Tonight I went down to the South Branch of the Raritan River to take some river temps and check out the conditions, with no intention of wetting a line. The river was up some from the thunderstorms of the last two days, but surprisingly clear. After taking the water temperature in two spots, I went down to one of my favorite runs where there are a few big rocks along the bank that are perfect to sit on and watch the river, and the natural world, go by. For the record, the water temperatures were too high for fishing anyway, just about 72 degrees F.
As the sun made its way down to the horizon and the light of day slowly faded, trout began to feed off the surface. Some of the rises were aggressive and porpoise-like, telling me those fish were taking caddis. While other trout rose slowly and sipped their meal off the surface, leaving lazy, concentric circles that dissipated as they grew outward and moved downstream with the current. These fish were likely feeding on mayfly dun or spinners.
In the air and on the water there were quite a few insects, whose numbers increased as the light faded. There were fluttering tan and dark caddis, light cahills, small sulphurs, Isonychia/slate drakes and stoneflies - giant brown and yellow sallies. I'd pick out a natural floating on the water and follow it as it drifted along; some would take flight, and others would be sipped in from below by one of the many trout feeding with abandon. I'd guess more than two dozen trout were steadily feeding.
And it wasn't only the trout that fed on the insects hatching. Various song birds dipped and dived over the water as they plucked the hapless insects out of the air. Along the opposite bank, high in the walnut trees a Baltimore Oriole moved among the branches, occasionally making a foray out over the water to snatch a meal. I often hear its song when fishing, but tonight it couldn't resist the feast that rose from the river. As the darkness overtook the light, bats joined in, their erratic flight making them easy to identify from the birds.
So tonight the river flowed, the fish ate, and the birds joined the feast, while the fisherman watched from from a riverside perch, never to cast a line or even disturb what nature so wonderfully choreographed.