Iso and Sulfur Time in the Catskills

June 17 – 19, 2021 – Catskills

Joe Pepe called me shortly after Joe Odierna had updated me on the great time they had at the LITU unofficial outing last week.  Lots of fish and enough bugs.  Joe asks if I want to go up and suggests we get a guide with a drift boat. Mobility at our age is to be considered, especially after the long hiatus from activity Covid presented. A drift boat makes sense. He calls his guy and I call mine but everyone is booked.  We probably don’t want a guide who isn’t booked in this peak season. I am thinking we need a new stream guide to compliment the Long Island Spring Creek Guide – one called “Trout Fishing for Geezers” listing easy access spots and how to use a walker in the river.

Riverside Restaurant and Lodge, Horton, NY

We stay at the Riverside and I get a separate room for no other reason than I prefer, at this stage of life, to have my privacy.  My bunk house days are over, for the most part. We meet at Sloatsburg at 9 and head for the Neversink which Joe has not fished before. Its Thursday morning and a beautiful day with good flow and moderate water temps (60 degrees).

Joe Pepe working the bridges

No rises or bugs, at least not yet.  I luck out with a nice Brown on a small parachute Adams after it sunk.  We move to the next pool and manage to pull the fly out of a fish’s mouth on the second cast.  Adrenalin! High noon and fishing is slow.

We head for Livingston Manor to say hello at Dette’s and fish the Museum run. Bright blue skies and warm temperatures make it pleasant but the stream is up to 65 degrees in the shade, which is where we fish. Joe works from the parking lot down to the Bridge and I go up. 

Joe working the Museum run

Joe Odierna told me of a fly that was just unbeatable last week – an Improved Sparkle Dun with some olive green dubbing and gray wing.  “Tie it big” he says. “12 or even 10.”

Improved Sparkle Dun by J. Odierna

Mine aren’t as pretty as his but I put it on and have multiple Brown beauties along with a respectable Brookie slam it. I catch up with my partner who has been experimenting with wet flies of late. 

Worked well

His good friend and former neighbor John C is at Ferdon’s floating an Iso emerger to a willing fish. We move up there to say hello and wet a line together.  The Dubno’s are up and we agree to meet for an early dinner and then fish together until “Dubno Dark” at the 206 Bridge.

Peter Dubno

John is a delight and he joins us for dinner and at the 206.  The three of them work the area adjacent the bridge and I wander downstream.  I test a few runs and then work the big flat which proved to be chub heaven, spiking my pulse each time one hit the fly.  I hesitate leaving the others but there is a nice riffle down a bit and it is still light.

Nothing much to look at in terms of rising fish. “Its early” I tell myself.  I pick a likely spot and wait for the sun to drop a bit.  That’s when the bugs start coming.  All kinds, all sizes – sulfurs (or sulphurs if you prefer), yellow stones, tiny iridescent mayflies I could not identify and giant Iso’s, mating. Bingo!

Most of you know I carry only a few flies in a small pouch.  I had gone through the boxes and taken out the early spring flies and added Sulfurs, Isos, Cahills tied as duns, emergers and spinners. 

2016-iso parachute

The mating flies were huge and dangling right in my face like a message from above.  I look in my bag and have a few large spinners but most are difficult to see given the waning light.  There is one.  Big, in length and girth, with a parachute post visible at a distance.  It is not my first choice but after a few others don’t get a reaction I put it on. 

The water comes off the flat into a riffle and then a series of chutes.  In one spot, the terrain causes a nice glide for maybe 20 feet. Long enough to get a decent drift in deeper water where a fish could feel safe.  I launch and watch, mend and watch. Do it again.  Move it to different starting points, coming out of the riffle, in from the side. You get the idea.

I am thinking it is time to get back to the others and a bit disappointed that I don’t have a story to tell the guys as I am sure they have worked the bridge well and Peter especially will have had a bunch while sitting on a comfortable rock. I clear my head and cast again, not too far. This water is fairly close so I can control the line in the conflicting currents.

The fly progresses as before. In the coming darkness there is a bulge.  Did a fish come up to take a look?  It was a soft, spinner like approach. Great. Now I have my story: How I almost had a good one. 

One more cast, always one more. I drift the spot again and mend and watch and Wham!

A beautiful stream-smart fish who knew a few tricks about detaching from annoying people who fish at dark.  After a tussle he comes to the net. What color! A butter brown, fat if short (under 18 inches). I get the fly out with him in the water and he is gone, as am I, making my way back to tell my story.

Joe reported fish rising all night. I think John had one and then had to leave for home.  Peter – well its Peter.  No more needs to be said on that count.

Friday 

As is my custom when at the Riverside, I rise early, get a coffee at the Sunoco and walk through the knot weed to watch the water. Some how I don’t notice the flood control wall on the other side, just the swirling bubble lines and rushing water. Peaceful. 

Plan for the day: Joe, in the process of trying to get a drift boat, spoke to “Coz” who wasn’t available but suggested we head for the West Branch given the rising Beaverkill water temps. He added a few specific suggestions as Joe is a good customer.  You can call Coz to book a trip. (607-760-2270)

Check out that belt!

The next morning we stopped in Trout Town Flies (aka Catskill Flies) to say hello to Joe Rist who had a few suggestions for the West Branch as well.  I showed Pepe the wading belt I got here last trip.  Best belt I have ever had.  Can’t believe I waited this long to get it. If you are tired of struggling with the cheap crap that comes with your waders stop in and see Joe – or anyone else on my fly shop list in the Resources section for a real belt. Pepe got one along with a few choice sulfurs.

Sulfur Emerger by J. Odierna

It was an amazing day on the West Branch in 49 to 50 degree water. Sulfurs all over the place and fish chasing them. For a good look at them click HERE to go to a brief video on my YouTube Channel.

Joe Pepe on the West Branch

Saturday

Breakfast at the Roscoe Diner put a nice nostalgic cap on the trip as we got on the road early with Father’s Day coming. What a great couple of days with good friends, beautiful weather, cool water, flies and fish.  Mid June in the Catskills rocks!