Trout fishing on the Flat Brook
I grew up in New Jersey and my early fishing exploits there focused on surf fishing for striped bass (stripers) near Toms River. As far as I can recall, I have never fished for trout in New Jersey. So, when I was invited to a family reunion in Northwest New Jersey, I decided to use that opportunity to try my luck at fly fishing for trout in that State for the first time.
I was reminded that New Jersey is a bit quirky in a few ways. To start with, people there do not go to the beach – they go to the ‘Shore’. They also do not eat Italian subs there, but rather hoagies. You are also not trusted to pump your own gas (all gas stations have an attendant to pump the gas) and it costs more per gallon if you pay by credit card. On top of that, on major highways you generally cannot make a left turn at a traffic light, but must take a right using a ‘jug handle’ turn to cross the road.
I half-expected then that trout fishing in New Jersey would involve some idiosyncrasies. I was relieved to learn when I dropped in on Golden Stone Outfitters (GSO) that I did not have to adjust my approach to fly fishing! I only needed a license for trout fishing – which, ironically, you do not need for ‘Shore’ fishing!
According to reports I read online, the Flat Brook is the best trout stream in New Jersey. It is a tributary of the Delaware that spans 11.6 miles containing rainbows, browns and brook trout. I fished the catch and release section below the Route 206 overpass, which comprises 4 miles of water to the Roy Bridge.
A month before the event I reached out to GSO in Lafayette, NJ asking for recommendations. Owner Fredy De León responded the next day with some immediate guidance and said I should check in with him a few days before. When I did, he again responded immediately and that compelled me to stop by the shop on my way. He could not have been nicer when I dropped in looking for advice as to which spots I should target.
The weather forecast for that weekend was changing frequently and I knew that I should expect variable conditions on the day I had targeted to fish. As it turned out, the forecast of sunny skies and moderate temperatures migrated to frigid and snowy. Undeterred, I still ventured out to the Flat Brook on a Saturday morning, beginning at the section recommended by Fredy, which was downstream of Tuttles Corner Dingmans Road.
There is a trailhead that leads to the river, and the flow has been disrupted by a very industrious beaver. The water at the dam is very inviting, but more attractive a bit further upstream where there is a run at the point that the trail diverges from the river. I tried several combinations of dry/dropper along that stretch without luck. Intuitively I suspected there were fish in that run, but had no takers.
It was cold and had just snowed, so my approach probably should have been different. Fredy suggested that nymphing would be best in the morning – using tandems including Rainbow Warrior, Walt’s Sexy Worm, and Mop Flies (maxi and mini), then changing to dries if the afternoon hatch of midges and stoneflies developed. I did not want to carry two rods for this eventuality, so stuck with my usual five weight for versatility. In retrospect, I probably should have gone with the nymphing rod. For one, the hoped-for hatch never materialized and I suspect that the dropper on my dry/dropper tandem may not have been deep enough. It was also probably the wrong conditions to solve a new trout stream. But it was a nice experience and I learned a lot from Fredy at Golden Stone Outfitters.
Note: I am not being compensated by mentioning GSO. I am simply a satisfied customer.