May 23 – 25, 2017 – Catskills –
Third week in May is when the Hendricksons are over and the March Browns are just beginning. It is a time when both the fish and the fishermen are scratching their heads wondering what is going on. It’s between hatches and as a stage crew hustles in between acts to change the set, the rivers are a mix of what was and what will be. Tough to put a strategy together under these circumstances.
My day box still has a bunch of those pinkish cream bodied dry flies along with their dark red male counterparts. I hesitate to clear them out so soon. There is no room for the brown winged beauties and their emerger patterns. I decide to just bring an extra box along filled with various forms of March Browns and Joe Stacks – a variation of Fran Betters’ Haystack that the fish just love.
The plan is to fish the Willowemoc in the morning and move to the upper Beaverkill in the afternoon and evening on Tuesday. Wednesday Tom LoProto is joining me for a float on the Big Delaware with Joe Demalderis. Thursday I will fish the morning and head home for dinner.
Traffic was heavy for no good reason and I get on the river by 10:30. I go to one of my favorite spots on the Willow, near DeBruce. Walking along the bank, popping a streamer and then an emerger pattern into each likely run with no results. Upstream I sit and watch for a while, tie on some extra tippet, and work my way through a bunch of potential winners.
Sit to ponder my next move, I look down to find a visitor on my shirt. A big beautiful brown fly with mottled wings and a cream underbelly. From the box in my shirt pocket I select Dennis Skarka’s parachute version and move upstream a bit to some virgin water. I wait.
A rise but just one. One and done as they say. After a bit I put the fly over him a few times to no response. Then another comes up, across the stream. I wait for him to return but he doesn’t. Flip the fly over. Sit some more and another rise in yet another spot. Same routine. Move a bit and repeat. I am fishing up to them or across. Presenting the fly first comes to mind and I look downstream. After a while, a rise below. I feed a Joe Stack down to him and he smashes it. Nice fish. I sit a while longer and smile to myself, lucky to have had the one, time to move on.
At the car there are guys throwing buckets of fish into the water, 8 – 10 buckets of trout. Stocking day. I guess they are getting ready for the Memorial Day crowds. The caravan of truck and cars heads up the road; one of the stockers gives his son advice as he heads to the river with his rod. Kids have to catch fish if they are going to catch on to this sport. I wish him luck.
On Beaverkill Road nostalgia set in while passing sites I have been driving by for my entire life. They are still working on the covered bridge and there is barely room to park the car with heavy equipment and building materials all over.
Parking on the grass, I head over to the Bridge Pool. The stocking truck apparently was here earlier as fish are jumping and feeding all over. Hook a few and then shake them off. One launches himself about 2 feet into the air chasing a caddis, I suspect. They are fun but I am looking for more seasoned veterans.
Cross over downstream. Don’t see anything going on but put on an emerger and work the water from near to far. A rise on the other bank gives me hope. Move a bit and begin the sectioning process again, near to far. About mid-way across a good fish hits and runs my line.
Look for a few more and move on down. It is a fun place to fish as the water rushes under the trees and over the rocks in a deep troth. I have had luck here before but not today.
I get on the road and walk farther downstream, crossing over and heading toward my rock. A young fellow is on the other side trying his luck. I find my rock and prepare to wait for something to happen. (See the story on my rock in How to Fly Fish for Trout.)
My friend moves down past me as a fish rises. It is half way between us. He doesn’t see it and I want to call to him but decide to let him find his own fish. I wait for a second rise and it comes, as does a third.
A Sparkle Dun has worked well here before. He likes it and I rip his lip. Damn!
Sit at this spot for about 2 hours hoping for a return engagement but it is not to be and, besides a few sporadic rises well out of range, I am blanked. Keep looking up for some spinners but when you are between hatches they are hard to come by. There are some small sulfurs and caddis, but no one seems to care. My friend left a while ago. I know if I stay until dark I‘ll have a chance, but it’s been a long day and I head for the Motel at 7:30.
TLo calls. He is passing Roscoe and should be here in 30 minutes. He is running late due to that traffic. I love Long Island but it is a pain to get off of. We stow his gear in the room and grab some breakfast to go at the Circle E. Wow, do they make a great egg on a roll!
Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) is the non-profit organization focused on caring for this river and its fish (and fishermen). Garth Pettinger, LITU’s representative to FUDR, is meeting with Executive Director Jeff Skelding in the Diner as we wait for our eggs. (Check out FUDR.org to find out how you can help.)
We meet Joe at the White Tail Country Fly Shop on 191. He has to make a few calls to try and get more people to contact the “decree party members” in their respective states to get the dam releases agreed to. If they don’t agree to this new plan the releases will default to a previous agreement which will drop the river dramatically next month. Not good for anyone (all the reservoirs are filled to the brim).
Joe finishes his calls and we head to Buckingham, The Big D. He had a good day yesterday but today is bright and sunny, comfortably warm, which makes for tougher fishing. He warns of skiddish fish, rising opportunistically. “Garbage eaters” he calls them. Random feeding. The good news is that they can potentially take any fly you present; the bad news: One and done rises is the theme for the day.
We start with March Brown emergers and move to caddis and then back again. TLo has a good day with multiple fish, the largest being a 19” Brown. I was less fortunate, missing strikes and ripping lips. One good one, late in the day, who opened the hook to escape and finally a respectable Brown in the dark. It was a beautiful day that ended at almost 9:30 at Long Eddy.
(When you fish with Joe Demalderis its just three guys in a boat on the river, comfortable. If you want to give him a try call early as he is often booked solid.)
TLo left before I woke as he has a meeting in the Bronx to get to. East Branch is my chosen river and the Flats the destination. I pass by Roger’s Pool and it looks like he is renting platform tents this year. I’ll have to stop by to see what’s up, but continue on Rt. 30. Rain is in the air but not annoying enough to stop me. I walk up to the top of the public water. You know you are there when you see this sign:
The benefit of this water is you can see what is happening. For a couple of hundred yards, if a fish is rising, you can see it. Of course catching a fish in water this flat and still is another story. I wade out up to my ankles and watch.
A fellow comes by and the rain increases. We watch from our perches. I side step down a ways and focus on an eddy across from me, now thigh high in the river. I think I see some movement but with the rain it is hard to confirm. I wait and watch. I am alone again and there is a rise, a slurp actually. I put on a tandem emerger/spinner and toss it in 2 -3 times. I go back to watching.
Another rise, one of more conviction, the fish showing me his head and making rings that are visible, even in the rain. Switch to a caddis and toss it in. Then again. The rain is really coming down now. One more toss and move to the bank. Don’t want to leave but something is telling me it is the right thing to do. I move down and look for a tree to huddle under. An old willow is there.
As I stand under its barely protective leaves I am taken by its character. So this is what Disney saw as his creators drew those spooky trees. I am thinking of its age, the knobby trunk and creepy branches. It entrances me.
Move back to the river even though the rain is continuing. Nothing moving out there. I visit my tree again and then head for the car.
I’ll be back when the March Browns are plentiful; when the Grey Foxes, Isonychias and Sulfurs with their spinners are filling the riffles and runs.
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