Category Archives: The Paulinskill River

The Paulinskill is one of the last unspoiled watersheds in New Jersey. It is also home to some massive holdover Rainbows and Browns. In addition to the wild and holdover trout populations in this stream there is a an unparalleled indigenous population of Small Mouth Bass. The river begins from to smaller tributaries which combine in Warbasse Junction, Sussex County; this smaller upper section has limited public access as it winds through the active and fallow agricultural lands of northwest New Jersey. Below Marksboro the river is more accessible, larger and well stocked. Moving into Knowlton township the Paulinskill joins Columbia lake before emptying into the Delaware.

Rippin’ Lips Jersey Style Weekend II

Following Tuesday’s Slay Ride, the Moose Knuckle Crew was out again on the streams of beautiful Northwest New Jersey. The water levels are more indicative of early summer than mid April. Nonetheless, the trout do not seem bothered by the missing water. There are bountiful quantities of Trout in all the streams around here. Across the state, most anglers swear by the size 14 through 18 Hare’s Ear Nymph. In addition, I have caught ample trout on the Mickey Finn, Gray Ghost, Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing’s Woolly Bugger, and the Hornberg Wet Fly.

Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing Black and Coffee Wooly Bugger

South Branch of the Raritan

Saturday, the crew met in Califon, New Jersey to visit out friends at Shannon’s Fly and Tackle. At present, the South Branch is low, thus the fish are weary of the anglers seeking them. We had limited success down in the Gorge with a mixture of wet flies, the Coachman, and a Brassie. Additionally, it was reported to us, the stocked Brook Trout were going bonkers over a dead drifted White Wooly Bugger. Here I will give a shout out to the Califon General Store and their Jersey Devil Sandwich. After eight hours of fishing it hits the spot. If you enjoy spicy Horseradish combined with delicious Roast Beef, like myself, you need to try it! Overall my fishing was mediocre, pulling just one Brook Trout and one Rainbow Trout. Others in the crew did better than me.

Blairstown

Sunday brought the team to one of my personal favorite places to fish, the Blairstown section of the Paulinskill. This slice of water, above and below Paulina Dam, is generously stocked with sizable Trout. Furthermore, the water supports year round Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Sunfish, Perch, and various warm-water species. It is conveniently located near Dale’s Market, renowned for their Dale’s Famous Breakfast Sandwich and The Blairstown Wine Gallery, a liquor store with a bar within 30 feet of the Paulinskill. Remember to support local business when you are out fishing, the big chain stores make enough money.

Yellow Perch ate a size 18 Copper Brassie in the Mud Pool

Approaching the stream, I had a good hour of pools to myself before Mark arrived. I prefer to tie on a colorful traditional streamer, for example the Gray Ghost, in order to prospect for some lunkers and determine what lies beneath. This is a tried and true tactic in the Paulinskill with its long, slow and meandering pools. Off the bat, I hooked into a few Rock Bass; a mediocre fish to get the rod bending, as always I was there for a Trout. I commenced dead drifting the Gray Ghost whilst performing a varying speed strip retrieve. Soon enough, Rainbow Trout on, the fight was intense and aerial. Rainbow Trout on hooking, shoot for the moon and when they do, they spit the hook right back at you. Following this epic loss, I tied on a Hornberg Wet Fly, executed the requisite drift, and caught a nice Brook Trout. This fly was real hot, many strikes, I just could not hook one into the mouth.

Blairstown Bow

Mark an expert Bass Fisherman, was on site to spin fish. Subsequent to witnessing a Trout gulp a top water Dry Fly, he will be joining us Fly Fishing soon enough. Mark’s day was a solid recovery from Saturday’s lack or Trout. I was casting my Wooly Bugger about 50 feet from him and it appeared he had taken a big cast and been snagged. I found it strange for him to snag, he had on an intermediate sinking two inch Rapala. Then there was action, the line was moving! The “snag” was a fish, and a large one! Mark, an avid Bass and Salt Water angler, had hooked his first Brown Trout ever. Not only was it his first Brown Trout ever, it didn’t even fit in my net!

Mark Beardmore’s First German Brown

Dry Flies Finish Strong

Continuing on after Mark’s fish of the day, it appeared as we moved upstream that small intermittent hatches were occurring. Some Trout would randomly rise to take small flies from the surface. Not being able to directly match the hatch, I tied on my size 14 Coachman and enticed a few strikes, while missing all hook sets. Reasoning that a Coachman is a good attractor fly, I tied on my CDC and Deer Hair behind it. The Brook Trout really loved this combo and they came after it, though it still proved difficult to set the hook. Finally, I moved downstream a bit and was able to lip hook a Brook Trout. Upon reaching the goal of a Trout on a Dry Fly, we packed up and walked back to the truck.

Brook Trout ate a Moose Knuckle Fly Fishing CDC and Deer Hair behind a Coachman

Until next weekend:

Mother Goose was not pleased with our choice of fishing holes

Brook Trout Slay Ride

Yesterday evening, after a near insufferable connecting flight from Los Angeles, I returned to New Jersey. Unfortunately, due to my trip (The Death Valley Expedition), I missed the very hyped New Jersey worm dunking fest, otherwise known as opening day. The reports I have heard so far is that some skilled fly fisherman were able to land exceptionally large Brook Trout. I had the day off of work on Tuesday in order to campaign; I am running for Town Committee in Frelinghuysen Township, New Jersey. Continuing on, the function I attended finished a little early and I found a few hours to get in the water!

A Slow Start

In previous years the water has been generally above normal at this time of year; right now the river levels are exceptionally low. Fishing has already turned on, and I suspect we will see a fast and early season. Even so, when I was able to get on the water the weather was in the midst of changing to passing storms. I began with a nice size 16 Prince Nymph weighted with lead and indicated by a Thingamabobber. I continued to utilize this nymph, while walking upstream on the Paulinskill for about half an hour. Seeing no indication of Trout being interested in this pattern, I switched to a Zug Bug of the same size, and located a run downstream that might have worked. Still no luck!

The FightNow I was quite discouraged, these Trout have been in the water for a couple of weeks, and I was the only one on the stream. Was it my pattern or presentation, maybe both? It appeared that nymphing was not the ticket to success today, I began to analyze the situation. The State Fish & Game stocks a large number of Brook Trout very early on, these are normally fished out by the end of the stocking season. Brook Trout love the colors Red and Yellow, especially with flash. This logic going through my head, I selected a size 12 Mickey Finn.

Slay Ride Begins

Meandering downstream, I began to dead drift the Mickey Finn, using a short strip retrieve when the fly was straight downstream. The Trout began to roll my fly on the dead drift, though not actually biting into the fly. Seeing this, I varied the tactic; cast straight across stream, start a dead drift, and then do a short strip retrieve with intermittent pause. Then it happened, the Brook Trout took interest!

This one got the Skunk Out!

The next two hours will go down in my personal fishing history. I closed in on the downstream pool, insuring that I explored every inch. The Brook Trout were stacked up here. First there was one fish, and then I had caught five; at five the tally was closing in on ten! Once you hit ten fish, you need to catch twenty (this is coming off of contemplating just going home to do work). As I continued to work the tail end of the pool, I crossed the 17 count, I sensed it was happening! The 20th fish came slowly, when he bit I held my breath, ending the fight in my net, I gave a whoop of victory. What had seemed impossible three hours ago happened, a New Jersey Brook Trout Slay Ride!

Brook Trout poses for the camera, beautiful Paulinskill River in the background.

Key Take Away:

  1. Brook Trout love traditional Brook Trout flies like the Mickey Finn.
  2. Vary the speed of your retrieve, and then duplicate the action to entice a repeat strike.
  3. If you miss a Brook Trout, try again; they love to catch the fly.

    Brook Trout swirls around in net.