Tag Archives: Spring Fly

2017 New Jersey Trout Wrap Up

This year has been one of the strongest fishing seasons we have seen in years for the northwestern part of New Jersey. Cooler weather combined with high water has blessed us with remarkable conditions. This has been true for the Shad Run and New Jersey Rainbow Trout fishing. I say Rainbow Trout fishing because New Jersey has not stocked Brown or Brook Trout in a while. This does not mean they cannot be caught; it just limits the scope of locations where they can be caught.

A Good Guide Season So Far

Beginning in 2016 Knot Just Flies partnered with The Last Frontier Angler to offer guided Fly Fishing for Trout in the Paulinskill and Big Flat Brook. We also offer a Learn to Fly Fish course; Lake and Pond fishing (spin or fly) and Smallmouth float trips down the Delaware River. This has been a good year for our clients; many fish have been caught and released. Some of the stories end up on the Moose Knuckle Fishing blog for your entertainment and fishing pleasure.

Exploring New Areas

Last season, due to the drought and unseasonably warm weather the Trout season was cut a bit short and barely made it through the end of stocking season. This year we Trout fisherman are winning with the cool and rainy weather. Some of the Trout streams in New Jersey are impressive for their diversity of terrain. The majority of worm dunkers in this state cannot be bothered to walk half a mile to a good hole loaded with fish. Sometimes the best way to locate fish is to find the common stocking spots, go on Google Earth and scope out which way the stream heads deep into the woods then hoof it in.

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Tactics that Produce

You cannot go wrong with a basic inline nymph rig in New Jersey Jersey Trout streams. I like to tie on about four (4) feet of 3X tippet material, three (3) feet of 4X tippet material, then 18 inches of 5X tippet material all connected with a blood knot. I place an indicator way at the top, some split shot above the blood knot between the 4X and 5X material. At the end of the 5X tippet I tie on a general attractor pattern or something like a large stonefly. Then I tie a trailing fly onto the first hook with 5X material. This trailing fly is typically a midge or a bead head nymph (Prince, Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear).

Another way I recommend to ply the water with various types of Woolly Buggers. Green, brown, red and black all do the trick depending on the water and time of day. The Woolly Buggers work the best swung in waist deep fast water. You can also affix a bit of split shot six (6) inches above the fly, this will pull the fly down in the water column if the fish are feeding closer to the bottom.

All in all, this has been a great season and the best part is that it is not over yet. New Jersey Fish and Wildlife is predicting several more weeks of Trout favorable conditions before the inevitable summer lull.

Mother’s Day Shad

Those of you who have followed this blog for a few years will recall that hooking a Shad on the fly has been one of my goals for a few years. Rewinding to 2014, I missed some Hickory Shad on the fly but was unable to land one. I did not attempt to shad fish in 2015 or 2016 due to time constraints and/or work commitments along with the low water levels that made for a poor season. Early 2017 has progressed and the drought has lifted from the Delaware River watershed. This weekend after having Mother’s Day events with the family, I found some time to check the Shad Reports. It was clear to me based on the reports that I should go out and try for some shad on the fly.

My first American Shad and first Shad Fly Fishing!

Fly Gear

I had previously acquired the proper gear for Shad Fly Fishing prior to my earlier Fly Fishing adventures therefore, I had all the necessary equipment and some flies tied up on deck ready to go. I used my St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber Streamer Rod strung up with Rio Sink Tip line and a 8LB test Bass tippet material. As for a fly, I used something called Al’s Shad Fly #4. This consists of a size four or six hook, dumbbell eyes, yellow hackle, yellow hackle tail, yellow yarn and silver tinsel. I also tried out some others but this seemed to get the most attention.

My version of Al’s Shad Fly #4

Where to Look

Using the Fly Rod puts you at a slight disadvantage to a spin fisherman when seeking Shad. On the Delaware, through Warren County, where I typically fish for Smallmouth in the summer there are no major dams for the Shad to “stack up” like they do in Deer Creek, Maryland. Therefore, you must seek out pools downstream of major runs or those created by tributaries. Swinging the fly into slower water pools on the side of fast water or before a major obstacle in the river should yield results.

With some luck, they will still be in the river next weekend an I’ll find some time to target the Shad in between the guide trips I will be running.

Spring Rises

If you live in the New York metro area, Trout fishing in the Catskills is a traditional rite of spring. Specifically, many of us head up to “Trout Town USA” or Roscoe, NY on most modern maps. Roscoe has been famous for Trout fishing since the 1800’s when the Ontario and Western Railroad brought people up here to Fly Fish. The first dry fly fishing in America happened on fabled streams in the area. I had been to Roscoe on opening day in order to attend several events including the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s, “Catskill Legends Dinner” along with their first cast event. The following day I attended the “Two Headed Trout Dinner,” hosted by the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce. At that event I was the winning bid on a silent auction for a weekend at a guesthouse in Roscoe. All of these events are a fine time and I recommend checking them out next year.

Mark practices casting his new Cabela's Fly Rod on the banks of the West Branch.
Mark practices casting his new Cabela’s Fly Rod on the banks of the West Branch.

The West Branch

This fine stream, starting out in Stamford, NY and running all the way to where it meets the East Branch at Junction Pool in Hancock, NY is one of the best wild Trout fisheries in the State of New York. The river was dammed in the 1960s to create the Cannonsville Reservoir, storing additional water supply for New York City. Though it cost Trout anglers many miles of stream the dam created a steady cold-water release on the Delaware. The East Branch is also dammed to create the Pepacton Reservoir however; the releases from this branch are less consistent because the clean water is more highly valued for drinking purposes.

Always use the rubber coated net to protect the fish's protective coating.
Always use the rubber coated net to protect the fish’s protective coating.

Mark and I secured guide Ray Ottulich through The Beaverkill Angler Fly Shop in Roscoe, NY. We met around 11AM at the shop and motored on up the 17 Quickway to a boat put in on the West Branch. This was the first time I floated an eastern river since my trip with dad up to the Andro in Maine a few falls back. I peaked with excitement at the prospect of floating the West Branch for Trout instead of plying the Main Stem for Smallmouth from shore. Fly Fishing from a drift boat is a superior method of fishing as far as I am concerned.

Seeking the Hatch

The Catskills are renowned for their Dry Fly Fishing; this does not mean that deploying the dry fly is the only way to prospect for Trout. This may sound sacrilege however, I remind you the reader; I convinced Mark a spin fishing only man to hang up the ole bait pole and give Fly Fishing a chance. He did, point of the story, sometimes you need to be open minded about fishing. Prime hatches occur on cloudy days or in the morning and evening, this forces us to go down deep with nymphs or fish streamers in rising water when there is no hatch.

First fish on the dry fly and Fly Rod ever!
First fish on the dry fly and Fly Rod ever!

The fishing reports all indicated March Browns and some Blue Wing Olives at dawn or dusk. Setting out a noon is standard procedure in these parts to ensure that you secure the productive water at dusk when the hatches do go off. I started plying the deepwater edges with a streamer to no avail. Then we all switched over to pheasant tail nymphs in the shallow fast water, where the Rainbow Trout stage to eat the Blue Wing Olives nymphs. Mark managed to hook one repeatedly working a stretch of fast water. This period of time did allow us all to hone in our casting for when the actual bugs started coming off of the water.

Sometimes the captain needs to back row to keep you in productive water.
Sometimes the captain needs to back row to keep you in productive water.

Pods of Fish

The sun began to cast long shadows and the noses of Trout touching the top of the water brightened our smiles. Sporadically at first, you could detect feeding Trout by a feint splash or a glint in the water. Tying on the March Brown and an emerger enticed strikes from wary Trout. A few more missed hook ups and we pulled the boat next to a trailer park, boom Mark hooks his first fish on the Dry, a 15-inch Brown Trout! While Mark was busy fighting his Trout I was busy not landing Trout. For some reason I had a major mental block to actually set a dry fly…very frustrating.

Mark's second fish on a Fly Rod, lucky guy!
Mark’s second fish on a Fly Rod, lucky guy!

We continued our leisurely float down the West Branch, picking up speed through some rapids; unfortunately the bug activity was much lighter than expected. This season has been a strange one, very warm in March followed by a snowstorm on opening weekend that has kept the water very cool and delayed the season. As our boat rounded the Hancock 191 Bridge we again were treated to intermittent rises. Again Mark hooks a 17-inch Brown Trout on the dry fly! Lets talk about beginner’s luck…

Famous Pools

The Beaverkill along with the Willowemoc are two of the only undammed major Catskill streams. All of the other’s have had some sort of influence by man, negative (the Esopus) or positive (the West Branch tail water). The Beaverkill northeast of Roscoe to its source is a pristine valley, is less populated and less industrialized than it was one hundred years ago. The public water is limited, sometimes forcing you to wait your turn, however even on a busy fishing weekend in prime season, glorious lonesome water was found.

A Wild Brown Trout from the Beaverkill River.
A Wild Brown Trout from the Beaverkill River.

Saturday was a cloudy day with a bit of humidity and intermittent sprinkles. Perfect weather for a Blue Wing Olive hatch and we were treated to one. Arriving at a secluded though popular pool in the upper Beaverkil we were treated to an empty parking area. I quickly tied on some Blue Wing Olives I had purchases twenty minutes before and the fish were keyed on. Again, I had a lot of action but they fish kept getting a clean release.

Things to Do

Combined the towns of Roscoe and Rockland have plenty of entertainment for anglers when they are not on the river. Rockland has three great establishments we stopped in the Trout Town Brewery, the Rockland House and the Courtyard Tavern. Roscoe has a the popular diner aptly named the Roscoe Diner along with a bistro and a Pizza place. There are five fishing outfitters (fly or spin) in this town and some nice cabins for rent throughout. We are looking forward to the next summer adventure up this way, which will likely be a camping trip.

The Trout Town Brewery in all of her glory.
The Trout Town Brewery in all of her glory.

 

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…

New Jersey Opening Day

Well folks it has been one of the most difficult, cold and snowy winters I can remember. That has not stopped us from Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing and maybe doing a little ice fishing.

This year we are planning to reboot the blog with more video, better graphics, new articles and a product testing project for the Pequest Rod and Reel Company.

Stay tuned because 2015 is a brand new year and New Jersey will have a complete Trout season.

Mark's January Chub
Mark’s January Chub

Memorial Day Trout

A few of my favorite freedoms I thank America's armies for defending.
ATF – A few of my favorite freedoms I thank America’s armed forces for defending.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who died in combat for the United States of America, it also marks the unofficial start to the summer season. This year, in New Jersey, it also marked the end of in season Trout stocking.  Needless to say, after all the parades and barbeques were finished, MKFF hit the Paulinskill for some Trout fishing.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Unseasonably Cold Weather
Unseasonably Cold Weather

I took off on Friday and was intent on fishing. There was a strong cold front blowing threw, paired with moderate rain, I was not expecting much action. I attempted to nymph with the Bounce Rig, an old stand by on days like this.  After about an hour on the river, I had hooked one Trout and it got away. The rain picked up and I headed home to catch up on some odds and ends.

Fly Tying Riverside
Fly Tying Riverside

Dry Fly Action

This time of the Trout season Blue Winged Olives, March Browns and Grannom Caddis are ending their hatches. Pale Evening Duns, Cinnamon Caddis and Light Cahills are just starting to hatch. The colder season we have experienced has certainly delayed these time lines. We did see BWOs, Pale Evening Duns and a host of Caddis flies throughout the day. Trout were continuously slurping in the shady spots under bridges and trees upon our arrival.

Skunk Buster Brown Trout on BWO
Skunk Buster Brown Trout on BWO

The Tactics

Dry-Dropper

When Trout are slurping off the surface, you will hear a distinct toilet bowl flushing sound. When they simply swirl the surface it means the Trout is likely feeding on an emerging insect. During any hatch there are insects coming off of the surface of the water and those that are rising to the surface. A technique my brother filled me on in is to fish both sections of water at the same time. In order to do this, tie on a “hopper-dropper” style rig. I prefer a size 16 Dry Fly attractor pattern; I use a Coachman for Mayfly hatches. Next, attach 16 to 18 inches of tippet to the back. On this tippet, tie on a size 18-bead head nymph, I use a Pheasant Tail Flashback, again to imitate Mayfly emergers.

I love lazy days off said the turtle.
“I love lazy days off,” said the turtle.

Bead Head Woolly Bugger

The former hatchery resident Trout have settled into comfortable, cool, aerated feeding lanes. The rifles at the head of a pool come to mind as one of the better areas to lie. Another suitable place is the turbulent water under overhanging tree branches. Sending a Bugger across into the turbulence, allowing it to dead drift through and performing two inch strip retrieves will yield Trout action. Allow the Bugger to hang in the current for a few seconds before stripping it in can encourage a strike.

Bead Head Woolly Bugger pulled this out of a run.
Bead Head Woolly Bugger pulled this out of a run.

Spin Fishing with Flies

One of the more innovative techniques I had the opportunity to witness this weekend was brought stream side by Mark. He noticed how I was bringing Trout in using the Pheasant Tail dropper. He tied a dropper to the center hook of a one inch Rapala Floater, he was then able to dead drift the lure across the pool and entice a strike.

Partially thanks to this technique, Mark completed his first ever Paulinskill Grand Slam, congratulations are due to him, there are precious few opportunities in a year to catch a Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout and a Smallmouth all in the same day.

Mark's Skunk Buster
Mark’s Skunk Buster

Conclusion

I had a decent day on the Fly Rod, managed to bring in ten Brown Trout, while fighting countless others. My biggest regret was not landing the acrobatic Smallmouth I dragged out from under an overhanging branch. In a few weeks the Trout will be hiding in the coldest available water while the Smallmouth transition to aggressive feeders.

Got to love New Jersey in the springtime.
Got to love New Jersey in the springtime.

Coming up next, a Bass Popper recipe and a trip to the Sunset Hill Shooting Range in the Pocono Mountains.

Spring Travels

Down by da beach boiiiiiii
Down by da beach boiiiiiii

This spring I’ve been incredibly fortunate to do quite a bit of traveling in a short time.  It all started towards the end of April when my girlfriend I met up with my brother and some of his friends for a double birthday and fishing extravaganza in Florida.  See my brothers blog for his tales of the trip to Sanibel Island.  I had never done any Saltwater fly fishing prior to this journey so I didn’t really know what to expect…it was unbelievable.  Every fish we pulled out, I had no idea what it was, but they put up a hell of a fight.

Dave feeding a bird some bait fish
Dave feeding a bird some bait fish

The flies we used were way less intricate then some of the trout flies that I normally tie, but all you really needed down there was the schwminnow and a glass fish.  Our first day Jourdan ripped the most fish out of the Gulf and I struggled a bit to read the water.  What I learned was there is a lot of waiting for the birds and tides during the day time or just hire a guide and they will take you to where the fishing is on fire.

Celebrating Jourdan's BDAY
Celebrating Jourdan’s BDAY
Jourdan with a Sea Trout
Jourdan with a Sea Trout
Sunset on a boat
Sunset on a boat
Ripping snook up after dark
Ripping snook up after dark

 

Flying back to SLC
Flying back to SLC

Once Jourdan and I arrived back in Salt Lake I had the opportunity to drive the delivery van for the ski shop back to Colorado for the summer.  I brought my fishing and snowboard gear along for the ride.  The snowboarding did not work out, but the fishing did.

Sometimes when you have to drive 500 miles in a day you have to set out at 4 AM to get a half a day of fishing in
Sometimes when you have to drive 500 miles in a day you have to set out at 4 AM to get a half a day of fishing in
Traffic jam in route to the fishing
Traffic jam in route to the fishing

 

The "Gold Ribbon" stretch of the Frying Pan
The “Gold Ribbon” stretch of the Frying Pan

Fishing in Colorado is way different than fishing in Utah.  Stream access is not nearly as good.  There are some assholes in Utah trying to ruin our stream access, but that’s a whole different story.  I stopped by Taylor Creek Flies for some advice before hitting the stream.

There knowledge worked.  There are a ton of fish in that river, but also a ton of people.
Their knowledge worked. There are a ton of fish in that river, but also a ton of people.

After some nymphing and some midge dry fly action I had to pack up and continue on Frisco.

The road to A Basin
The road to A Basin

The next morning I woke up and dressed to go snowboarding up at Arapahoe Basin.  However, my pass that was lined up for me fell through so I had to fall back on my back up play to do some more fishing before catching my ride to Denver International to get back to Salt Lake.

Another small stream with a shit ton of people
Another small Colorado stream with some snow still lingering
However, there were some nice fish to be caught.
However, there were some nice fish to be caught.

Once home, Ted and I went to some more familiar territory for me.

A moose spying on me
A moose spy
Ted with a fat Rainbow
Ted with a healthy Rainbow
Tala and Jefe
Tala and Jefe enjoying the beautiful weather
Healthy Trout
Healthy Trout
This adventure comes to a close, but there will be more.  Fishing and the sites you see is awesome
This adventure comes to a close, but there will be more. Fishing and the sites you see is awesome