New Jersey–Better than You Think

When thinking of New Jersey what springs to mind? Jersey City, Newark airport, the shore. Some might know of the state’s tomato-growing tradition; some might know it definitively as the armpit of the US.

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Sure, the cities in New Jersey close to New York City are not where one would visit, except for business or en route to the airport or to Manhattan.

After all, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country, with 1,200 souls crammed onto each square mile! It’s hardly seems like a place to escape to.

And then there is the Jersey Shore: A beautiful stretch of wide, sandy beaches that are home to many charming seaside towns. Unfortunately, many of them suffer from the overcrowding of day-trippers and tourists. And of course there is always the disappointing portrayal of the shore by a certain MTV reality show a few years back.

But as with so many things, these are just the negative perceptions of an otherwise great state.

One could generalize and argue that the further away from the coast–and especially from Manhattan–you go, the prettier the state is. Here is another New Jersey: rolling hills, vast forests, and well-groomed farmland form the picturesque backcountry of the Garden State.

In fact, there is some great fly fishing just an hour or so west of New York. Just south of Califon, on the Raritan River’s South Branch, is the Ken Lockwood Gorge. The river there is stocked by local efforts–mainly the folks at Shannon’s.

Shannon’s, by the way,  is the single best fly fishing shop in all of NJ that I know of. Not only do they have a great selection of flies, many of them tied in the back of the shop, they also are very helpful in choosing the right pattern on any given day, or suggesting a good spot for some guaranteed fishing success. Guided trips in the area and fly fishing classes are available, and you can purchase your NJ fishing license there. Other than that, the people at Shannon’s are very active in the preservation of the local fisheries, such as the Musconetcong and the Pequest river.

A tributary of the North Branch Rarity River is the Lamington River. This is another prime example of a picturesque central New Jersey. It’s source is somewhere west of Morristown, then it flows mostly south through the Black River WMA, Black River County Park, and Hacklebarney State Park. From there, it meanders through private farm lands between Hunterdon and Somerset County.

The Lamington or Black river is a beautiful little trout stream with some easy access to the water. It allows for many relaxing hours in nature since it is tucked away from major roads and noisy settlements. A private fishing club in Hacklebarney Park manages a stretch of the free-stone river for trout fishing. Though not always easy to find, there are wild trout throughout the course of the river.

In the hot summer months it is not recommended to fish there, as high water temperatures put a lot of stress on the fish, which must not be exacerbated by additional fishing pressure. As a matter of fact, this July and August, sadly, I have seen many dead Salmonoids in various locations along the Lamington. In my opinion, there are two possible reasons for the agglomerated deaths: One is the high water temperatures and the other one may unfortunately be unnecessary stress on the fish by fishermen.

So get out there and explore New Jersey with rod in hand–just remember to respect the fish and the nature that surrounds you!

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