George Vincent and I left Friday morning to drive up to Clinton, NJ for the weekend outing on the South Branch of the Raritan in Ken Lockwood Gorge. We stopped at Cabela's near Hamburg, PA for lunch and George bought a pair of waist high waders. We also stopped at the Little Lehigh in Allentown and fished it for about 1.5 hours. I had hoped my combo #18 sulphur dun and #20 griffith gnat dropper would at least produce some activity like it had the previous year. However, both George and I tried various caddis, mayfly, and midge patterns to no avail. I did see one nice fish rise during this time.
Saturday morning we arrived at the lower entrance to Ken Lockwood Gorge (KLG) near High Bridge at about 10 AM. The flows were slightly below the mean for both days at between 70 and 80 cfs but still very nice and the water was very clear. The access road for the upper half of KLG was still closed after part of it was washed out during a spring 2007 storm. We started fishing up stream from the trestle bridge pool. In about 4 hours of fishing, George caught a nice brown on top with a parachute adams and I caught some browns and a brookie on a bh brassie. We also were producing a fair number of strikes and lookies with various patterns. At about 2 PM, we decided to take a lunch break. On the way back to the car we ran into Bob Dietz and Joanne Kla who had just arrived within the previous half hour.
After lunch, with the temperature in the 90s, George and I cooled down in a shady spot along the stream. We saw a bunch of craneflies at the edge of the stream. Bob and Joanne joined us around 4:30 to also cool down and re-hydrate. They had caught or LDRed a few fish. For the rest of the evening George, Bob, and Joanne fished the pool where our cars were parked while I went up to the trestle bridge pool. When I first waded in, I could see a half dozen fish near the bottom within 5-10 feet of me. On about the 5th cast, I hooked a rainbow that would complete a grand slam for me but after much head shaking, he got off about a foot from my net. I saw Bob about a half hour later when he and Joanne were going to check out the pools up stream from the trestle bridge. He had LDRed 2 brookies (he needed to land one for a grand slam). While I caught several browns and another brookie at the trestle bridge pool, the last 1.5 hours of fishing was a humbling experience for me. There wasn't much of an evening hatch but fish were rising in fair numbers all around me. I saw a few slate drakes and a couple of small light cahills but no sulfurs. I just couldn't figure out what they were feeding on. I tried various duns, emergers, and spinners but could not catch a rising fish. The fisherman upstream from me had caught several on midge pupa fished in the surface but my midge patterns weren't producing anything. At about 8:30, I joined the others in time to watch George catch a nice 13" brookie on a sulfur to complete his grand slam. Joanne was getting numerous strikes but was unable to catch any during the evening.
We quit at about 9PM and met for dinner at Clinton Station. This restaurant is open 24 hours/day and serves oversize proportions of everything. Their food is generally pretty good but be prepared to eat!
Sunday morning, George and I fished at KLG for about 2-3 hours. I went to the trestle bridge pool again while George returned to the spot he was fishing the evening before. I initially started with a tan LaFontaine caddis and an olive spinner. A few fish were rising and I saw a few caddis in the air. In the first 15 minutes, I caught an 11" brown on the olive spinner. I had several more strikes on the olive spinner before a larger brown took the caddis, swam around a rock where the spinner caught on the rock and it was bye bye to the brown. After that, fish stopped rising so I went back to my combo parachute adams and brassie rig. This time the brassie was without a bead head. With this setup, I had a couple of swipes at the adams and caught 4 more browns with the brassie. I quit and returned to see how George was doing and he had caught another brown.
Bob and Joanne didn't want to deal with the bicycle event in High Bridge and decided to try the Little Lehigh in the morning/early afternoon. Nothing was happening there at all. Bob got one refusal to a midge. The only person they ran into who had caught anything was fishing a sunken beetle -- a foam beetle with a lot of shot and fished right on bottom. The guy had an interesting theory. He said he almost never fishes anything except foam ants and foam beetle. If there are fish rising, he fishes them dry, otherwise he fishes them as nymphs. Apparently it works.
They then stopped at the Tulpehocken where Joanne out-fished Bob (Bob told her not to do that again!). They were both badly outfished by the two guys below them. They were onto fish almost constantly. As they were leaving for the evening, Bob had to ask what fly they were using. It was something they had made up, pretty much just red (or looked more like claret) dubbing on red thread wrapped on a curved #18 hook. They were dead drifting until they were on bottom, then let it swing. All the takes were on the swing. They must have had at least twenty fish apiece on that fly, with most of the fish in the 14-17" range.
There were three bait fishermen above them using shiners. (This was illegal on several counts.) They were "releasing" the fish they caught, but every fish they "released" ended up floating by Bob and Joanne dead or dying. Bob gave their license plate number to the guys who were fishing below them (who had the FBC poacher hot line number.) They promised to call them in (this was as Bob and Joanne were quitting).
As for them, Joanne ended up with one brown of about 14", caught on a floating inch worm. Bob thinks it was her biggest fish to date. He ended up with a 3" chub, but busted off a nice rainbow. (That will teach him to cut off the 7x He had been using for midges before switching to wet flies on the swing.) All in all, it was a learning experience.
For the final score, Joanne caught the biggest fish and Goerge scored the only grand slam (rainbow, brown, & brookie). All of us were into fish so this was definitely a successful outing and we're looking forward to another one next year during New Jersey's free fishing weekend.