The Black River Journal November - December 2005

In the autumn, fishing is coming to an end, and each day you are parting with it-for a long time, for a whole six months. - Sergei Aksakov (1791-1859) from “Memoir” translated by Arthur Ransome. Quote was taken from The Quotable Fisherman compiled by Nick Lyons.

As we celebrate the holidays, the fishing season draws to a close. Yes, there are those final days when the weather still cooperates but I always find myself in a reflective mood.

It is a great time of year to enjoy family and friends and I also enjoy taking a hike or perhaps some bird watching. Hunting, especially for deer but also for Pheasant takes center stage and many hours are passed training that new bird dog or scouting an area for that prime buck. For the fly fisherman, there may be some time spent on the water but probably more time is spent at the vise tying flies for next season.

Fly fishing can still be productive in the cold weather. The main key is water temperature, or more specifically fluctuations of temperature. Usually, as long as the water remains above forty degrees or so fishing can often be productive. This is not usually a problem in November, the trout still feed regularly. Midges are tiny aquatic insects that hatch regularly on warmer days in late Fall and right through the Winter. When the weather becomes colder, look for sunny days when the water temperatures raises slightly over the course of the day and fish from late morning through the afternoon. A stable weather pattern will maintain consistent water temperatures. Evening fishing is not usually as productive as the trout become lethargic. I have also found that Rainbow Trout seem to be the most tolerant of colder water temperatures. Finally, the streams are not often crowded and the time spent on the water can be some of the most relaxing of the year. Dress appropriately, wear layers and that includes either neoprene waders or fleece under the more commonly used breathable waders. Layering is the key to a safe and comfortable outing. 

Patterns that work well at this time of year are those that either represent a significant meal or are still regularly seen by the trout. Streamers are a good bet in running water such as riffles and rapids. Muddler Minnows and the Mickey Finn are especially effective. It is not unusual to be fishing over very selective fish using delicate and tiny midge patterns such as the Griffith’s Gnat only to see the trout start slashing minnows.  I prefer fishing some large deeper pools during the colder months. I often use a Woolly Bugger, size 8 or 10 usually in either Brown or Black. From the shank of the hook, I’ll tie on a fifteen inch length of tippet material and a smaller fly like a Prince nymph or Scud. The Prince is an attractor nymph that can imitate a small stonefly or even an immature Isonychia nymph. The scud is a freshwater shrimp of sorts and as such is found in our area waters year round. Trout love them. I usually use a Tan or Grey Scud in sizes 14-18. Beadhead nymphs are also extremely effective. I like a nine foot leader for this type of fishing and I use the classic across and down wet fly method. Go deep and slow this time of year. Try a BH Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear. The Pheasant Tails or Brassies should be smaller, size 16-20 as Mattew Grobert has formally pointed out in his column in the Newark Star Ledger that the fish will key in on immature mayfly nymphs.

When I’m not fishing, I still like to get outside and I try to make time for a good hike. Some of my nicest hikes have been in Jockey Hollow National Park. The trails are well marked and the staff is friendly and accommodating. I love the old New Jersey Brigade area and Crosse Estate Gardens. The bird watching can be very good there and the grounds are extremely well maintained. There is an enclosed garden that is a beautiful place to relax and brush up on your tree identification.   

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