Fly Fishing the Raritan River: The Ken Lockwood Gorge Area
It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been fishing as much as I’d like. My wife and I recently moved to New York, and settling into everyday life has left me with less free time. I’m hoping to change that as we move into the Spring, and wanted to kick things off with a report on my first trip; fishing the Raritan River in New Jersey.
As I’ve learned, New Jersey is a wonderful place to go trout fishing. Only about an hour from New York City, one can find several streams well-suited for both stocked and wild trout. There are several wild brook and brown trout streams, which was surprising for me to learn. We had an unseasonably warm day the first week of February, and I decided this was my opportunity to check out the Ken Lockwood Gorge area of the Raritan River.
I arrived in the Northern parking lot of the Lockwood Gorge area. There’s a great looking pool right by the parking lot that I checked out first. I drifted a two nymph rig through this section for 5-10 minutes, and didn’t have any takes.
As I moved downstream, I stopped at every riffle, run, and pool I could find. Never having fished the Raritan before, I tried several different flies, including what I consider to be my old reliables. As I moved away from the Northern parking lot I began to see more anglers. (usually a good sign!) I passed a bridge and a bend, and it seemed like there were anglers all over the place. I chit-chatted with everyone I passed, but no one was having any luck. It’s always good to say hello and get insight from others whenever you can; more on that later!
I like the look of the gorge area after the bridge. It looks very “fishy”, filled with boulders and rushing water. I suspect that the water may have been running a little high because the area had seen snow in the week prior. I mostly used a size 18 stonefly, with a size 20 Rainbow Warrior as the second fly.
I walked downstream fishing as many spots as I could, but not seeing much activity. I had a few instances where I thought I had a fish on, but it could have just as well been a hang up on the bottom. I walked all the way down to a second parking lot, and it seems like there were even more people fishing here. I suspected there must generally be more fish in that area. I tried the few unpopulated spots that I could find, and decided to go back upstream, fishing any spots that were previously occupied by other anglers.
While fishing a promising looking pool, a man walked by with his dog and asked how I was doing. I told him the flies I was using and that there wasn’t much activity. He mentioned that it’s usually slower this time of the year. This comment was great for me to hear because it meant he fishes the stream regularly. I’m always ready to hear what locals might have to say because it helps me learn the river faster. I asked if he’s had any luck lately and if he suggested any spots to try. He named a section of the river he likes to fish, and I decided I’d give it a shot before I left.
After two hours of fishing (and wet pants from a stumble in my waders), I decided to try out the recommended spot before leaving. I waded out and started drifting my nymphs through a couple of promising areas. I was probably on my 10th drift, and that’s when I felt the weight of a fish. I could tell it was a good-sized one. In the cold winter water, it wasn’t too eager to run, and I was happy about that this day. I quickly got it to my net and was surprised to see this Rainbow. It was beautifully colored with healthy fins, and a kype!
Shortly after catching this fish, I drifted my flies a few more times through this section of the river and decided to call it a day. I had left my house at 11:00am and was back home by 3:00pm. It’s nice to know that I have a couple of options if I need to get away and fish for a few hours, even if driving is most of the trip. All in all, the Ken Lockwood Gorge area is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
8 thoughts on “Fly Fishing the Raritan River: The Ken Lockwood Gorge Area”
I am glad to see you are reporting again and enjoyed this report. I spend time in NJ, have never fished there, but have wondered about the streams I see there. It is good to see there are trout in some of them. Glad you connected with that nice rainbow. Be Well, Sam
Thanks Sam. I’m finding that New Jersey has a surprising amount of places to fish for trout. I fished a wild trout stream in NJ that was about 3 feet across. Reminded me of a mountain brook trout stream. Hope you’re staying well and finding time to get out and fish.
Awesome write up. The Gorge is one of my favorite spots to go and surprisingly, I have never been skunked there (knock on wood). But even if there’s no fish, the surrounding natural beauty is enough. Next time you go, you can try further upstream between the Gorge and Califon, there’s some nice pockets! Tight lines
Thanks Jesse! It’s been a productive stream for me too, and such a beautiful place. thanks for the tip about Califon! I fished up in Califon one time and caught a ton of rainbows. I think they must have recently stocked it at that time, because it was crowded, and the trout were taking just about everything. Not a bad problem to have I guess!
Certainly not a bad problem to have! I’ve heard that Shannon’s fly shop in Califon stocks a few on their own and tags them. If you catch one and snap a photo, I think there’s prizes. I moved to NYC about 4 years ago, so I definitely savor any trip to the Gorge since they’re hard to come by now.
Good to know! I’m in NYC as well. Hope to make it back over to the Gorge sometime soon, I know it was closed for a little bit due to COVID furloughs.
Yup, I’ll be there Saturday 10/17 for most of day if you’re making a trip out. Hoping for a good day especially with NJ just completing their fall stocking. Good luck!
Just in case anyone sees this, I’m posting it here. I think I may have left my patagonia sling pack at the ken lockwood gorge a few weeks ago. Can’t find it anywhere!
Let me know if anyone’s found one.