Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wild & Scenic Delaware River Smallmouth Bass Float Trip

Our annual Barryville float trip proved to be a wonderful time. They had about seven inches of rain Thursday up there, and the river rose, of course. I spoke to Joni at Reber Rafting Friday. She said the river flowed brown but not too high and to phone her in the morning. Water must have been low, because today, Saturday, it was off color but not too bad. The Laxawaxan flowed muddier and added stain. (We always eat lunch at the confluence and the Zane Grey museum when we clock the five-mile trip.)

We began fishing Rat-L-Trips. With water off color, yet returning to normal, I thought of walleye. Nothing happened halfway to Zane Grey, so I reached for my box of jigs. I realized then that I had forgotten my two tubs of Berkeley Gulp! Leeches. This was off-putting, since the leeches have become my favorite Delaware presentation. I put a three-inch yellow twister grub on an eighth-ounce jig and quickly caught a longear or red bellied sunfish. I was thinking of an alternative, since bright yellow under dark sky and in dark water isn't quite right. I remembered I put a pack of Keitech Custom Worms in my tackle tote for Maine. These inspired by my friend Fred, who used them on Round Valley fairly recent. If you remember the old Ringworms from the late 70's, these are like a knockoff, only with a paddle tail and fishy scent. The rings trap air bubbles. The color smoky and dark, they seemed to suit the situation best.

And pretty soon I was into smallmouth bass. Matt never switched from the Rat-L-Trap and didn't fish much, content to lay back and read. I fished a wide gap, eighth-ounce jig, having broken off the stubby jig, deciding it wasn't quite what I wanted.

Most of the bass hit in faster shallow water. We let the raft drift and I simply pitched the jig and bounced it off bottom almost vertically. Especially in small eddies behind big boulders with about three to four feet of water, the bass were there and willing, a lot of fun. I felt like I could have fished this way for many hours on end. We were on the river at least six hours and it felt like a journey. I brought one of my 10-pound mushroom anchors, and we made a few stops.

Once, I reverted to the Rat-L-Trap and fished very thoroughly where rapids had begun to slow. We had just witnessed two guys in another raft, one of the men nailed a walleye about 18 or 19 inches long. In my river experience, walleye have bunched together with water conditions just like this, and we've nailed them one after another on Rat-L-Traps.

As many of us know, walleye have a tapidum lucidum for each eye, which is how they get their name, and this retinal structure advantages eyesight in dark water, including water that is stained, so long as some visibility is possible. I fished long and hard, fan casting the area, but got not a hit from varied retrieves. First I cast and simply retrieved at moderate rate, hoping fish would active enough would chase the lure down. I progressively slowed retrieve until I risked losing the lure to a snag. I tried lift and drop retrieves in between.

Then we went off downriver and I had fun with bass on the jig. Walleye would certainly hit it too, and I really don't know why we didn't encounter any, only that walleye are in general a much less frequent catch.

My favorite shoreline we didn't fish. We ran a little late and had to paddle. That's really the only disappointment I can think of. Once I was into fish on the Keitechs, I forgot all about my leeches.

Reber River Trips bus

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