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NJ: July's Bounty: Bass & Panfish

With the warm summer days of July upon us here in New Jersey, catch and release angling for trout is now a marginal proposition as waters regularly warm past the 70 degree mark. Yes, there will likely be some "Summer Windows" for safe trout fishing but we will need a cool snap to make that possible. I've noticed a substantial change in the trout's behavior when the water temps drop to 68 degrees but I would caution anglers that I also believe that these sub-seventy degree temps should be in place for a large majority of the 24 hour period immediately prior to fishing for trout. It is also vital that the trout be played very quickly and not be removed from the water. This practice will limit the stress on the trout and reduce mortality. So to sum up. there may be some limited opportunities to fish locally for trout as weather improves briefly during a "Summer Window" but we should otherwise strictly leave them alone. So far, rain has been consistent and flows are respectable.When the weather brings us lower humidity and evening lows in the mid to upper fifties on multiple nights the trout will be there waiting to test us once again. There are options close to home where cool water is the rule year round on spring fed creeks and streams in Pennsylvania like fishing the Trico hatch in the morning on the Little Lehigh or the Bushkill Creek or an afternoon Sulphur hatch on the Catskill tail waters like the West Branch of the Delaware.

Two of my favorite fish to catch are the Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass. Growing up outside of Morristown, there were several places I could catch trout but in the warmer months especially, there were many more opportunities to catch Largemouths especially before I could drive. My friend and Delbarton classmate, Brian Kulick lived in Bernardsville and introduced me to the North Branch of the Raritan in Far Hills and Bedminster. Yes, we caught trout but Smallies were much more common. As I began to fly fish more, I found they really enjoyed a Woolly Bugger. I could actually catch all kinds of fish on the Bugger: Bass, Rock Bass, Sunfish and Crappies. I've even hooked a couple of carp over the years and they are true warm water trophies; difficult to entice at times but the first run is unstoppable. While I also enjoyed saltwater fishing in New Jersey, fly fishing in summer for these fish has been a constant and surprisingly enjoyable alternative to trout.

There are a few important differences between trout fishing and warm water fishing. First, Bass and Panfish are not leader shy so heavier and leaders and tippets are in order. The lightest tippet I use for bass is 3X and I usually prefer 0-1X. Also, when setting the hook remember bass have tougher mouths than trout so when the bass takes, hesitate for a moment and let the line straighten and the rod bend. Then use a strong sideways strip set. This will usually result in a solid hook up. The larger the bass, the more important this change in the action of setting the hook.

I am pleased to see that our Bass and Panfish flies are some of the most popular we offer and for Beginners and younger anglers especially I think this kind of fly fishing is invaluable. There is always action. On a pond, lake or stream, anglers practice casting, mending, fly selection as well as hooking, playing and releasing the fish. You identify likely areas of structure likely to hold fish. These are exactly the skills required of a successful trout angler and practice is never a waste of time. Besides, seeing a nice fish blow up on a popper or chasing down a streamer is always a thrill regardless of species. And the size of some of the fish may surprise you. We are now carrying the Flymen Fish Company products such as their Double Barreled Poppers and Blane Chocklett's Game Changer Streamer series of flies. Yes, they work well.

Here are a couple of Tim's favorite patterns. Notice I included Left's Deceiver. It is not just a saltwater fly but a great Bass Fly:


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