Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fishing for Trout on Opening Day in NJ

When I was a little kid, my grandfather used to take me trout fishing from the beginning of April until the end of May. For him, Opening Day marked the nascence of the trout season, and Memorial Day signified its conclusion. As a child, this was okay with me: I'd turn to fishing in nearby lakes for bass, pickerel, and catfish in the summertime and ice fish in the winter. But as I grew older, and wild trout became my passion, I sought out year-round, catch-and-release only types of trout water. And although I currently fish for trout 12 months a year, the festive allure of Opening Day is still strongly implanted in my consciousness. I was therefore thrilled when my best friend Will suggested we fish on New Jersey's official trout opener this past Saturday.

Where to go was easy: as a kid, I was always brought to Warren County's Paulinskill River. The state stocks the warm-water stream with tens of thousands of trout in the spring. And since we were bringing along Frank, a friend unfamiliar with trout fishing, we figured the Paulinskill would be the perfect place. When we arrived around 9 AM last Saturday, the river was running quite high. It was, however, quite fishable. We started downstream from the Blairstown park, where we found some breathing room from the crowds. Because of the high water conditions, I immediately began nymphing. After about ten minutes, I walked out of the river to help Frank. When I next picked up my fly rod, it literally snapped between my fingers (it's highly likely that the strain from the steelhead weakened the infrastructure of the rod, rendering it fragile and breakable).

I was, of course, mortified. Despite my skill as a fly fisherman, I am nonetheless a poor Ph.D. candidate that owns only two fly rods: a 9 ft 5 wt that can be used on a wide variety of streams, and a 6 foot "flea rod" for tiny wild trout waters. So by breaking my rod, I was literally left without a legitimate fly-fishing option right at the outset of our day. Luckily, though, my best friend Will had brought along two extra spin casting rods. I had grown up fishing for trout with spinners and Rapalas, and I still use this technique as a back-up or a change of pace. For instance, last year I caught 80% of my trout on the fly rod, and 20% on the spinning rod. Opening Day 2010 was therefore all about the golden Rapala.

I caught 7 stocked brook trout and lost about 15. The fish were striking very slowly, probably a condition caused by a combination of high water and confused, instinct-stunted hatchery fish. Will landed 3 after some initial trouble, and Frank didn't catch any, but nevertheless enjoyed himself. It was an excellent Opening Day, and the broken fly rod lended a fun throwback feel to it.

As soon as I got home, though, I ordered a new rod. I hope to test it out tonight.

(For the record, I caught a wild brook trout in Marshalls Creek back in March. I landed it on a small wooly bugger streamer in very high water.)

Image #1 - Paulinskill River
Image #2 - Ugly stocked brook trout
Image #3 - Muscovy ducks
Image #4 - Lesser celandine in bloom

Overall Total: 13

River Breakdown:
Paulinskill River
- 7 (7 Stocked Brook)
Sevemile Creek - 4 (3 Wild Rainbow, 1 Steelhead)
Marshalls Creek
- 1 (1 Wild Brook)
Twentymile Creek - 1 (1 Steelhead)

Species Breakdown:
Brook Trout - 8
Stocked - 7
Wild - 1

Rainbow Trout - 5
Wild - 3
Steelhead - 2
Stocked - 0

Brown Trout - 0
Wild - 0
Stocked - 0

Stocked Trout - 7
Wild Trout - 4
Lake Erie Trout - 2

Trout 15+ Inches: 2

Fly Breakdown:
Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, size 14 - 4 (3 Wild Rainbow, 2 Steelhead)
Bead-head Golden Stonefly Nymph, size 10 - 1 (1 Steelhead)
Bead-head Olive Wooly Bugger Streamer, size 14 - 1 (1 Wild Brook)

Angling Breakdown:
Spinning Rod - 7 (7 Stocked Brook)
Fly Fishing Rod - 6 (3 Wild Rainbow, 2 Steelhead, 1 Wild Brook)

State Breakdown:
New Jersey - 7
Pennsylvania - 6

1 comment:

vesna said...

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