enjoy the season as it is. While I still regularly walk our trout streams, the water warms up in July and so I’ll often spend an evening with friends such as noted tyer, John Collins or Shannon’s Head Fly Fishing Guide, Len Ruggia on one of many local ponds pursuing warm water fly fishing for Largemouth Bass and Bluegill Sunfish. It is a pleasant and seasonal diversion from my pursuit of trout and no less rewarding. The best time to fish for bass on a pond is either early in the morning or again at dusk. It is at these times that surface flies such as poppers are most effective. It is also a wonderful way to introduce someone to the sport of fly fishing the Bluegills and Bass are usually quite willing to take a fly.
Dam removals and river restoration projects continue to move forward. Last year, the Columbia Dam was removed on the Paulinskill River in Warren County by a coalition of partners including NJDEP, NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and Princeton Hydro. This project will ultimately restore one and half miles of riverine habitat and allow fish passage for anadromous American Shad and other species. This spring witnessed the return of the American Shad to sections of the river once impounded by the dam for the first time in one hundred years. This phenomenon has also been observed on both the lower Raritan and Musconetcong rivers. Public hiking trails and fishing access are included in the project. The word also came through that Raritan Headwaters; www.raritanheadwaters.org is proceeding with permit applications for the removal of the Burnt Mills Dam on the Lamington River. It is critically important to support local watershed organizations as they work to preserve water quality through a variety of programs including both surface and underground water systems. It is also vital for the public to show their support for river restoration projects especially on public lands. The mechanisms for funding such work exist but require multiple governmental and non-profit organizations or NGO’s to bring them to completion.
Trout Unlimited working with Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers completed a restoration project on the “A Frame” property along the Musconetcong River in Bloomsbury in Warren County. The one third of a mile section is now open to the public and features some excellent trout habitat. The work was completed by our friend, Brian Cowden and his team at Troutscapes River Restoration. This year, Brian is working with an even larger group of partners to restore a mile and a half of Lopatcong Creek, one of New Jersey’s only “spring creeks,” meaning that the bulk of the watercourse’s flow comes from underground sources rather than surface runoff. According to Cole Baldino Trout Unlimited’s Home Rivers Coordinator, “The Lopatcong project is a 1.5 mile section of public lands restoration that will focus on in-stream habitat using large wood techniques, floodplain reconnection, bank stabilization, and riparian restoration. We will also be adding to the recreational value by installing a continuous trail, interpretive signs, and expanded access. The project will also help protect the historic Morris Canal. Partners on the project are NJ Audubon, North Jersey RC&D, Lopatcong Creek Initiative, all TU chapters, and Warren County (Department of Land Preservation, Board of Recreation, and the Morris Canal Committee). In addition to benefitting native Brook and wild Brown Trout the restoration will also help some of New Jersey’s threatened and endangered species such as the Wood Turtle. We plan to implement in August/September of 2019.”
Water temperatures play a critical role in summer when pursuing trout. If the river or stream regularly warms to over 70 degrees, the trout tend to become lethargic as the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water begin to drop. However, there will be windows of cooler weather which will make the fish more responsive. Mornings are usually the most productive times to fish for trout. I follow this easy rule. If the weather appears cool and comfortable for me then it is likely cool enough to fish for trout. Still, in summer I will carry a stream thermometer and quit fishing when I see the water temperatures rise above about 68 degrees.
In the summer, hatches tend to be in the morning and the late afternoon into the evening. Beginning in early July, clouds of tiny mayflies known as Trico’s Trycorythodes spp. appear over riffles beginning at about 6am. The entire hatch and spinner fall is usually over by 8:30 am. These mayflies are very small usually a size 22-24. They may be joined by Summer Blue Quills Paraleptophlebia mollis another small mayfly. I’ll use an Adams Parachute in sizes 18-20 to imitate the newly emerged duns. Remember that the mayflies hatch first as an immature form known as the sub imago or “dun” and then return, usually the next evening having molted into their mature form as “spinners” to lay their eggs and then expire. This combination of life cycles of hatching and returning creates the conditions described previously.
Spotted Sedge Caddis Hydropsyche sp. can hatch all summer with frequent regularity any time after about 9am. We know them colloquially as “Tan Caddis” and when found they range in hook size from size 14 early in the hatch to the more common 16-18 for the duration of the summer. The Green Sedge, Rhyacophila lobifera is another common caddis fly that appears from May-August. If I see one or two of the caddis begin to emerge in the morning, I’ll fish a LaFontaine’s Sparkle Pupa in Tan or Olive behind a Prince, Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail Nymph usually in sizes 16-18. If enough newly hatched adult caddisflies are on the water, switch to a size 16-18 Elk Hair Caddis in either Olive or Tan. They will often, especially on cloudy days, be joined by Blue Wing Olive mayflies, such as the Drunella attenuatta usually seen in sizes 16-18. The Drunella cornutella and several other small mayfly species such as the Pseudocleon carolina and Baetis spp. will replace the attenuatta as the summer progresses and they will be even smaller, use a BWO or Adams dry fly or the WD40 or RS2 Emerger in Grey or Olive in sizes 20-22 to imitate the emerging mayflies and the trout will be hard pressed to refuse.
Another group of insects that contribute significantly to the summer diet of our local trout as well as bass and panfish are terrestrials such as ants, beetles as well as grasshoppers and crickets. While they certainly don’t intend to, they often find themselves adrift in a stream or blown by the wind onto the surface of a pond where they are greedily consumed by the waiting fish.
As we move into mid to late August, Light Cahills and Isonychia will once again appear on rivers and streams in the evening. The Cream Cahills, Maccaffertium modestum appear at dusk. Generally a size 14, they will be preceded in the early evening by the Slate Drake, Isonychia bicolor, a large, size 14 mahogany colored mayfly. Nymphs of both species are very common and they will hatch for the rest of the summer and into September and even early October.
Finally, I would like to remember my father, James J. Holland, Sr. who passed away on December 26th, 2018 at the age of 88. It is not easy to put into words the influence he has had on my life and its process but I am blessed to have known him not only as my father but as one of my closest confidants and mentors. I know that much of whatever is best in me came from him and for that and his company along this journey we call life, I am eternally grateful. Enjoy the season and remember those who have helped or accompanied you for a time along the way as you see a full moon rising over the water and our green hills on a beautiful summer evening. I guarantee that you will leave the water with a smile. It isn’t really we who catch the trout or the bass but rather, it is the other way around.
Fly of the Month: Cream Cahill
Hook: Daichi 1100 or Mustad 94840 size 14
Thread: Yellow UTC
Wing: Lemon Wood Duck Flank feather
Body: Cahill dubbing with a hint of yellow dubbing (80-20% mix)
Hackle: Whiting Golden Straw
Tail: Light Ginger
Leave the Water
With a Smile
By James H. Holland
Photos Courtesy of Shannon’s Fly and Tackle
“The honest, enthusiastic, unrestrained, wholehearted way that a largemouth wallops a surface lure has endeared him forever to my heart. Nothing that the smallmouth does can compare with the announced strike of his big-mouthed cousin.” -John Alden Knight Black Bass, 1949
As a teacher, I always look forward to summer as a time to rest and reconnect. The rains of winter and spring have recovered the region from a long drought not seen since the 1960’s and our green hills and valleys are once again verdant and lush. It is a time to slow down and