Copyright 2021 James Marsh
Fly Fishing South Branch Raritan River
The South Branch of the Raritan River is a tributary of
the main stem of the Raritan River. It's one of New
Jersey's better trout streams. The South Branch flows
for about forty miles from Bud Lake to the little town of
South Branch where it joins the Raritan River. Fly fishing
the South Branch Raritan River can be both very
rewarding and enjoyable.
The stream holds many wild trout in its uppermost
sections. Cool water flowing from Bud Lake during most
of the year, allows stocked rainbow and brown trout to
holdover well. There are also plenty of wild brook trout in
The section from Bud Lake downstream to Long Valley
varies from twenty to forty foot in width with plenty of
fast, pocket water. There is ample public access.
Below Long Valley downstream to High Bridge, the
stream offers some public access but access to this
areas is somewhat limited. You have to make sure your
not fishing on private property. The water doesn't stay
quite as cool during the hot summer months as it does in
the uppermost section, but it stays cool enough to
sustain a good population of holdover brown and some
holdover rainbow trout. The best section in this area is
in the Ken Lockwood Gorge.
At times the stream in the gorge area can be a little
congested with anglers. The South Branch is only about
an hour or less from New York City. The area in Califon
has a two and a half mile section of year-round fishing
that's Special Regulation water consisting mostly of
catch and release fishing. There's another Special
Regulations area in Morris County. These Special
Regulation areas have a one fish limit but it must exceed
15 inches or otherwise, the trout must be released. I
suggest you keep a close check on the current
regulation because they are subject to change.
The section form Ken Lockwood Gorge to High Bridge
has some great fly fishing waters and a good population
of trout. Fishing is also good below the High Bridge
downstream as far as the little town of South Branch.
This section is heavily stocked. These sections have a
typical, ideal trout stream configuration of runs, riffles
Access is available in most areas but there are sections
of private property, so you need to pay attention to
where you fish. You can access the river from Route
#46 which crosses the South Branch just to the south of
Bud Lake at the streams uppermost end. Route #78
crosses the river just to the south of High Bridge. Route
#513 follows along the stream with plenty of access
points all the way from Long Valley to the High Bridge.
Parking areas are available but some of the river is
bordered by private property.
South Branch Raritan
River New Jersey
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Varies with the section
Spring is probably the best time to fish the
South Branch of the Raritan River due to the
The water can get a little too warm in the
lower sections of the river during the summer.
South Branch Raritan River Fly
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
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
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
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
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.
South Branch Raritan River Hatches
and Trout Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
South Branch Raritan River and in all stages
of life that are applicable to fishing. If you
want to fish better, more realistic trout flies,
have a much higher degree of success, give
us a call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
Hatches on the South Branch of the Raritan
River are outstanding, offering great dry-fly
fishing at times. The earliest hatches are the
Little Winter stoneflies. They start in March.
In April, you can expect to see hatches of
Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, Blue-winged
Olives and Hendricksons/Red Quills. Various
species of Blue-winged Olives will continue
to hatch until late June. There will be a
second wave of Blue-winged Olives that start
in late September and last through October.
American March Browns and Sulphurs will
start hatching in the middle of May. The
March Browns will end about the first week of
June but the sulphurs will continue to hatch
on throughout the month of June.
Little Yellow stoneflies, often called Yellow
Sallies, will start hatching in the middle of
May and last until the first of July. There will
be a second hatch of Little Yellow Stoneflies
taking place from the middle of August
through the middle of September.
Cinnamon Sedges (caddisflies) start
hatching in mid May and last through the
month of June. They are the most common
species of caddisflies.
Green Sedges are also present and
hatch from about the first of May into the
first week or two of June.
You will find some Light Cahills present
from mid May through the month of June.
They will hatch from the faster sections
Slate Drakes hatch from about the
middle of May all the way through
September but they start out fairly
heavy, slow down during the hottest
weather, and increase again during the
month of September.
There are a few Yellow Drakes in the
slower sections of the stream with softer
bottoms. These large mayflies hatch
from mid-June into the first two weeks of
July, but its never a very heavy hatch.
There's a White Fly hatch that occurs in
the slower sections of the river in August.
It last into the first week or two of
Terrestrial insects such as grass
hoppers, beetles, and ants are also
important food items during the warmer
months of the year. You can use
imitations of them successfully from July
Most of the baitfish and minnow trout
feed on in the Raritan River are sculpin.
Streamers that imitate sculpin work well
during low light or stained water
Fall is a favorite time to fish the river due
to the brown trout spawn and beautiful
colors of the trees.
The special regulation area can be fished
during the winter provided the weather is
Photos Courtesy of Dennis McCarthy
Photos Courtesy of Dennis McCarthy
Fishing Report Updated 01/19/21
(Bottom Of Page)
South Branch Raritan River Fishing Report - 01/19/21
The river is flowing a little above a normal level. There are several hatches taking place,
and we continue to get some very good reports.
7 Day Weather Forecast: (click here to see more detailed weather information)
Recommended Trout Flies:
Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin and Articulated streamers, size 6
Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin, size 4/6
Blue-winged Olives, 16/18, nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners
Aquatic Worms, size 12, pink, red, and others.
Winter Stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
Our Brown Sculpin, White Belly Sculpin and Articulated streamers are great flies to use
during the spring and in fact, the entire season.
The Black Matuka Sculpin and Olive Matuka Sculpin are good streamers to use at this time.
Blue-winged Olives are hatching.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Aquatic worms are working.
We still think the best strategy is to fish a tandem Midge rig under a small strike indicator
with the midge lava as the bottom fly and the midge pupa as the top fly. Fish the adult
midge only when you observe trout feeding on the surface.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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