For love of fly fishing

Local enthusiast shares some tips


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Photos



  • A beautiful wild rainbow trout caught in northwest NJ. This is a rarity in New Jersey. There is only a handful of rivers in NJ that have rainbow trout successfully reproducing. And all rivers that do are only in northwest New Jersey. Photos by Robert Shephard except where otherwise indicated




  • A wild brown trout caught at a designated wild trout stream in northwest NJ




  • Stocked rainbow trout caught at the Big Flatbrook river




  • Another wild brown trout caught in northwest NJ at a designated wild trout stream.




  • Robert Shepard at his place of work: Merit Imports in Paramus. Photo by Rose Sgarlato




By Rose Sgarlato

— April 7 marked the official start of the fly fishing season. Local aficionado Robert Shepard was happy about it, and shared some tips about his favorite pastime.

Passionate about anything related to marine life, Shepard works in the profession at a marine wholesaler that imports fish and coral from all over the world and sells them to shops across the country. Often he can be found sourcing coral in the Philippines, Vietnam or Indonesia along with many other remote islands.

But when he is stateside, Shepard relaxes by fly-fishing, almost every day, for over 15 years. His mentor is an 87-year old neighbor, Bob Craig, in Oak Ridge on Lake Swannanoa.

“Once you pick up a fly rod, you will never pick up a regular pole,” Shepard said. “Although the season started last week, there are wild trout streams you can fish all year long but with strict regulations. You can go to the NJ Fish and Wildlife website and learn. There are new regulations this year, put in place to protect the wild trout of New Jersey.”

And protecting the environment is a huge mantra. He uses barbless flys so the trout don’t get hurt, and it’s all catch and release.

“I am into conservation and keeping the areas clean," he said. "Bring a garbage bag to collect waste and always check the regulations on certain rivers at New Jersey Fish and Wildlife." he provided the website: www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/.

He said it’s all about “matching the hatch” and “the right fly.” Shepard provided some basic instruction to get started.

“Learn the life cycle of bugs and learn what types there are in your area," he said. "Read books. It’s all trial and error. Once you get the hang of the basics, you will catch on quickly and land some beautiful trout. When you fly fish you never stop learning. Practice, practice, practice.”

Some of his favorite places to fish in Sussex County are Paulinskill River and the Big Flatbrook River.

“Other rivers that are not too far of a drive are the Musconetcong and Pequest rivers. These rivers are heavily stocked with trout during the spring season. There are many wild trout streams to fish in Northwest Jersey as well, but the fun of fishing is finding these gems and respecting the rules and regulations. People are tight lipped about these.”

When asked about identifying the different types of trout, Shepard listed them:

• Rainbow trout , Oncorhynchus mykiss (Latin), is a green silver body with black dots and a bright red/pink stripe going down the side of the body.

• Brown trout, Salmo Trutta, has a brown body with a green hue and has black and red dots along the body.

• And the final trout you can catch in the rivers of New Jersey is the Brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis. These guys have a green body with a red/orange belly and purple and yellow dots.

"The Brook trout is the New Jersey state fish," he explained. "They are also the most sensitive of the three and should be handled accordingly."

Shepard has been all over New Jersey and says great spots are right next door in Kittatinny State Park.

“You feel like you are in West Virginia. We live in a beautiful area, but conservation is needed to preserve that beauty. All anyone has to do is learn and respect the regulations,” he said.

He calls fly fishing his ‘crazy addiction’ that keeps him sane and calm, helping him forget about everything bad that day. But his biggest return is entirely different.

“ Fish brought me to my wife Claudia in Captiva, Florida—I actually met her right in the ocean."







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