In this Covid-19 year, Summer began with the annual Summer solstice on June 20th and the summer heat wasn't far behind. It has been over a week with stream temperatures running 64 or 65 degrees in the morning but then moving into the low seventies by late afternoon on New Jersey rivers and streams. That combined with a little dry spell had water levels down a bit. There are options for trout fishing. Likely the best river option is the Pequest Trout Conservation Area. The cool water outflow from the hatchery keeps the water on one side of the stream pretty cold for several hundred yards downstream. Pennsylvania limestone streams are holding up and the Tricos are hatching on area waters. Visit one of the eastern PA limestoners like the Little Lehigh or Bushkill. Other anglers are traveling to the Catskills, the Beaverkill is warm but the Upper East and especially the West Branch of the Delaware are tail waters and so are holding up well. Local trout fishing will bounce back but we need to get through this heat first.
Last weekend, I had a chance to cast the new Winston Alpha rods. We received our shipment in March but there hasn't been much opportunity to cast them and I forgot how much I was impressed by them. These fast action rods come with a double stripping guide set up and track cleanly and effortlessly. While they made to cast they don't lose the famous "Winston Feel". The 5 or the 6 weight are perfect rods for the Upper Delaware.
I caught my last South Branch trout of June on the 21st, a pretty 18" holdover Rainbow on an Iso Extended Body Parachute in an area frequented by many anglers. I know if I leave that fish alone now, it will likely be there to be caught when things cool off.
So what are our local options? New Jersey is blessed with abundant aquatic resources and many species can be taken on the fly. Smallmouth Bass fishing is a good option. Large sections of the Raritan system hold abundant Smallies, some of which can reach 3-4 pounds. On the South Branch, start at Clinton and work your way downstream. On the North Branch, from Route 206 southwards into Branchburg is a good option. Redbreast and Bluegill Sunfish, Black Crappie and Rock Bass are also very common. These waters are often surprisingly remote beautiful, pastoral streams that flow through the Piedmont region of the state and there is abundant public access. The Paulinskill in Warren and Sussex County is another solid Smallie stream. Go with Crayfish patterns, Woolly Buggers and Poppers in sizes 6-10 and the fish aren't particularly leader shy. I'll typically use a 3 or 4X tippet and leader.
I am also a big fan of local ponds and I'm catching fish to justify the time I'm spending on them. While Round Valley and Spruce Run Reservoirs are excellent options many of our county parks have ponds with strong populations of Largemouth Bass, Sunfish Catfish and other panfish. Topwater fishing is excellent here and the size of some of the bass might surprise you since many of these ponds are regulated as "Catch and Release". They are also the best place to introduce members of your family to fly fishing. Casting is generally easier, the fish are abundant and eager to take a fly and there is always a chance to hook a really nice sized Bluegill or Largemouth Bass. A short list of Hunterdon County Parks might include Manny's Ponds south of Clinton, Mountain Farm in Lebanon Township and Crystal Springs Natural Area. Both Mountain Farm and Crystal Springs are located on Pleasant Grove Road a short drive from the shop. When fishing on a pond, I love topwater poppers and sliders in sizes 2-8. I'll also use the Chernobyl Ant, Hoppers, Madame X and Woolly Buggers in sizes 6-8. My favorite rod for ponds is a 6 weight to throw some of the larger flies but a stiff 5 weight will do the job. The key thing is to upsize the leader and tippet. I'm using 1X or 2X most of the time. 3X and 4X are fine for open waters but I like to live dangerously, casting to lilly pads and weed lines. When a large bass takes the fly, it is important to set the hook not with rod but with your opposite hand. This is known as a strip set. It is a lot of fun and a great change of pace. We need to be a little creative this summer and the adventure is literally right around the corner. Kids love nature. We saw an immature Bald Eagle (their head feathers are brown until they mature at 4-5 years of age), numerous turtles and even a coyote scooted by at quite a respectful distance at dusk the other night.
Enjoy the holiday weekend, I've given you some fishing options. We will be open all weekend. We can have two customers in the shop wearing masks and there is plenty of hand sanitizer on the counter.
Local Hatches 7/03/2020:
Morning 9-11 am:
Spotted Sedge Hydropsyche spp. Tan Elk Hair Caddis #14-18, LaFontaine's Tan Sparkle Pupa #14-18, Hare's Ear Soft Hackle #14-16, Tan Bird's Nest #14-18.
Green Sedge Rhyacophila lobifera Olive Elk Hair Caddis #14-18, LaFontaine's Olive Sparkle Pupa #14-16, Partridge & Soft Hackle #14-16, Olive Bird's Nest #14-18, Henryville Special #14-16
Blue Winged Olive Drunella attenuatta Pheasant Tail Nymph #16-18, Blue Wing Olive #16-18
American Iron Blue Quill Paraleptophlebia mollis Blue Quill #16-20, Grey Flashback Hare's Ear #16
Trio Tricorythodes Trico #20-24
Midday through Late Afternoon 12 noon - 5pm:
Caddis may continue to hatch. see above
Blue Wing Olive Baetis levitans, interclaris, quebecensis, vagans. RS2, BWO, Pheasant Tail Nymph #18-20
Pale Speckled Wing Olive Callibaetis ferrugineous Adams, Blue Quill, BWO #16-18, Pheasant tail #16-18
Yellow Drake Ephemera varia Yellow Drake Parachute #10-12, Potomanthous nymph #10-12
Little Golden Stonefly Isoperla spp. Golden or Yellow stone #14 Yellow Sally dry #16
Golden Stone Isoperla & Acroneuria spp. (Meck and Weamer) Golden stone Nymph #1-12, Yellow Stimulator #10-12
Grey Fox Maccaffertium vicarium Grey Fox #14, Sulphur #14
Grey Winged Yellow Quill Epeorus vitreus Sulphur #14
Light Cahill Stenacron interpuctatum, ithaca and canadense Light Cahill #14-16
Slate Drake Isonychia bicolor Iso Parachute #12, Dun Variant #12
Mayfly Spinners #12-20 (Use a Rusty Spinner for species listed above except for E. dorothea. Use Sulphur Spinner #16-18)
Here are a couple of Tim's patterns that can be used for warmwater fishing in NJ or for trout out of state:
Mop Hopper and the Chubby Chernobyl: