Since July, we have been experiencing remarkable levels of rainfall, as of last weekend 60.6 inches of rain have fallen in Hunterdon County alone. Warren County has seen 62.6" over the same period! That puts us about 15 inches over normal and the year isn't even over! While this is a good thing long term it sure has put a crimp on the local fly fishing. The Musconetcong and Pequest Rivers are impossible to fish right now. I do think levels should begin to moderate as winter is typically drier in our region. Right now, I would expect to see the South Branch at bout 250-300 cfs for the weekend, not muddy but definitely high.
Tactics will have to take this into account. Nymph fishermen you can get a way with heavier leaders and tippets now. Don't worry about 6X, use 4X to the point fly and 5X to the trailing fly. As for patterns, Lenny has been tying the Infamous Pink Worm, a deadly attractor pattern and we have plenty of egg, sucker spawn and midge patterns to run behind the IPW. The key to success here is going to be knowing where to fish and to control your line. I like fishing close in high water. The fish may move to slack water areas off of the main current. Also be prepared to use more weight; B, BB, AB and #1 shot is the order of the day. Keep the nymphs about 18" apart in most water.In large, flat pools, I'll extend that to 24-30" if I am trailing an egg pattern. I may also crimp a smaller weight between the flies to slow the rig down a little more, nothing larger than a #4 Tin Shot for this application. Euro nymphers can use less weight but make sure you're ticking bottom with those tungsten bead euro-nymphs. The Douglas 10' 4wt nymphing rods can come in quite handy right now.
In my last post I discussed streamer fishing, certainly one of the more effective ways to fish high water. Two of my favorite streamer compadres are John Collins and Tim Flagler. Their approaches differ and both are successful. I confess to using a bit of both of their techniques in my streamer game. John favors a fast action, 9' 6wt rod combined with a 7' Rio Versi Leader 7 inches per second sink rate or (IPS) to about 18-20 inches of 3X Fluorocarbon tippet. To this, he ties his famous JC's Sculpin. Tim will break out the 11' 4wt Switch rod with an OPST Commando Shooting Head and then a 9' leader, usually 3-4X. If he is fishing tighter quarters, he'll break out the fast action 9' 5wt for his single handed spey technique. Tim prefers to fish unweighted flies like his Brahma Bugger or Pine Squirrel Zonker. He feels that fish tend to look up so he likes the unweighted approach but he will attach additional weight to the leader about 16" above the fly if needed. I like both methods. I often fish JC's Sculpin in the same manner as Mr. Collins but I will often fish an unweighted Woolly Bugger or Zonker on the sinking leader. Another key is to locate those slow water eddies adjacent to faster current where trout often like to hold in higher water. Finally, keep moving. If you've shown the fish in an area your streamer you'll likely see the best action in the first few casts as the most aggressive fish key in on your fly. Methodically work the pool across and down from the head to the tail of the pool. If you can, rest the pool by returning after an hour and the trout are likely to have forgotten about your streamer. In the coming weeks, look for fly tying videos to accompany these posts. For now, you'll just have to take my word for it. Streamer fishing and high stick nymphing is a lot of fun and often very productive.