Catskill Brooks and Brookies

June 7 – 9 – Catskills

Annual LITU weekend at the Riverside

Friday – I met TLo, Joe, Mike and Luke on the Willow. The main river and back waters all very different configurations. Jerry would not recognize the place. Once deep runs are filled with rock, canopy gone, islands washed away, favorite tree falls and log jams missing. Back waters more active than they ever were with deep holes and beautiful runs. Tiny Brookies seem to be throughout the system when a few years ago they were more common further upstream.

The Wall

I passed each of the guys

…as I walked down toward the Wall. Good to see everyone. The Neuner 7′ 5 wt. connected with Brookies and then Browns, all on dries although I admit I put a Woolly Bugger in one or two of those deep holes. The guys bailed early and I fished on until 4 when it was time to head to the BBQ at Riverside. Delightful way to start the weekend.

Beautiful Brookie

On the way I stopped at Fur, Fin and Feathers

…for a few supplies.  I always look at the used shotguns they have hoping to find one like my Dad’s, a Remington Wingmaster vintage 1960’s in 16 gauge.  Rich doesn’t have one but showed me a Model 31 Remington which is what the Wingmaster (870) replaced back in the 1950’s. It is in good condition and felt perfect in my arms.  I wrote Brother John to get his opinion.  His only hesitation is the difficulty in finding 16 gauge ammo.  I figured I would sleep on it. 

After dinner we went to the East Branch,

…a place Luke spotted.  Too steep for me; the water was a large pool of relatively slow water, fed by a long riffle. I decided to go to the brook up the road with its easy access instead, leaving the guys behind.  Joe and Mike left before a fellow caught a 20” Brown that Luke helped him net.  One fish, but a good one. I had nothing on the hook but met a new friend who happened to be from East Northport. Small world.

Beaverkill above the East Branch


John and Tom Langan on the East Branch

To bed before my roommate, John Langan, got back from his float trip with son Tom, a few nice Rainbows to their credit.  Up at 5 am Saturday,  went to Roscoe for coffee.  Looked at Livingston Manor –  checked the covered bridge and Hazel Road spots. Passed them up for Hendricksons. 

Had it to myself

…until a pickup truck with three guys pulled in behind me. They were already geared up and heading to the river before I had my rod lined.  Luckily they all went to places other than where I had hoped to go – the roadside rocks.


Set up the GLoomis for nymphing

…and worked the near waters with no response.  Switched to dries, spinner pattern and a Joe-stack. The glare was difficult even in these early morning hours but I was not up to crossing over yet. Worked my way up to the foam water and watched the fly sit, waiting for the lips to come and suck it in. Didn’t happen but I thought it might. You never know unless you try.

Back at 9 for Riverside breakfast.

French toast! Luke was going to a small brook with TLo.  I have never fished it, or even visited, even though I heard much about it from neighbor Bill O’Brien.  I sign on and we caravan up, pass the campsite and hike in on the trail, each dropping off at different points, the water being too small to bunch up. 

TLo contemplating brookies and brooks

I apparently went the highest, passing the old steel culvert.  Later Luke and Tom came up as I was heading down, in the stream, working so many beautiful spots. I gave them my report and left, heading back to the Lodge for a break. They both did well with Luke catching this monster (size being relative):

Luke’s Brookie

Luke’s thoughts on fishing these small brooks:

“I find the challenge of being stealthy enough to entice these small fish is part of the pleasure, and the enjoyment of catching them is as rewarding and fun as catching a twenty inch rainbow or brown on the Beaverkill or the Delaware rivers. That not everyone cares for this type of fishing is to my benefit because I can enjoy the solitude and have the water all to myself. I’m happy to know both you and TLo were able to share the enjoyment with me.”

Napped from 1 to 3 and then to Barrel Pool. 

I had it to myself as the mid-day sun was on the water and few bugs were about. I am on the bank listening to the peepers peep and watching for some reason to venture out. A fellow Kevin Best from New Paltz joins me on the bank, watching the sun covered and undisturbed water go by.  A few, very few, birds are working.  The frogs were in high pitch.  Somehow it is peaceful in all the noise they create.

We watch, me in gear and him trying to decide if it was worth putting waders on.  We see a blip and then again.  I walk out slow and careful trying to be quiet. My new friend watches.  I put on a Joe-stack and when in position take a cast or two where I thought he was.  3rd cast draws him up, he hits, I missed. Wow.  Then back to waiting for a target.  No sense blind casting in this massive water. Not yet.

I see another, out of my range;

a hero cast.  Not for me but a feeding fish none the less.  Kevin calls out that he is going for his waders. I slowly work upstream, a few quiet side steps at a time; with my time limited, try some blind casts.  Good long drifts, some upstream and some across and down, fly first. All hopeful, none fruitful except for one miss. Kevin comes out. He waits for a target rather than flailing the water.  Good fisher.

I have to meet the guys at 5 so I walk over, give him the Joe-stack that raised the two fish, and we part new friends. Hope to see him again some time.  Another great thing about this sport – you meet good people.

LITU at the Riverside

Dinner was delicious and filling,

…as always at the Riverside, with lots of chatter.  Joe P and I set a date for summer bass fishing. Luke and I talk of our annual surf fishing day. TLo and I discuss a fall float on the Delaware and maybe a visit with Stephen of A Cast in the Woods fame. They say happiness is having something to look forward to. I think whoever “they” are is right.

Joe asks if I am interested in Stilesville

…for the evening, on the West Branch just down from the dam.  His cousin-in-law Patrick, who I met on the TGF trip, has told him about it. I have been there many times over the years with Jerry, but that makes it over 10 years ago. Time flies. Seems like yesterday.

I always go to the Pool of the dead

…after Saturday dinner on this annual trip. It’s a habit I have developed as I keep hoping for a night of those powerful rainbows I have met on occasion.  Or maybe another shot at the huge brown who spooled me that year. Joe’s partner Mike is not fishing so he comes with me, as did TLo and Luke.  Joe will hit Stilesville tomorrow.

We set up with 4 others, plenty of room and my favorite spot is open, the top of the riffle.  Joe suggests that I take TLo up there as he hasn’t done it before. He works the eddy just below and I assured him there are fish there as I had played with them on my last trip up.

We made the crossing and I reviewed the riffle technique with TLo

– stay back from the edge and work it before moving in to test the main current.  Then try to get a fly to sit in the quiet water on the other side.  TLo started at the bottom and me at the top; we work towards each other, passing and then reversing. I have one flip at my fly in the quiet water but no hook up.

Neither did TLo.  Joe has one rise. Luke is way downstream working the far bank. No one is getting any action from what I can see.  Need to wait for dark. Bugs are increasing with Coffin Flies among them. We keep working the area until 8:30 when Joe motions TLo to come down and bring me with him.  Fish rising. A good number. 

TLo gets in above Joe and me just below, the three of us commenced to connect, casting like steelheaders on the Salmon – with synchronicity. I had a large White Wulff on that I could see as Joe was changing flies from spinner to caddis to whatever. The white fly was staying on as it is now too dark to fuss with changes for me. 

In front of us a large eddy of quiet water,

…then the rush of the main current and a second current stream beyond that, filled with bubbles and probably bugs.  They were rising in each of these but the big ones seemed to be further out. Aggressive takes. It is dark and I go to take off my sunglasses only to discover that I had my regular ones on already. It is almost Dubno dark.

One of those outside fish comes up just to my right and Joe asks if he hit my fly.  I was short of him but quickly loaded the rod and let one fly, luckily landing just up from him. Bang! Fish on – for an instant.  Then off.  Wow!

I rested him and tried again

…but he was done. So are we.  As we pass on the way out, Luke is releasing a fish and still working on a big bank feeder.  As quiet as this place looks at times, it does hold some amazing fish.

Back to the campfire,

…the Rusty Spinners are making the music; the camaraderie reminds me why I come back every year. After some songs and chatter I turn in, leaving the rest to the singing and good fellowship.

Sunday – I slept until 8 in the morning, unusual for me. Got some coffee and went to the rock at Sunoco Pool to wake up and feel the gratitude. Beautiful.

Above Sunoco Pool

Breakfast and then departure for me.

I have intentions to stop at the Campsite or Rhododendron Pool for a few more casts but once on the road decide I have had enough.  At the rest stop, while I square away my gear and break down the rods, I run into Joe Johnson who was at the Art Flick outing up at West Branch Anglers.  Good to see him.  So many Islanders up for the weekend. We are fortunate to have this place, these Catskill Mountains with their amazing waters so close. Big water, little water and everything in between.

Thanks to Jeff Plackis

…for organizing this trip every year and for keeping me in mind when there was an opening in this perpetually sold out event. Much appreciated friend.

Record time home, an easy drive  – a good life.


For more on fishing the Catskills take a look at Letters to Mack