Friday, October 26, 2012

Batten Down The Hatches

Here we go again...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Musconetcong River Gorge

Musconetcong River Gorge

Most folks from this area are familiar with the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River.  This famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) section of this well known freestone stream, is undoubtedly one of the most popular areas to fish for trout in the Garden State.   One of the attractions to the Ken Lockwood Gorge area is the classic trout stream appearance.  This rugged section of river is strewn with boulders and contains great pocket water and pools.  Prior to the infestation of the woolly adelgid, Hemlocks lined the banks providing year round cover.  Now, only the grey skeletons remain and surviving Hemlocks look like they are hanging on by a thread.  If you blindfolded someone and took them to this place they would never guess they were in New Jersey when the blindfold came off!

But this is not the gorge or the river I am writing about today.  The Musconetcong River also has a gorge section and this area is even more spectacular than the Ken Lockwood area, with two to three times the flows of the South Branch of the Raritan.  This area was  part of a private holding for decades.  Today part of the area is still owned by a private cooperation and some of it is owned by the state.

Warren Glen Dam

At the head of the gorge lies the thirty foot tall Warren Glen Dam, the highest on the river.  At the present time access to the area is difficult at best and the fishing poor to marginal.  The river here does not receive stockings so the few fish on this section of river are most likely from wild stock.  So what's the big deal you ask?

Talks have been underway for some time to remove this dam and restore the area to its natural state.  Removing the dam which has thirty feet of sediment behind will be a major undertaking but the potential is there restore the rest of the gorge to its original state.  That combined with better access could make this one of the best trout waters in the state!  This is a project that is still many years out but it is moving forward, definitely one to watch.  Perhaps one day in the not so distant future we will have another classic gorge area to fish in New Jersey.

Large boulders and woody cover!

Monday, October 22, 2012


As you all know this blog has recently gone through a long dry spell.  So it was particularly frustrating when I hit the river on Thursday hoping to put together a photo intensive post on fall wet fly fishing and this is what I get when I turn the camera on…

Now I know I put the battery in the charger the night before so I was a bit puzzled.  The mystery was solved when I arrived home that evening.  Battery chargers tend to work best when plugged in.  A little tip from the Jersey Angler.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musconetcong River Restoration Work

Photo by Lou DiGena

Central Jersey Trout Unlimited, along with several other T.U. Chapters and partners, recently worked on a planting project on the Musconetcong River. The project location was on a state owned Wildlife Management Area  just upstream of the Asbury dam. This area is impaired by eroding banks, lack of riparian cover, storm water runoff issues, water quality pollution such as fecal chloroform from sources such as dairy cows in the river or its tributaries as well other problems.

Photo by Lou DiGena

About fifty volunteers from several organizations and schools, including some folks as far away as Colorado participated in this event.  In record time, holes were dug and 150 containerized plants and trees were planted.  After the planting all of the new backside residents were caged or covered with netting to ward off the hungry resident deer and beavers.  This work will go a long way to enhance the ripariarn cover on this section of river. 

Photo by Lou DiGena

It was also a great way to introduce some children, including my oldest, to some conservation work and some good old back breaking manual labor.  They took to it like a duck to water, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Photo by Lou DiGena

Many thanks to all the volunteers who gave up part of their weekend to give something back to the river!

Photo by Lou DiGena

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stink Bugs…Stink

It's that time of year again.  The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and the stinkbugs are getting into everything!  This is a relatively new phenomena for us here in New Jersey.  Over the last few years these little odorous bastards invade our homes by the score when the weather turns cool.  Your home can be sealed tight as a drum and they still find their way in.

Apparently they have few natural predators because of their highly effective self defense system.  The exception appears to be my golden retriever, who seems to be fond of them but that dog has never been quite right.  Dog breath is bad enough, essense of stink bug on dog breath brings things to a whole new level.

This fellow on the vice has me thinking…I wonder if trout can smell?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Orvis, TU begin project to open 1,000 miles of water over next decade

MANCHESTER, Vt.—Orvis and Trout Unlimited this week announced the first two streams that will be improved to allow better passage for wild and native trout as part of the new Orvis / Trout Unlimited  “1,000 Miles Campaign.” 

Murphy Brook in Vermont and Tabor Brook in New Hampshire—both tributaries of the Connecticut River system—will be the first beneficiaries of funding raised by Orvis and its customers, and TU will oversee construction and reconnection projects on both streams.  Migration-halting culverts will be replaced, and dozens of new miles of habitat will be available to brook trout and brown trout that need intact coldwater habitat to spawn and to escape the worst of summer’s heat. 

Thanks in part to an Orvis grant and matching funds from the company’s customers, the two entities hope to open up 1,000 miles of new coldwater habitat to trout and salmon all over America. Many streams with spawning and rearing potential—and fishing potential—are now blocked by faulty culverts and other man-made barriers. The campaign’s goals include not only increasing overall trout habitat from coast to coast, but improving fishing opportunity resulting from stream improvements. 

“Opening up 1,000 miles of new habitat for trout and salmon over the next 10 years is an ambitious goal, but we think we can do it,” said Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s vice president for eastern conservation. “We’re lucky to have dedicated partners like the people at Orvis—they’ve always been very supportive of the work we do, and their commitment to this project means the world to us.”

By opening up habitat in Murphy Brook and Tabor Brook to migrating fish, anglers will likely see improved fish numbers in downstream stretches of water, and enjoy more fishable water in the coming years. Two culverts will be replaced on Tabor Brook this fall, and work to remove a culvert that blocks upstream migration on Murphy Brook will begin later in the year.

The 1,000 Miles Campaign will help fund culvert removal projects on several other trout streams located all over America. These streams are:

  • Kinne Brook, a tributary to the Westfield River in Massachusetts
  • Coyner Springs, a tributary to the South River near Waynesboro, Va.
  • Crazy Creek, a tributary to the Crooked River in the Upper Deschutes River drainage in Oregon
  • Aldrich Brook, a tributary to Azizschos Lake and the Magalloway River in Maine
  • Yellow Creek, a tributary to the Bear River in southwest Wyoming
  • Big Slough Creek, a Driftless Areas stream in Jackson County, Wisc. 
  • Mabel Creek, a coastal cutthroat trout stream in Oregon.

“Culverts are significant impediments to fish passage and survival – just as significant as a major dam – but the solution is dramatically simpler, costs less, and the overall benefits to many watersheds is profound,” said Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman of Orvis. “By removing these impediments, we not only add vital habitat for fish, but we also open many miles of fishable waters for anglers.  We’re proud to partner with TU in this effort to engage the fly-fishing community in support of this often overlooked opportunity to dramatically improve fish habitat across the country.”

Friday, October 5, 2012

Catch Magazine

I just finished reading the latest edition of Catch Magazine. Another great issue! Check it out.

Catch Magazine

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October Caddis

In my neck of the woods the October Caddis is a sporadic hatch at best.  Fortunately it is a big bug that gets the attention of trout.  It is my understanding that the insect hatches at night or in the early morning, which may be the reason I don't see it often. Once school starts for the kids, I will seldom be able to get on the water before 10:00am on a weekday.

That being said, I do have quite a bit of luck with pupae patterns that represent this insect.  The version I have tied here is not an original pattern but a replication of a commercial one I picked up years ago. It worked well then, so I faithfully reproduced it and have been tying it the same way ever since.

As a European nymphing enthusiast I like to fish this fly as an anchor fly.  With the low water conditions we find on our rivers in the autumn of most years the tungsten bead is all the weight I need to get the flies in the zone.  Since I am using it as an attractor pattern I brighten up the colors a bit, and it works well for me.  The naturals are more of a dull orange, tie them that way if you are looking for a more realistic pattern.

It's a good sized fly, I will fish it as large as a size 8 and as small as a size 12.  A middle of the road size 10 is my all around favorite.

Hook: Standard nymph or natural bend hook 1x or 2x long
Bead:  Black tungsten sized to match the hook
Underbody:  Green Mylar or Krystal Flash
Body:  Orange ultra chenille tinted with a dark marker
Ribbing: Red wire
Antenna:  A light and dark barred feather like Woodduck
Legs:  Partridge
Thorax:  Black ostrich herl

Its been a while...

After a long siesta things will be ramping back up here.   It was a very busy summer but things have slowed down and there is finally some time to actually do some fishing and with that some writing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The first 800 - Win a Thomas and Thomas Fly Rod

The first 800 Thomas and Thomas is looking to expand their footprint in the world of social media. Visit the link above and follow the instructions to throw your name in the pot for a new fly rod of your choice. All you need to do is follow them on Twitter, like um on Facebook or subscribe to their newsletter. Easy as pie!

The Not So Super Ant

Original Super Ant
Two summers ago I put up a post about a simple terrestrial pattern dubbed the super ant.  The super ant is a ungainly creation consisting of just three materials - foam, hackle and thread. It was a creation of my buddy Rick, during a late night tying session in our West Yellowstone cabin, fueled by one too many servings of "cabin punch".  This jumbo sized attractor pattern scored big time on fish in the West Yellowstone area.  The browns on the meadow section of Gibbon River fell particularly hard to its charms.

Super Ant Country
When I brought the pattern home to New Jersey it worked well most of the time for warm water species, but our trout here on the east coast sometimes cast a suspicious eye upon the pattern. They would often rise to inspect the fly, sometimes following a good distance downstream, before ultimately refusing the offering. They were definitely interested, but there was something about the pattern they were not sure of.

Super Ant Redux
As it turns out, it appears that the "super" in the super ant was turning fish off.   Downsizing the pattern has made it much more effective on our east coast trout.  It has also greatly improved its hooking abilities on small mouthed panfish as well,  which sometimes had a little difficulty choking down the original pattern.  The sample pattern I was given was tied on an old, discontinued Mustad barbless hook (3257B). It just so happens that I have thousands of these funky, old irons lying around. This hook was supposedly discontinued because of its poor hooking abilities. Although the hook held well, it was said to have penetration problems due the pronounced hump in the point. I have used the hook for a while now and have not observed any issues with penetration, so I am continuing to use it (I have to do something with them).  Another option in the same style of hook would be the Partridge Roman Moser (CS27) barbless dry fly hook (also discontinued, but easier to find). In the end, any old dry fly hook, barbed or not will work just fine.

This batch was tied up using some quick sight ant bodies I had lying around.  To get the hi-vis indicator tips, I simply tinted the white sections with permanent markers in various colors. The standard white works well enough but in some light conditions a little bit of color improves visibility on this low riding pattern.

In addition to the not so super ant I also tied up a few not so super bees with some foam bee bodies I found lying in the same drawer. I have a feeling the bluegills are going to tear these up!

Recent victim of the Super Ant

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Sulphurs are Flying!

Just a quick post for the local folks.  The Sulphurs have been around in dribs and drabs for a few days now, but last night they were out in numbers that had the fish looking up!   The bug pictured was on the small size most were considerably larger (as large as size 12!).  The fish ate good last night!

Usually, I would have more fish porn but I forgot the camera.  I took my iPhone on the water (which I never do) but I almost dropped the damn thing in the drink taking this shot, so that was the end of the pics!  I need to invest in a waterproof case...

This water was boiling with fish an hour after this photo was taken!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farmington River

I recently took trip to Connecticut's famed Farmington River with a group of friends.  We headed up to the river on the tail end of a nor'easter, so we had some adverse weather and water conditions to deal with.  Despite less than ideal conditions it turned out to be a great trip.

There were plenty of chunky little rainbows to be had.  They were everywhere and eagerly took our nymphs and streamers in the morning and rose to Hendricksons and caddis in the warmer afternoons.  The rainbows averaged 12 to 14 inches with the largest nosing up to about 16 inches.  They fought surprising hard for their size.

 The brown trout averaged a inch or two less and were just as abundant.   I managed to hook a few larger browns in the 20" class, while fishing streamers in some of the deep runs and pools, but they got the best of me and never made it to the net.

The fishery folks on the Farmington have an interesting way of tagging fish to identify when they were stocked.  The small recently stocked brown trout all had this green laser etch behind their right eye.  I have never seen this method of tagging before.

We managed to have one phenomenal afternoon when my buddy Rick and I got into a riffle that was just teeming with fish.  There were actually more fish in this one spot than I have ever encountered on a river before.  We discovered that they were staged in that riffle taking emerging Hendricksons.  Fishing soft hackles we took fish on almost every casts for hours right up until dark.  The numbers of fish caught was astounding, between the two of us it was one of those rare "100 fish days".

Fishing two fly rigs and catching two fish at a time was just as common as catching one!  More often than not, everyones rod was bent over at the same time.  Since we left fish biting the night before, we returned the next morning morning with another friend and found the fish there again.  This time they appeared to be taking spent little yellow crane flies.  A partridge and yellow soft hackle did the trick and we did it all over again.   This had been my first trip to the Farmington, I can't wait to head back!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Not your typical trout stream resident!

I was standing in the shallow water on the edge of the river, tying on a new section of tippet, when I felt something heavy climbing over my wading boots.  I looked down and almost jumped out of my skin when I saw this large snapping turtle clambering over my boots.  I had been standing motionless for a while watching a few rising fish on the opposite bank so I guess he figured I was part of the landscape.  Once my heartbeat returned to normal I left this fellow to his own devices and I proceeded to catch one of those rising fish.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Perfect Bass Fly?

Although my writing may not show it, I am an avid warm water fly fisherman. I am forced to be, because the nearest quality trout water is an hour from my house. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a number of warm water venues minutes from my front door. Despite the fact that most of this blog's posts revolve around trout fishing, much of my fishing involves the pursuit of warm water fish.

One of the most effective lures for largemouth bass has to be the plastic worm. For decades, I have been searching for the fly fisherman's equivalent. I believe that search is now over.

At a recent fly tying course offered by Central Jersey Trout Unlimited, I took a break from instructing and sat in on a workshop put on by one of the chapter's most innovative fly tiers, Bill Ninke.  Bill introduced me to materials and techniques to tie very effecting looking worm and tube jig imitations. Bill was quick to point out that these flies were not his original patterns.  He stated he had picked up the patterns and techniques from a source on the internet. The originator of this wrapping technique is Rich McElligott who works hard for the Illinois Smalmouth Alliance.

These flies are quick and easy to tie and they look great in the water.  The pattern's design keeps the long tail from fouling the hook point, an issue I have always had with other worm style flies.  The fly is tied in two stages.  First take a length of yarn equal to whatever you want the overall length of the fly to be and touch the end to an open flame to taper it.  I have been working with a fly that is 5 1/2 inches long. Take the none tapered end and tie it in behind the eye, bead or cone. Take a second piece of yarn three to four times longer than the first and tie it in behind the eye as well. Begin wrapping this longer piece of yarn around the hook shank until you reach the bend. Then continue wrapping the long piece of yarn around the standing portion of the tail. Make seven wraps down the tail then reverse direction and make six wraps back towards the hook.  Now continue wraping on the hook ending back at the eye.  Whip finish, tie off and your done.

I am adopting this technique and material to several new patterns I am developing.  I can't wait to field test them this spring.  I also started tying these flies on wire guard weedless hooks which results in a near weedless version that can be cast into heavy cover without the risk of losing the fly.  It can be weighted by attaching wraps of lead wire to the hook shank before tying on the yarn.

Hook: Mustad 3366 1/0 or substitute a weedless worm hook
Weight: Brass or tungsten cone or wraps on lead wire
Body:  Patons Bohemian Yarn (available at local craft stores)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shad Flies

I needed to restock my shad fly box for an upcoming trip this weekend.  Normally I would recruit my 9 year old son to whip up a bunch off shad flies for me, but the lad broke his finger last night so I got stuck behind the vice.  I had only one hour to spend fly tying this evening.  Fortunately, shad flies are quick and easy to tie.  The patterns are only limited by your imagination and fly tying supplies.  For me it is crystal flash, and bright colored standard and crystal chenille, nothing to them.

When tying shad flies your looking for brightness and/or contrast.  These are all tied on an #4 Eagle Claw Nickel Teflon Salmon hook (model NT1197FS).  I carry a assortment of colors and sizes (2-6).  Follow the basic rules - bright flies on bright days, dark flies on cloudy days or low light periods.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Many years ago I chased the Delaware River's shad with spinning tackle.  About fifteen or twenty years ago, I laid the spinning and casting gear down and chased fished exclusively with the fly rod.  Up until this year, I never pursued shad with fly tackle.   One of the main reasons I have never gone after shad with a fly is the timing of the run. It occurs during our primetime for trout.  This year, with so much excellent fishing opportunities this winter, I felt I could take a few days off from trout fishing and finally give shad on the fly a go.  Thanks to some friends who shared their expansive knowledge of fly fishing for shad, I have discovered a new thrill.

These fish are a blast!  Shad eagerly take a fly and on a 6wt fly rod they make a good showing of themselves.  On this tackle you will not land every fish! They will push 6wt gear to its limits and will escape from time to time.  Though they take a fly readily, their bony mouths can offer a bit of resistance to a hook, they are prone to leaping and on occasion a large fish will break a ten pound tippet on the initial strike like it was made of sewing thread!

When the fish are pushing through the action can be hot and heavy.  When they are not, you cast until your arm wants to fall off.  But they can show up at any time, so you cast away.  This time of year it is running lines and fast to moderate sinking shooting heads.  The use of a stripping basket is mandatory.  There is nothing graceful about fly fishing for shad but it can be terribly effective.  Although it is certainly not always the case, on the days I have been out, the fly guys have out produced the spin fisherman.

The flies are ridiculously simple to tie and they are a great patterns for new fly tiers, especially children.  The brighter and gaudier, the better, and the kids love combining colors that would have not have a place on any respectable trout pattern but are perfect for shad flies.  I'll put up a post in the next week or so on the flies used for this species.

But like most forms of fly fishing, you occasionally connect with a trash fish like this brown trout!  What did I say about colors that don't belong on a respectable trout fly?  I may have to rethink this one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opening Day 2012

For me, the season opener actually begins the day before on the banks of the very river that will be fished the following day.  A fabulous steak dinner is enjoyed by a fine group of friends and the evening is spent swapping lies around a campfire until one by one we slip off to the warmth of our sleeping bags.  The day starts just before first light with the smell of wood smoke and fresh coffe being brewed by the first man up.  Soon the smells of breakfast being cooked begin to mix with the wood smoke and that is usually enough to wake those that stayed up a little too late the night before.  After breakfast, a few anglers will rush into waders, gather their gear and wait in the frigid water for the eight o'clock bell of the season opener. Most of us continue to linger by the fire until the sun begins to poke over the hills and shares its warmth with us.  Then one by one we'll gear up, find a good looking piece of water and make the first "official" cast of the season. Which, on most years, has been preceded by several thousand casts by those of us who fish all winter long, except for those three long weeks in March and early April when trout season closes on most waters.

Opening day was a little different for me this year.  This year I had company.  This was the year I introduced my 9 year old son, William, to my opening day traditions.  William has been fishing with a fly rod for a number of years now, but mainly on local lakes and ponds for panfish and the occasional bass.  Last summer I introduced him to wet wading in moving water and once I was confident he understood the basics of safely negotiating rapids and could handle a dunking in moving water, we took a few short trips in preparation for Opening Day.  Armed with a new fly rod and a pair of Dan Bailey waders and Simms wading boots that were given to us by a generous friend whose children had out grown them, he was ready to hit the water

I was thrilled that he was able to make the cast, detect the strike and play his first fish to hand without any assistance from Dad and he did it over and over again.  I stood by his side to coach him, but it became obvious after a while that I was just getting in the way so I sat and watched.

Eventually he asked why I wasn't fishing and then offered to be my gillie if I wanted to fish for a while.  So I did, it was nice to have someone to net my fish for me.

After a few hours he wanted to put down the rod and kick back and relax so I slipped off and managed to tease a few more fish into the net before breaking camp and heading for home.

I'm sure the day created memories that will last a lifetime for the both of us.  Especially that big one that got away!  He'll have stories of his own for next year's campfire!