The fall is at its peak here in the Skylands region of New Jersey. Farm country is humming with the annual rituals of harvest season apple picking, fall foliage, hard cider, wine tastings, craft beers and of course what we do here, Trout fishing. After a long summer hiatus and a hard skunking up on the Salmon River we are back in New Jersey and loving the weather.
After an aborted spring stocking season, New Jersey Fish and Wildlife revved up the stocking program with a strong fall stocking of catchable Rainbow Trout. Many of the local streams still have resident Trout due to the unseasonably cool summer and lower than normal interest in Trout fishing for the 2014 season.
Mark and I decided it was time to get out there and hone in our casting skills while prepping for Pheasant season which kicks off on November 8th at daylight. The MKFF crew plans on doing a fall Cast and Blast series about exploring the fallowed fields and the streams that wind through them this fall.
The primary hatches expected in New Jersey streams have passed as the weather has consistently cooled. Sunday night provided us with our first full frost throughout the county. This does not mean the Trout are not biting, what works has changed but they are still eating. Midges, Woolly Buggers, Egg Patterns and midges are all good choices for the Trout.
Water flows are still coming up from their summer nadir therefore a good rain in the middle of the week helps fishing on the weekend. Fortunately, the weather pattern seems to be cooperating.
Pheasant season in New Jersey opens on November 8th 2014 and intermittently continues through mid February with a brief intermission for regular Shotgun season. Personally, my shotgun skills have gotten a little rusty in the off season as I have not found much time to practice shooting. This fall weekend made for the perfect opportunity to try out the thrower.
This coming weekend, The Rockport Pheasant Farm is having an open house at their Hazen Road location in Hackettstown. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife will be opening the doors of the Pheasant farm for tours on Saturday October 25, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The mid Hudson Valley has become a popular destination for urban dwellers from New York City to spend their weekends. The region is relatively close to New York and accessible via the Metro North railway. Its character consists of forests, farmland, small streams, medium sized cities and towns, the same scenery common to northwest New Jersey. This all seems very appealing for a mini adventure under two hours away.
Originating as a trickle through private farmland in Dutchess County, this stream works its way through forests and fields until meeting up with the cities of Poughkeepsie and Wappinger Falls until joining the Hudson River. While not offering as much public assess as is available in the nearby Esopus Creek, Wappinger Creek offers a quintessential Hudson Valley Fly Fishing experience.
Spending the summers in Wurtsboro, NY and currently residing in Warren County, New Jersey this is the type of fishery I have become accustomed to. As opposed to my vacation on the Green River, not ever inch of water holds a Trout here on the East Coast. To locate fish you find road bridges, deep undercut banks, deep runs and rock structure. The wide open fields and Gin clear water leave Trout exposed to the threat of predation by a Eagle, Hawk or Great Blue Heron (#GBH).
Mark and I had a limited time window to conduct our initial exploration of Wappinger Creek, the plan was to locate Orvis Sandanona and meet Kris and Claire on sight for the Country Sporting Weekend. Mark quickly occupied the pool under a bridge and hit it with his spinner. I tied on my Black Slumpbuster and flicked it upstream under the bridge. With this pattern I like to cast up stream, dead drift down and retrieve in two-inch strips when it nears the end of the run. You need to pay careful attention and look for a strike; the Trout will attack when you least expect it and the Slumpbuster will still be upstream of your position.
Orvis Game Fair and Country Sporting Weekend
MKFF attended this event and show last year; we decided it was worthwhile to spend a few hours at the event again. The Orvis Fair is quite the high-end event, $30K+ custom shotguns are not rare here and antique firearms are for sale everywhere. The fair also features popular favorites of mine such as Scotch Tasting, Wine Tasting and a Cigar bar. The Land Rover driving school is a highlight; it is always interesting when a $100K automobile is balanced on two wheels.
The purpose of the event is to showcase the country field sports that we all enjoy including Fly Fishing and Wingshooting. There are over 70 high-end sporting vendors showing their wares along with countless demonstrations of field sport skills. Compared to some of the Fly Fishing events and demonstrations on the western part of America; this event, located near New England, is influenced by Scottish and English field sport culture.
The oldest section of the reservoir system that feeds ever-thirsty New York City is also a tail water suburban fishery. Construction on this multi part reservoir began in 1837 with an aqueduct north of the mouth of the Croton River. Not only was the main stem of the Croton dammed, the tributaries to the Croton were dammed as well. This conflagration of dams, aqueducts and rerouted watercourses now suffers from the impact of suburbanization combined with aging infrastructure. That being said, the watershed has some high quality Trout fishing opportunities.
We selected the East Branch Special Regulation Area to wet our lines. The reservoir area is a fine example of public works architecture at a time when the Government had less debt and more imagination. The East Branch tail water begins at a huge fountain referred to as “The Bubble.” A large jet of cool aerated water descends down a rock-lined sleuth past the reservoir’s overflow. The special regulation area begins after the reservoir overflow, though I did not see any signs, apparently fishing is prohibited up the sleuth beyond the overflow.
The previous night we had camped through over one inch of rain, a stellar fishing day was not on the menu. Approaching the reservoir, the smell of fresh rain and detritus was overwhelming. The river was cloudy, despite its status as tail water. I suspect the build up of phosphates in the East Branch Reservoir degrades the quality.
A well-worn trail off of Sodom Road provides access to the East Branch, like many suburban woods there is litter all over from disrespectful residents and the local migrant laborers who leverage the stream as a meat fishery. Placing the negatives aside, the stream is similar to other freestone fisheries in the area and conditions improve once a diversionary water sleuth feeds the East Branch.
“Fly Fishing the Croton Watershed,” created by Trout Unlimited provides every detail you need to prospect the Croton Watershed. The tail water is clearly a nymph and streamer section of water. The aforementioned book indicated that a red or brown bugger would be productive due to the prevalence of crawfish in the stream. Combining this tidbit of information along with my early success yesterday, I tied on a Brown Slumpbuster and used the same dead drift and retrieve tactic.
Fishing was nonexistent until we hiked down past the first bend. Once the water cleared, courtesy to the Bog Brook feeder sleuth, out came a lively Rainbow Trout. The pool held a few picky Trout. Walking down the long pool further and I reeled in a Perch!
As the Sunday afternoon wore on and the fishing not exactly hot we decided to call it for the day. Just wanted to throw in a shout out for Portofino’s Pizza where we watched the Giants get shut out and had delicious Calzones. All told we had a great time in the Hudson Valley Fly Fishing, exploring, and hanging out at the Orvis Fair.
I sit here compiling this blog entry, hoping, that these passing thunderstorms finally break the humidity and usher in pleasant early fall weather. The topic for today’s installment is exploring the pristine headwaters of northwest New Jersey. Due to a bit of foresight and a failed government dam project, a large area of Warren and Sussex counties consist of protected state and federal parks. These forested areas protect much of the cold-water fisheries of the area.
As early as Monday, most of the streams were flowing at under 20 CFS. As result of the thunderstorms we have experienced, the area is again fishable. Infusions of the fresh, cool water have certainly livened up the Trout.
I drove around in my FJ conducting ever-important reconnaissance on the varying water conditions in the region. As we have previously discussed in an earlier New Jersey wild trout streams blog, not all sections of water will produce Trout. I have found it is useful to review maps and aerial photos to determine likely Trout holding areas ahead of time.
In a mountainous environment, Trout will hold in a small number of places. Key indicators of trout suitability are depth, coolness, and availability of cover. These areas can be summed up as follows:
Head and Tail of Long Pools
Deep Undercut Banks
The conditions of headwater streams will vary depending on season and water levels. Experimentation generally works well as there is no set method that will work to catch fish.
When approaching a new target, I prefer to throw general attractor patterns. In the late summer and early fall, an indicator fly should be set up with a dropper. The options for indicators in a Brook Trout stream include; Tootsie Roll Ants or Royal Coachman trailed by a Midge, Hare’s Ear Nymph, or a Purple Prince.
I took my initial cast and had a hit, then several more. The fish hitting were way to small to set the hook into. Migrating into some bigger water, I was able to land one of the little Creek Chubs. Continuing down the tail of a large, Hemlock shaded pool, I had a beautifully colored Brook Trout dancing on the end of my line.
More MKFF Coming Soon
As we move into the fall, MKFF will be providing up to date blogs on all the activity from fall stocking season. Keep checking back for more!