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Practical Thinking - October Twenty-second, 2023

In case you didn’t know - spoiler alert to the end of Moby Dick - the end of Moby Dick is not considered a happy ending if you're rooting for ol’ Ahab. I am not an expert on the text or on whaling (or on fly fishing for that matter) but a lack of practical thinking leads to his demise. I read to learn - how to do and how not to do. This report will offer a few tips on fishing New Jersey rivers in the North West of the state this week.

Practical thinking in fishing is most important when the cold weather begins. We have to be practical in our flies and our preparedness.


The insect activity is slowing down to a crawl. I saw yet another large October Caddis under the porch light before dawn. On the water at first light, fish were rising near the banks and inside the seam of the bubble line. This tells us that we can find dry fly action for a little while longer. Blue winged olives (#18 - #24), tricos, RS2s and WD40 should mimic whatever micro activity exists in the foam and just below the surface. Weightless American pheasant tail nymphs (Tightline Productions American Pheasant tail) is a good choice, too. Keep your trailing flies #18 or smaller.


A dry dropper is an effective way to fish small nymphs on or just below the surface. If you follow this report, the Stimulator, Elk Wing (or Deer Hair) Caddis are the go-to lead flies. Next time I am out, I am going to try a Royal Coachman to change things up. It is highly visible for the angler and trout.


Practically thinking and planning ahead, it is time to think small: midges, larvae and eggs, and heavy Eurostyle nymphs. In fact, reports from other anglers suggest that LaFontaine Sparkle Pupae, JC’s Electric Caddis (bright green), and micro eggs (#18 - #24) are catching fish.


My age and the decade I entered the sport puts me on the tail end of traditional thinking when it comes to flies. I will swear up and down that small hare’s ear, Prince nymphs, and zebra midges (red and black) can get up through the winter. I can not argue with the efficacy of Euro nymphs.


The trend seems to be reducing the body of the E-nymph on a jig hook with a heavy bead, but increasing the volume with a shaggy, buggy, CDC-y collar. They are swift and heavy and plunge to the bottom of plunge pools. The shop has loads of tying material so everyone can stock up for long Winter nights tying in front of a fire or favorite movie. Veevus Body Fuzz is in stock while supplies last. A multitude of Tungsten beads in all sorts of colors has arrived, as has vinyl ribbing and Glo-brite thread. Diamond braid, all colors of Marabou, and egg-pattern materials are available to set up your Steelhead fly box.


The fish recognize the drop in temperature and find deep places to hang out. Heavier split shot helps, or, use heavier hooks to tie heavier eggs with; UV2 Egg Roe yarn around a Mustad C67S looks great as it bounces down the gravel bed. Try a rainbow warrior or tiny copper John trailing behind.

As the water temperature drops, remember that we engage in a potentially hazardous sport. Even when the air temps are still not yet frigid, the water temperatures are in the low 50s, which can cause "cold shock" with sudden immersion. We heard a tale from our own Jennifer of an angler who needed her to help him exit the river after he had fallen and had difficulty getting out. Stash dry, warm clothes in the trunk and bring a raincoat, gloves and a hat. Consider wading boots with cleats; bring a wading staff and polarized glasses to find safe places to wade and stand.

The Caddis and mayfly group is about ready to hibernate. Minnows and young-of-the year dace help fatten our fish up before really low temps slow metabolisms to a crawl as well. The midge and scud group will occupy more of a trout’s diet. Scuds will change from olive to gray and tan as the algae dwindles.

Stick with it! It seems to be a tough Fall for many anglers, myself included. Hopefully, I will see you out there.


-- Roy B.

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