On Saturday, Michele, Linda and I went fishing in Califon, NJ. Our trip to the Housatonic was called off unexpectedly after heavy rain pushed flow rates well above safe wading levels. We were looking forward to fishing with Aaron Jasper there.
Our plan B was to explore the South Branch of the Raritan River. I had heard that the fishing was good in Ken Lockwood Gorge but also above and below, from turnouts on the road that follows the river bank. Aaron wasn’t able to change his plans so we headed to NJ without a guide.
Our first stop was the local fly shop, auspiciously named Shannon’s Fly and Tackle.
Califon is an adorable small town set in wooded hills only an hour’s drive from NYC. There’s a row of small shops on Main Street —- books, antiques, vintage clothing, a general store and a bakery cafe called Bex, where we enjoyed a delicious and inexpensive breakfast.
Jim Holland at the fly shop was generous with advice on how and where to fish the S. Branch. We bought some egg flies and drove a half a mile to the first big turnout on River Road. The river was high, but certainly wadable. The water was clear and, yes, quite cold. What a beautiful river, lovely setting, and gorgeous bright day!
With Grabber heat packets in the boots and pockets, we geared up and waddled our many-layered bodies into the shallows. Hare’s ear nymphs, Linda’s hand-woven stoneflies, and egg flies in candy colors were drifted along the bottom of likely pools where big rainbows are said to lie (some other lucky angler must have caught one —- see photo). I might have had a strike or two, that came to naught when I set the hook.
When it was time for a break we drove down the road to the top of the Gorge. Hurricane Irene has washed out the road there, so access to the river is walk-in only. A fellow angler returning up the path with a german shorthaired pointer told us he had caught and released his limit.
We tried one more pool before giving in to winter. I felt quite comfortable most of the day, but when we returned to Bex for homemade soup it took a good thirty minutes for my knees to warm up. So we called it quits just when we should have. Ghiradelli hot cocoa with the chef’s special peppermint marshmallows was just what the doctor ordered.
This area of the Raritan River is super easy to get to and very pleasant to visit. I’ll look forward to fishing it again when the trout are getting hungry for mayflies.