Raritan River Fly Fishing
The South Branch of the Raritan, in Northwestern New Jersey, is an outstanding river with good hatches and an abundance of good-sized trout. Flowing from Bud Lake, the river stretches for more than 40 miles to the town of South Branch, where it meets the North Branch of the Raritan. Almost year round, the cool, adequate flows from Bud Lake help provide an outstanding holdover population of rainbow and brown trout.
The headwaters of the South Branch, from Bud Lake down to Long Valley, are moderate in size.
This stretch of water averages 30- to 40-feet wide and has tight, overhanging trees, crashing pocket water, and beautiful deep pools that help provide shade and comfort for the trout here. You’ll also find brook trout in this part of the river. The access up here is somewhat limited–just abide by the posted signs and you’ll find some good areas to park and fish.
From Long Valley to High Bridge, more of the river is open to the public, and there are miles of great fishing. This entire stretch, with tumbling pocket water and swift deep pools, is well stocked all the way to South Branch.
You’ll find many large holdover fish, especially around the Ken Lockwood Gorge. This beautiful area, located in Califon, is a 2.5-mile stretch of Year Round Trout Conservation Regulations started in 2002. There is also a Year Round Trout Conservation in Morris County. The regulations here call for a one-fish limit exceeding 15 inches. Catch-and-release fishing is common and it keeps this section full of holdover trout in the 12- to 16-inch class.
The water below Ken Lockwood Gorge to High Bridge has an abundant population of trout, and quality water. The lower end of the river is below High Bridge, where the fishing remains good all the way to the town of South Branch. This area also is well stocked, and provides outstanding fishing, especially early in the season, until about late-June. This stretch of river has good pocket water, runs, and pools. You’ll find a few areas posted, but access is still available for you to stop and wet a line.
It’s fairly easy to access the South Branch of the Raritan. There are a few major roads that either follow or cross its path. Route 46 crosses the river just south of Bud Lake, where the South Branch originates. And south of High Bridge, Route 78 crosses the river. From Long Valley to High Bridge, Route 513 follows the river, providing easy access. Many secondary roads follow the river as well, giving anglers easy paths to its banks. All along the way, keep your eyes open for non-posted land and parking areas.
For a New Jersey river, hatches on the South Branch of the Raritan are outstanding, and they offer great dry-fly fishing in its fabulous pools and pocket water. Hendricksons, Blue Quills, Cahills, Sulphurs, Isonycias, Blue-Winged Olives, and Little Yellow Stoneflies are a few of the hatches you’ll find here. Evenings throughout the spring and summer can produce great dry-fly action.
The best daytime fishing is done with nymphs throughout the pockets, and streamers in high-water conditions. You’ll also notice an abundance of Terrestrials and Midges that can produce well too. The South Branch of the Raritan River offers anglers a great fishing experience. The waters throughout the river, including Ken Lockwood Gorge, are beautiful -and they’re just 30 to 50 miles from New York City.
The next time you’re in the area, stop by and enjoy the fishing experience the South Branch of the Raritan offers–you’ll be glad you did.