Tag Archives: New Jersey

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…

A Warm December

“Walk On, don’t look back, don’t ask questions, don’t you try to understand.” John Hiatt

Tiger Trout caught in Wood Duck Pond at the Lazy "K" Ranch.
Tiger Trout caught in Wood Duck Pond at the Lazy “K” Ranch.

Egg Gobbling Bows

Late autumn in New Jersey opens up a wide world of outdoor sports for our densely populated state. The state dumps over fifty thousand breeder Trout into our small stream and rivers. Not to mention the holdovers which have been particularly good since the rebooted stocking began in earnest last fall. The local holes are teaming with eager Rainbow Trout that have been feeding actively since the spring or are former brood stock set loose. These Bows have a particular affinity for juicy eggs or imitation fly eggs.

Rainbow Trout caught by Brenton on the Big Flatbrook.
Rainbow Trout caught by Brenton on the Big Flatbrook.

The two rivers we at MKFF frequent the most are the Paulinskill and The Flatbrook, these two watercourses situationally exist in the last frontier of New Jersey. A land still graced with farm fields and forests within an hour of Manhattan. These two freestone streams, typical of of the mid-Atlantic region both flowing into the Delaware River, offer a surreal retreat from the Megalopolis.

My Bow caught in the Paulinskill.
My Bow caught in the Paulinskill.

If you confine your fishing to the best of day, ten AM to two PM and then take a lunch, you will be pleasantly surprised out here. The weather has been unseasonably warm, I suspect due to a congregation of factors (El Nino) and two brutal winters in a row. Needless to say, the recommendation is to tie on a size eight or ten egg fly, add some weight, tie on an indicator and locate some pools. The Bow’s are fattening up for a winter that may never come and gorging themselves on eggs.

Christmast Eve was a washout due to the Chocolate milk conditions.
Christmast Eve was a washout due to the Chocolate milk conditions.

Feathers, Flies and All Things Unimportant

I must have been eight years old when I first witnessed a fly fisherman, plying the placid waters of New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee. I watched in amazement as his line danced through the sky and his casts landed eloquently with the precision and purpose. I quickly asked my father what the man was doing and was told that he was fly fishing. I was truly intrigued and, in my vigor to learn, asked my father how the man was able to catch the flies he was using for bait. With a strange look, my father simply shook his head and walked away. Thus began my romanticism with feathers, flies and all things unimportant to the rational world.

As a young man, I was ready to take on fly fishing full steam. My father purchased a cheap combo from the local department store, assuring that if the wand or my spirit had broken early in the foray, he wouldn’t be out a significant sum of money. My flies consisted of poorly tied blobs of fur on a hook, little foam spiders and a few of my own creations, which were nothing more than sewing thread hanging off a hook. Needless to say, between my belabored casting technique and my fly selection, fishing became more of an attempt not to hook myself or anyone else within casting range.

SteelheadI was blessed to grow up on the banks of the Passaic River, at the time the ninth most polluted river in the United States. The fishery was diverse, with carp, catfish and car parts as my quarry. Although I could not get any of the behemoths to take my flies, I did occasionally slip a piece of crusted bagel on the hook to entice fish to look at my offerings. This was fly fishing at its finest.

Next came the finer points of entomology and the three main classes of aquatic insects; mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies. Well, not to get ahead of myself, my classifications were more loosely defined as green bugs, brown bugs and black bugs. When in doubt, a combination of all three was thoroughly explored.

My thirst for knowledge was boundless and I sought out the writings of greats like Art Flick, Joe Brooks and Lee Wulff, all who seemingly could go into great detail about which goop would allow your fly to float the highest or sink the deepest and which color fly line would deter or attract the greatest amount of fish. And I thought fly line color was all about personal preference.

Then came the feathers….those magical materials that cost so much but could be found near every duck pond in New Jersey. There were necks and capes, roosters and hens and flanks aplenty. Then came the grades.

I did fairly well in school and knew that a grade of A was certainly better that of an F. I also knew that I was rewarded when the grades on my report card came back higher than anticipated but found this logic flawed when it came to feathers. Those D grade feathers that littered my bag seemed much friendlier to my wallet than the snobbish A grade feathers hung so high up on the shop’s wall. Perhaps they were like the rare A plus I brought home on one of my many math tests, which hung high on my parent’s refrigerator so proudly for many years.  In any event, I was happy to have my mallard feathers, goose quills and dog tail, a proprietary shop mixture, to adorn my hooks.

Somewhere along the journey, my technique was refined, insects were identified by their Latin names and goop became dessicant powder. My flies began to take on more of the size and shape of the naturals and I even had a few fish willing to grace me with their presence.

In near 30 years of fly fishing, I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful equipment and stand on some majestic banks of a few famed rivers. I have caught some grand fish and lost more than I care to remember. I have met some wonderful friends and mourned those I have lost silently out on the river.

All those years ago, I took up fly fishing as a way to become a better fisherman, to challenge myself, test my abilities, my patience and my sanity. All these years later, I realize that fly fishing has made me a better man. It has taught me to appreciate what I have, it has made me realize that catching the fish is not the sole objective, it has reminded me that all living things around us have meaning and purpose and has taught me to be humble and accept what life has to offer.

Some of my fondest moments were trying to take random knowledge, mismatched materials and salvaged tackle to have some fun and catch a few fish while doing it.

My life is still filled with feathers, flies and many things unimportant but it is also those very same things that remind me what is.

Enjoy your passion and find passion in what you enjoy.

All the best!rod and reel