After some early morning office work I was able to pack up for a quick trip to the Manasquan River. Yesterday I stopped by a local outdoors shop and picked up a few wooly buggers since I wouldn't have the time to tie any before today. Got to talking with the fly guy their about the sea-run brown trout and how far up the Manasquan they go. He said guys come in the shop catching big browns up into Howell above Route 9. So that is where I started, Route 9 and Casino Road. I pulled onto Luxury lane off of Casino and it dead ended into the river. The water was muddy brown and full of trees and garbage. I did thrown a chartreuse wooly bugger into a couple of deep holes without a hit. I headed back to my car and found a little better section at the West Farms Road bridge. I parked and crossed the road and headed upstream. After maneuvering through heavy brush I found a place to throw in. This spot looked familiar to something I watched on ESPN last month. Larry Dahlberg was fishing for wolf fish in Surinam. I stayed for about 30 minutes and packed it in. I traveled downstream near Allaire State Park and had the river to myself. I still had on the chartreuse wooly bugger and then switched over
to a chartreuse flash caddis. For some reason I thought green was the ticket. After about and hour I switched over to good sized black wooly bugger and went to work. The air temps were 34 and the water temp 38 degress, a little colder then the last time I was here. The guides kept freezing up and the ice had to be knocked off to let the line pass through. I fished the same
water with no result and then upstream to water I hadn't touched in years. I was in pursuit of sea-run browns and had emailed the Mark Boriek, the chief Fisheries Biologist from the State, the day before with some questions. So I standing in cold water when my Blackberry chimed that I had and email, it was Marc with some answers to my questions. The questions I really wanted answer was do the sea-runs actually spawn or just come back because they think they're going to spawn, he answered the later. The water temps and substrate wouldn't support spawning, although he did say some anglers have reported seeing fish spawn. So after that I was a little re-energeized and within 10 minutes I had nice healthy brown trout that took the dead drifted wooly bugger hard off the bottom. He was nice steady fight and after a quick photo
he was back in the water. The section I fished was a nice hard cut bank that I knew must hold another bigger fish. I left this section and went upstream and fished beneath the railroad bridge, great water that I worked really hard in but no fish. So that brought me back down to where I caught the brown. I still had the wooly bugger on, with a small BB split shot, non-lead, and casted upstream and left it drift along the bottom down. After a dozen casts a felt a hard strike as I lifted the rod. It was a heavy fish. I could feel it trying to shrug off the wooly bugger. When I got it to the net I couldn't believe how big it was, just over 18 inches, with a nice pink hue starting to come it, and good fins all the way around. I could picture this fish on someone's dinner table on opening day. As I held the fish in the net I struggled to get my camera out of my top pocket. I was trying to get the zipper undone with one hand, hold the net in the water, and hold my rod with two fingers. I got my camera, wet my hand and slid it under the fish, and then the fish slid into the water. No picture. But what a nice fish.
I felt that I couldn't beat those two fish there so I decided to head down river to fish the Hospital Road bridge access. After a quick drive I pulled into the parking area and surveyed the water. It was even murkier then upstream, hard high cut banks, with even bends and trees then I would have liked. But I gave it a shot. I fell at least 4 times on the mud that lined the stream and I was covered in that orange mud-clay thick nasty stuff they call soil down there. I did more walking then fishing and eventually made my way to the Garden State Parkway bridges. Again
I waited for Larry to show up with a Teramar rod looking to hoist some devil from the deep. Or two old guys sitting on chairs with their rods leaning against a sapling while they catfished. I surveyed the water there and made a few casts, busted my ass on the mud and started walking out. They say that this spot is one of the best for the sea-run browns, usually after a heavy rain.
I can't wait to come back and give a shot when the browns are here, funny thing is, they are super skittsy and easily spooked. Sea-run browns are supposedly super nocturnal, and night fishing is the best time to catch one. It still isn't the prettiest spot here to fish, but maybe in the fall I will come back here to try and get one. The water is deep, slow moving, full of trees and
branches, just what a fly fisherman loves! On my way out I met some guys fishing, one with a fly rod, who said he picked up a few small browns above the bridge so I hit before I left. I went a few sizes on my black wooly bugger and did have one small brown come up and lip it and release. I fell twice more and then drove home. It was so muddy down there I had to wash the car and my waders even thought we were due to get over a foot of snow Friday night.