I feel like a squid as I push off the shore, take one large powerful sweep with my arms and legs and jet downstream. My plan is to fly a few miles of the Gunpowder, a cold water river not far from my house but one I spend way too little time in. I call it flying because that’s the sensation that best describes downstream river snorkeling
There are tons of brown trout here. These are fish I barely see when I’m working upstream in a river. They are probably the most nervous fish I know and take off after just I catch enough of a glimpse to know they are trout. But on this downstream run, I surprise trout as I fly by and I am moving so fast they don’t attempt to flee. I saw at least a half dozen in the first hundred yards of river.
The river shallows so I flatten myself to float over shallow riffles and just barely scrape by as I flow into a deeper pool chock full of fish. Fall fish feed in the middle of the water column while trout nervously shoot for cover. River chub amble along the bottom then rocket from view with one flick of their tails when they realize I’m above them.
The water picks up velocity and I glide over green and purple rock weed covered boulders interspersed with mica flaked sand and gravel. I feel weightless and free. Fast riffles grade to deep slower moving pools and the ecology changes accordingly.
This is an unbelievable run. The excitement from navigating rocky riffles while an incredible force of water pushes me through combined with a sense of wonder as I watch fall fish feed and river chub scatter places me squarely in the moment. I watch in awe as the impressive river bed geology and dramatic underwater landscape pass beneath me. Flying the Gunpowder opens up a whole new way to experience this amazing river, and I will never look at it the same again.