Catskills, Early May

May 3 – 5

A night or two ago I had a difficult time lying in bed.  An old injury revisited my neck, a pinched nerve? Bulging disc?  Something.  It wasn’t too bad and Sue put some salve on it.  I left for the Catskills on Friday, early. This was to be my second outing with the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers and I was looking forward to it. Its a week or 3 early in the season for good water but the Hendricksons should be out.

I visit Catskill Flies to pay my respects to Ellen. Joe Rrist is now managing the shop.  Things seem normal with the exception of Dennis not smoking outside or sitting at his tying desk. I buy a few things including a hat.  I never thought to buy one before but now it seems the right thing to do.  They also have flies tied by Dennis so I pick up a few.  Then over to Livingston Manor to check out Joe Fox’s new Dette Shop.

Dette Flies, Livingston Manor

The shop is bigger

…than the house on Cottage Street and looking very professional. Hope he does well.  I look around and when I look up Chuck is at the counter admiring a rod.  I make a wise crack and then realize he may be in the middle of a Carmans River Rods presentation.  I slink away. He is also making the rounds as we all know it is too early to fish.

Rose Cottage in DeBruce

I head up to DeBruce

…to meet Marilyn Lusker at her new Rose Cottage which is a miniature of the DeBruce Country Inn she sold a year or so ago. The cottage is beautiful and located on the property of the old DeBruce Club of George LaBranche and Pink Lady fame.  Her niece, Anne Miller, is working with her and Edwin is still the chef. Five bedrooms, one with twin beds, it is a couples place. So comfortable and clean even my wife would stay here! Near all the Willowemoc access points. Full of history and farm fresh eggs, vegetables and herbs in season, raised on the property. It’s worth looking into for sure. $250 a night for two includes breakfast and dinner, served late for fishers in season. Give them a call and stop in to check it out next time you are up: (845) 439 3643.

Rose Cottage B & B, DeBruce

I take advantage of the cottage’s paved parking lot to wader up and rig my Neuner 7’ 5 wt.

Cave on the Willow

Fishing the Willow above DeBruce

It’s so beautiful and I have it all to myself.  I work my way upstream to where the cave is and then back.  No rises or reactions to my offerings, dry or streamer. The water is 48 degrees, clear and wadable. At one spot I am looking across at some interesting water and step off the bank – a trout flashes away from under my foot before it got squished. So they are here, just not eating yet.

Riverside Restaurant and Lodge, Horton

Dinner at the Riverside with TGF

Tammy’s version of an indoor BBQ:  good food and plenty of it.  We have the fireplace room to ourselves. I am not feeling very well with this neck thing.  I meet my buddy Joe’s cousin-in-law Patrick, a nice guy; Avram sat with us as did Lisa. I nodded more than contributed to the conversation.

Next thing I hear someone say “Are you Tom McCoy?”

I say “I am” and he introduces himself as Lou from Northport, a friend of Jason’s.  His wife Jody, who is at the bar across the room, works with my son. We chat and hug but I am awkward being disoriented with all these new friends, the pain in my neck and, I guess, being tired from a long day as well. Lou and Jody have a second home nearby.

Cemetery Pool

I leave as others are circling around the table Chuck and Bert are at, seeming to settle into an evening of tales and ales vs fishing. Cemetery Pool makes the most sense.  As I pull in, the cars that are there pull out. Once again, I have all this water to myself.

I walk up to the top

…but have no intention of wading out as we do in June, especially when alone. I forgot my flash light and make a note to pick up one of those head lamps. I figure I will be okay as the knot-weed is all chopped down so I have a clear view of the car from the river. I stay out of the water and flip a Hendrickson into the eddy that forms at the top. I get a reaction.  Then another. Fish!

They don’t seem to like my fly

I put on a recently tied emerger with a parachute hackle, its a little funky.  I get hit, but miss him. A few more rises and near misses and it’s over.  I walk back with hopeful, if not attentive, casts into the main flow. Exhausted and looking forward to bed, I hope the crew is still in the fireplace room at the lodge but suspect they will have migrated to the porch outside our room.

The gathering on the porch is lively

…and well attended with my room-mate Bud in the middle of them. I say hello to all and report on the rises at the Cemetery as I find a chair to de-wader myself. Refreshments are offered, adult beverages as they are now referred to, as well as some interesting snacks from Chuck’s pantry including smoked oysters.  Steve brought out his banjo and some singers joined in. Joe and I chatted about a CEO we once shared. It’s a warm and lively group and I am glad to be among them.

My neck keeps me from getting much sleep

…so I go fishing about 5:30. Avram and Bruce are making camp coffee on the porch as I head for Sunoco; I forgot that they don’t open until 6.  I drive on to Roscoe for coffee and try the 206 bridge. 

206 Bridge, Rockland

There are some fishers downstream so I park on the other side. The water levels have dropped over a foot based on the wet but now out of the water footings of the bridge. I know there are fish here; it is a primary stocking point due to the easy access.  I think of using the Neuner which has an emerger on it but decide it is too early.  Nymph time for sure.  The vintage 9’ 5 wt. GLoomis is put into action. Two nymphs and an indicator.  I work the water methodically but get no bumps.  I move the indicator up once and then again.  Have a hit, I think.  Still no bumps.  After a few more drifts I check the flies and the indicator is the only thing on the line.  I reset but still no action; I move to Ferdon’s.

There are cars at Junction Pool

…and some fishers in the river but I have Ferdon’s to myself.  The lot is well muddied as I circumnavigate the huge puddles in the sedan, hoping I have enough ground clearance. As at Cemetery, I work the quiet water and the edges with nymphs, then drys. 

Cold Water

This time of year, morning fishing is not for catching 

I am not sure why I even go out.  I suppose if I lived up here and could choose when to fish and when not to, I would never go out in the morning in early May. It only makes sense when you consider the thirst one builds over a winter of armchair fishing

I test all the spots that have produced before with no response. It’s time to get back to the Riverside for breakfast.  You never want to miss one of Tammy’s Riverside breakfasts. Ever.

Everyone is bright eyed and bushy tailed

…waiting for the bell to ring.  A few folks are casting behind the restaurant. The pancakes are superb as was the chatter.

I take a nap to recharge the batteries and then head to Barnhard’s for the day. It’s a place with a lot of memories for me and not necessarily the best place to be right now, so I go solo. There are a few cars in the lot.  Three guys are fishing the recharge basin from the sewage plant as I walk in.  They used to have signs up about the water but no more.  Also, the paths to the river seem to have moved – or maybe it’s just my crusty memory acting up again.

Red Quill?

I go to the top as the others are by the Portal and below.

It takes a bit of Zen to tune out the trucks zooming by on the Quickway but once in the zone it’s beautiful.  Its 12:30 so anything is possible now.  I have the Neuner and a dry again. There are clouds of caddis all over the place and a few Hendricksons, maybe some Paraleps. Water is 49 degrees; current is strong.

Enjoying the place and the water, watching the drifts and the drag, hoping for a target but none appears. I walk all the way to Hendrickson’s barely fishing, looking for bugs. Its 3:30 by the time I get back to the top and sit for a bit, checking the fishers downstream.

Two fellows are trying to get a cast across the stream,

…to the bank on the far side.  They are up to the top of their waders and not looking too comfortable.  The casts are well formed and deliver the bait but short of the bank. The older of the two shakes his head and reels in.  The younger tries a few more times before he quits. 

After they leave, I wander down to see what was drawing them

A rising fish, maybe two. Probably of healthy proportions. Consistently coming up. Aggressive. 12, maybe 18 inches off the bank. My casting is not as good as theirs and I am not wading out as deep as they did, so all I can do is watch – for a while.


I get the wading staff out of its quiver

…and start probing, hoping for a high spot, maybe a rock to stand on.  I get pretty deep, not dangerously so but as deep as I want to be, no more. I launch a few casts landing on target but about 3 feet short. The drift is naturally short and a mend difficult. If I could get over more and upstream a bit I should be able to float one down to them, fly first. Good plan, but no way to execute it. My neck enters the equation and I back out and just watch.  I have been here many times and as I sit I recall this spot. Even though the river changes constantly year to year, it always seems to hold fish. Lower water is what I need. That’s the issue with early May.

There are a couple a guys just below me

…who are working their way up.  We say hello and chat.  They have seen plenty of bugs but no fish. Kyle seems competent and his kit is one that only someone who has been at this a while would have.  I show him the fish. His eyes get wide as his buddy climbs the bank.  I explain the situation and encourage him to give them a try.  He seems stunned that I would pass to him a rising fish on this day of no rises.  I reveal my handicap (short legs) and he thanks me.  I move back upstream to get out of his way and enjoy the spectacle of fisher and fish that draws us all to this sport.

He gets hit

Fish on! From my vantage point it is quite a battle. His buddy comes out to witness the netting. I have somewhere to go and head towards them on the way out.  He tells of the 4 flies he tried before getting one the fish would take, smiling ear to ear. 

Dinner is at 9 and it is about 5

…so I have time for one more stop. I am not sure I want to fish anymore and take off the waders to get comfortable. A coffee would taste awfully good so I head to Brandenberg’s in Livingston Manor, then up to the campsite at Lew Beach. There are fishers of all sorts working the Covered Bridge Pool, some bugs on the water but no rises. I walk with my coffee and watch.

I was first here over 60 years ago

It is burned into my DNA, this place. My sons and my grandsons have been here. It is special.

No one is fishing below the bridge and the big flat rock is just out of the water so I get the rod and flip a few casts to where I know they are, even if they won’t answer the call.

The pre-dinner show

…was performed by a number of TGFer’s trying to reach fish rising just inches off the far bank. Distance, flow and ability, all being discussed as well as choice of fly. I enjoy chatting with Jim and Janice, Bruce and Avram, Julian and Aron as we watch the show. Patrick is out there and hauling some serious line.

The show is followed by a hearty Riverside dinner with good people – it doesn’t get much better than that! A lifetime member of TU, I joined Theodore Gordon Flyfishers in support of their regional conservation mission, but am enjoying the fellowship as well.


I spend most of the night in the chair due to the now aggravated neck injury. There are some hopeful souls working the early water behind the lodge before breakfast; a bigger group is watching, debating strategy and tactics. One fellow looks familiar to me, his casting that is.  I know that guy.  Its Chuck, hauling casts, adjusting tackle and technique. He works that fish and, in the end, has him in the net. 

Another great breakfast and I head home rationalizing that the forecast is for heavy rain but the truth is I want to stop and see my granddaughter on the way.

A thought I had repetitively during this weekend

…was that this could be the last time I see this place.  I am not sure if it was mortality based or the feeling that I may have done as much as I can do with fishing in my life.  Both bothered me but the second one more so.  I pushed it out of my mind at the time but, upon later reflection, I blame the neck and high water for such a sacrilegious thought. Both will be better as we get closer to June.