April 27 – 29, 2021
I haven’t been to the Esopus in a while, 5 maybe 10 years. It was my favorite stream when I fished with Clark in the late 70’s. I have a guide book produced by the Catskill Mountain Chapter of TU years ago but the floods of Irene and other no name storms have changed it dramatically since those days. So much so that I am leaving all decisions to Joe who gets up here a few times a year. I hear the Chapter may be working on an updated edition:
We start at mid-day near where Woodland Creek comes in. The water is beautiful but cold – 49 degrees, maybe 50. Joe goes downstream and I go up. After being fishless for a while, he comes up to see how I am doing. Fishing the confluence from the other side he signals me that there is a rising fish and puts me on it.
I tie on a caddis he gave me and pop! A little rainbow takes the bait. We work it for a while moving to the Portal next. Joe had emailed the owners of a local restaurant asking if they were open. They won’t be until May, however they gave him permission to park in their lot to fish the property. It pays to ask. The Portal is not running for some reason which leaves the water clear if a bit diminished in flow. Nice riffle water behind the restaurant but not even a flash.
Next is further upstream off a country road where we find a good looking run of pools and riffles. No bugs since a small BWO earlier. No rises either. Joe follows me downstream. I try the deep pools with a BWO and then a White Wooly Bugger with some weight. Nada. He stops at a likely spot where a trout MUST be hanging out and manages to pull in a small brown just before we head out. A size 22 BWO did the trick.
The route back to the cabin took us along the West Kill and the Schoharie of Art Flick fame.
Picking a pull-off we work the water, Joe crossing and me staying close. Very fishy water but still cold, although maybe a bit above 50. Joe sees a couple of rises on the other side and manages to tease a fish up but no hook up as I get to practice my casting from sitting rocks.
Someone calls out “Hey, you gett’en anything?” I turn to respond and who is it but Joe Pepe and his buddy. One in a million chance that we would run into each other up here as he wasn’t even fishing. He saw some fly fishers in the water and had Jerry turn around to watch. Small world!
We continue toward camp, along the Batavia Kill, but don’t stop until we hit the fried chicken place that supplied dinner.
Wednesday we head for the Esopus via the Five Arches Bridge. Covid regulations as well as DEP parking and use permits required. The place is very civilized with paths and cyclists and hikers and dog walkers all over the place. Once across the foot bridge we head downstream on a narrow, unimproved path and leave the crowd behind. The Chimney Hole is ahead and we have the place to ourselves.
This is where the creek ends and the reservoir begins. The water is near crystal clear and deep pools with multiple currents make a simple drift complicated. At the head of the pool there is a nice sluice-like run with rising fish in all quarters. I work the back side and Joe works the run.
I hear his expletives as he misses strikes due to required long casts and water doing what it does to a line in situations like this. He eventually hits, I think on a Blue Quill, and releases the mini monster – maybe 6-8 inches. Joe finds a small yellow stone fly on his shoulder and elects to try a Yellow Sally – another fish. He has a number of these all day, working his way through his fly boxes, and then the payoff – a fish of substance hits, runs and is off. Not counting fish but Joe’s in the lead. Next time maybe I should try a nymph! It is a beautiful place. In the few hours we are here only one other person comes by. As the water warms and the hatches increase more trout will show up as will the crowds.
Upstream toward Phoenicia we take a look at the old bridge that was removed and memorialized near the Emerson Resort which has grown over the years. Following the road around to the DEC parking I am taken by the changes to a place I once waded. Apparently one can walk to the river through the resort property and that is a good thing because the rappel down the flood control wall that has been built since my last visit would be deadly, not to mention it being unwadable. We eat some cold chicken and head for the cabin as the rain begins.
The downpour increases in intensity as we cross the mountain turning the waters we pass brown. It lets up enough for Joe to light the BBQ and serve up some tasty steak.
Thursday we stay near the cabin and explore the Catskill Creek. The rain wasn’t as intense here and the water is clear. We stop near Preston Hollow and fish where the stocking truck should have stopped. This is a beautiful stream that warms in the summer so aside from some deep, cool holes most of it is a “put and take’ fishery. We move to Oak Hill and do our best but cold water and no hatch make it tough. A few more warm weeks and the place should come alive.
Time to go. A good late April trip, hatch-less though it be – a great time with a good friend.