Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the South Branch of Raritan River New
Most New Jersey anglers will tell you the best trout stream in the state is the South Branch
of Raritan River. They would probably add that the best place for fly fishing would be the
Ken Lockwood Gorge, a beautiful area of the stream designated by the New Jersey
Division of Fish and Wildlife as a trout conservation area.
The gorge consist of two and a half miles of the Raritan River’s South Branch between the
towns of Califon and High Bridge. The gorge is surrounded by mountains such that one
gets the feeling they are on a remote, secluded stream. You can find parking along the
side of the road at either end of the gorge. You can walk along a good trail for the entire
length of the special regulation area. It's best to park at the bottom of the gorge near High
Bridge and walk up to the river. The water consist of fast pocket water where an upstream
presentations is always best. The South Branch Raritan River also has some larger size
slower moving pools but they are connected by fast runs and some riffles.
You can fish the waters of the Gorge year-round. The stream can get crowded on the
weekends, especially during the spring and fall season when fishing is at its best. Its best
to fish the stream during the week when you can avoid the crowds.
The Claremont stretch is located outside the town of Long Valley. It's the first truly
productive public water on the South Branch. This section has some native brook trout
and naturally reproducing brown trout. There's a large parking area specifically for
angler's and those who utilize Patriot's Path. A trail meanders alongside the river in the
town of Califon. The Claremont section averages about ten to twenty feet in width. It has
some deep pools and pockets but is shallow and easy to wade.
The fish in the upper section can be extremely selective with regard to flies. Multiple
hatches are not uncommon. The fish are very extremely wary, so making a sneaky, quite
approach is absolutely necessary for success.
Casting room can also be a problem. Tree branches, fallen trees and protruding bushes
overhanging the stream presents a problem at times. A natural drag-free presentation of a
dry fly is a must or your fly will be rejected by the trout. The best brown trout holding areas
are often located along the banks underneath the overhanging brushes.
In the Ken Lockwood Gorge area, the river is different. It widens, gets deeper, and
increases in flow. It's more difficult to wade than the upper section.
Most anglers think the best time of the year to fish the gorge is the Fall. According to the
anglers that frequently fish the South Branch, the opportunities seem to get better near
the end of autumn. Like the Claremont area, the Gorge contains some native brook trout
and some naturally reproducing browns. A few rainbows will probably be caught, but they
are most likely holdovers from stockings at other locations.
Fly fishing the South Branch Raritan River can be a wonderful experience. Most anglers
wouldn't believe such good trout fishing opportunities exist close to New York City and
near many of the most populated areas of the nation.
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