Posted on July 02 2016
Weekend musings on the season to date.
Took the time to tally my fish counts for May and June. It was the eighth best May in the twenty five years of records. June finished as the 11th best. There are many factors which influence the overall results. When I first came to the river system there was a learning curve that showed slow but steady progress in my ability to catch Delaware River fish. I was working during the first eight years so I fished less which also makes comparisons with those years more favorable. The flood years and the years following them distorted the norms as entire year classes of fish were wiped out. With the passing of years my skills have eroded which no doubt leads to a reduction in my current catch numbers.
As I have previously mentioned, April is by far the most unpredictable month. Some years the snow melt is late, the weather is cold, the rivers high and no bugs hatch. In both 2014 and 2015 I landed seven fish in the entire month. This year there was no runoff, the reservoirs didn't spill, the sun heated the water, the bugs came early and my fish total soared.
May is, as a rule, the best month for a number of reasons. The "big bug season" is about six weeks long. It may miss April and it may be over before June, but it's going to be going during the entire month of May. The fish,( more so in the past than now) are less wary, hungrier after the long winter and eager to feed on the bounty of bugs. May is the month when even the big browns are feeding on top. If you want to catch big fish spend time on the river in May.
June was once an integral part of the big bug season. With global warming June now gets about a weeks worth of the big bugs. By June the fish have been pounded by the hoards of anglers. There are no easy fish. They look at every fly carefully. Once the drakes are done the big browns become harder to find. They do not feed on top as much and their diet contains more fish. This years catch for June was very good when compared to the past ten years. (2012 the year when winter never showed up) was by far the best). In recent years I have shown a decline in my catch numbers for June. I don't think it's just me as there has been a huge decline in the number of anglers on the river in recent Junes. This is no doubt attributable to the frustration that goes with not being able to catch fish with regularity.
The Delaware River is probably the best tail-water fishery east of the Mississippi. It is also located a short drive from millions upon millions of people. As a result the fish are pressured more than on any river of its size. Drift boats go down the river in sufficient numbers during the "big bug season" that any fish that shows his nose will be fished to numerous times each day, even in spots that are not readily accessible to wade fishermen. The wade fishermen do their part by crowding into areas where there is good access in such numbers that every rising fish is thrown at, sometimes non stop, day after day. The result is a fish population that is pretty well beaten up by mid May. Their mouths are full of hook wounds ( and sometimes flies) they don't have the strength to put up a decent fight and become paranoid about what they eat. If you plan on catching Delaware River Fish on a consistent basis after May you had best spend time honing your skills and by all means bring your "A game" to the river.