Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fly Fishing for Highlands Trout Good into June

Fly fishing for Highlands rainbows and browns good into June

X out the browns in NJ, unless you intend to fly fish wild trout. This is a story published a while back in print.

          Despite the short stocking season, which ends May 2nd this year, rainbow trout and some browns will be available through June to fly fishers who apply their time wading a stream. In streams that weren’t stocked at all this year due to furunculosis, more wild browns than rainbows may be caught, but hatchery trout are special in their own right as they become stream acclimated.

          For 39 years now, a brother and I have occasionally fished streams in New Jersey's Hunterdon Hills from just north of Lambertville to Milford—Wicecheeochee Creek, Alexauken Creek, Locatong Creek, Nishisakawick Creek—all of them as beautiful as their Lenape names, names more complicated, perhaps, than Latin entomological terms. However, none of these streams have wild trout, except the Hakihohake Creek further north in Milford, although a very few trout have been known to holdover.

          Trout escaping capture after stocking survive at least into June, and their numbers are significant enough to provide an interesting fishery. In 1978, a friend and I fished the Locatong the way we typically caught hatchery rainbows: 3 ½-foot spinning rods, two-pound test line, and weightless salmon eggs. Nearly June, the streams hadn’t been stocked for a couple of weeks or more, and although no browns swam with what remained, we weren’t doing well. We followed the stream a fair distance from the parked truck and saw a fly fisherman at the pool we intended to fish, where the current meandered into an elbow bend.

          Both of us fixed by a shared fascination, we stood and watched as the man bent to unhook and release a trout. A minute later he was into another. We sat and took a break, watching unrelentingly. The air was quiet and seemed to suspend light like mist. A few insects shifted about erratically, illuminated.

          It became abundantly clear that the rainbows had got away from susceptibility to hatchery pellet look-alikes, such as salmon eggs. All I could think was how dandy fly fishing worked way better than our proven method. It’s an incident I’ll never forget because it improved my respect for these otherwise all too gullible hatchery trout.

          The Locatong among Hunterdon’s very appealing streams, this was a perfect place to see fly selectivity happen, because every time I return to these fair size and smaller creeks flowing to the Delaware River, it seems as if they’re more special than merely being put and take waters. The Locatong has smallmouth bass, but all of these streams have always impressed me more as trout water, and I like to imagine that hidden here and there under currents sometimes plummeting over falls, sometimes slugging through stretches, are a few springs rare holdover trout find in the summer and dwell near. 

          Even Stony Brook in Mercer County has a few cold water springs. I’ve seen August trout congregated in a shallow emission. The same friend who watched the fly fisherman with me has caught such trout—very few!—in the Wickecheoke and Locatong during January. They’ve never been stocked in the fall.

          Given trout stocked in spring surviving into January, the prospects for May and June may seem considerably better. Mayfly, caddis, and drake hatches may occur, but all you may need are Adams in various sizes and some dry ants to provoke response. It’s not a bad idea by any means to observe just what duns are emerging, if any do, or what spinner falls may bring rainbows chasing, and reach for a wide and expensive selection of patterns to try and imitate the bugs, yet more important than pattern is size, especially for rainbows that aren’t quite wild and as selective.

          This year, I bought a six-foot, two-weight, Temple Fork Outfitters fly rod, and balanced it with a Ross Fly Rise 1 reel. I thought I would spend some money in hopes that I find time for years ahead on some very small wild trout waters in the Highlands. I’ll use it on the North Branch Raritan also, but here an eight-foot, five-weight, rod does well, as it would on streams like the South Branch Raritan, Musconetcong, Paulinskill, Rockaway, Ramapo, Pequest, and Pequannock.

          I can just imagine approaching Ken Lockwood Gorge with this set up, tiny sulfur tied to a 7X tippet, and hooking one of the big ones. The trout would race with the plummeting current and strip loose like a kite on a thread.     

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments Encouraged and Answered