All trips start with a plan but some plans take longer than others. I had meant to get out to the Delaware rivershed the last few years and life has simply gotten in the way so this year I said ‘enough’. Back in January at the Somerset show Rich Strolis and I hatched a plan over a few beverages for me to drive out from the west, for him to drag his boat out from the east, and to meet in between somewhere around Hancock NY on the fabled waters of the Delaware. As we looked at calendars then we eliminated weekends that were already accounted for by job and family endeavors and settled on the long weekend of April 11-13. The way we saw it that should be about the time that there would be Hendricksons on the water (along with caddis, stones and olives) and fish looking up. The winter dragged on but it was the light at the end of the tunnel for us, as long as I warmed up… A few weeks prior it was still nearly arctic feeling with snow and ice everywhere and possible issues for both of us with getting away from work so we nearly scrubbed the trip. After a particularly brutal day though Rich told me he was going anyways even if it meant just fishing on Saturday so we decided to give it a go.
The day finally came. I was up at 4 and out the door in 30 minutes with a shower and a thermos of piping hot Florida roasted coffee…life was good. It was raining most of the trip but the kind of rain that a streamer fisherman learns to love as it is enough to dull the surface of the water and get fish off their high guard but not so much that you are unable to partake of a good cigar and become miserable. It is just shy of nine hours drive for me to get from my doorstep to Hancock but the drive there on any trip always seems to go fast. I rolled in right on time, just before 2, met up with Rich and off to the river we went. The plan was to start off with a short float on Friday to pre for the weekend so Rich settled on Balls Eddy to Shehawken. Of course as we put the boat in the rain really started to come down but we were oblivious as we popped the first Oberons of the season and started downstream. Rich took first crack on the oars and I started working the flies through the water. Hopefulness based on the clarity of the water and the broken surface turned to a hardened resolve as we realized the water was still only in the mid-upper 30s. The fishing was certainly slow but highlighted by a monster blow up in shallow water about halfway through the float. I made a long cast to the bank in a slow slick and saw some movement then, as I was about to ask Rich if he had seen that, the water exploded as a large 20+ish brown rolled hard on the fly. I strip set and felt weight but the fish continued to roll at the surface and before I could cross it’s eyes with another hard strip…it was gone. Dejected about sums it up as I really wanted a fish in hand…and really really wanted that fish after I saw the size up top and the width of the tail. Not long after I jumped on the oars for the second half of the float and Rich fished out to the takeout through the continued rain. We both got pretty cold by the time I was on the oars and when we hit the ramp we found out that the temperature had dropped 25 degrees to a chilly 42! Time to drive to his buddy Mike Klubek’s place to regroup and put a hurting on some chicken parm that was waiting for us. Driving south I was amazed to see the size of the ice berms still lining the river down towards Callicoon and past it. They were iceberg sized chunks of ice that were literally as thick as the houses that thy were only yards away from.
Saturday morning came early and we rolled out of bed ready to get back after it. The temps had stayed low overnight so we were in no hurry, we went for a large breakfast at the house before hitting the road and getting back to the river. On the way we decided that our best bet would be a float from above Barking Dog down to Balls Eddy, so on the road we got the spot set up and were ready to roll after dropping the boat in. We were literally 50 yards down from the launch when Rich suggested hitting the middle with a few casts as we were river left…and five casts in to the day he was right! I had a solid 18ish brown lazily rise from the bottom to inspect my fly. I set like I meant business and a minute later we had him in the net. He did not commit and destroy like the trout from the night before…this fish was hooked right at the tip of the lower jaw by the back hook on the fly. We took a few pictures so as to not offend the fish gods, but it seems we must have forgotten about something. As the fish was being released something was muttered about the ‘early fish curse’, and sure enough that proved to be the only fish we saw all day on that long float. Throughout the day we swapped out patterns and retrieves but they were simply having none of it as the water was still below 40, even with the 70 degrees and sunshine we were enjoying. We saw plenty of caddis and stones on the surface but no Hendos, and no fish rising anywhere. We talked to a few boats along the way, a few boats at the launch, and another guide buddy we happened across in town and it seems that early fish was the only one taken all day. Little consolation though…guess I will have to make it back…
One of the coolest things of the day was to catch a Bald Eagle nested up. I know that they are making a comeback along some different rivers that I fish, but I will never get tired of seeing this truly awesome bird in the wild!
Klubek with the intense look of a man that needs some fishy smelling hands...
Big water that is also high and off color can hold fish just about anywhere. Sure you can see some traditional eddys, seamss, rocks, and cover, but it takes a lot of restraint to dial it in and focus on finishing out each cast before moving on to the next with this much possibility surrounding you.
We weren't alone on the water but there were far less boats then there will likely be in abother weeks when the bugs start popping!
Rich working on a little something as the teriyaki marinated venison kebobs cook up for lunch. If you are going to float hard you should eat like royalty.
The prize from Saturday...18ish inches of wild brown trout in hand.
Now to start planning the return...