Tuesday’s warm sunshine got me moving and I removed the tarp and tie downs to find my drift boat underneath. It passed the winter well so I got out the oars and oarlocks and got her ready for the rivers. I awoke Wednesday morning to a much better forecast than expected so I decided to make the first solo float of 2020.
I had fished for three days, enjoying the sunshine, but finding no activity on the part of the trout. There was plenty of activity among fishermen, and it was hard to relax looking over my shoulder to avoid someone walking up on me. Most of the guys I have seen on the rivers have been in groups, far too close together under the dire circumstances.
Drifting down the middle West Branch I found myself utterly alone.
I heard a report saying that some little olives and some early blue quills had been sighted, and a few fish had even been taken on top in recent days, though I didn’t get myself too fired up with anticipation. The first week of April is too early to expect any significant surface activity.
The West Branch is the coldest river right now, peaking at 48 degrees on Tuesday while the other nearby rivers surpassed the magic number of 50 degrees. Its the time of year when that tailwater is going to be colder due to a higher release. It can be a couple of degrees warmer in the winter if they are releasing, but once the sun and warmer air starts to warm the rivers the West Branch lags behind.
Even the fifty degree rivers hadn’t been producing a lot of insect activity until three o’clock, though the little flights of mayflies I found failed to bring any trout up for a snack. At three o’clock yesterday I was sitting in my boat in prime water with Mother Nature trading little periods of sunshine with dark clouds and wind.
I had drifted well down the river by four and had anchored at another familiar rock. The sun was out again and I sat there awhile just enjoying the solitude. Eventually I decided to put my 6 weight rod together and rig up a small streamer. There were some submerged rocks along the shoreline and I figured maybe I would get an answer if I knocked. The wind blowing hard straight into my back caused that idea to be short lived.
I was slipping the streamer back into the hook keeper when I saw a funny little disturbance downstream of my landmark rock: fish? I picked up my dry fly rod and got ready to make a cast when an honest to God trout rose just above that rock. I’d like to tell you he ate my fly and gave a thrilling battle but I can’t. The wind stayed relentless and toyed with my presentation enough that my friend didn’t see what he liked I guess, so he demurred.
When I pulled anchor I scanned the downstream bank with a new resolve, but no more rises showed. I continued my drift and stop pace, quickly running out of river. I anchored at the last place I had hoped for some fishing when I saw a little teacup sized ring right on the bank. Still the downstream wind persisted, leaving perhaps a foot wide strip of calm water right next to the river bank. I could see some tiny wings floating down that edge, olives most likely, but I stayed with the chartreuse winged Adams Poster I had been using to try and maintain visibility in the windswept surface.
I worked on that fish for half an hour I guess until he finally sipped my fly. I tightened and felt some weight and a slow wiggle, then got my fly back early. I was amazed when that fish rose again not two minutes after I hooked him. I changed to a size 20 olive parachute and worked on him some more, but he obviously wasn’t going to make another mistake.
Solitude is a big dividend on our trout rivers today, especially those as popular as the West Branch Delaware. I was satisfied that I got to enjoy a very rare day alone on the river, and I even had a little bit of fishing.
The weather is going to throw us a few more curves, there is even snow in tomorrow’s forecast. I don’t know when I might get out again, though I do know that every day that passes brings me closer to that first good hatch and rise of the season; whenever it comes.