Some years ago, an acquaintance told me that the trick to fishing the Delaware River - and by extension any river on which prolific hatches are the rule rather than the exception - is to discover both the biggest and the smallest bugs that are on the water at any given time and to fish an imitation of one or the other. This strategy has worked for me many times on many rivers, but I'm still convinced that on a bug factory like the Delaware no method is sure to work all the time, most of the time, or even much of the time.
What the hell is he eating?"
"How in Christ's name should I know? Every bug on the planet is on the water right now. Just open my beer, pass it back, and keep casting."
So went our conversations for the better part of a 12 hour float, and that's typical of the Delaware. Drift a few hundred yards, find a riser - either along a current seam or tight to the bank - set up as close as possible without spooking the fish, and cast until you're bored with casting or your arm falls off. Occasionally, the river gods will smile on you, and you'll hook up.
More often, the fish to which you are casting - likely one of the best trout you've ever witnessed feeding on top - will slowly but surely emasculate you. She'll take naturals to the right and left of your imitation. She'll thrash the surface on every drift, but only after your bug has passed over her snout. She'll follow your emerger, and nose up behind your dun. She'll do all of this, but she'll rarely ever commit. In turn, you'll slowly lose your grip on reality; you'll begin mumbling to yourself. On the worst days - which paradoxically are also some of the best - you will curse the gods as your manhood shrivels and recedes into your abdomen.
Ironically, you'll finish the day with a smile on your face. The Delaware can be a harsh mistress, but you enjoy the torment she gives. You're her slave, her submissive, and you know that while the beatings are sure to continue they will eventually reach a climax. Once she has punished you enough to satisfy her sadistic nature, she'll give you the release you crave. She'll give you your reward, and you'll hook a fish. You might even hook a good fish, perhaps several, and everything will be right with the world.
And while I'm not one to kiss and tell, I will say that last weekend - after fifteen fly changes, twelve hours, six river miles, five tasty IPAs, two bags of chips, and a partridge in a pear tree - everything was right with the world.