The Pequest River is not the type of river that will impress you with its sheer size. As a mater of fact, if this body of water were in Virginia or Pennsylvania it would no doubt be called Pequest Creek. The Pequest River however lies in the great state of New Jersey, and it holds sizeable trout all year, so it should certainly make it on to your list of places to fish regardless of its diminutive size. The old adage of “big things often come in small packages” is rightly applied here. The Pequest, located near the town of Stanhope, offers easy access off of Route 46, and the fact that fly anglers here can get a trout fix without having to leave the state is noteworthy to say the least.
The best know part of the Pequest is commonly referred to as the hatchery section which lies within the Trout Conservation Section. As the name implies, a state-run hatchery lies just off its banks and occasionally some trout no doubt “escape” from the hatchery.
The cold-water discharge from the hatchery actually helps keep this section of the river from becoming over heated and travels down stream, which in turn keeps the trout content to stay nearby. There’s a large parking area near the hatchery section, so don’t be surprised to see multiple vehicles already parked there unless you arrive in the wee hours of the morning. If this is the case, simply walk up or down stream since few anglers take the time or effort to do this. That being said, there is a lot of pressure on this section of the stream in particular since trout often stack up here in small pods. As a matter of fact, the locals often call this section of the river “the kiddie pool” since finding and catching fish here is not considered terribly difficult.
Be aware that some of the older local fly anglers consider the Pequest “their river” and will have no problem walking with in easy casting distance of you. I had one older gentleman who said he was going to just go in above me but give me plenty of room to fish. He stopped all of 15 feet upstream of me. Oddly enough, it really didn’t affect the fishing.
Fishing the Pequest is hardly limited to the well known hatchery section however. Anglers can find multiple pull offs all along Route 46 some of which are easily spotted and others being small enough to barely to accommodate two cars, but they are there. One likely looking spot is right behind Jonny’s Hot Dog stand a New Jersey institution. Fishing the Pequest is best done between April and November, and landing a half dozen rainbows and brown in a single afternoon in the 14- to 18-inch class when the river is hot is not uncommon.
Beyond the Trout Conservation Area, less pressured but productive water flows all the way to the town of Belvidere before the river empties into the Delaware River. Much of this section of the river is over looked since it’s not quite a scenic, but don’t bother telling the trout because they don’t seem to know that they shouldn’t be there. Smallies often inhabit this section of the river. The Pequest is the perfect place for trout bums in New York and New Jersey to get a quick trout fix without heading for a two day road trip to some place like the Catskills. Do yourself a favor and visit the Pequest, it will be well worth the trip
Beau Beasley (www.beaubeasley.com) is a career captain with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. He is the author of Fly Fishing Virginia and a member of Local 2068.