Author Archives: Joe Mairo

Date: 8/11/18

Time: 5 - 8 am

This turned out to be a snapper blitz. The baby blues were annihilating bay anchovies.

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead High 7:47 am, Cloudy, Rain Predicted, Air Temperature 75, Water Temperature Mid 70s, Very Light South Wind, Flat Surf, Moon 0% Visible, Pressure 29.89

Catch: I caught nothing, but it was a very interesting morning. I witnessed an incredible amount of bait in the surf. They were bay anchovies. Also known as rainfish.

A very distinct feature of the bay anchovy is their over-sized mouth. They're filter feeders and their mouths help them feed. If you zoom in on the picture you can make it out.

Bay Anchovy

While standing on the base of a jetty, I did see one striped bass swim right at me, hit the north jetty pocket at my feet, and make a lighting fast turn before bolting out along the rocks.

Anchovies, swimming for their lives.

But I believe the bait was mostly getting eaten by snapper bluefish. At points, the baby blues had the anchovies hopelessly pinned against the beach and jetty rocks. I squatted in knee deep water, dunked my waterproof camera, and took a few pictures. The bait was so thick that even the snappers were picky. Snapper zappers, a solid match for small rainfish, didn't get touched. Even my Gulp! baits were mostly left alone. That was a first.

Weather Rolling In

By the end of my trip the predicted weather showed up. A wind switch brought cool air and it was clear that mother nature was pushing me to pack it in. No argument here.

*On 8/15/18 I was surfing a few towns south. A similar scene played out both tight to the beach and well outside the jetty tips. I saw bigger splashes in the blitz that was offshore. Something bigger was throwing water.


Date: 7/31/18

Time: 6 - 9 am

Morning glass.

Location: Assunpink Lake

Weather: Scattered Clouds, Morning Air Temperature 70 - 75, Water Temperature In The Shallows Felt Like 80+, No Wind Early, Picked Up Around 8:15 Out of the East 5 - 10 mph, Moon: Waning Gibbous Approximately 80% Visible, Pressure 30.14

Damselfly nymph on the deck of my SUP.

Catch and Thoughts: Fly fishing local ponds and lakes is an absolute blast. Today I fished from my stand up paddle board (SUP). The conditions were ideal. No wind. Instead of getting blown around, I easily stayed in one place. I could also stand and fish, instead of casting from my knees.

When I put in at the boat ramp, I paddled north, straight across the lake. Once I reached the opposite shoreline I turned right. I figured I'd take advantage of my SUP and slowly paddle the shallows, casting poppers and small streamers close to shoreline structure. I was in water most boats couldn't access.

I ended up with two bass. One ate a large popper. The other I hooked on a small streamer that I tied off the hook bend of a different popper. This second set up is just like the dry dropper rigs used when trout fishing moving water. Similar set ups can be used in still water, whether you're chasing trout or bass and panfish. When bass fishing, popper dropper rigs have a lot going for them. First, they allow you to suspend your dropper fly over weeds in shallow water. Also, the bass popper works double duty. It can fool fish on its own while also acting as a bobber/indicator that lets you know when a fish eats your dropper fly.

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Date: 6/26/18

Time: 6 - 10 am

Location: South Branch of the Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge

Weather: Partly Sunny Sky, Morning Air Temperature 56, Water Temperature 64 - 65, Flow: 51 CFS (Mean for the South Branch: 211 CFS), Light Wind, Moon 98% Visible

Catch and Thoughts: I thought of today as my last Jersey trout fishing trip before summer sets in. In July and August, our freestone rivers can get low and warm. This might be old news to readers, but you don't want to fish for trout when the water reaches 70 degrees or higher. A lot of fly fishers, including myself, lay off once it hits 68. At these higher temperatures, water holds less oxygen and the fish get stressed. Even if you catch and release a trout in warm water, they may die.

On this day, cool temperatures were predicted. I arrived at 6 am and my dashboard was reading an air temperature of 56. Good stuff. The water was 64 - 65, so I was in the clear. But at 51 CFS, it was low. I stuck to my plan of contact nymphing and given the low water, I ended up doing pretty well. That's what I tell myself anyway.  

I landed 3 fish and lost another to a bad knot. Live and learn. I also either pricked another fish, or just bumped it with my rig. I thought I had a take, I set, and knocked a good size fish off balance and saw it.   

The two flies that worked were weighted and tied on size 14 jig hook - a Frenchie with a pink hot spot and a Sexy Walt's Worm.

Now's the time to either travel for trout or fish for other fish.


Date: 6/20/18

Time: 5:30 - 7:45 am

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead Low 7:44 am, Sunrise 5:27 am, Air Temperature When Fishing 68 - 70, Water Temperature 65 - 69, Totally Comfortable Wet Wading, Clear Water, Light North Wind, Knee High Surf, Moon 43% First Quarter  

Catch: I ended up with one striped bass on a Stillwater Smack-It Popper and 2 fluke. The fluke were caught fishing the bottom with Gulp! baits. The bass hit and cartwheeled on the popper, hooking himself in the lip and back. It was ugly. I used my pliers and quickly popped the back treble free. Once those hooks were swinging, the front treble was easy.

The tide was falling during my whole session. On mornings like this, when the water is low and the surf small, I love to crawl out to rocks that are usually covered up. After getting my boots firmly stuck, I'll throw parallel to the beach, focusing on the ocean-side edge of the sandbar. There can be a pretty drastic depth change there, especially approaching dead low. This fish was in that zone.

Date: 6/10/18

Time: 5:45 - 7:45 pm

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead High 5:13 pm 5.12 feet, Grey Sky and Drizzling, Onshore Wind, Air Temp 60, Water Temp 55+ and Slightly Dirty, Sunset 8:25 pm, Moon 20%

Catch: The conditions were super fishy. There wasn't much swell or current, so I started with a Gulp! sandworm on a Carolina rig. I've caught both striped bass and fluke on it in the past. On this trip, I watched a fluke hang onto it, but he missed the hook.

I ended up fishing mole crabs on that same rig and had a lot of action. I landed a 20" fluke and 3 striped bass. The biggest bass was 26" and pulled hard. I hooked another striper, but lost it.

All the fish were in the small, shoreline out-sucks. These small rips flowed down the beach lip and into the trough that runs parallel to the beach between the dry sand and the first sandbar. At points I was underhand flipping my bait 10 - 15 feet out and focusing on that zone.

Date: 5/31/18

Time: 6:30 - 9:30 pm

Location: New Jersey Beachfront

Tide and Weather: Dead High 9:29 pm, Very Foggy, Air Temperature 65, Water Temperature 60 (Kids Were Swimming Just In Trunks), Light Wind, Moon 98% Visible

Catch: I beat the skunk with a bluefish. It ate a sinking sandeel SP Minnow that I threw ENE off a jetty tip. When I landed him, he was connected to the plug's back hook. I replace the back treble on my SPs with a dressed 2/0 siwash.

I found a partially decomposed carp on the beach. We recently got a lot of rain and I bet it washed out of a coastal freshwater river or lake.

Date: 5/26/18

Time: 4:30 - 9 am

Location: New Jersey Beachfront and Raritan Bayshore

Tide and Weather: For Beachfront: Dead High 5:32 am, Clear Sky and Warm, Air Temperature - While Fishing About 70, Day's High 90, Water Temperature 56-57, Wind SW, Small Surf Struggling To Break, Moon 85% Visible, Pressure 29.90 and Rising

Catch: The only fish I held was a shad. It ate a teaser I tied. I saw an osprey nab a bunker in the middle of the beach, but casting there didn't change my luck.

After a few hours on the beach, I drove up to the Raritan Bay. I was hoping to find bluefish. That wasn't happening either. The Bayshore was crowded with fishermen. Almost all were chunking bunker and I didn't see a fish caught. While walking the shoreline I noticed one forked tail sticking out of a bucket.

Right before leaving for home I spoke to a group of guys. They'd been fishing all night. Their hard work earned them one blue between 8 of them. It was far from hot and heavy.

The most positive takeaway for me today was my teaser rig. I've experimented with lots of different teaser rig configurations and I'm really happy with this one. Leave it to John Skinner to nail it. He explains the set up in the video below.

To me, the best thing about this rig is that you can quickly add or subtract the teaser. It doesn't require a dropper loop and you don't have to cut anything off or tie any knots. I love the efficiency.

Date: 4/13/18

Time: 5:00 - 5:45 pm

Location: Local Pond

Weather: Sunny, Warm, and Windy, Air Temperature 75, Water Temperature 62 - 63, Wind WSW and Stiff, Moon 11% Visible, Pressure 29.91

Catch: After another week of unseasonably cold days, today felt incredible. I'm writing this on Saturday, 4/14, and it's another beauty - sunny and warm. Unfortunately, the temperature is dropping tonight. The upcoming week isn't supposed to break the low 50s.

During this short trip, I managed a beautiful little pumpkinseed sunfish, a small largemouth bass, and a black crappie. I was connected to a better largemouth, but he shook my barbless fly. I fished a black bead head mini bugger on 3X tippet.

Last summer I was encouraged to fish mini buggers by the crew at the Housatonic River Outfitters.

I fished the Housatonic on September 3, 2017. My New Jersey brain was still in summer mode. I expected to be targeting smallmouth bass in a warm river. But by September 3rd, Connecticut was already well into a string of cool days and cold nights. The river's water temperature was falling. This caused the trout in the thermal refuges to spread back out into the main river.

After getting a license, some flies, and guidance at the shop, I swung bead head mini buggers and had a blast with both smallmouth and trout. The mini bugger has become a favorite fly.

Here's my best picture from that Housy trip, 9/3/17.

Date: 3/31/18

Time: 8:00 am - 1:30 pm

Location: South Branch of the Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge (parked on the downstream end and worked upstream)

Weather: Bright Sun and Clear Sky, Air Temperature 57, Water Temperature N/A (forgot my thermometer), Flow: 166 cfs (Mean for the South Branch: 211), Light Wind, Moon 99% Visible

Catch: With bad weather predicted for the rest of the week, 3/31 looked like the best day to fish. It turned out to be a really satisfying trip.

I lost a lot of flies and tied a lot of knots. I scared myself with some of my wading decisions. I almost buckled my wading staff. But in the end, I landed 4 or 5 fish and connected with a few more that came unbuttoned. All stocked rainbows.

Today finally felt like spring. There were multiple bugs in the air, but dark caddis flies were the most conspicuous. I didn't see a fish rise. All my fish were caught subsurface. Everyone I chatted with said the same.

Since we've had such a cold spring, I approached the day like winter. I fished double fly rigs under an indicator in deep, walking speed water. My favorite indicator nymph rig right now is straight from George Daniel's incredible book, Dynamic Nymphing. I take a 7'6" 4X Rio Powerflex leader and cut 8" off the tippet end. This makes the leader 6'10" overall, but still quickly tapers down to 4X. To this 4X tippet I knot a tippet ring. The strike indicator goes above the ring. Now I can attach long sections of 4X, 5X, or even 6X tippet directly to the ring and still maintain a proper taper. Plus, since it's just tippet below the indicator, the flies sink more quickly.

Like I said, I lost a lot of flies throughout the day. Here are the flies that worked for me.

These were freshly tied after I got home, left to right: #18 Zebra Midge with a Caddis Green Hotspot and 3/32 Tungsten Bead, #22 Midge Emerger (with this style of hook, it's a big #22), #14 Jig Prince with a CDC Collar (this fly is heavy), #16 Pheasant Tail and Partridge and a #16 Hare's Ear and Partridge with a Caddis Green Thorax.

With all the caddis in the air, I fished the soft hackles tied off the bend of the Prince Nymph and had some fish really take it hard.

And if periodic hang-ups didn't let me know I was on the bottom, this guy did.

Date: 2/21/18

Time: 4:45 - 5:45 pm

Location: Local Pond

Weather: Sunny and Very Warm, Air Temperature 76, Water Temperature 64, Wind SW and Light, Moon 23% Visible, Pressure 30.26


I didn't catch a fish, but fish were active. It was incredible to see water temperatures so high. It made sense because today was a record breaker. Some parts of New Jersey pushed 80 degrees.

It was like a summer evening as I slowly approached the water. Far from the water's edge, fish felt my boots and darted into deeper water. As I fished, I saw other swirls in deeper parts of the pond.

I got a phone call during this session from Shop Rite Joe. He's going to handle beer and wine for my wedding. It was a call I had to take.

Even though I didn't connect with a fish, I was glad I went. At this stage in my fishing, casting a fly rod is all about feel, timing, and muscle memory. I love getting to know my equipment. Style comes with comfort.

You get better by going.