Saturday, September 6, 2014

Persistent High Water South Branch Raritan River

At least the warm weather is lingering, 90 degrees today. Last year almost to the day I caught a four-pound smallmouth after a night in the upper 40's, the water chilly on my calves. That day, water level was low, water clear the way I like it. The first part of this summer saw lots of rain, and in the news, climate change suggests we can expect rainy summers in New Jersey. I dreaded results for my river smallmouth fishing. But then at least this summer the rain stopped and things dried up. At present, the North Branch Raritan running through the town of my residence is barely flowing, but the South Branch roars on through with somewhat stained clarity. Last week, I watched as dry rocks became submerged before my eyes, yet it hadn't rained in days. They must be releasing a lot of water from Spruce Run Reservoir.

Today I had only 20 minutes to fish for a break in my travels. I missed hits from three or four bass, and besides one of them that would have qualified as an average stream bass, I think these were very small fish trying to force my five-inch Senko-type worm into their gullets. I also tried a #9 Rapala, which I do OK with in the fall when forage availability begins to shift especially to baitfish, but got no hits. I noticed a small bass leap for a damselfly, a very summery sight.

That's the fifth time I've fished the South Branch this summer, and the first I've posted on it, besides notice about a parking area where we're no longer allowed access. That day I didn't fish. I've caught some small bass, but not in numbers. I fished the North Branch only once for smallmouths this year and caught a small one on a short stint. Mostly, I've been disappointed at South Branch stream levels too high for the sort of quiet fishing when a plastic worm is highly visible to bass and more in my control. I'm more interested in the South Branch, as if the easy familiarity with the river running through town has made me averse to fishing it. My wife and I hike along the North Branch virtually every weekend. Nevertheless, despite high levels, each time I've visited the South Branch, it's rewarded me with pleasant release from daily pressures, and I believe I'll return at least one more time this September before the trout crowds respond to the fall stocking.

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