Sunday, October 21, 2018

Autumn on the Water

We've managed to get out on the water a few times in the last couple of weeks with mixed results thanks to the frequent rains and resulting changeable water levels and clarity.  We fished a small creek in Pennsylvania and managed a bunch of small wild browns in a few hours of fishing.  The river was up but clear, and a good drift with deep nymph was the ticket.  Like a lot of PA waters, the top fly was a plain old Walt's worm.  I also took a few on Galloup's Improved BWO nymph.  This little nymph has become a fairly consistent fish producer for me everywhere I fish it.

 Lehigh Valley freestone steam.

Galloup's Improved Blue-winged Olive nymph.
Locally, the South Branch of the Raritan River has fished well.  The water levels have been as good as we've seen this time of the year, in many years.  Most of the fish we've taken have come on Iris caddis fished deep, Walt's worms, Vinnie's Isonychia nymph and black woolly buggers.  The majority of fish have been rainbows in the 12-14 inch range, with a few smaller wild browns.

Yesterday when I arrived at the river mid-afternoon a steady light breeze carried the distinct odors of Autumn - drying corn fields, wood fires, and decaying plant matter along the stream bank.  There were quite a few dot-winged caddis in the air.  These are Autumn's most reliable hatch caddis in these parts; its a medium sized, tannish-brown clumsy flier that on breezy, windy days like yesterday often gets blown on to the water surface where eager trout will grab them confidently.  The river was at a perfect level and clear.  I tied on a 30 inch section of 5X tippet to the end of my leader and then knotted a size #16 tannish-brown caribou caddis to the end of it.

I fishing a fast riffle where two currents joined below an island and spread out over a rocky bottom. The far bank has a mature maple tree about halfway down the riffle whose lower branches reach out over the broken water leaving about 5 feet of shaded space.  Beginning at the top of the riffle I cast my fly randomly onto the riffle and follow its path with my rod tip, mending my line as needed to get a long, drag-free drift.  Sure enough after a few drifts a wild brown of about 8 inches grabbed my quickly moving fly and shortly thereafter I netted it.

South Branch of the Raritan River wild brown trout.
Depending on who you ask you will get a different answer from each person as to what flies are most productive in the fall. My first answer is, use the flies you have the most confidence in.  If you often do well fishing a beadhead pheasant tail nymph with a smaller zebra off the bend as a dropper, fish that.  If you have confidence in a hare's ear nymph or a prince nymph, fish that.  For me, if nothing is rising, in the autumn months I tie on a pheasant tail nymph, Vinnie's isonychia nymph, Walt's worm, iris caddis or lately Galloup's Improved BWO nymph.  In fast pocket water or deep runs, I also like to fish a serendipity or $3 dip.  I rarely fish more than one fly, preferring to fish just one with focus.  If those flies fail me, I tie on a black wooly bugger, which usually will at least get fish to chase it.
If you see fish rising, your choices should be fairly straightforward.  Most of the caddis you will see are tannish-brown and sizes #16-18, although early in the am I fish a size #10 or 12 October caddis imitation right along the banks where these large caddis hatch just before daybreak.  Often in the mid-afternoon blue-winged olives will hatch, they are generally small, sizes 20-22, and quite dark.  Slate drakes are still showing, too, but that hatch is waning here in NJ.  And don't forget midges; they may show on any given day and in any weather.  I fish my Matt's Gnat or Simple Snowshoe Emerger for these diminutive two-winged insects.
Bottom line - if you have even an hour, get out and fish, the rivers are in great shape, there are few anglers about, and its great for the soul.
Sharpen your hooks.      

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NJ Trout Unlimited 9th Annual Fly Fisherman of the Year Event 11/3/18

New Jersey Trout Unlimited 9th Annual NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year event will be taking place on Saturday November 3 on Shannon’s Private Waters at the Raritan Inn Bed & Breakfast, Califon, NJ. As in past year's, during the day an angler from each of the NJ Trout Unlimited Chapters will fish in the event in a one-fly style format.  The fishing is then followed by a banquet, silent auction and awards presentation. A fully restored 1850’s barn will house displays and dinner. The event is sponsored by The Raritan Inn, Shannon’s Fly and Tackle and co-hosted with the NJ State Council of Trout Unlimited.  

Each NJ Trout Unlimited chapter is invited to select one (1) member each to participate in the event. There is no cost to enter and the day will include events such as rod demos, fly tying and fly casting demonstrations. The day’s events will be followed by a pre-registration only dinner @ $60.00, silent auction, and an awards presentation immediately following the "competition".  Here's a video of the 2015 event produced by Tim Flagler.

Arrival and sign in will begin at 7:00 AM with an orientation at 8:00 a.m. and the start of fishing scheduled for 9:00 AM to 11:45 a.m. Initial contestants will be cut to three finalists competing from 1:30 to 3:00, followed by the banquet at 5:30. Dinner registration is available by stopping by Shannon's Fly Shop or on line HERE - click on the EVENTS tab. Presentations and awards at 7:00 pm will finish out the fun filled day.  Shannon's Fly Shop 908-832-5736.

The event is a lot of fun, and aside from the fishing, is open to anyone that would like to attend - TU membership is not required.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Second Season - Fall Stocking

Here in New Jersey we have what might be called a second trout season that begins with the annual fall stocking of trout in our rivers, streams and lakes. This year, unlike recent low-water years, we are fortunate to have very good water levels, so the fish will have plenty of room to spread out.  All of the fish will be rainbow trout in the 14"-18" range.  Stocking begins on October 9th with rivers and streams getting their allotment that week, followed by lakes and ponds the week of October 15th.  If you prefer the solitude of and rewards of catching wild trout, all of New Jersey's wild trout streams are in good condition and are open to angling year-'round.    

I'll post some information on my favorite fall flies in the next couple of days. 

Sharpen your hooks, and get out and fish!