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Week of December 17th: Game on!  Bubba is Back

The hunt begins and the tradition continues!  

First, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the stocking fund in memory of Jim Holland.  So many great opportunities for fishing can be traced back to him and several other people who make things happen around town year after year.  

Thank you to the contributors - small change and big bills alike - who stuff the jar throughout the year.  Next years’ funds are accruing already!

Legendary angler S. Claus and South Branch Outfitters staff and guides hand delivered nearly four hundred trout, Rainbow and Brown, mostly to the Ken Lockwood gorge but also made stops up stream at Califon Island Park to Vernoy Road.  The road into the gorge is a treacherous enough trail without buckets full of potential PBs, so raise a cup to the fine folks who make the time to enhance our fishing through the winter months.  There are several especially large trout in the mix, but only one carries the coveted JAW TAG.  

Carefully remove the tag and take video or a picture of the release before returning the tag to South Branch Outfitters to claim your prize!  It is important to release these fish to give as many anglers the opportunity to catch them; Lee Wulff said it best: “Trophy fish are too valuable to be only caught once.”  

Etiquette is worth thinking about at times like this, too. There is plenty of water, so spread out!  When I wonder, “Can I squeeze in between these two people?”  I  change the question word “Can” to “Should” and immediately answer myself, “No,” and keep walking.  If nothing else, ask before slipping in to fish below or above someone and respect the response and the space.  They may be working towards a spot carefully, so do not “Leeroy Jenkins” their whole plan.  

Basic etiquette suggests - (gleaned from 

  1. Leave at least 100 feet between anglers. 

  2. People moving upstream traditionally have right of way, so ask “Are you fishing upstream?” and then adjust your plan.  Fishing upstream is recommended because most fish face upstream when feeding. 

  3. If you are working up or downstream and find someone working a run or pool, reel up about 50 yards away and ask “Are you fishing upstream?”. If they say “yes,” move well out of the water to avoid spooking fish. Think about where you would not be grumbling if the situation was reversed.  Is 40 yards enough? Is there a feature they are working towards? Here, the Golden Rule applies. 

  4. No Camping!  How many fish are actually in that hole you found - or - are you catching the same fish over and over?  It is tempting to stay in one spot and hammer fish, but this is New Jersey and space is limited.  Share your knowledge and the love by yielding honey holes after a reasonable amount of time.    

  5. Respect nature.  Clean up - after yourself and others.  Not everyone has been taught why we shouldn’t litter and a few people just don’t care. 

Rather than yell at strangers, I do my best to be a good steward and take care of these sacred spaces quietly.  Stooping to carry a water bottle doesn’t make me holier than anyone.  I’d rather just pick it up and not get into with the culprit because I am five foot nine and one hundred and thirty-five pounds with studded boots on.  I watch a lot of kung fu movies, but that doesn’t mean I win a fight.  Just pick it up - it is the right thing to do.

No new fishing tips with this report.  I will summarize the last two weeks of flies and techniques: zebra midge or eggs behind large heavy patterns fished slowly in likely spots, which are deeper runs and pools.  Take time to watch, especially on sunny days and look for feeding activity - quick flashes as a trout turns its side to the light - or holding trout - look for shadows and the inner lip as mouths open and close as both can be easier to spot than a still trout.  

Reading about fishing is a fine pursuit for those who are willing to wait for more conducive conditions.  There is some rain and wind forecast Sunday and Monday.

Here is a short list of fly fishing books I recommend:

  • The River Why, by David James Duncan.  Coming of age novel for trout bums; fun, light, and mildly philosophical.

  • The Feather Thief, by Kirk W. Johnson.  True crime memoir of the break-in, theft of, and obsession with contraband feathers for salmon flies from a British museum by an American violin prodigy.

  • The Guide, by Peter Heller. Suspense thriller about a destination resort. Simple and silly, but fun.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice and look for longer days that will eventually resume.

See you out there - 

Roy B. 


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