The magic of the Delaware River seeps into my consciousness every once in a while, alright more often than that, but the reason for that has legs to stand on. We are truly blessed to have such a fishery within a few hours drive. Yes, there are other great rivers in the area, but to go to that water, the birthplace of American fly fishing, to witness the prolific hatches and to chase the noses of wild trout that demand your A game is a treasure worth dreaming of.
I am a relative newcomer to this fishery, but the more time I get to spend on it the more I appreciate it. Yeah I know the fish are easier to catch nymphing, but that is not the challenge that draws me there nor the reason it steals my thoughts. It is stalking big noses, rising fish, with dry flies that draws me to these waters. I have been blessed to have fished some great rivers in my life time and seen rivers boil with rising fish, but that typically isn’t what one sees on the “D”. Yet it draws me slowly deeper and deeper into its waters.
The Delaware’s trout rarely get into a steady feeding rhythm. They rise a few times then shift position and rise again. Sometimes as many as five minutes can lapse between rises. It can be maddening, but that is the luxury of fish that live in rivers with such a biomass of insect life and the curse of us fisherman who try to catch them. The other thing that seems to happen on the Delaware is that when you figure out what stage, size and type of insect one fish is feeding on you generally have to start the whole process over on the next fish. On most other rivers once you crack the code it is game on for every subsequent fish, but this is not on the “D”.
This past week my dreams turned into reality as I was able to spend two delicous days plying its waters and matching my skills against its inhabitants. The first day found me on the West Branch with strong wind and flotillas of Hendricksons riding down the river plus an almost equal amount of Blue Quills, assorted caddis species and stoneflies. Given the amount of insects on the waters surface the fish weren’t too happy to feed on top, likely the result of there being to much wind. Nonetheless the day proved to be a banner day on two counts. First, I got my first Delaware slam, a brookie (my first), a pig of a brown and two bows including a large bow. I’m not one to count fish usually, but when the numbers are so low it’s easy to keep count.Well now we come to what I most appreciate about the “D”, you have to earn these fish. Rarely do they come easily. On this day I had targets most of the day, not easy ones, as they were mostly sporadic except a handful of noses eagerly sucking down duns tight to the far bank. Given the wind direction and strength plus the depth of the spot just getting a cast far enough with slack was a challenge. Long story short finally one of them sucked my emerger down and it was game on. The big brown was my best fish on this river to date and I knew that it was a well earned fish. Later that day two bows were fooled by my flies, but it was that big fish under such tough conditions that made me feel like I’d earned that fish.