Category Archives: Bass

Fly Fishing Pre-Spawn Bass

Well hello there readers! It has been a while since we have been on this blog to update it with fishing and adventure stories. We have been busy setting up our Fly Fishing lessons and Guide Service out of Knot Just Flies in Blairstown New Jersey.

The lake spreads out before us.
The lake spreads out before us.

As has been the case with every spring in the last few years that I recall, the weather has been a tad bit wacky. After a warm winter we greeted opening weekend of a Trout with an all-day light snowstorm. Opening day did go well for fellow Moose Knuckle blogger Mark Beardmore with his over seven pound Rainbow Trout. I unfortunately have had few opportunities to get out and Fly Fish this spring due to Fly Fishing 101 and working on The Lazy “K” Ranch. Mark and I made some time to get out this weekend and check in on those Bass.

Mark landed the champion of the day in traditional tackle.
Mark landed the champion of the day in traditional tackle.

In the “wilds” of Northwest Jersey we are blessed with little farm ponds and larger Eutrophic Lakes that produce unbelievable quantities of Bio Mass consisting mostly of sunfish and Largemouth Bass. The commencement of Trout stocking signals the arrival of spring and the official beginning of fishing season. However, the good Fly Fishing really gets going about a month later once the smarter stocked fish have figured out how to actually eat flies. Right at this moment, the Bass start to move into pre-spawn or early spawn mode. .

Seasons of The Bass

Bass have distinct holding patterns and feeding tactics from April through June revolving around water temperature and spawning status. Bass commence feeding in the spring as the water temperature approaches fifty-five degrees. At this point in the season, Bass move from their deep holding positions to the shallows and begin aggressively feeding. If you have ever ice fished for Bass, you will recall in the winter, the deepest holes will contain a Bass if you catch any at all. Bass will at this team strike slowly fished streamers; this is all dependent on the temperature. As a general rule of thumb, the warmer the day, the more active the Bass tend to be.

Making Fly Fishing Great Again One Bass At A Time.
Making Fly Fishing Great Again One Bass At A Time.

As the spring continues, the air temperatures stay consistently warmer during the day and night. At this time, the Bass begin staging at the edge of drop offs. The spawning season continues and Bass become more aggressive. They will defend their spawning beds, in the shallows as well as engage in some feeding to support the spawn. True spawning begins when the water temperatures approach sixty-two through sixty-five degrees. Remember be ethical and release all fish caught during the spawn.

The lake produced many fine looking specimens.
The lake produced many fine looking specimens.

Where to find them?

During the winter, Bass seek the deepest location to survive and stay warm. The Bass is not a cold-water fish. As the water warms, during the pre-spawn and early spawn the Bass are located at the edge drop offs or cover. They will seek warmer areas, possibly the parts of the pond with darker soils. Early on you can look in areas of shallow cover, for example weed beds, creek channels, timber, brush piles and pilings. As the Bass begin to spawn, they will concentrate in water depths of one to four feet. Preferably in areas free of weeds with a firm bottom. Silt covered bottoms run the risk of smothering the eggs which the Bass will attempt to avoid.

This one was just sitting around, getting ready to spawn.
This one was just sitting around, getting ready to spawn.

What to throw at them?

Non Fly Fishers are always surprised at the smaller things that Bass will eat when tied up in fly form. To a Fly Fisherman it is not at all surprising; Bass are aggressive predators and fear not catching their next meal. Be it a juicy damselfly nymph, a worm or even a frog, Bass have a voracious appetite. Early season and during the spawn, Bass will not eat the poppers that they do in June or July. However, they will eat an assortment of flies. Below is a list of the flies that I tried during the last weekend:

  • Green Simi Seal Leech
  • Jan’s Carp Tickler
  • Large Woolly Bugger (Beaded or Non Beaded)
The Bass all had very strong coloration.
The Bass all had very strong coloration.

The issue with the smaller flies is that I find you catch a preposterous amount of Sunfish as by catch. Specifically, the Simi Seal Leach and to a lesser extent Jan’s Carp Tickler seemed to be Sunfish magnets, however the Carp Tickler was a favorite of the Crappie.

Other Fishy Friends

Crappie are great fun on a Fly Rod.
Crappie are great fun on a Fly Rod.

The lake I was fishing in these pictures also contains Crappie in healthy numbers. Crappie are larger than their cousins the Sunfish, they also put up a muscular fight on the fly rod. Similar to Sunfish and Bass, they spawn in shallow water, preferably with a little cover and a solid bottom. As opposed to Bass, they will take whatever spawning ground they can locate. Crappies are one of the first fish that can be caught on the Fly Rod in the early spring. You will need to fish for them when they are in the shallow waters and not following a school of baitfish into the deep water. Woolly Buggers work generally well to catch a Crappie in the shallows, I also experienced luck with Jan’s Carp Tickler when it was allowed to sink.

Key Takeaways

In lakes and ponds, timing your Fly Fishing to the seasons of the spawn will yield fishy results. During the Pre-Spawn, on warm days, after ice out, the fish are hungry after a frigid winter. The lake or pond water gradually warms during the Pre-Spawn period and the Bass and Pan fish begin to feed even more aggressively. Once the water reaches optimal spawning temperatures, your quarry will head out to its preferred nesting environment. In the case of Largemouth Bass and Crappie, these are shallow waters with some cover. Post-Spawn the fish will eventually leave their nests and seek cover in weedy areas. This is the time of year, when the water is in the 70s that the Bass will start to feed aggressively on poppers.

More to come when this happens…

Fishtember

The World War era bunkers at Sandy Hook.
The World War era bunkers at Sandy Hook.

Today is the last day of September, we are now two weeks into the autumn of 2015. Temperatures have been steadily cooling though holding higher than I can anecdotally recall in the last two autumn fishing seasons. The fall fishing extravaganza leaped off to a strong start as the water temperatures steadily cooled and our H2O residing quarry again became more active.

A sign of the fall, pickups loaded down with wood.
A sign of the fall, pickups loaded down with wood.

This weekend the majority of the MKFF crew is headed up to Pulaski, New York to check out the early Salmon run then Mark and Zach will be heading down to Sanibel Island for an extended fishing adventure. I will not be fishing due to my college roommate’s wedding; therefore this is an appropriate point to provide you with an update on New Jersey fishing for the first few weeks of fall.

Black River WMA

Pheasant Hunting Season and the Cast and Blasts which mark November are now less than two months away. I dusted off the old JC Higgins 16 gauge side by side along with the Remington 12 gauge and headed down to the Black River WMA range. Both firearms performed well, presenting my shoulder with the swift kick of an old gun while consistently delivering a load to the target. Next on the agenda is to attempt and gunsmith my Savage Model 220B with some parts that are now available online.

Gunsmithing Kitty
Gunsmithing Kitty

The Jersey Shore

Light surf in the morning.
Light surf in the morning.

The salt water community is abuzz with the looming biannual arrival of the Striped Bass to the New Jersey shore. It is still a bit early for the main event however we headed down to Avon by the Sea to evaluate what could be pulled out from the beach. Initially I was going to try to fish with some spin gear but the guys over at Orvis NYC convinced me to try a few softy minnows in the surf. The plan worked with me landing a few one pound Blue Fish and Jack Crevalle in the morning. Mark pulled in a nice Sea Robin and Star Gazer, however I could not convince him to measure the Star Gazer in an attempt at the MKFF Salt contest. We wrapped up over at Sandy Hook where a few keep able size Fluke were caught from the beach.

Mark’s Sea Robbin
Mark’s Sea Robbin

Orvis Game Fair

Bison head at the Orvis Game Fair.
Bison head at the Orvis Game Fair.

Continuing the fall adventures, Mark and I met in Morristown on Sunday after fishing the shore all day Saturday to head up to Millbrook, NY for the annual Orvis Game Fair. The Game Fair, which we have reported on in 2012 and 2014, is a sporting lifestyle fair geared for the family. This year they had few more distilleries, which are popping up, in the Hudson Valley thanks to New York State’s updated liquor laws. The event has expanded every year that we have attended and is a great way to spend the first weekend of fall.

Handcrafted bar made of fir wood. Made in America.
Handcrafted bar made of fir wood. Made in America.

My other favorite part of the Orvis Game Fair is fishing Wappingers Creek, a local stream in Dutchess County New York. Wappingers Creek stretches 41.7 miles from Thomson Pond to New Hamburg, NY, emptying into the Hudson River. The northern stretches of the creek hold Trout while the southern stretches are more of a Smallmouth fishery.

Wappinger Creek Smallmouth Bass
Wappinger Creek Smallmouth Bass

After leaving the Orvis Game Fair, we stopped at The Roadhouse in Pleasant Valley, NY. This is an excellent upstate New York bar. This establishment is a jewel, a true treasure including a main floor with a list, pool table, dartboard, cold beer and delicious beer. This is not a yuppie bar, the bartenders are friendly, the food delicious and reasonably priced!

Looking Ahead

New Jersey’s fall Trout stocking is scheduled to commence between October 13th and 21st , this year they will be placing 20,000 Trout, between 14” and 22”, in 16 streams throughout the state. Our club is also planning on stocking our private pond with Tiger Trout for the winter. After the Trout season dies down, Saturday November 7th will be opening day of Pheasant season in New Jersey. This is in addition to the fall archery season that begins in October and then the December firearms season for deer.

Summer’s End

Like a blink of an eye the 2015 summer lip ripping session has come and almost gone. A solid year of bass, trout, beers, and bonfires. Lets take a few minutes to highlight some of our favorite moments.
(Also 2 ice fishing pictures that never made it into the mix yet, and, not to brag, are my first 1 of each fish caught!)

Starting out we turn to Maryland for the shad run. Accompanied by my good MKFF buddies Mark and Dave, we truly made an impact on the fishing scene; The river and the bars.

Flipping Shad
Flipping Shad
Well behaved shad
Well behaved shad
Heading home scenery
Heading home scenery

The following weekend was also spent in Maryland, while we prepared the family boat for the upcoming warm weather sailing season. Dave and I set-up behind the boat with some hot dogs on the lines and sat and waited. Here are the results.

Dave with a nice sized cat
Dave with a nice sized cat
3 foot eel!
3 foot eel!

Maryland out of the way we can focus on some close to home fishing!!

We head to Lake Hopatcong with some fun hybrid striper fun with my buddy Mark and his son Mark. Here’s our outcome!

Me with my first hyrid
Me with my first hyrid
Little Mark with his trophy!
Little Mark with his trophy!

And onto some local fishing with a local pond and beautiful Paulinskill river!

My beautiful girlfriend Danielle sporting her new rod and outfit!
My beautiful girlfriend Danielle sporting her new rod and outfit!
Same spot trout
Same spot trout
Same stream just 100 yards up. Paulinskill small mouth bass.
Same stream just 100 yards up. Paulinskill small mouth bass.
Local pond Large Mouth Bass!
Local pond Large Mouth Bass!

Now let’s head to some deeper water with an unexpected, typically cold temperature, guest! Off the tip on Montauk we took our friends boat out a little bit in search of Stripers! Unfortunately, we came up shore but we got a few surprises instead!

Sea Bass with a beefy hump!
Sea Bass with a beefy hump!
Unexpected shad. We caught about 25 of them the beginning of August, 125 feet down.
Unexpected shad. We caught about 25 of them the beginning of August, 125 feet down.
Our newest member, TJ, with a big Blue Fish.
Our newest member, TJ, with a big Blue Fish.

Now, the finale, those two new fish promises! Introducing for the first time ever by this blog, and this angler in particular….

Lake Trout from the Adirondacks, NY.
Lake Trout from the Adirondacks, NY.
Northern Pike from North New Jersey.
Northern Pike from North New Jersey.

So, this concludes a quick update of the ventures and fish caught by the MKFF crew. Hope you enjoyed viewing them as much as we had catching them! Come on back soon for some more updates, pictures, and good times!!

Some upcoming blogs will cover the Pulaski Salmon run in October and another awesome trip to Sanibel Island!

Knot Just Flies

Blairstown, NJ is a bucolic small town in a bustling state, surrounded by first class fishing and hunting opportunities. The working farms, hunting clubs, preserved land and overgrown bush combine to make this town and northern Warren County a sportsmen’s paradise. Even so, there has not been a sporting goods store in this town since Red Hawk Outfitters closed more than a decade ago.

The sales counter at Knot Just Flies
The sales counter at Knot Just Flies

Thanks to local business owner Valentino Mota, this has all changed, for the better. Val has opened Knot Just Flies at the Valero on Route 94. Conveniently located in front of the Paulinskill River as it meanders through Blairstown. Val has opened his store as an authentic general store of Fly Fishing, angling and hunting supplies. In the modern world of ecommerce, something that he has experience in, brick and mortar retail stores need to carry the items you need on the spot before a day of sporting adventures. This is what Val will provide to our community.

Flies geared to your local waters.
Flies geared to your local waters.

Knot Just Flies caters to a wide market of sportsmen or woman and the equipment they need. By stopping here you will be able to spend more time fishing or hunting and less time driving to far away outfitters. He is conveniently opened 7AM to 7PM Tuesday through Saturday and 7AM to 5PM on Sunday. Mondays the store is closed.

Deer corn and shooting clays are in stock.
Deer corn and shooting clays are in stock.

Knot Just Flies is a full service Fly Shop right in the heart of Warren County Fly Fishing country. Located less than half an hour from every major Trout stream in the area including the Paulinskill, Flat Brook, Pequest and the Musconetcong. Not to mention the Delware River Smallmouth and Shad fishery. Val spends a great deal of time cultivating the new entrants into the sport and creating the next generation of Fly Fishing. As such, he offers daily rental packages and you can arrange a Fly Fishing lesson through the store.

Fly tying supplies, enough to get started on most local patterns.
Fly tying supplies, enough to get started on most local patterns.

The location literally has a little bit of everything you need to pursue your hobby. It is a general store of outdoor sports, preventing you from ruining your day by forgetting gloves in the cold or sinkers for cat fishing. Freshwater angling supplies, wingshooting necessities, archery supplies, Bass baits, live baits, catfish baits, ice fishing supplies and some saltwater tackle are all here. To make it even more convenient for people in the area, Val is stocking some Salmon and Steelhead supplies at reasonable prices to prevent you from getting price gouged in upstate New York this fall.

Angling supplies for Bass and Catfish.
Angling supplies for Bass and Catfish.

Val got into fishing at a young age with his father introducing him to the sport. It has been his dream to open up a fly and tackle shop, when the opportunity presented itself he seized it! He has extensive experience selling products through ecommerce; therefore, you will find reasonable prices throughout the store. According to Val, “This shop is geared to the community, products I sell are effective in this community. Whatever is on the wall is here for our local anglers.”

We have famous Thomas Trout lures.
They have famous Thomas Trout lures.

Some name brands available at the store include, but are not limited to, Redington, Rio, CP Swings and Thomas Lures. Any item you could purchase at Bass Pro shops can be ordered right in Blairstown! We hope to see you in the store soon.

Contact Info:

Knobby Tires and Bass

Post Mills Airport Circa 2008
Post Mills Airport Circa 2008

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Robert Frost ~ excerpt from, “The Road Less Traveled”

Me with my XT 600 circa 2008
Me with my XT 600 circa 2008

The inaugural summer trip I took up to Vermont was in August of 2008 with my good friend Brandon. I always used to go up to this scenic paradise for snowboarding and skiing but not for summer time fun. By 2008, I had largely wrapped up the most difficult part of graduate school and again had time to start Fly Fishing and begin Dual Sport Riding again. In my college years, we completed many dirt miles on the rural roads of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Vermont exists on a whole different level of riding because of their unique Class IV seasonal roads.

Brandon on the trail with both of our bikes circa 2008.
Brandon on the trail with both of our bikes circa 2008.

So much has changed since our first trip up to Vermont. New houses, new jobs, new bikes, new people, marriages and now babies! However, Post Mills, Lake Fairlee, the surrounding forests and hills, they are timeless. The airport, the lake, trails, the hills and mountains it is all there each time you make it back.

The motorcycle gang.
The motorcycle gang Summer 2015.

During this trip we rented out a cottage on the lake for ourselves instead of staying at the airport. This new development made access to fishing on the lake much improved. Fly Fishing for warm water and cool water species is quite excellent in Lake Fairlee. The lake features some prominent drop offs and extensive shallow weed beds, which lend themselves quite well for fly-fishing.

Brandon and Nicole on the TW 225.
Brandon and Nicole on the TW 225.

Fly Fishing For Bass

Brandon paddles up the Middle Brook.

Brandon paddles up the Middle Brook.

A lake is a vast expanse of water to read, comprehend and adequately explore for fish with a fly rod. However by working with the limitations of basic fly gear and Bass habitat you can reduce the size of the problem to a manageable puzzle. Fly gear will be most effective around structure in less than ten feet of water, near to the shore or weed beds.

Nice Smallmouth caught on the fly.
Nice Smallmouth caught on the fly.

Fly Fishing for bass is better in the early morning, late evenings or cloudy days. All of these factors contribute to bring Bass nearer to the surface and within reach of your fly tackle. If you fish near shore in the early mornings, late evenings or cloudy days, you should be able to rip a few ‘ole bucket mouths from the lake.

Fly Tackle For Lake Bass

I have fished with everything from 4WT to 8WT for Bass and other warm or cool water species. My favorite rod to use is my 7WT St. Croix Bank Robber, a rod designed to throw the heavier flies and streams that Bass like to eat. This rod equipped with weight forward Rio 7WT line and a Sage reel is a Bass lip ripper for sure. Alternatively, I have fished an 8WT Cabela’s salt-water rod and a 6WT Scott Radian, all function great, however, my preference if for the 7WT streamer rod.

St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber
St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber

Fish Tales

Every cottage needs a one of these for home defense.
Every cottage needs a one of these for home defense.

The ride up to Vermont on Friday afternoon and evening was a long and soggy one. After departing work at around 4PM, I loaded the GMC 2500 and started driving. The rain I hit around Troy, NY certainly slowed me down as I drove through the Green Mountains in the pitch black. I did not arrive at the lake house until around 11:30PM. I suspected that as these rainstorms cleared, it would yield postfrontal conditions and negatively impact Bass fishing in the morning, I was proven incorrect.

When this is your window, its easy to get up in the morning.
When this is your window, its easy to get up in the morning.

After staying up late imbibing as the rest of the team arrived, we all hit the sack in the wee morning hours. Fortunately, the beautiful sunrise over the lake awoke me from my slumber and once I paddled out across the placid waters my head cleared and I was focused on the watery depths. I allowed to canoe to blow into a cove and quickly tied on my Thin Mint fly and some tapered Bass Leader.

Rock Bass
Rock Bass

This was to be my best day for fishing, the sun rising, burning off the fog; fish after fish chasing my fly. Mornings like these are why men and women have traveled to Vermont to escape for hundreds of years. For the hour and a half I stole away to fish, I landed ten fish and missed countless more. Of these fish, one was my first pickerel on the fly! A little fourteen-inch predator that came tearing out of a weed bed and took some line off of my reel.

No shortage of Perch on Lake Fairlee.
No shortage of Perch on Lake Fairlee.

The fish in Lake Fairlee were in post spawn hunger mode with a few stragglers remaining on nests. These conditions paired with the low light of sunrise and sunset bode well for catching a variety of fish, especially Smallmouth Bass. We were able to get out on the canoe or the rowboat equipped with a 6HP outboard every day until Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Eurasian Milfoil removal team interrupted our Tuesday morning fishing. Eurasian Milfoil is a highly invasive plant to North America that finds its way into lakes through non-cleaned boating gear. It is common in publicly accessible lakes and must be removed mechanically or with special herbicide. Always make sure your boat is dry and free of weeds or other debris when moving from lake to lake.

The Yellow Brick Road

Dave motors down the trail.
Dave motors down the trail.

One morning in 1940 New England, the entire population of a town, 572 souls walked up a winding logging trail into the wilderness and was never seen again. Or so says the fictional account of the American gothic style horror movie, “The Yellow Brick Road.” Exploring class IV roads of Vermont, it is not difficult to see the inspiration for this movie and others of the genre. Scattered along the trails and abandoned roads you will find in Vermont’s highlands stone foundations and cemeteries nestled deep in reforested pastures. Many of these farms were abandoned during the civil war, the owners or children who never returned from their crusade to preserve the Union.

It is easy to lose track of where you are, always carry a paper atlas.
It is easy to lose track of where you are, always carry a paper atlas.

Over the years, dual sport riding in the Green Mountain State we have experienced varieties of gnarly conditions. Be it massive mud puddles, logging roads that terminate at seemingly insurmountable rock faces, beaver dams in the middle of trails or off the grid hermit cabins inhabited by residents that don’t take kindly to visitors. Being out here on the trail is surreal and disappearing into the dense forest seems remotely possible. In fact, I recall one time while riding east of Dartmouth, New Hampshire, Brandon and I took a turn onto what we thought would be a semi-improved road. Several hours later around dusk, we finally made it off of this over ten-mile logging trail. “Trail” is a generous term for the animal path we were riding on.

Contemplating how to cross the mud hole.
Contemplating how to cross the mud hole.

Bike Troubles Resolved

Skirting the side of a mud puddle.
Skirting the side of a mud puddle.

Up to this year’s trip, the last time I had my bike running proper was right after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. That trip was fun, however in regards to dual sport riding it was somewhat of a failure. The XT 600 was all re built in October of 2012 and that trip was the maiden voyage. That year, the cards were not in favor of the XT’s operation, the stator shit the bed within minutes of cranking the ole girl up. Running on battery alone we made it about 15 miles before the bike needed a pickup truck ride home.

Brandon and I taking a break on the trails.
Brandon and I taking a break on the trails.

Fast-forward to today, three years later, one stator, one voltage regulator and a starter solenoid for good measure and the XT 600 is purring like it is 1992. Twenty-three years have passed since my father purchased this bike brand new from Action Cycle in Metuchen, NJ. This trip was an endurance test of all of the repairs we have completed to get this bike up and running like new again.

Some of the creepier things we find out in the woods.
Some of the creepier things we find out in the woods.

All told, we completed 91 miles of trail and class IV road riding over the four days. We did an additional 21 miles of improved road riding. Now this may not seem like many miles, however, when a 30-mile trail ride takes you four or five hours, it is an incredible amount of riding. I believe this was an adequate test of the XT’s abilities for now. When I get home, I fully intend to take her out again to explore some local terrain.

Dave and the mud.
Dave and the mud.

Bald Top

How do I get out of this?
How do I get out of this?

Each and every time we get out on our favorite familiar trails we try and locate new challenges and roads not taken. Without fail you tend to locate a new area to explore or a trail to try or even a hidden lake or historical oddity. This time we found the ATV/ Snowmobile trail up to Bald Top Mountain.

About as far as I was able to go on Bald Top.
About as far as I was able to go on Bald Top.

The trail started with a deep-water crossing caused by a beaver’s engineering handiwork. The trail continued to slowly meander around the base of Bald Top, gaining altitude as it went. There was a large rock, standing out against the landscape, which we had to crest, intimidating at first, not so much when you arrived at the top. The real trouble lay ahead, as we started to ascend Bald Top, the trail developed into a rocky and muddy path.

After all the rain, you can always expect mud puddles.
After all the rain, you can always expect mud puddles.

Brandon made it about 25% of the way up the final ascent, I was not ready to begin the real ascent and held down at the base. After a little bit of walking around and evaluating the various options, we decided this was a puzzle better solved on our next trip.

New Additions

Admiring the forest.
Admiring the forest.

This Vermont adventure was unique in that it was the first trip we have taken with Brandon and Nicole’s new addition Wyatt! Also with us riding dual sport bikes was Dave and his wife Carly. Out there fishing and paddling with me was Bob who was also accompanied by his wife Steph and son Logan. This was one of the larger crowds since we attended the Vermonster back in 2011.

Bob with a Bucket Mouth.
Bob with a Bucket Mouth.

All in all it was an excellent trip and I cannot wait to go back again!

Happy couple Brandon and Nicole enjoying a break on Potato Hill Road.
Happy couple Brandon and Nicole enjoying a break on Potato Hill Road.
We've been riding buddies since high school.
We’ve been riding buddies since high school.

Fly Fishing for the Bronzeback

Sëkanèpil – Leni Lenape word for Bass

Fog rises off of the low hills surrounding us.
Fog rises off of the low hills surrounding us.

The day was predicted to be a washout, however, if we made it out to the Delaware River early enough there was a chance to engage in a couple hours worth of pre-frontal fishing conditions. Mark and I were up to the challenge; accustomed to waking up for work early, a 5:30AM wake up is not a problem. Especially since in all of summer’s glory, it is already light out by this time!

Spin casting in the distance, on this day Fly Fishing was the way to go.
Spin casting in the distance, on this day Fly Fishing was the way to go.

Arriving on a remote dirt road in the Delaware Water Gap NRA everything about today looked like it would have been a washout. The cloud ceiling was low, the humidity high and a marked chill in the air. The only part of this adventure not cooperating was the barometric pressure, which was rising and not falling, sub optimal for pre-frontal fishing conditions we sought. Looking out at the low hills surrounding the Delaware River there were spirals of mist lifting off of the treetops and little droplets of rain falling. I donned my L.L. Bean Emerger II wading jacket on top, filled it with fly boxes, tied on some 0X tippet and marched (quietly) out to the river.

Look at that evil red eye!
Look at that evil red eye!

Equipment and Tactics

A selection of flies which have proven effective for Smallmouth Bass.
A selection of flies which have proven effective for Smallmouth Bass.

At this point we have written a sizeable amount of material on seeking Bass and other warm water fish. This time I used my 7WT St. Croix Bankrobber, my Sage 4280 reel and some weight forward floating Rio Grand line. Following the advice of Barry Reynolds and John Berryman in, “Beyond Trout a Fly Fishing Guide,” I brought pearl white Zonkers, Woolly Buggers and some crawfish patterns that I purchased at Orvis NYC. The crawfish or mudbug patterns work but probably not as well in the Delaware as Zonkers or Woolly Buggers. The location to seek Smallmouth, very similar to trout is the transition area between fast and slow water where the Bronzebacks are holding to feed. The Smallmouth Bass is a river fish and can tolerate a moderate current though not to the level of a Trout. Pound for pound these are the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there.

When river fishing in the summer, these guys like Woolly Buggers in fast water.
When river fishing in the summer, these guys like Woolly Buggers in fast water.

The Take

Smallmouth Bass like streamers, they do not eat them delicately, they rip through and devour the streamer. I use the Kelly Galloup method for hucking streamers to Trout and apply it back to Bronzebacks. For more information you can check out his book. In New Jersey we do not have the massive Browns he has in Montana, we have Smallmouth in big rivers like the Delware. Anyway, I throw my streamer out on the slow water, fast water transition line near a deep pool. I do this once, I do this twice, the third time as I go to retrieve, the line goes taught as if I just drove my Zonker hook into a floating log.

This guy bent over my 7WT St. Croix Bankrobber.
This guy bent over my 7WT St. Croix Bankrobber.

Just as I hook into the juicy upper lip of this “log,” the fly line rips through my fingers that are maintaining tension. Holy crap, that was not a log that is a fish! The fight was intense; I used most of my effort to prevent the Bronzeback from moving into the fast water, once I got the fish on the reel it was easier to control. As I shortened his leash and moved him in towards my net, he enveiled the last of his evade, escape and survive arsenal. He went air born! By far the best part of aggressive Smallmouth Bass is that they not only fight you below the surface but they engage in aerial combat when you least expect it. I bowed my pole to him and kept the tension, however this Zonker was securely fastened to his upper lip do to the aggressive take. As I netted the fish, it turned out to be a one pounder, I am curious to learn what a four to five pound Smallmouth Bass fights like.

This one was not very big, he still put up a valiant fight.
This one was not very big, he still put up a valiant fight.

Spin Rod Verse Fly Rod

As many of you can tell from the extensive tales of outdoor adventure on this site, I often go fishing with my buddy Mark. Mark is a die-hard spin fisherman, who I can proudly say, now owns a fly rod (that he has not used). He was able to land two Smallies, however this was the day of the fly rod. I landed three Smallies, a Rock Bass and a White Zucker all on various flies. This was a bit of redemption from last summer’s adventures where Mark out fished the fly.

Excellent beer sign, I want this for my basement bar.
Excellent beer sign, I want this for my basement bar.

The Flatbrook Tap House

The rain finally came as a torrential down pour around 12:30, beginning to soak even through my rain jacket. We decided to call it quits, as the rain was about to wash out the entire weekend. However, no trip to these splendidly isolated parts of Sussex County New Jersey is complete without a trip to one of the many glorious roadhouse and watering holes at the park boundaries. On this day we went to The Flatbrook Tap House, a rustic fishing themed establishment on the edge of Stokes State Forest, the banks of the Big Flatbrook and located on 206 North. We had delicious deep friend Calzones and Chicken Parmigian sandwiches. I highly recommend this place to a hungry angler or biker in the area.

Vintage map at the Flatbrook Tap House of Stokes State Forest Circa 1982
Vintage map at the Flatbrook Tap House of Stokes State Forest Circa 1982