My favorite North Branch Raritan hole was so slow I wondered if someone had fished it out, but most of the bass are nine to 11 inches, under keeper size, so that's not likely. I think smallmouths migrate, but not en masse, and this hole has always been active. I did lose a few, missed a couple other hits, and caught one tiny seven incher here. Part of what fishing is all about is feeling the incentive of frustration, which is like a hard shot of bourbon to jolt you into readiness. I used killies leftover from fluke fishing more than a week ago, and always try to set the hook sooner than later to avoid gut hooking, which results in quite a few missed hits.
Further downstream I caught the average stream bass I photographed and four more, most of these the size of that in the photograph I took before it got too dark. I had come to the river near sunset and made each cast really count since I had little time. The largest was about 10 1/2 inches and among other bass I lost, a good one of about 12 inches shook off almost at my feet as I waded.
I usually use Senkos and Culprit twister tail worms during summer, and the bass hit them as readily as live bait, except for the really big smallmouths. I recall catching only one stream smallmouth over 15 1/ 2 inches on a lure, and I've caught a lot. (I don't include the Delaware River for these stats.) Many 14 to 15 inchers have come on lures, but although I've had at least one other big one take a Mister Twister in plain view, in my experience the big lordly bass take a shiner or killie, but disregard plastics, plugs, or spinners. If I used lures exclusively I'm sure I would have caught more large bass on them. However, I love to see a big, hulking smallmouth absolutely blast a shiner or killie on the surface, feel that line go, tighten, and feel its weight as I bury the hook. Then I set the bass free. I've never gut hooked a big one in a stream.
I saw a great horned owl in flight over the river after sunset. Hiking back--mostly by wading--I walked thigh deep along an undercut bank. Nearly dark, I could see nothing in the water. I stepped on something that felt like a good sized snapping turtle. I felt it move under my foot as a shot of cold fear rose in me, but not to any effect of panic. I just stepped ahead of it and didn't look back.