Thursday, July 18, 2013

Memories from Cedar Rapids at Barryville, New York: Camping and Float Fishing the Delaware River

We're headed up to Barryville August 4th for our annual float trip, catching mostly smallmouth bass, but we often catch a walleye, as well as big red ear sunfish, rock bass, and my son has caught a couple of large suckers on his nightcrawlers. We used to camp at Cedar Rapids, which was the first camping my son, Matt, then five, and his friend Tommy Slota, then three, have done. Steve Slota has been coming up to float the Delaware at Barryville since he was 15, almost 40 years ago. He was my connection to this stretch of the river in 2004, and my gratitude will never fade out. We camped about half a dozen times over five or six years, highlighting the outings with the float trip and fishing, yet enjoying the cooking, swimming, and shaded ambiance of the campground nestled in the woodland at the base of the ridge above. It was a wild place with a lot of campers, yet what I remember best is the peace in the outdoors. One morning, my son and I got up just before sunset to witness steam devils on the river, 80 or 90 feet high, spinning vortexes, excitement stirring the peaceful, misty mood of daybreak. It's a part of the Delaware that has called us back every year since 2004, a freedom to be away a fair distance from Bedminster, forget everything else, and enjoy each other's company while focusing on fishing and whatever comes to mind between us. After we're done a full day from 9:00 a.m. to about 6:00, we stop at Port Jervis Diner for dinner, which my wife Patricia especially appreciates. We've also fished Steenykill, Sussex, and Cranberry lakes on the way home

Some of these years we've gone up to fish more than once. In 2004, I drove up with my son in late November and fished the river from shore, catching smallmouth bass, a largemouth, and a pickerel. We caught no walleye, although boaters get the big ones in the late fall and winter season so long as the river isn't ice jammed. Why we haven't caught a big walleye during summer, I don't know. Why they are mostly caught during the cold season, I don't really know, except that are a cooler water fish than bass. However, they need to feed in the summer too. I've heard that walleye migrate up and down the river, so perhaps they hole up in the deepest water during summer. Narrowsburg further north has the deepest hole at 113 feet, which Matt and I visited that November in 2004, but couldn't effectively fish from shore.

When something we used to do--camp at Cedar Rapids--became a yearly event, it seemed almost as if we would do it every summer for the rest of our lives, but of course things change, although the memory and feeling persists in a positive way, which means the value lasts. These places actually live on in us even when establishments no longer exist because the thought of them can evoke the best of the feelings we had there. I think of Steve in the context of the river--fresh, wild, unspoiled--more than I think of his coming originally from Paterson, although Paterson is a wild city I know from visiting it on a courier job I worked in the 1990's. I was amazed at the colorful diversity of people and places. But he explored a fairly distant wilderness rather than remained within the limits of that city, which made a crucial difference in his life. And he passed this on to my family, which has made a difference to us.

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