A bright, wonderful day, but without rod and reel because the herniated disk in my lower back has given me trouble since Friday. I did get out and enjoy Round Valley Reservoir scenes at lunchtime, taking some photos. If any of you are classical music afficiandos like me, Biedrich Smetana's The Moldau was fitting music, signaled from WQXR, New York.
I thought I would revise a story I wrote for Recorder Newspapers of New Jersey's Highlands almost a year ago, get the piece out early, although we do have some cooler weather now, which hints at what's less than a month away.
With Cooler Temperatures Trout are Game
Streams are cooling—at least in the mornings—below the 68-degree threshold, above which--more or less--trout do not survive lactic acid trauma after struggle on a hook and release. That’s a general rule—brook trout need cooler water, rainbows tolerate slightly warmer, and browns fare even better through summer—but it’s worth keeping in mind when fishing trout during the heat of summers like this and the previous two we’ve got through.
Many small spring-fed streams, may never warm above 68. But my son, Matt, and I fished the Paulinskill River in Sussex on the hottest day of the year last summer through stretches with ample springs, and we finished our short afternoon by swimming—in water that felt about 82. A visit to the Paulinskill late in July this year saw no trout at all, whereas a month prior browns were everywhere. Most of them probably got through the heat having found spring holes.
The Musconetcong River in Morris, Warren, and Hunterdon Counties is spring fed especially below Hackettstown on down through Asbury, and the Pequest is noted as a limestone river by Tom Gilmore in his book Fly Fishing the Big Apple. Trout holdover in all of the streams I’ve mentioned and more; reproduction occurs in smaller spring streams.
Trout fishing for both fly anglers and those who prefer spinning tackle should improve with cooler temperatures with streams and rivers at normal levels, and it won’t be long before rivers like the Musconetcong, Pequest, Paulinskill, Black, Rockaway, and North and South Branch Raritan receive a generous stocking of 14 to 16 inch, and larger, trout from the state the second and third weeks of October. The volumn of fish stocked is less than during spring, but plenty escape angler’s intentions and remain in rivers for a productive winter fishery; a few holdover into spring and beyond.
However, New Jersey trout are not all about the Pequest hatchery. Native brook trout with genetic lines extending back to the end of the Wisconsin Glacier exist in many pure water streams. Some clean and cool water streams are not stocked, yet have abundant populations of rainbow and/or brown trout which have reproduced since stockings many years ago. Some streams feed into rivers that are stocked; trout migrate upstream in turn.
The headwaters of the Passaic River in Bernardsville are full of wild rainbows and browns, accessible at Sherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Angers are required to release what they catch, and use artificial lures (flies or otherwise) with barbless hooks. Make sure to check at the office for additional regulations. Hooks can be rendered safer to released trout easily by crimping barbs with needlenose pliers. Most Passaic River trout are five to seven inches, few a foot long, and the very rare catch reaches 17 inches.
Trout in small streams such as the Passaic headwaters spook easily and require stealth and skill. It’s easier to fish a wet fly, nymph, or streamer in a deep pool where your quarry will more likely be unaware of your presence. Rivers allow greater casting range to reach unsuspecting shallow water trout, but many years ago I caught plenty of nine inch brook trout in the small, crystal clear Dunnfield Creek of Warren County on small shad darts, jigs used in the spring Delaware River shad run. Use no more than two pound test line and cast anywhere you need to reach.
I must confess before I attempt to enlighten you on dry flies that I have yet to catch a trout on any. I’ve only dabbled in fly fishing, although this year and the past, my son and I have tried a number of times, as yet catching more smallmouth bass than trout, and all of our fish this year on nymphs. Matt gets the crown for two browns that rose ferociously for a large, size 10, Adams dry fly. He missed both.
I refer to Fly Fisher’s Guide to the Big Apple: Great Waters within 150 Miles of New York City, by Tom Gilmore for my advice to you. Parachute Adams, size 18-24, Parachute Blue Winged Olive, size 18, Blue Quill and Blue Dun, 16-18, Gray Wulff, 10-12 represent hatches that may be encountered.
Terrestial patterns come in fascinating variety which the folks at Effinger Sporting Goods may have further advice to help you, but ant, inchworm, and caterpillar patterns are good into October. The Wooly Worm, a wet fly caterpillar pattern I loved in my teens, is effective tied to as large as a size six hook. Find a few fly patterns you like, and this may get you started better than trying to outsmart nature.