Yesterday I had the pleasure of fishing the Delaware river for the first time in my life. For many reasons, this was a day I will not forget.
I woke to pouring rain and met the rest of the crew at the West Branch Angler. Almost immediately, a sheriff pulled up and let us know that a creek miles upstream had received around three inches of rain. There had been flash flooding, some bridges were out, and we could soon expect the river to rise ia few feet. I thought my day on the river was done.
My guide for the day, Captain Adrian LaSorte, scratched his head for a moment, then hustled me and Orvis employee Tyler Atkins into his car. We could tore off downriver. Downriver, I thought. “Now that’s a strange place to head if you know a flash flood is imminent.”
LaSorte was gambling big time with the move, but he figured we’d have a few hours before the crest reached us, and knew a spot that should hold large rising fish with the rainy conditions. We ended up fishing there all day. It was a long, flat pool, with almost no structure whatsoever. We literally put in and took out at the exact same boat launch, simply rowing up and down the half-mile stretch looking for heads and tails. This was a first for me.
We started fishing with 12-foot leaders and size 28 ants. There were lots of eating fish, but few that would buy what we were selling. We did have five or six eat, but could bring nothing to net. These were smart, savvy fish, large fish…
It was the flood that saved our day, and LaSorte knew it was going to work that way. The fishing got better and better as the water rose, the clarity slowly started getting worse, and debris started floating by. Basically, the fish couldn’t see as well, and with leaves and sticks in the water, they had a very short window to analyze the bugs as they drifted over. It quickly became a slay-fest. We had shot after shot at rising fish, with a few double hook-ups and many fish brought to the boat. The cherry on top was a little present from the river gods: a fly box full of untouched bugs literally drifted downriver into our boat. I looked down, picked it up, plucked a mayfly out of what must have been $300 worth of flies, tied it on, and caught a fish. I tried giving the box to the guy at the West Branch Angler, but he told me nobody was ever going to claim it, and that I should keep it as a gift from the Delaware River. It was a beautiful end to a very strange day that started out looking about as dire as it gets for trout fishing.
As it has in the past and I hope will continue to do in the future, fishing has taught me that you never really know what’s going to happen and if you at least try to make something out what seems like a busted day, you will often be surprised by the outcome.