June 8 – 11, Catskills –
Thursday – We meet Jeff and Scott at the Goshen Diner for lunch, none of us wanting to sacrifice sleep for high water fishing. Decision was made to split up with Joe and me heading for the upper Neversink – above the reservoir. We miss the turn and add some new country to our experience.
No time to fuss with the water near the parking lot as it is already 2 pm. The upstream section, beyond the turn, is what we have in mind. Brookies and beautiful river-scape with blow downs and log jams, sand and swirling currents.
The water seems sterile. No bugs and less features with the high water, although it is clear and cold. 56 degrees.
Climbing over rock bars and fallen trees, wandering away from the river in order to get back to it, this is not for the faint of heart or aerobically challenged. I am also thinking that a big black bear would not be unexpected in a wild looking place like this.
Joe drifts a fly into a log pile and comes up with the first fish of the trip. A small brown, although it could have easily been a brookie. I keep on climbing and test the waters above, somewhat restricted by the heavy water (although Joe wades easily across and is rewarded with a few more fish on his nymph with the sparkle tails).
We take a short cut out and walk along the highway. It is about 6 and we are hungry.
Friday – Operating out of the Riverside Lodge you are close to all the water the Catskills have to offer; even the Hudson tributaries are available just over the mountains. This is supposed to be “Bug Week” but no one told the bugs. The reports are that the lower waters have more than the upper. Drakes and March Browns are on the East, West and Main Stem of the Delaware which is all but un-wadable. We choose smaller water, upstream, understanding the implications on hatch probability.
TLo sends a text that he will be on the Willow. Not sure where the other early arrivers are, this being the annual LITU outing. Twenty-eight will be up by tonight.
The Willow has so many faces (and fish). It is our first choice but momentum brings us to the 206 bridge and a strong caddis hatch with fish rising to them. We each have a few, and Joe a good one, before we move to a spot we recently discovered but have not fished. As we survey the depth of the water, which will keep us near the bank, I flip a March Brown from where we stand and get a look. I return it to the mouth of a good brown – nice way to break in a new spot.
Last April Joe came with me to the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce Dinner – aka The Two Headed Trout Dinner. He won a coupon for a brace of smoked trout from the Beaverkill Hatchery but it could not be redeemed until June. We stop and ask Rob Eggleton for directions. I know the general area but had not been to the hatchery itself. It is run by the Shaver family since 1960. Built of earthen ponds it supplies the local trout clubs and private waters in the area.
We pass the Beaverkill Valley Inn and Joan Wulff’s School but miss the next turn. Some local DOT guys turn us around and we arrive to see workers on various ponds but no retail-like operation. A fellow sends us over to a gal on a tractor and she runs to the house to get the trout. “They were just done yesterday” she says. Of good size and golden brown, the smoky aroma pours from the package.
We have no cooler as we thought smoked items didn’t need refrigeration. She sends us down to the Turnwood General Store to get some ice. Once there, buying a cooler and ice for two fish seems impractical. I consult with the nice lady and she quickly offers 2 plates, forks and knives. We each get a soda and are off to have a stream-side lunch of cold smoked trout. It is delicious!
Next is the Beaverkill Campsite but we don’t have much time as the group has a BBQ at 5. A short walk from the car, we are entertained by a bunch of young ones who like the Joe-Stack.
Back at the Riverside we see Luke and Mike who floated the East Branch in Luke’s raft with good results. Some heavy fish on and lots of bugs. Drakes and March Browns. Mike witnessed a Coffin Fly being devoured, although he stayed with the MB which was working just fine. Luke hit a 20 incher and Mike a 19. Nice day.
It is good to see everyone over hot dogs and potato salad. This is a congenial group that has matured. In earlier years there was always a buzz about who was fishing where and who was going with who. Now we all just go our own ways and enjoy our fishing, whatever it brings.
Elk Brook is quiet with Mike Russell the only one to break the code with a few nice fish. The day before it yielded bugs and browns to Jeff and Scott, but not tonight. Meanwhile, a mile or so upstream, rising fish and caddis were reported. Home to the hockey game for me.
Saturday – French toast and scrambled eggs, bacon and more. I think the best feature of this weekend each year, besides the camaraderie, is the great food and the generosity with which it is served by Tammy and her crew. TLo joins us and we head for the Willow as Tom did well on it the day before.
It is Saturday in June and the town is popping. Miss Trout will be crowned later in the day and there is an art show at the Museum that Boyd will check out. Our strategy is to drive until we find a pull off that is open. We pass all the usual spots and finally get to one that only has one car and two fisherpersons. We have fished here before, a few years ago, and compare notes. Tom recalls the unique rock on the floor of the stream and Joe the fish under the trees up by the houses. We spread out and all work downstream to the end of the public water. Joe is high hook with a 15 incher that took his Stonefly.
After a few hours we move upstream to see the new bridge and look for rises. We end up below DeBruce. There are fish but it is slow and the bugs don’t get organized.
Checking Cemetery Pool before dinner it looks like a good choice for the evening. This has become a bit of a tradition for us, Cemetery after dinner that is.
We had the year of cold weather and high water when I hooked a monster while standing on my tip toes on a rock to keep the water from flooding into my waders. Broke him off rather than swim with him. Then there are the years when the gravel bar is up and the pool produces wild rainbows at dark, well worth the wait and wade.
This year there are 4-5 fishers already here and we are clustered at the head of the pool, sharing water as we are hemmed in by the risky crossing. I try. Stu tries. We both back off. Then Joe just does it and we follow. Not too bad but the character of the run is not the same and the fish seem to know it. We hook a few at dark, again Joe taking the one we all would have wanted, right after he said “One more cast.”
The campfire, which is always built and tended to by Sean, is at risk since he could not make the trip. Joe P runs to Sunoco to buy some wood, Mike P starts putting it together as Joe O goes dumpster diving for some kindling of the cardboard variety. It all works out and the Rusty Spinners (Peter, John, Mark, Jeff and more), our guitar accompanied troubadours, entertain the group with their tunes late into the night with some help from Joe P’s harmonica and the not so in tune voices of the rest of us. John’s version of “Gloria” is the hit of the night for me as the new attendees, Howie and Susan, are indoctrinated by singing a few bars of Peter’s “I’ve Fished Everywhere, Man.”
I sit listening, clapping and chatting, by the fire and cannot help but think about those who are no longer here. Jack Pangburn, Bob Maass and the other senior members, as well as my buddy Jerry. I look around and reflect that we are the seniors now. It’s best to just sit back and enjoy this time, this place and these fellows rather than dig too deep. We are indeed fortunate – fish or no fish, bugs or no bugs, high water or low, hot or cold. It’s all good.
Sunday – Pancakes and more pancakes, we carb-load for the day. Sharing spots and strategies, we say so long. A few will be staying until Monday. Joe and I usually do too, but lately more isn’t better for me.
We check out the East Branch and fish the flats to a few “one and done” risers while Sulfurs drift in the air. The water is well up into the trees and there is no bank due to it. I show Joe where Big Al used to be and we continue up to Downsville, exploring 206 back to Roscoe.
Another tradition is to finish the trip at Rhododendron Pool, behind the rest stop. It is a beautiful place and with the Rhododendrons in bloom we are looking forward to seeing it. As we approach there is music and splashing, the smell of charcoal is in the air. It is a day at the beach for a family or 2 as we walk by covered in waterproof fabrics. We seem a bit over dressed.
Upstream it is empty and looks promising in terms of the flow but still no bugs. I have a few spots that always seem to work and put a Sulfur Emerger through each of them with no results. At the top, by the pool and the rock wall, I notice that not one of the Rhododendrons is in flower. I don’t think I have ever seen this place bloom.
I change flies a few times and start working back down. Joe is right behind me. We both take a shot at a rise and decide to call it a day. I change to his fly, the Joe-Stack, and work my way down. I hit two small fish and feel about as good as I feel when I catch a bunch of big ones. It is all good.
Wonder what it will be like next year, second weekend in June?
Postscript: There were reports of massive hatches on the main Beaverkill the next day but for the record I think I saw 11 Sulfurs, 2 Drakes, 3 Grey Foxes and a hand full of caddis (besides the hatch by the 206 Bridge) and not one Iso. Bug-less for us.
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