Last Chance Trout for Region’s Streams
This is a column article brought up to date that Recorder Newspapers published last year. It's about this time of year and local waters, but slanted for beginner fly fishermen like myself, my son, and now my wife.
Holdover trout in most area streams may be threatened upon being caught and released back to the water after June. Water temperatures in excess of about 68 degrees push lactic acid to levels that can kill after hook and line struggles. If this summer is like the last two, noted holdover streams like the Paulinskill River will spike above lethal temperatures for any trout inhabitants that don’t find cool water spring releases.
Additional New Jersey rivers are the Musconetcong, Pequest, the North and South Branch Raritan, and Black—all great holdover trout streams with some wild brown trout reproduction at least associated with them, but some smaller like Dunnfield Creek stay cold to the touch through heat waves. Reproducing wild brown and rainbow trout, as well as native brook trout, maintain stable populations year round in the Dunnfield. But before approaching any spring stream, check first if it is regulated by state protection and follow the rules. They're simple.
Many trout remain in the rivers in June, and fly fishermen have an advantage as the trout familiarize themselves with insect forage hatches. A good all-around dry fly is the Adams. Sizes in the 14-20 range in variable patterns may be best. Sulfurs are perhaps most popular this time of year for very good reason, but I’ve never seen them hatch on my local North Branch. Hatches are stream-specific. A great book for regional hatch charts is Tom Gilmore’s Fly Fishing the Big Apple.
If you are new to fly fishing, don’t get the six-weight rod and line that may be suggested. For all of our streams and rivers, five-weight makes a subtle, but appreciable difference. If hatch charts and dry flies confuse you at first, try stonefly nymphs sizes 10-16, and Wooly Bugger streamers. If trout ignore the stonefly nymphs—less likely if fished persistently—smallmouth bass may be willing. I’ve found they attack stonefly nymphs up to size 6.
The last couple of years, my son, Matt, my wife Patricia along with our black Labrador and I have driven to the Flatbrook at the top of the state, Memorial Day weekend. This is my son’s idea. August 2011 we fly fished the Blewett Tract, naïve to the 68-degree margin I mentioned, and spotted numerous rainbow trout in low and clear water that would not hit. It’s reassuring that my son not only vividly remembers this and wants to return, but also reasoned that we should go well before low summer water conditions. An impression like Flatbrook trout reaches a youngster on a deeper level than do ordinary happenings. These are the sort of memories that can and should last a lifetime. They will if replenished by new experiences when possible. By staying in touch with fishing’s value, Matt may weather life well, just as a boat with a deep keel can withstand much more surface turbulence than a shallow draft.
Like any sport, fishing is about more than the score, and this includes appreciation of places such as the northern section of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area where the Flatbrook flows, often offering solitude among high mountains. Last year, we came upon an isolated house deep in the forests along a road that made us wonder about heavy snow. I timed how long it took to get to the first food market—45 minutes. And you thought New Jersey is all pavement and strip malls?
If you ever get the daring urge to beat the sticks and really try something different—go after native brook trout. Governor James Florio announced in 1992 that brook trout as officially the New Jersey state fish. What better way to symbolize preservation of our Highlands? In this state, some of the worst pollution nightmares in history have threatened portions of the population, yet native brook trout that filled streams 12,000 years ago when the Wisconsin Glacier receded are still here. Brook trout require pure, cold water. The Dunnfield Creek, for example, has deep holes of aqua-marine tone, perfectly clear and pure.