I had the day to fish and decided to try out the Raritan near Califon in the morning on Sunday November 11. The air was crisp in the morning but warmed up to high 50's pretty quickly. Nymphing was slow so I moved on to the trout conservation area in the Musconetcong. I have only fished this stretch once but this time parked at the upstream end and worked my way down. Man the sticker bushes and thorns are nasty up there. I made my way a third of the way down passing some anglers and doing a little fishing but it was pretty slow. The guys were saying they had caught fish here and there and down by the bridge in particular. Everyone was nymphing and popular patterns were scuds, zebra midges and egg patterns. I used my home tied stone fly and pt nymphs for a while with no luck. I could see thousands of nymph casings on the rocks all around me. There were two types, typical looking dark husks around a size 16. Inside were greenish grubs. Another kind were beige colored grubs about the same size or smaller that were husked in tiny pebbles. Caddis maybe? Seeing these i moved from big/small nymph rig to small/smaller, using a size 22 bwo nymph below a size 16 pt nymph. I also tried a rainbow czech and a large pink scud. Still no luck in some promising water, though the sun was very high.
As I made it down into the classic nymphing water I saw a few more guys and got a few more tips. At the plunge pool in the middle of the TCA, I had had it and decided to go medieval. I started nymphing a wooly bugger but that would not satisfy my boredom so i tied on an orange beaded translucent scud pattern and a green lightning bug, size 20 below tied to 6x fluoro tippet. With three unorthodox flies I figured nothing would happen. And nothing did until on the retrieve I suddenly had a fish on. After a bit I realized it may have some size and then i saw its back and tail and realized it was a giant rainbow trout. It was not exactly blowing up my spool but it was intent on staying far away from me though. A guy and his young daughters watched for a while, but as I fought the fish for over 30 minutes they had moved on already when i finally landed it. It was difficult to land on a 15 foot leader (it was on the bottom fly) and it was bigger than my net. Embarassingly i missed the net job several times and chased the fish all over the hole before finally bringing her to net right where I had started. I was very disappointed to see the hook was in the side of her neck rather than her mouth, foul hooked. I could not figure out how to let her breathe underwater while getting out my phone to snap a photo so I let her go. She was over 20" and really fat. I think she must have weighed 5 pounds as it was larger than any fish we caught on the Missouri River this year. What a fish! I was able to remove the hook without touching her and she slithered back into the deep. What a great stretch of water in NJ if you can come across fish like that!
I made my way down, removing the bugger and going with the two fly rig instead, plus indicator. In the bends above the bridge I netted three beautiful rainbows with big heads and vivid colors. They fought and fought, all taking the green lb. I think I am going to tie some of those this winter! Talk about a bicoastal fly!
Near the bridge I picked up a small 9" brown in a scumline where he was supposed to be. What a day! Not sure why I am sitting here typing this rather than going back today...