Thursday, August 6, 2015

Smallmouth, Largemouth Bass Small on the North Branch Raritan

Four years ago in late September and early October, twice I parked at Stahl Natural Area on River Road, Bedminster, less than a mile from home, to walk trails back to the river and fish smallmouth bass. Very memorable occasions I posted about, I had thought someday I might pick up where I left off, venturing further downstream. This evening, I found an easy trail leading to the river; thereafter I bushwhacked, stepping aside of stinging nettle, avoiding briars, being careful to step over holes and gullies, making sure not to step into mud up to my knees or worse, but walking at strong, steady pace.

I found a couple of stretches with some water as deep as three feet surprisingly unproductive, since undercut banks typically hold bass. I managed to catch one little largemouth on a four-inch Senko-style worm. Having worked my way down further than I later thought I had, later to find the walk back to my car fairly long, I found the dam photographed.

This hole has nice depth. It should have been full of bass, the kind of spot with fresh oxygen where I'd expect at least one 12-incher, if not a good two-pound bass. I caught three, one of them so small the hookup seemed accidental, the other two not even average-sized, one of them another largemouth.

Took some effort to get around brush and barely skirt a sort of gully with stagnant water, and so I got further downstream as dusk set in, missing hits from more small bass, encountering nothing we feel is respectable.

The effort felt good as I struggled to find such a bass at the end. Then the woods accepted me back, alone in gathering darkness, aware of myself as aging, the walk hard, my heavy camera bag and tackle tote causing that all too familiar pain in my upper back. I tried to remember how I know it used to be. Walks like this were easy and full of the bounce of willing energy. I thought of my hiking some 150 miles of the Appalachian Trail during the spring of 1984, and that I can no longer do the likes.

But the sort of effort I enjoyed this evening I will continue to make myself do. It's less pain than an odd feeling of being out of sorts that felt uncomfortable, and yet my last fishing outing at the pond with smallmouth bass didn't feel this way at all. I exerted myself climbing those steep banks, but never felt oddly out of place, energized instead.

So I just chalk it up to a peculiar evening, sure that more outings will return energy rather than take it, well into my 60's and possibly beyond. Besides, I got home and went to my study, and sure enough, I felt the usual replenishment of spiritedness, rather than any loss.

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