Here we paused in a darkling eddy, and both Kluska's spinner and my hellgrammites began to produce plenty of 10-to-12-inch smallmouth, juniors but full of fury. Before we fastened into anything larger, we brought up our lines festooned with moss and ruined a magic moment.
Floating on toward the Stroudsburg toll bridge we passed a pair of hardy brethren working desperately—nearly over the tops of their breast waders—to throw bass flies out into "our" current from the shore. For us it took but a wrist twist to lower our anchor, clewed short so it would slowly drag, and switch over to flies ourselves. The results were not phenomenal, but our sense of facility was supreme and self-contented.
Night came down on us as we hauled out at Kittatinny Beach, a scenic strand right in the Water Gap. We passed three huge rocks known as the Loaves, which I recalled from my boyhood fishing days and was pleased to see again. Across from the swimming area, close under the railroad embankment, the bouldery bottom has been gouged out by the river's compression to depths of 30 and 40 feet—one of the deepest stretches of the Delaware until you get to Philadelphia where dredges have been at work clearing out passages for giant ocean liners.
The man in the bar made our eyes goggle with a lovely mounted 6-pound 4-ounce smallmouth taken lately in that gorge on drifted live bait. And word of a walleye, taken only yesterday on an imitation lamprey, that went better than 12 pounds! I think that short, deep Gap water would merit a full day's float-fishing with varied baits, using a drag to check your progress through the chutes. The best kind, incidentally, is a gallon milk can filled with stones. It won't hang up in crevices as a pointed anchor will, and you can use the empty can for a beer cooler if you want to.
I didn't investigate the water between Kittatinny and Portland. Some of the rifts there looked so rough that it would be a job to get a boat through them, and according to hearsay the water is too fast to hold many fish.
From the new power plant at Portland down to Manunka Chunk I floated with one of my daughters and her husband, and from Manunka Chunk almost to Belvidere with old Ed Shelley, a bait fisherman with half a century's fish stories to tell. There was bright sun both days, and we didn't stay late enough, so results were indifferent. Anyway, on these tamer, lower reaches of the river (all the old-timers agree) what you must wait for are the first big rains and the nippier nights.
But in Indian summer, why wait? Go back up the river, to the country of the fire-red oaks and maples, and idle downstream through a lovely, rediscovered world. It is an autumn you won't forget.