the bustling days of May to the quiet solitude of a Winter afternoon interrupted only by the call of a Kingfisher asking about my business or the insistent tug at the end of my line of a trout roused from his chilly lair.  The river never really sleeps as Roderick Haig Brown once wrote and neither does my desire to share its many moods and look for signs of Spring.

Theodore Gordon is generally credited with being the Father of Modern Fly Fishing. According to Dr. Andrew N. Herd of, he lived from 1854-1915 and although he tried his hand at many different professions and lived in several areas including New Jersey his heart was always in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York. In 1905 he moved to the Catskills permanently to fish and tie flies. Gordon’s main innovation was the development of uniquely American dry flies of which the Quill Gordon is the most famous. Although dry fly fishing evolved in Great Britain on its fabled Chalk (limestone) streams, Gordon found that the hackles there used were not stiff enough to float high enough in the tumbling mountain streams of his home. He also realized that British mayfly species were not identical to their American cousins. This “Match the Hatch” philosophy is the basis for modern fly fishing and coincides, generally speaking, with the decline of the native Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) due to excessive logging, dams and poor agricultural practices resulting in sediments covering gravel beds needed for spawning. European Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) and Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from the West were also introduced at this time and these species were much warier than the original Brook Trout and thus demanded a more exact presentation.

Recently, a national plan, the Eastern Brook Trout Initiative has been developed for the recovery of the Eastern Brook Trout across a significant portion of its range which has been grievously reduced to less than ten percent of the original area. From what I’m told, the organization is bringing together national agencies, private groups such as Trout Unlimited along with state agencies such as the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Head Coldwater Biologist, Pat Hamilton has been studying this subject for some time and the good news is that we have better populations of Native Brook Trout than was originally hoped. They are by far the prettiest trout in our region and actually they are not trout at all but char, a close cousin requiring clean cold water with an abundance of shade and forest canopy. Many school children across the state are raising brookies in science classrooms courtesy of the New Jersey State Council of Trout Unlimited and the Division of Fish and Wildlife and we are hearing that the students are really enjoying this “hands on” project. Sometime later this spring these fish will be liberated in streams approved for this purpose by the students in conjunction with Division personnel and TU volunteers.

Shannon’s Fly and Tackle was quite the busy place this winter. Eric and George were busy with our fly tying classes which evolved from one class into an all day affair. We also hosted a book signing featuring Matt Grobert; his long awaited Fly Fishing New Jersey Trout Streams has quickly become a sensation. At $19.95, the book is affordable and packed with information on our favorite local waters. It is also lavishly illustrated with great photographs many taken by the author or his friends from the online trout forum Matt will be returning to our store for a follow up event in March and famed Pennsylvania angler and author Charlie Meck will be coming April 19th to sign his new book, Fishing Tandems so keep your eyes open and check our website

Winter fishing has been very good this year but we are all looking forward to Spring. Trout Stocked waters will close in late March in anticipation of April 5th Trout Season Opener. Travel to the state’s Pequest Hatchery in Oxford, Warren County off of State Highway Route 46 on March 29th and 30th for their Annual Open house. Food, games and exhibits celebrating our wildlife heritage in New Jersey will be on display. During this period, the Ken Lockwood Gorge will be open to catch and release fishing as will other special regulation areas. Two new bodies of water will be stocked with trout in our area this year. Manny’s Pond at the Christine Hoffman Farm in Tewkesbury Township and Mountain Pond located on the Mountain Farm/ Teetertown Ravine Park in Lebanon Township are both nice additions as they provide an opportunity to fish for trout in a pond setting which is ideal for children. Look for Shannon’s to stock some nice tagged trophy trout at both locations courtesy of Vern and Jeff Mancini of the Musky Trout Hatchery in Asbury, New Jersey.

Insect activity picks up in March and early April. Most of the hatches will be around mid day. Trout become more active as the waters begin to warm. Early Black and Early Brown Stoneflies will already be active. Various Stonefly Nymphs in sizes 14-16 will imitate this hatch well and it is not uncommon to see them hatching on snow drifts still lingering in the shadows of the hills and along the stream bank. When the water reaches 40 degrees the first mayflies of the season the Baetis will get going. There are two species, Baetis vagans and Baetis interclaris and I find that an Adams or Blue Wing Olive size 16-18 is a great imitation for the dun. Two western patterns, the WD40 and the RS2 are fantastic emergers. Pheasant Tail nymphs are all you need when fishing subsurface. Try a tandem rig with a Pheasant Tail Beadhead size 14-16 in front and either an RS2 or WD40 size 16-18 trailing about twenty inches from the first fly. Definitely, use a strike indicator here.

As we pass into April, the Quill Gordon, Epeorus pluralis will begin to hatch followed in a week or perhaps ten days by the Light Hendrickson, Ephemerella subvaria. The Quill Gordon is a clinging nymph, a lover of fast currents and rocky runs. The nymphs will migrate to pocket water and hatch from the bottom of the stream like the aforementioned Baetis and will struggle for a time to reach the surface. A Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear size 12 imitates the clinging nymphs quite effectively and the Hare’s Ear Wet the emerger of the same size the emerging insect. Flotillas of the duns will float for a considerable distance and a Quill Gordon imitates them quite well. The late afternoon will see them over the riffles laying eggs and the spent spinners are relished by the trout. All you need is either a large Adams Parachute size 12 or a Rusty Spinner.

The Hendrickson is one of the East’s premier hatches and is very common on the South Branch and other area streams like the Musky. A Pheasant Tail Nymph size 12-14 imitates the natural very effectively and the Hendrickson Emerger size 12-14 is a deadly pattern as the insects make repeated undulating attempts to reach the surface. Hendricksons as mentioned in previous articles are interesting in that they hatch in a sex segregated manner. One riffle will host a hatch of primarily females while the next will be primarily males. The size and color are also distinct so make sure you have some Red Quills size 14 as the males are darker and smaller than the females best imitated by the classic Light Hendrickson size 12. We also love to fish Hendrickson Parachutes because they float so well. Don’t neglect imitating scuds and midges either or the Black Caddis. These patterns will often save the day during the early season as will my personal favorite: the Wooly Bugger!

Finally, stop by Califon for Opening Day of Trout Season April 5th. We will be open early at 6 am and the Califon Methodist Church on River Road always hosts a fine Fisherman’s Breakfast and lunch. Call us for guided fishing instruction as we welcome newcomers young and old alike! Bring the kids, catch some fish and welcome Spring!  

Fly of the Month: Hendrickson Parachute

Wings: None

Post: Dun His-Vis Antron or Calf Tail

Body: Spirit River Hendrickson Pink Fine and Dry Dubbing  

Hackle: Medium Dun

Tail: Medium or Blue Dun Barb or Spade Hackle

Thread: Olive

Hook: Mustad 94833 size 12-14



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