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Week of March 30th: Trout are Rising Again!

Week of March 30th: Trout are Rising Again!

In times of uncertainty, the rhythms of the natural world can bring us back to what’s important - fly fishing.  The sound and sight of trout rising for flies proves the turn of the earth and longer days.  Even on cold, windy spring days the bugs and fish move with the rhythms of the season and memories are made without perfect conditions.

Once in a while, all signs point to a day where, despite conditions, fish we must!  For example, a day off from work and school can only be a fishing day if the kiddos are otherwise occupied, or, for those with no dependent responsibilities, there is no pressing need for deck or sink or car repairs that can keep us off the water.   

This last Friday in March was one such day and I took the time to venture out to PA. New Jersey rivers, with exceptions, remain closed, and two afternoons in the KLG with some success got me thinking about the open water across the border.  Like NJ, PA allows for some year round fishing; here is a link where you may  check carefully for sections of fishable water near Allentown, Stroudsburg, and further West.    

Without going into the weeds, let me say I recognise how early and alarming the bug activity in recent years.  Everything, the forsythia, the blooms, usually occur mid-April. Undeniably, Hendrickson are here - late March. I drove to a section of Class A water and felt like the only angler out there - in part to being the only car in the lot!  Since my kids’ play date didn’t start till eleven o’clock, I wasn’t able to start until after noon and an evening obligation necessitated my return to NJ around five creating a four hour window.

With that window, I hoped to see a Hendrickson hatch around two o’clock.  I spoke with some anglers with far more experience than myself and understood that the wind and high water from last week’s rain could hamper a good hatch.  I indicator nymphed downstream through several fast moving riffles. The Henderickson nymph and a bead head partridge hackle guide fly were the ticket.  With the water moving and not yet clear - I’ll complain about rain later - I was fishing with three split shot and a trailing caddis larva or WD40 which also got more than a few looks.  

 As the day wore on and the wind picked up, I was losing hope that a hatch would be noticeable in such water when I came to the first long and level pool.  It stretched along a steep bank and the best water passed under some pine trees. A perfect dry fly pool.  Honest to goodness, I looked down to check the time and there was this Blue Quill, seeking seccour from the wind on my chest pack. The time was two o’clock - the right time to catch the Hendricksons, but would the wind prove too much?  

No.  As I raised my gaze, I could see the beloved form of a dry fly floating along.

It was also at this moment that I noticed the other angler.  He had posted up on the bank and was watching the water intently.  I kept my distance and my nymph rig.  Despite the flies on the water, I was not sure the fish were coming up for them.  My fellow angler moved out to cast his dry and returned to the bank after a few minutes to resume his watch. There were two rising in front of him. He was, I think, timing his casts from a rock - entering and exiting the water depending on the next spate of rises.  Given the water was waist to chest deep and cold, this is a wise tactic and also gives time to imagine the cast and where the drift should be.

I planned to give him the pool but we wound up chatting as I walked by.  We talked about Blue Quills and Hendricksons and the wind, which by now was blowing with some force and regularity.  I continued downstream after the fish had come up a few more times.  Near the end of the pool, on the far bank, I saw a good rise, and decided to give it a shot.  Rather than a dry I went with a Hendrickson wet - including a little flash-a-bou tied under CDC.  My casting left a lot to be desired, but when fishing a wet fly in some film, it seems less important to have a perfect drift.  The brown trout that took the emerger proves the rule that they all don’t have to be perfect drifts. On that note, check this video out and go to around minute 9 and see the “loop lab” for some physics behind throwing tight loops.

I stuck around and fished in the wind for a while longer but could not fool another trout. The wait time between casts grew longer as the gusts grew in force and frequency.  My companion yielded the primo spot after a while, so I gave the two working fish we had watched before a few chances to take my fly.  They were not interested and I was getting cold.  Still, the Hendricksons floated by and trout rose.

This was a wet March.  New Jersey typically gets between two and six inches of snow this month; this year we got zero.  Rain?  We got near record amounts. Our ground is saturated and there is more coming this week.  Take advantage of opportunities and watch as the hatches roll out with the spring.  Grannom caddis join the milieu and I may have some words on them next week.

In the mornings, we can come off the bottom with some wet flies or soft hackle Hare’s ear and pheasant tail.  Chartreuse caddis and chironomids (little worm and larvae) can be swung and fished near the surface.  Even this Saturday morning, I had several fish taking the same Hendrickson emerger under a spitshot and trailed by a zebra midge in the gorge.  

Euro Nymphing always works - so the perdigon and blowtorch crew can expect banner days ahead.

In shop news: we have some really, really great deals on reels and a rod.  Our 3 pack of Lamson reels inventory is dwindling, so don’t hesitate.  Why have two spare spools?  Your Lamson Remix reel becomes three reels with the extra spools.  Line one of the extra spools with your Euro Nymph set up for a quick riverside change from fishing dry flies to tight line nymphing.  The other spool can carry a 6wt line for high wind (I could have used this yesterday) or for bigger fish - think Bass fishing in the summer!  All this by popping out one spool for the other.

Take advantage of this unreal deal before I do! We have two Winston Alpha + for 50%, yes fifty percent, off!  Yikes!  Full disclosure, I am a Winston Pro (that’s promotional not professional) and part of my job to promote Winston rods. I wouldn’t do so if I didn’t think they are worth the hype.  Try one and you’ll see. The Alpha + is Winston’s larger species rod and we have two nine foot Alpha +s left - one is a 7wt and the other is an 8wt.  I posted this video before, but it is something you can watch during the deluge this week: Winton Rod Co. factory tour  of graphite rod building. To me, Winston rods are a perfect balance of power and elegance. 

TROUT FEST 2024 is APRIL 20, 2024.  Tell your friends and join in celebrating Spring in  Califon!  Food, beer, music, contests, and more than twenty vendors (fishing and non fishing) turn Island Park into the event of the year.  Follow our website for more details.

Lastly - have you come in to see the new Patagonia gear? We will customize your Patagonia waders for unparalleled personalization. 

Thank you for indulging in a rather long report. Check us out in person or ask about our incoming online store!

See you out there, 

Roy B.


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