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“Thar she blows!” - October Fifteenth, 2023

The fictional captain of The Pequod did not coin the phrase “There she blows,” but I think it is from him that I learned its meaning. Similar to a rising trout, the whale can be spotted as it disturbs the water, exhales and inhales, and prepares to dive, spouting a plume of breath and water vapor. I try not to shout when I fly fish - as a general rule - but once in a while, after waiting for what seems like forever, a confirmed take brings the words to my throat - “Thar she blows!”

If you have never read Moby Dick (1851), I highly recommend it. Melville covers the subject of whaling more completely than any text I know: the history, biology, theory, science, and cultural importance. There is even a recipe for chowder buried in one of its chapters. We learn how whales and whaling works while telling a compelling narrative about, well, fishing! Many anglers can relate to Captain Ahab, relentlessly pursuing a harmless creature with a fervor that seems, to many, rather obsessive, costly, and, for those who watch us from the shore, mystifying. In an ocean (at that time) full of whales, Captain A. chases one, a white sperm whale named Moby Dick, all over the globe from Massachusetts to Japan. He and his crew leave the larger whaling vessel, their home for months, in order to pursue an individual whale. When they finally see a whale, they hop into a much smaller boat! In this, they chase the 90 foot long creature. They throw a barbed harpoon into the whale and then - they hold on. A thin rope, like our tippet, is crafted and coiled to be strong and supple enough to hold a WHALE. This is lashed to the boat and they hold on for dear life while the whale pulls against the tension. Physics and faith prevents the whale from completely pulling the boat and six men under (something to do with angles? Angling?). Like our fish, eventually the whale tires out, needs a breath, and surfaces until finally the men could get close enough to deliver more lines and then, the final blow. When Ahab sees Moby, he does indeed say, “There she blows!” but his best quote suits anglers with a fly, too: “All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.”

This morning I was afraid the rain over Saturday night would render today a good day to reread classics, tie flies, or restring my leader and tippet in preparation for time outside. Lo and behold, when I got to the banks of the SBR, I had to hold the words in my throat, lest I disturb the stillness that had just been broken by a rising trout. As of mid-day on Sunday, the Musky, Pequest, and Paulins kill are still going up, but the Lamington, North and South Branch, and all the tribs south of 513 in Hunterdon county are in great shape. The rivers to the North may take a day or two, but this looks like a fabulous week for trout fishing in New Jersey.

Reports from last week were spotty and it looks like more wild and holdover fish made their way into nets and onto Instagram. Stocked trout need time to acclimate and it can be frustrating on the day of a stocking when we get skunked. Ahab’s phrase means something entirely different when this happens, but we need to be patient as the shock of stream-life subsides and our new Rainbow buddies figure out what to eat. That should begin three to four days after they’re in and spread out. After all, they get hungry and I think will start tasting just about anything once the conditioning of being fed at regular times is overridden by sheer need to eat.

I have to take a break from beloved streamers and drys when the surface activity is off. Now that we are into fall and the ISO and October caddis succumb to colder and colder temperatures, we can start going down in size. We have plenty of time for Caddis - La Fontaine Sparkle pupa are super important right now. They can trail a stimulator or Elk Wing Caddis in the size and color matching what you see flying by or can be the lead fly suspending a gray RS2 or the WD40. Mop (Crane fly larva) flies, John Collin’s egg-sucking leech, and the tried-and-true wooly bugger represent the river bed buffet stand-bys and seem to fool the stocked fish first. Kayla’s Georgia Peach is currently available, but I cannot guarantee they will remain in stock (they're so effective that they're going fast!). Pheasant tails and Frenchies in pink work for the Euro Nymph folks that come in after dodging the leaves as they sink and settle in the gorge.

Long story, short - get out there, but stop in here first! The Fall Sale continues with deals on Lamson reels, Winston rods, and assorted South Branch clothing and gear. Our guides have been working every day, so if you want to get that last outing of the year in, we can find the perfect guide for the style of fishing you are looking for!

See you out there!

Roy B


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