Hey now, welcome to the first post in a series I am calling river reviews. I am going to cover some information for folks who are new to the sport or new to some of these rivers around NY/NJ/PA. When I first started fly fishing one of the hardest things was finding information about rivers. Some of the exploration is part of the fun of fly fishing so I will not give away all the secrets but if it wasn’t for my local Orvis, and buying a bunch of books it would have been a lot harder finding success on these rivers. I do encourage people to find the local fly shop near that river and give them a call or stop in.
The first river I am going to cover in this series is the Raritan River and specifically the section in the Ken Lockwood Gorge which is a NJ state park located in Annadale NJ. This is about an hour from NYC, and depending on the time of day not too bad to get to via some major highways.
Summary: The Gorge is a catch and release only and the trail that runs through the park is about 2.5 miles from end to end. This is a decent sized river which a lot of structure in the form of rocks and boulders that run throughout the river. There are a few slower deeper pools but generally its made up of some quicker rifles and runs. THere is pretty good tree coverage but for the most part plenty of room for casting. I would also recommend a wading staff especially when the river is running high. It can get fairly deep in spots and due to the number of rocks it can be tricky to wade.
Access: There are two parking lots on either end of the park which are pretty decent sized. The park gets a lot of attention from people who are there for hiking and biking so expect a lot of action specifically on the weekends. Once you leave your car there is a nice easy to walk path that runs along the river. This is great because you will have to do very little bushwacking to get access to spots on the water. I think that is one of the appeals to this river to me since it holds some great fish, but it also is very each to navigate. There are some other local streams which require a lot more hacking through brush and while I don’t have a huge problem with that the accessibility here really does help. Also you don’t need to go far from your car to catch fish. I have had some of my best luck right around the parking lot.
Fish: The river is stocked and holds a good amount of good sized Brown and Rainbow Trout. I have caught some 15-16 inch trout here that really put up a fight, In comparison to some other easily accessible rivers from NY I have had a lot of good luck with bigger trout here (maybe not more trout but bigger)
Approach I have found the most success here by using a fairly basic 45 degree cast upstream over seems that run over a lot of the deeper boulder fields. I typically use a nymph rig under and small indicator or use a dry dropper setup where I have had success with fish attacking both the dry and the nymph. There is good bug activity with plenty of hatches to match with dry flies. I will say the river does get a lot of pressure so the fish can be spooked and it can be tough sometimes when you have 3 people in a 100 yard span of the river slapping lines all over the water. With all the pressure these fish get I would try to go a bit longer on the leader, try to Euro-Nymph where possible, and try to avoid too much commotion in the water. There a lot of little pocket spots around boulders all over the river, I recommend that you try each of those for a few casts and keep moving. This river has a lot of different situations which require different tactics for fishing so have fun and try it all.