Eight Ball, Corner Pocket

September 11 – 13, 2021 – Catskills

Theodore Gordon Flyfishers outing is planned for the 12th. Breakfast at Dette’s Fly Shop at 7:30 hosted by Kelly, food by TGF. About 25 of us gather and get reacquainted.  Julian and Bruce give an overview of fishing spots in the area along with Avran. Bruce gave info in 5 minutes that it has taken me 20 years to learn, just another reason to join TGF and other conservation clubs. Two members, Steve and Michael,  invite me to fish with them.  I have other plans but agree to show them around Hazel and the 206 bridge, where they decide to fish. Lunch is to be from 12-2 at Smoky Joes, the old Oak Table Restaurant next to Fur Fin and Feather. Then everyone is on their own, outing over.

Willow above Big 17

Saturday – Willow at deBruce is where I hope to fish Saturday but there is a crowd entering the river so I go downstream to the spot just above Fur Fin Feather.  It is pretty and quiet.  Water temp 59 degrees. After a couple of hours, hopefully working the shaded side, I go to the Willow above the Museum.  A fellow just below me is getting small fish on a high stick nymph technique. Nothing for me.  I go below him and test, but nothing.  Walking out I pick up what I think is trash and the guy yells at me that the stuff is his.  Try to do the right thing…

Willow below Museum is next and it is empty of fishers.  I have a few hits and one in the net on a White Woolly Bugger (deep fast water and no risers).  Then one on a Sulfur Emerger.  Have a number of misses on both.

I go to Cemetery Pool to finish the day and pass three guys hauling long, frustrating casts to the far bank of rising fish.  Hero casts and short drifts make it hard to connect. I walk above them and also have some significant bank feeders but fortunately also a few closer.  I guess I had 3-5 on a dry of some sort – Sulfur Emerger, Emerging Iso.

Take-out for dinner and out for the night after a good day.

Sunday – After Breakfast at Dette’s I tour Hazel and 206 with Steve and Michael, then head for the Upper Beaverkill.  The rivers are all full.  Not flood, but heavy with water.  Upper is more so.  A few families are picnicking around the covered bridge and some Russians are spinning in the bridge pool covering all the water there is.  I am tired after Saturday’s efforts and decide to just take a walk up through the pines across from the once upriver campsites, which have been closed for years. I spent more than a few nights on that shore, back when.  Taking a walk is a good thing to do.  It isn’t all about fishing, right?

A Walk on the Upper Beaverkill

Lunch at Smokie Joe’s.  The cheese platter is delicious and the sausage I secured tasty.

I say goodbye to the guys and head for what I call deBruce (aka Mansion Pool) while they continue their lunch. There is one car in the pull off but I don’t see anyone.  I have not been downriver here in a long while.  What was a deep pool in view of the Mansion is filled in with rock leaving two small flows, but just above it is the same nice water that always was. 

Just above the Mansion that had a pool

I had in mind to walk to The Wall but after working my way this far realize it is too far for me today.  I turn and cast to smart fish in the water above, trying a number of flies and techniques none of which result in a hook up.  After a while they stay down and I climb out on the Mansion side and try to follow the trail which is compromised by floods and over growth.  I get to the car and eat my orange as a newbie works the water in front of me with his gal waiting in the car. 

Sunoco Pool looking upstream

I head to Sunoco Pool because I have been thinking about it for two years.  Someone told me it isn’t what it was but then Chuck mentioned that the water behind the Riverside has been very productive. I want to find out for myself. One car in the lot and he is way downstream leaving the whole top of the pool to me. Perfect!

So here is where the “Eight ball, corner pocket” comes in.

Flailing away at this hole and trying to fish the far wall with hero casts and even more heroic mends, is fun but difficult.  I prefer a more selective  approach.  I call my shots. The water, if you watch, is a complex mix of conflicting and overarching currents.  Bubble lines help but mostly you need to really look at the water surface and watch the debris, how it acts.  Then select the closest and cleanest shot first.  One cast, close. Watch, wait, let it sink for a bit. Retrieve easy. Pick the next feature, perhaps a bit further out. Then the next.  Each shot planned and called, in your head. Just like in a game of eight ball in a joint you may not be familiar with and where no benefit of the doubt is given when you sink a 6 when going for the 8. 

I put on the sulfur emerger that has been productive with some 6x tippet making about a 14 foot leader. I cast it close, in the still water of the eddy. Then a bit further out on a seam, and finally to the edge of the run where the first fish hit. Nice brown. (I should mention that all fish this trip have been modest. 10 -12 inches.) I continue calling my shots and working up and out of the pool and then walk downstream to start again, not over casting to any one spot. I guess I had 5-6 fish when I called it quits.

Chuck and Bud are downstream behind the restaurant.  Constant risers in a number of spots, heavy fish. When they climb out they tell me how finicky they are.  Skittish fish – but of good size. 

I decline their dinner invitation as I am exhausted.

Monday – Sleeping in the next morning, when I look out the door the parking lot is empty. My phone says 9 am. I am glad I cancelled the third night.  I skip breakfast, eat an apple on the road, and go to the Rest Stop.  No one is in sight so I walk the trail up as far as is comfortable and get in the river just below “my tree” – the one that hangs over from the opposite bank and has provided me with terrestrials and fish for many years.

The floods have changed it all again.  The silt which once surrounded this hole has been swept to the near bank with the bottom of the pool clear rocks and cobble. This is great for the fish but not so good for the fisher.   Wading in the silt to get in range gives me that sinking, sliding feeling you just don’t want to experience. I look around for a better spot to take my shot.

Secret Tree

I had put on a small (16) Bivisible in a Renegade tie and still have the 6x long leader on from the night before.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a fish rise at the very top of the run, where it bends to the left. He comes up a few more times. I leave my tree for later and walk up only to find a fisher around the corner.  He is working a different section but I don’t want to encroach. 

I sit and watch for a good long while.  He moves a bit upstream, but isn’t leaving.  Fish are rising in front of me.  I finally figure we have enough distance between us and, besides, he isn’t looking at what I am looking at, so I move into the water.  First cast is a careful shot, just above, landing light enough not to spook and then – in his mouth. Fish on. Again a modest size but with good spirit.  An hour on the river and one cast (or shot) and one fish.

One cast, one fish

The catch opens a conversation which is nice.  I tell him I have a date with the Throgs Neck and am leaving these rising fish for him. He says he will probably be taking the ferry – a Long Islander.

I stop above my tree and slow drift the fly down from above, like a full table, soft shot to a ball hanging on the corner – no reaction.  Navigating the silt piles I toss a cast toward the wall below the tree where he is likely to be.  A slow, slow drift and then Wham! Never disappoints, this pool.  Three casts, two fish and this is “the fish of the trip,”  a net filling, 16 inch rainbow with plenty of color and fight.

I thank Above for the time and the fish and the friends and this beautiful place called the Catskills (and for all that time at that small pool table in that bar I came of age in).

Try calling your shots and see how it works for you.

Check out my YouTube Channel for some neat fishing films – trout, steelhead, salmon, northeastern salt water and tarpon.  Click Here

September Flies