Fishing Zebra Midges on Pequest River for Brown and Rainbow Trout
Our first time on the Pequest, my first impression was of green algae thicker than I would have expected to see even in summer, a slightly disgusting surprise. A river regular told me it's because of the mild winter. The Pequest reminded us of the Salmon River: water was not especially clear. With all the limestone springs that feed it, I had almost expected water as pure as the Dunnfield Creek's. The way I remember the Pequest where it empties into the Delaware--we were fishing for stripers that evening and night--is not how it was in the Trout Conservation Area today. That was summer and the river seemed especially clear.
We saw a 16-inch brown caught (photographed being netted above). My son missed a strike from a 14-incher, which turned on its side the moment Matt felt the hit to give him a clean flash of fish. We went downstream a half mile or so to evade the crowd. We used no strike indicators, kept the flies at bottom, but we both are novices at this, although my casting is sure and precise compared to how I began last year. Lots of good water, the deepest we encountered about four feet, but plenty of good cuts and sluices, big rocks everywhere. I do suggest you really walk the river, however, and trails are well defined. Most of the anglers stayed very close to the parking lot. At sunset, I would have been wise to switch to a Wooly Bugger for low light. I didn't think of it until I had seen a trout rise and refuse to hit the midge as I worked the area very carefully, which it may not have been able to see by then for all I know, although trout have very special vision according to what I've read.
Speaking of which, Tom Gilmore's book Fly Fishing the Big Apple clued us into zebra midges. According to Gilmore these tiny flies--ours size 18, I think--work almost always on this river. At Efinger Sporting Goods a happenschance angler insisted I buy brown midges the same size along with the zebras, which I did, and tried one. Gilmore has imparted to me great confidence in this river long before I have actually fished it (my son did explore upstream a way with his rod that summer evening mentioned). I certainly knew better than to let some greenery on rocks ruin my experience. However, I feel as if I will always prefer the Dunnfield to any other New Jersey stream, although I'm biased with my amazing experiences on it during my youth. To this day when I go to the Dunnfield, I drink straight from it above where the AT verges left. I've been told by at least one deep New Jersey environmental mind not to do this and I feel as if--not that I am crazy, not that at all--but that I may be to divulge this so openly. But why not? I have only one life to live.
That water is pure aqua green as if it comes directly from springs and the water that doesn't is moss-filtered, etc. I've been there after very heavy rain, and although the stream nearly broke its banks, it still ran clear.
Speaking with the regular on the Pequest, we both agreed the Trout Conservation Area should be catch and release only year 'round. I bet that's how most who fish it feel.