Catskills in June

June 7 – Monticello, NY – 

Last April I was supposed to go to the Neversink with Joe and Mike to scout some new locations on the  river which offers so many different faces to those who investigate. Joe and Mike went, enduring the cold and left over river ice, fishing a little in some “new” spots. New for us.

They sent me photos and videos saturated with their excitement over the potential these new finds held for later in the season.  It’s June and the three of us head upstate for a 5 day trip which includes the annual LITU Outing at the Riverside in Horton.

I usually offer very specific directions to the spots I fish so all my readers can benefit directly from the post.  These spots are not secrets.  They are on DEC and NYCDPW maps and there are YouTube videos on them – but part of the fun and excitement was in the searching and investigating so I’ll give you some hints but the rest is up to you.

We spent the first 2 days on the Neversink

Truth is we could have devoted all 5 days to it, there is so much. In fact we went back on Monday. In between we fished the East Branch and the Beaverkill.  Mike and Joe also hit the Willow on Saturday which I took as a day of rest. Bugs were around, especially in the evening, lots of Coffin Flies as dark fell (although I saw only one Green Drake all day); March Browns, Sulfurs and tons of Caddis each night, and a few fish as well. The day time was quieter but there were still fish to be had, on dry flies, we just had to work for them. Here is the story:

Thursday

The Rock Hill Diner is our traditional lunch stop but they have not recovered from the fire. We go next door to the general store which has a full grocery with deli counter and order up some sandwiches; generous and reasonably priced.

We head for the Neversink Gorge where we plan to fish until dark.  The hike in is long but downhill.  There are blow-downs blocking the path and some bushwhacking is required.  Going in, it is no big deal.  Coming out in the dark, it may be challenging.

The reward is beautiful water with no crowds

Plenty of lively fish of good size, full of fight, are available. As we walk downstream I think I see a rise by a shoreline boulder 100 yards ahead.  I stop and stare and see it again. When we arrive a number of fish are working in various spots with no hatch that we can see. Joe puts on an Improved Sparkle Dun in olive, moves well below the boulder (leaving it for me) and has an 18 inch Brown on his first cast.  It pays to be nice!

Mike and I had our share of fish but Joe’s turned out to be fish of the day. A threesome comes by and we chat. Members of the Hudson Valley TU Chapter, they fish this place a few times a year.  They give us some tips on where the evening rises tend to be and wish us luck. Good people.

The day and the evening were equally productive

We fish our way out to the trail-head where a fellow and his son are spin fishing and catching. We trade some stories and talk of Tarpon and the Keys as well.

The hike out is difficult given we are tired. We struggle to find our way around some of the blow-downs, but make it to the car as the stars come out. We get to the motel in time to watch the last period of the Stanley Cup as the Washington Capitals beat the amazing Las Vegas Knights who made it to the finals in their inaugural year.

Joe-stack

Friday

Breakfast at the diner in Monticello and back to the river.  Joe had 4 more places to choose from and has a difficult time selecting one, he suggests we to do a few.  The first was an easy walk in and fish are rising as we arrive at the river. Mike and Joe go downstream and I stay.

The fish are of good size but again, no apparent hatch was attracting them.  I start with a Caddis, change to a March Brown, a BWO and a Joe-Stack.  They come up to look at the Caddis and again to the Joe-Stack, in fact I manage to pull it out of the mouth of one who is willing to engage; pent up energy leading to an over aggressive strike. They are still rising as I leave to find the others. We decide to stay here for the rest of the day.

Joe already has a few fish and is moving further down to where a huge tree crosses the river from bank to bank. A deep troth runs along another downed tree, this one parallel to the far side.  It calls for a nymph or streamer as surely there are some trout in that tangle of trees and deep water. Green Woolly Bugger did the trick for Joe, Mike and I couldn’t get their attention.

The water in the river is crystal clear and cold, 58 to 62 degrees

A hatch or two is certain to appear in the evening but we have a date with 29 other friends and a BBQ at the Riverside at 5 pm, so we leave before the magic.

After hamburgers and hot dogs we head for the East Branch to a spot Joe and I fished last year in high water. It is up Route 30 and called Long Flats. There are 8 or 10 cars in the pull off and we fear being shut out by a crowd.  We pull on the waders and go anyway, agreeing to take whatever comes with a smile.

The place is large enough that there is plenty of room and we know most of the people to boot. A bunch of us had the same thought, figuring on good East Branch hatches and the opportunity to get into some very big but fussy fish.

The hatches come, as do the fish

Of the 8 people we know only two have fish (Joe and Rocco) and those are modest.  I work a spot I liked last year when I could not reach it, given the high water. This year it is an easy wade. I stand and watch as “one and done’s” pop up here and there. I send a fly their way hoping for a hit.  At one point, a monster smashes something that hit his fancy. Huge. One and done.

Saturday

I just read a new book by Jim Lorentz, Atlantic Salmon, Moody and Mysterious.  

One of the points Jim makes is to always stay within yourself while fishing. In other words, work with what you have and don’t spend your day in negative thought.  Enjoy what is there applying your experience and skills. Staying within yourself also means to rest when your body tells you to.  It is not fun anymore to push my physical (and mental) limits day after day.  With some coaching from my wife, I decide to let Mike and Joe fish Saturday without me. 

I watch Peter fish the Riverside waters, catching a nice fish, from my lounge chair. Then take a walk down to Ben Grey’s Pool and sit and watch three fishers come and go, not hooking up. Fish are sipping something just in front of me as they are hauling casts to the far shore. Some of Tammy’s cherry pie and ice cream followed by a nap make for a delightful day. I wake up as the gang pulls in for dinner.

Dinner at the Riverside is always a great time and is followed by watching Justified win the Triple Crown at Belmont. 

It has become a tradition that on Saturday night of the LITU Outing we fish Cemetery Pool

We hope for some Rainbows up in the fast water at the top.  At the bottom of the pool, one high water year, I hooked what is probably the largest Beaverkill Trout of my life, although I will never know as he (or she) ran my reel. As the backing played out, I had to choose between swimming after him or breaking off. It was too cold to swim. The Rainbows at the top have been good to me when it is “Dubno Dark” in years past, but not tonight.

Sunday

We have been talking about Trout Brook for the last 3 days.  Mike brought his Shu-Fly 3 wt. and is anxious to try it on the small water.  Joe plans on Rainbows out in the main river like he had a few years back. There has been very good fishing right at the Lodge, no need to get in the car, but Trout Brook is calling so we go.

Trout Brook is beautiful with cold water at 58 degrees or less

Filled with pockets and little water falls, it is getting Mike excited but as he looks for his 3 wt. reel it is not in the car.  He left it in his room. Nuts! We adjust and move to the big river working the usual pools and runs.  People are there with us and more arrive. No one is catching fish. Nuts again. We work it until about noon and gather to figure out our next move. 

Barnhart's TGF Sign

Somehow we decide on Barnhart’s

I think it is because I recalled a nice mid-day Sulfur hatch there a few years back at this time of year. We march in and work it from the top to the Portal.  Very few sporadic rises and no fish on.

Next is an early dinner at Raimundo’s to discuss our plan for the night. While in town I hear that the Little Store, which I first went to around 1958, has closed.  I take a look and there is a sign in the window that it may be resurrected – I hope so. Lots of memories in there.

I love the Campsite on the upper Beaverkill because I have been going there since I was a kid.  It is more emotional than anything else. Everyone seems to groan when I suggest we go. “But I never catch fish at the Campsite” says Joe. Mike thinks he has been there with Luke but doesn’t recall how it fished. I assure them it will be worthwhile. 

“What about the Willow” says Joe? I leave the decision to him and he turns left at the blinking light off old 17.  “What about Pig Pen or the 206 Bridge” he says? “Whatever you want” is my reply, with a crotchety old man snarl. He continues to Beaverkill Road and we come to the Covered Bridge, newly refurbished and open to traffic, one car at a time.

I run to the pool below the bridge and work my way downstream through the pockets  

Joe already has fish as does Mike.  They are smiling. We work our way down.  Joe asks about the next pool and I tell him that’s “Impossible Pool.” “Why” he asks?  “Because I have never caught a fish in it in my entire life.”  We move past it with me leading the way.  I am hitting nice fish in the usual places with the usual flies and as the guys catch up I turn the spot over to them and move further down. Lively little Browns and a Brook Trout or two, naturally reproducing fish mixed in with the stockies. Delightful.

Traveling as light as I do these days, I only have one small Sulfur left in my box.  In the darkness I could see it and so could the Trout.  He swallowed it and I had to cut the leader leaving me Sulfur-less.  Mike came to the rescue and I went back to the first spot where a big trout inhaled a Joe-Stack earlier.  This time he took Mike’s Sulfur in the dark and my hastily tied knot gave way. Amazing place.

Joe was glad he decided to try the Campsite.

Mike and Joe

Monday

We stop at the Roscoe Diner for breakfast and someone calls out my name.  It’s Armand of the LI Flyrodders and Joe is with him. Then Kenny the Hat shows up with Dr. Mike right behind him.  Bob is there, fresh from the Esopus trip he ran.

The place is crawling with LI Flyrodders.  Turns out seventeen of them are heading to the West Branch for a few days of fishing.  It’s great to see them. If you want someone to go fishing with, join the LI Flyrodders. They run trips all year long to all kinds of places, both domestic and foreign.

(Trout Unlimited membership is a given for any fly fisher, as far as I am concerned. And there are other fly fishing and conservation organizations throughout the country that you should consider supporting and becoming active in. The rewards are considerable for you and the trout.)

As this is their first day, it is our last

It’s a travel day and traditionally we stop at the Rhododendron Pool for some morning fishing before getting on the road.  The flowers are supposed to be in bloom and it would be a nice way to wind up a good trip but the Neversink is calling.  There are a few spots that we didn’t get to yet, new spots for us, and new water is just too tempting.

We pick one that has easy access in a remote setting and off we go, Waze telling us the best route – until we lose the signal. We get there and have the place to ourselves. The water is even clearer than the other day, if that is possible. Mike rigs up his 3 wt.

It’s an open area and the sun is on the water but there are a few deeper runs.  We look for shade and pop our flies through the runs. Joe has a good 14 inch fish downstream and I had 2 spunky guys who spit the hook. More come up to a variety of patterns. We pack it in by Noon to head for home.

It was a good trip

Not the most fish or the biggest or the best hatches, but a good trip with good friends.

My Saturday break was helpful and a sign of things to come.  No more 10 hours of fishing for 9 days straight like all those trips out west.  It just isn’t going to happen and it isn’t necessary.  I am good with a slower pace and fishing closer to home.

The Neversink proved to me that there is still plenty of water I have not seen, or fished, right here in the Catskills.  I am looking forward to seeing it all.  When we climbed out on Thursday night I was saying to myself that it was a great day, beautiful water, amazing fish, but not sure I will be coming back given the mile or so uphill walk. 

I am up to it physically, just that it takes more than it used to…and there is more to see. I didn’t mention it to Mike and Joe though – let’s see what next year brings.

My next trip to the Catskills is later this month with the Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers.  We will be on the DeBruce Club waters of the Willow.  Looking forward to more new water.

Stay tuned!

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