Friday, July 3, 2015

Delaware Canal Hike Reigelsville, PA & NJ, Reigelsville Inn Dinner

A 1908 Roebling Bridge connects Reigelsville, NJ, with Reigelsville, PA, two very different yet historical towns.

Next time I go online for a Highlands destination, I really should be more careful about directions and make sure I know where I'm headed. We meant to hike trails through Musconetcong River Gorge. It's not that I couldn't have found the park. For the first mile or so of the hike we chose instead, I felt guilty for the failure. But really, I had to get over that, because traveling with Patricia, no way in any good faith existed to go wild driving up and down to find the place. As much as I did wander, edging upon borderline craziness, I considered the peace of mind she wanted with time off from work.

I have never used a GPS and plan on never bothering with any. 

Finally, I just got on Warren Glen Road and headed west, right along the Musconetcong for some of the distance. When I pulled aside for us to view a factory--forget company name--with the river coursing right alongside, smoke stack and all, I wanted to photograph, but didn't dare today. We drove down from Bloomsbury through Pohatcong Township, Finesville, and down into Reigelsville: small, charming towns with a laid back feeling compared to the Somerset County region we come from. We crossed into Warren County from Hunterdon just beyond Bloomsbury, I believe. All those 10 or 12 miles between Bloomsbury and Reigelsville, we never came upon a gas station. Warren Glen Road is County Road six hundred and something or other, I forget, but a fairly substantial highway with reduced speed limits inside developed areas that mostly seem to date back to the early 20th century.

I've driven along most of the NJ length of the Delaware above Bordentown, but this was the first I've been here. From the second Roebling Bridge we've now crossed spanning the Delaware--the other just north of Barryville, NY--I think I sighted the favorite night striper fishing spot of my son and I going back six and seven years ago. Reigelsville, NJ, is a dusty spot, but once we walked into PA, we felt astonished to see a fine restaurant. Reigelsville Inn.

"Go check out the menu," Patricia said.

Looked interesting. First, we hiked about three miles total on the Delaware Canal towpath. A guilty trek, owing to where I had wanted to go, became a very pleasant stroll, my upper back not giving the usual pain despite the heavy camera bag. We even saw a bass leap for a damselfly. And the fat toad that crossed our path is a perennial encounter that never ceases to please. Lots of good talk northward and back.

And then the meal. I felt very amused to find striped bass and skate wings offered back to back. We used to surf fish stripers, and catching skates instead marked the bane of our ventures. I tried skate once and did not like it. I wanted escargot for a shared starter, but let this go for the oysters Patricia preferred. Instead of a crab cake dinner, I had a huge venison burger complete with house salad, since crab cakes of all sorts of varieties serve as a fairly common menu item, not venison. Haven't had venison since early 1994 after butchering a deer the previous fall. Trish had a big veggie meal with rare mushrooms I tried and they tasted great.

Reigelsville Inn dates to 1838 when it served as a hotel for canal masters of whatever more specific description--the guys in charge of the mule barges.

"Must have been a flop house," Patricia said.

Whatever it was, the trade route went from Allentown-Bethlehem to Philadelphia, although the Delaware Canal does not fill the entire mileage, but runs south to wherever it emptied into the Delaware where boats could continue south without shallow rapids in the way.

The Inn today is an amazing place. We chose to eat outside on the patio by the canal, but got a good look around inside. Great original art adorns all the walls, really giving the place character. The second floor offers tables. A live jazz band jammed as evening fell. I give this place a great thumbs up and I'm glad we happened on it. 

 Preserved Canal Lock

 Part of the extensive outdoor patio by the canal at Reigelsville Inn, where we ate.

South Branch Raritan River Morning Smallmouth Quest

Noel and I waded about a mile downstream the river, beginning at 6:30 this morning. I thought things in our favor, catching a 10-inch smallmouth bass on my second cast, but although I missed some hits, and Noel caught a lot of little bass and another almost average-size, this proved to be a morning for enjoying the river as a river, and each other's company, more than for catching fish. I thought back over the fishing I've done up and down this river for the past six years. Really felt good I didn't miss out this year, the previous outing at the railroad trestle all too short and unproductive, besides photos.

As I expected, the river's running a little stained. I typically find the fishing better when it's very clear. I fished a five-inch Senko-style worm, switching to a Chompers as we neared our turn-around. Noel fished a sixteenth-ounce jig and also a tiny Echo jerkbait, casting distances that surprised me. His G. Loomis rods really seemed to make a difference. Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part, but especially the little jigs Noel fish interested me.

I waited to see if he'd show me up, but never felt any inclination to make a switch from my big worms. I've spent six years fishing the river on fairly frequent occasion, but never have experimented with different lures much. Not since the Stony Brook, Mercer County days of my youth. I noticed my package of tube plastics in my tote this morning, and I've wondered recently if I'll ever try them... The Echo comes from Australia, I believe he said, and the cost is $18.00 each. Noel likes the internal rattle.

We hiked back along a trail for about a mile, the nerve leading down my left leg giving me some trouble. I may be 54, but I don't feel old, and I wondered if the likes of lugging a heavy camera bag on one shoulder, a heavy tackle tote on another used to be a drag. I couldn't quite remember, but probably not. And I certainly had no trouble with nerves due to herniated disks in my back. So physically, I'm wearing down a little, but it doesn't seem very important. May not be able to backpack in the Pinelands as I would like to do with my son, since my upper back pains me whenever I lug anything heavy for awhile, but the mind and spirit remain optimistic, as I want to be on my deathbed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

North Branch Raritan a Little Stained, Waiting on Next Time

Hadn't fished since the 18th. Since I had to go to the vet out in Branchburg, I planned on making a stop at the U.S. Route 202 bridge. Last I pulled onto the gravel, October, 1993, I caught 15 of those little trout the state used to stock in the fall, a couple of them about eight inches, the rest about six. Since I knew there's a hole under the bridge or used to be, I imagined bass.

Hole's still there. My Chompers worm took a hit from a bass. It had leapt for a damselfly and I winged a cast right to the splash. But the water stained somewhat, I knew chances of any other takes had no favor. Too lazy to tie on a snap swivel and spinner, I left after 10 minutes.

And then this evening I went to a spot on the same river near home for nearly an hour. Here water's a lot clearer, though still not clear as a bell as I like it and the bass do too. My son spotted a 19-incher in this stretch about a week ago while walking our black Lab. Stretch is extensive. The bass could have been up or downstream--or in another stretch entirely, since bass apparently move around rivers during summer.

My fourth or fifth cast didn't go where I intended. Nevertheless, I had that odd feeling telling me this is the cast that will result. I let the worm sink and settle for a good 15 seconds, and forgot all about my hunch. It was a long cast and all out of sight. I never noticed line twitch. And I just began reeling to retrieve the worm, rather than testing the line as should always be done. Fish on. Drag gave a little before I could really set the hook. And then the bass came free.

Anyhow, I'm supposed to fish the South Branch with Noel soon. I hope I can report a catch, but I'm afraid water just won't be clear enough.