January ended in a deep freeze but February gave us a warm beginning. While the spring like weather is likely to be short lived it was beautiful to feel 50 degrees! Anglers certainly responded to the fine weather weather. River levels fluctuated as snow and ice melted but the last couple of days saw some nice fishing. I was out on the water for about an hour and landed two nice holdover Rainbows in the 12-14" class on egg patterns. The real story came from John Heaney who stomach sampled a trout and found it had been feeding heavily on Stonefly nymphs. Both the Early Black (Taeniopteryx nivalis ) and the Early Brown (Strophopteryx fasciata) begin to appear most years on our waters in February. It is also time to start tying the Chimarra Caddis Larva. Chimarra aterrima or the Little Black Caddis appear in March and April but the small (size 16-18) amber colored larva are a common food item for the trout in late winter. Look for them to become prominent by President's Day Weekend and continue through early March. After this they will become unavailable as they build cases to transform into pupae which will take several weeks. Other caddis larva are also available through the winter including the Rhyacophila and Hydropsyche as they are free living caddis so it never hurts to have some Olive or Chartreuse Caddis Larva in your box. They may be smaller now, usually size 16-20. The other common trout food this time of year are scuds. Found most often around sunken woody debris, Scuds are an aquatic shrimp. They are fast swimmers but the trout have no problem feeding on them. I like sizes 16-18 for the scuds and I favor Grey or Tan in the winter. Midges will be around all year and the trout depend upon them in the winter. Keep them small, size 18-24 and vary your colors, Black Zebra Midges are the most popular but they can be tied in a variety of styles. Try Len Ruggia's Fat Lady Midge for example. Work streamers slowly as the water temperatures remain cold. Still, trout may move for a larger meal. We still have some JC's Sculpins and I would try White right now. The deadly Snowflake Sculpin is always in my fly box during the winter.
The Hot Stove Presentations are set. They will be held at The Raritan Inn, also home to Shannon's Private Waters, our fly fishing club. A catered hot dinner is part of the package as is a fly tying demonstration and a return fishing trip with your presenters in the spring. Cost for members is $30.00 and non-members is $75.00. Registration can be done by e-mailing the shop at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.shannonsprivate waters.com. Schedule is as follows:
Wednesday February 20th: Tim Flagler: Early Season Euro-Nymphing
Wednesday February 27th: Matt Grobert: Advanced Fly Fishing Tactics
Wednesday March 6th: John Collins and Jim Holland Hatches of the South Branch and New Jersey Streams Part One
Wednesday March 13th: John Collins and Jim Holland Hatches of the South Branch and New Jersey Streams Part Two