Wade a Stream for Quality Rainbow Trout
Late this afternoon, I fished the North Branch Raritan River upstream of the typical crowd gathered where trout are stocked from the entryway bridge to AT&T World Headquarters. Fishing slow, sometimes trout refuse to feed just after being stocked. But I caught two rainbows on salmon eggs, including a two-pounder, and left before my mood would turn to any dismay. The few trout that ventured upriver were more interested in feeding. I had seen three other anglers catch a trout apiece in the area of the separate exit bridge where I fished. The crowd well in view about 60 yards away caught none.
Some of the many rainbows left in the river tonight will surely move downstream and upstream. Especially if we finally get heavy rain that floods our rivers, trout will spread out between bridges and anglers can catch some by engaging the length and flow of a stream, wading.
On stocking days, you can witness fishermen standing on a bank, baiting a hook with a worm weighted by a split shot, and placing it directly down among a swarm of trout bunched together after being thrown from a bridge. Much the same could be done in the hatchery runways or a bathtub. If catching fish is what it’s all about, why bother with rivers and lakes? Open an amusement park with tanks to fish in. It’s similar with fishing as it is with golf—some courses are more difficult and more highly prized.
Wading at its best is truly wholesome enjoyment. If you succeed at catching trout by going beyond the familiar bridge site and looking instead to places you’ve never seen, wading can make you feel good through and through. Either with or against current, the flow gets going within you, in part because terrestrial life originated in the seas. The mysterious feeling of deep affinity for water has some explanation by citing life’s origin. Human amniotic fluid is a lot like brine, as if something of the distant past—before mammalian evolution—remains part of our physiology. The sudden smell of brine at the shore can awaken a poignant feeling of being at home, a familiarity with the planet which is mostly ocean. Our region’s streams flow to the Atlantic either by way of the Delaware, Raritan, or Passaic rivers. Ultimately, affinity with water is oceanic, but less feeling is plenty healthy and enough.
Rainbows won’t only be found in deep holes or currents with boulder eddies and depth. They also hold in shallow riffles. Drifting shallow riffles with salmon eggs need not be an arduous repetition. If, after one or two tries, nothing slams an egg, move on. Fast water rainbows are exciting when encountered. They’re so eager they may strike an egg tumbling between your feet. I’ve heard of it happening, such an antic of hatchery trout that you can’t help but like them.
Deep, slow water deserves slowing down. Plumb the area thoroughly. It’s possible to have caught several in six inches of water just upstream, then to catch more in 10 feet of slow water, where it takes a while for the salmon egg to drift near bottom.
Sometimes you have to expend a lot of effort for few trout. I frequently remember an outing eight years ago on Pennsylvania’s Bushkill Creek. My son and I fished most of the morning. He caught one or two; I caught three. The visual memory I have of what it took to catch the last trout is clear as day. Searching that long, rocky, deep stretch for the practical result of catching a rainbow trout so vividly awakened my senses that the impression on memory remains striking. Books on creative artists, writers, and scientists like Kay Redfield Jamison’s Exuberance claim that what they all have in common is time spent in wild places. Perhaps to awaken senses by such outdoor pursuits as fishing is to stir deeper faculties of the mind. I could paint the Bushkill scene from memory. And nothing is as perennial as fishing besides hunting and gathering berries. People have done it for at least 100,000 years.
If you find you like small rivers, you might try a small stream like Beaver Brook in Warren County, or Peapack Brook in Somerset for something different. Many brooks in the Highlands and Valley/Ridge have wild rainbows and/or browns and native brook trout. In the spring you can try and distinguish if you have caught a trout recently stocked or not. At any rate, our region has tiny rills, brooks, mid-sized streams like the Pohatcong, and small rivers like the Pequest full of trout this time of year. Each offers unique experience.